Jump to content
The High Realm of Stormark
Sign in to follow this  
Aoife the Celt

Gods and Fighting Men, Part I

Recommended Posts

Gods and Fighting Men,

by Lady Augusta Gregory.


Part I Book I: Fight with the Firbolgs


IT was in a mist the Tuatha de Danaan, the people of the gods of Dana, or as some called them, the Men of Dea, came through the air and the high air to Ireland.


It was from the north they came; and in the place they came from they had four cities, where they fought their battle for learning: great Falias, and shining Gorias, and Finias, and rich Murias that lay to the south. And in those cities they had four wise men to teach their young men skill and knowledge and perfect wisdom: Senias in Murias; and Arias, the fair-haired poet, in Finias; and Urias of the noble nature in Gorias; and Morias in Falias itself. And they brought from those four cities their four treasures: a Stone of Virtue from Falias, that was called the Lia Fail, the Stone of Destiny; and from Gorias they brought a Sword; and from Finias a Spear of Victory; and from Murias the fourth treasure, the Cauldron that no company ever went away from unsatisfied.


It was Nuada was king of the Tuatha de Danaan at that time, but Manannan, son of Lir, was greater again. And of the others that were chief among them were Ogma, brother to the king, that taught them writing, and Diancecht, that understood healing, and Neit, a god of battle, and Credenus the Craftsman, and Goibniu the Smith. And the greatest among their women were Badb, a battle goddess; and Macha, whose mast-feeding was the heads of men killed in battle; and the Morrigu, the Crow of Battle; and Eire and Podia and Banba, daughters of the Dagda, that all three gave their names to Ireland afterwards; and Eadon, the nurse of poets; and Brigit, that was a woman of poetry, and poets worshipped her, for her sway was very great and very noble. And she was a woman of healing along with that, and a woman of smith's work, and it was she first made the whistle for calling one to another through the night. And' the one side of her face was ugly, but the other side was very comely. And the meaning of her name was Breo-saighit, a fiery arrow. And among the other women there were many shadow-forms and great queens; but Dana, that was called the Mother of the Gods, was beyond them all.


And the three things they put above all others were the plough and the sun and the hazel-tree, so that it was said in the time to come that Ireland was divided between those three, Coil the hazel, and Cecht the plough, and Grian the sun.


And they had a well below the sea where the nine hazels of wisdom were growing; that is, the hazels of inspiration and of the knowledge of poetry. And their leaves and their blossoms would break out in the same hour, and would fall on the well in a shower that raised a purple wave. And then the five salmon that were waiting there would eat the nuts, and their colour would come out in the red spots of their skin, and any person that would eat one of those salmon would know all wisdom and all poetry. And there were seven streams of wisdom that sprang from that well and turned back to it again; and the people of many arts have all drank from that well.


It was on the first day of Beltaine, that is called now May Day, the Tuatha de Danaan came, and it was to the north-west of Connacht they landed. But the Firbolgs, the Men of the Bag, that were in Ireland before them, and that had come from the South, saw nothing but a mist, and it lying on the hills.


Eochaid, son of Erc, was king of the Firbolgs at that time, and messengers came to him at Teamhair, and told him there was a new race of people come into Ireland, but whether from the earth or the skies or on the wind was not known, and that they had settled themselves at Magh Rein.


They thought there would be wonder on Eochaid when he heard that news; but there was no wonder on him, for a dream had come to him in the night, and when he asked his Druids the meaning of the dream, it is what they said, that it would not be long till there would be a strong enemy coming against him.


Then King Eochaid took counsel with his chief advisers, and it is what they agreed, to send a good champion of their own to see the strangers and to speak with them. So they chose out Sreng, that was a great fighting man, and he rose up and took his strong red-brown shield, and his two thick-handled spears, and his sword, and he set out from Teamhair, and went on towards the place the. strangers were, at Magh Rein.


But before he reached it, the watchers of the Tuatha de Danaan got sight of him, and they sent out one of their own champions, Bres, with his shield and his sword and his two spears, to meet him and to talk with him.


So the two champions went one towards the other slowly, and keeping a good watch on one another, and wondering at one another's arms, till they came near enough for talking; and then they stopped, and each put his shield before his body and struck it hard into the ground, and they looked at one another over the rim. Bres was the first to speak, and when Sreng heard it was Irish he was talking, his own tongue, he was less uneasy, and they drew nearer, and asked questions as to one another's family and race.


And after a while they put their shields away, and it was what Sreng said, that he had raised his in dread of the thin, sharp spears Bres had in his hand. And Bres said he himself was in dread of the thick-handled spears he saw with Sreng, and he asked were all the aims of the Firbolgs of the same sort. And Sreng took off the tyings of his spears to show them better, and Bres wondered at them, being so strong and so heavy, and so sharp at the sides though they had no points. And Sreng told him the name of those spears was Craisech, and that they would break through shields and crush flesh and bones, so that their thrust was death or wounds that never healed. And then he looked at the sharp, thin, hard-pointed spears that were with Bres. And in the end they made an exchange of spears, the way the fighters on each side would see the weapons the others were used to. And it is the message Bres sent to the Firbolgs, that if they would give up one half of Ireland, his people would be content to take it in peace; but if they would not give up that much, there should be a battle. And he and Sreng said to one another that whatever might happen in the future, they themselves would be friends.


Sreng went back then to Teamhair and gave the message and showed the spear; and it is what he advised his people, to share the country and not to go into battle with a people that had weapons so much better than their own. But Eochaid and his chief men consulted together, and they said in the end: "We will not give up the half of the country to these strangers; for if we do," they said, "they will soon take the whole."


Now as to the Men of Dea, when Bres went back to them, and showed them the heavy spear, and told them of the strong, fierce man he had got it from, and how sturdy he was and well armed, they thought it likely there would soon be a battle. And they went back from where they were to a better place, farther west in Connacht, and there they settled themselves, and made walls and ditches on the plain of Magh Nia, where they had the great mountain, Belgata, in their rear. And while they were moving there and Putting up their walls, three queens of them, Badb and Macha and the Morrigu, went to Teamhair where the Firbolgs were making their plans. And by the power of their enchantments they brought mists and clouds of darkness over the whole place, and they sent showers of fire and of blood over the people, the way they could not see or speak with one another through the length of three days. But at the end of that time, the three Druids of the Firbolgs, Cesarn and Gnathach and Ingnathach, broke the enchantment.


The Firbolgs gathered their men together then, and they came with their eleven battalions and took their stand at the eastern end of the plain of Magh Nia.


And Nuada, king of the Men of Dea, sent his poets to make the same offer he made before, to be content with the half of the country if it was given up to him. King Eochaid bade the poets to ask an answer of his chief men that were gathered there; and when they heard the offer they would not consent. So the messengers asked them when would they begin the battle. "We must have a delay," they said; "for we want time to put our spears and our armour in order, and to brighten our helmets and to sharpen our swords, and to have spears made like the ones you have. And as to yourselves," they said, "you will be wanting to have spears like our Craisechs made for you." So they agreed then to make a delay of a quarter of a year for preparation.


It was on a Midsummer day they began the battle. Three times nine hurlers of the Tuatha de Danaan went out against three times nine hurlers of the Firbolgs, and they were beaten, and every one of them was killed. And the king, Eochaid, sent a messenger to ask would they have the battle every day or every second day. And it is what Nuada answered that they would have it every day, but there should be just the same number of men fighting on each side. Eochaid agreed to that, but he was not well pleased, for there were more men of the Firboigs than of the Men of Dea.


So the battle went on for four days, and there were great feats done on each side, and a great many champions came to their death. But for those that were alive at evening, the physicians on each side used to make a bath of healing, with every sort of healing plant or herb in it, the way they would be strong and sound for the next day's fight.


And on the fourth day the Men of Dea got the upper hand, and the Firbolgs were driven back. And a great thirst came on Eochaid, their king, in the battle, and he went off the field looking for a drink, and three fifties of his men protecting him; but three fifties of the Tuatha de Danaan followed after them till they came to the strand that is called Traigh Eothaile, and they had a fierce fight there, and at the last King Eochaid fell, and they buried him there, and they raised a great heap of stones over his grave.


And when there were but three hundred men left of the eleven battalions of the Firbolgs, and Sreng at the head of them, Nuada offered them peace, and their choice among the five provinces of Ireland. And Sreng said they would take Connacht; and he and his people lived there and their children after them. It is of them Ferdiad came afterwards that made such a good fight against Cuchulain, and Erc, son Of Cairbre, that gave him his death. And that battle, that was the first fought in Ireland by the Men of Dea, was called by some the first battle of Magh Tuireadh.


And the Tuatha de Danaan took possession of Teamhair, that was sometimes called Druim Cain, the Beautiful Ridge, and Liathdruim, the Grey Ridge, and Druim na Descan, the Ridge of the Outlook, all those names were given to Teamhair. And from that time it was above all other places, for its king was the High King over all Ireland. The king's rath lay to the north, and the Hill of the Hostages to the north-east of the High Seat, and the Green of Teamhair to the west of the Hill of the Hostages. And to the northeast, in the Hill of the Sidhe, was a well called Nemnach, and out of it there flowed a stream called Nith, and on that stream the first mill was built in Ireland.


And to the north of the Hill of the Hostages was the stone, the Lia Fail, and it used to roar under the feet of every king that would take possession of Ireland. And the Wall of the Three Whispers was near the House of the Women that had seven doors to the east, and seven doors to the west; and it is in that house the feasts of Team-hair used to be held. And there was the Great House of a Thousand Soldiers, and near it, to the south, the little Hill of the Woman Soldiers.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Part I Book I: Reign of Bres


BUT if Nuada won the battle, be lost his own arm in it, that was struck off by Sreng; and by that loss there came troubles and vexation on his people.


For it was a law with the Tuatha de Danaan that no man that was not perfect in shape should be king. And after Nuada had lost the battle he was put out of the kingship on that account.


And the king they chose in his place was Bres, that was the most beautiful of all their young men, so that if a person wanted to praise any beautiful thing, whether it was a plain, or a dun, or ale, or a flame, or a woman, or a man, or a horse, it is what he would say, "It is as beautiful as Bres." And he was the son of a woman of the Tuatha de Danaan, but who his father was no one knew but herself.


But in spite of Bres being so beautiful, his reign brought no great good luck to his people; for the Fomor, whose dwelling-place was beyond the sea, or as some say below the sea westward, began putting tribute on them, the way they would get them under their own rule.


It was a long time before that the Fomor came first to Ireland; dreadful they were to look at, and maimed, having but one foot or one hand, and they under the leadership of a giant and his mother. There never came to Ireland an army more horrible or more dreadful than that army of the Fomor. And they were friendly with the Firbolgs and content to leave Ireland to them, but there was jealousy between them and the Men of Dea.


And it was a hard tax they put on them, a third part of their corn they asked, and a third part of their milk, and a third part of their children, so that there was not smoke rising from a roof in Ireland but was under tribute to them. And Bres made no stand against them, but let them get their way.


And as to Bres himself, he put a tax on every house in Ireland of the milk of the hornless dun cows, or of the milk of cows of some other single colour, enough for a hundred men. And one time to deceive him, Nechtan singed all the cows of Ireland in a fire of fern, and then he smeared them with the ashes of flax seed, the way they were all dark brown. He did that by the advice of the Druid Findgoll, son of Findemas. And another time they made three hundred cows of wood with dark brown pails in place of udders, and the pails were filled with black bog stuff. Then Bres came to look at the cows, and see them milked before him, and Cian, father of Lugh, was there. And when they were milked it was the bog stuff that was squeezed out; and Bres took a drink of it thinking it to be milk, and he was not the better of it for a long time.


And there was another thing against Bres; he was no way open handed, and the chief men of the Tuatha de Danaan grumbled against him, for their knives were never greased in his house, and however often they might visit him there was no smell of ale on their breath. And there was no sort of pleasure or merriment in his house, and no call for their poets, or singers, or harpers, or pipers, or horn-blowers, or jugglers, or fools. And as to the trials of strength they were used to see between their champions, the only use their strength was put to now was to be doing work for the king. Ogma himself, the shining poet, was under orders to bring firing to the palace every day for the whole army from the Islands of Mod; and he so weak for want of food that the sea would sweep away two-thirds of his bundle every day. And as to the Dagda, he was put to build raths, for he was a good builder, and he made a trench round Kath Brese. And he used often to be tired at the work, and one time, he nearly gave in altogether for want of food, and this is the way that happened. He used to meet in the house an idle blind man, Cridenbel his name was, that had a sharp tongue, and that coveted the Dagda's share of food, for he thought his own to be small beside it. So he said to him: "For the sake of your good name let the three best bits of your share be given to me." And the Dagda gave in to that every night; but he was the worse of it, for what the blind man called a bit would be the size of a good pig, and with his three bits he would take a full third of the whole.


But one day, as the Dagda was in the trench, he saw his son, Angus Og, coming to him. "That is a good meeting," said Angus; "but what is on you, for you have no good appearance to-day?" "There is a reason for that," said the Dagda, "for every evening, Cridenbel, the blind man, makes a demand for the three best bits of my share of food, and takes them from me." "I will give you an advice," said Angus. He put his hand in his bag then, and took out three pieces of gold and gave them to him.


"Put these pieces of gold into the three bits you will give this evening to Cridenbel," he said "and they will be the best bits in the dish, and the gold will turn within him the way he will die."


So that in the evening the Dagda did that; and no sooner had Cridenbel swallowed down the gold than he died. Some of the people said then to the king: "The Dagda has killed Cridenbel, giving him some deadly herb." The king believed that, and there was anger on him against the Dagda, and he gave orders he should be put to death. But the Dagda said: "You are not giving the right judgment of a prince." And he told all that had happened, and how Cridenbel used to say, "Give me the three best bits before you, for my own share is not good to-night." "And on this night," he said, "the three pieces of gold were the best things before me, and I gave them to him, and he died."


The king gave orders then to have the body cut open. And they found the gold inside it, and they knew it was the truth the Dagda had told.


And Angus came to him again the next day, and he said: "Your work will soon be done, and when you are given your wages, take nothing they may offer you till the cattle of Ireland are brought before you and choose out a heifer then, black and black-maned, that I will tell you the signs of."


So when the Dagda had brought his work to an end, and they asked him what reward he wanted, he did as Angus had bidden him. And that seemed folly to Bres; he thought the Dagda would asked more than a heifer of him.


There came a day at last when a poet came to look for hospitality at the king's house, Corpre, son of Etain, poet of the Tuatha de Danaan. And it is how he was treated, he was put in a little dark narrow house where there was no fire, or furniture, or bed; and a feast three small cakes, and they dry, were brought to him on little dish. When he rose up on the morrow he was no way thankful, and as he was going across the green, it is what he said: "With food ready on a dish; without milk enough for a calf to grow without shelter, without light in the darkness of night; with enough to pay a story-teller; may that be the prosperity of Bres."


And from that day there was no good luck with Bres, but it is going down he was for ever after. And that was the first satire ever made in Ireland.


Now as to Nuada after his arm being struck off, he was in his sickness for a while, and then Diancecht, the healer, made an arm of silver for him, with movement in every finger of it, and put it on him. And from that he was called Nuada Argat-lamh, of the Silver Hand, for ever after.


Now Miach, son of Diancecht, was a better hand at healing than his father, and had done many things. He met a young man, having but one eye, at Teamhair one time, and the young man said: "If you are a good physician, you will put an eye in the place of the eye I lost." "I could put the eye of that cat in your lap in its place," said Miach. "I would like that well," said the young man. So Miach put the cat's eye in his head; but he would as soon have been without it after, for when he wanted to sleep and take his rest, it is then the eye would start at the squeaking of the mice or the flight of the birds, or the movement of the rushes; and when he was wanting to watch an army or a gathering, it is then it was sure to be in deep sleep.


And Miach was not satisfied with what his father had done to the king, and he took Nuada's own hand that had been struck off, and, brought it to him and set it in its place, and he said: "Joint to joint, and sinew to sinew." Three days and three nights he was with the, king; the first day he put his hand against his side, and the second day against his breast, till it was covered with skin, and the third day he put bulrushes that were blackened in the fire on it, and at the end of that time the king was healed.


But Diancecht was vexed when he saw his son doing a better cure, than himself, and he threw his sword at his head, that it cut the flesh, but the lad healed the wound by means of his skill. Then Diancecht threw it a second time, that it reached the bone, but the lad was able to cure the wound. Then he struck him the third time and The fourth, till he cut out the brain, for he knew no physician could cure him after that blow; and Miach died, and he buried him.


And herbs grew up from his grave, to the number of his joints and sinews three hundred and sixty-five. And Airmed, his sister, came up and spread out her cloak and laid out the herbs in it, according to their virtue. But Diancecht saw her doing that, and he came and mixed up the herbs, so that no one knows all their right powers to this day.


Then when the Tuatha de Danaan saw Nuada as well as he was before, they gathered together to Teamhair, where Bres was, and they bade him to give up the kingship, for he had held it long enough. So he had to give it up, though he was not very willing, and Nuada was put back in the kingship again.


There was great vexation on Bres then, and he searched his mind to know how could he be avenged on those that had put him out, and how he could gather an army against them; and he went to his mother, Eri, daughter of Delbaith, and bade her tell him what his race was.


"I know that well," she said; and she told him then that his father was a king of the Fomor, Elathan, son of Dalbaech, and that he came to her one time over a level sea in some great vessel that seemed to be of silver, but she could not see its shape, and he himself having the appearance of a young man with yellow hair, and his clothes sewed with gold, and five rings of gold about his neck. And she that had refused the love of all the young men of her own people, gave him her love, and she cried when he left her. And he gave her a ring from his hand, and bade her give it only to the man whose finger it would fit, and he went away then the same way as he had come.


And she brought out the ring then to Bres, and he put it round his middle finger, and it fitted him well. And they went then together to the hill where she was the time she saw the silver vessel coming, and down to the strand, and she and Bres and his people set out for the country of the Fomor.


And when they came to that country they found a great plain with many gatherings of people on it, and they went to the gathering that looked the best, and the people asked where did they come from, and they said they were come from Ireland. "Have you hounds with you?" they asked them then, for it was the custom at that tune, when strangers came to a gathering to give them some friendly challenge. "We have hounds," said Bros. So the hounds were matched against one another, and the hounds of the Tuatha de Dannan were better than the hounds of the Fomor. "Have you horses for a race?" they asked then. "We have," said Bres. And the horses of the Tuatha de Danaan beat the horses of the Fomor.


Then they asked was any one among them a good hand with the sword, and they said Bres was the best. But when he put his hand to his sword, Elathan, his father, that was among them, knew the ring, and he asked who was this young man. Then his mother answered him and told the whole story, and that Bres was his own son.


There was sorrow on his father then, and he said: "What was it drove you out of the country you were king over?" And Bres said: "Nothing drove me out but my own injustice and my own hardness; I took away their treasures from the people, and their jewels, and their food itself. And there were never taxes put on them before I was their king."


"That is bad," said his father; "it is of their prosperity you had a right to think more than of your own kingship. And their good-will would be better than their curses," he said; "and what is it you are come to look for here?" "I am come to look for fighting men," said Bres, "that I may take Ireland by force." "You have no right to get it by injustice when you could not keep it by justice," said his father. "What advice have you for me then?" said Bres.


And Elathan bade him go to the chief king of the Fomor, Balor of the Evil Eye, to see what advice and what help would he give him.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Part I Book II: The Coming of Lugh


Now as to Nuada of the Silver Hand, he was holding a great feast at Teamhair one time, after he was back in the kingship. And there were two door-keepers at Teamhair, Gamal, son of Figal, and Camel, son of Riagall. And a young man came to the door where one of them was, and bade him bring him in to the king. "Who are you yourself?" said the door-keeper. I am Lugh, son of Cian of the Tuatha de Danaan, and of Ethlinn, daughter of Balor, King of the Fomor," he said; "and I am foster-son of Taillte, daughter of the King of the Great Plain, and of Echaid the Rough, son of Duach." "What are you skilled in?" said the door-keeper; "for no one without an art comes into Teamhair." "Question me," said Lugh; "I am a carpenter." "We do not want you; we have a carpenter ourselves, Luchtar, son of Luachaid." "Then I am a smith" "We have a smith ourselves, Colum Cuaillemech of the Three New Ways." "Then I am a champion." "That is no use to us; we have a champion before, Ogma, brother to the king." "Question me again," he said; "I am a harper." "That is no use to us; we have a harper ourselves, Abhean, son of Bicelmos, that the Men of the Three Gods brought from the bills." "I am a poet," he said then, "and a teller of tales." "That is no use to us; we have a teller of tales ourselves, Erc, son of Ethaman." "And I am a magician." "That is no use to us; we have plenty of magicians and people of power." "I am a physician," he said. "That is no use; we have Diancecht for our physician." "Let me be a cup-bearer," he said. "We do not want you; we have nine cup-bearers ourselves." "I am a good worker in brass". "We have a worker in brass ourselves, that is Credne Cerd."


Then Lugh said: "Go and ask the king if he has anyone man that can do all these things, and if he has, I will not ask to come into Teamhair." The door-keeper went into the king's house then and told him all that. "There is a young man at the door," he said, "and his name should be the Ildánach, the Master of all Arts, for all the things the people of your house can do, he himself is able to do every one of them." "Try him with the chess-boards," said Nuada. So the chess-boards were brought out, and every game that was played, Lugh won it. And when Nuada was told that, he said: "Let him in, for the like of him never came into Teamhair before."


Then the door-keeper let him pass, and he came into the king's house and sat down in the seat of knowledge. And there was a great flag-stone there that could hardly be moved by four times twenty yoke of oxen, and Ogma took it up and hurled it out through the house so that it lay on the outside of Teamhair, as a challenge to Lugh. But Lugh hurled it back again that it lay in the middle of the king's house. He played the harp for them then, and he had them laughing and crying, till he put them asleep at the end with a sleepy tune. And when Nuada saw all these things Lugh could do, he began to think that by his help the country might get free of the taxes and the tyranny put on it by the Fomor. And it is what he did, he came down from his throne, and he put Lugh on it in his place, for the length of thirteen days, the way they might all listen to the advice he would give.


This now is the story of the birth of Lugh. The time the Fomor used to be coming to Ireland, Balor of the Strong Blows, or, as some called him, of the Evil Eye, was living on the Island of the Tower of Glass. There was danger for ships that went near that island, for the Fomor would come out and take them. And some say the sons of Nemed in the old time, before the Firbolgs were in Ireland, passed near it in their ships, and what they saw was a tower of glass in the middle of the sea, and on the tower something that had the appearance of men, and they went against it with Druid spells to attack it. And the Fomor worked against them with Druid spells of their own; and the Sons of Nemed attacked the tower, and it vanished, and they thought it was destroyed. But a great wave rose over them then, and all their ships went down and all that were in them.




And the tower was there as it was before, and Balor living in it. And it is the reason he was called "of the Evil Eye," there was a power of death in one of his eyes, so that no person could look at it and live. It is the way it got that power, he was passing one time by a house where his father's Druids were making spells of death, and the window being open he looked in, and the smoke of the poisonous spells was rising up, and it went into his eye. And from that time he had to keep it closed unless he wanted to be the death of some enemy, and then the men that were with him would lift the eyelid with a ring of ivory.


Now a Druid foretold one time that it was by his own grandson he would get his death. And he had at that time but one child, a daughter whose name was Ethlinn; and when he heard what the Druid said, he shut her up in the tower on the island. And he put twelve women with her to take charge of her and to guard her, and he bade them never to let her see a man or hear the name of a man.


So Ethlinn was brought up in the tower, and she grew to be very beautiful; and sometimes she would see men passing in the currachs, and sometimes she would see a man in her dreams. But when she would speak of that to the women, they would give her no answer.


So there was no fear on Balor, and be went on with war and robbery as he was used, seizing every ship that passed by, and sometimes going over to Ireland to do destruction there.


Now it chanced at that time there were three brothers of the Tuatha de Danaan living together in a place that was called Druim na Teine, the Ridge of the Fire, Goibniu and Samthainn and Cian. Cian was a lord of land, and Goibniu was the smith that had such a great name. Now Clan had a wonderful cow, the Glas Gaibhnenn, and her milk never failed. And every one that heard of her coveted her, and many had tried to steal her away, so that she had to be watched night and day.


And one time Cian was wanting some swords made, and he went to Goibniu's forge, and he brought the Glas Gaibhnenn with him, holding her by a halter. When he came to the forge his two brothers were there together, for Samthainn had brought some steel to have weapons made for himself; and Cian bade Samthainn to hold the halter while he went into the forge to speak with Goibniu.


Now Balor bad set his mind for a long time on the Glas Gaibhnenn, but he had never been able to get near her up to this time. And he was watching not far off, and when he saw Samthainn holding the cow, he put on the appearance of a little boy, having red hair, and came up to him and told him he heard his two brothers that were in the forge saying to one another that they would use all his steel for their own swords, and make his of iron. "By my word," said Samthainn, "they will not deceive me so easily. Let you hold the cow, little lad," he said, "and I will go in to them." With that he rushed into the forge, and great anger on him. And no sooner did Balor get the halter in his hand than he set out, dragging the Glas along with him, to the strand, and across the sea to his own island.


When Cian saw his brother coming in he rushed out, and there he saw Balor and the Glas out in the sea. And he had nothing to do then but to reproach his brother, and to wander about as if his wits had left him, not knowing what way to get his cow back from Balor. At last he went to a Druid to ask an advice from him; and it is what the Druid told him, that so long as Balor lived, the cow would never be brought back, for no one would go within reach of his Evil Eye.


Cian went then to a woman-Druid, Birog of the Mountain, for her help. And she dressed him in a woman's clothes, and brought him across the sea in a blast of wind, to the tower where Ethlinn was. Then she called to the women in the tower, and asked them for shelter for a high queen she was after saving from some hardship, and the women in the tower did not like to refuse a woman of the Tuatha de Danaan, and they let her and her comrade in. Then Birog by her enchantments put them all into a deep sleep, and Cian went to speak with Ethlinn. And when she saw him she said that was the face she had seen in her dreams. So she gave him her love; but after a while he was brought away again on a blast of wind.


And when her time came, Ethlinn gave birth to a son. And when Balor knew that, he bade his people put the child in a cloth and fasten it with a pin, and throw him into a current of the sea. And as they were carrying the child across an arm of the sea, the pin dropped out, and the child slipped from the cloth into the water, and they thought he was drowned. But he was brought away by Birog of the Mountain, and she brought him to his father Cian; and he gave him to be fostered by Taillte, daughter of the King of the Great Plain. It is thus Lugh was born and reared.


And some say Balor came and struck the head off Cian on a white stone, that has the blood marks on it to this day; but it is likely it was some other man he struck the head off, for it was by the sons of Tuireann that Cian came to his death.




And after Lugh had come to Teamhair, and made his mind up to join with his father's people against the Fomor, he put his mind to the work; and he went to a quiet place in Grellach Dollaid, with Nuada and the Dagda, and with Ogma; and Goibniu and Diancecht were called to them there. A full year they stopped there, making their plans together in secret, the way the Fomor would not know they were going to rise against them till such time as all would be ready, and till they would know what their strength was. And it is from that council the place got the name afterwards of "The Whisper of the Men of Dea".


And they broke up the council, and agreed to meet again that day three years, and everyone of them went his own way, and Lugh went back to his own friends, the sons of Manannan.




And it was a good while after that, Nuada was holding a great assembly of the people on the Hill of Uisnech, on the west side of Teamhair. And they were not long there before they saw an armed troop coming towards them from the east, over the plain; and there was a young man in front of the troop, in command over the rest, and the brightness of his face was like the setting sun, so that they were not able to look at him because of its brightness.


And when he came nearer they knew it was Lugh Lamh-Fada, of the Long Hand, that had come back to them, and along with him were the Riders of the Sidhe from the Land of Promise, and his own foster-brothers, the sons of Manannan, Sgoith Gleigeil, the White Flower, and Goitne Gorm-Shuileach, the Blue-eyed Spear, and Sine Sindearg, of the Red Ring, and Donall Donn-Ruadh, of the Red-brown Hair. And it is the way Lugh was, he had Manannan's horse, the Aonbharr, of the One Mane, under him, that was as swift as the naked cold wind of spring, and the sea was the same as dry land to her, and the rider was never killed off her back. And he had Manannan's breast-plate on him, that kept whoever was wearing it from wounds, and a helmet on his head with two beautiful precious stones set in the front of it and one at the back, and when he took it off, his forehead was like the sun on a dry summer day. And he had Manannan's sword, the Freagarthach, the Answerer, at his side, and no one that was wounded by it would ever get away alive; and when that sword was bared in a battle, no man that saw it coming against him had any more strength than a woman in child-birth.


And the troop came to where the King of Ireland was with the Tuatha de Danaan, and they welcomed one another.


And they were not long there till they saw a surly, slovenly troop coining towards them, nine times nine of the messengers of the Fomor, that were coming to ask rent and taxes from the men of Ireland; and the names of the four that were the hardest and the most cruel were Eine and Eathfaigh and Coron and Compar; and there was such great dread of these four on the Tuatha de Danaan, that not one of them would so much as punish his own son or his foster-son without leave from them.


They came up then to where the King of Ireland was with the Riders of the Sidhe, and the king and all the Tuatha de Danaan stood up before them. And Lugh of the Long Hand said: "Why do you rise up before that surly, slovenly troop, when you did not rise up before us?"


"It is needful for us to do it," said the king; "for if there was but a child of us sitting before them, they would not think that too small a cause for killing him." "By my word," said Lugh, "there is a great desire coming on me to kill themselves." "That is a thing would bring harm on us," said the king, "for we would meet our own death and destruction through it." "It is too long a time you have been under this oppression," said Lugh. And with that he started up and made an attack on the Fomor, killing and wounding them, till he had made an end of eight nines of them, but he let the last nine go under the protection of Nuada the king. "And I would kill you along with the others," he said, "but I would sooner see you go with messages to your own country than my own people, for fear they might get any ill-treatment."


So the nine went back then till they came to Lochlann, where the men of the Fomor were, and they told them the story from beginning to end, and how a young well-featured lad had come into Ireland and had killed all the tax-gatherers but themselves, "and it is the reason he let us off," they said, "that we might tell you the story ourselves."


"Do you know who is the young man?" said Balor of the Evil Eye then.


"I know well," said Ceithlenn, his wife; "he is the son of your daughter and mine. And it was foretold." she said, "that from the time he would come into Ireland, we would never have power there again for ever."


Then the chief men of the Fomor went into a council, Eab, son of Neid, and Seanchab, grandson of Neid, and Sital Salmhor, and Liath, son of Lobais, and the nine poets of the Fomor that had learning and the gift of foreknowledge, and Lobais the Druid, and Balor himself, and his twelve white-mouthed sons, and Ceithlenn of the Crooked Teeth, his queen.


And it was just at that time Bres and his father Elathan were come to ask help of the Fomor, and Bres said: "I myself will go tor Ireland, and seven great battalions of the Riders of the Fomor along with me, and I will give battle to this Ildánach, this master of all arts, and I will strike his bead off and bring it here to you, to the green of Berbhe." "It would be a fitting thing for you to do," said they all. "Let my ships be made ready for me," said Bres, "and let food and provisions be put in them."


So they made no delay, but went and got the ships ready, and they put plenty of food and drink in them, and the two swift Luaths were sent out to gather the army to Bres. And when they were all gathered, they made ready their armour and their weapons, and they set out for Ireland.


And Balor the king followed them to the harbour, and he said: "Give battle to that Ildánach, and strike off his head; and tie that island that is called Ireland to the back of your ships, and let the destroying water take its place, and put it on the north side of Lochlann, and not one of the Men of Dea will follow it there to the end of life and time."


Then they pushed out their ships and put up their painted sails, and went out from the harbour on the untilled country, on the ridges of the wide-lying sea, and they never turned from their course till they came to the harbour of Eas Dara. And from that they sent out an army through West Connacht and destroyed it altogether, through and through. And the King of Connacht at that time was Bodb Dearg, son of the Dagda.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Part I Book II: The Sons of Tuireann


And Lugh of the Long Hand was at that time at Teamhair with the King of Ireland, and it was showed to him that the Fomor were after landing at Eas Dara. And when he knew that, he made ready Manannan's horse, the Aonbharr, at the time of the battle of the day and night; and he went where Nuada the king was, and told him how the Fomor had landed at Eas Darn and had spoiled Bodb Dearg's counny; "And it is what I want," he said, "to get help from you to give battle to them." But Nuada was not minded to avenge the destruction that was done on Bodb Dearg and not on himself and Lugh was not well pleased with his answer, and he went riding out of Teanihair westward. And presently he saw three armed men coming towards him, his own father Cian, with his brothers Cu and Ceithen, that were the three sons of Cainte, and they saluted him. "What is the cause of your early rising?" they said. "It is good cause I have for it," said Lugh, "for the Fomor are come into Ireland and have robbed Bodb Dearg; and what help will you give me against them?" he said.


"Each one of us will keep off a hundred from you in the battle," said they. "That is a good help," said Lugh; "but there is a help I would sooner have from you than that: to gather the Riders of the Sidhe to me from every place where they are."


So Cu and Ceithen went towards the south, and Cian set out northward, and he did not stop till he reached the Plain of Muirthemne. And as he was going across the plain he saw three armed men before him, that were the three sons of Tuireann, son of Ogma. And it is the way it was between the three Sons of Tuireann and the three Sons of Cainte, they were in hatred and enmity towards one another, so that whenever they met there was sure to be fighting among them.




Then Cian said: "If my two brothers had been here it is a brave fight we would make; but since they are not, it is best for me to fall back." Then he saw a great herd of pigs near him, and he struck himself with a Druid rod that put on him the shape of a pig of the herd, and he began rooting up the ground like the rest.


Then Brian, one of the sons of Tuireann, said to his brothers: "Did you see that armed man that was walking the plain a while ago?" "We did see him," said they. "Do you know what was it took him away?" said Brian. "We do not know that," said they. "It is a pity you not to be keeping a better watch over the plains of the open country in time of war," said Brian; "and I know well what happened him, for he struck himself with his Druid rod into the shape of a pig of these pigs, and he is rooting up the ground now like any one of them; and whoever he is, he is no friend to us." "That is bad for us," said the other two, "for the pigs belong to some one of the Tuatha de Danaan, and even if we kill them all, the Druid pig might chance to escape us in the end."


"It is badly you got your learning in the city of learning," said Brian, "when you cannot tell an enchanted beast from a natural beast." And while he was saying that, he struck his two brothers with his Druid rod, and he turned them into two thin, fast hounds, and they began to yelp sharply on the track of the enchanted pig.


And it was not long before the pig fell out from among the others, and not one of the others made away but only itself, and it made for a wood, and at the edge of the wood Brian gave a cast of his spear that went through its body. And the pig cried out, and it said: "It is a bad thing you have done to have made a cast at me when you knew me." "It seems to me you have the talk of a man," said Brian. "I was a man indeed," said he; "I am Cian, son of Cainte, and give me your protection now." "I swear by the gods of the air," said Brian, "that if the life came back seven times to you I would take it from you every time." "If that is so," said Cian, "give me one request: let me go into my own shape again." "We will do that," said Brian, "for it is easier to me to kill a man than a pig."


So Cian took his own shape then, and he said: "Give me mercy now." "We will not give it," said Brian. "Well, I have got the better of you for all that," said Cian; "for if it was in the shape of a pig you had killed me there would only be the blood money for a pig on me; but as it is in my own shape you will kill me, there never was and never will be any person killed for whose sake a heavier fine will be paid than for myself. And the arms I am killed with," he said, "it is they will tell the deed to my son."


"It is not with weapons you will be killed, but with the stones lying on the ground," said Brian. And with that they pelted him with stones, fiercely and roughly, till all that was left of him was a poor, miserable, broken heap; and they buried him the depth of a man's body in the earth, and the earth would not receive that murder from them, but cast it up again. Brian said it should go into the earth again, and they put it in the second time, and the second time the earth would not take it. And six times the sons of Tuireann buried the body, and six times it was cast up again; but the seventh nine it was put underground the earth kept it. And then they went on to join Lugh of the Long Hand for the battle.


Now as to Lugh; upon parting with his father he went forward from Teamhair westward, to the hills that were called afterwards Gairech and Ilgairech, and to the ford of the Shannon that is now called Athluain, and to Bearna nah-Eadargana, the Gap of Separation, and over Magh Luirg, the Plain of Following, and to Corr Slieve na Seaghsa, the Round Mountain of the Poet's Spring, and to the head of Sean-Slieve, and through the place of the bright-faced Corann, and from that to Magh Mor an Aonaigh, the Great Plain of the Fair, where the Fomor were, and the spoils of Connacht with them.


It is then Bres, son of Elathan, rose up and said: "It is a wonder to me the sun to be rising in the west to-day, and it rising in the east every other day." "It would be better for us it to be the sun," said the Druids. "What else is it?" said he. "It is the shining of the face of Lugh, son of Ethlinn," said they.


Lugh came up to them then and saluted them. "Why do you come like a friend to us?" said they. "There is good cause for that," he said, "for there is but one half of me of the Tuatha de Danaan, and the other half of yourselves. And give me back now the milch cows of the men of Ireland," he said. "May early good luck not come to you till you get either a dry or a milch cow here," said a man of them, and anger on him.


But Lugh stopped near them for three days and three nights, and at the end of that time the Riders of the Sidhe came to him. And Bodb Dearg, son of the Dagda, came with twenty-nine hundred men, and he said: "What is the cause of your delay in giving battle?" "Waiting for you I was," said Lugh.


Then the kings and chief men of the men of Ireland took their armour on them, and they raised the points of their spears over their heads, and they made close fences of their shields. And they attacked their enemies on Magh Moran Aonaigh, and their enemies answered them, and they threw their whining spears at one another, and when their spears were broken they drew their swords from their blue-bordered sheaths and began to strike at one another, and thickets of brown flames rose above them from the bitterness of their many-edged weapons.


And Lugh saw the battle pen where Bres, son of Elathan, was, and he made a fierce attack on him and on the men that were guarding him till he had made an end of two hundred of them.


When Bres saw that, he gave himself up to Lugh's protection. "Give me my life this time," he said, "and I will bring the whole race of the Fomor to fight it out with you in a great battle; and I bind myself to that, by the sun and the moon, the sea and the land," he said.


On that Lugh gave him his life, and then the Druids that were with him asked his protection for themselves. "By my word," said Lugh, "if the whole race of the Fomor went under my protection they would not be destroyed by me." So then Bres and the Druids set out for their own country.




Now as to Lugh and the sons of Tuireann. After the battle of Magh Mor on Aonaigh, he met two of his kinsmen and asked them did they see his father in the fight. "We did not," said they. "I am sure he is not living," said Lugh; "and I give my word," he said, "there will be no food or drink go into my mouth till I get knowledge by what death my father died."


Then he set out, and the Riders of the Sidhe after him, till they came to the place where he and his father parted from one another, and from that to the place where his father went into the shape of a pig when he saw the sons of Tuireann.


And when Lugh came to that place the earth spoke to him, and it said: "It is in great danger your father was here, Lugh, when he saw the sons of Tuireann before him, and it is into the shape of a pig he had to go, but it is in his own shape they killed him."


Then Lugh told that to his people, and he found the spot where his father was buried, and he bade them dig there, the way he would know by what death the sons of Tuireann had made an end of him.


Then they raised the body out of the grave and looked at it, and it was all one bed of wounds. And Lugh said: "It was the death of an enemy the sons of Tuireann gave my dear father." And he gave him three kisses, and it is what he said: "It is bad the way l am myself after this death, for I can hear nothing with my ears, and I can see nothing with my eyes, and there is not a living pulse in my heart, with grief after my father. And you gods I worship," he said, "it is a pity I not to have come here the time this thing was done. And it is a great thing that has been done here," he said, "the people of the gods of Dana to have done treachery on one another, and it is long they will be under loss by it and be weakened by it. And Ireland will never be free from trouble from this out, east and west," he said.


Then they put Cian under the earth again, and after that there was keening made over his grave, and a stone was raised on it, and his name was written in Ogham. And Lugh said: "This hill will take its name from Cian, although he himself is stripped and broken. And it was the sons of Tuireann did this thing," he said, "and there will grief and anguish fall on them from it, and on their children after them. And it is no lying story I am telling you," he said; "and it is a pity the way I am, and my heart is broken in my breast since Cian, the brave man, is not living."


Then he bade his people to go before him to Teamhair, "But do not tell the story till I tell it myself," he said.




And when Lugh came to Teamhair he sat in the high seat of the king, and he looked about him and he saw the three sons of Tuireann. And those were the three that were beyond all others at Teamhair at that time for quickness and skill, for a good hand in battle, for beauty and an honourable name.


Then Lugh bade his people to shake the chain of silence, and they did so,and they all listened. And Lugh said: "What are your minds fixed on at this time, Men of Dea?" "On yourself indeed," said they. "I have a question to ask of you," he said. "What is the vengeance each one of you would take on the man that would kill your father?"


There was great wonder on them when they heard that, and one of the chief men among them said: "Tell us was it your own father that was killed?" "It was indeed," said Lugh; "and I see now in this houses," he said, "the men that killed him, and they know themselves what way they killed him better than I know it." Then the king said: "It is not a death of one day only I would give the man that had killed my father, if he was in my power, but to cut off one of his limbs from day to day till I would make an end of him." All the chief men said the same, and the sons of Tuireann like the rest.


"There are making that answer," said Lugh, "the three men that killed my father; and let them pay the fine for him now, since you are all together in the one place. And if they will not," he said, "I will not break the protection of the king's house, but they must make no attempt to quit this house till they have settled with me."


"If it was I myself had killed your father," said the king, "I would be well content you to take a fine from me for him."


"It is at us Lugh is saying all this," said the sons of Tuireann among themselves. "Let us acknowledge the killing of his father to him," said luchar and Iucharba. "I am in dread," said Brian, "that it is wanting an acknowledgement from us he is, in the presence of all the rest, and that he will not let us off with a fine afterwards." "It is best to acknowledge it," said the others; "and let you speak it out since you are the eldest."


Then Brian, son of Tuireann, said: "It is at us you are speaking, Lugh, for you are thinking we went against the sons of Cainte before now; and we did not kill your father," he said, "but we will pay the fine for him the same as if we did kill him." "I will take a fine from you that you do not think of," said Lugh, "and I will say here what it is, and if it is too much for you, I will let you off a share of it." "Let us hear it from you," said they. "Here it is," said Lugh; "three apples, and the skin of a pig, and a spear, and two horses, and a chariot, and seven pigs, and a dog's whelp, and a cooking-spit, and three shouts on a hill. That is the fine I am asking," he said; "and if it is too much for you, a part of it will be taken off you presently, and if you do not think it too much, then pay it."


"It is not too much," said Brian, "or a hundred times of it would not be too much. And we think it likely," he said, "because of its smallness that you have some treachery towards us behind it." "I do not think it too little of a fine," said Lugh; "and I give you the guarantee of the Tuatha de Danaan I will ask no other thing, and I will be faithful to you, and let you give the same pledge to me." "It is a pity you to ask that," said Brian, "for our own pledge is as good as any pledge in the world." "Your own pledge is not enough," said Lugh, "for it is often the like of you promised to pay a fine in this way, and would try to back out of it after."


So then the sons of Tuireann bound themselves by the King of Ireland, and by Bodb Dearg, son of the Dagda, and by the chief men of the Tuatha de Danaan, that they would pay that fine to Lugh.


"It would be well for me now," said Lugh, "to give you better knowledge of the fine." "It would be well indeed," said they.


"This is the way of it then," said Lugh. "The three apples I asked of you are the three apples from the Garden in the East of the World, and no other apples will do but these, for they are the most beautiful and have most virtue in them of the apples of the whole world. And it is what they are like, they are of the colour of burned gold, and they are the size of the head of a child a month old, and there is the taste of honey on them, and they do not leave the pain of wounds or the vexation of sickness on any one that eats them, and they do not lessen by being eaten for ever. And the skin I asked of you," he said, "is the pig skin of Tuis, King of Greece, and it heals all the wounds and all the sickness of the world, and whatever danger a man may be in, if it can but overtake the life in him, it will cure him; and it is the way it was with that pig, every stream of water it would go through would be turned into wine to the end of nine days after, and every wound it touched was healed; and it is what the Druids of Greece said, that it is not in itself this virtue was, but in the skin, and they skinned it, and the skin is there ever since. And I think, too, it will not be easy for you to get it, with or without leave.


"And do you know what is the spear I am asking of you?" he said. "We do not," said they. "It is a very deadly spear belonging to the King of Persia, the Luin it is called, and every choice thing is done by it, and its head is kept steeped in a vessel of water, the way it will not burn down the place where it is, and it will be hard to get it. And do you know what two horses and what chariot I am asking of you? They are the chariot and the two wonderful horses of Dobar, King of Siogair, and the sea is the same as land to them, and there are no faster horses than themselves, and there is no chariot equal to that one in shape and in strength.


"And do you know what are the seven pigs I asked of you? They are the pigs of Easal, King of the Golden Pillars; and though they are killed every night, they are found alive the next day, and there will be no disease or no sickness on any person that will eat a share of them.


"And the whelp I asked of you is Fail-Inis, the whelp belonging to the King of Ioruaidh, the Cold Country. And all the wild beasts of the world would fall down at the sight of her, and she is more beautiful than the sun in his fiery wheels, and it will be hard to get her.


"And the cooking-spit I asked of you is a spit of the spits of the women of Inis Cenn-fhinne, the Island of Caer of the Fair Hair. And the three shouts you are to give on a hill must be given on the Hill of Miochaoin in the north of Lochlann. And Miochaoin and his sons are under bonds not to allow any shouts to be given on that hill; and it was with them my father got his learning, and if I would forgive you his death, they would not forgive you. And if you get through all your other voyages before you reach to them, it is my opinion they themselves will avenge him on you. And that is the fine I have asked of you," said Lugh.


There was silence and darkness on the sons of Tuireann when they heard that. And they went to where their father was, and told him the fine that had been put on them. "It is bad news that is," said Tuireann; "and it is to your death and your destruction you will be going, looking for those things. But for all that, if Lugh himself had a mind to help you, you could work out the fine, and all the men of the world could not do it but by the power of Manannan or of Lugh. Go then and ask the loan of Manannan's horse, the Aonbharr, from Lugh, and if he has any wish to get the fine, he will give it to you; but if he does not wish it he will say the horse is not his, and that he would not give the loan of a loan. Ask him then for the loan of Manannan's curragh, the Scuabtuinne, the Sweeper of the Waves. And he will give that, for he is under bonds not to refuse a second request, and the curragh is better for you than the horse," he said.


So the Sons of Tuireann went to where Lugh was, and they saluted him, and they said they could not bring him the fine without his own help, and for that reason it would be well for them to get a loan of the Aonbharr. "I have that horse only on loan myself," said Lugh, "and I will not give a loan of a loan."


'If that is so, give us the loan of Manannan's curragh," said Brian. "I will give that," said Lugh. "What place is it?" said they. "At Brugh na Boinn," said Lugh.


Then they went back again to where Tuireann was, and his daughter Ethic, their sister, with him, and they told him they had got the curragh. "It is not much the better you will be for it," said Tuireann, "although Lugh would like well to get every part of this fine he could make use of before the battle with the Fomor. But he would like yourselves to come to your death looking for it."


Then they went away, and they left Tuireann sorrowful and lamenting, and Ethne went with them to where the curragh was. And Brian got into it, and he said: "There is place but for one other person along with me here." And he began to find fault with its narrowness. "You ought not to be faulting the curragh," said Ethne; "and O my dear brother," she said, "it was a bad thing you did, to kill the father of Lugh of the Long Hand; and whatever harm may come to you from it, it is but just." "Do not say that, Ethne," they said, "for we are in good heart, and we will do brave deeds. And we would sooner be killed a hundred times over," they said, "than to meet with the death of cowards." "My grief," said Ethne, "there is nothing more sorrowful than this, to see you driven out from your own country."


Then the three pushed out their curragh from the beautiful clear-bayed shore of Ireland. "What course shall we take first?" said they. "We will go look for the apples," said Brian, "as they were the first thing we were bade bring. And so we ask of you, curragh of Manannan that is under us, to sail to the Garden in the East of the World."


And the curragh did not neglect that order, but it sailed forward over the green-sided waves and deep places till it came to its harbour in the east of the world.


And then Brian asked his brothers: "What way have you a mind to get into the garden? For I think," be said, "the king's champions and the fighting men of the country are always guarding it, and the king himself is chief over them." "What should we do," said his brothers, "but to make straight at them and attack them, and bring away the apples or fall ourselves, since we cannot escape from these dangers that are before us without meeting our death in some place." "It would be better," said Brian, "the story of our bravery and our craftiness to be told and to live after us, than folly and cowardice to be told of us. And what is best for us to do now," he said, "is to go in the shape of swift hawks into the garden, and the watchers have but their light spears to throw at us, and let you take good care to keep out of their reach; and after they have thrown them all, make a quick flight to the apples and let each of you bring away an apple of them in your claws, and I will bring away the third."


They said that was a good advice, and Brian struck himself and the others with his Druid rod, and changed them into beautiful hawks. And they flew towards the garden, and the watchers took notice of them and shouted on every side of them, and threw showers of spears and darts, but the hawks kept out of their reach as Brian had bade them, till all the spears were spent,and then they swept down bravely on the apples, and brought them away with them, without so much as a wound.


And the news went through the city and the whole district, and the king had three wise, crafty daughters, and they put themselves into the shape of three ospreys, and they followed the hawks to the sea, and sent flashes of lightning before them and after them, that scorched them greatly.


"It is a pity the way we are now," said the sons of Tuireann, "for we will be burned through and through with this lightning if we do not get some relief." "If I can give you relief I will do it," said Brian. With that he struck himself and his brothers with the Druid rod, and they were turned into three swans, and they went down quickly into the sea, and the ospreys went away from them then, and the Sons of Tufreann went into their boat.


After that they consulted together, and it is what they agreed, to go to Greece and to bring away the skin of the pig, with or without leave. So they went forward till they came near to the court of the King of Greece.


"What appearance should we put on us going in here?" said Brian. "What appearance should we go in with but our own?" said the others. "That is not what I think best," said Brian; "but to go in with the appearance of poets from Ireland, the way the high people of Greece will hold us in respect and in honour." "It would be hard for us to do that," they said, "and we without a poem, and it is little we know how to make one."


However, they put the poet's tie on their hair, and they knocked at the door of the court, and the door-keeper asked who was in it. "We are poets of Ireland," said Brian, "and we are come with a poem to the king."


The door-keeper went in and told the king that there were poets from Ireland at the door. "Let them in," said the king, "for it is in search of a good man they came so far from their own country." And the king gave orders that everything should be well set out in the court, the way they would say they had seen no place so grand in all their travels.


The sons of Tuireann were let in then, having the appearance of poets, and they fell to drinking and pleasure without delay; and they thought they had never seen, and there was not in the world, a court so good as that or so large a household, or a place where they had met with better treatment.


Then the king's poets got up to give out their poems and songs. And then Brian, son of Tuireann, bade his brothers to say a poem for the king. "We have no poem," said they; "and do not ask any poem of us, but the one we know before, and that is to take what we want by the strength of our hand if we are the strongest, or to fall by those that are against us if they are the strongest." "That is not a good way to make a poem," said Brian. And with that he rose up himself and asked a hearing. And they all listened to him, and it is what he said:


"O Tuis, we do not hide your fame; we praise you as the oak among kings; the skin of a pig, bounty without hardness, this is the reward I ask for it.


"The war of a neighbour against an ear; the fair ear of his neighbour will be against him; he who gives us what he owns, his court will not be the scarcer for it.


"A raging army and a sudden sea are a danger to whoever goes against them. The skin of a pig, bounty without hardness, this is the reward I ask, O Tuis."


"That is a good poem," said the king; "but I do not know a word of its meaning." "I will tell you its meaning," said Brian. "'O Tuis, we do not hide your fame; we praise you as the oak above the kings.' That is, as the oak is beyond the kingly trees of the wood, so are you beyond the kings of the world for open-handedness and for grandeur.


"'The skin of a pig, bounty without hardness.' That is, the skin of a pig you own is what I would wish to get from you as a reward for my poem.


"The war of a neighbour against an ear, the fair ear of his neighbour will be against him.' That is, you and I will be by the ears about the skin, unless I get it with your consent.


"And that is the meaning of the poem," said Brian.


"I would praise your poem," said the king, "if there was not so much about my pig-skin in it; and you have no good sense, man of poetry," he said, "to be asking that thing of me, and I would not give it to all the poets and the learned men and the great men of the world, since they could not take it away without my consent. But I will give you three times the full of the skin of gold as the price of your poem," he said.


"May good be with you, king," said Brian, "and I know well it was no easy thing 1 was asking, but I knew I would get a good ransom for it. And I am that covetous," he said, "I will not be satisfied without seeing the gold measured myself into the skin."


The king sent his servants with them then to the treasure-house to measure the gold. "Measure out the full of it to my brothers first," said Brian, "and then give good measure to myself, since it was I made the poem."


But when the skin was brought out, Brian made a quick sudden snatch at it with his left hand, and drew his sword and made a stroke at the man nearest him, and made two halves of him. And then he kept a hold of the skin and put it about himself, and the three of them rushed out of the court, cutting down every armed man before them, so that not one escaped death or wounding. And then Brian went to where the king himself was, and the king made no delay in attacking him, and they made a hard fight of it, and at the end the King of Greece fell by the hand of Brian, son of Tuireann.


The three brothers rested for a while after that, and then they said they would go and look for some other part of the fine. "We will go to Pisear, King of Persia," said Brian, "and ask him for the spear."


So they went into their boat, and they left the blue streams of the coast of Greece, and they said: "We are well oil when we have the apples and the skin." And they stopped nowhere till they came to the borders of Persia.


"Let us go to the court with the appearance of poets," said Brian, "the same as we went to the King of Greece." "We are content to do that," said the others, "as all turned out so well the last time we took to poetry; not that it is easy for us to take to a calling that does not belong to us."


So they put the poet's tie on their hair, and they were *s well treated as they were at the other court; and when the time came for poems Brian rose up, and it is what he said:




"It is little any spear looks to Pisear; the battle of enemies are broken, it is not too much for Pisear to wound every one of them.


"A yew, the most beautiful of the wood, it is called a king, it is not bulky. May the spear drive on the whole crowd to their wounds of death."


"That is a good poem," said the king, "but I do not understand why my own spear is brought into it, O Man of Poetry from Ireland."


"It is because it is that spear of your own I would wish to get as the reward of my poem," said Brian. "It is little sense you have to be asking that of me," said the king; "and the people of my court never showed greater respect for poetry than now, when they did not put you to death on the spot."


When Brian heard that talk from the king, he thought of the apple that was in his hand, and he made a straight cast and hit him in the forehead, so that his brains were put out at the back of his head, and he bared the sword and made an attack on the people about him. And the other two did not fail to do the same, and they gave him their help bravely till they had made an end of all they met of the people of the court. And then they found the spear, and its head in a cauldron of water, the way it would not set fire to the place.


And after a while they said it was time for them to go and look for the rest of the great fine that was on them, and they asked one another what way should they go. "We will go to the King of the Island of Siogair," said Brian, "for it is with him are the two horses and the chariot the Ildánach asked of us."


They went forward then and brought the spear with them, and it is proud the three champions were after all they had done. And they went on till they were come to the court of the King of Siogair.


"It is what we will do this time," said Brian, "we will go in with the appearance of paid soldiers from Ireland, and we will make friends with the king, the way we will get to know in what place the horses and the chariot are kept." And when they had settled on that they went forward to the lawn before the king's house.


The king and the chief men that were with him rose up and came through the fair that was going on there, and they saluted the king, and be asked who were they. "We are trained fighting men from Ireland," they said, "and we are earning wages from the kings of the world." "Is it your wish to stop with me for a while?" said the king. "That is what we are wanting," said they. So then they made an agreement and took service with him.


They stopped in the court a fortnight and a month, and they never saw the horses through that time. Then Brian said: "This is a bad way we are in, to have no more news of the horses now than the first day we came to the place." "What is best for us to do now?" said his brothers. "Let us do this," said Brian, "let us take our arms and gather our things together, and go to the king and tell him we will leave the country and this part of the world unless he will show us those horses."


So they went to the king that very day, and he asked them what did they mean by getting themselves ready for a journey. "You will hear that, high king," said Brian; "it is because trained fighting men from Ireland, like ourselves, have always trust put in them by the kings they guard, and we are used to be told the secrets and the whispers of any person we are with, and that is not the way you have treated us since we came to you. For you have two horses and a chariot that are the best in the world, as we have been told, and we have not been given a sight of them yet." "It would be a pity you 'to go on that account," said the king, "when I would have showed them to you the first day, if I had known you had a wish to see them. And if you have a mind to see them now," he said, "you may see them; for I think there never came soldiers from Ireland to this place that were thought more of by myself and by my people than yourselves."


He sent for the horses then, and they were yoked to the chariot, and their going was as fast as the cold spring wind, and the sea was the same as the land to them. And Brian was watching the horses closely, and on a sudden he took hold of the chariot and took the chariot driver out and dashed him against the nearest rock, and made a leap into his place himself, and made a cast of the Persian spear at the king, that went through his heart. And then he and his brothers scattered the people before them, and brought away the chariot


"We will go now to Easal, the King of the Golden Pillars," said Brian, "to look for the seven pigs the Ildanach bade us bring him." They sailed on then without delay or drawback to that high country. And it is the way the people of that country were, watching their harbours for fear of the sons of Tuireann, for the story of them had been told in all parts, how they had been sent out of Ireland by force, and how they were bringing away with them all the gifted treasures of the whole world.


Easal came to the edge of the harbour to meet them, and he asked was it true what he heard, that the king of every country they had gone to had fallen by them. Brian said it was true, whatever he might wish to do to them for it. "What was it made you do that?" said Easal. Brian told him then it was the oppression and the hard sentence of another had put them to it; and he told him all that had happened, and how they had put down all that offered to stand against them until that time.


"What did you come to this country now for?" said the king. "For the pigs belonging to yourself," said Brian; "for to bring them away with us is a part of the line." "What way do you think to get them?" said the king. "If we get them with good-will," said Brian, "we are ready to take them thankfully; and if we do not, we are ready to do battle with yourself and your people on the head of them, that you may fall by us, and we may bring away the pigs in spite of you." "If that is to be the end of it," said the king, "it would be a pity to bring my people into a battle." "It would be a pity indeed," said Brian.


Then the king whispered and took advice with his people about the matter, and it is what they agreed, to give up the pigs of their own free will to the sons of Tuireann, since they could not see that any one had been able to stand against them up to that time.


Then the sons of Tuireann gave their thanks to Easal, and there was wonder on them to have got the pigs like that, when they had to fight for every other part of the fine. And more than that, they had left a share of their blood in every other place till then.


Easal brought them to his own house that night, and they were served with food, and drink, and good beds, and all they could wish for. And they rose up on the morrow and came into the king's presence, and the pigs were given to them. "It is well you have done by us, giving us these pigs," said Brian, "for we did not get any share of the fine without fighting but these alone." And he made a poem for the king then, praising him, and putting a great name on him for what be had done.


"What journey are you going to make now, Sons of Tuireann?" said Easal. "We are going," they said, "to the country of Ioruaidh, on account of a whelp that is there." "Give me one request," said Easal, "and that is to bring me with you to the King of Ioruaidh, for a daughter of mine is his wife, and I would wish to persuade him to give you the whelp without a battle." "That will please us well," they said.


So the king's ship was made ready, and we have no knowledge of what happened till they came to the delightful, wonderful coast of Ioruaidh. The people and the armies were watching the harbours and landing-places before them, and they knew them at once and shouted at them.


Then Easal went on shore peaceably, and he went to where his son-in-law, the king, was, and told him the story of the sons of Tuireann from beginning to end. "What has brought them to this country?" said the King of Ioruaidh. "To ask for the hound you have," said Easal. "It was a bad thought you had coming with them to ask it," said the king, "for the gods have not given that much luck to any three champions in the world, that they would get my hound by force or by good-will." "It would be better for you to let them have the hound," said Easal, "since they have put down so many of the kings of the world."


But all he could say was only idleness to the king. So he went then to where the sons of Tuireann were, and gave them the whole account. And when they heard the king's answer, they made no delay, but put quick hands on their arms, and offered to give battle to the army of Ioruaidh. And when they went, there was a brave battle fought on both sides. And as for the sons of Tuireann, they began to kill and to strike at the men of Ioruaidh till they parted from one another in the fight, so that luchar and lucharba chanced to be on one side, and Brian by himself on the other side. It was a gap of danger and a breaking of ranks was before Brian in every path he took, till he came to the King of Ioruaidh in the battle pen where he was. And then the two brave champions began a fierce fight together, and they did not spare one another in it. And at the last Brian overcame the king, and bound him, and brought him through the middle of the army, till he came to the place where Easal was, and it is what he said: "There is your son-in-law for you, and I swear by my hand of valour, I would think it easier to kill him three times than to bring him to you once like this."


So then the whelp was given to the sons of Tuireann, and the king was unbound, and peace was made between them. And when they had brought all this to an end, they bade farewell to Easal and to all the rest.




Now as to Lugh of the Long Hand, it was showed to him that the sons of Tuireann had got all the things that were wanting to him against the battle with the Fomor; and on that he sent a Druid spell after them to put forgetfulness on them of the rest of the fine that they had not got. And he put a great desire and longing on them to go back to Ireland; so they forgot that a part of the fine was wanting to them, and they turned back again toward home.


And it is the place where Lugh was at the time, at a gathering of the people for a fair on the green outside Teamhair, and the King of Ireland along with him. And it was made known to Lugh that the sons of Tuireann were landed at Brugh na Boinne. And he went into the city of Teamhair, and shut the gate after him, and he put on Manannan's smooth armour, and the cloak of the daughters of Flidais, and he took his own arms in his hand.


And the sons of Tuireann came where the king was, and they were made welcome by him and by the Tuatha de Danaan. And the king asked them did they get the fine. "We did get it," said they; "and where is Lugh till we give it to him?" "He was here a while ago," said the king. And the whole fair was searched for him, but he was not found.


"I know the place where he is," said Brian; "for it has been made known to him that we are come to Ireland, and these deadly arms with us, and he is gone into Teamhair to avoid us."


Messengers were sent to him then, and it is the answer he gave them that he would not come, but that the fine should be given to the king.


So the sons of Tuireann did that, and when the king had taken the fine they all went to the palace in Teamhair; and Lugh came out on the lawn and the fine was given to him, and it is what he said:


"There is a good payment here for any one that ever was killed or that ever will be killed. But there is something wanting to it yet that it is not lawful to leave out. And where is the cooking-spit?" he said; "and where are the three shouts on the hill that you did not give yet?"


And when the sons of Tuireann heard that there came clouds of weakness on them. And they left the place and went to their fathers house that night, and they told him all they had done, and the way Lugh had treated them.


There was grief and darkness on Tuireann then, and they spent the night together. And on the morrow they went to their ship, and Ethne, their sister, with them, and she was crying and lamenting, and it is what she said:


"It is a pity, Brian of my life, it is not to Teamhair your going is, after all the troubles you have had before this, even if I could not follow you.


"O Salmon of the dumb Boinne, O Salmon of the Lifé River, since I cannot keep you here I am loath to part from you.


"O Rider of the Wave of Tuaidh, the man that stands best in the fight, if you come back again, I think it will not be pleasing to your enemy.


"Is there pity with you for the sons of Tuireann leaning now on their green shields? Their going is a cause for pity, my mind is filled up with it.


"You to be to-night at Beinn Edair till, the heavy coming of the morning, you who have taken forfeits from brave men, it is you have increased our grief.


"It is a pity your journey is from Teamhair, and from the pleasant plains, and from great Uisnech of Midhe; there is nothing so pitiful as this."


After that complaint they went out on the rough waves of the green sea; and they were a quarter of a year on the sea without getting any news of the island.


Then Brian put on his water dress and he made a leap, and he was a long time walking in the sea looking for the lsland of the Fair-Haired Women, and he found it in the end. And he went looking for the court, and when he came to it, all he found was a troop of women doing needlework and embroidering borders. And among all the other things they had with them, there was the cooking-spit.


And when Brian saw it, he took it up in his hand and he was going to bring it with him to the door. And all the women began laughing when they saw him doing that, and it is what they said:


"It is a brave deed you put your band to; for even if your brothers were along with you, the least of the three times fifty women of us would not let the spit go with you or with them. But for all that," they said, "take a spit of the spit with you, since you had the daring to try and take it in spite of us."


Brian bade them farewell then, and went to look for the boat. And his brothers thought it was too long he was away from them, and just as they were going to leave the place they were, they saw him coming towards them, and that raised their courage greatly.


And he went into the boat, and they went on to look for the Hill of Miochaoin. And when they came there, Miochaoin, that was the guardian of the hill, came towards them; and when Brian saw him he attacked him, and the fight of those two champions was like the fight of two lions, till Miochaoin fell at the last.


And after Miochaoin had fallen, his three sons came out to fight with the three sons of Tuhieann. And if anyone ever came from the east of the world to look at any fight, it is to see the fight of these champions he had a right to come, for the greatness of their blows and the courage of their minds. The names of the sons of Miochaoin were Corc and Conn and Aedh, and they drove their three spears through the bodies of the sons of Tuireann, and that did not discourage them at all and they put their own three spears through the bodies of the sons of Miochaoin, so that they fell into the clouds and the faintness of death.


And then Brian said: "What way are you now, my dear brothers?" "We are near our death," said they. "Let us rise up," he said, "and give three shouts upon the hill, for I see the signs of death coming on us." "We are not able to do that," said they. Then Brian rose up and raised each of them with one hand, and be shedding blood heavily all the time, until they gave the three shouts.


After that Brian brought them with him to the boat, and they were travelling the sea for along time, but at last Brian said: "I see Beinn Edair and our father's dun, and Teamhair of the Kings." "We would have our fill of health if we could see that," said the others; "and for the love of your good name, brother," they said, "raise up our heads on your breast till we see Ireland again, and life or death will be the same to us after that. And O Brian," they said, "Flame of Valour without treachery, we would sooner death to bring ourselves away, than to see you with wounds upon your body, and with no physician to heal you."


Then they came to Beinn Eclair, and from that they went on to their father's house, and Brian said to Tuireann: "Go, dear father, to Teamhair, and give this spit to Lugh, and bring the skin that has healing in it for our relief. Ask it from him for the sake of friendship," be said, "for we are of the one blood, and let him not give hardness for hardness. And O dear father," he said, "do not be long on your journey, or you will not find us alive before you."


Then Tuireann went to Teamhair, and he found Lugh of the Long Hand before him, and he gave him the spit, and he asked the skin of him to heal his children, and Lugh said he would not give it. And Tuireann came back to them and told them he had not got the skin. And Brian said: "Bring me with you to Lugh, to see would I get it from him."


So they went to Lugh, and Brian asked the skin of him. And Lugh said he would not give it, and that if they would give him the breadth of the earth in gold for it, he would not take it from them, unless he was sure their death would come on them in satisfaction for the deed they had done.


When Brian heard that, he went to the place his two brothers were, and he lay down between them, and his life went out from him, and out from the other two at the same time.


And their father cried and lamented over his three beautiful sons, that had the making of a king of Ireland in each of them, and his strength left him and he died; and they were buried in the one grave.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Part I Book III: The Great Battle of Magh Tuireadh


AND it was not long after Lugh had got the fine from the sons of Tuireann that the Fomor came and landed at Scetne.


The whole host of the Fomor were come this time, and their king, Balor, of the Strong Blows and of the Evil Eye, along with them; and Bres, and Indech, son of De Domnann, a king of the Fomor, and Elathan, son of Lobos, and Goll and Ingol, and Octriallach, son of Indech, and Elathan, son of Delbaeth.


Then Lugh sent the Dagda to spy out the Fomor, and to delay them till such time as the men of Ireland would come to the battle.


So the Dagda went to their camp, and he asked them for a delay, and they said he might have that. And then to make sport of him, the Fomor made broth for him, for he had a great love for broth. So they filled the king's cauldron with four times twenty gallons of new milk, and the same of meal and fat, and they put in goats and sheep and pigs along with that, and boiled all together, and then they poured it all out into a great hole in the ground. And they called him to it then, and told him he should eat his fill, the way the Fomor would not be reproached for want of hospitality the way Bres was. "We will make an end of you if you leave any part of it after you," said Indech, son of De Domnann.


So the Dagda took the ladle, and it big enough for a man and a woman to lie in the bowl of it, and he took out bits with it, the half of a salted pig, and a quarter of lard a bit would be. "If the broth tastes as well as the bits taste, this is good food," he said. And he went on putting the full of the ladle into his mouth till the hole was empty; and when all was gone he put down his hand and scraped up all that was left among the earth and the gravel.


Sleep came on him then after eating the broth, and the Fomor were laughing at him, for his belly was the size of the cauldron of a great house. But he rose up after a while, and, heavy as he was, he made his way home; and indeed his dress was no way sightly, a cape to the hollow of the elbows, and a brown coat, long in the breast and short behind, and on his feet brogues of horse hide, with the hair outside, and in his hand a wheeled fork it would take eight men to carry, so that the track he left after him was deep enough for the boundary ditch of a province. And on his way he saw the Battle-Crow, the Morrigu, washing herself in the river Unius of Connacht, and one of her two feet at Ullad Echne, to the south of the water, and the other at Loscuinn, to the north of the water, and her hair hanging in nine loosened locks. And she said to the Dagda, that she would bring the heart's blood of Indech, son of De Domnann, that had threatened him, to the men of Ireland.


And while he was away Lugh had called together the Druids, and smiths, and physicians, and law-makers, and chariot-drivers of Ireland, to make plans for the battle.


And he asked the great magician Mathgen what could be do to help them. "It is what I can do," said Mathgen, "through my power I can throw down all the mountains of Ireland on the Fomor, until their tops will be rolling on the ground. And the twelve chief mountains of Ireland will bring you their help," he said, "and will fight for you: Slieve Leag and Denda Ulad, and Bennai Boirche and Bri Ruri, and Slieve Bladma and Slieve Snechtae, and Slieve Mis and Blai-Slieve, and Nemthann and Slieve Macca Belgodon, and Segois and Cruachan Aigle."


Then he asked the cup-bearers what help they could give. "We will put a strong thirst on the Fomor," they said, "and then we will bring the twelve chief lochs of Ireland before them, and however great their thirst may be, they will find no water in them: Derc-Loch, Loch Luimnech, Loch Orbsen, Loch Righ, Loch Mescdhae, Loch Cuan, Loch Laeig, Loch Echach, Loch Febail, Loch Decket, Loch Riach, Mor-Loch. And we will go," they said, "to the twelve chief rivers of Ireland: the Buas, the Boinn, the Banna, the Nem, the Laoi, the Sionnan, the Muaid, the Sligech, the Samair, the Fionn, the Ruirtech, the Siuir; and they will all be hidden away from the Fomor the way they will not find a drop in them. But as for the men of Ireland," they said, "there will be drink for them if they were to be in battle to the end of seven years."


And Figol, son of Marnos, the Druid, was asked then what he would do, and he said: "It is what I will do, I will cause three showers of fire to pour on the faces of the army of the Fomor, and I will take from them two-thirds of their bravery and their strength, and I will put sickness on their bodies, and on the bodies of their horses. But as to the men of Ireland," he said, "every breath they breathe will be an increase of strength and of bravery to them; and if they are seven years in the battle they will never be any way tired."


Then Lugh asked his two witches, Bechulle and Dianan: "What power can you bring to the battle?" "It is easy to say that," they said. "We will put enchantment on the trees and the stones and the sods of the earth, till they become an armed host against the Fomor, and put terror on them and put them to the rout."


Then Lugh asked Carpre, the poet, son of Etain, what could he do. "It is not hard to say that," said Carpre. "I will make a satire on them at sunrise, and the wind from the north, and I on a hill-top and my back to a thorn tree, and a stone and a thorn in my hand. And with that satire," he said, "I will put shame on them and enchantment, the way they will not be able to stand against fighting men."


Then he asked Goibniu the Smith what would he be able to do. "I will do this," he said. "If the men of Ireland stop in the battle to the end of seven years, for every sword that is broken and for every spear that is lost from its shaft, I will put a new one in its place. And no spear-point that will be made by my hand," he said, "will ever miss its mark; and no man it touches will ever taste life again. And that is more than Dolb, the smith of the Fomor, can do," he said.


"And you, Credne," Lugh said then to his worker in brass, "what help can you give to our men in the battle?" "It is not hard to tell that," said Credne, "rivets for their spears and hilts for their swords and bosses and rims for their shields, I will supply them all."


"And you, Luchta," he said then to his carpenter, "what will you do?" "I will give them all they want of shields and of spear shafts," said Luchta.


Then he asked Diancecht, the physician, what would he do, and it is what he said: "Every man that will be wounded there, unless his head is struck off, or his brain or his marrow cut through, I will make him whole and sound again for the battle of the morrow."


Then the Dagda said: "Those great things you are boasting you will do, I will do them all with only myself." "It is you are the good god!" said they, and they all gave a great shout of laughter.


Then Lugh spoke to the whole army and put strength in them, so that each had the spirit in him of a king or a great lord.





Then when the delay was at an end, the Fomor and the men of Ireland came on towards one another till they came to the plain of Magh Tuireadh. That now was not the same Magh Tuireadh where the first battle was fought, but it was to the north, near Ess Dara.


And then the two armies threatened one another. "The men of Ireland are daring enough to offer battle to us," said Bres to Indech, son of De Domnann. "I give my word," said Indech, "it is in small pieces their bones will be, if they do not give in to us and pay their tribute."


Now the Men of Dea had determined not to let Lugh go into the battle, because of the loss his death would be to them; and they left nine of their men keeping a watch on him. And on the first day none of the kings or princes went into the battle, but only the common fighting men, and they fierce and proud enough.


And the battle went on like that from day to day with no great advantage to one or the other side. But there was wonder on the Fomor on account of one thing. Such of their own weapons as were broken or blunted in the fight lay there as they were, and such of their own men as were killed showed no sign of life on the morrow; but it was not so with the Tuatha de Danaan, for if their men were killed or their weapons were broken to-day, they were as good as before on the morrow.


And this is the way that happened. The well of Slaine lay to the west of Magh Tuireadh to the east of Loch Arboch. And Diancecht and his son Octruil and his daughter Airmed used to be singing spells over the well and to be putting herbs in it; and the men that were wounded to death in the battle would be brought to the well and put into it as dead men, and they would come out of it whole and sound, through the power of the spells. And not only were they healed, but there was such fire put into them that they would be quicker in the fight than they were before.


And as to the arms, it is the way they were made new every day. Goibniu the Smith used to be in the forge making swords and spears, and he would make a spear-head by three turns, and then Luchta the Carpenter would make the shaft by three cuts, and the third cut was a finish, and would set it in the ring of the spear. And when the spear-heads were stuck in the side of the forge, he would throw the shaft and the rings the way they would go into the spearhead and want no more setting. And then Credne the Brazier would make the rivets by three turns and would cast the rings of the spears to them, and with that they were ready and were set together.


And all this went against the Fomor, and they sent one of their young men to spy about the camp and to see could he find out how these things were done. It was Ruadan, son of Bres and of Brigit daughter of the Dagda they sent, for he was a son and grandson of the Tuatha de Danaan. So he went and saw all that was done, and came back to the Fomor.


And when they heard his story it is what they thought, that Goibniu the Smith was the man that hindered them most. And they sent Ruadan back again, and bade him make an end of him.


So he went back again to the forge, and he asked Goibniu would he give him a spear-head. And then he asked rivets of Credne, and a shaft of the carpenter, and all was given to him as he asked. And there was a woman there, Cron, mother to Fianlug, grinding the spears.


And after the spear being given to Ruadan, he turned and threw it at Goibniu, that it wounded him. But Goibniu pulled it out and made a cast of it at Ruadan, that it went through him and he died; and Bres, his father, and the army of the Fomor, saw him die. And then Brigit came and keened her son with shrieking and with crying.


And as to Goibniu, he went into the well and was healed. But after that Octriallach, son of Indech, called to the Fomor and bade each man of them bring a stone of the stones of Drinnes and throw them into the well of Slane. And they did that till the well was dried up, and a cairn raised over it, that is called Octriallach's Cairn.


And it was while Goibniu was making spear-heads for the battle of Magh Tuireadh, a charge was brought against his wife. And it was seen that it was heavy news to him, and the jealousy came to him. And it is what he did, there was a spear-shaft in his hand when he heard the story, Nes its name was; and he sang spells over the spear-shaft, and any one that was struck with that spear afterwards, it would burn him up like fire.


And at last the day of the great battle came, and the Fomor came out of their camp and stood in strong ranks. And there was not a leader or a fighting man of them was without good armour to his skin, and a helmet on his head, a broad spear in his right hand, a heavy sword in his belt, a strong shield on his shoulder. And to attack the army of the Fomor that day was to strike the head against a rock, or to go up fighting against a fire.


And the Men of Dea rose up and left Lugh and his nine comrades keeping him, and they went on to the battle; and Midhir was with them, and Bodb Dearg and Diancecht. And Badb and Macha and the Morrigu called out that they would go along with them.


And it was a hard battle was fought, and for a while it was going against the Tuatha de Danaan; and Nuada of the Silver Hand, their King, and Macha, daughter of Emmass, fell by Balor, King of the Fomor. And Cassmail fell by Octriallach, and the Dagda got a dreadful wound from a casting spear that was thrown by Ceithlenn, wife of Balor.


But when the battle was going on, Lugh broke away from those that were keeping him, and rushed out to the front of the Men of Dea. And then there was a fierce battle fought, and Lugh was heartening the men of Ireland to fight well, the way they would not be in bonds any longer. For it was better for them, he said, to die protecting their own country than to live under bonds and under tribute any longer. And he sang a song of courage to them, and the hosts gave a great shout as they went into battle, and then they met together, and each of them began to attack the other.


And there was great slaughter, and laying low in graves, and many comely men fell there in the stall of death. Pride and shame were there side by side, and hardness and red anger, and there was red blood on the white skin of young fighting men. And the dashing of spear against shield, and sword against sword, and the shouting of the fighters, and the whistling of casting spears and the rattling of scabbards was like harsh thunder through the battle. And many slipped in the blood that was under their feet, and they fell, striking their heads one against another; and the river carried away bodies of friends and enemies together.


Then Lugh and Balor met in the battle, and Lugh called out reproaches to him; and there was anger on Balor, and he said to the men that were with him: "Lift up my eyelid till l see this chatterer that is talking to me." Then they raised Balor's eyelid, but Lugh made a cast of his red spear at him, that brought the eye out through the back of his head, so that it was towards his own army it fell, and three times nine of the Fomor died when they looked at it. And if Lugh had not put out that eye when he did, the whole of Ireland would have been burned in one flash. And after this, Lugh struck his head off.


And as for Indech, son of De Domnann, he fell and was crushed in the battle, and blood burst from his mouth, and he called out for Leat Glas, his poet, as he lay there, but he was not able to help him. And then the Morrigu came into the battle, and she was heartening the Tuatha de Danaan to fight the battle well; and, as she had promised the Dagda, she took the full of her two hands of Indech's blood, and gave it to the armies that were waiting at the foot of Unius; and it was called the Ford of Destruction from that day.


And after that it was not a battle any more, but a rout, and the Fomor were beaten back to the sea. And Lugh and his comrades were following them, and they came up with Bres, son of Elathan, and no guard with him, and he said: "It is better for you to spare my life than to kill me. And if you spare me now," he said, "the cows of Ireland will never go dry." "I will ask an advice about that from our wise men," said Lugh. So he told Maeltine Mor-Brethach, of the Great Judgments, what Bres was after saying. But Maeltine said: "Do not spare him for that, for he has no power over their offspring, though he has power so long as they are living."


Then Bres said: "If you spare me, the men of Ireland will reap a harvest of corn every quarter." But Maeltine said: "The spring is for ploughing and sowing, and the beginning of summer for the strength of corn, and the beginning of autumn for its ripeness, and the winter for using it."


"That does not save you," said Lugh then to Bres. But then to make an excuse for sparing him, Lugh said: "Tell us what is the best way for the men of Ireland to plough and to sow and to reap."


"Let their ploughing be on a Tuesday, and their casting seed into the field on a Tuesday, and their reaping on a Tuesday," said Bres. So Lugh said that would do, and he let him go free after that.


It was in this battle Ogma found Orna, the sword of Tethra, a king of the Fomor, and he took it from its sheath and cleaned it. And when the sword was taken out of the sheath, it told all the deeds that had been done by it, for there used to be that power in swords.


And Lugh and the Dagda and Ogma followed after the Fomor, for they had brought away the Dagda's harp with them, that was called Uaitne. And they came to a feasting-house, and in it they found Bres and his father Elathan, and there was the harp hanging on the wall.And it was in that harp the Dagda had bound the music, so that it would not sound until he would call to it. And sometimes it was called Dur-da-Bla, the Oak of Two Blossoms, and sometimes Coir-cethar-chuin, the Four-Angled Music.


And when he saw it hanging on the wall it is what he said: "Come summer, come winter, from the mouth of harps and bags and pipes." Then the harp sprang from the wall, and came to the Dagda, and it killed nine men on its way.


And then he played for them the three things harpers understand, the sleepy tune, and the laughing tune, and the crying tune. And when he played the crying tune, their tearful women cried, and then he played the laughing tune, till their women and children laughed; and then he played the sleepy tune, and all the hosts fell asleep. And through that sleep the three went away through the Fomor that would have been glad to harm them. And when all was over, the Dagda brought out the heifer he had got as wages from Bres at the time he was making his dun. And she called to her calf, and at the sound of her call all the cattle of Ireland the Fomor had brought away as tribute, were back in their fields again.


And Ce, the Druid of Nuada of the Silver Hand, was wounded in the battle, and he went southward till he came to Cam Corrslebe. And there he sat down to rest, tired with his wounds and with the fear that was on him, and the journey. And he saw a smooth plain before him, and it full of flowers, and a great desire came on him to reach to that plain, and he went on till he came to it, and there he died. And when his grave was made there, a lake burst out over it and over the whole plain, and it was given the name of Loch Ce. And there were but four men of the Fomor left in Ireland after the battle, and they used to be going through the country, spoiling corn and milk and fruit, and whatever came from the sea, till they were driven out one Samhain night by the Morrigu and by Angus Og, that the Fomor might never be over Ireland again.


And after the battle was won, and the bodies were cleared away, the Morrigu gave out the news of the great victory to the hosts and to the royal heights of Ireland and to its chief rivers and its invers, and it is what she said: "Peace up to the skies, the skies down to earth, the earth under the skies; strength to every one."


And as to the number of men that fell in the battle, it will not be known till we number the stars of the sky, or flakes of snow, or the dew on the grass, or grass under the feet of cattle, or the horses of the Son of Lir in a stormy sea.


And Lugh was made king over the Men of Dea then, and it was at Nas he had his court.


And while he was king, his foster-mother Taillte, daughter of Magh Mor, the Great Plain died. And before her death she bade her husband Duach the Dark, he that built the Fort of the Hostages in Teamhair, to clear away the wood of Cuan, the way there could be a gathering of the people around her grave. So he called to the men of Ireland to cut down the wood with their wide-bladed knives and bill-hooks and hatchets, and within a month the whole wood was cut down.


And Lugh buried her in the plain of Midhe, and raised a mound over her, that is to be seen to this day. And he ordered fires to be kindled, and keening to be made, and games and sports to be held in the summer of every year out of respect to her. And the place they were held got its name from her, that is Taillten.


And as to Lugh's own mother, that was tall beautiful Ethlinn, she came to Teamhair after the battle of Magh Tuireadh, and he gave her in marriage to Tadg, son of Nuada. And the children that were born to them were Muirne, mother of Finn, the Head of the Fianna of Ireland, and Tuiren, that was mother of Bran.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Part I Book II: Hidden House of Lugh


AND after Lugh had held the kingship for a long time, the Dagda was made king in his place.


And Lugh went away out of Ireland, and some said he died at Uisnech, the place where the five provinces meet, and the first place there was ever a fire kindled in Ireland. It was by Mide, son of Brath, it was kindled, for the sons of Nemed, and it was burning through six years, and it was from that fire every chief was kindled in Ireland.


But Lugh was seen again in Ireland at the time Conchubar and the Men of the Red Branch went following white birds southward to the Boinn at the time of Cuchulain's birth. And it was he came and kept watch over Cuchulain in his three days' sleep at the time of the War for the Bull of Cuailgne.


And after that again he was seen by Conn of the Hundred Battles, and this is the way that happened.


Conn was in Teamhair one time, and he went up in the early morning to the Rath of the Kings at the rising of the sun, and his three Druids with him, Maol and Bloc and Bhuice; and his three poets, Ethain and Corb and Cesarn. And the reason he had for going up there with them every day, was to look about on every side, the way if any men of the Sidhe would come into Ireland they would not come unknown to him. And on this day he chanced to stand upon a stone that was in the rath, and the stone screamed under his feet, that it was heard all over Teamhair and as far as Bregia.


Then Conn asked his chief Druid how the stone came there, and what it screamed for. And the Druid said he would not answer that till the end of fifty-three days. And at the end of that time, Conn asked him again, and it is what the Druid said: "The Lia Fail is the name of the stone; it is out of Falias it was brought, and it is in Teamhair it was setup, and in Teamhair it will stay forever. And as long as there is a king in Teamhair it is here will be the gathering place for games, and if there is no king to come to the last day of the gathering, there will be hardness in that year. And when the stone screamed under your feet," he said, "the number of the screams it gave was a foretelling of the number of kings of your race that would come after you. But it is not I myself will name them for you," he said.


And while they were in the same place, there came a great mist about them and a darkness, so that they could not know what way they were going, and they heard the noise of a rider coming towards them. "It would be a great grief to us," said Conn, "to be brought away into a strange country." Then the rider threw three spears at them, and every one came faster than the other. "It is the wounding of a king indeed," said the Druids, "any one to cast at Conn of Teamhair."


The rider stopped casting his spears on that, and he came to them and bade Conn welcome, and asked him to come to his house. They went on then till they came to a beautiful plain, and there they saw a king's rath, and a golden tree at its door, and inside the rath a grand house with a roof of white bronze. So they went into the house, and the rider that had come to meet them was there before them, in his royal seat, and there had never been seen a man like him in Teamhair for comeliness or for beauty, or the wonder of his face.


And there was a young woman in the house, having a band of gold on her head, and a silver vessel with hoops of gold beside her, and it full of red ale, and a golden bowl on its edge, and a golden cup at its mouth. She said then to the master of the house: "Who am I to serve drink to?" "Serve it to Cairn of the Hundred Battles," he said, "for he will gain a hundred battles before he dies." And after that he bade her to pour out the ale for Art of the Three Shouts, the son of Conn; and after that he went through the names of all the kings of Ireland that would come after Conn, and he told what would be the length of their lifetime. And the young woman left the vessel with Conn, and the cup and the bowl, and she gave him along with that the rib of an ox and of a hog; twenty-four feet was the length of the ox-rib.


And the master of the house told them the young woman was the Kingship of Ireland for ever. "And as for myself," he said, "I am Lugh of the Long Hand, son of Ethlinn."

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Part I Book III: The Landing


IT is not known, now, for what length of time the Tuatha de Danaan had the sway over Ireland, and it is likely it was a long time they had it, but they were put from it at last.


It was at Inver Slane, to the north of Leinster, the sons of Gaedhal of the Shining Armour, the Very Gentle, that were called afterwards the Sons of the Gael, made their first attempt to land in Ireland to avenge Ith, one of their race that had come there one time and had met with his death.


It is under the leadership of the sons of Miled they were, and it was from the south they came, and their Druids had told them there was no country for them to settle in till they would come to that island in the west. "And if you do not get possession of it yourselves," they said, "your children will get possession of it."


But when the Tuatha de Danaan saw the ships coming, they flocked to the shore, and by their enchantments they cast such a cloud over the whole island that the sons of Miled were confused, and all they could see was some large thing that had the appearance of a pig.


And when they were hindered from landing there by enchantments, they went sailing along the coast till at last they were able to make a landing at Inver Sceine in the west of Munster.


From that they marched in good order as far as Slieve Mis. And there they were met by a queen of the Tuatha de Danaan and a train of beautiful women attending on her, and her Druids and wise men following her. Amergin, one of the sons of Miled, spoke to her then, and asked her name, and she said it was Banba, wife of Mac Cuill, Son of the Hazel.


They went on then till they came to Slieve Eibhline, and there another queen of the Tuatha de Danaan met them, and her women and her Druids after her, and they asked her name, and she said it was Fodhla, wife of Mac Cecht, Son of the Plough.


They went on then till they came to the hill of Uisnech, and there they saw another woman coming towards them. And there was wonder on them while they were looking at her, for in the one moment she would be a wide-eyed most beautiful queen, and in another she would be a sharp-beaked, grey-white crow. She came on to where Eremon, one of the sons of Miled, was, and sat down before him, and he asked her who was she, and she said: "I am Eriu, wife of Mac Greine, Son of the Sun."


And the names of those three queens were often given to Ireland in the after time.


The Sons of the Gael went on after that to Teamhair, where the three sons of Cermait Honey-Mouth, son of the Dagda, that had the kingship between them at that time held their court. And these three were quarrelling with one another about the division of the treasures their father had left, and the quarrel was so hot it seemed likely it would come to a battle in the end.


And the Sons of the Gael wondered to see them quarrelling about such things, and they having so fruitful an island, where the air was so wholesome, and the sun not too strong, or the cold too bitter, and where there was such a plenty of honey and acorns, and of milk, and of fish, and of corn, and room enough for them all.


Great grandeur they were living in, and their Druids about them, at the palace of Teamhair. And Amergin went to them, and it is what he said, that they must give up the kingship there and then, or they must leave it to the chance of a battle. And he said he asked this in revenge for the death of Ith, of the race of the Gael, that had come to their court before that time, and that had been killed by treachery.


When the sons of Cermait Honey-Mouth heard Amergin saying such fierce words, there was wonder on them, and it is what they said, that they were not willing to fight at that time, for their army was not ready. "But let you make an offer to us," they said, "for we see well you have good judgment and knowledge. But if you make an offer that is not fair," they said, "we will destroy you with our enchantments."


At that Amergin bade the men that were with him to go back to Inver Sceine, and to hurry again into their ships with the rest of the Sons of the Gael, and to go out the length of nine waves from the shore. And then he made his offer to the Tuatha de Danaan, that if they could hinder his men from landing on their island, he and all his ships would go back again to their own country, and would never make any attempt to come again; but that if the Sons of the Gael could land on the coast in spite of them, then the Tuatha de Danaan should give up the kingship and be under their sway.


The Tuatha de Danaan were well pleased with that offer, for they thought that by the powers of their enchantments over the winds and the sea, and by their arts, they would be well able to keep them from ever setting foot in the country again.


So the Sons of the Gael did as Amergin bade them and they went back into their ship and drew up their anchors and moved out to the length of nine waves from the shore. And as soon as the Men of Dea saw they had left the land, they took to their enchantments and spells, and they raised a great wind that scattered the ships of the Gael, and drove them from one another. But Amergin knew it was not a natural storm was in it, and Arranan, son of Miled, knew that as well, and he went up in the mast of his ship to look about him. But a great blast of wind came against him, and he fell back into the ship and died on the moment. And there was great confusion on the Gael, for the ships were tossed to and fro, and had like to be lost. And the ship that Donn, son of Miled, was in command of was parted from the others by the dint of the storm, and was broken in pieces, and he himself and all with him were drowned, four-and-twenty men and women in all. And Ir, son of Miled, came to his death in the same way, and his body was cast on the shore, and it was buried in a small island that is now called Sceilg Michill. A brave man Ir was, leading the Sons of the Gael to the front of every battle, and their help and their shelter in battle, and his enemies were in dread of his name.


And Heremon, another of the sons of Miled, with his share of the ships, was driven to the left of the island, and it is hardly he got safe to land. And the place where he landed was called Inver Colpa, because Colpa of the Sword, another of the sons of Miled, was drowned there, and he trying to get to land. Five of the sons of Miled in all were destroyed by the storm and the winds the Men of Dea had raised by their enchantments, and there were but three of them left, Heber, and Heremon, and Amergin.


And one of them, Donn, before he was swept into the sea, called out: "It is treachery our knowledgeable men are doing on us, not to put down this wind." "There is no treachery," said Amergin, his brother. And he rose up then before them, and whatever enchantment he did on the winds and the sea, he said these words along with it:


"That they that are tossing in the great wide food-giving sea may reach now to the land.


"That they may find a place upon its plains, its mountains, and its valleys; in its forests that are full of nuts and of all fruits; on its rivers and its streams, on its lakes and its great waters.


That we may have our gatherings and our races in this land; that there may be a king of our own in Teamhair; that it may be the possession of our many kings.


"That the sons of Miled may be seen in this land, that their ships and their boats may find a place there.


"This land that is now under darkness, it is for it we are asking; let our chief men, let their learned wives, ask that we may come to the noble woman, great Eriu."


After he had said this, the wind went down and the sea was quiet again on the moment.


And those that were left of the sons of Miled and of the Sons of the Gael landed then at Inver Sceine.


And Amergin was the first to put his foot on land, and when he stood on the shore of Ireland, it is what he said:


"I am the wind on the sea;

I am the wave of the sea;

I am the bull of seven battles;

I am the eagle on the rock

I am a flash from the sun;

I am the most beautiful of plants;

I am a strong wild boar;

I am a salmon in the water;

I am a lake in the plain;

I am the word of knowledge;

Iam the head of the spear in battle;

I am the god that puts fire in the head;

Who spreads light in the gathering on the hills?

Who can tell the ages of the moon?

Who can tell the place where the sun rests?"

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Part I Book III: The Battle of Tailltin


AND three days after the landing of the Gael, they were attacked by Eriu, wife of Mac Greine, Son of the Sun, and she having a good share of men with her. And they fought a hard battle, and many were killed on both sides. And this was the first battle fought between the Sons of the Gael and the Men of Dea for the kingship of Ireland.


It was in that battle Fais, wife of Un, was killed in a valley at the foot of the mountain, and it was called after her, the Valley of Fais. And Scota, wife of Miled, got her death in the battle, and she was buried in a valley on the north side of the mountain near the sea. But the Sons of the Gael lost no more than three hundred men, and they beat back the Men of Dea and killed a thousand of them. And Eriu was beaten back to Tailltin, and as many of her men as she could hold together; and when she came there she told the people how she had been worsted in the battle, and the best of her men had got their death. But the Gael stopped on the battle-field, and buried their dead, and they gave a great burial to two of their Druids, Aer and Eithis, that were killed in the fight.


And after they had rested for a while, they went on to Inver Colpa in Leinster, and Heremon and his men joined them there. And then they sent messengers to the three kings of Ireland, the three sons of Cermait Honey-Mouth, and bade them to come out and fight a battle that would settle the ownership of the country once for all.


So they came out, and the best of the fighters of the Tuatha de Danaan with them, to Tailltin. And there they attacked one another, and the Sons of the Gael remembered the death of Ith, and there was great anger on them, and they fell on the Men of Dea to avenge him, and there was a fierce battle fought. And for a while neither side got the better of the other, but at the last the Gael broke through the army of the Men of Dea and put them to the rout, with great slaughter, and drove them out of the place. And their three kings were killed in the rout, and the three queens of Ireland, Eriu and Fodhla and Banba. And when the Tuatha de Danaan saw their leaders were dead they fell back in great disorder, and the Sons of the Gael followed after them. But in following them they lost two of their best leaders, Cuailgne, son of Breagan, at Slieve Cuailgne, and Fuad, his brother, at Slieve Fuad. But they were no way daunted by that, but followed the Men of Dea so hotly that they were never able to bring their army together again, but had to own themselves beaten, and to give up the country to the Gael.


And the leaders, the sons of Miled, divided the provinces of Ireland between them. Heber took the two provinces of Munster, and he gave a share of it to Amergin; and Heremon got Leinster and Connacht for his share, and Ulster was divided between Eimher, son of Ir, son of Miled, and some others of their chief men. And it was of the sons of Eimhir, that were called the Children of Rudraighe, and that lived in Emain Macha for nine hundred years, some of the best men of Ireland came; Fergus, son of Rogh, was of them, and Conall Cearnach, of the Red Branch of Ulster.


And from the sons of Ith, the first of the Gad to get his death in Ireland, there came in the after time Fathadh Canaan, that got the sway over the whole world from the rising to the setting sun, and that took hostages of the streams and the birds and the languages.


And it is what the poets of Ireland used to be saying, that every brave man, good at fighting, and every man that could do great deeds and not be making much talk about them, was of the Sons of the Gael; and that every skilled man that had music and that did enchantments secretly, was of the Tuatha de Danaan. But they put a bad name on the Firbolgs and the men of Domnann and the Gaileoin, for lies and for big talk and injustice. But for all that there were good fighters among them, and Ferdiad, that made so good a stand against Cuchulain, in the war for the Bull of Cuailgne was one of them. And the Gaileoin fought well in the same war; but the men of Ireland had no great liking for them, and their Druids drove them out of the country afterwards.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Part I Book IV: Bodb Deag


BUT as to the Tuatha de Danaan after they were beaten, they would not go under the sway of the sons of Miled, but they went away by themselves. And because Manannan, son of Lir, understood all enchantments, they left it to him to find places for them where they would be safe from their enemies. So he chose out the most beautiful of the hills and valleys of Ireland for them to settle in; and he put hidden walls about them, that no man could see through, but they themselves could see through them and pass through them.


And he made the Feast of Age for them, and what they drank at it was the ale of Goibniu the Smith, that kept whoever tasted it from age and from sickness and from death. And for food at the feast he gave them his own swine, that though they were killed and eaten one day, would be alive and fit for eating again the next day, and that would go on in that way for ever.


And after a while they said: "It would be better for us one king to be over us, than to be scattered the way we are through the whole of Ireland."


Now the men among them that had the best chance of getting the kingship at that time were Bodb Dearg, son of the Dagda; and llbrech of Ess Ruadh; and Lir of Sidhe Fionnachaidh, the Hill of the White Field, on Slieve Fuad; and Midhir the Proud of Bri Leith, and Angus Og, son of the Dagda; but he did not covet the kingship at all, but would sooner be left as he was. Then all the chief men but those five went into council together, and it is what they agreed, to give the kingship to Bodb Dearg, for the sake of his father, for his own sake, and because he was the eldest among the children of the Dagda.


It was in Sidhe Femen Bodb Dearg had his house, and he put great enchantments about it. Cliach, the Harper of the King of the Three Rosses in Connacht, went one time to ask one of his daughters in marriage, and he stayed outside the place through the whole length of a year, playing his harp, and able to get no nearer to Bodb or to his daughter. And he went on playing till a lake burst up under his feet, the lake that is on the top of a mountain, Loch Bel Sead.


It was Bodb's swineherd went to Da Derga's Inn, and his squealing pig along with him, the night Conaire, the High King of Ireland, met with his death; and it was said that whatever feast that swineherd would go to, there would blood be shed before it was over.


And Bodb had three sons, Angus, and Artrach, and Aedh. And they used often to be living among men in the time of the Fianna afterwards. Artrach had a house with seven doors, and a free welcome for all that came, and the king's son of Ireland, and of Alban, used to be coming to Angus to learn the throwing of spears and darts; and troops of poets from Alban and from Ireland used to be with Aedh, that was the comeliest of Bodb's sons, so that his place used to be called "The Rath of Aedh of the Poets". And indeed it was a beautiful rath at that time, with golden-yellow apples in it and crimson-pointed nuts of the wood. But after the passing away of the Fianna, the three brothers went back to the Tuatha de Danaan.


And Bodb Dearg was not always in his own place, but sometimes he was with Angus at Brugh na Boinne.


Three sons of Lugaidh Menn, King of Ireland, Eochaid, and Fiacha, and Ruide, went there one time, for their father refused them any land till they would win it for themselves. And when be said that, they rose with the ready rising of one man, and went and sat down on the green of Brugh na Boinne, and fasted there on the Tuatha de Danaan, to see if they could win some good thing from them.


And they were not long there till they saw a young man, quiet and with pleasant looks, coming towards them, and he wished them good health, and they answered him the same way. "Where are you come from?" they asked him then. "From the rath beyond, with the many lights," he said. "And I am Bodb Dearg, son of the Dagda," he said, "and come in with me now to the rath."


So they went in, and supper was made ready for them, but they did not use it. Bodb Dearg asked them then why was it they were using nothing. "It is because our father has refused land to us," said they; "and there are in Ireland but the two races, the Sons of the Gael and the Men of Dea, and when the one failed us we are come to the other."


Then the Men of Dea consulted together. And the chief among them was Midhir of the Yellow Hair, and it is what he said: "Let us give a wife to every one of these three men, for it is from a wife that good or bad fortune comes."


So they agreed to that, and Midhir's three daughters, Doirenn, and Aife, and Aillbhe, were given to them. Then Midhir asked Bodb to say what marriage portion should be given to them. "I will tell you that," said Bodb. "We are three times fifty sons of kings in this hill; let every king's son give three times fifty ounces of red gold. And I myself," he said, "will give them along with that, three times fifty suits of clothing of all colours." "I will give them a gift," said a young man of the Tuatha de Danaan, from Rachlainn in the sea. "A horn l will give them, and a vat. And there is nothing wanting but to fill the vat with pure water, and it will turn into mead, fit to drink, and strong enough to make drunken. And into the horn," he said, "you have but to put salt water from the sea, and it will turn into wine on the moment." "A gift to them from me," said Lir of Sidhe Fionnachaidh, "three times fifty swords, and three times fifty well-riveted long spears." "A gift from me," said Angus Og, son of the Dagda, "a rath and a good town with high walls, and with bright sunny houses, and with wide houses, in whatever place it will please them between Rath Chobtaige and Teamhair." "A gift to them from me," said Aine, daughter of Modharn, "a woman-cook that I have, and there is geasa on her not to refuse food to any; and according as she serves it out, her store fills up of itself again." "Another gift to them from me," said Bodb Dearg, "a good musician that I have, Fertuinne, son of Trogain; and although there were women in the sharpest pains of childbirth, and brave men wounded early in the day, in a place where there were saws going through wood, they would sleep at the sweetness of the music he makes. And whatever house he may be in, the people of the whole country round will hear him."


So they stopped in Brugh na Boinne three days and three nights, and when they left it, Angus bade them bring away from the oak-wood three apple-trees, one in full bloom, and one shedding its blossom, and the third covered with ripe fruit.


They went then to their own dun that was given them, and it is a good place they had there, and a troop of young men, and great troops of horses and of greyhounds; and they had three sorts of music that comely kings liked to be listening to, the music of harps and of lutes, and the chanting of Trogain's son; and there were three great sounds, the tramping on the green, and the uproar of racing, and the lowing of cattle; and three other sounds, the grunting of good pigs with the fat thick on them, and the voices of the crowd on the green lawn, and the noise of men drinking inside the house. And as to Eochaid, it was said of him that he never took a step backwards in flight, and his house was never without music or drinking of ale. And it was said of Fiacha that there was no man of his time braver than himself, and that he never said a word too much. And as to Ruide, he never refused any one, and never asked anything at all of any man.


And when their lifetime was over, they went back to the Tuatha de Danaan, for they belonged to them through their wives, and there they have stopped ever since.


And Bodb Dearg had a daughter, Scathniamh, the Flower of Brightness, that gave her love to Caoilte in the time of the Fianna; and they were forced to part from one another, and they never met again till the time Caoilte was old and withered, and one of the last that was left of the Fianna. And she came to him out of the cave of Cruachan, and asked him for the bride-price he bad promised her, and that she was never able to come and ask for till then. And Caoilte went to a cairn that was near and that was full up of gold, that was wages earned by Conan Maol and hidden there, and be gave the gold to Bodb Dearg's daughter. And the people that were there wondered to see the girl so young and comely, and Caoilte so grey and bent and withered. "There is no wonder in that," said Caoilte, "for I am of the sons of Miled that wither and fade away, but she is of the Tuatha de Danaan that never change and that never die."

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Part I Book IV: The Dagda


AND it was at Brugh na Boinne the Dagda, the Red Man of all Knowledge, had his house. And the most noticeable things in it were the Hall of the Morrigu, and the Bed of the Dagda, and the Birthplace of Cermait Honey-Mouth, and the Prison of the Grey of Macha that was Cuchulain's horse afterwards. And there was a little hill by the house that was called the Comb and the Casket of the Dagda's wife; and another that was called the Hill of Dabilla, that was the little hound belonging to Boann. And the Valley of the Mata was there, the Sea-Turtle that could suck down a man in armour.


And it is likely the Dagda put up his cooking oven there, that Druimne, son of Luchair, made for him at Teamhair. And it is the way it was, the axle and the wheel were of wood, and the body was iron, and there were twice nine wheels in its axle, that it might turn the faster; and it was as quick as the quickness of a stream in turning, and there were three times nine spits from it, and three times nine pots. And it used to lie down with the cinders and to rise to the height of the roof with the flame.


The Dagda himself made a great vat one time for Ainge, his daughter, but she was not well satisfied with it, for it would not stop from dripping while the sea was in flood, though it would not lose a drop during the ebb-tide. And she gathered a bundle of twigs to make a new vat for herself, but Gaible, son of Nuada of the Silver Hand, stole it from her and hurled it away. And in the place where it fell a beautiful wood grew up, that was called Gaible's Wood.


And the Dagda had his household at Brugh na Boinne, and his steward was Dichu, and Len Linfiaclach was the smith of the Brugh. It was he lived in the lake, making the bright vessels of Fand, daughter of Flidhais; and every evening when he left off work he would make a cast of the anvil eastward to Indeoin na Dese, the Anvil of the Dese, as far as the Grave End. Three showers it used to cast, a shower of fire, and a shower of water, and a shower of precious stones of pure purple.


But Tuirbe, father of Goibniu the Smith, used to throw better again, for he would make a cast of his axe from Tulach na Bela, the Hill of the Axe, in the face of the flood tide, and he would put his order on the sea, and it would not come over the axe.


And Corann was the best of the harpers of the household; he was harper to the Dagda's son, Diancecht. And one time he called with his harp to Cailcheir, one of the swine of Debrann. And it ran northward with all the strength of its legs, and the champions of Connacht were following after it with all their strength of running, and their hounds with them, till they got as far as Ceis Corain, and they gave it up there, all except Niall that went on the track of the swine till he found it in the oak-wood of Tarba, and then it made away over the plain of Ai, and through a lake. And Niall and his hound were drowned in following it through the lake. And the Dagda gave Corann a great tract of land for doing his harping so well.


But however great a house the Dagda had, Angus got it away from him in the end, through the help of Manannan, son of Lir. For Manannan bade him to ask his father for it for the length of a day and a night, and that he by his art would take away his power of refusing. So Angus asked for the Brugh, and his father gave it to him for a day and a night. But when he asked it back again, it is what Angus said, that it had been given to him for ever, for the whole of life and time is made up of a day and a night, one following after the other.


So when the Dagda heard that he went away and his people and his household with him, for Manannan had put an enchantment on them all.


But Dichu the Steward was away at the time, and his wife and his son, for they were gone out to get provisions for a feast for Manannan and his friends. And when he came back and knew his master was gone, he took service with Angus.


And Angus stopped in Brugh na Boinne, and some say he is there to this day, with the hidden walls about him, drinking Goibniu's ale and eating the pigs that never fail.


As to the Dagda, he took no revenge, though he had the name of being revengeful and quick in his temper. And some say it was at Teamhair he made his dwelling-place after that, but wherever it was, a great misfortune came on him.


It chanced one time Corrgenn, a great man of Connacht, came to visit him, and his wife along with him. And while they were there, Corrgenn got it in his mind that there was something that was not right going on between his wife and Aedh, one of the sons of the Dagda. And great jealousy and anger came on him, and he struck at the young man and killed him before his father's face.


Every one thought the Dagda would take Corrgenn's life then and there in revenge for his son's life. But he would not do that, for he said if his son was guilty, there was no blame to be put on Corrgenn for doing what he did. So he spared his life for that time, but if he did, Corrgenn did not gain much by it. For the punishment he put on him was to take the dead body of the young man on his back, and never lay it down till he would find a stone that would be its very fit in length and in breadth, and that would make a gravestone for him; and when he had found that, he could bury him in the nearest hill.


So Corrgenn had no choice but to go, and he set out with his load; but he bad a long way to travel before he could find a stone that would fit, and it is where he found one at last, on the shore of Loch Feabhail. So then he left the body up on the nearest bill, and he went down and raised the stone and brought it up and dug a grave and buried the Dagda's son. And it is many an Ochone! he gave when he was putting the stone over him, and when he had that done he was spent, and he dropped dead there and then.


And the Dagda brought his two builders, Garbhan and Imheall, to the place, and he bade them build a rath there round the grave. It was Garbhan cut the stones and shaped them, and Imheall set them all round the house till the work was finished, and then he closed the top of the house with a slab. And the place was called the Hill of Aileac, that is, the Hill of Sighs and of a Stone, for it was tears of blood the Dagda shed on account of the death of his son.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Part I Book IV: Angus Og


AND as to Angus Og, son of the Dagda, sometimes be would come from Brugh na Boinne and let himself be seen upon the earth.


It was a long time after the coming of the Gael that he was seen by Cormac, King of Teamhair, and this is the account he gave of him.


He was by himself one day in his Hall of Judgment, for he used to be often reading the laws and thinking how he could best carry them out. And on a sudden he saw a stranger, a very comely young man, at the end of the hall; and he knew on the moment it was Angus Og, for he had often heard his people talking of him, but he himself used to be saying he did not believe there was any such person at all. And when his people came back to the hall, he told them how he had seen Angus himself, and had talked with him, and Angus had told him his name, and had foretold what would happen to him in the future. "And he was a beautiful young man," he said, "with high looks, and his appearance was more beautiful than all beauty, and there were ornaments of gold on his dress; in his hand he held a silver harp with strings of red gold, and the sound of its strings was sweeter than all music under the sky; and over the harp were two birds that seemed to be playing on it. He sat beside me pleasantly and played his sweet music to me, and in the end he foretold things that put drunkenness on my wits."


The birds, now, that used to be with Angus were four of his kisses that turned into birds and that used to be coming about the young men of Ireland, and crying after them. "Come, come," two of them would say, and "I go, I go," the other two would say, and it was hard to get free of them. But as to Angus, even when he was in his young youth, he used to be called the Frightener, or the Disturber; for the plough teams of the world, and every sort of cattle that is used by men, would make away in terror before him. And one time he appeared in the shape of a landholder to two men, Ribh and Eocho, that were looking for a place to settle in. The first place they chose was near Bregia on a plain that was belonging to Angus; and it was then he came to them, leading his horse in his hand, and told them they should not stop there. And they said they could not carry away their goods without horses. Then he gave them his horse, and bade them to put all they had a mind to on that horse and he would carry it, and so he did. But the next place they chose was Magh Find, the Fine Plain, that was the playing ground of Angus and of Midhir. And that time Midhir caine to them in the same way and gave them a horse to put their goods on, and he went on with them as far as Magh Dairbthenn.


And there were many women loved Angus, and there was one Enghi, daughter of Elcmair, loved him though she had not seen him. And she went one time looking for him to the gathering for games between Cletech and Sidhe in Broga; and the bright troops of the Sidhe used to come to that gathering every Samhain evening, bringing a moderate share of food with them, that is, a nut. And the sons of Derc came from the north, out of Sidhe Findabrach, and they went round about the young men and women without their knowledge and they brought away Elcmair's daughter. There were great lamentations made then, and the name the place got was Cnoguba, the Nut Lamentation, from the crying there was at that gathering.


And Derbrenn, Eochaid Fedlech's daughter, was another that was loved by Angus, and she bad six fosterlings, three boys and three girls. But the mother of the boys, Daib Garb, the Rough, put a spell on them she made from a gathering of the nuts of Caill Ochuid, that turned them into swine.


And Angus gave them into the care of Buichet, the Hospitaller of Leinster, and they stopped a year with him. But at the end of that time there came a longing on Buichet's wife to eat a bit of the flesh of one of them. So she gathered a hundred armed men and a hundred hounds to take them. But the pigs made away, and went to Brugh na Boinne, to Angus, and he bade them welcome, and they asked him to give them his help. But he said he could not do that till they had shaken the Tree of Tarbga, and eaten the salmon of Inver Umaill.


So they went to Glascarn, and stopped a year in hiding with Derbrenn. And then they shook the Tree of Tarbga, and they went on towards Inver Umaill. But Maeve gathered the men of Connacht to hunt them, and they all fell but one, and their heads were put in a mound, and it got the name of Duma Selga, the Mound of the Hunting.


And it was in the time of Maeve of Cruachan that Angus set his love on Caer Ormaith, of the Province of Connacht, and brought her away to Brugh na Boinne.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Part I Book IV: The Morrigu


As to the Morrigu, the Great Queen, the Crow of Battle, where she lived after the coming of the Gael is not known, but before that time it was in Teamhair she lived. And she had a great cooking-spit there, that held three sorts of food on it at the one time: a piece of raw meat, and a piece of dressed meat, and a piece of butter. And the raw was dressed, and the dressed was not burned, and the butter did not melt, and the three together on the spit.


Nine men that were outlaws went to her one time and asked for a spit to be made for themselves. And they brought it away with them, and it had nine ribs in it, and every one of the outlaws would carry a rib in his hand wherever he would go, till they would all meet together at the close of day. And if they wanted the spit to be high, it could be raised to a man's height, and at another time it would not be more than the height of a fist over the fire, without breaking and without lessening.


And Mechi, the son the Morrigu had, was killed by Mac Cecht on Magh Mechi, that till that time had been called Magh Fertaige. Three hearts he had, and it is the way they were, they had the shapes of three serpents through them. And if Mechi had not met with his death, those serpents in him would have grown, and what they left alive in Ireland would have wasted away. And Mac Cecht burned the three hearts on Magh Luathad, the Plain of Ashes, and he threw the ashes into the stream; and the rushing water of the stream stopped and boiled up, and every creature in it died.


And the Morrigu used often to be meddling in Ireland in Cuchulain's time, stirring up wars and quarrels. It was she came and roused up Cuchulain one time when he was but a lad, and was near giving into some enchantment that was used against him. "There is not the making of a hero in you," she said to him, "and you lying there under the feet of shadows." And with that Cuchulain rose up and struck off the head of a shadow that was standing over him, with his hurling stick. And the time Conchubar was sending out Finched to rouse up the men of Ulster at the time of the war for the Bull of Cuafigne, he bade him to go to that terrible fury, the Morrigu, to get help for Cuchulain. And she had a dispute with Cuchulain one time he met her, and she bringing away a cow from the Hill of Cruachan; and another time she helped Taichinem, a Druid of the household of Conaire Mor, to bring away a bull his wife had set her mind on. And indeed she was much given to meddling with cattle, and one time she brought away a cow from Odras, that was of the household of the cow-chief of Connac Hua Cuined, and that was going after her husband with cattle. And the Morrigu brought the cow away with her to the Cave of Cruachan, and the Hill of the Sidhe. And Odras followed her there till sleep fell on her in the oak-wood of Falga; and the Morrigu awoke her and sang spells over her, and made of her a pool of water that went to the river that flows to the west of Slieve Buane.


And in the battle of Magh Rath, she fluttered over Congal Claen in the shape of a bird, till he did not know friend from foe. And after that again at the battle of Cluantarbh, she was flying over the bead of Murchadh, son of Brian; for she had many shapes, and it was in the shape of a crow she would sometimes fight her battles.


And if it was not the Morrigu, it was Badb that showed herself in the battle of Dunbolg, where the men of Ireland were fighting under Aedh, son of Niall; and Brigit was seen in the same battle on the side of the men of Leinster.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Part I Book IV: Aine


AND as to Aine, that some said was a daughter of Manannan, but some said was the Morrigu herself, there was a stone belonging to her that was called Cathair Aine. And if any one would sit on that stone he would be in danger of losing his wits, and any one that would sit on it three times would lose them for ever. And people whose wits were astray would make their way to it, and mad dogs would come from all parts of the country, and would flock around it, and then they would go into the sea to Aine's place there. But those that did cures by herbs said she had power over the whole body; and she used to give gifts of poetry and of music, and she often gave her love to men, and they called her the Leanan Sidhe, the Sweetheart of the Sidhe.


And it was no safe thing to offend Aine, for she was very revengeful. Oilioll Oluim, a king of Ireland, killed her brother one time, and it is what she did, she made a great yew-tree by enchantment beside the river Maigh in Luimnech, and she put a little man in it, playing sweet music on a harp. And Oilioli's son was passing the river with his step-brother, and they saw the tree and heard the sweet music from it. And first they quarrelled as to which of them would have the little harper, and then they quarrelled about the tree, and they asked a judgment from Ollioll, and he gave it for his own son. And it was the bad feeling about that judgment that led to the battle of Magh Mucruimhe, and Oilioll and his seven sons were killed there, and so Aine got her revenge.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Part I Book IV: Aoibhell


AND Aoibhell, another woman of the Sidhe, made her dwelling-place in Craig Liath, and at the time of the battle of Cluantarbh she set her love on a young man of Munster, Dubhlaing ua Artigan, that had been sent away in disgrace by the King of Ireland. But before the battle he came back to join with Murchadh, the king's son, and to fight for the GaeI. And Aoibhell came to stop him; and when he would not stop with her she put a Druid covering about him, the way no one could see him.


And he went where Murchadh was fighting, and he made a great attack on the enemies of Ireland, and struck them down on every side. And Murchadh looked around him, and he said: "It seems to me I hear the sound of the blows of Dubhlaing ua Artigan, but I do not see himself." Then Dubhlaing threw off the Druid covering that was about him, and he said: 'I will not keep this covering upon me when you cannot see me through it. And come now across the plain to where Aoibbell is," he said, "for she can give us news of the battle."


So they went where she was, and she bade them both to quit the battle, for they would lose their lives in it. But Murchadh said to her, "I will tell you a little true story," he said; "that fear for my own body will never make me change my face. And if we fall," he said, "the strangers will fall with us; and it is many a man will fall by my own hand, and the Gael will be sharing their strong places." "Stop with me, Dubhlaing," she said then, "and you will have two hundred years of happy life with myself." "I will not give up Murchadh," he said, "or my own good name, for silver or gold." And there was anger on Aoibhell when he said that, and she said: "Murchadh will fall, and you yourself will fall, and your proud blood will be on the plain tomorrow." And they went back into the battle, and got their death there.


And it was Aoibhell gave a golden harp to the son of Meardha the time he was getting his learning at the school of the Sidhe in Connacht and that he heard his father had got his death by the King of Lochlann. And whoever heard the playing of that harp would not live long after it. And Meardha's son went where the three sons of the King of Lochlann were, and played on his harp for them, and they died.


It was that harp Cuchulain heard the time his enemies were gathering against him at Muirthemne, and he knew by it that his life was near its end.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Part I Book IV: Midhir and Etain


AND Midhir took a hill for himself, and his wife Fuamach was with him there, and his daughter, Bri. And Leith, son of Cehchar of Cualu, was the most beautiful among the young men of the Sidhe of Ireland at that time, and he loved Bri, Midhir's daughter. And Bri went out with her young girls to meet him one time at the Grave of the Daughters beside Teamhair. And Leith came and his young men along with him till he was on the Hill of the After Repentance. And they could not come nearer to one another because of the slingers on Midhir's hill that were answering one another till their spears were as many as a swarm of bees on a day of beauty. And Cochlan, Leith's servant, got a sharp wound from them and he died.


Then the girl turned back to Midhir's hill, and her heart broke in her and she died. And Leith said: "Although I am not let come to this girl, I will leave my name with her." And the bill was called Bri Leith from that time.


After a while Midhir took Etain Echraide to be his wife. And there was great jealousy on Fuamach, the wife be had before, when she saw the love that Midhir gave to Etain, and she called to the Druid, Bresal Etarlaim to help her, and he put spells on Etain the way Fuamach was able to drive her away.


And when she was driven out of Bri Leith, Angus Og, son of the Dagda, took her into his keeping; and when Midhir asked her back, he would not give her up, but he brought her about with him to every place be went. And wherever they rested, he made a sunny house for her, and put sweet-smelling flowers in it, and he made invisible walls about it, that no one could see through and that could not be seen.


But when news came to Fuamach that Etain was so well cared for by Angus, anger and jealousy came on her again, and she searched her mind for a way to destroy Etain altogether.


And it is what she did, she persuaded Midhir and Angus to go out and meet one another and to make peace, for there had been a quarrel between them ever since the time Etain was sent away. And when Angus was away from Brugh na Boinn, Fuamach went and found Etain there, in her sunny house. And she turned her with Druid spells into a fly, and then she sent a blast of wind into the house, that swept her away through the window.


But as to Midhir and Angus, they waited a while for Fuamach to come and join them. And when she did not come they were uneasy in their minds, and Angus hurried back to Brugh na Boinn. And when he found the sunny house empty, he went in search of Fuamach, and it was along with Etarlaim, the Druid, he found her, and he struck her head off there and then.


And for seven years Etain was blown to and fro through Ireland in great misery. And at last she came to the house of Etar, of Inver Cechmaine, where there was a feast going on, and she fell from a beam of the roof into the golden cup that was beside Etar's wife. And Etar's wife drank her down with the wine, and at the end of nine months she was born again as Etar's daughter.


And she had the same name as before, Etain; and she was reared as a king's daughter, and there were fifty young girls, daughters of princes, brought up with her to keep her company.


And it happened one day Etain and all the rest of the young girls were out bathing in the bay at Inver Cechmaine, and they saw from the water a man, with very high looks, coming towards them over the plain, and he riding a bay horse with mane and tail curled. A long green cloak he had on him, and a shirt woven with threads of red gold, and a brooch of gold that reached across to his shoulders on each side. And he had on his back a shield of silver with a rim of gold and a boss of gold, and in his hand a sharp-pointed spear covered with rings of gold from heel to socket. Fair yellow hair he bad, coming over his forehead, and it bound with a golden band to keep it from loosening.


And when he came near them he got down from his horse, and sat down on the bank, and it is what he said: "It is here Etain is to-day, at the Mound of Fair Women. It is among little children is her life on the strand of Inver Cechmaine.


"It is she healed the eye of the king from the well of Loch da Lig; it is she was swallowed in a heavy drink by the wife of Etar.


"Many great battles will happen for your sake to Echaid of Midhe; destruction will fall upon the Sidhe, and war on thousands of men."


And when he had said that, he vanished, and no one knew where he went. And they did not know the man that had come to them was Midhir of Bri Leith.


And when Etain was grown to be a beautiful young woman, she was seen by Eochaid Feidlech, High King of Ireland, and this is the way that happened.


He was going one time over the fair green of Bri Leith, and he saw at the side of a well a woman, with a bright comb of gold and silver, and she washing in a silver basin having four golden birds on it, and little bright purple stones set in the rim of the basin. A beautiful purple cloak she had, and silver fringes to it, and a gold brooch; and she had on her a dress of green silk with a long hood, embroidered in red gold, and wonderful clasps of gold and silver on her breasts and on her shoulder. The sunlight was falling on her, so that the gold and the green silk were shining out. Two plaits of hair she had, four locks in each plait, and a bead at the point of every lock, and the colour of her hair was like yellow flags in summer, or like red gold after it is rubbed,


There she was, letting down her hair to wash it, and her arms out through the sleeve-holes of her shift. Her soft bands were as white as the snow of a single night, and her eyes as blue as any blue flower, and her lips as red as the berries of the rowan-tree~ and her body as white as the foam of a wave. The bright light of the moon was in her face, the highness of pride in her eyebrows, a dimple of delight in each of her cheeks, the light of wooing in her eyes, and when she walked she had a step that was steady and even like the walk of a queen.


And Eochaid sent his people to bring her to him, and he asked her name, and she told him her name was Etain, daughter of Etar, King of the Riders of the Sidhe. And Eochaid gave her his love, and he paid the bride-price, and brought her home to Teamhair as his wife, and there was a great welcome before her there.


And after a while there was a great feast made at Teamhair, and all the chief men of Ireland came to it, and it lasted from the fortnight before Samhain to the fortnight after it. And King Eochaid's brother Ailell, that was afterwards called Ailell Anglonach, of the Only Fault, came to the feast. And when he saw his brother's wife Etain, he fell in love with her on the moment, and all through the length of the feast he was not content unless he could be looking at her. And a woman, the daughter of Luchta Lamdearg, of the Red Hand, took notice of it, and she said: "What far thing are you looking at, Ailell? It is what I think, that to be looking the way you are doing is a sign of love." Then Ailell checked himself, and did not look towards Etain any more.


But when the feast was at an end, and the gathering broken up, great desire and envy came on Ailell, so that he fell sick, and they brought him to a house in Teffia. And he stopped there through the length of a year, and he was wasting away, but he told no one the cause of his sickness. And at the end of the year, Eochaid came to visit his brother, and he passed his hand over his breast, and Ailell let a groan. "What way are you?" said Eochaid then. "Are you getting any easier, for you must not let this illness come to a bad end." "By my word," said Ailell, "it is not easier I am, but worse and worse every day and every night" "What is it ails you?" said Eochaid. "And what is it that is coming against you." "By my word, I cannot tell you that," said Ailell. "I will bring one here that wilt know the cause of your sickness," said the king.


With that he sent Fachtna, his own physician, to Ailell; and when he came he passed his hand over Ailell's heart, and at that he groaned again. "This sickness will not be your death," said Fachtna then; "and I know well what it comes from. It is either from the pains of jealousy, or from love you have given, and that you have not found a way out of." But there was shame on Ailell, and he would not confess to the physician that what he said was right. So Fachtna went away then and left him.


As to King Eochaid, he went away to visit all the provinces of Ireland that were under his kingship, and he left Etain after him, and it is what he said: "Good Etain," he said, "take tender care of Ailell so long as he is living; and if he should die from us, make a sodded grave for him, and raise a pillar stone over it, and write his name on it in Ogham." And with that he went away on his journey. One day, now, Etain went into the house where Ailell was lying in his sickness, and they talked together, and then she made a little song for him, and it is what she said:


"What is it ails you, young man, for it is a long time you are wasted with this sickness, and it is not the hardness of the weather has stopped your light footstep."


And Ailell answered her in the same way, and he said: "I have good cause for my hurt; the music of my own harp does not please me; there is no sort of food is pleasant to me, and so I am wasted away." Then Etain said: "Tell me what is it ails you, for I am a woman that is wise. Tell me is there anything that would cure you, the way I may help you to it?" And Ailell answered her: "O kind, beautiful woman, it is not good to tell a secret to a woman, but sometimes it may be known through the eyes." And Etain said: "Though it is bad to tell a secret, yet it ought to be told now, or how can help be given to you?" And Ailell answered: "My blessing on you, fair-haired Etain. It is not fit I am to be spoken with; my wits have been no good help to me; my body is a rebel to me. All Ireland knows, O king's wife, there is sickness in my head and in my body." And Etain said: "If there is a woman of the fair-faced women of Ireland tormenting you this way, she must come to you here if it pleases you; and it is I myself will woo her for you," she said.


Then Ailell said to her: "Woman, it would be easy for you yourself to put my sickness from me. And my desire," he said, "is a desire that is as long as a year; but it is love given to an echo, the spending of grief on a wave, a lonely fight with a shadow, that is what my love and my desire have been to me."


And it is then Etain knew what was the sickness that was on him, and it was a heavy trouble to her.


But she came to him every day to tend him, and to make ready his food, and to pour water over his hands, and all she could do she did for him, for it was a grief to her, he to wither away and to be lost for her sake. And at last one day she said to him: "Rise up, Ailell, son of a king, man of high deeds, and I will do your healing."


Then he put his arms about her, and she kissed him, and she said: "Come at the morning of to-morrow at the break of day to the house outside the dun, and I will give you all your desire."


That night Ailell lay without sleep until the morning was at hand. And at the very time he should have risen to go to her, it was at that time his sleep settled down upon him, and be slept on till the full light of day.


But Etain went to the house outside the dun, and she was not long there when she saw a man coming towards her having the appearance of Ailell, sick and tired and worn. But when he came near and she looked closely at him, she saw it was not Ailell that was in it. Then he went away, and after she had waited a while, she herself went back into the dun.


And it was then Ailell awoke, and when he knew the morning bad passed by, he would sooner have had death than life, and he fretted greatly. And Etain came in then, and he told her what had happened him. And she said: "Come to-morrow to the same place."


But the same thing happened the next day. And when it happened on the third day, and the same man came to meet Etain, she said to him: "It is not you at all I come to meet here, and why is it that you come to meet me? And as to him I came to meet," she said, "indeed it is not for gain or through lightness I bade him come to me, but to heal him of the sickness he is lying under for my sake." Then the man said: "It would be more fitting for you to come to meet me than any other one. For in the time long ago," he said, "I was your first husband, and your first man." "What is it you are saying," she said, "and who are you yourself?" "It is easy to tell that," he said; "I am Midhir of Bri Leith." "And what parted us if I was your wife?" said Etain. "It was through Fuamach's sharp jealousy and through the spells of Bresal Etarlaim, the Druid, we were parted. And you will come away with me now?" he said. But Etain said: "It is not for a man whose kindred is unknown I will give up the High King of Ireland." And Midhir said: "Surely it was I myself put that great desire for you on Ailell, and it was I hindered him from going to meet you, the way you might keep your good name."


And when she went back to Ailell's house, she found his sickness was gone from him, and his desire. And she told him all that had happened, and he said: "It has turned out well for us both: l am well of my sickness and your good name is not lessened." "We give thanks to our gods for that," said Etain, "for we are well pleased to have it so."


And just at that time Eochaid came back from his journey, and they told him the whole story, and he was thankful to his wife for the kindness she had showed to Ailell.


It was a good while after that, there was a great fair held at Teamhair, and Etain was out on the green looking at the games and the races. And she saw a rider coming towards her, but no one could see him but herself; and when he came near she saw he had the same appearance as the man that came and spoke with her and her young girls the time they were out in the sea at Inver Cechmaine. And when he came up to her he began to sing words to her that no one could hear but herself. And it is what be said:


"O beautiful woman, will you come with me to the wonderful country that is mine? It is pleasant to be looking at the people there, beautiful people without any blemish; their hair is of the colour of the flag-flower, their fair body is as white as snow, the colour of the fox-glove is on every cheek. The young never grow old there; the fields and the flowers are as pleasant to be looking at as the blackbird's eggs; warm, sweet streams of mead and of wine flow through that country; there is no care and no sorrow on any person; we see others, but we ourselves are not seen.


"Though the plains of Ireland are beautiful, it is little you would think of them after our great plain; though the ale of Ireland is heady, the ale of the great country is still more heady. O beautiful woman, if you come to my proud people it is the flesh of pigs newly killed I will give you for food; it is ale and new milk I will give you for drink; it is feasting you will have with me there; it is a crown of gold you will have upon your hair, O beautiful woman!


"And will you come there with me, Etain?" he said. But Etain said she would not leave Eochaid the High King. "Will you come if Eochaid gives you leave?" Midhir said then. "I will do that," said Etain.


One day, after that time, Eochaid the High King was looking out from his palace at Teamhair, and he saw a strange man coming across the plain. Yellow hair he had, and eyes blue and shining like the flame of a candle, and a purple dress on him, and in his hand a five-pronged spear and a shield having gold knobs on it.


He came up to the king, and the king bade him welcome. "Who are you yourself?" he said; "and what are you come for, for you are a stranger to me?" "If I am a stranger to you, you are no stranger to me, for I have known you this long time," said the strange man. "What is your name?" said the king. "It is nothing very great," said he; "I am called Midhir of Bri Leith." "What is it brings you here?" said Eochaid. "I am come to play a game of chess with you," said the stranger. "Are you a good player?" said the king. "A trial will tell you that," said Midhir. "The chess-board is in the queen's house, and she is in her sleep at this time," said Eochaid. "That is no matter," said Midhir, "for I have with me a chess-board as good as your own." And with that he brought out his chess-board, and it made of silver, and precious stones shining in every corner of it. And then he brought out the chessmen, and they made of gold, from a bag that was of shining gold threads.


"Let us play now," said Midhir. "I will not play without a stake," said the king. "What stake shall we play for?" said Midhir. "We can settle that after the game is over," said the king.


They played together then, and Midhir was beaten, and it is what the king asked of him, fifty brown horses to be given to him.


And then they played the second time, and Midhir was beaten again, and this time the king gave him four hard things to do: to make a road over Moin Lamraide, and to clear Midhe of stones, and to cover the district of Tethra with rushes, and the district of Darbrech with trees.


So Midhir brought his people from Bri Leith to do those things, and it is hard work they had doing them. And Eochaid used to be out watching them, and he took notice that when the men of the Sidhe yoked their oxen, it was by the neck and the shoulder they used to yoke them, and not by the forehead and the head. And it was after Eochaid taught his people to yoke them that way, he was given the name of Eochaid Airem, that is, of the Plough.


And when all was done, Midhir came to Eochaid again, looking thin and wasted enough with the dint of the hard work be had been doing, and he asked Eochaid to play the third game with him. Eochaid agreed, and it was settled as before, the stake to be settled by the winner. It was Midhir won the game that time, and when the king asked him what be wanted, "It is Etain, your wife, I want," said he. "I will not give her to you" said the king. "All I will ask then," said Midhir, "is to put my arms about her and to kiss her once." "You may do that," said the king, "if you will wait to the end of a month." So Midhir agreed to that, and went away for that time.


At the end of the month he came back again, and stood in the great hall at Teamhair, and no one had ever seen him look so comely as he did that night. And Eochaid had all his best fighting men gathered in the hail, and he shut all the doors of the palace when he saw Midhir come in, for fear he would try to bring away Etain by force.


"I am come to be paid what is due to me," said Midhir. "I have not been thinking of it up to this time," said Eochaid, and there was anger on him. "You promised me Etain, your wife," said Midhir. The redness of shame came on Etain when she heard that, but Midhir said: "Let there be no shame on you, Etain, for it is through the length of a year I have been asking your love, and I have offered you every sort of treasure and riches, and you refused to come to me till such a time as your husband would give you leave." "It is true I said that," said Etain. "I will go if Eochaid gives me up to you."


"I will not give you up," said Eochaid; "I will let him do no more than put his arms about you in this place, as was promised him." "I will do that," said Midhir.


With that he took his sword in his left hand, and he took Etain in his right arm and kissed her. All the armed men in the house made a rush at him then, but he rose up through the roof bringing Etain with him, and when they rushed out of the house to follow him, all they could see was two swans high up in the air, linked together by a chain of gold.


There was great anger on Eochaid then, and he went and searched all through Ireland, but there was no tidings of them to be had, for they were in the houses of the Sidhe.


It was to the Brugh of Angus on the Boinn they went first, and after they had stopped there a while they went to a hill of the Sidhe in Connacht. And there was a serving-maid with Etain at that time, Cruachan Croderg her name was, and she said to Midhir: "Is this your own place we are in?" "It is not," said Midhir; "my own place is nearer to the rising of the sun." She was not well pleased to stop there when she heard that, and Midhir said to quiet her: "It is your own name will be put on this place from this out." And the hill was called the Hill of Cruachan from that time.


Then they went to Bri Leith; and Etain's daughter Esa came to them there, and she brought a hundred of every sort of cattle with her, and Midhir fostered her for seven years. And all through that time Eochaid the High King was making a search for them.


But at last Codal of the Withered Breast took four rods of yew and wrote Oghams on them, and through them and through his enchantments he found out that Etain was with Midhir in Bri Leith.


So Eochaid went there, and made an attack on the place, and he was for nine years besieging it, and Midhir was driving him away. And then his people began digging through the hill; and when they were getting near to where Etain was, Midhir sent three times twenty beautiful women, having all of them the appearance of Etain, and he bade the king choose her out from among them. And the first he chose was his own daughter Esa. But then Etain called to him, and he knew her, and he brought her home to Teamhair.


And Eochaid gave his daughter Esa her choice of a place for herself. And she chose it, and made a rath there, that got the name of Rath Esa. And from it she could see three notable places, the Hill of the Sidhe in Broga, and the Hill of the Hostages in Teamhair, and Dun Crimthain on Beinn Edair.


But there was great anger on Midhir and his people because of their hill being attacked and dug into. And it was in revenge for that insult they brought Conaire, High King of Ireland, that was grandson of Eochaid and of Etain, to his death afterwards at Da Derga's Inn.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Part I Book IV: Manannan


Now as to Manannan the Proud, son of Lir, after he had made places for the rest of the Tuatha de Danaan to live in, he went away out of Ireland himself. And some said he was dead, and that he got his death by Uillenn Faebarderg, of the Red Edge, in battle. And it is what they said, that the battle was fought at Magh Cuilenn, and that Manannan was buried standing on his feet, and no sooner was he buried than a great lake burst up under his feet in the place that was a red bog till that time. And the lake got the name of Loch Orbson, from one of the names of Manannan. And it was said that red Badb was glad and many women were sony at that battle.


But he had many places of living, and he was often heard of in Ireland after. It was he sent a messenger to Etain, mother of Conaire the High King, the time she was hidden in the cowherd's house. And it was he brought up Deirdre's children in Emhain of the Apple Trees, and it was said of that place, "a house of peace is the hill of the Sidhe of Emhain." And it was he taught Diannuid of the Fianna the use of weapons, and it was he taught Cuchulain the use of the Gae Bulg, and some say it was he was Deirdre's father, and that he brought Conchubar, king of Ulster, to the place she was hidden, and he running with the appearance of a hare before the hounds of the men of Ulster to bring them there.


And it is what they say, that the time Conchubar had brought the sons of Usnach to Emain Macha, and could not come at them to kill them because of their bravery, it was to Manannan he went for help. And Manannan said he would give him no help, for he had told him at the time he brought Deidre away that she would be the cause of the breaking up of his kingdom, and he took her away in spite of him. But Conchubar asked him to put blindness for a while on the sons of Usnach, or the whole army would be destroyed with their blows. So after a while he consented to that. And when the sons of Usnach came out against the army of Ulster, the blindness came on them, and it was at one another they struck, not seeing who was near them, and it was by one another's hands they fell. But more say Manannan had no hand in it, and that it was Cathbad, the Druid, put a sea about them and brought them to their death by his enchantments.


And some say Culain, the Smith, that gave his name to Cuchulain afterwards, was Manannan himself, for he had many shapes.


Anyway, before Culain came to Ulster, he was living in the Island of Falga, that was one of Manannan's places. And one time before Conchubar came into the kingdom, he went to ask advice of a Druid, and the Druid bade him to go to the Island of Falga and to ask Culain, the smith he would find there, to make arms for him. So Conchubar did so, and the smith promised to make a sword and spear and shield for him.


And while he was working at them Conchubar went out one morning early to walk on the strand, and there he saw a sea-woman asleep on the shore. And he put bonds on her in her sleep, the way she would not make her escape. But when she awoke and saw what had happened, she asked him to set her free. "And I am Tiabhal," she said, "one of the queens of the sea. And bid Culain," she said, "that is making your shield for you, to put my likeness on it and my name about it. And whenever you will go into a battle with that shield the strength of your enemies will lessen, and your own strength and the strength of your people will increase."


So Conchubar let her go, and bade the smith do as she had told him. And when he went back to Ireland he got the victory wherever he brought that shield.


And he sent for Culain then, and offered him a place on the plains of Muirthemne. And whether he was or was not Manannan, it is likely he gave Cuchulain good teaching the time he stopped with him there after killing his great dog.


Manannan had good hounds one time, but they went hunting after a pig that was destroying the whole country, and making a desert of it. And they followed it till they came to a lake, and there it turned on them, and no hound of them escaped alive, but they were all drowned or maimed. And the pig made for an island then, that got the name of Muc-inis, the Pigs Island afterward; and the lake got the name of Loch Conn, the Lake of the Hounds.


And it was through Manannan the wave of Tuaig, one of the three great waves of Ireland, got its name, and this is the way that happened.


There was a young girl of the name of Tuag, a fosterling of Conaire the High King, was reared in Teamhair, and a great company of the daughters of the kings of Ireland were put about her to protect her, the way she would be kept for a king's asking. But Manannan sent Fer Ferdiad, of the Tuatha de Danaan, that was a pupil of his own and a Druid, in the shape of a woman of his own household, and he went where Tuag was, and sang a sleep-spell over her, and brought her away to Inver Glas. And there he laid her down while he went looking for a boat, that he might bring her away in her sleep to the Land of the Ever-Living Women. But a wave of the flood-tide came over the girl, and she was drowned, and Manannan killed Fer Ferdiad in his anger.


And one time Manannan's cows came up out of the sea at Baile Cronin, three of them, a red, and a white, and a black, and the people that were there saw them standing on the strand for a while, as if thinking, and then they all walked up together, side by side, from the strand. And at that time there were no roads in Ireland, and there was great wonder on the people when they saw a good wide road ready before the three cows to walk on. And when they got about a mile from the sea they parted; the white cow went to the north-west, towards Luimnech, and the red cow went to the south-west, and on round the coast of Ireland, and the black cow went to the north-east, towards Lis Mor, in the district of Portlairge, and a road opened before each of them, that is to be seen to this day.


And some say it was Manannan went to Finn and the Fianna in the form of the Gilla Decair, the Bad Servant, and brought them away to Land-under-Wave. Anyway, he used often to go hunting with them on Cnoc Aine, and sometimes he came to their help.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Part I Book IV: Manannan at Play


AND it was he went playing tricks through Ireland a long time after that again, the time he got the name of O'Donnell's Kern. And it is the way it happened, Aodh Dubh O'Donnell was holding a feast one time in Bel-atha Senaig, and his people were boasting of the goodness of his house and of his musicians.


And while they were talking, they saw a clown coming towards them, old striped clothes he had, and puddle water splashing in his shoes, and his sword sticking out naked behind him, and his ears through the old cloak that was over his head, and in his hand he had three spears of hollywood scorched and blackened.


He wished O'Donnell good heath, and O'Donnell did the same to him, and asked where did he come from. "It is where I am," he said, "I slept last night at Dun Monaidhe, of the King of Alban; I am a day in Ile, a day in Cionn-tire, a day in Rachlainn, a day in the Watchman's Seat in Slieve Fuad; a pleasant rambling wandering man I am, and it is with yourself I am now, O'Donnell," he said. "Let the gate-keeper be brought to me," said O'Donnell. And when the gate-keeper came, he asked was it he let in this man, and the gate-keeper said he did not, and that he never saw him before. "Let him off, O'Donnell" said the stranger, "for it was as easy for me to come in, as it will be to me to go out again." There was wonder on them all then, any man to have come into the house without passing the gate.


The musicians began playing their music then, and all the best musicians of the country were there at the time, and they played very sweet tunes on their harps. But the strange man called out: "By my word, O'Donnell, there was never a noise of hammers beating on iron in any bad place was so bad to listen to as this noise your people are making."


With that he took a harp, and he made music that would put women in their pains and wounded men after a battle into a sweet sleep, and it is what O'Donnell said: "Since I first heard talk of the music of the Sidhe that is played in the hills and under the earth below us, I never heard better music than your own. And it is a very sweet player you are," he said. "One day I am sweet, another day I am sour," said the clown.


Then O'Donnell bade his people to bring him up to sit near himself. "I have no mind to do that," he said; "I would sooner be as I am, an ugly clown, making sport for high-up people." Then O'Donnell sent him down clothes, a hat and. a striped shirt and a coat, but he would not have them. "I have no mind," he said, "to let high-up people be making a boast of giving them to me."


They were afraid then he might go from them, and they put twenty aimed horsemen and twenty men on foot to hold him back from leaving the house, and as many more outside at the gate, for they knew him not to be a man of this world. "What are these men for?" said he. "They are to keep you here," said O'Donnell "By my word, it is not with you I will be eating my supper to-morrow," he said, "but at Cnoc Aine, where Seaghan, Son of the Earl is, in Desmumain." "If I find you giving one stir out of yourself, between this and morning, I will knock you into a round lump there on the ground," said O'Donnell.


But at that the stranger took up the harp again, and he made the same sweet music as before. And when they were all listening to him, he called out to the men outside: "Here I am coming, and watch me well now or you will lose me." When the men that were watching the gate heard that, they lifted up their axes to strike him, but in their haste it was at one another they struck, till they were lying stretched in blood. Then the clown said to the gate-keeper: "Let us ask twenty cows and a hundred of free land of O'Donnell as a fee for bringing his people back to life. And take this herb," he said, "and rub it in the mouth of each man of them, and he will rise up whole and well again." So the gate-keeper did that, and he got the cows and the land from O'Donnell, and he brought all the people to life again.


Now at that time Seaghan, Son of the Earl, was holding a gathering on the green in front of his dun, and he saw the same man coming towards him, and dressed in the same way, and the water splashing in his shoes. But when he asked who was he, he gave himself the name of a very learned man, Duartane O'Duartane, and he said it was by Ess Ruadh he was come, and by Ceiscorainn and from that to Corrslieve, and to Magh Lorg of the Dagda, and into the district of Hy'Conaill Gabhra, "till I came to yourself," he said, "by Cruachan of Magh Ai." So they brought him into the house, and gave him wine for drinking and water for washing his feet, and he slept till the rising of the sun on the morrow. And at that time Seaghan, Son of the Earl, came to visit him, and he said: "It is a long sleep you had, and there is no wonder in that, and your journey so long yesterday. But I often heard of your learning in books and of your skill on the harp, and I would like to hear you this morning," he said. "I am good in those arts indeed," said the stranger. So they brought him a book, but he could not read a word of it, and then they brought him a harp, and he could not play any tune. "It is likely your reading and your music are gone from you," said Seaghan; and he made a little rann on him, saying it was a strange thing Duartane O'Duartane that had such a great name not to be able to read a line of a book, or even to remember one. But when the stranger heard how he was being mocked at, he took up the book, and read from the top to the bottom of the page very well and in a sweet-sounding voice. And after that be took the harp and played and sang the same way he did at O'Donnell's house the day before. "It is a very sweet man of learning you are," said Seaghan. "One day l am sweet, another day I am sour," said the stranger.


They walked out together then on Cnoc Aine, but while they were talking there, the stranger was gone all of a minute, and Seaghan, Son of the Earl, could not see where he went.


And after that he went on, and he reached Sligach just at the time O'Conchubar was setting out with the men of Connacht to avenge the Connacht hag's basket on the hag of Munster. And this time he gave himself the name of Gilla Decair, the Bad Servant. And he joined with the men of Connacht, and they went over the Sionnan westward into Munster, and there they hunted and drove every creature that could be made travel, cattle and horses and flocks, into one place, till they got the hornless bull of the Munster hag and her two speckled cows, and O'Conchubar brought them away to give to the Connacht hag in satisfaction for her basket.


But the men of Munster made an attack on them as they were going back; and the Gilla Decair asked O'Conchubar would he sooner have the cows driven, or have the Munster men checked, and he said he would sooner have the Munster men checked. So the Gilla Decair turned on them, and with his bow and twenty-four arrows he kept them back till O'Conchubar and his people were safe out of their reach in Connacht.


But he took some offence then, on account of O'Conchubar taking the first drink himself when they came to his house, and not giving it to him, that had done so much, and he took his leave and went from them on the moment.


After that he went to where Tadg O'Cealaigh was, and having his old striped clothes and his old shoes as before. And when they asked him what art he had, he said: "I am good at tricks. And if you will give me five marks I will show you a trick," he said. "I will give that," said Tadg.


With that the stranger put three rushes on the palm of his hand. "I will blow away the middle rush now," be said, "and the other two will stop as they are," So they told him to do that, and he put the tops of two of his fingers on the two outside rushes, and blew the middle one away. "There is a trick now for you, Tadg O'Cealaigh," he said then. "By my word, that is not a bad trick," said O'Cealaigh. But one of his men said: "That there may be no good luck with him that did it. And give me half of that money now, Tadg," he said, "and I will do the same trick for you myself." "I will give you the half of what I got if you will do it," said the stranger. So the other put the rushes on his band, but if he did, when he tried to do the trick, his two finger-tips went through the palm of his hand. "Ob-Ob-Ob!" said the stranger, "that is not the way I did the trick. But as you have lost the money," he said, "I will heal you again?"


"I could do another trick for you," he said; "I could wag the ear on one side of my head and the ear on the other side would stay still." "Dolt then," said O'Cealaigh. So the man of tricks took hold of one of his ears and wagged it up and down. "That is a good trick indeed," said O'Cealaigh. "I will show you another one now," he said.


With that he took from his bag a thread of silk, and gave a cast of it up into the air, that it was made fast to a cloud. And then he took a hare out of the same bag, and it ran up the thread; and then took out a little dog and laid it on after the hare, and it followed yelping on its track; and after that again he brought out a little serving-boy and bade him to follow dog and hare up the thread. Then out of another bag he had with him he brought out a beautiful, well-dressed young woman, and bade her to follow after the hound and the boy, and to take care and not to let the hare be torn by the dog. She went up then quickly after them, and it was a delight to Tadg O'Cealaigh to be looking at them and to be listening to the sound of the hunt going on in the air.


All was quiet then for a long time, and then the man of tricks said: "I am afraid there is some bad work going on up there." "What is that" said O'Cealaigh. "I am thinking," said he, "the hound might be eating the hare, and the serving-boy courting the girl" "It is likely enough they are," said O'Cealaigh. With that the stranger drew in the thread, and it is what he found, the boy making love to the girl and the hound chewing the bones of the hare. There was great anger on the man of tricks when he saw that, and be took his sword and struck the head off the boy. "I do not like a thing of that sort to be done in my presence," said Tadg O'Cealaigh. "If it did not please you, I can set all right again", said the stranger. And with that he took up the head and made a cast of it at the body, and it joined to it, and the young man stood up, but if he did his face was turned backwards. "It would be better for him to be dead than to be living like that," said O'Cealaigh. When the man of tricks heard that, he took hold of the boy and twisted his head straight, and he was as well as before.


And with that the man of tricks vanished, and no one saw where was he gone.


That is the way Manannan used to be going round Ireland, doing tricks and wonders. And no one could keep him in any place, and if he was put on a gallows itself, he would be found safe in the house after, and some other man on the gallows in his place. But he did no harm, and those that would be put to death by him, he would bring them to life again with a herb out of his bag.


And all the food he would use would be a vessel of sour milk and a few crab-apples. And there never was any music sweeter than the music he used to be playing.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Part I Book IV: His Call to Bran


AND there were some that went to Manannan's country beyond the sea, and that gave an account of it afterwards.


One time Bran, son of Febal, was out by himself near his dun, and he heard music behind him. And it kept always after him, and at last he fell asleep with the sweetness of the sound. And when he awoke from his sleep be saw beside him a branch of silver, and it having white blossoms, and the whiteness of the silver was the same as the whiteness of the blossoms.


And he brought the branch in his hand into the royal house, and when all his people were with him they saw a woman with strange clothing standing in the house.


And she began to make a song for Bran, and all the people were looking at her and listening to her, and it is what she said:


"I bring a branch of the apple-tree from Emhain, from the far island around which are the shining horses of the Son of Lir. A delight of the eyes is the plain where the hosts hold their games; curragh racing against chariot in the White Silver Plain to the south.


"There are feet of white bronze under it, shining through life and time; a comely level land through the length of the world's age, and many blossoms falling on it.


"There is an old tree there with blossoms, and birds calling from among them; every colour is shining there, delight is common, and music, in the Gentle-Voiced Plain, in the Silver Cloud Plain to the south.


"Keening is not used, or treachery, in the tilled familiar land; there is nothing hard or rough, but sweet music striking on the ear. "To be without grief, without sorrow, without death, without any sickness, without weakness; that is the sign of Emhain; it is not common wonder that is.


"There is nothing to liken its mists to, the sea washes the wave against the land, brightness falls from its hair.


"There are riches, there are treasures of every colour in the Gentle Land, the Bountiful Land. Sweet music to be listening to; the best of wine to drink.


"Golden chariots in the Plain of the Sea, rising up to the sun with the tide; silver chariots and bronze chariots on the Plain of Sports.


"Gold-yellow horses on the strand, and crimson horses, and others with wool on their backs, blue like the colour of the sky.


"It is a day of lasting weather, silver is dropping on the land; a pure white cliff on the edge of the sea, getting its warmth from the sun.


"The host race over the Plain of Sports; it is beautiful and not weak their game is; death or the ebbing of the tide will not come to them in the Many-Coloured Land.


"There will come at sunrise a fair man, lighting up the level lands; he rides upon the plain that is beaten by the waves, he stirs the sea till it is like blood.


"An army will come over the clear sea, rowing to the stone that is in sight, that a hundred sounds of music come from.


"It sings a song to the army; it is not sad through the length of time; it increases music with hundreds singing together; they do not look for death or the ebb-tide.


"There are thee times fifty far islands in the ocean to the west of us, and every one of them twice or three times more than Ireland.


"It is is not to all of you I am speaking, though I have made all these wonders known. Let Bran listen from the crowd of the world to all the wisdom that has been told him.


"Do not fall upon a bed of sloth; do not be overcome by drunkenness; set out on your voyage over the clear sea, and you may chance to come to the Land of Women."


With that the woman went from them, and they did not know where she went. And she brought away her branch with her, for it leaped into her hand from Bran's hand, and he had not the strength to hold it.


Then on the morrow Bran set out upon the sea, and three companies of nine along with him; and one of his foster-brothers and comrades was set over each company of nine.


And when they had been rowing for two days and two nights, they saw a man coming towards them in a chariot, over the sea. And the man made himself known to them, and he said that he was Manannan, son of Lir.


And then Manannan spoke to him in a song, and it is what he said:


"It is what Bran thinks, he is going in his curragh over the wonderful, beautiful clear sea; but tome, from far off in my chariot, it is a flowery plain he is riding on.


"What is a clear sea to the good boat Bran is in, is a happy plain with many flowers to me in my two-wheeled chariot.


"It is what Bran sees, many waves beating across the clear sea; it is what I myself see, red flowers without any fault.


"The sea-horses are bright in summer-time, as far as Bran's eyes can reach; there is a wood of beautiful acorns under the head of your little boat.


"A wood with blossom and with fruit, that has the smell of wine; a wood without fault, without withering, with leaves of the colour of gold.


"Let Bran row on steadily, it is not far to the Land of Women; before the setting of the sun you will reach Emhain, of many-coloured hospitality."


With that Bran went from him; and after a while he saw an island, and he rowed around it, and there was a crowd on it, wondering at them, and laughing; and they were all looking at Bran and at his people, but they would not stop to talk with them, but went on giving out gusts of laughter. Bran put one of his men on the island then, but be joined with the others, and began to stare the same way as the men of the island. And Bran went on rowing round about the island; and whenever they went past his own man, his comrades would speak to him, but he would not answer them, but would only stare and wonder at them. So they went away and left him on that island that is called the Island of Joy.


It was not long after that they reached to the Land of Women. And they saw the chief one of the women at the landing-place, and it is what she said: "Come hither to land, Bran, son of Febal, it is welcome your coming to us." But Bran did not dare to go on shore. Then the woman threw a ball of thread straight to him, and he caught it in his hand, and it held fast to his palm, and the woman kept the thread in her own hand, and she pulled the curragh to the landing-place.


On that they went into a grand house, where there was a bed for every couple, three times nine beds. And the food that was put on every dish never came to an end, and they had every sort of food and of drink they wished for.


And it seemed to them they were only a year there when the desire of home took hold on one of them, Nechtan, son of Collbrain, and his kinsmen were begging and praying Bran to go back with him to Ireland. The woman said there would be repentance on them if they went; but in spite of that they set out in the end. And the woman said to them not to touch the land when they would come to Ireland, and she bade them to visit and to bring with them the man they left in the Island of Joy.


So they went on towards Ireland till they came to a place called Srub Bruin. And there were people on the strand that asked them who they were that were coming over the sea. And Bran said: "I am Bran, son of Febal." But the people said: "We know of no such man, though the voyage of Bran is in our very old stories."


Then Nechtan, son of Collbrain, made a leap out of the curragh, and no sooner did he touch the shore of Ireland than he was a heap of ashes, the same as if he had been in the earth through hundreds of years.


And then Bran told the whole story of his wanderings to the people, from the beginning. And after that he bade them farewell, and his wanderings from that time are not known.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Part I Book IV: His Three Calls to Cormac


AND another that went to Manannan's country was Cormac, grandson of Conn, King of Teamhair, and this is the way it happened. He was by himself in Teamhair one time, and he saw an armed man coming towards him, quiet, with high looks, and having grey hair; a shirt ribbed with gold thread next his skin, broad shoes of white bronze between his feet and the ground, a shining branch having nine apples of red gold, on his shoulder. And it is delightful the sound of that branch was, and no one on earth would keep in mind any want, or trouble, or tiredness, when that branch was shaken for him; and whatever trouble there might be on him, he would forget it at the sound.


Then Cormac and the armed man saluted one another, and Cormac asked where did he come from. "I come," he said, "from a country where there is nothing but truth, and where there is neither age nor withering away, nor heaviness, nor sadness, nor jealousy, nor envy, nor pride." "That is not so with us," said Cormac, "and I would be well pleased to have your friendship," he said. "I am well pleased to give it," said the stranger. "Give me your branch along with it," said Connac. "I will give it", said the stranger, "if you will give me the three gifts I ask in return." "I will give them to you indeed," said Cormac.


Then the strange man left the branch and went away, and Cormac did not know where was he gone to.


He went back then into the royal house, and there was wonder on all the people when they saw the branch. And he shook it at them, and it put them all asleep from that day to the same time on the morrow.


At the end of a year the strange man came back again, and he asked for the first of his three requests. "You will get it," said Connac. "I will take your daughter, Aille, to-day," said the stranger.


So he brought away the girl with him, and the women of Ireland gave three loud cries after the king's daughter. But Cormac shook the branch at them, until it put away sorrow from them, and put them all into their sleep.


That day month the stranger came again, and he brought Cormac's son, Carpre Lifecar, away with him. There was crying and lamenting without end in Teamhair after the boy, and on that night no one ate or slept, and they were all under grief and very downhearted. But when Cormac shook the branch their sorrow went from them.


Then the stranger came the third time, and Cormac asked him what did he want. "It is your wife, Ethne, I am asking this time," he said. And he went away then, bringing Ethne, the queen, along with him.


But Cormac would not bear that, and be went after them, and all his people were following him. But in the middle of the Plain of the Wall, a thick mist came on them, and when it was gone, Cormac found himself alone on a great plain. And he saw a great dun in the middle of the plain, with a wall of bronze around it, and in the dun a house of white silver, and it half thatched with the white wings of birds. And there was a great troop of the Riders of the Sidhe all about the house, and their arms full of white bird's wings for thatching. But as soon as they would put on the thatch, a blast of wind would come and carry it away again.


Then he saw a man kindling a fire, and he used to throw a thick oak-tree upon it. And when he would come back with a second tree, the first one would be burned out. "I will be looking at you no longer," Cormac said then, "for there is no one here to tell me your story, and I think I could find good sense in your meanings if I understood them," he said.


Then he went on to where there was another dun, very large and royal, and another wall of bronze around it, and four houses within it. And he went in and saw a great king's house, having beams of bronze and walls of silver, and its thatch of the wings of white birds. And then he saw on the green a shining well, and five streams flowing from it, and the armies drinking water in turn, and the nine lasting purple hazels of Buan growing over it. And they were dropping their nuts into the water, and the five salmon would catch them and send their husks floating down the streams. And the sound of the flowing of those streams is sweeter than any music that men sing.


Then he went into the palace, and he found there waiting for him a man and a woman, very tall, and having clothes of many colours. The man was beautiful as to shape, and his face wonderful to look at; and as to the young woman that was with him, she was the loveliest of all the women of the world, and she having yellow hair and a golden helmet. And there was a bath there, and heated stones going in and out of the water of themselves, and Cormac bathed himself in it.


"Rise up, man of the house," the woman said after that, "for this is a comely traveller that is come to us; and if you have one kind of food or meat better than another, let it be brought in." The man rose up then and he said: "I have but seven pigs, but I could feed the whole world with them, for the pig that is killed and eaten to-day, you will find it alive again to-morrow."


Another man came into the house then, having an axe in his right hand, and a log in his left hand, and a pig behind him.


"It is time to make ready," said the man of the house, "for we have a high guest with us to-day."


Then the man struck the pig and killed it, and he cut the logs and made a fire and put the pig on it in a cauldron. "It is time for you to turn it," said the master of the house after a while. "There would be no use doing that," said the man, "for never and never will the pig be boiled until a truth is told for every quarter of it." "Then let you tell yours first," said the master of the house. "One day," said the man, "I found another man's cows in my land, and I brought them with me into a cattle pound. The owner of the cows followed me, and he said he would give me a reward to let the cows go free. So I gave them back to him, and he gave me an axe, and when a pig is to be killed, it is with the axe it is killed, and the log is cut with it, and there is enough wood to boil the pig, and enough for the palace besides. And that is not all, for the log is found whole again in the morning. And from that time till now, that is the way they are."


"It is true indeed that story is," said the man of the house.


They turned the pig in the cauldron then, and but one quarter of it was found to be cooked. "Let us tell another true story," they said. "I will tell one," said the master of the house. "Ploughing time had come, and when we had a mind to plough that field outside, it is the way we found it, ploughed, and harrowed, and sowed with wheat. When we had a mind to reap it, the wheat was found in the haggard, all in one thatched rick. We have been using it from that day to this, and it is no bigger and no less."


Then they turned the pig, and another quarter was found to be ready. "It is my turn now," said the woman. "I have seven cows," she said, "and seven sheep. And the milk of the seven cows would satisfy the whole of the men of the world, if they were in the plain drinking it, and it is enough for all the people of the Land of Promise, and it is from the wool of the seven sheep all the clothes they wear are made." And at that story the third quarter of the pig was boiled.


"If these stories are true," said Cormac to the man of the house, "you are Manannan, and this is Manannan's wife; for no one on the whole ridge of the world owns these treasures but himself. It was to the Land of Promise he went to look for that woman, and he got those seven cows with her."


They said to Cormac that it was his turn now. So Cormac told them how his wife, and his son, and his daughter, had been brought away from him, and how he himself had followed them till he came to that place.


And with that the whole pig was boiled, and they cut it up, and Cormac's share was put before him. "I never used a meal yet," said he, "having two persons only in my company." The man of the house began singing to him then, and put him asleep. And when he awoke, he saw fifty armed men, and his son, and his wife, and his daughter, along with them. There was great gladness and courage on him then, and ale and food were given out to them all. And there was a gold cup put in the hand of the master of the house, and Cormac was wondering at it, for the number of the shapes on it, and for the strangeness of the work. "There is a stranger thing yet about it," the man said; "let three lying words be spoken under it, and it will break into three, and then let three true words be spoken under it, and it will be as good as before." So he said three lying words under it, and it broke in three pieces. "It is best to speak truth now under it," he said, "and to mend it. And I give my word, Cormac," he said, "that until to-day neither your wife or your daughter has seen the face of a man since they were brought away from you out of Teamhair, and that your son has never seen the face of a woman." And with that the cup was whole again on the moment. "Bring away your wife and your children with you now," he said, "and this cup along with them, the way you will have it for judging between truth and untruth. And I will leave the branch with you for music and delight, but on the day of your death they will be taken from you again. And I myself," he said, "am Manannan, son of Lir, King of the Land of Promise, and I brought you here by enchantments that you might be with me to-night in friendship.


"And the Riders you saw thatching the house," he said, "are the men of arts and poets, and all that look for a fortune in Ireland, putting together cattle and riches. For when they go out, all that they leave in their houses goes to nothing, and so they go on for ever.


"And the man you saw kindling the fire," he said, "is a young lord that is more liberal than he can afford, and every one else is served while he is getting the feast ready, and every one else profiting by it.


"And the well you saw is the Well of Knowledge, and the streams are the five streams through which all knowledge goes. And no one will have knowledge who does not drink a draught out of the well itself or out of the streams. And the people of many arts are those who drink from them all."


And on the morning of the morrow, when Cormac rose up, he found himself on the green of Teamhair, and his wife, and his son, and his daughter, along with him, and he having his branch and his cup. And it was given the name of Cormac's Cup, and it used to judge between truth and falsehood among the Gael. But it was not left in Ireland after the night of Cormac's death, as Manannan had foretold him.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Part I Book IV: Cliodna's Wave


AND it was in the time of the Fianna of Ireland that Ciabban of the Curling Hair, the king of Ulster's son, went to Manannan's country.


Ciabhan now was the most beautiful of the young men of the world at that time, and he was as far beyond all other kings' sons as the moon is beyond the stars. And Finn liked him well, but the rest of the Fianna got to be tired of him because there was not a woman of their women, wed or unwed, but gave him her love. And Finn had to send him away at the last, for he was in dread of the men of the Fianna because of the greatness of their jealousy.


So Ciabhan went on till he came to the Strand of the Cairn, that is called now the Strand of the Strong Man, between Dun Sobairce and the sea. And there he saw a curragh, and it having a narrow stern of copper. And Ciabhan got into the curragh, and his people said: "Is it to leave Ireland you have a mind, Ciabhan?" "It is indeed," he said, "for in Ireland I get neither shelter nor protection." He bade farewell to his people then, and he left them very sorrowful after him, for to part with him was like the parting of life from the body.


And Ciabhan went on in the curragh, and great white shouting waves rose up about him, every one of them the size of a mountain; and the beautiful speckled salmon that are used to stop in the sand and the shingle rose up to the sides of the curragh, till great dread came on Ciabhan, and he said: "By my word, if it was on land I was I could make a better fight for myself."


And he was in this danger till he saw a rider coming towards him on a dark grey horse having a golden bridle, and he would be under the sea for the length of nine waves, and he would rise with the tenth wave, and no wet on him at all. And he said: "What reward would you give to whoever would bring you out of this great danger?" "Is there anything in my hand worth offering you?" said Ciabhan. "There is," said the rider, "that you would give your service to whoever would give you his help." Ciabhan agreed to that, and he put his hand into the rider's hand.


With that the rider drew him on to the horse, and the curragh came on beside them till they reached to the shore of Tir Tairngaire, the Land of Promise, They got off the horse there, and came to Loch Luchra, the Lake of the Dwarfs, and to Manannan's city, and a feast was after being made ready there, and comely serving-boys were going round with smooth horns, and playing on sweet-sounding harps till the whole house was filled with the music.


Then there came in clowns, long-snouted, long-heeled, lean and bald and red, that used to be doing tricks in Manannan's house. And one of these tricks was, a man of them to take nine straight willow rods, and to throw them up to the rafters of the house, and to catch them again as they came down, and he standing on one leg, and having but one hand free. And they thought no one could do that trick but themselves, and they were used to ask strangers to do it, the way they could see them fail.


So this night when one of them had done the trick, he came up to Ciabhan, that was beyond all the Men of Dea or the Sons of the Gael that were in the house, in shape and in walk and in name, and be put the nine rods in his hand. And Ciabhan stood up and be did the feat before them all, the same as if he had never learned to do any other thing.


Now Gebann, that was a chief Druid in Manannan's country, had a daughter, Cliodna of the Fair Hair, that had never given her love to any man. But when she saw Ciabhan she gave him her love, and she agreed to go away with him on the morrow.


And they went down to the landing-place and got into a curragh, and they went on till they came to Teite's Strand in the southern part of Ireland. It was from Teite Brec the Freckled the strand got its name, that went there one time for a wave game, and three times fifty young girls with her, and they were all drowned in that place. And as to Ciabban, he came on shore, and went looking for deer, as was right, under the thick branches of the wood; and he left the young girl in the boat on the strand.


But the people of Manannan's house came after them, having forty ships. And Iuchnu, that was in the curragh with Cliodna, did treachery, and he played music to her till she lay down in the boat and fell asleep. And then a great wave came up on the strand and swept her away.


And the wave got its name from Cliodna of the Fair Hair, that will be long remembered.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Part I Book IV: Call to Connla


AND it is likely it was Manannan sent his messenger for Connla of the Red Hair the time he went away out of Ireland, for it is to his country Connla was brought; and this is the way he got the call.


It chanced one day he was with his father Conn, King of Team-hair, on the Hill of Uisnach, and he saw a woman having wonderful clothing coming towards him. "Where is it you come from?" he asked her. "I come," she said, "from Tir-nam-Beo, the Land of the Ever-Living Ones, where no death comes. We use feasts that are lasting," she said, "and we do every kind thing without quarrelling, and we are called the people of the Sidhe." "Who are you speaking to, boy?" said Conn to him then, for no one saw the strange woman but only Connla. "He is speaking to a high woman that death or old age will never come to," she said. "I am asking him to come to Magh Mell, the Pleasant Plain where the triumphant king is living, and there he will be a king for ever without sorrow or fret. Come with me, Connla of the Red Hair," she said, "of the fair freckled neck and of the ruddy cheek; come with me, and your body will not wither from its youth and its comeliness for ever."


They could all hear the woman's words then, though they could not see her, and it is what Conn said to Coran his Druid: "Help me, Coran, you that sing spells of the great arts. There is an attack made on me that is beyond my wisdom and beyond my power, I never knew so strong an attack since the first day I was a king. There is an unseen figure fighting with me; she is using her strength against me to bring away my beautiful son; the call of a woman is bringing him away from the hands of the king."


Then Coran, the Druid, began singing spells against the woman of the Sidhe, the way no one would hear her voice, and Connla could not see her any more. But when she was being driven away by the spells of the Druid, she threw an apple to Connla.


And through the length of a month from that time, Connla used no other food nor drink but that apple, for he thought no other food or drink worth the using. And for all he ate of it, the apple grew no smaller, but was whole all the while. And there was great trouble on Connla on account of the woman he had seen.


And at the end of a month Connla was at his father's side in Magh Archomnim, and he saw the same woman coming towards him, and it is what she said: "It is a high place indeed Connla has among dying people, and death before him. But the Ever-Living Ones," she said, "are asking you to take the sway over the people of Tethra, for they are looking at you every day in the gatherings of your country among your dear friends."


When Conn, the king, heard her voice, he said to his people: "Call Coran, the Druid to me, for I hear the sound of the woman's voice again." But on that she said: "O Conn, fighter of a hundred, it is little love and little respect the wonderful tribes of Traig Mor, the Great Strand, have for Druids; and where its law comes, it scatters the spells on their lips."


Then Conn looked to his son Connla to see what he would say, and Connla said: "My own people are dearer to me than any other thing, yet sorrow has taken hold of me because of this woman." Then the woman spoke to him again, and it is what she said: "Come now into my shining ship, if you will come to the Plain of Victory. There is another country it would not be worse for you to look for; though the bright sun is going down, we shall reach to that country before night. That is the country that delights the mind of every one that turns to me. There is no living race in it but women and girls only."


And when the woman had ended her song, Connla made a leap from his people into the shining boat, and they saw him sailing away from them far off and as if in a mist, as far as their eyes could see. It is away across the sea they went, and they have never come back again, and only the gods know where was it they went.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Part I Book IV: Tadg in Manannan's Islands


AND another that went to the Land of the Ever-Living Ones, but that came back again, was Tadg, son of Cian, son of Olioll; and this is the way that happened.


It was one time Tadg was going his next heir's round, into the west of Munster, and his two brothers, Airnelach and Eoghan, along with him. And Cathmann, son of Tabarn, that was king of the beautiful country of Fresen that lay to the south-east of the Great Plain, was searching the sea for what he could find just at that time, and nine of his ships with him. And they landed at Beire do Bhunadas, to the west of Munster, and the country had no stir in it, and so they slipped ashore, and no one took notice of them till all were surrounded, both men and cattle. And Tadg's wife Liban, daughter of Conchubar Abratrudh of the Red Brows, and his two brothers, and a great many of the people of Munster, were taken by the foreigners and brought away to the coasts of Fresen. And Cathmann took Liban to be his own wife, and he put hardship on Tadg's two brothers; Eoghan he put to work a common ferry across a channel of the coast, and Airnelach to cut firing and to keep up fires for all people; and all the food they got was barley seed and muddy water.


And as to Tadg himself, it was only by his courage and the use of his sword he made his escape, but there was great grief and discouragement on him, his wife and his brothers to have been brought away. But he had forty of his fighting men left that had each killed a man of the foreigners, and they brought one in alive. And this man told them news of the country he came from. And when Tadg heard that, he made a plan in his own head, and he gave orders for a curragh to be built that would be fit for a long voyage. Very strong it was, and forty ox-hides on it of hard red leather, that was after being soaked in bark. And it was well fitted with masts, and oars, and pitch, and everything that was wanting. And they put every sort of meat, and drink, and of clothes in it, that would last them through the length of a year.


When all was ready, and the curragh out in the tide, Tadg said to his people: "Let us set out now on the high sea, looking for our own people that are away from us this long time."


They set out then over the stormy, heavy flood, till at last they saw no land before them or behind them, but only hillsides of the great sea. And farther on again they heard the singing of a great flock of unknown birds; and pleasant white-bellied salmon were leaping about the curragh on every side, and seals, very big and dark, were coming after them, breaking through the shining wash of the oars; and great whales after them again, so that the young men liked to be looking at them, for they were not used to see the like before.


They went on rowing through twenty days and twenty nights, and at the end of that time they got sight of a high land, having a smooth coast. And when they reached it they all landed, and they pulled up the curragh and lit their fires, and food was given out to them, and they were not long making an end of it. They made beds for themselves then on the beautiful green grass, and enjoyed their sleep till the rising of the sun on the morrow.


Tadg rose up then and put on his arms, and went out, and thirty of his men along with him, to search the whole island.


They went all through it, but they found no living thing on it, man or beast, but only flocks of sheep. And the size of the sheep was past all telling, as big as horses they were, and the whole island was filled with their wool. And there was one great flock beyond all the others, all of very big rams, and one of them was biggest of all, nine horns he had, and he charged on Tadg's chief men, attacking them and butting at them.


There was vexation on them then, and they attacked him again, and there was a struggle between them. And at the first the ram broke through five of their shields. But Tadg took his spear that there was no escape from, and made a lucky cast at the ram and killed him. And they brought the ram to the curragh and made it ready for the young men to eat, and they stopped three nights on the island, and every night it was a sheep they had for their food. And they gathered a good share of the wool and put it in the curragh because of the wonder and the beauty of it. And they found the bones of very big men on the island, but whether they died of sickness or were killed by the rams they did not know.


They left that island then and went forward till they found two strange islands where there were great flocks of wonderful birds, like blackbirds, and some of them the size of eagles or of cranes, and they red with green heads on them, and the eggs they had were blue and pure crimson. And some of the men began eating the eggs, and on the moment feathers began to grow out on them. But they went bathing after that, and the feathers dropped off them again as quick as they came.


It was the foreigner they had with them gave them the course up to this time, for he had been on the same track before. But now they went on through the length of six weeks and never saw land, and he said then, "We are astray on the great ocean that has no boundaries." Then the wind with its sharp voice began to rise, and there was a noise like the tramping of feet in the sea, and it rose up into great mountains hard to climb, and there was great fear on Tadg's people, for they had never seen the like. But he began to stir them up and to rouse them, and he bade them to meet the sea like men. "Do bravely," he said, "young men of Munster, and fight for your lives against the waves that are rising up and coming at the sides of the curragh." Tadg took one side of the curragh then and his men took the other side, and he was able to pull it round against the whole twenty-nine of them, and to bale it out and keep it dry along with that. And after a while they got a fair wind and put up their sail, the way less water came into the curragh, and then the sea went down and lay flat and calm, and there were strange birds of many shapes singing around them in every part. They saw land before them then, with a good coast, and with that courage and gladness came on them.


And when they came nearer to the land they found a beautiful inver, a river's mouth, with green hills about it, and the bottom of it sandy and as bright as silver, and red-speckled salmon in it, and pleasant woods with purple tree-tops edging the stream. "It is a beautiful country this is," said Tadg, "and it would be happy for him that would be always in it; and let you pull up the ship now," he said, "and dry it out."


A score of them went forward then into the country, and a score stopped to mind the curragh. And for all the cold and discouragement and bad weather they had gone through, they felt no wish at all for food or for fire, but the sweet smell of the crimson branches in the place they were come to satisfied them. They went on through the wood, and after a while they came to an apple garden having red apples in it, and leafy oak-trees, and hazels yellow with nuts. "It is a wonder to me," said Tadg, "to find summer here, and it winter time in our own country."


It was a delightful place they were in, but they went on into another wood, very sweet smelling, and round purple berries in it, every one of them bigger than a man's head, and beautiful shining birds eating the berries, strange birds they were, having white bodies and purple heads and golden beaks. And while they were eating the berries they were singing sweet music, that would have put sick men and wounded men into their sleep.


Tadg and his men went farther on again till they came to a great smooth flowery plain with a dew of honey over it, and three steep hills on the plain, having a very strong dun on every one of them. And when they got to the nearest bill they found a white-bodied woman, the best of the women of the whole world, and it is what she said: "Your coming is welcome, Tadg, son of Cian, and there will be food and provision for you as you want it."


'I am glad of that welcome," said Tadg; "and tell me now, woman of sweet words," he said, "what is that royal dun on the hill, having walls of white marble around it?" "That is the dun of the royal hue of the kings of Ireland, from Heremon, son of Miled, to Conn of the Hundred Battles, that was the last to go into it." What is the name of this country?" Tadg said then. "It is Inislocha, the Lake Island," she said, "and there are two kings over it, Rudrach and Dergcroche, sons of Bodb." And then she told Tadg the whole story of Ireland, to the time of the coming of the Sons of the Gad. "That is well," said Tadg then, "and you have good knowledge and learning. And tell me now," he said, "who is living in that middle dun that has the colour of gold?" "It is not myself will tell you that," she said, "but go on to it yourself and you will get knowledge of it." And with that she went from them into the dun of white marble.


Tadg and his men went on then till they came to the middle dun, and there they found a queen of beautiful shape, and she wearing a golden dress. "Health to you, Tadg," she said. "I thank you for that," said Tadg. "It is a long time your coming on this journey was foretold," she said. "What is your name?" he asked then. "I am Cesair," she said, "the first that ever reached Ireland. But since I and the men that were with me came out of that dark, unquiet land, we are living for ever in this country."


"Tell me, woman," said Tadg, "who is it lives in the dun having a wall of gold about it?" "It is not hard to tell that," she said, "every king, and every chief man, and every noble person that was in a high place of all those that had power in Ireland, it is in that dun beyond they are; Parthalon and Nemed, Firbolgs and Tuatha de Danaan." "It is good knowledge and learning you have," said Tadg. "Indeed I have good knowledge of the history of the world," she said, "and this island," she said, "is the fourth paradise of the world; and as to the others, they are Inis Daleb to the south, and Inis Ercandra to the north, and Adam's Paradise in the east of the world." "Who is there living in that dun with the silver walls?" said Tadg then. "I will not tell you that, although I have knowledge of it," said the woman; "but go to that beautiful hill where it is, and you will get knowledge of it."


They went on then to the third hill, and on the top of the hill was a very beautiful resting-place, and two sweethearts there, a boy and a girl, comely and gentle. Smooth hair they had, shining like gold, and beautiful green clothes of the one sort, and any one would think them to have had the same father and mother. Gold chains they had around their necks, and bands of gold above those again. And Tadg spoke to them: "O bright, comely children," he said, "it is a pleasant place you have here." And they answered him back, and they were praising his courage and his strength and his wisdom, and they gave him their blessing.


And it is how the young man was, he had a sweet-smelling apple, having the colour of gold, in his hand, and he would eat a third part of it, and with all he would eat, it would never be less. And that was the food that nourished the two of them, and neither age or sorrow could touch them when once they had tasted it.


"Who are you yourself?" Tadg asked him then. "I am son to Conn of the Hundred Battles," he said. "Is it Connia you are?" said Tadg. "I am indeed," said the young man, "and it is this girl of many shapes that brought me here." And the girl said: "I have given him my love and my affection, and it is because of that I brought him to this place, the way we might be looking at one another for ever, and beyond that we have never gone."


"That is a beautiful thing and a strange thing," said Tadg, "and a thing to wonder at. And who is there in that grand dun with the silver walls?" he said. "There is no one at all in it," said the girl. "What is the reason of that?" said Tadg. "It is for the kings that are to rule Ireland yet," she said; "and there will be a place in it for yourself, Tadg. And come now," she said, "till you see it."


The lovers went on to the dun, and it is hardly the green grass was bent under their white feet. And Tadg and his people went along with them.


They came then to the great wonderful house that was ready for the company of the kings; it is a pleasant house that was, and any one would like to be in it. Walls of white bronze it had, set with crystal and with carbuncles, that were shining through the night as well as through the day.


Tadg looked out from the house then, and he saw to one side of him a great sheltering apple-tree, and blossoms and ripe fruit on it. "What is that apple tree beyond?" said Tadg. "It is the fruit of that tree is food for the host in this house," said the woman. "And it was an apple of that apple-tree brought Connla here to me; a good tree it is, with its white-blossomed branches, and its golden apples that would satisfy the whole house."


And then Connla and the young girl left them, and they saw coming towards them a troop of beautiful women. And there was one among them was most beautiful of all, and when she was come to them she said: "A welcome to you, Tadg." "I thank you for that welcome," said Tadg; "and tell me," he said, "who are you yourself?" "I am Cliodna of the Fair Hair," she said, "daughter of Gebann, son of Treon, of the Tuatha de Danaan, a sweetheart of Ciabhan of the Curling Hair, and it is from me Cliodna's wave on the coast of Munster got its name; and I am a long time now in this island, and it is the apples of that tree you saw that we use for food." And Tadg was well pleased to be listening to her talk, but after a while he said: "It is best for us to go on now to look for our people." We will be well pleased if you stop longer with us," said the woman.


And while she was saying those words they saw three beautiful birds coming to them, one of them blue and his head crimson, and one crimson and his head green, and the third was speckled and his head the colour of gold, and they lit on the great apple-tree, and every bird of them ate an apple, and they sang sweet music then, that would put sick men into their sleep.


"Those birds will go with you," Cliodna said then; "they will give you guidance on your way, and they will make music for you, and there will be neither sorrow or sadness on you, by land or by sea, till you come to Ireland. And bring away this beautiful green cup with you," she said, "for there is power in it, and if you do but pour water into it, it will be turned to wine on the moment. And do not let it out of your hand," she said, "but keep it with you; for at whatever time it will escape from you, your death will not be far away. And it is where you will meet your death, in the green valley at the side of the Boinn; and it is a wandering wild deer will give you a wound, and after that, it is strangers will put an end to you. And I myself will bury your body, and there will be a hill over it, and the name it will get is Croidhe Essu."


They went out of the shining house then, and Cliodna of the Fair Hair went with them to the place they had left their ship, and she bade their comrades a kindly welcome; and she asked them bow long had they been in that country. "It seems to us," they said, "we are not in it but one day only." "You are in it through the whole length of a year," said she, "and through all that time you used neither food nor drink. But however long you would stop here," she said, "cold or hunger would never come on you." "It would be a good thing to live this way always," said Tadg's people when they heard that. But he himself said: "It is best for us to go on and to look for our people. And we must leave this county, although it is displeasing to us to leave it."


Then Cliodna and Tadg bade farewell to one another, and she gave her blessing to him and to his people. And they set out then over the ridges of the sea; and they were downhearted after leaving that county until the birds began to sing for them, and then their courage rose up, and they were glad and light-hearted.


And when they looked back they could not see the island they had come from, because of a Druid mist that came on it and hid it from them.


Then by the leading of the birds they came to the county of Fresen, and they were in a deep sleep through the whole voyage. And then they attacked the foreigners and got the better of them, and Tadg killed Cathmann, the king, after a hard fight; and Liban his wife made no delay, and came to meet her husband and her sweetheart, and it is glad she was to see him.


And after they had rested a while they faced the sea again, and Tadg and his wife Liban, and his two brothers, and a great many other treasures along with them, and they came home to Ireland safely at the last.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Part I Book IV: Laegaire in the Happy Plain


AND another that went to visit Magh Mell, the Happy Plain, was Laegaire, son of the King of Connacht, Crimthan Cass.


He was out one day with the king, his father, near Loch na-n Ean, the Lake of Birds, and the men of Connacht with them, and they saw a man coming to them through the mist. Long golden-yellow hair he had, and it streaming after him, and at his belt a gold-hilted sword, and in his hand two five-barbed darts, a gold-rimmed shield on his back, a five-folded crimson cloak about his shoulders.


"Give a welcome to the man that is coming towards you," said Laegaire, that had the best name of all the men of Connacht, to his people. And to the stranger he said: "A welcome to the champion we do not know."


"I am thankful to you all," said he.


"What is it you are come for, and where are you going?" said Laegaire then.


"I am come to look for the help of fighting men," said the stranger. "And my name," be said, 'is Fiachna, son of Betach, of the men of the Sidhe; and it is what ails in; my wife was taken from my pillow and brought away by Eochaid, son of Sal. And we fought together, and I killed him, and now she is gone to a brother's son of his, Goll, son of Dalbh, king of a people of Magh MeIl. Seven battles I gave him, but they all went against me; and on this very day there is another to be fought, and I am come to ask help. And to every one that deserves it, I will give a good reward of gold and of silver for that help."


And it is what he said:


"The most beautiful of plains is the Plain of the Two Mists; it is not far from this; it is a host of the men of the Sidhe full of courage are stirring up pools of blood upon it.


"We have drawn red blood from the bodies of high nobles; many women are keening them with cries and with tears.


"The men of the host in good order go out ahead of their beautiful king; they march among blue spears, white troops of fighters with curled hair.


"They scatter the troops of their enemies, they destroy every country they make an attack on; they are beautiful in battle, a host with high looks, rushing, avenging.


"It is no wonder they to have such strength: every one of them is the son of a king and a queen; manes of hair they have of the colour of gold.


"Their bodies smooth and comely; their eyes blue and far-seeing; their teeth bright like crystal, within their thin red lips.


"White shields they have in their hands, with patterns on them of white silver; blue shining swords, red horns set with gold.


"They are good at killing men in battle; good at song-making, good at chess-playing.


"The most beautiful of plains is the Plain of the Two Mists; the men of the Sidhe are stirring up pools of blood on it; it is not far from this place."


"It would be a shameful thing not to give our help to this man," said Laegaire.


Fiachna, son of Betach, went down into the lake then, for it was out of it he had come, and Laegaire went down into it after him, and fifty fighting men along with him.


They saw a strong place before them then, and a company of armed men, and Goll, son of Dalbh, at the head of them.


"That is well," said Laegaire, "I and my fifty men will go out against this troop." "I will answer you," said Goll, son of Dalbh.


The two fifties attacked one another then, and Goll fell, but Laegaire and his fifty escaped with their lives and made a great slaughter of their enemies, that not one of them made his escape.


"Where is the woman now?" said Laegaire. "She is within the dun of Magh Mell, and a troop of armed men keeping guard about it," said Fiachna. "Let you stop here, and I and my fifty will go there," said Laegaire.


So he and his men went on to the dun, and Laegaire called out to the men that were about it: "Your king has got his death, your chief men have fallen, let the woman come out, and I will give you your own lives." The men agreed to that, and they brought the woman out. And when she came out she made this complaint:


"It is a sorrowful day that swords are reddened for the sake of the dear dead body of Goll, son of Dalbh. It was he that loved me, it was himself I loved, it is little Laegaire Liban cares for that.


"Weapons were hacked and were split by Goll; it is to Fiachna, son of Betach, I must go; it is Goll, son of Dalbh, I loved."


And that complaint got the name of "The Lament of the Daughter of Eochaid the Dumb."


Laegaire went back with her then till he put her hand in Fiachna's hand. And that night Fiachna's daughter, Deorgreine, a Tear of the Sun, was given to Laegaire as his wife, and fifty other women were given to his fifty fighting men, and they stopped with them there to the end of a year.


And at the end of that time, Laegaire said: "Let us go and ask news of our own country." "If you have a mind to go," said Fiachna, "bring horses with you; but whatever happens," he said, "do not get off from them."


So they set out then; and when they got back to Ireland, they found a great gathering of the whole of the men of Connacht that were keening them.


And when the men of Connacht saw them coming they rose up to meet them, and to bid them welcome. But Laegaire called out: "Do not come to us, for it is to bid you farewell we are here." "Do not go from us again," said Crimthan, his father, "and I will give you the sway over the three Connachts, their silver and their gold, their horses and their bridles, and their beautiful women, if you will not go from us."


And it is what Laegaire said: "In the place we are gone to, the armies move from kingdom to kingdom, they listen to the sweet-sounding music of the Sidhe, they drink from shining cups, we talk with those we love, it is beer that falls instead of rain.


"We have brought from the dun of the Pleasant Plain thirty cauldrons, thirty drinking horns; we have brought the complaint that was sung by the Sea, by the daughter of Eochaid the Dumb.


"There is a wife for every man of the fifty; my own wife to me is the Tear of the Sun; I am made master of a blue sword; I would not give for all your whole kingdom one night of the nights of the Sidhe."


With that Laegaire turned from them, and went back to the kingdom. And he was made king there along with Fiachna, son of Betach, and his daughter, and he did not come out of it yet.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Part I Book V: Fate of the Children of Lir


Now at the time when the Tuatha de Danaan chose a king for themselves after the battle of Tailltin, and Lir heard the kingship was given to Bodb Dearg, it did not please him, and he left the gathering without leave and with no word to any one; for he thought it was he himself had a right to be made king. But if he went away himself, Bodb was given the kingship none the less, for not one of the five begrudged it to him but only Lir. And it is what they determined, to follow after Lir, and to burn down his house, and to attack himself with spear and sword, on account of his not giving obedience to the king they had chosen. "We will not do that," said Bodb Dearg, "for that man would defend any place he is in; and besides that," he said, "I am none the less king over the Tuatha de Danaan, although he does not submit to me."


All went on like that for a good while, but at last a great misfortune came on Lir, for his wife died from him after a sickness of three nights. And that came very hard on Lir, and there was heaviness on his mind after her. And there was great talk of the death of that woman in her own time.


And the news of it was told all through Ireland, and it came to the house of Bodb, and the best of the Men of Dea were with him at that time. And Bodb said: "If Lir had a mind for it," he said, "my help and my friendship would be good for him now, since his wife is not living to him. For I have here with me the three young girls of the best shape, and the best appearance, and the best name in all Ireland, Aobh, Aoife, and Ailbhe, the three daughters of Oilell of Aran, my own three nurslings." The Men of Dea said then it was a good thought he had, and that what he said was true.


Messages and messengers were sent then from Bodb Dearg to the place Lir was, to say that if he had a mind to join with the Son of the Dagda and to acknowledge his lordship, he would give him a foster-child of his foster-children. And Lir thought well of the offer, and he set out on the morrow with fifty chariots from Sidhe Fionnachaidh; and he went by every short way till he came to Bodb's dwelling-place at Loch Dearg, and there was a welcome before him there, and all the people were merry and pleasant before him, and he and his people got good attendance that night.


And the three daughters of Oilell of Aran were sitting on the one seat with Bodb Dearg's wife, the queen of the Tuatha de Danaan, that was their foster-mother. And Bodb said: "You may have your choice of the three young girls, Lir." "I cannot say," said Lir, "which one of them is my choice, but whichever of them is the eldest, she is the noblest, and it is best for me to take her." "If that is so," said Bodb', "it is Aobh is the eldest, and she will be given to you, if it is your wish." "It is my wish," he said. And he took Aobh for his wife that night, and he stopped there for a fortnight, and then he brought her away to his own house, till he would make a great wedding-feast.


And in the course of time Aobh brought forth two children, a daughter and a son, Fionnuala and Aodh their names were. And after a while she was brought to bed again, and this time she gave birth to two sons, and they called them Fiachra and Conn. And she herself died at their birth. And that weighed very heavy on Lir, and only for the way his mind was set on his four children he would have gone near to die of grief.


The news came to Bodb Dearg's place, and all the people gave out three loud, high cries, keening their nursling. And after they had keened her it is what Bodb Dearg said: "It is a fret to us our daughter to have died, for her own sake and for the sake of the good man we gave her to, for we are thankful for his friendship and his faithfulness. However," he said, "our friendship with one another will not be broken, for I will give him for a wife her sister Aoife."


When Lir heard that, he came for the girl and married her, and brought her home to his house. And there was honour and affection with Aoife for her sister's children; and indeed no person at all could see those four children without giving them the heart's love.


And Bodb Dearg used often to be going to Lir's house for the sake of those children; and he used to bring them to his own place for a good length of time, and then he would let them go back to their own place again. And the Men of Dea were at that time using the Feast of Age in every hill of the Sidhe in turn; and when they came to Lir's hill those four children were their joy and delight, for the beauty of their appearance; and it is where they used to sleep, in beds in sight of their father Lir. And he used to rise up at the break of every morning, and to lie down among his children.


But it is what came of all this, that a fire of jealousy was kindled in Aoife, and she got to have a dislike and a hatred of her sister's children.


Then she let on to have a sickness, that lasted through nearly the length of a year. And the end of that time she did a deed of jealousy and cruel treachery against the children of Lir.


And one day she got her chariot yoked, and she took the four children in it, and they went forward towards the house of Bodb Dearg; but Fionnuala had no mind to go with her, for she knew by her she had some plan for their death or their destruction, and she had seen in a dream that there was treachery against them in Aoife's mind. But all the same she was not able to escape from what was before her.


And when they were on their way Aoife said to her people: "Let you kill now," she said, "the four children of Lir, for whose sake their father has given up my love, and I will give you your own choice of a reward out of all the good things of the world." "We will not do that indeed," said they; "and it is a bad deed you have thought of, and harm will come to you out of it."


And when they would not do as she bade them, she took out a sword herself to put an end to the children with; but she being a woman and with no good courage, and with no great strength in her mind, she was not able to do it.


They went on then west to Loch Dairbhreach, the Lake of the Oaks, and the horses were stopped there, and Aoife bade the children of Lir to go out and bathe in the lake, and they did as she bade them. And as soon as Aoife saw them out in the lake she struck them with a Druid rod, and put on them the shape of four swans, white and beautiful. And it is what she said: "Out with you, children of the king, your luck is taken away from you for ever; it is sorrowful the story will be to your friends; it is with flocks of birds your cries will be heard for ever."


And Fionnuala said: "Witch, we know now what your name is, you have struck us down with no hope of relief; but although you put us from wave to wave, there are times when we will touch the land. We shall get help when we are seen; help, and all that is best for us; even though we have to sleep upon the lake, it is our minds will be going abroad early."


And then the four children of Lie turned towards Aoife, and it is what Fionnuala said: "It is a bad deed you have done, Aoife, and it is a bad fulfilling of friendship, you to destroy us without cause; and vengeance for it will come upon you, and you will fall in satisfaction for it, for your power for our destruction is not greater than the power of our friends to avenge it on you; and put some bounds now," she said, "to the time this enchantment is to stop on us." "I will do that," said Aoife, "and it is worse for you, you to have asked it of me. And the bounds set to your time are this, till the Woman from the South and the Man from the North will come together. And since you ask to hear it of me," she said, "no friends and no power that you have will be able to bring you out of these shapes you are in through the length of your lives, until you have been three hundred years on Loch Dairbhreach, and three hundred years on Sruth na Maoile between Ireland and Alban, and three hundred years at Inis Domnann and Inis Gluaire; and these are to be your journeys from this out," she said.


But then repentance came on Aoife, and she said: "Since there is no other help for me to give you now, you may keep your own speech; and you will be singing sweet music of the Sidhe, that would put the men of the earth to sleep, and there will be no music in the world equal to it; and your own sense and your own nobility will stay with you, the way it will not weigh so heavy on you to be in the shape of birds. And go away out of my sight now, children of Lir," she said, "with your white faces, with your stammering Irish. It is a great curse on tender lads, they to be driven out on the rough wind. Nine hundred years to be on the water, it is a long time for any one to be in pain; it is I put this on you through treachery, it is best for you to do as I tell you now.


"Lir, that got victory with so many a good cast, his heart is a kernel of death in him now; the groaning of the great hero is a sickness to me, though it is I that have well earned his anger."


And then the horses were caught for Aoife, and the chariot yoked for her, and she went on to the palace of Bodb Dearg, and there was a welcome before her from the chief people of the place. And the son of the Dagda asked her why she did not bring the children of Lir with her. "I will tell you that," she said. "It is because Lir has no liking for you, and he will not trust you with his children, for fear you might keep them from him altogether."


"I wonder at that," said Bodb Dearg, "for those children are dearer to me than my own children." And he thought in his own mind it was deceit the woman was doing on him, and it is what he did, he sent messengers to the north to Sidhe Fionnachaidh. And Lir asked them what did they come for. "On the head of your children," said they. "Are they not gone to you along with Aoife?" he said. "They are not," said they; "and Aoife said it was yourself would not let them come."


It is downhearted and sorrowful Lir was at that news, for he understood well it was Aoife had destroyed or made an end of his children. And early in the morning of the morrow his horses were caught, and he set out on the road to the south-west. And when he was as far as the shore of Loch Dairbhreach, the four children saw the horses coming towards them, and it is what Fionnuala said: "A welcome to the troop of horses I see coming near to the lake; the people they are bringing are strong, there is sadness on them; it is us they are following, it is for us they are looking; let us move over to the shore, Aodh, Fiachra, and comely Conn. Those that are coming can be no others in the world but only Lir and his household."


Then Lir came to the edge of the lake, and he took notice of the swans having the voice of living people, and he asked them why was it they had that voice.


"I will tell you that, Lir," said Fionnuala. "We are your own four children, that are after being destroyed by your wife, and by the sister of our own mother, through the dint of her jealousy." "Is there any way to put you into your own shapes again?" said Lir. "There is no way," said Fionnuala, "for all the men of the world could not help us till we have gone through our time, and that will not be," she said, "till the end of nine hundred years."


When Lir and his people heard that, they gave out three great heavy shouts of grief and sorrow and crying.


"Is there a mind with you," said Lir; "to come to us on the land, since you have your own sense and your memory yet?" "We have not the power," said Fionnuala, "to live with any person at all from this time; but we have our own language, the Irish, and we have the power to sing sweet music, and it is enough to satisfy the whole race of men to be listening to that music. And let you stop here tonight," she said, "and we will be making music for you."


So Lir and his people stopped there listening to the music of the swans, and they slept there quietly that night. And Lir rose up early on the morning of the morrow and he made this complaint:--"It is time to go from this place. I do not sleep though I am in my lying down. To be parted from my dear children, it is that is tormenting my heart.


"It is a bad net I put over you, bringing Aoife, daughter of Oilell of Aran, to the house. I would never have followed that advice if I had known what it would bring upon me.


"O Fionnuala, and comely Conn, O Aodh, O Fiachra of the beautiful arms; it is not ready I am to go away from you, from the border of the harbour where you are."


Then Lir went on to the palace of Bodb Dearg, and there was a welcome before him there; and he got a reproach from Bodb Dearg for not bringing his children along with him. "My grief!" said Lir. "It is not I that would not bring my children along with me; it was Aoife there beyond, your own foster-child and the sister of their mother, that put them in the shape of four white swans on Loch Dairbhreach, in the sight of the whole of the men of Ireland; but they have their sense with them yet, and their reason, and their voice, and their Irish."


Bodb Dearg gave a great start when he heard that, and he knew what Lir said was true, and he gave a very sharp reproach to Aoife, and he said: "This treachery will be worse for yourself in the end, Aoife, than to the children of Lir. And what shape would you yourself think worst of being in?" he said.


"I would think worst of being a witch of the air," she said. "It is into that shape I will put you now," said Bodb. And with that he struck her with a Druid wand, and she was turned into a witch of the air there and then, and she went away on the wind in that shape, and she is in it yet, and will be in it to the end of life and time.


As to Bodb Dearg and the Tuatha de Danaan they came to the shore of Loch Dairbhreach, and they made their camp there to be listening to the music of the swans.


And the Sons of the Gael used to be coming no less than the Men of Dea to hear them from every part of Ireland, for there never was any music or any delight heard in Ireland to compare with that music of the swans. And they used to be telling stories, and to be talking with men of Ireland every day, and with their teachers and their fellow-pupils and their friends. And every night they used to sing very sweet music of the Sidhe; and every one that heard that music would sleep sound and quiet whatever trouble or long sickness might be on him; for every one that heard the music of the birds, it is happy and contented he would be after it.


These two gatherings now of the Tuatha de Danaan and of the Sons of the Gael stopped there around Loch Dairbhreach through the length of three hundred years. And it is then Fionnuala said to her brothers: "Do you know," she said, "we have spent all we have to spend of our time here, but this one night only."


And there was great sorrow on the sons of Lit when they heard that, for they thought it the same as to be living people again, to be talking with their friends and their companions on Loch Dairbhreach, in comparison with going on the cold, fretful sea of the Maoil in the north.


And they came on the morrow to speak with their father and with their foster-father, and they bade them farewell, and Fionnuala made this complaint:--'Farewell to you, Bodb Dearg, the man with whom all knowledge is in pledge. And farewell to our father along with you, Lir of the Hill of the White Field.


"The time is come, as I think, for us to part from you, O pleasant Company; my grief it is not on a visit we are going to you.


From this day out, O friends of our heart, our comrades, it is on the tormented course of the Maoil we will be, without the voice of any person near us.


"Three hundred years there, and three hundred years in the bay of the men of Domnann, it is a pity for the four comely children of Lir, the salt waves of the sea to be their covering by night.


"O three brothers, with the ruddy faces gone from you, let them all leave the lake now, the great troop that loved us, it is sorrowful our parting is."


After that complaint they took to flight, lightly, airily, till they came to Sruth na Maoile between Ireland and Alban. And that was a grief to the men of Ireland, and they gave out an order no swan was to be killed from that out, whatever chance might be of killing one, all through Ireland.


It was a bad dwelling-place for the children of Lir they to be on Sruth na Maoile. When they saw the wide coast about them, they were filled with cold and with sorrow, and they thought nothing of all they had gone through before, in comparison to what they were going through on that sea.


Now one night while they were there a great storm came on them, and it is what Fionnuala said: "My dear brothers," she said, "it is a pity for us not to be making ready for this night, for it is certain the storm will separate us from one another. And let us," she said, "settle on some place where we can meet afterwards, if we are driven from one another in the night."


"Let us settle," said the others, "we meet one another at Carraig na Ron, the Rock of the Seals, for we all have knowledge of it."


And when midnight came, the wind came on them with it, and the noise of the waves increased, and the lightning was flashing, and a rough storm came sweeping down, the way the children of Lir were scattered over the great sea, and the wideness of it set them astray, so that no one of them could know what way the others went. But after that storm a great quiet came on the sea, and Fionnuala was alone on Sruth na Maoile; and when she took notice that her brothers were wanting she was lamenting after them greatly, and she made this complaint:--


"It is a pity for me to be alive in the state I am; it is frozen to my sides my wings are; it is little that the wind has not broken my heart in my body, with the loss of Aodh.


"To be three hundred years on Loch Dairbhreach without going into my own shape, it is worse to me the time I am on Sruth na Maoile.


"The three I loved, Och! the three I loved, that slept under the shelter of my feathers; till the dead come back to the living I will see them no more for ever.


"It is a pity I to stay after Fiachra, and after Aodh, and after comely Conn, and with no account of them; my grief I to be here to face every hardship this night."


She stopped all night there upon the Rock of the Seals until the rising of the sun, looking out over the sea on every side till at last she saw Conn coming to he; his feathers wet through and his head hanging, and her heart gave him a great welcome; and then Fiachra came wet and perished and worn out, and he could not say a word they could understand with the dint of the cold and the hardship he bad gone through. And Fionnuala put him under her wings, and she said: "We would be well off now if Aodh would but come to us."


It was not long after that, they saw Aodh coming, his head dry and his feathers beautiful, and Fionnuala gave him a great welcome, and she put him in under the feathers of her breast, and Fiachra under her right wing and Conn under her left wing, the way she could put her feathers over them all. "And Och! my brothers," she said, "this was a bad night to us, and it is many of its like are before us from this out."


They stayed there a long time after that, suffering cold and misery on the Maoil, till at last a night came on them they had never known the like of before, for frost and snow and wind and cold. And they were crying and lamenting the hardship of their life, and the cold of the night and the greatness of the snow and the hardness of the wind. And after they had suffered cold to the end of a year, a worse night again came on them, in the middle of winter. And they were on Carraig na Ron, and the water froze about them, and as they rested on the rock, their feet and their wings and their feathers froze to the rock, the way they were not able to move from it. And they made such a hard struggle to get away, that they left the skin of their feet and their feathers and the tops of their wings on the rock after them.


"My grief, children of Lir," said Fionnuala, "it is bad our state is now, for we cannot bear the salt water to touch us, and there are bonds on us not to leave it; and if the salt water goes into our sores," she said, "we will get our death." And she made this complaint:--"It is keening we are tonight; without feathers to cover our bodies; it is cold the rough, uneven rocks are under our bare feet.


"It is bad our stepmother was to us the time she played enchantments on us, sending us out like swans upon the sea.


"Our washing place is on the ridge of the bay, in the foam of flying manes of the sea; our share of the ale feast is the salt water of the blue tide.


"One daughter and three sons; it is in the clefts of the rocks we are; it is on the hard rocks we are, it is a pity the way we are."


However, they came on to the course of the Maoil again, and the salt water was sharp and rough and bitter to them, but if it was itself, they were not able to avoid it or to get shelter from it. And they were there by the shore under that hardship till such time as their feathers grew again, and their wings, and till their sores were entirely healed. And then they used to go every day to the shore of Ireland or of Alban, but they had to come back to Sruth na Maoile every night.


Now they came one day to the mouth of the Banna, to the north of Ireland, and they saw a troop of riders, beautiful, of the one colour, with well-trained pure white horses under them, and they travelling the road straight from the south-west.


"Do you know who those riders are, Sons of Lir?" said Fionnuala. "We do not," they said; "but it is likely they might be some troops of the Sons of Gael, or of the Tuatha de Danaan."


They moved over closer to the shore then, that they might know who they were, and when the riders saw them they came to meet them until they were able to hold talk together.


And the chief men among them were two sons of Bodb Dearg, Aodh Aithfhiosach, of the quick wits, and Fergus Fithchiollach, of the chess, and a third part of the Riders of the Sidhe along with them, and it was for the swans they had been looking for a long while before that, and when they came together they wished one another a kind and loving welcome.


And the children of Lir asked for news of all the Men of Dea, and above all of Lir, and Bodb Dearg and their people.


"They are well, and they are in the one place together," said they, "in your father's house at Sidhe Fionnachaidh, using the Feast of Age pleasantly and happily, and with no uneasiness on them, only for being without yourselves, and without knowledge of what happened you from the day you left Loch Dairbhreach."


"That has not been the way with us," said Fionnuala, "for we have gone through great hardship and uneasiness and misery on the tides of the sea until this day."


And she made this complaint:--


"There is delight tonight with the household of Lir! Plenty of ale with them and of wine, although it is in a cold dwelling-place this night are the four children of the king.


"It is without a spot our bedclothes are, our bodies covered over with curved feathers; but it is often we were dressed in purple, and we drinking pleasant mead.


"It is what our food is and our drink, the white sand and the bitter water of the sea; it is often we drank mead of hazel-nuts from round four-lipped drinking cups.


"It is what our beds are, bare rocks out of the power of the waves; it is often there used to be spread out for us beds of the breast-feathers of birds.


"Though it is our work now to be swimming through the frost and through the noise of the waves, it is often a company of the sons of kings were riding after us to the Hill of Bodb.


"It is what wasted my strength, to be going and coming over the current of the Maoil the way I never was used to, and never to be in the sunshine on the soft grass.


"Fiachra's bed and Conn's bed is to come under the cover of my wings on the sea. Aodh has his place under the feathers of my breast, the four of us side by side.


"The teaching of Manannan without deceit, the talk of Bodb Dearg on the pleasant ridge; the voice of Angus, his sweet kisses; it is by their side I used to be without grief."


After that the riders went on to Lir's house, and they told the chief men of the Tuatha de Danaan all the birds had gone through, and the state they were in. "We have no power over them," the chief men said, "but we are glad they are living yet, for they will get help in the end of time."


As to the children of Lir, they went back towards their old place in the Maoil, and they stopped there till the time they had to spend in it was spent. And then Fionnuala said: "The time is come for us to leave this place. And it is to Irrus Domnann we must go now," she said, "after our three hundred years here. And indeed there will be no rest for us there, or any standing ground, or any shelter from the storms. But since it is time for us to go, let us set out on the cold wind, the way we will not go astray."


So they set out in that way, and left Sruth na Maoile behind them, and went to the point of Irrus Domnann, and there they stopped, and it is a life of misery and a cold life they led there. And one time the sea froze about them that they could not move at all, and the brothers were lamenting, and Fionnuala was comforting them, for she knew there would be help come to them in the end.


And they stayed at Irrus Domnann till the time they had to spend there was spent. And then Fionnuala said: "The time is come for us to go back to Sidhe Fionnachaidh, where our father is with his household and with all our own people."


"It pleases us well to hear that," they said.


So they set out flying through the air lightly till they came to Sidhe Fionnachaidh; and it is how they found the place, empty before them, and nothing in it but green hillocks and thickets of nettles, without a house, without a fire, without a hearthstone. And the four pressed close to one another then, and they gave out three sorrowful cries, and Fionnuala made this complaint:--


"It is a wonder to me this place is, and it without a house, without a dwelling-place. To see it the way it is now, Ochone! it is bitterness to my heart.


"Without dogs, without hounds for hunting, without women, without great kings; we never knew it to be like this when our father was in it.


"Without horns, without cups, without drinking in the lighted house; without young men, without riders; the way it is to-night is a foretelling of sorrow.


"The people of the place to be as they are now, Ochone! it is grief to my heart! It is plain to my mind to-night the lord of the house is not living.


"Och, house where we used to see music and playing and the gathering of people! I think it a great change to see it lonely the way it is to-night.


"The greatness of the hardships we have gone through going from one wave to another of the sea, we never heard of the like of them coming on any other person.


"It is seldom this place had its part with grass and bushes; the man is not living that would know us, it would be a wonder to him to see us here."


However, the children of Lir stopped that night in their father's place and their grandfather's, where they had been reared, and they were singing very sweet music of the Sidhe. And they rose up early on the morning of the morrow and went to the Inis Gluaire, and all the birds of the country gathered near them on Loch na-n Ean, the Lake of the Birds. And they used to go out to feed every day to the far parts of the country, to Inis Geadh and to Accuill, the place Donn, son of Miled, and his people that were drowned were buried, and to all the western islands of Connacht, and they used to go back to Inis Gluaire every night.






It was about that time it happened them to meet with a young man of good race, and his name was Aibric; and he often took notice of the birds, and their singing was sweet to him and he loved them greatly, and they loved him. And it is this young man that told the whole story of all that had happened them, and put it in order.


And the story he told of what happened them in the end is this. It was after the faith of Christ and blessed Patrick came into Ireland, that Saint Mochaomhog came to Inis Gluaire. And the first night he came to the island, the children of Lir heard the voice of his bell, ringing near them. And the brothers started up with fright when they heard it. "We do not know," they said, "what is that weak, unpleasing voice we hear."


"That is the voice of the bell of Mochaomhog," said Fionnuala; "and it is through that bell," she said, "you will be set free from pain and from misery."


They listened to that music of the bell till the matins were done, and then they began to sing the low, sweet music of the Sidhe.


And Mochaomhog was listening to them, and he prayed to God to show him who was singing that music, and it was showed to him that the children of Lir were singing it. And on the morning of the morrow he went forward to the Lake of the Birds, and he saw the swans before him on the lake, and he went down to them at the brink of the shore. "Are you the children of Lir?" he said.


"We are indeed," said they.


"I give thanks to God for that," said he, "for it is for your sakes I am come to this island beyond any other island, and let you come to land now," he said "and give your trust to me, that you may do good deeds and part from your sins."


They came to the land after that, and they put trust in Mochoamhog, and he brought them to his own dwelling-place, and they used to be hearing Mass with him. And he got a good smith and bade him make chains of bright silver for them, and he put a chain between Aodh and Fionnuala, and a chain between Conn and Fiachra. And the four of them were raising his heart and gladdening his mind, and no danger and no distress that was on the swans before put any trouble on them now.


Now the king of Connacht at that time was Lairgren, son of Colman, son of Cobthach, and Deoch, daughter of Finghin, was his wife. And that was the coming together of the Man from the North and the Woman from the South, that Aoife had spoken of.


And the woman heard talk of the birds, and a great desire came on her to get them, and she bade Lairgren to bring them to her, and he said he would ask them of Mochaomhog.


And she gave her word she would not stop another night with him unless he would bring them to her. And she set out from the house there and then. And Lairgren sent messengers after her to bring her back, and they did not overtake her till she was at Cill Dun. She went back home with them then, and Lairgren sent messengers to ask the birds of Mochaomhog, and he did not get them.


There was great anger on Lairgren then, and he went himself to the place Mochaomhog was, and he asked was it true he had refused him the birds. "It is true indeed," said he. At that Lairgren rose up, and he took hold of the swans, and pulled them off the altar, two birds in each hand, to bring them away to Deoch. But no sooner had he laid his hand on them than their skins fell off, and what was in their place was three lean, withered old men and a thin withered old woman, without blood or flesh.


And Lairgren gave a great start at that, and he went out from the place. It is then Fionnuala said to Mochaomhog: "Come and baptize us now, for it is short till our death comes; and it is certain you do not think worse of parting with us than we do of parting with you. And make our grave afterwards," she said, "and lay Conn at my right side and Fiachra on my left side, and Aodh before my face, between my two arms. And pray to the God of Heaven," she said, "that you may be able to baptize us."


The children of Lir were baptized then, and they died and were buried as Fionnuala had desired; Fiachra and Conn one at each side of her, and Aodh before her face. And a stone was put over them, and their names were written in Ogham, and they were keened there, and heaven was gained for their souls.


And that is the fate of the children of Lir so far.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites
This topic is now closed to further replies.
Sign in to follow this  

  • Create New...