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 hosts of the four grand provinces of Erin pitched camp and entrenched themselves for that night at the pillar-stone in Crich Roiss ('the Borders of Ross'). Then Medb called upon the men of Erin for one of them to contend and do battle with Cuchulain on the morrow. And every one of them spake thus: "It shall not be I! it shall not be I!" cried each from his place. "No victim is owing from my people."
Thereupon Medb summoned Fergus to go forth and contend and fight with Cuchulain, for that the men of Erin had failed. "Ill would it befit me," quoth Fergus, "to fight with a callow young lad without any beard, and mine own disciple." Howbeit Medb murmured sore that Fergus foreswore her combat and battle. They bode the night in that place. Early on the morrow Fergus arose, and he fared forth to the place of combat where Cuchulain was.
Cuchulain saw him coming nigh. "A vain surety is the one wherewith my master Fergus comes to me, for no sword is in the sheath of the great staff he bears." It was true what he said. A year before this tale, Ailill had found Fergus going to a tryst with Medb on the hillside in Cruachan and his sword on a branch near by him. And Ailill had torn the sword from its sheath and put a wooden sword in its stead and vowed he would not restore him the sword till came the day of the great battle.
"It matters not to me, O fosterling," replied Fergus; "for had I a sword in this, it never would cut thee nor be plied on thee. But, by the honour and training I bestowed upon thee and the Ulstermen and Conchobar bestowed, give way before me this day in the presence of the men of Erin!" "Truly I am loath to do that," answered Cuchulain, "to flee before any one man on the Cattle-spoil of Cualnge." "Nay then it is not a thing to be taken amiss by thee," said Fergus; "for I in my turn will retreat before thee when thou wilt be covered with wounds and dripping with gore and pierced with holes in the battle of the Táin. And when I alone shall turn in flight before thee, so will all the men of Erin also flee before thee in like manner."
So zealous was Cuchulain to do whatever made for Ulster's weal that he had his chariot brought to him, and he mounted his chariot and he went in confusion and flight from Fergus in the presence of the men of Erin. The men of Erin saw that. "He is fled from thee! He is fled from thee, O Fergus!" cried all. "Pursue him, pursue him quickly, Fergus," Medb cried, "that he do not escape thee."
"Nay then," said Fergus, "I will pursue him no further. For however little ye may make of the flight I have put him to, none of the men of Erin could have obtained so much as that of him on the Cow-creagh of Cualnge. For this cause, till the men of Erin take turns in single combat, I will not engage again with this same man." Hence here we have the '[White] Battle' of Fergus; [and it is for this cause it is called the 'White Battle,' because no blood on weapons resulted therefrom.]
Ferchu Longsech (the Exile), although of the Connachtmen, was engaged in battle and plunder with Ailill and Medb. From the day these came to the kingship, there never was a time that he fared to their camp or took part in their expeditions or shared in their straits or their needs or their hardships, but he was ever at their heels, pillaging and plundering their borders and land.
At that time he sojourned in the eastern part of Mag Ai. Twelve men was his muster. He learned that a single man checked and stopped four of the five grand provinces of Erin from Monday at Summer's end till the beginning of Spring, slaying a man on the ford every one of those days and a hundred warriors every night. He weighed his plan privily with his people. "What better plan could we devise?" quoth he, "than to go and attack yonder man that checketh and stoppeth four of the five grand provinces of Erin, and bring his head and his weapons with us to Ailill and Medb? However great the injuries and wrongs we have done to Ailill and Medb, we shall obtain our peace therefor, if only that man fall by our hand."
Now this was the resolve they took, and they proceeded to where Cuchulain was. And when they came, it was not fair fight nor combat with one they vouchsafed him, but at one and the same time the twelve men fell upon him. Cuchulain turned on them, and straightway he smote off their twelve heads. And he set up twelve stones in the earth for them, and he put the head of each one of them on its stone and he likewise put Ferchu Longsech's head on its stone. Hence Cinnit Ferchon Longsig is henceforth the name of the place where Ferchu Longsech left his head, to wit, Cenn-aitt Ferchon ('the Head-place of Ferchu').
Medb despatched Mann son of Muresc son of Darè, of the Dommandach, to fight with Cuchulain. Own brothers were he and Daman, Ferdiad's father. A man, rough, inordinate in eating and sleeping was this Mann. An ill-tongued foul-mouthed man like Dubthach Doel ('Black-tongue') of Ulster. A man, stout, mighty, with strength of limb like Munremur ('Thick-neck') son of Gerrcend ('Short-head'). A fiery champion like Triscoth, the strong man of Conchobar's household. "I will go," said he "and unarmed, and I will grind him between my hands, for I consider it no honour nor credit to use arms against a beardless madcap such as he."
Therewith he went to attack Cuchulain. There he was, himself and his charioteer on the ford watching the host. "A lone warrior approacheth us here," cried Laeg to Cuchulain. "What manner of man?" asked Cuchulain. "A dark, black man, strong, bull-like, and he unarmed." "Let him go by thee," said Cuchulain. At that he comes nigh them. "To fight with thee am I come," Mann announced. Therewith they fell to wrestling for a long time, and thrice Mann threw Cuchulain, till the charioteer incited Cuchulain. "Were it the champion's portion thou wast contending for in Emain," spake Laeg, "thou wouldst be all powerful over the young bloods in Emain!" At these words the hero's wrath and warrior's rage returned to Cuchulain, so that he overcame Mann at the pillar-stone and he fell to pieces in morsels. Hence cometh Mandachta ('the Plain of Mann's death').
Then was it debated by the men of Erin who would be fit to contend and cope with Cuchulain at the morning hour early on the next day. What they all said was, that Calatin Dana ('the Bold') would be the one, with his seven and twenty sons and his grandsons Glass macDelga. Thus were they: Poison was on every man of them and poison on every weapon of their arms; and not one of them missed his throw, and there was no one on whom one of them drew blood that, if he succumbed not on the spot, would not be dead before the end of the ninth day.
Great gifts were promised to them for engaging to do battle and to contend with Cuchulain. And they took the matter in hand, and it should be in the presence of Fergus that the covenant would be made. But Fergus refused to have part therein, for what they all contended was that they would hold it as a single combat, a combat, to wit, of Calatin Dana and his seven and twenty sons and his grandson Glass macDelga; for their contention was that his son was a limb of his limbs and a part of his parts, and that to Calatin Dana belonged all that proceeded from his body.
Fergus betook himself to his tent and to his people and he breathed his sigh of weariness aloud. "Grievous it seems to us, the deed to be done here on the morrow," quoth Fergus. "What deed may that be?" asked his people. "The slaying of Cuchulain," answered Fergus. "Alas," said they, "who should kill him?"
"Calatin Dana," he replied, "with his seven and twenty sons and his grandson Glass macDelga. For this is their nature: Poison is on every man of them and poison on every weapon of their arms; and there is no one on whom one of them draws blood, that, if he succumb not on the spot, will not be dead before the end of the ninth day. And there is no one of you that would go and learn for me and be witness of the battle and fight and bring me news how Cuchulain died on whom I would not bestow my blessing and armour." "I will go thither," spake Fiachu son of Ferfebè.
They abode so that night. Early on the morrow Calatin Dana arose with his seven and twenty sons and his grandson Glass macDelga, and they went forward to where Cuchulain was. And there went also Fiachu son of Ferfebè. And when Calatin arrived at the place where Cuchulain was, they forthwith hurled their nine and twenty spears, and not one of them went past him by a misthrow. Cuchulain played the edge-feat with his shield, so that all the spears sank up to their middles into the shield. But for all that, theirs was no erring cast, not one of the spears was blooded or reddened upon him.
Thereupon Cuchulain drew his sword from the sheath of the Badb, to cut away the weapons and lighten the shield that was on him. While thus engaged, they rushed in upon him and delivered their nine and twenty right fists at the same time on his head. They smote him and curbed him withal, till his face and his countenance and visage met the sand and gravel of the ford. Cuchulain raised his warrior's shout aloud and his cry of unequal combat, so that there was not an Ulsterman alive in the camp of those that were not asleep but heard it.
Then came Fiachu son of Ferfebè after themand he saw what they did and a qualm of love came over him, and he drew his sword from the sheath of the Badb and dealt them a blow, so that he cut off their nine and twenty right fists from them at one stroke, and they all fell backwards from the intensity of the exertion and hold which they had.
Cuchulain raised his head and drew breath and gave a sigh of weariness and perceived who it was that had come to his aid. "A ready relief, O foster-brother, what thou hast done," said Cuchulain. "Although for thee a ready relief," said Fiachu, "yet is it not so for us. Even though we are the best division of three thousand of the Clann Rudraige in the camp and station of the men of Erin, we shall all be brought under the mouth of spear and of sword, however feeble thou mayst deem the blow I struck, if this treason be found in us."
"I give my word," quoth Cuchulain; "so soon as I raise my head and draw breath, and unless thou thyself tellest the tale, not one of these ever will tell it, not a man of them shall reach the camp alive!" With that, Cuchulain turned on them, and he fell to smiting and hewing them, so that he sent them from him in small disjointed pieces and divided quarters eastwards and westwards along the ford. A single man got away from him, trusting to his speed while Cuchulain was busied beheading the rest; it was Glass macDelga. And Cuchulain raced after him like a blast of wind, and Glass ran on round the tent of Ailil and Medb, and all he could pant out was, "Fiach! Fiach!" when Cuchulain fetched him a stroke that cut off his head.
"'Tis quick work was made of that man," quoth Medb. "What debt (fíach) was that he spoke of, O Fergus?" "I know not," Fergus answered, "unless it be some one in the camp and quarters that owed him a debt. It is that which troubled his mind. But be that as it may," continued Fergus, "it is a debt of blood and flesh for him. And upon my word," Fergus added, "now are his debts paid to him for good and all!"
In this wise fell Calatin Dana ('the Bold') at the hands of Cuchulain, together with his seven and twenty sons and his grandson Glass macDelga. So that for evermore in the bed of the ford is still the rock whereabout they had their strife and struggle; and the mark of their sword-hilts is in it and of their knees and their elbows and of their spears. Hence Fuil Iairn ('Blood of Iron') to the west of Ath Firdead ('Ferdiad's Ford') is the name of the ford. It is for this it is called Fuil Iairn, because of the 'blood over weapons' that was there.
Thus then the Combat of the Clann Calatin.
Then the men of Erin took counsel who would be fit to send to the ford to fight and do battle with Cuchulain, to drive him off from them at the morning hour early on the morrow. With one accord they declared that it should be Ferdiad son of Daman son of Darè, the great and valiant warrior of the men of Dornnann. And fitting it was for him to go thither, for well-matched and alike was their manner of fight and of combat. Under the same instructresses had they done skillful deeds of valour and arms, when learning the art with Scathach ('the Modest') and with Uathach ('the Dreadful') and with Aifè ('the Handsome'). And neither of them overmatched the other, save in the feat of the Gae Bulga ('the Barbed Spear') which Cuchulain possessed. Howbeit, against this, Ferdiad was horn-skinned when fighting and in combat with a warrior on the ford.
Then were messengers and envoys sent to Ferdiad. Ferdiad denied them their will, and sent back the messengers, and he went not with them, for he knew wherefore they would have him, to fight and combat with his friend, with his comrade and foster-brother, Cuchulain. Then did Medb despatch the druids and the poets of the camp, the lampoonists and hard-attackers, for Ferdiad, to the end that they might make three satires to stay him and three scoffing speeches against him, that they might raise three blisters on his face, Blame, Blemish and Disgrace, if he came not with them.
Ferdiad came with them for the sake of his own honour, forasmuch as he deemed it better to fall by the shafts of valour and bravery and skill, than to fall by the shafts of satire, abuse and reproach. And when Ferdiad was come into the camp, he was honoured and waited on, and choice, well-flavoured strong liquor was poured out for him till he became drunken and merry. Great rewards were promised him if he would make the fight and combat, namely a chariot worth four times seven bondmaids, and the apparel of two men and ten men, of cloth of every colour, and the equivalent of the Plain of Murthemne of the rich Plain of Ai, free of tribute, without duress for his son, or for his grandson, or for his great-grandson, till the end of time and existence.
Such were the words of Medb, and she spake them here and Ferdiad responded:
Medb: "Great rewards in arm-rings,
Share of plain and forest
Freedom of thy children
From this day till doom!
Ferdiad son of Daman,
More than thou couldst hope for,
Why shouldst thou refuse it,
That which all would take?"
Ferdiad: "Naught I'll take without bond--
No ill spearman am I--
Hard on me to-morrow:
Great will be the strife!
Hound that's hight of Culann,
How his thrust is grievous!
No soft thing to stand him;
Rude will be the wound!"
Medb: "Champions will be surety,
Thou needst not keep hostings.
Reins and splendid horses
Shall be given as pledge!
Ferdiad, good, of battle,
For that thou art dauntless,
Thou shalt be my lover,
Past all, free of cain !"
Ferdiad: "Without bond I'll go not
To engage in ford-feats;
It will live till doomsday
In full strength and force.
Ne'er I'll yield-- who hears me,
Whoe'er counts upon me--
Without sun- and moon-oath,
Without sea and land!"
Medb: "Why then dost delay it?
Bind it as it please thee,
By kings' hands and princes',
Who will stand for thee!
Lo, I will repay thee,
Thou shalt have thine asking,
For I know thou'lt slaughter
Man that meeteth thee!"
Ferdiad: "Nay, without six sureties--
It shall not be fewer--
Ere I do my exploits
There where hosts will be!
Should my will be granted,
I swear, though unequal,
That I'll meet in combat
Cuchulain the brave!"
Medb: "Domnall, then, or Carbrè,
Niaman famed for slaughter,
Or e'en folk of barddom,
Natheless, thou shalt have.
Bind thyself on Morann,
Wouldst thou its fulfilment
Bind on smooth Man's Carbrè,
And our two sons, bind!"
Ferdiad: "Medb, with wealth of cunning,
Whom no spouse can bridle,
Thou it is that herdest
Cruachan of the mounds!
High thy fame and wild power!
Mine the fine pied satin;
Give thy gold and silver,
Which were proffered me!"
Medb: "To thee, foremost champion,
I will give my ringed brooch.
From this day till Sunday,
Shall thy respite be!
Warrior, mighty, famous,
All the earth's fair treasures
Shall to thee be given;
Everything be thine!
"Finnabair of the champions (?),
Queen of western Erin,
When thou'st slain the Smith's Hound,
Ferdiad, she's thine!"
Then said they, one and all, those gifts were great. "'Tis true, they are great. But though they are," said Ferdiad, "with Medb herself I will leave them, and I will not accept them if it be to do battle or combat with my foster-brother, the man of my alliance and affection, and my equal in skill of arms, namely, with Cuchulain." And he said:
"Greatest toil, this, greatest toil,
Battle with the Hound of gore!
Liefer would I battle twice
With two hundred men of Fal!
"Sad the fight, and sad the fight,
I and Hound of feats shall wage!
We shall hack both flesh and blood;
Skin and body we shall hew!
"Sad, O god, yea, sad, O god,
That a woman should us part!
My heart's half, the blameless Hound;
Half the brave Hound's heart am I!
"By my shield, O by my shield,
If Ath Cliath's brave Hound should fall,
I will drive my slender glaive
Through my heart, my side, my breast!
"By my sword, O by my sword,
If the Hound of Glen Bolg fall!
No man after him I'll slay,
Till I o'er the world's brink spring!
"By my hand, O, by my hand!
Falls the Hound of Glen in Sgail,
Medb with all her host I'll kill
And then no more men of Fal!
"By my spear, O, by my spear!
Should Ath Cro's brave Hound be slain,
I'll be buried in his grave;
May one grave hide me and him!
"Tell him this, O tell him this,
To the Hound of beauteous hue
Fearless Scathach hath foretold
My fall on a ford through him!
"Woe to Medb, yea, woe to Medb,
Who hath used her guile on us;
She hath set me face to face
'Gainst Cuchulain-- hard the toil!"
"Ye men," spake Medb, in the wonted fashion of stirring up disunion and dissension, "true is the word Cuchulain speaks." "What word is that?" asked Ferdiad. "He said, then," replied Medb, "he would not think it too much if thou shouldst fall by his hands in the choicest feat of his skill in arms, in the land whereto he should come." "It was not just for him to speak so," quoth Ferdiad; "for it is not cowardice or lack of boldness that he hath ever seen in me. And I swear by my arms of valour, if it be true that he spoke so, I will be the first man of the men of Erin to contend with him on the morrow!" "A blessing and victory upon thee for that!" said Medb; "it pleaseth me more than for thee to show fear and lack of boldness. For every man loves his own land, and how is it better for him to seek the welfare of Ulster, than for thee to seek the welfare of Connacht?"
Then it was that Medb obtained from Ferdiad the easy surety of a covenant to fight and contend on the morrow with six warriors of the champions of Erin, or to fight and contend with Cuchulain alone, if to him this last seemed lighter. Ferdiad obtained of Medb the easy surety, as he thought, to send the aforesaid six men for the fulfilment of the terms which had been promised him, should Cuchulain fall at his hands.
Then were Fergus' horses fetched for him and his chariot was yoked, and he came forward to the place of combat where Cuchulain was, to inform him of the challenge. Cuchulain bade him welcome. "Welcome is thy coming, O my master Fergus!" cried Cuchulain. "Truly intended, methinks, the welcome, O fosterling," said Fergus. "But, it is for this I am here, to inform thee who comes to fight and contend with thee at the morning hour early on the morrow." "E'en so will we hear it from thee," said Cuchulain. "Thine own friend and comrade and foster-brother, the man thine equal in feats and in skill of arms and in deeds, Ferdiad son of Daman son of Darè, the great and mighty warrior of the men of Domnann."
"As my soul liveth," replied Cuchulain, "it is not to an encounter we wish our friend to come." "It is even for that," answered Fergus, "thou shouldst be on thy guard and prepared. For unlike all to whom it fell to fight and contend with thee on the Cualnge Cattle-raid on this occasion is Ferdiad son of Daman son of Darè." "Truly am I here," said Cuchulain, "checking and staying four of the five grand provinces of Erin from Monday at Summer's end till the beginning of spring. And in all this time, I have not put foot in retreat before any one man nor before a multitude, and methinks just as little will I turn foot in flight before him."
So spake Fergus, putting him on his guard, and he said these words and Cuchulain responded:
Fergus: "O Cuchulain-- splendid deed--
Lo, 'tis time for thee to rise.
Here in rage against thee comes
Ferdiad, red-faced Daman's son!"
Cuchulain: "Here am I-- no easy task--
Holding Erin's men at bay;
Foot I've never turned in flight
In my fight with single foe!"
Fergus: "Dour the man when anger moves,
Owing to his gore-red glaive;
Ferdiad wears a skin of horn,
'Gainst which fight nor might prevails!"
Cuchulain: "Be thou still urge not thy tale,
Fergus of the mighty arms.
On no land and on no ground,
For me is there aught defeat!"
Fergus: "Fierce the man with scores of deeds;
No light thing, him to subdue.
Strong as hundreds-- brave his mien--
Point pricks not, edge cuts him not!"
Cuchulain: "If we clash upon the ford,
I and Ferdiad of known skill,
We'll not part without we know:
Fierce will be our weapon fight!"
Fergus: "More I'd wish it than reward,
O Cuchulain of red sword,
Thou shouldst be the one to bring
Eastward haughty Ferdiad's spoils!"
Cuchulain: "Now I give my word and vow,
Though unskilled in strife of words,
It is I will conquer this
Son of Daman macDarè!"
Fergus: It is I brought east the host,
Thus requiting Ulster's wrong.
With me came they from their lands,
With their heroes and their chiefs!"
Cuchulain: "Were not Conchobar in the 'Pains,'
Hard 'twould be to come near us.
Never Medb of Mag in Scail
On more tearful march had come!"
Fergus: "Greatest deed awaits thy hand:
Fight with Ferdiad, Daman's son.
Hard stern arms with stubborn edge,
Shalt thou have, thou Culann's Hound!"
After that, Fergus returned to the camp and halting-place. As for Ferdiad, he betook himself to his tent and to his people, and imparted to them the easy surety which Medb had obtained from him to do combat and battle with six warriors on the morrow, or to do combat and battle with Cuchulain alone, if he thought it a lighter task. He made known to them also the fair terms he had obtained from Medb of sending the same six warriors for the fulfilment of the covenant she had made with him, should Cuchulain fall by his hands. The folk of Ferdiad were not joyful, blithe, cheerful or merry that night, but they were sad, sorrowful and downcast, for they knew that where the two champions and the two bulwarks in a gap for a hundred met in combat, one or other of them would fall there or both would fall, and if it should be one of them, they believed it would be their king and their own lord that would fall there, for it was not easy to contend and do battle with Cuchulain on the Raid for the Kine of Cualnge.
Ferdiad slept right heavily the first part of the night, but when the end of the night was come, his sleep and his heaviness left him. And the anxiousness of the combat and the battle came upon him. And he charged his charioteer to take his horses and to yoke his chariot. The charioteer sought to dissuade him from that journey. "By our word," said the gilla, "'twould be better for thee to remain than to go thither," said he. And in this manner he spake, and he uttered these words, and the henchman responded:
Ferdiad: "Let's haste to th' encounter,
To battle with this man;
The ford we will come to,
O'er which Badb will shriek!
To meet with Cuchulain,
To wound his slight body,
To thrust the spear through him
So that he may die!"
The Henchman: "To stay it were better;
Your threats are not gentle
Death's sickness will one have,
And sad will ye part!
To meet Ulster's noblest
To meet whence ill cometh;
Long will men speak of it.
Alas, for your course!"
Ferdiad: "Not fair what thou speakest;
No fear hath the warrior;
We owe no one meekness;
We stay not for thee!
Hush, gilla, about us!
The time will bring strong hearts;
More meet strength than weakness;
Let's on to the tryst!"
Ferdiad's horses were now brought forth and his chariot was hitched, and he set out from the camp for the ford of battle when yet day with its full light had not come there for him. "Come, gilla," said Ferdiad, "spread for me the cushions and skins of my chariot under me here, so that I sleep off my heavy fit of sleep and slumber here, for I slept not the last part of the night with the anxiousness of the battle and combat." The gilla unharnessed the horses; he unfastened the chariot under him. He slept off the heavy fit of sleep that was on him.
Now how Cuchulain fared is related here: He arose not till the day with its bright light had come to him, lest the men of Erin might say it was fear or fright of the champion he had, if he should arise early. And when day with its full light had come, he passed his hand over his face and bade his charioteer take his horses and yoke them to his chariot. "Come, gilla," said Cuchulain, "take out our horses for us and harness our chariot, for an early riser is the warrior appointed to meet us, Ferdiad son of Daman son of Darè. "The horses are taken out," said the gilla; "the chariot is harnessed. Mount, and be it no shame to thy valour to go thither!"
Then it was that the cutting, feat-performing, battle-winning, red-sworded hero, Cuchulain son of Sualtaim, mounted his chariot, so that there shrieked around him the goblins and fiends and the sprites of the glens and the demons of the air; for the Tuatha De Danann ('the Folk of the Goddess Danu') were wont to set up their cries around him, to the end that the dread and the fear and the fright and the terror of him might be so much the greater in every battle and on every field, in every fight and in every combat wherein he went.
Not long had Ferdiad's charioteer waited when he heard something: A rush and a crash and a hurtling sound, and a din and a thunder, and a clatter and a clash, namely, the shield-cry of feat-shields, and the jangle of javelins, and the deed-striking of swords, and the thud of the helmet, and the ring of spears, and the striking of arms, the fury of feats, the straining of ropes, and the whirr of wheels, and the creaking of the chariot, and the trampling of horses' hoofs, and the deep voice of the hero and battle-warrior on his way to the ford to attack his opponent. The servant came and touched his master with his hand. "Ferdiad, master," said the youth, "rise up! They are here to meet thee at the ford." And the gilla spake these words:
"The roll of a chariot,
Its fair yoke of silver;
A man great and stalwart
O'ertops the strong car!
O'er Bri Ross, o'er Branè
Their swift path they hasten;
Past Old-tree Town's tree-stump,
Victorious they speed!
"A sly Hound that driveth,
A fair chief that urgeth,
A free hawk that speedeth
His steeds towards the south!
Gore-coloured, the Cua,
'Tis sure he will take us
We know-- vain to hide it--
He brings us defeat!
Woe him on the hillock,
The brave Hound before him;
Last year I foretold it,
That some time he'd come!
Hound from Emain Macha,
Hound formed of all colours,
The Border-hound War-hound,
I hear what I've heard!"
"Come, gilla," said Ferdiad; "for what reason laudest thou this man ever since I am come from my house? And it is almost a cause for strife with thee that thou hast praised him thus highly. But, Ailill and Medb have prophesied to me that this man will fall by my hand. And since it is for a reward, he shall quickly be torn asunder by me, but it is time to fetch help." And he spake these words, and the henchman responded:
Ferdiad: "'Tis time now to help me;
Be silent! cease praising!
'Twas no deed of friendship,
No doom o'er the brink(?)
The Champion of Cualnge,
Thou seest 'midst proud feats,
For that it's for guerdon,
Shall quickly be slain!"
The Henchman: "I see Cualnge's hero,
With feats overweening,
Not fleeing he flees us,
But towards us he comes.
He runneth-- not slowly--
Though cunning-- not sparing--
Like water down high cliff
Or thunderbolt quick!"
Ferdiad: "'Tis cause of a quarrel,
So much thou hast praised him;
And why hast thou chose him,
Since I am from home?
And now they extol him,
They fall to proclaim him;
None come to attack him,
But soft simple men(?)."
Here followeth the Description of Cuchulain's chariot, one of the three chief Chariots of the Tale of the Foray of Cualnge.
It was not long that Ferdiad's charioteer remained there when he saw something: a beautiful, five-pointed chariot, approaching with swiftness, with speed, with perfect skill; with a green shade, with a thin-framed, dry-bodied (?) box surmounted with feats of cunning, straight-poled, as long as a warrior's sword. On this was room for a hero's seven arms, the fair seat for its lord; behind two fleet steeds, large-eared, gaily prancing, with inflated nostrils, broad-chested, quick-hearted, high-flanked, broad-hoofed, slender-limbed, overpowering and resolute. A grey, broad-hipped, small-stepping, long-maned horse was under one of the yokes of the chariot; a black, crisped-maned, swift-moving, broad-backed horse under the other. Like unto a hawk after its prey on a sharp tempestuous day, or to a tearing blast of wind of Spring on a March day over the back of a plain, or unto a startled stag when first roused by the hounds in the first of the chase, were Cuchulain's two horses before the chariot, as if they were on glowing, fiery flags, so that they shook the earth and made it tremble with the fleetness of their course.
And Cuchulain reached the ford. Ferdiad waited on the south side of the ford; Cuchulain stood on the north side. Ferdiad bade welcome to Cuchulain. "Welcome is thy coming, O Cuchulain!" said Ferdiad. "Truly spoken meseemed thy welcome till now," answered Cuchulain; "but to-day I put no more trust in it. And, O Ferdiad," said Cuchulain, "it were fitter for me to bid thee welcome than that thou should'st welcome me; for it is thou that art come to the land and province wherein I dwell, and it is not fitting for thee to come to contend and do battle with me but it were fitter for me to go to contend and do battle with thee. For before thee in flight are my women and my boys and my youths, my steeds and my troops of horses, my droves, my flocks and my herds of cattle."
"Good, O Cuchulain," spake Ferdiad; "what has ever brought thee out to contend and do battle with me? For when we were together with Scathach and with Uathach and with Aifè, thou wast my serving-man, even for arming my spear and dressing my bed." "That was indeed true," answered Cuchulain; "because of my youth and my littleness did I so much for thee, but this is by no means my mood this day. For there is not a warrior in the world I would not drive off this day."
And then it was that each of them cast sharp-cutting reproaches at the other, renouncing his friendship. And Ferdiad spake these words there, and Cuchulain responded:
Ferdiad: "What led thee, O Cua,
To fight a strong champion?
Thy flesh will be gore-red
O'er smoke of thy steeds!
Alas for thy journey,
A kindling of firebrands;
In sore need of healing,
If home thou shouldst reach!"
Cuchulain: "I'm come before warriors
Around the herd's wild Boar,
Before troops and hundreds,
To drown thee in deep
In anger, to prove thee
In hundred-fold battle,
Till on thee come havoc,
Defending thy head!"
Ferdiad: "Here stands one to crush thee,
'Tis I will destroy thee,
. . . . .
From me there shall come
The flight of their warriors
In presence of Ulster,
That long they'll remember
The loss that was theirs!"
Cuchulain: "How then shall we combat?
For wrongs shall we heave sighs?
Despite all, we'll go there,
To fight on the ford!
Or is it with hard swords,
Or e'en with red spear-points,
Before hosts to slay thee,
If thy hour hath come?"
Ferdiad: "'Fore sunset, 'fore nightfall--
If need be, then guard thee--
I'll fight thee at Bairchè,
Not bloodlessly fight!
The Ulstermen call thee,
'He has him!' Oh, hearken!
The sight will distress them
That through them will pass!"
Cuchulain: "In danger's gap fallen,
At hand is thy life's term;
On thee plied be weapons,
Not gentle the skill!
One champion will slay thee;
We both will encounter;
No more shalt lead forays,
From this day till Doom!"
Ferdiad: "Avaunt with thy warnings,
Thou world's greatest braggart;
Nor guerdon nor pardon,
Low warrior for thee!
'Tis I that well know thee,
Thou heart of a cageling--
This lad merely tickles--
Without skill or force!"
Cuchulain: "When we were with Scathach,
For wonted arms' training,
Together we'd fare forth,
To seek every fight.
Thou wast my heart's comrade,
My clan and my kinsman;
Ne'er found I one dearer;
Thy loss would be sad!"
Ferdiad: "Thou wager'st thine honour
Unless we do battle;
Before the cock croweth,
Thy head on a spit!
Cuchulain of Cualnge,
Mad frenzy hath seized thee
All ill we'll wreak on thee,
For thine is the sin!"
"Come now, O Ferdiad," cried Cuchulain, "not meet was it for thee to come to contend and do battle with me, because of the instigation and intermeddling of Ailill and Medb. And all that came because of those promises of deceit, neither profit nor success did it bring them, and they have fallen by me. And none the more, Ferdiad, shall it win victory or increase of fame for thee; and, shalt thou too fall by my hand!" Thus he spake, and he further uttered these words and Ferdiad hearkened to him:--
"Come not nigh me, noble chief,
Ferdiad, comrade, Daman's son.
Worse for thee than 'tis for me;
Thou'lt bring sorrow to a host!
"Come not nigh me 'gainst all right;
Thy last bed is made by me.
Why shouldst thou alone escape
From the prowess of my arms?
"Shall not great feats thee undo,
Though thou'rt purple, horny-skinned?
And the maid thou boastest of,
Shall not, Daman's son, be thine!
"Finnabair, Medb's daughter fair,
Great her charms though they may be,
Fair as is the damsel's form,
She's for thee not to enjoy!
"Finnabair, the king's own child,
Is the lure, if truth be told;
Many they whom she's deceived
And undone as she has thee!
"Break not, weetless, oath with me;
Break not friendship, break not bond;
Break not promise, break not word;
Come not nigh me, noble chief!
"Fifty chiefs obtained in plight
This same maid, a proffer vain.
Through me went they to their graves;
Spear-right all they had from me!
"Though for brave was held Ferbaeth,
With whom was a warriors' train,
In short space I quelled his rage;
Him I slew with one sole blow!
"Srubdarè-- sore sank his might--
Darling of the noblest dames,
Time there was when great his fame--
Gold nor raiment saved him not!
"Were she mine affianced wife,
Smiled on me this fair land's head,
I would not thy body hurt,
Right nor left, in front, behind!"
"Good, O Ferdiad!" cried Cuchulain. "It is not right for thee to come to fight and combat with me; for when we were with Scathach and with Uathach and with Aifè, and it was together we were used to seek out every battle and every battle-field, every combat and every contest, every wood and every desert, every covert and every recess." And thus he spake and he uttered these words:
Cuchulain: "We were heart-companions once;
We were comrades in the woods;
We were men that shared a bed,
When we slept the heavy sleep,
After hard and weary fights.
Into many lands, so strange,
Side by side we sallied forth,
And we ranged the woodlands through,
When with Scathach we learned arms!"
Ferdiad: "O Cuchulain, rich in feats,
Hard the trade we both have learned;
Treason hath o'ercome our love;
Thy first wounding hath been bought;
Think not of our friendship more,
Cua, it avails thee not!"
"Too long are we now in this way," quoth Ferdiad; "and what arms shall we resort to to-day, O Cuchulain?" "With thee is thy choice of weapons this day," answered Cuchulain, "for thou art he that first didst reach the ford." "Rememberest thou at all," asked Ferdiad "the choice deeds of arms we were wont to practise with Scathach and with Uathach and with Aifè?" "Indeed, and I do remember," answered Cuchulain. "If thou rememberest, let us begin with them."
They betook them to their choicest deeds of arms. They took upon them two equally-matched shields for feats, and their eight-edged targes for feats, and their eight small darts, and their eight straightswords with ornaments of walrus-tooth and their eight lesser, ivoried spears which flew from them and to them like bees on a day of fine weather. They cast no weapon that struck not. Each of them was busy casting at the other with those missiles from morning's early twilight till noon at mid-day, the while they overcame their various feats with the bosses and hollows of their feat-shields. However great the excellence of the throwing on either side, equally great was the excellence of the defence, so that during all that time neither of them bled or reddened the other. "Let us cease now from this bout of arms, O Cuchulain," said Ferdiad; "for it is not by such our decision will come." "Yea, surely, let us cease, if the time hath come," answered Cuchulain. Then they ceased. They threw their feat-tackle from them into the hands of their charioteers.
"To what weapons shall we resort next, O Cuchulain?" asked Ferdiad. "Thine is the choice of weapons till nightfall," replied Cuchulain; "for thou art he that didst first reach the ford." "Let us begin, then," said Ferdiad, "with our straight-cut, smooth-hardened throwing-spears, with cords of full-hard flax on them." "Aye, let us begin then," assented Cuchulain. Then they took on them two hard shields, equally strong. They fell to their straight-cut, smooth-hardened spears with cords of full-hard flax on them. Each of them was engaged in casting at the other with the spears from the middle of noon till the hour of evening's sundown. However great the excellence of the defence, equally great was the excellence of the throwing on either side, so that each of them bled and reddened and wounded the other during that time. "Let us leave off from this now, O Cuchulain," said Ferdiad. "Aye, let us leave off, if the time hath come," answered Cuchulain. So they ceased. They threw their arms from them into the hands of their charioteers.
Thereupon each of them went toward the other in the middle of the ford, and each of them put his hand on the other's neck and gave him three kisses. Their horses were in one and the same paddock that night, and their charioteers at one and the same fire; and their charioteers made ready a litter-bed of fresh rushes for them with pillows for wounded men on them. Then came healing and curing folk to heal and to cure them, and they laid healing herbs and grasses and a curing charm on their cuts and stabs, their gashes and many wounds. Of every healing herb and grass and curing charm that was brought and was applied to the cuts and stabs, to the gashes and many wounds of Cuchulain, a like portion thereof he sent across the ford westward to Ferdiad, so that the men of Erin should not have it to say, should Ferdiad fall at his hands, it was more than his share of care had been given to him.
Of every food and of every savoury, soothing and strong drink that was brought by the men of Erin to Ferdiad, a like portion thereof he sent over the ford northwards to Cuchulain; for the purveyors of Ferdiad were more numerous than the purveyors of Cuchulain. All the men of Erin were purveyors to Ferdiad, to the end that he might keep Cuchulain off from them. But only the inhabitants of Mag Breg ('the Plain of Breg') were purveyors to Cuchulain. They were wont to come daily, that is, every night, to converse with him.
They bided there that night. Early on the morrow they arose and went their ways to the ford of combat. "To what weapons shall we resort on this day, O Ferdiad?" asked Cuchulain. "Thine is the choosing of weapons," Ferdiad made answer, "because it was I had my choice of weapons on the day aforegone." "Let us take, then," said Cuchulain, "to our great, well-tempered lances to-day, for we think that the thrusting will bring nearer the decisive battle to-day than did the casting of yesterday. Let our horses be brought to us and our chariots yoked, to the end that we engage in combat over our horses and chariots on this day." "Aye, let us go so," Ferdiad assented.
Thereupon they girded two full-firm broadshields on them for that day. They took to their great, well-tempered lances on that day. Either of them began to pierce and to drive, to throw and to press down the other, from early morning's twilight till the hour of evening's close. If it were the wont for birds in flight to fly through the bodies of men, they could have passed through their bodies on that day and carried away pieces of blood and flesh through their wounds and their sores into the clouds and the air all around. And when the hour of evening's close was come, their horses were spent and their drivers were wearied, and they themselves, the heroes and warriors of valour, were exhausted. "Let us give over now, O Ferdiad," said Cuchulain, "for our horses are spent and our drivers tired, and when they are exhausted, why should we too not be exhausted?" And in this wise he spake, and he uttered these words at that place:
"We need not our chariots break--
This, a struggle fit for giants.
Place the hobbles on the steeds,
Now that din of arms is o'er!"
"Yea, we will cease, if the time hath come," replied Ferdiad. They ceased then. They threw their arms away from them into the hands of their charioteers. Each of them came towards his fellow. Each laid his hand on the other's neck and gave him three kisses. Their horses were in the one pen that night, and their charioteers at the one fire. Their charioteers prepared two litter-beds of fresh rushes for them with pillows for wounded men on them. The curing and healing men came to attend and watch and mark them that night; for naught else could they do, because of the direfulness of their cuts and their stabs, their gashes and their numerous wounds, but apply to them philtres and spells and charms, to staunch their blood and their bleeding and their deadly pains. Of every magic potion and every spell and every charm that was applied to the cuts and stabs of Cuchulain, their like share he sent over the ford westwards to Ferdiad. Of every food and every savoury, soothing and strong drink that was brought by the men of Erin to Ferdiad, an equal portion he sent over the ford northwards to Cuchulain, for the victuallers of Ferdiad were more numerous than the victuallers of Cuchulain. For all the men of Erin were Ferdiad's nourishers, to the end that he might ward off Cuchulain from them. But the indwellers of the Plain of Breg alone were Cuchulain's nourishers. They were wont to come daily, that is, every night, to converse with him.
They abode there that night. Early on the morrow they arose and repaired to the ford of combat. Cuchulain marked an evil mien and a dark mood that day on Ferdiad. "It is evil thou appearest to-day, O Ferdiad," spake Cuchulain; "thy hair has become dark to-day, and thine eye has grown drowsy, and thine upright form and thy features and thy gait have gone from thee!" "Truly not for fear nor for dread of thee is that happened to me to-day," answered Ferdiad; "for there is not in Erin this day a warrior I could not repel!" And Cuchulain lamented and moaned, and he spake these words and Ferdiad responded:
Cuchulain: "Ferdiad, ah, if it be thou,
Well I know thou'rt doomed to die!
To have gone at woman's hest,
Forced to fight thy comrade sworn!"
Ferdiad: "O Cuchulain-- wise decree--
Loyal champion, hero true,
Each man is constrained to go
'Neath the sod that hides his grave!"
Cuchulain: "Finnabair, Medb's daughter fair,
Stately maiden though she be,
Not for love they'll give to thee,
But to prove thy kingly might!"
Ferdiad: "Provèd was my might long since,
Cu of gentle spirit thou.
Of one braver I've not heard;
Till to-day I have not found!"
Cuchulain: "Thou art he provoked this fight,
Son of Daman, Darè's son,
To have gone at woman's word,
Swords to cross with thine old friend!"
Ferdiad: "Should we then unfought depart,
Brothers though we are, bold Hound,
Ill would be my word and fame
With Ailill and Cruachan's Medb!"
Cuchulain: "Food has not yet passed his lips,
Nay nor has he yet been born,
Son of king or blameless queen,
For whom I would work thee harm!"
Ferdiad: "Culann's Hound, with floods of deeds,
Medb, not thou, hath us betrayed;
Fame and victory thou shalt have;
Not on thee we lay our fault!"
Cuchulain: "Clotted gore is my brave heart,
Near I'm parted from my soul;
Wrongful 'tis-- with hosts of deeds--
Ferdiad, dear, to fight with thee!"
"How much soever thou findest fault with me to-day," said Ferdiad, "it will be as an offset to my prowess." And he said, "To what weapons shall we resort to-day?" "With thyself is the choice of weapons to-day," replied Cuchulain, "for it is I that chose on the day gone by." "Let us resort, then," said Ferdiad, "to our heavy, hard-smiting swords this day, for we trow that the smiting each other will bring us nearer to the decision of battle to-day than was our piercing each other on yesterday." "Let us go then, by all means," responded Cuchulain.
Then they took two full-great long-shields upon them for that day. They turned to their heavy, hard-smiting swords. Each of them fell to strike and to hew, to lay low and cut down, to slay and undo his fellow, till as large as the head of a month-old child was each lump and each cut, that each of them took from the shoulders and thighs and shoulder-blades of the other.
Each of them was engaged in smiting the other in this way from the twilight of early morning till the hour of evening's close. "Let us leave off from this now, O Cuchulain!" cried Ferdiad. "Aye, let us leave off, if the hour has come," said Cuchulain. They parted then, and threw their arms away from them into the hands of their charioteers. Though it had been the meeting of two happy, blithe, cheerful, joyful men, their parting that night was of two that were sad, sorrowful and full of suffering. Their horses were not in the same paddock that night. Their charioteers were not at the same fire.
They passed there that night. It was then that Ferdiad arose early on the morrow and went alone to the ford of combat. For he knew that that would be the decisive day of the battle and combat; and he knew that one or other of them would fall there that day, or that they both would fall. It was then he donned his battle-weed of battle and fight and combat, or ever Cuchulain came to meet him. And thus was the manner of this harness of battle and fight and combat: He put his silken, glossy trews with its border of speckled gold, next to his white skin. Over this, outside, he put his brown-leathern, well-sewed kilt. Outside of this he put a huge, goodly flag, the size of a millstone. He put his solid, very deep, iron kilt of twice molten iron over the huge, goodly flag as large as a millstone, through fear and dread of the Gae Bulga on that day.
About his head he put his crested war-cap of battle and fight and combat, whereon were forty carbuncle-gems beautifully adorning it and studded with red-enamel and crystal and rubies and with shining stones of the Eastern world. His angry, fierce-striking spear he seized in his right hand. On his left side he hung his curved battle-falchion, with its golden pommel and its rounded hilt of red gold. On the arch-slope of his back he slung his massive, fine-buffalo shield of a warrior, whereon were fifty bosses, wherein a boar could be shown in each of its bosses, apart from the great central boss of red gold. Ferdiad performed diverse, brilliant, manifold, marvellous feats on high that day, unlearned from any one before, neither from foster-mother nor from foster-father, neither from Scathach nor from Uathach nor from Aifè, but he found them of himself that day in the face of Cuchulain.
Cuchulain likewise came to the ford, and he beheld the various, brilliant, manifold, wonderful feats that Ferdiad performed on high. "Thou seest yonder, O Laeg my master, the divers, bright, numerous, marvellous feats that Ferdiad performs on high, and I shall receive yon feats one after the other. And, therefore, if defeat be my lot this day, do thou prick me on and taunt me and speak evil to me, so that the more my spirit and anger shall rise in me. If, however, before me his defeat takes place, say thou so to me and praise me and speak me fair, to the end that the greater may be my courage!" "It shall surely be done so, if need be, O Cucuc," Laeg answered.
Then Cuchulain, too, girded his war-harness of battle and fight and combat about him, and performed all kinds of splendid, manifold, marvellous feats on high that day which he had not learned from any one before, neither with Scathach nor with Uathach nor with Aifè.
Ferdiad observed those feats, and he knew they would be plied against him in turn. "To what weapons shall we resort to-day, Ferdiad?" asked Cuchulain. "With thee is thy choice of weapons," Ferdiad responded. "Let us go to the 'Feat of the Ford,' then," said Cuchulain. "Aye, let us do so," answered Ferdiad. Albeit Ferdiad spoke that, he deemed it the most grievous thing whereto he could go, for he knew that in that sort Cuchulain used to destroy every hero and every battle-soldier who fought with him in the 'Feat of the Ford.'
Great indeed was the deed that was done on the ford that day. The two heroes, the two champions, the two chariot-fighters of the west of Europe, the two bright torches of valour of the Gael, the two hands of dispensing favour and of giving rewards in the west of the northern world, the two veterans of skill and the two keys of bravery of the Gael, to be brought together in encounter as from afar, through the sowing of dissension and the incitement of Ailill and Medb. Each of them was busy hurling at the other in those deeds of arms from early morning's gloaming till the middle of noon. When mid-day came, the rage of the men became wild, and each drew nearer to the other.
Thereupon Cuchulain gave one spring once from the bank of the ford till he stood upon the boss of Ferdiad macDaman's shield, seeking to reach his head and to strike it from above over the rim of the shield. Straightway Ferdiad gave the shield a blow with his left elbow, so that Cuchulain went from him like a bird onto the brink of the ford. Again Cuchulain sprang from the brink of the ford, so that he alighted upon the boss of Ferdiad macDaman's shield, that he might reach his head and strike it over the rim of the shield from above. Ferdiad gave the shield a thrust with his left knee, so that Cuchulain went from him like an infant onto the bank of the ford.
Laeg espied that. "Woe then, Cuchulain!" cried Laeg; "meseems the battle-warrior that is against thee hath shaken thee as a fond woman shakes her child. He hath washed thee as a cup is washed in a tub. He hath ground thee as a mill grinds soft malt. He hath pierced thee as a tool bores through an oak. He hath bound thee as the bindweed binds the trees. He hath pounced on thee as a hawk pounces on little birds, so that no more hast thou right or title or claim to valour or skill in arms till the very day of doom and of life, thou little imp of an elf-man!" cried Laeg.
Thereat for the third time, Cuchulain arose with the speed of the wind, and the swiftness of a swallow, and the dash of a dragon, and the strength (of a lion) into the clouds of the air, til he alighted on the boss of the shield of Ferdiad son of Daman, so as to reach his head that he might strike it from above over the rim of his shield. Then it was that the battle-warrior gave the shield a violent and powerful shake, so that Cuchulain flew from it into the middle of the ford, the same as if he had not sprung at all.
It was then the first twisting-fit of Cuchulain took place, so that a swelling and inflation filled him like breath in a bladder, until he made a dreadful, terrible, many-coloured, wonderful bow of himself, so that as big as a giant or a man of the sea was the hugely-brave warrior towering directly over Ferdiad.
Such was the closeness of the combat they made, that their heads encountered above and their feet below and their hands in the middle over the rims and bosses of the shields. Such was the closeness of the combat they made, that their shields burst and split from their rims to their centres. Such was the closeness of the combat they made, that their spears bent and turned and shivered from their tips to their rivets.
Such was the closeness of the combat they made, that the boccanach and the bananach and the sprites of the glens and the eldritch beings of the air screamed from the rims of their shields and from the guards of their swords and from the tips of their spears.
Such was the closeness of the combat they made, that they forced the river out of its bed and out of its course, so that there might have been a reclining place for a king or a queen in the middle of the ford, and not a drop of water was in it but what fell there with the trampling and slipping which the two heroes and the two battle-warriors made in the middle of the ford.
Such was the closeness of the combat they made, that the steeds of the Gael broke loose affrighted and plunging with madness and fury, so that their chains and their shackles, their traces and tethers snapped, and the women and children and pygmy-folk, the weak and the madmen among the men of Erin broke out through the camp southwestward.
At that time they were at the edge-feat of swords. It was then Ferdiad caught Cuchulain in an unguarded moment, and he gave him a thrust with his tusk-hilted blade, so that he buried it in his breast, and his blood fell into his belt, till the ford became crimsoned with the clotted blood from the battle-warrior's body. Cuchulain endured it not under Ferdiad's attack, with his death-bringing, heavy blows, and his long strokes and his mighty, middle slashes at him.
Then Cuchulain bethought him of his friends from the Faery land and of his mighty folk who would come to defend him and of his scholars to protect him, what time he would be hard pressed in the combat. It was then that Dolb and Indolb arrived to help and to succour their friend, namely Cuchulain. Then it was that Ferdiad felt the onset of the three together smiting his shield against him, and he gave all his care and attention thereto, and thence he called to mind that, when they were with Scathach and with Uathach [learning together, Dolb and Indolb used to come to help Cuchulain out of every stress wherein he was.]
Ferdiad spake: "Not alike are our foster-brothership and our comradeship O Cuchulain," quoth he. "How so, then?" asked Cuchulain. "Thy friends of the Fairy-folk have succoured thee, and thou didst not disclose them to me before," said Ferdiad. "Not easy for me were that," answered Cuchulain; "for if the magic veil be once revealed to one of the sons of Mile, none of the Tuatha De Danann will have power to practise concealment or magic. And why complainest thou here, Ferdiad?" said Cuchulain. "Thou hast a horn skin whereby to multiply feats and deeds of arms on me, and thou hast not shown me how it is closed or how it is opened." Then it was they displayed all their skill and secret cunning to one another, so that there was not a secret of either of them kept from the other except the Gae Bulga, which was Cuchulain's.
Howbeit, when the Fairy friends found Cuchulain had been wounded, each of them inflicted three great, heavy wounds on him, on Ferdiad, to wit. It was then that Ferdiad made a cast to the right, so that he slew Dolb with that goodly cast. Then followed the two woundings and the two throws that overcame him, till Ferdiad made a second throw towards Cuchulain's left, and with that throw he stretched low and killed Indolb dead on the floor of the ford. Hence it is that the story-teller sang the rann:
"Why is this called Ferdiad's Ford,
E'en though three men on it fell?
None the less it washed their spoils--
It is Dolb's and Indolb's Ford!"
When the devoted equally great sires and champions, and the hard, battle-victorious wild beasts that fought for Cuchulain had fallen, it greatly strengthened the courage of Ferdiad, so that he gave two blows for every blow of Cuchulain's. When Laeg son of Riangabair saw his lord being overcome by the crushing blows of the champion who oppressed him, Laeg began to stir up and rebuke Cuchulain, in such a way that a swelling and an inflation filled Cuchulain from top to ground, as the wind fills a spread, open banner, so that he made a dreadful, wonderful bow of himself like a skybow in a shower of rain, and he made for Ferdiad with the violence of a dragon or the strength of a blood-hound.
And Cuchulain called for the Gae Bulga from Laeg son of Riangabair. This was its nature: With the stream it was made ready, and from between the fork of the foot it was cast; the wound of a single spear it gave when entering the body, and thirty barbs had it when it opened and it could not be drawn out of a man's flesh till the flesh had been cut about it.
Thereupon Laeg came forward to the brink of the river and to the place where the fresh water was dammed, and the Gae Bulga was sharpened and set in position. He filled the pool and stopped the stream and checked the tide of the ford. Ferdiad's charioteer watched the work, for Ferdiad had said to him early in the morning: "Now gilla, do thou hold back Laeg from me to-day, and I will hold back Cuchulain from thee." "This is a pity," quoth the henchman; "no match for him am I; for a man to combat a hundred is he, and that am I not. Still; however slight his help, it shall not come to his lord past me."
He was then watching his brother thus making the dam till he filled the pools and went to set the Gae Bulga downwards. It was then that Id went up and released the stream and opened the dam and undid the fixing of the Gae Bulga. Cuchulain became deep purple and red all over when he saw the setting undone on the Gae Bulga. He sprang from the top of the ground so that he alighted light and quick on the rim of Ferdiad's shield. Ferdiad gave a strong shake to the shield, so that he hurled Cuchulain the measure of nine paces out to the westward over the ford.
Then Cuchulain called and shouted to Laeg to set about preparing the Gae Bulga for him. Laeg hastened to the pool and began the work. Id ran and opened the dam and released it before the stream. Laeg sprang at his brother and they grappled on the spot. Laeg threw Id and handled him sorely, for he was loath to use weapons upon him. Ferdiad pursued Cuchulain westwards over the ford. Cuchulain sprang on the rim of the shield. Ferdiad shook the shield, so that he sent Cuchulain the space of nine paces eastwards over the ford.
Cuchulain called and shouted to Laeg. Laeg attempted to come, but Ferdiad's charioteer let him not, so that Laeg turned on him and left him on the sedgy bottom of the ford. He gave him many a heavy blow with clenched fist on the face and countenance, so that he broke his mouth and his nose and put out his eyes and his sight. And forthwith Laeg left him and filled the pool and checked the stream and stilled the noise of the river's voice, and set in position the Gae Bulga. After some time Ferdiad's charioteer arose from his death-cloud, and set his hand on his face and countenance, and he looked away towards the ford of combat and saw Laeg fixing the Gae Bulga. He ran again to the pool and made a breach in the dike quickly and speedily, so that the river burst out in its booming, bounding, bellying, bank-breaking billows making its own wild course. Cuchulain became purple and red all over when he saw the setting of the Gae Bulga had been disturbed, and for the third time he sprang from the top of the ground and alighted on the edge of Ferdiad's shield, so as to strike him over the shield from above. Ferdiad gave a blow with his left knee against the leather of the bare shield, so that Cuchulain was thrown into the waves of the ford.
Thereupon Ferdiad gave three severe woundings to Cuchulain. Cuchulain cried and shouted loudly to Laeg to make ready the Gae Bulga for him. Laeg attempted to get near it, but Ferdiad's charioteer prevented him. Then Laeg grew very wroth at his brother and he made a spring at him, and he closed his long, full-valiant hands over him, so that he quickly threw him to the ground and straightway bound him. And then he went from him quickly and courageously, so that he filled the pool and stayed the stream and set the Gae Bulga. And he cried out to Cuchulain that it was served, for it was not to be discharged without a quick word of warning before it. Hence it is that Laeg cried out:--
"Ware! beware the Gae Bulga,
Battle-winning Culann's hound!" [et reliqua]
Then it was that Cuchulain let fly the white Gae Bulga from the fork of his irresistible right foot. Ferdiad prepared for the feat according to the testimony thereof. He lowered his shield, so that the spear went over its edge into the watery, water-cold river. And he looked at Cuchulain, and he saw all his various, venomous feats made ready, and he knew not to which of them he should first give answer, whether to the 'Fist's breast-spear,' or to the 'Wild shield's broad-spear,' or to the 'Short spear from the middle of the palm,' or to the white Gae Bulga over the fair, watery river.
Ferdiad heard the Gae Bulga called for. He thrust his shield down to protect the lower part of his body. Cuchulain gripped the short spear, cast it off the palm of his hand over the rim of the shield and over the edge of the corselet and horn-skin, so that its farther half was visible after piercing his heart in his bosom. Ferdiad gave a thrust of his shield upwards to protect the upper part of his body, though it was help that came too late. The gilla set the Gae Bulga down the stream, and Cuchulain caught it in the fork of his foot, and threw the Gae Bulga as far as he could cast underneath at Ferdiad, so that it passed through the strong, thick, iron apron of wrought iron, and broke in three parts the huge, goodly stone the size of a millstone, so that it cut its way through the body's protection into him, till every joint and every limb was filled with its barbs.
"Ah, that now sufficeth," sighed Ferdiad: "I am fallen of that! But, yet one thing more: mightily didst thou drive with thy right foot. And 'twas not fair of thee for me to fall by thy hand." And he yet spake and uttered these words:
"O Cu of grand feats,
Unfairly I'm slain!
Thy guilt clings to me;
My blood falls on thee!
"No meed for the wretch
Who treads treason's gap.
Now weak is my voice;
Ah, gone is my bloom!
"My ribs' armour bursts,
My heart is all gore;
I battled not well;
I'm smitten, O Cu!
Thereupon Cuchulain hastened towards Ferdiad and clasped his two arms about him, and bore him with all his arms and his armour and his dress northwards over the ford, that so it should be with his face to the north of the ford the triumph took place and not to the south of the ford with the men of Erin. Cuchulain laid Ferdiad there on the ground, and a cloud and a faint and a swoon came over Cuchulain there by the head of Ferdiad. Laeg espied it, and the men of Erin all arose for the attack upon him. "Come, O Cucuc," cried Laeg; "arise now from thy trance, for the men of Erin will come to attack us, and it is not single combat they will allow us, now that Ferdiad son of Daman son of Darè is fallen by thee." "What availeth it me to arise, O gilla," moaned Cuchulain, "now that this one is fallen by my hand?" In this wise the gilla spake and he uttered these words and Cuchulain responded:
Laeg: "Now arise, O Emain's Hound;
Now most fits thee courage high.
Ferdiad hast thou thrown-- of hosts--
God's fate! How thy fight was hard!"
Cuchulain: What avails me courage now?
I'm oppressed with rage and grief,
For the deed that I have don
On his body sworded sore!"
Laeg: It becomes thee not to weep;
Fitter for thee to exult!
Yon red-speared one thee hath left
Plaintful, wounded, steeped in gore!"
Cuchulain: "Even had he cleaved my leg,
And one hand had severed too;
Woe, that Ferdiad-- who rode steeds--
Shall not ever be in life!"
Laeg: "Liefer far what's come to pass,
To the maidens of Red Branch;
He to die, thou to remain;
They grudge not that ye should part!"
Cuchulain: "From the day I Cualnge left,
Seeking high and splendid Medb,
Carnage has she had-- with fame--
Of her warriors whom I've slain!"
Laeg: "Thou hast had no sleep in peace,
In pursuit of thy great Táin;
Though thy troop was few and small,
Oft thou wouldst rise at early morn!"
Cuchulain began to lament and bemoan Ferdiad, and he spake the words:
"Alas, O Ferdiad," spake he, "'twas thine ill fortune thou didst not take counsel with any of those that knew my real deeds of valour and arms, before we met in clash of battle! Unhappy for thee that Laeg son of Riangabair did not make thee blush in regard to our comradeship! Unhappy for thee that the truly faithful warning of Fergus thou didst not take! Unhappy for thee that dear, trophied, triumphant, battle-victorious Conall counselled thee not in regard to our comradeship! For those men would not have spoken in obedience to the messages or desires or orders or false words of promise of the fair-haired women of Connacht. For well do those men know that there will not be born a being that will perform deeds so tremendous and so great among the Connachtmen as I, till the very day of doom and of everlasting life, whether at plying of spear and sword, at playing at draughts and chess, at driving of steeds and chariots."
"There shall not be found the hand of a hero that will wound warrior's flesh, like cloud-coloured Ferdiad! There shall not be heard from the gap the cry of red-mouthed Badb to the winged, shade-speckled flocks! There shall not be one that will contend for Cruachan that will obtain covenants equal to thine, till the very day of doom and of life henceforward, O red-cheeked son of Daman!" said Cuchulain. Then it was that Cuchulain arose and stood over Ferdiad: "Ah, Ferdiad," spake Cuchulain, "greatly have the men of Erin deceived and abandoned thee, to bring thee to contend and do battle with me. For no easy thing is it to contend and do battle with me on the Raid for the Kine of Cualnge! Thus he spake, and he uttered these words:
"Ah, Ferdiad, betrayed to death.
Our last meeting, oh, how sad!
Thou to die I to remain.
Ever sad our long farewell!
"When we over yonder dwelt
With our Scathach, steadfast, true,
This we thought till end of time,
That our friendship ne'er would end!
"Dear to me thy noble blush;
Dear thy comely, perfect form;
Dear thine eye, blue-grey and clear;
Dear thy wisdom and thy speech!
"Never strode to rending fight,
Never wrath and manhood held,
Nor slung shield across broad back,
One like thee, Daman's red son!
Never have I met till now,
Since I Oenfer Aifè slew,
One thy peer in deeds of arms,
Never have I found, Ferdiad!
Finnabair, Medb's daughter fair,
Beauteous, lovely though she be,
As a gad round sand or stones,
She was shown to thee, Ferdiad!"
Then Cuchulain turned to gaze on Ferdiad. "Ah, my master Laeg," cried Cuchulain, "now strip Ferdiad and take his armour and garments off him, that I may see the brooch for the sake of which he entered on the combat and fight with me." Laeg came up and stripped Ferdiad. He took his armour and garments off him and he saw the brooch and he began to lament and complain over Ferdiad, and he spake these words:
"Alas, golden brooch;
Ferdiad of the hosts,
O good smiter, strong,
Victorious thy hand!
"Thy hair blond and curled,
A wealth fair and grand.
Thy soft, leaf-shaped belt
Around thee till death!
"Our comradeship dear;
Thy noble eye's gleam;
Thy golden-rimmed shield;
Thy sword, treasures worth!
"Thy white-silver torque
Thy noble arm binds.
Thy chess-board worth wealth;
Thy fair, ruddy cheek!
"To fall by my hand,
I own was not just!
'Twas no noble fight.
Alas, golden brooch!
"Come, O Laeg my master," cried Cuchulain; "now cut open Ferdiad and take the Gae Bulga out, because I may not be without my weapons." Laeg came and cut open Ferdiad and he took the Gae Bulga out of him. And Cuchulain saw his weapons bloody and red-stained by the side of Ferdiad, and he uttered these words:--
"O Ferdiad, in gloom we meet.
Thee I see both red and pale.
I myself with unwashed arms;
Thou liest in thy bed of gore!
"Were we yonder in the East,
Scathach and our Uathach near,
There would not be pallid lips
Twixt us two, and arms of strife!
"Thus spake Scathach trenchantly (?),
Words of warning, strong and stern.
'Go ye all to furious fight;
German, blue-eyed, fierce will come!'
"Unto Ferdiad then I spake,
And to Lugaid generous,
To the son of fair Baetan,
German we would go to meet!
"We came to the battle-rock,
Over Lake Linn Formait's shore.
And four hundred men we brought
From the Isles of the Athissech!
"As I stood and Ferdiad brave
At the gate of German's fort,
I slew Rinn the son of Nel;
He slew Ruad son of Fornel!
Ferdiad slew upon the slope
Blath, of Colba 'Red-sword' son.
Lugaid, fierce and swift, then slew
Mugairne of the Tyrrhene Sea!
"I slew, after going in,
Four times fifty grim, wild men.
Ferdiad killed-- a furious horde--
Dam Dremenn and Dam Dilenn!
"We laid waste shrewd German's fort
O'er the broad, bespangled sea.
German we brought home alive
To our Scathach of broad shield!
"Then our famous nurse made fast
Our blood-pact of amity,
That our angers should not rise
'Mongst the tribes of noble Elg!
"Sad the morn, a day in March,
Which struck down weak Daman's son.
Woe is me, the friend is fall'n
Whom I pledged in red blood's draught!
"Were it there I saw thy death,
Midst the great Greeks' warrior-bands,
I'd not live on after thee,
But together we would die!
"Woe, what us befel therefrom,
Us, dear Scathach's fosterlings,
Me sore wounded, red with blood,
Thee no more to drive thy car!
"Woe, what us befel therefrom,
Us, dear Scathach's fosterlings,
Me sore wounded, stiff with gore,
Thee to die the death for aye!
"Woe, what us befel therefrom,
Us, dear Scathach's fosterlings,
Thee in death, me, strong, alive.
Valour is an angry strife!"
"Good, O Cucuc," spake Laeg, "let us leave this ford now; too long are we here!" "Aye, let us leave it, O my master Laeg," replied Cuchulain. "But every combat and battle I have fought seems a game and a sport to me compared with the combat and battle of Ferdiad." Thus he spake, and he uttered these words:
All was play, all was sport,
Till came Ferdiad to the ford!
One task for both of us,
Equal our reward.
Our kind, gentle nurse
Chose him over all!
All was play, all was sport,
Till came Ferdiad to the ford!
One our life, one our fear,
One our skill in arms.
Shields gave Scathach twain
To Ferdiad and me!
All was play, all was sport,
Till came Ferdiad to the ford!
Dear the shaft of gold
I smote on the ford.
Bull-chief of the tribes,
Braver he than all!
Only games and only sport,
Till came Ferdiad to the ford!
Lion furious, flaming, fierce;
Swollen wave that wrecks like doom!
Only games and only sport,
Till came Ferdiad to the ford!
Loved Ferdiad seemed to me
After me would live for aye!
Yesterday, a mountain's size--
He is but a shade to-day!
Three things countless on the Táin
Which have fallen by my hand:
Hosts of cattle, men and steeds
I have slaughtered on all sides!
Though the hosts were e'er so great,
That came out of Cruachan wild,
More than third and less than half,
Slew I in my direful sport!
Never trod in battle's ring;
Banba nursed not on her breast;
Never sprang from sea or land,
King's son that had larger fame!"
Thus far the Death of Ferdiad.
Then came certain men of the Ulstermen thither to help and succour Cuchulain. Before all, Senoll Uathach and the two sons of Gegè: Muridach and Cotreb, to wit. And they bore him to the streams and rivers of Conalle Murthemni, to rub and to wash his stabs and his cuts, his sores and his many wounds in the face of these streams and rivers. For the Tuatha De Danann were wont to put herbs and plants of healing and a curing charm in the waters and rivers of the territory of Conalle Murthemni, to help and to succour Cuchulain, so that the streams were speckled and green-topped therewith.
Accordingly these are the names of the healing rivers of Cuchulain:
Sas, Buan, Buas, Bithslan, Findglas ('Whitewater'), Gleoir, Glenamain, Bedg, Tadg, Telameit, Rind, Bir, Brenidè, Dichaem, Muach, Miliuc, Cumung, Cuilind, Gainemain, Drong, Delt, Dubglas ('Blackwater').
Then said the men of Erin to macRoth the chief runner, to go watch and keep guard for them at Sliab Fuait, to the end that the Ulstermen might not come upon them without warning and unobserved. Thereupon macRoth went southwards as far as Sliab Fuait. MacRoth was not long there when he saw something: a lone chariot on Sliab Fuait making from the north straight towards him. A fierce man, stark-naked, in that chariot coming towards him, without arms, without armour at all save an iron spit in his hand. In equal manner he goaded his driver and his horses. And it seemed to him that he would never in his life come up to the hosts.
And macRoth hastened to tell this news at the fort where Ailill and Medb and Fergus were and the nobles of the men of Erin. Ailill asked tidings of him on his arrival. "Aye, macRoth," inquired Ailill; "hast thou seen any of the Ulstermen on the track of the host this day?" "That, truly, I know not," answered macRoth; "but I saw something: a lone chariot coming over Sliab Fuait straight towards us. A wild, stark-naked man in the chariot, without arms or armour at all, except for an iron spit in his hand. In equal manner he prodded his driver and his steeds. It seemed to him he would never in his life come up to the host."
"Who, thinkest thou, might it be, O Fergus?" asked Ailill. "Meseems," Fergus answered, "it is Cethern son of Fintan that came there. Fergus indeed spoke true, that it was Fintan's son Cethern that was come there. And so Cethern son of Fintan came on them, and the camp and the garrison were confounded and he wounded all around him in every direction and on all sides and they wounded him in every direction and on all sides.
And then he left them, and his entrails and vitals were outside of him. He came to the place where was Cuchulain, to be healed and cured, and he demanded a physician of Cuchulain to heal and to cure him. "Come, master Laeg!" cried Cuchulain. "Arise, away with thee to the garrison and camp of the men of Erin and summon the physicians to come out to cure Cethern macFintain. I give my word, e'en though it be under the ground or in a well-shut house they are, I myself will bring death and destruction and slaughter upon them before this hour to-morrow, if they come not to minister to Cethern."
Laeg went his way to the quarters and camp of the men of Erin, and he called upon the physicians of the men of Erin to go forth to cure Cethern son of Fintan. Truth to tell, the physicians of the men of Erin were unwilling to go cure their adversary, their enemy and their stranger-foe. But they feared Cuchulain would work death and destruction and slaughter upon them if they went not. And so they went. As one man of them after the other came to him, Cethern son of Fintan showed him his stabs and his cuts, his sores and his bloody wounds. Each man of them that said he would not live and could not be healed, Cethern son of Fintan struck him a blow with his right fist in the front of his forehead, so that he drove the brains out through the windows of his ears and the seams of his skull. Howbeit Cethern son of Fintan killed them till there had come fifteen physicians of the physicians of the men of Erin.
The historian hath declared in proof thereof:
"These the physicians of the Táin,
Who by Cethern--bane--did fall.
No light thing, in floods of tribes,
That their names are known to me:
"Littè, Luaidren, known o'er sea,
Lot and Luaimnech, 'White-hand' Lonn,
Latheirne skilful, also Lonn,
Laisrè, Slanoll 'That cures all.'
"Dubthach, Fintan's blameless son
Fintan, master Firfial, too,
Mainè, Boethan 'Gives not pain,'
Eke his pupil, Boethan's son.
"These the physicians, five and ten,
Struck to death by Cethern, true;
I recall them in my day;
They are in the physicians' roll!"
Yea, even the fifteenth physician, it was but the tip of a blow that reached him. Yet he fell lifeless of the great stun between the bodies of the other physicians and lay there for a long space and time. Ithall, physician of Ailill and Medb, was his name.
Thereafter Cethern son of Fintan asked another physician of Cuchulain to heal and to cure him. "Come, master Laeg," quoth Cuchulain, "go for me to Fingin the seer-physician, at 'Fingin's Grave-mound' at Leccan ('the Brow') of Sliab Fuait, him that is physician to Conchobar. Bid him come to heal Cethern son of Fintan."
Laeg hastened to Fingin the seer-physician at 'Fingin's Grave-mound' at Leccan of Sliab Fuait, to the physician of Conchobar. And he told him to go cure Cethern son of Fintan. Thereupon Fingin the prophet-physician came. As soon as he was come, Cethern son of Fintan showed him his stabs and his cuts, his sores and his bloody wounds.
["Look at this bloody wound for me, O Fingin," said Cethern.] Fingin looked at the bloody wound. "Why, it is a slight, unwillingly given wound we behold here," said the physician. "A lone man came upon me there; bushy hair on him; a blue mantle wrapped around him; a silver brooch in the mantle over his breast; an oval shield with plaited rim he bore; a five-pointed spear in his hand; a pronged spare spear at his side. He gave this bloody wound. He bore away a slight wound from me too." "Why, we know that man!" cried Cuchulain; "'twas Illann Ilarchless ('Illann of many feats') son of Fergus macRoig. And he would not wish that thou shouldst fall by his hand, but he gave thee this mock-blow that the men of Erin might not have it to say it was to betray them or to forsake them if he gave it not."
"Now look at this bloody wound for me, O Fingin my master," said Cethern. Fingin looked closely into the bloody wound. "Why, 'tis a woman's wanton deed of arms we behold here," said the physician. "Aye, that is true then," quoth Cethern; "a woman came upon me there by herself. A woman, beautiful, fair-faced, long-cheeked, tall; a golden-yellow head of hair, down to the top of her two shoulder-blades she wore; a smock of royal sammet next to her white skin; two birds of gold on her shoulders; a purple cloak without other colour she had around her; a brooch of gold in the cloak over her bosom; a straight, ridged spear, red-flaming in her hand. She it was that gave me this bloody wound. She bore away a slight wound from me too." "Ah, but we know that woman," cried Cuchulain; "Medb daughter of Eocho Fedlech, daughter of the High King of Erin; it is she that came unto us in that dress. A victory and triumph and trophy she had considered it hadst thou fallen at her hands."
"Look at this bloody wound for me too, O Fingin my master," said Cethern. Fingin looked at the bloody wound. "Why, the feat of arms of two warriors is this," said the physician. "Yea, that is true," answered Cethern. "There came two men-at-arms upon me in that place; two, with bushy hair on them; two blue cloaks wrapped around them; brooches of silver in the cloaks over their breasts; a necklace of all-white silver around the neck of each of them." "Indeed we know that pair," quoth Cuchulain; "Oll and Othinè they, of the bodyguard of Ailill and Medb; they never go to a hosting, to battle or combat, but when the wounding of a man is certain. They would have held it for victory and triumph and a boast hadst thou fallen at their hands."
"Look on this bloody wound also for me, O Fingin my master," said Cethern. Fingin looked closely at the bloody wound. "There came upon me a pair of young warriors of the Fian," said Cethern; "a splendid, manly appearance they had. Each of them cast a spear at me. I crave this spear through the one of them." Fingin looked into the bloody wound. "Why, this blood is all black," quoth the physician; "through thy heart those spears passed so that they formed a cross of themselves through thy heart; and I prophesy no cure here, but I would get thee some healing plants and curing charms that they destroy thee not forthwith." "Ah, but we know them, that pair," quoth Cuchulain; "Bun and Mecconn ('Stump' and 'Root') are they, of the bodyguard of Ailill and Medb. It was their hope that thou shouldst fall at their hands."
"Look at this bloody wound for me, too, O Fingin my master," said Cethern. Fingin examined the bloody wound "Why, it is the red rush of the two sons of Ri Cailè ('the King of the Woods') that is here," said the physician. "Aye 'tis so," replied Cethern; "there attacked me there two fair-faced, dark-browed youths, huge, with diadems of gold on their heads. Two green mantles folded about them; two pins of bright silver on the mantles over their breasts; two five-pronged spears in their hands." "Why, near each other are the bloody wounds they gave thee," said the physician; "into thy gullet they went, so that the points of the spears struck one another within thee, and none the easier is it to work thy cure here." "We know that pair," quoth Cuchulain; "noble youths of Medb's great household, Broen and Brudni, are they, two sons of Ri teora Soillse ('the King of the three Lights'), that is, the two sons of the King of the Woods. It had been victory and triumph and a boast for them, hadst thou fallen at their hands."
"Look at this bloody wound for me, too, my good Fingin," said Cethern. Fingin looked into the bloody wound. "The joint deed of two brothers is here," said the physician. "'Tis indeed true," replied Cethern. "There came upon me two leading, king's warriors. Yellow hair upon them; dark-grey mantles with fringes, wrapped around them; leaf-shaped brooches of silvered bronze in the mantles over their breasts; broad, grey lances in their hands." "Ah, but we know that pair," quoth Cuchulain; "Cormac Colomon rig ('King's pillar') is the one, and Cormac son of Mael Foga, of the bodyguard of Ailill and Medb (the other). What they sought was that thou shouldst fall at their hands."
"Look at this bloody wound for me too, O Fingin my master," said Cethern. Fingin looked into that bloody wound. "The assault of two brothers is here," said the physician. "Aye then, 'tis true," answered Cethern. "There came upon me two tender youths there; very much alike were they; curly dark hair on the one of them; curly yellow hair on the other; two green cloaks wrapped around them; two bright-silver brooches in the cloaks over their breasts; two tunics of smooth yellow silk next their skin; two white-hilted swords at their belts; two bright shields having the likenesses of beasts in white silver they bore; two five-pronged spears with veins of all-white silver in their hands." "Ah, but we know that pair," quoth Cuchulain; "Manè 'Like to his mother' and Manè 'Like to his father,' two sons of Ailill and Medb; and it would be matter of victory, triumph and boasting to them, hadst thou fallen at their hands.
"Look at this bloody wound for me, too, O Fingin my master," said Cethern. "There came upon me a pair of young warriors there. A brilliant appearance, stately-tall and manlike, they had; wonderful garments from far-away countries upon them. Each of them thrust the spear he had at me. Then I thrust this spear through each of them." Fingin looked into the bloody wound. "Cunning are the bloody wounds they inflicted upon thee," said the physician; "they have severed the strings of thy heart within thee, so that thy heart rolls about in thy breast like an apple in motion or like a ball of yarn in an empty bag, and there is no string at all to support it, and no healing can I effect here." "Ah, but we know those twain," quoth Cuchulain; "a pair of champions from Norway who have been sent particularly by Ailill and Medb to slay thee; for not often does one ever issue alive from their combats, and it would be their will that thou shouldst fall at their hands."
"Look upon this bloody wound for me too, my good Fingin," said Cethern. Fingin looked at that bloody wound. "Why, the alternate woundings of a son and his father we behold here," answered the physician. "Yea it is so," quoth Cethern; "two tall men, red as torches, came upon me there, with diadems of burnished gold upon them; kingly garments they wore; gold-hilted, hammered swords at their girdles, with scabbards of pure-white silver, with supports of mottled gold outside upon them. "Ah but we know that pair," quoth Cuchulain; "Ailill and his son are they, Manè 'That embraces the traits of them all.' They would deem it victory and triumph and a boast shouldst thou fall at their hands."
Thus far the "Bloody Wounds" of the Táin.
"Speak, O Fingin prophetic physician," spake Cethern son of Fintan; "what verdict and what counsel givest me now?" "This verily is what I say to thee," replied Fingin the prophetic physician: "Count not on thy big cows for yearlings this year; for if thou dost, it is not thou that will enjoy them, and no profit will they bring thee." "This is the judgement and counsel the other surgeons did give me, and certain it is it brought them neither advantage nor profit, and they fell at my hands; and none the more will it bring thee advantage or profit, and thou shalt fall at my hands!" And he gave Fingin a strong, stiff kick with his foot, and sent him between the chariot's two wheels. "Oh, but vicious is the kick from the old warrior," cried Cuchulain. Hence, from this saying, is the name Uachtar Lua ('the Height of the Kick') in the land of Ross from then until this day.
Nevertheless Fingin the prophet-physician gave his choice to Cethern son of Fintan: A long illness for him and afterwards to obtain help and succour, or a red healing for the space of three days and three nights, so that he might then employ his strength on his enemies. What Cethern son of Fintan chose was a red healing for the space of three days and three nights, to the end that he might then vent his anger and strength on his enemies. For what he said was that there would not be found after him any one he would rather have vindicate or avenge him than himself.
Thereupon Fingin the prophetic physician asked of Cuchulain a vat of marrow wherewith to heal and to cure Cethern son of Fintan. Cuchulain proceeded to the camp and entrenchment of the men of Erin, and whatsoever he found of herds and flocks and droves there he took away with him. And he made a marrow-mesh of their flesh and their bones and their skins; and Cethern son of Fintan was placed in the marrow-bath till the end of three days and three nights. And his flesh began to drink in the marrow-bath about him and the marrow-bath entered in within his stabs and his cuts, his sores and his many wounds. Thereafter he arose from the marrow-bath at the end of three days and three nights. It was thus Cethern arose, with a slab of the chariot pressed to his belly so that his entrails and bowels would not drop out of him.
That was the time when his wife came from the north, from Dûn da Benn ('Fort of the two Gables'), and she brought his sword with her, even Finna daughter of Eocho. Cethern son of Fintan seized his arms and proceeded to attack the men of Erin. But this is to be added: They sent a warning before him; Ithall, physician of Ailill and Medb, had remained as one dead of the great stun from the blow of Gethern among the bodies of the other physicians for a long space and time [and he, the physician that had alone escaped from Cethern, brought the alarm to the camp.]
"Hark, ye men of Erin," shouted the physician; "Cethern son of Fintan comes to attack you, now that he has been healed and cured by Fingin the prophetic physician, and take ye heed of him!" Thereat the men of Erin in fear put Ailill's dress and his golden shawl and his regal diadem on the pillar-stone in Crich Ross, that it might be thereon that Cethern son of Fintan should first give vent to his anger on his arrival.
Soon Cethern saw those things, namely Ailill's dress and his golden shawl around the standing-stone in Crich Ross, and he, being unaware and witless, conceived it to be Ailill himself that was in it. And he made a rush at it like a blast of wind and crave the sword through the stone pillar till it went up to its pommel. "Deceit is here," cried Cethern son of Fintan, "and on me have ye worked this deceit. And I swear an oath, till there be found among ye of the men of Erin one that will put yon royal dress about him and the golden shawl, I will not stay my hand from them, slaughtering and destroying withal!"
Manè Andoe son of Ailill and Medb heard that, and he put his father's royal raiment about him and the golden shawl and the diadem on his head, and he dashed off through the midst of the men of Erin. Cethern son of Fintan pursued him closely and hurled his shield, so that the chiselled rim of the shield crave him to the ground, with chariot, driver, and horses. When the men of Erin saw that, they surrounded Cethern on every side, so that he fell at their hands in the strait wherein he was. Wherefore 'Cethern's Strait-Fight and the Bloody Wounds of Cethern' is the name of this tale.
His wife, Finna daughter of Eocho Salbuidê ('Yellow-heel') stood over him and she was in great sorrow, and she made the funeral-song below:
"I care for naught, care for naught;
Ne'er more man's hand 'neath my head,
Since was dug the earthy bed,
Cethern's bold, of Dun da Benn!
"Kingly Cethern, Fintan's son;
Few were with him on the ford.
Connacht's men with all their host,
For nine hours he left them not!
"Arms he bore not--this an art--
But a red, two-headed pike;
With it slaughtered he the host,
While his anger still was fresh!
"Felled by double-headed pike,
Cethern's hand held, with their crimes,.
Seven times fifty of the hosts,
Fintan's son brought to their graves!
"Willa-loo, oh, witla-loo!
Woman's d wandering through the mist.
Worse it is for him that's dead.
She that lives may find a man!
"Never I shall take a man
Of the hosts of this good world;
Never shall I sleep with man;
Never shall my man with wife!
Dear the homestead, 'Horse-head's Dûn,'
Where our hosts were wont to go.
Dear the water, soft and sweet;
Dear the isle, 'Isle of the Red!'
Sad the care, oh, sad the care,
Cualnge's Cow-raid brought on me:
Cethern, Fintan's son, to keen.
Oh that he had shunned his woe!
Great the doings, these, oh, great,
And the deed that here was done:
I bewailing him till death,
Him that has been smitten down!
Finna, Eocho's daughter, I,
Found a fight of circling spears.
Had my champion had his arms:
By his side a slaughtered heap!"
Fintan, himself the son of Niall Niamglonnach ('of the brilliant Exploits') from Dûn da Benn, was father of Cethern son of Fintan. And he came to save the honour of Ulster and to avenge his son upon the hosts. Thrice fifty was his number. And thus it was they came, and two spear-heads on each shaft with them, a spear-head on the top and a spear-head at the butt, so that it made no difference whether they wounded the hosts with the points or with the butts. They offered three battles to the hosts. And thrice their own number fell at their hands, and there fell also the people of Fintan son of Niall, all excepting Fintan's son Crimthann alone. This one was saved under a canopy of shields by Ailill and Medb.
Then said the men of Erin, it would be no disgrace for Fintan son of Niall to withdraw from the camp and quarters, and they would give up Crimthann son of Fintan to him, and then the hosts would fall back a day's march to the north again; and that he should cease from his deeds of arms against the hosts till he would come to encounter them on the day of the great battle at the place where the four grand provinces of Erin would clash at Garech and Ilgarech in the battle of the Cattle-reaving of Cualnge, as was foretold by the druids of the men of Erin. Fintan son of Niall consented to that, and they gave over his son to him. He withdrew from the camp and station, and the host marched a day's journey back to the north again, to stop and cease their advance.
In this manner they found each man of the people of Fintan son of Niall Niamglonnach and each man of the men of Erin, with the lips and the nose of each of them in the teeth and tusks of the other. The men of Erin gave thought to that: "This is a tooth-fight for us," said they; "the tooth-fight of Fintan's people and of Fintan himself." So this is the 'Tooth-fight' of Fintan.
It was then came to them great Menn son of Salcholga, he from Renna ('the Waterways') of the Boyne in the north. Twelve men with many-pointed weapons, that was his number. It was thus they came, and two spearheads on each shaft with them, a spear-head on the top and a spearhead at the butt, so that it made no difference whether they wounded the hosts with the points or with the butts.
They offered three attacks upon the hosts. Three times their own number fell at their hands and there fell twelve men of the people of Menn. But Menn himself was sorely wounded in the strait, so that blood ran crimson on him. Then said the men of Erin: "Red is this shame," said they, "for Menn son of Salcholga, that his people, should be slain and destroyed and he himself wounded till blood ran crimson red upon him." Hence here is the 'Reddening Shame of Menn.'
Then said the men of Erin, it would be no dishonour for Menn son of Salcholga to leave the camp and quarters, and that the hosts would go a day's journey back to the north again, and that Menn should cease his weapon-feats on the hosts till Conchobar arose out of his 'Pains' and battle would be offered them at Garech and Ilgarech, as the druids and soothsayers and the knowers of the men of Erin had foretold it.
Menn son of Salcholga agreed to that, to leave the camp and halting-place. And the hosts fell back a day's march for to rest and wait, and Menn went his way to his own land.
Then came the charioteers of the Ulstermen to them. Thrice fifty was their number. They offered three battles to the hosts. Thrice their number fell at their hands, and the charioteers themselves fell on the field whereon they stood. Hence this here is called the 'Accoutrement of the Charioteers [with stones.]'
Rochad Rigderg ('Red-king') son of Fathemon, was of Ulster. Thrice fifty warriors was his number, and he took possession of a hill fronting the hosts. Finnabair, daughter of Ailill and Medb, perceived that and she went to speak to her mother thereof, even to Medb. "Truly have I loved yonder warrior for a long time," said she; "and it is he is my sweetheart, and mine own choice one in wooing." "An thou hast so loved him, daughter," quoth Ailill and Medb, "sleep with him this night and crave for us a truce of him for the hosts, until he encounters us on the day of the great battle when four of the grand provinces of Erin will meet at Garech and Ilgarech in the battle of the Foray of Cualnge." Rochad son of Fathemon accepted the offer and that night the damsel slept with him.
An Under-king of Munster that was in the camp heard the tale. He went to his people to speak of it. "Yonder maiden was plighted to me on fifteen hostages once long ago," said he; "and it is for this I have now come on this hosting." Now wherever it happened that the seven Under-kings of Munster were, what they all said was that it was for this they were come. "Why," said they, "should we not go to avenge our wife and our honour on the Manè, who are watching and guarding the rear of the army at Imlech in Glendamrach ('Kettle-glen's navel')?"
This was the course they resolved upon. And with their seven divisions of thirty hundreds they arose. Ailill arose with thirty hundred after them. Medb arose with her thirty hundred. The sons of Maga with theirs and the Leinstermen and the Munstermen and the people of Tara. And a mediation was made between them so that each of them sat down near the other and hard by his arms.
Howbeit before the intervention took place, eight hundred very valiant warriors of them had fallen. Finnabair, daughter of Ailill and Medb, had tidings that so great a number of the men of Erin had fallen for her sake and on account of her. And her heart broke in her breast even as a nut, through shame and disgrace, so that Finnabair Slebe ('Finnabair of the Mount') is the name of the place where she fell, died and was buried.
Then said the men of Erin, "White is this battle," said they, "for Rochad son of Fathemon, in that eight hundred exceeding brave warriors fell for his sake and on his account and he himself goes safe and whole to his country and land without blood-shedding or reddening on him." Hence this is the 'White-fight' of Rochad.
Then came to them Iliach son of Cass son of Bacc son of Ross Ruad son of Rudraige. It was told him that the four grand provinces of Erin even then laid waste and invaded the lands of Ulster and of the Picts and of Cualnge from Monday at Summer's end till the beginning of Spring. He then conceived a plan in his mind and he made perfect his plan privily with his people. "What counsel were better for me to make than to go and attack the men of Erin and to have my victory over them, and thus avenge the honour of Ulster. And I care not though I should fall myself there thereafter."
And this is the counsel he followed. His two withered, mangy, sorrel nags that were upon the strand hard by the fort were led to him. Thus he mounted his chariot, without either covers or cushions. His big, rough, pale-grey shield of iron he carried upon him, with its rim of hard silver around it. He wore his rough, grey-hilted, huge smiting sword at his left side. He placed his two rickety-headed, nicked, blunt, rusted spears by his side in the chariot. His folk furnished his chariot around him with cobbles and boulders and huge clumps.
In such wise he fared forth to assail the men of Erin. And thus he came, and the spittle from his gaping mouth trickling down through the chariot under him. "Truly it would be well for us," said the men of Erin, "if this were the manner in which all the Ulstermen came to us on the plain."
Dochè son of Maga met him and bade him welcome. "Welcome is thy coming, O Iliach," spake Dochè son of Maga. "Truly spoken I esteem that welcome," answered Iliach; "but do thou for the sake of that welcome come to me when now, alas, my deeds of arms will be over and my warlike vigour will have vanished, so that thou be the one to cut off my head and none other of the men of Erin. However, my sword shall remain with thee for thine own friend, even for Loegaire Buadach!
He assailed the men of Erin with his weapons till he had made an end of them. And when weapons failed he assailed the men of Erin with cobbles and boulders and huge clumps of earth. And when these weapons failed him he spent his rage on the man that was nearest him of the men of Erin, and bruised him grievously between his fore-arms and his sides and the palms of his hands, till he made a marrow-mass of him, of flesh and bones and sinews and skin.
Hence in memory thereof, these two masses of marrow still live on side by side, the marrow-mass that Cuchulain made of the bones of the Ulstermen's cattle for the healing of Cethern son of Fintan, and the marrow-mass that Iliach made of the bones of the men of Erin. Wherefore this was one of the three innumerable things of the Tain, the number of them that fell at the hands of Iliach. So that this is the 'Clumpfight' of Iliach. It is for this reason it is called the 'Clump-fight' of Iliach, because with cobbles and boulders and messy clumps he made his fight.
Thereafter Dochè son of Maga met him. "Is not this Iliach?" asked Dochè son of Maga. "It is truly I," Iliach gave answer; "and come to me now and cut off my head and let my sword remain with thee for thy friend, for Loegaire Buadach ('the Victorious')." Dochè came near him and gave him a blow with the sword so that he severed his head. Thus to this point, the 'Clump-fight' of Iliach.
This Amargin was the son of Cass who was son of Bacc who was son of Ross Ruad ('the Red') who was son of Rudraige. He came upon the warriors going over Taltiu westward, and he made them turn before him over Taltiu northwards. And he put his left elbow under him in Taltiu. And his people furnished him with rocks and boulders and great clumps of earth, and he began to pelt the men of Erin till the end of three days and three nights.
The adventures of Curoi son of Darè follow now.
He was told that a single man was checking and stopping four of the five grand provinces of Erin from Monday at Summer's end till the beginning of Spring. And he felt it unworthy of himself and he deemed it too long that his people were without him. And it was then he set out to the host to fight and contend with Cuchulain. And when he was come to the place where Cuchulain was, he saw Cuchulain there moaning, full of wounds and pierced through with holes, and he felt it would not be honourable nor fair to fight and contend with him after the combat with Ferdiad. Because it would be said it was not that Cuchulain died of the sores and wounds which he would give him so much as of the wounds which Ferdiad had inflicted on him in the conflict before. Be that as it might, Cuchulain offered to engage with him in battle and combat.
Thereupon Curoi set forth for to seek the men of Erin and, when he was near at hand, he espied Amargin there and his left elbow under him to the west of Taltiu. Curoi reached the men of Erin from the north. His people equipped him with rocks and boulders and great clumps, and he began to hurl them right over against Amargin, so that Badb's battle-stones collided in the clouds and in the air high above them, and every rock of them was shivered into an hundred stones.
"By the truth of thy valour, O Curoi," cried Medb, "desist from thy throwing, for no real succour nor help comes to us therefrom, but ill is the succour and help that thence come to us." "I pledge my word," cried Curoi, "I will not cease till the very day of doom and of life, till first Amargin cease!" "I will cease," said Amargin; "and do thou engage that thou wilt no more come to succour or give aid to the men of Erin." Curoi consented to that and went his way to return to his land and people.
About this time the hosts went past Taltiu westwards. "It is not this was enjoined upon me," quoth Amargin: "never again to cast at the hosts." And he went to the west of them and he turned them before him north-eastwards past Taltiu. And he began to pelt them for a long while and time.
Then it was also that the men of Erin said it would be no disgrace for Amargin to leave the camp and quarters, and that the hosts would retire a day's march back to the north again, there to stop and stay, and for him to quit his feats of arms upon the hosts until such time as he would meet them on the day of the great battle when the four grand provinces of Erin would encounter at Garech and Ilgarech in the battle of the Raid for the Kine of Cualnge. Amargin accepted that offer, and the hosts proceeded a day's march back to the northwards again. Wherefore the 'Deer-stalking' of Amargin in Taltiu the name of this tale.
Now while the deeds we have told here were being done, Sualtaim ('Goodly fosterer') son of Becaltach ('of Small belongings') son of Moraltach ('of Great belongings'), the same the father of Cuchulain macSualtaim, was told of the distress of his son contending in unequal combat on the Cualnge Cattle-spoil, even against Calatin Dana ('the Bold') with his seven and twenty sons, and against Glass son of Delga, his grandson.
"Whate'er it be, this that I hear from afar," quoth Sualtaim, "it is the sky that bursts or the sea that ebbs or the earth that quakes, or is it the distress of my son overmatched in the strife on the Driving of the Kine of Cualnge?" In that, indeed, Sualtaim spoke true. And he went to learn all after a while, without hastening on his way. And when Sualtaim was come to where his son Cuchulain was, Sualtaim began to moan and lament for Cuchulain.
Forsooth Cuchulain deemed it neither an honour nor glory that Sualtaim should bemoan and lament him, for Cuchulain knew that, wounded and injured though he was, Sualtaim would not be the man to avenge his wrong. For such was Sualtaim: He was no mean warrior and he was no mighty warrior, but only a good, worthy man was he. "Come, my father Sualtaim," said Cuchulain, "do thou go to Emain Macha to the men of Ulster and tell them to come now to have a care for their droves, for no longer am I able to protect them in the gaps and passes of the land of Conalle Murthemni. All alone am I against four of the five grand provinces of Erin from Monday at Summer's end till the beginning of Spring, every day slaying a man on a ford and a hundred warriors every night. Fair fight is not granted me nor single combat, and no one comes to aid me nor to succour. Spancel-hoops hold my cloak over me. Dry tufts of grass are stuffed in my wounds. There is not a single hair on my body from my crown to my sole whereon the point of a needle could stand, without a drop of deep-red blood on the top of each hair, save the left hand alone which is holding my shield, and even there thrice fifty bloody wounds are upon it. And let them straightway give battle to the warriors, and unless they avenge this anon, they will never avenge it till the very day of doom and of life!"
Sualtaim set out on Liath ('the Roan') of Macha as his only horse, with warning to the men of Ulster. And when he was come alongside of Emain, he shouted these words there: "Men are slain, women stolen, cattle lifted, ye men of Ulster!" cried Sualtaim.
He had not the answer that served him from the Ulstermen, and forasmuch as he had it not he went on further to the rampart of Emain. And he cried out the same words there: "Men are slain, women stolen, cattle lifted, ye men of Ulster!" cried Sualtaim.
Again he had not the response that served him from the men of Ulster. Thus stood it among the Ulstermen: It was geis for the Ulstermen to speak before their king, geis for the king to speak before his druids. Thereafter Sualtaim drove on to the 'Flag-stone of the hostages' in Emain Macha. He shouted the same words there: "Men are slain, women stolen, cows carried off!"
"But who has slain them, and who has stolen them, and who has carried them off?" asked Cathba the druid. "Ailill and Medb have overwhelmed you," said Sualtaim. "Your wives and your sons and your children, your steeds and your stock of horses, your herds and your flocks and your droves of cattle have been carried away. Cuchulain all alone is checking and staying the hosts of the four great provinces of Erin at the gaps and passes of the land of Conalle Murthemni. Fair fight is refused him, nor is he granted single combat, nor comes any one to succour or aid him. The youth is wounded, his limbs are out of joint. Spancel-hoops hold his cloak over him. There is not a hair from his crown to his sole whereon the point of a needle could stand, without a drop of deep-red blood on the top of each hair, except his left hand alone which is holding his shield, and even there thrice fifty bloody wounds are upon it. And unless ye avenge this betimes, ye will never avenge it till the end of time and of life."
"Fitter is death and doom and destruction for the man that so incites the king!" quoth Cathba the druid. "In good sooth, it is true!" said the Ulstermen all together. Thereupon Sualtaim went his way from them, indignant and angry because from the men of Ulster he had not had the answer that served him.
Then reared Liath ('the Roan') of Macha under Sualtaim and dashed on to the ramparts of Emain. Thereat Sualtaim fell under his own shield, so that the edge of the shield severed Sualtaim's head. The horse himself turned back again to Emain, and the shield on the horse and the head on the shield. And Sualtaim's head uttered the same words: "Men are slain women stolen, cattle lifted, ye men of Ulster!" spake the head of Sualtaim.
"Some deal too great is that cry," quoth Conchobar; "for yet is the sky above us, the earth underneath and the sea round about us. And unless the heavens shall fall with their showers of stars on the man-like face of the world, or unless the ground burst open in quakes beneath our feet, or unless the furrowed, blue-bordered ocean break o'er the tufted brow of the earth, will I restore to her byre and her stall, to her abode and her dwelling-place, each and every cow and woman of them with victory of battle and contest and combat!"
Thereupon a runner of his people was summoned to Conchobar, Findchad Ferbenduma ('he of the copper Horn') to wit, son of Fraech Lethan ('the Broad'), and he bade him go assemble and muster the men of Ulster. And in like manner, Conchobar enumerated to him their quick and their dead, in the drunkenness of sleep and of his 'Pains,' and he uttered these words: The Order of the men of Ulster.
"Arise, O Findchad!
I Thee I send forth:
A negligence not to be wished (?);
Proclaim it to the chiefs of Ulster!
"Arise, O Findchad!" [said Conchobar,]
I Thee I send forth:
A negligence not to be wished (?);
Proclaim it to the chiefs of Ulster!
Go thou forward to Derg, to Deda at his bay, to Lemain, to Follach, to Illann son of Fergus at Gabar, to Dornaill Feic at Imchlar, to Derg Imdirg, to Fedilmid son of Ilar Cetach of Cualnge at Ellonn, to Reochad son of Fathemon at Rigdonn, to Lug, to Lugaid, to Cathba at his bay, to Carfre at Ellne, to Laeg at his causeway, to Gemen in his valley, to Senoll Uathach at Diabul Ard, to Cethern son of Fintan at Carrloig, to Cethern at Eillne, to Tarothor, to Mulach at his fort, to the royal poet Amargin, to Uathach Bodba, to the Morrigan at Dûn Sobairche, to Eit, to Roth, to Fiachna at his mound, to Dam drend, to Andiaraid, to Manè Macbriathrach, to Dam Derg, to Mod, to Mothus, to Iarmothus at Corp Cliath, to Gabarlaig in Linè, to Eocho Semnech in Semne, to Eochaid Laithrech at Latharne, to Celtchar son of Uthecar in Lethglas, to Errgè Echbel at Bri Errgi, to Uma son of Remarfessach at Fedain in Cualnge, to Munremur son of Gerrcend at Moduirn, to Senlabair at Canann Gall, to Fallomain, to Lugaid, king of the Fir Bolg, to Lugaid of Linè, to Buadgalach, to Abach, to Fergna at Barrene, to Anè, to Aniach, to Abra, to Loegaire Milbel, at his fire (?), to the three sons of Trosgal at Bacc Draigin, to Drend, to Drenda, to Drendus, to Cimb, to Cimbil, to Cimbin at Fan na Coba, to Fachtna son of Sencha at his rash, to Sencha, to Senchainte, to Bricriu, to Briccirne son of Bricriu, to Brecc, to Buan, to Barach, to Oengus of the Fir Bolg, to Oengus son of Letè, to Fergus son of Letè, to . . . (?), to Bruachar, to Slangè, to Conall Cernach son of Amargin at Midluachar, to Cuchulain son of Sualtaim at Murthemne, to Menn son of Salcholga at Rena, to the three sons of Fiachna, Ross, Darè and Imchad at Cualnge, to Connud macMorna at the Callann, to Condra son of Amargin at his rash, to Amargin at Ess Ruaid, to Laeg at Leirè, to Oengus Ferbenduma, to Ogma Grianainech at Brecc, to Eo macFornè, to Tollcend, to Sudè at Mag Eol in Mag Dea, to Conla Saeb at Uarba, to Loegaire Buadach at Immail, to Amargin Iarngiunnach at Taltiu, to Furbaide Ferbenn son-of Conchobar at Sil in Mag Inis, to Cuscraid Menn of Macha son of Conchobar at Macha, to Fingin at Fingabair, to Blae 'the Hospitaller of a score,' to Blae 'the Hospitaller of six men,' to Eogan son of Durthacht at Fernmag, to Ord at Mag Sered, to Oblan, to Obail at Culenn, to Curethar, to Liana at Ethbenna, to Fernel, to Finnchad of Sliab Betha, to Talgoba at Bernas, to Menn son of the Fir Cualann at Mag Dula, to Iroll at Blarinè, to Tobraidè son of Ailcoth, to Ialla Ilgremma, to Ross son of Ulchrothach at Mag Dobla, to Ailill Finn, to Fethen Bec, to Fethan Mor, to Fergus son of Finnchoem at Burach, to Olchar, to Ebadchar, to Uathchar, to Etatchar, to Oengus son of Oenlam Gabè, to Ruadri at Mag Tail, to Manè son of Crom, to Nindech son of Cronn, to . . . (?), to Mal macRochraidi, to Beothach, to Briathrach at his rash, to Narithla at Lothor, to the two sons of Feic, Muridach and Cotreb, to Fintan son of Niamglonnach at Dun da Benn, to Feradach Finn Fechtnach at Nemed of Sliab Fuait, to Amargin son of Ecetsalach at the Buas, to Bunnè son of Munremar, to Fidach son of Dorarè, to Muirnè Menn.
It was nowise a heavy task for Finnchad to gather this assembly and muster which Conchobar had enjoined upon him. For all there were of Ulstermen to the east of Emain and to the west of Emain and to the north of Emain set out at once for the field of Emain in the service of their king, and at the word of their lord, and to await the recovery of Conchobar. Such as were from the south of Emain waited not for Conchobar, but set out directly on the trail of the host and on the hoof-prints of the Táin.
The first stage the men of Ulster marched under Conchobar was from Emain to the green in Iraird Cuillinn that night. "Why now delay we, ye men?" Conchobar asked. "We await thy sons," they answered; "Fiacha and Fiachna who have gone with a division from us to Tara to fetch Erc son of thy daughter Fedlimid Nocruthach ('Nine-shaped'), son also of Carbre Niafer king of Tara, to the end that he should come with the number of his muster and his troops, his levy and his forces to our host at this time." "By my word," exclaimed Conchobar; "I will delay here no longer for them, lest the men of Erin hear of my rising from the weakness and 'Pains' wherein I was. For the men of Erin know not even if I am still alive!"
Thereupon Conchobar and Celtchar proceeded with thirty hundred spear-bristling chariot-fighters to Ath Irmidi ('the Ford of Spear-points'). And there met them eight-score huge men of the body-guard of Ailill and Medb, with eight-score women as their spoils. Thus was their portion of the plunder of Ulster: A woman-captive in the hand of each man of them. Conchobar and Celtchar struck off their eight-score heads and released their eight-score captive-women. Ath Irmidi ('the Ford of Spear-points') was the name of the place till that time; Ath Fenè is its name ever since. It is for this it is called Ath Fenè, because the warriors of the Fenè from the east and the warriors of the Fenè from the west encountered one another in battle and contest man for man on the brink of the ford.
Conchobar and Celtchar returned that night to the green in Iraird Cuillinn hard by the men of Ulster. Thereupon Celtchar aroused the men of Ulster.
It was then that Celtchar in his sleep uttered these words in the midst of the men of Ulster in Iraird Cuillinn that night:
"Thirty hundred chariot-men;
An hundred horse-companions stout;
An hundred with an hundred druids!
To lead us will not fail
The hero of the land,
Conchobar with hosts around him!
Let the battle line be formed!
Gather now, ye warriors!
Battle shall be fought
At Garech and Ilgarech
On aftermorrow's morn!"
On that same night Cormac Conlongas, Conchobar's son, spake these words to the men of Erin at Slemain Mide that night:
"A wonder of a morning,
A wondrous I time!
When hosts will be confused,
Kings turned back in flight!
Necks will be broken,
The sand made red,
When forth breaks the battle, the seven chieftains before,
Of Ulster's host round Conchobar!
Their women will they defend,
For their herds will they fight
At Garech and Ilgarech,
On the morning after the morrow! "
On that same night, Dubthach Doel ('the Scorpion') of Ulster uttered these words in his sleep among the men of Erin at Slemain Mide that night:
"Great be the morn,
The morn of Meath!
Great be the truce
The truce of Culenn!
"Great be the fight,
The fight Of Clartha!
Great, too, the steeds,
The steeds of Assal!
"Great be the plague,
The plague of Tuath-Bressi!
Great be the storm,
Ulster's battle-storm round Conchobar!
"Their women will they defend,
For their herds will they fight
At Garech and Ilgarech,
On the morning after the morrow!"
Dubthach was awakened from his sleep, so that Nemain brought confusion on the host and they fell trembling in their arms under the points of their spears and weapons, so that an hundred warriors of them fell dead in the midst of their camp and quarters at the fearfulness of the shout they heard on high. Be that as it would, that night was not the calmest for the men of Erin that they passed before or since, because of the forebodings and predictions and because of the spectres and visions that were revealed to them.
Said Ailill: "Truly have I succeeded," said he, "in laying waste Ulster and the land of the Picts from Monday at Summer's end till Spring's beginning. We have taken their women and the sons and their children, their steeds and their troops of horses, their herds and their flocks and their droves. We have laid level their hills after them, so that they have become lowlands and are all one height. For this cause, will I await them no longer here, but let them offer me battle on Mag Ai, if so it please them. But, say here what we will, some one shall go forth from us to watch the great, wide plain of Meath, to know if the men of Ulster come hither. And, should the men of Ulster come hither, I will in no wise be the first to retreat till battle be given them, for it was never the wont of a good king to retreat." "Who should fitly go thither?" asked all. "Who but macRoth our chief runner yonder?"
MacRoth went his way to survey the great wide-spreading plain of Meath. Not long was macRoth there when he heard something: A rush and a crash and a clatter and a clash. Not slight the thing he judged it to be, but as though it was the firmament itself that fell on the man-like face of the world, or as though it was the furrowed, blue-bordered ocean that broke o'er the tufted brow of the earth, or as though the ground had gone asunder in quakes, or as though the forest fell, each of the trees in the crotches and forks and branches of the other. But why give further accounts! The wood's wild beasts were hunted out on the plain, so that beneath them the grassy forelocks of the plain of Meath were not to be seen.
MacRoth hastened to tell this tale at the place where were Ailill and Medb and Fergus and the nobles of the men of Erin. MacRoth related the whole matter to them.
"What was that there, O Fergus?" asked Ailill. "Not hard to say," said Fergus. "It was the rush and tramp and clatter that he heard," said Fergus, "the din and thunder, the tumult and turmoil of the Ulstermen, who have come into the woods, the throng of champions and battle-heroes cutting down with their swords the woods in the way of their chariots. This it was that hath put the wild animals to flight on the plain, so that the grassy forelocks of the field of Meath are hidden beneath them!"
Another time macRoth surveyed the plain and he saw something: a heavy, grey mist that filled the space between the heavens and earth. It seemed to him that the hills were islands in lakes that he saw rising up out of the sloping valleys of mist. It seemed to him they were wide-yawning caverns that he saw there leading into that mist. It seemed to him it was all-white, flaxy sheets of linen, or sifted snow a-falling that he saw there through a rift in the mist. It seemed to him it was a flight of many, varied, wonderful, numerous birds, or the constant sparkling of shining stars on a bright, clear night of hoar-frost, or sparks of red-flaming fire. He heard something: A rush and a din and a hurtling sound, a noise and a thunder, a tumult and a turmoil. He hastened on to impart these tidings at the place where were Ailill and Medb and Fergus and the nobles of the men of Erin. He reported the matter to them.
"But what was that, O Fergus?" asked Ailill. "Not hard to say," Fergus made answer. "This was the great, grey mist that he saw which filled the space between the heavens and earth, namely, the streaming breath both of horses and men, the smoke of the earth and the dust of the roads as it rose over them with the driving of the wind, so that it made a heavy, deep-grey misty vapour thereof in the clouds and the air.
"These were the islands over lakes that he saw there, and the tops of hills and of heights over the sloping valleys of mist, even the heads of the champions and battle-heroes over the chariots and the chariots withal. These were the wide-yawning caverns that he saw there leading into that mist, even the mouths and the nostrils of the horses and champions exhaling and inhaling the sun and the wind with the speed of the host.
These were the all-white, flax-like cloths that he saw there or the streaming snow a-falling, to wit the foam and the froth that the bridles of the reins flung from the bits of strong, stout steeds with the stress, with the swiftness and strength and speed of the host.
"These were the flights of many, various, wonderful, numerous birds that he saw there, even the dust of the ground and the top of the earth and the sods which the horses flung from their feet and their hoofs and arose over the heads of the host with the driving of the wind.
"This was the rush and the crash and the hurtling sound, the din and the thunder, the clatter and clash that he heard there, to wit the shield-shock of shields and the jangle of javelins and the hard-smiting of swords and the ring of helmets, the clangour of breast-plates and the rattle of arms and the fury of feats, the straining of ropes and the whirr of wheels and the trampling of horses' hoofs and the creaking of chariots, and the deep voices of heroes and battle-warriors coming hither towards us.
"This was the constant sparkling of shining stars on a bright, clear night that he saw there and the sparks of red-flaming fire, even the bloodthirsty, terrible eyes of the champions and battle-warriors from under beautiful, well-shaped, finely-adorned battle-helmets; eyes full of the fury and rage they brought with them, against the which neither before nor since has equal combat nor overwhelming force of battle prevailed, and against which it will never prevail till the very day of doom and of life!"
"We make not much of that," quoth Medb. "For there are goodly warriors and goodly fighting-men with us to cope with them." "Thou shalt have need of them," answered Fergus. "Truly, I count not on that, O Medb. For I give my word, thou shalt find no host in all Erin, nor in Alba, to cope with the men of Ulster when once their anger comes on them!"
Then did the four grand provinces of Erin pitch camp and make lodgment at Clartha for that night. They sent forth folk to keep watch and guard against Ulster, to the end that the Ulstermen might not come upon them without warning, without notice.
Then it was that Conchobar and Celtchar with thirty hundred bristling chariot-fighters set forth, till they halted at Slemain Mide ('Slane of Meath') in the rear of the host. But, though 'halted' we have said, a very brief halt made they there, but proceeded for a favourable sign to the quarters of Ailill and Medb, so they might be the first of all to redden their hands.
It was not long macRoth had been there when he saw something: An incomparable, immense troop of horsemen in Slane of Meath coming straight from the northeast. He hastened forward to where were Ailill and Medb and Fergus and the chiefs of the men of Erin. Ailill asked tidings of him on his arrival: "Say, mac Roth," queried Ailill; "sawest thou aught of the men of Ulster on the trail of the host this day?" "Truly I know not," answered macRoth; "but I saw an incomparable, immense troop of horsemen in Slane of Meath coming straight from the north-east." "But how many numbered the horse-troop?" asked Ailill. "Not fewer, meseemed, than thirty hundred fully armed chariot-fighters were they, even ten hundred and twenty hundred fully armed chariot-fighters," macRoth made answer.
"So, O Fergus," quoth Ailill. "How thinkest thou to terrify us till now with the smoke and dust and the breath of a mighty host, while all the battle-force thou hast is that we see yonder!" "A little too soon belittles thou them," Fergus retorted; "for mayhap the bands are more numerous than is said they are."
"Let us take good, swift counsel on the matter," said Medb; "for yon huge, most fierce, most furious man will attack us we ween, Conchobar, to wit, son of Fachtna Fathach ('the Giant') son of Ross Ruad ('the Red') son of Rudraige, himself High King of Ulster and son of the High King of Erin. Let there be a hollow array of the men of Erin before Conchobar and a force of thirty hundred ready to close in from behind, and the men shall be taken and in no wise wounded; for, no more than is a caitiff's lot is this whereto they are come!" Wherefore this is the third most derisive word that was spoken on the Cattle-lifting of Cualnge, even to take Conchobar prisoner without wounding, and to inflict a caitiff's lot on the ten hundred and twenty hundred who accompanied the kings of Ulster.
And Cormac Conlongas son of Conchobar heard that, and he knew that unless he took vengeance at once upon Medb for her great boast, he would not avenge it till the very day of doom and of life.
It was then that Cormac Conlongas son of Conchobar arose with his troop of thirty hundred to inflict the revenge of battle and prowess upon Ailill and Medb. Ailill arose with his thirty hundred to meet him. Medb arose with her thirty hundred. The Manè arose with their thirty hundred. The sons of Maga arose with their thirty hundred. The Leinstermen and the Munstermen and the people of Temair arose and made interposition between them, so that on both sides each warrior sat down near to the other and near by his arms.
Meanwhile a hollow array of men was made by Medb to face Conchobar and a warlike band of thirty hundred ready to close in from behind. Conchobar proceeded to attack the circle of men. And he was far from seeking any particular breach, but he worked a small gap, broad enough for a man-at-arms, right in front over against him in the circle of combatants, and effected a breach of an hundred on his right side, and a breach of an hundred on his left, and he turned in on them, and mingled among them on their ground, and there fell of them eight hundred fully brave warriors at his hands. And thereafter he left them without blood or bleeding from himself and took his station in Slane of Meath at the head of the men of Ulster.
"Come, ye men of Erin!" cried Ailill. "Let some one go hence to scan the wide-stretching plain of Meath, to know in what guise the men of Ulster come to the height in Slane of Meath, to bring us an account of their arms and the gear and their trappings, their kings and their royal readers, their champions and battle-warriors and gapbreakers of hundreds and their yeomen, to which to listen will shorten the time for us." "Who should go thither?" asked all. "Who but macRoth the chief runner," Ailill made answer.
MacRoth went his way till he took his station in Slane of Meath, awaiting the men of Ulster. The Ulstermen were busied in marching to that hill from gloaming of early morn till sunset hour in the evening. In such manner the earth was never left naked under them during all that time, every division of them under its king, and every band under its leader, and every king and every leader and every lord with the number of his force and his muster, his gathering and his levy apart. Howbeit, by sunset hour in the evening all the men of Ulster had taken position on that height in Slane of Meath.
MacRoth came forward with the account of their first company to the place where Ailill and Medb and Fergus were and the nobles of the men of Erin. Ailill and Medb asked tidings of him when he arrived. "Come, macRoth," quoth Ailill, "tell us in what manner of array do the Ulstermen advance to the hill of Slane in Meath?"
"Truly, I know not," answered macRoth, "except this alone: There came a fiery, powerful, most well-favoured company upon the hill of Slane in Meath," said macRoth. "It seemed, on scanning and spying, that a thrice thirty hundred warriors were in it. Anon they all doffed their garments and threw up a turfy mound for their leader to sit on. A youth, slender, long, exceeding great of stature, fair to behold, proud of mien, in the van of the troop. Fairest of the princes of the world was he in the midst of his warriors, as well in fearsomeness and in awe, in courage and command; fair-yellow hair, curled, delicately arranged in ridges and bushy had he; a comely, clear-rosy countenance he had; a deep-blue-gray, angry eye, devouring and fear-inspiring, in his head; a two-forked beard, yellow, fairly curled, on his chin; a purple mantle with fringes and five-folded wrapped around him; a brooch of gold in the mantle over his breast; a shining-white, hooded shirt under red interweaving of red gold he wore next his white skin; a bright-white shield with figures of beasts of red gold thereon; a gold-hilted, hammered sword in one of his hands; a broad and gray-green lance in the other. That warrior took his station on the top of the mound, so that each one came up to him and his company took their places around him.
"There came also another company to the same height in Slane of Meath," continued macRoth. "Second of the two divisions of thirty hundred it was. A well-favoured warrior was there likewise at the head of that company; fair-yellow hair he wore; a bright, curly beard about his chin; a green mantle wrapped around him; a bright-silvern pin in the mantle at his breast; a brown-red, soldier's tunic under red interweaving of red gold trussed up against his fair skin down to his knees; a candle of a king's house in his hand, with windings of silver and bands of gold; wonderful the feats and games performed with the spear in the hand of the youth; the windings of silver ran round it by the side of the bands of gold, now from the butt to the socket, while at other times it was the bands of gold that circled by the side of the windings of silver from socket to spear-end; a smiting shield with plaited edge he bore; a sword with hilt-pieces of ivory, and ornamented with thread of gold on his left side. This warrior took his station on the left of the leader of the first company who had come to the mound, and his followers got them seated around him. But, though we have said they sat, they did not verily seat themselves at once, but they sat thus, with their knees on the ground and the rims of their shields against their chins, so long it seemed to them till they should be let at us. But, one thing yet: Meseemed that the great, fierce youth who led the troop stammered grievously in his speech.
"Still another battalion there came to the same mound in Slane of Meath," continued macRoth. "Second to its fellow in number and followers and apparel. A handsome, broad-headed warrior at the head of that troop; dark-yellow hair in tresses he wore; an eager, dark-blue eye rolling restlessly in his head; a bright, curled beard, forked and tapering, at his chin; a dark-grey cloak with fringes, folded around him; a leaf-shaped brooch of silvered bronze in the mantle over his breast; a white-hooded shirt reaching to his knees was girded next to his skin; a bright shield with raised devices of beasts thereon he bore; a sword with white silver hilt in battle-scabbard at his waist; the pillar of a king's palace he bore on his back. This warrior took his station on the hill of turf facing the warrior who first came to the hill, and his company took their places around him. But sweet as the tone of lutes in masters' hands when long sustained, so seemed to me the melodious sound of the voice and the speech of the youth conversing with the warrior who first came to the hill and offering him every counsel."
"But who might that be?" asked Ailill of Fergus. "Truly, we know him well," Fergus made answer. "This, to wit, is the first hero for whom they threw up the mound of turf on the height of the hill and whom all approached, namely, Conchobar son of Fachtna Fathach son of Ross Ruad son of Rudraige, High King of Ulster, and son of the High King of Erin. This, to wit, is the stammering, great warrior who took station on his father Conchobar's left, namely, Cuscraid Menn ('the Stammerer') of Macha, Conchobar's son, with the sons of the king of Ulster and the sons of the princes of the men of Erin close by him. This is the spear he saw in his hand, even the 'Torch of Cuscraid,' with its windings of silver and bands of gold. It is the wont of that spear that neither before nor after, but only on the eve of a triumph, do the silver windings run round it by the side of the bands of gold. Belike, it is almost before a triumph they course round it now.
"The well-favoured, broad-headed warrior who seated himself on the hill in the presence of the youth who first came on the mound, namely is Sencha son of Ailill son of Maelcho 'the Eloquent' of Ulster, he that is wont to appease the hosts of the men of Erin. But, yet a word more I say: It is not the counsel of cowardice nor of fear that he gives his lord this day on the day of strife, but counsel to act with valour and courage and wisdom and cunning. But, again one word further I say," added Fergus: "It is a goodly people for performing great deeds that has risen there early this day around Conchobar!" "We make not much of them," quoth Medb; "we have goodly warriors and stout youths to deal with them." "I count not that for much," answered Fergus again; "but I say this word: Thou wilt not find in Erin nor in Alba a host to be a match for the men of Ulster when once their anger comes upon them."
"Yet another company there came to the same mound in Slane of Meath," said macRoth. "A fair, tall, great warrior in the van of that battalion, and he of fiery spirit, with noble countenance. Brown, dark-coloured hair he wore, smooth and thin on his forehead; a dull-grey cloak girt around him; a silver pin in the cloak over his breast; a bright, sleeved tunic next to his skin; a curved shield with sharp, plaited rim he bore; a five-pronged spear in his hand; a straightsword with ornaments of walrus-tooth in its place." "But, who might that be?" asked Ailill of Fergus. "In very sooth, we know him," Fergus made answer. "The putting of hands on strife is he; a battle-warrior for combat and destruction on foes is the one who is come there, even Eogan son of Durthacht, king of the Fernmag in the north, is the one yonder."
"Another battalion there came thither to the same mound in Slane of Meath," continued macRoth. "It is surely no false word that boldly they took the hill. Deep the terror, great the fear they brought with them. Their raiment all thrown back behind them. A great-headed, warlike warrior in the forefront of the company, and he eager for blood, dreadful to look upon. Spare, grizzly hair had he; huge, yellow eyes in his head; a yellow, close-napped (?) cloak around him; a pin of yellow gold in the cloak over his breast; a yellow tunic with lace next his skin; in his hand a nailed, broad-plated, long-shafted spear with a drop of blood on its edge." "But, who might that be?" asked Ailill of Fergus. "In truth then, we know him, that warrior," Fergus gave answer. "Neither battle nor battlefield nor combat nor contest shuns he, the one who is come thither. Loegaire Buadach ('the Victorious') son of Connad Buide ('the Yellow') son of Iliach, from Immail in the north, is the one yonder."
"Another company there came there too to the same mound in Slane of Meath," continued macRoth. "A thick-necked, burly warrior at the head of that troop; black, bushy hair he had; a scarred, crimsoned face he had; a deep-blue-gray, blazing eye in his head; a spear set with eyes of glass, casting shadows over him; a black shield with a hard rim of silvered bronze upon him, a dun-coloured cloak of curly wool about him; a brooch of pale gold in the cloak over his breast; a three-striped tunic of silk next to his skin; a sword with ivory hilt and with ornamentation of thread of gold over his dress on the outside. ""But, who might that man be?" asked Ailill of Fergus. "We know him full well," Fergus made answer. "He is the putting of hand on strife; a wave of the high sea that drowneth; he is the man of three shouts; the sea over walls; the man who comes thither. Muremur ('Thick-neck') son of Gerrcend ('Short-head') from Moduirn in the north is the one yonder."
"Still another company there came to the same mound in Slane of Meath," continued macRoth. "A broad-headed, stout warrior, pleasantly found of limb, in the front of that troop; he is dried and sallow; he is wild and bull-like; a dun, round eye, proud in his head; yellow, very curly is his hair; a red, round shield with hardsilver rim about it he bore; a broad-plated, long-shafted spear in his hand; a streaked-gray cloak around him; a brooch of copper in the cloak over his breast; a hooded kirtle girded around him reaching down to his calves; a straightsword with ornaments of walrus-tooth on his left thigh." "But who might he be?" asked Ailill of Fergus. "I know him indeed," Fergus made answer. "He is the prop of battle; he is the triumph of every combat; he is the tool that pierces, is the man who comes thither. Connud macMorna, from the Callann in the north, is the man yonder."
"There came still another company to the same mound in Slane of Meath," continued macRoth. "It is indeed no lying word, it is with might and storm they gained the hill, so that with the clash of arms they made at the approach of that company they startled the hosts that had arrived there before them. A man, comely and noble, in advance of that band; most well-favoured to see of the men of the world, whether in shape or form or frame; whether in arms or apparel; whether in size or worth or beauty; whether in figure or valour or conduct." "Then it is surely no lying word," Fergus said: "A fitting saying is this, 'No fool 'mongst the naked is he who comes thither.' He is the foe of all others; he is a power irresistible; the storm-wave that drowneth, the glitter of ice is that well-favoured man. Fedilmid son of Ilar Cetach of Cualnge, from Ellonn in the north, is he yonder."
"Still another battalion came thither to the same hill in Slane of Meath," macRoth proceeded. "Not often is a warrior seen more handsome than the warrior that is in the front rank of that company. Bushy, red-yellow hair he wore; his face slender below, broad above; a deep-blue-gray, beaming eye, and it flashing and laughing in his head; a well-set, shapely man, tall, slender below and broad above; red, thin lips he had; teeth shining and pearl-like; a white-skinned body; a purple cloak wrapped around him; a brooch of gold in the mantle over his breast; a hooded tunic of royal silk with a red hem of red gold he wore next to his white skin; a bright, curved shield with figures of beasts in red gold thereon; a gold-hilted, inlaid swordat his left side; a long, gray-edged spear along with a cutting bye-spear of attack, with thongs for throwing, with fastenings of silvered bronze, in his hand." "But who might that man be?" asked Ailill of Fergus. "We know him full well," Fergus made answer. "He is half of a battle; he is the dividing of combat; he is the wild rage of a watchhound, the man who is come thither; Rochad son of Fatheman, from Rigdonn in the north, is he yonder."
"Another battalion there came to the same hill in Slane of Meath," continued macRoth. "A stalwart, thick-calved warrior at the head of that company; little but every limb of him as stout as a man. Verily it is no lying word, he is a man down to the ground," said he. "Brown, bushy hair upon his head; a ruddy countenance covered with scars he had; a flashing, proud eye in his head; a splendid, dexterous man was there, in this wise: Accompanied by black-haired, black-eyed youths; with a red, flaming banner; with wilful rashness, so that they seek to rout overwhelming numbers outside of equal combat, with the violence of assault upon them, without having aught assistance from Conchobar." "But, who might he be?" asked Ailill of Fergus. "Aye then we know him," Fergus made answer. "A thirst for valour and prowess is he that came thither; a thirst for madness and fury. The welding of hosts and of arms; the point of battle and of slaughter of the men of the north of Erin, mine own real foster-brother himself, Fergus son of Lete, the king from Line in the north, is the man yonder!"
"Still another company came to the same hill in Slane of Meath," macRoth continued, "steadfast, without equal. A handsome, untiring warrior in the van of this company. A blue, narrow-bordered cloth next to his skin, with strong, woven and twisted hoops of silvered bronze, with becoming, sharp-fashioned buttons of red gold on its slashes and breastborders; a green mantle, pieced together with the choicest of all colours, folded about him; five circles of gold, that is, his shield, he bore on him; a tough, obdurate, straight-bladed sword for a hero's handling hung high on his left side. A straight, fluted spear, flaming red and venomous in his hand." "But, who might that be?" asked Ailill of Fergus. "Truly, we know him well," Fergus made answer. "The choice flower of royal poets is he. He is the rush on the rash; he is the way to the goal, fierce is his valour, the man that came thither; Amargin son of the smith Ecetsalach ('the Grimy'), the noble poet from the Buas in the north, is he."
"There came yet another company there to the same hill in Slane of Meath, continued macRoth. "A yellow-haired hero in the front rank of that band. Fair was the man, both in hair and eye and beard and eyebrows and apparel; a rimmed shield he bore; a gold-hilted, overlaid sword on his left side; a five-pointed spear that reflected its glare over the entire host in his hand." "But who was that man?" asked Ailill of Fergus. "In sooth, we know him well, Fergus made answer. "Cherished, in truth, is that warrior by the people, he that to us is come thither; cherished, the stout-brow-dealing beast; cherished, the bear of great deeds against foes, with the violence of his attack. Feradach Finn Fectnach ('the Fair and Righteous') from Nemed ('the Grove') in Sliab Fuait in the north, is the one that is come there."
"Another company there came to the mound in Slane of Meath," continued macRoth. "Three bold, high-spirited youths of noble countenance in the front rank of that company. Three cloaks of the one colour they wore folded upon them; three shields wholly alike they bore; three five-pointed, spears in their hands." "Who were those men there, Fergus?" Ailill asked. "I know," Fergus answered; "the three princes of Ilath, the three champions of Colph, the three of Midluachair great in achievements, three seasoned warriors of the east of Erin, to wit, the three sons of Fiachna in quest of their bull are there, even Ros and Darè and Imchad, for theirs was the possession of the Brown Bull of Cualnge. Even had they come alone, they would have offered you battle in defence of their bull and their drove, even though before them the enemy should not be routed."
"Yet another company there came thither to the same hill in Slane of Meath," said macRoth. "Two fair, tender, young warriors at the head of that company; two green cloaks wrapped about them; two bright-silver brooches in the cloaks over the breasts; two tunics of smooth yellow silk next to their skin; bright-hilted swords on the belts; two five-pronged spears with windings of pure bright silver in the hands. Moreover, their years were nigh the same." "But, who might they be?" asked Ailill of Fergus. "Well do we know them," Fergus made answer. "Two single, strong-necked champions are they; two united flames; two united torches; two champions; two heroes; two ridge-poles of hosts; two dragons; two thunderbolts; two destroyers (?); two boars; two bold ones; two mad ones; the two loved ones of Ulster around the king; namely Fiacha and Fiachna have come thither, two sons of Conchobar son of Fachtna son of Ross Ruad son of Rudraige."
"There came also another company to that same mound," said macRoth. "'Tis the engulphing of the sea for size; red-flaming fire for splendour; a legion for number; a rock for strength; annihilation for battle; thunder for might. A wrathful, terrible, ill-favoured one at the head of that band, and he was big-nosed, large-eared, apple-eyed. Coarse, grizzly hair he wore; a streaked-gray cloak about him; a skewer of iron in the cloak over his breast, so that it reached from one of his shoulders to the other; a rough, three-striped tunic next to his skin; a sword of seven charges of remelted iron he bore on his rump; a brown hillock he bore, namely his shield; a great, grey spear with thirty nails driven through its socket he had in his hand. The lines and battalions were thrown into disorder at the sight of that warrior, as he came surrounded by his company to the hill, in Slane of Meath." "But who might that man be?" asked Ailill of Fergus. "Ah, but we know him well," Fergus made answer. "He is the half of the battle; he is the head of strife; he is the head of combat in valour; he is the sea overbounds, the man that is come thither; the mighty Celtchar son of Uthechar, from Lethglass in the north, is the man there!
"There came yet another company thither to the same hill in Slane of Meath," said macRoth; "one that is firm and furious; one that is ugly and fearful. A great-bellied, big-mouthed champion in the van of that troop; with but one clear eye, and half-brained, long-handed. Brown, very curly hair he wore; a black, flowing mantle around him; a wheel-shaped brooch of tin in the mantle over his breast; a cunningly wrought tunic next to his skin; a great long sword under his waist; a well-tempered lance in his right hand; a grey buckler he bore on him, that is, his shield." "Pray, who might that man be?" asked Ailill of Fergus. "Indeed, but we know him," Fergus made answer; "the wild, red-handed, rendng lion; the fierce, fearful bear that overcometh valour. Errge Echbel ('Horse-mouth'), from Bri Errgi ('Errge's Mound') in the north, is the one there."
"Yet another company there came to the same hill in Slane of Meath," said macRoth. "A large, fiery man at the head of that company; foxy-red hair he had; huge, crimson-red eyes in his head; bulging as far as the bend of a warrior's finger is either of the very large crimson, kingly eyes he had; a many-coloured cloak about him; a grey shield he bore; a slender, blue lance above him; a blood-smeared, becrimsoned company around him; himself covered with wounds and blood in their midst." "Now who might he be?" asked Ailill of Fergus. "Well do we know him," Fergus made answer. "He is the bold, the ruthless, the swift-moving eagle; the eager lance; the goring beast; the torrent of the Colbtha; the triumphant hero from Bailer he is the shaft(?); he is the bellowing hero from Bernas ('the Gap'); the furious bull; Menn son of Salcholga, from Rena ('the Waterways') of the Boyne."
"Yet another company came thither to the same mound in Slane of Meath," continued macRoth. "A long-jawed, sallow-faced warrior at the head of that company; black hair on his head; long limbs are his legs; a cloak of red curly wool about him; a brooch of white silver in the cloak over his breast; a linen shirt next to his skin; a gory-red shield with a boss of gold he bore; a sword with hilt of white silver on his left side; a sharp-cornered, gold-socketed spear he held over him." "But, who might he be?" Ailill asked of Fergus. "Truly, we know him," Fergus made answer. The man of three stout blows has come; the man of three highways is he; the man of three roads, the man of three paths, the man of three ways; the man of three triumphs; Fergna son of Findchoem, king of Burach, from Ulster in the north, has come thither."
"Even another company came there to the same mound in Slane of Meath," continued macRoth. "A large, well-favoured man in the van of that company. Like to Ailill yonder, with his pointed weapons, the restrainer, both in features and noble bearing and fairness, both in arms and apparel, in valour and bravery and fame and deeds. A blue shield with boss of gold was upon him. A gold-hilted sword on his left side; a five-pronged spear with gold, in his hand; a golden crown on his head." "But, who might that be?" asked Ailill of Fergus. "Ah, but we know him well," Fergus made answer. "The root of all manhood; the assault of overwhelming power; the annihilation of men is he that is come thither. Furbaide Ferbenn son of Conchobar, from Sil in Mag Inis in the north, is there."
"Yet another company came to the mound in Slane of Meath," continued macRoth. "A sharp, proud folk; a stately, royal company, with their apparel of many colours, as well white and blue and black and purple, so that to a king could be likened each spirited, chosen man in the noble, most wonderful troop. A feast for the eyes of a host, to gaze on their comeliness and their garb, as if it was going forth to some great surpassing assembly was each single man of that company. A trine of noble, distinguished men were in the front rank of that company. The first man of them with a dark-grey mantle fringed with gold thread about him; a brooch of gold in the mantle over his breast, a tunic of rare silk next to his skin; sandals of lamb's skin he wore. Not many men in the world are better-favoured than is he. A light-yellow head of hair he has; a bright-faced sword with ivory hilt and with coils of gold thread, in his right hand. He flings on high the tooth-hilted sword, so that it falls on the head of the middle man but it simply grazes it. He catches it up in the air again, so that it falls on the head of the other man, and the first man catches it in his hand, and it divided not a ringlet nor the skin of the head of either of them, and these two men did not perceive it.
Two brown, rich-hued, bright-faced youths; reddish-gray mantles around them; white-silver brooches in their mantles over their breasts; a bright-hilted sword under their waists; purple sandals they wore; as sweet as strings of lutes when long sustained in players' hands was the voice and song of one of the men, so that enough of delight it was to the host to listen to the sound of his voice. Worthy of a king or of a prince was each man in that company as regards apparel and appearance; thou wouldst think, at the sight of them, they were all kings. Neither spears nor swords do they bear, but their servants bear them."
"An over-proud body is that," quoth Ailill; "and who may they be, O Fergus?" he asked. "I know full well," replied Fergus; "the poets of Ulster are they, with Fercerdne. The fair, much-gifted, whom thou sawest, even the learned master of Ulster, Fercerdne. 'Tis before him that the lakes and rivers sink when he upbraids, and they swell up high when he applauds. The two others thou sawest are Athirne the chief poet, whom none can deny, and Ailill Miltenga ('Honey-tongue') son of Carba; and he is called Ailill 'Honey-tongue' for that as sweet as honey are the words of wisdom that fall from him."
"There came yet another company to the mound in Slane of Meath," said macRoth. "A most terrible, dreadful sight to behold them. Blue and pied and green, purple, grey and white and black mantles; a kingly, white-gray, broad-eyed hero in the van of that company; wavy, grizzled hair upon him; a blue-purple cloak about him; a leaf-shaped brooch with ornamentation of gold in the cloak over his breast; a shield, stoutly braced with buckles of red copper; yellow sandals he wore; a large, strange-fashioned sword along his shoulder. Two curly-haired, white-faced youths close by him, wearing green cloaks and purple sandals and blue tunics, and with brown shields fitted with hooks, in their hands; white-hilted swords with silvered bronze ornaments they bore; a broad, somewhat light countenance had one of them. One of these cunning men raises his glance to heaven and scans the clouds of the sky and bears their answer to the marvellous troop that is with him. They all lift their eyes on high and watch the clouds and work their spells against the elements, so that the elements fall to warring with each other, till they discharge rain-clouds of fire downwards on the camp and entrenchments of the men of Erin."
"Who might that be, O Fergus?" asked Ailill. "I know him," replied Fergus; "the foundation of knowledge; the master of the elements; the heaven-soaring one; he that blindeth the eyes; that depriveth his foe of his strength through incantations of druids, namely Cathba the friendly druid, with the druids of Ulster about him. And to this end he makes augury when judging the elements, in order to ascertain therefrom how the great battle on Garech and Ilgarech will end. The two youths that are about him, they are his own two sons, to wit Imrim son of Cathba and Genonn Gruadsolus ('Bright-cheek') son of Cathba, he that has the somewhat light countenance. Howbeit it will be hard for the men of Erin to withstand the spells of the druids."
"Yet another company there came to the mound in Slane of Meath," continued macRoth. "A numberless, bright-faced band; unwonted garments they wore; a little bag at the waist of each man of them. A white-haired, bull-faced man in the front of that company; an eager, dragon-like eye in his head; a black, flowing robe with edges of purple around him; a many coloured, leaf-shaped brooch with gems, in the robe over his breast; a ribbed tunic of thread of gold around him; a short sword, keen and hard, with plates of gold, in his hand; they all came to show him their stabs and their sores, their wounds and their ills, and he told each one his sickness, and he gave each a cure, and what at last happened to each was even the ill he foretold him." "He is the power of leechcraft; he is the healing of wounds; he is the thwarting of death; he is the absence of every weakness, is that man," said Fergus, "namely Fingin the prophet mediciner, the physician of Conchobar, with the physicians of Ulster around him. It is he that knoweth the sickness of a man by the smoke of the house wherein he lies, or by hearing his groans. Their medicine bags are the sacks which thou sawest with them."
"Another company came to the mound in Slane of Meath," continued macRoth. "A powerful, heavy, turbulent company; they caused uproar in their deeds of arms for the accomplishment of brilliant feats; they tore up the sad-sodded earth with the strength of their bitter rage, for the mighty princes of the proud province of Conchobar would not allow them to proceed to the great camp till all should be arrived. Two youths, swarthy and huge, in the front of that company; soft, playful eyes in their heads; about them, dark-grey tunics with silver pins set with stones; great, horn-topped swords with sheaths they bore; strong, stout shields they bore; lances with rows of rivets, in their hands; glossy tunics next to their skin." "We know well that company," quoth Fergus; "the household of Conchobar and his vassals are those; their two leaders, Glasne and Menn, two sons of Uthechar."
"There came yet another band to the mound in Slane of Meath," continued macRoth; "to wit, a band of a numerous body of henchmen. A black, hasty, swarthy, ----- man in the front rank of that band; seven chains around his neck; seven men at the end of each chain; he drags along these seven groups of men, so that their faces strike against the ground, and they revile him until he desists. Another terrible man is there, and the ponderous stone which powerful men could not raise, he sets on his palm and flings on high to the height a lark flies on a day of fine weather; a club of iron at his belt." "I know those men," quoth Fergus: "Triscoth the strong man of Conchobar's house; it is he that flings the stone on high. Ercenn son of the three stewards, he it is in the chains."
"There came another large, stately company to the mound in Slane of Meath," macRoth went on. "Three, very curly-headed, white-faced youths in the van of that troop; three curly-red kirtles with brooches of silvered bronze was the apparel they wore about them; three sparkling tunics of silk with golden seams tucked up about them; three studded shields with images of beasts for emblems in silvered bronze upon them and with bosses of red gold; three very keen swords with guards adorned with gold thread along their shoulders; broad-bladed javelin-heads on ashen shafts in their hands." "Who might that be there, O Fergus?" asked Ailill. "That I know," answered Fergus: "the three venoms of serpents; three cutting ones; three edges; three watchful ones; three points of combat; three pillars of the borders; three powerful companies of Ulster; three wardens of Erin; three triumph-singers of a mighty host are there," said Fergus, "the three sons of Conchobar, namely Glas and Manè and Conaing."
"Yet another company there came to the mound in Slane of Meath," said macRoth. "Stately, in beautiful colours, gleaming-bright they came to the mound. Not fewer than an army-division, as a glance might judge them A bold, fair-cheeked youth in the van of that troop; light-yellow hair has he; though a bag of red-shelled nuts were spilled on his crown, not a nut of them would fall to the ground because of the twisted, curly locks of his head. Bluish-grey as harebell is one of his eyes; as black as beetle's back is the other; the one brow black, the other white; a forked, light-yellow beard has he; a magnificent red-brown mantle about him; a round brooch adorned with gems of precious stones fastening it in his mantle over his right shoulder; a striped tunic of silk with a golden hem next to his skin; an ever-bright shield he bore; a hard-smiting, threatening spear he held over him; a very keen sword with hilt-piece of red gold on his thigh." "Who might that be, O Fergus?" asked Ailill. "I know, then," replied Fergus: "it is battle against foes; it is the inciting of strife; it is the rage of a monster; it is the madness of a lion; it is the cunning of a snake; it is the rock of the Badb; it is the sea over dikes; it is the shaking of rocks; it is the stirring of a wild host, namely Conall Cernach ('the Victorious'), the high-glorious son of Amargin, that is come hither."
"Yet another company came to the same mound in Slane of Meath," said macRoth. "Steady and dissimilar to the other companies. Some wore red cloaks, others light-blue cloaks, others dark blue cloaks, others green cloaks, white and yellow jerking, beautiful and shiny, were over them. Behold the little, red-faced lad with purple mantle about him in their midst. A brooch of gold in the mantle over his breast; a tunic of royal silk with red trimming of red gold next to his white skin, a bright shield with intricate figures of beasts in red gold upon it; a boss of gold on the shield; an edge of gold around it; a small, gold-hilted sword at his waist; a sharp, light lance cast its shadow over him."
"But, who might he be?" asked Ailill of Fergus. "Truly, I know not," Fergus made answer, "that I left behind me in Ulster the like of that company nor of the little lad that is in it. But, one thing I think likely, that they are the men of Temair with Erc son of Fedilmid Nocruthach and of Carbre Niafer. And if it be they, they are not more friends than their leaders here. Mayhap despite his father has this lad come to succour his grandfather at this time. And if these they be, a sea that drowneth shall this company be to ye, and the little lad that is in it that the battle shall this time be won against ye." "How through him?" asked Ailill. "Not hard to tell," Fergus responded: "for this little lad will know neither fear nor dread when slaying and slaughtering, until at length he comes into the midst of your battalion. Then shall be heard the whirr of Conchobar's sword like the yelp of a howling war-hound, or like a lion rushing among bears, while the boy will be saved. Then outside around the battle lines will [Conchobar] pile up huge walls of men's bodies. In turn, filled with love and devotion, the princes of the men of Ulster will hew the enemy to pieces. Boldly will those powerful bulls bellow as the calf of their cow is rescued in the battle on the morn of the morrow."
"Then came there three huge (?), strong, well-braced, cunningly-built castles; three mighty, wheeled-towers like unto mountains, in this wise placed in position: Three royal castles with their thirty fully armed battalions, swarming with evil-tongued warriors and with thirty round-shielded heroes. A bright, beautiful, glistening shield-guard was on each of the three strong, stout battle castles, with black, deadly armament of huge, high, blue, sharp pine-lances, such that one's bent knee would fit in the socket of each smooth, polished, even and hard spearhead that is on each huge, terrible, strange shaft of the terrible, awful, heavy, monstrous, indescribable armament that I saw. A third part of each shaft was contained in the socket of the riveted, very long, securely placed spears; as high as two cubits was each citadel from the ground; as long as a warrior's spear was the height of each battle hurdle; as sharp as charmed sword was the blade of each sickle on the sides and the flanks of each of Badb's hurdles; on each of the three stout and hard battle-hurdles they are to be found. Four dark, yet gleaming, well-adorned doors were on each battle-wheeled tower of the three royal wheeled-towers which were displayed and spread over the plain, with ivory door-posts, with lintels of cypress, with stately thresholds set of speckled, beautiful, strong pine, with their blue, glass door-leaves, with the glitter of crystal gems around each door-frame, so that its appearance from afar was like that of bright shining stars.
"As loud as the crash of a mighty wave at the great spring-tide, or of a huge heavy fleet upon the sea when toiling with the oars along the shore, was the similitude of the din and the clamour and the shouts and the tumult of the multitude and the to-and-fro of the thirty champions with their thirty heavy, iron clubs that they bear in their hands. And when the wheeled-towers advance massively and boldly against the line of heroes, these almost leave behind their arms at the fierce charge of the outland battalions. Then spring the three hundred champions with a shout of vengeful anger over the sides and over the front of the huge iron towers on wheels, so that this it was that checked the swift course and the great, hasty onslaught of the well-grounded, swiftly-moving, mighty chariots. The three stout, strong, battle-proof towers on wheels careered over rough places and over obstacles, over rocks and over heights.
"There coursed the thirty entire chargers, powerful, four abreast, the equal of ninety entire chargers, with manes more than big, bold and leaping, with sack-like, distended nostrils, high-headed, towering, over-powering, wonderful, so that they shook with their ramping the thick shell of the sad-sodded earth. They flecked the plain behind them with the foam dripping from the swift Danish steeds, from the bits and bridles, from the traces and tracks of the huge, maned, mighty steeds, greater than can be told! They excited strife with their din of arms. They plunged headlong in their swift impatience. They aroused great terror at their accoutrement, at their armour, at their cunning, at their power, at their hugeness, at their destructive, terrible, hostile vengeance on the four grand, proud provinces of Erin. Amazing to me was their appearance because of the unwontedness of their trappings both in form and in garb. Three wonderful flights of birds with variety of appearance hovered over them. The first flock was all red, the second flock was white as swans, the third flock as black as ravens. Three red-mouthed demons sped around them as swift as hares, circling the three wheeled towers, and this is what they prophesied:
"Sheaves of battle,
Might of quelling,
Ill of war-deeds,
Sating of foul ravens!
Sodden ground, blood-red;
Men low in dust;
Sheaves on sword-blades!"
"They wheeled about and brought them twelve battle-pillars of thick, huge, iron pillars. As thick as the middle of a warrior's thigh, as tall as a champion's spear was each battle-fork of them, and they placed four forks under each wheeled-tower. And their horses all ran from them and grazed upon the plain. And those forty that had gone in advance descend clad in armour on the plain, and the garrison of the three battle-wheeled towers falls to attacking and harassing them, and is attacked and harassed in turn by those forty champions, so that there was heard the breaking of shields and the loud blows of hard iron poles on bucklers and battle-helmets, on coats of mail and on the iron plates of smooth, hard, blue-black, sharp-beaked, forked spears. And in the whole camp there is none but is on the watch for their fierceness and their wrath and their cunning and their strangeness, for their fury, their achievements and the excellence of the guard. And in the place where the forty champions are and the thousand armed men contending with them, not one of the thousand had a wounding stroke nor a blow on his opponent because of the might of their skill in arms and the excellence of their defence withal!"
"They are hard to contend with for all such as are unfamiliar with them, is the opinion held of them," spake Fergus, "but they are readily to be dealt with for such as do know them. These are three battle-wheeled towers," Fergus continued, "as I perceive from their account. Once I saw their like, namely when as prentice I accompanied Darè to Spain, so that we entered the service of the king of Spain, Esorb to wit, and we afterwards made an expedition to Soda, that is, to the king of Africa, and we gave battle to the Carthaginians. There came their like upon us against the battle-line wherein we were, an hundred battalions and three score hundred in each battalion. One of the wheeled-towers won victory over us all, for we were not on our guard against them. And this is the way to defeat them: To mine a hole broader than the tower in the ground in the front thereof and cover over the pitfall; and for the battle-line to be drawn up over against it and not to advance to attack, so that it is the towers that advance and fall into the pit.
"Lebarcham told me, as I passed over Taltiu, that the Ulstermen brought these towers from Germany, and the towers held a third of the exiles of Ulster among them as their only dwelling; and Cualgae ('a Heap of Spears') is their name, namely battle-penfolds. And herein have ye the sorest of all hardships, for although all the men of Erin are drawn up against them, it is the men of Erin that will be defeated. When they take it upon them to engage in battle they cannot hold out without a combat. Thus will they remain now till morning, every forty men of them contending with the others. And this is my advice to you," said Fergus: "permit me with my division to withstand them, and do ye betake yourselves to the woods and wilds of Erin, and the Ulstermen shall not find ye in any place, and I will proceed as an example, depending on my own men-of-war." "There are men here for ye!" cried Medb. "That will be a force for yourselves," Fergus made answer.
"Yet another company came there to the same height in Slane of Meath," said macRoth. "Not fewer than a division was in it; wild, dark-red, warrior-bands; bright, clear, blue-purple men; long, fair-yellow heads of hair they wore; handsome, shining countenances they had; clear, kingly eyes; magnificent vesture with beautiful mantles; conspicuous, golden brooches along their bright-coloured sleeves; silken, glossy tunics; blue, glassy spears; yellow shields for striking withal; gold-hilted, inlaid swords set on their thighs; loud-tongued care has beset them; sorrowful are they all, and mournful; sad are the royal leaders; orphaned the brilliant company without their protecting lord who was wont to guard their lands." "But, who may they be?" asked Ailill of Fergus. "Indeed, we know them well," Fergus made answer. "Furious lions are they; deeds of battle; the division from the field of Murthemne are they. It is this that makes them cast-down, sorrowful, joyless as they are, because that their own divisional king himself is not amongst them, even Cuchulain, the restraining, victorious, red-sworded one that triumpheth in battle!"
"Good reason, in truth, there is for them to be so," quoth Medb, "if they are dejected, mournful and joyless. There is no evil we have not worked on them. We have harassed and we have assailed them, their territory and their land, from Monday at the beginning of Samaintide till the beginning of Spring. We have taken their women and their sons and their youths, their steeds and the troops of horses, their herds and their flocks and their droves. We have razed their hills after them till they are become lowlands, so that they are level with the plain."
"There is naught thou canst boast over them, O Medb!" cried Fergus. For thou didst them no hurt nor harm that yon fine company's leader avenged not on thee. For every mound and every grave, every stone and every tomb that is from hence to the east of Erin is the mound and the grave, the stone and the tomb of some goodly warrior and goodly youth, fallen at the hands of the noble chieftain of yonder company. Happy he to whom they hold! Woe to him whom they oppose! It will be enough, even as much as half a battle, for the men of Erin, when these defend their lord in the battle on the morning of the morrow."
"I heard a great uproar there, west of the battle or to its east," said macRoth. "Say, what noise was it?" asked Ailill of Fergus. "Ah, but we know it well," Fergus made answer: "Cuchulain it was, straining to go to battle, wearied at the length of his lying sick on Fert Sciach ('Thorn-mound') under hoops and clasps and ropes, and the men of Ulster do not permit him to go because of his sores and his wounds, inasmuch as he is not fit for battle and is powerless for combat after his encounter with Ferdiad."
True indeed spake Fergus. Cuchulain it was, wearied at the length of his lying supine on Fert Sciach under hoops and clasps and ropes.
Then came two women lampoonists from the camp and quarters of the men of Erin; their names, Fethan and Collach, to wit; and they stood with a feint of weeping and wailing over Cuchulain, telling him of the defeat of Ulster and the death of Conchobar and the fall of Fergus in combat.
Thereupon arose all the men of Ulster at the one time in the train of their king, and at the word of their prince, and to prepare for the uprising in response to the call of Laeg son of Riangabair. And in this wise they arose: stark-naked all of them, only their weapons in their hands. Each one whose tent door looked to the east, through the tent westwards he went, for that he deemed it too long to go round about it.
"How arise the Ulstermen now to the battle, Laeg my master?" asked Cuchulain. "Manfully they rise," said Laeg: "stark-naked all of them. Every man whose tent-door faces the east, through the tent westwards he goes, for he deems it too long to go round about it." "I pledge my word!" cried Cuchulain: "at a fitting hour have they now in the early day risen around Conchobar!"
Then spake Conchobar to Sencha son of Ailill: "Come, O Sencha my master," said Conchobar; "stay the men of Ulster, and let them not go to the battle til there come the strength of a good omen and favourable portent, till the sun mounts to the roof-tree of heaven and sunshine fills the glens and lowlands and hills and watch-towers of Erin." They tarried there till the strength of a good omen came and a favourable portent, till sunshine filled the glens and slopes and heights and watch-towers of the province.
"Come, O Sencha my master," said Conchobar; "rouse the men of Ulster to battle, for it is time for them to proceed thither." Sencha roused the men of Ulster to battle, and he spake these words:
"Now shall Macha's kings arise,
Weapons let them shatter:
Let them fight the battle:
Let them plow the earth in anger:
Let them strike on shields!
Wearied all the hands;
Herds loud bellowing:
Steadfast the resistance:
Furious the retainers:
Battle-lines shall prostrate fall
'Neath the feet of others!
Prince and lord prepare for battle.
Perish shall their race!
Manful contest there shall be;
Their foes they lie in wait for
And slay them all to-day!
Deep draughts of blood they drink:
Grief fills the hearts of queens:
Tender lamentations follow:
Till soaked in blood shall be the grassy sod
On which they're slain,
To which they come.
If for Cualnge's kine it be,
Let Macha's kings! Let them arise!
Not long was Laeg there when he witnessed something: the men of Erin all arising at one time, taking their shields and their spears and their swords and their helmets, and urging the men-of-war before them to the battle. The men of Erin, every single man of them, fell to smite and to batter, to cut and to hew, to slay and to destroy the others for a long space and while.
Thereupon Cuchulain asked of his charioteer, of Laeg son of Riangabair, at the time that a bright cloud came over the sun: "Look for us! How fight the Ulstermen the battle now, O my master Laeg?" "Like men they fight," Laeg answered. "Should I mount my chariot, and En, Conal Cernach's ('the Victorious') charioteer, his chariot, and should we go in two chariots from one wing to the other on the points of the weapons, neither hoof nor wheel nor axle-tree nor chariot-pole would touch the ground for the denseness and closeness and firmness with which their arms are held in the hands of the men-at-arms at this time."
"Alas, that I am not yet strong enough to be amongst them now!" cried Cuchulain; "for, were I able, my breach would be manifest there to-day like that of another," spake Cuchulain. "But this avow, O Cucuc," said Laeg: "'tis no reproach to thy valour; 'tis no disgrace to thine honour. Thou hast wrought great deeds before now and thou wilt work great deeds hereafter."
Then began the men of Erin to smite and to batter, to cut and to hew, to slay and to destroy the others for a long space and while. Next came to them the nine chariot-fighters of the champions from Norseland, and the three foot-warriors along with them, and no swifter were the nine chariot-men than the three men on foot.
Then came to them also the governors of the men of Erin. And this was their sole office with Medb in the battle: to smite to death Conchobar if it were he that suffered defeat, and to rescue Ailil and Medb if it should be they were defeated.
The three Conarè from Sliab Mis, the three Lussen from Luachair, the three Niadchorb from Tilach Loiscthe, the three Doelfer from Deill, the three Damaltach from Dergderc, the three Buder from the Buas, the three Baeth from Buagnige, the three Buageltach from Mag Breg, the three Suibnè from the Siuir, the three Eochaid from Anè, the three Malleth from Loch Erne, the three Abatruad from Loch Ri, the three macAmra from Ess Ruaid, the three Fiacha from Fid Nemain, the three Manè from Muresc, the three Muredach from Mairg, the three Loegaire from Lecc Derg, the three Broduinde from the Berba, the three Bruchnech, from Cenn Abrat, the three Descertach from Druim Fornacht, the three Finn from Finnabair, the three Conall from Collamair, the three Carbre from Cliu, the three Manè from Mossa, the three Scathglan from Scairè, the three Echtath from Ercè, the three Trenfer from Taitè, the three Fintan from Femen, the three Rotanach from Rognè, the three Sarchorach from Suidè Lagen, the three Etarscel from Etarbane, the three Aed from Aidnè, the three Guarè from Gabal.
Then said Medb to Fergus: "It were truly a thing to boast of for thee, werest thou to use thy mightiness of battle without stint amongst us to-day, forasmuch as thou hast been driven out of thine own land and out of thine inheritance; amongst us hast thou found land and domain and inheritance, and much good-will hath been shown thee!"
Thereupon Fergus uttered this oath: "I swear," [et reliqua,] "necks of men I would break from necks of men, arms of men from arms of men, scalps of men from scalps of men, so that heads of men over shields would be as numerous with me as bits of ice on the miry stamping-ground between two dry fields that a king's horses would course on. Every limb of the Ulstermen would I send flying through the air before and behind me this day, if only I had my sword!"
At that Ailill spoke to his own charioteer, Ferloga, to wit: "Fetch me a quick sword that wounds the skin, O gilla," said Ailill. "I give my word, if its bloom and condition be the worse at thy hands this day than the day I gave it thee on the hillside of Cruachan Ai, though thou hadst the men of Erin and of Alba to rescue thee from me to-day, they would not all save thee!
Ferloga went his way, and he brought the sword with him in the flower of its safe-keeping, and fair flaming as a candle. And the sword was placed in Ailill's hand, and Ailill put it in Fergus' hand, and Fergus offered welcome to the sword: "Welcome, O Calad Colg ('Hardblade') Letè's sword!" said he. "Weary, O champion of Badb! On whom shall I ply this weapon?" Fergus asked. "On the men-of-war around thee," Medb answered. "No one shall find indulgence nor quarter from thee to-day, unless some friend of thy bosom find it!"
Whereupon, Fergus took his arms and went forward to the battle. Ailill seized his weapons. Medb seized her weapons and entered the battle, so that thrice the Ulstermen were routed before them from the north, till Cualgae and sword drove them back again.
Conchobar heard that from his place in the line of battle, that the battle had gone against him thrice from the north. Then he addressed his bodyguard, even the inner circle of the Red Branch: "Hold ye here a while, ye men!" cried he; "even in the line of battle where I am, that I may go and learn by whom the battle has been thus forced against us thrice from the north." Then said his household: "We will hold out," said they, "for the sky is above us and the earth underneath and the sea round about us, and unless the heavens shall fall with their showers of stars on the man-face of the world, or unless the furrowed, blue-bordered ocean break o'er the tufted brow of the earth, or unless the ground yawns open, will we not move a thumb's breadth backward from here till the very day of doom and of everlasting life, till thou come back to us!"
Conchobar went his way to the place where he heard the battle had gone three times against him from the north, and he lifted shield against shield there, namely against Fergus mac Roig, even Ochain ('the Fair-ear') of Conchobar with its four ears of gold and its four bracings of red gold. Therewith Fergus gave three stout blows of Badb on the Ochain of Conchobar, so that Conchobar's shield cried aloud. Whenever Conchobar's shield cried out, the shields of all the Ulstermen cried out. However great the strength and power with which Fergus smote Conchobar on the shield, so great also was the might and valour wherewith Conchobar held the shield, so that the ear of the shield did not even touch the ear of Conchobar.
"Hearken, ye men of Erin!" cried Fergus; "who opposes a shield to me to-day on this day of battle when four of the five grand provinces of Erin come together on Garech and Ilgarech in the battle of the Cattle-raid of Cualnge?" "A gilla that is younger and mightier than thyself is here," [Conchobar answered,] "and whose mother and father were better! The man that hath driven thee out of thy borders, thy land and thine inheritance; the man that hath driven thee into the lairs of the deer and the wild hare and the foxes; the man that hath not granted thee to take the breadth of thy foot of thine own domain or land; the man that hath made thee dependent upon the bounty of a woman; the man that of a time disgraced thee by slaying the three sons of Usnech that were under thy safeguard; the man that will repel thee this day in the presence of the men of Erin; Conchobar son of Fachtna Fathach son of Ross Ruad son of Rudraige, High King of Ulster and son of the High King of Erin!"
"Truly hath this happened to me," Fergus responded. And Fergus placed his two hands on Calad Colg, and he heaved a blow with it backwards behind him, so that its point touched the ground, and he thought to strike his three fateful blows of Badb on the men of Ulster, so that their dead would be more in number than their living. Cormac Conlongas son of Conchobar saw that and he rushed to Fergus and he closed his two royal hands over him. "Full of hate, not of friendship is this, O Fergus my master! Ungentle, not heedful is this, O Fergus my master! Let not the Ulstermen be slain and destroyed by thee through thy destructive blows, but take thou thought for their honour to-day on this day of battle!" "Get thee away from me, boy!" exclaimed Fergus; "for I will not remain alive unless I deliver my three fateful strokes of Badb on the men of Ulster this day, till their dead be more in number than their living."
"Then turn thy hand slantwise," said Cormac Conlongas, "and slice off the hill-tops over the heads of the hosts on every side and this will be an appeasing of thine anger." "Tell Conchobar also to fall back again to his place in the battle," [said Fergus.] So Conchobar went to his place in the battle.
Thus it was with that sword, which was the sword of Fergus: The sword of Fergus, the sword of Letè from Faery: Whenever he desired to strike with it, it became the size of a rainbow in the air. Thereupon Fergus turned his hand slantwise over the heads of the hosts, so that he smote the three tops of the three hills, so that they are still visible on the moor, and these are the three Maels ('the Balds') of Meath.
Now as regards Cuchulain. He heard the Ochain of Conchobar smitten by Fergus macRoig. "Come, O Laeg my master," cried Cuchulain: "who dares thus smite with those strong blows, mighty and far-away, the Ochain of Conchobar, and I alive?" [Then Laeg made answer, saying: "The choice of men, Fergus macRoig, the very bold, smites it:]
"Blood he sheds, increase of slaughter," said Laeg;
"Splendid the hero, Fergus macRoig!
Hidden had lain Fairyland's chariot-sword!
Battle now hath reached the shield,
Shield of my master Conchobar!"
"Quickly unloose the bands, gilla!" cried Cuchulain. Then Cuchulain gave a mighty spring, so that the bindings of his wounds flew from him to Mag Tuag ('the Plain of the Bows') in Connacht. His bracings went from him to Bacca ('the Props') in Corcomruad. The dry wisps that were stuffed in his wounds rose to the roof of the air and the sky as highest larks fly on a day of sunshine when there is no wind. Thereupon, his bloody wounds got the better of him, so that the ditches and furrows of the earth were full of streams of blood and torrents of gore.
This was the first exploit of valour that Cuchulain performed on rising out of his weakness: The two women lampoonists that made a feint of weeping and wailing over his head, Fethan and Collach to wit, he smote each of them against the head of the other, so that he was red with their blood and grey with their brains. His arms had not been left near him, except his chariot only. And he took his chariot on his back, and he set out to attack the men of Erin, and he smote them with the chariot, until he reached the place where Fergus macRoig was.
"Turn hither, O Fergus my master!" he cried. Fergus did not answer, for he heard not. He spoke again, "Turn hither, Fergus my master!" he cried; "and if thou turn not, I will grind thee as a mill grinds fresh grain; I will wash thee as a cup is washed in a tub; I will bind thee as the woodbine binds the trees; I will pounce on thee as hawk pounces on fledglings!" "Truly this is my lot!" spake Fergus. "Who of the men of Erin dares to address these stiff, vengeful words to me, where now the four grand provinces of Erin are met on Garech and Ilgarech in the battle of the Raid for the Kine of Cualnge?"
"Thy fosterling is before thee," he replied, "and fosterling of the men of Ulster and of Conchobar as well, Cuchulain son of Sualtaim. And thou didst promise to flee before me what time I should be wounded, in pools of gore and riddled in the battle of the Tain. For, I did flee before thee in thine own combat on the Tain."
Fergus gave ear to that, and he turned and made his three great strides of a hero back. And as he turned, there turned all the men of Erin. Then the men of Erin broke their ranks westwards over the hill. The battle raged around the men of Connacht. At midday Cuchulain came to the battle. At the time of sunset at the ninth hour, the last company of the men of Connacht fled in rout westwards over the hill. At that time there did not remain in Cuchulain's hand of the chariot but a handful of its spokes around the wheel, and a handbreadth of its poles around the shell, with the slaying and slaughtering of the four grand provinces of Erin during all that time.
Then Medb betook her to a shield-shelter in the rear of the men of Erin. Thereafter Medb sent off the Brown Bull of Cualnge along with fifty of his heifers and eight of her runners with him around to Cruachan, to the end that whoso might and whoso might not escape, the Brown Bull of Cualnge should get away safely, even as she had promised.
Then it was that the issue of blood came upon Medb, [and she said: "Do thou, Fergus, undertake] a shield-shelter in the rear of the men of Erin till I let my water flow from me." "By my troth," replied Fergus, "'tis an ill hour for thee to be taken so." "Howbeit there is no help for me," Medb answered; "for I shall not live if I do not void water!" Fergus accordingly came and raised a shield-shelter in the rear of the men of Erin. Medb voided her water, so that it made three large dikes, so that a [mill] could find room in each dike. Hence the place is known as Fual Medbha ('Medb's Water').
Cuchulain came upon her as she was thus engaged, on his way to the battle, and he did not attack her. He would not strike her a blow from behind. "I crave a boon of thee this day, O Cuchulain," spake Medb. "What boon cravest thou of me?" asked Cuchulain. "That this host be under thine honour and thy protection till they pass westwards over Ath Mor ('the Great Ford')." "Yea, I promise that," said Cuchulain. Then went Cuchulain around the men of Erin, and he undertook a shield-defence on one side of them, in order to protect the men of Erin. On the other side went the governors of the men of Erin. Medb went to her own place and assumed a shield-defence in the rear of the men of Erin, and in this manner they convoyed the men of Erin over Ath Mor westwards.
Then Cuchulain took his sword in his hand and gave a blow to the three bald-topped hills of Ath Luain over against the three Maela ('the Bald Tops') of Meath, so that he struck their three heads off them.
Then Fergus began to view the host as it went westwards of Ath Mor. "It was thus indeed it behoved this day to prove, for following in the lead of a woman." "Faults and feuds have met here to-day," said Medb to Fergus. "Betrayed and sold is this host to-day," [Fergus answered.] "And even as a brood-mare leads her foals into a land unknown, without a head to advise or give counsel before them, such is the plight of this host to-day."
Then Cuchulain turned to where Conchobar was with the nobles of Ulster before him. Conchobar bewailed and lamented Cuchulain, and then he uttered this lay:
"How is this, O Cualnge's Hound
Hero of the Red Branch, thou:
Great woe, champion, hast thou borne
Battling in thy land's defence!
"Every morn a hundred slain,
Every eve a hundred more
While the host purveyed thy fare
Feeding thee with cooling food!
"Five-score heroes of the hosts,
These I reckon are in graves.
While their women-- fair their hue--
Spend the night bewailing them!"
As regards Medb, it is related here: She gathered the men of Erin and led them forth to Cruachan to behold the battle of the bulls. As regards the Brown Bull of Cualnge, it is now recounted in this place: When he saw the beautiful, strange land, he sent forth his three bellowing calls aloud. And Finnbennach Ai ('the Whitehorned of Ai') heard him. Now no male beast durst send forth a low that was louder than a moo in compare with him within the four fords of all Ai, Ath Moga and Ath Coltna, Ath Slissen and Ath Bercha. And he lifted his head and he hastened to Cruachan to look for the Brown Bull of Cualnge.
It was then the men of Erin debated who would be fitted to witness the fight of the bulls. They all agreed that it should be Bricriu son of Carbad that were fitted for that office. For, a year before this tale of the Cualnge Cattle-raid, Bricriu had gone from the one province into the other to make a request of Fergus. And Fergus had retained him with him waiting for his treasures and goods. And a quarrel arose between him and Fergus at a game of chess. And he spake evil words to Fergus. Fergus smote him with his fist and with the chessman that was in his hand, so that he crave the chessman into his head and broke a bone in his head. Whilst the men of Erin were on the foray of the Tain, all that time Bricriu was being cured at Cruachan. And the day they returned from the expedition was the day Bricriu rose. And this is why they selected Bricriu, for that Bricriu was no fairer to his friend than to his foe. And he was brought before the men of Erin to a gap whence to view the bulls.
Each of the bulls sighted the other and there was a pawing and digging up of the ground in their frenzy there, and they tossed the earth over them. They threw up the earth over their withers and shoulders, and their eyes blazed red in their heads like firm balls of fire. Their cheeks and their nostrils swelled like smith's bellows in a forge. And each of them gave a resounding, deadly blow to the other. Each of them began to hole and to gore, to endeavour to slaughter and demolish the other. Then the Whitehorned of Ai visited his wrath upon the Brown Bull of Cualnge for the evil of his ways and his doings, and he crave a horn into his side and visited his angry rage upon him. Then they directed their headlong course to where Bricriu was, so that the hoofs of the bulls drove him a man's cubit deep into the ground after his destruction. Hence, this is the Tragical Death of Bricriu son of Carbad.
Cormac Conlongas son of Conchobar saw that, and he laid hold of a spearshaft that filled his grasp, and gave three blows to the Brown Bull of Cualnge from ear to tail, so that it broke on his thick hide from ear to rump. " No wonderful, lasting treasure was this precious prize for us," said Cormac, "that cannot defend himself against a stirk of his own age!" The Brown Bull of Cualnge heard this-- for he had human understanding-- and he turned upon the Whitehorned. Thereupon he he rushed at him, so that they continued to strike at each other for a long while and great space of time, till night fell on the men of Erin. And when night had fallen, all that the men of Erin could hear was the bellowing and roaring. That night the bulls coursed over the greater part of all Erin.
It was not long before the men of Erin, as they were there early on the morrow, saw coming over Cruachan from the west the Brown Bull of Cualnge with the Whitehorned of Ai in torn fragments hanging about his ears and horns. The men of Erin arose, and they knew not which of the bulls it was. "Come, ye men!" cried Fergus "leave him alone if it be the Whitehorned that is there and if it be the Brown of Cualnge, leave him his trophy with him!"
Then it was that the seven Manè arose to take vengeance on the Brown Bull of Cualnge for his violence and his valour. "Whither go yonder men?" asked Fergus. "They go to kill the Brown of Cualnge," said all, "because of his evil deeds." "I pledge my word," shouted Fergus: "what has already been done in regard to the bulls is a small thing in compare with that which will now take place."
Then the Brown Bull of Cualnge gave forth the three chiefest bellowings of his throat in boast of his triumph and fear of Fergus held back the men of Erin from attacking the Brown Bull of Cualuge.
Then went the Brown Bull of Cualnge. He turned his right side towards Cruachan, and he left there a heap (crúach) of the liver of the Whitehorned, so that thence is named Cruachan Ai.
Next he came to the river Finnglas ('Whitewater'), and he drank a draught from the river, and, so long as he drank the draught he let not one drop of the river flow by him. Then he raised his head, and the shoulder-blades (lethe) of the Whitehorned fell from him in that place. Hence, Sruthair Finnlethe is the name given to it.
He pursued his way to the brink of Ath Mor ('the Great Ford'); and he left behind the loin (lúan) of the Whitehorned in that place, so that thence cometh Athione.
He continued eastwards into the land of Meath to Ath Truim. And he left behind there the liver (tromm) of the Whitehorned.
He raised his head haughtily and shook the remains of the Whitehorned from him over Erin. He sent its hind leg (lárac) away from him to Port Large. He sent its ribs (clíathac) from him to Dublin, which is called Ath Cliath.
He turned his face northwards then, and he knew the land of Cualnge, and he went his way towards it. In that place were women and youths and children lamenting the Brown Bull of Cualnge. They saw the Brown of Cualnge's forehead approaching them. "The forehead (taul) of a bull cometh towards us!" they shouted. Hence is Taul Tairb ever since.
Then turned the Brown of Cualnge on the women and youths and children of the land of Cualnge, and he effected a great slaughter amongst them. He turned his back to the hill then and his heart broke in his breast, even as a nut breaks. Such, then, is the account and the fate of the Brown Bull of Cualnge and the end of the Tain.