Translated by James G. O'Keeffe
The Frenzy of Suibhne here
1. s to Suibhne, son of Colman Cuar, king of Dal Araidhe, we have already told how he went wandering and flying out of battle. Here are set forth the cause and occasion whereby these symptoms and fits of frenzy and flightiness came upon him beyond all others, likewise what befell him thereafter.
2. There was a certain noble, distinguished holy patron in Ireland, even Ronan Finn, son of Bearach, son of Criodhan, son of Earclugh, son of Ernainne, son of Urene, son of Seachnusach, son of Colum Cile, son of Mureadhach, son of Laoghaire, son of Niall ; a man who fulfilled God's command and bore the yoke of piety, and endured persecutions for the Lord's sake. He was God's own worthy servant, for it was his wont to crucify his body for love of God and to win a reward for his soul. A sheltering shield against evil attacks of the devil and against vices was that gentle, friendly, active man.
3. On one occasion he was marking out a church named Cell Luinne in Dal Araidhe. (At that time Suibhne, son of Colman, of whom we have spoken, was king of Dal Araidhe.) Now, in the place where he was, Suibhne heard the sound of Ronan's bell as he was marking out the church, and he asked his people what it was they heard. "It is Ronan Finn, son of Bearach," said they, "who is marking out a church in your territory and land, and it is the sound of his bell you now hear." Suibhine was greatly angered and enraged, and he set out with the utmost haste to drive the cleric from the church. His wife Eorann, daughter of Conn of Ciannacht, in order to hold him, seized the wing of the fringed, crimson cloak which was around him, so that the fibula of pure white silver, neatly inlaid with gold, which was on his cloak over his breast, sprang through the house. Therewith, leaving his cloak with the queen, he set out stark-naked in his swift career to expel the cleric from the church, until he reached the place where Ronan was.
4. He found the cleric at the time glorifying the King of heaven and earth by blithely chanting his psalms with his lined, right-beautiful psalter in front of him. Suibhne took up the psalter and cast it into the depths of the cold-water lake which was near him, so that it was drowned therein. Then he seized Ronan's hand and dragged him out through the church after him, nor did he let go the cleric's hand until he heard a cry of alarm. It was a serving-man of Congal Claon, son of Scannlan, who uttered that cry ; he had come from Congal himself to Suibhne in order that he (Suibhne) might engage in battle at Magh Rath. When the serving-man reached the place of parley with Suibhne, he related the news to him from beginning to end. Suibhne then went with the serving-man and left the cleric sad and sorrowful over the loss of his psalter and the contempt and dishonour which had been inflicted on him.
5. Thereafter, at the end of a day and a night, an otter that was in the lake came to Ronan with the psalter, and neither line nor letter of it was injured. Ronan gave thanks to God for that miracle, and then cursed Suibhne, saying : "Be it my will, together with the will of the mighty Lord, that even as he came stark-naked to expel me, may it be thus that he will ever be, naked, wandering and flying throughout the world ; may it be death from a spear-point that will carry him off. My curse once more on Suibhne, and my blessing on Eorann who strove to hold him ; and furthermore, I bequeath to the race of Colman that destruction and extinction may be their lot the day they shall behold this psalter which was cast into the water by Suibhne" ; and he uttered this lay :
6. "Suibhne, son of Colman, has outraged me,
he has dragged me with him by the hand,
to leave Cell Luinne with him,
that I should be for a time absent from it.
He came to me in his swift course
on hearing my bell ;
he brought with him vast, awful wrath
to drive me out, to banish me.
Loth was I to be banished here
from the place where I first settled ;
though loth was I,
God has been able to prevent it.
He let not my hand out of his
until he heard the loud cry
which said to him : "Come to the battle,
Domnall has reached famous Magh Rath."
Good has come to me therefrom,
not to him did I give thanks for it
when tidings of the battle came
for him to join the high prince.
From afar he approached the battle
whereby were deranged his sense and reason,
he will roam through Erin as a stark madman,
and it shall be by a spear-point he will die.
He seized my psalter in his hand,
he cast it into the full lake,
Christ brought it to me without a blemish,
so that no worse was the psalter.
A day and a night in the full lake,
nor was the speckled-white [book] the worse ;
through the will of God's Son
an otter gave it to me again.
As for the psalter that he seized in his hand,
I bequeath to the race of Colman
that it will be bad for the race of fair Colman
the day they shall behold the psalter.
Stark-naked he has come here
to wring my heart, to chase me ;
on that account God will cause
that Suibhne shall ever naked be.
Eorann, daughter of Conn of Ciannacht,
strove to hold him by his cloak ;
my blessing on Eorann therefor,
and my curse on Suibhne."
7. Thereupon Ronan came to Magh Rath to make peace between Domnall son of Aodh, and Congal Claon son of Scannlan, but he did not succeed. Howbeit, the cleric used to be taken each day as a guarantee between them that nobody would be slain from the time the fighting was stopped until it would be again permitted. Suibhne, however, used to violate cleric's guarantee of protection inasmuch as every peace and truce which Ronan would make Suibhne would break, for he used to slay a man before the hour fixed for combat each day, and another each evening when the combat ceased. Then on the day fixed for the great battle Suibhne came to battle before the rest.
8. In this wise did he appear. A filmy shirt of silk was next his white skin, around him was a girdle of royal satin, likewise the tunic which Congal had given him the day he slew Oilill Cedach, king of the Ui Faolain, at Magh Rath ; a crimson tunic of one colour was it with a close, well-woven border of beautiful, refined gold set with rows of fair gems of carbuncle from one end to the other of the border, having in it silken loops over beautiful, shining buttons for fastening and opening it, with variegation of pure white silver each way and each path he would go ; there was a slender-threaded hard fringe to that tunic. In his hands were two spears very long and (shod) with broad iron, a yellow-speckled, homy shield was on his back, a gold-hilted sword at his left side.
9. He marched on thus until he encountered Ronan with eight psalmists of his community sprinkling holy water on the hosts, and they sprinkled it on Suibhne as they did on the others. Thinking it was to mock him that the water was sprinkled on him, he placed his finger on the string of the riveted spear that was in his hand, and hurling it at one of Ronan's psalmists slew him with that single cast. He made another cast with the edged, sharp-angled dart at the cleric himself, so that it pierced the bell which was on his breast and the shaft sprang off it up in the air, whereupon the cleric said : "I pray the mighty Lord that high as went the spear-shaft into the air and among the clouds of Heaven may you go likewise even as any bird, and may the death which you have inflicted on my foster-child be that which will carry you off, to wit, death from a spear-point ; and my curse on you, and my blessing on Eorann ; (I invoke) Uradhran and Telle on my behalf against your seed and the descendants of Colman Cuar" ; and he said :
10. "My curse on Suibhne !
great is his guilt against me,
his smooth, vigorous dart
he thrust through my holy bell.
That bell which thou hast wounded
will send thee among branches,
so that thou shalt be one with the birds - ;
the bell of saints before saints.
Even as in an instant went
the spear-shaft on high,
mayst thou go, O Suibhne,
in madness, without respite !
Thou hast slain my foster-child,
thou hast reddened thy spear in him,
thou shalt have in return for it
that with a spear-point thou shalt die.
If there should oppose me
the progeny of Eoghan with stoutness
Uradhran and Telle
will send them into decay.
Uradhran and Telle
have sent them into decay,
this is my wish for all time :
my curse with thee !
My blessing on Eorann !
Eorann fair without decay :
through suffering without stint
my curse on Suibhne !"
11. Thereafter, when both battle-hosts had met, the vast army on both sides roared in the manner of a herd of stags so that they raised on high three mighty shouts. Now, when Suibhne heard these great cries together with their sounds and reverberations in the clouds of Heaven and in the vault of the firmament, he looked up, whereupon turbulence (?), and darkness, and fury, and giddiness, and frenzy, and flight, unsteadiness, restlessness, and unquiet filled him, likewise disgust with every place in which he used to be and desire for every place which he had not reached. His fingers were palsied, his feet trembled, his heart beat quick, his senses were overcome, his sight was distorted, his weapons fell naked from his hands, so that through Ronan's curse he went, like any bird of the air, in madness and imbecility.
12. Now, however, when he arrived out of the battle, it was seldom that his feet would touch the ground because of the swiftness of his course, and when he did touch it he would not shake the dew from the top of the grass for the lightness and the nimbleness of his step. He halted not from that headlong course until he left neither plain, nor field, nor bare mountain, nor bog, nor thicket, nor marsh, nor hill, nor hollow, nor dense-sheltering wood in Ireland that he did not travel that day, until he reached Ros Bearaigh, in Glenn Earcain, where he went into the yew-tree that was in the glen.
13. Domnall, son of Aedh, won the battle that day, as we have already narrated. Suibhne had a kinsman in the battle, to wit, Aongus the Stout, son of Ardgal, son of Macnia, son of Ninnidh, of the tribes of Ui Ninnedha of Dal Araidhe ; he came in flight with a number of his people out of the battle, and the route he took was through Glenn Earcain. Now he and his people were conversing about Suibhne (saying) how strange it was that they had not seen him alive or dead after the battle-hosts had met. Howbeit, they felt certain it was because of Ronan's curse that there were no tidings of his fate. Suibhne in the yew-tree above them heard what they spoke, and he said :
14. "O warriors, come hither,
O men of Dal Araidhe,
you will find in the tree in which he is
the man whom you seek.
God has vouchsafed me here
life very bare, very narrow,
without music and without restful sleep,
without womenfolk, without a woman-tryst.
Here at Ros Bearaigh am I,
Ronan has put me under disgrace,
God has severed me from my form,
know me no more, O warriors."
15. When the men heard Suibhne reciting the verses, they recognized him, and urged him to trust them. He said that he would never do so. Then, as they were closing round the tree, Suibhne rose out of it very lightly and nimbly (and went) to Cell Riagain in Tir Conaill where he perched on the old tree of the church. It chanced that it was at that tree Domnall, son of Aedh, and his army were after the battle, and when they saw the madman going into the tree, a portion of the army came and closed in all round it. Thereupon they began describing aloud the madman ; one man would say that it was a woman, another that it was a man, until Domnall himself recognized him, whereupon he said : "It is Suibhne, king of Dal Araidhe, whom Ronan cursed the day the battle was fought. Good in sooth is the man who is there," said he, "and if he wished for treasures and wealth he would obtain them from us if only he would trust us. Sad is it to me," said he, "that the remnant of Congal's people are thus, for both good and great were the ties that bound me to Congal before undertaking the battle, and good moreover was the counsel of Colum Cille to that youth himself when he went with Congal to ask an army from the king of Alba against me" ; whereupon Domnall uttered the lay :
16. "How is that, O slender Suibhne ?
thou wert leader of many hosts ;
the day the iniquitous battle was fought
at Magh Rath thou wert most comely.
Like crimson or like beautiful gold
was thy noble countenance after feasting,
like down or like shavings
was the faultless hair of thy head.
Like cold snow of a single night
was the aspect of thy body ever ;
blue-hued was thine eye, like crystal,
like smooth, beautiful ice.
Delightful the shape of thy feet,
not powerful methinks was thy chieftainship ;
thy fortunate weapons - ;they could draw blood - ;
were swift in wounding.
Colum Cille offered thee
Heaven and kingship, O splendid youth,
eagerly (?) thou hast come into the plain
from the chief prophet of Heaven and earth.
Said Colum Cille,
steadfast prophet of truth,
"as many of you as come over the strong flood
will not all return from Erin."
I offered Congal Claon
when we were together
the blessing of all the men of Erin ;
great was the mulct for one egg.
If thou wilt not accept that from me,
O fair Congal, son of Scannal,
what judgment then - ;deed of great moment - ;
wilt thou pass upon me ?
Congal : (These) will I accept from thee if thou deemest it well :
give me thy two sons,
thy hand from thee, likewise thy stately wife,
thy daughter and thy eye blue-starred.
Domnall : Thou shalt not have but spear to spear,
I shall be evermore lying in wait for you,
this is our speech about the bondage ;
take thou the full of my curse !
Thy body will be a feast for birds of prey,
ravens will be on thy heavy silence,
a fierce, black spear shall wound thee,
and thou shalt be laid on thy back, destitute.
My bane from land to land
art thou alone beyond each king,
yet I have befriended thee
since the day thy mother brought thee forth.
'Tis there the battle was fought - ;
at the stead in Magh Rath - ;
there was a drop on a gleaming sword ;
so fell Congal Claon."
17. Now when Suibhne heard the shout of the multitude and the tumult of the great army, he ascended from the tree towards the rain-clouds of the firmament, over the summits of every place and over the ridge-pole of every land. For a long time thereafter he was (faring) throughout Ireland, visiting and searching in hard, rocky clefts and in bushy branches of tall ivy-trees, in narrow cavities of stones, from estuary to estuary, from peak to peak, and from glen to glen, till he reached ever-delightful Glen Bolcain. It is there the madmen of Ireland used to go when their year in madness was complete, that glen being ever a place of great delight for madmen. For it is thus Glen Bolcain is : it has four gaps to the wind, likewise a wood very beautiful, very pleasant, and clean-banked wells and cool springs, and sandy, clear-water streams, and green-topped watercress and brooklime bent and long on their surface. Many likewise are its sorrels, its wood-sorrels, its lus-bian and its biorragan, its berries, and its wild garlic, its melle, and its miodhbhun its black sloes and its brown acorns. The madmen moreover used to smite each other for the pick of watercress of that glen and for the choice of its couches.
18. Suibhne also remained for a long time in that glen until he happened one night to be on the top of a tall ivy-clad hawthorn tree which was in the glen. It was hard for him to endure that bed, for at every twist and turn he would give, a shower of thorns off the hawthorn would stick in him, so that they were piercing and rending his side and wounding his skin. Suibhne thereupon changed from that bed to another place, where there was a dense thicket of great briars with fine thorns and a single protruding branch of blackthorn growing alone up through the thicket. Suibhne settled on the top of that tree, but so slender was it that it bowed and bent under him, so that he fell heavily through the thicket to the ground, and there was not as much as an inch from his sole to the crown of his head that was not wounded and reddened. He then rose up, strengthless and feeble, and came out through the thicket, whereupon he said : "My conscience !" said he, "it is hard to endure this life after a pleasant one, and a year to last night I have been leading this life," whereupon he uttered the lay :
19. "A year to last night
have I been among the gloom of branches,
between flood and ebb,
without covering around me.
Without a pillow beneath my head,
among the fair children of men ;
there is peril to us, O God,
without sword, without spear.
Without the company of women ;
save brooklime of warrior-bands - ;
a pure fresh meal - ;
watercress is our desire.
Without a foray with a king,
I am alone in my home,
without glorious reavings,
without friends, without music.
Without sleep, alas !
let the truth be told,
without aid for a long time,
hard is my lot.
Without a house right full,
without the converse of generous men,
without the title of king,
without drink, without food.
Alas that I have been parted here
from my mighty, armed host,
a bitter madman in the glen,
bereft of sense and reason.
Without being on a kingly circuit,
but rushing along every path ;
that is the great madness,
King of Heaven of saints.
Without accomplished musicians,
without the converse of women,
without bestowing treasures ;
it has caused my death, O revered Christ.
Though I be as I am to-night,
there was a time
when my strength was not feeble
over a land that was not bad.
On splendid steeds,
in life without sorrow,
in my auspicious kingship
I was a good, great king.
After that, to be as I am
through selling Thee, O revered Christ !
a poor wretch am I, without power,
in the Glen of bright Bolcan.
The hawthorn that is not soft-topped
has subdued me, has pierced me ;
the brown thorn-bush
has nigh caused my death.
The battle of Congal with fame,
to us it was doubly piteous ;
on Tuesday was the rout ;
more numerous were our dead than our living.
A-wandering in truth,
though I was noble and gentle,
I have been sad and wretched
a year to last night."
20. In that wise he remained in Glen Bolcain until at a certain time he raised himself up (into the air) and went to Cluain Cille on the border of Tir Conaill and Tir Boghaine. He went then to the brink of the well where he had for food that night watercress and water. Thereafter he went into the old tree of the church. The erenach of the church was Faibhlen of the family of Brughach, son of Deaghadh. That night there came an exceeding great storm so that the extent of the night's misery affected Suibhne greatly, and he said : "Sad indeed is it that I was not slain at Magh Rath rather than that I should encounter this hardship" ; whereupon he uttered this lay :
21. "Cold is the snow to-night,
lasting now is my poverty,
there is no strength in me for fight,
famine has wounded me, madman as I am.
All men see that I am not shapely,
bare of thread is my tattered garment,
Suibhne of Ros Earcain is my name,
the crazy madman am I.
I rest not when night comes,
my foot frequents no trodden way,
I bide not here for long,
the bonds of terror come upon me.
My goal lies beyond the teeming main,
voyaging the prow-abounding sea ;
fear has laid hold of my poor strength,
I am the crazy one of Glen Bolcain.
Frosty wind tearing me,
already snow has wounded me,
the storm bearing me to death
from the branches of each tree.
Grey branches have wounded me,
they have torn my hands ;
the briars have not left
the making of a girdle for my feet.
There is a palsy on my hands,
everywhere there is cause of confusion,
from Sliabh Mis to Sliabh Cuillenn,
from Sliabh Cuillenn to Cuailgne.
Sad forever is my cry
on the summit of Cruachan Aighle,
from Glen Bolcain to Islay,
from Cenn Tire to Boirche.
Small is my portion when day comes,
it comes not as a new day's right (?),
a tuft of watercress of Cluain CiIle
with Cell Cua's cuckoo flower.
He who is at Ros Earcach,
neither trouble nor evil shall come to him ;
that which makes me strengthless
is being in snow in nakedness."
22. So Suibhne fared forth until he reached the church at Snamh dha En on the Shannon, which is now called Cluain Boirenn ; he arrived there on a Friday, to speak precisely. The clerics of the church were then fulfilling the office of nones ; women were beating flax, and one was giving birth to a child. "It is not meet, in sooth," said Suibhne, "for the women to violate the Lord's fast-day ; even as the woman beats the flax," said he, "so were my folk beaten in the battle of Magh Rath." He heard then the vesper-bell pealing, whereupon he said : "Sweeter indeed were it to me to hear the voices of the cuckoos on the banks of the Bann from every side than the grig-graig of this bell which I hear to-night" ; and he uttered the lay :
23. "Sweeter to me about the waves - ;
though my talons to-night are feeble - ;
than the grig-graig of the church-bell,
is the cooing of the cuckoo of the Bann.
O woman, do not bring forth thy son
on a Friday,
the day whereon Suibhne Geilt eats not
out of love for the King of righteousness.
As the women scutch the flax - ;
'Tis true though 'Tis I be heard - ;
even so were beaten my folk
in the battle of Magh Rath.
From Loch Diolair of the cliff
to Derry Coluim Cille
it was not strife that I heard
from splendid, melodious swans.
The belling of the stag of the desert above the cliffs
in Siodhmuine Glinne - ;
there is no music on earth
in my soul but its sweetness.
O Christ, O Christ, hear me !
O Christ, O Christ, without sin !
O Christ, O Christ, love me !
sever me not from thy sweetness !"
24. On the morrow Suibhne went to Cell Derfile where he fared on watercress of the well and the water which was in the church ; there came a great storm in the night, and exceeding sorrow and grief took hold of Suibhne because of the wretchedness of his life ; and moreover it was a cause of grief and sorrow to him to be absent from Dal Araidhe, whereupon he uttered these staves :
25. "My night in Cell Derfile
'Tis it has broken my heart ;
sad for me, O Son of my God,
is parting from Dal Araidhe.
Ten hundred and ten warriors,
that was my host at Druim Fraoch,
though I am without strength, O Son of God,
'twas I who was their leader in counsel.
Gloomy is my night to-night
without serving-man, without camp ;
not so was my night at Druim Damh,
I and Faolchu and Congal.
Alas ! that I was detained for the tryst,
O my Prince of the glorious Kingdom !
though I should not get any harm therefrom
forever except this night."
26. For seven whole years Suibhne wandered over Ireland from one point to another until one night he arrived at Glen Bolcain ; for it is there stood his fortress and his dwelling-place, and more delightful was it to him to tarry and abide there than in any other place in Ireland ; for thither would he go from every part of Ireland, nor would he leave it except through fear and terror. Suibhne dwelt there that night, and on the morrow morning Loingseachan came seeking him. Some say that Loingseachan was Suibhne's mother's son, others that he was a foster-brother, but, whichever he was, his concern for Suibhne was great, for he (Suibhne) went off three times in madness and thrice he brought him back. This time Loingseachan was seeking him in the glen, and he found the track of his feet by the brink of the stream of which he was wont to eat the watercress. He found also the branches that used to break under his feet as he changed from the top of onto another. That day, however, he did not find the madman, so he went into a deserted house in the glen, and there he fell into deep sleep after the great labour of the pursuit of Suibhne whom he was seeking. Then Suibhne came upon his track so that he reached the house, and there he heard Loingseachan's snore ; whereupon he uttered this lay :
27. "The man by the wall snores,
slumber like that I dare not ;
for seven years from the Tuesday at Magh Rath
I have not slept a wink.
O God of Heaven ! would that I had not gone
to the fierce battle !
thereafter Suibhne Geilt was my name,
alone in the top of the ivy.
Watercress of the well of Druim Cirb
is my meal at terce ;
on my face may be recognized its hue,
'Tis true I am Suibhne Geilt.
For certain am I Suibhne Geilt,
one who sleeps under shelter of a rag,
about Sliabh Liag if ***
these men pursue me.
When I was Suibhne the sage,
I used to dwell in a lonely shieling,
on sedgy land, on a morass, on a mountain-side ;
I have bartered my home for a far-off land.
I give thanks to the King above
with whom great harshness is not usual ;
'Tis the extent of my injustice
that has changed my guise.
Cold, cold for me is it
since my body lives not in the ivy-bushes,
much rain comes upon it
and much thunder.
Though I live from hill to hill
in the mountain above the yew glen ;
in the place where Congal Claon was left
alas that I was not left there on my back !
Frequent is my groan,
far from my churchyard is my gaping house ;
I am no champion but a needy madman,
God has thrust me in rags, without sense.
'Tis great folly
for me to come out of Glen Bolcain,
there are many apple-trees in Glen Bolcain
for *** of my head.
and a draft of pure water,
I fare on them, I smile not,
not so the man by the wall.
In summer amid the herons of Cuailgne,
among packs of wolves when winter comes,
at other times under the crown of a wood ;
not so the man by the wall.
Happy Glen Bolcain, fronting the wind,
around which madmen of the glen call,
woe is me ! I sleep not there ;
more wretched am I than the man by the wall."
28. After that lay he came the next night to Loingseachan's mill which was being watched over by one old woman, Lonnog, daughter of Dubh Dithribh, mother of Loignseachan's wife. Suibhne went into the house to her and she gave him small morsels, and for a long time in that manner he kept visiting the mill. One day Loingseachan set out after him, when he saw him by the mill-stream, and he went to speak to the old woman, that is, his wife's mother, Lonnog. "Has Suibhne come to the mill, woman ?" said Loingseachan. "He was here last night," said the woman. Loingseachan then put on the woman's garment and remained in the mill after her ; that night Suibhne came to the mill and he recognised Loingseachan. When he saw his eyes, he sprang away from him at once out through the skylight of the house, saying : "Pitiful is your pursuit of me, Loingseachan, chasing me from my place and from each spot dearest to me in Ireland ; and as Ronan does not allow me to trust you, it is tiresome and importunate of you to be following me" ; and he made this lay :
29. "O Loingseachan, thou art irksome,
I have not leisure to speak with thee,
Ronan does not let me trust thee ;
'Tis he who has put me in a sorry plight.
I made the luckless cast
from the midst of the battle at Ronan ;
it pierced the precious bell
which was on the cleric's breast.
As I hurled the splendid cast
from the midst of the battle at Ronan,
said the fair cleric : "Thou hast leave
to go with the birds."
Thereafter I sprang up
into the air above ;
in life I have never leaped
a single leap that was lighter.
Were it in the glorious morning,
on the Tuesday following the Monday,
none would be prouder than I am
by the side of a warrior of my folk.
A marvel to me is that which I see,
O Thou that hast shaped this day ;
The woman's garment on the floor,
two piercing eyes of Loingseachan."
30. "Sad is the disgrace you would fain put upon me, Loingseachan," said he ; "and do not continue annoying me further, but go to your house and I will go on to where Eorann is."
31. Now, Eorann at the time was dwelling with Guaire, son of Congal, son of Scannlan, for it was Eorann who was Suibhne's wife, for there were two kinsmen in the country, and they had equal title to the sovereignty which Suibhne had abandoned, viz. : Guaire, son of Congal, son of Scannlan, and Eochaidh, son of Condlo, son of Scannlan. Suibhne proceeded to the place in which Eorann was. Guaire had gone to the chase that day, and the route he took was to the pass of Sliabh Fuaid and by Sgirig Cinn Glinne and Ettan Tairbh. His camp was beside Glen Bolcain - ;which is called Glenn Chiach to-day - ;in the plain of Cinel Ainmirech. Then the madman sat down upon the lintel of the hut in which Eorann was, whereupon he said : "Do you remember, lady, the great love he gave to each other what time we were together ? Easy and pleasant it is for you now, but not so for me ;" whereupon Suibhne said, and Eorann answered him (as follows) :
32. Suibhne : "At ease art thou, bright Eorann,
at the bedside with thy lover ;
not so with me here,
long have I been restless.
Once thou didst utter, O great Eorann,
a saying pleasing and light,
that thou wouldst not survive
parted one day from Suibhne.
To-day, it is readily manifest,
thou thinkest little of thy old friend ;
warm for thee on the down of a pleasant bed,
cold for me abroad till morn.
Eorann : Welcome to thee, thou guileless mad one !
thou art most welcome of the men of the earth ;
though at ease am I, my body is wasted
since the day I heard of thy ruin.
Suibhne : More welcome to thee is the king's son
who takes thee to feast without sorrow ;
he is thy chosen wooer ;
you seek not your old friend.
Eorann : Though the king's son were to lead me
to blithe banqueting-halls,
I had liefer sleep in a tree's narrow hollow
beside thee, my husband, could I do so.
If my choice were given me
of the men of Erin and Alba,
I had liefer bide sinless with thee
on water and on watercress.
Suibhne : No path for a beloved lady
is that of Suibhne here on the track of care ;
cold are my beds at Ard Abhla,
my cold dwellings are not few.
More meet for thee to bestow love and affection
on the man with whom thou art alone
than on an uncouth and famished madman,
horrible, fearful, stark-naked.
Eorann : O toiling madman, 'Tis my grief
that thou art uncomely and dejected ;
I sorrow that thy skin has lost its colour,
briars and thorns rending thee.
Suibhne : I blame thee not for it,
thou gentle, radiant woman ;
Christ, Son of Mary - ;great bondage - ;
He has caused my feebleness.
Eorann : I would fain that we were together,
and that feathers might grow on our bodies ;
in light and darkness I would wander
with thee each day and night.
Suibhne : One night I was in pleasant Boirche,
I have reached lovely Tuath Inbhir,
I have wandered throughout Magh Fail,
I have happened on Celi Ui Suanaigh."
33. No sooner had he finished than the army swarmed into the camp from every quarter, whereupon he set off in his headlong flight, as he had often done. He halted not in his career until before the fall of night he arrived at Ros Bearaigh - ;the first church at which he tarried after the battle of Magh Rath - ;and he went into the yew-tree which was in the church.
Muireadach mac Earca was erenach of the church at the time, and his wife happened to be going past the yew when she saw the madman in it ; she recognized that it was Suibhne was there and said to him : "Come out of the yew, king of Dal Araidhe ; there is but one woman before you here." She said so in order to seize the madman, and to deceive and beguile him. "I will not go indeed," said Suibhne, "lest Loingseachan and his wife come to me, for there was a time when it would have been easier for you to recognize me than it is to-day" ; whereupon he uttered these staves :
34. "O woman, who dost recognize me
with the points of thy blue eyes,
there was a time when my aspect was better
in the assembly of Dal Araidhe.
I have changed in shape and hue
since the hour I came out of the battle ;
I was the slender Suibhne
of whom the men of Erin had heard.
Bide thou with thy husband and in thy house,
I shall not tarry in Ros Bearaigh ;
until holy Judgment we shall not foregather,
I and thou, O woman."
35. He emerged then from the tree lightly and nimbly, and went on his way until he reached the old tree at Ros Earcain. (For he had three dwellings in his own country in which he was wont to reside, viz. : Teach mic Ninnedha, Cluain Creamha, and Ros Earcain). Thereafter for a fortnight and a month he tarried in the yew-tree without being perceived ; but at length his place and dwelling were discovered, and the nobles of Dal Araidhe took counsel as to who should go to seize him. Everyone said that it was Loingseachan who should be sent. Loingseachan undertook the task, and he went along until he came to the yew in which Suibhne was, whereupon he beheld the madman on the branch above him. "Sad is it, Suibhne," said he, "that your last plight should be thus, without food, without drink, without raiment, like any bird of the air, after having been in garments of silk and satin on splendid steeds from foreign lands with matchless bridles ; with you were women gentle and comely, likewise many youths and hounds and goodly folk of every art ; many hosts, many and diverse nobles and chiefs, and young lords, and landholders and hospitallers were at your command. Many cups and goblets and carved buffalo horns for pleasant-flavoured and enjoyable liquors were yours also. Sad is it for you to be in that wise like unto any miserable bird going from wilderness to wilderness." "Cease now, Loingseachan," said Suibhne ; "that is what was destined for us ; but have you tidings for me of my country ?" "I have in sooth," said Loingseachan, "for your father is dead." "That has seized me ***" said he. "Your mother is also dead," said the young man. "Now all pity for me is at an end," said he. "Dead is your brother," said Loingseachan. "Gaping is my side on that account," said Suibhne. "Dead is your daughter," said Loingseachan. "The heart's needle is an only daughter," said Suibhne. "Dead is your son who used to call you "daddy"," said Loingseachan. "True," said he, "that is the drop (?) which brings a man to the ground ;" whereupon they, even Loingseachan and Suibhne, uttered this lay between them :
36. Loingseachan : "O Suibhne from lofty Sliabh na nEach,
thou of the rough blade wert given to wounding ;
for Christ's sake, who hath put thee in bondage,
grant converse with thy foster-brother.
Hearken to me if thou hearest me,
O splendid king, O great prince,
so that I may relate gently
to thee tidings of thy good land.
There is life for none in thy land after thee ;
it is to tell of it that I have come ;
dead is thy renowned brother there,
dead thy father and thy mother.
Suibhne : If my gentle mother be dead,
harder is it for me to go to my land ;
'Tis long since she has loved my body ;
she has ceased to pity me.
Foolish the counsel of each wild youth
whose elders live not ;
like unto a branch bowed under nuts ;
whoso is brotherless has a gaping side.
Loingseachan : There is another calamity there
which is bewailed by the men of Erin,
though uncouth be thy side and thy foot,
dead is thy fair wife of grief for thee.
Suibhne : For a household to be without a wife
is rowing a rudderless boat,
'Tis a garb of feathers to the skin,
'Tis kindling a single fire.
Loingseachan : I have heard a fearful and loud tale
around which was a clear, fierce wail,
'Tis a fist round smoke, however,
thou art without sister, O Suibhne.
Suibhne : A proverb this, bitter the *** - ;
it has no delight for me - ;
the mild son rests on every ditch,
a sister loves though she be not loved.
Loingseachan : Calves are not let to cows
amongst us in cold Araidhe
since thy gentle daughter, who has loved thee, died,
likewise thy sister's son.
Suibhne : My sister's son and my hound,
they would not forsake me for wealth
'Tis adding loss to sorrow ;
the heart's needle is an only daughter.
Loingseachan : There is another famous story - ;
loth am I to tell it - ;
meetly are the men of the Arada
bewailing thy only son.
Suibhne : That is the renowned drop (?)
which brings a man to the ground,
that his little son who used to say "daddy"
should be without life.
It has called me to thee from the tree,
scarce have I caused enmity,
I cannot bear up against the blow
since I heard the tidings of my only son.
Loingseachan : Since thou hast come, O splendid warrior,
within Loingseachan's hands,
all thy folk are alive,
O scion of Eochu Salbuidhe.
Be still, let thy sense come,
in the east is thy house, not in the west,
far from thy land thou hast come hither,
this is the truth, O Suibhne.
More delightful deemest thou to be amongst deer
in woods and forests
than sleeping in thy stronghold in the east
on a bed of down.
Better deemest thou to be on a holly-branch
beside the swift mill's pond
than to be in choice company
with young fellows about thee.
If thou wert to sleep in the bosom of hills
to the soft strings of lutes,
more sweet wouldst thou deem under the oak-wood
the belling of the brown stag of the herd.
Thou art fleeter than the wind across the valley,
thou art the famous madman of Erin,
brilliant in thy beauty, come hither,
O Suibhne, thou wast a noble champion.
37. When Suibhne heard tidings of his only son, he fell from the yew, whereupon Loingseachan closed his arms around him and put manacles on him. He then told him that all his people lived ; and he took him to the place in which the nobles of Dal Araidhe were. They brought with them locks and fetters to put on Suibhne, and he was entrusted to Loingseachan to take him with him for a fortnight and a month. He took Suibhne away, and the nobles of the province were coming and going during that time ; and at the end of it his sense and memory came to him, likewise his own shape and guise. They took his bonds off him, and his kingship was manifest. Harvest-time came then, and one day Loingseachan went with his people to reap. Suibhne was put in Loingseachan's bed-room after his bonds were taken off him, and his sense had come back to him. The bed-room was shut on him and nobody was left with him but the mill-hag, and she was enjoined not to attempt to speak to him. Nevertheless she spoke to him, asking him to tell some of his adventures while he was in a state of madness. "A curse on your mouth, hag !" said Suibhne ; "ill is what you say ; God will not suffer me to go mad again." "I know well," said the hag, "that it was the outrage done to Ronan that drove you to madness." "O woman," said he, "it is hateful that you should be betraying and luring me." "It is not betrayal at all but truth," ; and Suibhne said :
38. Suibhne : "O hag of yonder mill,
why shouldst thou set me astray ?
is it not deceitful of thee that, through women,
I should be betrayed and lured ?
The hag : 'Tis not I who betrayed thee,
O Suibhne, though fair thy fame,
but the miracles of Ronan from Heaven
which drove thee to madness among madmen.
Suibhne : Were it myself, and would it were I,
that were king of Dal Araidhe
it were a reason for a blow across a chin ;
thou shalt not have a feast, O hag."
39. "O hag," said he, "great are the hardships I have encountered if you but knew ; many a dreadful leap have I leaped from hill to hill, from fortress to fortress, from land to land, from valley to valley." "For God's sake," said the hag, "leap for us now one of the leaps you used to leap when you were mad." Thereupon he bounded over the bed-rail so that he reached the end of the bench. "My conscience !" said the hag, "I could leap that myself," and in the same manner she did so. He took another leap out through the skylight of the hostel. "I could leap that too," said the hag, and straightway she leaped. This, however, is a summary of it : Suibhne travelled through five cantreds of Dal Araidhe that day until he arrived at Glenn na nEachtach in Fiodh Gaibhle, and she followed him all that time. When Suibhne rested there on the summit of a tall ivy-branch, the hag rested on another tree beside him. It was then the end of harvest-time precisely. Thereupon Suibhne heard a hunting-call of a multitude in the verge of the wood. "This," said he, "is the cry of a great host, and they are the Ui Faelain coming to kill me to avenge Oilill Cedach, king of the Ui Faelain, whom I slew in the battle of Magh Rath." He heard the bellowing of the stag, and he made a lay wherein he eulogized aloud the trees of Ireland, and, recalling some of his own hardships and sorrows, he said :
40. "O little stag, thou little bleating one,
O melodious little clamourer,
sweet to us is the music
thou makest in the glen.
Longing for my little home
has come on my senses - ;
the flocks in the plain,
the deer on the mountain.
Thou oak, bushy, leafy,
thou art high beyond trees ;
O hazlet, little branching one,
O fragrance of hazel-nuts.
O alder, thou art not hostile,
delightful is thy hue,
thou art not rending and prickling
in the gap wherein thou art.
O little blackthorn, little thorny one ;
O little black sloe-tree ;
O watercress, little green-topped one,
from the brink of the ousel (?) spring.
O minen of the pathway,
thou art sweet beyond herbs,
O little green one, very green one,
O herb on which grows the strawberry.
O apple-tree, little apple-tree,
much art thou shaken ;
O quicken, little berried one,
delightful is thy bloom.
O briar, little arched one,
thou grantest no fair terms,
thou ceasest not to tear me,
till thou hast thy fill of blood.
O yew-tree, little yew-tree,
in churchyards thou art conspicuous ;
O ivy, little ivy,
thou art familiar in the dusky wood.
O holly, little sheltering one,
thou door against the wind ;
O ash-tree, thou baleful one,
hand-weapon of a warrior.
O birch, smooth and blessed,
thou melodious, proud one,
delightful each entwining branch
in the top of thy crown.
The aspen a-trembling ;
by turns I hear
its leaves a-racing - ;
meseems 'Tis the foray !
My aversion in woods - ;
I conceal it not from anyone - ;
is the leafy stirk of an oak
swaying evermore. (?)
Ill-hap by which I outraged
the honour of Ronan Finn,
his miracles have troubled me,
his little bells from the church.
Ill-omened I found
the armour of upright Congai,
his sheltering, bright tunic
with selvages of gold.
It was a saying of each one
of the valiant, active host :
"Let not escape from you through the narrow copse
the man of the goodly tunic."
"Wound, kill, slaughter,
let all of you take advantage of him ;
put him, though it is great guilt,
on spit and on spike."
The horsemen pursuing me
across round Magh Cobha,
no cast from them reaches
me through my back.
Going through the ivy-trees - ;
I conceal it not, O warrior - ;
like good cast of a spear
I went with the wind.
O little fawn, O little long-legged one,
I was able to catch thee
riding upon thee
from one peak to another.
From Carn Cornan of the contests
to the summit of Sliabh Niadh,
from the summit of Sliabh Uillinne
I reach Crota Cliach.
From Crota Cliach of assemblies
to Carn Liffi of Leinster,
I arrive before eventide
in bitter Benn Gulbain.
My night before the battle of Congal,
I deemed it fortunate,
before I restlessly
wandered over the mountain-peaks.
Glen Bolcain, my constant abode,
'twas a boon to me,
many a night have I attempted
a stern race against the peak.
If I were to wander alone
the mountains of the brown world,
better would I deem the site of a single hut
in the Glen of mighty Bolcan.
Good its water pure-green,
good its clean, fierce wind,
good its cress-green watercress,
best its tall brooklime.
Good its enduring ivy-trees,
good its bright, cheerful sallow,
good its yewy yews,
best its melodious birch.
If thou shouldst come, O Loingseachan,
to me in every guise,
each night to talk to me,
perchance I would not tarry for thee.
I would not have tarried to speak to thee
were it not for the tale which has wounded me - ;
father, mother, daughter, son,
brother, strong wife dead.
If thou shouldst come to speak to me,
no better would I deem it ;
I would wander before morn
the mountains of Boirche of peaks.
By the mill of the little floury one (?)
thy folk has been ground, (?)
O wretched one, O weary one,
O swift Loingseachan.
O hag of this mill,
why dost thou take advantage of me ?
I hear thee revile me
even when thou art out on the mountain.
O hag, O round-headed one, (?)
wilt thou go on a steed ?"
The hag : "I would go, O fool-head (?)
if no one were to see me.
O Suibhne, if I go,
may my leap be successful."
Suibhne : "If thou shouldst come, O hag,
mayst thou not dismount full of sense !" (?)
The hag : "In sooth, not just is what thou sayest,
thou son of Colman Cas ;
is not my riding better
without falling back ?"
Suibhne : "Just, in sooth, is what I say,
O hag without sense ;
a demon is ruining thee,
thou hast ruined thyself."
The hag : "Dost thou not deem my arts better,
thou noble, slender madman,
that I should be following thee
from the tops of the mountains ?"
Suibhne : "A proud ivy-bush
which grows through,a twisted tree - ;
if I were right on its summit,
I would fear to come out.
I flee before the skylarks - ;
'Tis a stern, great race - ;
I leap over the stumps
on the tops of the mountains.
When the proud turtle-dove
rises for us,
quickly do I overtake it
since my feathers have grown.
The silly, foolish woodcock
when it rises for me
methinks 'Tis a bitter foe,
the blackbird(too) that gives the cry of alarm.
Every time I would bound
till I was on the ground
so that I might see the little fox
below a-gnawing the bones.
Beyond every wolf (?) among the ivy-trees
swiftly would he get the advantage of me,
so nimbly would I leap
till I was on the mountain-peak.
Little foxes yelping
to me and from me,
wolves at their rending,
I flee at their sound.
They have striven to reach me,
coming in their swift course,
so that I fled before them
to the tops of the mountains.
My transgression has come against me
whatsoever way I flee ;
'Tis manifest to me from the pity shwon me
that I am a sheep without a fold.
The old tree of Cell Lughaidhe
wherein I sleep a sound sleep ;
more delightful in the time of Congal
was the fair of plenteous Line.
There will come the starry frost
which will fall on every pool ;
I am wretched, straying
exposed to it on the mountain-peak.
The herons a-calling
in chilly Glenn Aighle,
swift flocks of birds
coming and going.
I love not the merry prattle
that men and women make :
sweeter to me is the warbling
of the blackbirds in the quarter in which it is.
I love not the trumpeting
I hear at early morn :
sweeter to me the squeal
of the badgers in Benna Broc.
I love not the horn-blowing
so boldly I hear :
sweeter to me the belling of a stag
of twice twenty peaks.
There is the material of a plough-team
from glen to glen :
each stag at rest
on the summit of the peaks.
Though many are my stags
from glen to glen,
not often is a ploughman's hand
closing round their horns. (?)
The stag of lofty Sliabh Eibhlinne,
the stag of sharp Sliabh Fuaid,
the stag of Ealla, the stag of Orrery,
the fierce stag of Loch Lein.
The stag of Seimhne, Larne's stag,
the stag of Line of the mantles,
the stag of Cuailgne, the stag of Conachail,
the stag of Bairenn of two peaks.
O mother of this herd,
thy coat has become grey,
there is no stag after thee
without two score antler-points.
Greater than the material for a little cloak
thy head has turned grey ;
if I were on each little point,
there would be a pointlet on every point.
Thou stag that comest lowing
to me across the glen,
pleasant is the place for seats
on the top of thy antler-points.
I am Suibhne, a poor suppliant,
swiftly do I race across the glen ;
that is not my lawful name,
rather is it Fer benn.
The springs I found best :
the well of Leithead Lan,
the well most beautiful and cool,
the fountain of Dun Mail.
Though many are my wanderings,
my raiment to-day is scanty ;
I myself keep my watch
on the top of the mountains.
O tall, russet fern,
thy mantle has been made red ;
there is no bed for an outlaw
in the branches of thy crests.
At ever-angelic Tech Moling,
at puissant Toidhen in the south,
'tis there my eternal resting-place will be,
I shall fall by a [spear]-point.
The curse of Ronan Finn
has thrown me in thy company,
O little stag, little bleating one,
O melodious little clamourer."
41. After that lay Suibhne came from Fiodh Gaibhle to Benn Boghaine, thence to Benn Faibhne, thence to Rath Murbuilg, but he found no refuge from the hag until he reached Dun Sobairce in Ulster. Suibhne leaped from the summit of the fort sheer down in front of the hag. She leaped quickly after him, but dropped on the cliff of Dun Sobairce, where she was broken to pieces, and fell into the sea. In that manner she found death in the wake of Suibhne.
42. Thereafter Suibhne said : "Henceforth I shall not be in Dal Araidhe, for Loingseachan, to avenge his hag, would kill me if I were in his power." Suibhne then went to Ros Comain in Connacht, and he alighted at the brink of the well, where he fared on watercress and water. A woman came from the erenach's house to the well ; Forbhasach son of Fordhalach was the erenach. Finnsheng daughter of Findealach (?) was the name of the woman who came. The madman fled from her and she laid hold of the watercress which was in the stream. Suibhne on the tree in front of her was bemoaning greatly that his portion of watercress was taken away. Whereupon he said : "O woman," said he, "sad is it that you should take my watercress from me, if you but knew the plight in which I am, for neither tribesman nor kinsman pities me, nor do I visit as a guest the house of anyone on the ridge of the world. For kine I have my watercress, my water is my mead, my trees hard and bare or close-sheltering are my friends. And even if you did not take away my watercress," said he, "certain is it that you would not be without something else to-night as I am after my watercress has been taken from me" : and he made this lay :
43. "O woman who pluckest the watercress
and takest the water,
thou wouldst not be without something to-night
even though thou didst not take my portion.
Alas, O woman !
thou wilt not go the way that I shall go ;
I abroad in the tree-tops,
thou yonder in a friend's house.
Alas, O woman !
cold is the wind that has come to me ;
nor mother nor son has pity on me,
no cloak is on my breast.
If thou but knewest, O woman,
how Suibhne here is :
he does not get friendship from anyone,
nor does anyone get his friendship.
I go not to a gathering
among warriors of my country,
no safeguard is granted me,
my thought is not on kingship.
I go not as a guest
to the house of any man's son in Erin,
more often am I straying madly
on the pointed mountain-peaks.
None cometh to make music to me
for a while before going to rest,
no pity do I get
from tribesman or kinsman.
When I was Suibhne indeed
and used to go on steeds - ;
when that comes to my memory
alas that I was detained in life !
I am Suibhne, noble leader (?),
cold and joyless is my abode,
though I be to-night on wild peaks,
O woman who pluckest my watercress.
My mead is my cold water,
my kine are my cresses,
my friends are my trees,
though I am without mantle or smock.
Cold is the night to-night,
though I am poor as regards watercress,
I have heard the cry of the wild-goose
over bare Imlech Iobhair.
I am without mantle or smock
the evil hour has long clung to me (?),
I flee at the cry of the heron
as though it were a blow that struck me.
I reach firm Dairbre
in the wondrous days of Spring,
and before night I flee
westward to Benn Boirche.
If thou art learned, O fair, crabbed one,
my field ***
there is one to whom the burden thou takest
is a grievous matter, O hag.
It is cold they are
at the brink of a clear, pebbly spring - ;
a bright quaff of pure water
and the watercress you pluck.
My meal is the watercress you pluck,
the meal of a noble, emaciated madman ;
cold wind springs around my loins
from the peaks of each mountain.
Chilly is the wind of morn,
It comes between me and my smock,
I am unable to speak to thee,
O woman who pluckest the watercress.
The woman : Leave my portion to the Lord,
be not harsh to me ;
the more wilt thou attain supremacy,
and take a blessing, O Suibhne.
Suibhne : Let us make a bargain just and fitting
though I am on the top of the yew ;
take thou my smock and my tatters,
leave the little bunch of cress.
There is scarce one by whom I am beloved,
I have no house on earth ;
since thou takest from me my watercress
my sins to be on thy soul !
Mayest thou not reach him whom thou hast loved,
the worse for him whom thou hast followed ;
thou hast left one in poverty
because of the bunch thou hast plucked.
May a raid of the blue-coated Norsemen take thee !
Thine has not been a fortunate meeting for me,
mayest thou get from the Lord the blame
for cutting my portion of watercress.
O woman, if there should come to thee
Loingseachan whose delight is sport,
do thou give him on my behalf
half the watercress thou pluckest."
44. That night he remained in Ros Comain and went thence on the morrow to delightful Sliabh Aughty, thence to smooth, beautiful Sliabh Mis, thence to lofty-peaked Sliabh Bloom, thence to Inis Murray. For a fortnight and a month he tarried in the cave of Donnan of Eig, and went thence to Carrick Alastair where he took up his abode and remained another fortnight and a month. He left it afterwards and bade it farewell, and, proclaiming aloud his own woes, said :
45. "Gloomy this life,
to be without a soft bed,
abode of cold frost,
roughness of wind-driven snow.
Cold, icy wind,
faint shadow of a feeble sun,
shelter of a single tree,
on the summit of a table-land.
Enduring the rain-storm,
stepping over deer-paths, (?)
faring through greensward
on a morn of grey frost.
The bellowing of the stags
throughout the wood,
the climb to the deer-pass,
the voice of white seas.
Yea, O great Lord,
great this weakness,
more grievous this black sorrow,
Suibhne the slender-groined.
Racing over many-hued gaps
of Boirche of hut couches,
the sough of the winter night,
footing it in hailstones.
Lying on a wet bed
on the slopes of Loch Erne,
mind on early departure,
morn of early rising.
Racing over the wave-tops
of Dun Sobairce,
ear to the billows
of Dun Rodairce.
Running from this great wave
to the wave of the rushing Barrow,
sleeping on a hard couch
of fair Dun Cermna.
From fair Dun Cermna
to flowery Benn Boirne,
ear against a stone pillow
of rough Cruachan Oighle.
Restless my wandering
in the plain of the Boroma,
from Benn Iughoine
to Benn Boghaine.
There has come to me
one who has laid hands on me,
she has brought no peace to me,
the woman who has dishonoured me.
She has taken my portion
on account of my sins,
wretched the work - ;
my watercress has been eaten.
Watercress I pluck,
food in a fair bunch,
four round handfuls
of fair Glen Bolcain.
A meal I seek - ;
pleasant the bogberry,
a drink of water here
from the well of Ronan Finn.
Bent are my nails,
feeble my loins,
pierced my feet,
bare my thighs.
There will overtake me
a warrior-band stubbornly,
far from Ulster,
faring in Alba.
After this journey - ;
sad is my secret song - ;
to be in the hard company
of Carraig Alastair.
abode of sea-gulls,
sad, O Creator,
chilly for its guests.
sufficient were it half the height,
nose to the main.
Sad our meeting ;
a couple of cranes hard-shanked - ;
I hard and ragged,
Wet these beds
wherein is my dwelling,
little did I think
it was a rock of holiness.
Bad was it for Congal Claon
that he arrived at the battle ;
like an outer yoke
he has earned a curse.
When I fled
from the battle of Magh Rath
before my undoing,
I deserved not harshness.
Sad this expedition ;
would that I had not come !
far from my home
is the country I have reached.
Loingseachan will come,
sad his journeys ;
though he follow me,
it will not be easy.
are the rampart of this circuit - ;
the land to which I have come - ;
not a deed of sadness.
The black lake of fortressed Boirche
greatly has it perturbed me ;
the vastness of its depths,
the strength of its wave-crests.
Better found I
choice places of wooded Meath,
the vastness of Ossory.
Ulaidh in harvest-time
about quivering Loch Cuan,
a summer visit
to the race of enduring Eoghan.
A journey at Lammastide
to Taillten of fountains,
fishing in springtime
the meandering Shannon.
Often do I reach
the land I have set in order,
46. Suibhne then left Carraig Alastair and went over the wide-mouthed, storm-swept sea until he reached the land of the Britons. He left the fortress of the king of the Britons on his right hand and came on a great wood. As he passed along the wood he heard lamenting and wailing, a great moan of anguish and feeble sighing. It was another madman who was wandering through the wood. Suibhne went up to him. "Who are you, my man ?" said Suibhne. "I am a madman," said he. "If you are a madman," said Suibhne, "come hither so that we may be friends, for I too am a madman." "I would," said the other, "were it not for fear of the king's house or household seizing me, and I do not know that you are not one of them." "I am not indeed," said Suibhne, "and since I am not, tell me your family name." "Fer Caille (Man of the Wood) is my name," said the madman ; whereupon Suibhne uttered this stave and Fer Caille answered him as follows :
47. Suibhne : "O Fer Cailli, what has befallen thee ?
sad is thy voice ;
tell me what has marred thee
in sense or form.
Fer Caille : I would tell thee my story,
likewise my deeds,
were it not for fear of the proud host
of the king's household.
Ealadhan am I
who used to go to many combats,
I am known to all
as the leading madman of the glens.
Suibhne : Suibhne son of Colman am I
from the pleasant Bush ;
the easier for us is converse
here, O man.
48. After that each confided in the other and they asked tidings of each other. Said Suibhne to the madman : "Give an account of yourself." "I am son of a landholder," said the madman of Britain, "and I am a native of this country in which we are, and Ealladhan is my name." "Tell me," said Suibhne, "what caused your madness." "Not difficult to say. Once upon a time two kings were contending for the sovereignty of this country, viz., Eochaidh Aincheas, son of Guaire Mathra, and Cugua, son of Guaire. Of the people of Eochaidh am I," said he, "for he was the better of the two. There was then convened a great assembly to give battle to each other concerning the country. I put geasa on each one of my lord's people that none of them should come to the battle except they were clothed in silk, so that they might be conspicuous beyond all for pomp and pride. The hosts gave three shouts of malediction on me, which sent me wandering and fleeing as you see."
49. In the same way he asked Suibhne what drove him to madness. "The words of Ronan," said Suibhne, "for he cursed me in front of the battle of Magh Rath, so that I rose on high out of the battle, and I have been wandering and fleeing ever since." "O Suibhne," said Ealladhan, "let each of us keep good watch over the other since we have placed trust in each other ; that is, he who shall soonest hear the cry of a heron from a blue-watered, green-watered lough or the clear note of a cormorant, or the flight of a woodcock from a branch, the whistle or sound of a plover on being woke from its sleep, or the sound of withered branches being broken, or shall see the shadow of a bird above the wood, let him who shall first hear warn and tell the other ; let there be the distance of two trees between us ; and if one of us should hear any of the before-mentioned things or anything resembling them, let us fly quickly away thereafter."
50. They do so, and they were a whole year together. At the end of the year Ealladhan said to Suibhne : "It is time that we part to-day, for the end of my life has come, and I must go to the place where it has been destined for me to die." "What death shall you die ?" said Suibhne. "Not difficult to say," said Ealladhan ; "I go now to Eas Dubhthaigh, and a blast of wind will get under me and cast me into the waterfall so that I shall be drowned, and I shall be buried afterwards in a churchyard of a saint, and I shall obtain Heaven ; and that is the end of my life. And, O Suibhne," said Ealladhan, "tell me what your own fate will be." Suibhne then told him as the story relates below. At that they parted and the Briton set out for Eas Dubhthaigh, and when he reached the waterfall he was drowned in it.
51. Suibhne then came to Ireland and at the close of day he arrived at Magh Line in Ulster. When he recognized the plain he said : "Good in sooth was he with whom I sojourned on the plain, even Congal Claon, son of Scannlan, and good moreover was the plain on which we were. One day Congal and I were there and I said to him : "I would fain go to another master," because of the meagre recompense I received from him. Whereat, in order that I might stay with him, he gave me thrice fifty beautiful, foreign steeds together with his own brown steed, and thrice fifty gleaming, tusk-hilted swords, fifty bondsmen, and fifty bondsmaids, a tunic with gold and a splendid girdle of chequered silk." Thereupon Suibhne recited this poem :
52. "In Magh Line I am to-night,
my bare breast knows it ;
I know too the plain
wherein dwelt my mate Congal.
Once upon a time Congal Claon and I
were here in the plain together ;
as we were going to plenteous Druim Lurgain,
we made converse for a while.
Said I to the king - ;
*** - ;
"I am fain to depart
too little do I deem my recompense."
I got from him as a gift
thrice fifty bridled steeds,
thrice fifty strong swords,
fifty foreigners and fifty handmaidens.
I got from him the brown steed,
the best that sped over meadow and sward ;
I got his golden tunic
and his girdle of chequered silk.
What plain is a match for Magh Line,
unless it be the plain that is in Meath,
or Magh Femin of many crosses,
or the plain that is in Airgeadros ?
Or Magh Feadha, or Magh Luirg,
or Magh Aei with beauty of rank,
or Magh Life, or Magh Li,
or the plain that is in Murthemne ?
Of all that I have ever seen
both north and south and west,
I have not yet beheld
the peer of this plain."
53. After that lay Suibhne came on to Glen Bolcain, and he was wandering through it when he encountered a mad woman. He fled before her and yet he divined that she was in a state of madness, and he turned towards her. At that she fled before him. "Alas, O God !" said Suibhne, "wretched is this life ; here am I fleeing from the crazy woman and she fleeing from me in the midst of Glen Bolcain ; dear in sooth is that place" ; whereupon he said :
54. "Woe to him who bears enmity,
would that he had not been born or brought forth !
whether it be a woman or a man that bear it,
may the two not reach holy Heaven !
Seldom is there a league of three
without one of them murmuring ;
blackthorns and briars have torn me
so that I am the murmurer.
A crazy woman fleeing from her man - ;
however, it is a strange tale - ;
a man without clothes, without shoes,
fleeing before the woman.
Our desire when the wild ducks come
at Samhuin, up to May-day,
in each brown wood without scarcity
to be in ivy-branches.
Water of bright Glen Bolcain,
listening to its many birds ;
its melodious, rushing streams,
its islands and its rivers.
Its sheltering holly and its hazels,
its leaves, its brambles, its acorns,
its delicious, fresh berries,
its nuts, its refreshing sloes.
The number of its packs of hounds in woods,
the bellowing of its stags,
its pure water without prohibition ;
'Tis not I that hated it."
55. Thereafter Suibhne went to the place where Eorann was and stood at the outer door of the house wherein were the queen and her womenfolk, and then he said : "At ease art thou, Eorann, though ease is not for me." "True," said Eorann, "but come in," said she. "In sooth I will not," said Suibhne, "lest the army pen me in the house." "Methinks," said the woman, "no better is your reason from day to day, and since you do not wish to stay with us," said she, "go away and do not visit us at all, for we are ashamed that you should be seen in that guise by people who have seen you in your true guise." "Wretched in sooth is that," said Suibhne, "woe to him who trusts a woman after these words. For great was my kindness to the woman who dismisses me thus, seeing that on one day I gave her thrice fifty cows and fifty steeds ; and if it were the day I slew Oilill Cedach, king of the Ui Faolain, she would have been glad to see me" ; whereupon he said :
56. "Woe to those who strike women's fancy,
however excellent their form,
since Suibhne Geilt
has got no sympathy from his first love.
And woe to him who trusts in women
whether by night or by day,
whatever be in their minds,
after the treachery of Eorann.
Good was my kindness to the woman - ;
without guile, without deceit - ;
she got from me thrice fifty cows
and fifty steeds in one day.
When I was in the conflict
I would not avoid an armed band ;
where there was a fight or a tussle
I was a match for thirty.
Rightly did Congal ask
of us Ulster warriors :
"which of you will repel in battle
Oilill Cedach the combative ?"
Wild and angry the man,
huge his shield and his spear,
he stilled for a time the host,
the matchless, huge man.
Said I at Congal's side - ;
it was not the response of a timid man - ;
"I will ward off mighty Oilill,
though hard beyond aIl is it to encounter him."
Headless I left Oilill,
and right glad was I thereat ;
by me also there fell
five sons of the king of Magh Mairge."
57. Thereupon Suibhne rose lightly, stealthily, airily, from the point of every height and from the summit of one hill to another until he reached Benn Boirche in the south. In that place he rested saying : "This is a spot for a madman, but yet no place is it for corn or milk or food ; it is an uncomfortable, unquiet place, nor has it shelter against storm or shower, though it is a lofty, beautiful place," whereupon he uttered these words :
58. "Cold to-night is Benn Boirche,
'Tis the abode of a blighted man ;
no place is it for food or milk,
nor in storm and endless snow.
Cold is my bed at night
on the summit of Benn Boirche ;
I am weak, no raiment covers me
on a sharp-branching holly-tree.
When cold has gripped me in the ice
I move sharply against it,
I give fire to the glinting wind
blowing over the plain of Laoghaire's Leinster.
Glen Bolcain of the clear spring,
it is my dwelling to abide in ;
when Samhuin comes, when summer goes,
it is my dwelling where I abide.
Wheresoever I might wander west and east
throughout Glanamhrach's glens
the biting snowstorm is in my face,
for shelter of the chilly madman of Erin.
That is my beloved glen,
my land of foregathering,
my royal fortress that has fallen to my share,
my shelter against storm.
For my sustenance at night
I have all that my hands glean
in dark oak-woods
of herbs and plenteous fruit.
I love the precious bog-berries,
they are sweeter than ***
brooklime, sea-weed, they are my desire,
the lus bian and the watercress.
Apples, berries, beautiful hazel-nuts,
blackberries, acorns from the oak-tree,
raspberries, they are the due of generosity,
haws of the prickly-sharp hawthorn.
wood-sorrels, goodly wild garlic,
and clean-topped cress,
together they drive hunger from me,
mountain acorns, melle root.
I in a green land that is not a glen,
O Christ, may I never reach it !
it is not my due to be there ;
but though I am cold, it also is cold."
59. On the morning of the morrow Suibhne came on to Magh Femhin, thence he fared to the limpid, green-streamed Shannon, thence to lofty, beautiful Aughty, thence to the smooth-green, bright land of Maenmagh, thence to the noble and delightful river Suck, thence to the shores of spreading Lough Ree. That night he made his resting-place in the fork of Bile Tiobradain in Crich Gaille in the east of Connaught. That was one of his beloved places in Ireland. Great sorrow and misery came upon him, whereupon he said : "Great in sooth is the trouble and anxiety I have suffered hitherto ; cold was my dwelling-place last night on the summit of Benn Boirche, nor less cold is my dwelling-place to-night in the fork of Bile Tiobradain."
60. For it was snowing that night and as fast as the snow fell it was frozen, whereupon he said : "My conscience ! Great is the suffering I have endured from the time my feathers have grown until to-night. I know," said he, "that though I might meet my death therefrom, it were better that I should trust people than suffer these woes forever." Thereupon he recited the poem proclaiming aloud his woes :
61. "I am in great grief to-night,
the pure wind has pierced my body ;
wounded are my feet, my cheek is wan,
O great God ! it is my due.
Last night I was in Benn Boirche,
the rain of chilly Aughty beat on me ;
to-night my limbs are racked
in the fork of a tree in pleasant Gaille.
I have borne many a fight without cowardice
since feathers have grown on my body ;
each night and each day
more and more do I endure ill.
Frost and foul storm have wrung my heart,
snow has beaten on me on Sliabh mic Sin ;
to-night the wind has wounded me,
without the heather of happy Glen Bolcain.
Unsettled is my faring through each land,
it has befallen me that I am without sense or reason,
from Magh Line to Magh Li,
from Magh Li to the impetuous Liffey.
I pass over the wooded brow of Sliabh Fuaid,
in my flight I reach Rathmor,
across Magh Aoi, across bright Magh Luirg,
I reach the border of fair Cruachan.
From Sliabh Cua - ;no easy expedition - ;
I reach pleasant Glais Gaille ;
from Glais Gaille, though a long step,
I arrive at sweet Sliabh Breagh to the east.
Wretched is the life of one homeless,
sad is the Iife, O fair Christ !
a meal of fresh, green-tufted watercress,
a drink of cold water from a clear stream.
Stumbling from withered tree-tops,
faring through furze - ;deed without falsehood - ;
shunning mankind, keeping company with wolves,
racing with the red stag over the field.
Sleeping of nights without covering in a wood
in the top of a thick, bushy tree,
without hearing voice or speech ;
O Son of God, great is the misery !
Foolishly I race up a mountain-peak
alone, exhausted by dint of vigour ;
I have parted from my faultless shape ;
O Son of God, great is the misery !"
62. "Howbeit," said he, "even if Domhnall son of Aodh were to slay me, I will go to Dal Araidhe and I will entrust myself to my own people, and if the mill-hag had not invoked Christ against me so that I might perform leaps for her awhile, I would not have gone again into madness."
63. A gleam of reason came to him then, and he set out towards his country to entrust himself to his people and abide with them. At that time it was revealed to Ronan that Suibhne had recovered his reason and that he was going to his country to abide among his folk ; whereupon Ronan said : "I entreat the noble, almighty King that that persecutor may not be able to approach the church to persecute it again as he once did, and, until his soul has parted from his body, may there be no help or relief to him from the vengeance which God inflicted on him in revenge for the dishonour done to His people, so that no other like tyrant after him may inflict outrage or dishonour on the Lord or on His people."
64. God heard Ronan's prayer, for when Suibhne came to the centre of Sliabh Fuaid he stopped still there, and a strange apparition appeared to him at midnight ; even trunks, headless and red, and heads without bodies, and five bristling, rough-grey heads without body or trunk among them, screaming and leaping this way and that about the road. When he came among them he heard them talking to each other, and this is what they were saying : "He is a madman," said the first head ; "a madman of Ulster," said the second head ; "follow him well," said the third head ; "may the pursuit be long," said the fourth head ; "until he reaches the sea," said the fifth head. They rose forth together towards him. He soared aloft in front of them (passing) from thicket to thicket, and no matter how vast was the glen before him he would not touch it, but would leap from one edge of it to another, and from the summit of one hill to the summit of another.
65. Great in sooth was the terror, the crying and wailing, the screaming and crying aloud, the din and tumult of the heads after him as they were clutching and eagerly pursuing him. Such were the force and swiftness of that pursuit that the heads leaped on his calves, his houghs, his thighs, his shoulders, and the nape of his neck, so that the impact of head against head, and the clashing of all against the sides of trees and the heads of rocks, against the surface and the earth, seemed to him like the rush of a wild torrent from the breast of a high mountain ; nor did they cease until he escaped from them into the filmy clouds of the sky.
66. Then they parted from him, both goat-heads and dog-heads - ;for it seemed to him that these were all intermingled with the other heads pursuing him. The wandering and flying which he had ever before done were as nothing in comparison with this, for he would not rest long enough to take a drink to the end of three fortnights after that until he came one night to the summit of Sliabh Eidhneach ; that night he rested there on the top of a tree until morning. He then began lamenting grievously ; whereupon he said : "Wretched indeed is it with me to-night after the hag and the heads on Sliabh Fuaid, and yet it is right that I should be as I am, because of the many to whom I myself have done harm" ; whereupon he said :
67 "Mournful am I to-night,
I am sad and wretched, my side is naked,
if folk but knew me
I have cause for lament.
Frost, ice, snow, and storm,
forever scourging me,
I without fire, without house,
on the summit of Sliabh Eidhneach.
I have a mansion and a good wife,
everyone would say that I was a prince ;
'Tis He who is Lord and King
has wrought my downfall.
Wherefore did God rescue me from the battle
that no one was found there to slay me,
rather than that I should go step by step
with the hag of the mill ?
The hag of the mill at her house,
Christ's curse on her soul !
woe whosoever has trusted the hag !
woe to whom she has given his dog's portion !
Loingseachan was on my track
throughout every wilderness in Erin,
until he lured me from the tree
what time he related my son's death.
He carried me into the great house
wherein the host was feasting,
and bound me behind in the house (?)
face to face with my first love.
The people of the house without reproach
playing games and laughing ;
I and my folk in the house
leaping and jumping.
Were it not for the hag of the house,
I would not have gone again into madness ;
she besought me by Christ of Heaven
to leap for her a little while.
I leaped a leap or two
for the sake of the Heavenly Father Himself ;
the hag at her house said
that even so could she herself leap.
Once more I leaped out
over the top of the fortress ;
swifter than smoke through a house
was the flight of the hag.
We wandered through all Erin,
from Teach Duinn to Traigh Ruire,
from Traigh Ruire to Benna Brain,
but the hag I did not elude.
Through plain and bog and hillside
I escaped not from the slattern
until she leaped with me the famous leap
to the summit of Dun Sobairce.
Thereafter I leaped down the dun,
nor did I step back,
I went out into the sea,
yonder I left the hag.
There came then to the strand
the devil's crew to meet her,
and they bore away her body ;
woe to the land of Erin in which it was buried !
Once as I passed over Sliabh Fuaid
on a dark, black, gloomy night,
on the hill I beheld five heads,
having been cut off in one place.
Said one of them of a sudden - ;
harsh was the voice to me - ;
"a madman of Ulster, follow him
so that you drive him before you to the sea."
I sped before them along the path
and I set not foot on ground ;
both goat-head and dog-head
then began to curse.
'Tis right that I should get harm ;
many a night have I leaped a lake,
many eyes of fond women
have I made weep."
68. On a certain occasion Suibhne happened to be in Luachair Deaghaidh on his wild career of folly ; he went thence in his course of madness until he reached Fiodh Gaibhle of clear streams and beautiful branches. In that place he remained a year and during that year his food consisted of blood-red, saffron holly-berries and dark-brown acorns, and a drink of water from the Gabhal, that is, the river from which the wood is named. At the end of that time deep grief and heavy sorrow took hold of Suibhne there because of the wretchedness of his life ; whereupon he uttered this little poem :
69. "I am Suibhne, alas !
my wretched body is utterly dead,
evermore without music, without sleep,
save the soughing of the rude gale.
I have come from Luachair Deaghaidh
to the border of Fiodh Gaibhle,
this is my fare - ;I hide it not - ;
A year have I been on the mountain
in this form in which I am,
without food going into my body
save crimson holly-berries.
The madman of Glen Bolcain am I,
I shall not hide my gnawing grief ;
to-night my vigour has come to an end,
not to me is there no cause for grief."
70. One day it happened that he went to Druim Iarainn in Connacht where he eat green-topped watercress of the church by the brink of the green-flecked well and he drank some of its water after. A cleric came out of the church and he was indignant and resentful towards the madman for eating the food which he himself used to eat, and he said that it was happy and contented Suibhne was in the yew-tree after taking his meal from himself. "Sad in sooth is that (saying), o cleric," said Suibhne, "for I am the most discontented and unhappy creature in the world, for neither rest nor slumber comes on my eyes for fear of my being slain. That is natural, because I would equally go into madness at seeing the united hosts of the universe threatening me as at the flight of a single wren ; and, O God of Heaven ! cleric," said Suibhne, "that you are not in my place and I in the state of devotion in which you are, so that your mind and understanding might recognise that it is not usual for the like of me or for my counterpart to be happy as you say" ; whereupon the cleric recited the beginning of the poem and Suibhne responded (by reciting) the end, as follows :
71. The cleric : "Thou art at ease, madman,
on the top of the yew-branch
beside my little abode,
thou hast eaten my watercress.
Suibhne : My life is not one of ease,
O cleric of Druim Iarainn,
such is my fear
that I do not close an eye.
If I were to see the men of the world
coming to me, O man of the bell,
I would flee from them as fast
as at the flight of a wren.
Alas ! that thou art not in my place
and I a devout cleric,
so that thy mind might grasp
that it is not the accomplishment of a madman to be at ease."
72. One day as Suibhne was wandering aimlessly and restlessly through Connacht he came at last to All Fharannain in Tir Fhiachrach Mhuaide ; a delightful valley with a beautiful green-streamed river dropping swiftly down the cliff and a blessed place there wherein was a synod of saints and multitudes of righteous folk. Numerous too on that cliff were the beautiful trees, heavy and rich with fruits ; numerous also the well-sheltered ivy-trees and heavy-topped apple-trees bending to the ground with the weight of their fruit ; wild deer and hares and great, heavy swine were there also, likewise many fat seals that used to sleep on that cliff after coming from the main beyond. Suibhne greatly coveted that place and he began praising and describing it aloud ; whereupon he uttered this lay :
73. "Cliff of Farannan, abode of saints,
with many fair hazels and nuts,
swift cold water
rushing down its side.
Many green ivy-trees are there
and mast such as is prized,
and fair, heavy-topped apple-trees
bending their branches.
Many badgers going under its shelter
and fleet hares too,
and *** brows of seals
coming hither from the main.
I am Suibhne son of upright Colman,
many a frosty night have I been feeble ;
Ronan of Druim Gess has outraged me,
I sleep "neath a tree at yonder waterfall."
74. At length Suibhne came along to the place where Moling was, even Teach Moling. The psalter of Kevin was at the time in front of Moling as he was reading it to the students. In the cleric's presence Suibhne then came to the brink of the fountain and began to eat watercress. "O mad one, that is eating early," Moling spoke and Suibhne answered him :
75. Moling : "An early hour is it, thou madman,
for due celebration.
Suibhne : Though to thee, cleric, it may seem early,
terce has come in Rome.
Moling : How dost thou know, mad one,
when terce comes in Rome ?
Suibhne : Knowledge comes to me from my Lord
each morn and each eve.
Moling : Relate through the mystery of speech
tidings of the fair Lord.
Suibhne : With thee is the (gift of) prophecy
if thou art Moling.
Moling : How dost thou know me,
thou toiling, cunning madman ?
Suibhne : Often have I been upon this green
since my reason was overthrown.
Moling : Why dost thou not settle in one place,
thou son of Colman Cuar ?
Suibhne : I had rather be in one seat
in life everlasting.
Moling : Miserable one, will thy soul reach
hell with vastness of slime ?
Suibhne : God inflicts no pain on me
save being without rest.
Moling : Move hither that thou mayest eat
what thou deemest sweet.
Suibhne : If you but knew, cleric,
more grievous is it to be without a cloak.
Moling : Thou shalt take my cowl
or thou shalt take my smock.
Suibhne : Though to-day I am ghastly,
there was a time when it was better.
Moling : Art thou the dreaded Suibhne
who came from the battle of Rath ?
Suibhne : If I am, 'Tis not to be guaranteed
what I might eat at early morn.
Moling : Whence has come my recognition,
cunning madman, to thee ?
Suibhne : Often am I upon this green
watching thee from afar.
Moling : Delightful is the leaf of this book,
the psalter of holy Kevin.
Suibhne : More delightful is a leaf of my yew
in happy Glen Bolcain.
Moling : Dost thou not deem this churchyard pleasant
with its school of beautiful colours ?
Suibhne : Not more unpleasant was my muster
the morning at Magh Rath.
Moling : I will go for celebration
to Glais Cille Cro.
Suibhne : I will leap a fresh ivy-bush
a high leap, and it will be a greater feat.
Moling : Wearisome is it to me in this church
waiting on the strong and weak.
Suibhne : More wearisome is my couch
in chilly Benn Faibhni.
Moling : Where comes thy life's end,
in church or lake ?
Suibhne : A herd of thine
will slay me at early morn."
76. "Welcome in sooth is your coming here, Suibhne", said Moling, "for it is destined for you to be here and to end your life here ; to leave here your history and adventures, and to be buried in a churchyard of righteous folk ; and I bind you," said Moling, "that however much of Ireland you may travel each day, you will come to me each evening so that I may write your history."
77. Thereafter during that year the madman was visiting Moling. One day he would go to Innis Bo Finne in west Connacht, another day to delightful Eas Ruaidh, another day to smooth, beautiful Sliabh Mis, another day to ever-chilly Benn Boirche, but go where he would each day, he would attend at vespers each night at Teach Moling. Moling ordered a collation for him for that hour, for he told his cook to give him some of each day's milking. Muirghil was her name ; she was wife of Mongan, swineherd to Moling. This was the extent of the meal the woman used to give him : she used to thrust her heel up to her ankle in the cowdung nearest her and leave the full of it of new milk there for Suibhne. He used to come cautiously and carefully into the vacant portion of the milking yard to drink the milk.
78. One night a dispute arose between Muirgil and another woman in the milking enclosure, whereupon the latter said : "the worse is it for you," said she, "that another man is not more welcome to you, and yet that you do not prefer your own husband to come to you than the madman who is visiting you for the past year." The herd's sister hearkened to that ; nevertheless she mentioned nothing about it until she saw Muirgil on the morrow morning going to leave the milk for Suibhne in the cowdung near the hedge at which he was. The herd's sister seeing that, came in and said to her brother : "You cowardly creature, your wife is in yonder hedge with another man," said she, The herd hearing that became jealous, and he rose suddenly and and and and angrily and seized a spear that was within on a rack and made for the madman. The madman's side was towards him as he was lying down eating his meal out of the cowdung. The herd made a thrust of the spear out of his hand at Suibhne and wounded him in the nipple of his left breast, so that the point went through him, breaking his back in two. (Some say that it is the point of a deer's horn the herd had placed under him in the spot where he used to take his drink out of the cowdung, that he fell on it and so met his death.)
79. Enna Mac Bracain was then sounding the bell for prime at the door of the churchyard and he saw the deed that was done there ; whereupon he uttered the lay :
80. "Sad is that, O swineherd of Moling,
thou hast wrought a wilful, sorry deed,
woe to him who has slain by dint of his strength
the king, the saint, the saintly madman.
Evil to thee will be the outcome therefrom - ;
going at last without repentance - ;
thy soul will be in the devil's keeping,
thy body will be ***
In Heaven the same will be the place
for me and for him, O man,
psalms will be sung by fasting folk
for the soul of the true guest.
He was a king, he was a madman,
a man illustrious, noble, was he ;
there is his grave - ;bright festival - ;
pity for him has rent my heart."
81. Enna turned back and told Moling that Suibhne had been slain by his swineherd Mongan. Moling at once set out accompanied by his clerics to the place where Suibhne was, and Suibhne acknowledged his faults and (made) his confession to Moling and he partook of Christ's body and thanked God for having received it, and he was anointed afterwards by the clerics.
82. The herd came up to him. "Dour is the deed you have done, O herd," said Suibhne,"even to slay me, guiltless, for henceforth I cannot escape through the hedge because of the wound you have dealt me." "If I had known that it was you were there," said the herd, "I would not have wounded you however much you may have injured me." "By Christ, man !" said he, "I have done you no injury whatever as you think, nor injury to anyone else on the ridge of the world since God sent me to madness ; and of small account should be the harm to you through my being in the hedge here and getting a little milk for God's sake from yonder woman. And I would not trust myself with your wife nor with any other woman for the earth and its fruits." "Christ's curse on you, O herd !" said Moling. "Evil is the deed you have done, short be your span of life here and hell beyond, because of the deed you have done." "There is no good to me therefrom," said Suibhne, "for your wiles have compassed me and I shall be dead from the wound that has been dealt me." "You will get an eric for it," said Moling, "even that you be in Heaven as long as I shall be" ; and the three uttered this lay between them, that is, Suibhne, Mongan, and Moling :
83. Suibhne : "Not pleasant is the deed thou hast done,
O herd of Moling Luachair,
I cannot go through the hedge
for the wound thy black hand has dealt me.
Mongan : Speak to me if thou hearest,
who art thou in truth, man ?
Suibhne : Suibhne Geilt without reproach am I,
O herd of Moling Luachair.
Mongan : If I but knew, O slender Suibhne,
O man, if I could have recognised thee,
I would not have thrust a spear against thy skin
though I had seen thee harm me.
Suibhne : East or west I have not done
harm to one on the world's ridge
since Christ has brought me from my valiant land
in madness throughout Erin.
Mongan : The daughter of my father and my mother
related - ;'twas no trifle to me - ;
how she found thee in yonder hedge
with my own wife at morn.
Suibhne : It was not right of thee to credit that
until thou hadst learnt its certainty,
alas that thou shouldst come hither to slay me
until thine eyes had seen !
Though I should be from hedge to hedge,
its harm were a trifle to thee,
though a woman should give me to drink
a little milk as alms.
Mongan : If I but knew what comes of it,
from wounding thee through breast and heart,
till Doom my hand would not wound thee,
O Suibhne of Glen Bolcain.
Suibhne : Though thou hast wounded me in the hedge,
I have not done thee ill ;
I would not trust in thine own wife
for the earth and its fruits.
Alas for him who has come for a while from home
to thee, O Moling Luachair,
the wound thy herd has dealt me
stays me from wandering through the woods.
Moling : The curse of Christ who hath created everyone
on thee, said Moling to his herd,
sorry is the deed thou hast done
through envy in thine heart.
Since thou hast done a dread deed,
said Moling to his herd,
thou wilt get in return for it
a short span of life and hell.
Suibhne : Though thou mayest avenge it,
O Moling, I shall be no more ;
no relief for me is it,
your treachery has compassed me.
Moling : Thou shalt get an eric for it,
said Moling Luachair, I avow ;
thou shalt be in Heaven as long as I shall be
by the will of the great Lord, O Suibhne.
Mongan : It will be well with thee, O slender Suibhne,
thou in Heaven, said the herd,
not so with me here,
without Heaven, without my life's span.
Suibhne : There was a time when I deemed more melodious
than the quiet converse of people,
the cooing of the turtle-dove
flitting about a pool.
There was a time when I deemed more melodious
than the sound of a little bell beside me
the warbling of the blackbird to the mountain
and the belling of the stag in a storm.
There was a time when I deemed more melodious
than the voice of a beautiful woman beside me,
to hear at dawn
the cry of the mountain-grouse.
There was a time when I deemed more melodious
the yelping of the wolves
than the voice of a cleric within
a-baaing and a-bleating.
Though goodly you deem in taverns
your ale-feasts with honour,
I had liefer drink a quaff of water in theft
from the palm of my hand out of a well.
Though yonder in your church you deem melodious
the soft converse of your students,
more melodious to me is the splendid chant
of the hounds of Glen Bolcain.
Though goodly ye deem the salt meat and the fresh
that are eaten in banqueting-houses,
I had liefer eat a tuft of fresh watercress
in some place without sorrow.
The herd's sharp spear has wounded me,
so that it has passed clean through my body ;
alas, O Christ, who hast launched every judgment,
that I was not slain at Magh Rath !
Though goodly each bed without guile
I have made throughout Erin,
I had liefer a couch above the lake
in Benn Boirche, without concealment.
Though goodly each bed without guile
I have made throughout Erin,
I had liefer the couch above the wood
I have made in Glen Bolcain.
To Thee, O Christ, I give thanks
for partaking of Thy Body ;
sincere repentance in this world
for each evil I have ever done."
84. A death-swoon came on Suibhne then, and Moling, attended by his clerics, rose, and each man placed a stone on Suibhne's tomb. "Dear in sooth is he whose tomb this is," said Moling ; "often were we two - ;happy time ! - ;conversing one with the other along this pathway. Delightful to me was it to behold Suibhne - ;he whose tomb this is - ;at yonder well. The Madman's Well is its name, for often would he eat of its watercress and drink its water, and (so) the well is named after him. Dear, too, every other place that Suibhne used to frequent" ; whereupon Moling said :
85. "The tomb of Suibhne here !
remembrance of him has wrung my heart !
dear to me too, out of love for him,
each place in which the holy madman used to be.
Dear to me is fair Glen Bolcain
because of perfect Suibhne's love of it ;
dear each stream that flows out of it,
dear its green-topped watercress.
Yonder is the Well of the Madman,
dear was he to whom it gave food,
dear to me its clear sand,
dear its pure water.
On me was imposed his preparation,
it seemed long until I should see him,
he asked that he be taken to my house,
dear was the lying in wait.
Dear each cool stream
wherein the green-topped watercress grew,
each well of bright water too,
because Suibhne used to visit it.
If it be the will of the King of the stars,
arise and come with me,
give me, O heart, thy hand
from the grave and from the tomb !
Melodious to me was the converse of Suibhne,
long shall I keep his memory in my breast :
I entreat my noble King of Heaven
above his grave and on his tomb !"
86. Thereafter, Suibhne rose out of his swoon and Moling taking him by the hand the two proceeded to the door of the church. When Suibhne placed his shoulders against the door-post he breathed a loud sigh and his spirit fled to Heaven, and he was buried honourably by Moling.
87. So far, some of the tales and adventures of Suibhne son of Colman Cuar, king of Dal Araidhe.
Sources : James G. O'Keeffe Irish Texts Society XII