Find and the Phantoms

Echtra Fhind i nDerc Ferna
Book of Leinster

Version A

Trans. Whitley Stokes

Today the king went to a fair,
The fair of Liffey with its splendour.
Pleasant it is to every one who goes thither !
Not so is Guaire the Blind 1.

Not "Guaire the Blind" was I called
On the day we went at the king's call,
To the house of Fiachu who wrought valour,
To the fortress over Badammar.

(It was) Oenach Clochair that Find greatened,
And the champions of Ireland on every hilltop.
Munstermen from the plain greatened it,
And Fiachu son of Eogan.

The champions' horses were brought, it is known,
And the Munstermen's horses, into the great contest.
They ran three clear races
On the green of Mairid's son.

A black horse belonging to Dil son of Two-Raids
Was in every game that he played.
Unto the rock over Loch Gair
He won the three prizes of the meeting.

Thereafter Fiachu asked the horse
Of the king, of his grandfather :
He promised him a hundred of every (kind of) cattle
To be given to him in recompense.

Then the wizard there uttered
A good answer to Eogan's son :
"Take my blessing : take the horse,
And bestow it for thy honour's sake."

"There for thee is the black swift horse"
Saith Fiachu to the prince of the champions,
"There is my famous chariot,
And there is a horse for thy charioteer."

There is a sword, the pledge of hundreds,
There is a shield from the lands of Greeks,
There is a spear with a spell of venom,
And my silvern weapons.

There for thee are three hounds — fair their colour —
Feirne and Derchaem and Dualath,
With their collars of yellow gold,
With their chains of white bronze.

If thou preferrest to have somewhat
O son of Cumall, O overking !
Thou wilt not go hence without a gift,
prince of the fierce champions !"

Then Find rose up :
Thankful was he to Eogan's son :
Each blessed the other :
Gallant was their rising together.

Thereafter Find went forward
We went with him, three score hundred,
Unto Cacher, to Cluain-da-loch,
We all went from the meeting.

During three days and three nights — it was a festival —
We all abode in Cacher' s house,
Without lack of ale or food
For the hosts together with their overking.

Fifty rings were given him,
Fifty horses and fifty cows :
Find gave the price of his ale
To Cacher son of Cairill.

Then Find went over Luachair
To the strand at Berramain.
Find rested with Ireland's champions
Over the bank of the fair-watered lake.

Find went to gallop his black horse
On the strand at Berraman.
I and Cailte through wantonness
We raced against him, it was deception.

As the king saw (us)
He smites his horse to Tralee,
From Tralee to Lerg Daim glais,
Over Heatherfield and over Findnais.

Over Moy-da-eo, over Moin-Cend
Unto Old-yew, over Old-glen,
To the estuary of fair Flesc,
To the pillars of Crofinn.

Over Sruth-Muinne, over Moin-Cet,
Over the estuary of Lemain, no falsehood,
From Lemain to Loch Léin,
Both smooth and unsmooth.

As to us, we were not slow :
Swift were our leaps,
One of us on his left, one on his right,
There is no deer that we would not overtake.

One hand towards Flesc, past the Wood of the Cairn,
Past Mungairit of the son of the Stammering Champion,
Find did not rein in his horse
Till (he came) to the hillock named Bairnech.

As we reached the hillock
It is we that were first at coming to it :
Though we were foremost there
The king's horse was not very slow.

"Night (is) this, end of the day",
Saith Find himself, no error,
"We three have come hither :
Go forward to seek a hunting lodge".

To look the king looked forth
At the rock on his left hand,
Till he saw the house with its fire
In the glen before us.

Said Find, the prince of the champions :
"There is a house I never saw before !
O Chailte, I never heard of a house
In this glen, though I am knowing".

"We had better go and find out :
There are many things we do not know :
It is a marvel of hospitality, it is better than everything,
O son of Cumall, O overking !"

We three went on to the house,
A night's journey that was lamentable,
When wailing was found, and scream and cry,
And a household fierce, vehement.

A grey giant in front on its floor
Seizes our horses swiftly,
Fastens the door of the house
With iron hooks.

"My welcome, famous Find!"
Saith the giant cruelly :
"(It is) long till thou camest hither,
son of Cumall of Almain !"

We sit on the hard bedrail :
He tends us for one hour :
He flings firewood of elder on his fire :
It almost smothered us with the smoke.

A hag abode in the great house
With three heads on her thin neck :
A headless man on the other side,
With one eye (protruding) from his breast.

"Make music for the king !"
Saith the giant without sorrow.
"Arise, folk that are within,
Sing ye a strain for the kingly champion !"

Nine bodies arise out of the recess
From the side nearest us,
And nine heads on the other side
On the iron bed-rail.

They raise nine harsh shrieks :
They were discordant though uttered together :
The hag replies separately,
And the (headless) trunk answers.

Though passing harsh the strain of every one.
Harsher was the strain of the trunk :
What strain of them was not desirable
Save the strain of the one-eyed man ?

That strain which was sung to us
Would waken the dead out of mould :
It almost broke the bones of our heads :
The concert was not melodious.

The giant gets him from us in front,
Lifts on him the fire-wood-axe,
Deftly smites our horses,
Flays, destroys without delaying2.

"Be silent, O Chailte, as thou art !"
Saith Find himself without falsehood.
"Well for us if he grant (life) to us,
To me and thee and Ossin."

Fifty spits whereon were points
He brought with him of spits of rowan :
He put a joint on each spit separately,
And arranged them by the hearth.

Of those not a spit was cooked
When they were taken from the fire.
He brought with him before Find
Raw flesh on spits of rowan.

"Take away thy food, giant !
For I have never devoured raw food.
I will never eat it from today till Doom
Because of being foodless for one watch".

"If thou hast come into our house,"
Saith the giant, "to refuse our food,
"It is certain that we shall go against yourselves,
O Cailte, O Find, O Ossin !"

After that we rose up :
We seize our swords hardily :
Each grasps another's head :
It was an occasion of fighting hand to hand.

The fire that lay below is quenched :
Its flame or embers was not clear :
We are driven into a dark black nook,
We three in one place.

When we were head to head
And there was no help save Find,
We had been dead, great the deed,
Had it not been for Find alone.

We were head to head within
All through the night till morning,
Till the sun lighted up the house
At the time of rising on the morrow.

When the sun rose
Each man falls hither and thither :
A mist falls into every one's head
So that he was dead on_the spot.

For a short time we lay in our rest :
We rise up, and we are whole !
There the house is hidden from us :
Every one of the household is hidden.

Thus arose Find of Inisfail,
With his own horse in his hand :
Whole were (we) all, both head and foot :
Every blemish was absent.

We fared thence wearily, feebly ;
We took our bearings and saw which way we had to go :
We fared, though it was long thereafter,
To the strand by Berramar.

They asked of us tidings :
We had no wish to deny it:
"We found", saith Find, "on our way
Tribulation for our billeting."

Those are they that came against us,
The three Shapes out of Yew-glen,
To take vengeance on us for their sister
Whose name was Cullenn Wide-maw.

We went on a hunting round
All about the isle of Elga :
We searched many mountains and many plains,
Many rough places and many fairs.


1. Oisin's name at the time this poem was composed.

2. The Ms. RIA 24 P 5 insert here a stanza which is missing in the Book of Leinster (see Marieke van Kranenburg, An edition of the three known versions of "Finn and the phantoms" with translation and textual notes - University of Utrecht).

Cailte said to Finn,
A speech that was not fully good with me:
"The giant has killed our horses,
Let us punish him without delay."

Sources : Whitley Stokes, Revue Celtique 7