The Sick-bed of Cuchulain, and the only jealousy of Emer

Serglige Con Culainn ocus Óenét Emire
Lebor na h-Uidre

Trans. Eugene O'Curry



The Ultonians had a custom of holding a fair every year, which lasted the three days before Samhain [the first of November], the day of Samhain itself, and the three days that followed it. That was the period of time which the Ultonians devoted to the holding of the Fair of Samhain in the Plain of Muirtheimne every year ; and nothing whatever was done by them during that time but games and races, pleasure and amusement, and eating and feasting ; and it is from this circumstance that the Tertiae (three days) of Samhain are still observed throughout Erinn.

On one occasion a fair was held by the Ultonians in the Plain of Muirtheimne, and the reason [or origin] of holding the fair was, because every one exhibited his trophies of war and valour always at Samhain. It was a custom with them, now, after the trophies, to hold the fair. [The trophies were,] i.e., the top of the tongue of every man they slew to bring it with them in their pouches ; and they used to bring the tongues of cattle to multiply the trophies ; and every man then exhibited his trophies, but it was each in his turn; and the manner in which they did this was, to have their swords lying across their thighs when showing the trophy, because their swords would turn against themselves if they held forth a false trophy. The reason of this was, because demons were accustomed to speak to them from their arms; and it was hence that their arms were inviolable1.

All the Ultonians came to the fair on this occasion, except two alone, namely Conall Cearnach and Fergus Mac Roigh.

Let the fair be commenced, said the Ultonians. It shall not be commenced, said Cuchulain, until Conall and Fergus have arrived, (for Fergus was his [military] tutor, and Conall was his fellow-student).

Sencha [the poet] said then : Let us play chess for the present, and let poems be sung for us, and let games be arranged. This was then done.

Whilst they were thus engaged, a flock of birds alighted on the lake in their presence, and in Erinn there were not birds more beautiful.

The women present were desirous to have the birds which moved on it [the lake]. They all began to contend with one another about the possession of the birds.

Eithne Aitenchaithrech [i.e. of the hairy face], King Conchobar's wife, said : "I must have a bird of these birds on each of my two shoulders". "We must all have the same", said the other women. "If any one is to get them, it is I that must first get them", said Eithne Inghuba, Cuchulain's mistress.

"What shall we do?" said the women. "I shall tell you", said Lebharcaim, the daughter of Oa and Adarc, "I will go from you to Cuchulain to ask him".

She went then to Cuchulain, and said: "The women desire to get these birds from you". He threatened to strike her with his sword, and said : "The courtesans of Ulster will have nothing less than to send us a bird-catching to-day !" "It is not proper for you, indeed", said Lebharcaim, "to be angry with them, because it is through you the women of Ulster have one of their three blemishes, namely, to be half blind". For, the three blemishes of the women of Ulster were, stooping, stammering, and half-blindness. For every woman who loved Conall Cearnach became bent ; every woman who loved Cuscraidh Menn, the son of Conchobar, got an impediment in her speech ; in the same way every woman who loved Cuchulain became blind of an eye, like Cuchulain, and from the intensity of her love for him ; because it was his practice, when he was out of humour, to draw one of his eyes back, so that a crane could not reach it in his head ; the other he would press out so that it would be as large as a heifer's cauldron.

"Yoke for us the chariot, Laegh", said Cuchulain. Laegh yoked the chariot, and Cuchulain went into the chariot, and dealt the birds a tath-beim [that is, a vertical stroke] of his sword, so that their feet and their wings clove to the water.

They caught them all then, and carried them away, and distributed them among the women, so that there was not a woman among them who did not receive two birds, but Eithne Inghuba alone. He came at last to his own wife. "Your spirits appear to be bad", said Cuchulain to her. "They are not bad", said she. "Because (said he) it is by me the birds have been distributed among them". "Good reason you have", said she, "because there is not among them a woman who would not share her love and friendship with you ; whilst as regards me, no other person shares my love, but you alone".

"Let not your spirits be low, therefore", said Cuchulain, "for should birds come into the Plain of Muirtheimne, or upon the Boyne, you shall have the two most beautiful birds among them".

It was not long after until they saw two birds on the lake, linked together by a chain of red gold. They chaunted a low melody which brought sleep upon the assembly. Cuchulain went towards them. "If you would listen to our advice", said Laegh (Cuchulain's charioteer), and said Eithne, "you would not approach them" ; "for", said she, "there is a power at the back of these birds ; let birds be got for me besides them". "Is it possible that you question my word?" said Cuchulain.

"Put a stone into that sling, Laegh" [said he]. Laegh then took a stone and placed it in the sling. Cuchulain let the stone fly at them. It was an erring cast. "Woe and alas", said he. He took another stone, he let it fly at them, and it passed them. "I am a wretch", said he ; "since I have first taken arms, I have not made an erring throw until this day".

He then threw his heavy spear [croisech], and it passed through the flying wing of one of the birds. They plunged under the water.

Cuchulain went away then in bad spirits, and put his back to a rock, where sleep soon fell upon him. And he saw [through his sleep] two women coming towards him. One woman had a green cloak, the other had a five-folded crimson cloak on.

The woman with the green cloak went up to him, and smiled at him, and she gave him a stroke of a horse switch. The other went up to him then and smiled at him, and struck him in the same manner ; and they continued for a long tune to do this, that is, each of them in turn striking, until he was nearly dead. They went away from him then.

All the Ultonians perceived what had happened, and they asked if they would awaken him. "No", said Fergus, "do not move him before night".

Cuchulain stood up afterwards through his sleep. "Who has thus used you ?" said the Ultonians to him.

He was not, however, able to converse with them.

"Let me be brought", said he afterwards, "to my bed of decline, namely, to the Teti Breac2, not to Dun Imrith3, nor to DunDelca4".

"Let him be brought to [his wife] Emer, to Dun Delca", said Laegh. "No", said he, "let me be brought to the Teti Breac". He was then carried there, and he continued to the end of a year in that place without speaking to any one.

One day before the next November, at the end of the year, the Ultonians were around him in the house, namely Fergus, between him and the wall, and Conall Cearnach between him and the door ; Lugaidh Reo-derg between him and his pillow [holding him up] ; and Eithne Inghuba at his feet.

As they happened, now, to be thus situated, a man came into the house to them, and sat on the front rail of the bed in which Cuchulain lay.

"What has brought you there?" said Conall Cearnach. "I will tell", said he : "if the man who is here were in health, he would be a protection against all the Ultonians ; and in the great illness and debility in which he now is, he is the more a protection against them". "I fear nothing", said he, "because it is to converse with him I have come". "You are welcome, you need fear nothing", said the Ultonians. He then stood up and sang for them these verses :

"O Cuchulain ! in thy illness,
Thy stay should not be long ;
If they were with thee, — and they would come, —
The daughters of Aedh Abrat.

Liban, in the plain of Cruaich, has said: —
She who sits at the right of Labraid the quick, —
That it would give heartfelt joy to Fand
To be espoused to Cuchulain.

Happy that day, of a truth,
On which Cuchulain would reach my land ;
He should have silver and gold,
He should have abundance of wine to drink.

If my friend on this day should be
Cuchulain, the son of Soalte,
All that he has seen in his sleep
Shall he obtain without his army.

In the plain of Muirthemne, here in the south,
On the night of Samhuin, without ill luck,
From me shall be sent Liban,
O Cuchulain, to heal thy disease.

O Cuchulain !"

"Who are you?" said they. "I am Aengus, the son of Aedh Abrat", said he. The man then departed from them, and they knew not whence he came, nor where he went to. Cuchulain then sat up and spoke.

"It is time, indeed", said the Ultonians ; "relate to us what has been done".

"I saw", said he, "a vision about this time last year". He told them then all that he had seen.

"What shall be done now, my master, Conchobar?" said Cuchulain. "This shall be done", said Conchobar; "you shall go now until you reach the same rock".

Cuchulain went forth then until he reached the same rock, when he saw the woman with the green cloak coming towards him. "That is well, Cuchulain", said she. "It is not well, indeed; what was the object of your visit to us last year?" said Cuchulain.

"It was not to injure you, indeed", said she, "that we came, but it was to seek your love. I have come now to speak to you", said the woman, "from Fand, the daughter of Aedh Abrat, who has been abandoned by Manannan Mac Lir5, and she has conceived an affection for you. Liban, indeed, is my own name. I have a message for you, too, from my husband, Labraid of the quick hand at sword. He will give you the woman on your giving him one day's aid in battle against Senach the distorted, and against Eochaidh n-Iuil, and against Eoghan Inbhir6".

"I am not well enough, indeed", said he, "to make battle against men to-day". "Short is the time that that shall be the case", said Liban; "you shall be healed, and what has been lost of your strength shall be restored to you ; and you ought to do this for Labraid, because he is the noblest of the champions of the world".

"In what place is he?" said Cuchulain. "He is in Magh Mell7 [Plain of Mell]", said she.

"I had better be going elsewhere", said the woman. "Let Laegh go along with you", said Cuchulain, "to examine the land from which you have come". "Let him come then", said Liban.

They went forward then until they reached [recte, to reach] the place in which Fand was. Liban then went up to Laegh and caught him by the shoulder. "You shall not escape, O Laegh, this day", said Fand [recte, Liban], "unless you are protected by a woman". "That is not what we were most accustomed to hitherto," said Laegh, "woman-protection". "Alas, and eternal alas ! that it is not Cuchulain that is in your place now", said Liban, "I would be glad that it were he that were there", said Laegh.

They went away then until they arrived by the side of the island8. They saw the little copper ship upon the lake before them. They then went into the ship, and they went into the island, and they went to the door of a house ; they saw a man coming towards them, and Liban said unto him :

"Where is Labraid of the quick hand at sword
Over victorious troops ;
Victorious in the body of a strong chariot.
He looks upon bloody spears ?"

The man answered her then, and said to her:

"Labraid is quickening clanns, —
It is not slow he is ever in good, —
Assembling a battle, a slaughter will be made,
Of which the plain of Fidghae will be filled".

They went then into the house ; and they saw three times fifty couches in the house; and three times fifty women on them. They all bid welcome to Laegh. This was what they all said to him: "Thou art welcome, Laegh, on account of the person with whom thou hast come, and from whom thou hast come, and on thine own account".

"What wilt thou do now, O Laegh?" said Liban; "wilt thou go to talk to Fand at once?" "I will, if I but know the place that she is in" [said Laegh]. "I will tell thee : she is in a separate chamber", said Liban. They went then to converse with her ; and she bid them welcome after the same manner [as above].

Fand, now, was the daughter of Aedh [Hugh] Abrad, i.e., aedh is fire, the fire of the eye is the pupil. Fand, then, is the name of the tear which passes over it. It was for her purity she was so named, and for her beauty ; for there was nothing in life with which she could be compared besides it.

As they were thus there, they heard the rolling of Labraid's chariot coming to the island. "Labraid's spirit is bad to-day", said Liban ; "let us go to salute him". They then went out, and Liban bid him welcome, and said :

"Welcome, Labraid of the quick hand at sword ; the representative of legions ; the shooter of light spears ; the cleaver of shields ; the scatterer of heavy spears ; the wounder of bodies ; the slayer of nobles ; the seeker of slaughters ; most beautiful in appearance ; destroyer of hosts ; scatterer of wealth ; assaulter of champions ; welcome, welcome, Labraid ! "

Labraid did not yet speak, and the maid said again :

"Welcome, Labraid of the quick hand at battle-sword; ready his stipend ; munificent to all ; seekful of battle ; wounded his side; faithful his word; rigorous his justice; benign his sovereignty ; strong his right arm ; avengeful his deed ; gentle to his steeds ; Labraid, welcome ; welcome, Labraid".

Labraid still did not answer : she spoke another lay again :

"Welcome, Labraid, of the swift hand at sword; most valiant of warriors ; haughtiest of chiefs ; destroyer of strength ; fighter of battle ; exterminator of champions ; elevator of the weak ; subjugator of the strong ; welcome, Labraid ; welcome, Labraid".

"What you say is not just, O wife !" said the man Labraid ; and then he said :

"It is not haughtiness nor pride, O wife, nor a high spirit of happiness, that confuses our senses : a battle approaches, of double-edged spears many, of dangerous plying of red swords upon the fists of right and left hands ; [equal to] many is the one heart of Echaidh Iuil : we cannot have any haughtiness. It is not haughtiness, it is not pride in me, O wife ! "

"Your spirits mil be good indeed", said the wife, said Liban, to him : "Laegh, Cuchulain's charioteer, is here, and has a message for you from him to say that he will join you in your expedition". Labraid then bade him welcome, and said :

"Thou art welcome, O Laegh, for sake of the woman with whom thou hast come, and the man from whom thou hast come. Return thou to thy home, O Laegh", said Labraid, "and Liban shall go after thee".

Laegh came away then to Emania, and he told his story to Cuchulain and to all besides.

Cuchulain then rose up, and he passed his hand over his face ; and he pleasantly conversed with Laegh, and he felt that the stories which the youth related to him were a strengthening to his spirits.

There was, now, a meeting of the four great provinces of Erinn held at this time, to see if they could find a person whom they would select, to whom they would give the sovereignty of Erinn ; because they deemed it an evil that the Hill of Supremacy and Lordship of Erinn, that is Tara, should be without the rule of a king upon it ; and they deemed it an evil that the tribes should be without a king's government to judge their houses. For the men of Erinn had been without the government of a king over them during a period of seven years, after the death of Conaire9, at Bruighean Da Derga, until this great meeting of the four provinces of Erinn, at Tara of the Kings, in the court of Cairbre Niafear.

These, now, were the kings who were in that meeting, namely, Medbh and Ailill, Curoi, and Tighernach Tetbannach, son of Luchta, and Finn Mac Rossa.

These men, now, would not hold counsel for [the election of] a king with the Ultonians, because these men were of one accord opposed to the Ultonians.

There was then prepared a bull-feast by them there, in order that they should discover out of it to whom they would give the sovereignty.

Thus was that bull-feast prepared, namely : a white bull was killed, and one man eat enough of his flesh, and of his broth ; and he slept under that meal ; and a charm of truth was pronounced on him by four Druids ; and he saw in a dream the shape of the man who should be made king there, and his form, and his description, and the sort of work that he was engaged in. The man screamed out of his sleep and described what he saw to the kings, namely, a young, noble, strong man, with two red streaks around him, and he sitting over the pillow of a man in a decline in Emain Macha [Emania].

A message was then sent with this description to Emania.

The Ultonians at the time were assembled around Conchobar in Emania, and Cuchulain in his decline there. He [the messenger] related his story to Conchobar, and to the nobles of Ulster also.

"There is with us a free and nobly descended youth of that description", said Conchobar, "namely, Lugaidh Reoderg, the son of the Three Fair Twins ; the pupil of Cuchulain ; over whose pillow he sits in his bed within, by himself, solacing his tutor, that is Cuchulain, who is in his bed of decline".

Cuchulain rose up [then] and began to instruct his pupil, upon which he said.



The Verbal Instruction of Cuchulain.


"You shall not be a terrified man in a furious, slavish, [oppressive, severe,] fierce battle. You shall not be flighty, inaccessible, haughty. You shall not be intractable, proud, precipitate, passionate. You shall not be bent down by the intoxication of much wealth. You shall not be an ale-polluting flea10 in the house of a provincial king." You shall not make many feasts to dispense to foreigners. You shall not visit disreputable people, incapable [of entertaining you as a king]. You shall not let prescription close on illegal possession11. Let witnesses be examined of who is the heir of land. Let the historians12 combine in truthful action in your presence. Let the lands of the brethren be ascertained in their lifetime, and their increase. If generations have multiplied in branches, who has each been generated from ? Let them be called up ; let them be revived on oath13. The place that the dead [their ancestors] have resided in. Let the heir be preserved in his lawful possession. Let the strangers be driven off it [the patrimony] by the strength of battle.

"You will not relate garrulously. You will not discourse noisily. You will not mock, you will not insult, you will not deride old people. You will not be ill-opinioned [you will not suppose ill] of any one. You will not make difficult demands. You will not refuse any one for his cow. [You will have] a law of lending, a law of extortion, a law of pawning. You will be obedient to the teaching of the wise. You will be recollective of the instructions of the old. You will be a follower of the rules of your fathers. You will not be cold-hearted to friends. You will be strong to your foes. You will not be a retorter of abuse in your many battles. You will not be a tattler and abuser. You will not waste ; you will not hoard ; you will not alienate. You will bear to be reproved for unbecoming deeds. You will not sacrifice your truthfulness to the will of men. You will not be a releaser [namely, of bondmen and prisoners without security taken for them], that you be not repentant. You will not be a competitor, that you be not jealous. You will not be lazy, that you be not inert. You will not be too importunate, that you be not mean. Do you consent to follow these words, my son?"

Then Lugaidh spoke as here below to Cuchulain :

"As long as it is well, they shall be all kept;
For every one shall know
That nothing shall be deficient of it ;
It shall be verified, if practicable".

Lugaidh then repaired, along with the messengers, to Tara, and he was proclaimed as king ; and he slept in Tara that night ; and after that, all [the assembly] returned to their homes.



The Story of Cuchulain is what is told here now.


"You are to go from me, O Laegh", said Cuchulain, "to where Emer is, and tell her that it was women of the hills [fairy women] that came to me and injured me, and tell her that I am getting better and better, and to come and reside with me".

Then the servant said, to strengthen Cuchulain, what follows :

"It is great idleness in a champion to yield to the sleep of a bed of decline, because genaiti (i.e. women) from Ten-mhagh Trogaighi (i.e. Maigh Mell,) have appeared to you, who overcame you, who manacled you, who bound you within the power of idle women ; start (i.e. arise) out of death (i.e. disease), by maidens wounded (i.e. by women of the hills), for all your strength has come (i.e. champion strength), among warrior chiefs (i.e. heroes), until you rush to the place of warriors — until you have done (i.e. performed) — until you have achieved mighty deeds, where active Labraid leads his rushing men. Arise ! that you may be great". It is great idleness.14

The servant went then to where Emer was, and told her how Cuchulain was.

"Bad of thee, O servant", said she, "since it is thou that frequentest the hills, that the means of curing thy master are not procured by thee. It is a pity for the Ultonians", said she, "not to seek his perfect cure. Had it been Conchobar that was in bonds, or Fergus that could not sleep, or Conall Cearnach who had received wounds, it is Cuchulain that would relieve them".

She then sang a lay after this manner :

O Son of Riangabhra, alas !
Though often you visit the hill,
Not early have you hither brought
The cure of the beautiful son of Dectere15."

Pity the Ultonians, of boundless valour.
Both in tutors and in pupils,
Not to have searched the world's expanse
For a cure for their friend Cuchulain.

If it were Fergus that could not sleep,
And that any Druid's skill could heal him,
Dectere's son at home would not sleep
Until he had found a Druid to perform it.

If it were Conall, in like manner.
That suffered from wounds and sores,
The Hound [Cuchulain] would search the world wide,
Till he had procured a doctor to cure him.

If upon Laeghaire Buadhach [the gifted].
There had come battle [wounds] intolerable.
He would have searched all Erinn's land
To cure the son of Connaid, son of Iliach.

If it had been upon the vindictive Celtchair,
There fell sleep and permanent sickness, —
Both night and day should see the journeys,
Among the hills, of Setanta16.

Had it been Furbaidhe, chief of warriors,
That lay in his bed of tedious illness,
He would have searched the convex world
Until he had found what would save him.

The [fairy] host of the hill of Trim17 has killed him,
They have parted him from his great valour,
The Hound [Cuchulain] does not excel hounds,
Since he caught the sleep of the hill of Brugh17.

Uchone, with sickness I am seized,
For the Hound [Cuchulain] of Conchobar's smith18,
It shall be to me a sickness of heart and of body,
Should I not succeed in effecting his cure.

Uchone, it bleeds my heart,
That illness should rest on the rider of the plain.
That he could not have hither come
To the Fair of the plain of Murtheimne.

The reason why from Emania he comes not, is
Because of the [noble] form with which he has parted :
It is weak and dead my voice is,
Because that he is in a bad condition.

A month, a quarter, and a year
Without sleep — it is my fixed rule,
And no person whose words were sweet,
Have I heard, O son of Riangabhra.

O son of Riangabhra.

Emer then went forward after this to Emania to attend on Cuchulain ; and she sat in the bed in which Cuchulain was, and she was saying: "It is a disgrace to you", said she, "to lie down for a woman's love; because constant lying down will bring illness to you"; and she continued to converse with him, and she spoke a poem :

Arise, O champion of Ulster.
Mayst thou awake from thy sleep in health and happiness ;
Behold the King of Macha19 of lovely form,
He will not allow thy great sleep.

Behold his shoulder full of crystal,
Behold his drinking horns with trophies.
Behold his chariots which sweep the valleys,
Behold the movements of his chess-warriors.

Behold his champions in their might,
Behold his noble, polished dames.
Behold his kings of valorous career,
Behold their exceedingly noble queens.

Behold the beginning of clear winter.
Behold all its wonders in their turn.
Behold thou that which it produces.
Its cold, its length, its want of beauty.

It is inertness, it is not good, heavy sleep,
It is adding enervation to incapacity for combat.
Long sleep is [the same as] drinking beyond a surfeit.
Debility is only second to death.

Awake thou from the fairy sleep thou hast drunk :
Cast it off with great, excessive ardour.
Many flowery words thou hast loved ;
Arise, O champion of Ulster.

Arise, O champion of Ulster.

Cuchulain then arose after that, and he drew his hand over his face, and he put his inertness and his heaviness off him ; and he got up then, and he went forth afterwards till he stood in a place which he sought**. And he saw coming towards him, after that, Liban ; and the woman spoke to him ; and she was inviting him to the fairy mansion (Sidh). "What place is Labraid in?" said Cuchulain. "I will tell", said she :

Labraid is now upon a pure lake,
Whither do resort companies of women.
Thou wouldst not feel fatigued by coming to his land,
If thou wouldst but visit Labraid the quick.

Happy house which a soft woman orders,
An hundred learned men in it that are adepts ;
Crimson in its most beautiful hue
Is the likeness of the cheek of Labraid.

He shakes a wolf's head of battle slaughter
Before his thin red sword ;
He crushes the armour of bounding hosts,
He shatters the broad shields of champions.

Delight of the eye is his skin in the fight,
At all points he plies his valour feats ;
The most worthy of men is he,
A man who has cut down many thousands.

The most valiant of warriors, the most famous in story,
Has reached the land of Eochaidh Iuil ;
Hair on him like rings of gold, —
The smell of wine comes with his breath.

The most illustrious of men that seek battle,
Whose fierceness is felt by distant boundaries :
Swiftly glide both boats and steeds
Past the island in which resides Labraid.

A man of many foreign deeds,
Labraid of the quick hand at sword ;
He cleaves not [men] till so compelled,
He maintains the repose of his hosts.

Bridles and collars of red gold to his steeds,
And it is not these alone, —
Columns of silver and of crystal
Are what sustain the house in which he is.

Labraid is now upon, etc

"I shall not go", said Cuchulain, "on the invitation of a woman". "Let, then, Laegh come thither", said the woman, "to know everything". "Let him, then", said Cuchulain.

Laegh then went along with the woman, and they went past Magh Luada20, and past the Bilé Buadha21, and past Oenach Emna22, and to Oenach Fidhgha23, and it was there Aed Abrat was with his daughters.

Fand bid welcome to Laegh. "What was it that caused Cuchulain not to come?" said she. "He did not like to come on a woman's invitation, and also until he knew if it was from thee that an invitation reached him" [said Laegh]. "It was from me", said she, "and let him come soon to visit us, for it is this day the battle is to be fought".

Laegh went back to the place in which Cuchulain was, and Fand along with him. "How is this, O Laegh?" said Cuchulain. Laegh answered, and said: "It is time to come", said he, "for the battle is being fought to day". And it was so he was saying it ; and he spoke a poem :

I arrived, in my happy sportiveness.
At an uncommon residence, though it was common ;
At the Card24 with scores of bands ;
Where I found Labraid of the long flowing hair.

And I found him in the Card,
Sitting among thousands of weapons ;
Yellow hair on him of most splendid colour.
An apple of gold closing it25.

And when he recognized me there,
With his crimson cloak five times folded,
He said unto me, "Wilt thou come with me
To the house in which is Faelbe Finn26 ?"

The two kings are in the house, —
Failbe Finn and Labraid, —
Three times fifty [men] around each of them ;
It is the number of the one house.

Fifty beds in its right [south] side,
And fifty on their right ;
Fifty beds in its left [north] side,
And fifty on their left.

A range of beds, crimson,
Green, white, gold-blazoned ;
The noble candle which is there
Is the brilliant precious stone.

There are at the western door.
In the place where the sun goes down,
A stud of steeds with gray-speckled manes,
And another crimson-brown.

There are at the eastern door
Three stately trees of crimson pure,
From which sing the birds of perpetual bloom
For the youth from out of the kingly rath.

There is a tree at the door of the court ;
It cannot be matched in harmony ;
A tree of silver upon which the sun shines.
Like unto gold is its splendid lustre.

There are there three score of trees,
In contact their tops come in contact ;
Three hundred are fed from each tree,
With fruit varied and ready prepared.

There is a fountain in the noble court.
With its three times fifty speckled cloaks,
And a pin of gold, in full lustre.
In the ear of each speckled cloak.

There is a vat there of merry mead,
A-distributing upon the household.
Still it lives, constant the custom.
So that it is ever full, ever and always.

There is a maiden in the noble house,
Who excels all the women of Erinn ;
With yellow hair she comes out, —
And she is beautiful, all accomplished.

The converse which she holds with all,
It is delightful, it is uncommon ;
The hearts of all men do break
For her love and her affection.

The noble maiden said :
"Who is the servant whom we do not know?
If thou beest he, come hither a while, —
The servant of the man from Muirtheimne".

I went up softly, softly, —
I was seized with dread for my honour ;
She said to me : "Will he come hither,
The only son of constant Dechtere ?"

'Tis a pity that he [you] did not go a while ago,
And every one soliciting him [you] ;
That he [you] might see in its actual state
The great house which I have seen.

If all Eire had been mine.
And the sovereignty of the happy hills,
I would give it, no trifling deed.
For constant dwelling in the place that I arrived at.

I arrived, etc.

"That is good", said Cuchulain. "It is good", said Laegh, "and it is proper to go to reach it ; and everything in that country is good". And Laegh then said farther to him relating the happiness of the fairy mansion :

I saw a country, bright, noble.
In which is not spoken falsehood nor guile ;
In it there is a king of very great hosts,
Labraid of the quick hand at sword.

As I was passing over Magh Luada,
I beheld the gifted tree ;
I passed the flowery plain
With two rapid advancing feet.

It was then Liban said,
In the place in which we were,
"How dear to me would be the miracle.
If it were Cuchulain that were in thy shape".

Beautiful the women, gifted without limit,
The daughters of Aedh Abrat ;
The form of Fand of renowned beauty,
No one could reach but the queens of the kings.

I will say, — for it is I that have heard, —
[Among] the race of Adam without transgression,
The form which is Fand's, I shall ever say,
That there is not among them its like.

I saw champions in splendour,
With arms at cutting ;
I saw clothes of beautiful colours, —
They were not the raiments of men ignoble.

I saw beautiful women at feasting,
I saw all their daughters,
I saw noble youths
A-going over the woody hill.

I saw the professors of music within,
Delighting the maiden ;
Were it not for the quickness with which I came out,
They would have left me powerless.

I saw the hill27 which was there, —
A beautiful woman is Eithne Inguba ;
But the woman who is spoken of here,
Abstracts the hosts out of their senses !

I saw, etc.

Cuchulain went along with him then to the country, and took his chariot with him till they reached the island. Labraid bade them welcome, and all the women bade [them welcome] ; and Fand bade Cuchulain particular welcome.

"What is to be done here on this occasion ?" said Cuchulain. "This", said Labraid, "what we shall do is, we shall go and take a turn round the (adverse) host". They went forward then till they reached the mass of the hosts, and till they cast an eye over them, and the hosts appeared innumerable. "Go thou away for the present", said Cuchulain to Labraid. Labraid went away then, and Cuchulain remained with the host. Two black ravens croaked. The hosts laughed. "It is probable", said the hosts, "the Riastartha28 from Erinn is what the ravens predict". The hosts chased them then, so that they found no place for them in the land.

Eochaid Iuil went afterwards to wash his hands at the spring at early morning. Cuchulain now saw his bare shoulder through the Cochall (Cucullus). He threw a spear at him, and it passed through him. He slew three-and-thirty of them alone. He was then attacked by Senach Siabortha [the spectral] , and they fought a great battle, and Cuchulain killed him at the end. Labraid came then and broke the hosts before him [before them]. Labraid prayed him [Cuchulain] to desist from the slaughter. "We may fear", said Laegh, "that the man will ply his rage upon us, since he has not had enough of battle".

"Let persons go", said Laegh, "and let three keeves of cold water be prepared to extinguish his heat. The first keeve into which he goes boils over ; the second keeve, no person could bear for its heat ; the heat of the third keeve is supportable".

When the women saw Cuchulain, it was then Fand sang :

Stately the charioteer that steps the road,
If he be beardless he is young29.
Splendid the career in which he careers over the plain.
At eve, on the fair-green of Fidgai.

It is not fairy music of couches that serves him,
It is the deep colour of blood that is upon him ;
The purring30 which the bodies of [other] chariots yield
Is sung by the wheels of his chariot.

The steeds which are under his firm chariot,
I stand without motion viewing them ;
Their like of a stud is not known ;
They are fleet as the wind of spring.

Five times ten apples of gold he plays.
Above they dance upon his breath ;
No king their like has ever obtained
Among the noble and ignoble

There is in each of his two cheeks
A red dimple like red blood,
A green dimple, a brown dimple,
A crimson dimple of light colour.

There are seven lights upon [in] his eye, —
It is not a fact to be left unspoken, —
Eyebrows brown, of noblest set,
Eyelashes of chafer black.

There are upon his head, what man's so good ? —
As has been heard through Erinn to her borders, —
Three heads of hair31 of different colour ; A young and beardless youth.

A crimsoned sword, which scatters gore, —
With its hilt of silver ;
A shield, with bosses of yellow gold.
And with a rim of findruine32.

He outstrips all men in every slaughter ;
He traverses the battle to the place of danger ;
There is not with a high hardy blade
One like unto Cuchulain.

Cuchulain it is that comes hither.
The young champion from Murthemne ;
They who have brought him from afar
Are the daughters of Aed Abrat.

Dripping blood in long red streams.
To the sides of lofty spears he brings ;
Haughty, proud, high for valour.
Woe be him against whom he becomes angered.

Stately, etc.

Liban bade him welcome then, and there she spoke as follows here :
"Welcome to Cuchulain ; relieving king; great prince of the Plain of Murthemne ; great his noble mind ; a battle-victorious champion ; a strong valour-stone ; blood-red of anger ; ready to properly arrange the champions of valour of Ulster; beautiful his complexion ; dazzler of the eyes to maidens ; he is welcome.

"Welcome to Cuchulain", etc.

"I ask what hast thou done, Cuchulain?" said Liban to him. It was then Cuchulain said there :

I threw a cast of my spear
Into the court of Eogan of Inber,
I do not know, — path of fame, —
Is it good I have done, or is it evil.

Whether better, whether worse be my strength,
Hitherto I have not cast of my little [dart]
The erroneous throw of a man in a fog,
[Or one] which did not certainly reach a living person.

A host fair, red complexioned, on backs of steeds
They pierced me upon all sides ;
The people of Manannan, son of Ler,
Invoked by Eogan of Inber.

I gave wound for wound, in whatever way,
When my full strength returned ;
One man after thirty and an hundred33
Did I bring unto death.

I heard the groan of Eochaid Iuil.
It is in good friendship his lips speak.
If the man has spoken truth, it certainly has won the battle.
The throw which has been thrown.

I threw, etc.

Cuchulain then retired with the maiden [Fand] and remained a month with her ; and he took his leave of her at the end of a month; and she said to him: "Whatever place thou desirest me to go to meet thee at, I shall go there". And where they made their assignation was, at Ibar-Cinn-Trachta (Newry).

All this was told to Emer. She had knives made for her to kill the maiden. She [Emer] came, and fifty maidens along with her, to the [appointed place of] meeting. Here Cuchulain and Laegh were playing chess, and they did not perceive the women approaching them. Then Fand perceived them, and she said to Laegh: "Look you, Laegh, at what I see". "What is that?" said Laegh. Laegh looked, and then the maiden, that is Emer, [recte Fand] , said this :

"Look, O Laegh, behind thee ; listening to thee there are proper women of good sense, with green sharp knives in their right hands, with gold at their beautifully-formed bosom-breasts ; they move in the manner in which champions of valour go through a battle of chariots. Well does Emer, the daughter of Forgall, change colour".

"She shall not take vengeance", said Cuchulain, "and she shall not reach thee at all. Come thou into the ornamented chariot with the sunny seat, opposite my own face, for I will defend thee from many numerous maidens at the four points of Ulster ; for although Forgall's daughter may threaten, on the strength of her companions, a deed of power, certain it is that it is not against me it shall be dared".

Cuchulain said farther:

"I shun thee, O woman, as every one shuns his favourite; thy hard, shakey-handed spear does not wound me ; nor thy soft, thin knife ; nor thy impotent collected anger ; for it would be sad that my strength should be averted by the strength of a woman".

"I ask, then", said Emer, "what it was that induced thee, O Cuchulain, to dishonour me before all the maidens of the province, and before all the maidens of Erinn, and before all honourable people in like manner ? for it was under thy shelter I came, and on the great strength of thy constancy ; for although in thy pride thou threatenest a great quarrel, it is certain thou canst not succeed in repudiating me, O youth, though thou shouldst attempt it".

"I ask, then, O Emer", said Cuchulain, "why not I be allowed my turn in the society of a woman ; for firstly, of this woman, she is the pure, chaste, fair, ingenious; worthy of a beautiful king; the maiden from over the waves of the full, great seas ; with form and countenance, and nobleness of descent ; with embroidery, and handiness, and hand-produce ; with sense, and intelligence, and firmness; with abundance of steeds, and herds of cows ; for there is not under Heaven anything which her comely husband could desire that she would not do, even though she had not promised it. O Emer", said he, "thou wilt not find a comely, wounding, battle-victorious champion of equal worth with me".

"It is certain", said Emer, "that I shall not refuse the woman if thou followest her. But, however, everything red is beautiful, everything new is fair, everything high is lovely, everything common is bitter, everything that we are without is prized, everything known is neglected, till all knowledge is known Thou youth", said she, "we were at one time in dignity with thee, and we would be so again if it were pleasing to thee". And she was overcome with grief. "By our word, now", said he, "thou art pleasing to me, and thou wilt be pleasing as long as I live".

"Let me be repudiated", said Fand. "It is more proper to repudiate me", said Emer. "Not so", said Fand ; "it is I that shall be repudiated in the case, and it is I that have been imperilled of it a long time". And she fell into great grief and lowness of spirit, because she was ashamed at being repudiated and having to go to her home forthwith ; and the great love which she had given to Cuchulain disturbed her; and so she was lamenting, and she made this a lay :

I it is that shall go on the journey;
I give consent with great affliction ;
Though there is a man of equal fame34,
I would prefer to remain.

I would rather be here,
To be subject to thee, without grief,
Than to go, though it may wonder thee.
To the sunny palace of Aed Abrat.

O Emer ! the man is thine.
And well mayst thou wear him, thou good woman, —
What my arm cannot reach, what but
That I am forced to wish it well.

Many were the men that were asking for me.
Both in the court and in the desert ;
Never with those did I hold a meeting,
Because I it was that was righteous.

Woe ! to give love to a person,
If he does not take notice of it ;
It is better for a person to be turned away,
Unless he is loved as he loves.

With fifty women hast thou come hither,
O Emer of the yellow hair.
To arrest Fand ; it was not well,
And to kill her in her misery.

There are three times fifty, during my days.
Of women, beautiful and unwedded,
With me in my court together ;
They would not abandon me !

I it is, etc

Now, all this was revealed to Manannan ; namely, Fand, the daughter of Aed Abrat, to be engaged in an unequal conflict with the women of Ulster, and that Cuchulain was putting her away. Manannan then came from the east to seek the maiden ; and he was in their presence, and no one of them perceived him but Fand alone ; and then a great terror and bad spirits seized on the maiden on seeing Manannan, and she made a poem :

Behold ye the valiant son of Ler,
From the plains of Eogan of Inber, —
Manannan, lord over the world's fair hills,
There was a time when he was dear to me.

Even if to-day, he were nobly constant,
My mind loves not jealousy,
Affection is a subtle thing ;
It makes its way without labour.

One day that I was, and the son of Ler,
In the sunny palace of Dun-Inber ;
We then thought, without a doubt,
That our separation should be never.

When Manannan the great me espoused,
I was a spouse of him worthy; —
He could not win from me for his life
A game in excess at chess.

When Manannan the great me espoused,
I was a spouse of him worthy ;
A wristband of doubly tested gold
He gave to me as the price of my blushes.

I had with me at going over the sea
Fifty maidens of varied beauty ;
I gave them unto fifty men,
Without reproach, — the fifty maidens,

Four times fifty without folly,
It was the household of the one house ;
Twice fifty men, happy and perfect, —
Twice fifty women, fair and healthy.

I see coming over the sea hither, —
No erring person sees him, —
The horseman of the crested wave ;
He adheres not to [his] long ships.

Thy coming past us, up to this.
No one sees but a sidhaighe35 ;
Thy good sense is magnified by every gentle host,
Though they be from thee far away.

As for me, I would have cause,
Because the minds of women are silly ;
The person whom I loved exceedingly
Has placed me here at a disadvantage.

I bid thee adieu, O beautiful Cu ;
Hence we depart from thee with a good heart ;
Though we return not, be thy good will with us ;
Every condition is noble to [in comparison with] that of going away.

A departure this which it is time for me [to make] ;
There is a person to whom it is not grief ;
It is, however, a great disgrace,
O Laegh, O son of Riangabra.

I shall go with my own spouse.
Because he will not show me disobedience.
That ye should not say it is a secret departure,
If ye desire it, behold ye.

Behold, etc.

The woman went after Manannan then, and Manannan bade her welcome, and said: "Good, O woman", said he, "is it attending Cuchulain thou wilt be henceforth, or is it with me thou wilt go ?" "By our word, now", said she, "there is of you one whom I would rather follow than the other ; but", said she, "it is along with thee I shall go, and I shall not wait on Cuchulain, because he has abandoned me ; and, another thing, thou good man, thou hast not a dignified queen ; Cuchulain, however, has".

When Cuchulain, now, saw the woman departing from him to Manannan, he said to Laegh: "What is that?" said he. "This", said Laegh; "it is Fand that is going to Manannan, the son of Ler, because she was not pleasing to thee".

It was then Cuchulain leaped the three high leaps, and the three south leaps of Luachair36 ; and he remained for a long time without drink, without food, among the mountains ; and where he slept each night was on the Slighi (road) of Midhluachair.

Emer, in the mean time, went to visit Conchobar to Emania ; and she told him the state that Cuchulain was in.

Conchobar sent the poets, and the professional men, and the druids of Ulster to visit him, that they might arrest him, and that they might bring him to Emania along with them. He, however, attempted to kill the professional party. These pronounced druidical incantations against him, until they laid hold of his legs and his arms, until he recovered a little of his senses. He then besought them for a drink. The druids gave him a drink of forgetfulness. The moment he drank the drink he did not remember Fand and all the things that he had done. There were, too, drinks of forgetfulness of her jealousy given to Emer, for she was in no better condition [than him] . Manannan in the meantime shook his cloak between Cuchulain and Fand, to the end that they should never again meet. So that this was a vision of being stricken by the people of the sidhe [or fairy mansions] to Cuchulain: for the demoniac power was great before the Faith ; and such was its greatness that the demons used to corporeally tempt the people, and that they used to show them delights and secrets, as of how they would be in immortality. It was thus they used to be believed in. So that it was to phantoms the ignorant used to apply the names of Sidhe and Aes Sidhe.


[From a poem of thirty six stanzas, written by Flann, the Professor of Monasterboice, who died A.D. 1056, and preserved in the ancient Book of Leinster, fol. 6, in the Library of Trinity College, Dublin, on the manner of death of the chief men of the Tuatha De Dannan, it appears that Eogan of Iuber was killed by Eochaid Iuil, and that Eochaid himself fell in his turn by Aed Abrat and Labraid of the quick hand at sword.]



création : 29/10/2009

Sources : E. O'Curry, Atlantis 1 & 2



  Summary