By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon

We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Old Celtic Romances
Author: Unknown
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Old Celtic Romances" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



  translated from the gaelic


  P.W. JOYCE, M.A., LL.D., T.C.D.

  _One of the Commissioners for the Publication of
  the Ancient Laws of Ireland
  President of the Royal Society of Antiquaries, Ireland_

  Author of


  "I shall tell you a pretty tale"





Among the Celtic people of Ireland and the north-west of Scotland,
story-telling has always been a favourite amusement. In the olden time,
they had professional story-tellers, variously designated according to
rank--ollaves, shanachies, filès, bards, etc.--whose duty it was to know
by heart a number of old tales, poems, and historical pieces, and to
recite them at festive gatherings, for the entertainment of the chiefs
and their guests. These story-tellers were always well received at the
houses of princes and chiefs, and treated with much consideration; and
on occasions when they acquitted themselves well, so as to draw down the
applause of the audience, they were often rewarded with costly presents.

To meet the demand for this sort of entertainment, ingenious "men of
learning," taking legends or historical events as themes, composed
stories from time to time; of which those that struck the popular fancy
were caught up and remembered, and handed down from one generation of
story-tellers to another. In course of time, a body of romantic
literature grew up, consisting chiefly of prose tales, which were
classified, according to subject, into Battles, Voyages, Tragedies,
Military Expeditions, Cattle-Raids, Courtships, Pursuits, Adventures,
Visions, etc.[I.]

Some of these tales were historical, _i.e._ founded on historical
events, and corresponded closely with what is now called the historical
romance; while others were altogether fictitious--pure creations of the
imagination. But it is to be observed that even in the fictitious tales,
the main characters are always historical, or such as were considered
so. The old ollaves wove their fictions round Conor Mac Nessa and his
Red Branch Knights, or Finn and his Fena, or Luga of the Long Arms and
his Dedannans, or Conn the Hundred-fighter, or Cormac Mac Art; like the
Welsh legends of Arthur and his Round Table, or the Arabian romances of
Haroun-al-Raschid and his Court.

The greater number of the tales were, as I have said, in prose. But some
were in poetry; and in many of the prose tales the leading characters
are often made to express themselves in verse, or some striking incident
of the story is repeated in a poetical form. Not unfrequently the
fragments of verse introduced into a prose tale are quotations from an
older poetical version of the same tale; and hence it often happens that
while the prose may be plain enough, the poetry is often archaic and

At some very early period in Ireland--how early we have now no means of
determining with certainty--Celtic thought began to be committed to
writing; and as everything seems to have been written down that was
considered worth preserving, manuscripts accumulated in course of time,
which were kept either in monasteries, or in the houses of the
hereditary professors of learning. But in the dark time of the Danish
ravages, and during the troubled centuries that followed the
Anglo-Norman invasion, the manuscript collections were gradually
dispersed, and a large proportion lost or destroyed. Yet we have
remaining--rescued by good fortune from the general wreck--a great body
of manuscript literature. Our two most important collections are those
in Trinity College and in the Royal Irish Academy, Dublin; where we have
manuscripts of various ages, from the year 1100 down to the present
century, on every conceivable subject--Annals, History, Biography,
Theology, Romance, Legend, Science, etc. These manuscripts, which, it
should be remarked, are nearly all copies from older books, contain a
vast collection of romantic literature: it may, indeed, be said that
there is scarcely one important event in our early history, or one
important native personage or native legend, that has not been made the
subject of some fanciful story.

The volume I now offer to the notice of the public contains eleven
tales, selected and translated from the manuscripts of Trinity College
and of the Royal Irish Academy. Some have been already published, with
original text and _literal_ translation, and are to be found in the
Transactions of various literary societies, where, however, they are
inaccessible to the general run of readers; and even if they were
accessible, they are almost unreadable, the translations having been
executed, not for literary, but for linguistic purposes. Others have
never been translated or given to the public in any shape or form till

Of the whole collection of eleven tales, therefore, it may be said that
they are quite new to the general mass of the reading public. And
furthermore, this is the first collection of the old Gaelic prose
romances that has ever been published in fair English translation.

Scraps and fragments of some of these tales have been given to the world
in popular publications, by writers who, not being able to read the
originals, took their information from printed books in the English
language. But I am forced to say that many of these specimens have been
presented in a very unfavourable and unjust light--distorted to make
them look _funny_, and their characters debased to the mere modern
conventional stage Irishman. There is none of this silly and odious
vulgarity in the originals of these fine old tales, which are high and
dignified in tone and feeling--quite as much so as the old romantic
tales of Greece and Rome.[II.]

A translation may either follow the very words, or reproduce the life
and spirit, of the original; but no translation can do both. If you
render word for word, you lose the spirit; if you wish to give the
spirit and manner, you must depart from the exact words, and frame your
own phrases. I have chosen this latter course. My translation follows
the original closely enough in narrative and incident; but so far as
mere phraseology is concerned, I have used the English language freely,
not allowing myself to be trammelled by too close an adherence to the
very words of the text. The originals are in general simple in style;
and I have done my best to render them into simple, plain, homely
English. In short, I have tried to tell the stories as I conceive the
old shanachies themselves would have told them, if they had used English
instead of Gaelic.

In the originals, the stories run on without break or subdivision;[III.]
but I have thought it better to divide the longer ones into chapters,
with appropriate headings.

In almost all cases I had at my command several copies of the same
story, some of them differing in phraseology and in minor points of
detail, though agreeing, in the main, in narrative and incident. I found
this a considerable advantage, as it gave me more freedom in the choice
of expression.

I have made full use of the literal translations of those tales that
have been already published in the Transactions of the Ossianic Society,
in the _Atlantis_, in the Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy, and in
the Journal of the Royal Historical and Archæological Association of
Ireland. But, in order to secure the advantage of various readings, I
compared, in every case, the published text with at least one copy of
the story, in the Royal Irish Academy, in Trinity College, or in my own
private manuscript collection.

The ancient institution of professional story-telling held its ground
both in Ireland and in Scotland down to a very recent period; and it is
questionable if it be even yet quite extinct. Within my own memory,
this sort of entertainment was quite usual among the farming classes of
the south of Ireland. The family and workmen, and any neighbours that
chose to drop in, would sit round the kitchen fire after the day's
work--or perhaps gather in a barn on a summer or autumn evening--to
listen to some local shanachie reciting one of his innumerable Gaelic
tales. The story-teller never chose his own words--he always had the
story by heart, and recited the words from memory, often gliding into a
sort of recitative in poetical passages, or when he came to some
favourite grandiose description abounding in high-sounding alliterative
adjectives. And very interesting it was to mark the rapt attention of
the audience, and to hear their excited exclamations when the speaker
came to relate some mighty combat, some great exploit of the hero, or
some other striking incident. Three years ago, I met a man in Kilkee,
who had a great number of these stories by heart, and who actually
repeated for me, without the slightest hitch or hesitation, more than
half--and if I had not stopped him would have given me the whole--of
"Cúirt an Mheadhon-Oidhche" ("The Midnight Court"), a poem about six
times as long as Gray's "Elegy."

I will now proceed to give a few particulars concerning these tales,
including a short account of the manuscript or manuscripts from which
each has been translated.


Among the ancient Gaelic tales, three were known as "the three most
sorrowful (tales) of story-telling," or "The Three Tragic Stories of
Erin;" viz., "The Fate of the Children of Usna," "The Fate of the
Children of Lir," and "The Fate of the Children of Turenn." I have not
included the first in this volume, but a poetical version of it has been
written and published by my brother.[IV.]


Two translations of this tale have been published: one literal, with the
Gaelic text, by Professor O'Curry, in the _Atlantis_ (Nos. vii. and
viii.); and another, less literal, by Gerald Griffin, in his "Tales of a

The oldest known copies of the tale are, one in the Catholic University,
Dublin, made by Andrew Mac Curtin, a well-known Gaelic scholar and
scribe of the county Clare, who lived between 1680 and 1740; one in
Trinity College, Dublin, made by Hugh O'Daly, in 1758; and one in the
British Museum, made by Richard Tipper of Dublin, in 1718.[V.] There is
also a very good copy in the Royal Irish Academy (23. C. 26), of which I
made considerable use, written in or about 1782, by Peter O'Connell, a
good Gaelic scholar of the county Clare. From a comparison of several of
these versions, O'Curry made his copy of the text as published in the

There may be, and there probably are, older copies, in Trinity College,
in the British Museum, or elsewhere, if we knew only where to find them.
And this observation applies to several of the tales that follow, of
which we have at hand only modern copies.


In the Book of Lecan (folio 28), which was compiled by the Mac Firbises,
about A.D. 1416, is a short account, partly in prose and partly in
verse, of the celebrated eric-fine imposed on the three sons of Turenn,
by Luga of the Long Arms, for killing his father Kian; but this old book
does not give the story of the quest for the fine. The full tale, text
and literal translation, has been published by O'Curry in the
_Atlantis_. There are several good copies in the Royal Irish Academy:
one in 23. G. 10, transcribed by Patrick Brown of the county Clare, in
1805; another in 23. E. 16, written out by Michael Oge O'Longan, in
1797; and a third (imperfect) in 23. M. 47, copied by Andrew Mac Curtin,
in 1734.

There are references to these three sons of Turenn, and to the manner of
their death, in two very old authorities, viz., Cormac's "Glossary"
(about A.D. 900); and a poem by Flann of Monaster-boice (who died A.D.
1056), a copy of which is in the Book of Leinster, written about A.D.

In the older references to the sons of Turenn, they are called Brian,
Iuchar, Iucharba; but in some comparatively modern copies of the tale
the names are a little different--for instance, Peter O'Connell calls
them Uar, Iuchar, and Iucharba; and they vary still further in other
copies. I have taken advantage of this variety to give the names in a
more pronounceable form in my translation.

In the original, this tale is introduced by an anecdote of Nuada of the
Silver Hand and the two great Dedannan leeches, Midac and Armedda (see
page 92, _infra_), which has nothing whatever to do with the story, and
which I have omitted.


"Leabhar na h-Uidhre," or "The Book of the Dun Cow," from which this and
the two following tales are taken, is the oldest manuscript of
miscellaneous Gaelic literature we possess. It was transcribed from
older books by Maelmuire Mac Ceilechair, who died A.D. 1106; and it is
now deposited in the Royal Irish Academy, Dublin--or rather, I should
say, a large fragment of it, for the book has suffered much mutilation.
This venerable book may now be said to be in the hands of the public, as
it has been lately reproduced in lithograph fac-simile, and published by
the Council of the Royal Irish Academy, at the Government expense.

The story of "The Overflowing of Lough Neagh" (called in the original
"The Destruction of Eocho Mac Mairedo") has been published, with text
and literal translation, by the late J. O'Beirne Crowe, in the Kilkenny
Archæological Journal volume for 1870-1.

In this story I have been obliged to make a few transpositions in the
mere order of the incidents, for the narrative in the original is in
some places very ill arranged.

It is now nearly eight hundred years since this story was _transcribed_
from some old authority into "The Book of the Dun Cow;" and it is
singular that the tradition of the formation of Lough Neagh, by the
overflow of an enchanted well which was neglected by the woman in charge
of it, still maintains a vivid existence among the peasantry. (See on
this subject the author's "Origin and History of Irish Names of Places,"
Series I. 4th edition, page 176.)


This tale (called in the original "Echtra Condla Cain," "The Adventures
of Connla the Comely") is taken from "The Book of the Dun Cow." It has
been published, with text and literal translation, by the late J.
O'Beirne Crowe, in the Kilkenny Archæological Journal (volume 1874-5,
page 128).

This is one of the many tales that illustrate the ancient and widespread
superstition that fairies sometimes take away mortals to their palaces
in the fairy forts and pleasant green hills;[19] of which the last story
in this book--"Oisin in Tirnanoge"--is another example. This
superstition prevailed in Ireland and the Scottish Highlands as far back
as either history or tradition reaches; it flourished in full vigour
within my own memory; and it is scarcely quite extinct--in Ireland at
least--at the present day.[VI.] In connection with the antiquity of this
superstition, it must be borne in mind that the present story was
transcribed into "The Book of the Dun Cow" in or about the year 1100,
from some older book; and that it relates to the time of Conn the
Hundred-fighter, king of Ireland, who reigned in the second century of
the Christian era.


Of this tale (which is now given to the public for the first time) the
oldest copy is in "The Book of the Dun Cow" (about the year 1100); but
it is imperfect at both beginning and end--a portion having been torn
away when the book was mutilated at some former time. There is a perfect
copy in the Yellow Book of Lecan, in Trinity College, Dublin, and
another in the British Museum (MS. Harl. 5280).

After I had made a rough translation of the greater part of this piece,
I discovered a good literal translation in manuscript in the Royal Irish
Academy, made by the late J. O'Beirne Crowe, which was of great use to
me, as it helped to explain some strange terms, and to clear up some
obscure passages.

This voyage would appear from internal evidence to have been made in the
beginning of the eighth century (O'Curry says about the year 700); for I
think it likely that Maildun did actually go on a voyage, which was
afterwards made the framework of the story. On my translation of this
tale, Lord Tennyson founded his poem "The Voyage of Maeldune."

Of the _Imrama_ or voluntary sea expeditions (to which the present story
belongs) there are, according to O'Curry (Lect. MS. Mat. 289), only four
remaining, all very ancient. Of these the best known is the "Voyage of
St. Brendan," undertaken in the sixth century, which was at one time
celebrated all over Europe, and which has been lately made the theme of
a fine poem by Denis Florence McCarthy.

Another of these _Imrama_ is the "Voyage of the Sons of O'Corra," which
has been described at some length by Professor O'Curry (Lect. MS. Mat.
289). Of this I have a copy which I made from the MS. 23. M. 50, Royal
Irish Academy (and which I afterwards carefully compared with another
copy lent me by my friend, Mr. W.M. Hennessy). I made a translation of
this story, intending to print it in the present volume; but as there is
a much older and better copy in the ancient "Book of Fermoy," which I
had not time to consult in detail, I have thought it better to hold back
for the present the strange adventures of the sons of O'Corra. A
beautiful poetical translation of the whole tale has been made by Mr.
T.D. Sullivan of Dublin, and published in his volume of Poems.


The "Bruighean Caerthainn," or "The Fairy Palace of the Quicken Trees,"
which is now translated for the first time, is one of the most popular
of the Gaelic romances. I had three of the Royal Irish Academy MSS.
before me when translating it--viz., 23. C. 30, transcribed in 1733, by
the Irish writer and lexicographer, Andrew Mac Curtin of the county
Clare; 24. B. 15, written in 1841; and 23. L. 24, copied in 1766, by
Dermot O'Mulqueen of the county Clare.

This is one of a type of stories very common in Gaelic romantic
literature:--One or more of the heroes are entrapped by some enchanter
and held under a spell in a castle, or a cave, or a dungeon; till, after
a series of adventures, they are released by the bravery or mother-wit
of some of their companions. "The Chase of Slieve Fuad" and "The Chase
of Slieve Cullinn" are two other examples of this class of Gaelic tales.


This is a humorous story of a trick--a very serious practical
joke--played by Avarta, a Dedannan enchanter, on sixteen of the Fena,
whom he carried off to "The Land of Promise;" and of the adventures of
Finn, Dermat O'Dyna, and the others, in their pursuit of Avarta (who had
taken the shape of the Gilla Dacker) to recover their companions. It may
be regarded as belonging to the same class as the last story.

O'Curry described the opening of this tale in his Lectures (MS. Mat.
316); and he was the first, so far as I know, to draw attention to it. I
think it strange that such a story should not have been noticed before
by writers on Gaelic literature; for as a work of imagination, it seems
to me a marvellous and very beautiful creation.

The battles fought by the king of Sorca, aided by Finn and his Fena,
against the King of the World, are described at much length in the
original; but I have cut them down to a very short compass; and I have
omitted altogether a long episode towards the end, which travels away
from the main story.

This tale has never been translated till now. I translated it chiefly
from the Royal Irish Academy MS., 24. B. 28, a well-written manuscript,
which was copied out by Edmond Terry, in 1728: but I kept another good
copy beside me for comparison, viz., that contained in the Royal Irish
Academy MS., 23. G. 21, written in 1795, by Michael Oge O'Longan of
Cork, father of Mr. Joseph O'Longan, now the Irish scribe in the Royal
Irish Academy, and the transcriber in fac-simile of "Leabhar na
h-Uidhre," "Leabhar Breac," and "Leabhar Laighneach."


This tale is one of those mentioned in the list contained in the Book of
Leinster, which was written about A.D. 1130 (see note, page iv.); but
though this proves the tale to be an ancient one, I have never come
across a copy older than the last century.

"The Pursuit of Dermat and Grania" has been published, with text and a
very racy idiomatic literal translation, by Mr. Standish Hayes O'Grady,
in the Transactions of the Ossianic Society for 1855, from a comparison
of two manuscripts, one of 1780 and the other of 1842. In addition to
Mr. O'Grady's published text, I made use of another good copy (MS. Royal
Irish Academy, 23. G. 21) written in 1795, by Michael Oge O'Longan,
already spoken of.

I cannot help believing that this fine story originally ended with the
death of Dermat; though in all the current versions (including Mr.
O'Grady's printed text) there is an additional part recounting the
further proceedings of Grania and her sons, after the death of the hero.
But this part is in every respect inferior to the rest--in language, in
feeling, and in play of imagination. It seems to me very clear that it
was patched on to the original story by some unskilful hand; and I have
accordingly omitted it, and ended the story with the death of Dermat. I
have also omitted two short episodes--that of the _cnumh_ or reptile of
Corca Divna, as a mere excrescence; and Finn's expedition to Scotland
for aid against Dermat. And, for the sake of clearness, I have slightly
changed the place of that part of the tale which recounts the origin of
the Fairy Quicken Tree of Dooros. There are one or two other trifling
but very necessary modifications, which need not be mentioned here.


In the original Gaelic these are three poetical tales. All three have
been printed, with Gaelic text and literal translation, in the
Transactions of the Ossianic Society: the two first by the late John
O'Daly, and "Oisin in Tirnanoge" by Professor O'Looney. There are many
good copies of these tales in the manuscripts of the Royal Irish
Academy; though of not one of them have I seen a copy older than the
last century.

"The Chase of Slieve Cullinn" (commonly known as "The Poem of the
Chase") has been translated into English verse by Miss Brooke; and there
is another metrical translation in the _Irish Penny Journal_ (page 93).
And of "Oisin in Tirnanoge," Mr. T.D. Sullivan has given a graceful
poetical rendering in his volume of Poems, already mentioned.


In this edition there is an additional tale, "The Fate of the Sons of
Usna," a notice of which will be found at page x, above.



[I.] In the Book of Leinster, a manuscript now in Trinity College,
Dublin, which was transcribed about the year 1130, there is a very
interesting list of ancient historic tales--187 in all--classified in
the manner indicated above, which an ollave was obliged to master, so as
to be able to repeat any one of them from memory, whenever his patron
required him to do so. (See O'Curry, "Lectures on the MS. Materials of
Irish History," pages 243 and 584.)

[II.] Macpherson never sinned in this way. He caught the true keynote;
and his "Poems of Ossian," however perverted in other respects, are
always dignified in thought and expression. Among other examples of the
true interpretation of the spirit of these old romances, prose and
poetry, I may mention Miss Brooke's "Reliques of Irish Poetry,"
published in the end of the last century; the Rev. Dr. Drummond's
"Ancient Irish Minstrelsy," published in 1852; Lady Ferguson's graceful
and interesting book, "The Story of the Irish before the Conquest"
(1868); and Mr. Standish O'Grady's ably written volume, the "History of
Ireland" (Vol. I., The Heroic Period 1878).

[III.] With one partial exception. In "The Book of the Dun Cow," "The
Voyage of Maildun" is divided into parts or chapters, which are numbered
on the margin in Roman numerals, each chapter relating to one particular
island; but no spaces are left, and the chapters have no headings. In
this tale I have followed the old sub-division.

[IV.] "Deirdrè," by Robert D. Joyce, M.D., M.R.I.A. Boston: Roberts
Brothers. Dublin: M.H. Gill and Son.

[V.] O'Curry, _Atlantis_, Nos. vii. and viii., page 390.

[VI.] See the ballad and air of "The Fairy King's Courtship," in the
author's "Ancient Irish Music," page 1.



  CHAPTER                                                       PAGE

      I. Bove Derg chosen King of the Dedannans,                   1

     II. The Children of Lir,                                      4

    III. The Four Children of Lir are turned into Four White       6
         Swans by their Stepmother,

     IV. The Four White Swans on Lake Darvra,                     10

      V. The Four White Swans on the Sea of Moyle,                18

     VI. The Four White Swans on the Western Sea,                 26

    VII. The Children of Lir regain their Human Shape and die,    32


      I. The Lochlanns invade Erin,                               37

     II. The Murder of Kian,                                      42

    III. Defeat and Flight of the Lochlanns,                      47

     IV. The Eric-Fine on the Sons of Turenn for the Slaying of   51

      V. The Sons of Turenn obtain Mannanan's Canoe, the          60

     VI. The Apples of the Garden of Hisberna,                    63

    VII. The Gifted Skin of the Pig,                              67

   VIII. The Blazing Spear of the King of Persia,                 71

     IX. The Chariot and Steeds of the King of Sigar,             74

      X. The Seven Pigs of the King of the Golden Pillars,        78

     XI. The Hound-Whelp of the King of Iroda,                    81

    XII. Return of the Sons of Turenn, with part of the           84

   XIII. The Cooking-Spit of the Women of Fincara,                87

    XIV. The Three Shouts on Midkena's Hill,                      89

     XV. Return and Death of the Sons of Turenn,                  91

    THE MERMAID.                                                  97



      I. Maildun's Childhood and Youth. He begins his Voyage in  112
         Quest of the Plunderers who slew his Father,

     II. The First Island. Tidings of the Plunderers,            117

    III. The Island of the Monstrous Ants,                       119

     IV. The Terraced Isle of Birds,                             120

      V. A Monster,                                              121

     VI. The Demon Horse-Race,                                   122

    VII. The Palace of Solitude,                                 124

   VIII. The Island of the Wonderful Apple Tree,                 125

     IX. The Island of Bloodthirsty Quadrupeds,                  126

      X. An Extraordinary Monster,                               127

     XI. The Isle of Red-Hot Animals,                            129

    XII. The Palace of the Little Cat,                           131

   XIII. An Island that dyed Black and White,                    133

    XIV. The Island of the Burning River,                        135

     XV. The Miller of Hell,                                     136

    XVI. The Isle of Weeping,                                    137

   XVII. The Isle of the Four Precious Walls,                    139

  XVIII. The Palace of the Crystal Bridge,                       139

    XIX. The Isle of Speaking Birds,                             143

     XX. The Aged Hermit and the Human Souls,                    143

    XXI. The Island of the Big Blacksmiths,                      145

   XXII. The Crystal Sea,                                        147

  XXIII. A Lovely Country beneath the Waves,                     147

   XXIV. An Island guarded by a Wall of Water,                   148

    XXV. A Water-Arch in the Air,                                149

   XXVI. The Silver Pillar of the Sea,                           150

  XXVII. An Island standing on One Pillar,                       151

 XXVIII. The Island Queen detains them with her Magic            152

   XXIX. The Isle of Intoxicating Wine-Fruits,                   156

    XXX. The Isle of the Mystic Lake,                            157

   XXXI. The Isle of Laughing,                                   163

  XXXII. The Isle of the Blest,                                  164

 XXXIII. The Hermit of the Sea-Rock,                             164

  XXXIV. Signs of Home,                                          174

   XXXV. Maildun meets his Enemy, and arrives Home,              175


      I. Colga, King of Lochlann, invades Erin, and is slain,    177

     II. Midac, the Son of Colga, meditates Revenge,             181

    III. Finn is entrapped by Midac, and held by Enchantment in  189
         the Palace of the Quicken Trees,

     IV. Innsa, Finn's Foster Son, defends the Ford leading to   196
         the Palace of the Quicken Trees,

      V. Ficna, the Son of Finn, defends the Ford,               203

     VI. Dermat O'Dyna slays the Three Kings of the Island of    213
         the Torrent, breaks the Spell with their Blood, and
         frees Finn,

    VII. The Fight at the Ford with the Foreign Army,            219


      I. Arrival of the Gilla Dacker and his Horse,              223

     II. Conan and Fifteen of the Fena are carried off by the    235
         Gilla Dacker's Horse,

    III. Pursuit,                                                239

     IV. Dermat O'Dyna, in Quest of the Gilla Dacker,            245
         encounters the Wizard-Champion at the Well,

      V. Dermat O'Dyna in Tir-fa-tonn,                           253

     VI. Finn, in Quest of Dermat, fights many Battles,          259

    VII. Finn and Dermat meet,                                   265

   VIII. Conan and his Companions found and rescued,             267


      I. Finn, the Son of Cumal, seeks the Princess Grania to    274

     II. Dermat O'Dyna secretly espouses the Princess Grania,    277

    III. Flight and Pursuit,                                     285

     IV. The Fastness of the Seven Narrow Doors,                 289

      V. The Three Sea-Champions and their Three Venomous        296
         Hounds on the Track of Dermat and Grania,

     VI. What Befell the Three Sea-Champions and their Three     305
         Venomous Hounds,

    VII. Sharvan, the Surly Giant, and the Fairy Quicken Tree    313
         of Dooros,

   VIII. The Attack of the Witch-Hag,                            330

     IX. Peace and Rest at Last,                                 332

      X. The Death of Dermat,                                    334

  THE CHASE OF SLIEVE CULLINN,                                   351

  THE CHASE OF SLIEVE FUAD,                                      362

  OISIN IN TIRNANOGE; OR, THE LAST OF THE FENA,                  385

  THE VOYAGE OF THE SONS OF O'CORRA,                             400

  THE FATE OF THE SONS OF USNA,                                  427

  NOTES,                                                         455

  LIST OF PROPER NAMES,                                          471


    Silent, O Moyle, be the roar of thy water;
      Break not, ye breezes, your chain of repose;
    While murmuring mournfully, Lir's lonely daughter
      Tells to the night-star her tale of woes.




After the battle of Tailltenn,[VII.] the Dedannans[1][VIII.] of the five
provinces of Erin assembled in one place of meeting, to consider on
their state, and to choose a king. For their chiefs said it was better
for them to have one king over all, than to be divided, as they were,
serving sundry lords and princes.

Now of those who expected the sovereignty for themselves, the following
chiefs were the noblest, namely:--Bove Derg,[IX.] son of the Dagda; his
brother Angus, of Bruga on the Boyne, who, however, had no earnest wish
to become king, preferring to remain as he was; Ilbrec of Assaroe; Lir
of Shee Finnaha; and Midir the Haughty of Bri-Leth.[1]

Then the chief people went into council, all except the five above
named; and the decision they came to was to elect Bove Derg, son of the
Dagda, king over the whole of the Dedannan race. When the election was
made known, none of those who were disappointed took the matter to heart
except Lir of Shee Finnaha alone. And when Lir found that the chiefs had
chosen Bove Derg, he was greatly offended, and straightway left the
assembly in anger, without taking leave of any one, and without showing
any mark of respect or obedience to the new king.

When the chiefs heard this, they were wroth; and they said they would
follow him to Shee Finnaha,[X.] and slay him with spear and sword, and
burn his house, because he did not yield obedience to the king they had
elected in lawful council.

But Bove Derg would not permit them to do so. "This man," he said, "will
defend his territory, and many will be slain; and I am none the less
your king, although he has not submitted to me."

Matters remained so for a long time. But at last a great misfortune
happened to Lir, for his wife died after an illness of three days. This
weighed heavily on him, and his heart was weary with sorrow after her.
Her death, moreover, was a great event at that time, and was much spoken
of throughout Erin.

When the tidings reached the mansion of Bove Derg, where the chief men
of the Dedannans were then assembled, the king said--

"As Lir's wife is now dead, my friendship would be of service to him, if
he were willing to accept it. For I have in my house three maidens, the
most beautiful and the best instructed in all Erin, namely, Eve, Eva,
and Alva, my own foster children, and daughters of Allil of Ara."[XI.]

The Dedannans agreed to this, and said that their king had spoken wisely
and truly.

Messengers were accordingly sent to Lir, and they were told to say to

"If thou art willing to submit to the king, he will give thee for a wife
one of his three foster children; and thou shalt have his friendship for

It was pleasing to Lir to make this alliance; and accordingly he set out
next day from Shee Finnaha with a company of fifty chariots; and they
never halted or turned aside till they reached the palace of Bove Derg,
on the shore of the Great Lake.[XII.] Their arrival gave much joy and
happiness to the king and his household; for although Lir did not submit
at first to Bove Derg, he was a good man, and was greatly beloved by
the king himself and by all his subjects. So Lir and his followers got a
kindly welcome; and they were supplied with everything necessary, and
were well attended to that night.

Next day, the three daughters of Allil of Ara sat on the same couch with
the queen their foster mother; and the king said to Lir--

"Take thy choice of the three maidens, and whichever thou choosest, she
shall be thy wife."

"They are all beautiful," said Lir, "and I cannot tell which of them is
best; but I will take the eldest, for she must be the noblest of the

Then the king said, "Eve is the eldest, and she shall be given to thee
if it be thy wish."

So Lir chose Eve for his wife, and they were wedded that day.

Lir remained a fortnight in the king's palace, and then departed with
his wife to his own house, Shee Finnaha, where he celebrated his
marriage by a great royal wedding feast.


[VII.] Now Teltown, on the river Blackwater, between Kells and Navan, in
Meath. (See note 1 at the end, for this battle.)

[VIII.] The numbers refer to the notes at the end of the book.

[IX.] At the end of the book will be found an alphabetical list of all
the names of persons and places mentioned through the volume, with their
Gaelic forms, and, in many cases, their meanings.

[X.] Shee Finnaha, Lir's residence, is thought to have been situated
near the boundary of Armagh and Monaghan, not far from Newtown Hamilton.

[XI.] Ara, the islands of Aran, in Galway Bay.

[XII.] The Great Lake, _i.e._ Lough Derg, on the Shannon, above



In course of time, Lir's wife bore him two children at a birth, a
daughter and a son, whose names were Finola and Aed. A second time she
brought forth twins, two sons, who were named Ficra and Conn: and she
died in giving them birth. This was a cause of great anguish to Lir; and
he would almost have died of grief, only that his mind was turned from
his sorrow by his great love for his four little children.

When the news of Eve's death reached the mansion of Bove Derg, the king
was in deep grief, and the people of his household raised three great
cries of lamentation for her. And when their mourning was ended, the
king said--

"We grieve for our foster child, both on her own account, and for the
sake of the good man to whom we gave her; for we are thankful for his
alliance and his friendship. But our acquaintance shall not be ended,
and our alliance shall not be broken; for I will give him her sister to
wife, my second foster child, Eva."

Messengers were sent to Lir to Shee Finnaha, to tell him of this; and he
consented. So after some time he came to the king's house to espouse
her, and they were united; and he brought her home with him to his own

The four children grew up under Eva's care. She nursed them with great
tenderness, and her love for them increased every day. They slept near
their father; and he would often rise from his own bed at the dawn of
morning, and go to their beds, to talk with them and to fondle them.

The king, Bove Derg, loved them almost as well as did their father. He
went many times every year to Shee Finnaha to see them; and he used to
bring them often to his palace, where he kept them as long as he could
on each occasion, and he always felt sad when he sent them home.

At this time, too, the Dedannans used to celebrate the Feast of Age[2]
at the houses of their chiefs by turns; and whenever it happened that
the festival was held at Shee Finnaha, these children were the delight
and joy of the Dedannans. For nowhere could four lovelier children be
found; so that those who saw them were always delighted with their
beauty and their gentleness, and could not help loving them with their
whole heart.



Now when Eva saw that the children of Lir received such attention and
affection from their father, and from all others that came to his house,
she fancied she was neglected on their account; and a poisonous dart of
jealousy entered her heart, which turned her love to hatred; and she
began to have feelings of bitter enmity for her sister's children.

Her jealousy so preyed on her that she feigned illness, and lay in bed
for nearly a year, filled with gall and brooding mischief; and at the
end of that time she committed a foul and cruel deed of treachery on the
children of Lir.

One day she ordered her horses to be yoked to her chariot, and she set
out for the palace of Bove Derg, bringing the four children with her.

Finola did not wish to go, for it was revealed to her darkly in a dream
that Eva was bent on some dreadful deed of fratricide;[XIII.] and she
knew well that her stepmother intended to kill her and her brothers that
day, or in some other way to bring ruin on them. But she was not able to
avoid the fate that awaited her.

When they had gone some distance from Shee Finnaha on their way to the
palace, Eva tried to persuade her attendants to kill the children. "Kill
them, and you shall be rewarded with all the worldly wealth you may
desire; for their father loves me no longer, and has neglected and
forsaken me on account of his great love for these children."

But they heard her with horror, and refused, saying, "We will not kill
them. Fearful is the deed thou hast contemplated, O Eva; and evil will
surely befall thee for having even thought of killing them."

Then she took the sword to slay them herself; but her woman's weakness
prevented her, and she was not able to strike them.

So they set out once more, and fared on till they came to the shore of
Lake Darvra,[XIV.] where they alighted, and the horses were unyoked.

She led the children to the edge of the lake, and told them to go to
bathe; and as soon as they had got into the clear water, she struck them
one by one with a druidical[3] fairy wand, and turned them into four
beautiful snow-white swans. And she addressed them in these words--

    Out to your home, ye swans, on Darvra's wave;
      With clamorous birds begin your life of gloom:
    Your friends shall weep your fate, but none can save;
      For I've pronounced the dreadful words of doom.

After this, the four children of Lir turned their faces to their
stepmother; and Finola spoke--

"Evil is the deed thou hast done, O Eva; thy friendship to us has been a
friendship of treachery; and thou hast ruined us without cause. But the
deed will be avenged; for the power of thy witchcraft is not greater
than the druidical power of our friends to punish thee; and the doom
that awaits thee shall be worse than ours."

    Our stepmother loved us long ago;
    Our stepmother now has wrought us woe:
    With magical wand and fearful words,
    She changed us to beautiful snow-white birds;
    And we live on the waters for evermore,
    By tempests driven from shore to shore.

Finola again spoke and said, "Tell us now how long we shall be in the
shape of swans, so that we may know when our miseries shall come to an

"It would be better for you if you had not put that question," said Eva;
"but I shall declare the truth to you, as you have asked me. Three
hundred years on smooth Lake Darvra; three hundred years on the Sea of
Moyle, between Erin and Alban;[XV.] three hundred years at Irros Domnann
and Inis Glora[XVI.] on the Western Sea. Until the union of Largnen, the
prince from the north, with Decca, the princess from the south; until
the Taillkenn[XVII.] shall come to Erin, bringing the light of a pure
faith; and until ye hear the voice of the Christian bell. And neither by
your own power, nor by mine, nor by the power of your friends, can ye be
freed till the time comes."

Then Eva repented what she had done; and she said, "Since I cannot
afford you any other relief, I will allow you to keep your own Gaelic
speech; and ye shall be able to sing sweet, plaintive, fairy music,
which shall excel all the music of the world, and which shall lull to
sleep all that listen to it. Moreover, ye shall retain your human
reason; and ye shall not be in grief on account of being in the shape of

And she chanted this lay--

    Depart from me, ye graceful swans;
      The waters are now your home:
    Your palace shall be the pearly cave,
    Your couch the crest of the crystal wave,
      And your mantle the milk-white foam!

    Depart from me, ye snow-white swans
      With your music and Gaelic speech:
    The crystal Darvra, the wintry Moyle,
    The billowy margin of Glora's isle;--
      Three hundred years on each!

    Victorious Lir, your hapless sire,
      His lov'd ones in vain shall call;
    His weary heart is a husk of gore,
    His home is joyless for evermore,
      And his anger on me shall fall!

    Through circling ages of gloom and fear
      Your anguish no tongue can tell;
    Till Faith shall shed her heavenly rays,
    Till ye hear the Taillkenn's anthem of praise,
      And the voice of the Christian bell!

Then ordering her steeds to be yoked to her chariot she departed
westwards, leaving the four white swans swimming on the lake.

    Our father shall watch and weep in vain;
    He never shall see us return again.
    Four pretty children, happy at home;
    Four white swans on the feathery foam;
    And we live on the waters for evermore,
    By tempests driven from shore to shore.


[XIII.] The word "fratricide" is the nearest English equivalent to the
original word, _fionghal_, which means the murder of a relative.

[XIV.] Lake Darvra, now Lough Derravaragh, in Westmeath.

[XV.] The sea between Erin and Alban (Ireland and Scotland) was
anciently called the Sea of Moyle, from the Moyle, or Mull, of Cantire.

[XVI.] Irros Domnann; Erris, in the county Mayo. Inis Glora; a small
island about five miles west from Belmullet, in the same county, still
known by the same name.

[XVII.] Taillkenn, a name given by the druids to St. Patrick.



When Eva arrived at the house of Bove Derg, the chiefs bade her welcome;
and the king asked her why she had not brought the Children of Lir to

"Because," she replied, "Lir no longer loves thee; and he does not wish
to intrust his children to thee, lest thou shouldst harm them."

The king was greatly astonished and troubled at this, and he said, "How
can that be? For I love those children better than I love my own."

But he thought in his own mind that Eva had played some treachery on
them. And he sent messengers with all speed northwards to Shee Finnaha,
to inquire for the children, and to ask that they might be sent to him.

When the messengers had told their errand, Lir was startled; and he
asked, "Have the children not reached the palace with Eva?"

They answered, "Eva arrived alone, and she told the king that you
refused to let the children come."

A sad and sorrowful heart had Lir when he heard this; and he now felt
sure that Eva had destroyed his four lovely children. So, early next
morning, his chariot was yoked for him, and he set out with his
attendants for the king's palace; and they travelled with all speed till
they arrived at the shore of Lake Darvra.

The children of Lir saw the cavalcade approaching; and Finola spoke
these words--

    I see a mystic warrior band
    From yonder brow approach the strand;
    I see them winding down the vale,
      Their bending chariots slow advancing;
    I see their shields and gilded mail,
      Their spears and helmets brightly glancing.

    Ah! well I know that proud array;
    I know too well their thoughts to-day:
    The Dannan host and royal Lir;
      Four rosy children they are seeking:
    Too soon, alas! they find us here,
      Four snowy swans like children speaking!

    Come, brothers dear, approach the coast,
    To welcome Lir's mysterious host.
    Oh, woful welcome! woful day,
      That never brings a bright to-morrow!
    Unhappy father, doomed for aye
      To mourn our fate in hopeless sorrow!

When Lir came to the shore, he heard the birds speaking, and, wondering
greatly, he asked them how it came to pass that they had human voices.

"Know, O Lir," said Finola, "that we are thy four children, who have
been changed into swans and ruined by the witchcraft of our stepmother,
our own mother's sister, Eva, through her baleful jealousy."

When Lir and his people heard this, they uttered three long mournful
cries of grief and lamentation.

After a time, their father asked them, "Is it possible to restore you to
your own shapes?"

"It is not possible," replied Finola; "no man has the power to release
us until Largnen from the north and Decca from the south are united.
Three hundred years we shall be on Lake Darvra; three hundred years on
the sea-stream of Moyle; three hundred years on the Sea of Glora in the
west. And we shall not regain our human shape till the Taillkenn come
with his pure faith into Erin, and until we hear the voice of the
Christian bell."

And again the people raised three great cries of sorrow.

"As you have your speech and your reason," said Lir, "come now to land,
and ye shall live at home, conversing with me and my people."

"We are not permitted to leave the waters of the lake, and we cannot
live with our people any more. But the wicked Eva has allowed us to
retain our human reason, and our own Gaelic speech; and we have also the
power to chant plaintive, fairy music, so sweet that those who listen to
us would never desire any other happiness. Remain with us to-night, and
we will chant our music for you."

Lir and his people remained on the shore of the lake; and the swans sang
their slow, fairy music, which was so sweet and sad, that the people, as
they listened, fell into a calm, gentle sleep.

At the glimmer of dawn next morning, Lir arose, and he bade farewell to
his children for a while, to seek out Eva.

    The time has come for me to part:--
      No more, alas! my children dear,
    Your rosy smiles shall glad my heart,
      Or light the gloomy home of Lir.

    Dark was the day when first I brought
      This Eva in my home to dwell!
    Hard was the woman's heart that wrought
      This cruel and malignant spell!

    I lay me down to rest in vain;
      For, through the livelong, sleepless night,
    My little lov'd ones, pictured plain,
      Stand ever there before my sight.

    Finola, once my pride and joy;
      Dark Aed, adventurous and bold;
    Bright Ficra, gentle, playful boy;
      And little Conn, with curls of gold;--

    Struck down on Darvra's reedy shore,
      By wicked Eva's magic power:
    Oh, children, children, never more
      My heart shall know one peaceful hour!

Lir then departed, and travelled south-west till he arrived at the
king's palace, where he was welcomed; and Bove Derg began to reproach
him, in presence of Eva, for not bringing the children.

"Alas!" said Lir; "it was not by me that the children were prevented
from coming. But Eva, your own foster child, the sister of their mother,
has played treachery on them; and has changed them by her sorcery into
four white swans on Lake Darvra."

The king was confounded and grieved at this news; and when he looked at
Eva, he knew by her countenance that what Lir had told him was true; and
he began to upbraid her in a fierce and angry voice.

"The wicked deed thou hast committed," said he, "will be worse for thee
than for the children of Lir; for their suffering shall come to an end,
and they shall be happy at last."

Again he spoke to her more fiercely than before; and he asked her what
shape of all others, on the earth, or above the earth, or beneath the
earth, she most abhorred, and into which she most dreaded to be

And she, being forced to answer truly, said, "A demon of the

"That is the form you shall take," said Bove Derg; and as he spoke he
struck her with a druidical magic wand, and turned her into a demon of
the air. She opened her wings, and flew with a scream upwards and away
through the clouds; and she is still a demon of the air, and she shall
be a demon of the air till the end of time.

Then Bove Derg and the Dedannans assembled on the shore of the lake, and
encamped there; for they wished to remain with the birds, and to listen
to their music. The Milesian people[XIX.] came and formed an encampment
there in like manner; for historians say that no music that was ever
heard in Erin could be compared with the singing of these swans.

And so the swans passed their time. During the day they conversed with
the men of Erin, both Dedannans and Milesians, and discoursed lovingly
with their friends and fellow nurselings; and at night they chanted
their slow, sweet, fairy music, the most delightful that was ever heard
by men; so that all who listened to it, even those who were in grief, or
sickness, or pain, forgot their sorrows and their sufferings, and fell
into a gentle, sweet sleep, from which they awoke bright and happy.

So they continued, the Dedannans and the Milesians, in their
encampments, and the swans on the lake, for three hundred years.[XX.]
And at the end of that time, Finola said to her brothers--

"Do you know, my dear brothers, that we have come to the end of our time
here; and that we have only this one night to spend on Lake Darvra?"

When the three sons of Lir heard this, they were in great distress and
sorrow; for they were almost as happy on Lake Darvra, surrounded by
their friends, and conversing with them day by day, as if they had been
in their father's house in their own natural shapes; whereas they should
now live on the gloomy and tempestuous Sea of Moyle, far away from all
human society.

Early next morning, they came to the margin of the lake, to speak to
their Father and their friends for the last time, and to bid them
farewell; and Finola chanted this lay--


    Farewell, farewell, our father dear!
      The last sad hour has come:
    Farewell, Bove Derg! farewell to all,
      Till the dreadful day of doom![XXI.]
    We go from friends and scenes beloved,
      To a home of grief and pain;
          And that day of woe
          Shall come and go,
      Before we meet again!


    We live for ages on stormy Moyle,
      In loneliness and fear;
    The kindly words of loving friends
      We never more shall hear.
    Four joyous children long ago;
      Four snow-white swans to-day;
          And on Moyle's wild sea
          Our robe shall be
      The cold and briny spray.


    Far down on the misty stream of time,
      When three hundred years are o'er,
    Three hundred more in storm and cold,
      By Glora's desolate shore;
    Till Decca fair is Largnen's spouse;
      Till north and south unite;
          Till the hymns are sung,
          And the bells are rung,
      At the dawn of the pure faith's light.


    Arise, my brothers, from Darvra's wave,
      On the wings of the southern wind;
    We leave our father and friends to-day
      In measureless grief behind.
    Ah! sad the parting, and sad our flight
      To Moyle's tempestuous main;
          For the day of woe
          Shall come and go,
      Before we meet again!

The four swans then spread their wings, and rose from the surface of the
water in sight of all their friends, till they reached a great height in
the air, then resting, and looking downwards for a moment, they flew
straight to the north, till they alighted on the Sea of Moyle between
Erin and Alban.

The men of Erin were grieved at their departure, and they made a law,
and proclaimed it throughout the land, that no one should kill a swan in
Erin from that time forth.


[XVIII.] demon of the air was held in great abhorrence by the ancient

[XIX.] The Milesian people; the colony who conquered and succeeded the
Dedannans. (See note 1 at end.)

[XX.] The Dedannans were regarded as gods, and were immortal or
semi-immortal. (See note 1 at the end.)

[XXI.] It must be remembered that the children of Lir had some obscure
foreknowledge of the coming of Christianity.



As to the children of Lir, miserable was their abode and evil their
plight on the Sea of Moyle. Their hearts were wrung with sorrow for
their father and their friends; and when they looked towards the steep,
rocky, far-stretching coasts, and saw the great, dark wild sea around
them, they were overwhelmed with fear and despair. They began also to
suffer from cold and hunger, so that all the hardships they had endured
on Lake Darvra appeared as nothing compared with their suffering on the
sea-current of Moyle.

And so they lived, till one night a great tempest fell upon the sea.
Finola, when she saw the sky filled with black, threatening clouds, thus
addressed her brothers--

"Beloved brothers, we have made a bad preparation for this night; for it
is certain that the coming storm will separate us; and now let us
appoint a place of meeting, or it may happen that we shall never see
each other again."

And they answered, "Dear sister, you speak truly and wisely; and let us
fix on Carricknarone, for that is a rock that we are all very well
acquainted with."

And they appointed Carricknarone as their place of meeting.

Midnight came, and with it came the beginning of the storm. A wild,
rough wind swept over the dark sea, the lightnings flashed, and the
great waves rose, and increased their violence and their thunder.

The swans were soon scattered over the waters, so that not one of them
knew in what direction the others had been driven. During all that night
they were tossed about by the roaring winds and waves, and it was with
much difficulty they preserved their lives.

Towards morning the storm abated, and the sea became again calm and
smooth; and Finola swam to Carricknarone. But she found none of her
brothers there, neither could she see any trace of them when she looked
all round from the summit of the rock over the wide face of the sea.

Then she became terrified, for she thought she should never see them
again; and she began to lament them plaintively in these words--

    The heart-breaking anguish and woe of this life
          I am able no longer to bear:
    My wings are benumbed with this pitiless frost;
    My three little brothers are scattered and lost;
          And I am left here to despair.

    My three little brothers I never shall see
           Till the dead shall arise from the tomb:
    How I sheltered them oft with my wings and my breast,
    And I soothed their sorrows and lulled them to rest,
           As the night fell around us in gloom!

    Ah, where are my brothers, and why have I lived,
          This last worst affliction to know?
    What now is there left but a life of despair?--
    For alas! I am able no longer to bear
          This heart-breaking anguish and woe.[XXII.]

Soon after this she looked again over the sea, and she saw Conn coming
towards the rock, with his head drooping, and his feathers all drenched
with the salt spray; and she welcomed him with joyful heart.

Not long after, Ficra appeared, but he was so faint with wet and cold
and hardship, that he was scarce able to reach the place where Finola
and Conn were standing; and when they spoke to him he could not speak
one word in return. So Finola placed the two under her wings, and she

"If Aed were here now, all would be happy with us."

In a little time they saw Aed coming towards them, with head erect and
feathers all dry and radiant and Finola gave him a joyful welcome. She
then placed him under the feathers of her breast, while Conn and Ficra
remained under her wings; and she said to them--

"My dear brothers, though ye may think this night very bad, we shall
have many like it from this time forth."

So they continued for a long time on the Sea of Moyle, suffering
hardships of every kind, till one winter night came upon them, of great
wind and of snow and frost so severe, that nothing they ever before
suffered could be compared to the misery of that night. And Finola
uttered these words--

    Our life is a life of woe;
      No shelter or rest we find:
    How bitterly drives the snow;
      How cold is this wintry wind!

    From the icy spray of the sea,
      From the wind of the bleak north east,
    I shelter my brothers three,
      Under my wings and breast.

    Our stepmother sent us here,
      And misery well we know:--
    In cold and hunger and fear;
      Our life is a life of woe!

Another year passed away on the Sea of Moyle; and one night in January,
a dreadful frost came down on the earth and sea, so that the waters were
frozen into a solid floor of ice all round them. The swans remained on
Carricknarone all night, and their feet and their wings were frozen to
the icy surface, so that they had to strive hard to move from their
places in the morning; and they left the skin of their feet, the quills
of their wings, and the feathers of their breasts clinging to the rock.

"Sad is our condition this night, my beloved brothers," said Finola,
"for we are forbidden to leave the Sea of Moyle; and yet we cannot bear
the salt water, for when it enters our wounds, I fear we shall die of

And she spoke this lay--

    Our fate is mournful here to-day;
      Our bodies bare and chill,
    Drenched by the bitter, briny spray,
      And torn on this rocky hill!

    Cruel our stepmother's jealous heart
      That banished us from home;
    Transformed to swans by magic art,
      To swim the ocean foam.

    This bleak and snowy winter day,
      Our bath is the ocean wide;
    In thirsty summer's burning ray,
      Our drink the briny tide.

    And here 'mid rugged rocks we dwell,
      In this tempestuous bay;
    Four children bound by magic spell;--
      Our fate is sad to-day!

They were, however, forced to swim out on the stream of Moyle, all
wounded and torn as they were; for though the brine was sharp and
bitter, they were not able to avoid it. They stayed as near the coast as
they could, till after a long time the feathers of their breasts and
wings grew again, and their wounds were healed.

After this they lived on for a great number of years, sometimes visiting
the shores of Erin, and sometimes the headlands of Alban. But they
always returned to the sea-stream of Moyle, for it was destined to be
their home till the end of three hundred years.

One day they came to the mouth of the Bann, on the north coast of Erin,
and looking inland, they saw a stately troop of horsemen approaching
directly from the south-west. They were mounted on white steeds, and
clad in bright-coloured garments, and as they wound towards the shore
their arms glittered in the sun.

"Do ye know yonder cavalcade?" said Finola to her brothers.

"We know them not," they replied; "but it is likely they are a party of
the Milesians, or perchance a troop of our own people, the Dedannans."

They swam towards the shore, to find out who the strangers were; and the
cavalcade on their part, when they saw the swans, knew them at once, and
moved towards them till they were within speaking distance.

Now these were a party of the Dedannans; and the chiefs who commanded
them were the two sons of Bove Derg, the Dedannan king, namely, Aed the
Keen-witted, and Fergus the Chess-player, with a third part of the Fairy
Host.[XXIII.] They had been for a long time searching for the children
of Lir along the northern shores of Erin, and now that they had found
them, they were joyful; and they and the swans greeted each other with
tender expressions of friendship and love. The children of Lir inquired
after the Dedannans, and particularly after their father Lir, and Bove
Derg, and all the rest of their friends and acquaintances.

"They are all well," replied the chiefs; "and they and the Dedannans in
general are now gathered together in the house of your father, at Shee
Finnaha, celebrating the Feast of Age,[2] pleasantly and agreeably.
Their happiness would indeed be complete, only that you are not with
them, and that they know not where you have been since you left Lake

"Miserable has been our life since that day," said Finola; "and no
tongue can tell the suffering and sorrow we have endured on the Sea of

And she chanted these words--

    Ah, happy is Lir's bright home to-day,
    With mead and music and poet's lay:
    But gloomy and cold his children's home,
    For ever tossed on the briny foam.

    Our wreathèd feathers are thin and light
    When the wind blows keen through the wintry night:
    Yet oft we were robed, long, long ago,
    In purple mantles and furs of snow.

    On Moyle's bleak current our food and wine
    Are sandy sea-weed and bitter brine:
    Yet oft we feasted in days of old,
    And hazel-mead drank from cups of gold.

    Our beds are rocks in the dripping caves;
    Our lullaby song the roar of the waves:
    But soft rich couches once we pressed,
    And harpers lulled us each night to rest.

    Lonely we swim on the billowy main,
    Through frost and snow, through storm and rain:
    Alas for the days when round us moved
    The chiefs and princes and friends we loved!

    My little twin brothers beneath my wings
    Lie close when the north wind bitterly stings,
    And Aed close nestles before my breast;
    Thus side by side through the night we rest.

    Our father's fond kisses, Bove Derg's embrace,
    The light of Mannanan's[1] godlike face,
    The love of Angus[1]--all, all are o'er;
    And we live on the billows for evermore!

After this they bade each other farewell, for it was not permitted to
the children of Lir to remain away from the stream of Moyle. As soon as
they had parted, the Fairy Cavalcade returned to Shee Finnaha, where
they related to the Dedannan chiefs all that had passed, and described
the condition of the children of Lir. And the chiefs answered--

"It is not in our power to help them; but we are glad that they are
living; and we know that in the end the enchantment will be broken, and
that they will be freed from their sufferings."

As to the children of Lir, they returned to their home on the Sea of
Moyle, and there they remained till they had fulfilled their term of


[XXII.] Many of these old poems begin and end with the same line or

[XXIII.] Fairy host; _i.e._ the Dedannans. (See note 1 at the end of the



And when their three hundred years were ended, Finola said to her

"It is time for us to leave this place, for our period here has come to
an end."

    The hour has come; the hour has come;
      Three hundred years have passed:
    We leave this bleak and gloomy home,
      And we fly to the west at last!

    We leave for ever the stream of Moyle;
      On the clear, cold wind we go;
    Three hundred years round Glora's isle,
      Where wintry tempests blow!

    No sheltered home, no place of rest,
      From the tempest's angry blast:
    Fly, brothers, fly, to the distant west,
      For the hour has come at last!

So the swans left the Sea of Moyle, and flew westward, till they reached
Irros Domnann and the sea round the isle of Glora. There they remained
for a long time, suffering much from storm and cold, and in nothing
better off than they were on the Sea of Moyle.

It chanced that a young man named Ebric, of good family, the owner of a
tract of land lying along the shore, observed the birds and heard their
singing. He took great delight in listening to their plaintive music,
and he walked down to the shore almost every day, to see them and to
converse with them; so that he came to love them very much, and they
also loved him. This young man told his neighbours about the speaking
swans, so that the matter became noised abroad; and it was he who
arranged the story, after hearing it from themselves, and related it as
it is related here.

Again their hardships were renewed, and to describe what they suffered
on the great open Western Sea would be only to tell over again the story
of their life on the Moyle. But one particular night came, of frost so
hard that the whole face of the sea, from Irros Domnann to Achill, was
frozen into a thick floor of ice; and the snow was driven by a
north-west wind. On that night it seemed to the three brothers that they
could not bear their sufferings any longer, and they began to utter loud
and pitiful complaints. Finola tried to console them, but she was not
able to do so, for they only lamented the more; and then she herself
began to lament with the others.

After a time, Finola spoke to them and said, "My dear brothers, believe
in the great and splendid God of truth, who made the earth with its
fruits, and the sea with its wonders; put your trust in Him, and He will
send you help and comfort."

"We believe in Him," said they.

"And I also," said Finola, "believe in God, who is perfect in
everything, and who knows all things."

And at the destined hour they all believed, and the Lord of heaven sent
them help and protection; so that neither cold nor tempest molested them
from that time forth, as long as they abode on the Western Sea.

So they continued at the point of Irros Domnann, till they had fulfilled
their appointed time there. And Finola addressed the sons of Lir--

"My dear brothers, the end of our time here has come; we shall now go to
visit our father and our people."

And her brothers were glad when they heard this.

Then they rose lightly from the face of the sea, and flew eastward with
joyful hopes, till they reached Shee Finnaha. But when they alighted
they found the place deserted and solitary, its halls all ruined and
overgrown with rank grass and forests of nettles; no houses, no fire, no
mark of human habitation.

Then the four swans drew close together, and they uttered three loud
mournful cries of sorrow.

And Finola chanted this lay--

    What meaneth this sad, this fearful change,
        That withers my heart with woe?
    The house of my father all joyless and lone,
    Its halls and its gardens with weeds overgrown,--
        A dreadful and strange overthrow!

    No conquering heroes, no hounds for the chase,
        No shields in array on its walls,
    No bright silver goblets, no gay cavalcades,
    No youthful assemblies or high-born maids,
        To brighten its desolate halls!

    An omen of sadness--the home of our youth
        All ruined, deserted, and bare.
    Alas for the chieftain, the gentle and brave;
    His glories and sorrows are stilled in the grave,
        And we left to live in despair!

    From ocean to ocean, from age unto age,
        We have lived to the fulness of time;
    Through a life such as men never heard of we've passed,
    In suffering and sorrow our doom has been cast,
        By our stepmother's pitiless crime!

The children of Lir remained that night in the ruins of the palace--the
home of their forefathers, where they themselves had been nursed; and
several times during the night they chanted their sad, sweet, fairy

Early next morning they left Shee Finnaha, and flew west to Inis Glora,
where they alighted on a small lake. There they began to sing so sweetly
that all the birds of the district gathered in flocks round them on the
lake, and on its shore, to listen to them; so that the little lake came
to be called the Lake of the Bird-flocks.

During the day the birds used to fly to distant points of the coast to
feed, now to Iniskea of the lonely crane,[XXIV.] now to Achill, and
sometimes southwards to Donn's Sea Rocks,[XXV.] and to many other
islands and headlands along the shore of the Western Sea, but they
returned to Inis Glora every night.

They lived in this manner till holy Patrick came to Erin with the pure
faith; and until Saint Kemoc came to Inis Glora.

The first night Kemoc came to the island, the children of Lir heard his
bell at early matin time, ringing faintly in the distance. And they
trembled greatly, and started, and ran wildly about; for the sound of
the bell was strange and dreadful to them, and its tones filled them
with great fear. The three brothers were more affrighted than Finola, so
that she was left quite alone; but after a time they came to her, and
she asked them--

"Do you know, my brothers, what sound is this?"

And they answered, "We have heard a faint, fearful voice, but we know
not what it is."

"This is the voice of the Christian bell," said Finola; "and now the end
of our suffering is near; for this bell is the signal that we shall soon
be freed from our spell, and released from our life of suffering; for
God has willed it."

And she chanted this lay--

    Listen, ye swans, to the voice of the bell,
      The sweet bell we've dreamed of for many a year;
    Its tones floating by on the night breezes, tell
      That the end of our long life of sorrow is near!

    Listen, ye swans, to the heavenly strain;
      'Tis the anchoret tolling his soft matin bell:
    He has come to release us from sorrow, from pain,
      From the cold and tempestuous shores where we dwell!

    Trust in the glorious Lord of the sky;
      He will free us from Eva's druidical spell:
    Be thankful and glad, for our freedom is nigh,
      And listen with joy to the voice of the bell!

Then her brothers became calm; and the four swans remained listening to
the music of the bell, till the cleric had finished his matins.

"Let us sing our music now," said Finola.

And they chanted a low, sweet, plaintive strain of fairy music, to
praise and thank the great high King of heaven and earth.

Kemoc heard the music from where he stood; and he listened with great
astonishment. But after a time it was revealed to him that it was the
children of Lir who sang that music; and he was glad, for it was to seek
them he had come.

When morning dawned he came to the shore of the lake, and he saw the
four white swans swimming on the water. He spoke to them, and asked them
were they the children of Lir.

They replied, "We are indeed the children of Lir, who were changed long
ago into swans by our wicked stepmother."

"I give God thanks that I have found you," said Kemoc; "for it is on
your account I have come to this little island in preference to all the
other islands of Erin. Come ye now to land, and trust in me; for it is
in this place that you are destined to be freed from your enchantment."

So they, filled with joy on hearing the words of the cleric, came to the
shore, and placed themselves under his care. He brought them to his own
house, and, sending for a skilful workman, he caused him to make two
bright, slender chains of silver; and he put a chain between Finola and
Aed, and the other chain he put between Ficra and Conn.

So they lived with him, listening to his instructions day by day, and
joining in his devotions. They were the delight and joy of the cleric,
and he loved them with his whole heart; and the swans were so happy that
the memory of all the misery they had suffered during their long life on
the waters caused them neither distress nor sorrow now.


[XXIV.] Iniskea; a little rocky island near the coast of Erris, in Mayo.
"The lonely crane of Iniskea" was one of the "Wonders of Ireland."
According to an ancient legend, which still lives among the peasantry of
Mayo, a crane--one lonely bird--has lived on the island since the
beginning of the world, and will live there till the day of judgment.

[XXV.] Donn's Sea Rocks--called in the text _Teach-Dhuinn_, or Donn's
House, which is also the present Irish name; a group of three rocks off
Kenmare Bay, where Donn, one of the Milesian brothers, was drowned.
These remarkable rocks are now called in English the "Bull, Cow, and



The king who ruled over Connaught at this time was Largnen, the son of
Colman; and his queen was Decca, the daughter of Finnin,[XXVI.] king of
Munster,--the same king and queen whom Eva had spoken of in her prophecy
long ages before.

Now word was brought to queen Decca regarding these wonderful speaking
swans, and their whole history was related to her; so that even before
she saw them, she could not help loving them, and she was seized with a
strong desire to have them herself. So she went to the king, and
besought him that he would go to Kemoc and get her the swans. But
Largnen said that he did not wish to ask them from Kemoc. Whereupon
Decca grew indignant; and she declared that she would not sleep another
night in the palace till he had obtained the swans for her. So she left
the palace that very hour, and fled southwards towards her father's

Largnen, when he found she had gone, sent in haste after her, with word
that he would try to procure the swans; but the messengers did not
overtake her till she had reached Killaloe. However, she returned with
them to the palace; and as soon as she had arrived, the king sent to
Kemoc to request that he would send the birds to the queen; but Kemoc
refused to give them.

Largnen became very angry at this; and he set out at once for the
cleric's house. As soon as he had come, he asked the cleric whether it
was true that he had refused to give the swans to the queen. And when
Kemoc answered that it was quite true, the king, being very wroth, went
up to where the swans stood, and seizing the two silver chains, one in
each hand, he drew the birds from the altar, and turned towards the door
of the church, intending to bring them by force to the queen; while
Kemoc followed him, much alarmed lest they should be injured.

The king had proceeded only a little way, when suddenly the white
feathery robes faded and disappeared; and the swans regained their human
shape, Finola being transformed into an extremely old woman, and the
three sons into three feeble old men, white-haired and bony and

When the king saw this, he started with affright, and instantly left the
place without speaking one word; while Kemoc reproached and denounced
him very bitterly.

As to the children of Lir, they turned towards Kemoc; and Finola spoke--

"Come, holy cleric, and baptise us without delay, for our death is near.
You will grieve after us, O Kemoc; but in truth you are not more
sorrowful at parting from us than we are at parting from you. Make our
grave here and bury us together; and as I often sheltered my brothers
when we were swans, so let us be placed in the grave--Conn standing near
me at my right side, Ficra at my left, and Aed before my face."[XXVII.]

    Come, holy priest, with book and prayer;
      Baptise and shrive us here:
    Haste, cleric, haste, for the hour has come,
      And death at last is near!

    Dig our grave--a deep, deep grave,
      Near the church we loved so well;
    This little church, where first we heard
      The voice of the Christian bell.

    As oft in life my brothers dear
      Were sooth'd by me to rest--
    Ficra and Conn beneath my wings,
      And Aed before my breast;

    So place the two on either hand--
      Close, like the love that bound me;
    Place Aed as close before my face,
      And twine their arms around me.

    Thus shall we rest for evermore,
      My brothers dear and I:
    Haste, cleric, haste, baptise and shrive,
      For death at last is nigh!

Then the children of Lir were baptised, and they died immediately. And
when they died, Kemoc looked up; and lo, he saw a vision of four lovely
children, with light, silvery wings, and faces all radiant with joy.
They gazed on him for a moment; but even as they gazed, they vanished
upwards, and he saw them no more. And he was filled with gladness, for
he knew they had gone to heaven; but when he looked down on the four
bodies lying before him, he became sad and wept.

And Kemoc caused a wide grave to be dug near the little church; and the
children of Lir were buried together, as Finola had directed--Conn at
her right hand, Ficra at her left, and Aed standing before her face. And
he raised a grave-mound over them, placing a tombstone on it, with
their names graved in Ogam;[XXVIII.] after which he uttered a lament for
them, and their funeral rites were performed.

So far we have related the sorrowful story of the Fate of the Children
of Lir.


[XXVI.] These are well-known historical personages, who flourished in
the seventh century.

[XXVII.] Among the ancient Celtic nations, the dead were often buried
standing up in the grave. It was in this way Finola and her brothers
were buried.

[XXVIII.] Ogam, a sort of writing, often used on sepulchral stones to
mark the names of the persons buried.




             For the blood that we spilled,
             For the hero we killed,
    Toil and woe, toil and woe, till the doom is fulfilled!



When the Dedannans[1] held sway in Erin, a prosperous free-born king
ruled over them, whose name was Nuada of the Silver Hand.[4]

In the time of this king, the Fomorians,[5] from Lochlann,[6] in the
north, oppressed the Dedannans, and forced them to pay heavy tributes;
namely, a tax on kneading-troughs, a tax on querns, and a tax on baking
flags; and besides all this, an ounce of gold for each man of the
Dedannans. These tributes had to be paid every year at the Hill of
Usna;[XXIX.] and if any one refused or neglected to pay his part, his
nose was cut off by the Fomorian tyrants.

At this time a great fair-meeting was held by the king of Ireland, Nuada
of the Silver Hand, on the Hill of Usna. Not long had the people been
assembled, when they saw a stately band of warriors, all mounted on
white steeds, coming towards them from the east; and at their head, high
in command over all, rode a young champion, tall and comely, with a
countenance as bright and glorious as the setting sun.

This young warrior was Luga of the Long Arms.[7] He was accompanied by
his foster brothers, namely, the sons of Mannanan Mac Lir; and the troop
he led was the Fairy Host from the Land of Promise.[8]

Now in this manner was he arrayed. He rode the steed of Mannanan Mac
Lir,[8] namely, Enbarr of the Flowing Mane: no warrior was ever killed
on the back of this steed, for she was as swift as the clear, cold wind
of spring, and she travelled with equal ease on land and on sea. He wore
Mannanan's coat of mail: no one could be wounded through it, or above
it, or below it. He had on his breast Mannanan's breast-plate, which no
weapon could pierce. His helmet had two glittering precious stones set
in front, and one behind; and whenever he took it off, his face shone
like the sun on a dry day in summer. Mannanan's sword, The Answerer,
hung at his left side: no one ever recovered from its wound; and those
who were opposed to it in the battle-field were so terrified by looking
at it, that their strength left them till they became weaker than a
woman in deadly sickness.

This troop came forward to where the king of Erin sat surrounded by the
Dedannans, and both parties exchanged friendly greetings.

A short time after this they saw another company approaching, quite
unlike the first, for they were grim and fierce and surly looking;
namely, the tax-gatherers of the Fomorians, to the number of nine nines,
who were coming to demand their yearly tribute from the men of Erin.
When they reached the place where the king sat, the entire assembly--the
king himself among the rest--rose up before them. For the whole Dedannan
race stood in great dread of these Fomorian tax-collectors; so much so
that no man dared even to chastise his own son without first seeking
their consent.

Then Luga of the Long Arms spoke to the king and said, "Why have ye
stood up before this hateful-looking company, when ye did not stand up
for us?"

"We durst not do otherwise," replied the king; "for if even an infant of
a month old remained seated before them, they would deem it cause enough
for killing us all."

When Luga heard this he brooded in silence for a little while, and then
he said, "Of a truth, I feel a great desire to kill all these men!"

Then he mused again, and after a time, said, "I am strongly urged to
kill these men!"

"That deed would doubtless bring great evil on us," said the king, "for
then the Fomorians would be sure to send an army to destroy us all."

But Luga, after another pause, started up, exclaiming, "Long have ye
been oppressed in this manner!" and so saying, he attacked the
Fomorians, dealing red slaughter among them. Neither did he hold his
hand till he had slain them all except nine. These he spared, because
they ran with all speed and sat nigh the king, that he might protect
them from Luga's wrath.

Then Luga put his sword back into its scabbard, and said, "I would slay
you also, only that I wish you to go and tell your king, and the
foreigners in general, what you have seen."

These nine men accordingly returned to their own country, and they told
their tale to the Fomorian people from beginning to end--how the
strange, noble-faced youth had slain all the tax-collectors except nine,
whom he spared that they might bring home the story.

When they had ended speaking, the king, Balor[9] of the Mighty Blows and
of the Evil Eye, asked the chiefs, "Do ye know who this youth is?"

And when they answered, "No," Kethlenda,[9] Balor's queen, said--

"I know well who the youth is: he is the Ildana,[XXX.] Luga of the Long
Arms, the son of your daughter and mine; and it has been long foretold
that when he should appear in Erin, our sway over the Dedannans should
come to an end."

Then the chief people of the Fomorians held council; namely, Balor of
the Mighty Blows, and his twelve sons, and his queen Kethlenda of the
Crooked Teeth; Ebb and Sencab, the grandsons of Neid; Sotal of the Large
Heels; Luath the Long-bodied; Luath the Story-teller; Tinna the Mighty,
of Triscadal; Loskenn of the Bare Knees; Lobas, the druid; besides the
nine prophetic poets and philosophers of the Fomorians.

After they had debated the matter for some time, Bres, the son of Balor,
arose and said, "I will go to Erin with seven great battalions of the
Fomorian army, and I will give battle to the Ildana, and I will bring
his head to you to our palace of Berva."[6]

The Fomorian chiefs thought well of this proposal, and it was agreed to.

So the ships were got ready for Bres; abundant food and drink and war
stores were put into them, their seams were calked with pitch, and they
were filled with sweet-smelling frankincense. Meantime the two Luaths,
that is to say, Luath the Story-teller and Luath of the Long Body, were
sent all over Lochlann to summon the army. And when all the fighting men
were gathered together, they arrayed themselves in their battle-dresses,
prepared their arms, and set out for Erin.

Balor went with them to the harbour where they were to embark, and when
they were about to go on board, he said to them--

"Give battle to the Ildana, and cut off his head. And after ye have
overcome him and his people, put your cables round this island of Erin,
which gives us so much trouble, and tie it at the sterns of your ships:
then sail home, bringing the island with you, and place it on the north
side of Lochlann, whither none of the Dedannans will ever follow it."

Then, having hoisted their many-coloured sails and loosed their
moorings, they sailed forth from the harbour into the great sea, and
never slackened speed or turned aside from their course till they
reached the harbour of Eas-Dara.[XXXI.] And as soon as they landed, they
sent forth an army through West Connaught, which wasted and spoiled the
whole province.


[XXIX.] The Hill of Usna, in the parish of Conry, in Westmeath, one of
the royal residences of Ireland.

[XXX.] Luga of the Long Arms is often called The Ildana, _i.e._ the Man
of many sciences, to signify his various accomplishments.



Now the king of Connaught at that time was Bove Derg, the son of the
Dagda,[XXXII.] a friend to Luga of the Long Arms. It chanced that Luga
was then at Tara,[XXXIII.] and news was brought to him that the
Fomorians had landed at Eas-Dara, and were spoiling and wasting the
province. He immediately got ready his steed, Enbarr of the Flowing
Mane; and early in the morning, when the point of night met the day, he
went to the king and told him that the foreigners had landed, and that
they had wasted and plundered the province of Bove Derg.

"I shall give them battle," said Luga; "and I wish to get from thee some
help of men and arms."

"I will give no help," said the king; "for I do not wish to avenge a
deed that has not been done against myself."

When Luga heard this reply he was wroth, and departing straightway from
Tara, he rode westward. He had not travelled long when he saw at a
distance three warriors, fully armed, riding towards him. Now these were
three brothers, the sons of Canta; namely, Kian and Cu and Kethen; and
Kian was Luga's father. And they saluted each other, and conversed
together for a time.

"Why art thou abroad so early?" said they.

"Cause enough have I," replied Luga; "for the Fomorians have landed in
Erin, and have wasted the province of Bove Derg, the son of the Dagda.
It is well indeed that I have met you, for I am about to give them
battle, and I wish now to know what aid I shall get from you."

"We will go into the battle with you," said they; "and each of us will
ward off from you a hundred of the Fomorian warriors."

"That, indeed, is good help," said Luga; "but, for the present, I wish
you to go to the several places throughout Erin where the Fairy
Host[XXXIV.] are abiding, and summon them all to me."

The three brothers accordingly separated, Cu and Kethen going south,
while Luga's father, Kian, turned his face northwards, and rode on till
he came to Moy Murthemna.[XXXV.] He had not been long travelling over
the plain when he saw three warriors, clad in armour and fully armed,
coming towards him. These were three Dedannan chiefs, the sons of
Turenn, and their names were Brian, Ur, and Urcar. Now these three and
the three sons of Canta were at deadly feud with each other, on account
of an old quarrel, and whenever they met there was sure to be a fight
for life or death.

As soon as Kian saw these three, he said, "If my two brothers were now
with me, we should have a brave fight; but as they are not, and as I am
only one against three, it is better to avoid the combat." So saying, he
looked round, and seeing near him a herd of swine he struck himself with
a golden druidical[3] wand, and changed himself into a pig; and he
quickly joined the herd.

No sooner had he done so than Brian, the eldest of the sons of Turenn,
said to his brothers, "Tell me, my brothers, do you know what has become
of the warrior that we saw just now approaching us on the plain?"

"We saw him," said they, "but we know not whither he has gone."

"You deserve great blame," said he, "that you are not more watchful
while traversing the country during this time of war. Now I know what
has happened to this warrior; he has changed himself, by a druidical
spell, into a pig; and he is now among yonder herd. And whoever he may
be, of this be sure--he is no friend of ours."

"This is an unlucky matter," said they; "for as these pigs belong to one
of the Dedannans, it would be wrong for us to kill them; and even if we
should do so, the enchanted pig might escape after all."

"But," answered Brian, "I think I can manage to distinguish any
druidical beast from a natural one; and if you had attended well to your
learning, you would be able to do the same."

Saying this, he struck his brothers one after the other with his golden
druidical wand, and turned them into two fleet, slender, sharp-nosed
hounds. The moment he had done so they put their noses to the earth,
and, yelping eagerly, set off towards the herd on the trail of their
enemy. When they had come near, the druidical pig fell out from the
herd, and made towards a thick grove that grew hard by; but Brian was
there before him, and drove his spear through his chest.

The pig screamed and said, "You have done an ill deed to cast your spear
at me, for you know well who I am."

"Your voice, methinks, is the voice of a man," said Brian; "but I know
not who you are."

And the pig answered, "I am Kian, the son of Canta; and now I ask you to
give me quarter."

Ur and Urcar, who had regained their shape and come up, said, "We will
give you quarter indeed, and we are sorry for what has happened to you."

But Brian, on the other hand, said, "I swear by the gods of the air,
that if your life returned to you seven times, I would take it from you
seven times."

"Then," said Kian, "as you will not grant me quarter, allow me first to
return to my own shape."

"That we will grant you," said Brian; "for I often feel it easier to
kill a man than to kill a pig."

Kian accordingly took his own shape; and then he said, "You indeed, ye
sons of Turenn, are now about to slay me; but even so, I have outwitted
you. For if you had slain me in the shape of a pig, you would have to
pay only the eric-fine[10] for a pig; whereas, now that I am in my own
shape, you shall pay the full fine for a man. And there never yet was
killed, and there never shall be killed, a man for whom a greater fine
shall be paid, than you will have to pay for me. The weapons with which
I am slain shall tell the deed to my son; and he will exact the fine
from you."

"You shall not be slain with the weapons of a warrior," said Brian; and
so saying, he and his brothers laid aside their arms, and smote him
fiercely and rudely with the round stones of the earth, till they had
reduced his body to a disfigured mass; and in this manner they slew him.

They then buried him a man's height in the earth; but the earth, being
angry at the fratricide,[XXXVI.] refused to receive the body, and cast
it up on the surface. They buried him a second time, and again the body
was thrown up from beneath the clay. Six times the sons of Turenn buried
the body of Kian a man's height in the earth, and six times did the
earth cast it up, refusing to receive it. But when they had buried him
the seventh time, the earth refused no longer, and the body remained in
the grave.

Then the sons of Turenn prepared to go forward after Luga of the Long
Arms to the battle. But as they were leaving the grave, they thought
they heard a faint, muffled voice coming up from the ground beneath
their feet--

              The blood you have spilled,
              The hero you've killed,
    Shall follow your steps till your doom be fulfilled!


[XXXI.] Eas-Dara, now Ballysodare, in the county Sligo.

[XXXII.] See page 1.

[XXXIII.] Tara, in Meath, the chief seat of the kings of Ireland.

[XXXIV.] Fairy Host, _i.e._ the Dedannans. (See notes 1 and 8 at end.)

[XXXV.] Moy Murthemna, a plain in the county of Louth.

[XXXVI.] Fratricide; Gaelic, _fionghal_, the murder of a relative. (See
note, page 7.) The sons of Turenn and the sons of Canta appear to have
been related to each other (see the third stanza of the poem, page 94).



Now as to Luga. After parting from his father, he journeyed westward
till he reached Ath-Luan,[XXXVII.] thence to Ros-Coman, and over
Moy-Lurg to the Curlieu Hills, and to the mountain of Kesh-Corran, till
he reached the "Great Plain of the Assembly," where the foreigners were
encamped, with the spoils of Connaught around them.

As he drew nigh to the Fomorian encampment, Bres, the son of Balor,
arose and said--

"A wonderful thing has come to pass this day; for the sun, it seems to
me, has risen in the west."

"It would be better that it were so," said the druids,[3] "than that
matters should be as they are."

"What else can it be, then?" asked Bres.

"The light you see," replied the druids, "is the brightness of the face,
and the flashing of the weapons of Luga of the Long Arms, our deadly
enemy, he who slew our tax-gatherers, and who now approaches."

Then Luga came up peacefully and saluted them.

"How does it come to pass that you salute us," said they, "since you
are, as we know well, our enemy?"

"I have good cause for saluting you," answered Luga; "for only one half
of my blood is Dedannan; the other half comes from you; for I am the son
of the daughter of Balor of the Mighty Blows, your king.[7] And now I
come in peace, to ask you to give back to the men of Connaught all the
milch cows you have taken from them."

"May ill luck follow thee," said one of the Fomorian leaders, in a voice
loud and wrathful, "until thou get one of them, either a milch cow or a
dry cow!"

And the others spoke in a like strain.

Then Luga put a druidical spell upon the plundered cattle; and he sent
all the milch cows home, each to the door of her owner's house,
throughout all that part of Connaught that had been plundered. But the
dry cows he left, so that the Fomorians might be cumbered, and that they
might not leave their encampment till the Fairy Host should arrive to
give them battle.

Luga tarried three days and three nights near them, and at the end of
that time the Fairy Host arrived, and placed themselves under his
command. They encamped near the Fomorians, and in a little time Bove
Derg, son of the Dagda, joined them with twenty-nine hundred men.

Then they made ready for the fight. The Ildana put on Mannanan's coat of
mail and his breast-plate; he took also his helmet, which was called
Cannbarr, and it glittered in the sun with dazzling brightness; he slung
his broad, dark-blue shield from his shoulder at one side; his long,
keen-edged sword hung at his thigh; and lastly, he took his two long,
heavy-handled spears, which had been tempered in the poisonous blood of
adders. The other kings and chiefs of the men of Erin arrayed their men
in battle ranks; hedges of glittering spears rose high above their
heads; and their shields, placed edge to edge, formed a firm fence
around them.

Then at the signal they attacked the Fomorians, and the Fomorians, in no
degree dismayed, answered their onset. At first a cloud of whizzing
javelins flew from rank to rank across the open space, and as the
warriors rushed together in closer conflict, their spears were shivered
in their hands. Then they drew their gold-hilted swords, and fought foot
to foot and shield to shield, so that a forest of bright flashes rose
high above their helmets, from the clashing of their keen-tempered

In the midst of the fight, Luga looked round, and seeing at some
distance, Bres, surrounded by his Fomorian warriors, dealing havoc and
death among the Dedannans, he rushed through the press of battle, and
attacked first Bres's guards so fiercely that in a few moments twenty of
them fell beneath his blows.

Then he struck at Bres himself, who, unable to withstand his furious
onset, cried aloud--

"Why should we be enemies, since thou art of my kin? Let there be peace
between us, for nothing can withstand thy blows. Let there be peace, and
I will undertake to bring my Fomorians to assist thee at Moytura,[11]
and I will promise never again to come to fight against thee."

And Bres swore by the sun and the moon, by the sea and land, and by all
the elements,[XXXVIII.] to fulfil his engagement; and on these
conditions Luga granted him his life.

Then the Fomorians, seeing their chief overcome, dropped their arms, and
sued for quarter. The Fomorian druids and men of learning next came to
Luga to ask him to spare their lives; and Luga answered them--

"So far am I from wishing to slay you, that in truth, if you had taken
the whole Fomorian race under your protection, I would have spared

And after this, Bres, the son of Balor, returned to his own country with
his druids, and with those of his army who had escaped from the battle.


[XXXVII.] _Ath-Luan_, now Athlone; _Ros-Coman_, now Roscommon;
_Moy-Lurg_, a plain in the county Roscommon; Curlieu Hills, a range of
hills near Boyle, in Roscommon; Kesh-Corran, a well-known mountain in
Sligo. The "Great Plain of the Assembly" must have been near
Ballysodare, in Sligo.

[XXXVIII.] A usual form of oath among the ancient Irish. (See, for an
account of this oath, the author's "Origin and History of Irish Names of
Places," Series II. chap. XIV.)



Towards the close of the day, when the battle was ended, Luga espied two
of his near friends; and he asked them if they had seen his father,
Kian, in the fight. And when they answered, "No," Luga said--

"My father is not alive; for if he lived he would surely have come to
help me in the battle. And now I swear that neither food nor drink will
I take till I have found out who has slain him, and the manner of his

Then Luga set out with a small chosen band of the Fairy Host, and he
halted not till he reached the place where he had parted from his
father. And from that he travelled on to the plain of Murthemna, where
Kian had been forced to take the shape of a pig to avoid the sons of
Turenn, and where they had slain him.

When he had come near to the very spot, he walked some little way before
his companions, and the stones of the earth spoke beneath his feet, and

"Here thy father lies, O Luga. Grievous was Kian's strait when he was
forced to take the shape of a pig on seeing the three sons of Turenn;
and here they slew him in his own shape!"

              The blood that they spilled,
              The hero they killed,
    Shall darken their lives till their doom be fulfilled!

Luga stood for a while silent, pondering on these words. But as his
companions came up, he told them what had happened; and having pointed
out the spot from which the voice came, he caused the ground to be dug
up. There they found the body, and raised it to the surface; and when
they had examined it, they saw that it was covered all over with gory
wounds and bruises.

Then Luga spoke after a long silence, "A cruel and merciless death has
my beloved father suffered at the hands of the sons of Turenn!"

He kissed his father's face three times, and again spoke, grieving, "Ill
fare the day on which my father was slain! Woful is this deed to me, for
my eyes see not, my ears hear not, and my heart's pulse has ceased to
beat, for grief. Why, O ye gods whom I worship, why was I not present
when this deed was done? Alas! an evil thing has happened, for the
Dedannans have slain their brother Dedannan. Ill shall they fare of this
fratricide, for its consequences shall follow them, and long shall the
crime of brother against brother continue to be committed in Erin!"

And he spoke this speech--

    A dreadful doom my father found
      On that ill-omened even-tide;
    And here I mourn beside the mound,
      Where, whelmed by numbers, Kian died,--
    This lonely mound of evil fame,
    That long shall bear the hero's name!

    Alas! an evil deed is done,
      And long shall Erin rue the day:
    There shall be strife 'twixt sire and son,
      And brothers shall their brothers slay;
    Vengeance shall smite the murderers too,
    And vengeance all their race pursue!

    The light has faded from mine eyes;
      My youthful strength and power have fled
    Weary my heart with ceaseless sighs;
      Ambition, hope, and joy are dead;
    And all the world is draped in gloom--
    The shadow of my father's tomb!

Then they placed the hero again in the grave, and they raised a tomb
over him with his name graved in Ogam;[XXXIX.] after which his
lamentation lays were sung, and his funeral games were performed.

When these rites were ended, Luga said to his people, "Go ye now to
Tara, where the king of Erin sits on his throne with the Dedannans
around him; but do not make these things known till I myself have told

So Luga's people went straightway to Tara, as he had bade them; but of
the murder of Kian they said naught. Luga himself arrived some time
after, and was received with great honour, being put to sit high over
the others, at the king's side; for the fame of his mighty deeds at the
battle of the Assembly Plain had been noised over the whole country, and
had come to the ears of the king.

After he was seated, he looked round the hall, and saw the sons of
Turenn in the assembly. Now these three sons of Turenn exceeded all the
champions in Tara, in comeliness of person, in swiftness of foot, and in
feats of arms; and, next to Luga himself, they were the best and bravest
in the battles against the Fomorians; wherefore they were honoured by
the king beyond most others.

Luga asked the king that the chain of silence[XL.] should be shaken; and
when it was shaken, and when all were listening in silence, he stood up
and spoke--

"I perceive, ye nobles of the Dedannan race, that you have given me your
attention, and now I have a question to put to each man here present:
What vengeance would you take of the man who should knowingly and of
design kill your father?"

They were all struck with amazement on hearing this, and the king of
Erin said--

"What does this mean? For that your father has not been killed, this we
all know well!"

"My father has indeed been killed," answered Luga; "and I see now here
in this hall those who slew him. And furthermore, I know the manner in
which they put him to death, even as they know it themselves."

The sons of Turenn, hearing all this, said nothing; but the king spoke
aloud and said--

"If any man should wilfully slay my father, it is not in one hour or in
one day I would have him put to death; but I would lop off one of his
members each day, till I saw him die in torment under my hands!"

All the nobles said the same, and the sons of Turenn in like manner.

"The persons who slew my father are here present, and are joining with
the rest in this judgment," said Luga; "and as the Dedannans are all now
here to witness, I claim that the three who have done this evil deed
shall pay me a fitting eric-fine for my father. Should they refuse, I
shall not indeed transgress the king's law nor violate his protection;
but of a certainty they shall not leave this hall of Micorta[XLI.] till
the matter is settled."

And the king of Erin said, "If I had killed your father, I should be
well content if you were willing to accept an eric-fine from me."

Now the sons of Turenn spoke among themselves; and Ur and Urcar said,
"It is of us Luga speaks this speech. He has doubtless found out that we
slew his father; and it is better that we now acknowledge the deed, for
it will avail us naught to hide it."

Brian, however, at first set his face against this, saying that he
feared Luga only wanted an acknowledgment from them in presence of the
other Dedannans, and that afterwards he might not accept a fine. But the
other two were earnest in pressing him, so that he consented, and then
he spoke to Luga--

"It is of us thou speakest all these things, Luga; for it has been said
that we three have been at enmity with the three sons of Canta. Now, as
to the slaying of thy father Kian, let that matter rest; but we are
willing to pay an eric-fine for him, even as if we had killed him."

"I shall accept an eric-fine from you," said Luga, "though ye indeed
fear I shall not. I shall now name before this assembly the fine I ask,
and if you think it too much, I shall take off a part of it.

"The first part of my eric-fine is three apples; the second part is the
skin of a pig; the third is a spear; the fourth, two steeds and a
chariot; the fifth, seven pigs; the sixth, a hound-whelp; the seventh, a
cooking-spit; and the eighth, three shouts on a hill. That is my eric,"
said Luga; "and if ye think it too much, say so now, that I may remit a
part; but if not, then it will be well that ye set about paying it."

"So far," said Brian, "we do not deem it too great. It seems, indeed, so
small that we fear there is some hidden snare in what you ask, which may
work us mischief."

"I do not deem my eric too small," said Luga; "and now I engage here,
before the assembled Dedannans, that I will ask no more, and that I will
seek no further vengeance for my father's death. But, as I have made
myself answerable to them for the faithful fulfilment of my promise, I
demand the same guarantee from you, that you also be faithful to me."

"Alas that you should doubt our plighted word!" said the sons of Turenn.
"Are we not ourselves sufficient guarantee for the payment of an
eric-fine greater even than this?"

"I do not deem your word sufficient guarantee," answered Luga; "for
often have we known great warriors like you to promise a fine before all
the people, and afterwards to go back of their promise."

And the sons of Turenn consented, though unwillingly, for they grieved
that their word should be doubted. So they bound themselves on either
side--Luga not to increase his claims; and the sons of Turenn, on their
part, to pay him the full fine. And the king of Erin and Bove Derg, son
of the Dagda, and the nobles of the Dedannans in general, were witnesses
and sureties of this bond.

Then Luga stood up and said, "It is now time that I give you a full
knowledge of this eric-fine.

"The three apples I ask are the apples of the Garden of
Hisberna,[XLII.] in the east of the world, and none others will I have.
There are no apples in the rest of the world like them, for their beauty
and for the secret virtues they possess. Their colour is the colour of
burnished gold; they have the taste of honey; and if a wounded warrior
or a man in deadly sickness eat of them, he is cured immediately. And
they are never lessened by being eaten, being as large and perfect at
the end as at the beginning. Moreover any champion that possesses one of
them may perform with it whatsoever feat he pleases, by casting it from
his hand, and the apple will return to him of itself. And though you are
three brave warriors, ye sons of Turenn, methinks you will not find it
easy to bring away these apples; for it has been long foretold that
three young champions from the Island of the West would come to take
them by force, so that the king has set guards to watch for your coming.

"The pig's skin I seek from you belongs to Tuis, the king of Greece.
When the pig was alive, every stream of water through which she walked
was turned into wine for nine days, and all sick and wounded people that
touched her skin were at once cured, if only the breath of life
remained. Now the king's druids told him that the virtue lay, not in the
pig herself, but in her skin; so the king had her killed and skinned,
and he has her skin now. This, too, ye valiant champions, is a part of
my eric-fine which you will find it hard to get, either by force or by

"The spear I demand from you is the venomed spear of Pezar, king of
Persia. Its name is Slaughterer. In time of peace, its blazing, fiery
head is always kept in a great caldron of water, to prevent it from
burning down the king's palace; and in time of war, the champion who
bears it to the battle-field can perform any deed he pleases with it.
And it will be no easy matter to get this spear from the king of Persia.

"The two steeds and the chariot belong to Dobar, king of Sigar.[XLIII.]
The chariot exceeds all the chariots in the world for beauty of shape
and goodliness of workmanship. The two noble steeds have no equal for
strength and fleetness, and they travel with as much ease on sea as on

"The seven pigs I demand are the pigs of Asal, the king of the Golden
Pillars. Whoever eats a part of them shall not suffer from ill health or
disease; and even though they should be killed and eaten to-day, they
will be alive and well to-morrow.

"The hound-whelp belongs to the king of Iroda,[XLIV.] and his name is
Failinis. He shines as brightly as the sun in a summer sky; and every
wild beast of the forest that sees him falls down to the earth powerless
before him.

"The cooking-spit belongs to the warlike women of the island of Fincara.
They are thrice fifty in number, and woe to the champion who approaches
their house; for each of them is a match for three good warriors in
single combat; and they never yet gave a cooking-spit to any one without
being overcome in battle.

"The hill on which I require you to give three shouts is the Hill of
Midkena, in the north of Lochlann.[6] Midkena and his sons are always
guarding this hill, for they are under gesa[12] not to allow any one to
shout on it. Moreover, it was they that instructed my father in
championship and feats of arms, and they loved him very much; so that
even if I should forgive you his death they would not. And, though you
should be able to procure all the rest of the eric-fine, you will not, I
think, succeed in this, for they will be sure to avenge on you my
father's death.

"And this, ye sons of Turenn, is the eric-fine I demand from you!"


[XXXIX.] A kind of writing. (See note, page 36.)

[XL.] Chain of silence; a chain, probably hung with little bells, which
the lord of a mansion shook when he wished to get silence and attention.

[XLI.] Mic[=o]'rta; the name of the great banqueting hall of Tara, the
ruins of which are to be seen to this day.

[XLII.] The Garden of the Hesperides.

[XLIII.] Sigar, _i.e._ Sicily.

[XLIV.] Iroda was the name given by the Irish to some country in the far
north of Europe, probably Norway.



The sons of Turenn were so astounded on hearing this eric-fine that they
spoke not one word; but rising up, they left the meeting, and repaired
to the house of their father Turenn.

He heard their story to the end, and then said, "Your tidings are bad,
my sons, and I fear me you are doomed to meet your death in seeking what
the Ildana asks. But the doom is a just one, for it was an evil thing to
kill Kian. Now as to this eric-fine: it cannot be obtained by any living
man without the help of either Luga himself or of Mannanan Mac Lir;[8]
but if Luga wishes to aid you, ye shall be able to get it. Go ye now,
therefore, and ask him to lend you Mannanan's steed, Enbarr of the
Flowing Mane. If he wishes you to get the full eric-fine, he will lend
you the steed; otherwise he will refuse, saying that she does not belong
to him, and that he cannot lend what he himself has got on loan. Then,
if ye obtain not the steed, ask him for the loan of Mannanan's canoe,
the Wave-sweeper, which would be better for you than the steed; and he
will lend you that, for he is forbidden to refuse a second request."

So the sons of Turenn returned to Luga, and having saluted him, they

"It is not in the power of any man to obtain this eric-fine without thy
own aid, O Luga; we ask thee, therefore, to lend us Mannanan's steed,
Enbarr of the Flowing Mane."

"That steed is not my own," said Luga; "and I cannot lend that which I
have myself obtained on loan."

"If that be so," said Brian, "then I pray thee lend us Mannanan's canoe,
the Wave-sweeper."

"I shall lend you that," replied Luga; "it lies at Bruga of the
Boyne;[XLV.] and ye have my consent to take it."

So they came again to their father, and this time Ethnea, their sister,
was with him; and they told them that Luga had given them the canoe.

"I have much fear," said Turenn, "that it will avail you little against
the dangers of your quest. Nevertheless, Luga desires to obtain that
part of the eric that will be useful to him at the battle of
Moytura,[11] and so far he will help you. But in seeking that which is
of no advantage to him, namely, the cooking-spit, and the three shouts
on Midkena's Hill, therein he will give you no aid, and he will be glad
if ye perish in your attempts to obtain it."

They then set out for Bruga of the Boyne, accompanied by their sister
Ethnea, leaving Turenn lamenting after them. The canoe they found lying
in the river; and Brian went into it and said--

"It seems to me that only one other person can sit here along with me;"
and he began to complain very bitterly of its smallness. He ceased,
however, at the bidding of Ethnea, who told him that the canoe would
turn out large enough when they came to try it, and that it was under
strict command not to let any one grumble at its smallness. And she went
on to say--

"Alas, my beloved brothers, it was an evil deed to slay the father of
Luga of the Long Arms! and I fear you will suffer much woe and hardship
on account of it."


    The deed was a dark one, a deed full of woe,
      Your brother Dedannan to slay;
    And hard and relentless the heart of your foe,
    The bright-faced Ildana, that forced you to go,
      This eric of vengeance to pay!


    Oh, cease, sister Ethnea, cease thy sad wail;
      Why yield to this terror and gloom?
    Long, long shall the poets remember the tale,
    For our courage and valour and swords shall prevail,
      Or win us a glorious tomb!


    Then search ye, my brothers, go search land and sea;
      Go search ye the isles of the East.--
    Alas, that the cruel Ildana's decree
    Has banished my three gentle brothers from me,
      On this fearful and perilous quest!


[XLV.] Bruga of the Boyne, the palace of Angus, the great Dedannan
magician, was situated on the north shore of the Boyne, not far from
Slane. (See note 1 at end.)



After this the three brothers entered the canoe, which they now found
large enough to hold themselves and their arms, and whatsoever else they
wished to bring; for this was one of its secret gifts. They then bade
their sister farewell, and, leaving her weeping on the shore, they rowed
swiftly till they had got beyond the beautiful shores and bright
harbours of Erin, out on the open sea.

Then the two younger brothers said, "Now our quest begins: what course
shall we take?"

Brian answered, "As the apples are the first part of the fine, we shall
seek them first."

And then he spoke to the canoe, "Thou canoe of Mannanan, thou Sweeper of
the waves, we ask thee and we command thee, that thou sail straightway
to the Garden of Hisberna!"

The canoe was not unmindful of the voice of its master, and obeyed the
command without delay, according to its wont. It took the shortest way
across the deep sea-chasms, and, gliding over the green-sided waves more
swiftly than the clear, cold wind of March, it stayed not in its course
till it reached the harbour near the land of Hisberna.

Brian now spoke to his brothers, "Be sure that this quest is a perilous
one, since we know that the best champions of the country, with the king
at their head, are always guarding the apples. And now in what manner,
think you, is it best for us to approach the garden?"

"It seems to us," answered his brothers, "that we had better go straight
and attack these champions, and either bring away the apples, or fall
fighting for them. For we cannot escape the dangers that lie before us;
and if we are doomed to fall in one of these adventures, it may,
perchance, be better for us to die here than to prolong our hardships."

But Brian answered, "Not so, my brothers; for it becomes a warrior to be
prudent and wary as well as brave. We should now act so that the fame of
our skill and valour may live after us, and that future men may not say,
'These sons of Turenn did not deserve to be called brave champions, for
they were senseless and rash, and sought their own death by their
folly.' In the present case, then, what I counsel is this: Let us take
the shape of strong, swift hawks; and as we approach the garden, have ye
care of the light, sharp lances of the guards, which they will certainly
hurl at us: avoid them actively and cunningly, and when the men have
thrown all, let us swoop down and bring away an apple each."

They approved this counsel; and Brian, striking his two brothers and
himself with a druidical magic wand, all three were changed into three
beautiful hawks. Then, flying swiftly to the garden, they began to
descend in circles towards the tops of the trees; but the sharp-eyed
guards perceived them, and with a great shout they threw showers of
venomous darts at them. The hawks, however, mindful of Brian's warning,
watched the spears with keen glances, and escaped them every one, until
the guards had thrown all their light weapons. Then, swooping suddenly
down on the trees, the two younger brothers carried off an apple each,
and Brian two, one between his talons and the other in his beak; and the
three rose again into the air without wound or hurt of any kind. Then,
directing their course westward, they flew over the wide sea with the
speed of an arrow.

The news spread quickly through the city, how three beautiful hawks had
carried off the apples; and the king and his people were in great wrath.
Now the king had three daughters, very skilful in magic and cunning in
counsel; and they forthwith transformed themselves into three
swift-winged, sharp-taloned griffins, and pursued the hawks over the
sea. But the hawks, when they saw they were pursued, increased their
speed, and flew like the wind, and left their pursuers so far behind
that they appeared to the griffins like three specks on the sky. Then
the angry griffins let fly from their eyes, and from their open beaks,
bright flashes of flame straight forward, which overtook and blinded the
hawks, and scorched them, so that they could bear the heat no longer.

"Evil is our state now," said Ur and Urcar, "for these sheets of flame
are burning us, and we shall perish if we do not get relief."

"I will try whether I cannot relieve you," said Brian; and with that he
struck his brothers and himself with his golden druidical wand; and all
three were instantly turned into swans. The swans dropped down on the
sea; and when the griffins saw the hawks no longer straight before them,
they gave up the chase. And the sons of Turenn went safely to their
canoe, bringing the apples with them.



After resting a little while, they held council as to their next
journey; and what they resolved on was to go to Greece, to seek the skin
of the pig, and to bring it away, either by consent or by force. So they
went into the canoe, and Brian spoke--

"Thou canoe of Mannanan, thou Sweeper of the Waves, we ask thee and we
command thee that thou sail with us straightway to Greece!"

And the canoe, obeying as before, glided swiftly and smoothly over the
waves, till the sons of Turenn landed near the palace of the king of

"In what shape, think you, should we go to this court?" said Brian.

"We think it best," answered the others, "to go in our own shapes; that
is to say, as three bold champions."

"Not so," said Brian. "It seems best to me that we should go in the
guise of learned poets from Erin; for poets are held in much honour and
respect by the great nobles of Greece."

"It is, indeed, hard for us to do that," answered his brothers, "for as
to poems, we neither have any, nor do we know how to compose them."

However, as Brian would have it so, they consented, though unwillingly;
and, tying up their hair after the manner of poets, they knocked at the
door of the palace. The door-keeper asked who was there.

"We are skilful poets from Erin," said Brian, "and we have come to
Greece with a poem for the king."

The door-keeper went and gave the message.

"Let them be brought in," said the king, "for it is to seek a good and
bountiful master whom they may serve faithfully that they have come so
far from Erin."

The sons of Turenn were accordingly led in to the banquet hall, where
sat the king surrounded by his nobles; and, bowing low, they saluted
him; and he saluted them in return, and welcomed them. They sat at the
table among the company, and joined the feast at once, drinking and
making merry like the others; and they thought they had never seen a
banquet hall so grand, or a household so numerous and mirthful.

At the proper time the king's poets arose, according to custom, to
recite their poems and their lays for the company. And when they had
come to an end, Brian, speaking low, said to his brothers--

"As we have come here as poets, it is meet that we should practise the
poetic art like the others; therefore now arise, and recite a poem for
the king."

"We have no poems," they replied, "and we do not wish to practise any
art except the art we have learned and practised from our youth, namely,
to fight like brave champions, and to take by valour and force of arms
that which we want, if we be stronger than our enemies, or to fall in
battle if they be the stronger."

"That is not a pleasant way of making poetry," said Brian; and with that
he arose and requested attention for his poem. And when they sat
listening, he said--

    To praise thee, O Tuis, we've come to this land:
    Like an oak among shrubs, over kings thou dost stand:
    Thy bounty, great monarch, shall gladden the bard;
    And the _Imnocta-fessa_ I claim as reward.

    Two neighbours shall war, with an O to an O;
    A bard unrequited--how dreadful a foe!
    Thy bounty shall add to thy wealth and thy fame;
    And the _Imnocta-fessa_ is all that I claim.

"Your poem would doubtless be thought a very good one," said the king,
"if we were able to judge of it; but it is unlike all other poems I have
ever heard, for I do not in the least understand its sense."

"I will unfold its sense," said Brian.

    To praise thee, O Tuis, we've come to this land:
    Like an oak among shrubs, over kings thou dost stand:

"This means that as the oak excels all the other trees of the forest, so
dost thou excel all the other kings of the world for greatness,
nobility, and generosity.

"'_Imnocta-fessa._' _Imnocta_ means 'skin,' and _fessa_ 'a pig.' That is
to say; thou hast, O king, the skin of a pig, which I desire to get from
thee as a guerdon for my poetry.

    Two neighbours shall war, with an O to an O;
    A bard unrequited--how dreadful a foe!

"_O_ means 'an ear;' that is to say, thou and I shall be ear to ear
fighting with each other for the skin, if thou give it not of thy own
free will.

"And that, O king, is the sense of my poem."

"Thy poem would have been a very good one," said the king, "and I would
have given it due meed of praise if my pig's skin had not been mentioned
in it. But it is a foolish request of thine, O ferdana,[XLVI.] to ask
for that skin; for, even though all the poets and men of science of
Erin, and all the nobles of the whole world were to demand it from me, I
would refuse it. Nevertheless, thou shalt not pass unrewarded, for I
will give thee thrice the full of the skin of red gold--one for thyself,
and one for each of thy brothers."

"Thy ransom is a good one, O king," said Brian; "but I am a near-hearted
and suspicious man, and I pray thee let me see with my eyes thy servants
measure the gold, lest they deal unfairly with me."

The king agreed to this; so his servants went with the three sons of
Turenn to the treasure-room, and one of them drew forth the skin from
its place, to measure the gold. As soon as Brian caught sight of it, he
sprang suddenly towards the servant, and, dashing him to the ground with
his right hand, he snatched the skin with his left, and bound it hastily
over his shoulders.

Then the three drew their keen swords, and rushed into the banquet hall.
The king's nobles, seeing how matters stood, surrounded and attacked
them; but the sons of Turenn, nothing daunted by the number of their
foes, hewed down the foremost and scattered the rest, so that scarce one
of the whole party escaped death or deadly wounds.

Then at last Brian and the king met face to face, nor was either slow to
answer the challenge of the other. They fought as great champions fight,
and it was long doubtful which should prevail; but the end of the combat
was, that the king of Greece fell by the overpowering valour of Brian,
the son of Turenn.

After this victory, the three brothers rested in the palace till they
had regained their strength, and healed up their wounds by means of the
apples and the pig's skin; and at the end of three days and three nights
they found themselves able to undertake the next adventure.


[XLVI.] Ferdana, a poet; literally, "a man of verse."



So, after holding council, they resolved to go to seek the spear of the
king of Persia; and Brian reminded his brothers that now, as they had
the apples and the skin to aid them, it would be all the easier to get
the spear, as well as the rest of the fine.

Leaving now the shores of Greece with all its blue streams, they went on
board the canoe, which, at Brian's command, flew across the wide seas;
and soon they made land near the palace of Pezar, king of Persia. And
seeing how they had fared so well in their last undertaking, they
resolved to put on the guise of poets this time also.

And so they put the poet's tie on their hair, and, passing through the
outer gate, they knocked at the door of the palace. The door-keeper
asked who they were, and from what country they had come.

"We are poets from Erin," answered Brian; "and we have brought a poem
for the king."

So they were admitted and brought to the presence of the king, who
seated them among the nobles of his household; and they joined in the
drinking and the feasting and the revelry.

The king's poets now arose, and chanted their songs for the king and his
guests. And when the applause had ceased, Brian, speaking softly, said
to his brothers--

"Arise, now, and chant a poem for the king."

But they answered, "Ask us not to do that which we are unable to do; but
if you wish us to exercise the art we have learned from our youth, we
shall do so, namely, the art of fighting and overcoming our foes."

"That would be an unusual way of reciting poetry," said Brian; "but I
have a poem for the king, and I shall now chant it for him."

So saying, he stood up; and when there was silence, he recited this

    In royal state may Pezar ever reign,
    Like some vast yew tree, monarch of the plain;
    May Pezar's mystic javelin, long and bright,
    Bring slaughter to his foes in every fight!

    When Pezar fights and shakes his dreadful spear,
    Whole armies fly and heroes quake with fear:
    What shielded foe, what champion can withstand,
    The blazing spear in mighty Pezar's hand!

"Your poem is a good one," said the king; "but one thing in it I do not
understand, namely, why you make mention of my spear."

"Because," answered Brian, "I wish to get that spear as a reward for my

"That is a very foolish request," said the king, "for no man ever
escaped punishment who asked me for my spear. And as to your poetry, the
highest reward I could now bestow on you, and the greatest favour these
nobles could obtain for you, is that I should spare your life."

Thereupon Brian and his brothers started up in great wrath and drew
their swords, and the king and his chiefs drew their swords in like
manner; and they fought a deadly fight. But Brian at last, drawing forth
one of his apples, and taking sure aim, cast it at the king and struck
him on the forehead; so that Pezar fell, pierced through the brain.

After this Brian fought on more fiercely than before, dealing
destruction everywhere around him; but when the chiefs saw that their
king had fallen, they lost heart and fled through the doors, till at
length none remained in the banquet hall but the three sons of Turenn.

Then they went to the room where the spear was kept; and they found it
with its head down deep in a great caldron of water, which hissed and
bubbled round it. And Brian, seizing it boldly in his hand, drew it
forth; after which the three brothers left the palace and went to their



Resting now for some days from their toil, they resolved to seek the
steeds and chariot of the king of Sigar; for this was the next part of
the Ildana's eric-fine. So they commanded the canoe, and the canoe,
obedient to their behest, glided swiftly and smoothly over the green
waves till they landed in Sigar. Brian bore the great, heavy, venomed
spear in his hand; and the three brothers were of good heart, seeing how
they had succeeded in their last quest, and that they had now three
parts of the fine.

"In what shape think you we should go to this court?" said Brian.

"How should we go," answered the others, "but in our own shapes, namely,
as three hostile champions, who have come to get the chariot and
steeds, either by force or by good will?"

"That is not what seems best to me," said Brian. "My counsel is, that we
go as soldiers from Erin, willing to serve for pay; and should the king
take us into his service, it is likely we shall find out where the
chariot and steeds are kept."

His brothers having agreed to this, the three set out for the palace.

It happened that the king was holding a fair-meeting on the broad, level
green before the palace; and when the three warriors came near, the
people made way for them. They bowed low to the king; and he asked them
who they were, and from what part of the world they had come.

"We are valiant soldiers from Erin," they answered, "seeking for service
and pay among the great kings of the world."

"Do you wish to enter my service?" asked the king: and they answered,
"Yes." So they made a covenant with each other--the king to place them
in a post of honour and trust, and they to serve him faithfully, and to
name their own reward. Whereupon the brothers entered the ranks of the
king's body-guard.

They remained in the palace for a month and a fortnight, looking round
and carefully noting everything; but they saw nothing of the chariot and
steeds. At the end of that time Brian said to his brothers--

"It fares ill with us here, my brothers; for we know nothing of the
chariot and steeds at this hour, more than when we first came hither."

The others said this was quite true, and asked if he meant to do
anything in the matter.

"This is what I think we should do," answered Brian. "Let us put on our
travelling array, and take our arms of valour in our hands; and in this
fashion let us go before the king, and tell him that unless he shows us
the chariot and steeds, we shall leave his service."

This they did without delay; and when they had come before the king, he
asked them why they came to his presence so armed and in travelling

"We will tell thee of that, O king," answered Brian. "We are valiant
soldiers from Erin, and into whatsoever lands we have travelled, we have
been trusted with the secret counsels of the kings who have taken us
into their service; and we have been made the guardians of their rarest
jewels and of all their gifted arms of victory. But as to thee, O king,
thou hast not so treated us since we came hither; for thou hast a
chariot and two steeds, which exceed all the chariots and steeds in the
world, and yet we have never seen them."

"A small thing it is that has caused you to prepare for departure," said
the king; "and there is, moreover, no need that you should leave my
service; for I would have shown you those steeds the day you came, had I
only known that you wished it. But ye shall see them now; for I have
never had in my service soldiers from a distant land, in whom I and my
people have placed greater trust than we have placed in you."

He then sent for the steeds, and had them yoked to the chariot--those
steeds that were as fleet as the clear, cold wind of March, and which
travelled with equal speed on land and on sea.

Brian, viewing them narrowly, said aloud, "Hear me, O king of Sicily. We
have served thee faithfully up to this time; and now we wish to name our
own pay, according to the covenant thou hast made with us. The guerdon
we demand is yonder chariot and steeds; these we mean to have, and we
shall ask for nothing more."

But the king, in great wrath, said, "Foolish and luckless men! Ye shall
certainly die because you have dared to ask for my steeds!"

And the king and his warriors drew their swords, and rushed towards the
sons of Turenn to seize them.

They, on the other hand, were not taken unaware; and a sore fight began.
And Brian, watching his opportunity, sprang with a sudden bound into the
chariot, and, dashing the charioteer to the ground, he seized the reins
in his left hand; then, raising the venomed spear of Pezar in his right,
he smote the king with its fiery point in the breast, so that he fell
dead. And the three brothers dealt red slaughter among the king's
guards, till those who were not slain scattered and fled in all
directions. So they fared in this undertaking.



After resting till their wounds were healed, Ur and Urcar asked where
they should go next.

"We shall go," said Brian, "to Asal, the king of the Golden Pillars, to
ask him for his seven pigs; for this is the next part of the Ildana's

So they set out; and the canoe brought them straightway to the land of
the Golden Pillars, without delay and without mishap. As they drew nigh
to the harbour, they saw the shore lined with men all armed. For the
fame of the deeds of these great champions had begun to be noised
through many lands; how they had been forced to leave Erin by the hard
sentence of the Ildana; and how they were seeking and bearing away the
most precious and gifted jewels of the world to pay the fine. Wherefore
the king of the Golden Pillars had armed his people, and had sent them
to guard the harbours.

The king himself came down to the beach to meet them. As soon as they
had come within speaking distance, he bade them stay their course; and
then he asked them, in an angry and chiding tone, if they were the three
champions from Erin, who had overcome and slain so many kings.

Brian answered, "Be not displeased with us, O king for in all this
matter we are not to blame. The Ildana has demanded a fine which we
perforce must pay; for we have promised, and the Dedannans are our
guarantee. If the kings to whom he sent us had given us peaceably the
precious things we demanded, we would gladly have departed in peace; but
as they did not, we fought against them, unwillingly indeed and
overthrew them; for no one has as yet been able to withstand us."

"Tell me now," said the king, "what has brought you to my country?"

"We have come for thy seven pigs," answered Brian; "for they are a part
of the fine."

"And in what manner do you think ye shall get them?" asked the king.

Brian answered, "Thou hast heard, O king, how the Ildana has brought us
to these straits, and we must pay him the fine, every jot, or else we
shall die at the hands of our people. Thou, perchance, wilt have pity on
our hardships, and give us these pigs in token of kindness and
friendship, and if so we shall be thankful; but if not, then we will
fight for them, and either bring them away by force, after slaying thee
and thy people or fall ourselves in the attempt."

Hearing this, the king and his people went into council; and after
debating the matter at full length, they thought it best to give the
pigs peaceably, seeing that no king, however powerful, had as yet been
able to withstand the sons of Turenn.

The three champions wondered greatly when this was told to them; for in
no other country had they been able to get any part of the fine without
battle and hardship, and without leaving much of their blood behind
them. So they were now very glad; and thanked Asal and his people.

The king then brought them to his palace, and gave them a kind welcome;
and they were supplied with food and drink to their hearts' desire, and
slept on soft, downy beds. So they rested after all their weary journeys
and toils.

When they arose next morning, they were brought to the king's presence,
and the pigs were given to them; and Brian addressed the king in these

    The prizes we've brought to this land,
      We have won them in conflict and blood;
    But the gift we have sought at thy hand,
      That gift thou hast freely bestowed.

    The red spear rewarded our deeds,
      When Pezar the mighty we slew;
    And the fight for the chariot and steeds,
      Ah, long shall the Sigarites rue!

    Great Asal! in happier days,
      When our deeds bring us glory and fame,
    Green Erin shall echo thy praise,
      And her poets shall honour thy name!



"Whither do you go next, ye sons of Turenn?" asked Asal.

"We go," answered Brian, "to Iroda, for Failinis, the king's

"Then grant me this boon," said the king, "namely, that ye let me go
with you to Iroda. For my daughter is the king's wife; and I will try to
prevail on him that he give you the hound-whelp freely and without

This they agreed to. But the king wished that they should go in his own
ship; so it was got ready, and they went on board with all their wealth;
and it is not told how they fared till they reached the borders of
Iroda. The shores were covered with fierce, armed men, who were there by
orders of the king to guard the harbour; and these men shouted at the
crew, warning them to come no farther; for they knew the sons of Turenn,
and well they knew what they came for.

Asal then requested the three champions to remain where they were for a
time, while he went on shore to talk with his son-in-law. Accordingly he
landed, and went to the king, who, after he had welcomed him, asked what
had brought the sons of Turenn to his country.

"They have come for your hound-whelp," answered Asal.

And the king of Iroda said, "It was an evil counsel you followed, when
you came with these men to my shores; for to no three champions in the
world have the gods given such strength or such good luck as that they
can get my hound-whelp, either by force or by my own free will."

"It will be unwise to refuse them," replied Asal. "They have overpowered
and slain many great kings; for they have gifted arms that no warrior,
however powerful, can withstand; and behold, I have come hither to tell
you what manner of men these are, that you might be advised by me, and
give them your hound-whelp in peace."

So he pressed him earnestly; but his words were only thrown away on the
king of Iroda, who spoke scornfully of the sons of Turenn, and refused
Asal's request with wrathful words.

Asal, much troubled at this, went and told the sons of Turenn how
matters stood. And they, having without delay put on their battle-dress,
and taken their arms in their hands, challenged the king of Iroda and
his people. Then began a very fierce and bloody battle; for though
nothing could stand before the sons of Turenn, yet the warriors of Iroda
were many and very brave. So they fought till the two younger brothers
became separated from Brian, and he was quite surrounded. But as he
wielded the dreadful spear of Pezar, with its blazing, fiery point, his
enemies fell back dismayed, and the ranks were broken before him, so
that those who crossed his path stood in a gap of danger.

At length he espied the king of Iroda, where he fought hedged round by
spears; and he rushed through the thick of the battle straight towards
him, striking down spears and swords and men as he went. And now these
two valiant warriors fought hand to hand a stout and watchful and fierce
battle--for the others fell back by the king's command; and it was long
before any advantage was gained on either side. But though to those who
looked on, Brian seemed the more wrathful of the two, yet he held back
his hand, so as not to slay his foe; and this it was, indeed, that
prolonged the combat, for he sought to tire out the king. At length,
watching his opportunity, Brian closed suddenly, and, seizing the king
in his strong arms, he lifted him clean off the ground, and bore him to
where Asal stood. Then, setting him down, he said--

"Behold thy son-in-law; it would have been easier to kill him three
times over than to bring him to thee once!"

When the people saw their king a prisoner, they ceased fighting; and the
end of all was that peace was made, and the hound-whelp was given over
to the sons of Turenn. Then they took their leave, and left the shores
of Iroda in friendship with the king and with Asal his father-in-law.



Now we shall speak of Luga of the Long Arms. It was revealed to him that
the sons of Turenn had obtained all those parts of the fine which he
wanted for the battle of Moytura;[11] but that they had not yet got the
cooking-spit, or given the three shouts on Midkena's Hill. So he sent
after them a druidical spell, which, falling on them soon after they had
left Iroda, caused them to forget the remaining part of the fine, and
filled them with a longing desire to return to their native home.
Accordingly they went on board their canoe, bringing with them every
part of the fine they had gotten already; and the canoe glided swiftly
over the waves to Erin.

At this time Luga was with the king at a fair-meeting on the plain
before Tara; and it was made known to him secretly that the sons of
Turenn had landed at Bruga of the Boyne. He left the assembly anon,
telling no one; and he went direct to Caher-Crofinn[XLVII.] at Tara,
and, closing the gates and doors after him, he put on his battle array,
namely, the smooth Greek armour of Mannanan Mac Lir, and the enchanted
mantle of the daughter of Flidas.

Soon after, the sons of Turenn were seen approaching; and as they came
forward, the multitude flocked out to meet them, gazing with wonder at
the many marvellous things they had brought. When the three champions
had come to the royal tent, they were joyfully welcomed by the king and
by the Dedannans in general; and then the king spoke kindly to them, and
asked if they had brought the eric-fine.

"We have obtained it after much hardship and danger," they replied; "and
now we wish to know where Luga is, that we may hand it over to him."

The king told them that Luga was at the assembly; but when they sent to
search for him, he was nowhere to be found.

"I can tell where he is," said Brian. "It has been made known to him
that we have arrived in Erin, bringing with us gifted arms that none can
withstand; and he has gone to one of the strongholds of Tara, to avoid
us, fearing we might use these venomed weapons against himself."

Messengers were then sent to Luga to tell him that the sons of Turenn
had arrived, and to ask him to come forth to the meeting, that they
might give him the fine.

But he answered, "I will not come to the meeting yet; but go ye back,
and tell the sons of Turenn to give the fine to the king for me."

The messengers returned with this answer; and the sons of Turenn gave to
the king for Luga all the wonderful things they had brought, keeping,
however their own arms; after which the whole company went into the

When Luga was told how matters stood, he came to where the king and all
the others were; and the king gave him the fine. Then Luga, looking
narrowly at everything that had been given up to him, said--

"Here, indeed, is an eric enough to pay for any one that ever yet was
slain, or that shall be slain to the end of time. But yet there is one
kind of fine that must be paid to the last farthing, namely, an
eric-fine; for of this it is not lawful to hold back even the smallest
part. And moreover, O king, thou and the Dedannans whom I see here
present, are guarantees for the full payment of my eric-fine. Now I see
here the three apples, and the skin of the pig, and the fiery-headed
spear, and the chariot and steeds, and the seven pigs, and the
hound-whelp; but where, ye sons of Turenn, is the cooking-spit of the
women of Fincara? And I have not heard that ye have given the three
shouts on Midkena's Hill."

On hearing this, the sons of Turenn fell into a faintness like the
faintness before death. And when they had recovered they answered not
one word, but left the assembly and went to their father's house. To him
and their sister Ethnea they told all that had befallen them; and how
they should set out on another quest, as they had forgotten part of the
eric-fine through the spells of Luga.

At this Turenn was overwhelmed with grief; and Ethnea wept in great
fear and sorrow. And so they passed that night. Next day, they went down
to the shore, and their father and sister went with them to their ship,
and bade them farewell.


[XLVII.] Caher-Crofinn, otherwise called Rath-ree, the principal
fortress at Tara, the remains of which are still to be seen.



Then they went on board their ship--for they had Mannanan's canoe no
longer--and they sailed forth on the green billowy sea to search for the
Island of Fincara. For a whole quarter of a year they wandered hither
and thither over the wide ocean, landing on many shores and inquiring of
all they met; yet they were not able to get the least tidings of the

At last, they came across one very old man, who told them that he had
heard of the Island of Fincara in the days of his youth; and that it lay
not on the surface, but down deep in the waters, for it was sunk beneath
the waves by a spell in times long past.[13]

Then Brian put on his water-dress, with his helmet of transparent
crystal on his head, and, telling his brothers to await his return, he
leaped over the side of the ship, and sank at once out of sight. He
walked about for a fortnight down in the green salt sea, seeking for
the Island of Fincara; and at last he found it.

There were many houses on the island; but one he saw larger and grander
than the rest. To this he straightway bent his steps, and found it open.
On entering, he saw in one large room a great number of beautiful
ladies, busily employed at all sorts of embroidery and needlework; and
in their midst was a long, bright cooking-spit lying on a table.

Without speaking a word, he walked straight to the table, and, seizing
the spit in one hand, he turned round and walked towards the door. The
women neither spoke nor moved, but each had her eyes fixed on him from
the moment he entered, admiring his manly form, his beauty, and his
fearlessness; but when they saw him about to walk off with the spit,
they all burst out laughing; and one, who seemed chief among them,

"Thou hast attempted a bold deed, O son of Turenn! Know that there are
thrice fifty warlike women here, and that the weakest among us would be
able of herself to prevent thee taking this cooking-spit, even if thy
two brothers were here to help thee. But thou art a brave and courageous
champion, else thou wouldst not have attempted, unaided, to take it by
force, knowing the danger. And for thy boldness and valour, and for the
comeliness of thy person, we will let thee take this one, for we have
many others besides."

So Brian, after thanking them, brought away the spit joyfully, and
sought his ship.

Ur and Urcar waited for Brian in the same spot the whole time, and when
he came not, they began to fear that he would return no more. With these
thoughts they were at last about to leave the place, when they saw the
glitter of his crystal helmet down deep in the water, and immediately
after he came to the surface with the cooking-spit in his hand. They
brought him on board, and now all felt very joyful and courageous of



The three brothers next sailed away towards the north of Lochlann, and
never abated speed till they moored their vessel near the Hill of
Midkena, which rose smooth and green over the sea-shore. When Midkena
saw them approaching, he knew them at once, and, coming towards them
armed for battle, he addressed them aloud--

"You it was that slew Kian, my friend and pupil; and now come forth and
fight, for you shall not leave these shores till you answer for his

Brian, in no degree daunted by the fierce look and threatening speech of
Midkena, sprang ashore, and the two heroes attacked each other with
great fury. When the three sons of Midkena heard the clash of arms,
they came forth, and, seeing how matters stood, they rushed down to aid
their father; but just as they arrived at the shore, Midkena fell dead,
cloven through helmet and head by the heavy sword of Brian.

And now a fight began, three on each side; and if men were afar off,
even in the land of Hisberna, in the east of the world, they would
willingly come the whole way to see this battle, so fierce and haughty
were the minds of those mighty champions, so skilful and active were
they in the use of their weapons, so numerous and heavy were their
blows, and so long did they continue to fight without either party
giving way. The three sons of Turenn were at last dreadfully
wounded--wounded almost to death. But neither fear nor weakness did this
cause them, for their valour and their fury arose all the more for their
wounds, and with one mighty onset they drove their spears through the
bodies of their foes; and the sons of Midkena fell before them into the
long sleep of death.

But now that the fight was ended, and the battle-fury of the victors had
passed off--now it was that they began to feel the effects of their
wounds. They threw themselves full length on the blood-stained sward,
and long they remained without moving or speaking a word, as if they
were dead; and a heavy curtain of darkness fell over their eyes.

At last Brian, raising his head, spoke to his brothers to know if they
lived, and when they answered him feebly, he said--

"My dear brothers, let us now arise and give the three shouts on the
hill while there is time, for I feel the signs of death."

But they were not able to rise.

Then Brian, gathering all his remaining strength, stood up and lifted
one with each hand, while his own blood flowed plentifully; and then
they raised three feeble shouts on Midkena's Hill.



Making no further delay, he led them to their ship, and they set sail
for Erin. While they were yet far off, Brian, gazing over the sea
towards the west, suddenly cried out--

"Lo, I see Ben Edar[XLVIII.] yonder, rising over the waters; and I see
also Dun Turenn farther towards the north."

And Ur answered from where he reclined with Urcar on the deck, "If we
could but get one sight of Ben Edar methinks we should regain our health
and strength; and as thou lovest us, and as thou lovest thy own renown,
my brother, come and raise our heads and rest them on thy breast, that
we may see Erin once more. After that, we shall welcome either life or


    O brother, torch of valour, strong of hand,
      Come, place our weary heads upon thy breast;
    And let us look upon our native land,
      Before we sink to everlasting rest!


    Belovèd sons of Turenn, woe is me!
      My wounds are deep, my day of strength is past;
    Yet not for this I grieve, but that I see
      Your lives, my noble brothers, ebbing fast!


    Would we could give our lives to purchase thine;
      Ah, gladly would we die to ease thy pain!
    For art thou not the pride of Turenn's line,
      The noblest champion of green Erin's plain?


    That mighty Dannan healer, Dianket;[XLIX.]
      Or Midac, who excelled his sire in skill;
    The maiden-leech, Armedda, mightier yet,
      Who knew the herbs to cure, the herbs to kill:

    Oh, were they here; or had we now at hand
      Those gifted apples from the distant East;
    Then might we hope to reach our native land,
      And live again in joy and peace and rest!


    Brother, methinks could we but see once more
      Ben Edar's slopes, or Bregia's[L.] dewy plain,
    Tailltenn,[LI.] or Bruga's[LII.] mystic mansion hoar,
      Our blood would course in health and strength again.

    Or let us once behold our father's home,
      Or winding Liffey down by Ahaclee,[LIII.]
    Old Frevan's hill,[LIV.] or Tara's[LV.] regal dome;
      Then welcome death or life, whiche'er may be!

So Brian raised their heads and rested them on his breast, and they
gazed on the rocky cliffs and green slopes of Ben Edar while the ship
wafted slowly towards land.

Soon after this they landed on the north side of Ben Edar, from which
they made their way slowly to Dun Turenn. And when they had reached the
green in front of the house, Brian cried out--

"Father, dear father, come forth to thy children!"

Turenn came forth and saw his sons all wounded and pale and feeble.

And Brian said, "Go, beloved father--go quick to Tara, and quickly
return. Bring this cooking-spit to Luga, and tell him that we have given
the three shouts on Midkena's Hill. Say that we have now paid the full
eric-fine, and bring back from him the apples of the Garden of Hisberna,
to heal our wounds, else we die."


    Father, our wounds are deadly; nought can save
      Thy children's lives but Luga's friendly hand:
    Go, seek him, father--fare thee fast--and crave
      The healing apples from Hisberna's land!


    In vain, my sons, ye seek to fly your doom;
      The stern Ildana's mind too well I know:
    Alas! far liefer would he see your tomb,
      Than all the treasures all this world could show!


    But he is just; and though his sire we slew,
      Have we not paid full eric for the deed?
    The great Ildana is our kinsman too,
      And will relent in this our time of need.

    Then go, my father, thou art swift and strong;
      Speed like the wind--why linger here to mourn?
    Go straight to Luga's home, nor tarry long;
      Or, father, we shall die ere thou return!

Turenn set out and travelled like the wind till he reached Tara, where
he found Luga.

He gave him the cooking-spit, and said, "Behold, my three sons have now
paid thee the full eric-fine, for they have given the three shouts on
Midkena's Hill. But they are wounded even unto death; and now give me,
I pray thee, the apples from the Garden of Hisberna, to cure them, else
they die."

But Luga refused, and turned away from Turenn.

Turenn hastened back to his sons with a sorrowful heart, and told them
that he had failed to get the apples.

Then Brian said, "Take me with thee to Tara. I will see him, and
perchance he may have pity on us, and give us the apples."

And it was done so. But when Brian begged for the apples, Luga said--

"I will not give them to thee. If thou shouldst offer me the full of the
whole earth of gold, I would not give them to thee. Thou and thy
brothers committed a wicked and pitiless deed when you slew my father.
For that deed you must suffer, and with nothing short of your death
shall I be content."

            For the blood that you spilled,
            For the hero you killed--
    The deed is avenged, and your doom is fulfilled!

Brian turned away and went back to his brothers, and, lying down between
them, his life departed; and his brothers died at the same moment.

Then their father and their sister stood hand in hand over their bodies,
lamenting. And Turenn spoke this lay--

    Oh, pulseless is my heart this woful hour,
      My strength is gone, my joy for ever fled;
    Three noble champions, Erin's pride and power,
      My three fair youths, my children, cold and dead!

    Mild Ur, the fair-haired; Urcar, straight and tall;
      The kings of Banba[LVI.] worthy both to be;
    And Brian, bravest, noblest, best of all,
      Who conquered many lands beyond the sea:

    Lo, I am Turenn, your unhappy sire,
      Mourning with feeble voice above your grave;
    No life, no wealth, no honours I desire;
      A place beside my sons is all I crave!

After this Turenn and Ethnea fell on the bodies of the three young
heroes and died.

And they were all buried in one grave.

This is the story of the Fate of the Children of Turenn.


[XLVIII.] Ben Edar, now Howth Hill, near Dublin. Dun Turenn, the
fortress of their father Turenn.

[XLIX.] Dianket, the great Dedannan physician. His son Midac and his
daughter Armedda were still more skilful than their father. (See note 1
at the end.)

[L.] Bregia, the plain lying between the Liffey and the Boyne.

[LI.] Tailltenn, now Teltown, on the Blackwater, about midway between
Navan and Kells, in Meath. Here annual meetings were held from the most
ancient times, on the first of August, and for some days before and
after, at which games were celebrated, like the Olympic games of Greece.

[LII.] Bruga on the Boyne, where Angus or Mac Indoc, the great Dedannan
enchanter, had his "mystic mansion hoar." (See note 1 at the end.)

[LIII.] Ahaclee, the old name of Dublin.

[LIV.] Frevan, now the hill of Frewen, rising over Lough Owei, near
Mullingar, where the ancient Irish kings had one of their palaces.

[LV.] Tara, in Meath, the chief seat of the Irish kings.

[LVI.] Banba, one of the ancient names of Ireland.





In the days of old a good king ruled over Muman,[LVII.] whose name was
Marid Mac Carido. He had two sons, Ecca and Rib. Ecca was restless and
unruly, and in many ways displeased the king; and he told his brother
Rib that he had made up his mind to leave his home, and win lands for
himself in some far off part of the country. Rib tried hard to dissuade
him; but though this delayed his departure for a while, he was none the
less bent on going.

At last Ecca, being wrought upon by his stepmother Ebliu (from whom
Slieve Eblinne[LVIII.] was afterwards named), did a grievous wrong to
his father, and fled from Muman with all his people; and his brother Rib
and his stepmother Ebliu went with him. Ten hundred men they were in
all, besides women and children; and they turned their faces towards
the north.

After they had travelled for some time, their druids[3] told them that
it was not fated for them to settle in the same place; and accordingly,
when they had come to the Pass of the two Pillar Stones, they parted.

Rib and his people turned to the west, and they journeyed till they came
to the plain of Arbthenn. And there the water of a fountain burst forth
over the land, and drowned them all; and a great lake was formed, which
to this day is called the Lake of Rib.[LIX.]

Ecca continued his journey northwards; and he and his people fared
slowly on till they came near to Bruga[LX.] of the Boyne, the palace of
Mac Indoc, where they were fain to rest. No sooner had they halted, than
a tall man came forth from the palace, namely, Angus Mac Indoc of the
Bruga, son of the Dagda, and commanded them to leave the place without
delay. But they, being spent with the toil of travel, heeded not his
words, and, pitching their tents, they rested on the plain before the
palace. Whereupon Angus, being wroth that his commands were unheeded,
killed all their horses that night.

Next day, he came forth again, and he said to them, "Your horses I slew
last night; and now, unless ye depart from this place, I will slay your
people to-night."

And Ecca said to him, "Much evil hast thou done to us already, for thou
hast killed all our horses. And now we cannot go, even though we desire
it, for without horses we cannot travel."

Then Angus brought to them a very large horse in full harness, and they
put all their goods on him. And when they were about to go, he said to

"Beware that ye keep this great steed walking continually; not even a
moment's rest shall ye give him, otherwise he will certainly be the
cause of your death."[14]

After this they set out again, on a Sunday in the mid-month of autumn,
and travelled on till they reached the Plain of the Grey Copse,[LXI.]
where they intended to abide. They gathered then round the great steed
to take their luggage off him, and each was busy seeing after his own
property, so that they forgot to keep the horse moving. And the moment
he stood still, a magic well sprang up beneath his feet.[14]

Now Ecca, when he saw the well spring up, was troubled, remembering
Angus's warning. And he caused a house to be built round it, and near it
he built his palace, for the better security. And he chose a woman to
take care of the well, charging her strictly to keep the door locked,
except when the people of the palace came for water.

After that the King of Ulad,[LXII.] that is to say, Muridach, the son
of Fiaca Findamnas (who was grandson of Conal Carna of the Red
Branch[15]) came against Ecca to drive him forth from Ulad. But Ecca
made a stout fight, so that he won the lordship of half of Ulad from
Muridach. And after that his people settled down on the Plain of the
Grey Copse.

Now Ecca had two daughters, Ariu and Liban, of whom Ariu was the wife of
Curnan the Simpleton. And Curnan went about among the people,
foretelling that a lake would flow over them from the well, and urging
them earnestly to make ready their boats.

    Come forth, come forth, ye valiant men; build boats, and build ye fast!
    I see the water surging out, a torrent deep and vast;
    I see our chief and all his host o'erwhelmed beneath the wave;
    And Ariu, too, my best beloved, alas! I cannot save.
            But Liban east and west shall swim
            Long ages on the ocean's rim,
            By mystic shores and islets dim,
                And down in the deep sea cave!

And he ceased not to warn all he met, repeating this verse continually;
but the people gave no heed to the words of the Simpleton.

Now the woman who had charge of the well, on a certain occasion forgot
to close the door, so that the spell was free to work evil. And
immediately the water burst forth over the plain, and formed a great
lake, namely the Lake of the Copse. And Ecca and all his family and all
his folk were drowned, save only his daughter Liban, and Conang, and
Curnan the Simpleton. And they buried Ariu, and raised a mound over her,
which is called from her Carn-Arenn.

Of Conang nothing more is told. But as to Curnan, he died of grief after
his wife Ariu; and he was buried in a mound, which is called Carn-Curnan
to this day in memory of him.

And thus the great Lake of the Copse was formed, which is now called
Lough Necca,[LXIII.] in memory of Ecca, the son of Marid. And it was the
overflow of this lake which, more than all other causes, scattered the
Ultonians over Erin.

Now as to Liban. She also was swept away like the others; but she was
not drowned. She lived for a whole year with her lap-dog, in her chamber
beneath the lake, and God protected her from the water. At the end of
the year she was weary; and when she saw the speckled salmon swimming
and playing all round her, she prayed and said--

"O my Lord, I wish I were a salmon, that I might swim with the others
through the clear green sea!"

And at the words she took the shape of a salmon, except her face and
breast, which did not change. And her lap-dog was changed to an otter,
and attended her afterwards whithersoever she went, as long as she lived
in the sea.

And so she remained swimming about from sea to sea for three hundred
years; that is to say, from the time of Ecca, the son of Marid, to the
time of Comgall of Bangor.[16]

Now on one occasion, Comgall sent Beoc, the son of Indli, from Bangor
to Rome, to talk with Gregory[LXIV.] concerning some matters of order
and rule. And when Beoc's curragh[17] was sailing over the sea, he and
his crew heard sweet singing in the waters beneath them, as it were the
chanting of angels.

And Beoc, having listened for a while, looked down into the water, and
asked what the chant was for, and who it was that sang.

And Liban answered, "I am Liban, the daughter of Ecca, son of Marid; and
it is I who sang the chant thou hast heard."

"Why art thou here?" asked Beoc.

And she replied, "Lo, I have lived for three hundred years beneath the
sea; and I have come hither to fix a day and a place of meeting with
thee. I shall now go westward; and I beseech thee, for the sake of the
holy men of Dalaradia,[LXV.] to come to Inver Ollarba[LXVI.] to meet me,
on this same day at the end of a year. Say also to Comgall and to the
other holy men of Bangor, all that I say to thee. Come with thy boats
and thy fishing-nets, and thou shalt take me from the waters in which I
have lived."

"I shall not grant thee the boon thou askest," said Beoc, "unless thou
give me a reward."

"What reward dost thou seek?" asked Liban.

"That thou be buried in one grave with me in my own monastery,"
answered Beoc.

"That shall be granted to thee," said Liban.

Beoc then went on his way to Rome. And when he had returned, he related
to Comgall and to the other saints of the monastery at Bangor, the story
of the mermaid. And now the end of the year was nigh.

Then they made ready their nets, and on the day appointed they went in
their boats to Inver Ollarba, a goodly company of the saints of Erin.
And Liban was caught in the net of Fergus of Miluc:[LXVII.] and her head
and shoulders were those of a maiden, but she had the body of a fish.

Now the boat in which she was brought to land was kept half full of sea
water, in which she remained swimming about. And many came to see her;
and all were filled with wonder when they saw her strange shape and
heard her story.

Among the rest came the chief of the tribe of Hua-Conang, wearing a
purple cloak; and she kept gazing at him earnestly. The young chief,
seeing this, said to her--

"Dost thou wish to have this cloak? If so, I will give it to thee

But she answered, "Not so: I desire not thy cloak. But it brings to my
mind my father Ecca; for on the day he was drowned, he wore a cloak of
purple like thine. But may good luck be on thee for thy gentleness, and
on him who shall come after thee in thy place; and in every assembly
where thy successor sits, may he be known to all without inquiry."

After that there came up a large-bodied, dark-visaged, fierce hero, and
killed her lap-dog. Whereupon she was grieved; and she told him that the
heroism of himself and his tribe should be stained by the baseness of
their minds, and that they should not be able to defend themselves
against injuries till they should do penance, by fasting, for her sake.

Then the warrior repented what he had done, and humbled himself before

And now there arose a contention about her, as to whom she should
belong. Comgall said she was his, forasmuch as she was caught in his
territory. But Fergus urged that she belonged to him by right, as it was
in his net she was taken. And Beoc said he had the best right of all to
her, on account of the promise she had made to him.

And as no one could settle the dispute, these three saints fasted and
prayed that God would give a judgment between them, to show who should
own Liban.

And an angel said to one of the company, "Two wild oxen will come hither
to-morrow from Carn-Arenn, that is to say, from the grave-mound of
Liban's sister, Ariu. Yoke a chariot to them, and place the mermaid in
it; and into whatsoever territory they shall bring her, she shall remain
with the owner thereof."

The oxen came on the morrow, as the angel had foretold. And when they
were yoked, and when Liban was placed in the chariot, they brought her
straightway to Beoc's church, namely to Tec-Da-Beoc.

Then the saints gave her a choice--either to die immediately after
baptism, and go to heaven; or to live on earth as long as she had lived
in the sea, and then to go to heaven after these long ages. And the
choice she took was to die immediately. Whereupon Comgall baptised her;
and he gave her the name of Murgen, that is, "Sea-born," or Murgelt,
that is "Mermaid."

And she is counted among the holy virgins, and held in honour and
reverence, as God ordained for her in heaven; and wonders and miracles
are performed through her means at Tec-Da-Beoc.


[LVII.] Muman, _i.e._ Munster.

[LVIII.] Slieve Eblinne, now Slieve Eelim or Slieve Phelim, in
Tipperary, sometimes called the Twelve Hills of Evlinn. "Eblinne" is the
genitive of "Ebliu."

[LIX.] Now Lough Ree, on the Shannon.

[LX.] See note, page 62; see also note 1 at the end of the book.

[LXI.] The Plain of the Grey Copse, according to the legend, was the
name of the plain now covered by Lough Neagh.

[LXII.] Ulad, _i.e._ Ulster.

[LXIII.] Lough Necca, now Lough Neagh.

[LXIV.] Gregory, _i.e._ Pope Gregory.

[LXV.] Dalaradia, the old name of a territory which included the
southern half of the county Antrim and a part of Down.

[LXVI.] Inver Ollarba, _i.e._ the _inver_, or mouth of the river
Ollarba, which was the ancient name of the Larne Water, in Antrim.

[LXVII.] Miluc, or Meelick, the name of an ancient ecclesiastical
establishment in the county Antrim. See "Ecclesiastical Antiquities of
Down, Connor, and Dromore" (page 3), by the Rev. William Reeves, M.B.,


Connla of the Golden Hair was the son of Conn the Hundred-fighter.[18]
One day as he stood with his father on the royal Hill of Usna,[LXVIII.]
he saw a lady a little way off, very beautiful, and dressed in strange
attire. She approached the spot where he stood; and when she was near,
he spoke to her, and asked who she was, and from what place she had

The lady replied, "I have come from the Land of the Living[19]--a land
where there is neither death nor old age, nor any breach of law. The
inhabitants of earth call us Aes-shee,[19] for we have our dwellings
within large, pleasant, green hills. We pass our time very pleasantly in
feasting and harmless amusements, never growing old; and we have no
quarrels or contentions."

The king and his company marvelled very much; for though they heard this
conversation, no one saw the lady except Connla alone.

"Who is this thou art talking to, my son?" said the king.

And anon she answered for the youth, "Connla is speaking with a lovely,
noble-born young lady, who will never die, and who will never grow old.
I love Connla of the Golden Hair, and I have come to bring him with me
to Moy-mell,[19] the plain of never-ending pleasure. On the day that he
comes with me he shall be made king; and he shall reign for ever in
Fairyland, without weeping and without sorrow. Come with me, O gentle
Connla of the ruddy cheek, the fair, freckled neck, and the golden hair!
Come with me, beloved Connla, and thou shalt retain the comeliness and
dignity of thy form, free from the wrinkles of old age, till the awful
day of judgment!"

    Thy flowing golden hair, thy comely face,
    Thy tall majestic form of peerless grace,
    That show thee sprung from Conn's exalted race.

King Conn the Hundred-fighter, being much troubled, called then on his
druid,[3] Coran, to put forth his power against the witchery of the

"O Coran of the mystic arts and of the mighty incantations, here is a
contest such as I have never been engaged in since I was made king at
Tara--a contest with an invisible lady, who is beguiling my son to
Fairyland by her baleful charms. Her cunning is beyond my skill, and I
am not able to withstand her power; and if thou, Coran, help not, my son
will be taken away from me by the wiles and witchery of a woman from the
fairy hills."

Coran, the druid, then came forward, and began to chant against the
voice of the lady. And his power was greater than hers for that time, so
that she was forced to retire.

As she was going away she threw an apple to Connla, who straightway lost
sight of her; and the king and his people no longer heard her voice.

The king and the prince returned with their company to the palace; and
Connla remained for a whole month without tasting food or drink, except
the apple. And though he ate of it each day, it was never lessened, but
was as whole and perfect in the end as at the beginning. Moreover, when
they offered him aught else to eat or drink, he refused it; for while he
had his apple he did not deem any other food worthy to be tasted. And he
began to be very moody and sorrowful, thinking of the lovely fairy

At the end of the month, as Connla stood by his father's side among the
nobles, on the Plain of Arcomin, he saw the same lady approaching him
from the west. And when she had come near, she addressed him in this

"A glorious seat, indeed, has Connla among wretched, short-lived
mortals, awaiting the dreadful stroke of death! But now, the
ever-youthful people of Moy-mell, who never feel old age, and who fear
not death, seeing thee day by day among thy friends, in the assemblies
of thy Fatherland, love thee with a strange love; and they will make
thee king over them if thou wilt come with me."

When the king heard the words of the lady, he commanded his people to
call the druid again to him, saying--

"Bring my druid, Coran, to me; for I see that the fairy lady has this
day regained the power of her voice."

At this the lady said, "Valiant Conn, fighter of a hundred, the faith of
the druids has come to little honour among the upright, mighty,
numberless people of this land. When the righteous law shall be
restored, it will seal up the lips of the false, black demon; and his
druids shall no longer have power to work their guileful spells."

Now the king observed, and marvelled greatly, that whenever the lady was
present, his son never spoke one word to any one, nay, even though they
addressed him many times. And when the lady had ceased to speak, the
king said--

"Connla, my son, has thy mind been moved by the words of the lady?"

Connla spoke then, and replied, "Father, I am very unhappy; for though I
love my people beyond all, yet I am filled with sadness on account of
this lady!"

When Connla had said this, the maiden again addressed him, and chanted
these words in a very sweet voice--



    A land of youth, a land of rest,
      A land from sorrow free;
    It lies far off in the golden west,
      On the verge of the azure sea.
    A swift canoe of crystal bright,
      That never met mortal view--
    We shall reach the land ere fall of night,
      In that strong and swift canoe:
        We shall reach the strand
        Of that sunny land,
      From druids and demons free;
        The land of rest,
        In the golden west,
      On the verge of the azure sea!


    A pleasant land of winding vales, bright streams, and verdurous plains,
    Where summer all the live-long year, in changeless splendour reigns;
    A peaceful land of calm delight, of everlasting bloom;
    Old age and death we never know, no sickness, care, or gloom;
                      The land of youth,
                      Of love and truth,
                    From pain and sorrow free;
                      The land of rest,
                      In the golden west,
                    On the verge of the azure sea!


    There are strange delights for mortal men in that island of the west;
    The sun comes down each evening in its lovely vales to rest;
                    And though far and dim
                    On the ocean's rim
                    It seems to mortal view,
                      We shall reach its halls
                      Ere the evening falls,
                    In my strong and swift canoe;
                     And ever more
                     That verdant shore
                   Our happy home shall be;
                    The land of rest,
                    In the golden west,
                  On the verge of the azure sea!


    It will guard thee, gentle Connla of the flowing golden hair,
    It will guard thee from the druids, from the demons of the air;
    My crystal boat will guard thee, till we reach that western shore,
    Where thou and I in joy and love shall live for evermore:
                    From the druid's incantation,
                      From his black and deadly snare,
                    From the withering imprecation
                      Of the demon of the air,
    It will guard thee, gentle Connla of the flowing golden hair:
    My crystal boat will guard thee, till we reach that silver strand
    Where thou shalt reign in endless joy, the king of the Fairy-land!

When the maiden had ended her chant, Connla suddenly walked away from
his father's side, and sprang into the curragh, the gleaming,
straight-gliding, strong, crystal canoe. The king and his people saw
them afar off and dimly, moving away over the bright sea towards the
sunset. They gazed sadly after them, till they lost sight of the canoe
over the utmost verge; and no one can tell whither they went, for Connla
was never again seen in his native land.


[LXVIII.] Hill of Usna. (See note, page 37.)

[LXIX.] This is an expansion, rather than a translation, of the
original, which is very short, and in some places very obscure.





There was once an illustrious man of the tribe of Owenaght[LXX.] of
Ninus, Allil Ocar Aga by name, a goodly hero, and lord of his own tribe
and territory. One time, when he was in his house unguarded, a fleet of
plunderers landed on the coast, and spoiled his territory. The chief
fled for refuge to the church of Dooclone; but the spoilers followed him
thither, slew him, and burned the church over his head.

Not long after Allil's death, a son was born to him. The child's mother
gave him the name of Maildun; and, wishing to conceal his birth, she
brought him to the queen of that country, who was her dear friend. The
queen took him to her, and gave out that he was her own child, and he
was brought up with the king's sons, slept in the same cradle with them,
and was fed from the same breast and from the same cup. He was a very
lovely child; and the people who saw him thought it doubtful if there
was any other child living at the time equally beautiful.

As he grew up to be a young man, the noble qualities of his mind
gradually unfolded themselves. He was high-spirited and generous, and he
loved all sorts of manly exercises. In ball-playing, in running and
leaping, in throwing the stone, in chess-playing, in rowing, and in
horse-racing, he surpassed all the youths that came to the king's
palace, and won the palm in every contest.

One day, when the young men were at their games, a certain youth among
them grew envious of Maildun; and he said, in an angry and haughty tone
of voice--

"It is a cause of much shame to us that we have to yield in every game,
whether of skill or of strength, whether on land or on water, to an
obscure youth, of whom no one can tell who is his father or his mother,
or what race or tribe he belongs to."

On hearing this, Maildun ceased at once from play; for until that moment
he believed that he was the son of the king of the Owenaght, and of the
queen who had nursed him. And going anon to the queen, he told her what
had happened; and he said to her--

"If I am not thy son, I will neither eat nor drink till thou tell me who
my father and mother are."

She tried to soothe him, and said, "Why do you worry yourself searching
after this matter? Give no heed to the words of this envious youth. Am I
not a mother to you? And in all this country, is there any mother who
loves her son better than I love you?"

He answered, "All this is quite true; yet I pray thee let me know who my
parents are."

The queen then, seeing that he would not be put off, brought him to his
mother, and put him into her hands. And when he had spoken with her, he
asked her to tell him who his father was.

"You are bent on a foolish quest, my child," she said; "for even if you
knew all about your father, the knowledge would bring neither advantage
nor happiness to you; for he died before you were born."

"Even so," he replied, "I wish to know who he was."

So his mother told him the truth, saying, "Your father was Allil Ocar
Aga, of the tribe of Owenaght of Ninus."

Maildun then set out for his father's territory; and his three foster
brothers, namely, the king's three sons, who were noble and handsome
youths like himself, went with him. When the people of his tribe found
out that the strange youth was the son of their chief, whom the
plunderers had slain years before, and when they were told that the
three others were the king's sons, they gave them all a joyful welcome,
feasting them, and showing them much honour; so that Maildun was made
quite happy, and soon forgot all the abasement and trouble he had

Some time after this, it happened that a number of young people were in
the churchyard of Dooclone--the same church in which Maildun's father
had been slain--exercising themselves in casting a hand-stone. The game
was to throw the stone clear over the charred roof of the church that
had been burned; and Maildun was there contending among the others. A
foul-tongued fellow named Brickna, a servant of the people who owned the
church, was standing by; and he said to Maildun--

"It would better become you to avenge the man who was burned to death
here, than to be amusing yourself casting a stone over his bare, burnt

"Who was he?" inquired Maildun.

"Allil Ocar Aga, your father," replied the other.

"Who slew him?" asked Maildun.

"Plunderers from a fleet slew him and burned him in this church,"
replied Brickna; "and the same plunderers are still sailing in the same

Maildun was disturbed and sad after hearing this. He dropped the stone
that he held in his hand, folded his cloak round him, and buckled on his
shield. And he left the company, and began to inquire of all he met, the
road to the plunderers' ships. For a long time he could get no tidings
of them; but at last some persons, who knew where the fleet lay, told
him that it was a long way off, and that there was no reaching it except
by sea.

Now Maildun was resolved to find out these plunderers, and to avenge on
them the death of his father. So he went without delay into
Corcomroe,[LXXI.] to the druid[3] Nuca, to seek his advice about
building a curragh, and to ask also for a charm to protect him, both
while building it, and while sailing on the sea afterwards.

The druid gave him full instructions. He told him the day he should
begin to build his curragh, and the exact day on which he was to set out
on his voyage; and he was very particular about the number of the crew,
which, he said, was to be sixty chosen men, neither more nor less.

So Maildun built a large triple-hide curragh,[17] following the druid's
directions in every particular, chose his crew of sixty, among whom were
his two friends, Germane and Diuran Lekerd; and on the day appointed put
out to sea.

When he had got only a very little way from the land, he saw his three
foster brothers running down to the shore, signalling and calling out to
him to return and take them on board; for they said they wished to go
with him.

"We shall not turn back," said Maildun; "and you cannot come with us;
for we have already got our exact number."

"We will swim after you in the sea till we are drowned, if you do not
return for us," replied they; and so saying, the three plunged in and
swam after the curragh.

When Maildun saw this, he turned his vessel towards them, and took them
on board rather than let them be drowned.


[LXX.] There were several tribes named Owenaght in the south of Ireland.
This particular tribe were called, as in the text, the Owenaght of
Ninus, and also, according to an interlined gloss in the "Book of the
Dun Cow," the Owenaght of the Aras, _i.e._ of the Aran Islands. Their
territory was situated in the north-west of the county Clare, opposite
the Islands of Aran.

[LXXI.] Corcomroe, an ancient territory, now a barony in the north-west
of the county Clare. (For the meaning and history of this name, see the
author's "Origin and History of Irish Names of Places," Series I. Part
i. Chapter ii.)



They sailed that day and night, as well as the whole of next day, till
darkness came on again; and at midnight they saw two small bare islands,
with two great houses on them near the shore. When they drew near, they
heard the sounds of merriment and laughter, and the shouts of revellers
intermingled with the loud voices of warriors boasting of their deeds.
And listening to catch the conversation, they heard one warrior say to

"Stand off from me, for I am a better warrior than thou; it was I who
slew Allil Ocar Aga, and burned Dooclone over his head; and no one has
ever dared to avenge it on me. Thou hast never done a great deed like

"Now surely," said Germane and Diuran to Maildun, "Heaven has guided our
ship to this place! Here is an easy victory. Let us now sack this house,
since God has revealed our enemies to us, and delivered them into our

While they were yet speaking, the wind arose, and a great tempest
suddenly broke on them. And they were driven violently before the storm,
all that night and a part of next day, into the great and boundless
ocean; so that they saw neither the islands they had left nor any other
land; and they knew not whither they were going.

Then Maildun said, "Take down your sail and put by your oars, and let
the curragh drift before the wind in whatsoever direction it pleases God
to lead us;" which was done.

He then turned to his foster brothers, and said to them, "This evil has
befallen us because we took you into the curragh, thereby violating the
druid's directions; for he forbade me to go to sea with more than sixty
men for my crew, and we had that number before you joined us. Of a
surety more evil will come of it."

His foster brothers answered nothing to this, but remained silent.



For three days and three nights they saw no land. On the morning of the
fourth day, while it was yet dark, they heard a sound to the north-east;
and Germane said--

"This is the voice of the waves breaking on the shore."

As soon as it was light they saw land and made towards it. While they
were casting lots to know who should go and explore the country, they
saw great flocks of ants coming down to the beach, each of them as large
as a foal. The people judged by their numbers, and by their eager and
hungry look, that they were bent on eating both ship and crew; so they
turned their vessel round and sailed quickly away.

    Their multitudes countless, prodigious their size;
      Were never such ants seen or heard of before.
    They struggled and tumbled and plunged for the prize,
    And fiercely the famine-fire blazed from their eyes,
      As they ground with their teeth the red sand of the shore!



Again for three days and three nights they saw no land. But on the
morning of the fourth day they heard the murmur of the waves on the
beach; and as the day dawned, they saw a large high island, with
terraces all round it, rising one behind another. On the terraces grew
rows of tall trees, on which were perched great numbers of large,
bright-coloured birds.

When the crew were about to hold council as to who should visit the
island and see whether the birds were tame, Maildun himself offered to
go. So he went with a few companions; and they viewed the island warily,
but found nothing to hurt or alarm them; after which they caught great
numbers of the birds and brought them to their ship.

    A shield-shaped island, with terraces crowned,
    And great trees circling round and round:
    From the summit down to the wave-washed rocks,
    There are bright-coloured birds in myriad flocks--
    Their plumes are radiant; but hunger is keen;
              So the birds are killed,
              Till the curragh is filled,
    And the sailors embark on the ocean green!



They sailed from this, and on the fourth day discovered a large, sandy
island, on which, when they came near, they saw a huge, fearful animal
standing on the beach, and looking at them very attentively. He was
somewhat like a horse in shape; but his legs were like the legs of a
dog; and he had great, sharp claws of a blue colour.

Maildun, having viewed this monster for some time, liked not his look;
and, telling his companions to watch him closely, for that he seemed
bent on mischief, he bade the oarsmen row very slowly towards land.

The monster seemed much delighted when the ship drew nigh the shore, and
gambolled and pranced about with joy on the beach, before the eyes of
the voyagers; for he intended to eat the whole of them the moment they

"He seems not at all sorry to see us coming," said Maildun; "but we must
avoid him and put back from the shore."

This was done. And when the animal observed them drawing off, he ran
down in a great rage to the very water's edge, and digging up large,
round pebbles with his sharp claws, he began to fling them at the
vessel; but the crew soon got beyond his reach, and sailed into the open

    A horrible monster, with blazing eyes,
    In shape like a horse and tremendous in size,
        Awaiting the curragh, they saw;
            With big bony jaws
            And murderous claws,
        That filled them with terror and awe:
            How gleeful he dances,
            And bellows and prances,
        As near to the island they draw;
            Expecting a feast--
            The bloodthirsty beast--
        With his teeth like edge of a saw:
            Then he ran to the shore,
            With a deafening roar,
        Intending to swallow them raw:
            But the crew, with a shout,
            Put their vessel about,
        And escaped from his ravenous maw![LXXII.]



After sailing a long distance, they came in view of a broad, flat
island. It fell to the lot of Germane to go and examine it, and he did
not think the task a pleasant one. Then his friend Diuran said to him--

"I will go with you this time; and when next it falls to my lot to visit
an island, you shall come with me." So both went together.

They found the island very large; and some distance from the shore they
came to a broad green race-course, in which they saw immense
hoof-marks, the size of a ship's sail, or of a large dining-table. They
found nut-shells, as large as helmets, scattered about; and although
they could see no one, they observed all the marks and tokens that
people of huge size were lately employed there at sundry kinds of work.

Seeing these strange signs, they became alarmed, and went and called
their companions from the boat to view them. But the others, when they
had seen them, were also struck with fear, and all quickly retired from
the place and went on board their curragh.

When they had got a little way from the land, they saw dimly, as it were
through a mist, a vast multitude of people on the sea, of gigantic size
and demoniac look, rushing along the crests of the waves with great
outcry. As soon as this shadowy host had landed, they went to the green,
where they arranged a horse-race.

The horses were swifter than the wind; and as they pressed forward in
the race, the multitudes raised a mighty shout like thunder, which
reached the crew as if it were beside them. Maildun and his men, as they
sat in their curragh, heard the strokes of the whips and the cries of
the riders; and though the race was far off, they could distinguish the
eager words of the spectators:--"Observe the grey horse!" "See that
chestnut horse!" "Watch the horse with the white spots!" "My horse leaps
better than yours!"

After seeing and hearing these things, the crew sailed away from the
island as quickly as they were able, into the open ocean, for they felt
quite sure that the multitude they saw was a gathering of demons.

   A spacious isle of meadowy plains, with a broad and sandy shore:
   Two bold and trusty spies are sent, its wonders to explore.
   Mysterious signs, strange, awful sights, now meet the wanderers'
   Vast hoof-marks, and the traces dire of men of monstrous size:
   And lo! on the sea, in countless hosts, their shadowy forms expand;
   They pass the affrighted sailors by, and like demons they rush to
   They mount their steeds, and the race is run, in the midst of
   hell's uproar:
   Then the wanderers quickly raise their sails, and leave the
   accursèd shore.


[LXXII.] See note, page 128.



They suffered much from hunger and thirst this time, for they sailed a
whole week without making land; but at the end of that time they came in
sight of a high island, with a large and very splendid house on the
beach near the water's edge. There were two doors--one turned inland,
and the other facing the sea; and the door that looked towards the sea
was closed with a great flat stone. In this stone was an opening,
through which the waves, as they beat against the door every day, threw
numbers of salmon into the house.

The voyagers landed, and went through the whole house without meeting
any one. But they saw in one large room an ornamented couch, intended
for the head of the house, and in each of the other rooms was a larger
one for three members of the family: and there was a cup of crystal on a
little table before each couch. They found abundance of food and ale,
and they ate and drank till they were satisfied, thanking God for having
relieved them from hunger and thirst.

    Aloft, high towering o'er the ocean's foam,
    The spacious mansion rears its glittering dome.
    Each day the billows, through the marble door,
    Shoot living salmon floundering on the floor.
    Couches that lure the sailors to recline,
    Abundant food, brown ale, and sparkling wine;
    Tables and chairs in order duly placed,
    With crystal cups and golden goblets graced.
    But not a living soul the wanderers found;
    'Twas silence all and solitude profound.
    They eat and drink, give thanks, then hoist their sail,
    And skim the deep once more, obedient to the gale.



After leaving this, they suffered again from hunger, till they came to
an island with a high hill round it on every side. A single apple tree
grew in the middle, very tall and slender, and all its branches were in
like manner exceedingly slender, and of wonderful length, so that they
grew over the hill and down to the sea.

When the ship came near the island, Maildun caught one of the branches
in his hand. For three days and three nights the ship coasted the
island, and during all this time he held the branch, letting it slide
through his hand, till on the third day he found a cluster of seven
apples on the very end. Each of these apples supplied the travellers
with food and drink for forty days and forty nights.



A beautiful island next came in view, in which they saw, at a distance,
multitudes of large animals shaped like horses. The voyagers, as they
drew near, viewed them attentively, and soon observed that one of them
opened his mouth and bit a great piece out of the side of the animal
that stood next him, bringing away skin and flesh. Immediately after,
another did the same to the nearest of his fellows. And, in short, the
voyagers saw that all the animals in the island kept worrying and
tearing each other from time to time in this manner; so that the ground
was covered far and wide with the blood that streamed from their sides.

    In needless strife they oft contend,
      A cruel, mutual-mangling brood;
    Their flesh with gory tusks they rend,
      And crimson all the isle with blood.



The next island had a wall all round it. When they came near the shore,
an animal of vast size, with a thick, rough skin, started up inside the
wall, and ran round the island with the swiftness of the wind. When he
had ended his race, he went to a high point, and standing on a large,
flat stone, began to exercise himself according to his daily custom, in
the following manner. He kept turning himself completely round and round
in his skin, the bones and flesh moving, while the skin remained at

When he was tired of this exercise, he rested a little; and he then
began turning his skin continually round his body, down at one side and
up at the other like a mill-wheel; but the bones and flesh did not move.

After spending some time at this sort of work, he started and ran round
the island as at first, as if to refresh himself. He then went back to
the same spot, and this time, while the skin that covered the lower part
of his body remained without motion, he whirled the skin of the upper
part round and round like the movement of a flat-lying millstone. And it
was in this manner that he spent most of his time on the island.

Maildun and his people, after they had seen these strange doings,
thought it better not to venture nearer. So they put out to sea in great
haste. The monster, observing them about to fly, ran down to the beach
to seize the ship; but finding that they had got out of his reach, he
began to fling round stones at them with great force and an excellent
aim. One of them struck Maildun's shield and went quite through it,
lodging in the keel of the curragh; after which the voyagers got beyond
his range and sailed away.

    In a wall-circled isle a big monster they found,
      With a hide like an elephant, leathery and bare;
    He threw up his heels with a wonderful bound,
      And ran round the isle with the speed of a hare.

    But a feat more astounding has yet to be told:
      He turned round and round in his leathery skin;
    His bones and his flesh and his sinews he rolled--
      He was resting outside while he twisted within!

    Then, changing his practice with marvellous skill,
      His carcase stood rigid and round went his hide;
    It whirled round his bones like the wheel of a mill--
      He was resting within while he twisted outside!

    Next, standing quite near on a green little hill,
      After galloping round in the very same track,
    While the skin of his belly stood perfectly still,
      Like a millstone he twisted the skin of his back!

    But Maildun and his men put to sea in their boat,
      For they saw his two eyes looking over the wall;
    And they knew by the way that he opened his throat,
      He intended to swallow them, curragh and all![LXXIII.]


[LXXIII.] The verse in the original is quite serious; but I could not
resist the temptation to give it a humorous turn. The same observation
applies to the verse at page 122.



Not daring to land on this island, they turned away hurriedly, much
disheartened, not knowing whither to turn or where to find a
resting-place. They sailed for a long time, suffering much from hunger
and thirst, and praying fervently to be relieved from their distress. At
last, when they were beginning to sink into a state of despondency,
being quite worn out with toil and hardship of every kind, they sighted

It was a large and beautiful island, with innumerable fruit trees
scattered over its surface, bearing abundance of gold-coloured apples.
Under the trees they saw herds of short, stout animals, of a bright red
colour, shaped somewhat like pigs; but coming nearer, and looking more
closely, they perceived with astonishment that the animals were all
fiery, and that their bright colour was caused by the red flames which
penetrated and lighted up their bodies.

The voyagers now observed several of them approach one of the trees in a
body, and striking the trunk all together with their hind legs, they
shook down some of the apples and ate them. In this manner the animals
employed themselves every day, from early morning till the setting of
the sun when they retired into deep caves, and were seen no more till
next morning.

Numerous flocks of birds were swimming on the sea, all round the island.
From morning till noon, they continued to swim away from the land,
farther and farther out to sea; but at noon they turned round, and from
that to sunset they swam back towards the shore. A little after sunset,
when the animals had retired to their caves, the birds flocked in on the
island, and spread themselves over it, plucking the apples from the
trees and eating them.

Maildun proposed that they should land on the island, and gather some of
the fruit, saying that it was not harder or more dangerous for them than
for the birds; so two of the men were sent beforehand to examine the
place. They found the ground hot under their feet, for the fiery
animals, as they lay at rest, heated the earth all around and above
their caves; but the two scouts persevered notwithstanding, and brought
away some of the apples.

When morning dawned, the birds left the island and swam out to sea; and
the fiery animals, coming forth from their caves, went among the trees
as usual, and ate the apples till evening. The crew remained in their
curragh all day; and as soon as the animals had gone into their caves
for the night, and the birds had taken their place, Maildun landed with
all his men. And they plucked the apples till morning, and brought them
on board, till they had gathered as much as they could stow into their



After rowing for a long time, their store of apples failed them, and
they had nothing to eat or drink; so that they suffered sorely under a
hot sun, and their mouths and nostrils were filled with the briny smell
of the sea. At last they came in sight of land--a little island with a
large palace on it. Around the palace was a wall, white all over,
without stain or flaw, as if it had been built of burnt lime, or carved
out of one unbroken rock of chalk; and where it looked towards the sea
it was so lofty that it seemed almost to reach the clouds.

The gate of this outer wall was open, and a number of fine houses, all
snowy white, were ranged round on the inside, enclosing a level court in
the middle, on which all the houses opened. Maildun and his people
entered the largest of them, and walked through several rooms without
meeting with any one. But on reaching the principal apartment, they saw
in it a small cat, playing among a number of low, square, marble
pillars, which stood ranged in a row; and his play was, leaping
continually from the top of one pillar to the top of another. When the
men entered the room, the cat looked at them for a moment, but returned
to his play anon, and took no further notice of them.

Looking now to the room itself, they saw three rows of precious jewels
ranged round the wall from one door-jamb to the other. The first was a
row of brooches of gold and silver, with their pins fixed in the wall,
and their heads outwards; the second, a row of torques of gold and
silver; and the third, a row of great swords, with hilts of gold and

Round the room were arranged a number of couches, all pure white and
richly ornamented. Abundant food of various kinds was spread on tables,
among which they observed a boiled ox and a roast hog; and there were
many large drinking-horns, full of good, intoxicating ale.

"Is it for us that this food has been prepared?" said Maildun to the

The cat, on hearing the question, ceased from playing, and looked at
him; but he recommenced his play immediately. Whereupon Maildun told his
people that the dinner was meant for them; and they all sat down, and
ate and drank till they were satisfied, after which they rested and
slept on the couches.

When they awoke, they poured what was left of the ale into one vessel;
and they gathered the remnants of the food to bring them away. As they
were about to go, Maildun's eldest foster brother asked him--

"Shall I bring one of those large torques away with me?"

"By no means," said Maildun; "it is well that we have got food and
rest. Bring nothing away, for it is certain that this house is not left
without some one to guard it."

The young man, however, disregarding Maildun's advice, took down one of
the torques and brought it away. But the cat followed him, and overtook
him in the middle of the court, and, springing on him like a blazing,
fiery arrow, he went through his body, and reduced it in a moment to a
heap of ashes. He then returned to the room, and, leaping up on one of
the pillars, sat upon it.

Maildun turned back, bringing the torque with him, and, approaching the
cat, spoke some soothing words; after which he put the torque back to
the place from which it had been taken. Having done this, he collected
the ashes of his foster brother, and, bringing them to the shore, cast
them into the sea. They all then went on board the curragh, and
continued their voyage, grieving for their lost companion, but thanking
God for His many mercies to them.



On the morning of the third day, they came to another island, which was
divided into two parts by a wall of brass running across the middle.
They saw two great flocks of sheep, one on each side of the wall; and
all those at one side were black, while those at the other side were

A very large man was employed in dividing and arranging the sheep; and
he often took up a sheep and threw it with much ease over the wall from
one side to the other. When he threw over a white sheep among the black
ones, it became black immediately; and in like manner, when he threw a
black sheep over, it was instantly changed to white.

The travellers were very much alarmed on witnessing these doings and
Maildun said--

"It is very well that we know so far. Let us now throw something on
shore, to see whether it also will change colour; if it does, we shall
avoid the island."

So they took a branch with black-coloured bark and threw it towards the
white sheep, and no sooner did it touch the ground than it became white.
They then threw a white-coloured branch on the side of the black sheep,
and in a moment it turned black.

"It is very lucky for us," said Maildun, "that we did not land on the
island, for doubtless our colour would have changed like the colour of
the branches."

So they put about with much fear, and sailed away.



On the third day, they came in view of a large, broad island, on which
they saw a herd of gracefully shaped swine; and they killed one small
porkling for food. Towards the centre rose a high mountain, which they
resolved to ascend, in order to view the island; and Germane and Diuran
Lekerd were chosen for this task.

When they had advanced some distance towards the mountain, they came to
a broad, shallow river; and sitting down on the bank to rest, Germane
dipped the point of his lance into the water, which instantly burned off
the top, as if the lance had been thrust into a furnace. So they went no

On the opposite side of the river, they saw a herd of animals like great
hornless oxen, all lying down; and a man of gigantic size near them: and
Germane began to strike his spear against his shield, in order to rouse
the cattle.

"Why are you frightening the poor young calves in that manner?" demanded
the big shepherd, in a tremendous voice.

Germane, astonished to find that such large animals were nothing more
than calves, instead of answering the question, asked the big man where
the mothers of those calves were.

"They are on the side of yonder mountain," he replied.

Germane and Diuran waited to hear no more; but, returning to their
companions, told them all they had seen and heard; after which the crew
embarked and left the island.



The next island they came to, which was not far off from the last, had a
large mill on it; and near the door stood the miller, a huge-bodied,
strong, burly man. They saw numberless crowds of men and horses laden
with corn, coming towards the mill; and when their corn was ground they
went away towards the west. Great herds of all kinds of cattle covered
the plain as far as the eye could reach, and among them many wagons
laden with every kind of wealth that is produced on the ridge of the
world. All these the miller put into the mouth of his mill to be ground;
and all, as they came forth, went westwards.

Maildun and his people now spoke to the miller, and asked him the name
of the mill, and the meaning of all they had seen on the island. And he,
turning quickly towards them, replied in few words--

"This mill is called the Mill of Inver-tre-Kenand, and I am the miller
of hell. All the corn and all the riches of the world that men are
dissatisfied with, or which they complain of in any way, are sent here
to be ground; and also every precious article, and every kind of wealth,
which men try to conceal from God. All these I grind in the Mill of
Inver-tre-Kenand, and send them afterwards away to the west."

He spoke no more, but turned round and busied himself again with his
mill. And the voyagers, with much wonder and awe in their hearts, went
to their curragh and sailed away.[LXXIV.]



After leaving this, they had not been long sailing when they discovered
another large island, with a great multitude of people on it. They were
all black, both skin and clothes, with black head-dresses also; and they
kept walking about, sighing and weeping and wringing their hands,
without the least pause or rest.

It fell to the lot of Maildun's second foster brother to go and examine
the island. And when he went among the people, he also grew sorrowful,
and fell to weeping and wringing his hands, with the others. Two of the
crew were sent to bring him back; but they were unable to find him among
the mourners; and, what was worse, in a little time they joined the
crowd, and began to weep and lament like all the rest.

Maildun then chose four men to go and bring back the others by force,
and he put arms in their hands, and gave them these directions--

"When you land on the island, fold your mantles round your faces, so as
to cover your mouths and noses, that you may not breathe the air of the
country; and look neither to the right nor to the left, neither at the
earth nor at the sky, but fix your eyes on your own men till you have
laid hands on them."

They did exactly as they were told, and having come up with their two
companions, namely, those who had been sent after Maildun's foster
brother, they seized them and brought them back by force. But the other
they could not find. When these two were asked what they had seen on the
island, and why they began to weep, their only reply was--

"We cannot tell; we only know that we did what we saw the others doing."

And after this the voyagers sailed away from the island, leaving
Maildun's second foster brother behind.


[LXXIV.] The incident of the big miller occurs in the Voyage of the Sons
of O'Corra, as well as in the Voyage of Maildun. The two accounts are
somewhat different; and I have combined both here.



The next was a high island, divided into four parts by four walls
meeting in the centre. The first was a wall of gold; the second, a wall
of silver; the third, a wall of copper; and the fourth, a wall of
crystal. In the first of the four divisions were kings; in the second,
queens; in the third, youths; and in the fourth, young maidens.

When the voyagers landed, one of the maidens came to meet them, and
leading them forward to a house, gave them food. This food, which she
dealt out to them from a small vessel, looked like cheese, and whatever
taste pleased each person best, that was the taste he found on it. And
after they had eaten till they were satisfied, they slept in a sweet
sleep, as if gently intoxicated, for three days and three nights. When
they awoke on the third day, they found themselves in their curragh on
the open sea; and there was no appearance in any direction either of the
maiden or of the island.



They came now to a small island, with a palace on it, having a copper
chain in front, hung all over with a number of little silver bells.
Straight before the door there was a fountain, spanned by a bridge of
crystal, which led to the palace. They walked towards the bridge,
meaning to cross it, but every time they stepped on it they fell
backwards flat on the ground.

After some time, they saw a very beautiful young woman coming out of the
palace, with a pail in her hand; and she lifted a crystal slab from the
bridge, and, having filled her vessel from the fountain, she went back
into the palace.

"This woman has been sent to keep house for Maildun," said Germane.

"Maildun indeed!" said she, as she shut the door after her.

After this they began to shake the copper chain, and the tinkling of the
silver bells was so soft and melodious that the voyagers gradually fell
into a gentle, tranquil sleep, and slept so till next morning. When they
awoke, they saw the same young woman coming forth from the palace, with
the pail in her hand; and she lifted the crystal slab as before, filled
her vessel, and returned into the palace.

"This woman has certainly been sent to keep house for Maildun," said

"Wonderful are the powers of Maildun!" said she, as she shut the door of
the court behind her.

They stayed in this place for three days and three nights, and each
morning the maiden came forth in the same manner, and filled her pail.
On the fourth day, she came towards them, splendidly and beautifully
dressed, with her bright yellow hair bound by a circlet of gold, and
wearing silver-work shoes on her small, white feet. She had a white
mantle over her shoulders, which was fastened in front by a silver
brooch studded with gold; and under all, next her soft, snow-white skin,
was a garment of fine white silk.

"My love to you, Maildun, and to your companions," she said; and she
mentioned them all, one after another, calling each by his own proper
name. "My love to you," said she. "We knew well that you were coming to
our island, for your arrival has long been foretold to us."

Then she led them to a large house standing by the sea, and she caused
the curragh to be drawn high up on the beach. They found in the house a
number of couches, one of which was intended for Maildun alone, and each
of the others for three of his people. The woman then gave them, from
one vessel, food which was like cheese; first of all ministering to
Maildun, and then giving a triple share to every three of his
companions; and whatever taste each man wished for, that was the taste
he found on it. She then lifted the crystal slab at the bridge, filled
her pail, and dealt out drink to them; and she knew exactly how much to
give, both of food and of drink, so that each had enough and no more.

"This woman would make a fit wife for Maildun," said his people. But
while they spoke, she went from them with her pail in her hand.

When she was gone, Maildun's companions said to him, "Shall we ask this
maiden to become thy wife?"

He answered, "What advantage will it be to you to ask her?"

She came next morning, and they said to her, "Why dost thou not stay
here with us? Wilt thou make friendship with Maildun; and wilt thou take
him for thy husband?"

She replied that she and all those that lived on the island were
forbidden to marry with the sons of men; and she told them that she
could not disobey, as she knew not what sin or transgression was.

She then went from them to her house; and on the next morning, when she
returned, and after she had ministered to them as usual, till they were
satisfied with food and drink, and were become cheerful, they spoke the
same words to her.

"To-morrow," she replied, "you will get an answer to your question;" and
so saying, she walked towards her house, and they went to sleep on their

When they awoke next morning, they found themselves lying in their
curragh on the sea, beside a great high rock; and when they looked
about, they saw neither the woman, nor the palace of the crystal bridge,
nor any trace of the island where they had been sojourning.



One night, soon after leaving this, they heard in the distance, towards
the north-east, a confused murmur of voices, as if from a great number
of persons singing psalms. They followed the direction of the sound, in
order to learn from what it proceeded; and at noon the next day, they
came in view of an island, very hilly and lofty. It was full of birds,
some black, some brown, and some speckled, who were all shouting and
speaking with human voices; and it was from them that the great clamour



At a little distance from this they found another small island, with
many trees on it, some standing singly, and some in clusters, on which
were perched great numbers of birds. They also saw an aged man on the
island, who was covered thickly all over with long, white hair, and wore
no other dress. And when they landed, they spoke to him, and asked him
who he was and what race he belonged to.

"I am one of the men of Erin," he replied. "On a certain day, a long,
long time ago, I embarked in a small curragh, and put out to sea on a
pilgrimage; but I had got only a little way from shore, when my curragh
became very unsteady, as if it were about to overturn. So I returned to
land, and, in order to steady my boat, I placed under my feet at the
bottom, a number of green surface sods, cut from one of the grassy
fields of my own country, and began my voyage anew. Under the guidance
of God, I arrived at this spot; and He fixed the sods in the sea for me,
so that they formed a little island. At first I had barely room to
stand; but every year, from that time to the present, the Lord has added
one foot to the length and breadth of my island, till in the long lapse
of ages it has grown to its present size. And on one day in each year,
He has caused a single tree to spring up, till the island has become
covered with trees. Moreover, I am so old that my body, as you see, has
become covered with long, white hair, so that I need no other dress.

"And the birds that ye see on the trees," he continued, "these are the
souls of my children, and of all my descendants, both men and women, who
are sent to this little island to abide with me according as they die in
Erin. God has caused a well of ale to spring up for us on the island:
and every morning the angels bring me half a cake, a slice of fish, and
a cup of ale from the well; and in the evening the same allowance of
food and ale is dealt out to each man and woman of my people. And it is
in this manner that we live, and shall continue to live till the end of
the world; for we are all awaiting here the day of judgment."

Maildun and his companions were treated hospitably on the island by the
old pilgrim for three days and three nights; and when they were taking
leave of him, he told them that they should all reach their own country
except one man.



When they had been for a long time tossed about on the waters, they saw
land in the distance. On approaching the shore, they heard the roaring
of a great bellows, and the thundering sound of smiths' hammers striking
a large glowing mass of iron on an anvil; and every blow seemed to
Maildun as loud as if a dozen men had brought down their sledges all

When they had come a little nearer, they heard the big voices of the
smiths in eager talk.

"Are they near?" asked one.

"Hush! silence!" says another.

"Who are they that you say are coming?" inquired a third.

"Little fellows, that are rowing towards our shore in a pigmy boat,"
says the first.

When Maildun heard this, he hastily addressed the crew--

"Put back at once, but do not turn the curragh: reverse the sweep of
your oars, and let her move stern forward, so that those giants may not
perceive that we are flying!"

The crew at once obey, and the boat begins to move away from the shore,
stern forward, as he had commanded.

The first smith again spoke. "Are they near enough to the shore?" said
he to the man who was watching.

"They seem to be at rest," answered the other; "for I cannot perceive
that they are coming closer, and they have not turned their little boat
to go back."

In a short time the first smith asks again, "What are they doing now?"

"I think," said the watcher, "they are flying; for it seems to me that
they are now farther off than they were a while ago."

At this the first smith rushed out of the forge--a huge, burly
giant--holding, in the tongs which he grasped in his right hand, a vast
mass of iron sparkling and glowing from the furnace; and, running down
to the shore with long, heavy strides, he flung the red-hot mass with
all his might after the curragh. It fell a little short, and plunged
down just near the prow, causing the whole sea to hiss and boil and
heave up around the boat. But they plied their oars, so that they
quickly got beyond his reach, and sailed out into the open ocean.



After a time, they came to a sea like green crystal. It was so calm and
transparent that they could see the sand at the bottom quite clearly,
sparkling in the sunlight. And in this sea they saw neither monsters,
nor ugly animals, nor rough rocks; nothing but the clear water and the
sunshine and the bright sand. For a whole day they sailed over it,
admiring its splendour and beauty.



After leaving this they entered on another sea, which seemed like a
clear, thin cloud; and it was so transparent, and appeared so light,
that they thought at first it would not bear up the weight of the

Looking down, they could see, beneath the clear water, a beautiful
country, with many mansions surrounded by groves and woods. In one place
was a single tree; and, standing on its branches, they saw an animal
fierce and terrible to look upon.

Round about the tree was a great herd of oxen grazing, and a man stood
near to guard them, armed with shield and spear and sword; but when he
looked up and saw the animal on the tree, he turned anon and fled with
the utmost speed. Then the monster stretched forth his neck, and,
darting his head downward, plunged his fangs into the back of the
largest ox of the whole herd, lifted him off the ground into the tree,
and swallowed him down in the twinkling of an eye; whereupon the whole
herd took to flight.

When Maildun and his people saw this, they were seized with great
terror; for they feared they should not be able to cross the sea over
the monster, on account of the extreme mist-like thinness of the water;
but after much difficulty and danger they got across it safely.



When they came to the next island, they observed with astonishment that
the sea rose up over it on every side, steep and high, standing, as it
were, like a wall all round it. When the people of the island saw the
voyagers, they rushed hither and thither, shouting, "There they are,
surely! There they come again for another spoil!"

Then Maildun's people saw great numbers of men and women, all shouting
and driving vast herds of horses, cows, and sheep. A woman began to pelt
the crew from below with large nuts; she flung them so that they
alighted on the waves round the boat, where they remained floating; and
the crew gathered great quantities of them and kept them for eating.

When they turned to go away, the shouting ceased: and they heard one man
calling aloud, "Where are they now?" and another answering him, "They
are gone away!"

From what Maildun saw and heard at this island, it is likely that it had
been foretold to the people that their country should some day be
spoiled by certain marauders; and that they thought Maildun and his men
were the enemies they expected.



On the next island they saw a very wonderful thing, namely, a great
stream of water which, gushing up out of the strand, rose into the air
in the form of a rainbow, till it crossed the whole island and came down
on the strand at the other side. They walked under it without getting
wet; and they hooked down from it many large salmon. Great quantities of
salmon of a very great size fell also out of the water over their heads
down on the ground; so that the whole island smelled of fish, and it
became troublesome to gather them on account of their abundance.

From the evening of Sunday till the evening of Monday, the stream never
ceased to flow, and never changed its place, but remained spanning the
island like a solid arch of water. Then the voyagers gathered the
largest of the salmon, till they had as much as the curragh would hold;
after which they sailed out into the great sea.



The next thing they found after this was an immense silver pillar
standing in the sea. It had eight sides, each of which was the width of
an oar-stroke of the curragh, so that its whole circumference was eight
oar-strokes. It rose out of the sea without any land or earth about it,
nothing but the boundless ocean; and they could not see its base deep
down in the water, neither were they able to see the top on account of
its vast height.

A silver net hung from the top down to the very water, extending far out
at one side of the pillar; and the meshes were so large that the curragh
in full sail went through one of them. When they were passing through
it, Diuran struck the mesh with the edge of his spear, and with the blow
cut a large piece off it.

"Do not destroy the net," said Maildun; "for what we see is the work of
great men."

"What I have done," answered Diuran, "is for the honour of my God, and
in order that the story of our adventures may be more readily believed;
and I shall lay this silver as an offering on the altar of Armagh, if I
ever reach Erin."

That piece of silver weighed two ounces and a half, as it was reckoned
afterwards by the people of the church of Armagh.

After this they heard some one speaking on the top of the pillar, in a
loud, clear, glad voice; but they knew neither what he said, nor in what
language he spoke.



The island they saw after this was named Encos;[LXXV.] and it was so
called because it was supported by a single pillar in the middle. They
rowed all round it, seeking how they might get into it; but could find
no landing-place. At the foot of the pillar, however, down deep in the
water, they saw a door securely closed and locked, and they judged that
this was the way into the island. They called aloud, to find out if any
persons were living there; but they got no reply. So they left it, and
put out to sea once more.


[LXXV.] Encos means "one foot."



The next island they reached was very large. On one side rose a lofty,
smooth, heath-clad mountain, and all the rest of the island was a grassy
plain. Near the sea-shore stood a great high palace, adorned with
carvings and precious stones, and strongly fortified with a high rampart
all round. After landing, they went towards the palace, and sat to rest
on the bench before the gateway leading through the outer rampart; and,
looking in through the open door, they saw a number of beautiful young
maidens in the court.

After they had sat for some time, a rider appeared at a distance, coming
swiftly towards the palace; and on a near approach, the travellers
perceived that it was a lady, young and beautiful and richly dressed.
She wore a blue, rustling silk head-dress; a silver-fringed purple cloak
hung from her shoulders; her gloves were embroidered with gold thread;
and her feet were laced becomingly in close-fitting scarlet sandals. One
of the maidens came out and held her horse, while she dismounted and
entered the palace; and soon after she had gone in, another of the
maidens came towards Maildun and his companions and said--

"You are welcome to this island. Come into the palace; the queen has
sent me to invite you, and is waiting to receive you."

They followed the maiden into the palace; and the queen bade them
welcome, and received them kindly. Then, leading them into a large hall
in which a plentiful dinner was laid out, she bade them sit down and
eat. A dish of choice food and a crystal goblet of wine were placed
before Maildun; while a single dish and a single drinking-bowl, with a
triple quantity of meat and drink, were laid before each three of his
companions. And having eaten and drunk till they were satisfied, they
went to sleep on soft couches till morning.

Next day, the queen addressed Maildun and his companions--

"Stay now in this country, and do not go a-wandering any longer over the
wide ocean from island to island. Old age or sickness shall never come
upon you; but you shall be always as young as you are at present, and
you shall live for ever a life of ease and pleasure."

"Tell us," said Maildun, "how you pass your life here."

"That is no hard matter," answered the queen. "The good king who
formerly ruled over this island was my husband, and these fair young
maidens that you see are our children. He died after a long reign, and
as he left no son, I now reign, the sole ruler of the island. And every
day I go to the Great Plain, to administer justice and to decide causes
among my people."

"Wilt thou go from us to-day?" asked Maildun.

"I must needs go even now," she replied, "to give judgments among the
people; but as to you, you will all stay in this house till I return in
the evening, and you need not trouble yourselves with any labour or

They remained in that island during the three months of winter. And
these three months appeared to Maildun's companions as long as three
years, for they began to have an earnest desire to return to their
native land. At the end of that time, one of them said to Maildun--

"We have been a long time here; why do we not return to our own

"What you say is neither good nor sensible," answered Maildun, "for we
shall not find in our own country anything better than we have here."

But this did not satisfy his companions, and they began to murmur
loudly. "It is quite clear," said they, "that Maildun loves the queen of
this island; and as this is so, let him stay here; but as for us, we
will return to our own country."

Maildun, however, would not consent to remain after them, and he told
them that he would go away with them.

Now, on a certain day, not long after this conversation, as soon as the
queen had gone to the Great Plain to administer justice, according to
her daily custom, they got their curragh ready and put out to sea. They
had not gone very far from land when the queen came riding towards the
shore; and, seeing how matters stood, she went into the palace and soon
returned with a ball of thread in her hand.

Walking down to the water's edge, she flung the ball after the curragh,
but held the end of the thread in her hand. Maildun caught the ball as
it was passing, and it clung to his hand; and the queen, gently pulling
the thread towards her, drew back the curragh to the very spot from
which they had started in the little harbour. And when they had landed,
she made them promise that if ever this happened again, some one should
always stand up in the boat and catch the ball.

The voyagers abode on the island, much against their will, for nine
months longer. For every time they attempted to escape, the queen
brought them back by means of the clew, as she had done at first,
Maildun always catching the ball.

At the end of the nine months, the men held council, and this is what
they said--

"We know now that Maildun does not wish to leave the island; for he
loves this queen very much, and he catches the ball whenever we try to
escape, in order that we may be brought back to the palace."

Maildun replied, "Let some one else attend to the ball next time, and
let us try whether it will cling to his hand."

They agreed to this, and, watching their opportunity, they again put off
towards the open sea. The queen arrived, as usual, before they had gone
very far and flung the ball after them as before. Another man of the
crew caught it, and it clung as firmly to his hand as to Maildun's; and
the queen began to draw the curragh towards the shore. But Diuran,
drawing his sword, cut off the man's hand, which fell with the ball into
the sea; and the men gladly plying their oars, the curragh resumed her
outward voyage.

When the queen saw this, she began to weep and lament, wringing her
hands and tearing her hair with grief; and her maidens also began to
weep and cry aloud and clap their hands, so that the whole palace was
full of grief and lamentation. But none the less did the men bend to
their oars, and the curragh sailed away; and it was in this manner that
the voyagers made their escape from the island.



They were now a long time tossed about on the great billows, when at
length they came in view of an island with many trees on it. These trees
were somewhat like hazels, and they were laden with a kind of fruit
which the voyagers had not seen before, extremely large, and not very
different in appearance from apples, except that they had a rough,
berry-like rind.

After the crew had plucked all the fruit off one small tree, they cast
lots who should try them, and the lot fell on Maildun. So he took some
of them, and, squeezing the juice into a vessel, drank it. It threw him
into a sleep of intoxication so deep that he seemed to be in a trance
rather than in a natural slumber, without breath or motion, and with the
red foam on his lips. And from that hour till the same hour next day, no
one could tell whether he was living or dead.

When he awoke next day, he bade his people to gather as much of the
fruit as they could bring away with them; for the world, as he told
them, never produced anything of such surpassing goodness. They pressed
out the juice of the fruit till they had filled all their vessels; and
so powerful was it to produce intoxication and sleep, that, before
drinking it, they had to mix a large quantity of water with it to
moderate its strength.



The island they came to next was larger than most of those they had
seen. On one side grew a wood of yew trees and great oaks; and on the
other side was a grassy plain, with one small lake in the midst. A
noble-looking house stood on the near part of the plain, with a small
church not far off; and numerous flocks of sheep browsed over the whole

The travellers went to the church, and found in it a hermit, with
snow-white beard and hair, and all the other marks of great old age.
Maildun asked who he was, and whence he had come.

He replied, "I am one of the fifteen people, who, following the example
of our master, Brendan of Birra,[20] sailed on a pilgrimage out into the
great ocean. After many wanderings, we settled on this island, where we
lived for a long time; but my companions died one after another, and of
all who came hither, I alone am left."

The old pilgrim then showed them Brendan's satchel,[21] which he and his
companions had brought with them on their pilgrimage; and Maildun kissed
it, and all bowed down in veneration before it. And he told them that as
long as they remained there, they might eat of the sheep and of the
other food of the island; but to waste nothing.

One day, as they were seated on a hill, gazing out over the sea, they
saw what they took to be a black cloud coming towards them from the
south-west. They continued to view it very closely as it came nearer and
nearer; and at last they perceived with amazement that it was an immense
bird, for they saw quite plainly the slow, heavy flapping of his wings.
When he reached the island, he alighted on a little hillock over the
lake; and they felt no small alarm, for they thought, on account of his
vast size, that if he saw them, he might seize them in his talons, and
carry them off over the sea. So they hid themselves under trees and in
the crannies of rocks; but they never lost sight of the bird, for they
were bent on watching his movements.

He appeared very old, and he held in one claw a branch of a tree, which
he had brought with him over the sea, larger and heavier than the
largest full-grown oak. It was covered with fresh, green leaves, and was
heavily laden with clusters of fruit, red and rich-looking like grapes,
but much larger.

He remained resting for a time on the hill, being much wearied after his
flight, and at last he began to eat the fruit off the branch. After
watching him for some time longer, Maildun ventured warily towards the
hillock, to see whether he was inclined to mischief; but the bird showed
no disposition to harm him. This emboldened the others, and they all
followed their chief.

The whole crew now marched in a body round the bird, headed by Maildun,
with their shields raised; and as he still made no stir, one of the men,
by Maildun's directions, went straight in front of him, and brought away
some of the fruit from the branch which he still held in his talons. But
the bird went on plucking and eating his fruit, and never took the least

On the evening of that same day, as the men sat looking over the sea to
the south-west, where the great bird first appeared to them, they saw
in the distance two others, quite as large, coming slowly towards them
from the very same point. On they came, flying at a vast height, nearer
and nearer, till at last they swooped down and alighted on the hillock
in front of the first bird, one on each side.

Although they were plainly much younger than the other, they seemed very
tired, and took a long rest. Then, shaking their wings, they began
picking the old bird all over, body, wings, and head, plucking out the
old feathers and the decayed quill points, and smoothing down his
plumage with their great beaks. After this had gone on for some time,
the three began plucking the fruit off the branch, and they ate till
they were satisfied.

Next morning, the two birds began at the very same work, picking and
arranging the feathers of the old bird as before; and at midday they
ceased, and began again to eat the fruit, throwing the stones and what
they did not eat of the pulp, into the lake, till the water became red
like wine. After this the old bird plunged into the lake and remained in
it, washing himself, till evening, when he again flew up on the hillock,
but perched on a different part of it, to avoid touching and defiling
himself with the old feathers and the other traces of age and decay,
which the younger birds had removed from him.

On the morning of the third day, the two younger birds set about
arranging his feathers for the third time; and on this occasion they
applied themselves to their task in a manner much more careful and
particular than before, smoothing the plumes with the nicest touches,
and arranging them in beautiful lines and glossy tufts and ridges. And
so they continued without the least pause till midday, when they ceased.
Then, after resting for a little while, they opened their great wings,
rose into the air, and flew away swiftly towards the south-west, till
the men lost sight of them in the distance.

Meantime the old bird, after the others had left, continued to smooth
and plume his feathers till evening; then, shaking his wings, he rose
up, and flew three times round the island, as if to try his strength.
And now the men observed that he had lost all the appearances of old
age: his feathers were thick and glossy, his head was erect and his eye
bright, and he flew with quite as much power and swiftness as the
others. Alighting for the last time on the hillock, after resting a
little, he rose again, and turning his flight after the other two, to
the point from which he had come, he was soon lost to view, and the
voyagers saw no more of him.

It now appeared very clear to Maildun and his companions that this bird
had undergone a renewal of youth from old age, according to the word of
the prophet, which says, "Thy youth shall be renewed as the eagle."
Diuran, seeing this great wonder, said to his companions--

"Let us also bathe in the lake, and we shall obtain a renewal of youth
like the bird."

But they said, "Not so, for the bird has left the poison of his old age
and decay in the water."

Diuran, however, would have his own way; and he told them he was
resolved to try the virtue of the water, and that they might follow his
example or not, whichever they pleased. So he plunged in and swam about
for some time, after which he took a little of the water and mixed it in
his mouth; and in the end he swallowed a small quantity. He then came
out perfectly sound and whole; and he remained so ever after, for as
long as he lived he never lost a tooth or had a grey hair, and he
suffered not from disease or bodily weakness of any kind. But none of
the others ventured in.

The voyagers, having remained long enough on this island, stored in
their curragh a large quantity of the flesh of the sheep; and after
bidding farewell to the ancient cleric, they sought the ocean once more.

    Now once again, when winds and tide combine,
    The flying curragh cleaves the crested brine.
    Far to the west an island rose to view,
    With verdant plains, clear streams, and mountains blue.
    An aged hermit, bred in Erin's land,
    Welcomed and blessed the chieftain and his band;
    Brought food and drink, and bade them rest awhile,
    And view the wonders of that lovely isle.
      Lo, from the sea, three birds of monstrous size,
    With vast wings slowly moving, cleave the skies;
    And as they nearer drew, the sailors saw
    One held a fruit branch firmly in his claw.
    Down by the dear, mysterious lake they light,
    Eat from the branch, and rest them from their flight.

      The aged bird, with plumes decayed and thin,
    Paused on the brink awhile, then, plunging in,
    He bath'd and smooth'd his feathers o'er and o'er,
    Shook his great wings and rested on the shore.
      Now while the other two his plumes arrange,
    Through all his frame appears a wondrous change:
    His eyes grow bright, his head erect and bold,
    His glossy plumage shines like burnished gold;
    Free from old age, his glorious form expands;
    In radiant youth and beauty proud he stands!
      Such was the gift that lake of wonder gave;
    Such was the virtue of its mystic wave.



They next came to an island with a great plain extending over its whole
surface. They saw a vast multitude of people on it, engaged in sundry
youthful games, and all continually laughing. The voyagers cast lots who
should go to examine the island; and the lot fell upon Maildun's third
foster brother.

The moment he landed he went among the others and joined in their
pastimes and in their laughter, as if he had been among them all his
life. His companions waited for him a very long time, but were afraid to
venture to land after him; and at last, as there seemed no chance of his
returning, they left him and sailed away.



They came now to a small island with a high rampart of fire all round
it; and that rampart revolved continually round the island. There was
one large open door in the rampart; and whenever the door, in its
involution, came in front of them, they could see almost the whole
island through it, and all that was therein.

And this is what they saw: A great number of people, beautiful and
glorious-looking, wearing rich garments adorned and radiant all over,
feasting joyously, and drinking from embossed vessels of red gold which
they held in their hands. The voyagers heard also their cheerful,
festive songs; and they marvelled greatly, and their hearts were full of
gladness at all the happiness they saw and heard. But they did not
venture to land.



A little time after leaving this, they saw something a long way off
towards the south, which at first they took to be a large white bird
floating on the sea, and rising and falling with the waves; but on
turning their curragh towards it for a nearer view, they found that it
was a man. He was very old, so old that he was covered all over with
long, white hair, which grew from his body; and he was standing on a
broad, bare rock, and kept continually throwing himself on his knees,
and never ceased praying.

When they saw that he was a holy man, they asked and received his
blessing; after which they began to converse with him; and they inquired
who he was, and how he had come to that rock. Then the old man gave them
the following account:--

"I was born and bred in the island of Tory.[LXXVI.] When I grew up to be
a man, I was cook to the brotherhood of the monastery; and a wicked cook
I was; for every day I sold part of the food intrusted to me, and
secretly bought many choice and rare things with the money. Worse even
than this I did; I made secret passages underground into the church and
into the houses belonging to it, and I stole from time to time great
quantities of golden vestments, book-covers adorned with brass and gold,
and other holy and precious things.

"I soon became very rich, and had my rooms filled with costly couches,
with clothes of every colour, both linen and woollen, with brazen
pitchers and caldrons, and with brooches and armlets of gold. Nothing
was wanting in my house, of furniture and ornament, that a person in a
high rank of life might be expected to have; and I became very proud and

"One day, I was sent to dig a grave for the body of a rustic that had
been brought from the mainland to be buried on the island. I went and
fixed on a spot in the little graveyard; but as soon as I had set to
work, I heard a voice speaking down deep in the earth beneath my feet--

"'Do not dig this grave!'

"I paused for a moment, startled; but, recovering myself, I gave no
further heed to the mysterious words, and again I began to dig. The
moment I did so, I heard the same voice, even more plainly than before--

"'Do not dig this grave! I am a devout and holy person, and my body is
lean and light; do not put the heavy, pampered body of that sinner down
upon me!'

"But I answered, in the excess of my pride and obstinacy, 'I will
certainly dig this grave; and I will bury this body down on you!'

"'If you put that body down on me, the flesh will fall off your bones,
and you will die, and be sent to the infernal pit at the end of three
days; and, moreover, the body will not remain where you put it.'

"'What will you give me,' I asked, 'if I do not bury the corpse on you?'

"'Everlasting life in heaven,' replied the voice.

"'How do you know this; and how am I to be sure of it?' I inquired.

"And the voice answered me, 'The grave you are digging is clay. Observe
now whether it will remain so, and then you will know the truth of what
I tell you. And you will see that what I say will come to pass, and that
you cannot bury that man on me, even if you should try to do so.'

"These words were scarce ended, when the grave was turned into a mass of
white sand before my face. And when I saw this, I brought the body away,
and buried it elsewhere.

"It happened, some time after, that I got a new curragh made, with the
hides painted red all over; and I went to sea in it. As I sailed by the
shores and islands, I was so pleased with the view of the land and sea
from my curragh that I resolved to live altogether in it for some time;
and I brought on board all my treasures--silver cups, gold bracelets,
and ornamented drinking-horns, and everything else, from the largest to
the smallest article.

"I enjoyed myself for a time, while the air was clear and the sea calm
and smooth. But one day, the winds suddenly arose and a storm burst upon
me, which carried me out to sea, so that I quite lost sight of land, and
I knew not in what direction the curragh was drifting. After a time, the
wind abated to a gentle gale, the sea became smooth, and the curragh
sailed on as before, with a quiet, pleasant movement.

"But suddenly, though the breeze continued to blow, I thought I could
perceive that the curragh ceased moving, and, standing up to find out
the cause, I saw with great surprise an old man not far off, sitting on
the crest of a wave.

"He spoke to me; and, as soon as I heard his voice, I knew it at once,
but I could not at the moment call to mind where I had heard it before.
And I became greatly troubled, and began to tremble, I knew not why.

"'Whither art thou going?' he asked.

"'I know not,' I replied; 'but this I know, I am pleased with the
smooth, gentle motion of my curragh over the waves.'

"'You would not be pleased,' replied the old man, 'if you could see the
troops that are at this moment around you.'

"'What troops do you speak of?' I asked. And he answered--

"'All the space round about you, as far as your view reaches over the
sea, and upwards to the clouds, is one great towering mass of demons, on
account of your avarice, your thefts, your pride, and your other crimes
and vices.'

"He then asked, 'Do you know why your curragh has stopped?'

"I answered, 'No;' and he said, 'It has been stopped by me; and it will
never move from that spot till you promise me to do what I shall ask of

"I replied that perhaps it was not in my power to grant his demand.

"'It is in your power,' he answered; 'and if you refuse me, the torments
of hell shall be your doom.'

"He then came close to the curragh, and, laying his hands on me, he
made me swear to do what he demanded.

"'What I ask is this,' said he; 'that you throw into the sea this moment
all the ill-gotten treasures you have in the curragh.'

"This grieved me very much, and I replied, 'It is a pity that all these
costly things should be lost.'

"To which he answered, 'They will not go to loss; a person will be sent
to take charge of them. Now do as I say.'

"So, greatly against my wishes, I threw all the beautiful precious
articles overboard, keeping only a small wooden cup to drink from.

"'You will now continue your voyage,' he said; 'and the first solid
ground your curragh reaches, there you are to stay.'

"He then gave me seven cakes and a cup of watery whey as food for my
voyage; after which the curragh moved on, and I soon lost sight of him.
And now I all at once recollected that the old man's voice was the same
as the voice that I had heard come from the ground, when I was about to
dig the grave for the body of the rustic. I was so astonished and
troubled at this discovery, and so disturbed at the loss of all my
wealth, that I threw aside my oars, and gave myself up altogether to the
winds and currents, not caring whither I went; and for a long time I was
tossed about on the waves, I knew not in what direction.

"At last it seemed to me that my curragh ceased to move; but I was not
sure about it, for I could see no sign of land. Mindful, however, of
what the old man had told me, that I was to stay wherever my curragh
stopped, I looked round more carefully; and at last I saw, very near me,
a small rock level with the surface, over which the waves were gently
laughing and tumbling. I stepped on to the rock; and the moment I did
so, the waves seemed to spring back, and the rock rose high over the
level of the water; while the curragh drifted by and quickly
disappeared, so that I never saw it after. This rock has been my abode
from that time to the present day.

"For the first seven years, I lived on the seven cakes and the cup of
whey given me by the man who had sent me to the rock. At the end of that
time the cakes were all gone; and for three days I fasted, with nothing
but the whey to wet my mouth. Late in the evening of the third day, an
otter brought me a salmon out of the sea; but though I suffered much
from hunger, I could not bring myself to eat the fish raw, and it was
washed back again into the waves.

"I remained without food for three days longer; and in the afternoon of
the third day, the otter returned with the salmon. And I saw another
otter bring firewood; and when he had piled it up on the rock, he blew
it with his breath till it took fire and lighted up. And then I broiled
the salmon and ate till I had satisfied my hunger.

"The otter continued to bring me a salmon every day, and in this manner
I lived for seven years longer. The rock also grew larger and larger
daily, till it became the size you now see it. At the end of seven
years, the otter ceased to bring me my salmon, and I fasted for three
days. But at the end of the third day, I was sent half a cake of fine
wheaten flour and a slice of fish; and on the same day my cup of watery
whey fell into the sea, and a cup of the same size, filled with good
ale, was placed on the rock for me.

"And so I have lived, praying and doing penance for my sins to this
hour. Each day my drinking-vessel is filled with ale, and I am sent half
a wheat-flour cake and a slice of fish; and neither rain nor wind, nor
heat, nor cold, is allowed to molest me on this rock."

This was the end of the old man's history. In the evening of that day,
each man of the crew received the same quantity of food that was sent to
the old hermit himself, namely, half a cake and a slice of fish; and
they found in the vessel as much good ale as served them all.

The next morning he said to them, "You shall all reach your own country
in safety. And you, Maildun, you shall find in an island on your way,
the very man that slew your father; but you are neither to kill him nor
take revenge on him in any way. As God has delivered you from the many
dangers you have passed through, though you were very guilty, and well
deserved death at His hands; so you forgive your enemy the crime he
committed against you."

After this they took leave of the old man and sailed away.


    The storms may roar and the seas may rage,
      But here, on this bare, brown rock,
    I pray and repent and I tell my beads,
      Secure from the hurricane's shock.

    For the good, kind God, in pity to me,
      Holds out His protecting hand;
    And cold nor heat nor storm nor sleet,
      Can molest me where I stand.

    I robbed the churches and wronged the poor,
      And grew richer day by day;
    But now on this bare, brown ocean rock,
      A heavy penance I pay.

    A bloated sinner died unshrived,
      And they brought his corse to me--
    "Go, dig the grave and bury the dead,
      And pray for the soul set free."

    I dug the grave, but my hands were stayed
      By a solemn and fearful sound,
    For the feeble tones of a dead man's voice
      Came up from the hollow ground!

_The dead monk speaks up from the grave_--

    Place not that pampered corse on mine,
      For my bones are weak and thin;
    I cannot bear the heavy weight
      Of a body defiled by sin.

    I was a meek and holy man;
      I fasted and watched and prayed;
    A sinner's corse would defile the clay
      Where my wasted body is laid.

_The old hermit continues his story_--

    The voice then ceased, and I heard no more
      Its hollow, beseeching tone;
    Then I closed the grave, and left the old monk
      To rest in his coffin alone.

    My curragh sailed on the western main,
      And I saw, as I viewed the sea,
    A withered old man upon a wave;
      And he fixed his eyes on me.

    He spoke, and his voice my heart's blood froze,
      And I shook with horror and fear:
    'Twas the very voice of the dead old monk
      That sounded in mine ear!

_The dead monk speaks again_--

    Far from my grave the sinner's corse
      In unhallowed clay lies deep;
    And now in my coffin, undefiled,
      For ever in peace I sleep.

    Go, live and pray on the bare, brown rock,
      Far out in the stormy sea;
    A heavy penance for heavy crimes,
      And heaven at last for thee!

_The old hermit ends his story_--

    And here I live from age to age;
      I pray and repent and fast;
    An otter brings me food each day,
      And I hope for heaven at last.

    The tempests roar and the billows rage,
      But God holds forth His hand,
    And cold nor heat nor storm nor sleet,
      Can harm me where I stand.


[LXXVI.] Tory Island, off the coast of Donegal, where there was a
monastery dedicated to St. Columkille.



Soon after they saw a beautiful verdant island, with herds of oxen,
cows, and sheep browsing all over its hills and valleys; but no houses
nor inhabitants were to be seen. And they rested for some time on this
island, and ate the flesh of the cows and sheep.

One day, while they were standing on a hill, a large falcon flew by; and
two of the crew, who happened to look closely at him, cried out, in the
hearing of Maildun--

"See that falcon! he is surely like the falcons of Erin!"

"Watch him closely," cried Maildun; "and observe exactly in what
direction he is flying!"

And they saw that he flew to the south-east, without turning or

They went on board at once; and, having unmoored, they sailed to the
south-east after the falcon. After rowing the whole day, they sighted
land in the dusk of the evening, which seemed to them like the land of



On a near approach, they found it was a small island; and now they
recognised it as the very same island they had seen in the beginning of
their voyage, in which they had heard the man in the great house boast
that he had slain Maildun's father, and from which the storm had driven
them out into the great ocean.

They turned the prow of their vessel to the shore, landed, and went
towards the house. It happened that at this very time the people of the
house were seated at their evening meal; and Maildun and his companions,
as they stood outside, heard a part of their conversation.

Said one to another, "It would not be well for us if we were now to see

"As to Maildun," answered another, "it is very well known that he was
drowned long ago in the great ocean."

"Do not be sure," observed a third; "perchance he is the very man that
may waken you up some morning from your sleep."

"Supposing he came now," asks another, "what should we do?"

The head of the house now spoke in reply to the last question; and
Maildun at once knew his voice--

"I can easily answer that," said he. "Maildun has been for a long time
suffering great afflictions and hardships; and if he were to come now,
though we were enemies once, I should certainly give him a welcome and a
kind reception."

When Maildun heard this he knocked at the door, and the door-keeper
asked who was there; to which Maildun made answer--

"It is I, Maildun, returned safely from all my wanderings."

The chief of the house then ordered the door to be opened; and he went
to meet Maildun, and brought himself and his companions into the house.
They were joyfully welcomed by the whole household; new garments were
given to them; and they feasted and rested, till they forgot their
weariness and their hardships.

They related all the wonders God had revealed to them in the course of
their voyage, according to the word of the sage who says, "It will be a
source of pleasure to remember these things at a future time."

After they had remained here for some days, Maildun returned to his own
country. And Diuran Lekerd took the five half-ounces of silver he had
cut down from the great net at the Silver Pillar, and laid it, according
to his promise, on the high altar of Armagh.




Once upon a time, a noble, warlike king ruled over Lochlann,[6] whose
name was Colga of the Hard Weapons. On a certain occasion, this king
held a meeting of his chief people, on the broad, green plain before his
palace of Berva.[6] And when they were all gathered together, he spoke
to them in a loud, clear voice, from where he sat high on his throne;
and he asked them whether they found any fault with the manner in which
he ruled them, and whether they knew of anything deserving of blame in
him as their sovereign lord and king. They replied, as if with the voice
of one man, that they found no fault of any kind.

Then the king spoke again and said, "You see not as I see. Do you not
know that I am called King of the Four Tribes of Lochlann, and of the
Islands of the Sea? And yet there is one island which acknowledges not
my rule."

And when they had asked which of the islands he meant, he said--

"That island is Erin of the green hills. My forefathers, indeed, held
sway over it, and many of our brave warriors died there in fight. There
fell the great king, Balor of the Mighty Blows;[9] his son Bres[9] also;
and his queen, Kethlenda of the Crooked Teeth;[9] there, too, fell Irann
and Slana, sisters of the king; and many others that I do not name. But
though our hosts at last subdued the land and laid it under tribute, yet
they held it not long; for the men of Erin arose and expelled our army,
regaining their ancient freedom.

"And now it is my desire that we once more sail to Erin with a fleet and
an army, to bring it under my power, and take, either by consent or by
force, the tributes that are due to me by right. And we shall thereafter
hold the island in subjection till the end of the world."

The chiefs approved the counsel of the king, and the meeting broke up.

Then the king made proclamation, and sent his swift scouts and couriers
all over the land, to muster his fighting men, till he had assembled a
mighty army in one place.

And when they had made ready their curve-sided, white-sailed ships, and
their strong, swift-gliding boats, the army embarked. And they raised
their sails and plied their oars; and they cleft the billowy, briny sea;
and the clear, cold winds whistled through their sails; and they made
neither stop nor stay, till they landed on the shore of the province of

The King of Ireland at that time was Cormac Mac Art,[22] the grandson of
Conn the Hundred-fighter.[18] And when Cormac heard that a great fleet
had come to Erin, and landed an army of foreigners, he straightway sent
tidings of the invasion to Allen[LXXIX.] of the green hill-slopes, where
lived Finn,[23] and the noble Fena[23] of the Gaels.

When the king's messengers had told their tale, Finn despatched his
trusty, swift-footed couriers to every part of Erin where he knew the
Fena dwelt; and he bade them to say that all should meet him at a
certain place, near that part of the coast where the Lochlann army lay
encamped. And he himself led the Fena of Leinster northwards to join the

They attacked the foreigners, and the foreigners were not slow to meet
their onset; and the Fena were sore pressed in that battle, so that at
one time the Lochlanns were like to prevail.

Oscar, the son of Oisin,[23] when he saw his friends falling all round
him, was grieved to the heart; and he rested for a space to gather his
wrath and his strength. Then, renewing the fight, he rushed with fury
towards the standard of Colga, the Lochlann king, dealing havoc and
slaughter among those foreigners that stood in his track. The king saw
Oscar approach, and met him; and they fought a deadly battle
hand-to-hand. Soon their shields were rent, their hard helmets were
dinted with sword-blows, their armour was pierced in many places, and
their flesh was torn with deep wounds. And the end of the fight was,
that the king of the foreigners was slain by Oscar, the son of Oisin.

When the Lochlanns saw their king fall, they lost heart, and the battle
went against them. But they fought on nevertheless, till evening, when
their army entirely gave way, and fled from the field. And of all the
nobles and princes and mighty chiefs who sailed to Erin on that
expedition, not one was left alive, except the youngest son of the king,
whose name was Midac. Him Finn spared on account of his youth; with
intent to bring him up in his own household.

After the Fena had rested for a time, and buried their dead, they turned
their faces southward, and marched slowly towards Allen, bringing their
sick and wounded companions. And Finn placed Midac among the household
of Allen, treating him honourably, and giving him servants and tutors.
Moreover, he enlisted him in the Fena, and gave him a high post as
befitted a prince.


[LXXVII.] The quicken tree, or quickbeam, or mountain ash, or roan-tree;
Gaelic, _caerthainn_. Many mystic virtues were anciently attributed to
this tree.

[LXXVIII.] Ulad, _i.e._ Ulster.

[LXXIX.] The Hill of Allen, in the county Kildare, where Finn had his
palace. (See note 23 at the end.)



After this things went on as before, while Midac grew up towards
manhood, and hunted and feasted with the Fena, and fought with them when
they fought. But he never lost an opportunity of making himself
acquainted with all their haunts and hunting-grounds, their palaces and
fortresses, and in particular with their manner of carrying on war.

It happened one day that Finn and some of his leading chiefs were in
council, considering sundry matters, especially the state and condition
of the Fena; and each chief was commanded by Finn to speak, and give his
opinion or advice on anything that he deemed weighty enough to be
debated by the meeting.

And after many had spoken, Conan Mail, the son of Morna, stood up and

"It seems to me, O king, that you and I and the Fena in general are now
in great danger. For you have in your house, and mixing with your
people, a young man who has good cause of enmity towards you; that is to
say, Midac, the son of the king of Lochlann. For was it not by you that
his father and brothers and many of his friends were slain? Now I notice
that this young prince is silent and distant, and talks little to those
around him. Moreover, I see that day after day he takes much pains to
know all matters relating to the Fena; and as he has friends in
Lochlann, mighty men with armies and ships, I fear me the day may come
when this prince will use his knowledge to our destruction."

The king said that all this was quite true, and he asked Conan to give
his opinion as to what should be done.

"What I advise in the matter is this," said Conan, "that Midac be not
allowed to abide any longer in the palace of Allen. But as it is meet
that he should be treated in a manner becoming a prince, let him be
given a tract of land for himself in some other part of Erin, with a
home and a household of his own. Then shall we be freed from his
presence, and he can no longer listen to our counsels, and learn all our
secrets and all our plans."

This speech seemed to Finn and the other chiefs reasonable and prudent,
and they agreed to follow the advice of Conan Mail.

Accordingly Finn sent for the prince, and said to him--

"Thou knowest, Midac, that thou hast been brought up from boyhood in my
household, and that thou hast been dealt with in every way as becomes a
prince. Now thou art a man, and standest in no further need of
instruction, for thou hast learned everything needful for a prince and
for a champion of the Fena; and it is not meet that thou shouldst abide
longer in the house of another. Choose, therefore, the two cantreds
that please thee best in all Erin, and they shall be given to thee and
to thy descendants for ever as a patrimony. There thou shalt build
houses and a homestead for thyself, and I will help thee with men and
with cattle and with all things else necessary."

Midac listened in silence; and when the king had done speaking, he
replied in a cold and distant manner and in few words, that the proposal
was reasonable and proper, and pleased him well. And thereupon he chose
the rich cantred of Kenri on the Shannon, and the cantred of the Islands
lying next to it on the north, at the other side of the river.[LXXX.]

Now Midac had good reasons for choosing these two territories beyond all
others in Erin. For the river opens out between them like a great sea,
in which are many islands and sheltered harbours, where ships might
anchor in safety; and he hoped to bring a fleet and an army into Erin
some day, to avenge on Finn and the Fena the defeats they had inflicted
on his countrymen, and above all, the death of his father and brothers.
And being bent on treachery, he could not have chosen in all Erin a
territory better suited for carrying out his secret designs.

So these two cantreds were bestowed on Midac. Finn gave him also much
cattle and wealth of all kinds; so that when his houses were built, and
when he was settled in his new territory, with his servants and his
cattle and his wealth all round him, there was no brugaid[LXXXI.] in
Erin richer or more prosperous than he.

For fourteen years Midac lived in his new home, growing richer every
year. But the Fena knew nothing of his way of life, for he kept himself
apart, and none of his old acquaintances visited him. And though he was
enrolled in the ranks of the Fena, he never, during all that time,
invited one of them to his house, or offered them food or drink or
entertainment of any kind.

One day, Finn and the Fena went to hunt in the district of Fermorc,[C]
and over the plains of Hy Conall Gavra.[LXXXII.] And when all was
arranged and the chase about to begin, Finn himself, and a few of his
companions, went to the top of the hill of Knockfierna[LXXXIII.] to see
the sport; while the main body of the Fena scattered themselves over the
plain with their dogs and attendants, to start the deer and the wild
boars and all the other game of the forest.

Then Finn's people pitched their tents, and made soft couches of rushes
and heather, and dug cooking-places[24]; for they intended the hill to
be the resting-place of all who chose to rest, till the chase was

After Finn and his companions had sat for some time on the hill, they
saw a tall warrior coming towards them, armed in full battle array. He
wore a splendid coat of mail of Lochlann workmanship, and over it a
mantle of fine satin dyed in divers colours. A broad shield hung on his
left shoulder, and his helmet glittered in the morning sun like polished
silver. At his left side hung a long sword, with golden hilt and
enamelled sheath; and he held in his right hand his two long, polished,
death-dealing spears. His figure and gait were wonderfully majestic, and
as he came near, he saluted the king in stately and courteous words.

Finn returned the salutation, and spoke with him for a while; and at
length he asked him whence he had come, and if he had brought any

"As to the place I came from," he answered, "that need not be spoken of;
and for news, I have nothing to tell except that I am a
ferdana,[LXXXIV.] and that I have come to thee, O king of the Fena, with
a poem."

"Methinks, indeed," replied Finn, "that conflict and battle are the
poetry you profess; for never have I seen a hero more noble in mien and

"I am a ferdana nevertheless," answered the stranger; "and if thou dost
not forbid me, I will prove it by reciting a poem I have brought for

"A mountain-top is not the place for poetry," said Finn; "and moreover,
there is now no opportunity either for reciting or listening. For I and
these few companions of mine have come to sit here that we may view the
chase, and listen to the eager shouts of the men, and the sweet cry of
the hounds.

"But if you are, as you say," continued Finn, "a ferdana, remain here
with us till the chase is ended; and then you shall come with me to one
of our palaces, where I shall listen to your poem, and bestow on you
such gifts as are meet for a poet of your rank."

But the strange champion answered, "It is not my wish to go to your
palace; and I now put you under gesa,[12] which true heroes do not
suffer, that you listen to my poem, and that you find out and explain
its meaning."

"Well then," said Finn, "let there be no further delay; repeat your

So the hero recited the following verse:--

    I saw a house by a river's shore,
    Famed through Erin in days of yore,
    Radiant with sparkling gems all o'er,
    Its lord deep skilled in magical lore;
    No conqueror ever defiled its floor;
    No spoiler can rive its golden store;
    Fire cannot burn its battlements hoar;
    Safe it stands when the torrents pour;
    Feasting and joy for evermore,
    To all who enter its open door!
        Now if thou hast learned a champion's lore,
        Tell me the name of that mansion hoar,
        With roof of crystal and marble floor--
        The mansion I saw by the river's shore.

"I can explain that poem," said Finn. "The mansion you saw is Bruga of
the Boyne,[LXXXV.] the fairy palace of Angus, the Dedannan prince, son
of the Dagda, which is open to all who wish to partake of its feasts and
its enjoyments. It cannot be burned by fire, or drowned by water, or
spoiled by robbers, on account of the great power of its lord and
master; for there is not now, and there never was, and there never shall
be, in Erin, a man more skilled in magic arts than Angus of the Bruga."

"That is the sense of my poem," said the stranger; "and now listen to
this other, and explain it to me if thou canst"--

    I saw to the south a bright-faced queen,
    With couch of crystal and robe of green;
    A numerous offspring, sprightly and small,
    Plain through her skin you can see them all;
    Slowly she moves, and yet her speed
    Exceeds the pace of the swiftest steed!
        Now tell me the name of that wondrous queen,
        With her couch of crystal and robe of green.[LXXXVI.]

"I understand the sense of that poem also," said Finn. "The queen you
saw is the river Boyne, which flows by the south side of the palace of
Bruga. Her couch of crystal is the sandy bed of the river; and her robe
of green the grassy plain of Bregia,[LXXXVII.] through which it flows.
Her children, which you can see through her skin, are the speckled
salmon, the lively, pretty trout, and all the other fish that swim in
the clear water of the river. The river flows slowly indeed; but its
waters traverse the whole world in seven years, which is more than the
swiftest steed can do."

"These are my poems," said the champion; "and thou hast truly explained
their meaning."

"And now," said Finn, "as I have listened to thy poetry and explained
it, tell us, I pray thee, who thou art and whence thou hast come; for I
marvel much that so noble a champion should live in any of the five
provinces of Erin without being known to me and my companions."

Then Conan Mail spoke. "Thou art, O king, the wisest and most far-seeing
of the Fena, and thou hast unravelled and explained the hard poetical
puzzles of this champion. Yet, on the present occasion, thou knowest not
a friend from a foe; for this man is Midac, whom thou didst bring up
with much honour in thine own house, and afterwards made rich, but who
is now thy bitter enemy, and the enemy of all the Fena. Here he has
lived for fourteen years, without fellowship or communication with his
former companions. And though he is enrolled in the order of the Fena,
he has never, during all that time, invited thee to a banquet, or come
to see any of his old friends, or given food or entertainment to any of
the Fena, either master or man."

Midac answered, "If Finn and the Fena have not feasted with me, that is
none of my fault; for my house has never been without a banquet fit for
either king or chief; but you never came to partake of it. I did not,
indeed, send you an invitation; but that you should not have waited for,
seeing that I was one of the Fena, and that I was brought up in your own
household. Howbeit, let that pass. I have now a feast ready, in all
respects worthy of a king; and I put you under gesa that you and the
chiefs that are here with you, come this night to partake of it. I have
two palaces, and in each there is a banquet. One is the Palace of the
Island, which stands on the sea; and the other is the Palace of the
Quicken Trees, which is a little way off from this hill; and it is to
this that I wish you to come."

Finn consented; and Midac, after he had pointed out the way to the
Palace of the Quicken Trees, left them, saying he would go before, that
he might have things in readiness when they should arrive.


[LXXX.] The cantreds of Kenri and Islands are now two baronies: the
former the barony of Kenry, in Limerick, a little below the city; the
latter the barony of Islands, in Clare, on the opposite side of the
Shannon, including the mouth of the river Fergus, with its numerous
_islands_, from which the barony has its name.

[LXXXI.] Brugaid, a sort of local officer, who was allowed a tract of
land free, on condition that he maintained a large establishment as a
house of public hospitality. Many of the brugaids were very rich.

[LXXXII.] Fermorc and Hy Conall Gavra are now the baronies of Upper and
Lower Connello, in the county Limerick.

[LXXXIII.] Knockfierna, a conspicuous hill, celebrated for its fairy
lore, near Croom, in the county Limerick; very near Kenri, Midac's

[LXXXIV.] Ferdana, a poet.

[LXXXV.] Bruga of the Boyne. (See note, page 62.)

[LXXXVI.] The poets were much given to proposing poetical puzzles of
this kind; and it was considered a mark of superior education, and of
great acuteness in a champion to be able to explain them. (For another
example, see the enigmatical verse about the skin of the pig, in the
story of "The Children of Turenn," page 69.)

[LXXXVII.] Bregia or Magh Breagh, the ancient name of the plain
extending from the Liffey northwards to the borders of the county Louth.
(For this name, see the author's "Irish Names of Places," Series II.
Part IV. chap. II.)



Finn now held council with his companions, and they agreed that the
king's son, Oisin, and five other chiefs, with their followers, should
tarry on the hill till the hunting party returned, while Finn went to
the palace with the rest.

And it was arranged that Finn should send back word immediately to the
party on the hill, how he fared; and that Oisin and the others were to
follow him to the palace when the hunting party had returned.

Those that remained with Oisin were Dermat O'Dyna; Fatha Conan, the son
of the son of Conn; Kylta Mac Ronan; Ficna, the son of Finn; and Innsa,
the son of Swena Selga.

And of those who went with Finn to the Palace of the Quicken Trees, the
chief were Gaul Mac Morna; Dathkeen the Strong-limbed; Mac Luga of the
Red Hand; Glas Mac Encarda from Beara; the two sons of Aed the Lesser,
son of Finn; Racad and Dalgus, the two kings of Leinster; Angus Mac
Bresal Bola; and the two leaders of the Connaught Fena, namely,
Mac-na-Corra and Corr the Swift-footed.

As Finn and his party came nigh to the palace, they were amazed at its
size and splendour; and they wondered greatly that they had never seen
it before. It stood on a level green, which was surrounded by a light
plantation of quicken trees, all covered with clusters of scarlet
berries. At one side of the little plain, very near the palace, was a
broad river, with a rocky bank at the near side, and a steep pathway
leading down to a ford.

But what surprised them most was that all was lonely and silent--not a
living soul could they see in any direction; and Finn, fearing some
foul play, would have turned back, only that he bethought him of his
gesa and his promise. The great door was wide open, and Conan went in
before the others; and after viewing the banqueting hall, he came out
quite enraptured with what he had seen. He praised the beauty and
perfect arrangement of everything, and told his companions that no other
king or chief in all Erin had a banqueting hall to match the hall of
Midac, the son of Colga. They all now entered, but they found no
one--neither host nor guests nor attendants.

As they gazed around, they thought they had never seen a banquet hall so
splendid. A great fire burned brightly in the middle, without any smoke,
and sent forth a sweet perfume, which filled the whole room with
fragrance, and cheered and delighted the heroes. Couches were placed all
round, with rich coverlets and rugs, and soft, glossy furs. The curved
walls were of wood,[LXXXVIII.] close-jointed and polished like ivory;
and each board was painted differently from those above and below; so
that the sides of the room, from floor to roof, were all radiant with a
wonderful variety of colours.

Still seeing no one, they seated themselves on the couches and rugs.
Presently a door opened, and Midac walked into the room. He stood for a
few moments before the heroes, and looked at them one after another,
but never spoke one word; then, turning round, he went out and shut the
great door behind him.

Finn and his friends were much surprised at this; however, they said
nothing, but remained resting as they were for some time, expecting
Midac's return. Still no one came, and at length Finn spoke--

"We have been invited here, my friends, to a banquet; and it seems to me
very strange that we should be left so long without attendance, and
without either food or drink. Perhaps, indeed, Midac's attendants have
made some mistake, and that the feast intended for this palace has been
prepared in the Palace of the Island. But I wonder greatly that such a
thing should have happened."

"I see something more wonderful than that," said Gaul Mac Morna; "for
lo, the fire, which was clear and smokeless when we first saw it, and
which smelled more sweetly than the flowers of the plain, now fills the
hall with a foul stench, and sends up a great cloud of black, sooty

"I see something more wonderful than that," said Glas Mac Encarda; "for
the boards in the walls of this banquet hall, which were smooth and
close-jointed and glorious all over with bright colours when we came,
are now nothing but rough planks, clumsily fastened together with tough
quicken tree withes, and as rude and unshapen as if they had been hacked
and hewed with a blunt axe!"

"I see something more wonderful than that," said Foilan, the son of Aed
the Lesser; "for this palace, which had seven great doors when we came
in, all wide open, and looking pleasantly towards the sunshine, has now
only one small, narrow door, close fastened, and facing straight to the

"I see something more wonderful than that," said Conan Mail; "for the
rich rugs and furs and the soft couches, which were under us when we sat
here first, are all gone, not as much as a fragment or a thread
remaining; and we are now sitting on the bare, damp earth, which feels
as cold as the snow of one night!"[LXXXIX.]

Then Finn again spoke. "You know, my friends, that I never tarry in a
house having only one door. Let one of you then, arise, and break open
that narrow door, so that we may go forth from this foul, smoky den!"

"That shall be done," cried Conan; and, so saying, he seized his long
spear, and, planting it on the floor, point downwards, he attempted to
spring to his feet. But he found that he was not able to move, and
turning to his companions, he cried out with a groan of anguish--

"Alas, my friends! I see now something more wonderful than all; for I am
firmly fixed by some druidical spell to the cold clay floor of the
Palace of the Quicken Trees!"

And immediately all the others found themselves, in like manner, fixed
where they sat. And they were silent for a time, being quite confounded
and overwhelmed with fear and anguish.

At length Gaul spoke, and said, "It seems clear, O king, that Midac has
planned this treachery, and that danger lies before us. I wish, then,
that you would place your thumb under your tooth of knowledge,[25] and
let us know the truth; so that we may at once consider as to the best
means of escaping from this strait."

Whereupon Finn placed his thumb under his tooth of knowledge, and mused
for a little while. Then suddenly withdrawing his thumb, he sank back in
his seat and groaned aloud.

"May it be the will of the gods," said Gaul, "that it is the pain of thy
thumb that has caused thee to utter that groan!"

"Alas! not so," replied Finn. "I grieve that my death is near, and the
death of these dear companions! For fourteen years has Midac, the son of
the king of Lochlann, been plotting against us; and now at last he has
caught us in this treacherous snare, from which I can see no escape.

"For in the Palace of the Island there is, at this moment, an army of
foreigners, whom Midac has brought hither for our destruction. Chief
over all is Sinsar of the Battles, from Greece, the Monarch of the
World, who has under his command sixteen warlike princes, with many
others of lesser note. Next to Sinsar is his son, Borba the Haughty,
who commands also a number of fierce and hardy knights.

"There are, besides, the three kings of the Island of the Torrent,
large-bodied and bloodthirsty, like three furious dragons, who have
never yet yielded to an enemy on the field of battle. It is these who,
by their sorcery, have fixed us here; for this cold clay that we sit on
is part of the soil of the enchanted Island of the Torrent, which they
brought hither, and placed here with foul spells. Moreover, the
enchantment that binds us to this floor can never be broken unless the
blood of these kings be sprinkled on the clay. And very soon some of
Sinsar's warriors will come over from the Palace of the Island, to slay
us all, while we are fixed here helpless, and unable to raise a hand in
our own defence."

Full of alarm and anguish were the heroes when they heard these tidings.
And some began to shed bitter tears in silence, and some lamented aloud.
But Finn again spoke and said--

"It becomes us not, my friends, being heroes, to weep and wail like
women, even though we are in danger of death; for tears and lamentations
will avail us nothing. Let us rather sound the Dord-Fian,[XC.] sweetly
and plaintively, according to our wont, that it may be a comfort to us
before we die."

So they ceased weeping, and, joining all together, they sounded the
Dord-Fian in a slow, sad strain.


[LXXXVIII.] The houses of the ancient Irish were circular, and generally
made of wood.

[LXXXIX.] "As cold as the snow of one night;" "As white as the snow of
one night," are usual comparisons in Gaelic. The first night's snow
seems particularly cold and white when you see it in the morning on
account of the contrast with the green fields of the day before.

[XC.] Dord-Fian, or Dord-Fiansa, a sort of musical war-cry, usually
performed by several persons in chorus.



Now let us speak of Oisin, and the party who tarried with him on the
hill of Knockfierna. When he found that his father Finn had not sent
back a messenger as he had promised, though the night was now drawing
nigh, he began to fear that something was wrong; and he said to his

"I marvel much that we have got no news from the king, how he and his
companions have fared in the Palace of the Quicken Trees. It is clear to
me that he would have fulfilled his promise to send us word, if he had
not been hindered by some unforeseen difficulty. Now, therefore, I wish
to know who will go to the palace and bring me back tidings."

Ficna, the son of Finn, stood forth and offered to go; and Finn's foster
son, Innsa, the son of Swena Selga, said he would go with him.

They both set out at once, and as they travelled with speed, they soon
reached the plain on which stood the Palace of the Quicken Trees; and
now the night was darkening around them. As they came near to the
palace, they marvelled to hear the loud, slow strains of the Dord-Fian;
and Innsa exclaimed joyfully--

"Things go well with our friends, seeing that they are amusing
themselves with the Dord-Fian!"

But Ficna, who guessed more truly how things really stood, replied--

"It is my opinion, friend, that matters are not so pleasant with them as
you think; for it is only in time of trouble or danger that Finn is wont
to have the Dord-Fian sounded in a manner so slow and sad."

While they talked in this wise, it chanced that the Dord-Fian ceased for
a little space; and Finn hearing the low hum of conversation outside,
asked was that the voice of Ficna. And when Ficna answered, "Yes," Finn
said to him--

"Come not nearer, my son; for this place teems with dangerous spells. We
have been decoyed hither by Midac, and we are all held here by the foul
sorcery of the three kings of the Island of the Torrent."

And thereupon Finn told him the whole story of the treachery that had
been wrought on them, from beginning to end; and he told him also that
nothing could free them but the blood of those three kings sprinkled on
the clay.

Then he asked who the second man was whom he had heard conversing with
Ficna; and when he was told that it was Innsa, the son of Swena Selga,
he addressed Ficna earnestly--

"Fly, my son, from this fatal place! Fly, and save my foster child from
the treacherous swords of the foreigners; for they are already on their
way hither!"

But Innsa quickly answered, "That I will never do. It would, indeed, be
an ungrateful return to a kind foster father, to leave thee now in
deadly strait, and seek my own safety."

And Ficna spoke in a like strain.

Then Finn said, "Be it so, my sons; but a sore trial awaits you. Those
who come hither from the Palace of the Island must needs pass the ford
under the shadow of these walls. Now this ford is rugged and hard to be
crossed; and one good man, standing in the steep, narrow entrance at the
hither side, might dispute the passage for a time against many. Go now,
and defend this ford; and haply some help may come in time."

So both went to the ford. And when they had viewed it carefully, Ficna,
seeing that one man might defend it for a short time almost as well as
two, said to Innsa--

"Stay thou here to guard the ford for a little time, while I go to the
Palace of the Island to see how the foreigners might be attacked. Haply,
too, I may meet with the party coming hither, and decoy them on some
other track."

And Innsa consented; and Ficna set out straightway for the Palace of the

Now as to the Palace of the Island. When Midac returned in the morning,
and told how Finn and his people were held safe in the Palace of the
Quicken Trees, the foreigners were in great joy. And they feasted and
drank and were merry till evening; when an Irla[XCI.] of the King of the
World spoke in secret to his brother, and said--

"I will go now to the Palace of the Quicken Trees, and I will bring
hither the head of Finn the son of Cumal; and I shall gain thereby much
renown, and shall be honoured by the King of the World."

So he went, bringing with him a goodly number of his own knights; and
nothing is told of what befell them till they arrived at the brink of
the ford under the Palace of the Quicken Trees. Looking across through
the darkness, the Irla thought he saw a warrior standing at the other
brink; and he called aloud to ask who was there, and whether he belonged
to the noble or the ignoble races of the world.

And when Innsa answered that he belonged to the household of Finn, the
son of Cumal, the Irla said--

"Lo, we are going to the Palace of the Quicken Trees, to bring Finn's
head to the King of the World; and thou shalt come with us and lead us
to the door."

"That, indeed," replied Innsa, "would be a strange way for a champion to
act who has been sent hither by Finn to guard this ford. I will not
allow any foe to pass--of that be sure; and I warn you that you come not
to my side of the ford!"

At this the Irla said to his knights, "Force the ford: then shall we see
if yonder hero can fight as well as he threatens."

And at the word, they rushed through the water, as many as could find
room. But only one or two at a time could attack; and the young champion
struck them down right and left as fast as they came up, till the ford
became encumbered with their bodies.

And when the conflict had lasted for a long time, and when they found
that they could not dislodge him, the few that remained retired across
the ford; and Innsa was fain to rest after his long combat.

But the Irla, seeing so many of his knights slain, was mad with wrath;
and, snatching up his sword and shield, he attacked Innsa; and they
fought a long and bloody fight.

Now the Irla was fresh and strong, while Innsa was weary and sore
wounded; and at length the young hero fell in the ford, and the Irla
beheaded him, and, exulting in his victory, brought the head away.

Finn and his companions, as they sat in miserable plight in the Palace
of the Quicken Trees, heard the clash of arms at the ford, and the
shouts and groans of warriors; and after a time all was still again; and
they knew not how the fight had ended.

And now the Irla, thinking over the matter, deemed it unsafe to go to
the Palace of the Quicken Trees without a larger body of knights; so he
returned towards the Palace of the Island, intending to bring Innsa's
head to the King of the World. When he had come within a little distance
of the palace, he met Ficna, who was then on his way back to the ford;
and seeing that he was coming from the Palace of the Island, he deemed
that he was one of the knights of the King of the World.

Ficna spoke to him, and asked whither he had come.

"I come," replied the Irla, "from the ford of the Palace of the Quicken
Trees. There, indeed, on our way to the palace, to slay Finn the son of
Cumal, we were met by a young champion, who defended the ford and slew
my knights. But he fell at length beneath my sword; and, lo, I have
brought his head for a triumph to the King of the World!"

Ficna took the head tenderly, and kissed the cheek thrice, and said,

"Alas, dear youth! only this morning I saw the light of valour in those
dim eyes, and the bloom of youth on that faded cheek!"

Then turning wrathfully to the Irla, he asked--

"Knowest thou to whom thou hast given the young warrior's head?"

And the Irla replied, "Hast thou not come from the Palace of the Island,
and dost thou not belong to the host of the King of the World?"

"I am not one of his knights," answered Ficna; "and neither shalt thou
be, after this hour!"

Whereupon they drew their swords, and fought where they stood; and the
foreign Irla fell by the avenging sword of Ficna, the son of Finn. Ficna
beheaded him and returned to the ford, bringing the head, and also the
head of Innsa. And when he had come to the ford, he made a grave of
green sods on the bank, in which he laid the body and the head of
Innsa, sometimes grieving for the youth, and sometimes rejoicing that
his death had been avenged.

Then he went on to the Palace of the Quicken Trees, bringing the Irla's
head; and when he had come nigh the door, he called aloud to Finn, who,
impatient and full of anxious thoughts, asked--

"Tell us, Ficna, who fought the battle at the ford, and how it has

"Thine own foster son, Innsa, defended the ford against many foes, whose
bodies now encumber the stream."

"And how is it now with my foster son?" asked Finn.

"He died where he fought," replied Ficna; "for at the end, when he was
weary and sore wounded, the foreign Irla attacked him, and slew him."

"And thou, my son, didst thou stand by and see my nursling slain?"

"Truly I did not," answered Ficna. "Would that I had been there, and I
would have defended and saved him! And even now he is well avenged; for
I met the Irla soon after, and lo, I have brought thee his head.
Moreover, I buried thy nursling tenderly in a grave of green sods by the

And Finn wept and said, "Victory and blessings be with thee, my son!
Never were children better than mine. Before I saw them, few were my
possessions and small my consideration in Erin; but since they have
grown up around me, I have been great and prosperous, till I fell by
treachery into this evil plight. And now, Ficna, return and guard the
ford, and peradventure our friends may send help in time."

So Ficna went and sat on the brink of the ford.


[XCI.] Irla, _i.e._ an earl, a chief.



Now at the Palace of the Island, another Irla, whose name was Kironn,
brother to him who had been slain by Ficna, spoke to some of his own

"It is long since my brother left for the Palace of the Quicken Trees; I
fear me that he and his people have fared ill in their quest. And now I
will go to seek for them."

And he went, bringing a company of knights well armed; and when they had
come to the ford, they saw Ficna at the far side. Kironn called out and
asked who he was, and asked also who had made such a slaughter in the

Ficna answered, "I am one of the household champions of Finn the son of
Cumal, and he has sent me here to guard this ford. As to the slaughter
of yonder knights, your question stirs my mind to wrath, and I warn you,
if you come to this side of the ford, you will get a reply, not in
words, but in deeds."

Then Kironn and his men rushed through the water, blind with rage, and
struck wildly at Ficna. But the young hero watchfully parried their
strokes and thrusts; and one after another they fell beneath his blows,
till only a single man was left, who ran back with all speed to the
Palace of the Island to tell the tale. And Ficna sat down on the brink,
covered all over with wounds, and weary from the toil of battle.

When these tidings were brought to the palace, Midac was very wroth, and
he said, "These men should not have gone to force the ford without my
knowledge; for they were far too few in number, and neither were they
bold and hardy enough to meet Finn's valiant champions. I know these
Fena well, and it is not to me a matter of surprise that the Irla and
his people fell by them.

"But I will now go with a choice party of my own brave men; and I will
cross the ford despite their guards, and slay Finn and all his
companions in the Palace of the Quicken Trees.

"Moreover, there is one man among them, namely, Conan Mail,[23] who of
all the men of Erin has the largest appetite, and is fondest of choice
eating and drinking. To him will I bring savoury food and delicious
drink, not, indeed, to delight him with eating and drinking, but that I
may torment him with the sight and smell of what he cannot taste."

So, having got the food, he set out with a chosen band; and when he had
arrived at the ford, he saw a warrior at the far side. He asked who he
was, and finding that it was Ficna, he spoke guilefully to him.

"Dear art thou to me, Ficna, dearer even than all the rest of Finn's
household; for during the time I lived among the Fena, you never used me
ill, or lifted a hand to either man or dog belonging to me."

But Ficna spurned his smooth words, and replied, "While you lived among
the Fena, there was not a man among them that had less to do with you
than I. But this I know, that you were treated kindly by all, especially
by my father Finn, and you have repaid him by ingratitude and

When Midac heard this speech he was filled with wrath, and no longer
hiding his evil mind, he ordered Ficna with threats to leave the ford.
But Ficna laughed with scorn, and replied--

"The task is easy, friend Midac, to dislodge a single champion; and
surely it is a small matter to you whether I stand in this narrow pass
or abandon my post. Come forward, then, you and your knights; but here I
will remain to receive you. I only regret you did not come sooner, while
my blood was hot, and before my wounds grew stiff, when you would have
got a better welcome!"

Then Midac ordered forward his knights, and they ran eagerly across the
ford. But Ficna overthrew them with a mighty onset, like a hawk among a
flight of small birds, or like a wolf among a flock of sheep. When Midac
saw this, he buckled on his shield and took his sword. Then, treading
warily over the rough rocks, and over the dead bodies of his knights,
he confronted Ficna, and they attacked each other with deadly hate and

We shall now speak of those who remained on Knockfierna. When Oisin
found that the two heroes did not return as soon as he expected, he thus
addressed his companions--

"It seems to me a long time, my friends, since Ficna and Innsa went to
the Palace of the Quicken Trees; methinks if they have sped successfully
they should have long since come back with tidings of Finn and the

And one of his companions answered, "It is plain that they have gone to
partake of the feast, and it fares so well with them that they are in no
haste to leave the palace."

But Dermat O'Dyna of the Bright Face spoke and said, "It may be as you
say, friend, but I should like to know the truth of the matter. And now
I will go and find out why they tarry, for my mind misgives me that some
evil thing has happened."

And Fatha Conan said he would go with him.

So the two heroes set out for the Palace of the Quicken Trees; and when
they were yet a good way off from the ford they heard the clash of arms.
They paused for a moment, breathless, to listen, and then Dermat

"It is the sound of single combat, the combat of mighty heroes; it is
Ficna fighting with the foreigners, for I know his war-shout. I hear
the clash of swords and the groans of warriors; I hear the shrieks of
the ravens over the fairy-mansions, and the howls of the wild men of the
glens! Hasten, Fatha, hasten, for Ficna is in sore strait, and his shout
is a shout for help!"

And so they ran like the wind till they reached the hill-brow over the
river; and, looking across in the dim moonlight, they saw the whole ford
heaped with the bodies of the slain, and the two heroes fighting to the
death at the far side. And at the first glance they observed that Ficna,
being sore wounded, was yielding and sheltering behind his shield, and
scarce able to ward off the blows of Midac.

Then Fatha cried out, "Fly, Dermat, fly! Save our dear companion! Save
the king's son from death."

And Dermat, pausing for a moment, said, as if communing with himself--

"This is surely an evil plight: for if I run to the other side, the
foreigner, being the more enraged for seeing me, will strike with
greater fury, and I may not overtake the prince alive; and if I cast my
spear, I may strike the wrong man!"

But Fatha, overhearing him, said, "Fear not, Dermat, for you never yet
threw an erring cast of a spear!"

Then Dermat, putting his finger in the silken loop of his spear, threw a
deadly cast with unerring aim, and struck Midac, so that the iron
spear-head went right through his body, and the length of a warrior's
hand beyond.

"Woe to the man," exclaimed Midac--"woe to him whom that spear reaches:
for it is the spear of Dermat O'Dyna!"

And now his wrath increased, and he struck at Ficna more fiercely than

Dermat shouted to him to hold his hand and not slay the king's son; and
as he spoke he rushed down the slope and across the ford, to save the
young hero. But Midac, still pressing on with unabated strength and
fury, replied--

"Had you wished to save the prince's life, you should have spared mine:
now that I have been wounded to death by your spear, Finn shall never
see his son alive!"

Even as he spoke, he raised his sword for a mighty blow; and just as
Dermat, shouting earnestly, was closing on them, he struck the prince
lifeless to the earth, but fell down himself immediately after.

Dermat came up on the instant, and looked sadly at his friend lying
dead. Then, addressing Midac, he said--

"If I had found thee dead, I would have passed thee untouched; but now
that I have overtaken thee alive, I must needs behead thee, for thy head
will be to Finn a worthy eric[10] for his son."

And so saying, he struck off Midac's head with one sweep of his heavy

Dermat now repaired to the Palace of the Quicken Trees, leaving Fatha to
watch the ford till his return. And when he had come near, he called
aloud and struck the door with his heavy spear, for his wrath had not
yet left him; but the door yielded not.

Finn knew the voice, and called out impatiently, "Do not try to enter
here, Dermat, for this place is full of foul spells. But tell us first,
I pray thee, who fought that long and bitter fight; for we heard the
clash of arms and the shouts of warriors, but we know nothing more."

"Thy noble son, Ficna," returned Dermat, "fought single-handed against
the foreigners."

"And how fares it with my son after that battle?"

"He is dead," answered Dermat; "first sore wounded by many foes whom he
slaughtered, and afterwards slain by Midac, the son of Colga. But thy
son is avenged; for though I came to the ford indeed too late to save
him, I have slain Midac, and here I have brought thee his head as an

And for a long time Dermat heard no more.

At last Finn spoke again and said--

"Victory and blessings be with you, Dermat, for often before did you
relieve the Fena from sore straits. But never have we been in such
plight as this. For here we sit spell-bound, and only one thing can
release us, the blood of the three fierce kings of the Island of the
Torrent sprinkled on this clay. Meantime, unless the ford be well
defended, the foreigners will come and slay us. In you, Dermat, we
trust, and unless you aid us well and faithfully now, we shall of a
certainty perish. Guard the ford till the rising of the sun, for then I
know the Fena will come to aid you."

"I and Fatha will of a certainty keep the enemy at bay," replied Dermat;
and he bade them farewell for a time, and was about to return to the
ford: but Conan Mail, with a groan, said--

"Miserable was the hour when I came to this palace, and cold and
comfortless is the clay on which I sit--the clay of the Island of the
Torrent. But worst of all to be without food and drink so long. And
while I sit here, tormented with hunger and thirst, there is great
plenty of ale and wine and of rich, savoury food yonder in the Palace of
the Island. I am not able to bear this any longer; and now, Dermat, I
beseech you to bring me from the palace as much food as I can eat and a
drinking-horn of wine."

"Cursed be the tongue that spoke these selfish words!" said Dermat. "A
host of foreigners are now seeking to compass your death, with only
Fatha and myself to defend you. Surely this is work enough for two good
men! And now it seems I must abandon my post, and undertake a task of
much danger, to get food for the gluttonous Conan Mail!"

"Alas, Dermat-na-man!"[23] replied Conan, "if it were a lovely maiden,
with bright eyes and golden hair, who made this little request, quickly
and eagerly you would fly to please her, little recking of danger or
trouble. But now you refuse me, and the reason is not hard to see. For
you formerly crossed me four times in my courtships; and now it likes
you well to see me die of hunger in this dungeon!"

"Well, then," said Dermat, "cease your upbraiding, and I will try to
bring you food; for it is better to face danger than to suffer the
revilings of your foul tongue."

So saying, he went back to the ford to Fatha, where he stood watching;
and after he had told him how matters stood, he said to him--

"I must needs go to the Palace of the Island, to get food for Conan
Mail; and you shall guard the ford till I return."

But Fatha told him that there was food and drink enough at the other
side of the ford, which Midac had brought from the palace, and urged him
to bring a good meal of this to Conan.

"Not so," said Dermat. "He would taunt me with bringing him food taken
from the hands of dead men; and though one may recover from his blow, it
is not so easy to recover from the venom of his tongue."[XCII.]

So he left Fatha at the ford, and repaired to the Palace of the Island.

As he drew nigh, he heard the noise of feasting and revelry, and the
loud talk and laughter of men deep in drink. Walking tiptoe, he peered
warily through the open door, and saw the chiefs and the knights sitting
at the tables; with Sinsar of the Battles and his son Borba high seated
over all. He saw also many attendants serving them with food and drink,
each holding in his hand a large ornamented drinking-horn, filled with

Dermat entered the outer door softly, and stood in a dark part of the
passage near the door, silent and stern, with sword drawn, watching his
opportunity. And after a time one of the attendants, unsuspecting,
passed close to him; when Dermat, with a swift, sure blow, struck off
his head. And he snatched the drinking-horn from the man's hand before
he fell, so that not a drop of the wine was spilled.

Then, laying the drinking-horn aside for a moment, he walked straight
into the hall, and taking up one of the dishes near where the king sat,
he went out through the open door, bringing with him both dish and
drinking-horn. And amidst the great crowd, and the drinking, and the
noise, no one took the least notice of him, so that he got off without
hindrance or harm of any kind.

When he reached the ford, he found Fatha lying fast asleep on the bank.
He wondered very much that he could sleep in the midst of such a
slaughter; but knowing that the young warrior was worn out with watching
and toil, he left him lying asleep, and went to the Palace of the
Quicken Trees with the food for Conan.

When he had come to the door, he called aloud to Conan and said--

"I have here a goodly meal of choice food: how am I to give it to thee?"

Conan said, "Throw it towards me through yonder little opening."

Dermat did so; and as fast as he threw the food, Conan caught it in his
large hands, and ate it up ravenously. And when it was all gone, Dermat

"I have here a large drinking-horn of good wine: how am I to give it to

Conan answered, "There is a place behind the palace where, from a rock,
you may reach the lower parapet with a light, airy bound. Come from that
straight over me, and break a hole in the roof with your spear, through
which you can pour the wine down to me."

Dermat did so; and as he poured down the wine, Conan, with upturned
face, opened his great mouth and caught it, and swallowed it every drop.

After this Dermat came down and returned to the ford, where he found
Fatha still asleep; and he sat beside him, but did not awaken him.


[XCII.] A satirical allusion to Conan's well-known cowardice.



Tidings were brought to the Palace of the Island that Midac and all whom
he led were slain at the ford; and the three kings of the Island of the
Torrent said--

"The young king of Lochlann did wrong to make this attempt without
asking our counsel; and had we known of the thing we would have hindered
him. For to us belongs the right to behead Finn and his companions,
since it is the spell-venom of the clay which we brought from the Island
of the Torrent that holds them bound in the Palace of the Quicken Trees.
And now, indeed, we will go and slay them all."

So they set out with a strong party, and soon reached the ford. Looking
across in the dim light, they saw Dermat, and called aloud to ask who he

"I am Dermat O'Dyna," he replied, "one of Finn's champions. He has sent
me to guard this ford, and whoever you are, I warn you not to cross!"

Then they sought to beguile Dermat, and to win him over by smooth words;
and they replied--

"It is a pleasure to us to meet you, Dermat; for we are old friends of
yours. We are the three kings of the Island of the Torrent, your
fellow-pupils in valour and all heroic feats. For you and we lived with
the same tutors from the beginning; and you never learned a feat of arms
that we did not learn in like manner. Leave the ford, then, that we may
pass on to the Palace of the Quicken Trees."

But Dermat answered in few words, "Finn and his companions are under my
protection till morning; and I will defend the ford as long as I am

And he stood up straight and tall like a pillar, and scowled across the

A number of the foreigners now rushed towards Dermat, and raging in a
confused crowd, assailed him. But the strong hero met them as a rock
meets the waves, and slew them with ease as they came within the range
of his sword. Yet still they pressed on, others succeeding those that
fell; and in the midst of the rage of battle, Fatha started up from his
sleep, awakened by the crashing of weapons and the riving of shields.

He gazed for a moment, bewildered, at the combatants, and, seeing how
matters stood, he was wroth with Dermat for not awakening him; so that
he ran at him fiercely with drawn sword. But Dermat stepped aside, and,
being angry, thus addressed him--

"Slake thy vengeance on our foes for the present: for me, the swords of
the foreigners are enough, methinks, without thine to aid them!"

Then Fatha turned and attacked the foe, and his onset was even more
deadly than that of Dermat; so that they fell before him to the right
and left on the ford.

And now at last the three kings, seeing so many of their men falling,
advanced slowly towards Dermat; and Dermat, unterrified, stood in his
place to meet them. And their weapons clashed and tore through their
shields, and the fight was long and furious; till at last the
champion-pride and the battle-fury of Dermat arose, so that the three
dragon-like kings fell slain one by one before him, on that ford of red

And now, though smarting with wounds, and breathless, and weary, Dermat
and Fatha remembered Finn and the Fena; and Dermat called to mind what
Finn had told him as to how the spell was to be broken. So he struck off
the heads of the three kings, and, followed by Fatha, he ran with them,
all gory as they were, to the Palace of the Quicken Trees.

As they drew nigh to the door, Finn, knowing their voices and their
footsteps, called aloud anxiously to ask how it fared with the
combatants at the ford; "For," said he, "the crashing and the din of
that battle exceeded all we have yet heard, and we know not how it has

Dermat answered, "King of the Fena, Fatha and I have slain the three
kings of the Island of the Torrent; and lo, here we have their heads all
bloody; but how am I to bring them to thee?"

"Victory and blessings be with you, Dermat; you and Fatha have fought a
valiant fight, worthy of the Fena of Erin! Now sprinkle the door with
the blood."

Dermat did so, and in a moment the door flew wide open with a crash. And
inside they saw the heroes in sore plight, all pale and faint, seated on
the cold clay round the wall. Dermat and Fatha, holding the gory heads
by the hair, sprinkled the earth under each with the blood, beginning
with Finn, and freed them one by one; and the heroes, as they found the
spell broken, sprang to their feet with exulting cries. And they thanked
the gods for having relieved them from that perilous strait, and they
and the two heroes joyfully embraced each other.

But danger still threatened, and they now took counsel what they should
do; and Finn, addressing Dermat and Fatha, said--

"The venom of these foul spells has withered our strength, so that we
are not able to fight; but at sunrise they will lose their power, and we
shall be strong again. It is necessary, therefore, that you still guard
the ford, and at the rising of the sun we shall relieve you."

So the two heroes went to the ford, and Fatha returned with food and
drink for Finn and the others.

After the last battle at the ford, a few who had escaped brought back
tidings to the King of the World and his people, that the three kings of
the Island of the Torrent had fallen by the hands of Dermat and Fatha.
But they knew not that Finn and the others had been released.

Then arose the king's son, Borba the Haughty, who, next to the king
himself, was mightiest in battle of all the foreign host. And he said--

"Feeble warriors were they who tried to cross this ford. I will go now
and avenge the death of our people on these Fena, and I will bring
hither the head of Finn the son of Cumal, and place it at my father's

So he marched forth without delay, with a large body of chosen warriors,
till he reached the edge of the ford. And although Dermat and Fatha
never trembled before a foe, yet when they saw the dark mass drawing
nigh, and heard the heavy tread and clank of arms, they dreaded that
they might be dislodged and overpowered by repeated attacks, leaving
Finn and the rest helpless and unprotected. And each in his heart longed
for the dawn of morning.

No parley was held this time, but the foreigners came straight across
the ford--as many abreast as could find footing. And as they drew near,
Dermat spoke to Fatha--

"Fight warily, my friend: ward the blows of the foremost, and be not too
eager to slay, but rather look to thy own safety. It behoves us to nurse
our strength and prolong the fight, for the day is dawning, and sunrise
is not far off!"

The foreigners came on, many abreast; but their numbers availed them
naught, for the pass was narrow; and the two heroes, one taking the
advancing party to the right, and the other to the left, sometimes
parried and sometimes slew, but never yielded an inch from where they

And now at last the sun rose up over the broad plain of Kenri; and
suddenly the withering spell went forth from the bones and sinews of the
heroes who sat at the Palace of the Quicken Trees, listening with
anxious hearts to the clash of battle at the ford. Joyfully they started
to their feet, and, snatching up their arms, hastened down to the ford
with Finn at their head; but one they sent, the swiftest among them, to
Knockfierna, to take the news to Oisin.

Dermat and Fatha, fighting eagerly, heeded not that the sun had risen,
though it was now indeed glittering before their eyes on the helmets and
arms of their foes. But as they fought, there rose a great shout behind
them; and Finn and Gaul and the rest ran down the slope to attack the

The foreigners, not in the least dismayed, answered the attack; and the
fight went on, till Gaul Mac Morna and Borba the Haughty met face to
face in the middle of the ford, and they fought a hard and deadly
combat. The battle-fury of Gaul at length arose, so that nothing could
stand before him, and, with one mighty blow, he cleft the head from the
body of Borba.

And now the foreigners began to yield: but they still continued to
fight, till a swift messenger sped to the Palace of the Island, and told
the great king, Sinsar of the Battles, that his son was dead, slain by
Gaul; and that his army was sore pressed by the Fena, with Finn at their

When the people heard these tidings, they raised a long and sorrowful
cry of lamentation for the king's son; but the king himself, though
sorrow filled his heart, showed it not. And he arose and summoned his
whole host; and, having arranged them in their battalions and in their
companies under their princes and chiefs, he marched towards the
battle-field, desiring vengeance on the Fena more than the glory of



All the Fena who had gone to the chase from Knockfierna had returned,
and were now with Oisin, the son of Finn. And the messenger came slowly
up the hill-side, and told them, though with much difficulty, for he
was weary and breathless, the whole story from beginning to end, of
Finn's enchantment, and of the battles at the ford, and how their
companions at that moment stood much in need of aid against the

Instantly the whole body marched straight towards the Palace of the
Quicken Trees, and arrived on the hill-brow over the ford, just as the
King of the World and his army were approaching from the opposite

And now the fight at the ford ceased for a time, while the two armies
were put in battle array; and on neither side was there any cowardice or
any desire to avoid the combat.

The Fena were divided into four battalions. The active, bright-eyed
Clann Baskin marched in front of the first battalion; the fierce,
champion-like Clann Morna led the second; the strong, sanguinary
Mic-an-Smoil brought up the third; and the fourth was led forward by the
fearless, venomous Clann O'Navnan.

And they marched forward, with their silken banners, each banner-staff
in the hand of a tall, trusty hero; their helmets glittering with
precious gems; their broad, beautiful shields on their left shoulders;
with their long, straight, deadly lances in their hands; and their
heavy, keen-edged swords hanging at the left side of each. Onward they
marched; and woe to those who crossed the path of that host of active,
high-minded champions, who never turned their backs on an enemy in

And now at last the fight began with showers of light, venomous
missiles; and many a hero fell even before the combatants met face to
face. Then they drew their long, broad-bladed swords, and the ranks
closed and mingled in deadly strife. It would be vain to attempt a
description of that battle, for it was hard to distinguish friend from
foe. Many a high-souled hero fell wounded and helpless, and neither sigh
nor groan of pain escaped them; but they died, encouraging their friends
to vengeance with voice and gesture. And the first thought of each
champion was to take the life of his foe rather than to save his own.

The great king Finn himself moved tall and stately from battalion to
battalion, now fighting in the foremost ranks, and now encouraging his
friends and companions, his mighty voice rising clear over the clash of
arms and the shouts of the combatants. And wherever he moved, there the
courage of the Fena rose high, and their valour and their daring
increased, so that the ranks of their foes fell back thinned and
scattered before them.

Oscar, resting for a moment from the toil of battle, looked round, and
espied the standard of the King of the World, where he stood guarded by
his best warriors, to protect him from the danger of being surrounded
and outnumbered by his foes; and the young hero's wrath was kindled when
he observed that the Fena were falling back dismayed wherever that
standard was borne.

Rushing through the opposing ranks like a lion maddened by dogs, he
approached the king; and the king laughed a grim laugh of joy when he
saw him, and ordered his guards back; for he was glad in his heart,
expecting to revenge his son's death by slaying with his own hand Finn's
grandson, who was most loved of all the youthful champions of the Fena.
Then these two great heroes fought a deadly battle; and many a warrior
stayed his hand to witness this combat. It seemed as if both should
fall; for each inflicted on the other many wounds. The king's rage knew
no bounds at being so long withstood, for at first sight he despised
Oscar for his youth and beauty; and he made an onset that caused Oscar's
friends, as they looked on, to tremble; for during this attack the young
hero defended himself, and no more. But now, having yielded for a time,
he called to mind the actions and the fame of his forefathers, and
attacked the king in turn, and, with a blow that no shield or buckler
could withstand, he swept the head from the king's body.

Then a great shout went up from the Fena, and the foreigners instantly
gave way; and they were pursued and slaughtered on every side. A few
threw away their arms and escaped to the shore, where, hastily unmooring
their ships, they sailed swiftly away to their own country, with tidings
of the death of their king and the slaughter of their army.




One day in the beginning of summer, Finn, the son of Cumal, the son of
Trenmore O'Baskin,[23] feasted the chief people of Erin at Allen[23] of
the broad hill-slopes. And when the feast was over, the Fena reminded
him that it was time to begin the chase through the plains and the glens
and the wildernesses of Erin.

For this was the manner in which the Fena were wont to spend their time.
They divided the year into two parts. During the first half, namely,
from Beltane to Samin,[XCIII.] they hunted each day with their dogs; and
during the second half, namely, from Samin to Beltane, they lived in the
mansions and the betas[XCIV.] of Erin; so that there was not a chief or
a great lord or a keeper of a house of hospitality in the whole country
that had not nine of the Fena quartered on him during the winter half of
the year.

Finn and his chiefs now held council as to which of the provinces of
Erin they should begin with; and they chose Munster for the first chase.

Next day they set out, both dogs and men; and they travelled through
Offaly,[XCV.] and by one side of Fera-call, and to Brosna of Slieve
Bloma, and by the Twelve Mountains of Evlinn, till they came to
Collkilla, which is now called Knockainy.

The chase was then set in order, and they scattered themselves over the
broad plains of Munster. They began at Ardpatrick,[XCVI.] and they
hunted over Kenn-Avrat of Slieve-Keen, and over Coill-na-drua, which is
now called the district of Fermoy; over the fruitful lands of Lehan, and
over the confines of Fermorc, which is now called Hy Conall Gavra. Then
south to the patrimony of Curoi Mac Dara, and by the shores of Loch
Lein; afterwards along the blue-streamy Suir, by Caher-Dun-Isca, over
the great plain of Femin, and across the speckled summit of
Slieve-na-man-finn; all over East Munster and West Munster, as far as
Balla-Gavran on the one side, and on the other across the Shannon to
Cratloe, near Limerick of the blue waters.

In short, there was not a plain or a valley, a wood or a brake, a
mountain or a wilderness, in the two provinces of Munster, that they did
not hunt over on that occasion.

Now it chanced at one time during the chase, while they were hunting
over the plain of Cliach,[XCVII.] that Finn went to rest on the hill of
Collkilla, which is now called Knockainy; and he had his hunting-tents
pitched on a level spot near the summit. Some of his chief heroes
tarried with him; namely, his son Oisin; the valiant Oscar, the son of
Oisin; Gaul Mac Morna of the Mighty Deeds; Finn's shield-bearer,
Skeabrac; Kylta Mac Ronan; Dermat O'Dyna of the Bright Face; Ligan
Lumina the Swift-footed; Conan Mail of the Foul Tongue; and Finn Ban Mac

When the king and his companions had taken their places on the hill, the
Fena unleashed their gracefully shaped, sweet-voiced hounds through the
woods and sloping glens. And it was sweet music to Finn's ear, the cry
of the long-snouted dogs, as they routed the deer from their covers, and
the badgers from their dens; the pleasant, emulating shouts of the
youths; the whistling and signalling of the huntsmen; and the
encouraging cheers of the mighty heroes, as they spread themselves
through the glens and woods, and over the broad, green plain of Cliach.

Then did Finn ask who of all his companions would go to the highest
point of the hill directly over them, to keep watch and ward, and to
report how the chase went on. For, he said, the Dedannans[1] were ever
on the watch to work the Fena mischief by their druidical spells, and
more so during the chase than at other times.

Finn Ban Mac Bresal stood forward and offered to go: and, grasping his
broad spears, he went to the top, and sat viewing the plain to the four
points of the sky. And the king and his companions brought forth the
chess-board and chess-men,[26] and sat them down to a game.

Finn Ban Mac Bresal had been watching only a little time, when he saw on
the plain to the east, a Fomor[XCVIII.] of vast size coming towards the
hill, leading a horse. As he came nearer, Finn Ban observed that he was
the ugliest-looking giant his eyes ever lighted on. He had a large,
thick body, bloated and swollen out to a great size; clumsy, crooked
legs; and broad, flat feet, turned inwards. His hands and arms and
shoulders were bony and thick and very strong-looking; his neck was long
and thin; and while his head was poked forward, his face was turned up,
as he stared straight at Finn Mac Bresal. He had thick lips, and long,
crooked teeth; and his face was covered all over with bushy hair.

He was fully armed; but all his weapons were rusty and soiled and
slovenly looking. A broad shield of a dirty, sooty colour, rough and
battered, hung over his back; he had a long, heavy, straight sword at
his left hip; and he held in his left hand two thick-handled,
broad-headed spears, old and rusty, and seeming as if they had not been
handled for years. In his right hand he held an iron club, which he
dragged after him, with its end on the ground; and, as it trailed along,
it tore up a track as deep as the furrow a farmer ploughs with a team of

The horse he led was even larger in proportion than the giant himself,
and quite as ugly. His great carcase was covered all over with tangled,
scraggy hair, of a sooty black; you could count his ribs, and all the
points of his big bones through his hide; his legs were crooked and
knotty; his neck was twisted; and as for his jaws, they were so long and
heavy that they made his head look twice too large for his body.

The giant held him by a thick halter, and seemed to be dragging him
forward by main force, the animal was so lazy and so hard to move. Every
now and then, when the beast tried to stand still, the giant would give
him a blow on the ribs with his big iron club, which sounded as loud as
the thundering of a great billow against the rough-headed rocks of the
coast. When he gave him a pull forward by the halter, the wonder was
that he did not drag the animal's head away from his body; and, on the
other hand, the horse often gave the halter such a tremendous tug
backwards that it was equally wonderful how the arm of the giant was not
torn away from his shoulder.

Now it was not an easy matter to frighten Finn Ban Mac Bresal; but when
he saw the giant and his horse coming straight towards him in that wise,
he was seized with such fear and horror that he sprang from his seat,
and, snatching up his arms, he ran down the hill-slope with his utmost
speed towards the king and his companions, whom he found sitting round
the chess-board, deep in their game.

They started up when they saw Finn Ban looking so scared; and, turning
their eyes towards where he pointed, they saw the big man and his horse
coming up the hill. They stood gazing at him in silent wonder, waiting
till he should arrive; but although he was no great way off when they
first caught sight of him, it was a long time before he reached the spot
where they stood, so slow was the movement of himself and his horse.

When at last he had come up, he bowed his head, and bended his knee, and
saluted the king with great respect.

Finn addressed him; and after having given him leave to speak, he asked
him who he was, and what was his name; from which of the three chief
divisions of the world he had come, and whether he belonged to one of
the noble or ignoble races; also what was his profession or craft, and
why he had no servant to attend to his horse--if, indeed, such an ugly
old spectre of an animal could be called a horse at all.

The big man made answer and said, "King of the Fena, I will answer
everything you ask me, as far as lies in my power. Whether I come of a
noble or of an ignoble race, that, indeed, I cannot tell, for I know not
who my father and mother were. As to where I came from, I am a Fomor of
Lochlann[6] in the north; but I have no particular dwelling-place, for
I am continually travelling about from one country to another, serving
the great lords and nobles of the world, and receiving wages for my

"In the course of my wanderings I have often heard of you, O king, and
of your greatness and splendour and royal bounty; and I have come now to
visit you, and to ask you to take me into your service for one year; and
at the end of that time I shall fix my own wages, according to my

"You ask me also why I have no servant for this great horse of mine. The
reason of that is this: at every meal I eat, my master must give me as
much food and drink as would be enough for a hundred men; and whosoever
the lord or chief may be that takes me into his service, it is quite
enough for him to have to provide for me, without having also to feed my

"Moreover, I am so very heavy and lazy that I should never be able to
keep up with a company on march if I had to walk; and this is my reason
for keeping a horse at all.

"My name is the Gilla Dacker,[XCIX.] and it is not without good reason
that I am so called. For there never was a lazier or worse servant than
I am, or one that grumbles more at doing a day's work for his master.
And I am the hardest person in the whole world to deal with; for, no
matter how good or noble I may think my master, or how kindly he may
treat me, it is hard words and foul reproaches I am likely to give him
for thanks in the end.

"This, O Finn, is the account I have to give of myself, and these are my
answers to your questions."

"Well," answered Finn, "according to your own account, you are not a
very pleasant fellow to have anything to do with; and of a truth there
is not much to praise in your appearance. But things may not be so bad
as you say; and, anyhow, as I have never yet refused any man service and
wages, I will not now refuse you."

Whereupon Finn and the Gilla Dacker made covenants, and the Gilla Dacker
was taken into service for a year.

Then the big man turned to Conan Mail, and asked him whether the
foot-service or the horse-service had the better pay among the Fena; and
Conan answered that the horsemen had twice as much pay as the footmen.

"If that be so," replied the Gilla Dacker, "I will join the
horse-service, as I have a fine steed of my own; and indeed, if I had
known this before, I would certainly have come hither on horseback,
instead of walking.

"And now, as to this same horse of mine, I find I must attend to him
myself, as I see no one here worthy of putting a hand near him. So I
will lead him to the nearest stud, as I am wont to do, and let him graze
among your horses. I value him greatly, however, and it would grieve me
very much if any harm were to befall him; so," continued he, turning to
the king, "I put him under your protection, O king, and under the
protection of all the Fena that are here present."

At this speech the Fena all burst out laughing, to see the Gilla Dacker
showing such concern for his miserable, worthless old skeleton of a

Howbeit, the big man, giving not the least heed to their merriment, took
the halter off the horse's head, and turned him loose among the horses
of the Fena.

But now, this same wretched-looking old animal, instead of beginning to
graze, as every one thought he would, ran in among the horses of the
Fena, and began straightway to work all sorts of mischief. He cocked his
long, hard, switchy tail straight out like a rod, and, throwing up his
hind legs, he kicked about on this side and on that, maiming and
disabling several of the horses. Sometimes he went tearing through the
thickest of the herd, butting at them with his hard, bony forehead; and
he opened out his lips with a vicious grin, and tore all he could lay
hold on, with his sharp, crooked teeth, so that none were safe that came
in his way either before or behind. And the end of it was, that not an
animal of the whole herd escaped, without having a leg broken, or an eye
knocked out, or his ribs fractured, or his ear bitten off, or the side
of his face torn open, or without being in some other way cut or maimed
beyond cure.

At last he left them, and was making straight across to a small field
where Conan Mail's horses were grazing by themselves, intending to play
the same tricks among them. But Conan, seeing this, shouted in great
alarm to the Gilla Dacker, to bring away his horse, and not let him work
any more mischief; and threatening, if he did not do so at once, to go
himself and knock the brains out of the vicious old brute on the spot.

But the Gilla Dacker took the matter quite cool; and he told Conan that
he saw no way of preventing his horse from joining the others, except
some one put the halter on him and held him, which would, of course, he
said, prevent the poor animal from grazing, and would leave him with a
hungry belly at the end of the day.

He said, moreover, that as he had no horse-boy, and must needs do
everything for himself, he thought it quite time enough to look after
his horse when he had to make ready for a journey. "But," said he to
Conan, "there is the halter; and if you are in any fear for your own
animals, you may go yourself and bring him away from the field."

Conan was in a mighty rage when he heard this; and as he saw the big
horse just about to cross the fence, he snatched up the halter, and
running forward, with long strides, he threw it over the animal's head
and thought to lead him back. But in a moment the horse stood stock
still, and his body and legs became as stiff as if they were made of
wood; and though Conan pulled and tugged with might and main, he was not
able to stir him an inch from his place.

He gave up pulling at last, when he found it was no use; but he still
kept on holding the halter, while the big horse never made the least
stir, but stood as if he had been turned into stone; the Gilla Dacker
all the time looking on quite unconcernedly, and the others laughing at
Conan's perplexity. But no one offered to relieve him.

At last Fergus Finnvel, the poet, spoke to Conan, and said, "I never
would have believed, Conan Mail, that you could be brought to do
horse-service for any knight or noble in the whole world; but now,
indeed, I see that you have made yourself a horse-boy to an ugly foreign
giant, so hateful-looking and low-born that not a man of the Fena would
have anything to say to him. As you have, however, to mind this old
horse in order to save your own, would it not be better for you to mount
him, and revenge yourself for all the trouble he is giving you, by
riding him across the country, over the hill-tops, and down into the
deep glens and valleys, and through stones and bogs and all sorts of
rough places, till you have broken the heart in his big, ugly body?"

Conan, stung by the cutting words of the poet, and by the jeers of his
companions, jumped upon the horse's back, and began to beat him mightily
with his heels, and with his two big, heavy fists, to make him go; but
the horse seemed not to take the least notice and never stirred.

"I know the reason he does not go," said Fergus Finnvel; "he has been
accustomed to carry a horseman far heavier than you, that is to say,
the Gilla Dacker; and he will not move till he has the same weight on
his back."

At this Conan Mail called out to his companions, and asked which of them
would mount with him, and help to avenge the damage done to their

"I will go," said Coil Croda the Battle Victor, son of Criffan; and up
he went. But the horse never moved.

Dara Donn Mac Morna next offered to go, and mounted behind the others;
and after him Angus Mac Art Mac Morna. And the end of it was, that
fourteen men of the Clann Baskin and Clann Morna[23] got up along with
Conan; and all began to thrash the horse together, with might and main.
But they were none the better of it, for he remained standing stiff and
immovable as before. They found, moreover, that their seat was not at
all an easy one--the animal's back was so sharp and bony.


[XCIII.] Beltane, the first of May; Samin, the first of November.

[XCIV.] Beta, a public house of hospitality.

[XCV.] Offaly, now the name of two baronies in the county Kildare.

Fera-call, or Fircal, an ancient territory in the present King's County.

Brosna, a small river rising in the Slieve Bloma, or Slieve Bloom
mountains, which flows by Birr, and falls into the Shannon near
Banagher; usually called the Little Brosna, to distinguish it from the
Great Brosna, which flows through King's County into the Shannon.

The Twelve Mountains of Evlinn. (See note, page 97.)

Knockainy, a small hill much celebrated in fairy lore, in the county
Limerick, giving name to the village of Knockainy at its base. It
appears from the text that it was more anciently called Collkilla, or

[XCVI.] Ardpatrick, a beautiful green hill, with a remarkable church
ruin and graveyard on its summit, two miles from Kilfinane, county

Kenn-Avrat was the ancient name of Seefin mountain, rising over the
village of Glenosheen, two miles from Ardpatrick. Slieve-Keen, the old
name of the hill of Carrigeennamroanty, near Seefin.

Fermoy, a well-known town and barony in the county Cork. It appears from
the text that the district was anciently known by the name of
Coill-na-drua, or the wood of the druids.

Lehan, the ancient name of the district round Castlelyons, in the county

Fermorc, now the baronies of Connello, in Limerick. (See note, page

Curoi Mac Dara, a celebrated chief who flourished in the time of the Red
Branch Knights of Ulster, viz., in the first century of the Christian
era. Curoi had his residence on a mountain near Tralee, still called
Caherconree (the fortress of Curoi), and his "patrimony" was South
Munster. The remains of Curoi's great stone fortress are still to be
seen on Caherconree.

Loch Lein, the Lakes of Killarney.

Caher-Dun-Isca, now the town of Caher, on the Suir, in Tipperary.

Femin was the name of the great plain lying to the south and west of the
mountain of Slievenaman, or Slieve-na-man-finn, near Clonmel, in

Balla-Gavran, or the pass of Gavran, an ancient road, which ran by
Gavran (now Gowran), in the county Kilkenny.

Cratloe, a well-known district on the Clare side of the Shannon, near

[XCVII.] Cliach, the old name of the plain lying round Knockainy.

[XCVIII.] Fomor, a gigantic warrior, a giant; its primitive meaning is
"a sea-robber," commonly called a Fomorian. (See note 5 at the end.)

[XCIX.] Gilla Dacker means "a slothful fellow"--a fellow hard to move,
hard to manage, hard to have anything to do with.



When the Gilla Dacker saw the Fena beating his horse at such a rate, he
seemed very angry, and addressed the king in these words--

"King of the Fena, I now see plainly that all the fine accounts I heard
about you and the Fena are false, and I will not stay in your
service--no, not another hour. You can see for yourself the ill usage
these men are giving my horse without cause; and I leave you to judge
whether any one could put up with it--any one who had the least regard
for his horse. The time is, indeed, short since I entered your service,
but I now think it a great deal too long; so pay me my wages, and let me
go my ways."

But Finn said, "I do not wish you to go; stay on till the end of your
year, and then I will pay you all I promised you."

"I swear," answered the Gilla Dacker, "that if this were the very last
day of my year, I would not wait till morning for my wages, after this
insult. So, wages or no wages, I will now seek another master; but from
this time forth I shall know what to think of Finn Mac Cumal and his

With that the Gilla Dacker stood up as straight as a pillar, and,
turning his face towards the south-west, he walked slowly away.

When the horse saw his master leaving the hill, he stirred himself at
once and walked quietly after him, bringing the fifteen men away on his
back. And when the Fena saw this they raised a loud shout of laughter,
mocking them.

The Gilla Dacker, after he had walked some little way, looked back, and
seeing that his horse was following, he stood for a moment to tuck up
his skirts. Then, all at once changing his pace, he set out with long,
active strides; and if you know what the speed of a swallow is, flying
across a mountain-side, or the dry, fairy wind of a March day sweeping
over the plains, then you can understand the swiftness of the Gilla
Dacker, as he ran down the hill-side towards the south-west.

Neither was the horse behindhand in the race; for, though he carried a
heavy load, he galloped like the wind after his master, plunging and
bounding forward with as much freedom as if he had nothing at all on his

The men now tried to throw themselves off; but this, indeed, they were
not able to do, for the good reason that they found themselves fastened
firmly, hands and feet and all, to the horse's back.

And now Conan, looking round, raised his big voice, and shouted to Finn
and the Fena, asking them were they content to let their friends be
carried off in that manner by such a horrible, foul-looking old spectre
of a horse.

Finn and the others, hearing this, seized their arms and started off in
pursuit. Now the way the Gilla Dacker and his horse took was first
through Fermorc,[C.] which is at the present day called Hy Conall Gavra;
next over the wide, heathy summit of Slieve Lougher; from that to Corca
Divna; and they ran along by Slieve Mish, till they reached Cloghan
Kincat, near the deep green sea.

During all this time Finn and his people kept them in view, but were not
able to overtake them; and Ligan Lumina, one of the swiftest of the
Fena, kept ahead of the others.

The horse now passed by Cloghan Kincat without in the least abating his
speed; and when he had arrived on the beach, even at the very water's
edge, Ligan overtook him, and caught him by the tail with his two hands,
intending to hold him till the rest of the Fena came up. He gave a
mighty pull back; but the horse, not in the least checked by this, made
no more ado but plunged forward through the waves, dragging Ligan after
him hanging at his tail. And Ligan now found that he could neither help
his friends nor free himself, for his two hands clung fast to the tail
of the horse.

And so the great horse continued his course without stop or stay,
bringing the sixteen Fena with him through the sea. Now this is how they
fared in the sea, while the horse was rushing swiftly farther and
farther to the west: they had always a dry, firm strand under them, for
the waters retired before the horse while behind them was a wild, raging
sea, which followed close after, and seemed ready every moment to topple
over their heads. But, though the billows were tumbling and roaring all
round, neither horse nor riders were wetted by as much as a drop of
brine or a dash of spray.


[C.] Fermorc, now the baronies of Connello, in Limerick. Slieve Lougher,
a celebrated mountain near Castle Island, in Kerry. Corca Divna, now the
barony of Corkaguiny, the long peninsula lying west of Tralee, and
containing the town of Dingle, and the mountain range of Slieve Mish.
Cloghan Kincat, now called Cloghan, a small village on the northern
coast of the peninsula.



Now as to Finn and the others. They stood on the bank over the beach,
watching the horse and men till they lost sight of them in the sea afar
off; and then they sat them down, weary after their long chase, and full
of sadness for the loss of their companions.

After a long silence, Finn spoke and asked the chiefs what they thought
best to be done. But they replied that he was far beyond them all in
knowledge and wisdom; and they told him they would follow whatsoever
counsel he and Fergus Finnvel, the poet, gave them. Then Finn told
Fergus to speak his mind; and Fergus said--

"My counsel is that we go straightway to Ben Edar,[CI.] where we shall
find a ship ready to sail. For our forefathers, when they wrested the
land from the gifted, bright-complexioned Dedannans, bound them by
covenant to maintain this ship for ever, fitted with all things needful
for a voyage, even to the smallest article, as one of the privileges of
Ben Edar; so that if at any time one of the noble sons of Gael
Glas[CII.] wished to sail to distant lands from Erin, he should have a
ship lying at hand in the harbour ready to begin his voyage."

They agreed to this counsel, and turned their steps without delay
northwards towards Ben Edar. They had not gone far when they met two
noble-looking youths, fully armed, and wearing over their armour
beautiful mantles of scarlet silk, fastened by brooches of gold. The
strangers saluted the king with much respect; and the king saluted them
in return. Then, having given them leave to converse, he asked them who
they were, whither they had come, and who the prince or chief was that
they served. And the elder answered--

"My name is Feradach, and my brother's name is Foltlebar; and we are the
two sons of the king of Innia. Each of us professes an art; and it has
long been a point of dispute between us, which art is the better, my
brother's or mine. Hearing that there is not in the world a wiser or
more far-seeing man than thou art, O king, we have come to ask thee to
take us into thy service among thy household troops for a year, and at
the end of that time to give judgment between us in this matter."

Finn asked them what were the two arts they professed.

"My art," answered Feradach, "is this: If at any time a company of
warriors need a ship, give me only my joiner's axe and my
crann-tavall,[CIII.] and I am able to provide a ship for them without
delay. The only thing I ask them to do is this--to cover their heads
close, and keep them covered, while I give the crann-tavall three blows
of my axe. Then I tell them to uncover their heads; and lo, there lies
the ship in harbour, ready to sail!"

Then Foltlebar spoke and said, "This, O king, is the art I profess: On
land I can track the wild duck over nine ridges and nine glens, and
follow her without being once thrown out, till I drop upon her in her
nest. And I can follow up a track on sea quite as well as on land, if I
have a good ship and crew."

Finn replied, "You are the very men I want; and I now take you both into
my service. At this moment I need a good ship and a skilful pilot more
than any two things in the whole world. And though our own track-men,
namely, the Clann Navin, are good, yet we now need some one still more
skilful, to follow the Gilla Dacker through unknown seas."

Then the two brothers asked Finn what strait he was in at that moment,
and why he wanted a ship and pilot so much. Whereupon Finn told them the
whole story of the Gilla Dacker's doings from beginning to end. "And we
are now," said he, "on our way to Ben Edar, to seek a ship, that we may
follow this giant and his horse, and rescue our companions."

Then Feradach said, "I will get you a ship--a ship that will sail as
swiftly as a swallow can fly!"

And Foltlebar said, "I will guide your ship in the track of the Gilla
Dacker till ye lay hands on him, in whatsoever quarter of the world he
may have hidden himself!"

And so they turned back to Cloghan Kincat. And when they had come to the
beach, Feradach told them to cover their heads; and they did so. Then he
struck three blows of his axe on the crann-tavall; after which he bade
them look. And lo, they saw a ship, fully fitted out with oars and
sails, and with all things needed for a long voyage, riding before them
in the harbour!

Then Kylta Mac Ronan went to the top of a high hill; and, turning his
face inland, he uttered three mighty shouts, which were taken up by the
people of the next valley, and after them by those of the next valley
beyond. And so the signal spread, till a shout of alarm was heard in
every plain and hill-side, glen and valley, wood and wilderness, in the
two provinces of Munster. And when the Fena heard these shouts, they
ceased anon from their sports and pastimes; for they knew their king was
in danger or strait of some kind. And they formed themselves into ranks
and troops and battalions, and began their march; and it is not told how
they fared till they reached Cloghan Kincat.

Finn told them the whole story of the Gilla Dacker and his horse, and
how he had carried away Conan and fifteen others to some far-off island
in the Western Ocean. He also showed them the ship, and told them that
he himself and a chosen band of the Fena were about to sail westward in
quest of their friends.

And Oisin asked him how many of the chief men of the Fena he wished to
take with him.

Finn replied, "I foresee that this will be a perilous quest; and I think
all the chiefs here present few enough to bring with me."

"Say not so, O king," said Oisin; "too many have gone already, and some
must be left behind to guard the country, and to keep order. If fifteen
good men go with you, and that you find the others, the whole party will
be a match for any foe you are like to meet in these western lands."

And Oscar and Gaul Mac Morna spoke in like manner.

To this Finn agreed. Then he picked out fifteen men, the bravest and
best, the most dexterous at the sword, and the swiftest of foot among
the Fena.

The question then arose, who should lead the Fena in the king's absence;
and what they agreed on was that Oisin should remain behind and take
command, as he was the eldest and bravest and wisest of the king's sons.

Of those who were chosen to go with Finn, the chief men were Dermat
O'Dyna; Gaul Mac Morna; Oscar, the son of Oisin; Aed Beg, the son of
Finn; Fergus Finnvel, the poet; the three sons of Encarda; and Feradach
and Foltlebar, the two sons of the king of Innia.

So the king and his party took leave of Oisin and the rest. And sad,
indeed, were they on both sides; for no one knew how far the king might
have to sail among unknown seas and islands, or how long he should be
away from Erin, or the spells and dangers he and his men might encounter
in this pursuit.

Then they went on board, and launched their ship on the cold, bright
sea; and Foltlebar was their pilot and steersman. And they set their
sail and plied their slender oars, and the ship moved swiftly westward
till they lost sight of the shores of Erin; and they saw nothing all
round them but a wide girdle of sea. After some days' sailing, a great
storm came from the west, and the black waves rose up against them, so
that they had much ado to keep their vessel from sinking. But through
all the roaring of the tempest, through the rain and blinding spray,
Foltlebar never stirred from the helm or changed his course, but still
kept close on the track of the Gilla Dacker.

At length the storm abated, and the sea grew calm. And when the darkness
had cleared away, they saw to the west, a little way off, a vast rocky
cliff towering over their heads to such a height, that its head seemed
hidden among the clouds. It rose up sheer from the very water, and
looked at that distance as smooth as glass, so that at first sight there
seemed no way to reach the top.

Foltlebar, after examining to the four points of the sky, found the
track of the Gilla Dacker as far as the cliff, but no farther. And he
accordingly told the heroes that he thought it was on the top of that
rock the giant lived; and that, anyhow, the horse must have made his way
up the face of the cliff with their companions.

When the heroes heard this they were greatly cast down and puzzled what
to do; for they saw no way of reaching the top of the rock; and they
feared they should have to give up the quest and return without their
companions. And they sat down and looked up at the cliff, with sorrow
and vexation in their hearts.


[CI.] Ben Edar, now Howth Hill, near Dublin.

[CII.] Gael Glas, the traditional ancestor of the Gaels.

[CIII.] Crann-tav'all, a sort of sling for projecting stones, made of an
elastic piece of wood, and strung somewhat like a cross-bow.



When now they had been silent for a time, Fergus Finnvel, the poet,
arose and said--

"My friends, we have here amongst us one who has been fostered and
taught from the child to the man, by Mannanan Mac Lir[8] in Fairyland,
and by Angus,[1] the wisest of the Dedannans, at Bruga of the Boyne. He
has been carefully trained by both in everything a warrior should learn,
and in much druidical lore besides; so that he is skilled beyond us all
in manly arts and champion-feats. But now it seems that all his arts and
accomplishments go for nought, seeing that he is unable to make use of
them just at the time that we stand most in need of them. On the top of
that rock, doubtless, the Gilla Dacker lives, and there he holds Conan
and the others in bondage; and surely this hero, who now sits idly with
us here in our ship, should be able to climb up the face of that cliff,
and bring us back tidings of our dear friends and companions."

When Dermat O'Dyna heard this speech, his cheek grew red with shame, and
he made this reply--

"It is of me you have spoken these words, Fergus. Your reproaches are
just; and though the task is hard, I will attempt to follow the track of
the Gilla Dacker, and find out some tidings of our friends."

So saying, Dermat arose, and girded on his armour, and put on his
glittering helmet. He hung his sword at his left hip; and he took his
two long, deadly spears, one in each hand, namely, the Crann-boi and the
Ga-derg;[CIV.] and the battle-fury of a warrior descended on him, so
that he looked a dreadful foe to meet in single combat.

Then, leaning on the handles of his spears, after the manner of skilful
champions, he leaped with a light, airy bound on the nearest shelf of
rock. And using his spears and his hands, he climbed from ledge to
ledge, while his companions watched him anxiously from below; till,
after much toil, he measured the soles of his two feet on the green sod
at the top of the rock. And when, recovering breath, he turned round and
looked at his companions in the ship far below, he started back with
amazement and dread at the dizzy height.

He now looked inland, and saw a beautiful country spread out before
him:--a lovely, flowery plain straight in front, bordered with pleasant
hills, and shaded with groves of many kinds of trees. It was enough to
banish all care and sadness from one's heart to view this country, and
to listen to the warbling of the birds, the humming of the bees among
the flowers, the rustling of the wind through the trees, and the
pleasant voices of the streams and waterfalls.

Making no delay, Dermat set out to walk across the plain. He had not
been long walking when he saw, right before him, a great tree laden with
fruit, overtopping all the other trees of the plain. It was surrounded
at a little distance by a circle of pillar-stones; and one stone, taller
than the others, stood in the centre near the tree. Beside this
pillar-stone was a spring well, with a large, round pool as clear as
crystal; and the water bubbled up in the centre, and flowed away towards
the middle of the plain in a slender stream.

Dermat was glad when he saw the well; for he was hot and thirsty after
climbing up the cliff. He stooped down to take a drink; but before his
lips touched the water, he heard the heavy tread of a body of warriors,
and the loud clank of arms, as if a whole host were coming straight down
on him. He sprang to his feet and looked round; but the noise ceased in
an instant, and he could see nothing.

After a little while he stooped again to drink; and again, before he had
wet his lips, he heard the very same sounds, nearer and louder than
before. A second time he leaped to his feet; and still he saw no one.
He knew not what to think of this; and as he stood wondering and
perplexed, he happened to cast his eyes on the tall pillar-stone that
stood on the brink of the well; and he saw on its top a large, beautiful
drinking-horn, chased with gold and enamelled with precious stones.

"Now surely," said Dermat, "I have been doing wrong; it is, no doubt,
one of the virtues of this well that it will not let any one drink of
its waters except from the drinking-horn."

So he took down the horn, dipped it into the well, and drank without
hindrance, till he had slaked his thirst.

Scarcely had he taken the horn from his lips, when he saw a tall
wizard-champion[CV.] coming towards him from the east, clad in a
complete suit of mail, and fully armed with shield and helmet, sword and
spear. A beautiful scarlet mantle hung over his armour, fastened at his
throat by a golden brooch; and a broad circlet of sparkling gold was
bended in front across his forehead, to confine his yellow hair, and
keep it from being blown about by the wind.

As he came nearer, he increased his pace, moving with great strides;
and Dermat now observed that he looked very wrathful. He offered no
greeting, and showed not the least courtesy; but addressed Dermat in a
rough, angry voice--

"Surely, Dermat O'Dyna, Erin of the green plains should be wide enough
for you; and it contains abundance of clear, sweet water in its crystal
springs and green bordered streams, from which you might have drunk your
fill. But you have come into my island without my leave, and you have
taken my drinking-horn, and have drunk from my well; and this spot you
shall never leave till you have given me satisfaction for the insult."

So spoke the wizard-champion, and instantly advanced on Dermat with fury
in his eyes. But Dermat was not the man to be terrified by any hero or
wizard-champion alive. He met the foe half-way; and now, foot to foot,
and knee to knee, and face to face, they began a fight, watchful and
wary at first, but soon hot and vengeful, till their shields and helmets
could scarce withstand their strong thrusts and blows. Like two enraged
lions fighting to the death, or two strong serpents intertwined in
deadly strife, or two great opposing billows thundering against each
other on the ocean border; such was the strength and fury and
determination of the combat of these two heroes.

And so they fought through the long day, till evening came, and it began
to be dusk; when suddenly the wizard-champion sprang outside the range
of Dermat's sword, and leaping up with a great bound, he alighted in the
very centre of the well. Down he went through it, and disappeared in a
moment before Dermat's eyes, as if the well had swallowed him up. Dermat
stood on the brink, leaning on his spear, amazed and perplexed, looking
after him in the water; but whether the hero had meant to drown himself,
or that he had played some wizard trick, Dermat knew not.

He sat down to rest, full of vexation that the wizard-champion should
have got off so easily. And what chafed him still more was that the Fena
knew nought of what had happened, and that when he returned, he could
tell them nothing of the strange hero; neither had he the least token or
trophy to show them after his long fight.

Then he began to think what was best to be done; and he made up his mind
to stay near the well all night, with the hope of finding out something
further about the wizard-champion on the morrow.

He walked towards the nearest point of a great forest that stretched
from the mountain down to the plain on his left; and as he came near, a
herd of speckled deer ran by among the trees. He put his finger into the
silken loop of his spear, and, throwing it with an unerring cast,
brought down the nearest of the herd.

Then, having lighted a fire under a tree, he skinned the deer and fixed
it on long hazel spits to roast, having first, however, gone to the
well, and brought away the drinking-horn full of water. And he sat
beside the roasting deer to turn it and tend the fire, waiting
impatiently for his meal; for he was hungry and tired after the toil of
the day.

When the deer was cooked, he ate till he was satisfied, and drank the
clear water of the well from the drinking-horn; after which he lay down
under the shade of the tree, beside the fire, and slept a sound sleep
till morning.

Night passed away and the sun rose, bringing morning with its abundant
light. Dermat started up, refreshed after his long sleep, and, repairing
to the forest, he slew another deer, and fixed it on hazel spits to
roast at the fire as before. For Dermat had this custom, that he would
never eat of any food left from a former meal.

And after he had eaten of the deer's flesh and drunk from the horn, he
went towards the well. But though his visit was early, he found the
wizard-champion there before him, standing beside the pillar-stone,
fully armed as before, and looking now more wrathful than ever. Dermat
was much surprised; but before he had time to speak the wizard-champion
addressed him--

"Dermat O'Dyna, you have now put the cap on all your evil deeds. It was
not enough that you took my drinking-horn and drank from my well: you
have done much worse than this, for you have hunted on my grounds, and
have killed some of my speckled deer. Surely there are many
hunting-grounds in Erin of the green plains, with plenty of deer in
them; and you need not have come hither to commit these robberies on me.
But now for a certainty you shall not go from this spot till I have
taken revenge for all these misdeeds."

And again the two champions attacked each other, and fought during the
long day, from morning till evening. And when the dusk began to fall,
the wizard-champion leaped into the well, and disappeared down through
it, even as he had done the day before.

The selfsame thing happened on the third day. And each day, morning and
evening, Dermat killed a deer, and ate of its flesh, and drank of the
water of the well from the drinking-horn.

On the fourth morning, Dermat found the wizard-champion standing as
usual by the pillar-stone near the well. And as each morning he looked
more angry than on the morning before, so now he scowled in a way that
would have terrified any one but Dermat O'Dyna.

And they fought during the day till the dusk of evening. But now Dermat
watched his foe narrowly; and when he saw him about to spring into the
well, he closed on him and threw his arms round him. The wizard-champion
struggled to free himself, moving all the time nearer and nearer to the
brink; but Dermat held on, till at last both fell into the well. Down
they went, clinging to each other, Dermat and the wizard-champion; down,
down, deeper and deeper they went; and Dermat tried to look round, but
nothing could he see save darkness and dim shadows. At length there was
a glimmer of light; then the bright day burst suddenly upon them; and
presently they came to the solid ground, gently and without the least


[CIV.] See note, page 302.

[CV.] The original word, which I have translated "wizard-champion," is
_gruagach_. This word literally means "hairy," "a hairy fellow;" and it
is often used in the sense of "giant." But in these romantic tales it is
commonly used to signify a champion who has always something of the
supernatural about him, yet not to such a degree as to shield him
completely from the valour of a great mortal hero like Dermat O'Dyna.



At the very moment they reached the ground, the wizard-champion, with a
sudden effort, tore himself away from Dermat's grasp and ran forward
with great speed. Dermat leaped to his feet; and he was so amazed at
what he saw around him that he stood stock still and let the
wizard-champion escape: a lovely country, with many green-sided hills
and fair valleys between, woods of red yew trees, and plains laughing
all over with flowers of every hue.

Right before him, not far off, lay a city of great tall houses with
glittering roofs; and on the side nearest to him was a royal palace,
larger and grander than the rest. On the level green in front of the
palace were a number of knights, all armed, and amusing themselves with
various warlike exercises of sword and shield and spear.

Straight towards this assembly the wizard-champion ran; which, when
Dermat saw, he set off in pursuit, hoping to overtake him. But the
wizard-champion had too long a start, and when he reached the exercise
green, the knights opened to the right and left, leaving a broad way
through which he rushed. He never halted or looked behind till he had
got inside the palace gate; and the moment he had passed in, the knights
closed their ranks, and stood facing Dermat with threatening looks and

Nothing daunted, Dermat held on his pace towards them; and now those of
the front rank started forward with spears and swords, intending to
crush him at once, and hew his body to mincemeat. But it was not terror
nor weakness nor a desire of flight that this produced in Dermat, for
his battle-fury was on him; and he rushed through them and under them
and over them, as a hawk rushes among a flight of sparrows, or like a
whale through a shoal of little fishes, or like a raging wolf among a
flock of sheep, or like a vast billow among a fleet of small vessels, or
like a great brown torrent rushing down the steep side of a mountain,
that sweeps everything headlong before it. So did Dermat cleave a wide
laneway through the hosts, till, from a solid band of warriors, he
turned them into a scattered crowd, flying in all directions. And those
that did not fall by his hand, ran hither and thither, some to hide
themselves in the thick forests and remote, wooded glens of the
surrounding country; while others rushed in through the outer gate of
the palace, and shut themselves up in the strongest part of the
fortress, neither did they deem themselves safe till they had shot home
every bolt, and securely fastened every strong iron lock.

At last not a living soul remained on the green, and Dermat sat down,
weary after his battle-toil, and smarting all over with wounds. He was
grieved and downcast also, for he knew not where he was, and he saw no
chance that he should be able either to find any tidings of the friends
he was in search of, or to return to his companions in the ship.

At length, being quite overcome with weariness, he fell into a deep
sleep. After sleeping for some time, he was awakened by a smart blow. He
started up, and saw a young man standing over him, tall, and of a
commanding appearance, with long, golden hair, and a manly, open
countenance. Now this young man had come to Dermat, and finding him
asleep in such a dangerous place, he struck him with the flat of his
sword to awaken him. In an instant Dermat sprang to his feet and seized
his arms; but the youth addressed him in a friendly voice, and said--

"Dermat O'Dyna, put up your arms; I am no enemy, and I have come, not to
harm, but to serve you. This, indeed, is a strange place for you to fall
asleep, before the very door of the castle, and within sight of your
enemies. Come now with me, and I will give you a better place to sleep
in, where you will also get a welcome and kindly entertainment."

This speech pleased Dermat very much; and he thanked the young man and
went with him. After walking for some time, they came to a large
splendid house, and passing through the outer gate they entered the
banqueting hall. There they found a noble company of twelve score and
ten knights, and almost as many beautiful ladies, with their long hair
falling on their shoulders, shining like the golden flower of the
marsh-flag, and gentle and modest in their looks and conversation. They
wore mantles of scarlet satin, and each mantle was fastened in front by
a brooch of burnished gold.

The company sat at tables round the walls of the banquet hall, some
feasting, some playing chess, and some listening to the music of harps.
When the two heroes entered, all the knights and ladies rose and
received them with much respect, and they welcomed Dermat and invited
him to join their entertainment. But the young prince--for he was in
truth a prince--pointing to Dermat's clothes and arms, all soiled and
stained, told them that he had endured much toil that day, and that he
wanted rest and refreshment.

He then brought Dermat away, and ordered the attendants to prepare a
bath in a great caldron. He put soothing balsams and healing herbs into
it with his own hands, and when Dermat had bathed he was immediately
healed of his wounds, and he came forth refreshed and cheerful. The
prince then directed that his clothes should be put aside, and had him
clad in rich garments like the others.

Dermat now joined the company, and ate and drank, for he had taken
neither food nor drink since he had made his meal on the deer early that
morning near the well; after which he talked and was cheerful with the
others. Then rose up the harpers, and the professors of divers arts and
sciences, and one after another they played their sweet music, and
recited their poems and their tales of the heroes of the olden time. And
when they had ended, the knights gave them gifts of gold and silver and
jewels. At last the company broke up, and Dermat was shown to a bed
richly ornamented, and soft with the red feathers of wild fowl, and soon
he fell into a sound sleep after his long day's adventures.

Now Dermat marvelled much at all he saw and heard; and he knew not what
place he was in, or who the people were, that had treated him with such
kindness. So next morning, when the company had again assembled, he
stood up, and addressed the prince with gentle words and modest
demeanour; and this is what he said--

"I am much surprised, O prince, at what I have seen, and at all that has
befallen me in this land. Though I am here a stranger, thou hast shown
me much kindness, and these noble knights and ladies have permitted me
to join their sports, and have treated me with much gentleness and
consideration. I wish to know, then, who thou art, O prince, and what
country this is, of which I have never before heard, and who is the king
thereof. Tell me also, I pray thee, the name of the champion who fought
with me for four days at the well, till at last he escaped from me at
the palace."

The prince replied, "I will tell you all, Dermat, as you have asked,
concealing nothing. This country is Tir-fa-tonn; the champion who fought
with you is called the Knight of the Fountain, and that very champion is
king of this land. I am the brother of the king, and my name is the
Knight of Valour. Good reason indeed have I to be kind to you, Dermat
O'Dyna, for though you do not remember me, I spent a year and a day in
the household of Finn the son of Cumal.

"A part of this kingdom belongs by right to me. But the king and his son
have seized on my patrimony, and have banished me from the palace,
forcing me to live here in exile with a few of my faithful followers.

"It is my intention, however, to make war on the king for my part of the
kingdom; and right glad I am that you have come hither, for I would
rather have you on my side than all the other Fena put together, for
your nobleness of mind and your valour in battle.

"I have here in my household seven score and ten heroes, all champions
of great deeds; and if you consent to aid me, these shall be placed
under your command. By day you shall fight against the king of
Tir-fa-tonn and his son, and by night you shall feast and rest and sleep
with me in this palace. If you enter into friendship with me and fight
on my side, well I know that I shall win back my right without delay."

Dermat agreed to this. So he and the Knight of Valour made a covenant;
and, placing hand in hand, they pledged themselves to observe faithfully
the conditions of the league of friendship.


[CVI.] Tir-fa-tonn, literally "the country beneath the wave." (See note
13 at the end.)



As to Finn Mac Cumal and those that remained behind with him in the
ship, I will now relate what befell them.

It was now many days since Dermat had left them, and they marvelled much
that he did not return with tidings of the Gilla Dacker. At length, when
they began to be alarmed, the two sons of the king of Innia offered to
go in search of him; but Finn said no, for that they should all go

So Feradach and Foltlebar took all the cables and ropes they could find
in the ship, and tied them end to end in hard, sure knots, till they had
a rope long enough to reach from the top of the rock to the bottom. Then
they clambered up the steep face of the cliff, bringing with them the
end of the rope; and one by one they drew up Finn and the rest. And when
they looked round, they were as much surprised and delighted as Dermat
was at the look of the country.

Foltlebar now made a search, and soon found the track of Dermat; and the
whole party set out to walk across the plain, Foltlebar leading the way.
Having travelled some distance, they saw the great fruit tree afar off;
and, turning to the left, they found a place where a fire had been
lighted, and near it the remains of several meals of deer's flesh. By
this they knew that it was here Dermat had slept, for all were well
aware of his custom not to eat of what was left from a meal.

They then went towards the tree, and there they found the traces of
deadly combat--the ground all trampled and ploughed up, and a broken
spear handle lying at the brink of the well. While they stood pondering
on these things, with anxious hearts, they saw a horseman at a distance,
speeding towards them across the plain. In a little while he came up and
reined in.

He was a young man of majestic mien, fair and noble of countenance; and
he rode a beautiful chestnut steed, with a bridle of twisted gold, and a
saddle of surpassing splendour, ornamented all over with gold and

He alighted and saluted Finn and the Fena, and told them they were
welcome to his country, for that he was king; and he put his hand on
Finn's neck and kissed his cheek three times. Then he invited them to go
with him, saying that the Plain of the Fountain was a comfortless
resting-place after a long journey.

Finn's heart was glad at this, for he and his companions were weary;
and they set out to walk across the plain with the young king. Having
walked a good distance, they came in sight of a noble palace, with tall
towers and carved front. As they came near, they were met by a company
of knights on the level green in front, who welcomed them with gentle
words. And so they passed into the palace. A bath was prepared, and they
bathed and were refreshed after their toils. Then they sat down to
supper; and while they ate and drank, the harpers played for them, and
the poets told their tales and sang their songs.

They slept that night in the palace; and next day they mingled with the
knights on the green, and took part in their games and pastimes. In the
evening they sat down to a feast. The people of the palace were ranged
at tables according to rank and inheritance, every man in his proper

Then the feast went on; and abundance of the newest food and of the
oldest drink was served out; and they ate of the savoury food, and drank
of the sparkling wines and of the strong ales, till they became merry
and gently intoxicated. And Finn could not call to mind that he ever saw
an entertainment in the house of either king or chief better ordered. In
this manner they were feasted and entertained for three days and three

At the end of that time a meeting was held by the king on the palace
green. And Finn stood up and said--

"Tell me, I pray thee, thy name and the name of this country, which I
have never seen before, or even heard of."

"This country," replied the king, "is called Sorca, of which I am king;
and although you know us not, we know you well, for the fame of your
deeds has reached even to this land. But now I wish to know why you have
come hither; also the reason why you have brought so few companions, and
where the rest have tarried."

Then Finn told him the whole story from beginning to end; how the Gilla
Dacker and his great horse had carried off sixteen of their chief men;
"And," added Finn, "I and these fifteen companions of mine are now in
quest of them."

The king replied, "This is a dangerous undertaking; and you and your
fifteen men, valiant even as you are, are too few to venture into
unknown lands, where you may meet with many enemies. Now my knights are
brave and generous, and they love battle and adventure. Wherefore I will
place a band of them under your command, who will follow you
whithersoever you go, and who will not be behindhand even with the Fena
in facing hardship and danger."

Finn stood up to thank the king; but before he had time to speak, they
saw a messenger speeding towards them across the plain from the
north-west, breathless, and begrimed all over with mud and dust. When he
had come in presence of the company, he bowed low to the king, and,
standing up, waited impatient for leave to speak.

The king asked him what news he had brought and he replied--

"Bad and direful news I have for thee, O king. A foreign fleet has come
to our shores, which seems to cover all the sea, even as far as the eye
can reach; and until the stars of heaven are counted, and the sands of
the sea, and the leaves of the woods, the hosts that are landing from
their black ships shall not be numbered. Even already they have let
loose their plunderers over the country, who are burning and spoiling
the farmsteads and the great mansions; and many noble heroes and keepers
of houses of hospitality, and many people of the common sort, have been
slain by them. Some say that it is the King of the World and his host,
who, after conquering every country he has yet visited, has come now to
ravage this land with fire and sword and spear, and bring it under his
power; but I know not if this be true. And this, O king, is the news I
bring thee."

When the messenger had ended, the king spoke nought, though his
countenance, indeed, showed trouble; but he looked earnestly at Finn.
Finn understood this to mean that the king sought his help; and, with
clear voice, he spoke--

"Thou hast been generous to me and my people in our day of need, O king
of Sorca; and now thou shalt not find the Fena lacking in grateful
memory of thy kindness. We will, for a time, give up the pursuit of the
Gilla Dacker, and we will place ourselves under thy command, and help
thee against these marauders. Neither do I fear the outcome of this
war; for many a time have we met these foreigners on the shores of Erin
and elsewhere, and they have always yielded to us in the battle-field."

The king of Sorca was glad of heart when he heard these words; and he
sent his swift scouts all over the country to gather his fighting men.
And when all had come together, he arranged them in fighting order, and
marched towards the shore where the foreigners were spoiling the land.
And they met the plundering parties, and drove them with great slaughter
back to their ships, retaking all the spoils.

Then they formed an encampment on the shore, with ramparts and deep
ditches and long rows of pointed stakes all round. And each day a party
of the foreigners landed, led by one of their captains, who were met by
an equal number of the men of Sorca, led by one of the Fena; and each
time they were driven back to their ships, after losing their best men.

When, now, this had continued for many days, the King of the World
called a meeting of the chiefs of his army, and asked their counsel as
to what should be done. And they spoke as one man, that their best
chiefs had fallen, and that they were in worse case now for overcoming
the men of Sorca than they were at first; that their sages and prophets
had declared against them; and that they had met with ill luck from the
day of their arrival. And the advice they gave the king was to depart
from the shores of Sorca, for there seemed no chance of conquering the
country as long as the Fena were there to help the king.

So the king ordered the sails to be set, and he left the harbour in the
night with his whole fleet, without bringing the king of Sorca under
subjection, and without imposing tribute on the people.



When the people of Sorca and the Fena arose next morning, not a ship was
in sight; and they began to rejoice greatly, finding themselves freed
from this invasion. And while the king and Finn, with the chiefs and
people, stood eagerly conversing on all these matters, they saw a troop
at a distance coming towards them, with banners and standards and arms
glittering in the morning sun. Now they wondered much who these might
be; and Finn desired that some one might go and bring back tidings.

So Fergus Finnvel went with a few followers, and when he was yet a good
way off, he knew Dermat O'Dyna at the head of the troop, and ran forward
with joy to meet him. And they embraced, even as brothers embrace who
meet after being long parted. Then they came towards the assembly; and
when the Fena saw Dermat they shouted with joy and welcome And Dermat,
on his part, could scarce restrain the excess of his joyfulness; for,
indeed, he did not expect to meet his friends so soon; and he embraced
them one by one, with glad heart, beginning with Finn.

Then Finn inquired from Dermat all particulars, what places he had
visited since the day he had climbed up the rock, and whether he had
heard any news of their lost companions; and he asked him also who were
they--those valiant-looking fighting men--he had brought with him.

Dermat told him of all his adventures from first to last--of his long
combat at the well with the Knight of the Fountain, of his descent to
Tir-fa-tonn, and how the Knight of Valour had entertained him hospitably
in his palace. He related also how he headed the men of the Knight of
Valour, and made war on the king of Tir-fa-tonn (who was also called the
Knight of the Fountain, the wizard-champion who fought with Dermat at
the well), whom he slew, and defeated his army.

"And now," continued he, bringing forth the Knight of Valour from among
the strange host, "this is he who was formerly called the Knight of
Valour, but who is now the king of Tir-fa-tonn. Moreover, this king has
told me, having himself found it out by his druidical art, that it was
Avarta the Dedannan (the son of Illahan of the Many-coloured Raiment)
who took the form of the Gilla Dacker, and who brought the sixteen Fena
away to the Land of Promise,[8] where he now holds them in bondage."

Finn and the young king then put hand in hand and made covenants of
lasting friendship with each other. And the Fena were much rejoiced that
they had at last got some tidings of their lost companions.



Now after they had rested some days in the palace of the king of Sorca,
Fergus Finnvel told Finn that it was time to begin once more their quest
after Conan and the others. They held council, therefore; and the
resolution they came to was to return to the rock at the spot where they
had turned aside from the track of the Gilla Dacker, and to begin their
search anew from that. And when both the king of Sorca and the king of
Tir-fa-tonn would have sent men with them, Finn thanked them, but said
that the small party of Fena he had with him were quite enough for that

So they took leave of the two kings, and went back to the rock, and
Foltlebar at once found the track. He traced it from the very edge of
the rock across the plain to the sea at the other side; and they brought
round their ship and began their voyage. But this time Foltlebar found
it very hard to keep on the track; for the Gilla Dacker, knowing that
there were not in the world men more skilled in following up a quest
than the Fena, took great pains to hide all traces of the flight of
himself and his horse; so that Foltlebar was often thrown out; but he
always recovered the track after a little time.

And so they sailed from island to island, and from bay to bay, over many
seas and by many shores, ever following the track, till at length they
arrived at the Land of Promise. And when they had made the land, and
knew for a certainty that this was indeed the Land of Promise, they
rejoiced greatly; for in this land Dermat O'Dyna had been nurtured by
Mannanan Mac Lir of the Yellow Hair.

Then they held council as to what was best to be done; and Finn's advice
was that they should burn and spoil the country, in revenge of the
outrage that had been done to his people. Dermat, however, would not
hear of this. And he said--

"Not so, O king. The people of this land are of all men the most skilled
in druidic art; and it is not well that they should be at feud with us.
Let us rather send to Avarta a trusty herald, to demand that he should
set our companions at liberty. If he does so, then we shall be at peace;
if he refuse, then shall we proclaim war against him and his people, and
waste this land with fire and sword, till he be forced, even by his own
people, to give us back our friends."

This advice was approved by all. And then Finn said--

"But how shall heralds reach the dwelling of this enchanter; for the
ways are not open and straight, as in other lands, but crooked and made
for concealment, and the valleys and plains are dim and shadowy, and
hard to be traversed?"

But Foltlebar, nothing daunted by the dangers and the obscurity of the
way, offered to go with a single trusty companion; and they took up the
track and followed it without being once thrown out, till they reached
the mansion of Avarta. There they found their friends amusing themselves
on the green outside the palace walls; for, though kept captive in the
island, yet were they in no wise restrained, but were treated by Avarta
with much kindness. When they saw the heralds coming towards them, their
joy knew no bounds; they crowded round to embrace them, and asked them
many questions regarding their home and their friends.

At last Avarta himself came forth, and asked who these strangers were;
and Foltlebar replied--

"We are of the people of Finn Mac Cumal, who has sent us as heralds to
thee. He and his heroes have landed on this island, guided hither by me;
and he bade us tell thee that he has come to wage war and to waste this
land with fire and sword, as a punishment for that thou hast brought
away his people by foul spells, and even now keepest them in bondage."

When Avarta heard this, he made no reply, but called a council of his
chief men, to consider whether they should send back to Finn an answer
of war or of peace. And they, having much fear of the Fena, were minded
to restore Finn's people, and to give him his own award in satisfaction
for the injury done to him; and to invite Finn himself and those who had
come with him to a feast of joy and friendship in the house of Avarta.

Avarta himself went with Foltlebar to give this message. And after he
and Finn had exchanged friendly greetings, he told them what the council
had resolved; and Finn and Dermat and the others were glad at heart. And
Finn and Avarta put hand in hand, and made a league of friendship.

So they went with Avarta to his house, where they found their lost
friends; and, being full of gladness, they saluted and embraced each
other. Then a feast was prepared; and they were feasted for three days,
and they ate and drank and made merry.

On the fourth day, a meeting was called on the green to hear the award.
Now it was resolved to make amends on the one hand to Finn, as king of
the Fena, and on the other, to those who had been brought away by the
Gilla Dacker. And when all were gathered together, Finn was first asked
to name his award; and this is what he said--

"I shall not name an award, O Avarta; neither shall I accept an eric
from thee. But the wages I promised thee when we made our covenant at
Knockainy, that I will give thee. For I am thankful for the welcome thou
hast given us here; and I wish that there should be peace and friendship
between us for ever."

But Conan, on his part, was not so easily satisfied; and he said to

"Little hast thou endured, O Finn, in all this matter; and thou mayst
well waive thy award. But hadst thou, like us, suffered from the sharp
bones and the rough carcase of the Gilla Dacker's monstrous horse, in a
long journey from Erin to the Land of Promise, across wide seas, through
tangled woods, and over rough-headed rocks, thou wouldst then, methinks,
name an award."

At this, Avarta, and the others who had seen Conan and his companions
carried off on the back of the big horse, could scarce keep from
laughing; and Avarta said to Conan--

"Name thy award, and I will fulfil it every jot: for I have heard of
thee, Conan, and I dread to bring the gibes and taunts of thy foul
tongue on myself and my people."

"Well then," said Conan, "my award is this: that you choose fifteen of
the best and noblest men in the Land of Promise, among whom are to be
your own best beloved friends; and that you cause them to mount on the
back of the big horse, and that you yourself take hold of his tail. In
this manner you shall fare to Erin, back again by the selfsame track the
horse took when he brought us hither--through the same surging seas,
through the same thick thorny woods, and over the same islands and rough
rocks and dark glens. And this, O Avarta, is my award," said Conan.

Now Finn and his people were rejoiced exceedingly when they heard
Conan's award--that he asked from Avarta nothing more than like for
like. For they feared much that he might claim treasure of gold and
silver, and thus bring reproach on the Fena.

Avarta promised that everything required by Conan should be done,
binding himself in solemn pledges. Then the heroes took their leave; and
having launched their ship on the broad, green sea, they sailed back by
the same course to Erin. And they marched to their camping-place at
Knockainy, where they rested in their tents.

Avarta then chose his men. And he placed them on the horse's back, and
he himself caught hold of the tail; and it is not told how they fared
till they made harbour and landing-place at Cloghan Kincat. They delayed
not, but straightway journeyed over the selfsame track as before, till
they reached Knockainy.

Finn and his people saw them afar off coming towards the hill with great
speed; the Gilla Dacker, quite as large and as ugly as ever, running
before the horse; for he had let go the tail at Cloghan Kincat. And the
Fena could not help laughing heartily when they saw the plight of the
fifteen chiefs on the great horse's back; and they said with one voice
that Conan had made a good award that time.

When the horse reached the spot from which he had at first set out, the
men began to dismount. Then the Gilla Dacker, suddenly stepping forward,
held up his arm and pointed earnestly over the heads of the Fena
towards the field where the horses were standing; so that the heroes
were startled, and turned round every man to look. But nothing was to be
seen except the horses grazing quietly inside the fence.

Finn and the others now turned round again, with intent to speak to the
Gilla Dacker and bring him and his people into the tents; but much did
they marvel to find them all gone. The Gilla Dacker and his great horse
and the fifteen nobles of the Land of Promise had disappeared in an
instant; and neither Finn himself nor any of his chiefs ever saw them

So far we have related the story of the pursuit of the Gilla Dacker and
his horse.




On a certain day, Finn, the son of Cumal, rose at early morn in Allen of
the broad hill-slopes, and, going forth, sat him down on the green lawn
before the palace, without companion or attendant. And two of his people
followed him, namely, Oisin his son, and Dering the son of Dobar

Oisin spoke to him and asked, "Why, O king, hast thou come forth so

"Cause enough have I indeed," replied Finn; "for I am without a wife
since Manissa, the daughter of Garad of the Black Knee, died; and who
can enjoy sweet sleep when his life is lonely like mine, with no wife to
comfort and cheer him? This, my friends, is the cause of my early

And Oisin said, "Why should you be without a wife if you desire one? For
there is not, within the sea-circle of green Erin, a maiden that we will
not bring you, either by consent or by force, if you only turn the
light of your eyes on her."

Then Dering spoke and said, "I know where there is a maiden, who in all
respects is worthy to be thy wife."

And when Finn asked who she was, Dering replied--

"The maiden is Grania, daughter of king Cormac,[22] the son of Art, the
son of Conn the Hundred-fighter; the most beautiful, the best
instructed, and the most discreet in speech and manner of all the
maidens of Erin."

"There has been strife between me and Cormac for a long time," said
Finn, "and it may happen that he will not give me his daughter in
marriage. But go ye to Tara in my name, you and Oisin, and ask the
maiden for me: if the king should refuse, so let it be; but I can better
bear a refusal to you than to myself."

"We will go," said Oisin; "but it is better that no man know of our
journey till we return."

So the two heroes took leave of Finn and went their way; and nothing is
told of what befell them till they reached Tara. It chanced that the
king was at this time holding a meeting; and the chiefs and great nobles
of Tara were assembled round him. And when the two warriors arrived,
they were welcomed, and the meeting was put off for that day; for the
king felt sure that it was on some business of weight they had come.

After they had eaten and drunk, the king, sending away all others from
his presence, bade the two chiefs tell their errand. So Oisin told him
they had come to seek his daughter Grania in marriage for Finn the son
of Cumal.

Then the king said, "In all Erin there is scarce a young prince or noble
who has not sought my daughter in marriage; and she has refused them
all. And it is on me that the ill feeling and reproach caused by her
refusals have fallen; for she has ever made me the bearer of her
answers. Wherefore now you shall come to my daughter's presence, and I
will not mention the matter to her till she give you an answer from her
own lips: so shall I be blameless if she refuse."

So they went to the apartments of the women, at the sunny side of the
palace. And when they had entered the princess's chamber, the king sat
with her on the couch and said--

"Here, my daughter, are two of the people of Finn the son of Cumal, who
have come to ask thee as a wife for him."

And Grania, giving, indeed, not much thought to the matter, answered, "I
know not whether he is worthy to be thy son-in-law; but if he be, why
should he not be a fitting husband for me?"

The two messengers were satisfied with this answer, and retired. And
Cormac made a feast for them; and they ate and drank and made merry with
the chiefs and nobles of the palace; after which the king bade them tell
Finn to come at the end of a fortnight to claim his bride.

So the two heroes returned to Allen, and told how they had fared in
their quest. And as all things come at last to an end, so this fortnight
wore slowly away; and at the end of the time, Finn, having collected
round him the chief men of the seven standing battalions of the Fena to
be his guard, marched to Tara. The king received him with great honour,
and welcomed the Fena, and they were feasted with the nobles of Erin in
the great banquet hall of Micorta.[CVII.] And the king sat on his throne
to enjoy the feast with his guests, having Finn on his right hand, and
on his left the queen, Etta, the daughter of Atan of Corca; and Grania
sat next the queen, her mother, on the left. And all the others sat
according to their rank and patrimony.



Now while the feast went on, it chanced that Dara of the Poems, one of
Finn's druids, sat near Grania. And he recited for her many lays about
the deeds of her forefathers; after which a pleasant conversation arose
between them. And when they had talked for some time, she asked him--

"What means all this feasting? And why has Finn come with his people on
this visit to my father the king?"

Dara was surprised at this question, and answered, "If thou dost not
know, it is hard for me to know."

And Grania answered, "I wish, indeed, to learn from you what has brought
Finn to Tara."

"It is strange to hear thee ask this question," said the druid. "Knowest
thou not that he has come to claim thee for his wife?"

Grania was silent for a long time after hearing this. And again she

"If, indeed, Finn had sought me for his son Oisin, or for the youthful
Oscar, there would be nothing to wonder at; but I marvel much that he
seeks me for himself, seeing that he is older than my father."

Then Grania meditated in silence; and after a time she said to the

"This is a goodly company, but I know not one among them, except only
Oisin, the son of Finn. Tell me now who is that warrior on the right of

"That knightly warrior," answered the druid, "is Gaul Mac Morna the
Terrible in Battle."

"Who is the youthful champion to the right of Gaul?" asked Grania.

"That is Oscar, the son of Oisin," said the druid.

"Who is the graceful and active-looking chief sitting next Oscar?" asked
the princess.

"That is Kylta Mac Ronan the Swift-footed," said the druid.

"Next to Kylta Mac Ronan sits a champion with fair, freckled skin,
raven-black curls, a gentle, handsome, manly countenance, and soft
voice: pray who is he?"

"That is Dermat O'Dyna of the Bright Face, the favourite of maidens, and
beloved of all the Fena for his high-mindedness, his bravery, and his
generous disposition."

"Who is he sitting at Dermat's shoulder?" asked Grania.

"That is Dering, the son of Dobar O'Baskin," replied the druid; "a
valiant champion, and also a druid and a man of science."

Then Grania called her handmaid, and said to her, "Bring me the large
jewelled, gold-chased drinking-horn that lies in my chamber."

The handmaid brought the drinking-horn; and Grania, having filled it to
the brim, said--

"Take it now to Finn from me, and tell him that I desire him to drink
from it."

The handmaiden did so, and Finn took a full draught. He passed the
drinking-horn to the king, and the king drank; and after him the queen.
Then again Grania bade the handmaid bring it to Carbri of the Liffey,
the king's son; and she ceased not till all she wished to drink had
drunk from the gold-chased horn. And after a little time, those who had
drunk fell into a deep sleep, like the sleep of death.

Then the princess rose from her seat, and, walking softly across the
hall, sat down near Dermat O'Dyna; and with downcast eyes and low voice,
she said--

"Wilt thou, Dermat, return my love if I give it to thee?"

Dermat heard her at first with amazement and alarm. Then for a moment,
even before he was aware, his heart leaped with joy; but when he
bethought him of his duty to his chief, he hardened his mind, and
answered with cold looks and words--

"The maiden who is betrothed to Finn, I will not love; and even if I
were so minded, I dare not."

And with eyes still cast down, Grania said, "I know well it is thy duty,
and not thy heart, that prompts thee to speak so. Thou seest how it is
with me; and I am forced to speak more boldly than a maiden should. Finn
has come to ask me for his wife; but he is an old man, even older than
my father, and I love him not. But I love thee, Dermat, and I beseech
thee to save me from this hateful marriage. And, lest thou think that my
love for thee is only a passing fancy, hear now what befell.

"Of a day when a hurling match was played on the green of Tara, between
Mac Luga and the Fena on the one side, and Carbri of the Liffey and the
men of Tara on the other, I sat high up at the window of my sunny
chamber to see the game. Thou didst remain sitting with some others that
day, not meaning to take part in the play. But at last, when the game
began to go against thy friends, I saw thee start up; and, snatching the
hurlet from the man nearest to thee, thou didst rush into the thick of
the crowd; and before sitting down thou didst win the goal three times
on the men of Tara. At that hour my eyes and my heart were turned to
thee; and well I knew thee to-day in this banquet hall, though I knew
not thy name till the druid told me. At that same hour, too, I gave thee
my love--what I never gave, and never will give, to any other."

Then was Dermat sore troubled. He strove with himself, but strove in
vain; for he could not help loving the princess with his whole heart.
Yet none the less did he hide his thoughts; for his duty to his chief
prevailed. And with looks and words cold and stern, he replied--

"I marvel greatly that thou hast not given thy love to Finn, who
deserves it much better than any other man alive. And still more do I
marvel that thou hast lighted on me beyond all the princes and nobles of
Tara; for truly there is not one among them less worthy of thy love than
I. But that thou shouldst be my wife, by no means can this be; for even
were I to consent, there is not in Erin a fastness or a wilderness,
however strong or remote, that could shelter us from Finn's vengeance."

Then Grania said, "I read thy thoughts; and I know thou art striving
against what thy heart prompts. And now, O Dermat, I place thee under
gesa,[12] and under the bonds of heavy druidical spells--bonds that true
heroes never break through, that thou take me for thy wife before Finn
and the others awaken from their sleep; and save me from this hateful

And Dermat, still unyielding, replied, "Evil are those gesa thou hast
put on me; and evil, I fear, will come of them. But dost thou not know,
princess, that whenever Finn sleeps at Tara, it is one of his privileges
to have in his own keeping the keys of the great gates; so that even if
we so willed it, we should not be able to leave the fortress?"

"There is a wicket gate leading out from my apartments," said Grania,
"and through that we shall pass forth."

"That I cannot do," answered Dermat; "for it is one of my gesa[12] never
to enter a king's mansion, or leave it, by a wicket gate."

And Grania answered, "I have heard it said that every true champion, who
has been instructed in all the feats that a warrior should learn, can
bound over the highest rampart of a fort by means of the handles of his
spears; and well I know that thou art the most accomplished champion
among the Fena. I will now pass out through the wicket gate; and even if
thou dost not follow, I will fly alone from Tara."

And so she went forth from the banquet hall.

Then Dermat, much doubting how to act, spoke to his friends and asked
counsel of them. And first he addressed Oisin, the son of Finn, and
asked him how he should deal with the heavy gesa-bonds that had been
laid on him by the princess; and what he should do in the case.

"You are blameless in regard to these bonds," answered Oisin; "and I
counsel you to follow Grania; but guard yourself well against the wiles
of Finn."

"O dear friend Oscar," spoke Dermat again, "what think you is best for
me to do, seeing that these heavy gesa-bonds have been put on me?"

"I say you should follow Grania," answered Oscar; "for he, indeed, is
but a pitiful champion who fears to keep his bonds."

"What counsel do you give me, Kylta?" said Dermat to Kylta Mac Ronan.

"I say," answered Kylta, "that I would gladly give the world's wealth
that the princess had given me her love; and I counsel you to follow

Last of all, Dermat spoke to Dering, the son of Dobar O'Baskin, and
said, "Give me your judgment in this hard matter, friend Dering."

And Dering answered, "If you espouse Grania, I foresee that your death
will come of it, which grieves me even to think of; but even so, I
counsel you to follow the princess rather than break through your gesa."

And Dermat, doubting even still, asked for the last time, "Is this, my
friends, the counsel you all give?"

And they all answered, "Yes," as with the voice of one man.

Then Dermat arose and put on his armour and his helmet; and he took his
shield, and his two heavy spears, and his sword. And with tears he bade
farewell to his dear companions; for well he knew that it would be long
before they should meet again; and he foresaw trouble and danger.

Then he went forth to where the steep side of the inner mound
overlooked the outer rampart; and, placing his two spears point
downwards, and leaning on them after the manner of skilful champions,
with two light, airy bounds he cleared rampart and ditch, and measured
the length of his two feet on the level green outside. And there the
princess met him; and he said to her, with voice and manner still
distant and stern--

"Evil will certainly come of this espousal, O princess, both to thee and
to me. Far better would it be for thee to choose Finn and to pass me by;
for now we shall wander without home or rest, fleeing from his wrath.
Return, then, princess, return even now through the wicket gate, for the
sleepers have not yet awakened; and Finn shall never learn what has

But Grania, gentle and sad indeed, but quite unmoved, replied, "I will
never return; and until death takes me I will not part from thee."

Then at last Dermat yielded and strove no longer; and putting off his
sternness of manner and voice, he spoke gently to the princess and

"I will hide my thoughts from thee no more, Grania. I will be thy
husband, all unworthy of thee as I am; and I will guard thee and defend
thee to the death from Finn and his hirelings."

And they plighted their faith, and vowed solemn vows to be faithful to
each other as man and wife for ever.


[CVII.] See foot-note, page 55.



Then Grania showed Dermat the fenced meadow where her father's horses
grazed, and bade him yoke two horses to a chariot. And when he had done
so, he and Grania sat in the chariot and travelled with all speed
westward, till they reached Ath-Luan.[CVIII.]

And when they had come to the ford, Dermat said, "Finn will doubtless
pursue us, and it will be all the easier for him to follow our track,
that we have the horses."

And Grania answered, "As we are now so far from Tara, we may leave the
chariot and horses here, and I will fare on foot henceforward."

So they alighted from the chariot; and Dermat, leading one of the horses
across, left them both some distance above the ford, one at each side of
the river. And he took up Grania in his strong arms, and brought her
tenderly across the ford, so that not even the sole of her foot, or the
skirt of her mantle was wetted. Then they walked against the stream for
a mile, and turned south-west, till they reached the Wood of the two

In the midst of the wood, where it was thickest, Dermat lopped off
branches and wove a hut, where they rested. And he brought Grania the
wild animals of the wood to eat, and gave her the water of a clear
spring to drink.

As to Finn, the son of Cumal, I will now tell what befell him. When the
king and his guests arose from their sleep at early dawn next morning,
they found Dermat and Grania gone; and a burning jealousy seized on
Finn, and his rage was so great that for a time all his strength left
him. Then he sent for his tracking-men, namely, the Clann Navin; and he
commanded them forthwith to follow the track of Dermat and Grania. This
they did with much ease as far as Ath-Luan, while Finn and the others
followed after; but when they had come to the ford, they lost the track.
Whereupon Finn, being now indeed easily kindled to wrath, told them that
unless they took up the track again speedily, he would hang every man of
the Clann Navin on the edge of the ford.

So the trackers, being sore afraid, searched upwards against the stream,
and found the two horses where they had been left, one on each side of
the river. And going on a mile further, they came to the spot where
Dermat and Grania had turned from the river; and there they lighted on
the south-west track, Finn and the Fena still following. And when the
Clann Navin had pointed out to Finn the direction of the track, he

"Well do I know now where we shall find Dermat and Grania; for of a
certainty they have hidden themselves in the Wood of the two Tents."

Now it chanced that Oisin, and Oscar, and Kylta, and Dering were present
when Finn spoke these words; and they were troubled, for they loved
Dermat. And going aside, they held council among themselves, and Oisin

"There is much likelihood, friends, that Finn speaks truth; for he is
far-seeing, and judges not hastily. It is needful, therefore, that we
send Dermat warning, lest he be taken unawares. My counsel is that you,
Oscar, find out Finn's hound, Bran, and tell him to go to the Wood of
the two Tents with a warning to Dermat; for Bran does not love his own
master Finn better than he loves Dermat."

So Oscar called Bran secretly, and told him what he should do. Bran
listened with sagacious eye and ears erect, and understood Oscar's words
quite well. Then, running back to the rear of the host, so that Finn
might not see him, he followed the track without once losing it, till he
arrived at the Wood of the two Tents. There he found Dermat and Grania
asleep in their hut, and he put his head into Dermat's bosom.

Dermat started up from his sleep, and seeing Bran, he awakened Grania,
and said--

"Here is Bran, Finn's hound; he has come to warn me that Finn himself is

And Grania trembled and said, "Let us take the warning, then, and fly!"

But Dermat answered, "I will not leave this hut; for however long we
fly, we cannot escape from Finn; and it is not worse to fall into his
hands now than at any other time. Howbeit, they shall not come into this
fastness unless I permit them."

Then great fear fell on Grania; but, seeing Dermat gloomy and downcast,
she urged the point no further.

Again Oisin spoke to his three companions and said, "I fear me that Bran
may not have been able to baffle Finn, or that some other mischance may
have hindered him from finding Dermat; so we must needs send him another
warning. Bring hither, therefore, Fergor, Kylta's errand-man."

And Kylta brought forward Fergor.

Now this Fergor had a voice so loud that his shout was heard over the
three nearest cantreds.

So they caused him to give three shouts that Dermat might hear. And
Dermat heard Fergor's shouts, and, awakening Grania from her sleep, said
to her--

"I hear the shout of Fergor, Kylta's errand-man. And he is with Kylta,
and Kylta is with Finn; and I know that my friends have sent me this
warning, as a sign that Finn himself is coming."

And again Grania trembled and said, "Let us take this warning and fly!"

But Dermat answered, "I will not fly; and we shall not leave this wood
till Finn and the Fena overtake us. Howbeit, none shall come into this
fastness unless I permit them."

And Grania was in great fear; but this time Dermat looked gloomy and
stern, and she pressed the matter no further.


[CVIII.] Ath-Luan, now Athlone, on the Shannon. In ancient times the
river had to be crossed by a ford, where the bridge is now built.

[CIX.] The Wood of the two Tents was situated in the territory of
Clanrickard, in the county Galway.



Now as to Finn. He and the others went forward till they reached the
Wood of the two Tents. And he sent forward the Clann Navin to make
search; who went, and having made their way to the thickest part of the
wood, they came to a fence which they could not cross.

For Dermat had cleared a space round his hut, and surrounded it with a
fence that no man could pierce, with seven narrow doors of strong poles
woven with saplings, to face seven different parts of the wood.

Then the Clann Navin climbed up to a high tree branch, and looked over
the fence; and they saw Dermat with a lady. And when they had returned,
Finn asked them if Dermat and Grania were in the wood. And they

"Dermat, indeed, is there, and we saw a lady with him; but whether she
be Grania or not we cannot tell, for we know not the princess."

"May ill luck attend Dermat, and all his friends for his sake!" said
Finn. "I know he is in this wood; and he shall never leave it till he
give me quittance for the injury he has done me."

And Oisin said, "Certain it is, that you, Finn, are blinded by jealousy;
else you would never think that Dermat would await you on this plain,
with no stronger fastness to shelter him from your wrath than the Wood
of the two Tents."

To which Finn, being angry, replied, "Your words will profit you
nothing, Oisin; neither will your friendship for Dermat avail him aught.
Well I knew, indeed, when I heard Fergor's three shouts, that it was ye
who caused him to shout, as a warning signal to Dermat; and I know also
that ye sent my dog Bran to him with another warning. But these warnings
will not avail you; for he shall never leave this wood till he pay me
such eric[10] as I seek for the injury he has done me."

Then Oscar spoke and said, "Surely, Finn, it is mere folly to believe
that Dermat would wait here for you, knowing, as he does, that you seek
his head."

As Oscar spoke these words, they arrived at the fence; and Finn
answered, "Who then, think you, has cleared the wood in this manner, and
fenced the space with this strong, sheltering enclosure, and fitted it
with these narrow doors? But indeed," added he, "I will find out the
truth of the matter in another way." So, raising his voice a little, he
called out, "Tell us now, Dermat, which of us is telling truth, Oscar or

And Dermat, who would not hide when called on, answered from within,
"You never erred in your judgment, O king: Grania and I are here; but
none shall come in unless I permit them."

Then Finn placed his men around the enclosure, a company at each narrow
door; and he said to each company, "If Dermat tries to escape by this
door, seize him and keep him securely for me."

Now when Grania saw these preparations, and overheard Finn's words, she
was overcome with fear, and wept and trembled very much. And Dermat had
pity on his wife, and comforted her; and he kissed her three times,
bidding her be of good cheer, for that all would be well with them yet.

And when Finn saw this--for he stood with some others viewing the hut
from a mound at a little way off--a flame of burning jealousy went
through his heart; and he said--

"Now of a certainty Dermat shall not escape from me; and I shall have
his head for all these injuries!"

Now Angus of Bruga,[1] the wisest and most skilled in magic arts of all
the Dedannan race, was Dermat's foster father. For he had reared him
from childhood, and had taught him all the arts and accomplishments of a
champion; and he loved him even as a father loves his only son.

And it was revealed to Angus that Dermat was in deadly strait So he
arose and travelled on the wings of the cool, east wind, neither did he
halt till he reached the Wood of the two Tents; and he passed into the
hut without being perceived by Finn and his men. And when Dermat saw the
old man his heart leaped with joy.

Angus greeted Dermat and Grania, and said, "What is this thing thou hast
done, my son?"

And Dermat answered, "The princess Grania, daughter of the king of Tara,
asked me to take her for my wife, putting heavy gesa-bonds on me; and I
did so, and we fled from her father's house. And Finn, the son of Cumal,
has pursued us with intent to kill me, for he sought the princess to
wife for himself."

And Angus said, "Come now, children, under my mantle, one under each
border, and I will bring you both away from this place without the
knowledge of Finn."

But Dermat answered, "Take Grania; but for me, I will not go with you.
However, I will leave this place; and if I am alive I will follow you.
But if they slay me, send the princess to her father, and tell him to
treat her neither better nor worse on account of taking me for her

Then Dermat kissed Grania, and bade her be of good cheer, for that he
feared not his foes. And Angus placed her under his mantle, and, telling
Dermat whither to follow, went forth from the enclosure without the
knowledge of Finn and the Fena. They turned south then, and nothing is
told of what befell them till they came to the Wood of the two Sallows,
which is now called Limerick.

Now as to Dermat. After Angus and Grania had left him, he girded on his
armour, and took his sharp weapons in his hands; and he stood up tall
and straight like a pillar, meditating in silence for a space. Then he
went to one of the seven narrow doors, and asked who was outside.

"No enemy of thine is here, but Oisin and Oscar, with the men of the
Clann Baskin. Come out to us, and no one will dare to harm thee."

"I must needs find the door where Finn himself keeps guard," answered
Dermat; "so I will not go out to you."

He went to the second narrow door, and asked who was there.

"Kylta Mac Ronan with the Clann Ronan around him. Come out at this door,
and we will fight to the death for thy sake."

"I will not go out to you," answered Dermat; "for I do not wish to bring
Finn's anger on you for treating me with kindness."

He went to another narrow door, and asked who was there.

"Conan of the Grey Rushes and the Clann Morna. We are no friends to
Finn; but thee we all love. Come out to us, then, and no one will dare
to harm thee."

"Of a certainty I will not go out at this door," answered Dermat; "for
well I know that Finn would rather see you all dead than that I should

He went to another narrow door, and asked who was there.

"A friend and a dear comrade of thine is here; Cuan, the chief of the
Munster Fena, and his Munster men with him. Thou and we come from the
same territory; and if need be we will give our lives in fight for thy

"I will not go out to you," said Dermat; "for it would bring Finn's sure
displeasure on you to act kindly towards me."

He went to another narrow door, and asked who was there.

"Finn, the son of Glore of the Loud Voice, chief of the Fena of Ulster,
and the Ulster men around him. Thou and we come not from the same
territory; but we all love thee, Dermat; and now come forth to us, and
who will dare to wound or harm thee?"

"I will not go out to you," replied Dermat; "you are a faithful friend
of mine, and your father in like manner; and I do not wish you to earn
the enmity of Finn on my account."

He went to another narrow door, and asked who was there.

"No friend of thine! Here stand the Clann Navin watching for thee;
namely, Aed the Lesser, and Aed the Tall, and Gonna the Wounder, and
Gothan the Loud-voiced, and Cuan the Tracker, with all their men. We
bear thee no love; and if thou come out at this door, we shall make thee
a mark for our swords and spears!"

And Dermat answered, "Lying and mean-faced dogs! It is not fear of you
that keeps me from going forth at this door; but I do not wish to defile
my spear with the blood of your shoeless, tracking vagabonds!"

And he went to another narrow door, and asked who was there.

"Finn, the son of Cumal, the son of Art, the son of Trenmore O'Baskin,
and with him the Leinster Fena. No love awaits thee here; and if thou
come forth we will cleave thee, flesh and bones!"

"The door I have sought I have found at last!" cried Dermat; "for the
door where thou, Finn, standest, that, of a certainty, is the very door
by which I shall pass out!"

Then Finn charged his men, under pain of death, not to let Dermat pass.
But Dermat, watching an unguarded place, rose by means of his two spears
with a light, airy bound over the fence, and alighted on the clear space
outside; and running swiftly forward, was in a moment beyond the reach
of sword and spear. And so dismayed were they by his threatening look,
that not a man attempted to follow him.

Then, turning southward, he never halted till he came to the Wood of the
two Sallows, where he found Angus and Grania in a warm hut, with a boar
fixed on hazel spits roasting before a great flaming fire. Dermat
greeted them; and the spark of life all but leaped from Grania's heart
with joy when she saw him.[CX.] So he told them all that had befallen
him; and they ate their meal and slept in peace that night, till the
morning of next day filled the world with light.

Then Angus arose with the dawn, and said to Dermat, "I will now depart,
my son; but Finn will still pursue you, and I leave you this counsel to
guide you when I am gone. Go not into a tree having only one trunk;
never enter a cave that has only one opening; never land on an island of
the sea that has only one channel of approach; where you cook your food,
there eat it not; where you eat, sleep not there; and where you sleep
to-night, sleep not there to-morrow night!"

So Angus bade them farewell; and they were sad after him.


[CX.] Original: "It was little but that the salmon of her life fled
through her mouth with joy before Dermat."



After Angus was gone, Dermat and Grania journeyed westward, keeping the
Shannon on their right, till they reached the Rough Stream of the
Champions, which is now called the Laune.[CXI.] They rested there; and
Dermat killed a salmon with his spear, and fixed it on a hazel spit to
broil on the near bank; and he crossed the river with Grania, to eat it
on the further bank, as Angus had told him. And after they had eaten,
they sought a sleeping-place further west.

They rose early next morning, and journeyed still west, till they
reached the Grey Moor of Finnlia.[CXII.] There they met a man of great
size, noble in gait and feature, but with arms and armour not befitting
his appearance. Dermat greeted him, and asked who he was; and he

"My name is Modan, and I am seeking a lord whom I may serve for pay."

"If I take you into my service," asked Dermat, "what can you do for us?"

"I will serve you by day and watch for you by night," answered Modan.

Whereupon they entered into bonds of agreement with one another, Modan
to serve by day and watch by night, and Dermat to pay him wages.

Then the three went westward till they reached the river of
Carra,[CXIII.] and Modan lifted Dermat and Grania with the greatest
ease, and bore them dry across the stream. From that further west to
Beha,[CXIV.] and Modan bore them over this stream in like manner. Here
they found a cave, on the side of the hill over that part of the sea
called Tonn Toma,[CXV.] namely, the hill of Curra-Kenn-Ammid; and Modan
prepared a couch of soft rushes and birch tops in the innermost part of
the cave, for Dermat and Grania. After this he went to the nearest wood
and cut him a long, straight quicken tree rod; and, having put a hair
and a hook on the rod, and a holly berry on the hook, he stood on the
brink of the stream, and with three casts he hooked three salmon. Then
he put the rod by for next day; and, putting the hook and the hair under
his girdle, he returned to Dermat and Grania. And he broiled the fish,
and they ate their meal, Modan giving the largest salmon to Dermat, the
second in size to Grania, and keeping the smallest for himself. After
which Dermat and Grania went to sleep in the cave, and Modan kept watch
and ward at the mouth, till morning arose with its abundant light.

Dermat rose early and set out for the nearest high hill, to look round
the country, telling Grania to keep watch at the mouth of the cave while
Modan slept. Having come to the top of the hill, he viewed the country
all round to the four points of the sky; and after a little while, he
saw a fleet of black ships approaching from the west. When they had come
near enough to the shore, a company of nine nines landed at the very
foot of the hill where Dermat stood. He went to them, and, after
greeting them, asked who they were, and from what country they had come.

"We are three sea-champions from the Iccian Sea,[CXVI.] who are at the
head of this troop," replied they, "and our names are Ducoss, Fincoss,
and Trencoss;[CXVII.] and we have come hither at the suit of Finn the
son of Cumal. For a certain chief named Dermat O'Dyna has rebelled
against him, and is now an outlaw, flying through the country from one
fastness to another. And Finn has asked us to come with our fleet to
watch the coast, while he himself watches inland, so that this marauder
may no longer escape punishment. We hear, moreover, that this Dermat is
valiant and dangerous to attack, and we have brought hither three
venomous hounds to loose them on his track, and scent him to his
hiding-place: fire cannot burn them, water cannot drown them, and
weapons cannot wound them. And now tell us who thou art, and whether
thou hast heard any tidings of this Dermat O'Dyna."

"I saw him, indeed, yesterday," answered Dermat. "I know him well too,
and I counsel you to follow your quest warily; for if you meet with
Dermat O'Dyna you will have no common man to deal with."

Then he asked if they had got any wine in their ships. They replied
that they had; so he asked that a tun might be brought, as he wished to
drink; and he told them he would show them a champion-feat after he had
drunk. Two men were accordingly sent on board for a tun of wine. When
they had brought it, Dermat raised it in his arms and drank; and the
others drank in like manner till the tun was empty.

Then he said, "I will now show you a champion-feat that Dermat O'Dyna
taught me; and I challenge any man among you to do it after me. And from
this you may learn what manner of man you will have to deal with, should
you have the ill luck to meet with Dermat himself."

So saying, he brought the tun to the crest of the hill, and set it down
at the edge of a steep cliff. Then, leaping up on it, he turned it
cunningly aside from the cliff, and let it roll down the smooth slope of
the hill till it reached the very bottom, while he himself remained
standing on it the whole time. And three times did he do this while the
strangers looked on.

But they laughed, mocking him, and said, "Do you call that a
champion-feat indeed? Truly, you have never in your life seen a good

Thereupon one among them started up and brought the tun to the top of
the hill, intending to do the same feat; and, placing it on the edge of
the cliff, he leaped up on it. And while he stood on it, Dermat pushed
it with his foot to set it going. But the moment it moved, the man lost
his balance, and while the tun went rolling down the face of the hill,
he himself fell over the cliff, and was dashed to pieces on the sharp
edges and points of the rocks.

Another man tried the same thing, and he in like manner fell down and
was killed among the rocks. And the end of the matter was, that before
they would acknowledge themselves beaten, fifty of their men attempted
the feat, and every man of the fifty fell over the cliff and was killed.
So the others went on board their ships, gloomy and heart-sore.

Dermat returned to the cave, and Grania's heart was glad when she saw
him. Modan went then, and putting the hair and the hook on the rod as
before, he hooked three salmon; and he went back to the cave and broiled
them on hazel spits. And they ate their meal; and Modan kept watch and
ward, while Dermat and Grania slept in the cave, till the pleasant
morning filled the world with light.

Dermat rose up with the dawn, and telling Grania to keep watch while
Modan slept, he went to the same hill, and found the three sea-champions
with their men on the shore before him. He greeted them, and asked
whether they wished for any more champion-feats. But they answered that
they would much rather he would give them some tidings of Dermat O'Dyna.
Whereupon he said--

"I have seen a man who saw him this very morning. And now I will show
you a champion-feat he taught me, in order that you may know what is
before you, should you meet with Dermat O'Dyna himself."

When he had said this, he threw off helmet and tunic and armour, till
only his shirt remained over his brawny shoulders; and, taking the
Ga-boi,[CXVIII.] the spear of Mannanan Mac Lir, he fixed it firmly in
the earth, standing point upwards. Then, walking back some little way,
he ran towards the spear, and, rising from the earth with a bird-like
bound, he alighted softly on the very point; and, again leaping off it,
he came to the ground on his feet without wound or hurt of any kind.

Then arose one of the strange warriors and said, "If you call that a
champion-feat, it is plain that you have never seen a good champion-feat
in your life!"

And so saying, he ran swiftly towards the spear and made a great bound;
but he fell heavily on the sharp point, so that it pierced him through
the heart, and he was taken down dead. Another man attempted the feat,
and was killed in like manner; and before they ceased, fifty of their
men were slain by Dermat's spear. Then they bade him draw his spear from
the earth, saying that no more should try that feat; and they went on
board their ships.

So Dermat returned to the cave; and Modan hooked three salmon; and
Dermat and Grania ate their meal and slept till morning, Modan keeping

Next morning, Dermat went to the hill, bringing two strong forked poles
cut from the wood. He found the three sea-champions with their men on
the shore; and he greeted them, and said--

"I have come to-day to show you a champion-feat I learned from Dermat
O'Dyna, that you may know what to expect if you should meet with Dermat

He then fixed the poles standing firmly in the earth; and he placed the
Morallta, that is, the long sword of Angus of the Bruga, in the forks,
edge upwards, the hilt on one, and the point on the other, binding it
firmly with withes. Then, rising up with a bound, he alighted gently on
the edge; and he walked cunningly three times from hilt to point, and
from point to hilt, and then leaped lightly to the earth without wound
or hurt. And he challenged the strangers to do that feat.

Then one arose and said, "There never yet was done a champion-feat by a
man of Erin, that one among us will not do likewise."

And he leaped up, intending to alight on his feet; but he came down
heavily on the sharp edge, so that the sword cut him clean in two.
Another tried the same, and was killed also; and, they ceased not till
as many were killed that day by Dermat's sword as were killed on each of
the two days before.

When they were about to return to their ships, they asked him had he got
any tidings of Dermat O'Dyna; and he answered--

"I have seen him this day: I will now go to seek him, and methinks I
shall bring him to you in the morning."

Then he returned to the cave; and he and Grania ate their meal, and
slept that night, while Modan kept watch.

Next morning, Dermat arose with the dawn, and this time he arrayed
himself for battle. He put on his heavy armour--no man who wore it could
be wounded through it, or above it, or beneath it. He hung the Morallta
at his left hip, the sword of Angus of the Bruga, which never left
anything for a second blow; and he took his two thick-handled spears,
the Ga-derg and the Ga-boi, whose wounds no one ever recovered.

Then he awakened Grania, telling her to keep watch till he returned,
that Modan might sleep. And when she saw him so arrayed, she trembled
with fear, for she well knew that this was his manner of preparing for
battle. And she asked him what he meant to do to-day, and whether Finn's
pursuers had found them. But he, to quiet her fears, put off the matter
lightly, and said, "It is better to be prepared, lest the enemy come in
my way;" and this soothed her.

So he went to the hill, and met the strangers on the shore as before.
And they asked him had he any tidings to give them of Dermat O'Dyna.

He answered, "He is not very far off, for I have seen him just now."

"Then," said they, "lead us to his hiding-place, that we may bring his
head to Finn the son of Cumal."

"That would, indeed, be an ill way of repaying friendship," answered he.
"Dermat O'Dyna is my friend; and he is now under the protection of my
valour: so of this be sure, I will do him no treachery."

And they replied wrathfully, "If thou art a friend to Dermat O'Dyna,
thou art a foe to Finn; and now we will take thy head and bring it to
him along with the head of Dermat."

"You might indeed do that with much ease," answered Dermat, "if I were
bound hand and foot; but being as I am, free, I shall defend myself
after my usual custom."

Then he drew the Morallta from its sheath, and, springing forward to
meet them as they closed on him, he clove the body of the foremost in
two with one blow. Then he rushed through them and under them and over
them, like a wolf among sheep, or a hawk among sparrows, cleaving and
slaughtering them, till only a few were left, who hardly escaped to
their ships.


[CXI.] The river Laune, flowing from the Lakes of Killarney into Dingle

[CXII.] The Grey Moor of Finnlia (_Bogach-Fhinnléithe_ in the original)
was somewhere between the river Laune and the river Caragh, but the name
is now forgotten.

[CXIII.] The river of Carra, the Caragh river, flowing into Dingle Bay
from the beautiful lake Caragh, twenty miles west of Killarney.

[CXIV.] Beha, the river Behy, about a mile and a half west from the
Caragh, flowing through Glanbehy into Rossbehy creek.

[CXV.] Tonn Toma, the wave of Toma (a woman). The word Tonn (a wave or
billow) was often applied to the sea-waves that break over certain
sandbanks and rocks with an exceptionally loud roaring. Tonn Toma is the
name of a sandbank at the head of Dingle Bay, just outside the extreme
point of Rossbehy peninsula; and in the winter storms, the sea thunders
on this sandbank, and indeed on the whole length of the beach of the
peninsula, so as often to be heard twenty miles inland. This roaring is
popularly believed to predict rain.

There is a chain of three hills, Stookaniller, Knockatinna, and
Knockboy, lying between Behy bridge on the east and Drung mountain on
the west, and isolated from the hills to the south-east by the valley of
Glanbehy. These hills rise directly over Tonn Toma; and the old Gaelic
name, Currach-Cinn-Adhmuid (the moor of the head [or hill] of timber)
must have been anciently applied to one or all of them.

(See, for an account of the great historical _tonns_ of Ireland, the
author's "Origin and History of Irish Names of Places," series ii. page

[CXVI.] Iccian Sea (Irish, _Muir nIcht_), the Irish name for the sea
between England and France.

[CXVII.] Ducoss, Fincoss, and Trencoss, _i.e._ Blackfoot, Whitefoot, and

[CXVIII.] Dermat had two spears, the great one called the Ga-derg or
Crann-derg (red javelin), and the small one called Ga-boi or Crann-boi
(yellow javelin): he had also two swords: the Morallta (great fury), and
the Begallta (little fury). These spears and swords he got from Mannanan
Mac Lir and from Angus of the Bruga. He carried the great spear and
sword in affairs of life and death; and the smaller in adventures of
less danger.



After this Dermat returned to the cave without wound or hurt; and he and
Grania ate and slept, and Modan watched till morning. Then he repaired
to the hill, fully armed as before, and standing right over the ships,
he struck his hollow-sounding shield[CXIX.] with his spear for a
challenge, till the whole shore and the surrounding hills re-echoed. And
Ducoss straightway armed himself and came ashore to fight Dermat single

Now Dermat by no means wished to slay his foe immediately, being,
indeed, intent on worse punishment. So he closed with Ducoss; and the
two champions, throwing aside their weapons, seized each other round the
waists with their sinewy arms. Then they twisted and tugged and wrestled
in deadly silence; and their swollen sinews strained and crackled; and
the earth trembled beneath their feet; like two great writhing serpents,
or like two raging lions, or like two savage bulls that strive and
struggle to heave each other with horns interlocked. Thus did the heroes
contend; till at last Dermat, heaving Ducoss on his shoulder, dashed him
helpless and groaning to the ground; and instantly seizing him, he bound
him in hard iron bonds.

Fincoss came next against Dermat, and after him Trencoss; but he
overcame them both, and bound them with like bonds; and then, leaving
the three writhing with pain, he said to them--

"I would strike off your heads, but that I wish to prolong your
torment; for none can release you from these bonds till you die!"

Dermat then returned to the cave; and he and Grania ate their meal and
slept that night, Modan watching. In the morning, Dermat told Grania all
that had happened from beginning to end; how fifty of the foreigners had
been killed each day for the first three days; how he had slain a much
greater number on the fourth day; and how he had overcome and bound the
three sea-champions in hard iron bonds.

"I have left them bound on the hill," continued he, "instead of killing
them; because I would rather their torment to be long than short. For
there are only four men in Erin that can loosen the bonds I tie; that is
to say, Oisin, and Oscar, and Mac Luga, and Conan Mail; and I think no
one of these will free them. Finn will doubtless hear of their state,
and the news will sting him to the heart. But he will know that we are
here; so we must now leave this cave, to escape him, and also to escape
the three venomous dogs."

So they came forth from the cave, and travelled eastward till they came
to the Grey Moor of Finnlia; and whenever Grania was tired, or when they
had to walk over rugged places, Modan lifted her tenderly and carried
her, without ever being in the least tired himself. And so they
journeyed, till they reached the broad, heathery slopes of Slieve
Lougher;[CXX.] and they sat down to rest on the green bank of a stream
that wound through the heart of the mountain.

Now as to the sea-strangers. Those of them that were left alive landed
from their ships, and coming to the hill, found their three chiefs bound
tightly, hand and foot and neck. And they tried to loose them, but only
made their bonds the tighter. While they were so engaged, they saw
Finn's errand-woman coming towards them, with the speed of a swallow, or
of a weasel, or of the swift, cold wind blowing over a mountain-side.
When she had come near, she greeted them, and, seeing the bodies of the
slain, she asked who it was that had made that fearful slaughter.

"Tell us first," said they, "who art thou that makest this inquiry?"

"I am Derdri of the Black Mountain, the errand-woman of Finn the son of
Cumal," she replied; "and he has sent me hither to look for you."

And they said, "We know not who made this slaughter; but we can tell
thee his appearance, for that we know well. He was a tall warrior, with
a fair, handsome, open countenance, and jet-black, curly hair. He has
been three days fighting against us; and what grieves us even more than
the slaughter of our men is that our three chiefs lie here bound by him
so firmly that we are not able to loose them from their bonds."

"Alas, friends!" said Derdri; "you have sped but badly at the very
beginning of your quest; for this man was Dermat O'Dyna himself. And now
loose your three venomous dogs on his track without delay; and I will
return and send Finn to meet you."

Then they brought forth the three hounds, and loosed them on the track
of Dermat; and leaving one of their druids to attend to the three
fettered chiefs, they followed the hounds till they came to the cave,
where they found the soft, rushy bed of Dermat and Grania. From that
they fared east, and crossing the Carra, and the Grey Moor of Finnlia,
and the Laune, they reached at length the broad, heathy Slieve Lougher.

As Dermat sat by the mountain stream with Grania and Modan, looking
westward, he saw the silken banners of the foreigners at a distance as
they approached the hill. In front of all marched three warriors with
mantles of green, who held the three fierce hounds by three chains. And
Dermat, when he saw the hounds, was filled with loathing and hatred of
them. Then Modan lifted Grania, and walked a mile with Dermat up the
stream into the heart of the mountain.

When the green-clad warriors saw them, they loosed one of the three
hounds; and when Grania heard his hoarse yelps down the valley, she was
in great dread. But Modan bade her not fear, for that he would deal with
this hound; and then, turning round, he drew forth from beneath his
girdle a small hound-whelp, and placed it on the palm of his hand. There
it stood till the great hound came up raging, with jaws wide open; when
the little whelp leaped from Modan's hand down the dog's throat, and
broke his heart, so that he fell dead. And after that the whelp leaped
back again on Modan's hand; and Modan put him under his girdle.

Then they walked another mile up the stream through the mountain, Modan
bringing Grania. But the second hound was loosed, and soon overtook
them; and Dermat said--

"I will try the Ga-derg on this hound. For no spell can guard against
the magic spear of Angus of the Bruga; and I have heard it said also
that there is no charm that can shield the throat of an animal from
being wounded."

Then, while Modan and Grania stood to look, Dermat, putting his finger
into the silken loop of the spear, threw a cast, and drove the
spear-head down the hound's throat, so that the entrails of the brute
were scattered about; and Dermat, leaping forward, drew the spear, and
followed Modan and Grania.

After they had walked yet another mile, the third hound was loosed; and
Grania, seeing him coming on, said, trembling--

"This is the fiercest of the three, and I greatly fear him; guard
yourself, Dermat, guard yourself well against this hound!"

Even while she spoke, the hound overtook them at the place called
Duban's Pillar-stone; and as they stood looking back at him, Dermat
stepped in front of Grania to shield her. The hound rose with a great
spring over Dermat's head to seize Grania; but Dermat grasped him by
the two hind legs as he passed, and, swinging him round, he struck his
carcase against a rock and dashed out his brains.

Then, putting his tapering finger into the silken string of the Ga-derg,
he threw the spear at the foremost of the green-clad knights, and slew
him. He made another cast of the Ga-boi and brought down the second
warrior; and, drawing the Morallta, he sprang on the third, and swept
off his head.

When the foreigners saw their leaders slain, they fled hither and
thither in utter rout. And Dermat fell upon them with sword and spear,
scattering and slaughtering them, so that there seemed no escape for
them, unless, indeed, they could fly over the tops of the trees, or hide
themselves under the earth, or dive beneath the water. And when Derdri
of the Black Mountain saw this havoc, she ran, panic-stricken and crazed
with fright, off the field towards the hill where the three kings lay

Now as to Finn. Tidings were brought to him of what happened to the
three sea-kings, and how they were lying bound in hard bonds on the hill
over Tonn-Toma. So he set out straightway from Allen, and travelled by
the shortest ways till he reached the hill. And when he saw the three
champions, he was grieved to the heart; for he knew of old that the iron
fetters bound by Dermat slew by slow torment, and that none could loose
them except Oisin, or Oscar, or Mac Luga, or Conan Mail.

And Finn asked Oisin to loose the bonds and relieve the kings.

"I cannot do so," answered Oisin, "for Dermat bound me under gesa[12]
never to loose any warrior that he should bind."

He next asked Oscar; but the young warrior answered, "None shall be
released by me who seeks to harm Dermat O'Dyna. Fain would I indeed put
heavier bonds on them."

And when he asked Mac Luga and Conan, they refused in like manner.

Now while they were speaking in this wise, they saw the errand-woman,
Derdri of the Black Mountain, running towards them, breathless and with
failing steps, and her eyes starting from the sockets with terror. And
Finn asked her what tidings she had brought.

"Tidings indeed, O king, tidings of grievous mishap and woe!" Whereupon
she told him all that she had seen--how Dermat O'Dyna had killed the
three fierce hounds, and had made a slaughter of the foreigners. "And
hardly, indeed," she cried, "hardly have I myself got off scathless with
the news!"

The three kings, hearing this, and being worn out with the straitness
and torment of their bonds, died at the same moment. And Finn caused
them to be buried in three wide graves; and flagstones were placed over
them with their names graved in Ogam;[CXXI.] and their funeral rites
were performed. Then, with heart full of grief and gall, Finn marched
northwards with his men to Allen of the green hill-slopes.


[CXIX.] A usual form of challenge among the ancient Irish warriors. It
is very curious that this custom is remembered to the present day in the
_patois_ of the peasantry, even where the Irish language is no longer
spoken. In the south, and in parts of the west, they call a
distinguished fighting man a _buailim sciach_, an expression which means
literally, "I strike the shield."

[CXX.] Slieve Lougher, a mountain near Castle Island. (See note, page

[CXXI.] See note, page 36.



Now touching Dermat and Grania. They travelled eastward from Slieve
Lougher, through Hy Conall Gavra, keeping the Shannon on their left,
till they reached the Wood of the two Sallow Trees, which is now called
Limerick. Here they rested; and Dermat killed a wild deer, and they ate
of its flesh, and drank pure spring water, and slept that night. Next
morning Modan bade them farewell, and left them. And Dermat and Grania
were sad after him, for he was very gentle, and had served them

On that same day they departed from the Wood of the two Sallows; and
nothing is related of what befell them till they arrived at the Forest
of Dooros, in the district of Hy Ficra[CXXII.] of the Moy, which was at
that time guarded by Sharvan the Surly, of Lochlann.

Now this is the history of Sharvan the Surly, of Lochlann. On a certain
occasion, a game of hurley was played by the Dedannans against the Fena,
on the plain beside the Lake of Lein of the Crooked Teeth.[CXXIII.] They
played for three days and three nights, neither side being able to win a
single goal from the other during the whole time. And when the
Dedannans found that they could not overcome the Fena, they suddenly
withdrew from the contest, and departed from the lake, journeying in a
body northwards.

The Dedannans had for food during the game, and for their journey
afterwards, crimson nuts and arbutus apples and scarlet quicken berries,
which they had brought from the Land of Promise.[CXXIV.] These fruits
were gifted with many secret virtues; and the Dedannans were careful
that neither apple nor nut nor berry should touch the soil of Erin. But
as they passed through the Wood of Dooros, in Hy Ficra of the Moy, one
of the scarlet quicken berries dropped on the earth; and the Dedannans
passed on, not heeding.

From this berry a great quicken tree[CXXV.] sprang up, which had the
virtues of the quicken trees that grow in Fairyland. For its berries had
the taste of honey, and those who ate of them felt a cheerful flow of
spirits, as if they had drunk of wine or old mead; and if a man were
even a hundred years old, he returned to the age of thirty, as soon as
he had eaten three of them.

Now when the Dedannans heard of this tree, and knew of its many virtues,
they would not that any one should eat of the berries but themselves;
and they sent a Fomor[CXXVI.] of their own people to guard it, namely,
Sharvan the Surly, of Lochlann; so that no man dared even to approach
it. For this Sharvan was a giant of the race of the wicked Cain, burly
and strong; with heavy bones, large, thick nose, crooked teeth, and one
broad, red, fiery eye in the middle of his black forehead. And he had a
great club tied by a chain to an iron girdle which was round his body.
He was, moreover, so skilled in magic that fire could not burn him,
water could not drown him, and weapons could not wound him; and there
was no way to kill him but by giving him three blows of his own club. By
day he sat at the foot of the tree, watching; and at night he slept in a
hut he had made for himself, high up among the branches.

Into this land Dermat came, knowing well that he should be safe there
from the pursuit of Finn. For Sharvan did not let any of the Fena hunt
in Hy Ficra. And neither they nor any others dared to come near the
great Wood of Dooros, for dread of the giant; so that the land around
the quicken tree for many miles was a wilderness.

Dermat, leaving Grania behind in safe shelter, went boldly to the giant,
where he sat at the foot of the tree, and told him he wished to live
amidst the woods of Hy Ficra, and chase its wild animals for food.
Whereupon the giant, bending his red eye on him, told him, in words few
and surly, that he might live and hunt where he pleased, as long as he
did not take and eat the berries of the quicken tree.

So Dermat built him a hunting-booth near a spring, in the thick of the
Forest of Dooros; and, clearing a space all round, fenced it with strong
stakes interwoven with tough withes, leaving one narrow door well
barred and secured. And they lived in peace for a time, eating the flesh
of the wild animals of Dooros, which Dermat brought down each day in the
chase, and drinking the water of the well.

Now let us speak of Finn, the son of Cumal. One day, soon after his
return to Allen, as he and his household troops were on the exercise
green before the palace, a company of fifty horsemen were seen
approaching from the east, led by two taller and nobler looking than the
others. Having come near, they bowed low and greeted the king; and when
he asked them who they were, and from whence they had come, they

"We are enemies of thine, who now desire to make peace; and our names
are Angus, the son of Art Mac Morna, and Aed, the son of Andala Mac
Morna. Our fathers were present at the battle of Knocka,[27] aiding
those who fought against thy father, Cumal, when he was slain; for which
thou didst afterwards slay them both, and didst outlaw us, their sons,
though indeed we were blameless in the matter, seeing that we were not
born till after the death of Cumal. However, we have come now to ask
this boon of thee: that thou make peace with us, and give us the places
our fathers held in the ranks of the Fena."

"I will grant your request," answered Finn, "provided you pay me eric
for the death of my father."

"We would indeed pay thee eric willingly if we could," answered they;
"but we have neither gold, nor silver, nor cattle, nor wealth of any
kind to give."

And then Oisin spoke and said, "Ask them not for eric, O king; surely
the death of their fathers should be eric enough."

But Finn replied, "Of a truth, I think, Oisin, that if any one should
slay me, it would not be hard to satisfy you in the matter of an eric.
But, indeed, none of those who fought at Knocka against my father, and
none of their sons, shall ever get peace from me, or join the Fena,
without such eric as I demand."

Then Angus, one of the two, asked, "What eric dost thou require, O

"I ask only one or the other of two things," answered Finn; "namely, the
head of a warrior, or the full of my hand of the berries of a quicken

"I will give you counsel, ye sons of Morna, that will stand you in good
stead, if you follow it," said Oisin, addressing the two strange chiefs;
"and my counsel is, that you return to the place from whence you came,
and seek this peace no longer. Know that the head the king seeks from
you is the head of Dermat O'Dyna, the most dangerous of all the Fena to
meddle with, who is well able to defend himself, even if you were twenty
times as many as you are; and who will certainly take your heads if you
attempt to take his. Know also that the berries Finn seeks from you are
the berries of the quicken tree of Dooros. And it is hard to say if this
be not a more perilous quest than the other; for the quicken tree
belongs to the Dedannans, who have sent Sharvan, the surly giant of
Lochlann, to guard it day and night."

But the two chiefs, unmoved by what they had heard from Oisin, said that
they would rather perish in seeking out the eric than return to their
mother's country. So, leaving their people in the care of Oisin, they
set out on their quest. They travelled through the Wood of the two
Sallows, and from that to Dooros of the Moy, where they found the track
of Dermat and Grania, and followed it till they came to the
hunting-booth. Dermat heard their voices and footsteps outside, and,
snatching up his weapons, went to the door and asked who was there.

"We are Aed, the son of Andala Mac Morna, and Angus, the son of Art Mac
Morna," they replied. "We have come hither from Allen of Leinster, to
get either the head of Dermat O'Dyna, or a handful of the berries of the
quicken tree of Dooros; for Finn, the son of Cumal, has demanded of us
that we bring him either the one or the other, as an eric for the
killing of his father."

Dermat laughed when he heard this, and said, "Truly this is not pleasant
news for me to hear, for I am Dermat O'Dyna. But however, friends, I am
not willing to give you my head, and you will find it no easy matter to
take it. And as for the berries, these are quite as hard to get; for you
will have to fight the surly giant Sharvan, who cannot be burned with
fire, or drowned with water, or wounded with weapons. But woe to the man
who falls under the power of Finn, the son of Cumal. And you have come,
methinks, on a bootless quest; for even if you should be able to bring
him either of the two things he asks for, he will not grant you the
place or the rank ye seek after all. And now," asked Dermat, "which of
the two do ye wish to strive for first, my head or the quicken berries?"

And they answered, "We will do battle with thee first."

So Dermat opened the door, and they made ready for the combat. Now this
is the manner in which they agreed to fight: to throw aside their
weapons, and to use the strength of their hands alone. And if the sons
of Morna were able to overcome Dermat, they should take his head to
Finn; but if, on the other hand, they were overpowered and bound by
Dermat, their heads should be in like manner forfeit to him. But the
fight was, indeed, a short one; for these two chiefs were even as
children in Dermat's hands, and he bound them in close and bitter bonds.

Now when Grania heard of the berries of the quicken tree, she was seized
with a longing desire to taste them. At first she strove against it and
was silent, knowing the danger; but now she was not able to hide it any
longer, and she told Dermat that she should certainly die if she did not
get some of the berries to eat. This troubled Dermat, for he did not
wish to quarrel with the giant Sharvan; but, seeing that harm might come
to Grania if she did not get the berries, he told her he would go and
get some for her, either by good will or by force.

When the sons of Morna heard this, they said, "Loose these bonds, and we
will go with thee and help thee to fight the giant."

But Dermat answered, "Not much help, indeed, could ye give me, as I
think, for the mere sight of this giant would be enough to unman you.
But even were it otherwise, I would not seek your help, for if I fight
at all I shall fight unaided."

And they said, "Even so, let us go. Our lives are now forfeit to thee,
but grant us this request before we die, to let us see thee fight this

And he consented to this.

So Dermat went straightway to the quicken tree, followed by the two sons
of Morna; and he found the giant lying asleep at the foot of the tree.
He dealt him a heavy blow to awaken him, and the giant, raising his
head, glared at him with his great red eye, and said--

"There has been peace between us hitherto; do you now wish for strife?"

"I seek not strife," answered Dermat; "but the Princess Grania, my wife,
the daughter of king Cormac Mac Art, longs to taste of these quicken
berries; and if she does not get them she will die. This is why I have
come; and now I pray you give me a few of the berries for the princess."

But the giant answered, "I swear that if the princess and her child were
now dying, and that one of my berries would save them, I would not give

Then Dermat said, "I do not wish to deal unfairly with you; and I have
accordingly awakened you from your sleep, and made my request openly,
wishing for peace. But now understand that before I leave this spot, I
will have some of these quicken berries, whether you will or no."

When the giant heard this, he rose up, and, seizing his club, dealt
Dermat three great blows, which the hero had much ado to ward off; nor
did he escape without some hurt, even though his shield was tough and
his arm strong. But now, watching narrowly, and seeing that the giant
expected to be attacked with sword and spear, he suddenly threw down his
weapons and sprang upon him, taking him unguarded. He threw his arms
round his body, and, heaving him with his shoulder, hurled him with
mighty shock to the earth; and then, seizing the heavy club, he dealt
him three blows, dashing out his brains with the last.

Dermat sat down to rest, weary and breathless. And the sons of Morna,
having witnessed the fight from beginning to end, came forth rejoiced
when they saw the giant slain. Dermat told them to drag the body into
the wood and bury it out of sight, lest Grania might see it and be
affrighted; and when they had done so, he sent them for the princess.
When she had come, Dermat said to her--

"Behold the quicken berries, Grania: take now and eat."

But she answered, "I will eat no berries except those that are plucked
by the hands of my husband."

So Dermat stood up and plucked the berries; and Grania ate till she was
satisfied. And he also plucked some for the sons of Morna, and said--

"Take these berries now, friends, as much as you please, and pay your
eric to Finn; and you may, if you are so minded, tell him that it was
you who slew Sharvan the Surly, of Lochlann."

They answered, "We will bring to Finn as much as he demanded, one
handful and no more; and we grudge even so much."

Then they thanked Dermat very much; for he had given them the berries,
what they should never have been able to get for themselves; and though
their lives were forfeit to him, he had not so much as mentioned the
matter, but had allowed them to return freely. And after bidding Dermat
and Grania farewell, they went their ways.

After that Dermat left his hunting-booth, and he and Grania lived
thenceforth in Sharvan's hut among the branches. And they found the
berries on the top of the tree the most delicious of all; those on the
lower branches being as it were bitter in comparison.

When the sons of Morna reached Allen, Finn asked them how they had
fared, and whether they had brought him the eric: and they answered--

"Sharvan, the surly giant of Lochlann, is slain; and here we have
brought thee the berries of the quicken tree of Dooros as eric for the
death of thy father, Cumal, that we may have peace from thee, and be
placed in our due rank among the Fena."

Finn took the berries and knew them; and he smelled them three times,
and said--

"These, indeed, are the berries of the quicken tree of Dooros; but they
have passed through the hands of Dermat O'Dyna, for I smell his touch.
And sure I am that it was Dermat, and not you, who slew Sharvan, the
surly giant. It shall profit you nothing, indeed, to have brought me
these berries; neither will you get from me the peace you seek, nor your
place among the Fena, till you pay me fair eric for my father's death.
For you have gotten the berries not by your own strength; and you have,
besides, made peace with my enemy. And now I shall go to the Wood of
Dooros, to learn if Dermat abides near the quicken tree."

After this he gathered together the choice men of the seven battalions
of the Fena, and marched with them to Dooros of Hy Ficra. They followed
Dermat's track to the foot of the quicken tree, and found the berries
without any one to guard them; and they ate of them as much as they

Mow it was noon when they had come to the tree; and the sun shone hot,
and Finn said--

"We shall rest under this tree till evening come, and the heat pass
away; for well I know that Dermat O'Dyna is on the tree among the

And Oisin said, "Truly your mind must be blinded by jealousy, if you
think that Dermat O'Dyna has waited for you on that tree, since he knows
well that you seek his head."

Finn answered nothing to this speech, but called for a chess-board and
men.[26] And he and Oisin sat down to a game; while Oscar and Mac Luga
and Dering, the son of Dobar O'Baskin, sat near Oisin to advise him; for
Finn played against them all. They played on for a time warily and
skilfully, till at last Oisin had only one move to make; and Finn said--

"One move more would win you the game, Oisin, but I challenge all your
helpers to show you that move." And Oisin was puzzled.

Dermat had been viewing the game from the beginning, where he sat among
the branches; and he said, speaking to himself--

"Pity that you should be in a strait, Oisin, and I not near to advise
your move."

Grania, sitting near, overheard him, and said, "It is a small matter
whether Oisin win or lose a game; far worse is it for you to be in this
hut, while the men of the seven battalions of the Fena are round about
you, waiting to kill you."

Then Dermat, not giving heed to Grania's words, plucked a berry, and,
flinging it down with true aim, struck Oisin's chess-man--the man that
should be moved. And Oisin moved the man, and won the game against Finn.

The game was begun again, and it went on till it came to the same pass
as before, Oisin having to make only one move to win, but that move hard
to make out. And again Dermat threw a berry and struck the right man;
and Oisin made the move, and won the game.

A third time the game went on, and Dermat struck the chess-man as
before; and Oisin won the game the third time. Whereupon the Fena raised
a mighty shout.

"I marvel not that you should win the game, Oisin," said Finn, "seeing
that you have the best help of Oscar, and the zeal of Dering, and the
skill of Mac Luga; and that, along with all, you have been prompted by
Dermat O'Dyna."

"It shows a mind clouded by great jealousy," said Oscar, "that you
should think that Dermat O'Dyna is in that tree waiting for you to kill

"Which of us tells truth, Dermat," said Finn, looking up, "Oscar or I?"

"You, Finn, have never yet erred in your judgment," answered Dermat from
the tree; "for indeed I am here with the princess Grania, in the hut of
Sharvan, the surly giant of Lochlann."

And, looking up, Finn and the others saw them plainly through an opening
in the branches.

But now Grania, seeing the danger, began to tremble with great fear, and
to weep; and Dermat, taking pity on her, comforted her and kissed her
three times.

And Finn, seeing this, said, "Much more than this did it grieve me the
night you espoused Grania, and brought her away from Tara before all the
men of Erin; but even for these kisses you shall certainly pay quittance
with your head!"

Whereupon Finn, being now bent on killing Dermat, arose, and ordered his
hirelings to surround the tree, catching hand in hand, so as to leave no
gap; and he warned them, on pain of death, not to let Dermat pass out.
Having done this, he offered a suit of armour and arms, and a high place
of honour among the Fena, to any man who would go up into the tree, and
either bring him the head of Dermat O'Dyna, or force him to come down.

Garva of Slieve Cua[CXXVII.] started up and said, "Lo, I am the man! For
it was Dermat's father, Donn, that slew my father; and I will now avenge
the deed."

And he went up the tree.

Now it was revealed to Angus of the Bruga that Dermat was in deadly
strait; and he came to the tree to his aid, without the knowledge of the
Fena; and Dermat and Grania were filled with joy when they saw the old

And when Garva, climbing from branch to branch, had come near the hut,
Dermat dealt him a blow with his foot, which dashed him to the ground
among the Fena. And Finn's hirelings cut off his head on the spot, for
Angus had caused him to take the shape of Dermat; but after he was slain
he took his own shape, so that all knew that it was Garva of Slieve Cua
that had been killed.

Then Garva of Slieve Crot[CXXVIII.] said, "It was Dermat's father,
Donn, that slew my father; and I will now avenge the deed on Dermat."

So saying, he went up the tree. But Angus gave him a blow which hurled
him to the ground under the shape of Dermat, so that the hirelings fell
on him and slew him. And then Finn told them that it was not Dermat they
had killed, but Garva of Slieve Cua.

Garva of Slieve Gora[CXXIX.] next started up, and said that his father
had been slain by Dermat's father; and he began to climb up the tree to
take Dermat's head in revenge. But Dermat flung him down like the
others, while Angus gave him for the time the shape of Dermat, so that
the hirelings slew him.

And so matters went on till the nine Garvas had fallen; namely, Garva of
Slieve Cua, Garva of Slieve Crot, Garva of Slieve Gora, Garva of Slieve
Mucka,[CXXX.] Garva of Slieve-more, Garva of Slieve Luga, Garva of
Ath-free, Garva of Slieve Mish, and Garva of Drom-more. And full of
grief and bitterness was the heart of Finn, witnessing this.

Then Angus said he would take Grania away from that place of danger. And
Dermat was glad, and said--

"Take her with thee; and if I live till evening I will follow you. But
if Finn slays me, send her to Tara to her father, and tell him to use
her well."

Then Dermat kissed his dear wife; and Angus, having thrown his mantle
round her, passed out from the tree without the knowledge of the Fena,
and went straightway to Bruga of the Boyne.

After Angus and Grania had gone, Dermat, addressing Finn from the tree,

"I will now go down from this tree; and I will slaughter many of thy
hirelings before they slay me. For I see that thou art resolved to
compass my death; and why should I fear to die now more than at a future
time? There is, indeed, no escape for me, even should I pass from this
place unharmed; since I can find no shelter in Erin from thy wrath.
Neither have I a friend in the far-off countries of this great world to
give me protection, seeing that I have from time to time dealt defeat
and slaughter among them, every one, for thy sake. For never have the
Fena been caught in any strait or danger, that I did not venture my life
for them and for thee. When we went to battle, moreover, I was always in
front of you; and I was always behind you when leaving the field. And
now I care no longer to seek to prolong my life; but of a certainty thou
shalt purchase my death dearly, for I shall avenge myself by dealing
destruction among thy hirelings."

"Dermat speaks truly," said Oscar; "and now let him have mercy and
forgiveness; for he has suffered enough already."

"I swear that I will never grant him peace or forgiveness to the end of
my life," answered Finn, "till he has given me the eric I seek from him
for the injury he has done me; that is to say, his head."

"Shame it is to hear thee say so, and a sure mark of jealousy," answered
Oscar. "And now I take the body and life of Dermat under the protection
of my knighthood and valour; and I pledge the word of a true champion,
that sooner shall the firmament fall on me, or the earth open up and
swallow me, than that I shall let any man harm Dermat O'Dyna!"

Then, looking upwards, he said, "Come down now, Dermat, and thou shalt
certainly go in safety from this place; for as long as I am alive, no
man will dare to offer thee hurt!"

Then Dermat, choosing that side of the tree where the men stood nearest
to the trunk, walked along a thick branch unseen, and, leaning on the
shafts of his spears, he sprang forward and downward with a light, airy
bound, and alighted outside the circle of those who stood round with
joined hands; and in a moment he was beyond the reach of sword and
spear. And Oscar joined him, looking back threateningly, so that no man
of Finn's hirelings durst follow.

So the two heroes fared on together, crossing the Shannon; and nothing
is told of what befell them till they reached Bruga of the Boyne, where
they met Angus and Grania. And Grania was almost beside herself with joy
when she saw Dermat without wound or hurt of any kind. And the two
champions were welcomed by Angus; and Dermat related to him and Grania
the whole story, how he had escaped from Finn and his hirelings, Oscar
helping. And as Grania listened, her spirit almost left her, at the
deadly peril Dermat had passed through.


[CXXII.] Hy Ficra, now the barony of Tireragh, in Sligo.

[CXXIII.] The Lake of Lein of the Crooked Teeth, _i.e._ Loch Lein, or
the Lakes of Killarney.

[CXXIV.] The Land of Promise, or Fairyland. (See note 8 at the end.)

[CXXV.] Quicken tree. (See note, page 177.)

[CXXVI.] Fomor, a giant. (See note, page 227.)

[CXXVII.] Slieve Cua, the ancient name of the highest of the
Knockmeal-down mountains, in Waterford.

[CXXVIII.] Slieve Crot, the ancient name of the Galty mountains.

[CXXIX.] Slieve Gora, a mountainous district in the barony of Clankee,
County Cavan.

[CXXX.] Slieve Mucka, now Slievenamuck (the mountain of the pig), a long
mountain ridge in Tipperary, separated from the Galties by the Glen of
Aherlow. Slieve Luga, a mountainous district, formerly belonging to the
O'Garas, in the barony of Costello, county Mayo. Slieve Mish, a mountain
range west of Tralee.



Now as regards Finn. After the departure of Dermat and Oscar, his heart
was filled with anger and bitterness, and he vowed he would never rest
till he had revenged himself on Dermat. And, leaving the Wood of Dooros,
he marched eastward till he reached Allen. Making no delay, he ordered
his trusted servants to make ready his best ship, and to put therein
food and drink for a voyage. Then going on board, he put out to sea; and
nothing is told of him till he reached the Land of Promise,[8] where his
old nurse lived.

When he appeared before her, she gave him a joyful welcome. And after he
had eaten and drunk, she asked him the cause of his journey, knowing
that some weighty matter had brought him thither. So he told her the
whole story of what Dermat O'Dyna had done against him; and said that he
had come to seek counsel from her how he should act. "For," he said, "no
strength or cunning of men can compass his death; magic alone can
overmatch him."

Then the old woman told him that she would go with him next day and work
magic against Dermat. Whereupon Finn was much rejoiced, and they rested
that night.

Next day, they set out, Finn and his people and his nurse; and it is not
told how they fared till they reached Bruga of the Boyne. And the men of
Erin knew not that they had come thither, for the witch-hag threw a
druidical mist round them, so that no man might see them.

It chanced that Dermat hunted that day in the forest, alone; for Oscar
had gone from Bruga the day before. When this was known to the
witch-hag, she caused herself to fly into the air by magic, on a
water-lily, having by her spells turned the pale flat leaf into a broad
millstone with a hole in the middle. And, rising over the tops of the
trees, she floated on the clear, cold wind, till she had come straight
over the hero. Then, standing on the flat millstone, she began to aim
deadly poisoned darts at him through the hole. And no distress Dermat
ever suffered could compare with this; for the darts stung him even
through his shield and armour, the witch having breathed venomous spells
on them.

Seeing at last that there was no escape from death unless he could slay
the witch-hag, he seized the Ga-derg, and, leaning backwards, flung it
with sure aim at the millstone, so that it went right through the hole,
and pierced the hag; and she fell dead at Dermat's feet. Then he
beheaded her, and brought the head to Angus of the Bruga; and he
related to him and to Grania how he had escaped that great danger.



Angus arose next morning, and, going to Finn, asked him whether he would
make peace with Dermat. Finn, seeing that he was worsted in every
attempt against the hero, and that moreover he had lost his nurse and
many of his men, told Angus that he was weary of the quarrel, and that
he was fain to make peace on whatever terms Dermat should choose.

He next went to Tara to the king, Cormac, the grandson of Conn. Him he
asked in like manner whether he was willing to grant Dermat peace and
forgiveness; and Cormac answered that he was quite willing.

Then he came to Dermat and said, "Peace is better for thee: art thou
willing now to be at peace with Finn and Cormac?"

And Dermat answered, "Gladly will I make peace, if they grant me such
conditions as befit a champion and the husband of the princess Grania."

And when Angus asked what these conditions were, he answered--

"The cantred which my father had, that is to say, the cantred of
O'Dyna,[CXXXI.] without rent or tribute to the king of Erin; also the
cantred of Ben-Damis,[CXXXII.] namely, Ducarn of Leinster. These two to
be granted to me by Finn; and he shall not hunt over them, nor any of
his Fena, without my leave. And the king of Erin shall grant me the
cantred of Kesh-Corran,[CXXXIII.] as a dowry with his daughter. On these
conditions will I make peace."

Angus went to Finn, and afterwards to the king, with these conditions.
And they granted them, and forgave Dermat all he had done against them
during the time he was outlawed. So they made peace. And Cormac gave his
other daughter to Finn to wife.

Dermat and Grania went to live in the cantred of Kesh-Corran, far away
from Finn and Cormac; and they built a house for themselves, namely,
Rath-Grania, in which they abode many years in peace. And Grania bore
Dermat four sons and one daughter. And his possessions increased year by
year, insomuch that people said that no man of his time was richer than
Dermat, in gold and silver and jewels, in sheep, and in cattle-herds.


[CXXXI.] The cantred of O'Dyna, now the barony of Corkaguiny, in Kerry.
(See note, page 237.)

[CXXXII.] The cantred of Ben-Damis, or Ducarn of Leinster, probably the
district round Douce mountain, in the county Wicklow.

[CXXXIII.] The district round the mountain of Kesh-Corran, in Sligo.



Now when many years had passed, Grania said one day to Dermat--

"It is surely a thing unworthy of us, seeing the greatness of our
household and our wealth, and the number of our folk, that we should
live in a manner so much removed from the world. And in a special manner
it is unbecoming that the two most illustrious men in Erin have never
been in our house, namely, my father the king, and Finn the son of

For indeed she had not seen her father since the night she had left Tara
with Dermat, and her heart yearned for him.

"Wherefore say you this, Grania?" answered Dermat; "for though there is
indeed peace between us, they are both none the less enemies of mine;
and for this reason have I removed my dwelling far apart from them."

And Grania said, "Their enmity has surely softened with length of time:
and now I would that you give them a feast: so shall we win back their
friendship and love."

And in an evil hour Dermat consented.

For a full year were they preparing for that great feast, and when it
was ready, messengers were sent to invite the king, with his house-folk,
and Finn, with the chief men of the seven batallions of the Fena. So
they came, with their attendants and followers, their horses and dogs;
and they lived for a whole year in Rath-Grania, hunting and feasting.

It chanced one night, at the end of the year, long after all had gone to
rest, that Dermat heard, through the silence of the night, the distant
yelping of a hound; and he started up from his sleep. But Grania, being
scared, started up also, and, throwing her arms round him, asked him
what he had seen.

"I have heard the voice of a hound," answered Dermat; "and I marvel much
to hear it at midnight."

"May all things guard thee from harm!" said Grania. "This is surely a
trap laid for thee by the Dedannans, unknown to Angus of the Bruga: and
now lie down on thy bed again."

Dermat lay down, but did not sleep, and again he heard the hound's
voice. He started up, and this time was fain to go and look to the
matter; but Grania caught him and kept him back a second time, saying
that it was not meet for him to seek a hound whose voice he heard in the

A gentle slumber now fell on Dermat, and he slept through a good part of
the night. But the yelping of the hound came a third time, and awakened
him, so that he started up; and it being now broad day, he told Grania
that he would go to seek the hound, and find out why he was abroad in
the night.

And though Grania consented, she felt, she knew not why, ill at ease;
and she said--

"Bring with you the Morallta, the sword of Mannanan Mac Lir, and the
Ga-derg,[A] Angus's spear; for there may be danger."

But Dermat, regarding the matter lightly, and forced by fate to the
worse choice, answered--

"How can danger arise from such a small affair? I will bring the
Begallta and the Ga-boi;[CXXXIV.] and I will also bring my good hound
Mac-an-coill, leading him by his chain."

So Dermat went forth, and he delayed not till he reached the summit of
Ben-Gulban,[CXXXV.] where he found Finn; and Dermat, offering him no
salute, asked him who it was that held the chase. Finn answered--

"Some of our men came out from Rath-Grania at midnight with their
hounds; and one of the hounds coming across the track of a wild boar,
both men and dogs have followed it up. I indeed would have held them
back, but the men were eager, and left me here alone. For this is the
track of the wild boar of Ben-Gulban, and they who follow him are bent
on a vain and dangerous pursuit. Often has he been chased; and he has
always escaped, after killing many men and dogs. Even now thou canst see
in the distance that the Fena are flying before him; and he has slain
several this morning. He is coming towards this hillock where we stand;
and the sooner we get out of his way the better."

But Dermat said he would not leave the hillock through fear of any wild

"It is not meet that thou shouldst tarry here," answered Finn. "Dost
thou not know that thou art under gesa[12] never to hunt a boar?"

Dermat answered, "I know nothing of these gesa; wherefore were they
placed on me?"

And Finn said, "I will tell thee of this matter, for well do I remember
it. When thou wert taken to Bruga of the Boyne, to be fostered by Angus,
the son of Angus's steward was fostered with thee, that he might be a
companion and playmate to thee. Now the steward, being a man of the
common sort, agreed to send each day to Bruga, food and drink for nine
men, as a price for having his son fostered with thee--thy father, Donn,
being one of the nobles of the Fena. And thy father was accordingly
permitted to visit the house of Angus when it pleased him, with eight
companions, and claim the food sent by the steward; and when he did not
come, it was to be given to Angus's house-folk.

"It chanced on a certain day that I was at Allen of the broad
hill-slopes, with the chief men of the seven battalions of the Fena. And
Bran Beg O'Bucan brought to my mind, what indeed I had forgotten, that
it was forbidden to me to sleep at Allen more than nine nights one after
another, and that the next would be the tenth.

"Now this restriction had not been placed on any of the Fena save
myself, and they all went into the hall except thy father and a few
others. Then I asked where we should get entertainment for that night.
And thy father, Donn, answered that he would give me entertainment at
Bruga of the Boyne; where food and drink awaited himself and his
companions whenever he visited Angus. Donn said, moreover, that he had
not been to see his son for a year, and that we were sure to get a

"So Donn and I and the few that were with us went to the house of Angus,
bringing our hounds; and Angus welcomed us. And thou and the steward's
son were there, two children. After a while we could see that Angus
loved thee, Dermat, very much, but that the house-folk loved the son of
the steward; and thy father was filled with jealousy, that the people
should show fondness for him and not for thee.

"After night had fallen, it chanced that our hounds quarrelled over some
broken meat we had thrown to them, and began to fight in the court; and
the women and lesser people fled from them hither and thither. The son
of the steward happened to run between thy father's knees, who, calling
now to mind how the people favoured him more than thee, gave him a
sudden strong squeeze with his knees, and killed him on the spot. And,
without being seen by any one, he threw him under the feet of the

"When at last the dogs were put asunder, the child was found dead; and
the steward uttered a long, mournful cry. Then he came to me and said--

"'Of all the men in Angus's house to-night, I have come worst out of
this uproar; for this boy was my only child. And now, O Finn, I demand
eric from thee for his death; for thy hounds have slain him.'

"I told him to examine the body of his son, and that if he found the
mark of a hound's tooth or nail, I would give him eric. So the child was
examined, but no hurt--either bite or scratch--was found on him.

"Then the steward laid me under fearful bonds of druidical gesa,[12] to
find out for him who slew his son. So I called for a chess-board and
some water, and, having washed my hands, I put my thumb under my tooth
of knowledge;[25] and then it was revealed to me that the boy had been
slain by thy father. Not wishing to make this known, I now offered to
pay eric for the boy; but the steward refused, saying that he should
know who killed his son. So I was forced to tell him: whereupon he

"'It is easier for Donn to pay me eric than for any other man in this
house. And the eric I demand is that his son be placed between my knees:
if the lad gets off safe, then I shall follow up the matter no further.'

"Angus was very wroth at this; and thy father would have struck off the
steward's head if I had not come between and saved him.

"The steward said no more, but went aside and brought forth a druidical
magic wand, and, striking his son with it, he turned him into a great
bristly wild boar, having neither ears nor tail. And, holding the wand
aloft, he chanted this incantation over the boar--

    "By this magical wand,
    By the wizard's command,
    I appoint and decree,
    For Dermat and thee,
    The same bitter strife,
    The same span of life:
    In the pride of his strength,
    Thou shalt slay him at length:
    Lo, Dermat O'Dyna
      Lies stretched in his gore;
    Behold my avengers,
      The tusks of the boar!
    And thus is decreed,
    For Donn's cruel deed,
    Sure vengeance to come--
    His son's bloody doom;
    By this wand in my hand,
    By the wizard's command!

"The moment he had ended the incantation, the boar rushed out through
the open door, and we knew not whither he betook himself.

"When Angus heard the steward's words, he laid a command on thee never
to hunt a wild boar, that so thou mightest avoid the doom foretold for

"That same boar is the wild boar of Binbulbin; and he is now rushing
furiously towards us. Come, then, let us leave this hill at once, that
we may avoid him in time!"

"I know nothing of these incantations and prohibitions," replied Dermat;
"or if, as thou sayest, they were put on me in my boyhood, I forget them
all now. And neither for fear of this wild boar of Ben-Gulban nor of any
other wild beast will I leave this hillock. But thou, before thou goest,
leave me thy hound, Bran, to help and encourage my dog, Mac-an-coill."

"I will not leave him," answered Finn; "for often has Bran chased this
boar, and has always barely escaped with his life. And now I leave; for
lo, here he comes over yonder hill-shoulder."

So Finn went his ways, and left Dermat standing alone on the hill. And
after he had left Dermat said--

"I fear me, indeed, that thou hast begun this chase hoping that it would
lead to my death. But here will I await the event; for if I am fated to
die in this spot, I cannot avoid the doom in store for me."

Immediately the boar came rushing up the face of the hill, with the Fena
following far behind. Dermat loosed Mac-an-coill against him, but to no
profit; for the hound shied and fled before him at the first glance.
Then Dermat said, communing with himself--

"Woe to him who does not follow the advice of a good wife! For this
morning Grania bade me bring the Morallta and the Ga-derg; but I brought
instead the Begallta and the Ga-boi, disregarding her counsel."

Then, putting his white taper finger into the silken loop of the Ga-boi,
he threw it with careful aim, and struck the boar in the middle of the
forehead; but to no purpose, for the spear fell harmless to the ground,
having neither wounded nor scratched the boar, nor disturbed even a
single bristle.

Seeing this, Dermat, though indeed he knew not fear, felt his courage a
little damped. And thereupon drawing the Begallta from its sheath, he
dealt a blow on the boar's neck, with the full strength of his brawny
arm. But neither did he fare better this time; for the sword flew in
pieces, leaving the hilt in his hand, while not a bristle of the boar
was harmed.

And now the boar rushed on him as he stood defenceless, and with furious
onset hurled him headlong to the earth; and, turning round, he gashed
the hero's side with his tusk, inflicting a deep and ghastly wound.
Turning again, he was about to renew the attack, when Dermat flung the
hilt of the sword at him, and drove it through the skull to his brain,
so that the brute fell dead on the spot.

Finn and the Fena now came up, and found Dermat lying pale and bleeding,
in the pangs of death. And Finn said--

"It likes me well, Dermat, to see thee in this plight; only I am grieved
that all the women of Erin cannot see thee also. For now, indeed, the
surpassing beauty of thy form, that they loved so well, is gone from
thee, and thou art pale and deformed!"

And Dermat answered, "Alas, O Finn! these words surely come from thy
lips only, and not from thy heart. And indeed it is in thy power to heal
me even now if thou wilt."

"How should I heal thee?" asked Finn.

"It is not hard for thee to do so," answered Dermat. "For when, at the
Boyne, the noble gift of foreknowledge was given to thee,[25] this gift
also thou didst receive--that to whomsoever thou shouldst give a drink
of water from the closed palms of thy two hands, he should be healed
from sickness or wounds, even though he stood at the point of death."

"Why should I heal thee by giving thee drink from my hands?" replied
Finn. "For of a certainty thou of all men dost least deserve it from

"Thou surely speakest hastily, not remembering past services," answered
Dermat. "Well, indeed, do I deserve that thou shouldst heal me. Dost
thou forget the day thou didst go with the chiefs and nobles of the
Fena, to the house of Derca, the son of Donnara, to a banquet? And even
as we sat down, and before the feast began, Carbri of the Liffey, son of
Cormac, with the men of Tara, and of Bregia, and of Meath, and of
Carmna, surrounded the palace, intent on slaying thee and all thy
people. And they uttered three great shouts, and threw firebrands to
burn the palace over our heads. Then thou didst arise and prepare to
issue forth, but I put thee back and bade thee enjoy thy feast; and,
leaving the banquet untasted, I rushed forth with a chosen few of my own
men, and quenched the flames. Thrice we made a circuit of the palace,
dealing slaughter amongst thy foes, so that we left fifty of them dead
after each circuit. And having put Carbri and his men to flight, we
returned to join the feast. Had I asked thee for a drink that night,
gladly wouldst thou have given it to me. And yet, not more justly was it
due to me then than it is now."

"Ill dost thou deserve a healing drink from me, or any other favour,"
said Finn; "for it was thy part to guard Grania the night we came to
Tara; but thou didst espouse her secretly, and didst fly with her from
Tara, knowing that she was betrothed to me."

"Lay not the blame of that on me," said Dermat; "for Grania put me under
heavy gesa, which for all the wealth of the world I would not break
through--no, not even for life itself. Neither did I rest on my own
judgment in the matter; for well thou knowest that Oisin, and Oscar, and
Dering, and Mac Luga counselled me to the course I took.

"And now, O Finn, I pray thee let me drink from thy hands, for I feel
the weakness of death coming on me. And thou wilt not gainsay that I
deserve it, if thou wilt only remember the feast that Midac, the son of
Colga, made for thee in the Fairy Palace of the Quicken Trees.[CXXXVI.]
To this feast Midac invited thee and thy companions; while to the Palace
of the Island he brought secretly the King of the World with a great
host, and the three kings of the Island of the Torrent, with intent to
slay thee and all thy Fena.

"Now Midac caused some of the clay of the Island of the Torrent to be
placed under you, with foul spells, in the Palace of the Quicken Trees,
so that your feet and your hands clove to the ground. And it was
revealed to thee that the King of the World was about to send a chief
with a troop of warriors, to slay you, helpless as you were, and to
bring him your heads to the Palace of the Island.

"But at that same time, I came to thee outside the Palace of the Quicken
Trees; and thou didst make known to me your deadly strait. Then did I
take thee, Finn, and those who were with thee, under the protection of
my knighthood and valour; and I went to the ford to defend it against
the foreigners.

"And after a little time the three dragon-like kings of the Island of
the Torrent came towards the palace: but I defended the ford, and,
venturing my life for thee, I bore their attack and slew them all three.
And I swept off their heads, and brought them, all gory as they were, in
the hollow of my shield, to the palace where you lay miserably bound;
and, sprinkling the clay with the blood, I broke the spell and set you
free. And had I asked thee for a drink on that night, O Finn, of a
surety thou wouldst not have refused me.

"And many another deadly strait did I free you from, since the day I was
admitted among the Fena, always putting myself forward to the post of
danger, and perilling my life for your safety; and now why dost thou
requite me with this foul treachery?

"Moreover, many a king's son and many a brave warrior hast thou slain;
and thou hast earned the enmity of powerful foes: neither is there yet
an end of it. For the day will come--I see it even now--a day of direful
overthrow and slaughter,[CXXXVII.] when few, alas! of the Fena will be
left to tell the tale. Then thou shalt sorely need my help, O Finn, and
sorely shalt thou rue this day. I grieve not, indeed, for thee, but for
my dear, faithful companions--for Oscar and Mac Luga and Dering, and
more than all for Oisin, who shall long outlive the others in sad old
age.[CXXXVIII.] Alas! how deadly shall be their strait when I am not
near to aid them!"

Then Oscar, moved with pity even to tears, addressing Finn, said,
"Although I am nearer akin to thee, O king, than to Dermat, yet I cannot
suffer that he die, when a drink from thy hands would heal him. Bring
him, then, a drink without delay."

And Finn answered, "I know of no well on this mountain from which to
bring drink."

"Therein thou speakest not truth," said Dermat; "for thou knowest that
not more than nine paces from thee, hidden under yonder bush, is a well
of crystal water."

Thereupon Finn went to the well, and, holding his two hands tightly
together, he brought up some of the water, and came towards Dermat; but
after he had walked a little way, he let it spill through his fingers,
saying that he was not able to bring water in his hands so far.

"Not so, Finn," said Dermat. "I saw thee that of thy own will thou didst
let it spill. And now, O king, hasten, for death is on me."

Again he went to the well, and was bringing the water slowly, while
Dermat followed the dripping hands with his eyes; but when Finn thought
of Grania he let the water spill a second time. And Dermat, seeing
this, uttered a piteous sigh of anguish.

And now was Oscar no longer able to contain his grief and rage; and he
said, "I swear, O king, if thou dost not bring the water, that only one
of us two--thou or I--shall leave this hill alive!"

Hearing Oscar's words, and seeing the frowning looks of the others, Finn
dipped up the water a third time, and was hastening forward; but before
he had got half-way, Dermat's head dropped backwards, and his life

And all the Fena present raised three long loud cries of sorrow for
Dermat O'Dyna.

Then Oscar, looking fiercely on Finn, spoke and said, "Would that thou
thyself lay dead here instead of Dermat! For now indeed the noblest
heart of the Fena is still; and our mainstay in battle and danger is
gone. Ah! why did I not foresee this? Why was I not told that Dermat's
life was linked with the life of the wild boar of Ben-Gulban? Then would
I have stayed this chase, and put off the evil day!"

And Oscar wept; and Oisin, and Dering, and Mac Luga wept also, for
Dermat was much loved by all.

After a time, Finn said, "Let us now leave this hill, lest Angus of the
Bruga overtake us. For although we had no hand in Dermat's death,
nevertheless he may not believe us."

So Finn and the Fena departed from the hill, Finn leading Dermat's dog,
Mac-an-coill. But Oisin, and Oscar, and Dering, and Mac Luga turned
back, and with tears, threw their mantles over Dermat; after which they
followed the others.

Grania sat that day on the highest rampart of Rath-Grania, watching for
Dermat's return; for a dark fear haunted her mind on account of this
chase. And when at last the Fena came in view, she saw Dermat's dog led
by Finn; but not seeing Dermat himself, she said--

"Ah me! what is this I see? Surely if Dermat were alive, it is not by
Finn that Mac-an-coill would be led to his home!"

And as she spoke she fell forward off the rampart, and lay long in a
swoon as if her spirit had fled, while her handmaid stood over her,
weeping and distracted. And when at last she opened her eyes, then
indeed they told her that Dermat was dead; and she uttered a long and
piteous cry, so that her women and all the people of the court came
round her to ask the cause of her sorrow. And when they were told that
Dermat had perished by the wild boar of Ben-Gulban, they raised three
loud, bitter cries of lamentation, which were heard in the glens and
wildernesses around, and which pierced the clouds of heaven.

When at length Grania became calm, she ordered that five hundred of her
people should go to Ben-Gulban, to bring home the body of Dermat. Then,
turning to Finn, who still held Mac-an-coill in his hand, she asked him
to leave her Dermat's hound; but Finn refused, saying that a hound was a
small matter, and that he might be allowed to inherit at least so much
of Dermat's riches. When Oisin heard this, he came forward and took the
hound from the hand of Finn and gave him to Grania.

At the time that the men left Rath-Grania to go for the body of Dermat,
it was revealed to Angus that the hero was lying dead on Ben-Gulban. And
he set out straightway, and travelling on the pure, cool wind, soon
reached the mountain; so that when Grania's people came up, they found
him standing over the body, sorrowing, with his people behind him. And
they held forward the wrong sides of their shields in token of peace.

Then both companies, having viewed the dead hero, raised three mighty
cries of sorrow, so loud and piercing that they were heard in the wastes
of the firmament, and over the five provinces of Erin.

And when they had ceased, Angus spoke and said, "Alas! why did I abandon
thee, even for once, O my son? For from the day I took thee to Bruga, a
tender child, I have watched over thee and guarded thee from thy foes,
until last night. Ah! why did I abandon thee to be decoyed to thy doom
by the guileful craft of Finn? By my neglect hast thou suffered, O
Dermat; and now, indeed, I shall for ever feel the bitter pangs of

Then Angus asked Grania's people what they had come for. And when they
told him that Grania had sent them to bring the body of Dermat to
Rath-Grania, he said--

"I will bring the body of Dermat with me to Bruga of the Boyne; and I
will keep him on his bier, where he shall be preserved by my power, as
if he lived. And though I cannot, indeed, restore him to life, yet I
will breathe a spirit into him, so that for a little while each day he
shall talk with me."

Then he caused the body to be placed on a golden bier, with the hero's
javelins fixed one on each side, points upwards. And his people raised
the bier and carried it before him; and in this manner they marched
slowly to Bruga of the Boyne.

Grania's people then returned; and when they had told her the whole
matter, though she was grieved at first, yet in the end she was content,
knowing how Angus loved Dermat.


[CXXXIV.] See note, page 302.

[CXXXV.] Now Benbulbin, a mountain five miles north of the town of

[CXXXVI.] See this story told at length, page 177.

[CXXXVII.] A prophetic allusion to the battle of Gavra. (See note 28 at
the end.)

[CXXXVIII.] A prophetic allusion to the events related in the story of
"Oisin in Tirnanoge," page 385.



Culand, the smith of the Dedannans,[1] who lived at Slieve
Cullinn,[CXL.] had two beautiful daughters, Milucra and Aina. They both
loved Finn,[23] and each sought him for her husband.

As they walked together one evening near Allen,[CXLI.] they fell to
talking of many things; and their conversation turning at last on their
future husbands, Aina said she would never marry a man with grey hair.

When Milucra heard this, she resolved with herself that if she could not
get Finn, she would plan so that he should not marry her sister Aina. So
she departed immediately, and, turning her steps northwards, she
summoned the Dedannans to meet her at Slieve Cullinn. Having brought
them all together, she caused them to make her a lake[CXLII.] near the
top of the mountain; and she breathed a druidical virtue on its waters,
that all who bathed in it should become grey.

On a morning not long after this, Finn happened to be walking alone on
the lawn before the palace of Allen, when a doe sprang out from a
thicket, and, passing quite close to him, bounded past like the wind.
Without a moment's delay, he signalled for his companions and dogs; but
none heard except his two hounds, Bran and Skolan. He instantly gave
chase, with no other arms than his sword, Mac-an-Lona, and accompanied
only by his two dogs; and before the Fena[23] knew of his absence, he
had left Allen of the green slopes far behind.

The chase turned northwards; and though the hounds kept close to the
doe, the chief kept quite as close to the hounds the whole way. And so
they continued without rest or pause, till they reached Slieve Cullinn,
far in the north.

Here the doe made a sudden turn and disappeared; and what direction she
took, whether east or west, Finn knew not, for he never caught sight of
her after. And he marvelled much that any doe in the world should be
able to lead Bran and Skolan so long a chase, and escape from them in
the end. Meantime they kept searching, Finn taking one side of the hill
and the dogs another, so that he was at last left quite alone.

While he was wandering about the hill and whistling for his hounds, he
heard the plaintive cry of a woman at no great distance; and, turning
his steps towards the place, he saw a lady sitting on the brink of a
little lake, weeping as if her heart would break. Never before did the
chieftain see a maiden so lovely. The rose colour on her cheeks was
heightened by her grief; her lips were like ruddy quicken berries; the
delicate blossom of the apple tree was not more white than her neck; her
hair fell in heavy golden ringlets on her shoulders; and as she looked
up at the chief, her eyes beamed like stars on a frosty night.

Finn accosted her; and, seeing that she ceased her weeping for a moment,
he asked her had she seen his two hounds pass that way.

"I have not seen thy hounds," she replied, "nor have I been at all
concerned in the chase; for, alas, there is something that troubles me
more nearly, a misadventure that has caused me great sorrow!"

And as she spoke these words, she burst out weeping and sobbing more
bitterly than before.

Finn was greatly moved at this, so much so, that he quite forgot all
about his hounds and his own troubles; and he asked her--

"What is the cause of this great grief, gentle lady? Has death robbed
you of your husband or your child, or what other evil has befallen you?
I am much concerned to see a lady in such distress; and I wish you to
tell me if anything can be done to lighten your sorrow, or to remove the
cause of it?"

She replied, "I had a precious gold ring on my finger, which I prized
beyond anything in the world; and it has fallen from me into the water.
I saw it roll down the steep slope at the bottom, till it went quite out
of my sight. This is the cause of my sorrow, and thou canst remedy the
mishap if thou wilt. The Fena are sworn never to refuse help to a woman
in distress; and I now put on thee those gesa[12] that true heroes dare
not break through, to search for the ring, and cease not till thou find
it and restore it to me."

Though the chief had indeed at the moment no inclination to swim, he
could not refuse a prayer urged in this manner. So he plunged in without
a moment's hesitation, and examined the lake on all sides, diving and
searching into every nook and cranny at the bottom.

After swimming in this manner three times round and round the lake, he
found the ring at last; and, approaching the lady, he handed it to her
from the water. The moment she had got it she sprang into the lake
before his eyes, and, diving down, disappeared in an instant.

The chief, wondering greatly at this strange behaviour, stepped forth
from the water; but as soon as his feet had touched the dry land, he
lost all his strength, and fell on the brink, a withered, grey old man,
shrunken up and trembling all over with weakness. He sat him down in
woful plight; and soon his hounds came up. They looked at him wistfully
and sniffed and whined around him; but they knew him not, and, passing
on, they ran round the lake, searching in vain for their master.

On that day the Fena were assembled in the banquet hall of the palace of
Allen; some feasting and drinking, some playing chess, and others
listening to the sweet music of the harpers. While all were in this wise
pleasantly engaged, Kylta Mac Ronan[23] stood up in the midst, and said
in the hearing of all--

"I have observed, friends, that our master and king, Finn the son of
Cumal, has not been amongst us to-day, as is his wont; and I wish to
know whither he has gone."

This speech caused a sudden alarm amongst us; for no one knew aught of
the chief, or was aware till that moment that he was absent at all; and
we knew not wherefore he had disappeared or whither he had gone. In the
midst of our anxious tumult, the envious and foul-mouthed Conan Mail[23]
stood up, and said--

"I have never heard sweeter music than your words, Kylta! The Fena are
now about to seek for their king; and my only wish is that their quest
may last for a whole year, and that it may prove a vain search in the
end! Be not cast down, however, O Fena; if you should fail to find the
son of Cumal, you will not be so ill off as you think; for I will
undertake to be your king from this time forth!"

Though we were at the time more inclined to be sad than mirthful, being
weighed down with much anxiety, we could not help laughing when we heard
the loud, foolish talk of Conan Mail; but we took no further notice of

Inquiring now from the lesser people about the palace, we found that the
chief and his two dogs had followed a doe northwards. So, having
mustered a strong party of the Fena, we started in pursuit. Kylta and I
took the lead, the rest keeping close behind; and in this order we
followed the track, never taking rest or slackening speed till we
reached Slieve Cullinn.

We began to search round the hill, hoping to find either the chief
himself or some person who might give us tidings of him. After wandering
among brakes and rough, rocky places, we at last espied a grey-headed
old man sitting on the brink of a lake. I went up to him to ask a
question, followed by the rest of the Fena. At first I thought he might
be a fisherman who had come up from the plains to fish; but when we came
near him, he seemed so wretched an old creature, all shrivelled up, with
the skin hanging in wrinkles over the bare points of his bones, that I
felt quite sure he was not a fisherman, and that he was reduced to that
state more by sickness and want than by old age.

I asked the poor old man if he had seen a noble-looking hero pass that
way, with two hounds, chasing a doe. He never answered a word, neither
did he stir from where he sat, or even look up; but at the question, his
head sank on his breast, and his limbs shook all over as with palsy.
Then he fell into a sudden fit of grief, wringing his hands and uttering
feeble cries of woe.

We soothed him and used him gently for a time, hoping he might speak at
last; but to no purpose, for he still kept silent. Then at last growing
impatient, and thinking that this might be a mere headstrong humour, we
drew our swords, and threatened him with instant death if he did not at
once tell us all he knew of the chief and his hounds--for we felt sure
he had seen them. But he only lamented the more, and still answered

At last, after this had gone on for some time, and when we were about to
leave him, he beckoned to Kylta Mac Ronan; and when Kylta had come near,
the old man whispered into his ear the dreadful secret. And then we all
came to know the truth. When we found that the withered old man was no
other than our beloved king, Finn, himself, we uttered three shouts of
lamentation and anger, so loud and prolonged that the foxes and badgers
rushed affrighted from their dens in the hollows of the mountain.

Conan now stepped forward, looking very fierce; and, unsheathing his
sword with mighty bluster, he began in a loud voice to revile Finn and
the Fena with the foulest language he could think of. And he ended by
saying that he meant to slay the king that moment--

"Now, O Finn Mac Cumal, I will certainly strike off your head; for you
are the man that never gave me credit for valour, or praised my noble
deeds in battle. Ever since your father, Cumal of the Hosts, was slain
on the field of Knocka[CXLIII.] by the Clann Morna[23] of the Golden
Shields, you have been our bitter foe; and it is against your will that
any of us are now alive. I am very glad to see you, Finn Mac Cumal,
brought down to what you now are; and I only wish that the rest of the
Clann Baskin[23] were like you. Then should I very soon make short work
of them all; and joyful to me would be the task of raising a great carn
to their memory!"

To which Oscar replied with great scorn, "It is not worth while drawing
a sword to punish thee, Conan Mail, vain and foolish boaster as thou
art; and besides, we have at present something else to think of. But if
it were not for the trouble that now lies heavy on us on account of our
king, I would of a certainty chastise thee by breaking all the bones of
thy mouth with my fist!"

"Cease, Oscar," returned Conan, in a voice still louder than before;
"cease your foolish talk! It is actions and not words that prove a man;
and as to the noble warlike deeds done in past times by the Fena, it
was by the Clann Morna they were performed, and not by the
chicken-hearted Clann Baskin!"

The fiery Oscar could bear this no longer. He rushed towards Conan Mail;
but Conan, terrified at his vengeful look, ran in amongst the Fena with
great outcry, beseeching them to save him from the rage of Oscar. We
straightway confronted the young hero, and checked him in his headlong
career; and after much ado, we soothed his anger and made peace between
him and Conan.

When quietness was restored, Kylta asked Finn how this dread evil had
befallen him, who was the enchanter, and whether there was any hope of
restoring him to his own shape. Finn told him that it was the daughter
of Culand the smith who had transformed him by her spells. And then he
recounted how she had lured him to swim in the lake, and how, when he
came forth, he was turned into a withered old man.

We now made a framework litter of slender poles, and, placing our king
on it, we lifted him tenderly on our shoulders. And, turning from the
lake, we marched slowly up-hill till we came to the fairy palace of
Slieve Cullinn, where we knew the daughter of Culand had her dwelling
deep under ground.[19] Here we set him down, and the whole troop began
at once to dig, determined to find the enchantress in her cave-palace,
and to take vengeance on her if she did not restore our chief.

For three days and three nights we dug, without a moment's rest or
pause, till at length we reached her hollow dwelling; when she,
affrighted at the tumult and at the vengeful look of the heroes,
suddenly started forth from the cave and stood before us. She held in
her hand a drinking-horn of red gold, which was meant for the king. Yet
she appeared unwilling, and held it back, notwithstanding the
threatening looks of the Fena. But, happening to cast her eyes on the
graceful and manly youth, Oscar, she was moved with such admiration and
love for him that she wavered no longer, but placed the fairy
drinking-horn in the hands of the king. No sooner had he drunk from it,
than his own shape and features returned, save only that his hair
remained of a silvery grey.

When we gazed on our chief in his own graceful and manly form, we were
all pleased with the soft, silvery hue of the grey hairs. And, though
the enchantress appeared ready to restore this also, Finn himself told
her that it pleased him as it pleased the others, and that he chose to
remain grey for the rest of his life.

When the king had drunk from the horn, he passed it to Mac Reth, who
drank from it in like manner and gave it to Dering. Dering, after
drinking, was about to hand it to the next, when it gave a sudden twist
out of his hand, and darted into the loose earth at our feet, where it
sank out of sight. We ran at once to recover it; but, though we turned
up the earth deeply all round, we were not able to find the
drinking-horn. This was a disappointment that vexed us exceedingly, for
if we had all drunk from it, we should have been gifted with a
foreknowledge of future events.

A growth of slender twigs grew up afterwards over the spot where it sank
into the ground; and this little thicket is still gifted with a part of
the virtue of the golden drinking-horn. For any one who looks on it in
the morning fasting, will know in a moment all things that are to happen
that day.

So ended the Chase of Slieve Cullinn; and in this wise it came to pass
that Finn's hair was turned in one day from golden yellow to silvery


[CXXXIX.] It is necessary to remind the reader that this story and the
two following are related by Oisin, in his old age, to St. Patrick. (See
the prefatory note to the story of "Oisin in Tirnanoge," p. 385; and see
also note 23 at the end.)

[CXL.] Now Slieve Gullion, a lofty, isolated mountain in the south of
the county Armagh, celebrated in legendary lore.

[CXLI.] The Hill of Allen, in Kildare, where Finn had his palace. (See
note 23 at the end.)

[CXLII.] The little lake for which this legendary origin is assigned
lies near the top of Slieve Gullion. There were several wells in Ireland
which, according to the belief of old times, had the property of turning
the hair grey. Giraldus Cambrensis tells us of such a well in Munster;
and he states that he once saw a man who had washed a part of his head
in this well, and that the part washed was white, while the rest was

It is to be observed that the peasantry of the district retain to this
day a lingering belief in the power of the lake of Slieve Gullion to
turn the hair grey.

[CXLIII.] Knocka, now Castleknock, near Dublin. (See note 27 at the



Finn and the Fena[23] went one day to hunt at Slieve Fuad.[CXLV.] When
they had come very near to the top of the mountain, a deer suddenly
bounded from a thicket right before them, very large and fierce, with a
great pair of sharp, dangerous antlers. At once they loosed their dogs
and gave chase; and those who were scattered here and there about the
hill gave up the pursuit of smaller game to join the main body for it
was very seldom they fell in with a deer that promised better sport.

She led them through rugged places, over rocks and bogs, and into deep
glens. The hounds several times surrounded her; but she fought her way
with so much strength and fury that she always escaped, after killing
many of the dogs and disabling some of the men.

Soon she left Slieve Fuad behind, nor did she slacken speed till she
reached the green hill of Lidas, while the hunters and dogs followed in
full chase close behind. She then made her way across the open country
to a rugged and bushy hill--the hill of Carrigan;[CXLVI.] and here they
suddenly lost her among the rocks and thickets. They searched round the
hill without avail, north, south, east, and west, till all, both men and
dogs, were quite scattered; and Finn and Dara the Melodious were left

At length Finn's dog, Skolan, started the deer once more, and again the
chase began. Back over the selfsame course she ran, by the hill of
Lidas, and straight on towards Slieve Fuad, Finn and Dara close on her
track; while the main body of the Fena followed far behind, guided by
the cries of the dogs.

When the deer reached Slieve Fuad, she again took cover and disappeared
at the very spot where they had first started her; and the two chiefs,
after beating the thickets on every side, were at length forced to give
up the search.

A druidical mist now rose up, darkening the air, and enfolding them on
every side; so that they lost their way. They tried many times to regain
the path, but to no purpose; for they only lost themselves more and
more among the quagmires and thickets. At last they sat down to rest,
weary and baffled; and Dara played a mournful strain on his timpan;
after which they sounded the Dord-Fian,[CXLVII.] as a signal to their

When the Fena heard the Dord-Fian sounding afar off, they felt sure that
their leader was in trouble or strait of some kind; and they started to
his relief, making northwards straight towards the point from which they
thought the signal came. But they had not gone far when they heard it
sounding from the east, and altered their course accordingly. Again it
changed to the west; and no sooner had they set forward in that
direction than it seemed to come from the south. In this manner were
they led hither and thither, till they became quite bewildered; and they
found themselves no nearer to those they were in search of, for every
time they heard the Dord-Fian, it seemed as far off as ever.

Meantime Finn and Dara, after resting for a time, again started off,
intent on trying once more to reach their friends; for they heard their
shouts, and knew they were seeking them. As they were making their way
through the thick fog, they heard a voice at a little distance, as if
from one in distress; and, turning their steps that way, they met a
young woman, very beautiful, and very pleasing in manner, but looking
weary and sore perplexed, and all over in sad plight from the bogs and

Finn accosted her in a gentle voice, asking how she came to be alone in
a place so wild.

She replied, "I and my husband were journeying along over the plain,
when we heard the melodious cry of hounds; and he left me to follow the
chase, telling me to continue along the same path, and promising to
rejoin me without delay. But this fairy fog has risen around me, and I
have lost my way, so that I know not now in what direction to go."

Finn then asked her name and the name of her husband.

"My husband's name is Lavaran, and mine is Glanlua. But I perceive that
you are one of the Fena; and indeed I think, from your arms and from
your noble mien, that you must be the great chief Finn himself. If this
be so, I place myself under your protection; and I know well that you
will lead me safely out of this place to my husband; for the Fena never
yet refused their help to a woman in distress."

Finn replied, "You are quite right, lady, for I am Finn; and this chase
that has parted you and your husband belongs to me. We will certainly
take you under our protection, and we will neither abandon you on this
mountain, nor suffer any one to harm you. But as to leading you to your
husband, it is not at present in our power to do that; for you must
know, lady, that we also have been set astray by this magical fairy fog.
Nevertheless, we will do the best we can; and now you had better come
with us."

So the three set forward in the direction they thought most likely to
lead to the open plain.

After walking for some time, they heard a low, sweet strain of fairy
music; and they stopped to listen. It seemed to be near them and around
them in the fog, so that Finn thought it came from the spot where the
lady stood; and she thought it came from Finn or Dara: and the music was
followed by shouts and noise, as if from a great company. When the noise
ceased, the music began again more sweetly than before; so that they
felt heavy, and as if inclined to sleep. Still more drowsy and powerless
they became as they listened; and at last they all three sank on the
ground, in a trance deep and deathlike.

After a time they awoke, and slowly regained their senses; though they
were so weak that they could scarcely move. The fog had cleared away,
leaving the air bright and warm; and when they were able to look around,
they found themselves on the margin of a blue lake. The part of the lake
that lay in front of them was narrow, and quite calm and smooth; but on
each side, to the right and left, it opened out into two broad,
green-bordered seas, with great waves tumbling wildly about, as if the
waters were torn up by whirlwinds. But where they sat, not a breath was
blowing. And looking across the narrow part, they saw a stately palace
right before them on the opposite shore.

As they were gazing at all these strange things, silent and much
astonished, they saw a warrior coming forth from the palace, in size
like a giant, rough and fierce-looking, with a beautiful woman by his
side. The two walked quickly down to the shore, and, plunging in, they
swam straight across the middle of the lake. And Dara and Glanlua,
turning to Finn, said--

"Of a surety, it is not for our good yonder strangers are approaching;
but to work us treachery and mischief!"

This forecast turned out to be true. The large warrior and the beautiful
lady had no sooner gained the land than they came up to Finn and his two
companions; and without speaking a word, the giant seized them roughly,
and led them down to the shore of the lake. For the two heroes were
still so weak from the spell of the fairy music that they were not able
to raise a hand to defend either the lady or themselves.

The giant and his companion, making no delay, plunged in, and swam back
towards the palace, bringing the three with them; and as soon as they
had reached the shore, the strange warrior, addressing Finn in a fierce
and surly manner, said--

"For a long time have I sought Finn Mac Cumal, the evil-minded and
crafty; and now, O Finn, now that thou hast been by a well-laid plan
cast under my power, I will take good care that thou shalt not escape
till I take revenge, even to the full, for all the injuries thou hast
done to me and to my sister!"

Finn listened to this speech with much surprise, for he could not call
to mind that he had ever seen the hero before; and he said--

"Tell me, I pray thee, who thou art; for I know thee not; neither do I
know of any injury thou hast suffered at my hands. Thou art, indeed,
large of body, and fierce and boastful in speech; but know that to take
revenge on a foe who is unable to defend himself, is a deed quite
unbecoming a hero!"

The large man replied, "Do you not remember the treachery you practised
on Mergah of the Sharp Spears, and on my sons, two fair youths, whom you
slew by unfair means, at the battle of Knockanare?[CXLVIII.] Well indeed
do I know thee, Finn, for I am Dryantore, and this is Ailna my sister,
the wife of Mergah. She is left without her husband, and I without my
sons, by your cruel wiles; for it was by fraud and foul play, and not by
fair fighting, that you gained the battle of Knockanare, and slew Mergah
and his host!"

"I remember well," said Finn, "that they all fell on the battle-field;
but it was not by craft or treachery. Mergah of the Sharp Spears came
with a mighty host to conquer Erin, and lay it under tribute. But they
were met at Knockanare, and every man of them slain in fair, open fight,
though not without sore loss to the Fena."

"You may say what you please on the matter," said Dryantore; "but it is
quite enough for me that you have slain Ailna's husband and my two sons.
And now, indeed, I shall take revenge--of that be sure--both on you and
on all the Fena that come within my reach."

And having so spoken, he began without more ado to bind Finn, Dara, and
Glanlua in strong fetters; and having done so, he threw them into a
dungeon, where he left them without food or drink or comfort of any

Meantime the Fena ceased not to search for their king. They knew, by the
sad strain they had heard in the distance, and by the strange manner in
which the music had shifted from place to place, that he was caught
under some druidic spell; and they vowed they would never rest till they
had found him and punished the enchanter, whoever he might be.

Next day, Ailna visited the dungeon; and Finn addressed her--

"Hast thou forgotten, Ailna, that when thou didst come to Erin after the
death of thy husband, Mergah of the Sharp Spears, the Fena received thee
hospitably, and, pitying thy distress, treated thee with much kindness?
But for this thou hast indeed given us an ungrateful and unbecoming
return; for thou hast shut us up in this dungeon, without food or drink,
having, by guileful druidical spells, taken away our strength."

"I remember very well," said Ailna, "that you treated me kindly. But you
killed my husband; and I am well pleased that it has now come to my
turn to avenge his death. I do not feel the least pity for you; and I
only wish that the whole of the Fena were with you in that dungeon, to
be dealt with by my brother."

Then, casting her eyes on Glanlua, she began to upbraid her in bitter
words for having been in the company of Finn and Dara. But Glanlua
explained the matter, saying that she had never seen either of the
chiefs before, and that it was only by chance she had fallen on them
when she had lost her way in the fog.

"If that be so," said Ailna, "it is not just that you should be punished
for the evil deeds of the others."

And she went and told Dryantore, who came forthwith to release the lady.

Glanlua took leave of Finn and Dara, and left the prison, grieving much
for their evil plight; for she was grateful for their kindness on the
mountain. Ailna led her to the palace; and, having placed food before
her, bade her eat. But Glanlua, being overcome by weakness, suddenly
fell into a swoon, and remained for a long time without sense or motion,
like one dead. When at last she opened her eyes, she saw Ailna standing
near, holding in her hand a golden drinking-horn. And Ailna gave her to
drink, and immediately the spells lost their power; and she regained her
strength; and the bloom and beauty of her countenance returned.

But now she bethought her of the two heroes; and, remembering their
dismal plight in the dungeon, she became sorrowful, and began to sigh
and weep. And when Ailna and Dryantore came to know the cause of her
tears, they told her with much severity that Finn and Dara deserved
their punishment; and that both should stay in prison till the time had
come to put them to death.

"I seek not to release them from prison or to save them from death,"
said Glanlua; "but that they are left without food and drink--this it is
that moves me to pity."

And Dryantore said, "If only that has caused your tears, you may, if you
so please, bring them food. Besides, I do not mean to put them to death
immediately. I shall let them live yet awhile, that I may decoy by them
the other Fena, who are now wandering hither and thither in quest of
their chief. And it is my firm belief that in a little time I shall have
them all in that dungeon."

So Glanlua went to the prison, bringing food and drink, and Ailna went
with her. They found the heroes sitting on the floor, sorrowing, their
strength and activity all gone; for the music-spell still held them, and
they suffered also from want of food. And when they saw the two ladies,
they shed bitter tears. Glanlua, on her part, wept with pity when she
looked on the wasted face of the chief. But not so Ailna; she was
pleased at their distress, for her heart was hardened with vengeance,
and she longed for the time when they should suffer death. Howbeit,
Glanlua placed food and drink before them, and they ate and drank and
were strengthened for the time.

When the two ladies returned, Dryantore asked Glanlua if it were true
what he had heard, that Dara was a favourite among the Fena; and why it
was that they loved him so.

Glanlua replied, "I only know that he is a very skilful musician; for I
never heard melody sweeter than the strains he played yesterday, when I
met himself and Finn in the fog."

"I should like very much to hear this music," said Dryantore, "if it be
so melodious as you say;" and as he spoke these words he went towards
the dungeon.

And when he had come to the door, he said to Dara, in a loud, harsh,
surly voice--

"I have heard that you are a skilful musician, and can play very sweet
strains. I wish you to play for me now that I may know if this be true."

To which Dara replied, "If I had the Fena around me, I could delight
them with the melody of my timpan; but as for you, guileful and cruel as
you are, I do not believe that you can take any pleasure in music.
Moreover, how can you expect that I should play sweet music for you,
seeing that I am shut up here in this dismal dungeon, and that all manly
strength and cheerfulness of mind have left me through your foul

"I will take off the spells if only you play for me," said Dryantore;
"and if your strains be as delightful as I have heard reported, I will
bring you forth from your prison, and I will keep you for ever in my
castle, and you shall play for me whensoever I wish for music."

"I shall never consent to be released, neither will I play any music for
you, so long as my chief lies in bondage and under enchantment," said
Dara; "for I grieve not indeed for myself, but for him."

Dryantore replied, "I will lift the spells from both of you for a time;
but as to releasing Finn, that is a matter I do not wish to talk of

Whereupon Dryantore removed the spells, and the heroes regained their
strength and courage.

Dara then played a low, sweet tune; and Dryantore, who had never before
heard such music, listened with delight and wonder. He was so charmed
that he called Ailna and Glanlua, that they also might hear; and they
were as much delighted as the giant. But what pleased Glanlua most was
to see the heroes restored to their wonted cheerfulness.

Now all this time the Fena were seeking among the glens and hollows of
the mountain for Finn and Dara. After walking for some time over a stony
and rugged way, a faint strain of music struck on their ears. They
stopped to listen, breathless; and every man knew the sound of Dara's
timpan; and they raised a shout of gladness, which reached Finn and Dara
in their dungeon. At the same moment they came in view of the palace,
and they drew their swords and put their shields and spears in
readiness, as men do going to battle. And they went forward warily, for
they feared foul play, and their hearts had a forecast that a foe was
near. But, indeed, they little deemed what manner of foe they should

When Dryantore heard the shouts, he hid himself from the view of the
Fena, and forthwith betook him to his magic arts. And again the spell
fell on the two heroes, and their strength departed; and Dara's hand,
losing its cunning, trembled on the strings, so that his music became
dull and broken.

And when Dara's music ceased, the Fena heard a low, hoarse murmur,
which, growing each moment louder, sounded at last like the hollow roar
of waves. And anon their strength and their swiftness left them, and
they fell to the ground every man, in a deep trance as if they slept the
sleep of death.

Then Dryantore and Ailna came forth, and having bound them one by one in
strong, hard fetters, they roused them up and led them helpless and
faltering to the dungeon, where they shut them in with Finn and Dara.

The Fena looked sadly on their king; and he, on his part, shed bitters
tears to think that he had decoyed them--though, indeed, he had done so
unwittingly--into the hands of their foe.

In the midst of their sighs and tears they heard the loud voice of the
giant, who, looking in on them from the open door, addressed them--

"Now at last, ye Fena, you are in my safe keeping. Truly you have done
great deeds in your time, but yet, methinks, you will not be able to
escape from this prison till I have taken just vengeance on you for
slaying Mergah of the Sharp Spears, and my two sons, at the battle of

And having so spoken, he shut the door and went his way.

When he came to the palace, he found that Glanlua's husband, Lavaran,
had been there. Upon which he fell into a mighty rage; for he feared to
let any man know the secrets of the palace; and he feared also that
Lavaran might try to aid Finn and the others. He inquired of the two
ladies whither he had gone; but they replied they did not know. He then
began to search through the rooms, and, raising his voice, he called
aloud for Lavaran; and the Fena, even in their dungeon, heard the roar
quite plainly.

Lavaran, hearing him, was sore afraid, and answered from a remote part
of the palace. And as he came forward, the giant placed him under his
spells, and, having bound him, flung him into the dungeon with the

Dryantore's fury had not in the least abated; and, entering the dungeon,
he struck off the heads of several of the Fena with his great sword,
saying he would visit them each day, and do in like manner till he had
killed them all.

During this time the Fena were unable to defend themselves; for, besides
that their strength had gone out from their limbs on account of the
spells, they found that from the time the enchanter entered the prison,
they were all fixed firmly in their places, every man cleaving to the
ground, in whatsoever position he chanced to be, sitting, lying, or
standing. And Finn shed tears--even tears of blood in sight of
all--seeing his men fall one by one, while he had to look on without
power to help them.

After Dryantore had in this manner slain several, he approached Conan
Mail,[23] with intent to end that day's work by cutting off his head;
and as it chanced, Conan was lying full length on the floor. Now Conan,
though he was large-boned and strong, and very boastful in his speech,
was a coward at heart, and more afraid of wounds and death than any man
that ever lived.

So when he saw Dryantore coming towards him with his sword in his hand
all dripping, he shouted aloud--

"Hold thy hand, Dryantore! Hold thy hand for a little while, and be not
guilty of such treachery!"

But the giant, not heeding in the least Conan's words, raised his sword
with his two hands and rose on tiptoe for a mighty blow. Then Conan,
terrified beyond measure, put forth all his strength to free himself,
and bounded from the floor clear outside the range of the sword; but
left behind him, clinging to the floor, all the skin of his back, even
from the points of his shoulders to the calves of his legs.

When he saw the giant still making towards him in a greater rage than
ever for missing his blow, he again cried aloud--

"Hold your hand this time, Dryantore! Is it not enough that you see me
in this woful plight? For it is plain that I cannot escape death. Leave
me, then, to die of my wounds, and slay me not thus suddenly!"

Dryantore held his hand; but he told Conan that he would for a certainty
kill him next time he came, if he did not find him already dead of his
wounds. Then he stalked out of the dungeon, and, shutting close the
door, left the Fena in gloom and sadness.

Though Lavaran had been only a little while in the palace, he made good
use of his time, and now approaching Finn, he whispered in his ear--

"There is that in yonder palace which would free us from those accursed
spells if we only could get at it."

And when Finn asked what it was, he replied, "A magical golden
drinking-horn of wondrous virtue. I saw it in the palace among many
other precious jewels."

And when Finn again questioned him how he knew of its secret power, he

"Glanlua, my wife, told me. For she said that, being herself at the
point of death, Ailna fetched this drinking-horn and bade her drink. And
when she had drunk, she was immediately freed from spells and sickness.
She told me, moreover, that it would remove the spell from the Fena, and
bring back their strength and heal their wounds, if they could get to
drink from it."

Conan, being near, overheard this conversation; and he inwardly
resolved that he would try to secure the drinking-horn, if perchance he
might be able to heal his wounds by means of it.

Not long after, the giant again came to the prison, sword in hand, and
addressed Conan in these words--

"Come forward now, O big, bald man, for I am about to fulfil my promise
to you! Come forward, that I may strike off your large head; for I see
that your wounds have not killed you!"

But Conan, instead of coming forward, fell back even to the farthest
part of the dungeon, and replied--

"You must know, Dryantore, that I, of all men alive, am the most
unwilling to die any death unworthy of a brave hero. You see my evil
plight, all wounded and faint from loss of blood; and, being as I am a
valiant warrior, it would surely be a shameful thing and a foul blot on
my fame, to be slain while in this state. I ask only one favour--that
you cure me of my wounds first. After this, you may put me to death in
any manner that is most agreeable to you."

To this Dryantore consented, seeing that Conan was secure; and he called
to Ailna and bade her fetch him the magical golden drinking-horn. "For I
wish," said he, "to heal the wounds of yonder big, bald man."

But Ailna replied, "Of what concern are his wounds to us? Is it not
better that he should die at once, and all the other Fena with him?"

Conan spoke out from where he stood, "Lovely Ailna, I seek not to escape
death. I ask only to be healed first and slain afterwards!"

Ailna went to the palace and soon returned, bringing, not the
drinking-horn, but a large sheepskin, covered all over with a long
growth of wool. Dryantore took it from her, and doing as she told him,
he fitted it on Conan's back, where it cleaved firmly, so that his
wounds were all healed up in an instant.

As long as Conan lived afterwards, this sheepskin remained on his back;
and the wool grew upon it every year, even as wool grows on the back of
a living sheep. And from that time forth, the other Fena were always
mocking him and laughing at him and calling him nicknames.

As soon as Conan felt his wounds healed, he again spoke to the giant--

"It is my opinion, Dryantore, that it would be a very unwise thing for
you to put me to death. I see plainly you want a servant. Now, although
I am large of bone and strong of body, and very brave withal, still I am
very harmless. And if you let me live, I shall be your servant for ever,
and you will find me very useful to you."

The giant saw the force and wisdom of Conan's words; and he felt that he
wanted a servant very much, though he never perceived it till that
moment, when Conan reminded him of it.

So he said, "I believe, indeed, Conan, that your words are truth.
Wherefore, I will not put you to death. You are now my servant, and so
shall you be for the rest of your life."

He then led Conan forth from the dungeon towards the palace; and he was
in such good humour at having got a servant, that he forgot to kill any
of the Fena on that occasion.

He called to him Ailna and Glanlua, to tell them of what he had done.
And he said to them--

"I find that I need a servant very much. Wherefore, I have made Conan my
servant. And I am now about to free him from the spell and give him back
his strength by a drink from the golden drinking-horn, so that he may be
able to wait on me and do my work."

For Conan, though his wounds were healed, was still so weak from the
spell that he was scarce able to walk.

"I do not at all approve what you have done," said Ailna. "It would be,
methinks, much better to put him straightway to death along with all the
others. As long as he is with us as our servant, I shall never think
myself free from danger; for the Fena are treacherous all alike."

"As for the other Fena," replied Dryantore, "you need not be in any
trouble on their account, for their time is short. As soon as I have got
Conan free from the spell, I will go straight to the dungeon and kill
them, every man. And when they are fairly put out of the way, it seems
to me that we need not fear danger from this big, bald man with the
sheepskin on his back."

When Ailna heard that the death of the Fena was near at hand, she no
longer gainsaid her brother. So Dryantore led Conan to the palace; and
placing the magical drinking-horn in his hand, bade him drink. And Conan
drank; and immediately his strength and his spirits returned.

Now it so happened, while these things went on, that Finn asked Dara to
play one of his sweet, sad tunes, that they might hear the music of his
timpan before they died. And Dara took his timpan, and began to play;
and historians say that no one either before or since ever played
sweeter strains.

At the very moment that Conan had finished drinking, he and Dryantore
heard the music sounding faintly in the distance; and the giant opened
the door and stood on the threshold to listen. He was so charmed that he
quite forgot all about Conan and the drinking-horn; and finding that he
could not hear the music plainly enough where he stood, he walked
hastily towards the dungeon, leaving Conan behind with the drinking-horn
in his hand.

No sooner had he gone out than Conan hid the drinking-horn under his
cloak, and went to the dungeon after him.

And when the giant saw him he said, "Why have you followed me; and what
business have you here? Are you not my servant; and why have you come
without being bidden by me?"

"I thought," replied Conan, "that you were about to put the Fena to
death; and I came to look at them once more before they died."

Then suddenly Dryantore bethought him of the drinking-horn, and he
said, "Where is the golden drinking-horn I gave you?"

"I left it," said Conan, "just where I found it in the palace."

The giant ran hastily towards the palace to secure the drinking-horn;
and no sooner was he out of sight than Conan, drawing forth the horn,
put it to the lips of each to drink, beginning with Finn. Only Finn and
Oscar had drunk, when they heard the heavy steps of the giant running
towards the dungeon; and now they saw that he was indeed inflamed with
fury. Oscar seized his great, polished spear, and sprang to the door;
and the others raised a mighty shout of joy; while Conan went on
releasing the heroes one by one.

When Dryantore saw Oscar, he uttered a roar of rage and disappointment;
and then called aloud to Ailna to come to him. And she came forth; and
when she saw how matters stood, she was seized with such grief and
terror that she dropped down and died immediately. Glanlua was standing
near at hand, rejoicing at the release of her husband and friends; but
when she saw Ailna fall to the ground dead, she became sad, and,
stooping down, wept over her.

All this Oscar saw from where he stood; and it was with much ado he
checked his tears. For though my son was the bravest of the heroes, and
the most terrible in battle, he had a gentle heart, and never saw a
woman or a child in distress without being moved to pity.

But Conan felt not the least pity. On the contrary, he was very glad to
see Ailna dead; and he told Oscar that it was very well she was out of
the way, for that she was a vicious woman, and had wrought the Fena much
trouble and woe.

And now Oscar, casting his eyes again on Dryantore, hardened his heart
for battle, and addressed the giant in these words--

"It has at last come to pass, O Dryantore, that you are in the power of
the Fena; and there is no escape for you, though you are a large and
strong giant, and a druid with powerful magical spells. But the Fena
never yet treated an enemy ungenerously. You indeed dealt unfairly and
treacherously with us; and meant to kill us all, after having taken away
our strength and valour by your black, guileful magic. But even so, we
give you your choice; and we challenge you now to single combat with any
of our champions you may wish to choose."

To which Dryantore replied, "It is very true that the Fena have
prevailed over me; and it is a just punishment for my folly in releasing
Conan the Bald from my spells. I desire single combat. I will fight the
Fena one after another, till I either fall myself or slay them all; and
I will begin with you!"

Oscar then took his shield and made ready for battle. Meantime the
giant, harbouring great wrath against Conan, approached him unawares;
and when he had come near enough, he sprang suddenly on him, and aimed a
blow with all his might at his head. But Conan, springing aside, barely
escaped the edge of the sword; and, running in great fear, called to
Oscar with great outcry to save him from the giant.

Then Oscar ran between; and he and the giant fought a long and fierce
fight, while we looked on with anxious hearts. The giant was furious and
strong; but my son was active and watchful and fearless of heart; and
Dryantore at length fell at the door of his own palace, pierced through
and through by the long, smooth spear of Oscar.

When the Fena saw the giant fall, they raised three mighty shouts of
joy. And Glanlua brought the magic drinking-horn to Oscar, from which he
drank, so that his wounds were healed, and his strength straightway
returned to him.

The Fena then went into the palace, where they found food in great
plenty, with wine and mead in golden bowls and drinking-horns. And they
ate and drank and made merry; after which they rested that night on soft
beds and couches.

When they awoke in the morning, all was changed. The palace and the lake
were gone; and the heroes found themselves lying on the heathy side of
Slieve Fuad, at the selfsame spot where they had first started the deer;
with the morning sun shining brightly over their heads.


[CXLIV.] This story is told by Oisin to St. Patrick. (See the prefatory
note to the next story, "Oisin in Tirnanoge," page 385.)

[CXLV.] Slieve Fuad was the ancient name of the highest of the Fews
mountains, near Newtown Hamilton, in Armagh; but the name is now lost.

[CXLVI.] Now probably the village of Carrigans, on the river Foyle, five
miles south-west of Londonderry.

[CXLVII.] Dord-Fian, a sort of musical war-cry. (See note, page 195.)

[CXLVIII.] Knockanare (the hill of slaughter), where a great battle was
fought between the Fena under Finn, and the foreigners under Mergah of
the Sharp Spears, in which Mergah was defeated and slain. This battle
forms the subject of a poetical romance. It may be as well to observe
that this hill is _not_ Knockanare in Kerry, near the mouth of the
Shannon, as some say.




    [According to an ancient legend, Finn's son, Oisin, the hero-poet,
    survived to the time of St. Patrick, two hundred years (the legend
    makes it three hundred) after the other Fena. On a certain occasion,
    when the saint asked him how he had lived to such a great age, the
    old hero related the following story.]

A short time after the fatal battle of Gavra,[CL.] where so many of our
heroes fell, we were hunting on a dewy morning near the brink of Lough
Lein,[CLI.] where the trees and hedges around us were all fragrant with
blossoms, and the little birds sang melodious music on the branches. We
soon roused the deer from the thickets, and as they bounded over the
plain, our hounds followed after them in full cry.

We were not long so engaged, when we saw a rider coming swiftly towards
us from the west; and we soon perceived that it was a maiden on a white
steed. We all ceased from the chase on seeing the lady, who reined in as
she approached. And Finn and the Fena were greatly surprised, for they
had never before seen so lovely a maiden. A slender golden diadem
encircled her head; and she wore a brown robe of silk, spangled with
stars of red gold, which was fastened in front by a golden brooch, and
fell from her shoulders till it swept the ground. Her yellow hair flowed
far down over her robe in bright, golden ringlets. Her blue eyes were as
clear as the drops of dew on the grass; and while her small, white hand
held the bridle and curbed her steed with a golden bit, she sat more
gracefully than the swan on Lough Lein. The white steed was covered with
a smooth, flowing mantle. He was shod with four shoes of pure yellow
gold, and in all Erin a better or more beautiful steed could not be

As she came slowly to the presence of Finn, he addressed her courteously
in these words--

"Who art thou, O lovely youthful princess? Tell us thy name and the name
of thy country, and relate to us the cause of thy coming."

She answered in a sweet and gentle voice, "Noble king of the Fena, I
have had a long journey this day, for my country lies far off in the
Western Sea. I am the daughter of the king of Tirnanoge, and my name is
Niam of the Golden Hair."

"And what is it that has caused thee to come so far across the sea? Has
thy husband forsaken thee; or what other evil has befallen thee?"

"My husband has not forsaken me, for I have never been married or
betrothed to any man. But I love thy noble son, Oisin; and this is what
has brought me to Erin. It is not without reason that I have given him
my love, and that I have undertaken this long journey: for I have often
heard of his bravery, his gentleness, and the nobleness of his person.
Many princes and high chiefs have sought me in marriage; but I was quite
indifferent to all men, and never consented to wed, till my heart was
moved with love for thy gentle son, Oisin."

When I heard these words, and when I looked on the lovely maiden with
her glossy, golden hair, I was all over in love with her. I came near,
and, taking her small hand in mine, I told her she was a mild star of
brightness and beauty, and that I preferred her to all the princesses in
the world for my wife.

"Then," said she, "I place you under gesa,[12] which true heroes never
break through, to come with me on my white steed to Tirnanoge, the land
of never-ending youth. It is the most delightful and the most renowned
country under the sun. There is abundance of gold and silver and jewels,
of honey and wine; and the trees bear fruit and blossoms and green
leaves together all the year round. You will get a hundred swords and a
hundred robes of silk and satin, a hundred swift steeds, and a hundred
slender, keen-scenting hounds. You will get herds of cows without
number, and flocks of sheep with fleeces of gold; a coat of mail that
cannot be pierced, and a sword that never missed a stroke and from
which no one ever escaped alive. There are feasting and harmless
pastimes each day. A hundred warriors fully armed shall always await you
at call, and harpers shall delight you with their sweet music. You will
wear the diadem of the king of Tirnanoge, which he never yet gave to any
one under the sun, and which will guard you day and night, in tumult and
battle and danger of every kind. Lapse of time shall bring neither decay
nor death, and you shall be for ever young, and gifted with unfading
beauty and strength. All these delights you shall enjoy, and many others
that I do not mention; and I myself will be your wife if you come with
me to Tirnanoge."

I replied that she was my choice above all the maidens in the world, and
that I would willingly go with her to the Land of Youth.

When my father, Finn, and the Fena heard me say this, and knew that I
was going from them, they raised three shouts of grief and lamentation.
And Finn came up to me and took my hand in his, saying sadly--

"Woe is me, my son, that you are going away from me, for I do not expect
that you will ever return to me!"

The manly beauty of his countenance became quite dimmed with sorrow; and
though I promised to return after a little time, and fully believed that
I should see him again, I could not check my tears, as I gently kissed
my father's cheek.

I then bade farewell to my dear companions, and mounted the white steed,
while the lady kept her seat before me. She gave the signal, and the
steed galloped swiftly and smoothly towards the west, till he reached
the strand; and when his gold-shod hoofs touched the waves, he shook
himself and neighed three times. He made no delay, but plunged forward
at once, moving over the face of the sea with the speed of a
cloud-shadow on a March day. The wind overtook the waves and we overtook
the wind, so that we straightway lost sight of land; and we saw nothing
but billows tumbling before us and billows tumbling behind us.

Other shores came into view, and we saw many wonderful things on our
journey--islands and cities, lime-white mansions, bright greenans[CLII.]
and lofty palaces. A hornless fawn once crossed our course, bounding
nimbly along from the crest of one wave to the crest of another; and
close after, in full chase, a white hound with red ears. We saw also a
lovely young maiden on a brown steed, with a golden apple in her hand;
and as she passed swiftly by, a young warrior on a white steed plunged
after her, wearing a long, flowing mantle of yellow silk, and holding a
gold-hilted sword in his hand.

I knew naught of these things, and, marvelling much, I asked the
princess what they meant; but she answered--

"Heed not what you see here, Oisin; for all these wonders are as
nothing compared with what you shall see in Tirnanoge."

At last we saw at a great distance, rising over the waves on the very
verge of the sea, a palace more splendid than all the others; and, as we
drew near, its front glittered like the morning sun. I asked the lady
what royal house this was, and who was the prince that ruled over it.

"This country is the Land of Virtues," she replied. "Its king is the
giant, Fomor of the Blows, and its queen the daughter of the king of the
Land of Life.[19] This Fomor brought the lady away by force from her own
country, and keeps her in his palace; but she has put him under gesa[12]
that he cannot break through, never to ask her to marry him till she can
find a champion to fight him in single combat. But she still remains in
bondage; for no hero has yet come hither who has the courage to meet the

"A blessing on you, golden-haired Niam," I replied; "I have never heard
music sweeter than your voice; and although I feel pity for this
princess, yet your story is pleasant to me to hear; for of a certainty I
will go to the palace, and try whether I cannot kill this Fomor, and
free the lady."

So we came to land; and as we drew nigh to the palace, the lovely young
queen met us and bade us welcome. She led us in and placed us on chairs
of gold; after which choice food was placed before us, and
drinking-horns filled with mead, and golden goblets of sweet wine.

When we had eaten and drunk, the mild young princess told us her story,
while tears streamed from her soft, blue eyes; and she ended by saying--

"I shall never return to my own country and to my father's house, so
long as this great and cruel giant is alive!"

When I heard her sad words, and saw her tears falling, I was moved with
pity; and telling her to cease from her grief, I gave her my hand as a
pledge that I would meet the giant, and either slay him or fall myself
in her defence.

While we were yet speaking, we saw the giant coming towards the palace,
large of body, and ugly and hateful in appearance, carrying a load of
deerskins on his back, and holding a great iron club in his hand. He
threw down his load when he saw us, turned a surly look on the princess,
and, without greeting us or showing the least mark of courtesy, he
forthwith challenged me to battle in a loud, rough voice.

It was not my wont to be dismayed by a call to battle, or to be
terrified at the sight of an enemy; and I went forth at once without the
least fear in my heart. But though I had fought many battles in Erin
against wild boars and enchanters and foreign invaders, never before did
I find it so hard to preserve my life. We fought for three days and
three nights without food or drink or sleep; for the giant did not give
me a moment for rest, and neither did I give him. At length, when I
looked at the two princesses weeping in great fear, and when I called to
mind my father's deeds in battle, the fury of my valour arose; and with
a sudden onset I felled the giant to the earth; and instantly, before he
could recover himself, I cut off his head.

When the maidens saw the monster lying on the ground dead, they uttered
three cries of joy; and they came to me, and led me into the palace. For
I was indeed bruised all over, and covered with gory wounds; and a
sudden dizziness of brain and feebleness of body seized me. But the
daughter of the king of the Land of Life applied precious balsam and
healing herbs to my wounds; and in a short time I was healed, and my
cheerfulness of mind returned.

Then I buried the giant in a deep and wide grave; and I raised a great
carn over him, and placed on it a stone with his name graved in Ogam.

We rested that night, and at the dawn of next morning Niam said to me
that it was time for us to resume our journey to Tirnanoge. So we took
leave of the daughter of the king of the Land of Life; and though her
heart was joyful after her release, she wept at our departure, and we
were not less sorry at parting from her. When we had mounted the white
steed, he galloped towards the strand; and as soon as his hoofs touched
the wave, he shook himself and neighed three times. We plunged forward
over the clear, green sea with the speed of a March wind on a hill-side;
and soon we saw nothing but billows tumbling before us and billows
tumbling behind us. We saw again the fawn chased by the white hound with
red ears; and the maiden with the golden apple passed swiftly by,
followed by the young warrior in yellow silk on his white steed. And
again we passed many strange islands and cities and white palaces.

The sky now darkened, so that the sun was hidden from our view. A storm
arose, and the sea was lighted up with constant flashes. But though the
wind blew from every point of the heavens, and the waves rose up and
roared around us, the white steed kept his course straight on, moving as
calmly and swiftly as before, through the foam and blinding spray,
without being delayed or disturbed in the least, and without turning
either to the right or to the left.

At length the storm abated, and after a time the sun again shone
brightly; and when I looked up, I saw a country near at hand, all green
and full of flowers, with beautiful smooth plains, blue hills, and
bright lakes and waterfalls. Not far from the shore stood a palace of
surpassing beauty and splendour. It was covered all over with gold and
with gems of every colour--blue, green, crimson, and yellow; and on each
side were greenans shining with precious stones, built by artists the
most skilful that could be found. I asked Niam the name of that
delightful country, and she replied--

"This is my native country, Tirnanoge; and there is nothing I have
promised you that you will not find in it."

As soon as we reached the shore, we dismounted; and now we saw advancing
from the palace a troop of noble-looking warriors, all clad in bright
garments, who came forward to meet and welcome us. Following these we
saw a stately glittering host, with the king at their head wearing a
robe of bright yellow satin covered with gems, and a crown that sparkled
with gold and diamonds. The queen came after, attended by a hundred
lovely young maidens; and as they advanced towards us, it seemed to me
that this king and queen exceeded all the kings and queens of the world
in beauty and gracefulness and majesty.

After they had kissed their daughter, the king took my hand, and said
aloud in the hearing of the host--

"This is Oisin, the son of Finn, for whom my daughter, Niam, travelled
over the sea to Erin. This is Oisin, who is to be the husband of Niam of
the Golden Hair. We give you a hundred thousand welcomes, brave Oisin.
You will be for ever young in this land. All kinds of delights and
innocent pleasures are awaiting you, and my daughter, the gentle,
golden-haired Niam, shall be your wife; for I am the king of Tirnanoge."

I gave thanks to the king, and I bowed low to the queen; after which we
went into the palace, where we found a banquet prepared. The feasting
and rejoicing lasted for ten days, and on the last day, I was wedded to
the gentle Niam of the Golden Hair.

I lived in the Land of Youth more than three hundred years; but it
appeared to me that only three years had passed since the day I parted
from my friends. At the end of that time, I began to have a longing
desire to see my father, Finn, and all my old companions, and I asked
leave of Niam and of the king to visit Erin. The king gave permission,
and Niam said--

"I will give consent, though I feel sorrow in my heart, for I fear much
you will never return to me."

I replied that I would surely return, and that she need not feel any
doubt or dread, for that the white steed knew the way, and would bring
me back in safety. Then she addressed me in these words, which seemed
very strange to me--

"I will not refuse this request, though your journey afflicts me with
great grief and fear. Erin is not now as it was when you left it. The
great king Finn and his Fena are all gone; and you will find, instead of
them, a holy father and hosts of priests and saints. Now, think well on
what I say to you, and keep my words in your mind. If once you alight
from the white steed, you will never come back to me. Again I warn you,
if you place your feet on the green sod in Erin, you will never return
to this lovely land. A third time, O Oisin, my beloved husband, a third
time I say to you, if you alight from the white steed, you will never
see me again."

I promised that I would faithfully attend to her words, and that I would
not alight from the white steed. Then, as I looked into her gentle face
and marked her grief, my heart was weighed down with sadness, and my
tears flowed plentifully; but even so, my mind was bent on coming back
to Erin.

When I had mounted the white steed, he galloped straight towards the
shore. We moved as swiftly as before over the clear sea. The wind
overtook the waves and we overtook the wind, so that we straightway left
the Land of Youth behind; and we passed by many islands and cities, till
at length we landed on the green shores of Erin.

As I travelled on through the country, I looked closely around me; but I
scarcely knew the old places, for everything seemed strangely altered. I
saw no sign of Finn and his host, and I began to dread that Niam's
saying was coming true. At length, I espied at a distance a company of
little men and women,[CLIII.] all mounted on horses as small as
themselves; and when I came near, they greeted me kindly and
courteously. They looked at me with wonder and curiosity, and they
marvelled much at my great size, and at the beauty and majesty of my

I asked them about Finn and the Fena; whether they were still living, or
if any sudden disaster had swept them away. And one replied--

"We have heard of the hero Finn, who ruled the Fena of Erin in times of
old, and who never had an equal for bravery and wisdom. The poets of the
Gaels have written many books concerning his deeds and the deeds of the
Fena, which we cannot now relate; but they are all gone long since, for
they lived many ages ago. We have heard also, and we have seen it
written in very old books, that Finn had a son named Oisin. Now this
Oisin went with a young fairy maiden to Tirnanoge, and his father and
his friends sorrowed greatly after him, and sought him long; but he was
never seen again."

When I heard all this, I was filled with amazement, and my heart grew
heavy with great sorrow. I silently turned my steed away from the
wondering people, and set forward straightway for Allen of the mighty
deeds, on the broad, green plains of Leinster. It was a miserable
journey to me; and though my mind, being full of sadness at all I saw
and heard, forecasted further sorrows, I was grieved more than ever when
I reached Allen. For there, indeed, I found the hill deserted and
lonely, and my father's palace all in ruins and overgrown with grass and

I turned slowly away, and afterwards fared through the land in every
direction in search of my friends. But I met only crowds of little
people, all strangers, who gazed on me with wonder; and none knew me. I
visited every place throughout the country where I knew the Fena had
lived; but I found their houses all like Allen, solitary and in ruins.

At length I came to Glenasmole,[CLIV.] where many a time I had hunted
in days of old with the Fena, and there I saw a crowd of people in the
glen. As soon as they saw me, one of them came forward and said--

"Come to us, thou mighty hero, and help us out of our strait; for thou
art a man of vast strength."

I went to them, and found a number of men trying in vain to raise a
large, flat stone. It was half lifted from the ground; but those who
were under it were not strong enough either to raise it further or to
free themselves from its weight. And they were in great distress, and on
the point of being crushed to death.

I thought it a shameful thing that so many men should be unable to lift
this stone, which Oscar, if he were alive, would take in his right hand
and fling over the heads of the feeble crowd. After I had looked a
little while, I stooped forward and seized the flag with one hand; and,
putting forth my strength, I flung it seven perches from its place, and
relieved the little men. But with the great strain the golden
saddle-girth broke, and, bounding forward to keep myself from falling, I
suddenly came to the ground on my two feet.

The moment the white steed felt himself free, he shook himself and
neighed. Then, starting off with the speed of a cloud-shadow on a March
day, he left me standing helpless and sorrowful. Instantly a woeful
change came over me: the sight of my eyes began to fade, the ruddy
beauty of my face fled, I lost all my strength, and I fell to the earth,
a poor, withered old man, blind and wrinkled and feeble.

The white steed was never seen again. I never recovered my sight, my
youth, or my strength; and I have lived in this manner, sorrowing
without ceasing for my gentle, golden-haired wife, Niam, and thinking
ever of my father, Finn, and of the lost companions of my youth.


[CXLIX.] Tirnanoge, the Land of Youth. (See note 19 at the end.)

[CL.] Gavra, now Garristown, in the north-west of the county Dublin.
(For an account of this battle, see note 28 at the end.)

[CLI.] Lough Lein, the Lakes of Killarney.

[CLII.] Greenan, a summer-house; a house in a bright, sunny spot.

[CLIII.] The gigantic race of the Fena had all passed away, and Erin was
now inhabited by people who looked very small in Oisin's eyes.

[CLIV.] Glenasmole, a fine valley about seven miles south of Dublin,
through which the river Dodder flows.



A princely upright hundred-herd brugaid[CLVI.] was born one time in the
lovely province of Connaught, namely, Conall Derg O'Corra the
fair-haired. And thus was this brugaid (circumstanced):--he was a
fortunate, rich, prosperous man; and his house was never found without
three shouts in it--the shout of the brewers brewing ale, and the shout
of the servants over the caldrons distributing (meat) to the hosts, and
the shout of the youths over the chessboards[CLVII.] winning games from
one another.

The same house was never without three measures:--a measure of malt for
making yeast, a measure of wheat for providing bread for the guests, and
a measure of salt for savouring each kind of food.

His wife was Cairderga[CLVIII.] the daughter of the Erenach[CLIX.] of
Clogher.[CLX.] They felt no want of any kind except being without
children; and it was not that they were without children (being born to
them), but that the infants always died the moment after birth.

Then this brugaid said (one day) to his wife as she reclined near him on
the couch:--"It is a sad thing for us," said he, "that we have no
children who would take our place and fill it worthily when we are

"What desire is in your mind in regard to that?" says the wife.

"It is my desire," says the brugaid, "to make a bond with the demon to
try if he would give us a son or a daughter who would take our place
after us (since God has not done so)."

"Let us do that," said the woman.

They accordingly fasted (and prayed) to the demon; (and the demon
hearkened unto them. And in due time) the pains and struggles, of
childbirth came upon the lady; and she bore three sons at that great
birth, namely, a son at the beginning of the night, and a son at the
middle of the night, and a son at the end of the night.

And they were baptised according to the baptism of the pagans (by which
they were dedicated not to God but to the demon); and their names were
Lochan, Enna, and Silvester. And after that, they were reared and
carefully trained up till they were swift and active on sea and land; so
that they were an overmatch for all the young people of their own age in
every game and in every accomplishment. And they were in the mouths and
on the tongues of all who saw or heard of them in their day.

One day when they were resting at the railings of the house of their
father and mother, wearied after their hurling and their martial games,
the housefolk said that they saw no fault or defect in these handsome
much-renowned youths, except only their being baptised in the service of
the devil. (And the youths hearing this said):--"If it be so," said
they, "that the devil is our lord and master, it is very wrong of us not
to bring ruin and wrath and woe on his enemies, that is to say, (we
ought) to slaughter the clergy, and burn and spoil their churches."

Then did these three youths arise, (and collecting a band), and taking
unto them their arms, they came to Tuam-da-Gualann,[CLXI.] and spoiled
and burned the town. And (after that) they plundered and made dreadful
havoc on the churches and clergy throughout the province of Connaught,
until their wicked and bloodthirsty ravages were noised over the four
quarters of Erin. Thus did they run their evil course without ceasing
for a whole year, during which time they destroyed more than half the
churches of Connaught.

At the end of the year Lochan said to his brothers: "We have made one
great mistake through forgetfulness," says he, "and our lord the devil
will not be thankful to us on account of it." "What is that?" said the
other two youths. "Our grandfather," says he, "that is our mother's
father--not to have killed him and burned his church."

So they set out straightway, journeying without sparing or respite (to
Clogher), and this was how they found the erenach, namely, on the green
of the church with a great company of his folk around him, (waiting for
the O'Corras), in order to attend on them and to deal out to them the
choice of every food and the best of every ale. And the intention that
the elder had towards them, that indeed was not the intention they had
towards him, but to murder him and to burn and spoil his church.

Then the O'Corras came to the spot where the elder was standing, and
they made up their minds not to kill him or burn the houses till night,
when the cows and the (other) cattle of the homestead would be housed,
all in their own proper places.

The elder welcomed them and led them to the homestead; and he now became
aware of their intention. Nevertheless he put them in a goodly pleasant
_Greenan_,[CLXII.] and they were served with food and ale till they
became exhilarated and cheerful: after which couches were made ready for
them on lofty bedsteads.

And now deep slumber and heavy sleep fell on them, and a wonderful
vision was revealed in a dream to Lochan, the eldest of the sons of
O'Corra, in which he was carried to see heaven and hell. And after this
he awoke. The other two awoke at the same time, and they said:--"Let us
now arise, for it is time to plunder and destroy the homestead."

"Seems to me," said Lochan, "that this is not the right thing for us to
do: for evil is the lord we have served until now, and good is the Lord
we have plundered and outraged.

"And last night I had," said he, "a fearful dream, in which I saw a
vision of heaven and hell. And first I was taken to see hell, where were
countless souls of men and vast crowds of demons suffering divers
tortures, and plagues unexampled. And I saw the four rivers of hell,
that is to say, a river of toads, a river of serpents, a river of fire,
and a river of snow. I saw also a monstrous serpent with many heads and
legs, at sight whereof, even though it were only a single glance, all
the men in the world would drop dead with loathing and horror.

"After this methought I was taken to see heaven; where I beheld the Lord
Himself seated on His kingly throne, and angels in the shapes of white
birds singing for Him. And among them was one great snow-white bird of
dazzling brightness that excelled all the others in size and beauty and
voice, chanting strains of surpassing sweetness. Women in travail and
men sore wounded and sick people racked with pain would fall asleep if
they heard the delightful harmony of his voice. And it was made known to
me that this great bird who chanted such heavenly music to his mild Lord
was Michael the Archangel.

"And now my brothers," said Lochan, "it is my counsel to you that you
follow God henceforward."

"But," said the others, "will the Lord accept repentance from us for the
dreadful evils we have already done?"

They go to the father of their mother, namely, the erenach, and they ask
this thing of him. "He will accept your repentance without doubt," says
the erenach.

"Well then," said Lochan, "let Mass be celebrated for us, and put us
under instruction, and let us offer our confession to God. After that we
will make staffs of the handles of our spears; and we will go to Finnen
of Clonard,[CLXIII.] the tutor of the saints and of the just men of all
Erin. He is a very holy man, and he will advise us in regard to what we
ought to do."

To this counsel they agreed; and on the morrow they set out for the
place where Finnen was; whom they found on the green of Clonard with a
number of his clerics.

"Who are these coming towards us?" said the clerics. And one said, "They
are the O'Corras the robbers." Hearing this they fled, like lightning,
in a body from their master, for they felt quite sure that the O'Corras
were coming to slay them; so that Finnen was left quite alone before the
three brothers.

"It is from us the clerics are fleeing:" says Lochan.

"Of a certainty it is," said his brothers. "Let us," said Lochan, "cast
from us our staffs, the only little remnant of our arms left with us;
and let us throw ourselves on our knees before the cleric."

And this they did. "What is your desire?" says the cleric (Finnen). "Our
desire," said they, "is faith and piety, and to serve God, and to
abandon the lord whom we have hitherto served, namely, the devil."

"That is a good resolution," says the cleric; "and let us go now to the
homestead yonder, the place where live our brotherhood."

They go accordingly with him to the brotherhood; and after the matter
had been considered, it was arranged to set apart a young cleric to
teach them; and it was decreed that they should not speak to any one
except their own master till the end of a year.

So they continued for a whole year till they had read the Canons
through, and by the time they had come to be able to read them, the
whole brotherhood felt grateful (to God) for their piety and their

At the end of the year they came to Finnen; and they knelt before him,
and said to him:--"It is time now that we should be judged and sentence
passed on us for the great crimes we have committed.

"What," said Finnen, "do ye not think it enough--the penance you have
done already for a whole year among the brotherhood?" "It is not
enough," said they. "What then are the greatest crimes ye have
committed?" says Finnen. "We have burned more than half the churches of
Connaught; and neither priest nor bishop got quarter or protection from

"You cannot" replied Finnen, "give back life to the people you have
killed; but do ye that which will be in your power, namely, to build up
the churches ye have burned, and to repair every other damage ye have
committed in them. And I will give to each man of you," says he, "the
swiftness and strength of a hundred; and I will take from you all
weariness of feet, of hands, and of body; and I will give you light and
understanding which will have neither decay nor end."

So the O'Corras departed, and went first to Tuam-da-Gualann; and after
that, they fared through the province, obedient to rule and working hard
each day, until it came to pass that they had restored everything they
had previously destroyed.

After that they came at the end of the year to speak with Finnen. "Have
you been able," asks Finnen, "to repair everything ye destroyed
belonging to the Church?" "We have," said they, "except one place alone,
namely Kenn-Mara."[CLXIV.] "Alas for that," says Finnen; "that is the
very first place you should have repaired; for it is the homestead of
the oldest of all the saints of Ireland, namely, the aged Camann of
Kenn-Mara. And now go and carefully restore everything ye have destroyed
in that homestead. And the sentence that holy man passes on you, fulfil
it patiently."

So they went gladly to Kenn-Mara; and they repaired everything they had
ruined there.

One day when they had come forth from the homestead, they sat on the
margin of the little bay, watching the sun as it went westward. And as
they gazed and reflected on the course of the sun, they began to marvel
greatly, pondering whither it went after it had gone down beneath the
verge of the sea. "What more wonderful thing is there in the whole
world," said they, "than that the sea does not freeze into ice, while
ice is formed in every other water!"

Thereupon they formed the resolution on the spot to bring unto them a
certain artificer who was a fast friend of theirs, and to (get him) to
make a three-hide curragh[CLXV.] for them. Accordingly the curragh was
made, and a strong-sided one it was. And the reward the artificer asked
for building it was to be let go with them.

When the time had come, and they were about to embark, they saw a large
crowd passing close by; and this crowd was a company of
_crossans_.[CLXVI.] When the _crossans_ saw the curragh putting forth on
the sea, they inquired:--"Who are yonder people that are launching this
curragh on the sea?" said they.

The _furshore_ (juggler) of the crossans said:--"I know them well; they
are the sons of Conall derg O'Corra the fair-haired of Connaught, the
destroyers and robbers, going on their pilgrimage on the sea and on the
great ocean, to make search for their Lord." "And indeed," added the
_furshore_, "my word for it, they do not stand more in need of seeking
for heaven than we do."

"It is a long day I fancy till you go on your pilgrimage," said the
leader of the band. "Say not so," answered the _furshore_: "for I will
certainly go with these people on my pilgrimage now without delay."

"Upon our word," said the _crossans_, "you will not take away our
clothes with you; for not a single article of the garments you wear
belongs to you." "It is not so small a matter that would keep me with
you," says he.

So they stripped off all his clothes, and sent him away mother naked to
the curragh.

"Who and what in the world are you, good man?" asked the crew. "A poor
wretch who wishes to go with you on pilgrimage," said he. "Indeed," said
they, "you shall not by any means come with us, seeing that you are
stark naked." "Say not so, young men," said he, "for the sake of God do
not refuse me; for I will amuse you and keep your hearts cheerful (with
my music and singing); and your piety will not be a whit the worse for

And (inasmuch as he had asked) for the sake of God they consented to let
him go.

Now this is how it was with the crew:--each man of them had built a
church and raised an altar to the Lord in his own district. Their number
was nine; among whom was a bishop, and a priest, and a deacon; and they
had one _gilla_ (attendant) who was the ninth man.

"Let us go aboard our curragh now," says Lochan, "as we have finished
our task of restoring the churches, and as we have, besides, each of us
built a church to the Lord in our own district."

It was then they put up their prayers fervently to God in the hope that
they might have fine weather; and that the Lord would quell the fury of
the billows, and the might of the ocean, and the rage of the terrible
sea monsters. So they embarked in their curragh, bringing their oars;
and they began to question among themselves what direction they should
take. "The direction in which this wind will bring us," says the bishop.
And having commended themselves to God, one and all, they betook them to
their oars. A great wind now arose, which drove them out on the waste
of waters straight to the west; and they were forty days and forty
nights on the ocean. And God revealed to them great and unheard of

They had not been long rowing when the _crossan_ died; and sad and
sorrowful were they for his loss, and wept much. While they were still
mourning, they saw a little bird alight on the deck of the curragh. And
the little bird spoke and said to them:--"Good people, tell me now in
God's name what is the cause of your sorrow."

"A _crossan_ that we had playing music for us; and he died a little
while ago in this curragh; and that is the cause of our sorrow."

And the bird said:--"Lo, I am your little _crossan_: and now be not
sorrowful any longer, for I am going straightway to heaven." So saying
he bade them farewell and flew away.


They row forward for a long time till there was shown to them a
wonderful island, and in it a great grove of marvellous beauty, laden
with apples, golden coloured and sweet scented. A sparkling rivulet of
wine flowed through the midst of the grove; and when the wind blew
through the trees, sweeter than any music was the rustling it made. The
O'Corras ate some of the apples and drank from the rivulet of wine, and
were immediately satisfied. And from that time forth they were never
troubled by either wounds or sickness.


Then they took to their oars; and after a time they came in view of
another island, and four companies of people in it, such as had never
been seen before. Now these people had divided the island into four
parts: old greyheaded people were in the first division; princes in the
second; warriors in the third; and servants in the fourth. They were all
beautiful and glorious to behold; and they diverted themselves
continually with games and pastimes. One of the crew went to them to ask
news: (he was a comely, well-favoured youth, but) he seemed ugly and
dark-visaged in presence of these glorious people. When he had got among
them, he became in a moment beautiful like the others; and he joined in
their games, and laughed, and made merry. Moreover he remembered nothing
more of his companions; and he sojourned in the island after that for
evermore. And the O'Corras were at length forced to depart, though much
grieved for the loss of their companion.


Then they set out and rowed for some time till they sighted another
marvellous island. It stood up in the air high over the great sea; and
it was propped up by a pillar like a single foot standing under it in
the middle. And the crew heard great shouting and the loud conversation
of people on the top of the island overhead; but though the O'Corras
sailed round and round, they could not get a sight of them.


They row forward after that till they come to an island in which lived
one lone cleric. Very lovely was that island, and glorious its history.
Beautiful purple flowers covered all the plains, dropping honey in
abundance; and on the trees were perched flocks of bright-coloured birds
singing slow sweet fairy-music. The O'Corras went to ask the cleric
about himself and about the island. And he spoke as follows:--

"I am a disciple of St. Andrew the Apostle, and Dega is my name. On a
certain night I neglected to read my Matins; and it is for this that I
was sent on a pilgrimage on the ocean; and here I am awaiting the
Judgment day. And yonder birds that are singing those incomparable
strains on the trees, these are the souls of holy men."


They took leave of the old man and plied their oars, till they reached
another island, with dead people on one side of it, and living people on
the other side: and many of the living people had feet of iron. All
round was a burning sea, which broke over the island continually in
mighty waves. And the living people uttered fearful cries when the fiery
waves flowed over them, for their torments thereby were great and


After leaving this they rowed on till they saw an island formed of great
flat stones for ever burning red hot. And thereon they saw whole hosts
of people burning in great torment; and many had red fiery spits thrust
through their bodies. And they uttered great cries of pain without
ceasing. The crew called out from a distance to ask who they were:
whereupon one answered:--

"This is one of the flagstones of hell. We are souls who in life did not
fulfil the penance imposed on us; and warn all men to avoid this place;
for whosoever cometh hither shall never go hence till the Day of


The next island they saw was very beautiful and glorious to look upon.
It had a wall of copper all round it, with a network of copper hanging
out from each corner; and in the centre stood a palace. The crew left
their curragh on the strand and went towards the palace. And when they
had come nigh unto the wall, the wind, as it rustled and murmured
through the copper network, made music so soft and sweet that they fell
into a gentle slumber, and slept for three days and three nights. When
they awoke they saw a beautiful maiden coming towards them from the
palace. She had sandals of _findrina_ (a sort of white metal) on her
feet, and an inner garment of fine silk next her snow-white skin. She
wore a beautiful gold-coloured vest, and over all a bright-tinted
mantle, plaited fivefold on its upper border, and fastened at the neck
with a brooch of burnished gold. In one hand she held a pitcher of
copper, and in the other a silver goblet.

When she had come near she greeted them and bade them welcome. And she
gave them food from the copper pitcher which seemed to them like cheese;
and she brought them water in the silver goblet from a well on the
strand. And there was no delicious flavour that was ever tasted by man
that they did not find in this food and drink. Then the maiden said to
them:--"Although we are all--you and I--of one race, yet shall ye go
hence without delay, for your resurrection is not to be here."

So they bade her farewell and took to their oars once more.


After rowing for some time they saw flocks of large birds of divers
colours flying over the sea; and their number was great beyond counting.
One of them alighted on the deck of the curragh.

"It would be a delightful thing," said one of the clerics, "if this bird
were a messenger from the Lord, sent to give us news."

"That would be quite possible with God," said the eldest; and as he
spoke he raised his eyes and looked at the bird. Whereupon the bird
spoke and said:--

"It is indeed to converse with you that I have come; for I am of the
land of Erin."

Now this bird was crimson red all over, except three beautiful streaks
on her breast, which shone as bright as the sun. And after a time she
said to the same cleric:--

"I am the soul of a woman; and I am your friend. And come ye now," says
she, "to hear yonder birds; for these are the souls that are permitted
to come out of hell every Sunday."

"It is better that we leave this place at once," said the same old
cleric. And his companions said to him:--

"We will go with thee whithersoever thou goest." So they departed from
that place; (and the crimson red bird went with them).


And as they went, they saw three wonderful streams, namely, a stream of
otters, a stream of eels, and a stream of black swans. Great flocks of
birds arose from these three streams and flew past the voyagers; and the
black swans followed close after, tearing and tormenting the birds. And
the crimson red bird said:--

"Marvel not, neither be ye sad of heart; for these bird-shapes that ye
see are the souls of people suffering the punishment of their crimes.
And the black swans that follow them, these are devils who are for ever
tormenting them; and the birds scream fearfully, and are for ever trying
to fly from the demons and to free themselves from their torment.

"And now as to me," continued the bird, "I am about to depart from you.
It is not permitted me to make known to you what is to befall you; but
in a little time another will tell you all that you need to know."

And the cleric said:--"Tell us, I beseech thee, what are those three
beautiful streaks on thy breast."

"I will tell you that," answered the bird. "When I was in the world I
was married; but I did not yield obedience to my husband, neither did I
fulfil my lawful homely duties as a wife. And when a grievous sickness
came upon him I left him to die. But thrice I went in pity to him:--once
to see him and ask after his illness; once to bring him such food as
befitted his state; and the third time when he was dead, to watch by the
body and see it buried. These three good deeds are the three beautiful
streaks that you see on my breast; and I should have been bright all
over like these streaks if I had not violated my lawful marriage

And having so spoken, the bird bade them farewell and flew away.


They next discovered a very beautiful island. The grass was bright
green, and it was all over intermingled with pretty purple-coloured
flowers. Flocks of lovely little birds of many bright colours, and
myriads of bees, flew among the trees and flowers, humming and singing
harmonious music. The voyagers saw a venerable grey-headed old man with
a harp in his hand. He played this harp on the island continually; and
the music thereof was sweeter than any music they had ever heard. They
saluted the old man, who saluted them in return, with a blessing. But
immediately he bade them to depart.


So they rowed away till they came to another island, on which they saw a
man digging in a field; and his spade was all fiery, and the handle
thereof, which he held in his hand, was red hot. From the sea at one
side arose at times a mighty wave all flaming red with fire, which
flowed quite over the island and over the man. And ever when he saw the
wave coming he cried out with fear; and when the burning torrent covered
him, he strove to raise his head above the flames, and roared with his
great torment. Now when one of the waves had retired they spoke to him
and asked:--

"Who art thou, O wretched man?"

And he answered:--"Lo, this is my punishment for my misdeeds. For when I
lived on earth I always worked on Sundays, digging in my garden; for
which I am condemned to dig with this fiery spade, and to suffer the
torments of these fiery waves. And now, for the sake of God, offer up
your prayers for me, that my pains may be lightened."

And they prayed fervently; after which they departed from the island.


Soon after leaving this they saw a horseman of vast size riding on the
sea; and the horse he rode was made of fire flaming red. And as he rode,
great waves of fire came after him along the sea; and when a wave began
to roll over him, he yelled aloud with fear and pain. Then they asked
him why he was thus tormented; and he answered:--

"I am he who stole my brother's horse; and after I had gotten him I rode
him every Sunday. For this I am now undergoing my punishment, riding on
this horse of fire, and tormented with these great waves of fire."


After leaving this they came in sight of another island, full of people,
all weeping and lamenting grievously. Great numbers of jet-black birds
with beaks of fire and red-hot fiery talons followed and fluttered round
about them, tearing and burning them with their talons, and rending away
pieces of flesh, the full of their fiery beaks. Then the crew said

"Who are ye, O miserable people?"

"We are dishonest smiths and artisans; and because we cheated while we
lived, we are punished by these hateful fiery birds. Moreover, our
tongues are burning, being all afire in our heads; for that we reviled
people with bitter words and foul taunts."


Coming now to another place, they saw a giant huge in size, and of a
sooty black colour all over. His mouth was all on fire; and from his
throat he belched forth great flakes of fire, each flake as it came from
his mouth larger than the skin of a three-year-old wether. He held in
his hand an iron club larger than the shaft of a mill wheel; and on his
back he bore an immense faggot of firewood, a good load for a team of
horses. Now this faggot often blazed up and burned him; and he tried to
free himself from his torment by lying down so that the sea might flow
over him. But ever as he did so, the sea around him turned to fire, and
rose up in mighty burning billows, covering him all over, so that he
made the place resound with his bellowings.

"Miserable wretch, who art thou?" asked the crew.

And he answered:--"I will tell you truly. When I lived I used to cut
faggots and bring them home on my back every Sunday: and lo, here is my


They came after that to a sea of fire full of men's heads, all black,
and continually fighting with each other. And many great serpents rose
up among the heads and came with fury to attack the curragh, so that at
one time they pierced through the outer hide. And one of the crew who
looked on cried out in great horror, and said:--

"It is enough to strike one dead to behold the fearful things I see!"

And the whole crew when they saw the heads and the serpents fell flat
with fear. But the elder (the bishop) comforted them, saying:--

"Be ye not afraid or troubled on account of these things; for God is
able to protect us, even though we were in a curragh of only one hide;
and if He wishes to save us, these monsters cannot hurt us, however
furious they may be to slay us."

And they took courage after this, and rowed out into the open sea.


There was shown to them next another beautiful island, having in one
place an open wood. The trees were laden with fruit, and the leaves
dropped honey to the ground. The sides of the hills were clothed with
purple blossomed heather, mixed with soft, green grass to its very
centre. In the midst of the island was a pretty lake, whose waters
tasted like sweet wine. They rested for a week on the shore of this
lake, and cast off their weariness. And now, being about to leave the
island, as they turned to go to the curragh, a monstrous
reptile[CLXVII.] rose up from the lake and looked at them. And they
trembled with fear at the sight of this terrible beast; for each man
thought that he himself would be the first to be attacked. But after a
little time the reptile dived again into the water, and they saw no more
of him.


From this they rowed away; and after a long time they came at midnight
to an island wherein was a community of Ailbe of Emly.[CLXVIII.] On the
beach they found two spring wells; one foul, the other bright and clear.
The gilla wished to drink of the clear well; but the elder (the bishop)
told him it was better to ask leave, if there was anyone living on the

Then they saw a great light; and coming closer, they found the twelve
men of the community at their prayers; and now they perceived that the
bright light they saw came from the radiant faces of the twelve; so that
these holy men needed no other light. One of them, an old man, comes
towards the voyagers; and he bids them welcome and asks news of them.
They tell him all their adventures, and ask his leave to drink from the
well; whereupon he said to them:--"Ye may fill your pitchers from the
clear well, if your elder (_i.e._ the bishop) gives you leave."

"Who are ye?" asks the gilla.

"A community of Ailbe of Emly," says he: "and we are the crew of one of
Ailbe's curraghs. God has permitted that we live here till the Day of
Judgment, praying for everyone who is drowned at sea. And now leave this
land before morning," he added, "for your resurrection is not to be
here. And if ye have not left by the dawn, so much the worse for
yourselves; for if once ye get a view of this island in the light of
day, bitter will be your anguish of mind for leaving it (on account of
its surpassing loveliness). So it is better for you to go away during
the night."

And they did exactly all he told them to do.

"Shall we take away some of the pebbles of the strand?" said they
(talking among themselves).

"It is better to ask leave," answered the cleric. So the gilla asked
leave of the same old man.

"Yes, if you have the permission (of your bishop)," answered he.
"Nevertheless," he added, "those who take them will be sorry; and those
who do not take them will be sorry also."

They pick up pebbles, some bringing away one, some two, some three.
(After which they row away in the dark night from the island.) In the
morning they drank some of the spring water of the island from their
pitchers; which threw them into a deep sleep from that time till next
day. On wakening up, they examined their pebbles in the light; and some
were found to be crystal, some silver, and some gold. Then those who
brought some away were in sorrow that they had not brought more; and
much greater was the sorrow of those who had brought away none. So the
words of the old man came true.


After leaving this they came to a lovely island on which was a church
standing all alone: and when they drew nigh they heard the voice of a
cleric singing the psalms with a sweet voice. They came to the door and
struck it with the hand-wood; and straightway a beautiful
bright-coloured bird came to speak with them. When they had told him
who they were and what they wanted, he flew back to the cleric, who bade
him have the door opened for the pilgrims. And when they had come in,
they found the cleric--a very old man with white hair--who sang his
hymns continually. And they saluted each other; and the pilgrims stayed
there that night. And an angel came and brought them supper, and
ministered unto them. On the morrow the old priest bade them depart,
since that was not to be the place of their resurrection on the Judgment
Day. But before they went he foretold all that should happen to them
during the rest of their voyage.


From that they came to an island in which was a disciple of Christ.
Glorious and beautiful was that island; and on it stood a church and a
kingly shrine. As they came near they heard some one singing the Pater
to God in the door of the church: whereupon one of the clerics said:--

"Welcome the prayer of our father and teacher, Jesus."

And the priest who stood praying at the door said:--

"Why say you so? Who are ye; and where have ye seen Him?"

And when they had told him that they were servants of Jesus, he spoke

"I too am one of His disciples. And when I first took Him for my Lord I
was faithful and steady; but after a time I left Him and came to sea in
my curragh, and rowed till I came to this island. For a long time I
lived on fruit and herbs; till at length an angel came from heaven to
visit me. And he said to me:--

"'Thou hast not done well: nevertheless thou shalt abide on this island,
eating the same food without either decay or death till the Judgment
Day.' And so I have lived here to this hour: and no daily meal is sent
to me, but I eat of the herbs and fruit that grow on the island."

Then they all went together into one house; and being very hungry, they
prayed fervently for food. And presently an angel came down from heaven;
and while they looked on he placed a supper for them on a flagstone hard
by the strand, namely, a cake with a slice of fish for each. And while
they ate, whatsoever taste each man separately wished for, that taste he
found on the food. In the morning, when they were about to bid the
cleric farewell, he foretold all that should happen to them, saying:--

"Ye shall go from me now on sea till ye reach the western point of
Spain. And as ye near the land, ye shall meet a boat with a crew of men
fishing, who will bring you with them to land."

Then turning to the bishop, he said:--"Immediately after leaving the
curragh, as soon as thou hast reached the land, prostrate thyself three
times to God. And the place on which thou shalt first set thy foot,
there a great crowd shall gather round thee from every quarter. And they
will treat thee kindly, and will give thee land on which they will
build a church for thee; and after this thy fame shall spread over the
whole world. And the successor of Peter (the Pope) shall bring thee
eastwards to Rome. Yonder priest thou shalt leave as thy successor in
the church, and the deacon thou shalt leave to be his sacristan. That
place and that church shall be revered, and shall be preserved for ever.
And thou shalt leave the Gilla in Britain, where he will live for the
rest of his life."

After this they bade the old man farewell and left the island. And all
fell out just as he had foretold. And the bishop went to Rome; and he
afterwards related these adventures to Saerbrethach bishop of West
Munster, and to Mocolmoc, one of the holy men of Aran, as we have set
them down here.

Thus far the Voyage of the Sons of O'Corra.


[CLV.] I translated this tale fifteen years ago (as mentioned in
Preface, page xiii) from two Royal Irish Academy MSS., 23. N. 15 and 23.
M. 50; and I subsequently made some modifications after I had an
opportunity of consulting the more correct text of the Book of Fermoy.
This last text has since been published, with literal translation, by
Dr. Whitley Stokes, in the _Revue Celtique_ (Jan. 1893). After comparing
my somewhat free version with Dr. Stokes's close translation, I have not
thought it necessary to make any changes.

A few of the adventures in this tale are identical with those described
in the Voyage of Maildun: the description of these I have omitted here.
Lochan, Enna, and Silvester, the chief characters in this extraordinary
fiction, are historical: they were saints of the primitive Irish church,
and lived in the sixth century.

[CLVI.] _Brugaid_, a sort of local officer who maintained a large
establishment as keeper of a house of public hospitality. See my "Short
History of Ireland," p. 57.

[CLVII.] Chess-playing was a favourite amusement among the ancient

[CLVIII.] Cairderga: original _Caer-derg_, red berry.

[CLIX.] _Erenach_, the holder or _impropriator_ of a church and its
lands: usually a layman.

[CLX.] Clogher in Tyrone where there was a monastery.

[CLXI.] Tuam-da-Gualann, where was formerly a celebrated ecclesiastical
establishment: now Tuam in Galway.

[CLXII.] Greenan: original _grianan_, literally a sunny place: a
summer-house: the most lightsome, airy, and pleasant apartment of a
house. See this word discussed in my "Irish Names of Places," vol. i. p.

[CLXIII.] For St. Finnen of Clonard in the County Meath, see my "Short
History of Ireland," p. 175

[CLXIV.] _Kenn-Mara_, now Kinvarra on Galway bay.

[CLXV.] _Curragh_, see note 17 at end. Some curraghs were made with
two--some with three--hides, one outside another, for the better

[CLXVI.] _Crossans_: travelling gleemen: the clothes, musical
instruments, &c., were the property of the company. This word is the
origin of the Scotch and Irish family name MacCrossan, now often changed
to Crosbie. A company of crossans had always among them a _fuirseoir_,
i.e. a juggler or buffoon.

[CLXVII.] According to very ancient legends, which are still vividly
remembered and recounted all over the country, almost every lake in
Ireland has a tremendous hairy reptile in its waters. Some say they are
demons, sent by St. Patrick to reside at the bottom of the lakes to the
Day of Judgment.

[CLXVIII.] St. Ailbe, the patron of Munster, was a contemporary of St.
Patrick. He founded his great monastery and school at Emly in the County


    Avenging and bright fall the swift sword of Erin
    On him who the brave sons of Usna betrayed.



[CLXIX.] The translation that follows is my own, and is of course
copyright, like all the other translations in this book. On this fine
story is founded the epic poem of "Deirdre," by Robert Dwyer Joyce, M.D.



Concobar mac Nessa, king of Ulaid,[CLXX.] ruled in Emain. And his chief
story-teller, Felimid, made a feast for the king and for the knights of
the Red Branch,[CLXXI.] who all came to partake of it in his house.
While they were feasting right joyously, listening to the sweet music of
the harps and the mellow voices of the bards, a messenger brought word
that Felimid's wife had given birth to a little daughter, an infant of
wondrous beauty. And when Caffa, the king's druid and seer, who was of
the company, was ware of the birth of the child, he went forth to view
the stars and the clouds, if he might thereby glean knowledge of what
was in store for that little babe.[CLXXII.] And when he had returned to
his place, he sat deep pondering for a time: and then standing up and
obtaining silence, he said:--

"This child shall be called Deir-dr[)e][CLXXIII.]; and fittingly is she
so named: for much of woe will befall Ulaid and Erin in general on her
account. There shall be jealousies, and strifes, and wars: evil deeds
will be done: many heroes will be exiled: many will fall."

When the heroes heard this, they were sorely troubled, and some said
that the child should be killed. But the king said:--"Not so, ye Knights
of the Red Branch; it is not meet to commit a base deed in order to
escape evils that may never come to pass. This little maid shall be
reared out of the reach of mischief, and when she is old enough she
shall be my wife: thus shall I be the better able to guard against those
evils that Caffa forecasts for us."

And the Ultonians did not dare to gainsay the word of the king.

Then king Concobar caused the child to be placed in a strong fortress on
a lonely spot nigh the palace, with no opening in front, but with door
and windows looking out at the back on a lovely garden watered by a
clear rippling stream: and house and garden were surrounded by a wall
that no man could surmount. And those who were put in charge of her
were, her tutor, and her nurse, and Concobar's poetess, whose name was
Lavarcam: and save these three, none were permitted to see her. And so
she grew up in this solitude, year by year, till she was of marriageable
age, when she excelled all the maidens of her time for beauty.

One snowy day as she and Lavarcam looked forth from the window, they saw
some blood on the snow, where her tutor had killed a calf for dinner;
and a raven alighted and began to drink of it. "I should like," said
Deirdre, "that he who is to be my husband should have these three
colours: his hair as black as the raven: his cheeks red as the blood:
his skin like the snow. And I saw such a youth in a dream last night;
but I know not where he is, or whether he is living on the ridge of the

"Truly," said Lavarcam, "the young hero that answers to thy words is not
far from thee; for he is among Concobar's knights: namely, Naisi the son
of Usna."

Now Naisi and his brothers, Ainnli and Ardan, the three sons of Usna,
were the best beloved of all the Red Branch Knights, so gracious and
gentle were they in time of peace, so skilful and swift-footed in the
chase, so strong and valiant in battle.

And when Deirdre heard Lavarcam's words, she said:--"If it be as thou
sayest, that this young knight is near us, I shall not be happy till I
see him: and I beseech thee to bring him to speak to me."

"Alas, child," replied Lavarcam, "thou knowest not the peril of what
thou askest me to do: for if thy tutor come to know of it, he will
surely tell the king; and the king's anger none can bear."

Deirdre answered not: but she remained for many days sad and silent: and
her eyes often filled with tears through memory of her dream: so that
Lavarcam was grieved: and she pondered on the thing if it could be done,
for she loved Deirdre very much, and had compassion on her. At last she
contrived that these two should meet without the tutor's knowledge: and
the end of the matter was that they loved each other: and Deirdre said
she would never wed the king, but she would wed Naisi.

Knowing well the doom that awaited them when Concobar came to hear of
this, Naisi and his young wife and his two brothers, with thrice fifty
fighting men, thrice fifty women, thrice fifty attendants, and thrice
fifty hounds, fled over sea to Alban. And the king of the western part
of Alban received them kindly, and took them into military service. Here
they remained for a space, gaining daily in favour: but they kept
Deirdre apart, fearing evil if the king should see her.

And so matters went on, till it chanced that the king's steward, coming
one day by Naisi's house, saw the couple as they sat on their couch: and
going directly to his master, he said:--

"O king, we have long sought in vain for a woman worthy to be thy wife,
and now at last we have found her: for the woman, Deirdre, who is with
Naisi, is worthy to be the wife of the king of the western world. And
now I give thee this counsel:--Let Naisi be killed, and then take thou
Deirdre for thy wife."

The king basely agreed to do so; and forthwith he laid a plot to slay
the sons of Usna; which matter coming betimes to the ears of the
brothers, they fled by night with all their people. And when they had
got to a safe distance, they took up their abode in a wild place, where
with much ado they obtained food by hunting and fishing. And the
brothers built them three hunting booths in the forest, a little
distance from that part of the seashore looking towards Erin: and the
booth in which their food was prepared, in that they did not eat; and
the one in which they ate, in that they did not sleep. And their people
in like manner built themselves booths and huts, which gave them but
scant shelter from wind and weather.

Now when it came to the ears of the Ultonians, that the sons of Usna and
their people were in discomfort and danger, they were sorely grieved:
but they kept their thoughts to themselves, for they dared not speak
their mind to the king.


[CLXX.] Ulaid (pronounced _Ulla_), Ulster.

[CLXXI.] For Concobar and the Red Branch Knights, see note 15 farther
on: and for much fuller information, see my "Social History of Ancient
Ireland," vol. i, page 83; or the Smaller Soc. Hist., page 38.

[CLXXII.] The druids professed to be able to foretell by observing the
stars and clouds. See Smaller Social History, p. 98.

[CLXXIII.] "Deirdre" is said to mean "alarm."



AT this same time a right joyous and very splendid feast was given by
Concobar in Emain Macha to the nobles and the knights of his household.
And the number of the king's household that sat them down in the great
hall of Emain on that occasion was five and three score above six
hundred and one thousand.[CLXXIV.] Then arose, in turn, their musicians
to sound their melodious harpstrings, and their poets and their
story-tellers to sing their sweet poetic strains, and to recount the
deeds of the mighty heroes of the olden time. And the feasting and the
enjoyment went on, and the entire assembly were gay and cheerful. At
length Concobar arose from where he sat high up on his royal seat;
whereupon the noise of mirth was instantly hushed. And he raised his
kingly voice and said:--

"I desire to know from you, ye Nobles and Knights of the Red Branch,
have you ever seen in any quarter of Erin a house better than this house
of Emain, which is my mansion: and whether you see any want in it."

And they answered that they saw no better house, and that they knew of
no want in it.

And the king said: "I know of a great want: namely, that we have not
present among us the three noble sons of Usna. And why now should they
be in banishment on account of any woman in the world?"

And the nobles replied:--"Truly it is a sad thing that the sons of Usna,
our dear comrades, should be in exile and distress. They were a shield
of defence to Ulaid: and now, O king, it will please us well that thou
send for them and bring them back, lest they and their people perish by
famine or fall by their enemies."

"Let them come," replied Concobar, "and make submission to me: and their
homes, and their lands and their places among the Knights of the Red
Branch shall be restored to them."

Now Concobar was mightily enraged at the marriage and flight of Naisi
and Deirdre, though he hid his mind from all men; and he spoke these
words pretending forgiveness and friendship. But there was guile in his
heart, and he planned to allure them back to Ulaid that he might kill

When the feast was ended, and the company had departed, the king called
unto him Fergus mac Roy, and said:--"Go thou, Fergus, and bring back the
sons of Usna and their people. I promise thee that I will receive them
as friends should be received, and that what awaits them here is not
enmity or injury, but welcome and friendship. Take my message of peace
and good will, and give thyself as pledge and surety for their safety.
But these two things I charge thee to do:--That the moment you land in
Ulaid on your way back, you proceed straight to Barach's house which
stands on the sea cliff high over the landing place fronting Alban: and
that whether the time of your arrival be by day or by night, thou see
that the sons of Usna tarry not, but let them come hither direct to
Emain, that they may not eat food in Erin till they eat of mine."

And Fergus, suspecting no evil design, promised to do as the king
directed: for he was glad to be sent on this errand, being a fast friend
to the sons of Usna.

Fergus set out straightway, bringing with him only his two sons, Illan
the Fair and Buinni the Red, and his shield-bearer to carry his shield.
And as soon as he had departed, Concobar sent for Barach and said to

"Prepare a feast in thy house for Fergus: and when he visits thee
returning with the sons of Usna, invite him to partake of it." And
Barach thereupon departed for his home to do the bidding of the king and
prepare the feast.

Now those heroes of old, on the day they received knighthood, were wont
to make certain pledges which were to bind them for life, some binding
themselves to one thing, some to another. And as they made the promises
on the faith of their knighthood, with great vows, in presence of kings
and nobles, they dared not violate them; no, not even if it was to save
the lives of themselves and all their friends: for whosoever broke
through his knighthood pledge was foully dishonoured for evermore. And
one of Fergus's obligations was never to refuse an invitation to a
banquet: a thing which was well known to King Concobar and to Barach.

As to Fergus mac Roy and his sons: they went on board their galley and
put to sea, and made no delay till they reached the harbour nigh the
campment of the sons of Usna. And coming ashore, Fergus gave the loud
shout of a mighty man of chase. The sons of Usna were at that same hour
in their booth; and Naisi and Deirdre were sitting with a polished
chessboard between them playing a game.

And when they heard the shout, Naisi said:--"That is the call of a man
from Erin."

"Not so," replied Deirdre, "it is the call of a man of Alban."

And after a little time when a second shout came, Naisi said:--"That of
a certainty is the call of a man of Erin!"

But Deirdre again replied:--"No, indeed: it concerns us not: let us play
our game."

But when a third shout came sounding louder than those before, Naisi
arose and said:--"Now I know the voice: that is the shout of Fergus!"
And straightway he sent Ardan to the shore to meet him.

Now Deirdre knew the voice of Fergus from the first: but she kept her
thoughts to herself: for her heart misgave her that the visit boded
evil. And when she told Naisi that she knew the first shout, he
said:--"Why, my queen, didst thou conceal it then?"

And she replied:--"Lo, I saw a vision in my sleep last night: three
birds came to us from Emain Macha, with three drops of honey in their
beaks, and they left us the honey and took away three drops of our

"What dost thou read from that vision, O princess?" said Naisi.

"It denotes the message from Concobar to us," said Deirdre; "for sweet
as honey is the message of peace from a false man, while he has thoughts
of blood hidden deep in his heart."

When Ardan arrived at the shore, the sight of Fergus and his two sons
was to him like rain on the parched grass; for it was long since he had
seen any of his dear comrades from Erin. And he cried out as he came
near, "An affectionate welcome to you, my dear companions": and he fell
on Fergus's neck and kissed his cheeks, and did the like to his sons.
Then he brought them to the hunting-booth; and Naisi, Ainnli, and
Deirdre gave them a like kind welcome; after which they asked the news
from Erin.

"The best news I have," said Fergus, "is that Concobar has sent me to
you with kindly greetings, to bring you back to Emain and restore you to
your lands and homes, and to your places in the Red Branch; and I am
myself a pledge for your safety."

"It is not meet for them to go," said Deirdre: "for here they are under
no man's rule; and their sway in Alban is even as great as the sway of
Concobar in Erin."

But Fergus said: "One's mother country is better than all else, and
gloomy is life when a man sees not his home each morning."

"Far dearer to me is Erin than Alban," said Naisi, "even though my sway
should be greater here."

It was not with Deirdre's consent he spoke these words: and she still
earnestly opposed their return to Erin.

But Fergus tried to re-assure her:--"If all the men of Erin were against
you," said he, "it would avail nought once I have passed my word for
your safety."

"We trust in thee," said Naisi, "and we will go with thee to Erin."


[CLXXIV.] That is 1665. This inverted method of enumeration was often
used in Ireland. But they also used direct enumeration like ours.



Going next morning on board their galleys, Fergus and his companions put
out on the wide sea: and oar and wind bore them on swiftly till they
landed on the shore of Erin near the house of Barach.

And Deirdre, seating herself on a cliff, looked sadly over the waters at
the blue headlands of Alban: and she uttered this farewell:--


"Dear to me is yon eastern land: Alban with its wonders. Beloved is
Alban with its bright harbours and its pleasant hills of the green
slopes. From that land I would never depart except to be with Naisi.


"Kil-Cuan, O Kil-Cuan,[CLXXV.] whither Ainnli was wont to resort: short
seemed the time to me while I sojourned there with Naisi on the margins
of its streams and waterfalls.


"Glen-Lee, O Glen-Lee, where I slept happy under soft coverlets: fish
and fowl, and the flesh of red deer and badgers; these were our fare in


"Glen-Masan, O Glen-Masan: tall its cresses of white stalks: often were
we rocked to sleep in our curragh in the grassy harbour of Glen-Masan.


"Glen-Orchy, O Glen-Orchy: over thy straight glen rises the smooth ridge
that oft echoed to the voices of our hounds. No man of the clan was more
light-hearted than my Naisi when following the chase in Glen-Orchy.


"Glen-Ettive, O Glen-Ettive: there it was that my first house was raised
for me: lovely its woods in the smile of the early morn: the sun loves
to shine on Glen-Ettive.


"Glen-da-Roy, O Glen-da-Roy: the memory of its people is dear to me:
sweet is the cuckoo's note from the bending bough on the peak over


"Dear to me is Dreenagh over the resounding shore: dear to me its
crystal waters over the speckled sand. From those sweet places I would
never depart, but only to be with my beloved Naisi."

After this they entered the house of Barach; and when Barach had
welcomed them, he said to Fergus: "Here I have a three-days banquet
ready for thee, and I invite thee to come and partake of it."

When Fergus heard this, his heart sank and his face waxed all over a
crimson red: and he said fiercely to Barach:--"Thou hast done an evil
thing to ask me to this banquet: for well thou knowest I cannot refuse
thee. Thou knowest, too, that I am under solemn pledge to send the Sons
of Usna this very hour to Emain: and if I remain feasting in thy house,
how shall I see that my promise of safety is respected?"

But none the less did Barach persist; for he was one of the partners in
Concobar's treacherous design.

Then Fergus turned to Naisi and said:--"I dare not violate my knighthood
promise: what am I to do in this strait?" But Deirdre answered for her
husband:--"The choice is before thee, Fergus; and it is more meet for
thee to abandon thy feast than to abandon the sons of Usna, who have
come over on thy pledge."

Then Fergus was in sore perplexity; and pondering a little he said:--"I
will not forsake the sons of Usna: for I will send with them to Emain
Macha my two sons, Illan the Fair and Buinni the Red, who will be their
pledge instead of me."

But Naisi said: "We need not thy sons for guard or pledge: we have ever
been accustomed to defend ourselves!" And he moved from the place in
great wrath: and his two brothers, and Deirdre, and the two sons of
Fergus followed him, with the rest of the clan; while Fergus remained
behind silent and gloomy: for his heart misgave him that mischief was
brewing for the sons of Usna.

Then Deirdre tried to persuade the sons of Usna to go to Rathlin,
between Erin and Alban, and tarry there till Barach's feast was ended:
but they did not consent to do so, for they deemed it would be a mark of
cowardice: and they sped on by the shortest ways towards Emain Macha.

When now they had come to Fincarn of the Watch-tower on Slieve Fuad,
Deirdre and her attendants stayed behind the others a little: and she
fell asleep. And when Naisi missed her, he turned back and found her
just awakening; and he said to her:--"Why didst thou tarry, my

And she answered:--"I fell asleep and had a dream. And this is what I
saw in my dream:--Illan the Fair took your part: Buinni the Red did not:
and I saw Illan without his head: but Buinni had neither wound nor

"Alas, O beauteous princess," said Naisi, "thou utterest nought but evil
forebodings: but the king is true and will not break his plighted

So they fared on till they had come to the Ridge of the
Willows,[CLXXVI.] an hour's journey from the palace: and Deirdre,
looking upwards in great fear, said to Naisi:--"O Naisi, see yonder
cloud in the sky over Emain, a fearful chilling cloud of a blood-red
tinge: a baleful red cloud that bodes disaster! Come ye now to Dundalgan
and abide there with the mighty hero Cuculainn till Fergus returns from
Barach's feast; for I fear Concobar's treachery."

But Naisi answered:--"We cannot follow thy advice, beloved Deirdre, for
it would be a mark of fear: and we have no fear."

And as they came nigh the palace Deirdre said to them:--"I will now give
you a sign if Concobar meditates good or evil. If you are brought into
his own mansion where he sits surrounded by his nobles, to eat and drink
with him, this is a token that he means no ill; for no man will injure a
guest that has partaken of food at his table: but if you are sent to the
house of the Red Branch, be sure he is bent on treachery."

When at last they arrived at the palace, they knocked loudly with the
handwood: and the door-keeper swang the great door wide open. And when
he had spoken with them, he went and told Concobar that the sons of Usna
and Fergus's two sons had come, with their people.

And Concobar called to him his stewards and attendants and asked
them:--"How is it in the house of the Red Branch as to food and drink?"
And they replied that if the seven battalions of Ulaid were to come to
it, they would find enough of all good things. "If that is so," said
Concobar, "take the sons of Usna and their people to the Red Branch."

Even then Deirdre besought them not to enter the Red Branch: for she
deemed now that of a certainty there was mischief afoot. But Illan the
Fair said:--"Never did we show cowardice or unmanliness, and we shall
not do so now." Then she was silent and went with them into the house.

And the company, when they had come in, sat them down so that they
filled the great hall: and alluring viands and delicious drinks were set
before them: and they ate and drank till they became satisfied and
cheerful: all except Deirdre and the Sons of Usna, who did not partake
much of food or drink. And Naisi asked for the king's chessboard and
chessmen; which were brought: and he and Deirdre began to play.


[CLXXV.] This and the other places named in Deirdre's Farewell are all
in the west of Scotland.

[CLXXVI.] Irish name, _Drum-Sailech_; the ridge on which Armagh was
afterwards built.



Let us now speak of Concobar. As he sat among his nobles, the thought of
Deirdre came into his mind, and he said:--"Who among you will go to the
Red Branch and bring me tidings of Deirdre, whether her youthful shape
and looks still live upon her: for if so there is not on the ridge of
the world a woman more beautiful." And Lavarcam said she would go.

Now the sons of Usna were very dear to Lavarcam: and Naisi was dearer
than the others. And rising up she went to the Red Branch, where she
found Naisi and Deirdre with the chessboard between them, playing. And
she saluted them affectionately: and she embraced Deirdre, and wept over
her, and kissed her many times with the eagerness of her love: and she
kissed the cheeks of Naisi and of his brothers.

And when her loving greeting was ended, she said:--"Beloved children,
evil is the deed that is to be done this night in Emain: for the three
torches of valour of the Gaels will be treacherously assailed, and
Concobar is certainly resolved to put them to death. And now set your
people on guard, and bolt and bar all doors, and close all windows; and
be steadfast and valorous, and defend your dear charge manfully, if you
may hold the assailants at bay till Fergus comes." And she departed
weeping piteously.

And when Lavarcam had returned to Concobar he asked what tidings she
brought. "Good tidings have I," said she: "for the three sons of Usna
have come, the three valiant champions of Ulaid: and now that they are
with thee, O king, thou wilt hold sway in Erin without dispute. And bad
tidings I bring also: Deirdre indeed is not as she was, for her youthful
form and the splendour of her countenance have fled from her."

And when Concobar heard this, his jealousy abated, and he joined in the

But again the thought of Deirdre came to him, and he asked:--"Who now
will go for me to the Red Branch, and bring me further tidings of
Deirdre and of the sons of Usna?" for he distrusted Lavarcam. But the
Knights of the Red Branch had misgivings of some evil design, and all
remained silent.

Then he called to him Trendorn, one of the lesser chiefs: and he
said:--"Knowest thou, Trendorn, who slew thy father and thy three
brothers in battle?" And Trendorn answered:--"Verily, it was Naisi, the
son of Usna, that slew them." Then the king said:--"Go now to the Red
Branch and bring me back tidings of Deirdre and of the sons of Usna."

Trendorn went right willingly. But when he found the doors and windows
of the Red Branch shut up, he was seized with fear, and he said:--"It is
not safe to approach the sons of Usna, for they are surely in wrathful
mood: nevertheless I must needs bring back tidings to the king."

Whereupon, not daring to knock at the door, he climbed nimbly to a small
window high up that had been unwittingly left open, through which he
viewed the spacious banquet hall, and saw Naisi and Deirdre playing
chess. Deirdre chanced to look up at that moment, and seeing the face of
the spy with eyes intently gazing on her, she started with affright and
grasped Naisi's arm, as he was making a move with the chessman. Naisi,
following her gaze, and seeing the evil-looking face, flung the
chessman with unerring aim, and broke the eye in Trendorn's head.

Trendorn dropped down in pain and rage; and going straight to Concobar,
he said:--"I have tidings for thee, O king: the three sons of Usna are
sitting in the banquet hall, stately and proud like kings: and Deirdre
is seated beside Naisi; and verily for beauty and queenly grace her peer
cannot be found."

When Concobar heard this, a flame of jealousy and fury blazed up in his
heart, and he resolved that by no means should the sons of Usna escape
the doom he planned for them.



Coming forth on the lawn of Emain, King Concobar now ordered a large
body of hireling troops to beset the Red Branch: and he bade them force
the doors and bring forth the sons of Usna. And they uttered three
dreadful shouts of defiance, and assailed the house on every side; but
the strong oak stood bravely, and they were not able to break through
doors or walls. So they heaped up great piles of wood and brambles, and
kindled them till the red flames blazed round the house.

Buinni the Red now stood up and said to the sons of Usna:--"To me be
entrusted the task to repel this first assault: for I am your pledge in
place of my father." And marshalling his men, and causing the great door
to be thrown wide open, he sallied forth and scattered the assailants,
and put out the fires: slaying thrice fifty hirelings in that onslaught.

But Buinni returned not to the Red Branch: for the king sent to him with
a secret offer of great favours and bribes: namely, his own royal
friendship, and a fruitful tract of land; which Buinni took and basely
abandoned the sons of Usna. But none the better luck came to him of it:
for at that same hour a blight fell on the land, so that it became a
moor, waste and profitless, which is at this day called Slieve Fuad.

When Illan the Fair became aware of his brother's treason, he was
grieved to the heart, and he said:--"I am the second pledge in place of
my father for the sons of Usna, and of a certainty I will not betray
them: while this straight sword lives in my hand I will be faithful: and
I will now repel this second attack." For at this time the king's
hirelings were again thundering at the doors.

Forth he issued with his band: and he made three quick furious circuits
round the Red Branch, scattering the troops as he went: after which he
returned to the mansion and found Naisi and Deirdre still
playing.[CLXXVII.] But as the hireling hordes returned to the attack,
he went forth a second time and fell on them, dealing death and havoc
whithersoever he went.

Then, while the fight was still raging, Concobar called to him his son
Ficra, and said to him:--"Thou and Illan the Fair were born on the same
night: and as he has his father's arms, so thou take mine, namely, my
shield which is called the Ocean, and my two spears which are called
Dart and Slaughter, and my great sword, the Blue-green blade. And bear
thyself manfully against him, and vanquish him, else none of my troops
will survive."

Ficra did so and went against Illan the Fair; and they made a stout,
warlike, red-wounding attack on each other, while the others looked on
anxious: but none dared to interfere. And it came to pass that Illan
prevailed, so that Ficra was fain to shelter himself behind his father's
shield the Ocean, and he was like to be slain. Whereupon, the shield
moaned, and the Three Waves of Erin uttered their hollow melancholy

The hero Conall Carnagh, sitting in his dun afar off, heard the moan of
the shield and the roar of the Wave of Tuath: and springing up from
where he sat, he said: "Verily, the king is in danger: I will go to his

He ran with the swiftness of the wind, and arrived on the Green of
Emain, where the two young heroes were fighting. Thinking it was
Concobar that crouched beneath the shield, he attacked Illan, not
knowing him, and wounded him even unto death. And Illan looking up said,
"Is it thou, Conall? Alas, dreadful is the deed thou hast done, not
knowing me, and not knowing that I am fighting in defence of the sons of
Usna, who are now in deadly peril from the treachery of Concobar."

And Conall, finding he had unwittingly wounded his dear young friend
Illan, turned in his grief and rage on the other, and swept off his
head. And he stalked fierce and silent out of the battlefield.

Illan, still faithful to his charge, called aloud to Naisi to defend
himself bravely: then putting forth his remaining strength, he flung his
arms, namely, his sword and his spears and his shield, into the Red
Branch; and falling prone on the green sward, the shades of death dimmed
his eyes, and his life departed.

And now when it was the dusk of evening, another great battalion of the
hirelings assailed the Red Branch, and kindled fagots around it:
whereupon Ardan sallied out with his valorous band and scattered them,
and put out the fires, and held guard for the first third of the night.
And during the second third Ainnli kept them at bay.

Then Naisi took his turn, issuing forth, and fought with them till the
morning's dawn: and until the sands of the seashore, or the leaves of
the forest, or the dew-drops on the grass, or the stars of heaven are
counted, it will not be possible to number the hirelings that were slain
in that fight by Naisi and his band of heroes.

And as he was returning breathless from the rout, all grimy and terrible
with blood and sweat, he spied Lavarcam, as she stood watching the
battle anxiously; and he said:--"Go, Lavarcam, go and stand on the outer
rampart, and cast thine eyes eastwards, if perchance thou shouldst see
Fergus and his men coming."

For many of Naisi's brave followers had fallen in these encounters: and
he doubted that he and the others could sustain much longer the
continual assaults of superior numbers. And Lavarcam went, but returned
downcast, saying she saw nought eastwards, but the open plain with the
peaceful herds browsing over it.


[CLXXVII.] These champions, as well as their wives, took care never to
show any signs of fear or alarm even in the time of greatest danger: so
Naisi and Deirdre kept playing quietly as if nothing was going on
outside, though they heard the din of battle resounding.

[CLXXVIII.] The "Three _Tonns_ or Waves of Erin" were the Wave of Tuath
outside the mouth of the river Bann, off the coast of Derry; the Wave of
Rury in Dundrum Bay, off the county Down; and the Wave of Cleena in
Glandore Harbour in the south of Cork. In stormy weather, when the wind
blows from certain directions, the sea at those places, as it tumbles
over the sandbanks, or among the caves and fissures of the rocks, utters
a loud and solemn roar, which in old times was believed to forebode the
death of some king.

The legends also tell that the shield belonging to a king moaned when
the person who wore it in battle--whether the king himself or a member
of his family--was in danger of death: the moan was heard all over
Ireland; and the "Three Waves of Erin" roared in response. See "Irish
Names of Places," Vol. II., Chap. XVI.



Believing now that they could no longer defend the Red Branch, Naisi
took council with his brothers; and what they resolved on was this:--To
sally forth with all their men and fight their way to a place of
safety. Then making a close, firm fence of shields and spears round
Deirdre, they marched out in solid ranks and attacked the hireling
battalions and slew three hundred in that onslaught.

Concobar, seeing the rout of his men, and being now sure that it was not
possible to subdue the sons of Usna in open fight, cast about if he
might take them by falsehood and craft. And sending for Caffa, the
druid, who loved them, he said:--

"These sons of Usna are brave men, and it is our pleasure to receive
them back into our service. Go now unto them, for thou art their loved
friend; and say to them that if they lay down their arms and submit to
me, I will restore them to favour and give them their places among the
Red Branch Knights. And I pledge thee my kingly word and my troth as a
true knight, that no harm shall befall them."

Caffa, by no means distrusting him, went to the sons of Usna, and told
them all the king had said. And they, suspecting neither guile nor
treachery, joyfully threw their swords and spears aside, and went
towards the king to make submission. But now, while they stood
defenceless, the king caused them to be seized and bound. Then, turning
aside, he sought for some one to put them to death; but he found no man
of the Ultonians willing to do so.

Among his followers was a foreigner named Maini of the Rough Hand, whose
father and two brothers had fallen in battle by Naisi: and this man
undertook to kill the sons of Usna.

When they were brought forth to their doom, Ardan said:--"I am the
youngest: let me be slain first, that I may not see the death of my
brothers." And Ainnli earnestly pleaded for the same thing for himself,
saying that he was born before Ardan, and should die before him.

But Naisi said:--"Lo, I have a sword, the gift of Mannanan mac Lir,
which leaves no remnant unfinished after a blow: let us be struck with
it, all three together, and we shall die at the same moment."

This was agreed to: and the sword was brought forth, and they laid their
heads close together, and Maini swept off all three with one blow of the
mighty sword. And when it became known that the sons of Usna were dead,
the men of Ulaid sent forth three great cries of grief and lamentation.

As for Deirdre, she cried aloud, and tore her golden hair, and became
like one distracted. And after a time, when her calmness had a little
returned, she uttered a lament:--


"Three lions of the hill are dead, and I am left alone to weep for them.
The generous princes who made the stranger welcome have been guilefully
lured to their doom.


"The three strong hawks of Slieve Cullinn,[CLXXIX.] a king's three sons,
strong and gentle: willing obedience was yielded to them by heroes who
had conquered many lands.


"Three generous heroes of the Red Branch, who loved to praise the valour
of others: three props of the battalions of Quelna: their fall is the
cause of bitter grief.


"Ainnli and Ardan, haughty and fierce in battle, to me were ever loving
and gentle: Naisi, Naisi, beloved spouse of my choice, thou canst not
hear thy Deirdre lamenting thee.


"When they brought down the fleet red deer in the chase, when they
speared the salmon skilfully in the clear water, joyful and proud were
they if I looked on.


"Often when my feeble feet grew weary wandering along the valleys, and
climbing the hills to view the chase, often would they bear me home
lightly on their linked shields and spears.


"It was gladness of heart to be with the sons of Usna: long and weary is
the day without their company: short will be my span of life since they
have left me.


"Sorrow and tears have dimmed my eyes, looking at the grave of Naisi: a
dark deadly sickness has seized my heart: I cannot, I cannot live after


"O thou who diggest the new grave, make it deep and wide: let it be a
grave for four; for I will sleep for ever beside my beloved."

When she had spoken these words, she fell beside the body of Naisi and
died immediately. And a great cairn of stones was piled over their
grave, and their names were inscribed in Ogham, and their funeral rites
were performed.

This is the sorrowful tale of The Fate of the Sons of Usna.


[CLXXIX.] Slieve Cullinn, now Slieve Gullion mountain in Armagh.


NOTE 1.--_The Dedannans._

According to the old bardic legends, the first man who led a colony to
Ireland after the Flood was Parthalon. Next came Nemed and his people;
and after these the Firbolgs, who were conquered and succeeded by the

The legend relates that the Dedannans, in the course of their
wanderings, spent some time in Greece, where they learned magic and
other curious arts. From this they migrated to Lochlann, in the north of
Europe (see note 6), from which they came through Scotland to their
final resting-place, Ireland.

From the three queens of their three last kings, Ireland got the three
names, Erin, F[=o]la, and Banba.

After the Dedannans had held sway in Ireland for about two hundred
years, they were in their turn conquered by the last and greatest colony
of all, the people of Milèd or Milesius, who are commonly known by the
name of Milesians, and who are the ancestors of the leading Gaelic
families of Ireland. The Milesians defeated the Dedannans in two great
battles: one fought at _Tailltenn_, now Teltown, on the river
Blackwater, between Navan and Kells, in Meath; and the other at
_Druim-Lighean_, now Drumleene, about three miles from Lifford, in

In the legendary and romantic literature of Ireland, the Dedannans are
celebrated as magicians. By the Milesians and their descendants they
were regarded as gods, and ultimately, in the imagination of the people,
they became what are now in Ireland called "fairies."

After their defeat by the Milesians, they seem to have retired to remote
and lonely places; and their reputation as magicians, as well as the
obscure and mysterious manner in which they lived, gradually impressed
the vulgar with the belief that they were supernatural beings.

The notion was that they lived in splendid palaces in the interior of
pleasant green hills. These hills were called _sidh_ (pronounced
_shee_); and hence the Dedannans were called _Daoine-sidhe_
(_Deena-shee_), or people of the fairy hills; _Marcra-sidhe_
(_Markra-shee_), fairy cavalcade; and _Sluagh-sidhe_ (_Sloo-shee_),
fairy host.

Of this mysterious race, the following are the principal characters
mentioned in these tales.

Mannanan Mac Lir, the Gaelic sea-god. In "Cormac's Glossary" (written
A.D. 900), we are told that he was a famous merchant who resided in, and
gave name to, _Inis-Manann_, or the Isle of Man; that he was the best
merchant in Western Europe; and that he used to know, by examining the
heavens, the length of time the fair and the foul weather would last.

The Dagda, whose name some interpret to mean "the great good fire," so
called from his military ardour, who reigned as king of Ireland from
A.M. 3370 to 3450.

Angus or Angus Oge, the son of the Dagda, who lived at _Brugh_ or Bruga,
on the north shore of the Boyne, a little below the village of Slane.
Angus is spoken of as the wisest and the most skilled in magic of all
the Dedannan race.

Nuada of the Silver Hand. (See note 4.)

Lir of Shee Finnaha, the father of the four "Children of Lir," and Bove
Derg of Shee Bove, of whom we know little more than what is told of them
in the "Fate of the Children of Lir." Shee Finnaha is supposed to have
been situated near Newtown Hamilton, in Armagh; and Shee Bove was on the
shore of Lough Derg, on the Shannon.

Luga of the Long Arms, who imposed the eric-fine on the three sons of
Turenn for slaying his father Kian. (See note 7 for a further account of
this Luga.)

Dianket, the great physician, of whose powers of cure extraordinary
stories are told. He had a son Midac, and a daughter Armedda, more
skilful than himself. The old legend relates that Midac took off the
silver arm which his father Dianket had put on Nuada (see note 4), and,
having procured the bones of the real arm, he clothed them with flesh
and skin, and fixed the arm in its place as well as ever "in three
moments." Dianket was so enraged at being outdone by his son that he
slew him. After Midac had been buried for some time, three hundred and
sixty-five healing herbs grew up from his grave, one from every joint
and sinew of his body--each herb to cure disease in that part of the
human body from which it grew--all which were gathered by his sister
Armedda, and placed carefully in her cloak in their proper order. But
before she had time to study their several virtues fully, her father
Dianket mixed them all up in utter confusion. (O'Curry, _Atlantis_, vii.
and viii. 158.) Were it not for this churlish proceeding, Armedda would
have found out, and we should now know, the exact herb to cure each
particular disease of the human frame.

NOTE 2.--_The Feast of Age._

This was also called the Feast of Gobnenn the Dedannan smith. It was
instituted by Mannanan Mac Lir, and whoever was present at it, and
partook of the food and drink, was free ever after from sickness, decay,
and old age.

NOTE 3.--_The Druids._

The ancient Irish druids do not appear to have been _priests_ in any
sense of the word. They were, in popular estimation, men of knowledge
and power--"Men of science," as they were often designated; they knew
the arts of healing and divination; and they were skilled above all in
magic. In fact, the Irish druids were magicians, neither more nor less;
and hence the Gaelic word for "druidical" is almost always applied where
we should use the term "magical"--to spells, incantations,
metamorphoses, etc. (See O'Curry, "Lectures on the Manners and Customs
of the Ancient Irish," Lecture ix.)

NOTE 4.--_Nuada of the Silver Hand._

Nuada of the Silver Hand was king of Ireland, according to the
chronology of the Four Masters, from A.M. 3311 to 3330. He commanded the
Dedannans in the first battle of Moytura (see note 11), where his arm
was cut off with a sword-blow by Sreng, the great Firbolg champion.
Afterwards Credne the artificer made him a silver arm with a hand, which
was fixed on by Dianket, the physician (see note 1). Nuada was slain in
the second battle of Moytura, by Balor of the Mighty Blows (see note

NOTE 5.--_The Fomorians._

"Fomor," the simple form of this word, means, according to the old
etymologists, a sea-robber, from _fo_, on or along, and _muir_, the sea.
The word is also used to denote a giant, or a gigantic champion.

The Fomorians of Irish history were sea-robbers, who infested the
coasts, and indeed the interior, of Ireland, for a long series of years,
and at one time fortified themselves in Tory Island. They are stated to
have come to Ireland from Lochlann, in the north of Europe (for which
see next note); but they were originally from Africa, being, according
to the legend, the descendants of Ham the son of Noah.

NOTE 6.--_Lochlann: The Lochlanns._

Lochlann was the Gaelic designation of the country from which came the
people who are known in European history as Danes, _i.e._ the country
round the southern shores of the Baltic, including the south part of
Sweden. The Lochlanns, or Lochlannachs, or Danes, it need hardly be
said, make a very conspicuous figure in our early history, and in our
mediæval romantic literature.

In the Gaelic tales, the chief city of Lochlann is always Berva; but
whether this represents a real name, or is merely an invention of the
old story-tellers, I cannot tell.

NOTE 7.--_Luga of the Long Arms: The Ildana._

Luga of the Long Arms was the son of Ethlenn, daughter of the Fomorian
king, Balor of the Mighty Blows (see note 9). His father, Kian (who was
slain by the three sons of Turenn), was a Dedannan; so that Luga was
half Fomorian and half Dedannan. But he always took the side of the
Dedannans against the Fomorians.

Luga is often called The Ildana, the Man of many sciences, to signify
his accomplishments as a warrior and a man of general knowledge.

It had been foretold that Balor would be slain by his own grandson.
Accordingly, when Luga was born, Balor sent him off to be drowned. But
Luga escaped, and lived to revenge the unnatural conduct of his
grandfather, whom he slew in the second battle of Moytura (see note 11),
after Balor had slain the Dedannan king, Nuada of the Silver Hand. Luga
succeeded Nuada as king of Ireland, and reigned, according to the
chronology of the Four Masters, from A.M. 3330 to 3370.

It was by Luga that the celebrated yearly assembly of Tailltenn was
instituted, in honour of his foster mother _Taillte_, after whom the
place was called. (See note page 93, _supra._)

NOTE 8.--_The Land of Promise: Fairyland._

In ancient Gaelic romantic tales, mention is often made of _Tir
Tairrngire_, the Land of Promise, Fairyland, as being one of the chief
dwelling-places of the Dedannans or fairy host. In many passages this
Land of Promise is identified with _Inis-Manann_, or the Isle of Man,
which was ruled over by Mannanan Mac Lir, the sea-god, and named from

NOTE 9.--_Balor of the Mighty Blows._

Balor was king of the Fomorians from Lochlann in the north; his wife was
Kethlenda; and his son, Bres. Balor is often called Balor of the Mighty
Blows; and also Balor of the Evil Eye, for he had one eye which would
strike people dead or turn them into stone, so that he kept it covered,
except when he wished to use it against his enemies. Balor is remembered
very vividly in tradition by the peasantry of Ireland, especially in
Donegal and in Tory Island, where a very high, tower-like rock is called
to this day Balor's Castle.

NOTE 10.--_Eric._

The eric was a fine paid as compensation for murder or homicide. The
friends of the murdered person might accept an eric, or they might
refuse it and seek instead the death of the murderer. An eric was often
paid for other crimes or injuries against the individual, as well as for

NOTE 11.--_Battle of Moytura._

There were two great battles, each called the battle of Moytura.

_First Battle of Moytura._ When the Dedannans came to invade Erin, they
found the country occupied by the Firbolgs, who were by no means
inclined to give up quiet possession to the newcomers. After some
parleying and manoeuvring, a great battle was fought between them,
A.M. 3303, at Moytura, near Cong, in Mayo, lasting for four days, in
which the Firbolgs were defeated with great slaughter, and their king
slain; after which the Dedannans took possession of the country, leaving
Connaught, however, to a powerful remnant of the Firbolgs who survived
the battle. This is called the First Battle of Moytura, or the Battle of
the Southern Moytura. On the plain where it was fought, there are still
great numbers of mounds, cromlechs, and other sepulchral monuments. (See
Sir William Wilde's "Lough Corrib," page 210.)

_Second Battle of Moytura._ King Nuada, who led the Dedannans in the
first battle of Moytura, had his arm cut off by Sreng, one of the
Firbolg champions. He was under cure for seven years; during which time
Bres, the son of Elatha, who was a Fomorian by his father and a Dedannan
by his mother, ruled Ireland as regent. But at the end of the seven
years, Bres had to retire in favour of Nuada. Whereupon he repaired in
anger to his father in Lochlann; and at his instigation an army of
Fomorians was raised, after some years, for the invasion of Ireland, and
placed under the command of Balor of the Mighty Blows.

Luga of the Long Arms seems to have foreseen this invasion. He knew that
Bres would have to abdicate whenever Nuada's arm came to be healed, and
he conjectured truly that he would not resign the sovereignty without a
struggle. But the old tales would lead to the inference that Luga had
some preternatural foreknowledge of the battle. Anyhow, the legend says
that for many years he made preparations for the coming struggle; and it
was with this intention that he imposed the celebrated eric-fine on the
sons of Turenn.

The Fomorians landed, and were met by the Dedannan army at the Northern
Moytura, or, as it is often called, Moytura of the Fomorians, situated
in the parish of Kilmactranny, barony of Tirerrill, county Sligo. The
battle was fought on the eve of Samin, _i.e._ on the last day of
October, A.M. 3330; and the Fomorians were defeated with the slaughter
of their principal men and the best part of their army. In the course of
the battle, Nuada of the Silver Hand, the Dedannan king, was slain by
Balor; but soon after, Balor himself was killed by his grandson, Luga.
Luga, we are told, flung a stone at him from a crann-tavall or sling
(see note, page 240), and struck him in the evil eye with so much force
that the stone went clean through his head and out at the back.

The site of this battle, like that of the Southern Moytura, abounds to
this day in sepulchral monuments.

These two battles of Moytura form the subjects of two historic tales,
which are still in existence, though they have never been published.

NOTE 12.--_Gesa._

"Gesa" (pronounced _gessa_, the _g_ hard, as in _get_) is plural:
singular _geis_, plural _geasa_ or _gesa_. Gesa means solemn vows,
conjurations, injunctions, prohibitions. "I put you under gesa" means, I
adjure you solemnly, so solemnly that you dare not disobey. It would
appear that individuals were often under gesa or solemn vows to observe,
or to refrain from, certain lines of conduct--the vows being either
taken on themselves voluntarily, or imposed on them, with their consent,
by others. Thus Dermat O'Dyna was under gesa never to pass through a
wicket gate when entering or leaving a palace (page 282); Finn was under
gesa not to sleep at Allen more than nine nights in succession (page
337); Dermat put Oisin under gesa not to loose any one whom he bound
(page 312). It would appear, also, that if one person went through the
form of putting another under gesa to grant any reasonable request, the
abjured person could not refuse without loss of honour and reputation.
Thus Midac places Finn under gesa to come to the banquet in the Fairy
Palace of the Quicken Trees (page 189); and the witch-lady places gesa
on Finn to search for the ring in the lake (page 354). And sometimes, on
very solemn or urgent occasions, the gesa seem to have been imposed with
spells, so as to draw down ill luck as well as loss of honour on the
person who disregarded the injunction (page 281).

Geis or gesa also means a charm or spell.

NOTE 13.--_Tir-fa-tonn._

The Gaelic tales abound in allusions to a beautiful country situated
under the sea--an enchanted land sunk at some remote time, and still
held under spell. In some romantic writings it is called _Tir-fa-tonn_,
the land beneath the wave; and occasionally one or more of the heroes
find their way to it, and meet with many strange adventures (page 253).
Sometimes it is _O'Brasil_, that dim land which appears over the water
once every seven years--"on the verge of the azure sea"--and which would
be freed from the spell, and would remain permanently over water, if any
one could succeed in throwing fire on it. (See Gerald Griffin's
beautiful ballad, "O'Brasil, the Isle of the Blest.") The Island of
Fincara (page 87), and the beautiful country seen beneath the waves by
Maildun (page 147), are remnants of the same superstition.

This very old Celtic tradition is obviously the same as the legend of
the continent of Atlantis, mentioned by Plato, which at some remote time
was overwhelmed and sunk under the Atlantic Ocean. And it would seem
that they have the same shadowy tradition in the East; for in "Lalla
Rookh" Moore makes the Peri say, in her soliloquy:

    "I know where the Isles of Perfume are,
    Many a fathom down in the sea,
    To the south of sun-bright Araby."

NOTE 14.--_The Enchanted Well._

Res autem sic revera evenit. Cum Angus magus equum giganteum Eochaidio
et popularibus traderet, monebat homines nec stabulandi neque omnino
requiescendi copiam equo faciendam; ne forte quiescendo urinam
demitteret, quod si fieret exitio omnibus fore. Postea vero quam at
Planitiem Silvulæ Cinereæ pervenissent, intenti adeo sarcinis ingentis
equi dorso detrahendis incumbebant, ut monitorum Angi obliviscerentur;
restitit autem equus, et subinde urinam demisit. Extemplo hinc fons
ortus; qui cum scaturiisset, submersit omnes, sicuti in historiâ

NOTE 15.--_Conal Carna of the Red Branch._

The Red Branch Knights of Ulster, a sort of militia in the service of
the monarch, much like the Fena of later date (see note 23), flourished
in the first century of the Christian era. Their home was the palace of
Emania, near the city of Armagh; and they received their name from one
of the houses of the palace in which they resided, which was called
_Craebh-ruadh_, or Red Branch. They attained their greatest glory in the
reign of Conor Mac Nessa, king of Ulster in the first century; and Conal
Carna, mentioned in the story of "Liban the Mermaid," was one of their
most illustrious champions.

NOTE 16.--_Ecca the Son of Marid: Comgall of Bangor._

This Marid was king of Munster about the beginning of the second century
of the Christian era. St. Comgall, one of the greatest saints of the
early Irish Church, flourished in the sixth century, and was the founder
of the celebrated monastery of Bangor in the county of Down.

NOTE 17.--_Curragh._

It would appear that in Ireland, and indeed in England and Scotland as
well, navigation was carried on in ancient times chiefly by means of
curraghs. The curragh was a boat or canoe, consisting of a light
framework of wood, covered over with the skins of animals. Curraghs are
still used on many parts of the western coast of Ireland; but they are
now covered with tarred canvas instead of skins.

NOTE 18.--_Conn the Hundred-fighter._

Conn Ced-cathach or Conn the Fighter of a Hundred (not Conn of the
Hundred Battles, as the name is generally translated), was king of
Ireland from A.D. 123 to 158.

NOTE 19.--_Land of the Living: Land of Life, etc._

The ancient Irish had a sort of dim, vague belief that there was a land
where people were always youthful, and free from care and trouble,
suffered no disease, and lived for ever. This country they called by
various names:--_Tir-na-mbeo_, the land of the [ever-]living;
_Tir-na-nóg_, the land of the [ever-]youthful; _Moy-Mell_, the plain of
pleasure, etc. It had its own inhabitants--fairies; but mortals were
sometimes brought there; and while they lived in it, were gifted with
the everlasting youth and beauty of the fairy people themselves, and
partook of their pleasures. As to the exact place where Tirnanoge was
situated, the references are shadowy and variable, but they often place
it far out in the Atlantic Ocean, as far as the eye can reach from the
high cliffs of the western coast. And here it is identical with
O'Brasil, of which mention has been made in note 13.

I have already remarked (see note 1) that the fairies were also supposed
to live in palaces in the interior of pleasant green hills, and that
they were hence called Aes-shee or Deena-shee, i.e. people of the _shee_
or fairy hills; and hence also the word "banshee" _i.e._ a woman
(_bean_) of the fairy hills. Tirnanoge was often regarded as identical
with these bright, subterranean palaces. In my boyhood days, the
peasantry believed that the great limestone cavern near Mitchelstown, in
the county Cork, was one of the entrances to Tirnanoge.

NOTE 20.--_St. Brendan of Birra._

I have already, in the preface (page xiii.), spoken of the celebrated
voyage of St. Brendan of Birra (Birr, in King's County), undertaken in
the sixth century. He set out from near Brandon Mountain, in Kerry,
sailing westwards into the Atlantic Ocean, and, according to the belief
of some, landed on the shore of America. He had many imitators, who
ventured out on the great ocean in their curraghs as pilgrims; but none
were so enterprising as himself, or met with such a variety of strange
lands, if we except Maildun and the three sons of O'Corra, whose
adventures are quite as surprising as those of Brendan.

NOTE 21.--_Brendan's Satchel._

The ancient Irish saints, when on their missionary journeys through the
country, kept their precious books, as well as the portable sacred
utensils, in leather satchels, which they brought with them from place
to place. These satchels were often highly ornamented, and, like other
relics, were held in extraordinary veneration after the death of the
owners. The Gaelic term for this kind of satchel is _polaire_. (See
Petrie, "Round Towers," page 336.)

NOTE 22.--_Cormac Mac Art._

Cormac Mac Art, the most illustrious of the Irish kings, who began his
reign A.D. 254, was the son of Art the Lonely, who was son of Conn the
Hundred-fighter. During his reign flourished the Fena or militia, spoken
of in the next note; and the old chroniclers never tire of dwelling on
the magnificence of his court at Tara, and the prosperity of the country
during his reign. He was renowned for learning and wisdom, and he wrote
a book called _Tegusc-righ_, or instruction for kings, copies of which
are extant in the Books of Leinster and Ballymote. He also caused the
records of the kingdom to be collected and written down in one great
book called the Psalter of Tara, but no portion of this book is now
known to exist; and he established three schools at Tara--one for
military science, one for law, and one for history and chronology. He
spent the last years of his life in retirement and study at Cletty on
the Boyne, and died A.D. 277, forty years after he had ascended the

NOTE 23.--_Finn and the Fena._

The Fena or "Fena of Erin" were a sort of militia or standing army,
permanently maintained by the monarch for the support of the throne, and
regularly trained to military service. They attained their greatest
glory in the reign of Cormac Mac Art (see previous note). Each province
had its own militia under its own captain, but all were under the
command of one general-in-chief. Their most renowned commander was Finn
the son of Cumal, who of all the heroes of ancient Ireland is most
vividly remembered in popular tradition. Finn had his palace on the top
of the Hill of Allen, a remarkable flat-topped hill, lying about four
miles to the right of the railway as you pass Newbridge and approach
Kildare, rendered more conspicuous of late years by a tall pillar
erected on the top, on the very site of Finn's palace. Before the
erection of the pillar, there were considerable remains of the old fort
on the hill, but at present nearly every vestige is obliterated, cleared
away partly to make room for the foundation of the pillar, and partly by
cultivation; for the land has been tilled and cropped to the very
summit. The whole neighbourhood, however, teems with living traditions
of Finn and the Fena.

The Fena were divided into distinct tribes or clanns, belonging to the
several provinces, each under its own commander. Of these, the Clann
Baskin of Leinster, under the immediate command of Finn; and the Clann
Morna of Connaught, commanded by Gaul Mac Morna, were rival tribes, and,
for reasons stated in note 27, regarded each other with hatred and

The following are some of the principal characters celebrated in the
romantic literature of the Fena.

Finn the son of Cumal, commander-in-chief of the Fena under king Cormac
Mac Art (see note 22); brave, wise, and far-seeing, a man of supreme
military ability. His foresight seemed so extraordinary, that the people
believed it was a preternatural gift of divination, and the shanachies
invented a legend to account for it (see note 25). Like many great
commanders, he had a little of the tyrant in his character, and was
unforgiving to those who injured him. But in the story of Dermat and
Grania, he is drawn in too unfavourable a light. In his old age he was
killed by a fisherman at a place called Athbrea on the Boyne, A.D. 284,
as recorded in the Annals of Tighernach, of the Four Masters, and of

Oisin or Ossian, Finn's son, the renowned hero-poet, to whom the bards
attribute many poems still extant.

Oscar, the son of Oisin, youthful and handsome, kind-hearted, and one of
the most valiant of the Fena.

Dermat O'Dyna, noble-minded, generous, of untarnished honour, and the
bravest of the brave. He was as handsome as he was valiant, whence he is
often styled Dermat of the Bright Face, Dermat of the White Teeth, etc.
He was the idol of the ladies of Ireland, and hence he is often called
Dermat-na-man, or Dermat of the Women (page 210). The Munster
traditions represent him as a native of Kerry; but he was in reality a
Leinsterman, though his descendants migrated to Munster at a very early
period. Mr. O'Grady, in his edition of the story of Dermat and Grania
(page 294), has given an ancient poetical genealogy of Dermat. This hero
is equally celebrated in popular story in the Highlands of Scotland.
According to Highland tradition, the great and illustrious Clann
Campbell, represented by the Duke of Argyll, descend from him; and their
crest is a boar's head, in memory of the manner of Dermat's
death.[CLXXX.] Dermat O'Dyna is, on the whole, the finest type of hero
among the Fena--as fine indeed as can be found in any literature; and
his noble character is very well maintained throughout the Ossianic

Kylta Mac Ronan, Finn's nephew, renowned for his fleetness of foot.

Dering, the son of Dobar O'Baskin, who was not only a brave warrior, but
also "a man of knowledge," gifted with some insight into futurity.

Ligan Lumina, also celebrated for swiftness of foot.

Fergus Finnvel, poet, warrior, and frequent adviser of the Fena.

Gaul Mac Morna, the leader of the Clann Morna or Connaught Fena, one of
the mightiest of all the heroes. He served under Finn, but the two
chiefs bore no love to each other, for Gaul had slain Finn's father,
Cumal, in the battle of Knocka (see note 27).

Conan Mail or Conan the Bald, the best-marked and best-sustained
character in the Ossianic romances; large-bodied, a great boaster, a
great coward, and a great glutton. He had a venomous tongue, and hardly
ever spoke a good word of any one. He belonged to the Clann Morna, and
was always reviling the Clann Baskin. He was the butt for the gibes and
mockery of the Fena, but they dreaded his foul tongue. The story-tellers
never lose an opportunity of having a fling at Conan, and of turning him
into ridicule for his cowardice, his big talk, and his gluttony.

NOTE 24.--_Cooking-Places._

The Fena, as related in the beginning of the story of the Gilla Dacker,
were quartered on the principal householders during the winter
half-year; and maintained themselves chiefly by the chase during the
summer months. When they were on their hunting expeditions, we are told
that they ate only one meal a day; and for this meal they cooked the
flesh of the animals brought down in the chase, in the following manner.
They first dug a deep pit in the earth near their camping-place, and,
having lighted a great fire beside it, they heated a number of round
stones. They next covered the bottom of the pit with the hot stones, on
which they placed the meat, bound up with sedge and grass ropes, and on
this again they put another layer of heated stones; and, having closely
covered up the whole with branches, they let it stand till the meat was
sufficiently cooked. The remains of these old earth-ovens are still to
be seen, and are called by the peasantry _fulachta-na-bhfiann_, the
cooking-places of the Fena.

NOTE 25.--_Finn's Tooth of Knowledge._

It had been prophesied of old that a man named Finn would be the first
to eat of the salmon of knowledge, which swam in the pool of Linn-Fec,
in the Boyne (near the present village of Slane); and that he would
thereby obtain the gifts of knowledge and of divination. A certain old
poet named Finn, knowing this, hoped that he might be the lucky man; so
he took up his abode on the shore of Linn-Fec; and he fished in the pool
every day from morn till night, in the hope of catching the salmon of
knowledge. At this time, Finn the son of Cumal was a boy, fleeing from
place to place from his hereditary enemies, the Clann Morna, disguised,
and bearing the assumed name of Demna; and, happening to come to
Linn-Fec, the old poet took him as his servant.

After long watching and waiting, Finn the poet hooked the salmon at
last, and gave it to Demna to broil, warning him very strictly not to
eat or even taste of it. Demna proceeded to broil the fish; and soon the
heat of the fire raised a great blister from its side, which the boy
pressed with his thumb to keep it down, thereby scalding himself so
severely that he unthinkingly thrust his thumb into his mouth.

When the salmon was cooked, the poet asked Demna had he eaten of it.
"No," replied the boy; "but I scalded my thumb on the fish, and put it
into my mouth." "Thy name is not Demna, but Finn," exclaimed the poet:
"in thee has the prophecy been fulfilled; and thou art now a diviner and
a man of knowledge!"

In this manner Finn obtained the gift of divination, so that ever after,
when he wished to look into futurity, he put his thumb under his tooth
of knowledge, as he did when cooking the salmon of Linn-Fec, and the
whole future was revealed to him. There appears to have been some sort
of ceremony used, however (see page 339, _supra_); and it would seem
that the process was attended with pain (page 194), so that it was only
on very solemn and trying occasions he put his thumb under his tooth of

NOTE 26.--_The Game of Chess._

Chess-playing was one of the favourite amusements of the ancient Irish
chiefs. The game is constantly mentioned in the very oldest Gaelic
tales; as, for instance, in the "Cattle-Spoil of Cooley," in "The Book
of the Dun Cow" (A.D. 1100). (See O'Donovan's "Introduction to the Book
of Rights," page lxi.)

NOTE 27.--_Battle of Knocka._

The battle of Knocka or _Cnucha_ (now Castleknock, near Dublin) was
fought in the reign of Conn the Hundred-fighter (see note 18). The
contending parties were, on the one side, Conn with his royal forces,
and the renowned hero, Gaul Mac Morna, with his Connaught Fena, the
Clann Morna; and on the other side, Cumal, the father of Finn, with the
Clann Baskin and the Leinster forces in general, aided by Owen More,
heir to the throne of Munster, with a large army of Munstermen. The
Leinster and Munster armies were defeated, chiefly through the valour of
Gaul, who slew Cumal with his own hand. This was the cause of the
irreconcilable enmity that existed ever after between the Clann Baskin
and the Clann Morna.

When Finn the son of Cumal grew up to man's estate, he succeeded to the
position held by his father as leader of the Fena. But though he made
peace with Gaul Mac Morna, and though Gaul submitted to his command,
there was always a feeling of ill-concealed hatred and distrust between

NOTE 28.--_Battle of Gavra._

When Carbri of the Liffey, son of Cormac Mac Art, ascended the throne of
Ireland, one of his first acts was to disband and outlaw the Clann
Baskin; and he took into his service in their place their rivals and
deadly enemies, the Clann Morna from Connaught. Whereupon the Clann
Baskin marched southwards, and entered the service of Fercorb, king of
Munster, Finn's grandson, in direct disobedience to king Carbri's
commands. This led to the bloody battle of Gavra, celebrated in Ossianic
literature, which was fought A.D. 284, at Garristown, in the north-west
of the county Dublin, where the rival clanns slaughtered each other
almost to annihilation. In the heat of the battle, Carbri and Oscar met
in single combat; and, after a long and terrible fight, the heroic Oscar
fell pierced by Carbri's spear, and died on the evening of the same day.
But Carbri himself was dreadfully wounded; and, while retiring from the
field, his own kinsman, Semeon, whom he had previously banished from
Tara, fell on him, and despatched him with a single blow.

This battle is the subject of a poem which the bards ascribe to Oisin,
and which has been published, with translation, in the first volume of
the Ossianic Transactions. In this poem there is an affecting
description of the death of Oscar, surrounded by his few surviving
companions, and in presence of his father Oisin.


[CLXXX.] For a full account of the Highland traditions regarding Dermat,
and of the Highland monuments that commemorate his name, see "Loch Etive
and the Sons of Uisnach" (p. 255), a very valuable and interesting book,
recently published, which came into my hands after I had written the

[CLXXXI.] The above legend is taken from "The Boyish Exploits of Finn
Mac Cumal," published, with translation, by John O'Donovan, LL.D., in
the fourth volume of the Ossianic Society's Transactions, from a MS.
_transcribed_ in 1453, now lying in the Bodleian Library at Oxford. But
the internal evidence of the language shows that the piece is far more
ancient than the fifteenth century. The legend of Finn and the Salmon of
Knowledge is still current among the peasantry; and a modern popular
version of it may be seen in the _Dublin Penny Journal_, Vol. I. page

As to the process of putting his thumb under his tooth of knowledge,
even the English-speaking peasantry of the south still retain a
tradition that it was painful; for they say that Finn "chewed his thumb
from the skin to the flesh, from the flesh to the bone, from the bone to
the marrow, and from the marrow to the _smoosagh_."



Every writer who attempts to popularise the Gaelic literature of Ireland
and Scotland, finds the proper names a serious difficulty. If they are
given in their original Gaelic forms, they are not unfrequently
unpronounceable and repulsive to the English reader; if they are written
phonetically, they are often strange and barbarous looking. In this
book, I have not followed any general principle in reducing the names to
forms suitable to readers of English. I have dealt with each, as it
were, on its own merits. Sometimes--very often, indeed--I have given the
original spelling; sometimes I have given the names phonetically; and
frequently I have mixed the two modes. But all through I have avoided
any great departure from the original forms, as will be seen by a glance
at the following list.

In all cases the names occurring through the book may be pronounced just
as the letters would indicate to the English reader.

  Aed,               _Aedh_, a flame of fire.

  Ahaclee,           _Ath-cliath_, hurdle-ford.

  Ailna,             _Ailne_, beauty, joy.

  Aina,              _Aine_.

  Allil,             _Ailioll_, _Ailell_, or _Oilioll_.

  Allil Ocar Aga,    _Ailell Ochair Aga_.

  Alva,              _Ailbhe_.

  Balor,             _Balar_.

  Baskin,            _Baoiscne_.

  Begallta,          _Beagalltach_, little fury.

  Ben-Damis,         _Beann-Damhuis_.

  Beoc,              _Beóc_, _Dabheóc_, and _Beoán_.

  Berva,             _Berbhe_.

  Borba,             _Borb_, proud.

  Bran,              _Bran_, a raven.

  Bres,              _Breas_.

  Brian,             _Brian_.

  Brickna,           _Briccne_.

  Bruga of the       _Brugh-na-Boinne_.

  Canta,             _Cainte_.

  Carn-Arenn,        _Carnn-Airenn_.

  Carricknarone,     _Carraic-na-rón_, the rock of the seals.

  Clann Navin,       _Clann-Neamhuinn_.

  Cloghan Kincat,    _Clochan-chinn-chait_, the stepping-stones of
                     the cat's head.

  Coil Croda,        _Cael-crodha_, the slender valiant [man].

  Colga,             _Colga_.

  Colman,            _Colman_, little dove.

  Comgall,           _Comhghall_.

  Conal Carna,       _Conall Cernach_.

  Conan Mail,        _Conan Mael_, Conan the Bald.

  Conang,            _Conaing_.

  Conn,              the Hundred-fighter (not Conn of the Hundred
                     Battles, as it is usually translated),

  Connla,            _Connla_.

  Coran,             _Coran_.

  Cormac Mac Art,    _Cormac Mac Airt_.

  Corr the           _Coir Cos-luath_.

  Cuan,              _Cuan_ or _Cuadhan_.

  Culand,            _Culand_.

  Curnan the         _Curnan Onmit_.

  Curoi Mac Dara,    _Curoi Mac Dáire_.

  Dagda,             _Dagda_.

  Dara Donn,         _Dáire Donn_.

  Darvra,            Lake, _Loch Dairbhreach_, the lake of oaks.

  Dathkeen,          _Dathchaoin_, bright-complexioned.

  Decca,             _Deoch_.

  Dedannans,         _Tuatha De Danann_.

  Derdri of the      _Deirdre Duibhshleibhe_.
  Black Mountain,

  Dering,            _Diorraing_.

  Dermat O'Dyna,     _Diarmait O'Duibhne_.

  Dianket,           _Diancecht_.

  Diuran Lekerd,     _Diuran Lecerd_.

  Dobar O'Baskin,    _Dobhar O'Baoiscne_.

  Dooclone,          _Dubhchluain_, dark-coloured meadow.

  Dord-Fian,         _Dord-Fiann_.

  Dryantore,         _Draoigheantóir_.

  Ducoss,            _Dubhchosach_, black-foot.

  Eas-Dara,          _Eas-Dara_.

  Ebb,               _Eab_.

  Ebliu,             _Ebliu_.

  Ebric,             _Aibhric_.

  Ecca,              _Eochaidh_, a horseman.

  Enbarr,            _Aenbharr_, splendid mane.

  Encoss,            _Aenchos_, one foot.

  Ethnea,            _Eithne_, sweet nut-kernel.

  Etta,              _Eitche_.

  Eva,               _Aeife_.

  Eve,               _Aebh_.

  Failinis,          _Failinis_.

  Fatha Conan,       _Fatha Chonain_.

  Femin,             _Feimeann_.

  Fena,              _Fianna_.

  Ferdana,           _Feardána_.

  Fergor,            _Fearghoir_, manly or strong voice.

  Fergus,            _Fearghus_, manly strength.

  Fiaca Findamnas,   _Fiacha Findamnais_.

  Ficna,             _Fiachna_, little raven.

  Ficra,             _Fiachra_.

  Fincara,           _Fianchaire_.

  Fincoss,           _Finnchosach_, white-foot.

  Finn,              _Finn_ or _Fionn_, fair-haired.

  Finnin,            _Finghín_, fair offspring.

  Finola,            _Fionnghuala_, white shoulder.

  Flidas,            _Flidas_.

  Foltlebar,         _Folt-leabhar_, long hair.

  Frevan,            _Freamhainn_.

  Ga-boi,            _Ga-buidhe_, yellow javelin.

  Ga-derg,           _Ga-dearg_, red javelin.

  Gael Glas,         _Gaodhal-Glas_.

  Garva,             _Garbh_, rough.

  Gaul Mac Morna,    _Goll Mac Morna_.

  Germane,           _Germane_.

  Gilla Dacker,      _Giolla Deacair_, lazy fellow.

  Glanlua,           _Glanluadh_, pure-spoken.

  Glas Mac Encarda,  _Glas Mac Aeinchearda_.

  Glore,             _Glór_, a voice.

  Ilbrec,            _Ilbhreach_.

  Ildana,            _Ioldhanach_.

  Inis Glora,        _Inis Gluaire_.

  Innia,             _Innia_.

  Innsa,             _Inse_.

  Inver-tre-Kenand,  _Inbher-Tre-Cenand_.

  Iraun,             _Irann_.

  Iroda,             _Ioruaidhe_.

  Irros Domnann,     _Iorrus Domnann_.

  Island of the      _Inis Tuile_.

  Kemoc,             _Caemhoc_ or _Mochoemhoc_.

  Kenn-Avrat,        _Ceann-Abhrat_.

  Kenri,             _Caenraighe_.

  Kethen,            _Cethen_.

  Kethlenda,         _Ceithleann_ or _Ceithleand_.

  Kian,              _Cian_.

  Kylta Mac Ronan,   _Caeilte Mac Ronain_.

  Largnen,           _Lairgnen_.

  Lavaran,           _Lobharan_.

  Liban,             _Liban_.

  Lidas,             _Liadhas_.

  Ligan Lumina,      _Liagan Luaimneach_, Ligan the Bounding.

  Lir,               _Lir_.

  Lobas,             _Lobais_.

  Lochlann,          _Lochlann_.

  Loskenn of the     _Loiscinn Lomghlúineach_.
  Bare Knees,

  Luath,             _Luaith_, swift.

  Luga of the Long   _Lugh Lamh-fada_.

  Mac-an-Lona,       _Mac-an-Luin_.

  Mac Luga,          _Mac Luigheach_.

  Mac-na-Corra,      _Mac-na-Corra_.

  Maildun,           _Mail Duin_, chief of the fort.

  Manissa,           _Maighneis_.

  Mannanan Mac Lir,  _Manannan Mac Lir_.

  Marid Mac Carido,  _Mairid Mac Cairedo_.

  Mergah,            _Meargach_.

  Micorta,           _Miodhchuarta_.

  Midac,             _Miodhach_ or _Mioch_.

  Midir,             _Midhir_.

  Midkena,           _Miodhchaoin_.

  Milucra,           _Miluchradh_.

  Modan,             _Muadhan_.

  Morallta,          _Moralltach_, great fury.

  Moyle,             _Mael_, a bare hill.

  Moy-Mell,          _Magh-Mell_, plain of pleasures.

  Moytura,           _Magh-tuireadh_, plain of towers.

  Muman,             _Mumha_, gen. _Mumhan_.

  Muridach,          _Muridach_.

  Murthemna,         _Muirthemhne_.

  Niam,              _Niamh_, beauty.

  Nuada of the       _Nuadha Airgeatlaimh_.
  Silver Hand,

  Nuca,              _Nuca_.

  Oisin,             _Oisin_ (pronounced _Isheen_ in Munster, and
                     _Osh'in_ in Ulster and in Scotland).

  Oscar,             _Oscar_.

  Owenaght,          _Eoghanacht_, descendants of Owen.

  Pezar,             _Pisear_.

  Racad,             _Rachadh_.

  Rib,               _Rib_.

  Sencab,            _Seanchab_, old mouth.

  Sharvan,           _Searbhan_, a surly person.

  Shee Finnaha,      _Sidh-Fionnachaidh_.

  Skeabrac,          _Sciath-bhreac_, speckled shield.

  Skolan,            _Sceolaing_.

  Slana,             _Slánach_, healthy.

  Sorca,             _Sorcha_.

  Sotal of the Large _Sotal Sálmhór_.

  Taillkenn,         _Tailcenn_.

  Tinna the Mighty,  _Tinne Mór_.

  Tir-fa-tonn,       _Tir-fa-thuinn_, country beneath the wave.

  Tirnanoge,         _Tir na n-óg_, land of youths.

  Trencoss,          _Treunchosach_, strongfoot.

  Trenmore O'Baskin, _Treunmór O'Baoiscne_.

  Triscadal,         _Triscadal_.

  Tuis,              _Tuis_.

  Turenn,            _Tuireann_.

  Ur,                _Uar_.

  Urcar,             _Urchar_.


  Transcriber's Notes:
  Footnotes formatted in Roman.
  Endnotes formatted in Arabic.
  Italics shown as _Italics_.
  Ligatures: [=o] o macron, [)e] e breve.
  Inconsistent and archaic spelling retained.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Old Celtic Romances" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.