Trans. Owen Connellan
In which is explained how The Tain (or an account of The Cattle Raid of Cuailgne) was first discovered, etc.
Noble, worthy, king ruled Oirgiall at one time whose name was Hugh son of Duach the Dark. Contemporaneous with him was Hugh the Fair, son of Fergna, son of Fergus, son of Muredagh Mai, king of Brefney, and those two were at strife. In every good act performed by one, the other would endeavour to excel him ; yet both were not equally circumstanced ; for one was a hundred fold more (wealthy), just, and prosperous, namely Hugh the Fair ; whilst the other was valiant and warlike, namely Hugh the son of Duach the Dark, king of Oirgiall. It was, indeed, far easier for him to be the more warlike of the two, for he had a shield, and the name of the shield was Duv-Gilla (the Black Attendant), and one of its properties was this, that whosoever was opposed to it in the field of battle became as enfeebled as an old woman, and all fled before it in every conflict it entered into, even when there was present but the shield itself and its bearer.
It was at that very period and time that Eohy the chief Ollav was staying with the king of Brefney, and this was Dallan Forguil. He was accompanied by a numerous professional body, and the quarter he liked best was Brefiic, for numerous were its flocks and cattle herds.
It happened that the king of Brefney was one night in his festive chamber, and he said to Dallan : "Thou hast great honour and privilege from me." "That is not to be wondered at," said Dallan, "for great is my honour in Alban (Scotland), in Saxonland, in Britain, (perhaps Wales) and in France, because I hold the chief ollavship of all those countries." "Notwithwstanding all that," said Hugh the Fair, "I give you more than all those kings and noble chiefs together, for whenever thou goest on a professional visit into distant foreign countries, and if thou shouldst lose a cow I send you a cow in its place, and if thou shouldst lose goods I send you goods instead of them, and if thou losest a penny I put a penny in its place, in order that thou mayest find thy cattle, goods, and wealth whole on thy return." "Why sayest thou this, king?" says Dallan. "For this reason," said the king, "that thou shouldst obtain whatever thou wouldst ask from that person whom thou honourest as much as me, and that is the king of Oirgiall." "He has nothing," says Dallan, "excepting his sovereignty, that he would not give me." "He has,surely," says Hugh the Fair. "What is that ?" asked Dallan. "A shield which he has ; its name is Duv-Gilla, and by it he has hitherto gained sway and will ever gain it, and by it he has defended the territory of Oirgiall and its borders, and he would not give it to thee." "That is not the request of a truly learned man, and if it were I would ask it." "I will reward you for going' to ask it," said Hugh the Fair, "viz., one hundred of each kind of cattle." "I will go to ask it," said Dallan, "and if I shall not obtain it, I will satirize the king of Oirgiall." They passed over that night.
Dallan arose early, and his steeds were got ready for him, and he took along with him his thrice nine ollavs to the Dun of the king of Oirgiall. When the king was informed that Dallan was on the lawn, he came forth to meet him and gave him three kisses. In like manner he welcomed his accompanying ollavs, after which Dallan was borne into the fortress. "I will not stay," says Dallan, "till I know whether I shall obtain my request." "What is the request?" asked the king. "Thy shield," replied Dallan, "namely Duv-Gilla." "That is not the request of a truly learned man," said the king, "and if it were thou shouldst obtain it." "I have brought you a poem for it," said Dallan. "I would like to hear your poem,"said the king. He then recited the poem as follows : "
A hero of fortune (art thou) O Hugh
Thou daring, determined foe (or venom).
Thy goodness as the great ocean ;
Thou canst not be subdued,
Thou canst not be impeded,
Hugh, son of Duach the Dark.
Good and great is his substance.
Without censure, and without reproach.
Thou sun after leaving its stars
Which is awful to me.
Thou white chess-board
We will return, hero.
"That is a good poem," says the king, "whoever could understand it." "That is true for you," says Dallan, "and whosoever composes a poetic remonstrance, it is he himself who ought to explain it ; and as it was I that composed it, it is I that will interpret it." 'A hero of fortune art thou Hugh/ I have addressed to thee, that is, thou art the hero of valour and of singular deeds of (the men of) Ireland. 'Thou venom, daring and firm,' I addressed to thee, that is Daigh is a name for poison, and daringly enters thy venom, namely thy shield, into battle and conflict. 'Thou goodness as the great ocean,' that is to say that if the wealth of the ocean belonged to thee thou wouldst distribute it amongst the ollavs of arts and sciences. 'Thou sun after (leaving) its stars,' that is, the sun after leaving its stars is the time its figure appears best, and its figure is not better than your figure. ' Thou white chess-board,' that is, if any person should have seven sets of chess-men they would be of no use to him if wanting a board. Thou art the board for the support and protection of the men of Ireland, &c."
"That is good," said the king, "and I will give money and cattle for it." "Give it if it be taken from thee," says Dallan, "and I have composed another poem for the shield as follows :"
Hugh, generous and worthy.
Chasing is thy shield
As the wave which runs its course ;
Thou art head of our tribes and chiefs.
We will convey thy mighty fame
Beyond every clear and productive stream.
Honour, without envy, to the prince,
My magnificent shield is his shield ;
A speckled shield, the feeder of ravens,
Wards off the foe from his borders.
Surprising and beautitul shield
Is with Hugh the son of Duach ;
We will bear it away from the son of Duach
Ere we should depart in sorrow ;
A surprizing and beautiful shield
Will be given to me by Hugh for praise.
"That is a good poem, Dallan," said Hugh, "and whatever is meet, viz., gold, silver, jewels and substance, thou shalt have them from me," "I will not have them," said Dallan, "because it was for the shield I composed my poem, and I have composed another poem, also for the shield, viz.:"”
Bright as the speckled salmon of the wave !
Dubh-Ghiolla! panic of the banded brave ;
With thee would I combine in deathless praise,
Proud Aodh, whose arm of might thy burthen sways.
Fenced with its thorny mail the holly stands -
So round the prince the guardian shield expands :
The bull's strong hide the needle's point defies -
Thus vainly round him baffled ranks arise :
That shield at once his panoply and blade,
He scorns the spear, the falchion's feebler aid.
As chafing storms too long in durance pent
Sweep through the forest, finding sudden vent ;
Such is the voice of Aodh, when with his shield
Compassed, he stands bright terror of the field.
"That is a good poem, Dallan," said Hugh, "and I will give good payment for it of gold and silver; I will, moreover give a hundred of each flock for it." "That is very good," said Dallan, "however nought of all the gold, the silver, and the jewels of the world, that have been expressed by the mouth of man, will I accept from thee but the shield." "I will not give you the shield," said Hugh. "I will satirize you," said Dallan. "The powers and miracles of the king of heaven and earth be on my side to save and protect me against thee ! And dost thou remember, O Dallan," said Hugh, "that when the saints of Erin made peace between us (the kings) and you the ollavs of Erin, it was agreed that whosoever of you should compose a satire on us unjustly, three blotches of reproach should grow upon him ; and if we should deserve it and that you should compose it justly, the same number should grow upon us ; and the following are (the names of) the saints : Columbkill, son of Feidlim; Kieran of Cluain; Kieran the senior, of Saigir; Finnen of Clonard; Finnen of Moyville; Seanagh son of Caitin; Ruadan of Lothra; Brendan of Birr; Brendan son of Finnlogha; the holy Mocholmoge; Comgall; Dalua of Derry; and the holy Caillen." "All those will not save you from being satirized by me ; and it is no satisfaction to me to satirize you except I do so in your presence." And this is what he said :
Hugh, son of Duach the Dark,
Thou pool not permanent ;
Thou pet of the mild cuckoos ;
Thou quick chafferer of a blackbird ;
Thou sour green berry ;
Swarms (of bees) will suck the herbs ;
Thou green crop like fine clothes ;
A candlestick without light ;
Thou cold wooden boat ;
Thou bark that will give dissatisfaction ;
Thou disgusting black chafer ;
Thou art more disgusting, Hugh.
"We must confess," said Hugh, "that we do not know whether that is better or worse than the first poem you composed." "No wonder for a man of your intellect to say so," said Dallan, "and as it was I that composed the satires, it is I that will interpret them.
"Hugh, son of Duach the Dark, thou pool not permanent;" that is equivalent to a summer pool when it experiences a great drought and that persons trample in it ; its water entirely evaporates, and it is not replenished till the flood comes again ; you are similarly circumstanced, for no matter how highly you may be praised, the same hospitality shall not possess you again in consequence of these satires. 'Thou captive of a tamed cuckoo ;' that is equivalent to a pet of a cuckoo, for there cannot be in a house a worse pet than this. It ceases to sing except a little, and he will as soon do so in winter as at any other time. And some assert that another bird nurses for it ; its name is Cobcan, and he puts away his own bird and feeds the cuckoo's bird till it is able to provide for itself, when the cuckoo takes it away with her, and she has no more regard for that Cobcan than she has for any other bird. Similar to that is your case and of the learned ollavs of Erin, for they will not remember any good thou hast done after these satires. 'Thou quick chaffering blackbird ;' that is equivalent to a blackbird which is roused by the approach of a person in the night ; he gives a whistle or cry of alarm, and he is silent for that night through the terror thiat seizes him. Similar to that is your case ; your hospitality has been heard of far off, but since you have been satirized no one will hear of it in consequence of these satires. 'Tribes will suck the herb ;' like to the bee, for if seven horse-loads (of it) were put into one vessel upon the fire it only blackens after the bees have sucked it."
"Be done, O Dallan," said the king, "do not satirize me any more in my presence, for I will now excuse you from further professional attendance." "I'll take it for granted," says Dallan, "get my steeds ready that I may depart." Their steeds were brought to them, and (Dallan and his ollavs) leave the place. "The might of God and the saints pursue you if ye have wrongfully satirized me," said Hugh.
They had not come far from the township when Dallan said to his ollavs : "It is a wonder to me," said he, "what the publishers of stories have related, for they assert that whosoever composes satires wrongfully it will be worse for himself; and I believe that never have been made satires more unjustly or wrongfully than the satires I myself have composed, and yet I am now the better for uttering them, for I was without an eye on my coming to the place, and I have two good eyes. now." "O chief ollav," said they, "it is good news thou tellest, although it is not easy to believe it." "It is a fact," said Dallan. "If so," said the ollavs, "tell us our order in the way before thee and after thee." "There are," said he, "twice nine of you before me, and nine of you after me." "True for you, chief ollav," said they. "I know not if these be good signs," said Dallan, "for I had an assurance from Columbkille, the son of Feidhlim, that I should have an extraordinary forewarning before my death, and what more wonderful sign could I get than, being blind on my coming to the town, and to have the use of my two eyes now ? therefore take me to my home." They then took him to his house, and he lived three days and three nights, after which he died.
The ollavs assembled together, and these were their names : - Maolgedic, son of Firgoboc, ollav of Alban; Arrachtan, son of Onsclann, ollav of Britain; Srubchaille, son of Sreabchaille, ollav of Saxan; Niamchaemh, ollav of Ulster; Dael Duileadh, ollav of Leinster; Ollmhor, the arch sage of the ollavs of Desmond; Oircne Aiteamain, ollav of Thomond; (and) Seanchan, the learned Fileadh and chief ollav of Connaught. These ollavs having assembled together they debated amongst them as to whom they should appoint arch ollav in the place of Dallan. "Let the foster-mother of the literati be brought to us," said they, "namely, Muireann, daughter of Cuain-Cuilli, the wife of Dallan, together with the learned aged females, namely, Grug, Grag, and Grangait." They were convened accordingly, and they enquired of them who ought to be appointed chief ollav. Muireann said : "You formerly went on a professional visit to Alban, and I then asked Dallan that whensoever he himself would die, who should be appointed chief ollav in his place. He then said that if any person in this world could substitute a stanza for a stanza and a word for a word of his own (composition), it is Seanchan, the aged poet, that can do so." "Well, then," said the ollavs, "let Seanchan be elected our prophetic chief ollav." Whereupon Seanchan was then inaugurated chief ollav by them; and they desired him to go over Dallan and compose an Elegy for him. Seanchan went and made this Elegy, and recited it over Dallan : -
Beloved is the body that here lies dead,
Although a weighty man he was a light man ;
Light in body he was mighty in mind,
Great was the clan over whom he was chief.
Thrice fifty of us were along with him,
Of learned men of letters of superior knowledge ;
If our numbers had been greater
We would have new instruction from him each day.
he sound of the Deluge which hosts could not comprehend,
The mighty rushing flow of Eassa-Roe,
The overwhelming flood of the Red Sea,
To these may be compared the intellect of Dallan (incomprehensible).
Till the brilliant sun shall cease his course
Which God ordained for him over the elements,
No poet north or south shall ever excel
The fluent Eohy, chief of learned men.
He was a philosopher, God of Heaven !
He was illustrious, he was chief poet ;
Until the wave of unhappy death came upon him,
Oh ! he was splendid, he was beloved.
The entire of the ollavic Association declared that they had a sufficiently competent ollav in the person who composed that Elegy. It was then they deliberated as to what province in Ireland they should first proceed on a professional visit ; and each one of them was desirous to go to his own province. Seanchan said it would be more meet to visit the person who was never satirized or reproached about (his liberality of) gold or abundance of valuable goods. "Who is he ?" said each of them. "Guaire," son of Colman, son of Coffey, son of Gabneann, son of Connell, son of Owen, son of Eohy Breac, son of Dathy, son of Fiachra." The entire of the great ollavic Association declared it would be proper to go there since Seanchan desired it. "Let messengers be despatched from us to Guaire" (said they). They (the messengers) went and informed him (Guaire) that Seanchan along with his ollavs and poets were coming to him. "My respect for them," said Guaire. "My respect for their good and for their bad ; my respect for their nobles and their ignobles ; my respect for their women and for their men." Guaire, after that, made a mansion for them, which had eight sides to it, and a door between every two sides (or divisions) ; and there were eight first class beds between every two doors, and a low bed (or truckle bed) beside every chief bed. The reason he made that arrangement was, that whosoever of those that occupied the beds, in case they should have a quarrel or strife and get out of them, he might find the lower bed ready for him. And he constructed eight fountains (or lavatories) for their men ; and eight fountains for their women ; for he did not wish that the water used in washing the hands of the ollavs should touch the hands of the women, nor the water of the hands of the women should be used in washing the hands of the ollavs ; and feasts and banquets were ordered for their entertainment, and he then sent messengers to invite them.
Seanchan said: "Though excellent the hospitality of Guaire may be, I will not take all that are here to him to spoil Connaught, for I consider it enough to take the two-thirds of them to him, and to let one-third remain," and he acted accordingly. He did not take to Guaire but thrice fifty of the ollavs; thrice fifty students (or second class of ollavs); thrice fifty hounds; thtrice fifty male attendants; thrice fifty female relatives; and thrice nine of each class of artificers; and that number arrived at Durlus.'
Guaire went forth to meet them, and he bestowed kisses on their chiefs, and gave welcome to their learned men. "My regards to you, said Guaire; "my regards to your nobles and ignobles; I have great welcome for you all, both ollavs and poets; both scientific men and students; both sons and women; both hounds and servants; only you are so numerous, but not deeming you too many, I would give each of you a separate welcome; however, my respects to you all on every side." And they were led into the large mansion, and viands were laid out before them, and Guaire told them that whatever they would desire they might ask for it and they should have it.
It was, however, a great difficulty to procure all things for them, for it was requisite to give to each of them his meals apart and a separate bed ; and they went not to bed any night without wanting something, and they arose not a day without some one of them having longing desires for some things that were extraordinary, wonderful, and rare, and difficult of procurement. It was a task for all the men of Ireland to find that which was longed for, and unless the person who desired it obtained it within twenty-four hours, it was useless ever after to procure it for him.
An extraordinary wish occurred that very night, in the mansion of the learned association ; and the person to whom that longing happened was Muireann, daughter of Cuan Culli, the wife of Dallan, who was the foster-mother of the literati ; and she uttered a great moan aloud. Seanchan answered her, and what he said was : "What is the matter with you, chieftainess ?" "A desire that has seized me," said she, "and unless it be procured for me I will not live." "What is that wish," asked Seanchan. She told him the wish which seized her, namely, "a bowl of the ale of sweet milk (or common Tormentil), with the marrow of the ankle bone of a wild hog ; a pet cuckoo on an ivy tree in my presence between the two Christmases (Christmas-day and Twelfth-day or Epiphany) at that time ; and her full load on her back, with a girdle of yellow lard of an exceeding white boar about her ; and to be mounted on a steed with a brown main, and its four legs exceedingly white ; a garment of the spider's web around her, and she humming a tune as she proceeded to Durlus." "It is difficult to procure that wish," said Seanchan ; "that is not one but a number of strange wishes which are not easily gratified."
They bore away that night 'till the morrow ; Guaire was in the habit of visiting the mansion every day, and used to enquire how they fared ; and he enquired "how fares it with this great and good people to-day." "We never had," said they, "worse times than we now have." "How is that?" asked Guaire. "A longing that has happened to one of us," said Seanchan. "To whom did that occur ?" asked Guaire. "To Muireann, daughter of Cuan Culli," replied Seanchan, "namely the wife of Dallan, the foster-mother of the literati." "What is the wish ?" said Guaire. Seanchan told him. "That is not one wish but a variety of bad wishes, and the easiest is difficult of procuring." and Guaire departed sad and sorrowful. None of his people accompanied him at that time but one attending servant, and Guaire asked him, "are you a good secret keeper." "For what purpose do you ask," said the servant. "I would wish to go to Seasgan-Uar-Beoil," said Guaire, "where dwells Fulachtach the son of Owen ; for it was I that slew his father, his six sons, and his three brothers ; and I would rather he should kill me in order that my hospitality may endure after me, than that I should survive my liberality, for those wishes can never be obtained." "My secrecy is good," said the servant, "and should you be seen to proceed thither, there is not a person in this house that would not be around you."
That was displeasing to Guaire, and he proceeded to Finn-Aragal of hospitality, where lie knelt and prayed and supplicated Jesus Christ, and here he obtained from God every thing he desired through the efficacies of his bounteous liberality, and it was on that account that it was called Aracul of Hospitality. Guaire was kneeling and praying, and imploring God that he might die ere he should hear himself satirized and defamed by the great ollavic Association. To be sure, no favours were ever asked of him more difficult to be procured than the wishes desiderated by the old dame, and he prayed God most fervently to deliver him from that strait, and that he might obtain from the Supreme Being whatever wish any of the ollavic Institution might desire ; and he made the following little Lay, in sadness, at Finn-Aracul of Hospitality : -
Here is my sorrow, Son of my God !
Through all that happen'd me yesterday ;
Thrice fifty learned men, a vexatious clan,
Who came to this place with Seanchan.
Though great is the number of austere ollavs
That came to Durlus of Guaire,
Each enjoyed pleasure and entertainment
Until the old woman intruded.
Great was the task I took in hand.
To administer to the learned of sumptuous living ;
Should any depart from my house unsupplied.
In vain to this day has been my generosity.
Why hath the king of the brilliant sun
Conferred on myself his likeness,
Should he of his bounty not grant to me
Means to protect my countenance.
I have promised to the son of Mary
Not to refuse the face of man ;
Should any such person deprive me of my good fame.
Even to him it will be no sorrow.
Guaire passed over that night till the morning came, and he heard the bustle and paces of an individual advancing towards him in the early morn, but his grief was so great that he did not look on him. He afterwards, however, recognised him, and he who happened to be there was Marvan the swine-herd, the prime prophet of heaven and earth, he was son of Guaire's mother, and swine-herd to Guaire. His object in this occupation was that he might the more advantageously devote himself to religion and devotion in the capacity of swine-herd, in woods and desert places. He saluted Guaire ; "the same compliments to you, chief prophet of heaven and earth," said Guaire. "What is the cause of your sadness?" asked Marvan. "A yearning that has seized a person in the house of the great ollavic Association." "What is the wish ?" enquired Marvan, "or to whom did it happen?" "To Muiran, daughter of Cuan Culli," replied Guaire, "the wife of Dallan, and the foster-mother of the ollavs." "That is she, whom we desire to be the first of them that should die; and what is the wish ?" asked Marvan . "A bowl of the ale of sweet milk, together with the marrow of the ankle bone of a wild hog." "It is difficult to procure that wish," said Marvan, "and although difficult it will be found with me in Glen-a-Scail."
"She seeks another thing," said Guaire, "namely, a pet cuckoo cooing on an ivy tree in her presence." "It is a strange time (of the year) to desire that now," said Marvan, "and although strange we know the place where that is." "She desired another thing,"said Guaire, "namely, a bay steed, with a red mane and its four legs purely white."
"In one house those two are to be had," said Marvan, "the pet cuckoo and the bay steed. "Who has them ?" asked Guaire. "Derdavna, daughter of Iuvdan, your own powerful sprite (or protectress,) it is she possesses them." "If she has them I will obtain them," said Guaire.
"She desired another thing," said Guaire, "namely, to have about her a garment of many colours (made) of the spider's silk." "That will be found with me in Glen-a-Scail," said Marvan.
"She desired another thing," said Guaire, "namely, her full load on her back and a girdle about her of the yellow lard of a purely white boar." "Did she request that?" asked Marvan. "She did request it," replied Guaire. "My malediction on the person who desired that," said Marvan, "and I implore the King of Heaven and earth that that wish may not serve her. Sure it is I who have that boar and it is a hardship for me to kill him, for he is to me a herdsman, a physician, a messenger and a musician." "How does he perform all that for you ?" asked Guaire. "In the following manner," replied Marvan : "When I return from the swine at night, and that the skin is torn off my feet by the briars of Glen-a-Scail, he comes to me and rubs his tongue over my feet, and though I should have all the surgeons and healing ointments in the world his tongue would cure me soonest ; in that manner he is a physician to me. He is herd to me, for when the swine wander through Glen-a-Scail, and that I am wearied, I give him a blow with my foot, and he goes after the swine. There are nine passes leading into Glen-a-Scail, and there is no danger of any hog of them (being carried off) by a thief, vagrant, or wolf of the forest, until he drives in the very last hog of them. He is a musician to me, for when I am anxious to sleep I give him a stroke with my foot and he lies on his back with his belly uppermost and sings me a humming tune, and his music is more grateful to me than that of a sweet toned harp in the hands of an accomplished minstrel. The blackbird is the most variable in his notes of all birds, yet he (the boar) is still more varied. It is hard for me to kill that animal," said Marvan, "and do thou thyself send messengers for him, for I cannot kill him, and I pledge my word to you," said Marvan, "that I will pay a visit some day to the mansion of the great ollavic body to be avenged of them for the white boar, and may they never be the better for it."
Howbeit, all those objects of desire were procured through the instrumentality of Marvan, The white boar was afterwards killed, his lard was put on the old dame's back, and she hummed her tune as she proceeded on her way to Durlus. While passing over an unsettled causeway that led to the place her steed fell and she happened to be under it, by which her thigh bone, fore arm, and neck were broken, and she died after that manner ; and thence originated (the adage,) "The Hag's load of lard."
Another longing desire seized a person in the mansion of the great ollavic Association, namely Meve Neidigh, the daughter of Seanchan, and she uttered a great moan. Her father responded to her. "What ails thee my daughter?" said he. "A yearning wish that has possessed me," answered she, "and unless it be procured I will not live." "What is the wish ?" asked Seanchan. "That I might have the full of the skirt of my mantle of large blackberries;"(the season being that of January,) and that I might be on my way to Durlus, and that on my arrival there I might find the people of Guaire in sickness and distemper." "Why sayest thou that, my daughter," said Seanchan, "since Guaire is our consoler and comforter." "Dost thou know, father, how I am like unto the Fidat, that is the nettle, for he who would construct a house about it would as soon be stung by it as any other person. Similar is my case, for I do not desire that any other should die sooner than he who gives me wealth and great substance."T hey wore away that night.
Guaire camo to the mansion of the ollavs on the morrow, and he asked, "How does it fare with this great and worthy people to-day ?" said he. "We never have had," replied Seanchan, "so bad a day as we have had, for a longing desire has seized my daughter, namely Meave Neidigh." "What is the desire?" asked Guaire. Seanchan told him. Guaire was sorrowful for that. "It is not in the comprehension of man to gratify these wishes," said Guaire. He departed from the mansion, but had not proceeded far when he met Marvan. "My love to thee, Guaire," said Marvan. "The like to thee, chief prophet of Heaven and earth," responded Guaire. "What sadness is this over you, Guaire?" asked Marvan. "A wish that has seized one of the great ollavic body," replied Guaire. "After the white boar?" exclaimed Marvan. "Yes," responded Guaire. "What is the wish, and to whom did it occur?" asked Marvan. "To Meve Neidigh, the daughter of Seanchan, viz., the full of the skirt of her mantle of large blackberries." "They will be found with me in Glen-a-Scail," said Marvan. "How may that be?" asked Guaire. "One day that you had been hunting in Glen-a-Scail, you held a hound by the leash, and the hound having espied an animal, he made a pull at you ; a bush of briars which was adjacent to you, caught and pulled off your *** [illegible], which you readily let go, for you never refused a favour to any ; you were just departed from it when I came up, and found a great large quantity of berries on the bush ; I spread the cloak over it, so that neither storm nor rain has touched them ever since, through the powers of God and my intercessions ; and such of them as were red on that day, are black to day, and those that were black have the taste of honey."
"She desired another thing," said Guaire, "namely, that my people might be in sickness and disease on her arrival." "It is hard to ask that," said Marvan, "and do thou proceed to-night to Finn-Aragal of hospitality, and I will go to Glen-a-Scail, and let us conjointly implore the Supreme King of Heaven and Earth, that your people may be in sickness and disease, and be restored immediately after."
They proceeded forward and they both prayed to God fervently that night. Meave got the blackberries ; she came to Durlus, and the condition she found the people of Guaire in, was that each of them had the symptoms of death through the united prayers of Guaire aud Marvan ; and she had only left the place when all of them both men and women recovered their health ; and such was the manner in which those things wished for were obtained by God's means and Marvan.
Another longing desire seized a person in the house of the great ollavic Association, namely, Bridget, daughter of Onithkerne, the wife of Seanchan, and she uttered a loud moan. Seanchan responded "What is the matter with thee, chieftainess ?" asked Seanchan. "A wish that has seized me," said she, "and unless it be obtained I will die." "Say the wish," said Seanchan. "To get my fill of the fat of a water blackbird ; and again my fill of a red-eared and purely white cow without a liver, but having tallow in place of her liver ; also my fill of red strawberries and of purple berries, and that the drink I may get after them shall be Fethnait Feagha Fuinn, viz., the honey of the woodbine." "It is difficult to procure these wishes," said Seanchan. That night wore on.
Guaire came early on the morrow to the ollavic mansion, and enquired "How fares it with this great and excellent people to-day ?" "We never have been," replied Seanchan, "at any time so badly off, for a longing desire has seized one of us, namely, Bridget, daughter of Onithcerne, my own wife." "What is the wish?" asked Guaire. Seanchan informed him, "There is no possibility of procuring those wishes,"said Guaire.
He went away in sorrow from the mansion, but did not proceed far when he met Marvan. They greeted each other. "What is the matter with thee, Guaire?" asked Marvan. "A wish that has happened to a person in the dwelling of the ollavs," replied Guaire. "After the white boar, eh ?" exclaimed Marvan. "Yes," responded Guaire, and he told him the wishes. "I know the place where those are, viz., with the Nuns of Tuaim-daghualan, for there are nine score nuns in one house, and they all get a sufficiency (of milk) by one milking from that cow ; and it is they who have that blackbird, and when the last of the nuns retires to sleep he sings music tor them which would lull to sleep wounded men and parturient women ; and it is certain that should you give them nine score, red-eared, purely white cows, their one cow would be more valuable than them all ; and should you give them nine score blackbirds, their one blackbird would be better than they.
"She desired another thing," said Guaire, "namely, shrub-berries and tree-berries and the honey of the woodbine." "Those will be found with me," said Marvan. All those wishes were procured as Marvan predicted. Nine score kine, and nine score blackbirds, were given to the nuns for their one cow and one blackbird ; and the nobility of the men of Ireland, declared that the entire of the great ollavic Association were not worth those two (animals) that were killed.
Another longing desire seized one of the great ollavic Association, namely, Seanchan, and he uttered a great moan. The whole of the great ollavic Association simultaneously responded, and they asked what was the matter with him. "A longing desire that has seized me," replied he, "and unless it be procured I shall die, namely, that I myself, my ollavic Association and the nobles of Connaught may get our fill of the fat of hogs that have not yet been farrowed, and also of ale (the produce) of one grain (of corn), and except these be obtained within the period of twenty-four hours I shall be dead."
That (circumstance) was revealed to Guaire in the night, and he did not wait for the day, but came directly to the mansion, and he asked "How does it fare with this great and good people to-night ?" "We never,"said they, "have had a worse night." "How so ?"asked Guaire. "A longing desire that has seized one of us." "To whom did that longing happen ?" asked Guaire. "To Seanchan the aged poet, the arch ollav himself." "What is the wish ?" asked Guaire. He was told it. Whereupon Guaire was sore troubled, for he considered that those wishes could not be gratified.
He turned away out from the mansion but proceeded not far when Marvan met him. "What is it troubles thee, O Guaire ?" asked Marvan. "A longing desire that has seized one in the mansion of the learned." "After the white boar?" exclaimed Marvan. "Yes," replied Guaire. "What is the wish," asked Marvan, "and to whom did it happen ?" "To Seanchan, the aged poet," replied Guaire, "namely, a sufficiency for himself and for his associates, and for the nobility and gentry of Connaught, of the ale of one grain (of corn)." "That will be found with me in Glen-a-Scail," said Marvan. "How so ?" asked Guaire, "One day that your own agriculturist, namely, Guaire Beiceinigh (or of little hospitality) had been returning from sowing seed, he felt a substance (literally a prominence) under the sole of his shoe, and he found a grain of wheat in it, and an acorn was not larger than it ; this he brought to me. It was planted by me in the ground that year, and seven and twenty prime ears sprung forth in the second year. But eleven years have elapsed since then, and no other corn has been allowed to mix with it during that period, and I have (now) seven prime stacks (of corn) which are the produce of that one grain. I have given directions to prepare a great excellent banquet in Glen-a-Scail, and I am confident," said Marvan, "that should all the nobles of Connaught assemble, they can have plenty of food and drink from the produce of that one grain."
"He desired another thing," said Guaire, "namely, to have plenty for himself and for his ollavic associates and for the nobles of Connaught of the fat of a hog that has not yet been farrowed, and unless it be procured within the space of a day and a night it need never be procured." "That will be found with me in Glen-a-Scail,"said Marvan. "How?" asked Guaire. "One day that the chief sow of your swine had wandered through Glen-a-Scail to farrow, she encountered a wolf in the forest, and the wolf having torn her, her litter and bowels gushed out. The sow made a charge at the wolf and took off her head, and they had only fallen by each other when I came up to them and found the holder (or matrix) of the piglings on the ground, and each pigling making a forward effort. I let them out, there being nine boar piglings and one sow pigling. I then killed the sucking pigs of a hog of an inferior breed to these, in order to rear them. Nine years have since then elapsed, and they are now nine full grown boars with curved tusks ; and it is my opinion," said Marvan, "that should the nobility and gentry of Connaught assemble together, they shall have their full sufficiency of the fat of those hogs ; and do thou give them their choice to have the feast conveyed to them or come and partake of it at Glen-a-Scail."
The choice of selection was submitted to the ollavs. They replied, that they had a mind to satirize the nobles of Connaught for presuming to think that they would leave their own mansion. That feast was brought to them, and they were seated in conformity with the decision of Seanchan. They drank and made merry, and every guest present was entertained by the great ollavic Association with the choicest music and professional accomplishments. That feast was continued for three days and three nights. When Seanchan perceived the extraordinary quantity of food and drink that was being consumed by the servants he became very churlish, and said, that he would not taste of food or drink until the nobles of Connaught were dismissed from the mansion, and forthwith they were sent away.
Seanchan, however, continued three days and three nights without food or drink. Guaire said, "It is grievous to us that the whole ollavic Order should be taking food around Seanchan while he himself fasts." He then sent a favourite domestic of his to Seanchan, and he instructed him to procure a long white hazel spit, to put a goose on it, to keep two-thirds of the spit before him, and one-third behind him, and to hold it in that manner in the presence of Seanchan. The young man went into the place where Seanchan was. "What do you intend to do with that goose?" asked Seanchan. "To prepare it for thee, O Royal ollav," replied the youth. "Why have you been sent with it?" asked Seanchan. "As a person of mild manners and of cleanliness, selected by Guaire to bring you your food." "We believe," said Seanchan, "that he could not find in the locality a more uncomely person than thyself." "For what cause ; O Royal ollav ?" asked the youth. "I knew your grandfather and he was chip-nailed, and since he was so, I shall not take food out of thy hands."
The youth came away sorrowfully, and he related to Guaire what had happened. Guaire was dissatisfied with that ; and they passed away the time till the termination of three days and three nights. Guaire then called another favourite (or foster child) of his to him, namely the daughter of Bec Bainig, and he said to her. "Lady take with thee wheaten flour and the roe of a salmon to Seanchan, and knead them in his presence." The maiden went. "What do you intend to do with that, young girl?" asked Seanchan. "To prepare it for thee, O Royal ollav" she replied. "Why hast thou been sent with it?" asked Seanchan. "As a person of cleanliness and comeliness whom Guaire desired to send with thy food to thee." "Indeed I am sure," said Seanchan, "that there is not in the place another young girl more unseemly than thyself." "How so, O Royal ollav?" asked the maiden. "I knew thy grand-mother, who was seated (one day) on a high rock whilst giving instructions to lepers about their way, and she stretched her hand forth to point out the way for them, and as she did so, how could I take food from thy hands."
The maiden went away in sorrow, and informed Guaire. Guaire exclaimed : "My malediction upon the mouth that uttered that, and I implore the Supreme King of Heaven and Earth that ere Seanchan shall depart this world, his mouth may kiss a leper's mouth."
Seanchan continued for a day and night after that without food or drink. Bridget, the daughter of Onithcerne, desired her maid servant to give Seanchan her spare food. "What leavings hast thou ?" enquired Seanchan. "A hen egg," replied Bridget. "It is almost enough for me," said Seanchan, "and it will suffice for the present." The maid servant went for the egg, Beaidgill was her name, and she searched for the remnant of the food a long time and did not find it. Seanchan said : "I believe it is thyself that art eating the leavings." "Not I, O chief ollav,"replied Beaidgill, "but the nimble race that have eaten it, namely the mice." "That was not proper for them," said Seanchan ; "nevertheless there is not a king or chief, be he ever so great, but these (mice) would wish to leave the traces of their own teeth in his food, and in that they err, for food should not be used by any person after (the prints of) their teeth, and I will satirize them," said Seanchan ; and he began to satirize them, and said : -
The mice though sharp are their beaks.
Are not powerful in the battles of warriors ;
Venomous death I'll deal out to the tribe.
In avengement of Bridget's leavings.
Small were the leavings you left,
It was not abundance you retired from ;
Receive payment from us, receive compensation,
Don't satirize us all, O learned ollav.
Thou mouse that art in the hole,
Whose utterance is opposition ;
'Twas thou, whose claws are not short,
That ate my leavings in your ambling.
My own son Bianan (sleek skin'd) of the white breast,
Thou art the non-observer of ordinances ;
To the mighty and luxurious ollavic body,
Is the knowledge of it, thou little doomed being.
Clear ye out of your spacious abodes.
As we are prepared to convict you.
Come ye all out of the hole (or burrow)
And lie down (here) O ye mice !"'
And it is stated that ten mice fell dead in the presence of Seanchan ; and Seanchan said unto them "It is not you that I ought to have satirized but the party whose duty it is to suppress you, namely, the tribe of cats ; and now I will satirize them effectually, as also their chief, lord and Brehon, namely, Irusan, son of Arusan, and I know where he is, viz., in the cave of Cnogda, on the eastern side of Clonmacnoise of St. Kieran; and (also) Riacall-rinn-fiaclach (or of the sharp-pointed teeth), the daughter of Clab-aithine (or fiery mouth), his spouse; Reang-gear-fiaclach (of the sharp teeth,) his daughter; the Cronanach (or the purrer) of Croaghan, and Grnaman-garv-fiaclach (or the surly looking fellow with the rough teeth), her brothers. And I will satirize Irusan himself, for he is the chief and most responsible of them, and is their lord," and he said : -
"Irusan, monster of claws. Remnant food of the Otter. With beauish tail like that of a cow. Similar to a horse watching another horse. A monster is Irusan. Irusan of the monstrous claws," (said he); "that is to say, that when the mouse gets into the hole he misses him, and only darts his claws at the hole. 'Refuse of the food of the Otter,' (said he) for the progenitor of the cats had been formerly on the margin of a lake at a pool of water asleep, and the otter came up to him and bit off the tops of his two ears, so that every cat ever since has been defective and jagged-eared. 'Hanging down cow tail,' (he said) for no quicker does a cow's tail fall downward than does his tail when the mouse escapes from him. 'A horse watching a horse,' viz., the mouse and cat are similar to two horses yoked together, for there is a close attention between them ; the ear of one is listening to the other, and the ear of the other is listening to him ; and those are the satires," said Seanchan.
Their influence reached Irusan while in the cave of Cnogda, and he said, "Seanchan has satirized me," said he, "and I will be avenged of him for it." Reang of the sharp teeth, his daughter, said unto him, "we would rather," said she, "that you would bring Seanchan alive to us that we ourselves may take revenge on him for the satires." "I shall bring him in due time," said Irusan. He made ready to go on, and told his daughter to send her brothers after him.
It was told to Seanchan that Irusan was on his way coming to kill him ; and he requested Guaire to come with the nobility of Connaught in order to protect him against Irusan. They all came around him, and they had not been long there when they heard a vibrating, impetuous and impressive sound similar to that produced by a tremendously raging fiery furnace in full blaze ; and it appeared to them that there was not in Connaught a plough bullock larger than he.
His appearance, viz., that of Irusan's, was as follows : Blunt-snouted, rapacious, panting, determined, jagged-eared, broad-breasted, prominent-jointed, sharp and smooth clawed, split-nosed, sharp and rough-toothed, thick-snouted, nimble, powerful, deep-flanked, terror-striking, angry, extremely vindictive, quick, purring, glare-eyed; and he came towards them in that similitude. He passed amongst them generally, but did not stop till he came to the place where Seanchan was. He took hold of him by one arm, jerked him on his back, and he proceeded by the same way (he had come), for he had no other object in view but to come for Seanchan.
Seanchan, however, had now recourse to flattery of Irusan, praising his leap, his progress in his running, his power, strength, and activity ; and he said, "Irusan, son of Arusan, of the race of faigli fithise (probably the remnant of the food of the otter) ; I invoke God between you and me ; I implore him to deliver me." But, however, Seanchan was not let down until they reached Clonmacnoise of St. Kieran. As they were passing by the door of the forge, in which forge Kieran happened to have been, he beheld Irusan with Seanchan on his back, and he said : "It is a great pity that Guaire's hospitality should be tarnished, and there goes the chief ollav of Erin on the back of the cat." There was at the time a flaming bar of iron held by the pincers, and Kieran made a fortunate brave throw at the cat, with which he hit him on the flank, and it passed out on the other side, and left him lifeless. Seanchan dismounted from him, and he uttered a vindictive expression. "My curse on the hand that gave that throw," said he. "Why so?'" asked Kieran. "I am so dissatisfied that I have not been let go with Irusan to be eaten by him, that thereby the great ollavic Association might satirize Guaire ; for I would rather that Guaire would be satirized than that I should live and he not satirized." He then proceeded to Durlus where the nobility of Connaught desired to welcome him, but he would not have a kiss or welcome from any of them ; he went to the ollavic mansion, where they passed away the time with abundance of the best of viands and in feasting.
Marvan, the swineherd, said one day in Glen-a-Scail "It is long; since I proposed going to be avenged of the great ollavic Association for the (loss) of the white boar." Now Marvan's position was this : He was a saint, a prophet, and a poet ; and he was a man who kept a prime house for general hospitality in Glen-a-Scail. He was brother to Guaire, and it was he that used to relieve Guaire from all his difficulties ; it was he that originally aided him in obtaining the sovereignty of Connaught; also, every wrong deed that Guaire committed, it was Marvan that redressed or atoned it, he was moreover a zealous servant to God.
In the course of time he came to the abode of the great ollavic order, and on his proceeding to the mansion he perceived the ladies of the great Institution washing their hands at the fountain, and the first lady he met was Meave Neitigh, the daughter of Seanchan. He saluted her and enquired where was the mansion of the great ollavic Institution. "It is evident, young man," says Meave Neitigh, "that you have been sea-faring away from the house in which you were reared, since thou knowest not where the palace of the great ollavic community is, nor heard of its stories and music." "That is not what I attend to, "said Marvan, "but herding swine is my calling; I have, however, been informed that every person obtains whatever music he chooses in the palace." "He does not," replied Meave, "except he has a connection with arts and sciences." "I am connected with the arts," said Marvan, "viz., through the grandmother of my servant's wife, who was descended from poets."
Marvan arrived at the ollavic mansion, and it was not to the open door he came but to the best closed door of the building, and the door rose open before him. The manner by which he entered was thus, having the skirt of his mantle full with wind, and there was not one within that a portion of the wind did not blow into his bosom. The entire of the great ollavic assemblage rose up simultaneously ; Seanchan also rose and enquired who it was that came to him against the wind. "You are mistaken in that," said Marvan, "it is not so, but with the wind I came, and in proof thereof I have brought much of it along with me." "Is it a contention you desire to enter upon ?" asked Seanchan. "It is," answered Marvan, "if I get any to contend with me." "If so then," replied Seanchan, "say from what did the first cause originate?" "From blind nuts," answered Marvan. "True," said Seanchan, "and art thou Marvan the swineherd, chief prophet of heaven and earth?" "I am, indeed," replied Marvan. "What is thy pleasure ?" asked Seanchan. "I heard," replied Marvan, "that every person gets his choice of music or of arts from you, and I am come to ask my choice of the arts." "You shall obtain that," said Seanchan, "if you can show your relationship to the arts." "I can do so," said Marvan, "namely, that the grandmother of my servant's wife was descended from poets." "You shall obtain your choice of the arts, though very remote is your connection with them," said Seanchan, "and say what art is it you prefer." "I desire no better at present than as much Cronan (a monotonous chaunting tune often used as a lullabi) as I like," says Marvan. "It is not easier for these to perform any other art for thee than that," says Seanchan.
The Cronan performers came to them, thrice nine was their number, and they wished to perform the regular Cronan. That, however, was not what Marvan desired, but the bass (or hoarse) Cronan ; and the reason he chose that was, in the hope that they might break their heads, feet and neck, and that their breathing might the sooner be exhausted by it than by the regular Cronan.
The three nines were singing the Cronan after that manner ; and, whenever they wished to stop, it was then that Marvan would say "Give us as much of the Cronan as we desire in accordance with your promise." The three nines soon became exhausted, and Marvan again desired that more of the Cronan should be sung for him. Nine of them, who were inefficient, only answered to his call, and these continued a shorter time to sing it than the three nines previously ; and Marvan said "Perform as much Cronan as we desire."
A person within, in answer to him, said "I will perform an art for thee, Marvan." "Who art thou?" says Marvan. "I am Dael Duileadh, ollav of Leinster." "What is the art thou wouldst perform for me?" asked Marvan. "I am a good disputant (or wrangler)," said Dael Duileadh. "Thou wilt not propose to me a question that I will not solve ; and there is not a problem which I would propose, that the entire of the great ollavic association could solve; and do thou tell me," said Dael Duileadh, "what goodness did man find on the earth which God did not find ? Which are the two trees whose green tops do not fade till they become withered ? What is the animal which lives in the sea-water, whose drowning it would be if taken out of the sea-water, and whose life would be preserved by putting him into it ? And what is the animal which lives in the fire, and whose burning it would be if taken out of it, and whose life would be preserved by putting him into it?"
"These are good problems, Dael Duileadh," said Marvan, "and though excellent I will solve them. That which man found on earth, and which God did not find, is his sufficiency of a Lord ; for there has not been a man, be he never so bad or so good, who, if he could not find his sufficiency of an earthly lord, would find the King of heaven and earth to be his Lord, because He is himself Lord of lords. The two trees whose green tops do not fade are Eo-Rosa and Fidh-Sidheang, namely, Holly and Yew. The animal, whose drowning it is to take him out of the sea, is named Gnim-Abraen ; and the beast, whose burning it is to take him out of the fire, is Tegillus, which was its original name, and its name at present is Salmandar. And these are the solutions of the problems you proposed to me, Dael Duileadh," said Marvan. "I crave thy mercy, prime prophet of heaven and earth," said Dael Duileadh ; "Ask me no question and I'll ask thee no more questions." "Perform as much Cronan for me as I desire, ye great ollavic association," says Marvan.
One of the ollavic body answered him and said : "I will perform an art for thee," says he. "Who art thou?" says Marvan. "I am Oircne Aitheamuin," says he, "ollav of Thomond." "What art wilt thou perform for me ?" asked Marvan. "It is easy for me to perform a good art for thee, for I am skilful and highly learned." "It is clear to me," says Marvan, that, though many an ignorant person there be in the house of the great ollavic association, there is not of the entire one person more ignorant than thyself." "How so ?" said Oircne. "There are two men paying their addresses to thy wife, and thou knowest neither of them ; and these two men are the son of the king Findfhaltaigh (of fair hair), and the son of Fraigid Dairine, that is, the foster-son of Guaire ; and the gold ring which thou receivedst from Guaire, she has given it to one of them, and she gave your sword to the other man." Oircne Aitheamuin arose, looked for his gold ring and sword, and he discovered he had neither of them ; and, as he did not find them, he said : "I beseech thy mercy, prime prophet of heaven and earth ; do not disturb me and I will trouble thee no more." "I will not," said Marvan, "but let me have a sufficiency of Cronan."
A person in the mansion said : "I will submit an art unto thee," said she. "Who art thou?" says Marvan. "I am Crinliath Caillidhe" (Withered Hag) she replied. "What is the art thou wouldst perform for me?" "The most noble of all the arts in the world, namely, to become thy spouse." "It is evident to me," said Marvan, "that thou art an ill-disposed old woman, and possibly had been so in your younger days, since thou speakest so immodestly at this advanced period of thy life. As for me," said Marvan, " as I did not wed in my youthful days, neither shall I do so now, particularly a withered, emaciated, and decrepid old hag as thou art." "Be merciful to me, prime prophet of heaven and earth. Forgive me, and I shall say no more." "I will, said Marvan, "but let a sufficiency of Cronan be performed for me."
"I will perform," said a man in the house, "an art for thee." "What is the art?" says Marvan, "and who art thou ?" "I am a good ollav in my art to Seanchan, and Casmael the harper is my name." "I question thee, Casmael," said Marvan, "whence originated the science of playing the harp ; who was the first that composed poetry, or whether the harp or the timpan was the first made?" "I don't know that, prime prophet," said Casmael. "I know it," says Marvan, "and I will tell it thee. In former times there lived a married couple whose names were Macuel, son of Miduel, and Cana Cludhmor (or of great fame) his wife. His wife, having entertained a hatred for him, fled before him through woods and wildernesses, and he was in pursuit of her. One day that the wife had gone to the strand of the sea of Camas, and while walking along the strand she discovered the skeleton of a whale on the strand, and having heard the sound of the wind acting on the sinews of the whale, she fell asleep by that sound. Her husband came up to her, and having understood that it was by the sound she had fallen asleep, he proceeded into an adjacent forest, where he made the frame of a harp, and he put chords in it of the tendons of the whale, and that is the first harp that ever was made.'
And moreover, Lamiach had two sons - Bigamus, namely, Jubal and Tubalcain. One of them was a smith, that is, Tubalcain ; and he conceived that the tones of the two hammers in the forge denoted the quantities of metre, and on that measure he composed a verse, and that was the first verse that ever was composed."
"Be merciful to me, prime prophet of heaven and earth ; do not annoy me and I shall not annoy thee." "I will not," said Marvan, "but let there be plenty of Cronan performed for me."
A person in the mansion said : "I will perform an art for thee, O Marvan." "Who art thou?" says Marvan, "and what is the art thou hast?" "Coirche Ceoilbhinn (performer of melodious music) is my name," said he, "ollav of Timpanism to the great ollavic Institution." "I question thee, Coirche Ceoilbhinn," says Marvan, "why is the Timpan called the 'Saint's Timpan,' and that no saint ever performed on a Timpan ?" "I really do not know," replied the Timpaniat. "I will tell thee," said Marvan ; "it was as follows : "When Noah, the son of Lamiach, went into the ark, he brought many musical instruments with him, and in particular he brought a Timpan, and he had a son who was accustomed to play on it. They remained in the ark during the time that the deluge had been over the world ; and when Noah and his family were coming out of it, the son wished to take the Timpan with him. "Thou shalt not take it," said Noah, "unless I obtain a request." The son asked him what was the request. Noah said he would be satisfied by naming the Timpan after himself. The son granted him that favour, so that the Timpan of Noah has been its name ever since ; and that is not what you ignorant Timpanists call it, but the Saint's Timpan."
"Be merciful unto me, prime prophet of heaven and earth ; do not interfere with me, and I shall interfere with thee no more." "I will not," said Marvan, "but let me have enough of Cronan performed for me ;" and Marvan called for the Cronan three times and did not obtain it.
Seanchan was ashamed of that, and as he found no other person to comply with Marvan's request, he said he would himself perform the Cronan. "It will be more melodious to me from thyself," said Marvan, "than from any other person." Seanchan raised his beard up high, and Marvan would have no other from him than the guttural Cronan. Whenever Seanchan would wish to cease, then would Marvan say "Perform enough of Cronan for me." Seanchan was ashamed of that, and, by an overstrained effort of his in performing the Cronan, one of his eyes gushed out and lay on his cheek. When Marvan beheld that he was afraid that he might get blame from Guaire, and he said his Pater in his right hand, and he put the eye back into its own place, and he afterwards said : "Perform ye a sufficiency of Cronan for me."
A person in the mansion said : "I will myself perform an art for thee, Marvan." "Who art thou ?" says Marvan, "and what is the art?" "I am the best scelaidhe (story-teller) in the great ollavic Institution," said he, "and in all Ireland ; and Fis Mac Fochmarc is my tribe (or family) name." "If thou art the best sgeulee in Erin," said Marvan, "thou knowest the principal stories of Erin." "I do, indeed,"replied the sgeulee. "Well then," said Marvan, "relate to me Tain-Bo-Cuailgne" (or the Cattle Prey of Cooley). Silence seized the sgeulee and he is reproved for it. "What are you about," says Seanchan, "in not telling the story to Marvan?" "Have patience, O arch ollav," said the sgeulee, "I have not heard that that Prey was ever executed in Erin, nor do I know who took it." "Since that is the case," said Marvan, "I put thee under geasa (enchantment) until thou relatest the Tain to me ; and I put the entire of the great ollavic body under injunctions that they shall not remain two nights in the same house until they discover the story of the Tain. I also deprive you all of your poetic faculties, by the will of my God, that henceforth you shall not have the power of composing verse, excepting one poem only until you find for me the Tain-Bo-Cuailgne ; and there am I now going away, and, upon my word, were it not for Guaire well would I avenge myself on you for the white boar, you indolent, ignorant, ollavic clan."
Marvan proceeded on his way, and left the great ollavic Association wearied, downcast, gloomy, and in sorrow. Then Seanchan said : "Marvan bound us under geasa, that we should not remain two nights in one place, until we would procure the Tain ; and it was in this place we were last night, and we must not be here to-night, that we may fulfill our geasa ; we must, therefore, proceed on our way in quest of the Tain till we discover it." It was then that every individual of the great ollavic Institution started up simultaneously, both ollavs and students, both poets and scientific persons, both men and women, both hounds and servants, both young and old. But, notwithstanding their being called the great ollavic Institution, and though greatly they were abhorred, yet small was their consumption of food ; for Bridget, daughter of Onithcerne, the wife of Seanchan, was the person among them who did eat most, and she usually did eat only a hen egg at a meal, and therefore she was called Bridget of the great appetite.
The great ollavic association then proceeded on their journey, until they arrived at the residence of Guaire. Guaire went forth to meet them, for he wondered at seeing them all on the plain, and he bid them a welcome in general. He gave three kisses to Seanchan, and said "What news hast thou, arch Ollav ?" said he ; "why have you departed from your own mansion ?" "Bad is our story, O king,"said Seanchan. "Marvan the swineherd, prime prophet of heaven and earth, came on a visit to us to take revenge of us for the white boar. He requested his choice art and music, which was granted to him, and the choice he made was to have his sufficiency of Cronan. Thrice nine of us went to chaunt the Cronan for him, and I myself," said Seanchan, "finally went to sing it for him ; and whenever I chanced to cease he then desired to have more Cronan sung for him ; and by an overstrained effort I made I put out my eye on my cheek, but he healed me by the power of God. A person in the mansion then told him he would entertain him with Sgeuleeaght (story-telling), and he (Marvan) chose to have Tain-bo-Cuailgne (the Cattle Raid of Cooley). The Sgeulee said he had not that story, and he bound us and the story-teller by Geasa (solemn injunctions) so as not to have the power of composing one stanza of our poetry, and that we are not to remain two nights in the same house till we procure for him the story of the Tain. In this place we were last night, and we cannot be in it to-night."
"To what place do you propose to go in quest of the Tain?" said Guaire. "To Albain" (Scotland), replied Seanchan. "Don't go there, said Guaire, "because in Alba you have the least chance of information, for in Erin itself that Tain was effected ; and I know," added Guaire, "what you ought to do." "What is that?" asked Seanchan, "to remain with me," said he ; "and the honour which you have been receiving from me and from the men of Erin unto this day, you shall now have it from me in consideration of your poetry." "That would be no better than a compliment of alms,"said Seanchan. "If you think so," says Guaire, "then let your women, sons and servants remain with me, and let your ollavs, poets and musicians go in quest of the Tain." They all approved of that proposal and determined on that resolution.
It was then Seanchan said: "The only poem of our poetry which has been vouchsafed to us, it is fit we compose it for Guaire, for we have been with him a month, a quarter and a year, in this place, namely at Durlus." The great ollavic association agreed that that would be proper; "for truly (said they) we had no want of food or drink, of gold or silver, or of jewels and substance ; the yearning of no individual amongst us was unprovided for during that period ; and there will not be found to the end of the world, in the residence of a king of Ireland or of a provincial king, an entertainment equal to the entertainment he gave us," as Seanchan said -
We depart from thee spotless Guaire,
We leave with thee our benedictions ;
A year, a quarter and a month
We have been with thee exalted king.
Thrice fifty acute ollavs,
And thrice fifty students ;
Two women, a valet, and a hound with each man
Were all supplied with food in one mansion.
Each person had his own meals apart,
Each one had a separate bed ;
We rose not on an early morning
Without debate or without complaint.
I say unto you as an inference,
That the prophecy will be fulfilled ;
If our numerous body will reach the destined place
We shall return again, though we now proceed.
"Where do you intend to be to-night?" said Guaire. "At Naas of the kings if we can arrive there," replied Seanchan, "in the fortress of the king of Leinster, Connra Caech (Connra the Blind)."
They proceeded on their journey to Naas, and when they were coming to the place they met a leper on the way who said unto them "From what place did this large rustic crowd come ?" says he. "They are none such who are here," said one of them, "but Seanchan the sage poet with his ollavs and noble company." "Your names are familiar to me, though long it would take to repeat them ; and the country into which you come is the worse for it, and the country whence you came is the better for it. How far do you intend going to-night?" asked the leper. "To the fortress of Connra Caech, king of Leinster," they replied. "You have no business going there since you have not (the power of composing) one stanza of your poetry." "Who told you that? you mangy fellow," said they. "Now is the time to prove it," said the leper, "for it will be necessary for you to compose a poem for the king of Leinster, as it is he that is to give you a passage to Alba (Scotland)." "What the leper says is true," said the ollavs ; "and it is better for us to try if we can compose a poem for the king of Leinster." They accordingly set about composing it, viz. a verse by each ollav of them ; but however had it been only one word (by each) they could not arrange them properly.
The leper said "If you would be pleased to grant me a consideration I will compose a poem for the king of Leinster in your stead." They said they would grant him his choice favour. "Pledge your troth to that," said the leper. They all pledged their word to him. "Well then," said he, "the reward I ask of you is that Seanchan will give me a kiss." Seanchan said that should he and his ollavs be forfeited for it he would not give a kiss to the scabby fellow. The ollavs declared they would return to Guaire again, and that they would not accompany him unless he would give a kiss to the leper. Seanchan thereupon gave a kiss to the scabby man, though loathsome it was to him. They came to the gate of the fortress and they knocked (with) the hand-wood. The porter asked who was at the door. The leper replied that it was Seanchan with his ollavs that was there. The door-keeper asked "had they a poem for the king of Leinster?" "They have," said the leper, "and I am its reciter." "Bad is your appearance as a reciter," said Seanchan, "and it is worse for us to have you along with us." They went into the Dun, and the king of Leinster bid them a hearty welcome, and asked them to what place they desired to go. "To Alban," they replied, "and we wish to obtain a ship and stores from thee." The king of Leinster asked them if they had a poem in praise of himself. "They surely have," answered the leper, "and I am to deliver it," and he recited the poem.
Connra Caech, son of Dairbre of the strand,
Thou friend of the fair-haired women of Inis Fail ;
Give us a shiip to convey us over the waves
Of the boisterous sea of the ports of fortresses.
O purest man we have come by thy renown
To the fertile land of the delightful plain ;
To praise thee well, O king, O chief,
**************** Of the bounteous hands, convey us away from thee,
Speedily over the sea ***
With wind and favour, generous man.
After that poem they were supplied with bed-chambers; and they passed that night in cheerfulness and great mirth, without want of entertainment or attendance, till the morning on the morrow came.
A ship was soon cleared out for them, and provision stores were put into her. The leper asked might he go along with them in the ship. Seanchan replied that should he (the leper) go, he himself would not go into it. Then Seanchan with his ollavs went on board the ship, and they left the leper on land. They proceeded on their voyage over the sea till they came near the rocks of Mann. They beheld an individual on the rock, and at the very same time they saw the leper in the foremost part of the ship, and he singing the bass Cronan.
The person who was on the rock above them asked : "Who is in the ship ?" said he. The leper answered him. "Seanchan with his ollavic company." "If that be so," said the man, "I put you under geasa (or injunctions) that not one of you shall come on land until you furnish a half stanza in reply to this half stanza." "Recite it," said the leper. Seanchan said : "It is unfortunate for us to have the leper among us, for he is regardless what destruction may befall us." "Thou canst not land here, O royal ollav," said the leper, "until a half stanza be produced in reply to his. Recite your verse, man," said the leper, "since Seanchan has no premium that I would accept from him." The man recited his half stanza as follows : -
"Every mariner of the sea has a crew under his command ;"
The leper replied : -
"Snow will fall, lightning will flash,
The voice of mild Caireall will be loud."
"That is the correct half stanza," said the man above, "and there is not in the ship a person who could give it a correct half stanza but thyself; and I have another half stanza," quoth he. "Recite it," says the leper.
"The learned will be severe on opponents ;
They will excite their anger and increase their toil."
The leper replied :
"On the borders of the rock of the sea of Mann,
Thou hast made much salt there."
"That is the half stanza," said the man above, "and I have another half stanza," said he. "Recite it," says the leper.
"On (or by) my burning, on my mixing,
On my cutting on the wave."
The leper replied :
"O woman-doctor that followest the profitable trade,
Great is thy weariness on the wave."
"That (said the leper) is a Female-Doctor (or Doctoress) who has been hitherto conversing with you (or carrying on a dialogue with you). Every alternate year she is (a practicing) female-doctor, and the other year a maker of salt. She has a stone dwelling place and has a treasure in that house ; she has three score marks in it, and she will share it with you to-night, and will give you the half of it; that shall be your provision during your stay in Alban ; and it is not her you are to thank," says the leper, "but me." The leper then departed from them, and they could not see in what direction he went. They afterwards landed and remained with the Doctoress during that night, who gave them the choicest entertainment and attendance till the morrow morning. She gave thirty marks to Seanchan, and said to him : "This is your last largesse, Seanchan," said she, "till you again recover your poetic faculties; and your sojourn in Alban would be a state of contempt for you whilst you had not the power (of composing) one stanza of your poetry."
They then went on board their ship and sailed on till they reached Alban. The chief ollav of Alban had a feast prepared for them on their arrival ; Mael-Gedhic Mac Fir-Goboc was his name, and they remained with him that night; they had the best of entertainment and attendance, and that was the most friendly night's reception they obtained in Alban. They traversed Alba from South to North, and from East to West ; and remained there a year, but, notwithstanding, they got no tidings about the Tain. Seanchan was troubled at not discovering the history of the Tain, and he said that he desired to return to Erin. Their ship was cleared out by them, and they came along the sea until they entered port at Ath-Cliath. When they landed there they beheld St. Caillin coming towards them ; he was Seanchan's mother's son, and he gave three kisses to Seanchan, and asked him for news, and Seanchan told him that he got no account about the Tain. "That is but right," said Caillin, "for great is the injustice and trespass thou hast committed on Guaire ; and he prayed God that thou mightest give a kiss to a leper, and knowest thou the leper to whom thou gavest a kiss?" "I do not know," said Seanchan. "To me thou gavest it," said Caillin, "and you were obliged to give it me." "Well, then, my beloved brother, give me assistance to get the Tain." "I shall," said Caillin, "and will go with thee to Durlus, where Guaire resides ; and we shall get Marvan the swineherd to come to us from Glen-a-scail, for it is he who knows how the Tain may be obtained."
They proceeded with one accord, namely, Caillin and Seanchan with his great ollavic company, until they arrived at Durlus, where Guaire was. He gave a kiss to Caillin and another kiss to Seanchan, and he gave a general welcome to the ollavic body altogether. He asked news of Seanchan, and Seanchan told him that he had got no account of the Tain since he had left him. They then sent an invitation to Marvan at Glen-a-scail. Marvan came to them to Durlus, and they asked him who could relate to them (the story of) the Tain. Marvan told them that there was not living in Erin, nor was there among the dead any who could relate the Tain but one person only. "Who is that individual person ?" asked Seanchan. "Fergus Mac Roy," replied Marvan, "for it was he had a knowledge of the exploits of the men of Erin and of Uladh (Ulster) in the Tain, as it was from his own pupil (Cuchulain) the Tain (or Cattle Prey) was carried off." "How are we to act ?" said they. Marvan told them to send invitations and messages to the saints of Erin, and to bring them with them to the tomb of Fergus, and to fast three days and three nights to the Godhead (or Holy Trinity), that He may send Fergus to narrate unto them the (story of) Tain-bo-Cuanlgne (or the Cattle raid of Cooley). Caillin went forth and brought the saints of Erin to Durlus, where they feasted for a night. They went on the morrow to the tomb of Fergus, and they supplicated Jesus Christ to send them Fergus to narrate the Tain unto them.
Fergus came to them, and he was about relating the Tain to them standing up, but they would hear none of it until they had him seated, and in that position he narrated the Tain to them. Kiaran of Cluan (Macnoise) was he who wrote it from him ; and the place in which he wrote it was on the hide of the Huidhre. Fergus was narrating the story until the story came to its termination, after which he returned to the same tomb. The saints offered up thanksgiving to God for their petition being granted regarding the question that Seanchan proposed to them, through the powers of the saints of Erin and through the instructions of Marvan.
The following were the saints who went thither : Columbkille the son of Feilim; the holy Caillin (or St. Caillin); Kiaran of Clonmacnoise; Kiaran senior of Saigir; Finnen of Clonard; Finnen of Moville; Seanach son of Gaitin; Brennan of Birr ; and Brennan son of Finnlogha. They proceeded to Durlus of Guaire, and they feasted with Guaire for three days and three nights. Then Marvan departed for Glen-a-Scail, and all those saints went to their own holy (or consecrated) places.
Seanchan the aged poet, with his ollavs, attendants, and household, proceeded on a professional visitation to the territories of Munster ; and Seanchan made a vow and promise to Marvan and to all the fore-mentioned saints, that none of the great ollavic Institution should seek for a wish from any person in the world, from thenceforth unto the day of judgment and the termination of life (literally to the womb of Judgment and of life).
So far for the Proceedings of the great ollavic Institution. It is now our purpose to treat of the Tain, the undertaking of which originated with a curtain conversation that happened between Oilioll More and Meave (King and Queen of Connaught about the commencement of the Christian era).
End of This.
Sources : Owen Connellan, Transactions of Ossianic Society 5