| Irish Celtic History II
, The Cattle-Raid of Cooley(Táin Bó Cúalng
Posted: 25-Nov-2008, 02:05 PM
Group: Celtic Nation
Realm: St. Louis, Missouri U.S.A.
| This story has 29 chapters with subchapters also, I will try to have this all posted by Christmas but no promises.
The Cattle-Raid of Cooley
(Táin Bó Cúalnge)
"The Ancient Irish Epic Tale Táin Bó Cúalnge" (1914) by Joseph Dunn.
The Cattle-Raid of Cooley (Táin Bó Cúalnge) 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.
1. Here Beginneth The Cualnge Cattle-raid
ONCE of a time, that Ailill and Medb had spread their royal bed in Cruachan, the stronghold of Connacht, such was the pillow-talk that befell betwixt them:
Quoth Ailill: "True is the saying, lady, 'She is a well-off woman that is a rich man's wife.'" "Aye,that she is," answered the wife; "but wherefore opin'st thou so?" "For this," Ailill replied,"that thou art this day better off than the day that first I took thee." Then answered Medb: "As well-off was I before I ever saw thee." "It was a wealth, forsooth, we never heard nor knew of," Ailill said; "but a woman's wealth was all thou hadst, and foes from lands next thine were used to carry off the spoil and booty that they took from thee."
"Not so was I," quoth Medb; "the High King of Erin himself was my sire, Eocho Fedlech ('the Enduring') son of Finn, by name, who was son of Findoman, son of Finden, son of Findguin, son of Rogen Ruad ('the Red'), son of Rigen, son of Blathacht, son of Beothacht, son of Enna Agnech, son of Oengus Turbech. Of daughters, had he six: Derbriu, Ethne and Ele, Clothru, Mugain and Medb, myself, that was the noblest and seemliest of them.
'Twas I was the goodliest of them in bounty and gift-giving, in riches and treasures. 'Twas I was best of them in battle and strife and combat. 'Twas I that had fifteen hundred royal mercenaries of the sons of aliens exiled from their own land, and as many more of the sons of freemen of the land. And there were ten men with every one of these hirelings, and nine men with every hireling, and eight men with every hireling, and seven men with every hireling, and six men with every hireling, and five men with every hireling, and four men with every hireling, and three men with every hireling, and two men with every hireling, and one hireling with every hireling. These were as a standing household-guard," continued Medb; " hence hath my father bestowed one of the five provinces of Erin upon me, even the province of Cruachan; wherefore 'Medb of Cruachan ' am I called.
Men came from Finn son of Ross Ruad ('the Red'), king of Leinster, to seek me for a wife, and I refused him; and from Carbre Niafer ('the Champion') son of Ross Ruad ('the Red'), king of Temair, to woo me, and I refused him; and they came from Conchobar son of Fachtna Fathach ('the Mighty'), king of Ulster, and I refused him in like wise. They came from Eocho Bec ('the Small'), and I went not; for 'tis I that exacted a singular bride-gift, such as no woman before me had ever required of a man of the men of Erin, namely, a husband without avarice, without jealousy, without fear.
For should he be mean, the man with whom I should live, we were ill-matched together, inasmuch as I am great in largess and gift-giving, and it would be a disgrace for my husband if I should be better at spending than he, and for it to be said that I was superior in wealth and treasures to trim, while no disgrace would it be were one as great as the other. Were my husband a coward,'twere as unfit for us to be mated, for I by myself and alone break battles and fights and combats, and 'twould be a reproach for my husband should his wife be more full of life than himself, and no reproach our being equally bold. Should he be jealous, the husband with whom I should live, that too would not suit me, for there never was a time that I had not my paramour.
Howbeit, such a husband have I found, namely in thee thyself, Ailill son of Ross Ruad ('the Red') of Leinster. Thou wast not churlish; thou wast not jealous; thou wast not a sluggard. It was I plighted thee, and gave purchase-price to thee, which of right belongs to the bride-- of clothing, namely, the raiment of twelve men, a chariot worth thrice seven bondmaids, the breadth of thy face of red gold, the weight of thy left forearm of silvered bronze. Whoso brings shame and sorrow and madness upon thee, no claim for compensation nor satisfaction hast thou therefor that I myself have not, but it is to me the compensation belongs," said Medb, "for a man dependent upon a woman's maintenance is what thou art."
"Nay, not such was my state," said Ailill; "but two brothers had I; one of them over Temair, the other over Leinster; namely, Finn, over Leinster, and Carbre, over Temair. I left the kingship to them because they were older but not superior to me in largess and bounty. Nor heard I of province in Erin under woman's keeping but this province alone. And for this I came and assumed the kingship here as my mother's successor; for Mata of Muresc, daughter of Magach of Connacht, was my mother. And who could there be for me to have as my queen better than thyself, being, as thou wert, daughter of the High King of Erin?" "Yet so it is," pursued Medb, "my fortune is greater than thine." "I marvel at that," Ailill made answer, "for there is none that hath greater treasures and riches and wealth than I: yea, to my knowledge there is not."
This post has been edited by gandolf3339 on 29-Sep-2013, 12:57 AM
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Posted: 26-Nov-2008, 08:51 AM
Group: Celtic Nation
Realm: St. Louis, Missouri U.S.A.
2. The Occaision of the Táin
Then were brought to them the least precious of their possessions, that they might know which of them had the more treasures, riches and wealth. Their pails and their cauldrons and their iron-wrought vessels, their jugs and their keeves and their eared pitchers were fetched to them.
Likewise, their rings and their bracelets and their thumbrings and their golden treasures were fetched to them, and their apparel, both purple and blue and black and green, yellow, vari-coloured and gray, dun, mottled and brindled.
Their numerous flocks of sheep were led in from fields and meeds and plains. These were counted and compared, and found to be equal, of like size, of like number; however, there was an uncommonly fine ram over Medb's sheep, and he was equal in worth to a bondmaid, but a corresponding ram was over the ewes of Ailill.
Their horses and steeds and studs were brought from pastures and paddocks. There was a noteworthy horse in Medb's herd and he was of the value of a bondmaid; a horse to match was found among Ailill's.
Then were their numerous droves of swine driven from woods and shelving glens and wolds. These were numbered and counted and claimed. There was a noteworthy boar with Medb, and yet another with Ailill.
Next they brought before them their droves of cattle and their herds and their roaming flocks from the brakes and wastes of the province.
These were counted and numbered and claimed, and were the same for both, equal in size, equal in number, except only there was an especial bull of the bawn of Ailill, and he was a calf of one of Medb's cows, and Finnbennach ('the Whitehorned') was his name. But he, deeming it no honour to be in a woman's possession, had left and gone over to the kine of the king. And it was the same to Medb as if she owned not a pennyworth, forasmuch as she had not a bull of his size amongst her cattle.
Then it was that macRoth the messenger was summoned to Medb, and Medb strictly bade macRoth to learn where there might be found a bull of that likeness in any of the provinces of Erin. "Verily," said macRoth, "I know where the bull is that is best and better again, in the province of Ulster, in the hundred of Cualnge, in the house of Darè son of Fiachna; even Donn Cualnge ('the Brown Bull of Cualnge') he is called."
"Go thou to him, macRoth, and ask for me of Darè the loan for a year of the Brown Bull of Cualnge, and at the year's end he shall have the meed of the loan, to wit, fifty heifers and the Donn Cualnge himself. And bear thou a further boon with thee, macRoth. Should the borderfolk and those of the country grudge the loan of that rare jewel that is the Brown Bull of Cualnge, let Darè himself come with his bull, and he shall get a measure equalling his own land of the smooth Plain of Ai and a chariot of the worth of thrice seven bondmaids and he shall enjoy my own close friendship."
Thereupon the messengers fared forth to the house of Darè son of Fiachna. This was the number wherewith macRoth went, namely, nine couriers. Anon welcome was lavished on macRoth in Darè's house-- fitting welcome it was-- chief messenger of all was macRoth. Darè asked of macRoth what had brought him upon the journey and why he was come.
The messenger announced the cause for which he was come and related the contention between Medb and Ailill. "And it is to beg the loan of the Brown Bull of Cualnge to match the Whitehorned that I am come," said he; "and thou shalt receive the hire of his loan, even fifty heifers and the Brown of Cualnge himself. And yet more I may add: Come thyself with thy bull and thou shalt have of the land of the smooth soil of Mag Ai as much as thou ownest here, and a chariot of the worth of thrice seven bondmaids and enjoy Medb's friendship to boot."
At these words Darè was well pleased, and he leaped for joy so that the seams of his flock-bed rent in twain beneath him. "By the truth of our conscience," said he; "however the Ulstermen take it, whether ill or well, this time this jewel shall be delivered to Ailill and to Medb, the Brown of Cualnge to wit, into the land of Connacht." Well pleased was macRoth at the words of the son of Fiachna.
Thereupon they were served, and straw and fresh rushes were spread under them. The choicest of food was brought to them and a feast was served to them and soon they were noisy and drunken. And a discourse took place between two of the messengers." 'Tis true what I say," spoke the one; "good is the man in whose house we are." "Of a truth, he is good." "Nay, is there one among all the men of Ulster better than he?" persisted the first. "In sooth, there is," answered the second messenger. "Better is Conchobar whose man he is, Conchobar who holds the kingship of the province. And though all the Ulstermen gathered around him, it were no shame for them. Yet is it passing good of Darè, that what had been a task for the four mighty provinces of Erin to bear away from the land of Ulster, even the Brown Bull of Cualnge, is surrendered so freely to us nine footmen."
Hereupon a third runner had his say: " What is this ye dispute about?" he asked. "Yon runner says, 'A good man is the man in whose house we are.'" "Yea, he is good," saith the other. "Is there among all the Ulstermen any that is better than he?" demanded the first runner further. "Aye, there is," answered the second runner; "better is Conchobar whose man he is; and though all the Ulstermen gathered around him, it were no shame for them. Yet, truly good it is of Darè, that what had been a task for four of the grand provinces of Erin to bear away out of the borders of Ulster is handed over even unto us nine footmen." "I would not grudge to see a retch of blood and gore in the mouth whereout that was said; for, were the bull not given willingly, yet should he be taken by force!"
At that moment it was that Darè macFiachna's chief steward came into the house and with him a man with drink and another with food, and he heard the foolish words of the runners; and anger came upon him, and he set down their food and drink for them and he neither said to them, "Eat," nor did he say, "Eat not."
Straightway he went into the house where was Darè macFiachna and said: "Was it thou that hast given that notable jewel to the messengers, the Brown Bull of Cualnge?" "Yea, it was I," Darè made answer. "Verily, it was not the part of a king to give him. For it is true what they say: Unless thou hadst bestowed him of thine own free will, so wouldst thou yield him in despite of thee by the host of Ailill and Medb and by the great cunning of Fergus macRoig." "I swear by the gods whom I worship," spoke Darè, " they shall in no wise take by foul means what they cannot take by fair!"
There they abide till morning. Betimes on the morrow the runners arise and proceed to the house where is Darè. "Acquaint us, lord, how we may reach the place where the Brown Bull of Cualnge is kept." "Nay then," saith Darè; "but were it my wont to deal foully with messengers or with travelling folk or with them that go by the road, not one of you would depart alive!" "How sayest thou?" quoth macRoth. "Great cause there is," replied Darè; "ye said, unless I yielded in good sort, I should yield to the might of Ailill's host and Medb's and the great cunning of Fergus."
"Even so," said macRoth, "whatever the runners drunken with thine ale and thy viands have said, 'tis not for thee to heed nor mind, nor yet to be charged on Ailill and on Medb." "For all that, macRoth, this time I will not give my bull, if ever I can help it!"
Back then the messengers go till they arrive at Cruachan, the stronghold of Connacht. Medb asks their tidings, and macRoth makes known the same: that they had not brought his bull from Darè. "And the reason?" demanded Medb. MacRoth recounts to her how the dispute arose. "There is no need to polish knots over such affairs as that, macRoth; for it was known," said Medb, "if the Brown Bull of Cualnge would not be given with their will, he would be taken in their despite, and taken he shall be!"
Posted: 26-Nov-2008, 09:50 PM
Group: Celtic Nation
Realm: St. Louis, Missouri U.S.A.
3. The Rising-Out of the Men of Connacht at Cruachan Ai
A mighty host was now assembled by the men of Connacht, that is, by Ailill and Medb, and they sent word to the three other provinces, and messengers were despatched from Medb to the Manè that they should gather in Cruachan, the seven Manè with their seven divisions; to wit: Manè "Motherlike," Manè "Fatherlike," and Manè "All-comprehending"; 'twas he that possessed the form of his mother and of his father and the dignity of them both; Manè "Mildly-submissive," and Manè "Greatly-submissive," Manè "Boastful " and Manè "the Dumb."
Other messengers were despatched by Ailill to the sons of Maga; to wit: to Cet ('the First') son of Magar Anluan ('the Brilliant Light ') son of Maga, and Maccorb ('Chariot-child') son of Maga, and Bascell ('the Lunatic') son of Maga, and En ('the Bird') son of Maga, Dochè son of Maga; and Scandal ('Insult') son of Maga.
These came, and this was their muster, thirty hundred armed men. Other messengers were despatched from them to Cormac Conlongas ('the Exile') son of Conchobar and to Fergus macRoig, and they also came, thirty hundred their number.
Now Cormac had three companies which came to Cruachan. Before all, the first company. A covering of close-shorn black hair upon them. Green mantles and many-coloured cloaks wound about them; therein, silvern brooches. Tunics of thread of gold next to their skin, reaching down to their knees, with interweaving of red gold. Bright-handled swords they bore, with guards of silver. Long shields they bore, and there was a broad, grey spearhead on a slender shaft in the hand of each man. "Is that Cormac, yonder?" all and every one asked. "Not he, indeed," Medb made answer.
The second troop. Newly shorn hair they wore and manes on the back of their heads, fair, comely indeed. Dark-blue cloaks they all had about them. Next to their skin, gleaming-white tunics, with red ornamentation, reaching down to their calves. Swords they had with round hilts of gold and silvern fist-guards, and shining shields upon them and five-pronged spears in their hands. "Is yonder man Cormac?" all the people asked. "Nay, verily, that is not he," Medb made answer.
Then came the last troop. Hair cut broad they wore; fair-yellow, deep-golden, loose-flowing back hair down to their shoulders upon them. Purple cloaks, fairly bedizened, about them; golden, embellished brooches over their breasts; and they had curved shields with sharp, chiselled edges around them and spears as long as the pillars of a king's house in the hand of each man. Fine, long, silken tunics with hoods they wore to the very instep. Together they raised their feet, and together they set them down again. "Is that Cormac, yonder?" asked all." Aye, it is he, this time," Medb made answer.
Thus the four provinces of Erin gathered in Cruachan Ai. They pitched their camp and quarters that night, so that a thick cloud of smoke and fire rose between the four fords of Ai, which are, Ath Moga, Ath Bercna, Ath Slissen and Ath Coltna. And they tarried for the full space of a fortnight in Cruachan, the hostel of Connacht, in wassail and drink and every disport, to the end that their march and muster might be easier.
And their poets and druids would not let them depart from thence till the end of a fortnight while awaiting good omen. And then it was that Medb bade her charioteer to harness her horses for her, that she might go to address herself to her druid, to seek for light and for augury from him.
Posted: 26-Nov-2008, 09:54 PM
Group: Celtic Nation
Realm: St. Louis, Missouri U.S.A.
4. The Foretelling
When Medb was come to the place where her druid was, she craved light and augury of him. "Many there be," saith Medb, "who do part with their kinsmen and friends here to-day, and from their homes and their lands, from father and from mother; and unless unscathed every one shall return, upon me will they cast their sighs and their ban, for it is I that have assembled this levy. Yet there goeth not forth nor stayeth there at home any dearer to me than are we to ourselves. And do thou discover for us whether we ourselves shall return, or whether we shall never return."
And the druid made answer, "Whoever comes not, thou thyself shalt come." "Wait, then," spake the charioteer, "let me wheel the chariot by the right, that thus the power of a good omen may arise that we return again." Then the charioteer wheeled his chariot round and Medb went back again, when she espied a thing that surprised her: A lone virgin of marriageable age standing on the hindpole of a chariot a little way off drawing nigh her. And thus the maiden appeared:
Weaving lace was she, and in her right hand was a bordering rod of silvered bronze with its seven strips of red gold at the sides. A many-spotted green mantle around her; a bulging, strong-headed pin of gold in the mantle over her bosom; a hooded tunic, with red interweaving, about her. A ruddy, fair-faced countenance she had, narrow below and broad above. She had a blue-grey and laughing eye; each eye had three pupils. Dark and black were her eyebrows; the soft, black lashes threw a shadow to the middle of her cheeks. Red and thin were her lips. Shiny and pearly were her teeth; thou wouldst believe they were showers of white pearls that had rained into her head. Like to fresh Parthian crimson were her lips. As sweet as the strings of lutes when long sustained they are played by master players' hands was the melodious sound of her voice and her fair speech. As white as snow in one night fallen was the sheen of her skin and her body that shone outside of her dress. Slender and very white were her feet; rosy, even, sharp-round nails she had; two sandals with golden buckles about them. Fair-yellow, long, golden hair she wore; three braids of hair she wore; two tresses were wound around her head; the other tress from behind threw a shadow down on her calves.
Medb gazed at her. "And what doest thou here now, O maiden?" asked Medb. "I impart to thee thine advantage and good fortune in thy gathering and muster of the four mighty provinces of Erin against the land of Ulster on the Raid for the Kine of Cualnge." "Wherefore doest thou this for me?" asked Medb. "Much cause have I. A bondmaid 'mid thy people am I." "Who of my people art thou and what is thy name?" asked Medb. "Not hard, in sooth, to say. The prophetess Fedelm, from the Sid ('the Fairy Mound') of Cruachan, a poetess of Connacht am I."
"Whence comest thou?" asked Medb. "From Alba, after learning prophetic skill," the maiden made answer. "Hast thou the form of divination?" "Verily, have I," the maiden said. "Look, then, for me, how will my undertaking be." The maiden looked. Then spake Medb:--
"Tell, O Fedelm, prophet-maid
How beholdest thou our host?"
Fedelm answered and spoke:
"Crimson-red from blood they are;
I behold them bathed in red!"
"That is no true augury," said Medb. "Verily, Conchobar with the Ulstermen is in his 'Pains' in Emain; thither fared my messengers Sand brought me true tidings ; naught is there that we need dread from Ulster's men. But speak truth, O Fedelm:--
"Tell, O Fedelm, prophet-maid
How beholdest thou our host?"
"Crimson-red from blood they are;
I behold them bathed in red!"
"That is no true augury. Cuscraid Mend ('the Stammerer') of Macha, Conchobar's son, is in Inis Cuscraid ('Cuscraid's Isle') in his ' Pains.' Thither fared my messengers; naught need we fear from Ulster's men. But speak truth, O Fedelm:--
"Tell, O Fedelm, prophet-maid
How beholdest thou our host?"
"Crimson-red from blood they are;
I behold them bathed in red!"
"Eogan, Durthacht's son, is in Rath Airthir ('the Eastern Rath') in his ' Pains.' Thither went my messengers. Naught need we dread from Ulster's men. But speak truth, O Fedelm:--
"Tell, O Fedelm, prophet-maid
How beholdest thou our host?"
"Crimson-red from blood they are;
I behold them bathed in red!"
"Celtchar, Uthechar's son, is in his fort at Lethglas in his 'Pains,' and a third of the Ulstermen with him. Thither fared my messengers. Naught have we to fear from Ulster's men. And Fergus son of Roig son of Eochaid is with us here in exile, and thirty hundred with him. But speak truth, O Fedelm:--
"Tell, O Fedelm, prophet-maid
How beholdest thou our host?"
"Crimson-red from blood they are;
I behold them bathed in red!"
"Meseemeth this not as it seemeth to thee," quoth Medb, "for when Erin's men shall assemble in one place, there quarrels will arise and broils, contentions and disputes amongst them about the ordering of themselves in the van or rear, at ford or river, over who shall be first at killing a boar or a stag or a deer or a hare. But, look now again for us and speak truth, O Fedelm:--
"Tell, O Fedelm, prophet-maid
How beholdest thou our host?"
"Crimson-red from blood they are;
I behold them bathed in red!"
Therewith she began to prophesy and to foretell the coming of Cuchulain to the men of Erin, and she chanted a lay:--
"Fair, of deeds, the man I see;
Wounded sore is his fair skin;
On his brow shines hero's light;
Victory's seat is in his face!
"Seven gems of champions brave
Deck the centre of his orbs;
Naked are the spears he bears,
And he hooks a red cloak round!
Noblest face is his, I see;
He respects all womankind.
Young the lad and fresh his hue,
With a dragon's form in fight!
I know not who is the Hound,
Culann's hight, of fairest fame;
But I know full well this host
Will be smitten red by him!
Four small swords--a brilliant feat--
He supports in either hand;
These he'll ply upon the host,
Each to do its special deed!
His Gae Bulga, too, he wields,
With his sword and javelin.
Lo, the man in red cloak girt
Sets his foot on every hill!
Two spears from the chariot's left
He casts forth in orgy wild.
And his form I saw till now
Well I know will change its guise!
On to battle now he comes;
If ye watch not, ye are doomed.
This is he seeks ye in fight
Brave Cuchulain, Sualtaim's son!
All your host he'll smite in twain,
Till he works your utter ruin.
All your heads ye'll leave with him.
Fedelm, prophet-maid, hides not!
"Gore shall flow from warriors' wounds;
Long 'twill live in memory.
Bodies hacked and wives in tears,
Through the Smith's Hound whom I see!"
Thus far the Augury and the Prophecy and the Preface of the Tale, and the Occasion of its invention and conception, and the Pillow-talk which Ailill and Medb had in Cruachan. Next follows the Body of the Tale itself.
Posted: 27-Nov-2008, 05:08 PM
Group: Celtic Nation
Realm: St. Louis, Missouri U.S.A.
5. This is the Route of the Táin
and the Beginning of the Expedition and the Names of the Roads which the hosts of the four of the five grand provinces of Erin took into the land of Ulster. On Monday after Summer's end they set forth and proceeded:
South-east from Cruachan Ai, by Mag Cruimm,
over Tuaim Mona ('the Hill of Turf'),
by Turloch Teora Crich ('the Creek of three Lands'),
by Cul ('the Nook') of Silinne,
by Dubloch ('Black Lough'),
by Fid Dubh ('Black Woods'),
by the Shannon,
by Glune Gabur,
by Mag Trega,
by Tethba in the north,
by Tethba in the south,
by Cul ('the Nook'),
northwards by Uatu,
eastwards by Tiarthechta,
by Ord ('the Hammer'),
by Slaiss ('the Strokes'), southwards,
by Indeoin ('the Anvil'),
by Findglassa Assail, ('White Stream of Assail'),
by Slechta, where swords hewed out roads before Medb and Ailill,
by Cul ('the Nook') of Siblinne,
by Dub ('the Blackwater'),
by Ochonn southwards,
by Cromma southwards,
eastwards by Fodromma,
by Gort Slane,
to the south of Druim Licce,
by Ath Gabla,
by Ardachad ('Highfield'),
northwards by Feorainn,
by Finnabair ('White Plain'),
by Assa southwards,
by Druim Salfind ('Salfind Ridge'),
by Druim Cain,
by Druim Caimthechta,
by Druim macDega,
by the little Eo Dond ('Brown Tree'),
by the great Eo Dond,
by Meide in Togmaill ('Ferret's Neck'),
by Meide in Eoin, ('Bird's Neck'),
by Baille ('the Town'),
by Dall Scena,
by Ball Scena,
by Ross Mor ('Great Point'),
by Scuap ('the Broom'),
by Cenn Ferna,
by Fid Mor ('Great Wood') in Crannach of Cualnge,
by Crond in Cualnge,
by Druim Cain on the road to Midluachar,
from Finnabair of Cualnge.
It is at that point that the hosts of Erin divided over the province in pursuit of the bull. For it was by way of those places they went until they reached Finnabair. Here endeth the Title. The Story begineth in order.
Posted: 27-Nov-2008, 05:13 PM
Group: Celtic Nation
Realm: St. Louis, Missouri U.S.A.
6. The March Of The Host
On the first stage the hosts went from Cruachan, they slept the night at Cul Silinne, where to-day is Cargin's Lough. And in that place was fixed the tent of Ailill son of Ross, and the trappings were arranged, both bedding and bed-clothes. The tent of Fergus macRoig was on his right hand; Cormac Conlongas, Conchobar's son, was beside him; Ith macEtgaith next to that; Fiachu macFiraba, the son of Conchobar's daughter, at its side; Conall Cernach at its side, Gobnenn macLurnig at the side of that. The place of Ailill's tent was on the right on the march, and thirty hundred men of Ulster beside him. And the thirty hundred men of Ulster on his right hand had he to the end that the whispered talk and conversation and the choice supplies of food and of drink might be the nearer to them.
Medb of Cruachan, daughter of Eocho Fedlech, moreover, was at Ailill's left. Finnabair ('Fairbrow'), daughter of Ailill and Medb, at her side, besides servants and henchmen. Next, Flidais Foltchain ('of the Lovely Hair'), wife first of Ailill Finn ('the Fair'). She took part in the Cow-spoil of Cualnge after she had slept with Fergus; and she it was that every seventh night brought sustenance in milk to the men of Erin on the march, for king and queen and prince and poet and pupil.
Medb remained in the rear of the host that day in quest of tidings and augury and knowledge. She called to her charioteer to get ready her nine chariots for her, to make a circuit of the camp that she might learn who was loath and who eager to take part in the hosting. With nine chariots she was wont to travel, that the dust of the great host might not soil her. Medb suffered not her chariot to be let down nor her horses unyoked until she had made a circuit of the camp.
Then, when she had reviewed the host, were Medb's horses unyoked and her chariots let down, and she took her place beside Ailill macMata. And Ailill asked tidings of Medb: who was eager and who was loath for the warfare. "Futile for all is the emprise but for one troop only, namely the division of the Galian ('of Leinster')," quoth Medb. "Why blamest thou these men?" queried Ailill. "It is not that we blame them," Medb made answer. "What good service then have these done that they are praised above all?" asked Ailill. "There is reason to praise them," said Medb. "Splendid are the warriors. When the others begin making their pens and pitching their camp, these have finished building their bothies and huts. When the rest are building their bothies and huts, these have finished preparing their food and drink. When the rest are preparing their food and drink, these have finished eating and feasting, and their harps are playing for them. When all the others have finished eating and feasting, these are by that time asleep.
And even as their servants and thralls are distinguished above the servants and thralls of the men of Erin, so shall their heroes and champions be distinguished beyond the heroes and champions of the men of Erin this time on this hosting. It is folly then for these to go, since it is those others will enjoy the victory of the host!'' "So much the better, I bow," replied Ailill; "for it is with us they go and it is for us they fight." "They shall not go with us nor shall they fight for us," cried Medb. Let them stay at home then," said Ailill. "Stay they shall not," answered Medb. "They will fall on us in the rear and will seize our land against us." "What shall they do then," Finnabair asked, "if they go not out nor yet remain at home?" "Death and destruction and slaughter is what I desire for them," answered Medb. "For shame then on thy speech," spake Ailill; "'tis a woman's advice, for that they pitch their tents and make their pens so promptly and unwearily."
"By the truth of my conscience," cried Fergus, "not thus shall it happen, for they are allies of us men of Ulster. No one shall do them to death but he that does death to myself along with them!" "Not to me oughtest thou thus to speak, O Fergus," then cried Medb, "for I have hosts enough to slay and slaughter thee with the division of Leinstermen round thee. For there are the seven Mane, that is, my seven sons with their seven divisions, and the sons of Maga with their seven divisions, and Ailill with his division, and I myself with my own body-guard besides. We are strong enough here to kill and slaughter thee with thy cantred of the Leinstermen round thee!"
"It befits thee not thus to speak to me," said Fergus, "for I have with me here in alliance with us Ulstermen, the seven Under-kings of Munster, with their seven cantreds. Here we have what is best of the youths of Ulster, even the division of the Black Banishment. Here we have what is best of the noble youths of Ulster, even the division of the Galian ('of Leinster'). Furthermore, I myself am bond and surety and guarantee for them, since ever they left their own native land. I will give thee battle in the midst of the camp, and to me will they hold steadfast on the day of battle.
More than all that," added Fergus, "these men shall be no subject of dispute. By that I mean I will never forsake them. For the rest, we will care for these warriors, to the end that they get not the upper hand of the host. "The number of our force is seventeen cantreds, besides our rabble and our women-folk-- for with each king was his queen in Medb's company-- and our striplings; the eighteenth division is namely the cantred of the Galian. This division of Leinstermen I will distribute among all the host of the men of Erin in such wise that no five men of them shall be in any one place." "That pleaseth me well," said Medb: "let them be as they may, if only they be not in the battle-order of the ranks where they now are in such great force." Forthwith Fergus distributed the cantred of the Galian among the men of Erin in such wise that there were not five men of them in any one place.
Thereupon, the troops set out on their way and march. It was no easy thing for their kings and their leaders to attend to that mighty host. They took part in the expedition according to the several tribes and according to the several stems and the several districts wherewith they had come, to the end that they might see one other and know one other, that each man might be with his comrades and with his friends and with his kinsfolk on the march. They declared that in such wise they should go.
They also took counsel in what manner they should proceed on their hosting. Thus they declared they should proceed: Each host with its king, each troop with its lord, and each band with its captain; each king and each prince of the men of Erin by a separate route on his halting height apart. They took counsel who was most proper to seek tidings in advance of the host between the two provinces. And they said it was Fergus, inasmuch as the expedition was an obligatory one with him, for it was he that had been seven years in the kingship of Ulster. And after Conchobar had usurped the kingship and after the murder of the sons of Usnech who were under his protection and surety, Fergus left the Ultonians, and for seventeen years he was away from Ulster in exile and in enmity. For that reason it was fitting that he above all should go after tidings.
So the lead of the way was entrusted to Fergus. Fergus before all fared forth to seek tidings, and a feeling of love and affection for his kindred of the men of Ulster came over him, and he led the troops astray in a great circuit to the north and the south. And he despatched messengers with warnings to the Ulstermen. And he began to detain and delay the host.
Medb perceived this and she upbraided him for it, and chanted the lay:--
Medb: "Fergus, speak, what shall we say?
What may mean this devious way?
For we wander north and south;
Over other lands we stray!"
Fergus: "Medb, why art thou so perturbed?
There's no treacherous purpose here.
Ulster's land it is, O queen,
Over which I've led thy host!"
Medb: "Ailill, splendid with his hosts,
Fears thee lest thou should'st betray.
Thou hast not bent all thy mind
To direct us on our way!"
Fergus: "Not to bring the host to harm
Make these changing circuits I.
Haply could I now avoid
Sualtach's son, the Blacksmith's Hound!"
Medb: "Ill of thee to wrong our host,
Fergus, son of Ross the Red;
Much good hast thou found with us,
Fergus, in thy banishment!"
"I will be in the van of the troops no longer," cried Fergus; "but do thou find another to go before them." For all that, Fergus kept his place in the van of the troops.
The four mighty provinces of Erin passed that night on Cul Silinne. The sharp, keen-edged anxiety for Cuchulain came upon Fergus and he warned the men of Erin to be on their guard, because there would come upon them the rapacious lion, and the doom of foes, the vanquisher of multitudes, and the chief of retainers, the mangler of great hosts, the hand that dispenseth treasures, and the flaming torch, even Cuchulain son of Sualtaim. And thus he foreshowed him and chanted a lay, and Medb responded :
Fergus: "Well for ye to heed and watch,
With array of arms and men.
He will come, the one we fear,
Murthemne's great, deedful youth!"
Medb: "How so dear, this battle-rede,
Comes from thee, Roig's son most bold.
Men and arms have I enough
To attend Cuchulain here!"
Fergus: "Thou shalt need them, Medb of Ai,
Men and arms for battle hard,
With the grey steed's horseman brave,
All the night and all the day!"
Medb: "I have kept here in reserve
Heroes fit for fight and spoil;
Thirty hundred hostage-chiefs,
Leinster's bravest champions they.
Fighting men from Cruachan fair,
Braves from clear-streamed Luachair,
Four full realms of goodly Gaels
Will defend me from this man!"
Fergus: "Rich in troops from Mourne and Bann,
Blood he'll draw o'er shafts of spears;
He will cast to mire and sand
These three thousand Leinstermen.
With the swallow's swiftest speed,
With the rush of biting wind,
So bounds on my dear brave Hound,
Breathing slaughter on his foes!"
Medb: "Fergus, should he come 'tween us,
To Cuchulain bear this word:
He were prudent to stay still;
Cruachan holds a check in store."
Fergus: "Valiant will the slaughter be
Badb's wild daughter gloats upon.
For the Blacksmith's Hound will spill
Showers of blood on hosts of men!"
After this lay the men of the four grand provinces of Erin marched on the morrow over Moin Coltna ('the Marsh of Coltain') eastwards that day; and there met them eight score deer in a single herd. The troops spread out and surrounded and killed them so that none of them escaped. But there is one event to add: Although the division of the Galian had been dispersed among the men of Erin, wherever there was a man of the Galian, it was he that got them, except five deer only which was the men of Erin's share thereof, so that one division took all the eight score deer.
It was on that same day, after the coming of the warning from Fergus to the Ulstermen, that Cuchulain son of Sualtaim, and Sualtaim Sidech ('of the Fairy Mound'), his father, when they had received the warning from Fergus, came so near on their watch for the host that their horses grazed in pasture round the pillarstone on Ard Cuillenn ('the Height of Cuillenn'). Sualtaim's horses cropped the grass north of the pillarstone close to the ground; Cuchulain's cropped the grass south of the pillar-stone even to the ground and the bare stones.
"Well, O master Sualtaim," said Cuchulain; "the thought of the host is fixed sharp upon me to-night, so do thou depart for us with warnings to the men of Ulster, that they remain not in the smooth plains but that they betake themselves to the woods and wastes and steep glens of the province, if so they may keep out of the way of the men of Erin." "And thou, lad, what wilt thou do?" "I must go southwards to Temair to keep tryst with the maid of Fedlimid Nocruthach ('of the Nine Forms') Conchobar's daughter, according to my own agreement, till morning." "Alas, that one should go on such a journey," said Sualtaim, "and leave the Ulstermen under the feet of their foes and their enemies for the sake of a tryst with a woman!" "For all that, I needs must go. For, an I go not, the troth of men will be held for false and the promises of women held for true."
Sualtaim departed with warnings to the men of Ulster. Cuchulain strode into the wood, and there, with a single blow, he lopped the prime sapling of an oak, root and top, and with only one foot and one hand and one eye he exerted himself; and he made a twig-ring thereof and set an ogam script on the plug of the ring, and set the ring round the narrow part of the pillar-stone on Ard ('the Height') of Cuillenn. He forced the ring till it reached the thick of the pillar-stone. Thereafter Cuchulain went his way to his tryst with the woman.
Touching the men of Erin, the account follows here: They came up to the pillar-stone at Ard Cuillenn, which is called Crossa Coil to-day, and they began looking out upon the province that was unknown to them, the province of Ulster. And two of Medb's people went always before them in the van of the host, at every camp and on every march, at every ford and every river and every gap. They were wont to do so that they might save the brooches and cushions and cloaks of the host, so that the dust of the multitude might not soil them and that no stain might come on the princes' raiment in the crowd or the crush of the hosts or the throng: these were the two sons of Nera, who was the son of Nuathar, son of Tacan, two sons of the house-stewards of Cruachan, Err and Innell, to wit. Fraech and Fochnam were the names of their charioteers.
The nobles of Erin arrived at the pillar-stone and they there beheld the signs of the browsing of the horses, cropping around the pillar, and they looked close at the rude hoop which the royal hero had left behind about the pillar-stone. And Ailill took the withy in his hand and placed it in Fergus' hand, and Fergus read the ogam script graven on the plug of the withy, and made known to the men of Erin what was the meaning of the ogam writing that was on it.
When Medb came, she asked, "Why wait ye here?" "Because of yonder withy we wait," Fergus made answer; "there is an ogam writing on its binding and this is what it saith: ' Let no one go past here till a man be found to throw a withy like unto this, using only one hand and made of a single branch, and I except my master Fergus.' Truly," Fergus added, "it was Cuchulain threw it, and it was his steeds that grazed this plain." And he placed the hoop in the hands of the druids, and it is thus he began to recite and he pronounced a lay:--
"What bespeaks this withe to us,
What purports its secret rede?
And what number cast it here,
Was it one man or a host?
"If ye go past here this night,
And bide not a one night in camp
On ye'll come the tear-flesh Hound;
Yours the blame, if ye it scorn!
"'Evil on the host he'll bring,
If ye go your way past this.
Find, ye druids, find out here,
For what cause this withe was made!"
A druid speaks: "Cut by hero, cast by chief,
As a perfect trap for foes.
Stayer of lords--with hosts of men--
One man cast it with one hand!
"With fierce rage the battle 'gins
Of the Smith's Hound of Red Branch.
Bound to meet this madman's rage;
This the name that's on the withe!
"Woes to bring with hundred fights
On four realms of Erin's land;
Naught I know 'less it be this
For what cause the withe was made!"
After that lay: "I pledge you my word," said Fergus, "if so ye set at naught yon withy and the royal hero that made it, and if ye go beyond without passing a night's camp and quarterage here, or until a man of you make a withy of like kind, using but one foot and one eye and one hand, even as he made it, certain it is, whether ye be under the ground or in a tight-shut house, the man that wrote the ogam hereon will bring slaughter and bloodshed upon ye before the hour of rising on the morrow, if ye make light of him!"
"That, surely, would not be pleasing to us," quoth Medb, "that any one should straightway spill our blood or besmirch us red, now that we are come to this unknown province, even to the province of Ulster. More pleasing would it be to us, to spill another's blood and redden him." "Far be it from us to set this withy at naught," said Ailill, "nor shall we make little of the royal hero that wrought it, rather will we resort to the shelter of this great wood, that is, Fidduin, ('the Wood of the Dun') southwards till morning. There will we pitch our camp and quarters."
Thereupon the hosts advanced, and as they went they felled the wood with their swords before their chariots, so that Slechta ('the Hewn Road') is still the by-name of that place where is Partraige Beca ('the Lesser Partry') south-west of Cenannas na Rig ('Kells of the Kings') near Cul Sibrille.
According to other books, it is told as follows: After they had come to Fidduin they saw a chariot and therein a beautiful maiden. It is there that the conversation between Medb and Fedelm the seeress took place that we spoke of before, and it is after the answer she made to Medb that the wood was cut down: "Look for me," said Medb, "how my journey will be." "It is hard for me," the maiden made answer, "for no glance of eye can I cast upon them in the wood." "Then it is plough-land this shall be," quoth Medb; "we will cut down the wood." Now, this was done, so that this is the name of the place, Slechta, to wit. They slept in Cul Sibrille, which is Cenannas.
A heavy snow fell on them that night, and so great it was that it reached to the shoulders of the men and to the flanks of the horses and to the poles of the chariots, so that all the provinces of Erin were one level plane from the snow. But no huts nor bothies nor tents did they set up that night, nor did they prepare food nor drink, nor made they a meal nor repast. None of the men of Erin wot whether friend or foe was next him until the bright hour of sunrise on the morrow.
Certain it is that the men of Erin experienced not a night of encampment or of station that held more discomfort or hardship for them than that night with the snow at Cul Sibrille. The four grand provinces of Erin moved out early on the morrow with the rising of the bright-shining sun glistening on the snow and marched on from that part into another.
Now, as regards Cuchulain: It was far from being early when he arose from his tryst. And then he ate a meal and took a repast, and he remained until he had washed himself and bathed on that day. He called to his charioteer to lead out the horses and yoke the chariot. The charioteer led out the horses and yoked the chariot, and Cuchulain mounted his chariot. And they came on the track of the army. They found the trail of the men of Erin leading past them from that part into another.
"Alas, O master Laeg," cried Cuchulain, "by no good luck went we to our tryst with the woman last night. Would that we had not gone thither nor betrayed the Ultonians. This is the least that might be looked for from him that keeps guard on the marches, a cry, or a shout, or an alarm, or to call, 'Who goes the road?' This it fell not unto us to say. The men of Erin have gone past us, without warning, without complaint, into the land of Ulster." "I foretold thee that, O Cuchulain," said Laeg. "Even though thou wentest to thy woman-tryst last night, such a disgrace would come upon thee." "Good now, O Laeg, go thou for us on the trail of the host and make an estimate of them, and discover for us in what number the men of Erin went by us."
Laeg came on the track of the host, and he went to the front of the trail and he came on its sides and he went to the back of it. "Thou art confused in thy counting, O Laeg, my master," quoth Cuchulain. "Confused I must be," Laeg replied. "Come into the chariot then, and I will make a reckoning of them." The charioteer mounted the chariot and Cuchulain went on the trail of the hosts and after a long while he made a reckoning of them. "Even thou, it is not easy for thee. Thou art perplexed in thy counting, my little Cuchulain," quoth Laeg. "Not perplexed," answered Cuchulain; "it is easier for me than for thee. For I know the number wherewith the hosts went past us, namely, eighteen cantreds. Nay more: the eighteenth cantred has been distributed among the entire host of the men of Erin.
Now, many and divers were the magic virtues that were in Cuchulain that were in no one else in his day. Excellence of form, excellence of shape, excellence of build, excellence in swimming, excellence in horsemanship, excellence in chess and in draughts, excellence in battle, excellence in contest, excellence in single combat, excellence in reckoning, excellence in speech, excellence in counsel, excellence in bearing, excellence in laying waste and in plundering from the neighbouring border.
"Good, my friend Laeg. Brace the horses for us to the chariot; lay on the goad for us on the horses; drive on the chariot for us and give thy left board to the hosts, to see can we overtake the van or the rear or the midst of the hosts, for I will cease to live unless there fall by my hand this night a friend or foe of the men of Erin."
Then it was that the charioteer gave the prick to the steeds. He turned his left board to the hosts till he arrived at Turloch Caille More ('the Creek of the Great Wood') northwards of Cnogba na Rig ('Knowth of the Kings') which is called Ath Gabla ('the Ford of the Fork'). Thereupon Cuchulain went round the host till he came to Ath Grenca. He went into the wood at that place and sprang out of his chariot, and he lopped off a four-pronged fork, root and top, with a single stroke of his sword. He pointed and charred it and put a writing in ogam on its side, and he gave it a long throw from the hinder part of his chariot with the tip of a single hand, in such wise that two-thirds of it sank into the ground and only one-third was above it in the mid part of the stream, so that no chariot could go thereby on this side or that.
Then it was that the same two striplings surprised him, namely, the two sons of Nera son of Nuathar son of Tacan, while engaged in that feat. And they vied which of the twain would be the first to fight and contend with Cuchulain, which of them would inflict the first wound upon him and be the first to behead him. Cuchulain turned on them, and straightway he struck off their four heads from themselves Eirr and Indell and from Foich and Fochlam, their drivers, and he fixed a head of each man of them on each of the prongs of the pole.
And Cuchulain let the horses of the party go back in the direction of the men of Erin, to return by the same road, their reins loose around their ears and their bellies red and the bodies of the warriors dripping their blood down outside on the ribs of the chariots. Thus he did, for he deemed it no honour nor deemed he it fair to take horses or garments or arms from corpses or from the dead. And then the troops saw the horses of the party that had gone out in advance before them, and the headless bodies of the warriors oozing their blood down on the ribs of the chariots (and their crimsoned trappings upon them). The van of the army waited for the rear to come up, and all were thrown into confusion of striking, that is as much as to say, into a tumult of arms.
Medb and Fergus and the Manè and the sons of Maga drew near. For in this wise was Medb wont to travel, and nine chariots with her alone; two of these chariots before her, and two chariots behind, and two chariots at either side, and her own chariot in the middle between them. This is why Medb did so, that the turves from the horses' hoofs, or the flakes of foam from the bridle-bits, or the dust of the mighty host or of the numerous throng might not reach the queen's diadem of gold which she wore round her head.
"What have we here?" queried Medb. "Not hard to say," each and all made answer; "the horses of the band that went out before us are here and their bodies lacking their heads in their chariots." They held a council and they felt certain it was the sign of a multitude and of the approach of a mighty host, and that it was the Ulstermen that had come and that it was a battle that had taken place before them on the ford. And this was the counsel they took to despatch Cormac Conlongas, Conchobar's son, from them to learn what was at the ford; because, even though the Ulstermen might be there, they would not kill the son of their own king.
Thereupon Cormac Conlongas, Conchobar's son, set forth and this was the complement with which he went, ten hundred in addition to twenty hundred armed men, to ascertain what was at the ford. And when he was come, he saw naught save the fork in the middle of the ford, with four heads upon it dripping their blood down along the stem of the fork into the stream of the river, and a writing in ogam on the side, and the signs of the two horses and the track of a single chariot-driver and the marks of a single warrior leading out of the ford going therefrom to the eastward. By that time, the nobles of Erin had drawn nigh to the ford and they all began to look closely at the fork. They marvelled and wondered who had set up the trophy.
One of their men deciphered the ogam-writing that was on the side of the fork, to wit: 'A single man cast this fork with but a single hand; and go ye not past it till one man of you throw it with one hand, excepting Fergus.'
"What name have ye men of Ulster for this ford till now, Fergus?" asked Ailill. "Ath Grenca," answered Fergus; "and Ath Gabla ('Ford of the Fork') shall now be its name forever from this fork," said Fergus. And he recited the lay:--
"Grenca's ford shall change its name,
From the strong and fierce Hound's deed.
Here we see a four-pronged fork,
Set to prove all Erin's men!
"On two points-- as sign of war--
Are Fraech's head and Fochnam's head;
On its other points are thrust
Err's head and Innell's withal!
"And yon ogam on its side,
Find, ye druids, in due form,
Who has set it upright there?
What host drove it in the ground?"
(A druid:) "Yon forked pole-- with fearful strength--
Which thou seest, Fergus, there,
One man cut, to welcome us,
With one perfect stroke of sword!
"Pointed it and shouldered it--
Though this was no light exploit--
After that he flung it down,
To uproot for one of you!
"Grenca was its name till now--
All will keep its memory--
Fork-ford be its name for aye,
From the fork that's in the ford!"
After the lay, spake Ailill: "I marvel and wonder, O Fergus, who could have sharpened the fork and slain with such speed the four that had gone out before us." "Fitter it were to marvel and wonder at him who with a single stroke lopped the fork which thou seest, root and top, pointed and charred it and flung it the length of a throw from the hinder part of his chariot, from the tip of a single hand, so that it sank over two-thirds into the ground and that naught save one-third is above; nor was a hole first dug with his sword, but through a grey stone's flag it was thrust, and thus it is geis for the men of Erin to proceed to the bed of this ford till one of ye pull out the fork with the tip of one hand, even as he erewhile drove it down."
"Thou art of our hosts, O Fergus," said Medb; "avert this necessity from us, and do thou draw the fork for us from the bed of the ford." "Let a chariot be brought me," cried Fergus, "till I draw it out, that it may be seen that its butt is of one hewing." And a chariot was brought to Fergus, and Fergus laid hold with a truly mighty grip on the fork, and he made splinters and scraps of the chariot. "Let another chariot be brought me," cried Fergus. Another chariot was brought to Fergus, and Fergus made a tug at the fork and again made fragments and splinters of the chariot, both its box and its yoke and its wheels. "Again let a chariot be brought me," cried Fergus. And Fergus exerted his strength on the fork, and made pieces and bits of the chariot.
There where the seventeen chariots of the Connachtmen's chariots were, Fergus made pieces and bits of them all, and yet he failed to draw the fork from the bed of the ford. "Come now, let it be, O Fergus," cried Medb; "break our people's chariots no more. For hadst thou not been now engaged on this hosting, by this time should we have come to Ulster, driving divers spoils and cattleherds with us. We wot wherefore thou workest all this, to delay and detain the host till the Ulstermen rise from their 'Pains' and offer us battle, the battle of the Táin."
"Bring me a swift chariot," cried Fergus. And his own chariot was brought to Fergus, and Fergus gave a tug at the fork, and nor wheel nor floor nor one of the chariot-poles creaked nor cracked. Even though it was with his strength and prowess that the one had driven it down, with his might and doughtiness the other drew it out,-- the battle-champion, the gap-breaker of hundreds, the crushing sledge, the stone-of-battle for enemies, the head of retainers, the foe of hosts, the hacking of masses, the flaming torch and the leader of mighty combat.
He drew it up with the tip of one hand till it reached the slope of his shoulder, and he placed the fork in Ailill's hand. Ailill scanned it; he regarded it near. "The fork, meseems, is all the more perfect," quoth Ailill; "for a single stroke I see on it from butt to top." "Aye, all the more perfect," Fergus replied. And Fergus began to sing praise of Cuchulain, and he made a lay thereon:--
"Here behold the famous fork,
By which cruel Cuchulain stood.
Here he left, for hurt to all,
Four heads of his border-foes!
"Surely he'd not flee therefrom,
'Fore aught man, how brave or bold.
Though the scatheless Hound this left,
On its hard rind there is gore!
"To its hurt the host goes east,
Seeking Cualnge's wild Brown bull.
Warriors' cleaving there shall be,
'Neath Cuchulain's baneful sword!
"No gain will their stout bull be,
For which sharp-armed war will rage;
At the fall of each head's skull
Erin's every tribe shall weep!
"I have nothing to relate
As regards Dechtirè's son.
Men and women hear the tale
Of this fork, how it came here!"
After this lay: "Let us pitch our booths and tents," said Ailill, "and let us make ready food and drink, and let us sing songs and strike up harps, and let us eat and regale ourselves, for, of a truth, never before nor since knew the men of Erin a night of encampment or of entrenchment that held sorer discomfort or distress for them than yesternight. Let us give heed to the manner of folk to whom we go and let us hear somewhat of their deeds and famous tales." They raised their booths and pitched their tents. They got ready their food and drink, and songs were sung and harping intoned by them, and feasting and eating indulged in.
And Ailill inquired of Fergus: "I marvel and wonder who could have come to us to our lands and slain so quickly the four that had gone out before us. Is it likely that Conchobar son of Fachtna Fatach ('the Mighty'), High King of Ulster, has come to us?" "It is never likely that he has," Fergus answered; "for a shame it would be to speak ill of him in his absence. There is nothing he would not stake for the sake of his honour. For if he had come hither to the border of the land, there would have come armies and troops and the pick of the men of Erin that are with him. And even though against him in one and the same place, and in one mass and one march and one camp, and on one and the same hill were the men of Erin and Alba, Britons and Saxons, he would give them battle, before him they would break and it is not he that would be routed."
"A question, then: Who would be like to have come to us? Is it like that Cuscraid Mend ('the Stammerer') of Macha would have come, Conchobar's son, from Inis Cuscraid?" "Nay then, it is not; he, the son of the High King," Fergus answered. "There is nothing he would not hazard for the sake of his honour. For were it he that had come hither, there would have come the sons of kings and the royal leaders of Ulster and Erin that are serving as hirelings with him. And though there might be against him in one and the same place, in one mass and one march and one camp, and on one and the same hill the men of Erin and Alba, Britons and Saxons, he would give them battle, before him they would break and it is not he that would be routed."
"I ask, then, whether Eogan son of Durthacht, King of Fernmag, would have come?" "In sooth, it is not likely. For, had he come hither, the pick of the men of Fernmag would have come with him, battle he would give them, before him they would break, and it is not he that would be routed."
"I ask, then: Who would be likely to have come to us? Is it likely that he would have come, Celtchai son of Uthechar?" "No more is it likely that it was he. A shame it would be to make light of him in his absence, him the battle-stone for the foes of the province, the head of all the retainers and the gate-of-battle of Ulster. And even should there be against him in one place and one mass and one march and one camp, and on one and the same hill all the men of Erin from the west to the east, from the south to the north, battle he would give them, before him they would break and it is not he that would be routed."
"I ask, then: Who would be like to have come to us?" asked Ailill. "I know not," Fergus replied, "unless it be the little lad, my nursling and Conchobar's. Cuchulain ('the Wolf-dog of Culann the Smith') he is called.
He is the one who could have done the deed," answered Fergus. "He it is who could have lopped the tree with one blow from its root, could have killed the four with the quickness wherewith they were killed and could have come to the border with his charioteer."
"Of a truth," spake Ailill, "I heard from ye of this little boy once on a time in Cruachan. What might be the age of this little boy now?" "It is by no means his age that is most formidable in him," answered Fergus. "Because, manful were his deeds, those of that lad, at a time when he was younger than he now is.
In his fifth year he went in quest of warlike deeds among the lads of Emain Macha. In his sixth a year he went to learn skill in arms and feats with Scathac, and he went to woo Emer; in his seventh year he took arms; in his seventeenth year he is at this time."
"How so!" exclaimed Medb. "Is there even now amongst the Ulstermen one his equal in age that is more redoubtable than he?" "We have not found there a man-at-arms that is harder, nor a point that is keener, more terrible nor quicker, nor a more bloodthirsty wolf, nor a raven more flesh-loving, nor a wilder warrior, nor a match of his age that would reach to a third or a fourth the likes of Cuchulain. Thou findest not there," Fergus went on, "a hero his peer, nor a lion that is fiercer, nor a plank of battle, nor a sledge of destruction, nor a gate of combat, nor a doom of hosts, nor a contest of valour that would be of more worth than Cuchulain.
Thou findest not there one that could equal his age and his growth, his dress and his terror, his size and his splendour, his fame and his voice, his shape and his power, his form and his speech, his strength and his feats and his valour, his smiting, his heat and his anger, his dash, his assault and attack, his dealing of doom and affliction, his roar, his speed, his fury, his rage, and his quick triumph with the feat of nine men on each sword's point above him, like unto Cuchulain."
"We make not much import of him," quoth Medb. "It is but a single body he has; he shuns being wounded; he avoids being taken. They do say his age is but that of a girl to be wed. His deeds of manhood have not yet come, nor will he hold out against tried men, this young, beardless elf-man of whom thou spokest." "We say not so," replied Fergus, "for manful were the deeds of the lad at a time when he was younger than he now is."
Posted: 28-Nov-2008, 06:55 AM
Group: Celtic Nation
Realm: St. Louis, Missouri U.S.A.
7. The Youthful Exploits Of Cuchulain
"Now this lad was reared in the house of his father and mother at Dairgthech ('the Oak House' (?)), namely, in the plain of Murthemne, and the tales of the youths of Emain were told to him. Forasmuch as in this wise Conchobar passed his reign ever since he, the king, assumed his sovereignty, to wit: As soon as he arose, forthwith in settling the cares and affairs of the province; thereafter, the day he divided in three: first, the first third he spent a-watching the youths play games of skill and of hurling; the next third of the day, a-playing draughts and chess, and the last third a-feasting on meat and a-quaffing ale, till sleep possessed them all, the while minstrels and harpers lulled him to sleep. For all that I am a long time in banishment because of him, I give my word," said Fergus," there is not in Erin nor in Alba a warrior the like of Conchobar."
"And the lad was told the tales of the boys and the boy-troop in Emain; and the child said to his mother, he would go to have part in the games on the play-field of Emain. "It is too soon for thee, little son," said his mother; "wait till there go with thee a champion of the champions of Ulster, or some of the attendants of Conchobar to enjoin thy protection and thy safety on the boy-troop." "I think it too long for that, my mother," the little lad answered," I will not wait for it. But do thou show me what place lies Emain Macha.'' "Northwards, there; it is far away from thee," said his mother," the place wherein it lies, and the way is hard. Sliab Fuait lies between thee and Emain." "At all hazards, I will essay it," he answered.
"The boy fared forth and took his playthings with him. His little lath-shield he took, and his hurley of bronze and his ball of silver; and he took his little javelin for throwing; and his toy-staff he took with its fire-hardened butt-end, and he began to shorten the length of his journey with them. He would give the ball a stroke with the hurl-bat, so that he sent it a long distance from him. Then with a second throw he would cast his hurley so that it went a distance no shorter than the first throw. He would hurl his little darts, and let fly his toy-staff, and make a wild chase after them. Then he would catch up his hurl-bat and pick up the ball and snatch up the dart, and the stock of the toy-staff had not touched the ground when he caught its tip which was in the air.
"He went his way to the mound-seat of Emain, where was the boy-troop. Thrice fifty youths were with Folloman, Conchobar's son, at their games on the fair-green of Emain. "The little lad went on to the play-field into the midst of the boys, and he whipped the ball between his two legs away from them, nor did he suffer it to travel higher up than the top of his knee, nor did he let it lower down than his ankle, and he drove it and held it between his two legs and not one of the boys was able to get a prod nor a stroke nor a blow nor a shot at it, so that he carried it over the brink of the goal away from them.
Then he goes to the youths without binding them to protect him. For no one used to approach them on their play-field without first securing from them a pledge of protection. He was weetless thereof.
"Then they all gazed upon him. They wondered and marvelled. "Come, boys!" cried Folloman, Conchobar's son," the urchin insults us. Throw yourselves all on yon fellow, and his death shall come at my hands; for it is geis among you for any youth to come into your game, without first entrusting his safety to you. And do you all attack him together, for we know that yon wight is some one of the heroes of Ulster; and they shall not make it their wont to break into your sports without first entrusting their safety and protection to you."
"Thereupon they all set upon him together. They cast their thrice fifty hurl-bats at the poll of the boy's head. He raises his single toy-staff and wards off the thrice fifty hurries. Then they throw their thrice fifty balls at the lad. He raises his upper arm and his forearm and the palms of his hands against them and parries the thrice fifty balls. They throw at him the thrice fifty play-spears charred at the end. The boy raises his little lath-shield against them and fends off the thrice fifty play-staffs, and they all remain stuck in his lath-shield.
Thereupon contortions took hold of him. Thou wouldst have weened it was a hammering wherewith each hair was hammered into his head, with such an uprising it rose. Thou wouldst have weened it was a spark of fire that was on every single hair there. He closed one of his eyes so that it was no wider than the eye of a needle. He opened the other wide so that it was as big as the mouth of a mead-cup. He stretched his mouth from his jaw-bones to his ears; he opened his mouth wide to his jaw so that his gullet was seen. The champion's light rose up from his crown.
"It was then he ran in among them. He scattered fifty king's sons of them over the ground underneath him before they got to the gate of Emain. Five of them," Fergus continued, "dashed headlong between me and Conchobar, where we were playing chess, even on Cennchaem ('Fairhead') the chessboard of Conchobar, on the mound-seat of Emain. The little boy pursued them to cut them off.
Conchobar seized the little lad by the wrists. "Hold, little boy. I see 'tis not gently thou dealest with the boy-band." "Good reason I have," quoth the little lad. "I had not a guest's honour at the hands of the boy-troop on my arrival, for all that I came from far-away lands." "How is that? Who art thou, and what is thy name?" asked Conchobar. "Little Setanta am I, son of Sualtaim. Son am I to Dechtire, thine own sister; and not through thee did I expect to be thus aggrieved." "How so, little one?" said Conchobar. "Knewest thou not that it is forbidden among the boy-troop, that it is geis for them for any boy to approach them in their land without first claiming his protection from them?" "I knew it not," said the lad. "Had I known it, I would have been on my guard against them." "Good, now, ye boys," Conchobar cried; " take ye upon you the protection of the little lad." "We grant it, indeed," they made answer.
"The little lad went into the game again under the protection of the boy-troop. Thereupon they loosed hands from him, and once more he rushed amongst them throughout the house. He laid low fifty of their princes on the ground under him. Their fathers thought it was death he had given them. That was it not, but stunned they were with front-blows and mid-blows and long-blows." Hold! " cried Conchobar." Why art thou yet at them?" "I swear by my gods whom I worship" (said the boy) "they shall all come under my protection and shielding, as I have put myself under their protection and shielding. Otherwise I shall not lighten my hands off them until I have brought them all to earth." "Well, little lad, take thou upon thee the protection of the boy-troop." "I grant it, indeed," said the lad. Thereupon the boy-troop went under his protection and shielding.
"A youngster did that deed," Fergus continued, "at the dose of five years after his birth, when he overthrew the sons of champions and warriors at the very door of their liss and dûn. No need is there of wonder or surprise, if he should do great deeds, if he should come to the confines of the land, if he should cut off the four-pronged fork, if he should slay one man or two men or three men or four men, when there are seventeen full years of him now on the Cattle-lifting of Cualnge."
"In sooth, then, we know that youth," spoke out Conall Cernach ('the Victorious'), "and it is all the better we should know him, for he is a fosterling of our own."
Posted: 28-Nov-2008, 06:57 AM
Group: Celtic Nation
Realm: St. Louis, Missouri U.S.A.
7a. The Slaying Of The Smith's Hound By Cuchulain, And The Reason He Is Called Cuchulain
Then it was that Cormac Conlongas son of Conchobar spake: "Again that little lad performed a second deed in the following year." "What deed was that?" asked Ailill.
"A goodly smith there was in the land of Ulster, Culann the Smith, by name. He made ready a feast for Conchobar and set out for Emain to invite him. He made known to him that only a few should come with him, that he should bring none but a true guest along, forasmuch as it was not a domain or lands of his own that he had, but the fruit of his two hands, his sledges and anvils, his fists and his tongs. Conchobar replied that only a few would go to him.
"Culann went back to the smithy to prepare and make ready meat and drink in readiness for the king. Conchobar sat in Emain till it was time to set out for the feast, till came the close of the day. The king put his fine, light travelling apparel about him. Conchobar came on to the fair-green, and he saw a thing that astounded him: Thrice fifty boys at one end of the green and a single boy at the other, and the single boy won the victory at the goal and at hurling from the thrice fifty boys. When it was at hole-play they were-- a game of hole that used to be played on the fair-green of Emain-- and it was their turn to drive and his to keep guard, he would catch the thrice fifty balls just outside of the hole, and not one went by him into the hole. When it was their turn to keep guard and his to drive, he would send the thrice fifty balls into the hole without fail, and the boys were unable to ward them off. When it was at tearing off each other's garments they played, he would strip off them their thrice fifty suits so that they were quite naked, and they were not able all of them to take as much as the brooch from his mantle. When it was at wrestling they were, he would throw those same thrice fifty boys to the ground under him, and they did not succeed all of them around him in lifting him up.
Conchobar looked with wonder at the little lad. "O, ye youths," cried Conchobar. "Hail to the land whence cometh the lad ye see, if the deeds of his manhood shall be such as are those of his boyhood! " "'Tis not just to speak thus," exclaimed Fergus; "e'en as the little lad grows, so will his deeds of manhood grow with him." "The little lad shall be called to us, that he may come with us to enjoy the feast to which we go." The little lad was summoned to Conchobar." Good, my lad," said Conchobar." Come thou with us to enjoy the feast whereto we go, for thou art a guest." "Nay, but I will not go," the little boy answered." How so?" asked Conchobar." Forasmuch as the boys have not yet had their fill of games and of sport, and I will not leave them till they have had enough play." "It is too long for us to await thee till then, little boy, and by no means shall we wait." "Go then before us," said the little boy," and I will follow after ye." "Thou knowest naught of the way, little boy," said Conchobar. "I will follow the trail of the company and of the horses and chariots."
"Thereafter Conchobar came to the house of Culann the Smith. The king was waited upon and all were shown honour, as befitted their rank and calling and privileges, nobility and gentle accomplishment. Straw and fresh rushes were spread out under them. They commenced to carouse and make merry. Culann inquired of Conchobar: "Hast thou, O king, appointed any to come after thee this night to this dûn?" "No, I appointed no one," replied Conchobar, for he had forgotten the little lad whom he had charged to come after him. "Why so?" asked Conchobar. "An excellent bloodhound have I, that was brought from Spain. When his dog-chain is loosed from him, no one dares approach the same cantred with him to make a course or a circuit, and he knows no one but myself. The power of hundreds is in him for strength."
Then spake Conchobar, "Let the dûn be opened for the ban-dog, that he may guard the cantred." The dog-chain is taken off the ban-dog, and he makes a swift round of the cantred. And he comes to the mound whereon he was wont to keep guard of the stead, and there he was, his head couched on his paws, and wild untameable, furious, savage, ferocious, ready for fight was the dog that was there.
"As for the boys: They were in Emain until the time came for them to disperse. Each of them went to the house of his father and mother, of his foster-mother and foster-father. Then the little lad went on the trail of the party, till he reached the house of Culann the Smith. He began to shorten the way as he went with his play-things. When he was nigh to the green of the fort wherein were Culann and Conchobar, he threw all his play-things before him except only the ball.
The watch-dog descried the lad and bayed at him, so that in all the countryside was heard the howl of the watch-hound. And not a division of feasting was what he was inclined to make of him, but to swallow him down at one gulp past the cavity of his chest and the width of his throat and the pipe of his breast. And the lad had not with him any means of defence, but he hurled an unerring cast of the ball, so that it passed through the gullet of the watch-dog's neck and carried the guts within him out through his back door, and he laid hold of the hound by the two legs and dashed him against a pillar-stone that was near him, so that every limb of him sprang apart, so that he broke into bits all over the ground.
Conchobar heard the yelp of the ban-dog. "Alas, O warriors" cried Conchobar; "in no good luck have we come to enjoy this feast." "How so?" asked all. "The little lad who has come to meet me, my sister's son, Setanta son of Sualtaim, is undone through the hound." As one man, arose all the renowned men of Ulster. Though a door of the hostel was thrown wide open, they all rushed in the other direction out over the palings of the fortress. But fast as they all got there, faster than all arrived Fergus, and he lifted the little lad from the ground on the slope of his shoulder and bore him into the presence of Conchobar.
And Culann came out, and he saw his slaughter-hound in many pieces. He felt his heart beating against his breast. Whereupon he went into the dûn. "Welcome thy coming, little lad," said Culann, "because of thy mother and father, but not welcome is thy coming for thine own sake. Yet would that I had not made a feast." "What hast thou against the lad?" queried Conchobar. "Not luckily for me hast thou come to quaff my ale and to eat my food; for my substance is now a wealth gone to waste, and my livelihood is a livelihood lost now after my dog. Good was the friend thou hast robbed me of, even my dog, in that he tended my herder and flocks and stock for me.
"Be not angered thereat, O Culann my master," said the little boy." It is no great matter, for I will pass a just judgement upon it." "What judgement thereon wilt thou pass, lad?" Conchobar asked. "If there is a whelp of the breed of that dog in Erin, he shall be reared by me till he be fit to do business as was his sire. Till then myself will be the hound to protect his flocks and his cattle and his land and even himself in the meanwhile.
"Well hast thou given judgement, little lad," said Conchobar. "In sooth, we ourselves could not give one that would be better," said Cathba. "Why should it not be from this that thou shouldst take the name Cuchulain, ('Wolfhound of Culann')?" "Nay, then," answered the lad; "dearer to me mine own name, Setanta son of Sualtaim." "Say not so, lad," Cathba continued; "for the men of Erin and Alba shall hear that name and the mouths of the men of Erin and Alba shall be full of that name!" "It pleaseth me so, whatever the name that is given me," quoth the little lad. Hence the famous name that stuck to him, namely Cuchulain, after he had killed the hound that was Culann's the Smith's.
"A little lad did that deed," added Cormac Conlongas son of Conchobar, "when he had completed six years after his birth, when he slew the watch-dog that hosts nor companies dared not approach in the same cantred. No need would there be of wonder or of surprise if he should come to the edge of the marches, if he should cut off the four-pronged fork, if he should slay one man or two men or three men or four men, now when his seventeen years are completed on the Cattle-driving of Cualnge!"
Posted: 28-Nov-2008, 07:01 AM
Group: Celtic Nation
Realm: St. Louis, Missouri U.S.A.
7b. (The Taking Of Arms By Cuchulain And) The Slaying Of The Three Sons Of Necht Scenè Is Now Told Here
"The little lad performed a third deed in the following year," said Fiachu son of Firaba." What deed performed he?" asked Ailill.
"Cathba the druid was with his son, namely Conchobar son of Ness, imparting learning to his pupils in the north-east of Emain, and eight eager pupils in the class of druidic cunning were with him. That is the number that Cathba instructed. One of them questioned his teacher, what fortune and presage might there be for the day they were in, whether it was good or whether it was ill. Then spake Cathba: "The little boy that takes arms-- this day shall be splendid and renowned for deeds of arms above the youths of Erin land the tales of his high deeds shall be told forever, but he shall be short-lived and fleeting."
Cuchulain overheard what he said, though far off at his play-feats south-west of Emain; and he threw away all his play-things and hastened to Conchobar's sleep-room to ask for arms. "All good attend thee, O king of the Fene!" cried the little lad. "This greeting is the speech of one soliciting something of some one. What wouldst thou, lad?" said Conchobar. "To take arms," the lad made answer. "Who hath advised thee, little boy?" asked Conchobar. "Cathba the druid," said the lad. "He would not deceive thee, little boy," said Conchobar.
Conchobar gave him two spears and a sword and a shield. The little boy shook and brandished the arms in the middle of the house so that he made small pieces and fragments of them. Conchobar gave him two other spears and a shield and a sword. He shook and brandished, flourished and poised them, so that he shivered them into small pieces and fragments. There where were the fourteen a suits of arms which Conchobar had in Emain, in reserve in case of breaking of weapons or for equipping the youths and the boys-- to the end that whatever boy assumed arms, it might be Conchobar that gave him the equipment of battle, and the victory of cunning would be his thenceforward-- even so, this little boy made splinters and fragments of them all.
"Truly these arms here are not good, O Conchobar my master," the stripling cried. "Herefrom cometh not what is worthy of me." Conchobar gave him his own two spears and his shield and his sword. He shook and he brandished, he bent and he poised them so that tip touched butt, and he broke not the arms and they bore up against him, and he saluted the king whose arms they were. "Truly, these arms are good," said the little boy; "they are suited to me. Hail to the king whose arms and equipment these are. Hail to the land whereout he is come!''
"Then Cathba the druid chanced to come into the tent, and what he said was, "Hath he yonder taken arms?" Cathba asked. "Aye, then, it must be," Conchobar answered. "Not by his mother's son would I wish them to be taken this day," said Cathba. "How so? Was it not thyself advised him?" Conchobar asked. "Not I, in faith," replied Cathba. "What mean'st thou, bewitched elf-man?" cried Conchobar to Cuchulain. "Is it a lie thou hast told us?" "But be not wroth thereat, O my master Conchobar," said the little boy. "No lie have I told; for yet is it he that advised me, when he taught his other pupils this morning. For his pupil asked him what luck might lie in the day, and he said: The youth that took arms on this day would be illustrious and famous, except that he would be fleeting and short-lived." "That I avow to be true," spake Cathba. "Good indeed is the day, glorious and renowned shalt thou be, the one that taketh arms, yet passing and short lived!" "Noble the gift! " cried Cuchulain." Little it recks me, though I should be but one day and one night in the world, if only the fame of me and of my deeds live after me!"
"Another day one of them asked of the druids for what that day would be propitious. "The one that mounts a chariot to-day," Cathba answered," his name will be renowned over Erin for ever."
"He mounted the chariot. He put his hands between the two poles of the chariot, and the first chariot he mounted withal he shook and tossed about him till he reduced it to splinters and fragments. He mounted the second chariot, so that he made small pieces and fragments of it in like manner. Further he made pieces of the third chariot. There where were the seventeen a chariots which Conchobar kept for the boy-troop and youths in Emain, the lad made small pieces and fragments of them and they did not withstand him. "These chariots here are not good, O my master Conchobar," said the little boy; "my merit cometh not from them."
"Where is Ibar son of Riangabair?" asked Conchobar. "Here, in sooth, am I," Ibar answered." Take with thee mine own two steeds for him yonder, and yoke my chariot." Thereupon the charioteer took the horses and yoked the chariot. Then the little boy mounted the chariot. He shook the chariot about him, and it withstood him, and he broke it not. "Truly this chariot is good," cried the lad, "and this chariot is suited to me."
"Prithee, little boy," said Ibar, "come out of the chariot now and let the horses out on their pasture." "It is yet too soon, O Ibar," the lad answered. "Only let us go on a circuit of Emain to-day and thou shalt have a reward therefor, to-day being my first day of taking arms, to the end that it be a victory of cunning for me."
"Thrice they made the circuit of Emain. "Leave the horses now to their grazing, O little boy," said Ibar. "It is yet too soon, O Ibar," the little lad answered; "let us keep on, that the boys may give me a blessing to-day the first day of my taking arms." They kept their course to the place where the boys were. "Is it arms he yonder has taken?" each one asked. "Of a truth, are they." "May it be for victory, for first wounding and triumph. But we deem it too soon for thee to take arms, because thou departest from us at the game-feats." "By no means will I leave ye, but for luck I took arms this day."
"Now, little boy, leave the horses to their grazing," said Ibar. "It is still too soon for that, O Ibar," the lad answered. "And this great road winding by us, what way leads it?" the lad asked." What is that to thee?" Ibar answered. "But thou art a pleasant wight, I bow, little lad," quoth Ibar. "I wish, fellow, to inquire about the high-road of the province, what stretch it goes?" "To Ath na Foraire ('the Ford of Watching') in Sliab Fuait it goes," Ibar answered. "Wherefore is it called 'the Ford of Watching,' knowest thou?"
"Yea, I know it well," Ibar made answer. "A stout warrior of Ulster is on watch and on guard there every day, so that there come no strange youths into Ulster to challenge them to battle, and he is a champion to give battle in behalf of the whole province. Likewise if men of song leave the Ulstermen and the province in dudgeon, he is there to soothe them by proffering treasures and valuables, and so to save the honour of the province. Again, if men of song enter the land, he is the man that is their surety that they win the favour of Conchobar, so that songs and lays made for him will be the first to be sung after their arrival in Emain." "Knowest thou who is at the ford to-day?" "Yea, I know," Ibar answered; " Conall Cernach (' the Triumphant'), the heroic, warlike son of Amargin, royal champion of Erin," Ibar answered." Thither guide us, fellow, that so we reach the ford."
"Onwards they drove into sight of the ford where was Conall. "Are those arms he yonder has taken?" asked Conall. "Of a truth, are they," Ibar made answer. "May it be for victory and for triumph and first wounding," said Conall; "but we think it too soon for thee to take arms, because thou art not yet capable of deeds. Were it surety he needed, he that should come hither," he continued, "so wouldst thou furnish a perfect warrant amongst the Ulstermen, and the nobles of the province would rise up to support thee in the contest." "What cost thou here, O Conall my master?" asked the lad. "Watch and ward of the province, lad, I keep here," Conall made answer.
"Do thou go home now, O master Conall," said the lad, "and leave me the watch and guard of the province to keep here." "Say not so, little son," replied Conall; "thou art not yet able to cope with a goodly warrior." "Then, will I keep on to the south," said the little boy, "to Fertas ('the Bank') of Loch Echtrann for a while; champions are wont to take stand there; perchance I may redden my hands on friend or on foe this day." "I will go, little boy," said Conall, "to save thee, that thou go not alone into peril on the border." "Not so," said the lad. "But I will go," said Conall; "for the men of Ulster will blame me for leaving thee to go alone on the border."
"Conall's horses were caught for him and his chariot was yoked and he set out to protect the little boy. When Conall came up abreast of him, Cuchulain felt certain that, even though a chance came to him, Conall would not permit him to use it. He picked up a hand-stone from the ground which was the full of his grasp. He hurled it from him from his sling the length of a stone-shot at the yoke of Conall's chariot, so that he broke the chariot-collar in two and thereby Conall fell to the ground, so that the nape of his neck went out from his shoulder." What have we here, boy?" asked Conall; "why threwest thou the stone?" "It is I threw it to see if my cast be straight, or how I cast at all, or if I have the stuff of a warrior in me." "A bane on thy cast and a bane on thyself as well. E'en though thou leavest thy head this time with thine enemies, I will go no further to protect thee." "'Twas what I craved of thee," answered he; "for it is geis amongst you men of Ulster to proceed, after a mishap has befallen your chariots." Conall turned back northwards again to the Ford of Watching.
"As for the little boy, he fared southwards to Fertas Locha Echtrann. He remained there till the end of the day and they found no one there before them. "If we dared tell thee, little boy," spoke Ibar, "it were time for us to return to Emain now; for dealing and carving and dispensing of food is long since begun in Emain, and there is a place assigned for thee there. Every day it is appointed thee to sit between Conchobar's feet, while for me there is naught but to tarry among the hostlers and tumblers of Conchobar's household. For that reason, methinks it is time to have a scramble a among them." "Fetch then the horses for us."
The charioteer fetched the horses and the lad mounted the chariot. "But, O Ibar, what hill is that there now, the hill to the north?" the lad asked." Now, that is Sliab Moduirn," Ibar answered. "Let us go and get there," siad Cuchulain. Then they go on till they reach it. When they reached the mountain, Cuchulain asked, "And what is that white cairn yonder on the height of the mountain?" "And that is Finncharn ('the White Cairn') of Sliab Moduirn," Ibar answered. "But yonder cairn is beautiful," exclaimed the lad. "It surely is beautiful," Ibar answered. "Lead on, fellow, till we reach yonder cairn." "Well, but thou art both a pleasant and tedious inquisitor, I see," exclaimed Ibar; " but this is my first journey and my first time with thee. It shall be my last time till the very day of doom, if once I get back to Emain."
"Howbeit they went to the top of the hill. "It is pleasant here, O Ibar," the little boy exclaimed. "Point out to me Ulster on every side, for I am no wise acquainted with the land of my master Conchobar." The horseman pointed him out Ulster all around him. He pointed him out the hills and the fields and the mounts of the province on every side. He pointed him out the plains and the dûns and the strongholds of the province. "'Tis a goodly sight, O Ibar," exclaimed the little lad. "What is that indented, angular, bordered and glenny plain to the south of us?" "Mag Breg," replied Ibar. "Tell thou to me the buildings and forts of that plain." The gilla taught him the name of every chief dûn between Temair and Cenannas, Temair and Taltiu, Cletech and Cnogba and Brug ('the Fort') of Mac Oc. He pointed out to him then the dûn of the three sons of Necht Scenè ('the Fierce'):
Foill and Fandall and Tuachall, their names; Fer Ulli son of Lugaid was their father, and Necht from the mouth of the Scenè was their mother. Now the Ulstermen had slain their father; it was for that reason they were at war with Ulster."
But are those not Necht's sons, that boast that not more of the Ulstermen are alive than have fallen at their hands?" "The same, in sooth," answered the gilla. "On with us to the dûn of the macNechta," cried the little boy. "Alas, in truth, that thou sayest so," quoth Ibar; "'tis a peril for us." "Truly, not to avoid it do we go," answered Cuchulain." We know it is an act of great folly for us to say so, but whoever may go," said Ibar," it will not be myself." "Living or dead, go there thou shalt," the little boy cried. "'Tis alive I shall go to the south," answered Ibar," and dead I shall be left at the dûn, I know, even at the dûn of the macNechta."
"They push on to the dûn. And the little boy sprang out of the chariot onto the green. Thus was the green of the dûn, with a pillar-stone upon it and an iron band around that, and a band for prowess it was, and there was a writing in ogam at its joint, and this is the writing it bore: 'Whoever should come to the green, if he be a champion, it is geis for him to depart from the green without giving challenge to single combat.' The lad deciphered the writing and put his two arms around the pillar-stone. Just as the pillar-stone was with its ring, he flung it with a cast of his hand into the moat, so that a wave passed over it.
"Methinks," spake Ibar, "it is no better now than to be where it was. And we know thou shalt now get on this green the thing thou desires", even the token of death, yea, of doom and destruction!" "Good, O Ibar, spread the chariot-coverings and its skins for me that I may snatch a little sleep." "Woe is me, that thou sayest so," answered the gilla; "for a foeman's land is this and not a green for diversion." The gilla arranged the chariot-coverings and its skins under Cuchulain, and the lad fell asleep on the green.
"Then came one of the macNechta onto the fair-green, to wit, Foill son of Necht. "Unyoke not the horses, gilla," cried Foill." I am not fain to, at all," answered Ibar; "the reins and the lines are still in my hand." "Whose horses are those, then?" Foill asked. "Two of Conchobar's horses," answered the gilla; "the two of the dappled heads." "That is the knowledge I have of them. And what hath brought these steeds here to the borders?" "A tender youth that has assumed arms amongst us to-day for luck and good omen," the horseboy answered, "is come to the edges of the marshes to display his comeliness." "May it not be for victory nor for triumph, his first-taking of arms," exclaimed Foill. "If I knew he was fit for deeds, it is dead he should go back northwards to Emain and not alive!" "In good sooth, he is not fit for deeds," Ibar answered; "it is by no means right to say it of him; it is the seventh year since he was taken from the crib. "
"The little lad raised his face from the ground and drew his hand over his face, and he became as one crimson wheelball from his crown to the ground. "Aye, but I am fit for deeds!" the lad cried. "That pleaseth me well," said the champion; "but more like than what thou sayest, meseemeth, thou art not fit for deeds." "Thou wilt know that better if we go to the ford. But, go fetch thy weapons, for I see it is in the guise of a churl thou art come, and I slay nor charioteers nor grooms nor folk without arms."
The man went apace after his arms. "Now thou shouldst have a care for us against yonder man that comes to meet thee, little lad," said Ibar. "And why so?" asked the lad. "Foill son of Necht is the man thou seest. Neither points nor edges of weapons can harm him." "Not before me shouldst thou say that, O Ibar," quoth the lad. "I will put my hand to the lath-trick for him, namely, to the apple of twice-melted iron, and it will light upon the disc of his shield and on the flat of his forehead, and it will carry away the size of an apple of his brain out through the back of his head, so that it will make a sieve-hole outside of his head, till the light of the sky will be visible through his head."
"Foill son of Necht came forth. Cuchulain took the lath-trick in hand for him and threw it from him the length of his cast, so that it lighted on the flat of his shield and on the front of his forehead and carried away the bulk of an apple of his brain out through the back of his head, so that it made a sieve-hole thereof outside of his head, till the light of the sky might be seen through his head. He went to him then and struck off the head from the trunk. Thereafter he bore away his spoils and his head with him.
"Then came the second son out on the green, his name Tuachall ('the Cunning') son of Necht. "Aha, I see thou wouldst boast of this deed," quoth Tuachall. "In the first place I deem it no cause to boast for slaying one champion," said Cuchulain; "thou shalt not boast of it this time, for thou shalt fall by my hand." "Off with thee for thine arms, then, for 'tis not as a warrior thou art come." The man rushed after his arms. "Thou shouldst have a care for us against yon man, lad," said Ibar. "How so?" the lad asked. "Tuachall son of Necht is the man thou beholdest. And he is nowise misnamed, for he falls not by arms at all. Unless thou worstest him with the first blow or with the first shot or with the first touch, thou wilt not worst him ever, because of his craftiness and the skill wherewith he plays round the points of the weapons."
"That should not be said before me, O Ibar," cried the lad. "I will put my hand on Conchobar's well-tempered lance, on the Craisech Neme ('the Venomous Lance'). It will light on the shield over his belly, and it will crush through his ribs on the farther side after piercing his heart in his breast. That would be the smiting cast of an enemy and not the friendliness of a fellow countryman! From me he shall not get sick-nursing or care till the brink of doom."
"Tuachall son of Necht came forth on the green, and the lad laid his hand on Conchobar's lance against him, and it struck the shield above his belly and broke through the ribs on the farther side after piercing his heart within his breast. He struck off his head or ever it reached the ground.
"Then came the youngest of the sons forth on the green, namely, Fandall son of Necht. "Fools were the folk who fought with thee here," cried Fandall. "How, now!" cried the lad. "Come down to the pool, where thy foot findeth not bottom." Fandall rushed on to the pool. "Thou shouldst be wary for us of him, little boy," said Ibar. "Why should I then?" asked the lad. "Fandall son of Necht is the man whom thou seest. For this he bears the name Fandall ('the Swallow'): like a swallow or weasel he courseth the sea; the swimmers of the world cannot reach him."
"Thou shouldst not speak thus before me, O Ibar," said the lad. "Thou knowest the river that is in our land, in Emain, the Callann. When the boys frequent it with their games of sport and when the water is not beneath them, if the surface is not reached by them all, I do carry a boy over it on either of my palms and a boy on either of my shoulders, and I myself do not even wet my ankles under the weight of them."
"They met upon the water and they engaged in wrestling upon it, and the little boy closed his arms over Fandall, so that the sea came up even with him, and he gave him a deft blow with Conchobar's sword and chopped off his head from the trunk, and left the body to go down with the stream, and he carried off the head and the spoils with him.
"Thereupon Cuchulain went into the dûn and pillaged the place and burned it so that its buildings were no higher than its walls. And they turned on the way to Sliab Fuait and carried the three heads of Necht's sons with them.
"When they came to Sliab Fuait they espied a herd of wild deer before them. "What are those many cattle, O Ibar, those nimble ones yonder?" asked the lad; "are they tame or are they other deer?" "They are real wild deer, indeed," Ibar answered; "herds of wild deer that haunt the wastes of Sliab Fuait." "Ply the goad for us on the horses into the bog, to see can we take some of them." The charioteer drove a goad into the horses. It was beyond the power of the king's overfat steeds to keep up with the deer. The lad got down from the chariot and as the fruit of his run and his race, in the morass which was around him, he caught two of the swift, stout deer. He fastened them to the back poles and the bows and the thongs of the chariot.
"They continued their way to the mound-seat of Emain, where they saw flocks of white swans flying by them. "What are those birds there, O Ibar?" the lad asked; "are yonder birds tame or are they other birds?" "Indeed, they are real wild birds," Ibar answered; "flocks of swans are they that come from the rocks and crags and islands of the great sea without, to feed on the plains and smooth spots of Erin." "Which would be stranger to the Ulstermen, O Ibar, for them to be fetched alive to Emain or dead?" asked the lad." Stranger far, alive," Ibar answered "for not every one succeeds in taking the birds alive, while they are many that take them dead." Then did the lad perform one of his lesser feats upon them: he put a small stone in his sling, so that he brought down eight of the birds; and then he performed a greater feat: he threw a large stone at them and he brought down sixteen of their number. With his return stroke all that was done. He fastened them to the hind poles and the bows and the thongs and the ropes and the traces of the chariot.
"Take the birds along with thee, O Ibar," cried the lad to his charioteer. "I am in sore straits," answered Ibar; "I find it not easy to go." "What may it be?" asked the lad. "Great cause have I. The horses have become wild, so that I cannot go by them. If I stir at all from where I am, the chariot's iron wheels will cut me down because of their sharpness and because of the strength and the power and the might of the career of the horses. If I make any move, the horns of the deer will pierce and gore me.
"Ah, no true champion art thou any longer, O Ibar," said the lad; "because of the look I shall give at the horses they will not depart from the straight way; at the look I shall give at the deer they will bend their heads in fear and awe of me; they will not dare move, and it will be safe for thee e'en though thou goest in front of their horns."
"Thereupon they went on till they reached the fair plain of Emain. It was then Lebarcham, the watch in Emain Macha, came forth and discerned them, she, the daughter of Aue ('Ear') and of Adarc ('Horn.') "A single chariot-fighter is here, coming towards Emain Macha," cried Lebarcham, "and his coming is fearful. The heads of his foes all red in his chariot with him. Beautiful, all-white birds he has hovering around in the chariot. With him are wild, untamed deer, bound and fettered, shackled and pinioned. And I give my word, if he be not attended to this night, brood will flow over Conchobar's province by him and the youths of Ulster will fall by his hand." "We know him, that chariot-fighter," spake Conchobar; "belike it is the little gilla, my sister's son, who went to the edge of the marches at the beginning of the day, who has reddened his hands and is still unsated of combat, and unless he be attended to, all the youths of Emain will fall by his hand."
"And this was the counsel they agreed to follow: to let out the womenfolk to meet the youth, namely, thrice fifty women, even ten and seven-score bold, stark-naked women, at one and the same time, and their chieftainess, Scannlach ('the Wanton') before them, to discover their persons and their shame to him." Thereupon the young women all arose and marched out, and they discovered their nakedness and all their shame to him. The lad hid his face from them and turned his gaze on the chariot, that he might not see the nakedness or the shame of the women.
Then the lad was lifted out of the chariot. He was placed in three vats of cold water to extinguish his wrath; and the first vat into which he was put burst its staves and its hoops like the cracking of nuts around him. The next vat into which he went boiled with bubbles as big as fists therefrom. The third vat into which he went, some men might endure it and others might not. Then the boy's wrath went down. "Thereupon he came out, and his festive garments were put on him.
His comeliness appeared on him and he made a crimson wheel-ball of himself from his crown to the ground. Seven toes he had to each of his two feet, and seven fingers to each of his two hands, and seven pupils to each of his two kingly eyes, and seven gems of the brilliance of the eye was each separate pupil. Four spots of down on either of his two cheeks: a blue spot, a purple spot, a green spot, a yellow spot. Fifty strands of bright-yellow hair from one ear to the other, like to a comb of birch twigs or like to a brooch of pale gold in the face of the sun. A clear, white, shorn spot was upon him, as if a cow had licked it. A fair, laced green mantle about him; a silver pin therein over his white breast. A hooded tunic of thread of gold about him. And the lad was seated between the two feet of Conchobar, and that was his couch ever after, and the king began to stroke his close-shorn hair.
"A mere lad accomplished these deeds at the end of seven years after his birth," continued Fiachu son of Fiarba; "for he overcame heroes and battle-champions at whose hands two-thirds of the men of Ulster had fallen, and these had not got the revenge on them until that scion rose up for them. No need then is there of wonder or of surprise, though he came to the border, though he slew one man or two men or three men or four men when now are fulfilled his seventeen years at the time of the Táin Bó Cúalnge."
Albeit gladness, joy and happiness was the part of the men of Ulster for that, sorrow, grief and unhappiness was the part of the men of Erin, for they knew that the little lad that had done those deeds in the time of his boyhood, it would be no wonder if he should do great deeds of valour in the time of his manhood.
These, accordingly, are some of the youthful exploits of Cuchulain on the Raid for the Kine of Cualnge, and the Prologue of the Tale, and the Names of the Roads and the March of the Host up to this Point.
The Story proper is this which follows now.
Posted: 29-Nov-2008, 12:23 PM
Group: Celtic Nation
Realm: St. Louis, Missouri U.S.A.
Thank you Lady-of-Avalon, I some what scanned thru the whole story in a day to see if it was something I felt was of quality to be posted, when I started posting I would read a couple chapters a day but when I got to chapter 6 I stoped reading so I could read it as I was posting and get it in the same context as everyone following this thread.8. The Slaying Of Orlam
The four grand provinces of Erin set forth on the morrow eastwards over Cronn ('the Round'), which is a mountain. Cuchulain had gone out before them, till he came upon the charioteer of Orlam son of Aililla and of Medb. This was at Tamlacht Orlaim ('Orlam's Gravestone') a little to the north of Disert Lochaid ('Lochat's Hermitage'). The charioteer was engaged in cutting chariot-poles from a holly-tree in the wood.
"Behold, O Laeg," cried Cuchulain; How bold are the ways of the Ulstermen, if it be they that cut down the woods in this fashion in the face of the men of Erin. Tarry thou here a little, till I know who cuts down the woods in this manner." Then Cuchulain went on till he came up to Orlam's charioteer, to stop him; he thought he was one of the men of Ulster. "What dost thou here, gilla?" asked Cuchulain; "Indeed, then," answered the gilla, "I cut chariot poles from this holm, because our chariots were broken yesterday in pursuit of that famous wildling, namely Cuchulain. And for thy manhood's sake, young warrior, pray come to my aid, so that that famous Cuchulain come not upon me." "Take thy choice, gilla," said Cuchulain, "to gather or to trim them, either." "I will see to gathering them, for it is easier," the gilla answered.
Cuchulain started to cut the poles and he drew them between the forks of his feet and his hands against their bends and their knots, so that he made them smooth and straight and slippery and trimmed; he polished them so that not even a midge could find footing thereon when he had passed them away from him. Then full sure the gilla gazed upon him. "Far then, meseems, from fitting is the task I put on thee. And for love of thy valour, who art thou, say, O warrior?" the gilla asked, for he was sore affrighted. "That same renowned Cuchulain am I of whom thou spakest a while ago in the morning." "Woe is me then, by reason of this," cried the gilla, "for this am I lost forever."
"Fear nothing; I will not slay thee at all, boy," said Cuchulain; "for I slay nor charioteers nor horseboys nor persons unarmed. But, prithee, where is thy master, gilla?" "Over yonder by the trench, with his back to the pillar-stone," answered the gilla. "Off with thee thither to him and bear him a warning that he be on his guard. For if we meet he shall fall by my hand." Thereupon the charioteer repaired by one way to his master, and Cuchulain went by another, and fast as the gilla sped to Orlam, faster still Cuchulain did reach him and offered him combat and he struck off his head, and raising it aloft displayed it to the men of Erin.
Posted: 29-Nov-2008, 12:28 PM
Group: Celtic Nation
Realm: St. Louis, Missouri U.S.A.
8a. The Slaying Of The Three Macarach
Then came the three macArach on to the ford at Ard Ciannacht to encounter Cuchulain: Lon ('Ousel'), Uala ('Pride'), and Diliu ('Deluge');-- Meslir ('Lir's Fosterling'), and Meslaoc ('Hero's Fosterling'), and Meslethain ('Lethan's Fosterling') were the names of their charioteers. This is why they came to engage with Cuchulain, for the deed he had done the day before they deemed past bearing, when the two sons of Nera son of Nuatar, son of Tacan, were slain at Ath Gabla ('Fork-ford'), and Orlam, Ailill's son and Medb's, was slain withal and his head displayed to the men of Erin, so that their desire was to kill Cuchulain in the same manner in revenge for him, and that they should be the ones to rid the host of that pest and bring his head with them to set it aloft.
They went into the wood and cut off three great white-hazelwood-strips (and put them) into the hands of their charioteers, so that the six of them might engage in battle at one and the same time with Cuchulain. Cuchulain turned on them and smote their six heads from them. Thus fell the macArach at the hands of Cuchulain
8b. The Combat Of Lethan And Cuchulain
There came also Lethan ('the Broad') to his ford on the Nith in the land of Conalle Murthemni, to fight with Cuchulain. He came upon him at the ford. Ath Carpait ('Chariot-ford') is the name of the ford where they fought, for their chariots were broken in the combat on the ford.
It is there that Mulcha, Lethan's charioteer, fell on the shoulder of the hill between the two fords. Hence it is called Guala Mulchi ('Mulcha's Shoulder') ever since. It is there, too, that Cuchulain and Lethan met, and Lethan fell at Cuchulain's hands and he smote his head from his neck on the ford and left it therewith, that is, he left the head with the trunk. Wherefore the name of the ford of the Nith was called Ath Lethain ('Lethain's Ford') ever since in the district of Conalle Murthemni.
Then came unto them the Crutti Cainbili ('the Tuneful Harpers'), from Ess Ruaid in the north to amuse them. They opined it was to spy upon them they were come from Ulster. When they came within sight of the camp of the men of Erin, fear, terror, and dread possessed them, and the hosts pursued them as never men pursued, far and wide, till they escaped them in the shapes of deer near the standing stones at Lia Mor ('Great Stone') in the north. For though they were known as the ' Mellifluous Harpers ' they were druids, men of great cunning and great power of augury and magic.
8c. The Killing of The Squirrel And of The Tame Bird
Then Cuchulain made a threat in Methe that wherever he saw Medb he would cast a stone at her and that it would not go far from the side of her head. That he also fulfilled. In the place where he saw Medb west of the ford he cast a stone from his sling at her, so that it killed the pet bird that was on her shoulder.
Medb passed over the ford eastwards, and again he cast a stone from his sling at her east of the ford, so that it killed the tame squirrel that was on her shoulder. Hence the names of those places are still, Meide in Togmail ('Squirrel's Neck') and Meide ind Eoin ('Bird's Neck'). And Ath Srethe ('Ford of the Throw') is the name of the ford over which Cuchulain cast the stone from his sling.
Then did the men of Erin deliberate about going to ravage and lay waste Mag Breg and Meath and the plain of Conall and the land of Cuchulain; and it was in the presence of Fergus macRoig they discussed it.
The four grand provinces of Erin moved out on the morrow, and began to harry the plains of Breg and Murthemne. And the sharp, keen-edged anxiety for Cuchulain came over his fosterer Fergus. And he bade the men of Erin be on their guard that night, for that Cuchulain would come upon them. And here again he sang in his praise, as we wrote it before, and he uttered the lay:--
"If Cuchulain, Cualnge's Hound,
And Red Branch chiefs on you come,
Men will welter in their blood,
Laying waste Murthemne's plain!
"Far away he held his course,
Till he reached Armenia's heights;
Battle dared he, past his wont,
And the Burnt-breasts put to death!
Hardest for him was to drive
Necht's sons from their chieftest haunts;
And the smith's hound-- mighty deed--
Hath he slain with single hand!
"More than this I've naught to say,
As concerns Dechtird's son;
My belief, in troth, is this:
Ye will now meet with your fate."
After this lay, that was the day that Donn ('the Brown Bull') of Cualnge came into the land of Marginè to Sliab Culinn and with him fifty heifers of the heifers of Ulster; and there he was pawing and digging up the earth in that place, in the land of Marginè, in Cualnge; that is, he flung the turf over him with his heels.
It was on the same day that the Morrigan, daughter of Ernmas, the prophetess of the fairy-folk, came in the form of a bird, and she perched on the standing-stone in Temair of Cualnge giving the Brown Bull of Cualnge warning end lamentations before the men of Erin. Then she began to address him and what she said was this: "Good, now, O luckless one, thou Brown Bull of Cualnge," so spake the Morrigan; "take heed; for the men of Erin are on thy track and seeking thee and they will come upon thee, and if thou art taken they will carry thee away to their camp like any ox on a raid, unless thou art on thy guard." And she commenced to give warning to him in this fashion, and she delivered this judgement and spake these words aloud:--
"Knows not the restless Brown of the truly deadly fray that is not uncertain?-- A raven's croak-- The raven that doth not conceal-- Foes range your checkered plain-- Troops on raids-- I have a secret-- Ye shall know. . . The waving fields-- The deep-green grass . . . and rich, soft plain-- Wealth of flowers' splendour-- Badb's cow-lowing-- Wild the raven-- Dead the men-- A tale of woe-- Battle-storm on Cualnge evermore, to the death of mighty sons-- Kith looking on the death of kin!"
When the Brown Bull of Cualnge heard those words he moved on to Glenn na Samaisce ('Heifers' Glen') in Sliab Culinn ('Hollymount'), and fifty of his heifers with him.
This was one of the magic virtues of the Brown Bull of Cualnge: Fifty heifers he would cover every day. These calved before that same hour on the next day and such of them that calved not at the due time burst with the calves, because they could not suffer the begetting of the Brown Bull of Cualnge. One of the magic virtues of the Brown Bull of Cualnge were the fifty grown youths who engaged in games, who on his fine back found room every evening to play. Another of the magic virtues of the Brown Bull of Cualnge was the hundred warriors he screened from the heat and the cold under his shadow and shelter.
Another of the magic virtues of the Brown Bull of Cualnge was that no goblin nor boggart nor sprite of the glen dared come into one and the same cantred with him. Another of the magic virtues of the Brown Bull of Cualnge was his musical lowing every evening as he returned to his haggard, his shed and his byre. It was music enough and delight for a man in the north and in the south, in the east and the west, and in the middle of the cantred of Cualnge, the lowing he made at even as he came to his haggard, his shed, and his byre. These, then, are some of the magic virtues of the Brown Bull of Cualnge.
Thereupon on the morrow the hosts proceeded among the rocks and dunes of the land of Conalle Murthemni. And Medb ordered a canopy of shields to be held over her head in order that Cuchulain might not strike her from the hills or hillocks or heights. Howbeit on that day, no killing nor attack came from Cuchulain upon the men of Erin, in the land of Murthemne among the rocks and dunes of Conalle Murthemni.
Posted: 30-Nov-2008, 11:21 AM
Group: Celtic Nation
Realm: St. Louis, Missouri U.S.A.
8d. The Slaying Of Lochè
The warriors of four of the five grand provinces of Erin bided their time in Rede Lochè in Cualnge and pitched camp and took quarters therein for that night. Medb bade her fair handmaiden from amongst her attendants to go for her to the river for water for drinking and washing. Lochè was the name of the maiden. Thereupon Lochè went, and fifty women in her train and the queen's diadem of gold on her head.
And Cuchulain espied them and he put a stone on his sling and cast a stone from his staff-sling at her, so that he broke the diadem of gold in three pieces and killed the maiden on her plain. Thence is Redè Lochè ('the Plain of Lochè') in Cualnge. For Cuchulain had thought, for want of acquaintance and knowledge, that it was Medb that was there.
8e. The Killing Of Uala
Early on the morrow the hosts continued their way to Glaiss Cruinn ('Cronn's Stream'). And they attempted the stream and failed to cross it. And Cluain Carpat ('Chariot-meadow') is the name of the first place where they reached it. This is why Cluain Carpat is the name of that place, because of the hundred chariots which the river carried away from them to the sea.
Medb ordered her people that one of the warriors should go try the river. And on the morrow there arose a great, stout, wonderful warrior of the particular people of Medb and Ailill, Uala by name, and he took on his back a massy rock, to the end that Glaiss Cruinn might not carry him back. And he went to essay the stream, and the stream threw him back dead, lifeless, with his stone on his back and so he was drowned. Medb ordered' that he be lifted out of the river and his grave dug and his stone raised over his grave, so that it is thence Lia Ualann ('Uala's Stone') on the road near the stream in the land of Cualnge.
Cuchulain clung close to the hosts that day provoking them to encounter and combat. And he slew a hundred of their armed, kinglike warriors around Roen and Roi, the two chroniclers of the Táin.
Medb called upon her people to go meet Cuchulain in encounter and combat for the sake of the hosts. "It will not be I," and "It will not be I," spake each and every one from his place. "No caitiff is due from my people. Even though one should be due, it is not I would go to oppose Cuchulain, for no easy thing is it to do battle with him."
The hosts kept their way along the river, being unable to cross it, till they reached the place where the river rises out of the mountains, and, had they wished it, they would have gone between the river and the mountain, but Medb would not allow it, so they had to dig and hollow out the mountain before her in order that their trace might remain there forever and that it might be for a shame and reproach to Ulster. And Bernais ('the Gap') of the Foray of Cualnge is another name for the place ever since, for it is through it the drove afterwards passed.
The warriors of the four grand provinces of Erin pitched camp and took quarters that night at Belat Aileain ('the Island's Crossway'). Belat Aileain was its name up to then, but Glenn Tail ('Glen of Shedding') is henceforth its name because of the abundance of curds and of milk and of new warm milk which the droves of cattle and the flocks yielded there that night for the men of Erin. And Liasa Liac ('Stone Sheds') is another name for it to this day, and it is for this it bears that name, for it is there that the men of Erin raised cattle-stalls and byres for their herds and droves
The four of the five grand provinces of Erin took up the march until they reached the Sechair in the west on the morrow. Sechair was the name of the river hitherto; Glaiss Gatlaig ('Osier-water') is its name henceforward. Now this is the reason it had that name, for it was in osiers and ropes that the men of Erin brought their flocks and droves over across it, and the entire host let the osiers and ropes drift with the stream after crossing. Hence the name, Glaiss Gatlaig.
8f. The Harrying Of Cualnge Followeth Here Below
After every one had come with their spoils and they were all gathered in Finnabair of Cualnge, Medb spake: "Let the camp be divided here," said Medb; "the foray cannot be carried on by a single road. Let Ailill with half his force go by Midluachair. We and Fergus will go by Bernas Bo Ulad ('the Pass of the Cattle of Ulster')." "Not fair is the part that has fallen to us of the force," said Fergus; "the cattle cannot be driven over the mountain without dividing." This then is done. Hence cometh Bernas Bo Ulad ('the Pass of the Cattle of Ulster').
Then spake Ailill to his charioteer Cuillius: "Find out for me to-day Medb and Fergus. I wot not what hath led them to keep thus together. I would fain have a token from thee." Cuillius went where Medb and Fergus wantoned. The pair dallied behind while the warriors continued their march. Cuillius stole near them and they perceived not the spy. It happened that Fergus' sword lay close by him. Cuillius drew it from its sheath and left the sheath empty. Then Cuillius betook himself to Ailill. "Well?" said Ailill." Well, then," replied Cuillius; "thou knowest the signfication of this token. As thou hast thought," continued Cuillius, " it is thus I discovered them, lying together." "It is so, then." Each of them laughs at the other. "It is well so," said Ailill; "she had no choice; to win his help on the Táin she hath done it. Keep the sword carefully by thee," said Ailill; "put it beneath thy seat in the chariot and a linen cloth wrapped round it."
When Fergus got up to take his sword, "Alas!" cried he. "What aileth thee?" Medb asked. "An ill deed have I done Ailill," said he. "Wait thou here till I come out of the wood," said Fergus, "and wonder not though it be long till I come." It happened that Medb knew not of the loss of the sword. Fergus went out taking his charioteer's sword with him in his hand, and he fashioned a sword from a tree in the wood. Hence is Fid Mor Thruailli ('Great Scabbard-Wood') in Ulster.
"Let us hasten after our comrades," said Fergus. "The forces of all came together in the plain. They raised their tents. Fergus was summoned to Ailill for a game of chess. When Fergus entered the tent Ailill laughed at him.
Cuchulain came so that he was before Ath Cruinn ('the Ford of the Cronn'). "O master Laeg," he cried to his driver, "here are the hosts for us." "I swear by the gods," said the charioteer, "I will do a mighty feat in the eyes of chariot-fighters, in quick spurring-on of the slender steeds; with yokes of silver and golden wheels shall they be urged on (?) in triumph. Thou shalt ride before heads of kings. The steeds I guide will bring victory with their bounding." "Take heed, O Laeg," said Cuchulain; "hold the reins for the great triumph of Macha, that the horses drag thee not over the mass at the . . . (?) of a woman. Let us go over the straight plain of these . . . (?). I call on the waters to help me," cried Cuchulain. "I beseech heaven and earth and the Cronn above all."
Then the Cronn opposes them,
Holds them back from Murthemne
Till the heroes' work is done
On the mount of Ocaine!
Therewith the water rose up till it was in the tops of the trees.
Manè son of Ailill and Medb marched in advance of the rest. Cuchulain slew him on the ford and thirty horsemen of his people were drowned. Again Cuchulain laid low twice sixteen warriors of theirs near the stream. The warriors of Erin pitched their tents near the ford. Lugaid son of Nos grandson of Lomarc Allcomach went to parley with Cuchulain. Thirty horsemen were with him. "Welcome to thee, O Lugaid," cried Cuchulain. "Should a flock of birds graze upon the plain of Murthemne, thou shalt have a wild goose with half the other. Should fish come to the falls or to the bays, thou shalt have a salmon with as much again. Thou shalt have the three sprigs, even a sprig of cresses, a sprig of laver, and a sprig of sea-grass; there will be a man to take thy place at the ford."
"This welcome is truly meant," replied Lugaid; "the choice of people for the youth whom I desire!" "Splendid are your hosts," said Cuchulain. "It will be no misfortune," said Lugaid, "for thee to stand up alone before them." "True courage and valour have I," Cuchulain made answer. "Lugaid, my master," said Cuchulain, "do the hosts fear me?" "By the god," Lugaid made answer, "I swear that no one man of them nor two men dares make water outside the camp unless twenty or thirty go with him." "It will be something for them," said Cuchulain, "if I begin to cast from my sling. He will be fit for thee, O Lugaid, this companion thou hast in Ulster, if the men oppose me one by one. Say, then, what wouldst thou?" asked Cuchulain. "A truce with my host." "Thou shalt have it, provided there be a token therefor. And tell my master Fergus that there shall be a token on the host. Tell the leeches that there shall be a token on the host, and let them swear to preserve my life and let them provide me each night with provision."
Lugaid went from him. It happened that Fergus was in the tent with Ailill. Lugaid called him out and reported that (proposal of Cuchulain's) to him. Then Ailill was heard:
"I swear by the god, I cannot," said Fergus, "unless I ask the lad. Help me, O Lugaid," said Fergus. "Do thou go to him, to see whether Ailill with a division may come to me to my company. Take him an ox with salt pork and a keg of wine." Thereupon Lugaid goes to Cuchulain and tells him that. "'Tis the same to me whether he go," said Cuchulain. Then the two hosts unite. They remain there till night, or until they spend thirty nights there. Cuchulain destroyed thirty of their warriors with his sling. "Your journeyings will be ill-starred," said Fergus (to Medb and Ailill); "the men of Ulster will come out of their 'Pains' and will grind you down to the earth and the gravel. Evil is the battle-corner wherein we are." He proceeds to Cul Airthir ('the Eastern Nook'). Cuchulain slays thirty of their heroes on Ath Duirn ('Ford of the Fist'). Now they could not reach Cul Airthir till night. Cuchulain killed thirty of their men there and they raised their tents in that place. In the morning Ailill's charioteer, Cuillius to wit, was washing the wheel-bands in the ford. Cuchulain struck him with a stone so that he killed him. Hence is Ath Cuillne ('Ford of Destruction') in Cul Airthir.'
Posted: 01-Dec-2008, 11:52 PM
Group: Celtic Nation
Realm: St. Louis, Missouri U.S.A.
9. The Proposals
The four grand provinces of Erin proceeded till they pitched camp and took quarters in Druim En ('Birds' Ridge') in the land of Conalle Murthemni, and they slept there that night, and Cuchulain held himself at Ferta Illergaib ('the Burial-mound on the Slopes') hard by them that night, and he, Cuchulain, shook, brandished and flourished his weapons that night, so that one hundred warriors of the host perished of fright and fear and dread of Cuchulain.
Medb called upon Fiachu son of Ferfebè of the Ulstermen to go parley with Cuchulain, to come to some terms with him. "What terms shall be given him?" asked Fiachu son of Ferfebè. "Not hard to answer," Medb replied: "He shall be recompensed for the loss of his lands and estates, for whosoever has been slain of the Ulstermen, so that it be paid to him as the men of Erin adjudge. Entertainment shall be his at all times in Cruachan; wine and mead shall be poured out for him. And he shall come into my service and Ailill's, for that is more seemly for him than to be in the service of the lordling with whom he is.
Accordingly this was the greatest word of scorn and insult spoken on the Cow-Raid of Cualnge, to make a lordling of the best king of a province in Erin, even of Conchobar.
Then came Fiachu son of Ferfebè to converse with Cuchulain. Cuchulain bade him welcome. "I regard that welcome as truly meant," said Fiachu. "It is truly meant for thee," replied Cuchulain. "Not for hospitality am I come, but to parley with thee am I come from Medb, and to bring thee terms." "What hast thou brought with thee?"
"Thou shalt be recompensed for whatsoever was destroyed of Ulster which shall be paid thee as best the men of Erin adjudge. Entertainment shalt thou enjoy in Cruachan; wine and mead shall be poured out for thee and thou shalt enter the service of Ailill and Medb, for that is more seemly for thee than to be in the service of the lordling with whom thou art." "Nay, of a truth," answered Cuchulain, "I would not sell my mother's brother for any other king!" "Further," continued Fiachu, "that thou comest to-morrow to a tryst with Medb and Fergus in Glenn Fochaine.
Accordingly, early on the morrow, Cuchulain set forth for Glenn Fochaine. Likewise Medb and Fergus went to meet him. And Medb looked narrowly at Cuchulain, and her spirit chafed her at him that day, for no bigger than the bulk of a stripling did he seem to her. "Is that yonder the renowned Cuchulain thou speakest of, O Fergus?" asked Medb. And Medb began to address Fergus and she made this lay:--
M: "If that be the noble Hound,
Of whom ye of Ulster boast,
What man e'er stout foe hath faced
Will fend him from Erin's men!"
F: "Howe'er young the Hound thou seest
That Murthemne's Plain cloth course,
That man hath not stood on earth
Whom he'd crush not with his might!"
M: "We will bring this warrior terms;
If he slight them, he is mad:
Half his cows, his women, half.
He shall change his way of fight! "
F: "My wish, that ye'll not o'ercome
This Hound from proud Murthemne!
Deeds he fears not-- fierce and bright--
This I know, if it be he!"
"Accost Cuchulain, O Fergus," said Medb. "Nay, then," quoth Fergus, "but do thou accost him thyself, for ye are not asunder here in the valley, in Glenn Fochaine." And Medb began to address Cuchulain and she made a lay, to which he responded:
M: "Culann's Hound, whom quatrains praise,
Keep thy staff-sling far from us;
Thy fierce, famed fight hath us ruined,
Hath us broken and confused!"
C: "Medb of Mur, he, Maga's son,
No base arrant wight am I.
While I live I'll never cease
Cualnge's raid to harass sore!"
M: "If thou wilt take this from us,
Valiant chief, thou Cualnge's Hound;
Half thy cows; thy women, half,
Thou shalt have through fear of thee!"
C: "As by right of thrusts am I
Ulster's champion and defence,
Naught I'll yield till I retrieve
Cow and woman ta'en from Gael! "
M: "What thou askest is too much,
After slaughtering our fair troops,
That we keep but steeds and gauds,
All because of one sole man! "
C: "Eocho's daughter, fair, of Fal,
I'm not good at wars of words;
Though a warrior-- fair the cheer--
Counsel mine is little worth! "
M: "Shame thou hast none for what thou sayest
O Dechtire's lordly son!
Famous are the terms for thee,
O thou battling Culann's Hound!"
When this lay was finished, Cuchulain accepted none of the terms which she had offered. In such wise they parted in the valley and withdrew in equal anger on the one side and on the other.
The warriors of four of the five grand provinces of Erin pitched camp and took quarters for three days and three nights at Druim En ('Birds' Ridge') in Conalle Murthemni, but neither huts nor tents did they set up, nor did they engage in feasts or repasts, nor sang they songs nor carols those three nights. And Cuchulain destroyed a hundred of their warriors every night ere the bright hour of sunrise on the morrow.
"Our hosts will not last long in this fashion," said Medb, "if Cuchulain slays a hundred of our warriors every night. Wherefore is a proposal not made to him and do we not parley with him?" "What might the proposal be?" asked Ailill. "Let the cattle that have milk be given to him and the captive women from amongst our booty. And he on his side shall check his staff-sling from the men of Erin and give leave to the hosts to sleep, even though he slay them by day."
"Who shall go with that proposal?" Ailill asked. "Who," answered Medb, "but macRoth the chief runner!" "Nay, but I will not go," said macRoth, "for I am in no way experienced and know not where Cuchulain may be, and even though I should meet him, I should not know him." "Ask Fergus," quoth Medb; "like enough he knows where he is." "Nay, then, I know it not," answered Fergus; "but I trow he is in the snow between Fochain and the sea, taking the wind and the sun after his sleeplessness last night, killing and slaughtering the host single handed." And so it truly was.
Then on that errand to Delga macRoth set forth, the messenger of Ailill and Medb. He it is that circles Erin in one day. There it is that Fergus opined that Cuchulain would be, in Delga.
Heavy snow fell that night so that all the five provinces of Erin were a white plane with the snow. And Cuchulain doffed the seven-score waxed, boardlike tunics which were used to be held under cords and strings next his skin, in order that his sense might not be deranged when the fit of his fury came on him. And the snow melted for thirty feet all around him, because of the intensity of the warrior's heat and the warmth of Cuchulain's body. And the gilla remained a good distance from him for he could not endure to remain near him because of the might of his rage and the warrior's fury and the heat of his body.
"A single warrior approacheth, O Cuchulain," cried Laeg to Cuchulain. "What manner of warrior is he?" asked Cuchulain. "A brown, broad-faced, handsome fellow; a splendid, brown, hooded cloak, about him; a fine, bronze pin in his cloak; a leathern three-striped doublet next his skin; two gapped shoes between his two feet and the ground; a white-hazel dog-staff in one of his hands; a single-edged sword with ornaments of walrus-tooth on its hilt in the other. "Good, O gilla," quoth Cuchulain, "these be the tokens of a herald. One of the heralds of Erin is he to bring me message and offer of parley."
Now was macRoth arrived at the place where Laeg was. "How now! What is thy title as vassal, O gilla?" macRoth asked. "Vassal am I to the youth up yonder," the gilla made answer. MacRoth came to the place where Cuchulain was. "How now! What is thy name as vassal, O warrior?" asked macRoth. "Vassal am I to Conchobar son of Fachtna Fathach, son of the High King of this province." "Hast not something, a name more special than that?" "'Tis enough for the nonce," answered Cuchulain.
"Haply, thou knowest where I might find that famous Cuchulain of whom the men of Erin clamour now on this foray?" "What wouldst thou say to him that thou wouldst not to me?" asked Cuchulain. "To parley with him am I come on the part of Ailill and Medb, with terms and friendly intercourse for him." "What terms hast thou brought with thee for him?" "The milch-kine and the bondwomen of the booty he shall have, and for him to hold back his staff-sling from the hosts, for not pleasant is the thunder-feat he works every evening upon them."
"Even though the one thou seekest were really at hand, he would not accept the proposals thou askest." "For the Ulstermen, in reprisal for injuries and satires and hindrances, will kill for meat in the winter the milch-cows ye have captured, should they happen to have no yeld cattle. And, what is more, they will bring their bondwomen to bed to them, and thus will grow up a base progeny on the side of the mothers in the land of Ulster.
MacRoth went his way back. "What! Didst thou not find him?" Medb asked. "Verily, I know not, but I found a surly, angry, hateful, wrathful gilla in the snow betwixt Fochain and the sea. Sooth to say, I know not if he were Cuchulain." "Hath he accepted these proposals from thee?" "Nay then, he hath not." And macRoth related unto them all his answer, the reason why he did not accept them. "It was he himself with whom thou spakest," said Fergus.
"Another offer shall be made him," said Medb. "What is the offer?" asked Ailill. "There shall be given to him the yeld cattle and the noblest of the captive women of the booty, and his sling shall be checked from the hosts, for not pleasant is the thunder-feat he works on them every evening." "Who should go make this covenant?" said they. "Who but macRoth the king's envoy," said every one. "Yea, I will go," said macRoth, "because this time I know him."
Thereupon macRoth arose and came to parley with Cuchulain. "To parley with thee am I come this time with other terms, for I wis it is thou art the renowned Cuchulain." "What hast thou brought with thee now?" Cuchulain asked. "What is dry of the kine and what is noblest of the captives shalt thou get, and hold thy staff-sling from the men of Erin and suffer the men of Erin to go to sleep, for not pleasant is the thunder-feat thou workest upon them every evening."
"I accept not that offer, because, as amends for their honour, the Ulstermen will kill the dry cattle. For the men of Ulster are honourable men and they would remain wholly without dry kine and milch-kine. They would bring their free women ye have captured to the querns and to the kneading-troughs and into bondage and other serfdom besides. This would be a disgrace. Loath I should be to leave after me this shame in Ulster, that slave-girls and handmaids should be made of the daughters of kings and princes of Ulster."
"Is there any offer at all thou wilt accept this time?" "Aye, but there is," answered Cuchulain. "Then wilt thou tell me the offer?" asked macRoth. "By my word," Cuchulain made answer, "'tis not I that will tell you." "It is a question, then," said macRoth. "If there be among you in the camp," said Cuchulain, "one that knows the terms I demand, let him inform you, and I will abide thereby." "If there be not," said Cuchulain, "let no one come near me any more with offers or with friendly intercourse or concerning aught other injunction, for, whosoever may come, it will be the term of his life! "
MacRoth came back, and Medb asked his tidings. "Didst thou find him?" Medb asked. "In truth, I found him," macRoth replied. "Hath he accepted the terms?" "He hath not accepted," replied macRoth. "Is there an offer he will accept?" "There is one, he said," answered macRoth. "Hath he made known to thee this offer?" "This is his word," said macRoth, "that he himself would not disclose it to ye." "'Tis a question, then," said Medb.
"But" (macRoth continued), "should there be one in our midst that knows his terms, that one would tell it to me." "And if there be not, let no one go seek him any more. But, there is one thing I promise thee," said macRoth; "even though the kingdom of Erin were given me for it, I for one would not go on these same legs to that place to parley with him again."
Therewith Medb looked at Fergus. "What are the terms yonder man demands, O Fergus?" Medb asked. "I know what the man meant to disclose. I see no advantage at all for ye in the terms he demands," Fergus replied. "But what are those terms?" asked Medb. "That a single champion of the men of Erin be sent to fight and contend with him every day. The while he slayeth that man, the army will be permitted to continue its march. Then, when he will have slain that man, another warrior shall be sent to meet him on the ford. Either that, or the men of Erin shall halt and camp there till sunrise's bright hour in the morning. And further, Cuchulain's food and clothing shall be provided by you, so long as he will be on this expedition."
"By our conscience," said Ailill, "this is a grievous proposal." "What he asks is good," replied Medb; "and he shall obtain those terms, for we deem it easier to bear that he should have one of our warriors every day than a hundred every night." "Who will go and make known those terms to Cuchulain?" "Who, then, but Fergus?" replied Medb.
"Nevermore!" said Fergus. "Why not?" asked Ailill. "Bonds and covenants, pledges and bail shall be given for abiding by those terms and for their fulfillment towards Cuchulain." "I abide by it," said Medb, and she fast bound Fergus to them in like manner.
Posted: 02-Dec-2008, 11:01 PM
Group: Celtic Nation
Realm: St. Louis, Missouri U.S.A.
10. The Violent Death Of Etarcumul
Fergus' horses were brought and his chariot was hitched and two horses were brought for Etarcumul son of Fid and of Lethrinn, a soft youth of the people of Medb and of Ailill. "Whither goest thou?" Fergus demanded. "We go with thee," Etarcumul made answer. "To behold the form and appearance of Cuchulain, and to gaze upon him, for he is unknown to me." "Wilt thou do my bidding," said Fergus, "thou wilt in no wise go thither." "Why shall I not, pray?"
Thy light-heartedness, thy haughtiness (I know), but (I also know) the fierceness and valour and hostility of the youth against whom thou goest. And methinks ye will have contention before ye part." "Art thou not able to come between us to protect me?" "I am, to be sure," Fergus answered, "provided thou thyself seek not the combat." "I will not seek it," said Etarcumul, "till the very day of doom!"
Then they went their ways to come up to Cuchulain where Cuchulain was between Fochain and the sea. There it is that he was that day, playing draughts with Laeg. And not a living thing entered the entire plain without Laeg perceiving it and, notwithstanding, he continued to win every other game of draughts from Cuchulain. "A lone warrior cometh towards us over the plain, my master Cucuc," spake Laeg. "What manner of warrior?" queried Cuchulain.
"As large as one of the chief mountains that are highest on a great plain appears to me the chariot that is under the warrior; as large as one of the noble trees on a main fort's green meseems the curly, tressed, fair-yellow, all-golden hair hanging loose around the man's head; a purple mantle fringed with thread of gold wrapped around him; a broad and gray-shafted lance, perforated from mimasc to horn, flaming red in his hand; over him, a bossed, plaited shield, curved, with applied ornaments of red gold thereon; a lengthy sword, as long as the oar of a huge currach on a wild, stormy night, resting on the two thighs of the great haughty warrior that is within the chariot."
"Holla! Welcome the coming of this guest to us!" cried Cuchulain. "We know the man; it is my master Fergus that cometh hither." "Yet another single chariot-fighter I see coming towards us. With fulness of skill and beauty and splendour his horses speed." "One of the youths of the men of Erin is he, O my master Laeg," responded Cuchulain. "To scan my appearance and form is that man come, for I am renowned amongst them in the midst of their camp, and they know me not at all."
Fergus came up to where Cuchulain was and he sprang from the chariot, and Cuchulain bade him a hearty welcome. "Thy welcome I take for true," Fergus responded.
"Verily, it is truly meant for thee," said Cuchulain; "for comes there a brace of birds into the plain, thou shalt have a wild goose with half the other. If fish rise to the river-mouths, to the stones or waterfalls, thou shalt have a salmon with as much again. Thou shalt have a handful of watercress and a handful of sea-grass and a handful of laver. If thou hast a fight or combat with warrior before thee, I myself will go in thy stead to the ford. And I will watch and guard thee as long as thou sleepest."
"Well, then," said Fergus. "We know of what sort is thy hospitality on this occasion, on the Cow-spoil of Cualnge. But, as for this compact which thou hast asked of the men of Erin, single-handed combat with one man, thou shalt have it. It is for that I am come, to bind thee thereto, and do thou take it upon thee." "I pledge myself truly," said Cuchulain, "oh, my master Fergus." And no longer than that did he remain in parley, lest the men of Erin should say they were betrayed or deserted by Fergus for his disciple. Fergus' two horses were brought and his chariot was harnessed and he went back.
Etarcumul tarried behind gazing for a long time at Cuchulain. "At what starest thou, gilla?" asked Cuchulain. "I look at thee," said Etarcumul. "In truth then, thou hast not far to look," said Cuchulain. "There is no need of straining thine eye for that. If thou but knewest how angered is the little creature thou regardest, myself, to wit! And how then do I appear unto thee gazing upon me?" "Thou pleases me as thou art; a comely, shapely, wonderful, beautiful youth thou art, with brilliant, striking, various feats. Yet as for rating thee where goodly warriors are or forward youths or heroes of bravery or sledges of destruction, we count thee not nor consider thee at all.
"Though thou reviles me," said Cuchulain, "it is a surety for thee that thou camest from the camp under the protection of Fergus, as thou well knowest. For the rest, I swear by my gods whom I worship, were it not for the honour of Fergus, it would be only bits of thy bones and shreds of thy limbs that would be brought back to the camp!" "But threaten me no longer in this wise, Cuchulain!" cried Etarcumul; "for the wonderful terms thou didst exact of the men of Erin, that fair play and combat with one man should be granted thee, none other of the men of Erin but mine own self will come to-morrow at morn's early hour." "Come out, then," said Cuchulain, "and how so early thou comest, thou wilt find me here. I will not fly before thee. "
Etarcumul returned and began to talk with his driver. "I must needs fight with Cuchulain to-morrow, gilla," said Etarcumul. "'Tis true," quoth the charioteer. "Howbeit, I know not wilt thou fulfil it." "But what is better for us, to fulfil it to-morrow or forthwith tonight?" "To our thinking," said the gilla, "albeit no victory is to be won by fighting to-morrow, there is still less to be gained by fighting to-night, for thy combat and hurt is the nearer." "Be that as it may," said he ; "turn the horses and chariot back again from the hill for us, gilla, till we go to the ford of combat, for I swear by the gods whom I worship, I will not return to the camp till the end of life and time, till I bring with me the head of that young wildling, even the head of Cuchulain, for a trophy!"
The charioteer wheeled the chariot again towards the ford. They brought the left board to face the pair in a line with the ford. Laeg marked this and he cried to Cuchulain: ("Wist thou) the last chariot-fighter that was here a while ago, O Cucuc?" "What of him?" asked Cuchulain. "He has brought his left board towards us in the direction of the ford." "It is Etarcumul, O gilla, who seeks me in combat. And unwelcome is his coming, because of the honour of my foster-father Fergus under whom he came forth from the camp, of the men of Erin. But not that I would protect him do I thus. Fetch me my arms, gilla, to the ford. I deem it no honour for myself if the fellow reaches the ford before me." And straightway Cuchulain betook himself to the ford, and he bared his sword over his fair, well-knit spalls and he was ready on the ford to await Etarcumul.
Then, too, came Etarcumul. "What seekest thou, gilla?" demanded Cuchulain. "Battle with thee I seek," replied Etarcumul. "Hadst thou been advised by me," said Cuchulain, "thou wouldst never have come. Because of the honour of Fergus under whom thou camest out of the camp, and not because I would spare thee, do I behave thus."
Thereupon Cuchulain gave him a long-blow whereby he cut away the sod that was under the soles of his feet, so that he was stretched out like a sack on his back, and his limbs in the air and the sod on his belly. Had Cuchulain wished it, it is two pieces he might have made of him. "Hold, fellow. Off with thee now, for I have given thee warning." "I will not go. We will fight on," said Etarcumul.
Cuchulain dealt him a well-aimed edge-stroke. With the edge of his sword he sheared the hair from him from poll to forehead, from one ear to the other, as if it were with a light, keen razor he had been shorn. Not a scratch of his skin gave blood. "Hold, fellow. Get thee home now," said Cuchulain, "for a laughing-stock I have made of thee." "I go not," rejoined Etarcumul. "We will fight to the end, till I take thy head and thy spoils and boast over thee, or till thou takest my head and my spoils and boastest over me!" "So let it be, what thou saidst last, that it shall be. I will take thy head and thy spoils and boast over thee!"
Cuchulain dealt him a cleaving blow on the crown of the head, so that it drove to his navel. He dealt him a second crosswise stroke, so that at the one time the three portions of his body came to the ground. Thus fell Etarcumul son of Fid and of Lethrinn.
And Fergus knew not that the combat had been. For thus was his wont: he never for aught looked back, whether at sitting or at rising or when travelling or walking, in battle or fight or combat, lest some one might say it was out of fear he looked back, but ever he looked at the thing that was before and beside him.
And when Etarcumul's squire came up abreast of Fergus, Fergus asked, "But, where is thy lord, gilla?" "He fell a while since at the ford by the hand of Cuchulain," the gilla made answer. "That indeed was not fair!" exclaimed Fergus, "for that elf-like sprite to wrong me in him that came under my safeguard and protection. Turn the chariot for us, gilla," cried Fergus, "that we may go to the ford of fight and combat for a parley with Cuchulain."
Thereupon the driver wheeled the chariot. They fared thither towards the ford. "How darest thou offend me, thou wild, perverse, little elf-man," cried Fergus, "in him that came under my safeguard and protection? "After the nurture and care thou didst bestow on me, which wouldst thou hold better, for him to triumph and boast over me, or for me to triumph and boast over him? And yet morel. Ask his own gilla which of us was in fault in respect of the other." Then Etarcumul's gilla related to Fergus how it all befel. Fergus replied, "Liefer to me what thou hast done, fosterling," said Fergus, "and a blessing on the hand that smote him."
So then they bound two spancels about the ankle-joints of Etarcumul's feet and he was dragged along behind his horses and chariot. At every rock that was rough for him, his lungs and his liver were left on the stones and the rugged places. At every place that was smooth for him, his skilfully severed limbs came together again round the horses. In this wise he was dragged through the camp to the door of the tent of Ailill and Medb.
"There's your young warrior for you," cried Fergus, "for 'Every restoration together with its restitution' is what the law saith." Medb came forth to the door of her tent and she raised her quick, splitting, loud voice of a warrior. Quoth Medb: "Truly, methought that great was the heat and the wrath of this young hound on leaving us awhile since at the beginning of the day as he went from the camp. We had thought that the honour under which he went was not the honour of a dastard, even the honour of Fergus!"
"What hath crazed the virago and wench?" cried Fergus. "Good lack, is it fitting for the mongrel to seek the Hound of battle whom the warriors and champions of four of the five grand provinces of Erin dare not approach nor withstand? What, I myself was glad to escape whole from him!" In this manner fell Etarcumul and such was the combat of Etarcumul with Cuchulain.
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