The Cattle-Raid of Cooley (Táin Bó Cuailnge) is the central epic of the Ulster cycle. Queen Medb of Connaught gathers an army in order to gain possession of the most famous bull in Ireland, which is the property of Daire, a chieftain of Ulster. Because the men of Ulster are afflicted by a debilitating curse, the seventeen-year-old Cuchulain must defend Ulster single-handedly. The Táin is perhaps Ireland's greatest legendary epic, which tells the story of a great cattle-raid, the invasion of Ulster by the armies of Medb and Ailill and their allies, seeking to carry off the great Brown Bull of Cuailnge (Cooley).
by Joseph Dunn,
London: David Nutt.
The four grand provinces of Erin proceeded till they pitched camp and took quarters in Druim En ('Birds' Ridge') in the land of Conalle Murthemni, and they slept there that night, and Cuchulain held himself at Ferta Illergaib ('the Burial-mound on the Slopes') hard by them that night, and he, Cuchulain, shook, brandished and flourished his weapons that night, so that one hundred warriors of the host perished of fright and fear and dread of Cuchulain.
Medb called upon Fiachu son of Ferfebè of the Ulstermen to go parley with Cuchulain, to come to some terms with him. "What terms shall be given him?" asked Fiachu son of Ferfebè. "Not hard to answer," Medb replied: "He shall be recompensed for the loss of his lands and estates, for whosoever has been slain of the Ulstermen, so that it be paid to him as the men of Erin adjudge. Entertainment shall be his at all times in Cruachan; wine and mead shall be poured out for him. And he shall come into my service and Ailill's, for that is more seemly for him than to be in the service of the lordling with whom he is.
Accordingly this was the greatest word of scorn and insult spoken on the Cow-Raid of Cualnge, to make a lordling of the best king of a province in Erin, even of Conchobar.
Then came Fiachu son of Ferfebè to converse with Cuchulain. Cuchulain bade him welcome. "I regard that welcome as truly meant," said Fiachu. "It is truly meant for thee," replied Cuchulain. "Not for hospitality am I come, but to parley with thee am I come from Medb, and to bring thee terms." "What hast thou brought with thee?"
"Thou shalt be recompensed for whatsoever was destroyed of Ulster which shall be paid thee as best the men of Erin adjudge. Entertainment shalt thou enjoy in Cruachan; wine and mead shall be poured out for thee and thou shalt enter the service of Ailill and Medb, for that is more seemly for thee than to be in the service of the lordling with whom thou art." "Nay, of a truth," answered Cuchulain, "I would not sell my mother's brother for any other king!" "Further," continued Fiachu, "that thou comest to-morrow to a tryst with Medb and Fergus in Glenn Fochaine.
Accordingly, early on the morrow, Cuchulain set forth for Glenn Fochaine. Likewise Medb and Fergus went to meet him. And Medb looked narrowly at Cuchulain, and her spirit chafed her at him that day, for no bigger than the bulk of a stripling did he seem to her. "Is that yonder the renowned Cuchulain thou speakest of, O Fergus?" asked Medb. And Medb began to address Fergus and she made this lay:--
M: "If that be the noble Hound,
Of whom ye of Ulster boast,
What man e'er stout foe hath faced
Will fend him from Erin's men!"
F: "Howe'er young the Hound thou seest
That Murthemne's Plain cloth course,
That man hath not stood on earth
Whom he'd crush not with his might!"
M: "We will bring this warrior terms;
If he slight them, he is mad:
Half his cows, his women, half.
He shall change his way of fight! "
F: "My wish, that ye'll not o'ercome
This Hound from proud Murthemne!
Deeds he fears not-- fierce and bright--
This I know, if it be he!"
"Accost Cuchulain, O Fergus," said Medb. "Nay, then," quoth Fergus, "but do thou accost him thyself, for ye are not asunder here in the valley, in Glenn Fochaine." And Medb began to address Cuchulain and she made a lay, to which he responded:
M: "Culann's Hound, whom quatrains praise,
Keep thy staff-sling far from us;
Thy fierce, famed fight hath us ruined,
Hath us broken and confused!"
C: "Medb of Mur, he, Maga's son,
No base arrant wight am I.
While I live I'll never cease
Cualnge's raid to harass sore!"
M: "If thou wilt take this from us,
Valiant chief, thou Cualnge's Hound;
Half thy cows; thy women, half,
Thou shalt have through fear of thee!"
C: "As by right of thrusts am I
Ulster's champion and defence,
Naught I'll yield till I retrieve
Cow and woman ta'en from Gael! "
M: "What thou askest is too much,
After slaughtering our fair troops,
That we keep but steeds and gauds,
All because of one sole man! "
C: "Eocho's daughter, fair, of Fal,
I'm not good at wars of words;
Though a warrior-- fair the cheer--
Counsel mine is little worth! "
M: "Shame thou hast none for what thou sayest
O Dechtire's lordly son!
Famous are the terms for thee,
O thou battling Culann's Hound!"
When this lay was finished, Cuchulain accepted none of the terms which she had offered. In such wise they parted in the valley and withdrew in equal anger on the one side and on the other.
The warriors of four of the five grand provinces of Erin pitched camp and took quarters for three days and three nights at Druim En ('Birds' Ridge') in Conalle Murthemni, but neither huts nor tents did they set up, nor did they engage in feasts or repasts, nor sang they songs nor carols those three nights. And Cuchulain destroyed a hundred of their warriors every night ere the bright hour of sunrise on the morrow.
"Our hosts will not last long in this fashion," said Medb, "if Cuchulain slays a hundred of our warriors every night. Wherefore is a proposal not made to him and do we not parley with him?" "What might the proposal be?" asked Ailill. "Let the cattle that have milk be given to him and the captive women from amongst our booty. And he on his side shall check his staff-sling from the men of Erin and give leave to the hosts to sleep, even though he slay them by day."
"Who shall go with that proposal?" Ailill asked. "Who," answered Medb, "but macRoth the chief runner!" "Nay, but I will not go," said macRoth, "for I am in no way experienced and know not where Cuchulain may be, and even though I should meet him, I should not know him." "Ask Fergus," quoth Medb; "like enough he knows where he is." "Nay, then, I know it not," answered Fergus; "but I trow he is in the snow between Fochain and the sea, taking the wind and the sun after his sleeplessness last night, killing and slaughtering the host single handed." And so it truly was.
Then on that errand to Delga macRoth set forth, the messenger of Ailill and Medb. He it is that circles Erin in one day. There it is that Fergus opined that Cuchulain would be, in Delga.
Heavy snow fell that night so that all the five provinces of Erin were a white plane with the snow. And Cuchulain doffed the seven-score waxed, boardlike tunics which were used to be held under cords and strings next his skin, in order that his sense might not be deranged when the fit of his fury came on him. And the snow melted for thirty feet all around him, because of the intensity of the warrior's heat and the warmth of Cuchulain's body. And the gilla remained a good distance from him for he could not endure to remain near him because of the might of his rage and the warrior's fury and the heat of his body.
"A single warrior approacheth, O Cuchulain," cried Laeg to Cuchulain. "What manner of warrior is he?" asked Cuchulain. "A brown, broad-faced, handsome fellow; a splendid, brown, hooded cloak, about him; a fine, bronze pin in his cloak; a leathern three-striped doublet next his skin; two gapped shoes between his two feet and the ground; a white-hazel dog-staff in one of his hands; a single-edged sword with ornaments of walrus-tooth on its hilt in the other. "Good, O gilla," quoth Cuchulain, "these be the tokens of a herald. One of the heralds of Erin is he to bring me message and offer of parley."
Now was macRoth arrived at the place where Laeg was. "How now! What is thy title as vassal, O gilla?" macRoth asked. "Vassal am I to the youth up yonder," the gilla made answer. MacRoth came to the place where Cuchulain was. "How now! What is thy name as vassal, O warrior?" asked macRoth. "Vassal am I to Conchobar son of Fachtna Fathach, son of the High King of this province." "Hast not something, a name more special than that?" "'Tis enough for the nonce," answered Cuchulain.
"Haply, thou knowest where I might find that famous Cuchulain of whom the men of Erin clamour now on this foray?" "What wouldst thou say to him that thou wouldst not to me?" asked Cuchulain. "To parley with him am I come on the part of Ailill and Medb, with terms and friendly intercourse for him." "What terms hast thou brought with thee for him?" "The milch-kine and the bondwomen of the booty he shall have, and for him to hold back his staff-sling from the hosts, for not pleasant is the thunder-feat he works every evening upon them."
"Even though the one thou seekest were really at hand, he would not accept the proposals thou askest." "For the Ulstermen, in reprisal for injuries and satires and hindrances, will kill for meat in the winter the milch-cows ye have captured, should they happen to have no yeld cattle. And, what is more, they will bring their bondwomen to bed to them, and thus will grow up a base progeny on the side of the mothers in the land of Ulster.
MacRoth went his way back. "What! Didst thou not find him?" Medb asked. "Verily, I know not, but I found a surly, angry, hateful, wrathful gilla in the snow betwixt Fochain and the sea. Sooth to say, I know not if he were Cuchulain." "Hath he accepted these proposals from thee?" "Nay then, he hath not." And macRoth related unto them all his answer, the reason why he did not accept them. "It was he himself with whom thou spakest," said Fergus.
"Another offer shall be made him," said Medb. "What is the offer?" asked Ailill. "There shall be given to him the yeld cattle and the noblest of the captive women of the booty, and his sling shall be checked from the hosts, for not pleasant is the thunder-feat he works on them every evening." "Who should go make this covenant?" said they. "Who but macRoth the king's envoy," said every one. "Yea, I will go," said macRoth, "because this time I know him."
Thereupon macRoth arose and came to parley with Cuchulain. "To parley with thee am I come this time with other terms, for I wis it is thou art the renowned Cuchulain." "What hast thou brought with thee now?" Cuchulain asked. "What is dry of the kine and what is noblest of the captives shalt thou get, and hold thy staff-sling from the men of Erin and suffer the men of Erin to go to sleep, for not pleasant is the thunder-feat thou workest upon them every evening."
"I accept not that offer, because, as amends for their honour, the Ulstermen will kill the dry cattle. For the men of Ulster are honourable men and they would remain wholly without dry kine and milch-kine. They would bring their free women ye have captured to the querns and to the kneading-troughs and into bondage and other serfdom besides. This would be a disgrace. Loath I should be to leave after me this shame in Ulster, that slave-girls and handmaids should be made of the daughters of kings and princes of Ulster."
"Is there any offer at all thou wilt accept this time?" "Aye, but there is," answered Cuchulain. "Then wilt thou tell me the offer?" asked macRoth. "By my word," Cuchulain made answer, "'tis not I that will tell you." "It is a question, then," said macRoth. "If there be among you in the camp," said Cuchulain, "one that knows the terms I demand, let him inform you, and I will abide thereby." "If there be not," said Cuchulain, "let no one come near me any more with offers or with friendly intercourse or concerning aught other injunction, for, whosoever may come, it will be the term of his life! "
MacRoth came back, and Medb asked his tidings. "Didst thou find him?" Medb asked. "In truth, I found him," macRoth replied. "Hath he accepted the terms?" "He hath not accepted," replied macRoth. "Is there an offer he will accept?" "There is one, he said," answered macRoth. "Hath he made known to thee this offer?" "This is his word," said macRoth, "that he himself would not disclose it to ye." "'Tis a question, then," said Medb.
"But" (macRoth continued), "should there be one in our midst that knows his terms, that one would tell it to me." "And if there be not, let no one go seek him any more. But, there is one thing I promise thee," said macRoth; "even though the kingdom of Erin were given me for it, I for one would not go on these same legs to that place to parley with him again."
Therewith Medb looked at Fergus. "What are the terms yonder man demands, O Fergus?" Medb asked. "I know what the man meant to disclose. I see no advantage at all for ye in the terms he demands," Fergus replied. "But what are those terms?" asked Medb. "That a single champion of the men of Erin be sent to fight and contend with him every day. The while he slayeth that man, the army will be permitted to continue its march. Then, when he will have slain that man, another warrior shall be sent to meet him on the ford. Either that, or the men of Erin shall halt and camp there till sunrise's bright hour in the morning. And further, Cuchulain's food and clothing shall be provided by you, so long as he will be on this expedition."
"By our conscience," said Ailill, "this is a grievous proposal." "What he asks is good," replied Medb; "and he shall obtain those terms, for we deem it easier to bear that he should have one of our warriors every day than a hundred every night." "Who will go and make known those terms to Cuchulain?" "Who, then, but Fergus?" replied Medb.
"Nevermore!" said Fergus. "Why not?" asked Ailill. "Bonds and covenants, pledges and bail shall be given for abiding by those terms and for their fulfillment towards Cuchulain." "I abide by it," said Medb, and she fast bound Fergus to them in like manner.
Fergus' horses were brought and his chariot was hitched and two horses were brought for Etarcumul son of Fid and of Lethrinn, a soft youth of the people of Medb and of Ailill. "Whither goest thou?" Fergus demanded. "We go with thee," Etarcumul made answer. "To behold the form and appearance of Cuchulain, and to gaze upon him, for he is unknown to me." "Wilt thou do my bidding," said Fergus, "thou wilt in no wise go thither." "Why shall I not, pray?"
Thy light-heartedness, thy haughtiness (I know), but (I also know) the fierceness and valour and hostility of the youth against whom thou goest. And methinks ye will have contention before ye part." "Art thou not able to come between us to protect me?" "I am, to be sure," Fergus answered, "provided thou thyself seek not the combat." "I will not seek it," said Etarcumul, "till the very day of doom!"
Then they went their ways to come up to Cuchulain where Cuchulain was between Fochain and the sea. There it is that he was that day, playing draughts with Laeg. And not a living thing entered the entire plain without Laeg perceiving it and, notwithstanding, he continued to win every other game of draughts from Cuchulain. "A lone warrior cometh towards us over the plain, my master Cucuc," spake Laeg. "What manner of warrior?" queried Cuchulain.
"As large as one of the chief mountains that are highest on a great plain appears to me the chariot that is under the warrior; as large as one of the noble trees on a main fort's green meseems the curly, tressed, fair-yellow, all-golden hair hanging loose around the man's head; a purple mantle fringed with thread of gold wrapped around him; a broad and gray-shafted lance, perforated from mimasc to horn, flaming red in his hand; over him, a bossed, plaited shield, curved, with applied ornaments of red gold thereon; a lengthy sword, as long as the oar of a huge currach on a wild, stormy night, resting on the two thighs of the great haughty warrior that is within the chariot."
"Holla! Welcome the coming of this guest to us!" cried Cuchulain. "We know the man; it is my master Fergus that cometh hither." "Yet another single chariot-fighter I see coming towards us. With fulness of skill and beauty and splendour his horses speed." "One of the youths of the men of Erin is he, O my master Laeg," responded Cuchulain. "To scan my appearance and form is that man come, for I am renowned amongst them in the midst of their camp, and they know me not at all."
Fergus came up to where Cuchulain was and he sprang from the chariot, and Cuchulain bade him a hearty welcome. "Thy welcome I take for true," Fergus responded.
"Verily, it is truly meant for thee," said Cuchulain; "for comes there a brace of birds into the plain, thou shalt have a wild goose with half the other. If fish rise to the river-mouths, to the stones or waterfalls, thou shalt have a salmon with as much again. Thou shalt have a handful of watercress and a handful of sea-grass and a handful of laver. If thou hast a fight or combat with warrior before thee, I myself will go in thy stead to the ford. And I will watch and guard thee as long as thou sleepest."
"Well, then," said Fergus. "We know of what sort is thy hospitality on this occasion, on the Cow-spoil of Cualnge. But, as for this compact which thou hast asked of the men of Erin, single-handed combat with one man, thou shalt have it. It is for that I am come, to bind thee thereto, and do thou take it upon thee." "I pledge myself truly," said Cuchulain, "oh, my master Fergus." And no longer than that did he remain in parley, lest the men of Erin should say they were betrayed or deserted by Fergus for his disciple. Fergus' two horses were brought and his chariot was harnessed and he went back.
Etarcumul tarried behind gazing for a long time at Cuchulain. "At what starest thou, gilla?" asked Cuchulain. "I look at thee," said Etarcumul. "In truth then, thou hast not far to look," said Cuchulain. "There is no need of straining thine eye for that. If thou but knewest how angered is the little creature thou regardest, myself, to wit! And how then do I appear unto thee gazing upon me?" "Thou pleases me as thou art; a comely, shapely, wonderful, beautiful youth thou art, with brilliant, striking, various feats. Yet as for rating thee where goodly warriors are or forward youths or heroes of bravery or sledges of destruction, we count thee not nor consider thee at all.
"Though thou reviles me," said Cuchulain, "it is a surety for thee that thou camest from the camp under the protection of Fergus, as thou well knowest. For the rest, I swear by my gods whom I worship, were it not for the honour of Fergus, it would be only bits of thy bones and shreds of thy limbs that would be brought back to the camp!" "But threaten me no longer in this wise, Cuchulain!" cried Etarcumul; "for the wonderful terms thou didst exact of the men of Erin, that fair play and combat with one man should be granted thee, none other of the men of Erin but mine own self will come to-morrow at morn's early hour." "Come out, then," said Cuchulain, "and how so early thou comest, thou wilt find me here. I will not fly before thee. "
Etarcumul returned and began to talk with his driver. "I must needs fight with Cuchulain to-morrow, gilla," said Etarcumul. "'Tis true," quoth the charioteer. "Howbeit, I know not wilt thou fulfil it." "But what is better for us, to fulfil it to-morrow or forthwith tonight?" "To our thinking," said the gilla, "albeit no victory is to be won by fighting to-morrow, there is still less to be gained by fighting to-night, for thy combat and hurt is the nearer." "Be that as it may," said he ; "turn the horses and chariot back again from the hill for us, gilla, till we go to the ford of combat, for I swear by the gods whom I worship, I will not return to the camp till the end of life and time, till I bring with me the head of that young wildling, even the head of Cuchulain, for a trophy!"
The charioteer wheeled the chariot again towards the ford. They brought the left board to face the pair in a line with the ford. Laeg marked this and he cried to Cuchulain: ("Wist thou) the last chariot-fighter that was here a while ago, O Cucuc?" "What of him?" asked Cuchulain. "He has brought his left board towards us in the direction of the ford." "It is Etarcumul, O gilla, who seeks me in combat. And unwelcome is his coming, because of the honour of my foster-father Fergus under whom he came forth from the camp, of the men of Erin. But not that I would protect him do I thus. Fetch me my arms, gilla, to the ford. I deem it no honour for myself if the fellow reaches the ford before me." And straightway Cuchulain betook himself to the ford, and he bared his sword over his fair, well-knit spalls and he was ready on the ford to await Etarcumul.
Then, too, came Etarcumul. "What seekest thou, gilla?" demanded Cuchulain. "Battle with thee I seek," replied Etarcumul. "Hadst thou been advised by me," said Cuchulain, "thou wouldst never have come. Because of the honour of Fergus under whom thou camest out of the camp, and not because I would spare thee, do I behave thus."
Thereupon Cuchulain gave him a long-blow whereby he cut away the sod that was under the soles of his feet, so that he was stretched out like a sack on his back, and his limbs in the air and the sod on his belly. Had Cuchulain wished it, it is two pieces he might have made of him. "Hold, fellow. Off with thee now, for I have given thee warning." "I will not go. We will fight on," said Etarcumul.
Cuchulain dealt him a well-aimed edge-stroke. With the edge of his sword he sheared the hair from him from poll to forehead, from one ear to the other, as if it were with a light, keen razor he had been shorn. Not a scratch of his skin gave blood. "Hold, fellow. Get thee home now," said Cuchulain, "for a laughing-stock I have made of thee." "I go not," rejoined Etarcumul. "We will fight to the end, till I take thy head and thy spoils and boast over thee, or till thou takest my head and my spoils and boastest over me!" "So let it be, what thou saidst last, that it shall be. I will take thy head and thy spoils and boast over thee!"
Cuchulain dealt him a cleaving blow on the crown of the head, so that it drove to his navel. He dealt him a second crosswise stroke, so that at the one time the three portions of his body came to the ground. Thus fell Etarcumul son of Fid and of Lethrinn.
And Fergus knew not that the combat had been. For thus was his wont: he never for aught looked back, whether at sitting or at rising or when travelling or walking, in battle or fight or combat, lest some one might say it was out of fear he looked back, but ever he looked at the thing that was before and beside him.
And when Etarcumul's squire came up abreast of Fergus, Fergus asked, "But, where is thy lord, gilla?" "He fell a while since at the ford by the hand of Cuchulain," the gilla made answer. "That indeed was not fair!" exclaimed Fergus, "for that elf-like sprite to wrong me in him that came under my safeguard and protection. Turn the chariot for us, gilla," cried Fergus, "that we may go to the ford of fight and combat for a parley with Cuchulain."
Thereupon the driver wheeled the chariot. They fared thither towards the ford. "How darest thou offend me, thou wild, perverse, little elf-man," cried Fergus, "in him that came under my safeguard and protection? "After the nurture and care thou didst bestow on me, which wouldst thou hold better, for him to triumph and boast over me, or for me to triumph and boast over him? And yet morel. Ask his own gilla which of us was in fault in respect of the other." Then Etarcumul's gilla related to Fergus how it all befel. Fergus replied, "Liefer to me what thou hast done, fosterling," said Fergus, "and a blessing on the hand that smote him."
So then they bound two spancels about the ankle-joints of Etarcumul's feet and he was dragged along behind his horses and chariot. At every rock that was rough for him, his lungs and his liver were left on the stones and the rugged places. At every place that was smooth for him, his skilfully severed limbs came together again round the horses. In this wise he was dragged through the camp to the door of the tent of Ailill and Medb.
"There's your young warrior for you," cried Fergus, "for 'Every restoration together with its restitution' is what the law saith." Medb came forth to the door of her tent and she raised her quick, splitting, loud voice of a warrior. Quoth Medb: "Truly, methought that great was the heat and the wrath of this young hound on leaving us awhile since at the beginning of the day as he went from the camp. We had thought that the honour under which he went was not the honour of a dastard, even the honour of Fergus!"
"What hath crazed the virago and wench?" cried Fergus. "Good lack, is it fitting for the mongrel to seek the Hound of battle whom the warriors and champions of four of the five grand provinces of Erin dare not approach nor withstand? What, I myself was glad to escape whole from him!" In this manner fell Etarcumul and such was the combat of Etarcumul with Cuchulain.
Then arose a huge warrior of Medb's people, Nathcrantail by name, and he came to attack Cuchulain. He did not deign to bring along arms but thrice nine spits of holly after being sharpened, burnt and hardened in fire. And there before him on the pond was Cuchulain, and there was no shelter whatever.
[And there were nine darts, and none of them was to miss Cuchulain.] And he straightway cast [the first] dart at Cuchulain. Cuchulain sprang from the middle of the ground till he came on the tip of the dart. And again Nathcrantail threw a second dart. Nathcrantail threw a third dart and Cuchulain sprang on the point of the second dart and so on till he was on the point of the last dart.
It was then that the flock of birds which Cuchulain pursued on the plain flew away. Cuchulain chased them even as any bird of the air, pursuing the birds that they might not escape him but that they might leave behind a portion of food for the night. For this is what sustained and served Cuchulain, fish and fowl and game on the Cualnge Cow-spoil.
Something more remains to be told: Nathcrantail deemed full surely that Cuchulain went from him in rout of defeat and flight. And he went his way till he came to the door of the tent of Ailill and Medb and he lifted up his loud voice of a warrior: "That famous Cuchulain that ye so talk of ran and fled in defeat before me when he came to me in the morning." "We knew," spake Medb, "it would be even so when able warriors and goodly youths met him, that this beardless imp would not hold out; for when a mighty warrior, Nathcrantail to wit, came upon him, he withstood him not but before him he ran away!"
And Fergus heard that, and Fergus was sore angered that any one should boast that Cuchulain had fled. And Fergus addressed himself to Fiachu, Feraba's son, that he should go to rebuke Cuchulain. "And tell him it is an honour for him to oppose the hosts for as long or as short a space as he does deeds of valour upon them, but that it were fitter for him to hide himself than to fly before any one of their warriors."
Thereupon Fiachu went to address Cuchulain. Cuchulain bade him welcome. "I trow that welcome to be truly meant, but it is for counsel with thee I am come from thy fosterer Fergus. And he has said, 'It would be a glory for thee to oppose the hosts for as long or as short a space as thou doest valiantly with them; but it would be fitter for thee to hide thyself than to fly before any one of their warriors!"
"How now, who makes that boast among ye?" Cuchulain asked. "Nathcrantail, of a surety," Fiachu answered. "How may this be? Dost not know, thou and Fergus and the nobles of Ulster, that I slay no charioteers nor heralds nor unarmed people? And he bore no arms but a spit of wood. And I would not slay Nathcrantail until he had arms. And do thou tell him, let him come here early in the morning, and I will not fly before him!"
And it seemed long to Nathcrantail till day with its light came for him to attack Cuchulain. He set out early on the morrow to attack Cuchulain. Cuchulain arose early and came to his place of meeting and his wrath bided with him on that day. And he threw his cloak around him, so that it passed over the pillar-stone near by, and snapped the pillar-stone off from the ground between himself and his cloak. And he was aware of naught because of the measure of anger that had come on and rage in him.
Then, too, came Nathcrantail, and he spake, "Where is this Cuchulain?" shouted Nathcrantail. "Why, over yonder near the pillar-stone before thee," answered Cormac Conlongas son of Conchobar. "Not such was the shape wherein he appeared to me yesterday," said Nathcrantail. "Repel yon warrior," quoth Cormac, "and it will be the same for thee as if thou repellest Cuchulain!"
Soon came Nathcrantail to seek Cuchulain and he made a wide sweep with his sword at Cuchulain. The sword encountered the pillar of stone that was between Cuchulain and his cloak, and the sword broke atwain on the pillar-stone. Then Cuchulain sprang from the ground and alighted on the top of the boss of Nathcrantail's shield and dealt him a side stroke over the upper edge of the shield, so that he struck off his head from his trunk. He raised his hand quickly again and gave him another blow on the top of the trunk so that he cleft him in twain down to the ground. Thus fell Nathcrantail slain by Cuchulain. Whereupon Cuchulain spoke the verse:
"Now that Nathcrantail has fallen,
There will be increase of strife!'
Would that Medb had battle now
And the third part of the host!"
Thereafter on the morrow Medb proceeded with a third of the host of the men of Erin about her, till she reached Dun Sobairche in the north. And Cuchulain pressed heavily on Medb that day. [Medb went on to Cuib to seek the bull and Cuchulain pursued her.] There it is that Cuchulain slew all those we have mentioned in Cuib. Cuchulain killed Fer Taidle, whence cometh Taidle; and as they went northwards he killed the macBuachalla ('the Herdsman's sons') at their cairn, whence cometh Carn macBuachalla; and he killed Luasce on the slopes, whence Lettre Luasc ('the Watery Slopes of Luasc'); and he slew Bobulge in his marsh, whence Grellach ('the Trampled Place') of Bubulge; and he slew Murthemne on his hill, whence Delga ('the Points') of Murthemne.
It was afterwards then that Cuchulain turned back from the north to Mag Murthemni, to protect and defend his own borders and land, for dearer to him was his own land and inheritance and belongings than the land and territory and belongings of another.
It was then too that he came upon the Fir Crandce ('the men of Crannach'); to wit, the two Artinne and the two sons of Lecc, the two sons of Durcride, the two sons of Gabul, and Drucht and Delt and Dathen, Tae and Tualang and Turscur, and Torc Glaisse and Glass and Glassne, which are the same as the twenty men of Fochard. Cuchulain surprised them as they were pitching camp in advance of all other, so that they fell by his hand.
Then it was that Buide ('the Yellow') son of Ban Thai ('the White') from the country of Ailill and Medb, and belonging to the special followers of Medb, met Cuchulain. Four and twenty a warriors [was their strength.] A blue mantle enwrapping each man, the Brown Bull of Cualnge plunging and careering before them after he had been brought from Glenn na Samaisce ('Heifers' Glen') to Sliab Culinn, and fifty of his heifers with him.
"Whence bring ye the drove, ye men?" Cuchulain asks. "From yonder mountain," Buide answers. "What is thine own name?" said Cuchulain. "One that neither loves thee nor fears thee," Buide made answer; "Buide son of Ban Thai am I, from the country of Ailill and Medb." "Lo, here for thee this short spear," said Cuchulain, and he casts the spear at him. It struck the shield over his belly, so that it shattered three ribs in his farther side after piercing his heart in his bosom. And Buide son of Ban Thai fell on the ford. So that thence is Ath Buidi ('Athboy') in Crich Roiss ('the land of Ross').
For as long or as short a space as they were engaged in this work of exchanging their two short spears--for it was not in a moment they had accomplished it--the Brown Bull of Cualnge was carried away in quick course and career to the camp as swiftly as any bull can be brought to a camp. From this accordingly came the greatest shame and grief and madness that was brought on Cuchulain on that hosting.
As regards Medb: every ford whereon she stopped, Ath Medba ('Medb's Ford') is its name. Every place wherein she pitched her tent, Pupall Medba ('Medb's Tent') is its name. Every spot she rested her horselash, Bili Medba ('Medb's Tree') is its name.
On this circuit Medb offered battle one night to Findmor ('the Fair-large') wife of Celtchar at the gate of Dun Sobairche; and she slew Findmor and laid waste Dun Sobairche.
Then came the warriors of four of the five grand provinces of Erin at the end of a long fortnight to camp and station, together with Medb and Ailill and the company that were bringing the bull.
And the bull's cowherd would not allow them to carry off the Brown Bull of Cualnge, so that they urged on the bull, beating shafts on shields, till they drove him into a narrow gap, and the herd trampled the cowherd's body thirty feet into the ground, so that they made fragments and shreds of his body. Forgemen was his name. This then is the Death of Forgemen on the Cattle-prey of Cualnge.
When the men of Erin had come together in one place, both Medb and Ailill and the force that was bringing the bull to the camp and enclosure, they all declared Cuchulain would be no more valiant than another, were it not for the wonderful little trick he possessed, the spearlet of Cuchulain. Accordingly the men of Erin despatched from them Redg, Medb's satirist, to demand the spearlet.
So Redg came forward to where Cuchulain was and asked for the spearlet, but Cuchulain did not give him the spearlet at once; he did not deem it good and proper to yield it. Redg declared he would deprive Cuchulain of his honour unless he got the spearlet. Thereupon Cuchulain hurled the spearlet at him, so that it struck him in the nape of the neck and fell out through his mouth on the ground. And the only words Redg uttered were these, "This precious gift is readily ours," and his soul separated from his body at the ford. Therefrom that ford is ever since called Ath Solom Shet ('Ford of the Ready Treasure'). And the copper of the spearlet was thrown into the river. Hence is Uman-Sruth ('Copperstream') ever after.
"Let us ask for a sword-truce from Cuchulain," says Ailill. "Let Lugaid go to him," one and all answer. Then Lugaid goes to parley with him. "How now do I stand with the host?" Cuchulain asks. "Disgraceful indeed is the thing thou hast demanded of them," Lugaid answers, "even this, that thou shouldst have thy women and maidens and half of thy kine. But more grievous than all do they hold it that they themselves should be killed and thou provisioned."
Every day there fell a man by Cuchulain till the end of a week. Then faith is broken with Cuchulain. Twenty are despatched at one time to attack him and he destroys them all. "Go to him, O Fergus," says Ailill, "that he may vouchsafe us a change of place." A while after this they proceed to Cronech. These are they that fell in single combat with him in that place, to wit: the two Roth, the two Luan, two women-thieves, ten fools, ten cup-bearers, the ten Fergus, the six Fedelm, the six Fiachu. Now these were all killed by him in single combat.
When their tents were pitched by them in Cronech they discussed what they had best do with Cuchulain. "I know," quoth Medb, "what is best here. Let someone go to him from us for a swordpact from him in respect of the host, and he shall have half the cattle that are here." This message they bring to him. "I will do it," said Cuchulain, "provided the bond is not broken by you tomorrow."
"Let a message be sent to him," said Ailill, "that Finnabair my daughter will be bestowed on him, and for him to keep away from the hosts." Manè Athramail ('Fatherlike') goes to him. But first he addresses himself to Laeg. "Whose man art thou?" spake Manè. Now Laeg made no answer. Thrice Manè addressed him in this same wise. "Cuchulain's man," Laeg answers, "and provoke me not, lest it happen I strike thy head off thee!" "This man is mad," quoth Manè as he leaves him.
Then he goes to accost Cuchulain. It was there Cuchulain had doffed his tunic, and the deep snow was around him where he sat, up to his belt, and the snow had melted a cubit around him for the greatness of the heat of the hero. And Manè addressed him three times in like manner, whose man he was?" Conchobar's man, and do not provoke me. For if thou provokes me any longer I will strike thy head off thee as one strikes off the head of a blackbird!" "No easy thing," quoth Manè, "to speak to these two." Thereupon Manè leaves them and tells his tale to Ailill and Medb.
"Let Lugaid go to him," said Ailill, "and offer him the girl." Thereupon Lugaid goes and repeats this to Cuchulain. "O master Lugaid," quoth Cuchulain, "it is a snare!" "It is the word of a king; he hath said it," Lugaid answered; "there can be no snare in it." "So be it," said Cuchulain. Forthwith Lugaid leaves him and takes that answer to Ailill and Medb. "Let the fool go forth in my form," said Ailill, "and the king's crown on his head, and let him stand some way off from Cuchulain lest he know him; and let the girl go with him and let the fool promise her to him, and let them depart quickly in this wise. And methinks ye will play a trick on him thus, so that he will not stop you any further till he comes with the Ulstermen to the battle."
Then the fool goes to him and the girl along with him, and from afar he addresses Cuchulain. The Hound comes to meet him. It happened he knew by the man's speech that he was a fool. A clingstone that was in his hand he threw at him so that it entered his head and bore out his brains. He comes up to the maiden, cuts off her two tresses and thrusts a stone through her cloak and her tunic, and plants a standing-stone through the middle of the fool. Their two pillar-stones are there, even the pillar-stone of Finnabair and the pillar-stone of the fool.
Cuchulain left them in this plight. A party was sent out from Ailill and Medb to search for their people, for it was long they thought they were gone, when they saw them in this wise. This thing was noised abroad by all the host in the camp. Thereafter there was no truce for them with Cuchulain.
While the hosts were there in the evening they perceived that one stone fell on them coming from the east and another from the west to meet it. The stones met one another in the air and kept falling between Fergus' camp, the camp of Ailill and the camp of Nera. This sport and play continued from that hour till the same hour on the next day, and the hosts spent the time sitting down, with their shields over their heads to protect them from the blocks of stones, till the plain was full of the boulders, whence cometh Mag Clochair ('the Stony Plain').
Now it happened it was Curoi macDarè did this. He had come to bring help to his people and had taken his stand in Cotal to fight against Munremar son of Gerrcend. The latter had come from Emain Macha to succour Cuchulain and had taken his stand on Ard ('the Height') of Roch. Curoi knew there was not in the host a man to compete with Munremar. These then it was who carried on this sport between them. The army prayed them to cease. Whereupon Munremar and Curoi made peace, and Curoi withdrew to his house and Munremar to Emain Macha and Munremar came not again till the day of the battle. As for Curoi, he came not till the combat of Ferdiad.
"Pray Cuchulain," said Medb and Ailill, "that he suffer us to change our place." This then was granted to them and the change was made.
The 'Pains' of the Ulstermen left them then. When now they awoke from their 'Pains,' bands of them came continually upon the host to restrain it again.
Now the youths of Ulster discussed the matter among themselves in Emain Macha. "Alas for us," said they, "that our friend Cuchulain has no one to succour him!" "I would ask then," spake Fiachu Fulech ('the Bloody') son of Ferfebè and own brother to Fiachu Fialdana ('the Generous-daring') son of Ferfebè, "shall I have a company from you to go to him with help?"
Thrice fifty youths accompany him with their play-clubs, and that was a third of the boy-troop of Ulster. The army saw them drawing near them over the plain. "A great army approaches us over the plain," spake Ailill. Fergus goes to espy them. "Some of the youths of Ulster are they," said he, "and it is to succour Cuchulain they come." "Let a troop go to meet them," said Ailill, "unknown to Cuchulain; for if they unite with him ye will never overcome them." Thrice fifty warriors went out to meet them. They fell at one another's hands, so that not one of them got off alive of the number of the youths of Lia Toll. Hence is Lia ('the Stone') of Fiachu son of Ferfebè, for it is there that he fell.
"Take counsel," quoth Ailill; "inquire of Cuchulain about letting you go from hence, for ye will not go past him by force, now that his flame of valour has risen." For it was usual with him, when his hero's flame arose in him, that his feet would turn back on him and his buttocks before him, and the knobs of his calves would come on his shins, and one eye would be in his head and the other one out of his head. A man's head would have gone into his mouth. There was not a hair on him that was not as sharp as the thorn of the hew, and a drop of blood was on each single hair. He would recognize neither comrades nor friends. Alike he would strike them before and behind. Therefrom it was that the men of Connacht gave Cuchulain the name Riastartha ('the Contorted One').
"Let us ask for a sword-truce from Cuchulain," said Ailill and Medb. Lugaid goes to him and Cuchulain accords the truce. "Put a man for me on the ford to-morrow," said Cuchulain. There happened to be with Medb six royal hirelings, to wit: six princes of the Gans of Deda, the three Dubs ('the Blacks') of Imlech, and the three Dergs ('the Reds') of Sruthair, by name. "Why should it not be for us," quoth they, "to go and attack Cuchulain?" So the next day they went and Cuchulain put an end to the six of them.
The men of Erin discussed among themselves who of them would be fit to attack Cuchulain. And what they all said was that Cûr ('the Hero') son of Da Loth should be the one to attack him. For thus it stood with Cûr: No joy was it to be his bedfellow or to live with him. And they said: "Even should it be Cûr that falls, a trouble and care would be removed from the hosts. Should it be Cuchulain, it would be so much the better."
Cûr was summoned to Medb's tent. "For what do they want me?" Cûr asked. "To engage with Cuchulain," replied Medb. "Little ye rate our worth. Nay, but it is wonderful how ye regard it. Too tender is the youth with whom ye compare me. Had I known I was sent against him I would not have come myself. I would have lads enough of his age from amongst my people to go meet him on a ford."
"Indeed, it is easy to talk so," quoth Cormac Conlongas son of Conchobar. "It would be well worth while for thyself if by thee fell Cuchulain." "Howbeit," said Cûr, "since on myself it falls, make ye ready a journey for me at morn's early hour on the morrow, for a pleasure I will make of the way to this fight, a-going to meet Cuchulain. It is not this will detain you, namely the killing of yonder wildling, Cuchulain!"
Then early on the morrow morn arose Cûr macDa Loth. A cart-load of arms was taken along with him wherewith to engage with Cuchulain, and he began to ply his weapons, seeking to kill Cuchulain. Now Cuchulain had gone early that day to practice his feats of valour and prowess. These are the names of them all:
and the Edge-feat,
and the Level Shield-feat,
and the Little Dart-feat,
and the Rope-feat,
and the Body-feat,
and the Feat of Catt,
and the Hero's Salmon-leap,
and the Pole-cast,
and the Leap over a Blow (?),
and the Folding of a noble Chariot-fighter,
and the Gae Bulga ('the Barbed Spear')
and the Vantage (?) of Swiftness,
and the Wheel-feat,
and the Rimfeat,'
nd the Over-Breath-feat,
and the Breaking of a Sword,
and the Champion's Cry,
and the Measured Stroke,
and the Side Stroke,
and the Running up a Lance and Standing Erect on its Point, and Binding of the Noble Hero (around spear points).
Now this is the reason Cuchulain was wont to practice early every morning each of those feats with the agility of a single hand, as best a wild-cat may, in order that they might not depart from him through forgetfulness or lack of remembrance.
And macDa Loth waited beside his shield until the third part of the day, plying his weapons, seeking the chance to kill Cuchulain. It was then Laeg spake to Cuchulain, "Hark! Cucuc. Attend to the warrior that seeks to kill thee."
Then it was that Cuchulain glanced at him and then it was that he raised and threw the eight apples on high and cast the ninth apple a throw's length from him at Cûr macDa Loth, so that it struck on the disk of his shield between the edge and the body of the shield, so that it carried the size of an apple of his brains out through the back of his head. Thus fell Cûr macDa Loth also at the hand of Cuchulain.
"If your engagements and pledges bind you now," said Fergus, "another warrior ye must send to him yonder on the ford; else, do ye keep to your camp and your quarters here till the bright hour of sunrise on the morrow, for Cûr son of Da Loth is fallen." "Considering why we have come," said Medb, "it is the same to us even though we remain in those same tents."
They remained in that camp till Cûr son of Da Loth had fallen, and Loth son of Da Bro and Srub Darè son of Feradach [and Morc] son of Tri Aigneach. These then fell in single combat with Cuchulain. But it is tedious to recount one by one the cunning and valour of each man of them.
Then it was that Cuchulain said to his charioteer, namely to Laeg: "Betake thee thither, O master Laeg," said Cuchulain, "to the camp of the men of Erin, and bear a greeting from me to my comrades and foster-brothers and age-mates. Bear a greeting to Ferdiad son of Daman, and to Ferdet son of Daman, and to Brass son of Ferb, and to Lugaid son of Nos, and to Lugaid son of Solamach, to Ferbaeth son of Baetan, and to Ferbaeth son of Ferbend, and a particular greeting withal to mine own foster-brother, to Lugaid son of Nos, for that he is the one man that still has friendliness and friendship with me now on the hosting. And bear him a blessing. Let it be asked diligently of him that he may tell thee who will come to attack me on the morrow."
Then Laeg went his way to the camp of the men of Erin and brought the aforementioned greetings to the comrades and foster-brothers of Cuchulain. And he also went into the tent of Lugaid son of Nos. Lugaid bade him welcome. "I take that welcome to be truly meant," said Laeg. "'Tis truly meant for thee," replied Lugaid. "To converse with thee am I come from Cuchulain," said Laeg, "and I bring these greetings truly and earnestly from him to the end that thou tell me who comes to fight with Cuchulain to-day."
"The curse of his fellowship and brotherhood and of his friendship and affection be upon that man," said Laeg. "Even his own real foster-brother himself, Ferbaeth son of Ferbend. He was invited into the tent of Medb a while since. The daughter Finnabair was set by his side. It is she who fills up the drinking-horns for him; it is she who gives him a kiss with every drink that he takes; it is she who serveth the food to him. Not for every one with Medb is the ale that is poured out for Ferbaeth till he is drunk. Only fifty wagon-loads of it have been brought to the camp."
Then Laeg retraced his steps to Cuchulain, with heavy head, sorrowful, downcast, heaving sighs. "With heavy head, sorrowful, downcast and sighing, my master Laeg comes to meet me," said Cuchulain. "It must be that one of my brothers-in-arms comes to attack me." For he regarded as worse a man of the same training in arms as himself than aught other warrior. "Hail now, O Laeg my friend," cried Cuchulain; "who comes to attack me to-day?"
"The curse of his fellowship and brotherhood, of his friendship and affection be upon him; even thine own real foster-brother himself, namely Ferbaeth son of Ferbend. A while ago he was summoned into the tent of Medb. The maiden was set by his side; it is she who fills up the drinking-horns for him; it is she who gives him a kiss with every drink; it is she who serveth his food. Not for every one with Medb is the ale that is poured out for Ferbaeth. Only fifty wagon-loads of it have been brought to the camp."
Ferbaeth by no means waited till morn but he went straightway to the glen that night to recant his friendship with Cuchulain. And Cuchulain called to mind the friendship and fellowship and brotherhood that had been between them; and Ferbaeth would not consent to forego the fight.
Then in anger, Cuchulain left him and drove the sole of his foot against a holly-spit, so that it pierced through flesh and bone and skin. Thereat Cuchulain gave a strong tug and drew the spit out from its roots. And Cuchulain threw the holly-spit over his shoulder after Ferbaeth, and he would care as much that it reached him or that it reached him not. The spit struck Ferbaeth in the nape of the neck, so that it passed out through his mouth in front and fell to the ground, and thus Ferbaeth fell.
"Now that was a good throw, Cucuc!" cried Fiachu son of Ferfebè, who was on the mound between the two camps, for he considered it a good throw to kill that warrior with a spit of holly. Hence it is that Focherd Murthemni ('the good Cast of Murthemne') is the name of the place where they were.
"Good, my master Laeg," said Cuchulain, "go for me to the camp of the men of Erin to hold converse with Lugaid and inquire for me if the cast I made a while ago reached Ferbaeth or did not reach, and if it did reach him, ask who comes to meet me to fight and do battle with me on the morrow."
Laeg proceeds to Lugaid's tent. Lugaid bids him welcome. "I take that welcome as truly meant," Laeg replied. "It is truly meant for thee," quoth Lugaid, "to hold converse with thee am I come from thine own foster-brother, that thou mayest tell me whether Ferbaeth was smitten." "He was," answered Lugaid, "and a blessing on the hand that smote him, for he fell dead in the glen a while ago."
"Tell me who comes to-morrow to combat Cuchulain?" "They are persuading a brother of mine own to go meet him, a foolish, haughty arrogant youth, yet dealing stout blows and stubborn. And it is to this end that he may fall at his hands, so that I myself must then go to avenge him. But I will not go there till the very day of doom. Larinè great-grandson of Blathmac is that brother. And I will go thither to speak with Cuchulain about him," said Lugaid.
Lugaid's two horses were taken and his chariot was yoked to them and he came to his tryst with Cuchulain, so that a parley was had between them. Then it was that Lugaid spake. "They are persuading a brother of mine to come fight thee on the morrow, to-wit, a foolish, dull, uncouth youth, dealing stout blows. And it is for this reason they are to send him to fight thee, that he may fall at thy hands, and to see if I myself will come to avenge him upon thee. But I will not, till the very day of doom. And by the fellowship that is between us. Slay not my brother."
"By my conscience, truly," cried Cuchulain, "the next thing to death will I inflict on him. "I give thee leave," said Lugaid; "it would please me well shouldst thou beat him sorely, for to my dishonour he comes to attack thee." Thereupon Cuchulain went back and Lugaid returned to the camp.
Then on the next day it was that Larinè son of Nos was summoned to the tent of Ailill and Medb, and Finnabair was placed by his side. It was she that filled up the drinking horns for him and gave him a kiss with each draught that he took and served him his food. "Not to every one with Medb is given the drink that is poured out for Ferbaeth or for Larinè," quoth Finnabair; "only the load of fifty wagons of it was brought to the camp."
["Yonder pair rejoiceth my heart," said Medb.] "Whom wouldst thou say?" [asked Ailill.] "The man yonder, in truth," said she. "What of him?" asked Ailill. "It is thy wont to set the mind on that which is far from the purpose (Medb answered). It were more becoming for thee to bestow thy thought on the couple in whom are united the greatest distinction and beauty to be found on any road in Erin, namely Finnabair and Larinè macNois." "I regard them as thou dost," answered Ailill. It was then that Larinè shook and tossed himself with joy, so that the sewings of the flock bed burst under him and the mead of the camp was speckled with its feathers.
Larinè longed for day with its full light to go to attack Cuchulain. At the early day-dawn on the morrow he came, and he brought a wagon-load of arms with him, and he came on to the ford to encounter Cuchulain. The mighty warriors of the camp and station considered it not a goodly enough sight to view the combat of Larinè; only the women and boys and girls went to scoff and to jeer at his battle.
Cuchulain went to meet him at the ford and he deemed it unbecoming to bring along arm, so he came to the encounter unarmed. Cuchulain knocked all of Larinè's weapons out of his hand as one might knock toys out of the hand of an infant. Cuchulain ground and bruised him between his arms, he lashed him and clasped him, he squeezed him and shook him, so that he spilled all the dirt out of him, so that an unclean, filthy wrack of cloud arose in the four airts wherein he was.
Then from the middle of the ford Cuchulain hurled Larinè far from him across through the camp till he fell at the door of the tent of his brother. Howbeit from that time forth he never stood up without a moan and as long as he lived s he never ate a meal without plaint, and never thenceforward was he free from weakness of the loins and oppression of the chest and without cramps and the frequent need which obliged him to go out. Still he is the only man that made escape after combat with Cuchulain on the Cualnge Cattle-raid. Nevertheless that maiming took effect upon him, so that it afterwards brought him his death. Such then is the Combat of Larinè on the Táin Bó Cúalnge.
It was then that Loch Mor son of Mofemis was summoned to the pavilion of Ailill and Medb. "What would ye of me?" asked Loch. "To have fight with Cuchulain," replied Medb. "I will not go on that errand, for I esteem it no honour nor becoming to attack a tender, young, smooth-chinned, beardless boy. And not to belittle him do I say it, but I have a doughty brother, the match of himself," said Loch, "a man to confront him, Long macEmonis, to wit, and he will rejoice to accept an offer from you."
Thereupon Long was summoned to the tent of Ailill and Medb, and Medb promised him great gifts, even livery for twelve men of cloth of every colour, and a chariot worth four a times seven bondmaids, and Finnabair to wife for him alone, and at all times entertainment in Cruachan, and that wine would be poured out for him. Long went to seek Cuchulain, and Cuchulain slew him.
Then Medb called upon her woman-bands to go speak with Cuchulain and to charge him to put a false beard on. The woman-troop went their way to Cuchulain and told him to put a false beard on: "For no brave warrior in the camp thinks it seemly to come fight with thee, and thou beardless," said they. Thereupon Cuchulain bedaubed himself a beard. And he came onto the knoll overlooking the men of Erin and made that beard manifest to them all.
Loch son of Mofemis saw it, and what he said was, "Why, that is a beard on Cuchulain!" "It is what I perceive," Medb answered. Medb promised the same great terms to Loch to put a check to Cuchulain.
"I will go forth and attack him," cried Loch. Loch went to attack Cuchulain; so they met on the ford where Long had fallen. "Let us move to the upper ford," said Loch, "for I will not fight on this ford," since he held it defiled, cursed and unclean, the ford whereon his brother had fallen. Thereafter they fought on the upper ford.
Then it was that the Morrigan daughter of Aed Ernmas came from the fairy dwellings to destroy Cuchulain. For she had threatened on the Cattle-raid of Regomaina that she would come to undo Cuchulain what time he would be in sore distress when engaged in battle and combat with a goodly warrior, with Loch, in the course of the Cattle-spoil of Cualnge. Thither then the Morrigan came in the shape of a white, hornless, red-eared heifer, with fifty heifers about her and a chain of silvered bronze between each two of the heifers. The women came with their strange sorcery, and constrained Cuchulain by geasa and by inviolable bonds to check the heifer for them lest she should escape from him without harm. Cuchulain made an unerring cast from his sling-stick at her, so that he shattered one of the Morrigan's eyes.
Then the Morrigan came thither in the shape of a slippery, black eel down the stream. Then she came on the linn and she coiled around the two feet of Cuchulain. While Cuchulain was busied freeing himself, Loch wounded him crosswise through the breast. [Then at this incitation Cuchulain arose, and with his left heel he smote the eel on the head, so that its ribs broke within it and he destroyed one half of its brains after smashing half of its head.]
The Morrigan next came in the form of a rough, grey-red bitch-wolf [and she bit Cuchulain in the arm and drove the cattle against him westwards, and Cuchulain made a cast of his little javelin at her, strongly, vehemently, so that it shattered one eye in her head.] During this space of time, whether long or short, while Cuchulain was engaged in freeing himself, Loch wounded him through the loins. Thereupon Cuchulain's anger arose within him and he wounded Loch with the Gae Bulga ('the Barbed-spear'), so that it passed through his heart in his breast.
"Grant me a boon now, O Cuchulain," said Loch. "What boon askest thou?" "'Tis no boon of quarter nor a prayer of cowardice that I make of thee," said Loch. "But fall back a step from me and permit me to rise, that it be on my face to the east I fall and not on my back to the west toward the warriors of Erin, to the end that no man of them shall say, if I fall on my back, it was in retreat or in flight I was before thee, for fallen I have by the Gae Bulga!" "That will I do," answered Cuchulain, "for 'tis a true warrior's prayer that thou makest." And Cuchulain stepped back. Hence cometh the name the ford bears ever since, namely Ath Traged (' Foot-ford ') in Cenn Tire Moir (' Great Headland').
And deep distress possessed Cuchulain that day more than any other day for his being all alone on the Táin. Thereupon Cuchulain enjoined upon Laeg his charioteer to go to the men of Ulster, that they should come to defend their drove. And weariness of heart and weakness overcame him, and he gave utterance to a lay:--
Rise, O Laeg, arouse the hosts,
Say for me in Emain strong:
I am worn each day in fight,
Full of wounds, and bathed in gore!
My right side and eke my left:
Hard to say which suffers worse;
Fingin's hand hath touched them not,
Stanching blood with strips of wood!
Bring this word to Conchobar dear,
I am weak, with wounded sides.
Greatly has he changed in mien,
Dechtirè's fond, rich-trooped son!
I alone these cattle guard,
Leave them not, yet hold them not.
Ill my plight, no hope for me,
Thus alone on many fords!
Showers of blood rain on my arms,
Full of hateful wounds am I.
No friend comes to help me here
Save my charioteer alone!
Few make music here for me,
Joy I've none in single horn.
When the mingled trumpets sound,
This is sweetest from the drone!
This old saying, ages old:--
Single log gives forth no flame;
Let there be a two or three,
Up the firebrands all will blaze!
One sole log burns not so well
As when one burns by its side.
Guile can be employed on one;
Single mill-stone doth not grind!
Hast not heard at every time,
One is duped?-- 'tis true of me.
That is why I cannot last
These long battles of the hosts!
However small a host may be,
It receives some thought and pains;
Take but this: its daily meat
On one fork is never cooked!
Thus alone I've faced the host
By the ford in broad Cantire;
Many came, both Loch and Badb,
As foretold in 'Regomain!'
Loch has mangled my two thighs;
Me the grey-red wolf hath bit;
Loch my sides has wounded sore
And the eel has dragged me down!
With my spear I kept her off;
I put out the she-wolf's eye;
and I broke her lower leg,
At the outset of the strife!
Then when Laeg sent Aifè's spear,
Down the stream-- like swarm of bees--
That sharp deadly spear I hurled,
Loch, Mobebuis' son, fell there!
Will not Ulster battle give
To Ailill and Eocho's lass,
While I linger here in pain,
Full of wounds and bathed in blood?
Tell the splendid Ulster chiefs
They shall come to guard their drove.
Maga's sons have seized their kine
And have portioned them all out!
Fight on fight-- though much I vowed,
I have kept my word in all.
For pure honour's sake I fight;
'Tis too much to fight alone!
Vultures joyful at the breach
In Ailill's and in Medb's camp.
Mournful cries of woe are heard;
On Murthemne's plain is grief!
Conchobar comes not out with help;
In the fight, no troops of his.
Should one leave him thus alone,
Hard 'twould be his rage to tell
Men have almost worn me out
In these single-handed fights;
Warrior's deeds I cannot do,
Now that I must fight alone!
This then is the Combat of Loch Mor ('the Great') son of Mofemis against Cuchulain on the Driving of the Kine of Cualnge.
Then it was that Medb despatched six men at one and the same time to attack Cuchulain, to wit: Traig ('Foot') and Dorn ('Fist') and Dernu ('Palm'), Col ('Sin') and Accuis ('Curse') and Eraisè ('Heresy'), three druid-men and three druid-women. Cuchulain attacked them, so that they fell at his hands.
Forasmuch as covenant and terms of single combat had been broken with Cuchulain, Cuchulain took his sling in hand that day and began to shoot at the host from Delga ('the Little Dart') in the south. Though numerous were the men of Erin on that day, not one of them durst turn his face southwards towards Cuchulain, whether dog, or horse, or man.
The warriors of four of the five grand provinces of Erin pitched camp and made their station in the place called Breslech Mor ('the Great Rout ') in the Plain of Murthemne. Their portion of cattle and spoils they sent on before them to the south to the cow-stalls of Ulster. Cuchulain took station at Ferta ('the (gravemound') at Lerga ('the Slopes') hard by them.
Cuchulain saw far away in the distance the fiery glitter of the bright-golden arms over the heads of four of the five grand provinces of Erin, in the setting of the sun in the clouds of evening. Great anger and rage possessed him at their sight, because of the multitude of his foes, because of the number of his enemies.
Then Cuchulain arose and he grasped his two spears and his shield and his sword. He shook his shield and brandished his spears and wielded his sword and sent out the hero's shout from his throat, so that the fiends and goblins and sprites of the glens and demons of the air gave answer for the fearfulness of the shout that he lifted on high, until Nemain, which is Badb, brought confusion on the host. The four provinces of Erin made such a clangour of arms with the points of their spears and their weapons that an hundred warriors of them fell dead that night of fright and of heartbreak in the middle of the camp and quarters.
As Laeg stood there he descried something: A single man coming from the north-eastern quarter athwart the camp of the four grand provinces of Erin making directly for him. "A single man here cometh towards us now, Cucucan," cried Laeg. "But what manner of man is he?" Cuchulain asked. "Not hard to say. A great, well-favoured man, then. Broad, close-shorn hair upon him, and yellow and curly his back hair. A green mantle wrapped around him. A brooch of white silver in the mantle over his breast. A kirtle of silk fit for a king, with red interweaving of ruddy gold he wears trussed up on his fair skin and reaching down to his knees. A black shield with hard rim of silvered bronze thereon. A five-barbed spear in his hand. A pronged bye-spear beside it. Marvellous, in sooth, the feats and the sport and the play that he makes. But him no one heeds, nor gives he heed to any one. No one shows him courtesy nor does he show courtesy to any one, like as if none saw him in the camp of the four grand provinces of Erin."
"In sooth, O fosterling," answered Cuchulain, "it is one of my friends of fairy kin that comes to take pity upon me, because they know the great distress wherein I am now all alone against the four grand provinces of Erin on the Plunder of the Kine of Cualnge." Now in this, Cuchulain spoke truth. When the young warrior was come up to Cuchulain he bespoke him and condoled with him. "Sleep then awhile, O Cuchulain," said the young warrior, "thy heavy fit of sleep by Ferta in Lerga ('the Gravemound on the Slopes') till the end of three days and three nights and I will oppose the hosts during that time."
Accordingly Cuchulain slept his heavy fit of sleep at 'the Gravemound on the Slopes' till the end of three days and three nights. And well he might sleep. Yet as great as was his sleep, even so great was his weariness. For from the Monday before Samain ('Summer-end') even to the Wednesday after Spring-beginning, Cuchulain slept not for all that space, except for a brief snatch after midday, leaning against his spear, and his head on his fist, and his fist clasping his spear, and his spear on his knee, but hewing and cutting, slaying and destroying four of the five grand provinces of Erin during that time.
Then it was that the warrior from Faery laid plants from the fairy-rath and healing herbs and put a healing charm into the cuts and stabs, into the sores and gaping wounds of Cuchulain, so that Cuchulain recovered during his sleep without ever perceiving it.
That was the time the youths came out of the north from Emain Macha. Thrice fifty boys of the sons of the kings of Ulster, accompanying Follomain, Conchobar's son, and three battles they offered to the hosts, so that thrice their number fell and the youths also fell, save Conchobar's son Follomain.
Follomain vowed that never till the very day of doom and of life would he return to Emain unless he should bring Ailill's head with him together with the diadem of gold that was on it. That was no easy thing for him to achieve, for the two sons of Bethè son of Ban-- the two sons of Ailill's foster-mother and foster-father-- attacked and wounded Follomain, so that he fell by their hands. This then is the Massacre of the youths of Ulster and of Follomain son of Conchobar.
Touching Cuchulain, he remained in his sound, heavy sleep till the end of three days and three nights at the 'Gravemound on the Slopes.' Thereafter Cuchulain arose from his sleep. He passed his hand over his face and he became as a wild wheel-thunder (?) from his crown to the ground, and he felt his courage strengthened, and he would have been able to go into an assembly or on a march or to a tryst with a woman or to an ale-house or into one of the chief assemblies of Erin.
"How long am I asleep now, young warrior?" Cuchulain asked. "Three days and three nights," the young warrior made answer. "Woe is me for that!" quoth Cuchulain. "Why so?" asked the young warrior. "For that the hosts have not been attacked in that time," answered Cuchulain. "Nay, not so were they spared," the young warrior made answer. "I would fain inquire who then attacked them?" Cuchulain asked.
"The youths came hither out of the north from Emain Macha, thrice fifty boys accompanying Follomain, Conchobar's son, and they the sons of the kings of Ulster. And three battles they offered the hosts in the space of the three days and three nights wherein thou wast till now asleep, and thrice their number are fallen at their hands and the youths themselves are fallen except Follomain alone, Conchobar's son.
And Follomain vowed that never till the very day of doom and of life would he return to Emain unless he should bring Ailill's head with him together with the diadem of gold that was on it. That was no easy thing for him to achieve, for the two sons of Bethè son of Ban-- the two sons of Ailill's foster-mother and foster-father-- attacked and wounded Follomain, so that he fell by their hands.
"Alas, that I was not there in my strength!" cried Cuchulain; "for had I been in my strength the youths would not have fallen, as now they have, and Follomain would not have perished." "But this avow, O Cucan," said the young warrior; "it is no reproach to thine honour and no disgrace to thy valour."
"Bide here this night with us, young warrior," said Cuchulain, "that together we avenge the youths on the hosts." "Nay then, I may not tarry," answered the young warrior, "for however prodigious the deeds of valour and skill in arms one may perform in thy company, not on him will fall the glory nor the honour nor the fame but on thyself. For this reason will I not tarry with thee, but do thou thyself try thy feats of arms and the strength of thy hands alone on the hosts, for not with them is the power over thy life on this occasion."
Then the young warrior from Faery went from him and they knew not what way he had gone. "Good, O my master Laeg," said Cuchulain; "together we will go to avenge the youths on the hosts." "I will go with thee," Laeg made answer.
"And the scythed chariot, my friend Laeg," said Cuchulain. "Canst thou get it ready? If thou canst get it ready and hast its equipment, make it ready, and if its equipment is not at hand, make it not ready."
Thereupon the charioteer arose and donned his yeoman's suit for charioteering. Of this yeoman's suit for charioteering, this is what he put on him: His soft kirtle of skin which was light and airy, which was smooth and sparkling, which was stitched and of buckskin, so that it hindered not the movements of his arms outside. Over that he put outside an over-mantle of raven's feathers, which Simon Magus had made as a gift for Darius Nero, king of the Romans. Darius bestowed it upon Conchobar; Conchobar gave it to Cuchulain; Cuchulain presented it to his charioteer.
The same charioteer took the crested, plated, four-bordered battle-cap with variety of every colour and every figure, reaching down over the middle of his shoulders behind. It was an adornment for him and not an encumbrance. With his hand he placed the red-yellow frontlet-- like one red-golden strip of glowing gold smelted over the edge of an anvil-- on his forehead as a token of charioteering, to distinguish him from his master. He opened the hobbles that fastened his steeds and grasped his gold-mounted goad in his right hand. In his left hand he seized the lines, that is, the bridle-reins of his horses for restraining his steeds before performing his charioteering.
He next threw the iron-sheathed gold-bedecked coats of mail over his horses, so that they covered them from forehead to forehand. The chariot was studded with dartlets, lancelets, spearlets, and hardened spits, so that every portion of the frame bristled with points in that chariot and every corner and end and point and face of that chariot was a passage of laceration.
Then cast he a spell of concealment over his horses and over his fellow, so that they were not visible to any one in the camp, while all in the camp were visible to them. Well indeed was it that he cast that charm, for on that day the charioteer had to perform the three gifts of charioteership, namely leaping over a cleft in the ranks, unerring driving, and the handling of the goad.
Then arose the champion and battle-warrior and the instrument of Badb's corpse-fold among the men of the earth, Cuchulain son of Sualtaim, and he donned his war-dress of battle and fight and combat. To that wardress of battle and fight and combat which he put about him belonged seven and twenty waxed, board-like, equally close skin-tunics which were girded by cords and swathings and ropes on his fair skin, to the end that his wit and reason might not become deranged when the violence of his nature came over him.
Over him he put on the outside his battle-girdle of a champion, of tough, tanned, stout leather cut from the forequarters of seven ox-hides of yearlings, so that it reached from the slender parts of his waist to the stout part under his arm-pits. He was used to wear it to keep off spears and points and irons and lances and arrows. For in like manner they would bound back from it as if from stone or rock or horn they rebounded. Then he took his silken, glossy trews with their band of spotted pale-gold against the soft lower parts of his loins. His brown, well-sewn kilt of brown leather from the shoulders of four ox-hides of yearlings with his battle-girdle of cow-skins, he put underneath over the shining silken trews on the outside.
Then the king-warrior seized his battle-arms of battle and fight and combat. This is what belonged to those warlike weapons of battle: He took his eight little swords together with the bright-faced, tusk-hilted straight-sword; he took his eight little spears besides his five-pronged spear, he took his eight little darts together with his javelin with its walrus-tooth ornaments; he took his eight little shafts along with his play-staff; he took his eight shields for feats together with his dark-red bent-shield, whereon a show-boar could lie in its hollow boss, with its very sharp razor-like, keen-cutting, hard iron rim all around it, so that it would cut a hair against the stream because of its sharpness and fineness and keenness. When the young warrior would perform the edge-feat withal, it was the same whether he cut with his shield or his spear or his sword.
Next he put round his head his crested war-helm of battle and fight and combat, whereout was uttered the cry of an hundred young warriors with the long-drawn wail from each of its angles and corners. For this was the way that the fiends, the goblins and the sprites of the glens and the demons of the air screamed before and above and around him, what time he went forth for the shedding of blood of heroes and champions, exulting in the mighty deeds wrought underneath it.
His veil of concealment was thrown over him then, of raiment from Tir Tairngirè ('the Land of Promise') which had been brought to him as a gift by Manannan son of Ler ('the Sea') from the king of Tir na Sorcha ('the Land of Light.')
Then took place the first twisting-fit and rage of the royal hero Cuchulain, so that he made a terrible, many-shaped, wonderful, unheard of thing of himself. His flesh trembled about him like a pole against the torrent or like a bulrush against the stream, every member and every joint and every point and every knuckle of him from crown to ground. He made a mad whirling-feat of his body within his hide. His feet and his shins and his knees slid so that they came behind him. His heels and his calves and his hams shifted so that they passed to the front. The muscles of his calves moved so that they came to the front of his shins, so that each huge knot was the size of a soldier's balled fist. He stretched the sinews of his head so that they stood out on the nape of his neck, hill-like lumps, huge, incalculable, vast, immeasurable and as large as the head of a month-old child.
He next made a ruddy bowl of his face and his countenance. He gulped down one eye into his head so that it would be hard work if a wild crane succeeded in drawing it out on to the middle of his cheek from the rear of his skull. Its mate sprang forth till it came out on his cheek. His mouth was distorted monstrously. He drew the cheek from the jaw-bone so that the interior of his throat was to be seen. His lungs and his lights stood out so that they fluttered in his mouth and his gullet. He struck a mad lion's blow with the upper jaw on its fellow so that as large as a wether's fleece of a three year old was each red, fiery flake which his teeth forced into his mouth from his gullet.
There was heard the loud clap of his heart against his breast like the yelp of a howling bloodhound or like a lion going among bears. There were seen the torches of the Badb, and the rain clouds of poison, and the sparks of glowing-red fire, blazing and flashing in hazes and mists over his head with the seething of the truly wild wrath that rose up above him. His hair bristled all over his head like branches of a redthorn thrust into a gap in a great hedge. Had a king's apple-tree laden with royal fruit been shaken around him, scarce an apple of them all would have passed over him to the ground, but rather would an apple have stayed stuck on each single hair there, for the twisting of the anger which met it as it rose from his hair above him.
The Lon Laith ('Champion's Light') stood out of his forehead, so that it was as long and as thick as a warrior's whetstone. As high, as thick, as strong, as steady, as long as the sail-tree of some huge prime ship was the straight spout of dark blood which arose right on high from the very ridge-pole of his crown, so that a black fog of witchery was made thereof like to the smoke from a king's hostel what time the king comes to be ministered to at nightfall of a winter's day.
When now this contortion had been completed in Cuchulain, then it was that the hero of valour sprang into his scythed war-chariot, with its iron sickles, its thin blades, its hooks and its hard spikes, with its hero's fore-prongs, with its opening fixtures, with its stinging nails that were fastened to the poles and thongs and bows and lines of the chariot.
It was then he delivered over his chariot the thunder-feat of a hundred and the thunder-feat of two hundred and the thunder-feat of three hundred and the thunder-feat of four hundred, and he ceased at the thunder-feat of five hundred. For he did not deem it too much that such a great number should fall by his hand at his first onset and first battle-assault on four of the five grand provinces of Erin. In such wise fared he forth for to seek his foes, and he drove his chariot in a wide circuit round about the hosts of the four grand provinces of Erin. And he led his chariot a heavy way.
The chariot's iron wheels sank into the ground so that the earth dug up by the iron wheels might have served for a dûn and a fortress, so did the chariot's iron wheels cut into the ground. For in like manner the clods and boulders and rocks and the clumps and the shingle of the earth arose up outside on a height with the iron wheels. It was for this cause he made this circling hedge of the Badb round about the hosts of four of the five grand provinces of Erin, that they might not escape him nor get away before he would come on them to press a reprisal for the boys. And he went into the midst of the ranks and mowed down huge walls of the corpses of his foes and enemies and opponents in a great circle round about the host.
And he made the onslaught of a foe amongst foes upon them, so that they fell sole to sole, neck to neck, such was the closeness of their bodies. Thrice again in this manner he circled them round, so that he left them in beds of six in a great ring around them, even the soles of three to the backs of three men in a circle around the camp. Hence Sessrech Bresligè ('Great sixfold Slaughter') is the name of this event on the Tain, and it is one of the three unreckonable events of the Tain, which were, to wit, Sessrech Bresligè, Immsligè Glennamnach ('the Mutual Slaying at Glennamain') and the battle of Garech and Ilgarech; only that here, hound and horse and man were one to him.
What others say is that Lug son of Ethliu fought on Cuchulain's side at the Sessrech Bresligè.
Their number is not known and it cannot be reckoned how many fell there of the rabble rout, but only their chiefs have been counted. Here below are their names to wit:
The two Crnad, two Calad, two Cir, two Ciar, two Ecell, three Cromm, three Cur, three Combirgè, four Feochar four Furachar, four Cassè, four Fota, five Caur, five Cerman, five Coblach, six Saxan, six Duach, six Darè, [six Dunchadh, six Daimiach,] seven Rochad, seven Ronan, seven Rurthech, eight Rochlad, eight Rochtad, eight Rindach, eight Corprè, eight Malach, nine Daigith, nine Darè, nine Damach, ten Fiach, ten Fiacach, ten Fedlimid.
Ten and six-score kings, leaders and men of the land, Cuchulain laid low in the great slaughter on the Plain of Murthemne, besides a countless horde of dogs and horses and women and boys and children and common folk; for there escaped not a third man of the men of Erin without a lump or without having half his skull or an eye hurt, or without an enduring mark for the course of his life.
Early the next morning Cuchulain came to observe the host and to display his comely, beautiful form to the matrons and dames and girls and maidens and poets and men of art, for he did not consider it an honour nor becoming, the wild, proud shape of magic which had been manifested to them the night before. It was for that then that he came to exhibit his comely, beautiful form on that day.
Truly fair was the youth that came there to display his form to the hosts, Cuchulain, to wit son of Sualtaim. Three heads of hair he wore; brown at the skin, blood-red in the middle, a golden-yellow crown what thatched it. Beautiful was the arrangement of the hair, with three coils of hair wound round the nape of his neck, so that like to a strand of thread of gold was each thread-like, loose-flowing, deep-golden, magnificent, long-tressed, splendid, beauteous-hued hair as it fell down over his shoulders. A hundred bright-purple windings of gold-flaming red gold at his neck.
A hundred salmon-coloured (?) cords strung with carbuncles as a covering round his head. Four spots on either of his two cheeks, even a yellow spot, and a green spot, and a blue spot, and a purple spot. Seven jewels of the eye's brilliance was either of his kingly eyes. Seven toes to either of his two feet. Seven fingers to either of his two hands, with the clutch of hawk's claw, with the grip of hedgehog's talon in every separate one of them.
He also put on him that day his fair-day dress. To this apparel about him belonged, namely, a beautiful, well-fitting, purple, fringed, five-folded mantle. A white brooch of silvered bronze or of white silver incrusted with burnished gold over his fair white breast, as if it were a full-fulgent lantern that eyes of men could not behold for its resplendence and crystal shining. A striped chest-jacket of silk on his skin, fairly adorned with borders and braidings and trimmings of gold and silver and silvered bronze; it reached to the upper hem of his dark, brown-red warlike breeches of royal silk.
A magnificent, brown-purple buckler he bore, with five wheels of gold on it, with a rim of pure white silver around it. A gold-hilted hammered sword at his left side. A long grey-edged spear together with a trenchant bye-spear for defence, with thongs for throwing and with rivets of whitened bronze, alongside him in the chariot. Nine heads he bore in one of his hands and ten in the other, and these he brandished before the hosts in token of his prowess and cunning. Medb hid her face beneath a shelter of shields lest Cuchulain should cast at her that day.
Then it was that the maidens of Connacht besought the men of Erin to lift them up on the flat of the shields above the warriors' shoulders, to behold the aspect of Cuchulain. For they marvelled at the beautiful, comely appearance he showed them that day compared with the low, arrogant shape of magic in which they had seen him the night before.
Then it was that jealousy, ill-will and envy possessed Dubthach Doel ('the Black-tongue') of Ulster because of his wife in regard to Cuchulain; and he counselled the hosts to act treacherously towards Cuchulain and to entrap him, even to lay up an ambush around him on all sides to the end that he might fall by them. And he spake these words:
"If this be the Twisted one,
By him shall men's bodies fall
Shrieks there shall be round the liss;
Deeds to tell of shall be wrought!
"Stones shall be on graves from him;
Kingly martyrs shall increase.
Not well have ye battle found
On the slopes with this wild Hound!
"Now the Wildman's form I see,
Nine o heads dangling by his side;
Shattered spoils he has, behold;
Ten heads as his treasure great!
"And your women, too, I see,
Raise their heads above the lines
I behold your puissant queen
Makes no move t'engage in fight!
"Were it mine to give advice,
Men would be on every side,
That they soon might end his life
If this be the Twisted one!"
Fergus macRoig heard this and he deemed it an outrage that Dubthach should counsel how to betray Cuchulain to the hosts. And he reached him a strong, sharp kick with his foot away from him, so that Dubthach struck with his mouth against the group outside. And Fergus reproached him for all the wrongs and iniquities and treachery and shameful deeds he had ever done to the Ulstermen of old and anew. And then he spake these words:
"If this 'Black-tongue' Dubthach be,
Let him skulk behind the hosts
No good hath he ever wrought
Since he slew the princesses!
"Base and foul, the deed he wrought:
Fiachu, Conchobar's son, he slow.
No more fair was heard of him:
Carbrè's death, Fedilmid's son!
"Ne'er for Ulster's weal doth aim
Lugaid's son, Casruba's scion
Such is how he acts to men:
Whom he stabs not he incites!
"Ulster's exiles it would grieve
If their beardless boy should fall.
If on you come Ulster's troops
They will make your herds their spoil!
"Strown afar your herds will be
By the rising Ulstermen.
Tales there'll be of mighty deeds
That will tell of far-famed queens!
"Corpses will be under foot
Food there'll be at ravens rests;
Bucklers lying on the slopes;
Wild and furious deeds increase!
"I behold just now your wives
Raise their heads above the ranks.
I behold your puissant queen
Moves not to engage in war!
"Valour none nor generous deed
Comes from Lugaid's craven son
Nor will kings see lances red,
If this 'Blacktongue' Dubthach be!"
Thus far 'The Scythed Chariot.'
Then it was that a very bold young warrior of the Ulstermen came nigh the hosts; his bye-name was Oengus son of Oenlam Gabè ('the One-handed Smith'). And he drove the hosts before him from Moda Loga, which at that time was called Lugmud, to Ath da Fert ('the Ford of the Two Gravemounds') in Sliab Fuait.
What scholars say is: If Oengus son of Oenlam Gabè had fought them in single combat, two-thirds of the host would have fallen before that by him in single battle. Howbeit it was by no means so that they acted, but they attacked him from ambush on every side, till he fell at their hands in unequal fight at Ath da Fert in Sliab Fuait.
Then came to them Fiacha Fialdana ('the Generous and Intrepid') of the Ulstermen to speak with the son of his mother's sister, namely with Manè Andoè ('the Unslow') of the Connachtmen. And thus he came, and Dubthach Doel ('the Black Tongue') of Ulster with him. It was in this wise that Manè Andoè came, and Dochè son of Maga along with him.
When now Dochè macMagach espied Fiacha Fialdana, he straightway hurled a spear at him, but so that it went through his own friend, through Dubthach Doel of Ulster. Then Fiacha Fialdana hurled a spear at Dochè macMagach, so that it went through his own friend, through Manè Andoè of Connacht. Thereupon said the men of Erin: "A mishap in throwing," they said, "is what hath happened to the men, for each of them to kill his friend and nearest relation."
Hence this is entitled Imroll Belaig Eoin ('the Misthrow at Bird-pass'). And 'the Other Misthrow at Bird-pass' is another name for it.
Then said the men of Erin to Tamon the fool that he should don the garments of Ailill and the king's golden shawl, and go to the ford under their eyes. So he put the garments and golden shawl of Ailill upon him [and he went on to the ford under their eyes.] The men of Erin began to scoff and to shout and jeer at him. "It is a disguising of Tamon ('Stump') for thee, O Tamon the fool" they cried, "with the dress and the golden shawl of Ailill upon thee!"
When Cuchulain saw him, it seemed to him in his ignorance and lack of knowledge that it was Ailill himself that was there. And he slung a stone from his staff-sling at him so that Tamon the fool was smitten lifeless where he was on the ford. Hence Ath Tamuin ('the Ford of a Stump') is the name of that ford ever since and 'the Disguising of Tamon' is the name of the tale.