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> Irish Celtic History II, The Cattle-Raid of Cooley(Táin Bó Cúalng
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Posted: 14-Jan-2009, 02:39 PM
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17. The Great Rout on The Plain of Murthemne

The warriors of four of the five grand provinces of Erin pitched camp and made their station in the place called Breslech Mor ('the Great Rout ') in the Plain of Murthemne. Their portion of cattle and spoils they sent on before them to the south to the cow-stalls of Ulster. Cuchulain took station at Ferta ('the (gravemound') at Lerga ('the Slopes') hard by them.

Cuchulain saw far away in the distance the fiery glitter of the bright-golden arms over the heads of four of the five grand provinces of Erin, in the setting of the sun in the clouds of evening. Great anger and rage possessed him at their sight, because of the multitude of his foes, because of the number of his enemies.

Then Cuchulain arose and he grasped his two spears and his shield and his sword. He shook his shield and brandished his spears and wielded his sword and sent out the hero's shout from his throat, so that the fiends and goblins and sprites of the glens and demons of the air gave answer for the fearfulness of the shout that he lifted on high, until Nemain, which is Badb, brought confusion on the host. The four provinces of Erin made such a clangour of arms with the points of their spears and their weapons that an hundred warriors of them fell dead that night of fright and of heartbreak in the middle of the camp and quarters.

As Laeg stood there he descried something: A single man coming from the north-eastern quarter athwart the camp of the four grand provinces of Erin making directly for him. "A single man here cometh towards us now, Cucucan," cried Laeg. "But what manner of man is he?" Cuchulain asked. "Not hard to say. A great, well-favoured man, then. Broad, close-shorn hair upon him, and yellow and curly his back hair. A green mantle wrapped around him. A brooch of white silver in the mantle over his breast. A kirtle of silk fit for a king, with red interweaving of ruddy gold he wears trussed up on his fair skin and reaching down to his knees. A black shield with hard rim of silvered bronze thereon. A five-barbed spear in his hand. A pronged bye-spear beside it. Marvellous, in sooth, the feats and the sport and the play that he makes. But him no one heeds, nor gives he heed to any one. No one shows him courtesy nor does he show courtesy to any one, like as if none saw him in the camp of the four grand provinces of Erin."

"In sooth, O fosterling," answered Cuchulain, "it is one of my friends of fairy kin that comes to take pity upon me, because they know the great distress wherein I am now all alone against the four grand provinces of Erin on the Plunder of the Kine of Cualnge." Now in this, Cuchulain spoke truth. When the young warrior was come up to Cuchulain he bespoke him and condoled with him. "Sleep then awhile, O Cuchulain," said the young warrior, "thy heavy fit of sleep by Ferta in Lerga ('the Gravemound on the Slopes') till the end of three days and three nights and I will oppose the hosts during that time."

Accordingly Cuchulain slept his heavy fit of sleep at 'the Gravemound on the Slopes' till the end of three days and three nights. And well he might sleep. Yet as great as was his sleep, even so great was his weariness. For from the Monday before Samain ('Summer-end') even to the Wednesday after Spring-beginning, Cuchulain slept not for all that space, except for a brief snatch after midday, leaning against his spear, and his head on his fist, and his fist clasping his spear, and his spear on his knee, but hewing and cutting, slaying and destroying four of the five grand provinces of Erin during that time.

Then it was that the warrior from Faery laid plants from the fairy-rath and healing herbs and put a healing charm into the cuts and stabs, into the sores and gaping wounds of Cuchulain, so that Cuchulain recovered during his sleep without ever perceiving it.

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Posted: 14-Jan-2009, 02:41 PM
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17a. The Slaughter of The Youths of Ulster

That was the time the youths came out of the north from Emain Macha. Thrice fifty boys of the sons of the kings of Ulster, accompanying Follomain, Conchobar's son, and three battles they offered to the hosts, so that thrice their number fell and the youths also fell, save Conchobar's son Follomain.

Follomain vowed that never till the very day of doom and of life would he return to Emain unless he should bring Ailill's head with him together with the diadem of gold that was on it. That was no easy thing for him to achieve, for the two sons of Bethè son of Ban-- the two sons of Ailill's foster-mother and foster-father-- attacked and wounded Follomain, so that he fell by their hands. This then is the Massacre of the youths of Ulster and of Follomain son of Conchobar.

Touching Cuchulain, he remained in his sound, heavy sleep till the end of three days and three nights at the 'Gravemound on the Slopes.' Thereafter Cuchulain arose from his sleep. He passed his hand over his face and he became as a wild wheel-thunder (?) from his crown to the ground, and he felt his courage strengthened, and he would have been able to go into an assembly or on a march or to a tryst with a woman or to an ale-house or into one of the chief assemblies of Erin.

"How long am I asleep now, young warrior?" Cuchulain asked. "Three days and three nights," the young warrior made answer. "Woe is me for that!" quoth Cuchulain. "Why so?" asked the young warrior. "For that the hosts have not been attacked in that time," answered Cuchulain. "Nay, not so were they spared," the young warrior made answer. "I would fain inquire who then attacked them?" Cuchulain asked.

"The youths came hither out of the north from Emain Macha, thrice fifty boys accompanying Follomain, Conchobar's son, and they the sons of the kings of Ulster. And three battles they offered the hosts in the space of the three days and three nights wherein thou wast till now asleep, and thrice their number are fallen at their hands and the youths themselves are fallen except Follomain alone, Conchobar's son.

And Follomain vowed that never till the very day of doom and of life would he return to Emain unless he should bring Ailill's head with him together with the diadem of gold that was on it. That was no easy thing for him to achieve, for the two sons of Bethè son of Ban-- the two sons of Ailill's foster-mother and foster-father-- attacked and wounded Follomain, so that he fell by their hands.

"Alas, that I was not there in my strength!" cried Cuchulain; "for had I been in my strength the youths would not have fallen, as now they have, and Follomain would not have perished." "But this avow, O Cucan," said the young warrior; "it is no reproach to thine honour and no disgrace to thy valour."

"Bide here this night with us, young warrior," said Cuchulain, "that together we avenge the youths on the hosts." "Nay then, I may not tarry," answered the young warrior, "for however prodigious the deeds of valour and skill in arms one may perform in thy company, not on him will fall the glory nor the honour nor the fame but on thyself. For this reason will I not tarry with thee, but do thou thyself try thy feats of arms and the strength of thy hands alone on the hosts, for not with them is the power over thy life on this occasion."

Then the young warrior from Faery went from him and they knew not what way he had gone. "Good, O my master Laeg," said Cuchulain; "together we will go to avenge the youths on the hosts." "I will go with thee," Laeg made answer.

"And the scythed chariot, my friend Laeg," said Cuchulain. "Canst thou get it ready? If thou canst get it ready and hast its equipment, make it ready, and if its equipment is not at hand, make it not ready."

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Posted: 24-Jan-2009, 12:15 AM
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17b. The Scythed Chariot

Thereupon the charioteer arose and donned his yeoman's suit for charioteering. Of this yeoman's suit for charioteering, this is what he put on him: His soft kirtle of skin which was light and airy, which was smooth and sparkling, which was stitched and of buckskin, so that it hindered not the movements of his arms outside. Over that he put outside an over-mantle of raven's feathers, which Simon Magus had made as a gift for Darius Nero, king of the Romans. Darius bestowed it upon Conchobar; Conchobar gave it to Cuchulain; Cuchulain presented it to his charioteer.

The same charioteer took the crested, plated, four-bordered battle-cap with variety of every colour and every figure, reaching down over the middle of his shoulders behind. It was an adornment for him and not an encumbrance. With his hand he placed the red-yellow frontlet-- like one red-golden strip of glowing gold smelted over the edge of an anvil-- on his forehead as a token of charioteering, to distinguish him from his master. He opened the hobbles that fastened his steeds and grasped his gold-mounted goad in his right hand. In his left hand he seized the lines, that is, the bridle-reins of his horses for restraining his steeds before performing his charioteering.

He next threw the iron-sheathed gold-bedecked coats of mail over his horses, so that they covered them from forehead to forehand. The chariot was studded with dartlets, lancelets, spearlets, and hardened spits, so that every portion of the frame bristled with points in that chariot and every corner and end and point and face of that chariot was a passage of laceration.

Then cast he a spell of concealment over his horses and over his fellow, so that they were not visible to any one in the camp, while all in the camp were visible to them. Well indeed was it that he cast that charm, for on that day the charioteer had to perform the three gifts of charioteership, namely leaping over a cleft in the ranks, unerring driving, and the handling of the goad.

Then arose the champion and battle-warrior and the instrument of Badb's corpse-fold among the men of the earth, Cuchulain son of Sualtaim, and he donned his war-dress of battle and fight and combat. To that wardress of battle and fight and combat which he put about him belonged seven and twenty waxed, board-like, equally close skin-tunics which were girded by cords and swathings and ropes on his fair skin, to the end that his wit and reason might not become deranged when the violence of his nature came over him.

Over him he put on the outside his battle-girdle of a champion, of tough, tanned, stout leather cut from the forequarters of seven ox-hides of yearlings, so that it reached from the slender parts of his waist to the stout part under his arm-pits. He was used to wear it to keep off spears and points and irons and lances and arrows. For in like manner they would bound back from it as if from stone or rock or horn they rebounded. Then he took his silken, glossy trews with their band of spotted pale-gold against the soft lower parts of his loins. His brown, well-sewn kilt of brown leather from the shoulders of four ox-hides of yearlings with his battle-girdle of cow-skins, he put underneath over the shining silken trews on the outside.

Then the king-warrior seized his battle-arms of battle and fight and combat. This is what belonged to those warlike weapons of battle: He took his eight little swords together with the bright-faced, tusk-hilted straight-sword; he took his eight little spears besides his five-pronged spear, he took his eight little darts together with his javelin with its walrus-tooth ornaments; he took his eight little shafts along with his play-staff; he took his eight shields for feats together with his dark-red bent-shield, whereon a show-boar could lie in its hollow boss, with its very sharp razor-like, keen-cutting, hard iron rim all around it, so that it would cut a hair against the stream because of its sharpness and fineness and keenness. When the young warrior would perform the edge-feat withal, it was the same whether he cut with his shield or his spear or his sword.

Next he put round his head his crested war-helm of battle and fight and combat, whereout was uttered the cry of an hundred young warriors with the long-drawn wail from each of its angles and corners. For this was the way that the fiends, the goblins and the sprites of the glens and the demons of the air screamed before and above and around him, what time he went forth for the shedding of blood of heroes and champions, exulting in the mighty deeds wrought underneath it.

His veil of concealment was thrown over him then, of raiment from Tir Tairngirè ('the Land of Promise') which had been brought to him as a gift by Manannan son of Ler ('the Sea') from the king of Tir na Sorcha ('the Land of Light.')

Then took place the first twisting-fit and rage of the royal hero Cuchulain, so that he made a terrible, many-shaped, wonderful, unheard of thing of himself. His flesh trembled about him like a pole against the torrent or like a bulrush against the stream, every member and every joint and every point and every knuckle of him from crown to ground. He made a mad whirling-feat of his body within his hide. His feet and his shins and his knees slid so that they came behind him. His heels and his calves and his hams shifted so that they passed to the front. The muscles of his calves moved so that they came to the front of his shins, so that each huge knot was the size of a soldier's balled fist. He stretched the sinews of his head so that they stood out on the nape of his neck, hill-like lumps, huge, incalculable, vast, immeasurable and as large as the head of a month-old child.

He next made a ruddy bowl of his face and his countenance. He gulped down one eye into his head so that it would be hard work if a wild crane succeeded in drawing it out on to the middle of his cheek from the rear of his skull. Its mate sprang forth till it came out on his cheek. His mouth was distorted monstrously. He drew the cheek from the jaw-bone so that the interior of his throat was to be seen. His lungs and his lights stood out so that they fluttered in his mouth and his gullet. He struck a mad lion's blow with the upper jaw on its fellow so that as large as a wether's fleece of a three year old was each red, fiery flake which his teeth forced into his mouth from his gullet.

There was heard the loud clap of his heart against his breast like the yelp of a howling bloodhound or like a lion going among bears. There were seen the torches of the Badb, and the rain clouds of poison, and the sparks of glowing-red fire, blazing and flashing in hazes and mists over his head with the seething of the truly wild wrath that rose up above him. His hair bristled all over his head like branches of a redthorn thrust into a gap in a great hedge. Had a king's apple-tree laden with royal fruit been shaken around him, scarce an apple of them all would have passed over him to the ground, but rather would an apple have stayed stuck on each single hair there, for the twisting of the anger which met it as it rose from his hair above him.

The Lon Laith ('Champion's Light') stood out of his forehead, so that it was as long and as thick as a warrior's whetstone. As high, as thick, as strong, as steady, as long as the sail-tree of some huge prime ship was the straight spout of dark blood which arose right on high from the very ridge-pole of his crown, so that a black fog of witchery was made thereof like to the smoke from a king's hostel what time the king comes to be ministered to at nightfall of a winter's day.

When now this contortion had been completed in Cuchulain, then it was that the hero of valour sprang into his scythed war-chariot, with its iron sickles, its thin blades, its hooks and its hard spikes, with its hero's fore-prongs, with its opening fixtures, with its stinging nails that were fastened to the poles and thongs and bows and lines of the chariot.

It was then he delivered over his chariot the thunder-feat of a hundred and the thunder-feat of two hundred and the thunder-feat of three hundred and the thunder-feat of four hundred, and he ceased at the thunder-feat of five hundred. For he did not deem it too much that such a great number should fall by his hand at his first onset and first battle-assault on four of the five grand provinces of Erin. In such wise fared he forth for to seek his foes, and he drove his chariot in a wide circuit round about the hosts of the four grand provinces of Erin. And he led his chariot a heavy way.

The chariot's iron wheels sank into the ground so that the earth dug up by the iron wheels might have served for a dûn and a fortress, so did the chariot's iron wheels cut into the ground. For in like manner the clods and boulders and rocks and the clumps and the shingle of the earth arose up outside on a height with the iron wheels. It was for this cause he made this circling hedge of the Badb round about the hosts of four of the five grand provinces of Erin, that they might not escape him nor get away before he would come on them to press a reprisal for the boys. And he went into the midst of the ranks and mowed down huge walls of the corpses of his foes and enemies and opponents in a great circle round about the host.

And he made the onslaught of a foe amongst foes upon them, so that they fell sole to sole, neck to neck, such was the closeness of their bodies. Thrice again in this manner he circled them round, so that he left them in beds of six in a great ring around them, even the soles of three to the backs of three men in a circle around the camp. Hence Sessrech Bresligè ('Great sixfold Slaughter') is the name of this event on the Tain, and it is one of the three unreckonable events of the Tain, which were, to wit, Sessrech Bresligè, Immsligè Glennamnach ('the Mutual Slaying at Glennamain') and the battle of Garech and Ilgarech; only that here, hound and horse and man were one to him.

What others say is that Lug son of Ethliu fought on Cuchulain's side at the Sessrech Bresligè.

Their number is not known and it cannot be reckoned how many fell there of the rabble rout, but only their chiefs have been counted. Here below are their names to wit:

The two Crnad, two Calad, two Cir, two Ciar, two Ecell, three Cromm, three Cur, three Combirgè, four Feochar four Furachar, four Cassè, four Fota, five Caur, five Cerman, five Coblach, six Saxan, six Duach, six Darè, [six Dunchadh, six Daimiach,] seven Rochad, seven Ronan, seven Rurthech, eight Rochlad, eight Rochtad, eight Rindach, eight Corprè, eight Malach, nine Daigith, nine Darè, nine Damach, ten Fiach, ten Fiacach, ten Fedlimid.

Ten and six-score kings, leaders and men of the land, Cuchulain laid low in the great slaughter on the Plain of Murthemne, besides a countless horde of dogs and horses and women and boys and children and common folk; for there escaped not a third man of the men of Erin without a lump or without having half his skull or an eye hurt, or without an enduring mark for the course of his life.

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Posted: 24-Jan-2009, 12:18 AM
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17c. The Account Of The Appearance Of Cuchulain

Early the next morning Cuchulain came to observe the host and to display his comely, beautiful form to the matrons and dames and girls and maidens and poets and men of art, for he did not consider it an honour nor becoming, the wild, proud shape of magic which had been manifested to them the night before. It was for that then that he came to exhibit his comely, beautiful form on that day.

Truly fair was the youth that came there to display his form to the hosts, Cuchulain, to wit son of Sualtaim. Three heads of hair he wore; brown at the skin, blood-red in the middle, a golden-yellow crown what thatched it. Beautiful was the arrangement of the hair, with three coils of hair wound round the nape of his neck, so that like to a strand of thread of gold was each thread-like, loose-flowing, deep-golden, magnificent, long-tressed, splendid, beauteous-hued hair as it fell down over his shoulders. A hundred bright-purple windings of gold-flaming red gold at his neck.

A hundred salmon-coloured (?) cords strung with carbuncles as a covering round his head. Four spots on either of his two cheeks, even a yellow spot, and a green spot, and a blue spot, and a purple spot. Seven jewels of the eye's brilliance was either of his kingly eyes. Seven toes to either of his two feet. Seven fingers to either of his two hands, with the clutch of hawk's claw, with the grip of hedgehog's talon in every separate one of them.

He also put on him that day his fair-day dress. To this apparel about him belonged, namely, a beautiful, well-fitting, purple, fringed, five-folded mantle. A white brooch of silvered bronze or of white silver incrusted with burnished gold over his fair white breast, as if it were a full-fulgent lantern that eyes of men could not behold for its resplendence and crystal shining. A striped chest-jacket of silk on his skin, fairly adorned with borders and braidings and trimmings of gold and silver and silvered bronze; it reached to the upper hem of his dark, brown-red warlike breeches of royal silk.

A magnificent, brown-purple buckler he bore, with five wheels of gold on it, with a rim of pure white silver around it. A gold-hilted hammered sword at his left side. A long grey-edged spear together with a trenchant bye-spear for defence, with thongs for throwing and with rivets of whitened bronze, alongside him in the chariot. Nine heads he bore in one of his hands and ten in the other, and these he brandished before the hosts in token of his prowess and cunning. Medb hid her face beneath a shelter of shields lest Cuchulain should cast at her that day.

Then it was that the maidens of Connacht besought the men of Erin to lift them up on the flat of the shields above the warriors' shoulders, to behold the aspect of Cuchulain. For they marvelled at the beautiful, comely appearance he showed them that day compared with the low, arrogant shape of magic in which they had seen him the night before.

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Posted: 24-Jan-2009, 12:20 AM
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17d. Dubthach's Jealousy

Then it was that jealousy, ill-will and envy possessed Dubthach Doel ('the Black-tongue') of Ulster because of his wife in regard to Cuchulain; and he counselled the hosts to act treacherously towards Cuchulain and to entrap him, even to lay up an ambush around him on all sides to the end that he might fall by them. And he spake these words:

"If this be the Twisted one,
By him shall men's bodies fall
Shrieks there shall be round the liss;
Deeds to tell of shall be wrought!
"Stones shall be on graves from him;
Kingly martyrs shall increase.
Not well have ye battle found
On the slopes with this wild Hound!
"Now the Wildman's form I see,
Nine o heads dangling by his side;
Shattered spoils he has, behold;
Ten heads as his treasure great!
"And your women, too, I see,
Raise their heads above the lines
I behold your puissant queen
Makes no move t'engage in fight!
"Were it mine to give advice,
Men would be on every side,
That they soon might end his life
If this be the Twisted one!"
Fergus macRoig heard this and he deemed it an outrage that Dubthach should counsel how to betray Cuchulain to the hosts. And he reached him a strong, sharp kick with his foot away from him, so that Dubthach struck with his mouth against the group outside. And Fergus reproached him for all the wrongs and iniquities and treachery and shameful deeds he had ever done to the Ulstermen of old and anew. And then he spake these words:

"If this 'Black-tongue' Dubthach be,
Let him skulk behind the hosts
No good hath he ever wrought
Since he slew the princesses!
"Base and foul, the deed he wrought:
Fiachu, Conchobar's son, he slow.
No more fair was heard of him:
Carbrè's death, Fedilmid's son!
"Ne'er for Ulster's weal doth aim
Lugaid's son, Casruba's scion
Such is how he acts to men:
Whom he stabs not he incites!
"Ulster's exiles it would grieve
If their beardless boy should fall.
If on you come Ulster's troops
They will make your herds their spoil!
"Strown afar your herds will be
By the rising Ulstermen.
Tales there'll be of mighty deeds
That will tell of far-famed queens!
"Corpses will be under foot
Food there'll be at ravens rests;
Bucklers lying on the slopes;
Wild and furious deeds increase!
"I behold just now your wives
Raise their heads above the ranks.
I behold your puissant queen
Moves not to engage in war!
"Valour none nor generous deed
Comes from Lugaid's craven son
Nor will kings see lances red,
If this 'Blacktongue' Dubthach be!"
Thus far 'The Scythed Chariot.'
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Posted: 25-Jan-2009, 11:35 AM
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I always find the Cuchulain's stories very interesting and full of magic.
They are amazing in depicting a great Irish hero and folkore.

I particularly like the 17c chapter on the Account of the appearence of Cuchulain.
It so vividly descriptive that it makes me want to pick up my drawing pencil and draw his image.

Thank you gandolf for giving me the inspiration of starting to draw again through your amazing stories.


"Few men are brave:many become so through training and discipline."
Flavius Vegetius Renatus

"I think a hero is an ordinary individual who finds strenght to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles."
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Posted: 11-Feb-2009, 10:02 PM
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18. The Slaying Of Oengus Son Of Oenlam

Then it was that a very bold young warrior of the Ulstermen came nigh the hosts; his bye-name was Oengus son of Oenlam Gabè ('the One-handed Smith'). And he drove the hosts before him from Moda Loga, which at that time was called Lugmud, to Ath da Fert ('the Ford of the Two Gravemounds') in Sliab Fuait.

What scholars say is: If Oengus son of Oenlam Gabè had fought them in single combat, two-thirds of the host would have fallen before that by him in single battle. Howbeit it was by no means so that they acted, but they attacked him from ambush on every side, till he fell at their hands in unequal fight at Ath da Fert in Sliab Fuait.
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18a. The Misthrow At Belach Eoin.

Then came to them Fiacha Fialdana ('the Generous and Intrepid') of the Ulstermen to speak with the son of his mother's sister, namely with Manè Andoè ('the Unslow') of the Connachtmen. And thus he came, and Dubthach Doel ('the Black Tongue') of Ulster with him. It was in this wise that Manè Andoè came, and Dochè son of Maga along with him.

When now Dochè macMagach espied Fiacha Fialdana, he straightway hurled a spear at him, but so that it went through his own friend, through Dubthach Doel of Ulster. Then Fiacha Fialdana hurled a spear at Dochè macMagach, so that it went through his own friend, through Manè Andoè of Connacht. Thereupon said the men of Erin: "A mishap in throwing," they said, "is what hath happened to the men, for each of them to kill his friend and nearest relation."

Hence this is entitled Imroll Belaig Eoin ('the Misthrow at Bird-pass'). And 'the Other Misthrow at Bird-pass' is another name for it.
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18b. The Disguising Of Tamon

Then said the men of Erin to Tamon the fool that he should don the garments of Ailill and the king's golden shawl, and go to the ford under their eyes. So he put the garments and golden shawl of Ailill upon him [and he went on to the ford under their eyes.] The men of Erin began to scoff and to shout and jeer at him. "It is a disguising of Tamon ('Stump') for thee, O Tamon the fool" they cried, "with the dress and the golden shawl of Ailill upon thee!"

When Cuchulain saw him, it seemed to him in his ignorance and lack of knowledge that it was Ailill himself that was there. And he slung a stone from his staff-sling at him so that Tamon the fool was smitten lifeless where he was on the ford. Hence Ath Tamuin ('the Ford of a Stump') is the name of that ford ever since and 'the Disguising of Tamon' is the name of the tale.
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19. The Battle Of Fergus And Cuchulain

The hosts of the four grand provinces of Erin pitched camp and entrenched themselves for that night at the pillar-stone in Crich Roiss ('the Borders of Ross'). Then Medb called upon the men of Erin for one of them to contend and do battle with Cuchulain on the morrow. And every one of them spake thus: "It shall not be I! it shall not be I!" cried each from his place. "No victim is owing from my people."

Thereupon Medb summoned Fergus to go forth and contend and fight with Cuchulain, for that the men of Erin had failed. "Ill would it befit me," quoth Fergus, "to fight with a callow young lad without any beard, and mine own disciple." Howbeit Medb murmured sore that Fergus foreswore her combat and battle. They bode the night in that place. Early on the morrow Fergus arose, and he fared forth to the place of combat where Cuchulain was.

Cuchulain saw him coming nigh. "A vain surety is the one wherewith my master Fergus comes to me, for no sword is in the sheath of the great staff he bears." It was true what he said. A year before this tale, Ailill had found Fergus going to a tryst with Medb on the hillside in Cruachan and his sword on a branch near by him. And Ailill had torn the sword from its sheath and put a wooden sword in its stead and vowed he would not restore him the sword till came the day of the great battle.

"It matters not to me, O fosterling," replied Fergus; "for had I a sword in this, it never would cut thee nor be plied on thee. But, by the honour and training I bestowed upon thee and the Ulstermen and Conchobar bestowed, give way before me this day in the presence of the men of Erin!" "Truly I am loath to do that," answered Cuchulain, "to flee before any one man on the Cattle-spoil of Cualnge." "Nay then it is not a thing to be taken amiss by thee," said Fergus; "for I in my turn will retreat before thee when thou wilt be covered with wounds and dripping with gore and pierced with holes in the battle of the Táin. And when I alone shall turn in flight before thee, so will all the men of Erin also flee before thee in like manner."

So zealous was Cuchulain to do whatever made for Ulster's weal that he had his chariot brought to him, and he mounted his chariot and he went in confusion and flight from Fergus in the presence of the men of Erin. The men of Erin saw that. "He is fled from thee! He is fled from thee, O Fergus!" cried all. "Pursue him, pursue him quickly, Fergus," Medb cried, "that he do not escape thee."

"Nay then," said Fergus, "I will pursue him no further. For however little ye may make of the flight I have put him to, none of the men of Erin could have obtained so much as that of him on the Cow-creagh of Cualnge. For this cause, till the men of Erin take turns in single combat, I will not engage again with this same man." Hence here we have the '[White] Battle' of Fergus; [and it is for this cause it is called the 'White Battle,' because no blood on weapons resulted therefrom.]

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19a. Here Now Cometh The Head-Place Of Ferchu

Ferchu Longsech (the Exile), although of the Connachtmen, was engaged in battle and plunder with Ailill and Medb. From the day these came to the kingship, there never was a time that he fared to their camp or took part in their expeditions or shared in their straits or their needs or their hardships, but he was ever at their heels, pillaging and plundering their borders and land.

At that time he sojourned in the eastern part of Mag Ai. Twelve men was his muster. He learned that a single man checked and stopped four of the five grand provinces of Erin from Monday at Summer's end till the beginning of Spring, slaying a man on the ford every one of those days and a hundred warriors every night. He weighed his plan privily with his people. "What better plan could we devise?" quoth he, "than to go and attack yonder man that checketh and stoppeth four of the five grand provinces of Erin, and bring his head and his weapons with us to Ailill and Medb? However great the injuries and wrongs we have done to Ailill and Medb, we shall obtain our peace therefor, if only that man fall by our hand."

Now this was the resolve they took, and they proceeded to where Cuchulain was. And when they came, it was not fair fight nor combat with one they vouchsafed him, but at one and the same time the twelve men fell upon him. Cuchulain turned on them, and straightway he smote off their twelve heads. And he set up twelve stones in the earth for them, and he put the head of each one of them on its stone and he likewise put Ferchu Longsech's head on its stone. Hence Cinnit Ferchon Longsig is henceforth the name of the place where Ferchu Longsech left his head, to wit, Cenn-aitt Ferchon ('the Head-place of Ferchu').

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19b. Mann's Fight

Medb despatched Mann son of Muresc son of Darè, of the Dommandach, to fight with Cuchulain. Own brothers were he and Daman, Ferdiad's father. A man, rough, inordinate in eating and sleeping was this Mann. An ill-tongued foul-mouthed man like Dubthach Doel ('Black-tongue') of Ulster. A man, stout, mighty, with strength of limb like Munremur ('Thick-neck') son of Gerrcend ('Short-head'). A fiery champion like Triscoth, the strong man of Conchobar's household. "I will go," said he "and unarmed, and I will grind him between my hands, for I consider it no honour nor credit to use arms against a beardless madcap such as he."

Therewith he went to attack Cuchulain. There he was, himself and his charioteer on the ford watching the host. "A lone warrior approacheth us here," cried Laeg to Cuchulain. "What manner of man?" asked Cuchulain. "A dark, black man, strong, bull-like, and he unarmed." "Let him go by thee," said Cuchulain. At that he comes nigh them. "To fight with thee am I come," Mann announced. Therewith they fell to wrestling for a long time, and thrice Mann threw Cuchulain, till the charioteer incited Cuchulain. "Were it the champion's portion thou wast contending for in Emain," spake Laeg, "thou wouldst be all powerful over the young bloods in Emain!" At these words the hero's wrath and warrior's rage returned to Cuchulain, so that he overcame Mann at the pillar-stone and he fell to pieces in morsels. Hence cometh Mandachta ('the Plain of Mann's death').
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19c. The Combat of Calatin's Children

Then was it debated by the men of Erin who would be fit to contend and cope with Cuchulain at the morning hour early on the next day. What they all said was, that Calatin Dana ('the Bold') would be the one, with his seven and twenty sons and his grandsons Glass macDelga. Thus were they: Poison was on every man of them and poison on every weapon of their arms; and not one of them missed his throw, and there was no one on whom one of them drew blood that, if he succumbed not on the spot, would not be dead before the end of the ninth day.

Great gifts were promised to them for engaging to do battle and to contend with Cuchulain. And they took the matter in hand, and it should be in the presence of Fergus that the covenant would be made. But Fergus refused to have part therein, for what they all contended was that they would hold it as a single combat, a combat, to wit, of Calatin Dana and his seven and twenty sons and his grandson Glass macDelga; for their contention was that his son was a limb of his limbs and a part of his parts, and that to Calatin Dana belonged all that proceeded from his body.

Fergus betook himself to his tent and to his people and he breathed his sigh of weariness aloud. "Grievous it seems to us, the deed to be done here on the morrow," quoth Fergus. "What deed may that be?" asked his people. "The slaying of Cuchulain," answered Fergus. "Alas," said they, "who should kill him?"

"Calatin Dana," he replied, "with his seven and twenty sons and his grandson Glass macDelga. For this is their nature: Poison is on every man of them and poison on every weapon of their arms; and there is no one on whom one of them draws blood, that, if he succumb not on the spot, will not be dead before the end of the ninth day. And there is no one of you that would go and learn for me and be witness of the battle and fight and bring me news how Cuchulain died on whom I would not bestow my blessing and armour." "I will go thither," spake Fiachu son of Ferfebè.

They abode so that night. Early on the morrow Calatin Dana arose with his seven and twenty sons and his grandson Glass macDelga, and they went forward to where Cuchulain was. And there went also Fiachu son of Ferfebè. And when Calatin arrived at the place where Cuchulain was, they forthwith hurled their nine and twenty spears, and not one of them went past him by a misthrow. Cuchulain played the edge-feat with his shield, so that all the spears sank up to their middles into the shield. But for all that, theirs was no erring cast, not one of the spears was blooded or reddened upon him.

Thereupon Cuchulain drew his sword from the sheath of the Badb, to cut away the weapons and lighten the shield that was on him. While thus engaged, they rushed in upon him and delivered their nine and twenty right fists at the same time on his head. They smote him and curbed him withal, till his face and his countenance and visage met the sand and gravel of the ford. Cuchulain raised his warrior's shout aloud and his cry of unequal combat, so that there was not an Ulsterman alive in the camp of those that were not asleep but heard it.

Then came Fiachu son of Ferfebè after themand he saw what they did and a qualm of love came over him, and he drew his sword from the sheath of the Badb and dealt them a blow, so that he cut off their nine and twenty right fists from them at one stroke, and they all fell backwards from the intensity of the exertion and hold which they had.

Cuchulain raised his head and drew breath and gave a sigh of weariness and perceived who it was that had come to his aid. "A ready relief, O foster-brother, what thou hast done," said Cuchulain. "Although for thee a ready relief," said Fiachu, "yet is it not so for us. Even though we are the best division of three thousand of the Clann Rudraige in the camp and station of the men of Erin, we shall all be brought under the mouth of spear and of sword, however feeble thou mayst deem the blow I struck, if this treason be found in us."

"I give my word," quoth Cuchulain; "so soon as I raise my head and draw breath, and unless thou thyself tellest the tale, not one of these ever will tell it, not a man of them shall reach the camp alive!" With that, Cuchulain turned on them, and he fell to smiting and hewing them, so that he sent them from him in small disjointed pieces and divided quarters eastwards and westwards along the ford. A single man got away from him, trusting to his speed while Cuchulain was busied beheading the rest; it was Glass macDelga. And Cuchulain raced after him like a blast of wind, and Glass ran on round the tent of Ailil and Medb, and all he could pant out was, "Fiach! Fiach!" when Cuchulain fetched him a stroke that cut off his head.

"'Tis quick work was made of that man," quoth Medb. "What debt (fíach) was that he spoke of, O Fergus?" "I know not," Fergus answered, "unless it be some one in the camp and quarters that owed him a debt. It is that which troubled his mind. But be that as it may," continued Fergus, "it is a debt of blood and flesh for him. And upon my word," Fergus added, "now are his debts paid to him for good and all!"

In this wise fell Calatin Dana ('the Bold') at the hands of Cuchulain, together with his seven and twenty sons and his grandson Glass macDelga. So that for evermore in the bed of the ford is still the rock whereabout they had their strife and struggle; and the mark of their sword-hilts is in it and of their knees and their elbows and of their spears. Hence Fuil Iairn ('Blood of Iron') to the west of Ath Firdead ('Ferdiad's Ford') is the name of the ford. It is for this it is called Fuil Iairn, because of the 'blood over weapons' that was there.

Thus then the Combat of the Clann Calatin.
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20. The Combat of Ferdiad and Cuchulain

Then the men of Erin took counsel who would be fit to send to the ford to fight and do battle with Cuchulain, to drive him off from them at the morning hour early on the morrow. With one accord they declared that it should be Ferdiad son of Daman son of Darè, the great and valiant warrior of the men of Dornnann. And fitting it was for him to go thither, for well-matched and alike was their manner of fight and of combat. Under the same instructresses had they done skillful deeds of valour and arms, when learning the art with Scathach ('the Modest') and with Uathach ('the Dreadful') and with Aifè ('the Handsome'). And neither of them overmatched the other, save in the feat of the Gae Bulga ('the Barbed Spear') which Cuchulain possessed. Howbeit, against this, Ferdiad was horn-skinned when fighting and in combat with a warrior on the ford.

Then were messengers and envoys sent to Ferdiad. Ferdiad denied them their will, and sent back the messengers, and he went not with them, for he knew wherefore they would have him, to fight and combat with his friend, with his comrade and foster-brother, Cuchulain. Then did Medb despatch the druids and the poets of the camp, the lampoonists and hard-attackers, for Ferdiad, to the end that they might make three satires to stay him and three scoffing speeches against him, that they might raise three blisters on his face, Blame, Blemish and Disgrace, if he came not with them.

Ferdiad came with them for the sake of his own honour, forasmuch as he deemed it better to fall by the shafts of valour and bravery and skill, than to fall by the shafts of satire, abuse and reproach. And when Ferdiad was come into the camp, he was honoured and waited on, and choice, well-flavoured strong liquor was poured out for him till he became drunken and merry. Great rewards were promised him if he would make the fight and combat, namely a chariot worth four times seven bondmaids, and the apparel of two men and ten men, of cloth of every colour, and the equivalent of the Plain of Murthemne of the rich Plain of Ai, free of tribute, without duress for his son, or for his grandson, or for his great-grandson, till the end of time and existence.

Such were the words of Medb, and she spake them here and Ferdiad responded:

Medb: "Great rewards in arm-rings,
Share of plain and forest
Freedom of thy children
From this day till doom!
Ferdiad son of Daman,
More than thou couldst hope for,
Why shouldst thou refuse it,
That which all would take?"

Ferdiad: "Naught I'll take without bond--
No ill spearman am I--
Hard on me to-morrow:
Great will be the strife!
Hound that's hight of Culann,
How his thrust is grievous!
No soft thing to stand him;
Rude will be the wound!"

Medb: "Champions will be surety,
Thou needst not keep hostings.
Reins and splendid horses
Shall be given as pledge!
Ferdiad, good, of battle,
For that thou art dauntless,
Thou shalt be my lover,
Past all, free of cain !"

Ferdiad: "Without bond I'll go not
To engage in ford-feats;
It will live till doomsday
In full strength and force.
Ne'er I'll yield-- who hears me,
Whoe'er counts upon me--
Without sun- and moon-oath,
Without sea and land!"

Medb: "Why then dost delay it?
Bind it as it please thee,
By kings' hands and princes',
Who will stand for thee!
Lo, I will repay thee,
Thou shalt have thine asking,
For I know thou'lt slaughter
Man that meeteth thee!"

Ferdiad: "Nay, without six sureties--
It shall not be fewer--
Ere I do my exploits
There where hosts will be!
Should my will be granted,
I swear, though unequal,
That I'll meet in combat
Cuchulain the brave!"

Medb: "Domnall, then, or Carbrè,
Niaman famed for slaughter,
Or e'en folk of barddom,
Natheless, thou shalt have.
Bind thyself on Morann,
Wouldst thou its fulfilment
Bind on smooth Man's Carbrè,
And our two sons, bind!"

Ferdiad: "Medb, with wealth of cunning,
Whom no spouse can bridle,
Thou it is that herdest
Cruachan of the mounds!
High thy fame and wild power!
Mine the fine pied satin;
Give thy gold and silver,
Which were proffered me!"

Medb: "To thee, foremost champion,
I will give my ringed brooch.
From this day till Sunday,
Shall thy respite be!
Warrior, mighty, famous,
All the earth's fair treasures
Shall to thee be given;
Everything be thine!

"Finnabair of the champions (?),
Queen of western Erin,
When thou'st slain the Smith's Hound,
Ferdiad, she's thine!"

Then said they, one and all, those gifts were great. "'Tis true, they are great. But though they are," said Ferdiad, "with Medb herself I will leave them, and I will not accept them if it be to do battle or combat with my foster-brother, the man of my alliance and affection, and my equal in skill of arms, namely, with Cuchulain." And he said:

"Greatest toil, this, greatest toil,
Battle with the Hound of gore!
Liefer would I battle twice
With two hundred men of Fal!

"Sad the fight, and sad the fight,
I and Hound of feats shall wage!
We shall hack both flesh and blood;
Skin and body we shall hew!

"Sad, O god, yea, sad, O god,
That a woman should us part!
My heart's half, the blameless Hound;
Half the brave Hound's heart am I!

"By my shield, O by my shield,
If Ath Cliath's brave Hound should fall,
I will drive my slender glaive
Through my heart, my side, my breast!

"By my sword, O by my sword,
If the Hound of Glen Bolg fall!
No man after him I'll slay,
Till I o'er the world's brink spring!

"By my hand, O, by my hand!
Falls the Hound of Glen in Sgail,
Medb with all her host I'll kill
And then no more men of Fal!

"By my spear, O, by my spear!
Should Ath Cro's brave Hound be slain,
I'll be buried in his grave;
May one grave hide me and him!

"Tell him this, O tell him this,
To the Hound of beauteous hue
Fearless Scathach hath foretold
My fall on a ford through him!

"Woe to Medb, yea, woe to Medb,
Who hath used her guile on us;
She hath set me face to face
'Gainst Cuchulain-- hard the toil!"

"Ye men," spake Medb, in the wonted fashion of stirring up disunion and dissension, "true is the word Cuchulain speaks." "What word is that?" asked Ferdiad. "He said, then," replied Medb, "he would not think it too much if thou shouldst fall by his hands in the choicest feat of his skill in arms, in the land whereto he should come." "It was not just for him to speak so," quoth Ferdiad; "for it is not cowardice or lack of boldness that he hath ever seen in me. And I swear by my arms of valour, if it be true that he spoke so, I will be the first man of the men of Erin to contend with him on the morrow!" "A blessing and victory upon thee for that!" said Medb; "it pleaseth me more than for thee to show fear and lack of boldness. For every man loves his own land, and how is it better for him to seek the welfare of Ulster, than for thee to seek the welfare of Connacht?"

Then it was that Medb obtained from Ferdiad the easy surety of a covenant to fight and contend on the morrow with six warriors of the champions of Erin, or to fight and contend with Cuchulain alone, if to him this last seemed lighter. Ferdiad obtained of Medb the easy surety, as he thought, to send the aforesaid six men for the fulfilment of the terms which had been promised him, should Cuchulain fall at his hands.

Then were Fergus' horses fetched for him and his chariot was yoked, and he came forward to the place of combat where Cuchulain was, to inform him of the challenge. Cuchulain bade him welcome. "Welcome is thy coming, O my master Fergus!" cried Cuchulain. "Truly intended, methinks, the welcome, O fosterling," said Fergus. "But, it is for this I am here, to inform thee who comes to fight and contend with thee at the morning hour early on the morrow." "E'en so will we hear it from thee," said Cuchulain. "Thine own friend and comrade and foster-brother, the man thine equal in feats and in skill of arms and in deeds, Ferdiad son of Daman son of Darè, the great and mighty warrior of the men of Domnann."

"As my soul liveth," replied Cuchulain, "it is not to an encounter we wish our friend to come." "It is even for that," answered Fergus, "thou shouldst be on thy guard and prepared. For unlike all to whom it fell to fight and contend with thee on the Cualnge Cattle-raid on this occasion is Ferdiad son of Daman son of Darè." "Truly am I here," said Cuchulain, "checking and staying four of the five grand provinces of Erin from Monday at Summer's end till the beginning of spring. And in all this time, I have not put foot in retreat before any one man nor before a multitude, and methinks just as little will I turn foot in flight before him."

So spake Fergus, putting him on his guard, and he said these words and Cuchulain responded:

Fergus: "O Cuchulain-- splendid deed--
Lo, 'tis time for thee to rise.
Here in rage against thee comes
Ferdiad, red-faced Daman's son!"

Cuchulain: "Here am I-- no easy task--
Holding Erin's men at bay;
Foot I've never turned in flight
In my fight with single foe!"

Fergus: "Dour the man when anger moves,
Owing to his gore-red glaive;
Ferdiad wears a skin of horn,
'Gainst which fight nor might prevails!"

Cuchulain: "Be thou still urge not thy tale,
Fergus of the mighty arms.
On no land and on no ground,
For me is there aught defeat!"

Fergus: "Fierce the man with scores of deeds;
No light thing, him to subdue.
Strong as hundreds-- brave his mien--
Point pricks not, edge cuts him not!"

Cuchulain: "If we clash upon the ford,
I and Ferdiad of known skill,
We'll not part without we know:
Fierce will be our weapon fight!"

Fergus: "More I'd wish it than reward,
O Cuchulain of red sword,
Thou shouldst be the one to bring
Eastward haughty Ferdiad's spoils!"

Cuchulain: "Now I give my word and vow,
Though unskilled in strife of words,
It is I will conquer this
Son of Daman macDarè!"

Fergus: It is I brought east the host,
Thus requiting Ulster's wrong.
With me came they from their lands,
With their heroes and their chiefs!"

Cuchulain: "Were not Conchobar in the 'Pains,'
Hard 'twould be to come near us.
Never Medb of Mag in Scail
On more tearful march had come!"

Fergus: "Greatest deed awaits thy hand:
Fight with Ferdiad, Daman's son.
Hard stern arms with stubborn edge,
Shalt thou have, thou Culann's Hound!"

After that, Fergus returned to the camp and halting-place. As for Ferdiad, he betook himself to his tent and to his people, and imparted to them the easy surety which Medb had obtained from him to do combat and battle with six warriors on the morrow, or to do combat and battle with Cuchulain alone, if he thought it a lighter task. He made known to them also the fair terms he had obtained from Medb of sending the same six warriors for the fulfilment of the covenant she had made with him, should Cuchulain fall by his hands. The folk of Ferdiad were not joyful, blithe, cheerful or merry that night, but they were sad, sorrowful and downcast, for they knew that where the two champions and the two bulwarks in a gap for a hundred met in combat, one or other of them would fall there or both would fall, and if it should be one of them, they believed it would be their king and their own lord that would fall there, for it was not easy to contend and do battle with Cuchulain on the Raid for the Kine of Cualnge.

Ferdiad slept right heavily the first part of the night, but when the end of the night was come, his sleep and his heaviness left him. And the anxiousness of the combat and the battle came upon him. And he charged his charioteer to take his horses and to yoke his chariot. The charioteer sought to dissuade him from that journey. "By our word," said the gilla, "'twould be better for thee to remain than to go thither," said he. And in this manner he spake, and he uttered these words, and the henchman responded:

Ferdiad: "Let's haste to th' encounter,
To battle with this man;
The ford we will come to,
O'er which Badb will shriek!
To meet with Cuchulain,
To wound his slight body,
To thrust the spear through him
So that he may die!"

The Henchman: "To stay it were better;
Your threats are not gentle
Death's sickness will one have,
And sad will ye part!
To meet Ulster's noblest
To meet whence ill cometh;
Long will men speak of it.
Alas, for your course!"

Ferdiad: "Not fair what thou speakest;
No fear hath the warrior;
We owe no one meekness;
We stay not for thee!
Hush, gilla, about us!
The time will bring strong hearts;
More meet strength than weakness;
Let's on to the tryst!"

Ferdiad's horses were now brought forth and his chariot was hitched, and he set out from the camp for the ford of battle when yet day with its full light had not come there for him. "Come, gilla," said Ferdiad, "spread for me the cushions and skins of my chariot under me here, so that I sleep off my heavy fit of sleep and slumber here, for I slept not the last part of the night with the anxiousness of the battle and combat." The gilla unharnessed the horses; he unfastened the chariot under him. He slept off the heavy fit of sleep that was on him.

Now how Cuchulain fared is related here: He arose not till the day with its bright light had come to him, lest the men of Erin might say it was fear or fright of the champion he had, if he should arise early. And when day with its full light had come, he passed his hand over his face and bade his charioteer take his horses and yoke them to his chariot. "Come, gilla," said Cuchulain, "take out our horses for us and harness our chariot, for an early riser is the warrior appointed to meet us, Ferdiad son of Daman son of Darè. "The horses are taken out," said the gilla; "the chariot is harnessed. Mount, and be it no shame to thy valour to go thither!"

Then it was that the cutting, feat-performing, battle-winning, red-sworded hero, Cuchulain son of Sualtaim, mounted his chariot, so that there shrieked around him the goblins and fiends and the sprites of the glens and the demons of the air; for the Tuatha De Danann ('the Folk of the Goddess Danu') were wont to set up their cries around him, to the end that the dread and the fear and the fright and the terror of him might be so much the greater in every battle and on every field, in every fight and in every combat wherein he went.

Not long had Ferdiad's charioteer waited when he heard something: A rush and a crash and a hurtling sound, and a din and a thunder, and a clatter and a clash, namely, the shield-cry of feat-shields, and the jangle of javelins, and the deed-striking of swords, and the thud of the helmet, and the ring of spears, and the striking of arms, the fury of feats, the straining of ropes, and the whirr of wheels, and the creaking of the chariot, and the trampling of horses' hoofs, and the deep voice of the hero and battle-warrior on his way to the ford to attack his opponent. The servant came and touched his master with his hand. "Ferdiad, master," said the youth, "rise up! They are here to meet thee at the ford." And the gilla spake these words:

"The roll of a chariot,
Its fair yoke of silver;
A man great and stalwart
O'ertops the strong car!
O'er Bri Ross, o'er Branè
Their swift path they hasten;
Past Old-tree Town's tree-stump,
Victorious they speed!

"A sly Hound that driveth,
A fair chief that urgeth,
A free hawk that speedeth
His steeds towards the south!
Gore-coloured, the Cua,
'Tis sure he will take us
We know-- vain to hide it--
He brings us defeat!

Woe him on the hillock,
The brave Hound before him;
Last year I foretold it,
That some time he'd come!
Hound from Emain Macha,
Hound formed of all colours,
The Border-hound War-hound,
I hear what I've heard!"

"Come, gilla," said Ferdiad; "for what reason laudest thou this man ever since I am come from my house? And it is almost a cause for strife with thee that thou hast praised him thus highly. But, Ailill and Medb have prophesied to me that this man will fall by my hand. And since it is for a reward, he shall quickly be torn asunder by me, but it is time to fetch help." And he spake these words, and the henchman responded:

Ferdiad: "'Tis time now to help me;
Be silent! cease praising!
'Twas no deed of friendship,
No doom o'er the brink(?)
The Champion of Cualnge,
Thou seest 'midst proud feats,
For that it's for guerdon,
Shall quickly be slain!"

The Henchman: "I see Cualnge's hero,
With feats overweening,
Not fleeing he flees us,
But towards us he comes.
He runneth-- not slowly--
Though cunning-- not sparing--
Like water down high cliff
Or thunderbolt quick!"

Ferdiad: "'Tis cause of a quarrel,
So much thou hast praised him;
And why hast thou chose him,
Since I am from home?
And now they extol him,
They fall to proclaim him;
None come to attack him,
But soft simple men(?)."

Here followeth the Description of Cuchulain's chariot, one of the three chief Chariots of the Tale of the Foray of Cualnge.

It was not long that Ferdiad's charioteer remained there when he saw something: a beautiful, five-pointed chariot, approaching with swiftness, with speed, with perfect skill; with a green shade, with a thin-framed, dry-bodied (?) box surmounted with feats of cunning, straight-poled, as long as a warrior's sword. On this was room for a hero's seven arms, the fair seat for its lord; behind two fleet steeds, large-eared, gaily prancing, with inflated nostrils, broad-chested, quick-hearted, high-flanked, broad-hoofed, slender-limbed, overpowering and resolute. A grey, broad-hipped, small-stepping, long-maned horse was under one of the yokes of the chariot; a black, crisped-maned, swift-moving, broad-backed horse under the other. Like unto a hawk after its prey on a sharp tempestuous day, or to a tearing blast of wind of Spring on a March day over the back of a plain, or unto a startled stag when first roused by the hounds in the first of the chase, were Cuchulain's two horses before the chariot, as if they were on glowing, fiery flags, so that they shook the earth and made it tremble with the fleetness of their course.

And Cuchulain reached the ford. Ferdiad waited on the south side of the ford; Cuchulain stood on the north side. Ferdiad bade welcome to Cuchulain. "Welcome is thy coming, O Cuchulain!" said Ferdiad. "Truly spoken meseemed thy welcome till now," answered Cuchulain; "but to-day I put no more trust in it. And, O Ferdiad," said Cuchulain, "it were fitter for me to bid thee welcome than that thou should'st welcome me; for it is thou that art come to the land and province wherein I dwell, and it is not fitting for thee to come to contend and do battle with me but it were fitter for me to go to contend and do battle with thee. For before thee in flight are my women and my boys and my youths, my steeds and my troops of horses, my droves, my flocks and my herds of cattle."

"Good, O Cuchulain," spake Ferdiad; "what has ever brought thee out to contend and do battle with me? For when we were together with Scathach and with Uathach and with Aifè, thou wast my serving-man, even for arming my spear and dressing my bed." "That was indeed true," answered Cuchulain; "because of my youth and my littleness did I so much for thee, but this is by no means my mood this day. For there is not a warrior in the world I would not drive off this day."

And then it was that each of them cast sharp-cutting reproaches at the other, renouncing his friendship. And Ferdiad spake these words there, and Cuchulain responded:

Ferdiad: "What led thee, O Cua,
To fight a strong champion?
Thy flesh will be gore-red
O'er smoke of thy steeds!
Alas for thy journey,
A kindling of firebrands;
In sore need of healing,
If home thou shouldst reach!"

Cuchulain: "I'm come before warriors
Around the herd's wild Boar,
Before troops and hundreds,
To drown thee in deep
In anger, to prove thee
In hundred-fold battle,
Till on thee come havoc,
Defending thy head!"

Ferdiad: "Here stands one to crush thee,
'Tis I will destroy thee,
. . . . .
From me there shall come
The flight of their warriors
In presence of Ulster,
That long they'll remember
The loss that was theirs!"

Cuchulain: "How then shall we combat?
For wrongs shall we heave sighs?
Despite all, we'll go there,
To fight on the ford!
Or is it with hard swords,
Or e'en with red spear-points,
Before hosts to slay thee,
If thy hour hath come?"

Ferdiad: "'Fore sunset, 'fore nightfall--
If need be, then guard thee--
I'll fight thee at Bairchè,
Not bloodlessly fight!
The Ulstermen call thee,
'He has him!' Oh, hearken!
The sight will distress them
That through them will pass!"

Cuchulain: "In danger's gap fallen,
At hand is thy life's term;
On thee plied be weapons,
Not gentle the skill!
One champion will slay thee;
We both will encounter;
No more shalt lead forays,
From this day till Doom!"

Ferdiad: "Avaunt with thy warnings,
Thou world's greatest braggart;
Nor guerdon nor pardon,
Low warrior for thee!
'Tis I that well know thee,
Thou heart of a cageling--
This lad merely tickles--
Without skill or force!"

Cuchulain: "When we were with Scathach,
For wonted arms' training,
Together we'd fare forth,
To seek every fight.
Thou wast my heart's comrade,
My clan and my kinsman;
Ne'er found I one dearer;
Thy loss would be sad!"

Ferdiad: "Thou wager'st thine honour
Unless we do battle;
Before the cock croweth,
Thy head on a spit!
Cuchulain of Cualnge,
Mad frenzy hath seized thee
All ill we'll wreak on thee,
For thine is the sin!"

"Come now, O Ferdiad," cried Cuchulain, "not meet was it for thee to come to contend and do battle with me, because of the instigation and intermeddling of Ailill and Medb. And all that came because of those promises of deceit, neither profit nor success did it bring them, and they have fallen by me. And none the more, Ferdiad, shall it win victory or increase of fame for thee; and, shalt thou too fall by my hand!" Thus he spake, and he further uttered these words and Ferdiad hearkened to him:--

"Come not nigh me, noble chief,
Ferdiad, comrade, Daman's son.
Worse for thee than 'tis for me;
Thou'lt bring sorrow to a host!

"Come not nigh me 'gainst all right;
Thy last bed is made by me.
Why shouldst thou alone escape
From the prowess of my arms?

"Shall not great feats thee undo,
Though thou'rt purple, horny-skinned?
And the maid thou boastest of,
Shall not, Daman's son, be thine!

"Finnabair, Medb's daughter fair,
Great her charms though they may be,
Fair as is the damsel's form,
She's for thee not to enjoy!

"Finnabair, the king's own child,
Is the lure, if truth be told;
Many they whom she's deceived
And undone as she has thee!

"Break not, weetless, oath with me;
Break not friendship, break not bond;
Break not promise, break not word;
Come not nigh me, noble chief!

"Fifty chiefs obtained in plight
This same maid, a proffer vain.
Through me went they to their graves;
Spear-right all they had from me!

"Though for brave was held Ferbaeth,
With whom was a warriors' train,
In short space I quelled his rage;
Him I slew with one sole blow!

"Srubdarè-- sore sank his might--
Darling of the noblest dames,
Time there was when great his fame--
Gold nor raiment saved him not!

"Were she mine affianced wife,
Smiled on me this fair land's head,
I would not thy body hurt,
Right nor left, in front, behind!"

"Good, O Ferdiad!" cried Cuchulain. "It is not right for thee to come to fight and combat with me; for when we were with Scathach and with Uathach and with Aifè, and it was together we were used to seek out every battle and every battle-field, every combat and every contest, every wood and every desert, every covert and every recess." And thus he spake and he uttered these words:

Cuchulain: "We were heart-companions once;
We were comrades in the woods;
We were men that shared a bed,
When we slept the heavy sleep,
After hard and weary fights.
Into many lands, so strange,
Side by side we sallied forth,
And we ranged the woodlands through,
When with Scathach we learned arms!"

Ferdiad: "O Cuchulain, rich in feats,
Hard the trade we both have learned;
Treason hath o'ercome our love;
Thy first wounding hath been bought;
Think not of our friendship more,
Cua, it avails thee not!"

"Too long are we now in this way," quoth Ferdiad; "and what arms shall we resort to to-day, O Cuchulain?" "With thee is thy choice of weapons this day," answered Cuchulain, "for thou art he that first didst reach the ford." "Rememberest thou at all," asked Ferdiad "the choice deeds of arms we were wont to practise with Scathach and with Uathach and with Aifè?" "Indeed, and I do remember," answered Cuchulain. "If thou rememberest, let us begin with them."

They betook them to their choicest deeds of arms. They took upon them two equally-matched shields for feats, and their eight-edged targes for feats, and their eight small darts, and their eight straightswords with ornaments of walrus-tooth and their eight lesser, ivoried spears which flew from them and to them like bees on a day of fine weather. They cast no weapon that struck not. Each of them was busy casting at the other with those missiles from morning's early twilight till noon at mid-day, the while they overcame their various feats with the bosses and hollows of their feat-shields. However great the excellence of the throwing on either side, equally great was the excellence of the defence, so that during all that time neither of them bled or reddened the other. "Let us cease now from this bout of arms, O Cuchulain," said Ferdiad; "for it is not by such our decision will come." "Yea, surely, let us cease, if the time hath come," answered Cuchulain. Then they ceased. They threw their feat-tackle from them into the hands of their charioteers.

"To what weapons shall we resort next, O Cuchulain?" asked Ferdiad. "Thine is the choice of weapons till nightfall," replied Cuchulain; "for thou art he that didst first reach the ford." "Let us begin, then," said Ferdiad, "with our straight-cut, smooth-hardened throwing-spears, with cords of full-hard flax on them." "Aye, let us begin then," assented Cuchulain. Then they took on them two hard shields, equally strong. They fell to their straight-cut, smooth-hardened spears with cords of full-hard flax on them. Each of them was engaged in casting at the other with the spears from the middle of noon till the hour of evening's sundown. However great the excellence of the defence, equally great was the excellence of the throwing on either side, so that each of them bled and reddened and wounded the other during that time. "Let us leave off from this now, O Cuchulain," said Ferdiad. "Aye, let us leave off, if the time hath come," answered Cuchulain. So they ceased. They threw their arms from them into the hands of their charioteers.

Thereupon each of them went toward the other in the middle of the ford, and each of them put his hand on the other's neck and gave him three kisses. Their horses were in one and the same paddock that night, and their charioteers at one and the same fire; and their charioteers made ready a litter-bed of fresh rushes for them with pillows for wounded men on them. Then came healing and curing folk to heal and to cure them, and they laid healing herbs and grasses and a curing charm on their cuts and stabs, their gashes and many wounds. Of every healing herb and grass and curing charm that was brought and was applied to the cuts and stabs, to the gashes and many wounds of Cuchulain, a like portion thereof he sent across the ford westward to Ferdiad, so that the men of Erin should not have it to say, should Ferdiad fall at his hands, it was more than his share of care had been given to him.

Of every food and of every savoury, soothing and strong drink that was brought by the men of Erin to Ferdiad, a like portion thereof he sent over the ford northwards to Cuchulain; for the purveyors of Ferdiad were more numerous than the purveyors of Cuchulain. All the men of Erin were purveyors to Ferdiad, to the end that he might keep Cuchulain off from them. But only the inhabitants of Mag Breg ('the Plain of Breg') were purveyors to Cuchulain. They were wont to come daily, that is, every night, to converse with him.

They bided there that night. Early on the morrow they arose and went their ways to the ford of combat. "To what weapons shall we resort on this day, O Ferdiad?" asked Cuchulain. "Thine is the choosing of weapons," Ferdiad made answer, "because it was I had my choice of weapons on the day aforegone." "Let us take, then," said Cuchulain, "to our great, well-tempered lances to-day, for we think that the thrusting will bring nearer the decisive battle to-day than did the casting of yesterday. Let our horses be brought to us and our chariots yoked, to the end that we engage in combat over our horses and chariots on this day." "Aye, let us go so," Ferdiad assented.

Thereupon they girded two full-firm broadshields on them for that day. They took to their great, well-tempered lances on that day. Either of them began to pierce and to drive, to throw and to press down the other, from early morning's twilight till the hour of evening's close. If it were the wont for birds in flight to fly through the bodies of men, they could have passed through their bodies on that day and carried away pieces of blood and flesh through their wounds and their sores into the clouds and the air all around. And when the hour of evening's close was come, their horses were spent and their drivers were wearied, and they themselves, the heroes and warriors of valour, were exhausted. "Let us give over now, O Ferdiad," said Cuchulain, "for our horses are spent and our drivers tired, and when they are exhausted, why should we too not be exhausted?" And in this wise he spake, and he uttered these words at that place:

"We need not our chariots break--
This, a struggle fit for giants.
Place the hobbles on the steeds,
Now that din of arms is o'er!"

"Yea, we will cease, if the time hath come," replied Ferdiad. They ceased then. They threw their arms away from them into the hands of their charioteers. Each of them came towards his fellow. Each laid his hand on the other's neck and gave him three kisses. Their horses were in the one pen that night, and their charioteers at the one fire. Their charioteers prepared two litter-beds of fresh rushes for them with pillows for wounded men on them. The curing and healing men came to attend and watch and mark them that night; for naught else could they do, because of the direfulness of their cuts and their stabs, their gashes and their numerous wounds, but apply to them philtres and spells and charms, to staunch their blood and their bleeding and their deadly pains. Of every magic potion and every spell and every charm that was applied to the cuts and stabs of Cuchulain, their like share he sent over the ford westwards to Ferdiad. Of every food and every savoury, soothing and strong drink that was brought by the men of Erin to Ferdiad, an equal portion he sent over the ford northwards to Cuchulain, for the victuallers of Ferdiad were more numerous than the victuallers of Cuchulain. For all the men of Erin were Ferdiad's nourishers, to the end that he might ward off Cuchulain from them. But the indwellers of the Plain of Breg alone were Cuchulain's nourishers. They were wont to come daily, that is, every night, to converse with him.

They abode there that night. Early on the morrow they arose and repaired to the ford of combat. Cuchulain marked an evil mien and a dark mood that day on Ferdiad. "It is evil thou appearest to-day, O Ferdiad," spake Cuchulain; "thy hair has become dark to-day, and thine eye has grown drowsy, and thine upright form and thy features and thy gait have gone from thee!" "Truly not for fear nor for dread of thee is that happened to me to-day," answered Ferdiad; "for there is not in Erin this day a warrior I could not repel!" And Cuchulain lamented and moaned, and he spake these words and Ferdiad responded:

Cuchulain: "Ferdiad, ah, if it be thou,
Well I know thou'rt doomed to die!
To have gone at woman's hest,
Forced to fight thy comrade sworn!"

Ferdiad: "O Cuchulain-- wise decree--
Loyal champion, hero true,
Each man is constrained to go
'Neath the sod that hides his grave!"

Cuchulain: "Finnabair, Medb's daughter fair,
Stately maiden though she be,
Not for love they'll give to thee,
But to prove thy kingly might!"

Ferdiad: "Provèd was my might long since,
Cu of gentle spirit thou.
Of one braver I've not heard;
Till to-day I have not found!"

Cuchulain: "Thou art he provoked this fight,
Son of Daman, Darè's son,
To have gone at woman's word,
Swords to cross with thine old friend!"

Ferdiad: "Should we then unfought depart,
Brothers though we are, bold Hound,
Ill would be my word and fame
With Ailill and Cruachan's Medb!"

Cuchulain: "Food has not yet passed his lips,
Nay nor has he yet been born,
Son of king or blameless queen,
For whom I would work thee harm!"

Ferdiad: "Culann's Hound, with floods of deeds,
Medb, not thou, hath us betrayed;
Fame and victory thou shalt have;
Not on thee we lay our fault!"

Cuchulain: "Clotted gore is my brave heart,
Near I'm parted from my soul;
Wrongful 'tis-- with hosts of deeds--
Ferdiad, dear, to fight with thee!"

"How much soever thou findest fault with me to-day," said Ferdiad, "it will be as an offset to my prowess." And he said, "To what weapons shall we resort to-day?" "With thyself is the choice of weapons to-day," replied Cuchulain, "for it is I that chose on the day gone by." "Let us resort, then," said Ferdiad, "to our heavy, hard-smiting swords this day, for we trow that the smiting each other will bring us nearer to the decision of battle to-day than was our piercing each other on yesterday." "Let us go then, by all means," responded Cuchulain.

Then they took two full-great long-shields upon them for that day. They turned to their heavy, hard-smiting swords. Each of them fell to strike and to hew, to lay low and cut down, to slay and undo his fellow, till as large as the head of a month-old child was each lump and each cut, that each of them took from the shoulders and thighs and shoulder-blades of the other.

Each of them was engaged in smiting the other in this way from the twilight of early morning till the hour of evening's close. "Let us leave off from this now, O Cuchulain!" cried Ferdiad. "Aye, let us leave off, if the hour has come," said Cuchulain. They parted then, and threw their arms away from them into the hands of their charioteers. Though it had been the meeting of two happy, blithe, cheerful, joyful men, their parting that night was of two that were sad, sorrowful and full of suffering. Their horses were not in the same paddock that night. Their charioteers were not at the same fire.

They passed there that night. It was then that Ferdiad arose early on the morrow and went alone to the ford of combat. For he knew that that would be the decisive day of the battle and combat; and he knew that one or other of them would fall there that day, or that they both would fall. It was then he donned his battle-weed of battle and fight and combat, or ever Cuchulain came to meet him. And thus was the manner of this harness of battle and fight and combat: He put his silken, glossy trews with its border of speckled gold, next to his white skin. Over this, outside, he put his brown-leathern, well-sewed kilt. Outside of this he put a huge, goodly flag, the size of a millstone. He put his solid, very deep, iron kilt of twice molten iron over the huge, goodly flag as large as a millstone, through fear and dread of the Gae Bulga on that day.

About his head he put his crested war-cap of battle and fight and combat, whereon were forty carbuncle-gems beautifully adorning it and studded with red-enamel and crystal and rubies and with shining stones of the Eastern world. His angry, fierce-striking spear he seized in his right hand. On his left side he hung his curved battle-falchion, with its golden pommel and its rounded hilt of red gold. On the arch-slope of his back he slung his massive, fine-buffalo shield of a warrior, whereon were fifty bosses, wherein a boar could be shown in each of its bosses, apart from the great central boss of red gold. Ferdiad performed diverse, brilliant, manifold, marvellous feats on high that day, unlearned from any one before, neither from foster-mother nor from foster-father, neither from Scathach nor from Uathach nor from Aifè, but he found them of himself that day in the face of Cuchulain.

Cuchulain likewise came to the ford, and he beheld the various, brilliant, manifold, wonderful feats that Ferdiad performed on high. "Thou seest yonder, O Laeg my master, the divers, bright, numerous, marvellous feats that Ferdiad performs on high, and I shall receive yon feats one after the other. And, therefore, if defeat be my lot this day, do thou prick me on and taunt me and speak evil to me, so that the more my spirit and anger shall rise in me. If, however, before me his defeat takes place, say thou so to me and praise me and speak me fair, to the end that the greater may be my courage!" "It shall surely be done so, if need be, O Cucuc," Laeg answered.

Then Cuchulain, too, girded his war-harness of battle and fight and combat about him, and performed all kinds of splendid, manifold, marvellous feats on high that day which he had not learned from any one before, neither with Scathach nor with Uathach nor with Aifè.

Ferdiad observed those feats, and he knew they would be plied against him in turn. "To what weapons shall we resort to-day, Ferdiad?" asked Cuchulain. "With thee is thy choice of weapons," Ferdiad responded. "Let us go to the 'Feat of the Ford,' then," said Cuchulain. "Aye, let us do so," answered Ferdiad. Albeit Ferdiad spoke that, he deemed it the most grievous thing whereto he could go, for he knew that in that sort Cuchulain used to destroy every hero and every battle-soldier who fought with him in the 'Feat of the Ford.'

Great indeed was the deed that was done on the ford that day. The two heroes, the two champions, the two chariot-fighters of the west of Europe, the two bright torches of valour of the Gael, the two hands of dispensing favour and of giving rewards in the west of the northern world, the two veterans of skill and the two keys of bravery of the Gael, to be brought together in encounter as from afar, through the sowing of dissension and the incitement of Ailill and Medb. Each of them was busy hurling at the other in those deeds of arms from early morning's gloaming till the middle of noon. When mid-day came, the rage of the men became wild, and each drew nearer to the other.

Thereupon Cuchulain gave one spring once from the bank of the ford till he stood upon the boss of Ferdiad macDaman's shield, seeking to reach his head and to strike it from above over the rim of the shield. Straightway Ferdiad gave the shield a blow with his left elbow, so that Cuchulain went from him like a bird onto the brink of the ford. Again Cuchulain sprang from the brink of the ford, so that he alighted upon the boss of Ferdiad macDaman's shield, that he might reach his head and strike it over the rim of the shield from above. Ferdiad gave the shield a thrust with his left knee, so that Cuchulain went from him like an infant onto the bank of the ford.

Laeg espied that. "Woe then, Cuchulain!" cried Laeg; "meseems the battle-warrior that is against thee hath shaken thee as a fond woman shakes her child. He hath washed thee as a cup is washed in a tub. He hath ground thee as a mill grinds soft malt. He hath pierced thee as a tool bores through an oak. He hath bound thee as the bindweed binds the trees. He hath pounced on thee as a hawk pounces on little birds, so that no more hast thou right or title or claim to valour or skill in arms till the very day of doom and of life, thou little imp of an elf-man!" cried Laeg.

Thereat for the third time, Cuchulain arose with the speed of the wind, and the swiftness of a swallow, and the dash of a dragon, and the strength (of a lion) into the clouds of the air, til he alighted on the boss of the shield of Ferdiad son of Daman, so as to reach his head that he might strike it from above over the rim of his shield. Then it was that the battle-warrior gave the shield a violent and powerful shake, so that Cuchulain flew from it into the middle of the ford, the same as if he had not sprung at all.

It was then the first twisting-fit of Cuchulain took place, so that a swelling and inflation filled him like breath in a bladder, until he made a dreadful, terrible, many-coloured, wonderful bow of himself, so that as big as a giant or a man of the sea was the hugely-brave warrior towering directly over Ferdiad.

Such was the closeness of the combat they made, that their heads encountered above and their feet below and their hands in the middle over the rims and bosses of the shields. Such was the closeness of the combat they made, that their shields burst and split from their rims to their centres. Such was the closeness of the combat they made, that their spears bent and turned and shivered from their tips to their rivets.

Such was the closeness of the combat they made, that the boccanach and the bananach and the sprites of the glens and the eldritch beings of the air screamed from the rims of their shields and from the guards of their swords and from the tips of their spears.

Such was the closeness of the combat they made, that they forced the river out of its bed and out of its course, so that there might have been a reclining place for a king or a queen in the middle of the ford, and not a drop of water was in it but what fell there with the trampling and slipping which the two heroes and the two battle-warriors made in the middle of the ford.

Such was the closeness of the combat they made, that the steeds of the Gael broke loose affrighted and plunging with madness and fury, so that their chains and their shackles, their traces and tethers snapped, and the women and children and pygmy-folk, the weak and the madmen among the men of Erin broke out through the camp southwestward.

At that time they were at the edge-feat of swords. It was then Ferdiad caught Cuchulain in an unguarded moment, and he gave him a thrust with his tusk-hilted blade, so that he buried it in his breast, and his blood fell into his belt, till the ford became crimsoned with the clotted blood from the battle-warrior's body. Cuchulain endured it not under Ferdiad's attack, with his death-bringing, heavy blows, and his long strokes and his mighty, middle slashes at him.

Then Cuchulain bethought him of his friends from the Faery land and of his mighty folk who would come to defend him and of his scholars to protect him, what time he would be hard pressed in the combat. It was then that Dolb and Indolb arrived to help and to succour their friend, namely Cuchulain. Then it was that Ferdiad felt the onset of the three together smiting his shield against him, and he gave all his care and attention thereto, and thence he called to mind that, when they were with Scathach and with Uathach [learning together, Dolb and Indolb used to come to help Cuchulain out of every stress wherein he was.]

Ferdiad spake: "Not alike are our foster-brothership and our comradeship O Cuchulain," quoth he. "How so, then?" asked Cuchulain. "Thy friends of the Fairy-folk have succoured thee, and thou didst not disclose them to me before," said Ferdiad. "Not easy for me were that," answered Cuchulain; "for if the magic veil be once revealed to one of the sons of Mile, none of the Tuatha De Danann will have power to practise concealment or magic. And why complainest thou here, Ferdiad?" said Cuchulain. "Thou hast a horn skin whereby to multiply feats and deeds of arms on me, and thou hast not shown me how it is closed or how it is opened." Then it was they displayed all their skill and secret cunning to one another, so that there was not a secret of either of them kept from the other except the Gae Bulga, which was Cuchulain's.

Howbeit, when the Fairy friends found Cuchulain had been wounded, each of them inflicted three great, heavy wounds on him, on Ferdiad, to wit. It was then that Ferdiad made a cast to the right, so that he slew Dolb with that goodly cast. Then followed the two woundings and the two throws that overcame him, till Ferdiad made a second throw towards Cuchulain's left, and with that throw he stretched low and killed Indolb dead on the floor of the ford. Hence it is that the story-teller sang the rann:

"Why is this called Ferdiad's Ford,
E'en though three men on it fell?
None the less it washed their spoils--
It is Dolb's and Indolb's Ford!"

When the devoted equally great sires and champions, and the hard, battle-victorious wild beasts that fought for Cuchulain had fallen, it greatly strengthened the courage of Ferdiad, so that he gave two blows for every blow of Cuchulain's. When Laeg son of Riangabair saw his lord being overcome by the crushing blows of the champion who oppressed him, Laeg began to stir up and rebuke Cuchulain, in such a way that a swelling and an inflation filled Cuchulain from top to ground, as the wind fills a spread, open banner, so that he made a dreadful, wonderful bow of himself like a skybow in a shower of rain, and he made for Ferdiad with the violence of a dragon or the strength of a blood-hound.

And Cuchulain called for the Gae Bulga from Laeg son of Riangabair. This was its nature: With the stream it was made ready, and from between the fork of the foot it was cast; the wound of a single spear it gave when entering the body, and thirty barbs had it when it opened and it could not be drawn out of a man's flesh till the flesh had been cut about it.

Thereupon Laeg came forward to the brink of the river and to the place where the fresh water was dammed, and the Gae Bulga was sharpened and set in position. He filled the pool and stopped the stream and checked the tide of the ford. Ferdiad's charioteer watched the work, for Ferdiad had said to him early in the morning: "Now gilla, do thou hold back Laeg from me to-day, and I will hold back Cuchulain from thee." "This is a pity," quoth the henchman; "no match for him am I; for a man to combat a hundred is he, and that am I not. Still; however slight his help, it shall not come to his lord past me."

He was then watching his brother thus making the dam till he filled the pools and went to set the Gae Bulga downwards. It was then that Id went up and released the stream and opened the dam and undid the fixing of the Gae Bulga. Cuchulain became deep purple and red all over when he saw the setting undone on the Gae Bulga. He sprang from the top of the ground so that he alighted light and quick on the rim of Ferdiad's shield. Ferdiad gave a strong shake to the shield, so that he hurled Cuchulain the measure of nine paces out to the westward over the ford.

Then Cuchulain called and shouted to Laeg to set about preparing the Gae Bulga for him. Laeg hastened to the pool and began the work. Id ran and opened the dam and released it before the stream. Laeg sprang at his brother and they grappled on the spot. Laeg threw Id and handled him sorely, for he was loath to use weapons upon him. Ferdiad pursued Cuchulain westwards over the ford. Cuchulain sprang on the rim of the shield. Ferdiad shook the shield, so that he sent Cuchulain the space of nine paces eastwards over the ford.

Cuchulain called and shouted to Laeg. Laeg attempted to come, but Ferdiad's charioteer let him not, so that Laeg turned on him and left him on the sedgy bottom of the ford. He gave him many a heavy blow with clenched fist on the face and countenance, so that he broke his mouth and his nose and put out his eyes and his sight. And forthwith Laeg left him and filled the pool and checked the stream and stilled the noise of the river's voice, and set in position the Gae Bulga. After some time Ferdiad's charioteer arose from his death-cloud, and set his hand on his face and countenance, and he looked away towards the ford of combat and saw Laeg fixing the Gae Bulga. He ran again to the pool and made a breach in the dike quickly and speedily, so that the river burst out in its booming, bounding, bellying, bank-breaking billows making its own wild course. Cuchulain became purple and red all over when he saw the setting of the Gae Bulga had been disturbed, and for the third time he sprang from the top of the ground and alighted on the edge of Ferdiad's shield, so as to strike him over the shield from above. Ferdiad gave a blow with his left knee against the leather of the bare shield, so that Cuchulain was thrown into the waves of the ford.

Thereupon Ferdiad gave three severe woundings to Cuchulain. Cuchulain cried and shouted loudly to Laeg to make ready the Gae Bulga for him. Laeg attempted to get near it, but Ferdiad's charioteer prevented him. Then Laeg grew very wroth at his brother and he made a spring at him, and he closed his long, full-valiant hands over him, so that he quickly threw him to the ground and straightway bound him. And then he went from him quickly and courageously, so that he filled the pool and stayed the stream and set the Gae Bulga. And he cried out to Cuchulain that it was served, for it was not to be discharged without a quick word of warning before it. Hence it is that Laeg cried out:--

"Ware! beware the Gae Bulga,
Battle-winning Culann's hound!" [et reliqua]

Then it was that Cuchulain let fly the white Gae Bulga from the fork of his irresistible right foot. Ferdiad prepared for the feat according to the testimony thereof. He lowered his shield, so that the spear went over its edge into the watery, water-cold river. And he looked at Cuchulain, and he saw all his various, venomous feats made ready, and he knew not to which of them he should first give answer, whether to the 'Fist's breast-spear,' or to the 'Wild shield's broad-spear,' or to the 'Short spear from the middle of the palm,' or to the white Gae Bulga over the fair, watery river.

Ferdiad heard the Gae Bulga called for. He thrust his shield down to protect the lower part of his body. Cuchulain gripped the short spear, cast it off the palm of his hand over the rim of the shield and over the edge of the corselet and horn-skin, so that its farther half was visible after piercing his heart in his bosom. Ferdiad gave a thrust of his shield upwards to protect the upper part of his body, though it was help that came too late. The gilla set the Gae Bulga down the stream, and Cuchulain caught it in the fork of his foot, and threw the Gae Bulga as far as he could cast underneath at Ferdiad, so that it passed through the strong, thick, iron apron of wrought iron, and broke in three parts the huge, goodly stone the size of a millstone, so that it cut its way through the body's protection into him, till every joint and every limb was filled with its barbs.

"Ah, that now sufficeth," sighed Ferdiad: "I am fallen of that! But, yet one thing more: mightily didst thou drive with thy right foot. And 'twas not fair of thee for me to fall by thy hand." And he yet spake and uttered these words:

"O Cu of grand feats,
Unfairly I'm slain!
Thy guilt clings to me;
My blood falls on thee!

"No meed for the wretch
Who treads treason's gap.
Now weak is my voice;
Ah, gone is my bloom!

"My ribs' armour bursts,
My heart is all gore;
I battled not well;
I'm smitten, O Cu!

Thereupon Cuchulain hastened towards Ferdiad and clasped his two arms about him, and bore him with all his arms and his armour and his dress northwards over the ford, that so it should be with his face to the north of the ford the triumph took place and not to the south of the ford with the men of Erin. Cuchulain laid Ferdiad there on the ground, and a cloud and a faint and a swoon came over Cuchulain there by the head of Ferdiad. Laeg espied it, and the men of Erin all arose for the attack upon him. "Come, O Cucuc," cried Laeg; "arise now from thy trance, for the men of Erin will come to attack us, and it is not single combat they will allow us, now that Ferdiad son of Daman son of Darè is fallen by thee." "What availeth it me to arise, O gilla," moaned Cuchulain, "now that this one is fallen by my hand?" In this wise the gilla spake and he uttered these words and Cuchulain responded:

Laeg: "Now arise, O Emain's Hound;
Now most fits thee courage high.
Ferdiad hast thou thrown-- of hosts--
God's fate! How thy fight was hard!"

Cuchulain: What avails me courage now?
I'm oppressed with rage and grief,
For the deed that I have don
On his body sworded sore!"

Laeg: It becomes thee not to weep;
Fitter for thee to exult!
Yon red-speared one thee hath left
Plaintful, wounded, steeped in gore!"

Cuchulain: "Even had he cleaved my leg,
And one hand had severed too;
Woe, that Ferdiad-- who rode steeds--
Shall not ever be in life!"

Laeg: "Liefer far what's come to pass,
To the maidens of Red Branch;
He to die, thou to remain;
They grudge not that ye should part!"

Cuchulain: "From the day I Cualnge left,
Seeking high and splendid Medb,
Carnage has she had-- with fame--
Of her warriors whom I've slain!"

Laeg: "Thou hast had no sleep in peace,
In pursuit of thy great Táin;
Though thy troop was few and small,
Oft thou wouldst rise at early morn!"

Cuchulain began to lament and bemoan Ferdiad, and he spake the words:

"Alas, O Ferdiad," spake he, "'twas thine ill fortune thou didst not take counsel with any of those that knew my real deeds of valour and arms, before we met in clash of battle! Unhappy for thee that Laeg son of Riangabair did not make thee blush in regard to our comradeship! Unhappy for thee that the truly faithful warning of Fergus thou didst not take! Unhappy for thee that dear, trophied, triumphant, battle-victorious Conall counselled thee not in regard to our comradeship! For those men would not have spoken in obedience to the messages or desires or orders or false words of promise of the fair-haired women of Connacht. For well do those men know that there will not be born a being that will perform deeds so tremendous and so great among the Connachtmen as I, till the very day of doom and of everlasting life, whether at plying of spear and sword, at playing at draughts and chess, at driving of steeds and chariots."

"There shall not be found the hand of a hero that will wound warrior's flesh, like cloud-coloured Ferdiad! There shall not be heard from the gap the cry of red-mouthed Badb to the winged, shade-speckled flocks! There shall not be one that will contend for Cruachan that will obtain covenants equal to thine, till the very day of doom and of life henceforward, O red-cheeked son of Daman!" said Cuchulain. Then it was that Cuchulain arose and stood over Ferdiad: "Ah, Ferdiad," spake Cuchulain, "greatly have the men of Erin deceived and abandoned thee, to bring thee to contend and do battle with me. For no easy thing is it to contend and do battle with me on the Raid for the Kine of Cualnge! Thus he spake, and he uttered these words:

"Ah, Ferdiad, betrayed to death.
Our last meeting, oh, how sad!
Thou to die I to remain.
Ever sad our long farewell!

"When we over yonder dwelt
With our Scathach, steadfast, true,
This we thought till end of time,
That our friendship ne'er would end!

"Dear to me thy noble blush;
Dear thy comely, perfect form;
Dear thine eye, blue-grey and clear;
Dear thy wisdom and thy speech!

"Never strode to rending fight,
Never wrath and manhood held,
Nor slung shield across broad back,
One like thee, Daman's red son!

Never have I met till now,
Since I Oenfer Aifè slew,
One thy peer in deeds of arms,
Never have I found, Ferdiad!

Finnabair, Medb's daughter fair,
Beauteous, lovely though she be,
As a gad round sand or stones,
She was shown to thee, Ferdiad!"

Then Cuchulain turned to gaze on Ferdiad. "Ah, my master Laeg," cried Cuchulain, "now strip Ferdiad and take his armour and garments off him, that I may see the brooch for the sake of which he entered on the combat and fight with me." Laeg came up and stripped Ferdiad. He took his armour and garments off him and he saw the brooch and he began to lament and complain over Ferdiad, and he spake these words:

"Alas, golden brooch;
Ferdiad of the hosts,
O good smiter, strong,
Victorious thy hand!

"Thy hair blond and curled,
A wealth fair and grand.
Thy soft, leaf-shaped belt
Around thee till death!

"Our comradeship dear;
Thy noble eye's gleam;
Thy golden-rimmed shield;
Thy sword, treasures worth!

"Thy white-silver torque
Thy noble arm binds.
Thy chess-board worth wealth;
Thy fair, ruddy cheek!

"To fall by my hand,
I own was not just!
'Twas no noble fight.
Alas, golden brooch!

"Come, O Laeg my master," cried Cuchulain; "now cut open Ferdiad and take the Gae Bulga out, because I may not be without my weapons." Laeg came and cut open Ferdiad and he took the Gae Bulga out of him. And Cuchulain saw his weapons bloody and red-stained by the side of Ferdiad, and he uttered these words:--

"O Ferdiad, in gloom we meet.
Thee I see both red and pale.
I myself with unwashed arms;
Thou liest in thy bed of gore!

"Were we yonder in the East,
Scathach and our Uathach near,
There would not be pallid lips
Twixt us two, and arms of strife!

"Thus spake Scathach trenchantly (?),
Words of warning, strong and stern.
'Go ye all to furious fight;
German, blue-eyed, fierce will come!'

"Unto Ferdiad then I spake,
And to Lugaid generous,
To the son of fair Baetan,
German we would go to meet!

"We came to the battle-rock,
Over Lake Linn Formait's shore.
And four hundred men we brought
From the Isles of the Athissech!

"As I stood and Ferdiad brave
At the gate of German's fort,
I slew Rinn the son of Nel;
He slew Ruad son of Fornel!

Ferdiad slew upon the slope
Blath, of Colba 'Red-sword' son.
Lugaid, fierce and swift, then slew
Mugairne of the Tyrrh
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Posted: 11-Apr-2009, 08:49 AM
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21. Cuchulain and the Rivers

Then came certain men of the Ulstermen thither to help and succour Cuchulain. Before all, Senoll Uathach and the two sons of Gegè: Muridach and Cotreb, to wit. And they bore him to the streams and rivers of Conalle Murthemni, to rub and to wash his stabs and his cuts, his sores and his many wounds in the face of these streams and rivers. For the Tuatha De Danann were wont to put herbs and plants of healing and a curing charm in the waters and rivers of the territory of Conalle Murthemni, to help and to succour Cuchulain, so that the streams were speckled and green-topped therewith.

Accordingly these are the names of the healing rivers of Cuchulain:

Sas, Buan, Buas, Bithslan, Findglas ('Whitewater'), Gleoir, Glenamain, Bedg, Tadg, Telameit, Rind, Bir, Brenidè, Dichaem, Muach, Miliuc, Cumung, Cuilind, Gainemain, Drong, Delt, Dubglas ('Blackwater').
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