The Dream of Oengus

Aislinge Oengusso
Ms Egerton 1782

Translated by Ed. Müller

A better translation can be found in J. Gantz - Early Irish Myths and Sagas or in K.H. Jackson - A Celtic Miscellany.

1. Oengus was sleeping one night when he saw something [like] a maiden near him at the top of his bed. She was the most beautiful in Erinn. Oengus went to seize her hands to take her with him in his bed; when he saw the one which he had welcomed suddenly away from him that he did not know who had taken it from him. There he was until the morning ; his mind was not easy. It brought an illness on him, the figure which he had seen without speaking to her. Food did not enter his mouth. There he was again for a night; when he saw a cymbal in her hand the sweetest existing. She played a song to him that he fall asleep. There he was until the morning. He did not breakfast in the morning.

2. A whole year [elapsed] to him and she [went on] to visit him in his bed so that he fell in love. He did not tell it to anybody. He fell ill afterwards and nobody knew what was with him. The physicians of Erinn assembled. They did not know what there was after all. One went to Fergne the physician of Conn. He came to him. He knew from the face of the man the illness that was in him and he knew from his saying that he would go in the house of his ***, that he had an illness of the brain1.

3. Fergne call him apart [and said] "little is thy experience an accidental love has fallen on thee". "My illness has judged me" said Oengus. "I love in heartlessness." "And nobody dared to say it to the other." "It is true", said Oengus, "I met a beautiful maiden of the most splendid form that is in Erinn with a distinguished appearance; [she had] a cymbal in her hand on which she used to play to me every night." "Is it not so," said Fergne, "love to her seized thee and now it shall be sent from thee to Boann thy mother that she may come to speak to thee."

4. They went to her. Afterwards Boann came. "I was curing this man," said Fergne, "whom has seized an uncertain illness." This new was told to Boann. "He will be under the care of his mother, he whom has seized a doubtful illness and whole Erinn shall be investigated by thee whether there may be found a maiden of that form which thy son saw." So it was [done] to the end of the year. Nothing like was found. Then Fergne was called for again. "We have not found any help in this matter," said Boann. Fergne said : "send to the Dagda that he may come to speak to his son."

5. They went to the Dagda. He came again. "What have I been called for ?" "To advise thy son", said Boann. "Thy help is better for him. It is a pity for him to die. He is in illness. He is fallen in an accidental love and there is no help for him." "What use is it to him to speak to me," said the Dagda, "my knowledge is not higher than thine." "Upon my word," said Fergne, "thou art the fairy king of Erinn and from thee [the way] goes to Bodb the fairy king of Munster and his knowledge is celebrated through whole Erinn."

6. They went to him. He bade them welcome. "Welcome to you," said Bodb, "O suite of the Dagda." "This is why we came." "Have you a message," said Bodb ? "We have: Oengus the son of the Dagda is in love for two years." "What for,"said Bodb (?). "He saw a maiden in dream. We don't know in Erinn the place where habits the maiden which he loved and which he saw. An order to thee from the Dagda that thou shalt seek through Erinn the maiden of this form and appearance." "It will be sought," said Bodb, "and it will last a year for me until I know it with certainty."

7. He went at the end of the year to the house of Bodb at Sid fer Feimin. "I have investigated all Erinn, [said Bodb], until I found the maiden at Loch bel Draccon at the harp of Cliach." They went from there to the Dagda. He bade welcome to them. "Have you a message" said the Dagda ? "We have a good message, the maiden has been found in the form which you said. An order to thee from Bodb. Oengus is to come with us to him in order to know whether he recognizes the maiden which he saw." Oengus was brought in a chariot so that he was at Sid fer Feimin. A great feast with the king for his sake. Welcome was bidden to him. They were three days and three nights at the feast. "Come out now," said Bodb, "in order to know whether thou recognizest the maiden." "Until I have seen what she is doing I can not tell it but only when I will have seen it."

8. They went afterwards till they were at the sea, when they saw 150 young maidens and they saw the maiden among them. The maidens did not reach her to the shoulder. A silvery chain between every two maidens. A silvery necklace about their neck itself and a chain of burnished gold. Then Bodb said: "Doest thou recognize the maiden?" "I recognize her of course," said Oengus. "This is not thy greatest power," said Bodb (?). "Not so," said Oengus, "for her which I saw I shall not be able to take with me (?) this time. Who is this maiden O Bodb" said Oengus. "I know it of course" said Bodb: "Caer ib Ormaith daughter of Ethal Anbual from Sid Uaman in the province of Connacht."

9. After that Oengus went with his suite to his territory. Bodb went with him to visit the Dagda and Boann at Brug mic ind Oicc. They told them their message and related how she was by her form and her appearance as they had seen her and had heard the name of her father and her grandfather. "It is no use to us," said the Dagda, "we can not ***." "The best thing for thee to do O Dagda," said Bodb, "go to Ailill and Medb, for with them in their territory is the maiden."

10. The Dagda went until he was in the land of Connacht. Sixty chariots his number. The king and the queen welcomed him. Afterwards they were a whole week at feasting around the beer (?). "What has made your journey," said the king? "There is a maiden in thy land" said the Dagda "and my son is in love with her and an illness has seized him. I came to you to know whether you give her to my son." "Which one" said Ailill? "The daughter of Ethal Anbual." "We have no power over her," said Ailill and Medb, "that we could give her to him." "The best thing," said the Dagda, "let the king be called here unto you."

11. The stuart of Ailill went to him. "An order to thee from Ailill and Medb to go to speak to them." "I will not go," said he, "I will not give my daughter to the son of the Dagda." This was told to Ailill. "His coming is not to be obtained from him. He knows the reason for which he is called." "Not so," said Ailill, "I will go and my soldiers shall be taken unto him." Then the household of Ailill and the army of the Dagda arose towards the fairies. They destroy the whole sid. They bring sixty *** to the king so that he was in the caves of anxiety2.

12. Then Ailill said to Ethal Anbual: "Give thy daughter to the son of the Dagda." "I cannot," said he, "greater is the power that is in them." "What great power is in them," said Ailill? "Not difficult, to be in the shape of a bird every day of a year; the other year in human shape." "Which year will she be in the shape of a bird?" said Ailill. "The judgment over it is not with me said her father." "Thy head from thee," said Ailill, "if thou doest not explain it." "She will not be longer with me," said he. "I will tell [you]," said he, "it is wiser what you propose to her. She will be in the shape of a bird the next summer at Loch bel Draccon and beautiful birds will be seen with her and there will be 150 swans about her and I have a feast with them." "It will not be for me," said the Dagda, "for I know their nature in which I brought them."

13. Afterwards there was made a true friendship between Ailill, Ethal and the Dagda and Ethal was set free. The Dagda was hidden by them (?)3. The Dagda went to his house and told his news to his son. "Go in the next summer to Loch bel Draccon and call her to thee to the Loch." Mac Og went to Loch bel Draccon when he saw the 150 white birds at the loch with their silvery chains and golden caps around their heads. Oengus was in human shape at the border of the loch. He called the maiden to him. "Come to speak to me O Caer." "Who calls me" said Caer. "Oengus calls thee, come and yield to me upon thy honour that thou mayest go with me into the bath again." "I will come," she said.

14. She came to him. He puts his two hands on her. They slept in the shape of two swans until they surrounded the bath-place three times. There was not and there will not be a loss of honour to him. They went from there in the shape of two white birds until they were at the Brug of the mic ind Oicc and they made a concert so that the people fell asleep for three days and three nights. The maiden remained with them afterwards.

15. Therefrom there was a friendship between the micc Oig and Ailill and Medb and in consequence Oengus went with three hundred to Ailill and Medb for the Tain bo Cuailgne. This story is called the Vision of Oengus son of the Dagda and the Tain bo Cuailgne4.


1- According to J. Gantz, K.H. Jackson and C.J. Guyonvarc'h this sentence should be rendered: "and he knew from the smoke that came from a house how many were ill inside."

2- According to J. Gantz, K.H. Jackson and C.J. Guyonvarc'h this sentence should be rendered: "They bring out sixty heads and the king was imprisoned in the caves of Cruachan."

3- According to J. Gantz, K.H. Jackson and C.J. Guyonvarc'h this sentence should be rendered: "The Dagda bade them farewell."

4- According to C.J. Guyonvarc'h this sentence should be rendered: "This story is called the Vision of Oengus son of the Dagda in the Tain bo Cuailgne."

Sources : Ed. Müller Revue Celtique 3