Trans. Margaret C. Dobbs
This text is the last of the four named in the Rev. Celt., vol. XXXIX, p. 2, as relating to Eochaid Feidlech and the pre-tain period. Only one copy of it is known, viz., that in the paper ms. 23.K. 37 (R.I.A). This copy was finished in 1717. The first four pages are in very neat handwriting. The rest of the text is in a poorer and later hand. The language is modern and the literary style bombastic. It has been shown (see vol. XXXIX, pp. 1, 2) that the copies of Cath Leitreach Ruibe and Cogadh Fergusa in 23.K.37 are representative of older texts. They have not been modernized in style like Cath Cumair, but this latter may be taken from a source quite as ancient, for the main incidents are the same as in the Dindsenchus of Druim Criaich (edited in Todd Lectures, XI, p. 42, by E. Gwynn) which is in the Book of Leinster. It seems certain that the Dindsenchus is a summary of one of the classic tales enumerated in LL at p. 190, and in the Airec Menman I. m. Coisi, viz., "Argain Echach for a macaib". If it was a classic in the twelvth century it was probably far older in origin and was told with many variants and suffered from corruptions and emendations. For these reasons I suggest that the first six paragraphs are not modern invention entirely though they have no corroboration in the Dindsenchus. They contain a story in themselves : the quarrel between Eochaid and his queen which led to the paricidal attack on Eochaid. Other and independant allusions give a family history which was probably the original explanation of the crime. Eochaid's queen was the daughter of Airtech, a Connaught prince, and Eochaid slew him in battle (See Rev. Celt., vol. XXXIX, p. 10). This was the older and more natural explanation and I suggest it was that given in the original story to explain why the queen incited her sons against their father.
It is evident that the modernizer knew the Dindsenchus poem as he quotes from it.
In transcribing the text I have given the spelling and the accents as I found them.
Some obviously missing letters are enclosed in brackets . I have not been able to make sense of some of the poetry and have indicated this by blank spaces. In conclusion I regret I am not continuing my translation into French as in the preceding texts, but this particular text was finished in English some years ago and laid aside till those which rightly preceded it had been brought out. Only for this reason I should have done my best to work in the medium of the language most appropriate to the Revue Celtique and to all exact and clear translation.
1.here was a great and illustrious king over Ireland once upon a time viz., Eochaid Feidlioch, son of Finn son of Finnlogh etc. Ireland was prosperous indeed in that high-king's time for her provinces were agreed concerning her territorial boundaries ; her chiefs were not alarmed or uneasy on account of either the multitude or the paucity of their retinues in each other's assemblies ; her tribes were united round her chiefs against popular sedition ; her farmers and her innkeepers were well supplied with food and beer (?). Only for the fear of scandal or disgrace in chivalrous report not one of the fair ladies of Ireland would have feared to joumey (or make the circuit) round from the rocky foam-white storm-ruffled prolific harbour of Cliodna's Wave to the rocky rough ever-fruitful Wave in the North ; or from the Peak of Edar with it's fine grassy wastes and rich fisheries in the East to gloomy Dubcarrgach wrapped in mist and storm in the west of the beautiful province of Connaught. It was not indeed surprizing that Ireland was prosperous then, for her cattle were lowing and ever giving milk on her fair hills (?); her groves were lofty, adorned with cuckoos and single elms, very thick and exquisitely peaceful ; her plains were level, soft-grassed and fertile, yielding every crop to huge herds ; her forest trees were smooth and straight, heavy with clusters and very branching ; her ponds and river-pools were calm and full of fish ; her mountains were peaceful, untroubled, tranquil, clear-streamed and full of game ; her harbours were beautiful and strong, unruffled and smooth ; her strands were dry, with clean dunes, sloping smoothly in fine ripples ; her people were not tormented (?) with heavy rents to their chiefs. Nor was the roar of forests heard under the scream of the wind, nor showers of cleansing rain, but there was dew on the vast plains till noontide of each brilliant day. Such radiance in the great planets at that time was not indeed surprizing for, if the synchronisms are right in so saying, the second adopted son1 of Augustus, noble accomplished and sagacious, ruled (?) with illustrious majesty, with marvel, with brilliance and gravity, a true governor. It was at the beginning of the third2 year of Eochaid Feidlioch's reign that was truly begot and generated the free glorious commendable conception of the Eternal Light, of the common Creator who made the universe, and the gentle Son was conceived of the Hebrew virgin without dissolution of her virginity (?). It was in the third year of Conaire's reign that He was crucified.
2. The reign of Eochaid Feidlioch lasted twelve years from the time when fell the royal all-judging prince viz., most venomous Fachtna Fathach, in the battle of Leithruidhe Ruidhe on the slopes of Conachail in Corann southwards. Tara with it's manor was indeed under the rule of that strong soldier without any plundering of her peasants by her nobles, without illegal opression by her poets and aristocracy, without (?)***
He had a lovely fresh-bodied wife and gentle lady viz., Cloithfionn the bright-skinned, daughter of Airtidh the Broad-chested, son of Fergus son of Oilill Aidneach. She was mother ot the warrior's children viz., his three admirable featful sons and six lovely most elegant daughters. As said the poet :
Medb and Mumain of delicate form,
Eile and comely Deirbre,
Cloithrionn and Ethne3 ***
And three sons also, viz., the three Finna of Emain viz., vigorous talkative arrogant Bres, and venomous strong fresh-formed Nar, and heroic abundant quick-wounding Lothar. They are called the Finna of Emain because they were brought up at Eamain Macha and Eochaid Yellow-heel son of Lodun (father of Concobar's mother) educated them well. Their father gave them estates viz. ; the rough land of the Gamanraidhe = the royal navigable smooth-welled Cascade of Ruadh (that is the place where Aodh Ruadh son of Badarn was drowned) to the cheerful (?) bright-waved sharp-cragged rough-jutting island which is called Corca Baisginn, viz. the leap of combative Cu Chullain. That was the estate of the Fionna of Emain of the Ulaid. The poem said :
Three sons of fair Eochaidh Feidlioch :
lively Bres of sweet speech,
comely Nar whose house hold clave to him,
bright fresh-shaped Lothar.
In Emain Macha smoothly green
were reared the noble youths,
a manly trio in keen strife,
the famous fair ones of Emain.
They were gently reared
by Eochaid Yellow-heel the constant,
a fortunate man — pledge against weakness (?) —
he was their excellent tutor.
The youths of the Ulaid — active lads —
were placed round them as guards ;
noble boys who planned no treachery
round the gentle long-haired trio.
Festive Eochaid Feidlioch gave
a clean-sodded territory to his sons
from the Cascade of Ruadh — a royal portion —
to the Leap of gallant Cu Chullain.
All the territory which at a time belonged
to the indomitable Gamanraidh,
in the province of Connaught of the poets,
Eochaid gave to the fair trio.
3. Concerning the high-king Eochaid Feidlioch : there was prosperity at Tara without slaughter by the peasants or plotting by the nobles or oppression by kings or revolts in provinces. One day the king was in Tara without any host or retinue save four only viz. : himself and Cet son of Maga, and Conall Cernach son of Amergen, and Glunchenn the druid. Glunchenn said, "As we are alone together let us go to the Ladies' House that we may have a game of chess there." They went off accordingly to the pinnacled (?) arched solid stately comfortable windowed elegant sheltered pillared spacious festive immense doored chalk-white cornered lofty rush-strewn lamp-lit salon where was the queen. She was sitting in a beautiful decorated chair with her lovely bright-faced ladies cutting out their embroidery before her. There was no one in the other chair except Meas Buachalla, the daughter of Eochaid Airemun, a youthful beautiful girl. The period of her courtship did her honour and she was fit and of a suitable age for a bridegroom. They seated the high-king and they brought them the chess-board to play, and Glunchenn the druid was coaching Cet and Conall, and the king of Ireland won the game against them.
"Pair sirs," said the queen, "to whom do you give the winning of that game ?"
"It is to you I would give it," said Glunchenn, "if it were I gave it."
"If I myself were receiving here more lasting treasure than that," said Eochaidh, "I would not take it from my niece ; and what I got she takes not." "I give you my word indeed," said the queen, "that I would not care though thou gave it to her in thy own couch tonight."
The high-king was prodigiously enraged by the lady's reply. "I also give you my word," said he, "though I do not give it to her tonight, I shall not give it to thee from this night out for ever. Ladies" said the king "leave off your handiwork. Let your horses be caught, your chariots be harnessed and go fetch your robes and dresses. Let your good beds be tied up and covered. Stir up your servants and bondsfolk to gather your flocks and to conduct your herds, your cattle (?) and your removal. Let Cet and Conall Cernach both bind over the marriage property of that lady so that she will be with the Ulaid, and a fighting champion of the Connaught men as surety of her liability."
And then [she] said : "Take thine own property as we have no means of remaining in thy despite and, since thou hast no thought or intention of dividing the kingdom or high sovereignty with us, we will go away and we will separate with our friends and our companions."
At once the high-king said : "Depart, oh Queen, quickly and promptly so that visitors and travellers coming to Tara see not thy cattle without land, or thy followers in disgrace or being taunted by girls, no crowds frequenting thy house, no scholars doing thee reverence, no musicians in thy bed-chamber. For it is an evil state of things for a gentlewoman the place where she will be in honour for a time when the elements of reverence which would be paid to her would decline in dishonour." Then indeed the lady flew into a violent passion so that her countenance blazed and her speech was taken from her. Her eyes were so full of wrath that her garments were soaked with the press of her tears. Suddenly she demanded her property very calmly and hurried her servants to fetch the horses and harness the chariots. They went off to the grassy desolate slopes where they left their horses, and summoned the herds who guarded the horses to arise from their tiny, grey-roofed, wide-doored huts and to catch their groomed, shining, well-conditioned, broken-in horse-team. They did so and came with haste to Tara and they harnessed the horses on the lawn before them.
4. As to the queen, she bade a gentle amicable farewell to the company at Tara, and her horses came before her from the south-west, and first she was placed in her chariot ; and she raised her hands on high and fervently prayed to the gods, earnestly vehemently and with evil intent, not to oppose her success or defense (?) or honour on account of the abuse and continual lawless injustice arisen through Eochaid — and her horses were driven furiously northward from Tara. Her ladies and her women followed her very unwillingly and reluctantly from Tara. When Glunchenn the druid saw that thing he said this :
It is not a good reason
incenses the sovereign's mind.
Deeply wounding ***
The children of Clofinn will ***
They will march to Rath Cruachan
They loved the companion of Clothrann.
Their sister fashioned false appearances.
A fair army ***
the battle of Cumar
whence blood will be spread
on the bodies of heroes, Cet and Conall.
The bodies of heroes of the Red Branch
will be mangled.
Noble Eochaid will die of mortal bleeding.
They fight with their good father.
As for the last thing (?) which I prophecy :
The Finna will fall by the prince Eochaid.
Clothrann's heart will boil.
Harder the loss of his own family.
Thou hast shed *** deep grief.
Heavy is the fall of Eochaid.
Alas ! Alas ! It will be wrath.
It was evil, evil.
5. The queen, that white-robed beautifully dressed lady, proceeded without *** without a detachment of soldiers without military escort, and they went on to Duba an Banguba viz., the fine-grassed mountain-summit of Modarn. It is from the broken sleep and heavy anguish of the ladies that night that the spot is named Druim Banguba (== the ridge of the women's lament) after their parting from the bright faced youths of the Gael and the numerous household of Tara. They proceeded after that to the Druid's Lawn, to Emoin, and, when that multitude of women were seen approaching the place, nimble Leabharcam came to meet them to find out who it was. She gave a loud cry with her horse-like (?) mouth on account of the laudable gift (?) of the lady, and the weightiness of the queen's largesse, and came back to Emoin and told that news to the proud heroes of the noble Clan Rudraide, and Concobar came with a great company of champions of the province and they welcomed the queen eagerly lovingly and cordially. They asked her why she had left her husband and Tara, and the queen told them that it was Eochaid cast her off and that he did [not] give true and just affection in his love for her. Concobar spoke this verse :
Why camest thou from thy house,
oh queen of Eochaid Feidlech ?
Relate your situation without deceit,
Is it a quarrel or is it the spleen ?
After that tilled land of the most fertile on earth was given [to her] with it's herds, and spacious dwellings were littered with tip-quivering birch and long soft green-tipped fresh downy beds of hazel for the queen. They arranged pleasant stately houses for enjoyment, and neat bright sunny salons for privacy, for all manner of (?) embroidery, for fringe-making, for coverings, for hair dressing (?), for comfort, and for combing wool softly (?). They were served and waited on nobly and honourably that night at Emuin and despatches and trusty messengers were sent by the queen to her distirtguished sons. They were brought to her after that, and they asked the queen what cause took her away from her husband and what subject of quarrel and separation they had. "I give my word indeed," said the queen, "I know no cause he has except the amount of your aversion and great hatred of him, and terror of your coming against him, and fear of being hunted from Tara." "We give our word indeed," said they, "we neither planned in our minds nor plotted with our brave army that design."
"If you would listen, fair sons, to my plan and to Concobar's plan — and my sons," said she, "avenge ye my affront and my disgrace on your father. Summon (?) your mighty fierce-minded champions and take ye every district in manly crushing energetic fashion. Expel Eochaid from his territory and from the sovereignty, and give the manor of Tara with it's large population to your raiders (?)."
"Evil" said they "is that counsel and not like justice. It would be a misfortune for his own family to stir up war against the sovereign in his old age, since we would not get another foe to attack him because of awe and of his own right feeling. It would be perversity, it would be impious in us, to stir up war against him throughout Ireland."
"Cease these jestings, young men," said the noble prince Concobar; "my sons" said he "did ye never hear that whether a man's estate be big or little he is not reckoned among the monarchs of Ireland if he gives in (?). For, if you only held Tara for the space of three days, you will have the will to contest the sovereignty of Ireland afterwards and your sons will be adjudged the same rank. If you are obliged (?) to give up Ireland, then your descendants will be cut off from the succession to the throne and your family will not be included in the aristocracy ever again."
6. Though this counsel was perverse the Fionna accepted it on their mother's advice, and through the warlike malicious snares (?) of Uladh and the lying tortuous (?) envious venomous counsels of Concobar. The young men undertook to expedite the affair viz., to deprive their father of the sovereignty and to expel him from Tara. They asked Concobar what help he would give them to contest all Ireland.
"I will give you," said Concobar the prince, "three thousand soldiers and heroes of the Red Branch to support and to help you. Send you yourselves your partizans to every province to hinder them assembling in their houses, to detain their nobles in their mansions, and to keep their provincial kings in their own boundaries so that they rise not together against you. Let you yourselves make prompt assembly and muster so that the ambushes of your fine army be quicker than the rallying of the provincial kings to the king." And he recited the following poem :
Arise, oh Fionna of Eamain (?).
till ambition comes to you (?),
Defend Tara of fairest aspect.
Let Eochaid Feidlech be slain by you.
The younger thorn is always the sharper.
This is not a boast or a lie.
Your father consumes what is of his age,
He does not love *** except of the same age than he.
Defend Tara bit by bit.
Let the high-king of Ireland be slain by you.
Thereby you will be at Tara.
Arise, oh Fionna of Emain.
Their host and army reached Emain then that night, and they rapidly assembled their vanguard for the march, preparing for the morrow's start viz. : grooming their swift muzzled horseteams, equippingand bracing up their chariots, variegating their clothes and distributing blasonry over their fine armour in great diversity, repairing their smooth grey glittering corselets, polishing their hard shining helmets with chain-mail points, chipping and bracing tight their shields, testing their slender blue-bladed swords and *** their swift twisted tough spears. They despatched swift nimble messengers to Nuada Necht son of Sedna Sithbac, the haughty rich energetic gifted (?) prince of the Galian, of famous deeds; to heroic swift-smiting Lugh, son of Lugaid White-hand, the praise-worthy famous high-king of smooth broad Munster ; and to illustrious Daire Red-face son of Dega, the victorious red-sworded high-king (from whom Eochaid son of Lachtna takes his title) to offer large concessions of cattle and of lands to the provincial kings that they should not rise against them.
7. Concerning Eochaid Feidlech's three sons after that : they arose early the next day and marched southwest from Emain to Boromhe Road (which is called the Hill of Og today (?)),and to Betha Mountain (which is called Eisidein) and past the head of fair Loch Fobal and over the fresh green Plain of Ith (son of Ith) to the heathery Glen of the Finn river to Great Bernus and Little Bernus, and to the Estuary of Two Salmon (which is called the Cascade of Royal Ruad these times) and they stayed there that night. They went on the next day over the Plain of Eine rich in corn and very fertile, over rapid-flowing Drobaois and Duibe, over the bright-surfaced plain of Cedne, through the fruitful lands of Cairbre, over the Stream ofthe Clear Well (which is called Sligech these times), over the rapid-flowing Cascade of Dara (viz., Dara the Red, druid of the Fomorians, was drowhed there. It is named after him), [to] beautiful Ces Coruin,to the Peaked Mountain of Segais, to the Plain of the Dagda's Track, to the Plain of Ae son of Allguba, to the Valley ofthe Road, to Cruachan (and Medb was with them there), and there was no one there save sunny-haired Clothrann4 dividing their portions to the fair company at Cruachan. The Fionna of Emain came in a chariot to talk to their sister at Cruachan and, when the lady heard the senseless talk of her brothers and the foolish babble of their followers, she began to hinder the youths and to delay their march and to deceive her brothers.
Then they saw Ruad and Loch sons of Rochedul, the two chief druids, approaching them and these earnestly and boldly endeavoured to avert the Fionna's expedition. They said to them: "oh sons" said they "it is not a wise device or sagacious deed or mark of acuteness in you to create rebellion against (?) your father throughout Ireland in the one year, for your lives will not be lasting by reason of the monarch's groans after the revolt, and your splendid army will not protect you in the battle-field where it will fight this time. For these few troops are no weak (?) folk in time of battle or wounding or wrath or prophecy against decaying rule, in time of havoc or violence offered to the king of Ireland, and the cowardly fellows who are with you will not defeat them . Thus he spoke, and he said these words :
And Loch son of Rochedul tried to delay them and said these words :
Oh strong Fionna, oh great deed.
A king destroys, lord (?) of battle.
Rough is the deed, bitter the lamentation.
Deceit will *** death will verify.
Sad is the kindling ?). Lasting the mischief.
8. After that the druids left them ; and the Finna were angered by the evil prophecy of the druids foretelling their speedy death in that expedition. Swift youths were despatched in pursuit of them to stop them and they slew the druids on account of the evil prophecy, so that "The Druid's Mound," at Cruachan to the north, was the name of that spot. They proceeded that night to their resting-places and peaceful camps, and Clothrann came up on the green-peaked hillock of Cruachan so that they sat on it. They saw a noble pair opposite them in pure-white *** viz. ; a lovely damsel and a handmaid, a most attractive lady, bright-formed stately grey-eyed lovable pure-white delicate queenly (?) glittering rosy-checked laughing (?) bright-haired, soft and fresh, red-lipped sprightly smooth-handed white-throated elegant deep-bosomed fresh-bodied rosy-faced white-toothed, brown of eye-brow. The lady was dressed in this manner : a pure-white floating (?) tunic on her, and a soft silken fine spotted (?) flowing variegated starred thin red-bordered shining red-spotted freshly-new bright-speckled smooth white-threaded elegant light cool youthful(?) robe on her, and a soft-curled freshly-smooth cloak over that on the outside, and a flat chased crook-pinned crystal-gemmed brooch in it. It was not easy to look, or gaze steadfastly, at the stately attractive aristocratic flashing (?) of those bright gems that were set so exquisitely in that wondrous brooch. [There was] a bright smooth silky kerchief over her curly purple-hued hair (?), and two soft shoes, well cut, speckled and curled, between her slender feet and the ground. She endowed herself with the choicest arrangements of colour and form so that no lady excelled her in appearance or description, for she was a renowned enchantress5. Now that was the hour and the time when Bres, the eldest of Eochaid's sons, was inspecting his host and his army so that he saw the woman passing over the adjacent plain.
Bres went by himself to accost her and the lady waited for him. This is what he said : "Whence comest thou, lady ? How is it thou art alone ?"
"I came to talk to all the death-doomed ones on this plain" said she.
"They are not indeed doomed to death," said he.
"Indeed they are doomed," said the lady," for, if they did desire longer life, they would take terms from the king of Ireland."
"We are indeed determined," said Bres, "not to take terms from him ; but to give him battle so that we shall rule Ireland, and not he".
"That is an evil design," said the lady.
Then Bres threw her down on the sod of the sloping way and violated her. "On thee be the shame and the sorrow," said the lady. "Great is the sin and wickedness thou hast committed."
"How so, lady?" said Bres. "Who art thou ?" "I am Clothrinn daughter of Eochaid Feidlech," said she : "and I came to compass your destruction that you should not have right on your side in fighting [our] father."
"Your sin and your curse shall recoil on you". said Bres, "for you knew — and I did not."
However, the three lay with her, and that is the same thing she said to them (?), so that the "Glen of Sin" at Cruachan southward was the name of the place where that deed was done. The lady conceived by the three and bore them a son, viz. Lugaid Red-stripe ; as the poet said :
Clothrinn the white-toothed bore one son
to her three brothers.
Cian was his name in Glen Sanbh ;
Lugaid Red-stripe was his real name.
The son of Lugaid of the thousand hostages
was Criomthann the Victorious of the white seas.
That crime was bitter and exceeding grievous.
Clothrann, she was his mother.
9. Howbeit they arose early on the morrow and went to Athlone (round Ireland thus far) and halted and encamped at the hill (whose other name nowadays is Cealt) without the king of Ireland's knowledge. Beautiful variegated tents were put up that night for the Fionna so that "Rath of the Tents" is the name of that place now. They sent swift hasty messengers to their father, immediately to retire before them from Tara. When the messengers arrived at Tara Eochaid asked them for news. "The reason we have come," said they, "is to bid you vacate Tara before your sons and surrender the sovereignty of Ireland to them." Everyone who was resting in the house sat up, and everyone who was standing turned simultaneously towards them, so as to listen to the amazing demand which they heard. At that moment Conall Cernach was at the king's right hand and at once he rose up and drew his sword to behead the envoys in his wrath at the demand he heard them make. Eochaid Feidlech laid his hand on him and checked the act. But when the captain of the household troops, Cet the great son of Maga, heard it, he tried to do the same thing. Eochaid restrained him and said : "Where is Gluinchenn the druid ?" said he.
— "I am here, said the druid.
"Well now, examine thou for us whether the messengers spoke truly — or why I and my sons should separate." And this is how he spoke, and recited the poem :
Eochaid. Tell me, oh Gluinchenn druid,
and tell no falsehood,
concerning the three Fionna of Emain.
What direction will their wantonness take ?
Gluinchenn. Against thee, oh man, is made
this onset, oh Eochaid ;
to deprive thee of army and kingdom,
to thrust thee out of thy prosperity.
Eochaid. Tell me what will come from it,
betake thyself to watching and prophecy
concerning the Fionna — the famous kings —
oh thou *** speak !"
"Let prompt muster and assembly be made by you," said the druid, "for your three sons come towards you in three marshalled battalions of equal strength, and three thousand men in every battalion. "
10. Then indeed Eochaid rose up with his friends when he heard he had only one'-night's respite from his sons. When Eochaid arose there rose up the three thousand veterans with him, his own retinue who never left him. Those were his customary retainers. There rose up the captain of the household, his chief counsellor and battle-champion ; viz., Cet, the fierce son of Maga. The young mercenaries of the Irish king came (it was a true token of his sovereignty their coming to him for the rounding up (?) of the struggle) with triumphant victorious courageous combative (?) Conall Cernach son of Amergin at their head ; viz., the captain of the mercenaries and his two thousand mercenaries round him. There came the chiefs of Bregh and Meath and Raon, son of Rochedul, the red king of the Ulaid, at their head ; and likewise the grim Colamain of Tara, two thousand their full number. His army numbered six thousand that night against his three sons, and they marched to Cumar Ford that night and encamped there. "Where is Gluinchenn the druid ?" said Eochaid. "I am here," said the druid. "Go to my sons," said the king, "and offer them terms from me.
"What terms ?" said the druid.
"Two thirds of Ireland for them and one third including Tara for me. "
The druid went at once to the place where the Fionna were with their army, and goes into the tent where they were.
"Your coming is welcome, oh druid, oh sage and excellent man," said they.
"That welcome was our honour till today," said the druid.
"Our welcome is an honour to you to day," said they.
"I came from the king to offer you terms."
"What are those terms ?" said they.
"Two thirds of Ireland for you and one third for him including Tara.
"It is my opinion,'" said Lothar, "that he may give — and it will not be taken from him." "Why will you not take it ?" said the druid. "For no true prince but accepts terms — and it would be better to accept than to refuse for, however numerous your army and following, there will not go westward over the Shannon tomorrow save thrice nine of vou. Anúar Ridge was the name of this ridge till today : "Ridge of Gore" shall be it's name tomorrow from the blood of your bodies, your trunks and necks — and "Well of the Heads" shall be the name of this well here below." He recited the poem :
Alas that they went as you willed,
oh Fionna of Emain, to Emain.
It is certainly no fortunate course;
it is rebellion against a sovereign.
Clothfionn, daughter of fair Airtech,
brought danger and strife on you.
They were destroyed by her actions,
by her, by the numerous forms she turned into.
Comar Ford — meeting place of troops —
the ford where the hosts will fight.
Alas, your time is come, oh Fionna.
11. The druid went back the same way till he came to Eochaid and told his story from the time he went till he returned to his presence. He recited this poem :
Gluinchenn. Arise, oh king of pleasant Tara.
Behold, thy sons approach thee.
Sad is the fierce deed which has driven them
to seek their death.
Eochaid. Grievous to me is the slaying of my sons
though they came to the fierce battle.
If they are not slain I shall fall by them.
The bitter strife is sad for our friends.
Gluinchenn. Rise up and whet thy wrath.
Red-sided Tara will be thine
The royal (?) prince fell by a spear-thrust (?).
Warriors are in no wise glad.
Eochaid. How do the three Fionna come
to Cumar Ford ? Tell us that (?).
How do they marshall themselves there
since everyone accepted the combat ?
Gluinchenn. Bres from southward is thus,
fighting against the Colamain :
Nar against the mercenaries — share of deeds —
Lothar against thee, oh king of Ireland.
Eochaid. Swift Lothar will be slain by me.
Nar of the hosts shall suffer.
Bres will be slain — howe'er it be —
They will repent their hasty rebellion.
After this conversation the king of Ireland fasted that night at Cumar to the north-east. They remained there till the next morning and what woke them was the three strong battalions mobilizing and forming up at the other side of the ford. The king arose and put on his fighting array. He took a heavy hard-hitting sword sharp, and *** and sheathed (?). It was polished, smooth and hard from hilt to point. He took his two rivetted lengthy spears with well-refined twists and venomous magic charms. He took his great soldier's shield, in which a three-year-old boar could repose cross-wise, with it's sharp iron edge and beautiful supporting chains. After that he took his helmet-like crested flat four-edged *** arranged with glittering precious stones adorning that headgear.Then arose the warlike commanding high-king of Ireland viz., the most sovereign prince, the most pleasing. *** , the *** of ennemies willy-nilly, the king of kings, the soldier of soldiers, the lion for wrath, the furious bear for frenzy, and he was marshalling and ordering his men in in three fiery staunch regiments ;viz., the mercenaries apart, the Colamain apart, and the two thousand veterans round himself. Eochaid recited this rhetoric :
Alas, my heart in a clot of blood.
If I am not dead — I will not live.
I will not live. — I will not die —
There is a plague against renown (?),
there is blindness against the goddess of war.
The contest is decided(?), my three sons, the body
of my body, will fall by me, alas!
The three Finn, the body of my knee,
will vomit coloured streams, alas
12. Then came his mercenaries and warriors to the king of Ireland and said to him : "oh, High-king," said they, "leave to us the youngest of thy children viz., Nar, and we pledge ourselves, though we are but few men and warriors here, that shield-straps will be tightly held by our heroes." So they were speaking, and the leader of the mercenaries, viz., Conall, recited the following poem.
Leave to us thy youngest son,
oh generous Eochaid,
till we fight face to face
in the battle at Crithech Ridge.
We are thrice fifty fair men
with hero's weapons above us.
It is certain we will not flee
till we be dead in the one place.
If Nar should come against us
he will not escape from scythes (?)
By dint of shield and crested sword,
we will not let him escape from the field.
The king of Ireland then gave the mercenaries leave to attack Nar and his battalions and that was a serious undertaking for them. It was then the veterans who were round Eochaid said: "why should we not exert the best of duty and service in attacking thy sons, and why should we not choose the one we have chosen, viz., Lothar the deadly stout-hearted prince who excels in wisdom and valour all the hosts of Ireland ? When thou didst slay Fachtna Fathach son of Ros the Red, we held the kingdom of Ireland stoutly and patiently for thee. When thou didst slay Eochaid Broad-chest in the battle of Clarach in the Coruinn we were a stern triumphant unanimous band of heroes there. We shall fight bravely and hard this day today against the onset of Eochaid's sons till they and their battalions fall by us." When approaching Comar Ford he repeated these verses and said:
"Leave Lothar to us in the meanwhile
that we may retum hurt for hurt.
He is no contemptible man
who took the bright youngest one from us.
We grey-haired men
though great is our fame and renown
we are more reluctant to retreat,
it is harder for us to turn.
Though we be overtaken in running (?)
our weapon's clang is not overtaken (?).
We will not part from Lothar
till we be dead in the one place".
It was then the mercenaries undertook to repel Bres in the battle. After that the men of Ireland took up their positions for battle and combat on the battle-field where they would fight together. They went forcibly threateningly energetically to their posts in battle and to the field of strife. When the sons saw that, they marshalled fierce deadly picked troops against them and made three battalions of equal size and height to attack in a quick charge like one man. They raised their beautiful flowing standards on the morrow (?),and their slender gaping leopard-ensigns, and their weapon-sharp wondrous awful bows of war, and thus came quickly in warlike(?) thundering-wise to the battle. When the mercenaries and the stout Colamain of Tara and the two thousand veterans saw that thing, they marshalled themselves in three close battle formations. It was then both the valiant batallions met, with the bosses of their shining bulging shields and the points of their broad grey lances. They gave each other strong incessant showers of their battle-drinks till they attained to the advantage of their wide-hooped lances and their big clanging dagger-sharp heavy spears.They stooped in the hollows of their hard chased shields and each one attacked the other with slender long swords with variegated branching ***. In a very short time there were many prostrate mangled champions there and shrunken lips pierced through and lacerated trunks. There were many slender feet lopped trom the carcase and naked mangled backbones(?),so that each slope and spot where the armies had appointed with each other that day was a litter of bones, heads, trunks, spear-ends and sharp javelins. They gave that battle-charge in fierce manly vigorous fashion and in soldierly hostile inimical wise till the battle reached the centre (?) of combat. When Bres saw the high-king and the Colamain coming west-ward he attacked them with his battalions boldly proudly and hastily like an enormous rapid tidal-wave coming from the depths of the tempestuous ocean to land, or like the froth of the strong weighty flood falling in swift streams down the ravine of a mountain side. It is thus indeed the battalions dealt death to one another with their grievous red points, their *** viz., their gusty swift arrows, their tested darts with poisoned drops, their rivetted neat lightly-flung spears.
13. Now that was the hour and the time Bres came east over the stream to attack the Colamain, and Cet son of Maga came west over the stream to attack Nar with his battalions. Howbeit the seniors (?) of noble families were pierced and lacerated in that fight, and many were the red streams of blood dropping from heroes' and soldier's bodies throughout the battle from east to west, and hosts and companies were lying prostrate in their blood and running pools ot gore throughout the battle in that hour. Moreover many were the shorn red stumps, and heads without bodies, and soles upturned, and men in death-agony throughout that battle from east to west It was then Bres went in a vehement audacious rush, in a warlike wrathful onset, in a vehement irresistible stream at the hosts of the Colamain. But when the brave active soldier, Raon son of Rochedul, the red king of the Ulaid, saw that (that is, the captain and champion of the Colamain) he spoke thus : "I have advice and fair counsel for you," said he " viz., marshall your weapons of war and combat before you and leave this field we are in to the prince of Ireland (for he is our future chief and lord), and this is a suitable boundary for us : and, if we are followed past this, turn and give him battle and show fight and — it is my opinion that it is before you will be rout and be overthrow." They all agreed to that advice, and when Bres saw the Colamain retreating eastward, he and his army were convinced that this turn meant they were routed. Then Bres ordered their pursuit. "It is the right thing te do," said his men, "till they reach their houses and homes; and not to let go till their heads, their triumphs and their vauntings are transferred to us." When Raon son of Rochedul and his Colamain heard that, they turned simultaneously and faced west. They were so close and thick that the ruddy deep-red points of the smooth long polished hard flat spears, and of the straight thin grey hard irredescent swords piercing body, skin and hard cuirass, were crowded together so that it was a weapon-set venomous enclosure, the hard phalanxed and weaponed *** which they pressed on one another's great shields.
It was then Raon son of Rochedal, the red king, reached the battle and attacked the hosts with martial fury. A path for a hundred to pass and a horn of triumph was cleared before his most warlike face, and he raged among them and slew a hundred armed men fit for battle at every opening and he cleared a royal spacious road to the place where was Bres son of Eochaid. He taunted him roughly and ominously, and they drew their long cruelly hard bare-polished swords and made a brisk bloody disquieting venomous onslaught by which blows were strong and by which shots were aimed over the wooden bulges of the shields, and they plied on their tough coverings and on their shields so that the strokes were gates of death and so that torrents of proud blood leapt through the doors of the men's wounds. But one thing moreover : Bres received fifty severe wounds in that fight, and Raon raised his shining smooth-pointed hard-edged sword and struck a mangling well-aimed blow at Bres' face. Bres raised the shield to protect his head, and the sword fell *** exactly equal before the two champions. "Desist from me, oh royal champion :" said Bres, "till I go and get another shield for I have no strength (?) in the fight without one." — "I am willing," said Raon, "provided, you resume the fight again." Now, after that, both the valiant battalions met on either side and the hard harmony of the swords of the Colamain against the battalions of Bres was an awful piteous crimson onslaught. Thus far their adventures.
14. The adventure of Nar's battalion and the mercenaries is told aloud here as we said previously. They came west over the stream towards the battle, and exploits were multiplied there. Hearts were steeled and champions were severely wounded, and they pressed against each other's bellies so that there were showers of bitterest pouring (?) blood from prostrate weapons, heroes and champions, with the multitude of soldiers, of armour, of fainting men and feeble folk falling in the tempest of the battle, so that the air was resplendent glittering many-coioured wonderful from the clots of brown blood and lumps of gore, so that the plains were thick red-sided hills beneath the soldiers. The mercenaries stood up to the might of the men and fighting-men with Nar, and they held their place in the battle and strife against them ; so that Nar with thrice fifty heroes fell under the onslaught of the mercenaries, and the men inflicted bleeding and wounds and beds of gore, and slaughter, loss and outrage on Nar's army. Thus far the adventure of the mercenaries and the prince of Ireland.
The adventure of the king of Ireland as follows : he came with his two thousand experienced veterans, and they arranged a bright-layered surface of trusty brown-red shields round them outwardly and they ranged stout bundles of sharp spears through the edges of the hard evenly-plaited shields to defend them from the blue weapons of the heroes and soldiers of Lothar. They set the two thousand experienced veterans in the fore-front of that host in dense nimble-footed wise. They placed the high-king behind the battalion and two high-spirited warriors before him to protect him against the points, darts, edges and skirmishes of the battle; viz., Cet the fierce, son of Maga of the Connaught men, and Conall Cernach son of Aimergen of the Ulaid. They advanced with red-weaponed slaughter (?) and hotly ardent onset to the field, and they and Lothar's army met right in the middle of the battle. That was the proud strong wilful hasty fight, and valorous effective conflict, and greedy injurious darting strife with vast wounding, with substantial blows, with swift slinging. The conflicts waxed denser and the strife rose higher, and woe to him who was opposed in that struggle unless he were a stout warrior or a fierce strong-armed soldier. None of Lothar's men came without a broad grey lance, without a shining shield, without a hero's hand-stone in the pierced hollow of the curved shield.
They met vehemently rapidly swiftly, and manfully pluckily serviceably (?), and heroically inimically venomously;, and every one of them remembered his present and former grudges against others then. It was pitiful truly to listen to the wailing of the *** and of the softlings being destroyed, to the groaning of dying men being scourged (?), to the deep moaning of the wounded trying to survive (?), to the shrill and terrible lamenting(?) from the level stretches of the battle at that time. They ceased not from those slaughters till lips were dead and faces blanched and eyes torn out and hair lopped offand bodies mangled by them. The crows and ravens were merry and full from the traces of point and blade of that onslaught. Also sprites and goblins, madmen of the glens, and demons of the air screamed from every quarter and edge of that redoutable battle. So far the doings of the fight.
15. Now as to Lothar : he went to the brink of the ford where he had seen bis father ; and he saw him right in the middle of the ford, and Conall Cernach on his right and Cet son of Maga on his left protecting him ; and as every one brought his stone with him so Lothar had done the same. Then Lothar raised his hand skilmlly and swiftly and put his whole strength into his fore-arm, and the strength of his fore-arm into his fist, and the strength of his fist into the service-stone and made a straight unavoidable shot at his father where he was at the rear of the battle : and the thick stone became a straight careering wheel in the middle of the ford, and it went direct at the high-king. When Cet and Conall Cernach saw that thing they raised both their thick large shields at the same instant against it. Howbeit the strong serviceable stone went onward between the two shields till it struck the broad chest and noble bosom of the high-king so that it laid him prostrate, cross-wise in the very middle of the ford, with his royal broad shield and his hero's armour in the swampy pools of Comar Ford, so that he vomited a froth of black bloody foam in the pool. Then the king of Ireland rose up and where he saw the stone lying he put his foot on it and buried it in the ford, so that only one third of it is above ground, and he kept his foot on it as long as the battle lasted. (It remains still in the ford and the mark of his foot on it, and it remains to the day of judgement.) But when the two kingly soldiers in their strength and manhood, when the two pugnacious war-hounds of bravery and heroism, the two battle-stakes in the day of war and strife, the two pugnacious pillars of shelter and hostage-taking, the two lions of ferocity and fierceness, the two bears of mighty deeds, the two tidal-waves, the two flood-bursts, the two snakes for venom, the two hounds for valour, viz. Conall Cernach and Cet the fierce, when they saw that shot lay the king low they seized their battle and righting array. The two thousand experienced veterans spent their force and fury on the hosts so that bodies were mangled, and trunks were gashed, and eyes were blinded with the obstructing (?) streams of blood pouring across the vision. Weak youths and softlings were overthrown by them in that victory. So there were many feet by necks and necks by feet. The army was spoiled (?) and the host beheaded in that strenuous combat.
16. As concerning Conall Cernach and Cet son of Maga : they went into the battle grimly and with eager step. Like two hammers on a rough iron anvil in the hands of champions and strong warriors was the concert and striking together of the two fortunate and powerful warriors upon the hosts. The battalions closed up on both sides and they began to slay and mutilate them and when the hosts were dense they thinned, and when they were thin they thickened them, avenging the king of Ireland's injury on them. There was not made from that day to this a cast more thoroughly avenged than that cast ; for a hundred armed men fell by each one ofthem, and the same by every one of the veterans in the waging of that same battle. Howbeit there was many a one in that skirmishing right exhausted by the strength of those high-spirited soldiers, till Cet and Lothar met each other in the battle. There was neither talk nor parley between them, but they charged stoutly and with mighty effort across one another's shields each at other. When Conall Cernach saw that thing he wounded Lothar again and again. Lothar retaliated in like fashion, and exchanged wounds and paid back Conall, and kept up his fight with Cet, but indeed there was never a hero in greater stress of battle than to be between the attacks of those two champions. Then armed men came to Lothar to help him ; but the veterans attacked them and drove them in a charge over the ford westward, and they left Lothar alone in his wounds on the field of combat and of strife. When the two other battalions saw that thing they turned their faces west and abandoned their families and their sustenance.
17. It was then nine of the princes of the Ulaid, of Lothar's foster-brethren, charged and lifted him out of the litter of battle on their girdles(?), so that they put a bier of wattles under him on the shoulders of champions and heroes.Howbeit the multitude was so great that the rout was wide-spread and the slaughter increased, and they retreated and came in weary distracted troops and pitiful tired crowds over the ford westward. Eochaid followed them to the western side ; and after that, every one pursued his own stabbing and fighting and these are what fell from this cause, from their camping-ground at the ford to Celt, viz. a thousand armed men. Every one followed up his rallying-call from that to the Shannon, and they made a slaughter of them there so that none of them escaped over the Shannon saving nine with each of the sons. Even these went scattered and demoralized viz. ; nine of them over Snamh-da-en, and nine over Ath Liag, and the third nine over Athlone round Bres. Raon son of Rochedal charged after them over Athlone ; and, though every one else desisted, he did not till he reached the fair Plain of Aoi (son of Allguba the druid). He slew three of each party there and he himself came to the western parts of Connaught. And Bres beheld his fort and his own fair home afar, and none of his men survived to cover his retreat saving his only son, Da Thi. The son stayed behind his father and fought with Raon, and Raon overcame him at last in that combat and beheaded him. Then he pursued Bres fiercely and boldly,and he had not gone far till Raon overtook him, and they made a stout strong powerful assault on each other with their deadly slender weapons. When the garrison of the fort saw them coming with loud shouts they opened the gates of the fort. When Raon saw that, he seized a spear no thicker than a rush, easily flung, which was in his whitened fist, and took careful aim with it till it hit the royal warrior in the middle of the back, so that the spear was an equally balanced cross through the hero. After that he beheaded him in front of his fort and his own fair home, and returned after victory and exultation ; and he had the two heads on the boss of his shield that day.
As to Lothar, he went across Snamh-da-en westward over the Shannon and nine of his people with him. The heroes followed him till he reached his own land in western Connaught at Cera, and he met Cet there, and Cet beheaded his nine men and made a cairn and mound over them. Lothar's Tomb" at the White Lake of Cera is the name of that place after him.
18. As to Nar son of Eochaid ; his people took him with them over West Ford and the mercenaries followed him, Conall at their head. None of them knew he was dead, and they beheaded Nar and his nine followers; so that "Land of Slaughter", in the western districts of Umall, is the name ever after. After that they returned across the Shannon being victorious.
Howso e'er it be, the men of Ireland returned after these exploits and successes to Crithech Ridge and brought those three heads before the king of Ireland. On beholding the heads he said : "it is sad indeed," said he, "I shall die for grief of these heads." They were laid on his lap and he lamented and wept bitterly over them, and recited this poem :
"Dress ye three heads
from the red edge to the red point.
Dress ye their hair about them
and let their faces be cleansed.
Clasp them to your bosoms
the three heads - fair were their bodies -
of the three royal manly princes,
the three illustrious warriors.
Alas, that the men were not saved (?)
after the battle of Comar.
Two heads at my right, one at my left, and my own head between them.
The cruel world is nothing to me
south and north, east and west,
after the sinless corpses
which are uncared for."
After these words he took those heads with him to tara, and the king said when he arrived there : "It is a pity I did not die before I survive you, and my share of sovereignity is henceforth a drink of death." Every movement he made a clot of blood came from his mouth. He spoke these words :
We fought the battle of Cumar.
We drank a deadly draught.
we overthrew ***
They made my face swell
9. Then shivering and chilliness seized the king and he was seven days without taking food or drink. The symptoms of death and dissolutions came upon him, and he instructed his people, and he said to them : "Carry me to the land of Connaught, viz., to Cruachan Rath Aoi, and pile heavy-sodded earth over me there and over the bodies of my three sons ; viz., let the three heads be put one side of me and the three bodies on the other side." The heads were brought to him and he was looking upon them, and the one that happened to be in his hand was the head of Bres, and he said : "Dear indeed was he whose was this head," said he, "and it was not wont for his head to hide from guests or companies, or hosts or armies."
Thus he was speaking, and he recited the following poem.
Many were the gests of Bres' fort,
Bres welcomed them right gladly.
He was not wont to hide from guests
till the day of Crithech Ridge.
Nar, he was the youngest of the men
He was peursued to the sea here,
to the "Land of Slaughter" westward in Umall.
Lothar - of no foolish deeds
though his weapon-frays were many -
The grey-beards pursued him
to Cera and to Cle-na-con6.
He who had been behind them fled before them
No one is fit to tell of it.
I mourn more for blameless Da Thi
than for the three defeated heroes.
Raon dashed between two weapon-points
till he skilfully seized Da Thi.
Da Thi, the trained champion, brought Bres
to his own land from the fair ridge.
There were many tracks behind him.
Bres sent a cloud over the sun.
Though they were many with score of exploits
they are lonely today in his fortress.
20. After that Eochaid said : "The symptoms of death have come upon me. Carry me to the place where my sons were beheaded til Isee their wounds and their scars." So they did all that the king told them, and they lifted him up thereupon and his sons along with him, and thrice fifty mem-at-arms were assigned to each of them viz., to Eochaid and his sons. They took him straight from Tara westward, and the king said : "Dear inded is the inheritance and estate from which I am parted now. I hope that any king who takes Ireland now shall not be succeeded by his son without another king between them." (So that it shall not be a custom for a son to rebel against his father for the sake of the sovereignity of Ireland.) He was bidding farewell to Ireland, and to Tara, and to his people in general; and he repeated the following verses.
Farewell to thee, oh Tara,
round whom kings make fierce contention.
Thy fold is empty tonight
without king or king's heir.
Many were thy shields plundering
and thy fair spears on the road,
and thy stays (?) share of pledges (?)
in the possession of the monarch of Ireland.
Great was my reverence for thee
and under me you were honoured.
With Eochaid, with the man of esploits,
your pleasure was greater than your displeasure.
Alas, your colour will be changed,
your assembly will be destroyed.
I regret - oh heroic exploits -
than I am bidding you farewell.
After that poem Eochaid contemplated the royal fortress, and a burst of sorrow from his heart broke in his chest. He was taken by the route he had commanded, and men and women were weary for him there. He was borne to Cruachan Rath Aoi, and the bodies of his three sons were brought to meet him, and were buried with him, and heavy sods of earth were heaped over them at Cruachan7. Afterwards they were concealed.
So that is the battle of Cumar8 and the tragical death of Eochaid Feidlech's three sons, and of Eochaid Feidlech himself so far.
1. This seems to be an allusion to Tiberius, Drusus being the other adopted son of Augustus.
2. See Laud 610, fol. 112a, where Eochaid Feidlech's regnal date is given as 3 BC. The B Synchronisms in BB date his reign as circa 50 BC.
3. Ban-senchus in Lecan 386 gives : "Crofind daughter of Artech Uchtleathan, wife of Eochaid Feidlech, mother of the three Finna of Emain and of Clothrand. In one birth the four were born. Onga, another daughter of Artech, was mother of Mumain and Ethne." " Ban-senchus in LL 137 has : "Croind, child of Eochaid U., consort of Eochaid Feidlech, mother of Medb.. and the Find Emna..." D.2.1., p. 95 and H.3.17., col.735 have "Cloand daughter of Airtech Uchtleathan."
4. Same as Clothra, married to Conchobar mac Nessa (Cath Boinde, Leitir Ruide) and Clothra, married to Fergus mac Roigh (Cogadh Fergussa), and Clothra married to Cairbre Cennderg (LL p. 379). Queen of Cruachan after Eochaid Feidlech, dethroned by Medb. Different sources call her mother of Furbaide, or Cormac, sons of Conchobar mac Nessa.
5. CP. H.3.17. for the magical hood of Clothra.
6. The prose paragraph on Lothar's death does not mention this place but talks of "Fert Lothair". This points to the present tale being a compound of two, or more, earlier versions.
7. The tradition of their burial is really ancient. The Senchus na Relec in L.U. alludes to it : "Oenach Cruachain, it was there the race of Eremon were used to bury till Cremthann son of Lugaid Riab-nderg viz.... Eocho Feidlech with his three sons (the three Find Emhna), Eocho Airem... the six daughters of Eocho Feidlech... " cp. poem by Torna Eigeas in L. U.
8. The oldest title for the tale is that in LL p. 190; Argain Echach for a macaib. A later Ms. (D.4.2.) gives Cath Droma Criaich or Cath Atha Comair. Possibly we have another form of title here Oighidh thri Meic Eochaigh Fheidhligh.
Sources : Margaret C. Dobbs, Revue Celtique, 43