The Death of the Sons of Usnech

Aided Chloinne Uisnig
Ms LIII et Ms LVI d'Édimbourg

Version II

Trans. Whitley Stokes

1. An exceeding beautiful and mighty feast was prepared by Conchobar, son of Fachtna Fathach, and by the worthies of Ulster besides, in smooth-delightful Emain Macha. And the worthies of the province came *** unto that feast; and (wine) was dealt out (to them) until they all were glad, cheerful and merry. And the men of music and playing and knowledge rose up to recite before them their lays and their songs and chants, their genealogies and their branches of relationship.

These are the names of the poets who were present at that feast, namely, Cathbad, son of Congal the Flat-nailed, son of Rugraide, and Genan right-cheek, son of Cathbad, and Genan Black-knee son of Cathbad, and Genan *** son of Cathbad, and Sencha the Great, son of Ailill, son of Athgno son of F***, son of Gl***, son of Ros, son of Ruad, and Fercertne the Poet, son of Oengus Redmouth, son of F*** the Poet, son of Gl***, son of Ros, son of Ruad.

And it is thus they enjoyed1 the feast of Emain, to wit, a special night was set apart for each man of Conchobar's household. And this is the number of Conchobar's household, even five and three score and three hundred. And they sat there [until Conchobar uplifted his loud king's - voice on high, and this is what he said: "I would fain know what I ask of you, warriors!" saith Conchobar, "have ye ever seen a household that is braver than yourselves in Ireland, or in Scotland, or in the great world in any place, for ***" "Truly we have not seen," say they, "and we know not if there be." "If so," saith Conchobar, "do ye know (any) great want in the world upon you?" "We know not at all, high king," say they. "But I know, warriors," saith he, "one great want which we have, to wit, that the three Lights of Valour of the Gael should be away from us, that the three sons of Usnech, even Náisi and Ainnle and Ardán, should be separated from us because of (any) woman in the world. And Náisi for valour and prowess was the makings of an overking of Ireland, and the might of his own arm hath gained for him(self) a district and a half of Scotland." ; "O royal soldier," say they, "if we had dared to utter that, long since we would have uttered it. For it is apparent that they are sons of a king of a border- district, and they would defend the province of Ulster against every other province in Ireland, even though no other Ulstermen should go along with them. Because they are heroes for bravery, and those three are lions for might and for courage." "If it be so," saith Conchobar, "let envoys and messengers be sent for them into the districts of Scotland, to Loch Etive and to the stronghold of the sons of Usnech in Scotland." "Who will go with that?" saith every one. "I know," saith Conchobar, "that it is in Náisi's prohibitions to come into Ireland in peace, except with three, namely Cúchulainn son of Subaltam, and Conall son of Amergen and Fergus son of Ross; and I will [now] know unto which of those three I am dearest."

And he took Conall into a place apart, and asked him: "What will be done, O royal soldier of the world," saith Conchobar, "if thou art sent for Usnech's sons, and they should be destroyed in spite of thy safeguard and thy honour ?" "A thing I attempt not! Not the death of one man (only) would result therefrom," saith Conall; "but each of the Ulstermen who would harm them (and) whom I should apprehend, he would not go from me *** without death and destruction and slaughter being inflicted upon him." "That is true, O Conall," saith Conchobar. "Now I understand that I am not dear to thee." And he put Conall from him. And Cúchulainn was brought unto him, and he asked the same thing of him. "I give (it) under my word," saith Cúchulainn, "if there shouldst be sought eastward unto India, I would not take the bribe of the globe from thee, but thou thyself to fall in that deed." "That is true, O Cú, that not with one thou hast no hatred." And he put Cúchulainn from him, and Fergus was brought unto him. And he asked the same thing of him. And this did Fergus say to him: "I promise not to attack thy blood or thy flesh," saith Fergus. "And yet there is not an Ulsterman whom I should catch [doing them hurt] who would not find death and destruction at my hands." "It is thou that shalt go for the Children of Usnech, O royal soldier," saith Conchobar. "And set forward to-morrow," saith he; "for with thee would they come. And after coming from the east, betake thee to the fortress of Borrach son of Cainte, and give thy word to me that so soon as they shall arrive in Ireland, neither stop nor stay be allowed them, so that they may come that night to Emain Macha." Thereafter they came in, and Fergus told (every one) that he himself was going in warranty of Usnech's children, and his other warranty went to the worthies of the province all along with him in those warranties. And they bore away that night.

And Conchobar addressed Borrach son of Annte and asked of him: "Hast thou a feast for me?" saith Conchobar. "There is assuredly," saith Borrach, "and it was possible for me to make it, and it is not possible for me to carry it to thee to Emain Macha." "If it be so," saith Conchobar, "bestow it on Fergus, for one of his prohibitions is to refuse a feast." And Borrach promised that; and they bore away the night without , without danger.

And on the morrow Fergus arose early, and of hosts nor of multitude he took nought with him save his own two sons, even Illann the Fair and Buinne the Rude-Red, and Fuillend the boy of the Iubrach, and the Iubrach2. And they went on to the stronghold of the sons of Usnech and to Loch Etive. And thus were the sons of Usnech: three spacious hunting- booths they had, and the booth in which they did their cooking, therein they ate not, and the booth in which they ate, therein they slept not. And Fergus sent forth a mighty cry in the harbour, so that it was heard throughout the farthest part of the districts that were nearest to them. And thus then were Náisi and Deirdre, with Conchobar's Cennchaem (the king's draught-board) between them, and playing thereon. And Náisi said: "I hear the cry of an Irishman," saith he. And Deirdre heard the cry, and knew that it was the cry of Fergus, and concealed it from them. And Fergus sent forth the second cry, and Náisi said: "I hear another cry, and it is an Irishman's cry," saith he. "Nay," saith Deirdre, "not alike are the cry of an Irishman and the cry of a Scotchman." And Fergus sent forth the third cry, and the sons of Usnech knew that there was the cry of Fergus. And Náisi told Ardán to go to meet Fergus.

And Deirdre knew Fergus when sending forth his first cry, and she said to Náisi that she had known the first cry that Fergus had uttered. "Wherefore hast thou concealed it, my girl?" saith Náisi. ("Because of) a vision I saw last night," saith Deirdre, "to wit, three birds come to us out of Emain Macha; and three sips of honey they had in their bills, and those three sips they left with us, and with them they took three sips of our blood." "What is the rede that thou hast of that vision, girl?" saith Náisi. "It is (this)," saith she. "Fergus hath come from our own native land with peace: for not sweeter is honey than a (false man's) message of peace; and the three sips of blood that have been taken from us, they are ye, who will go with him, and ye will be beguiled." And they were sorry that she had spoken that.

And Náisi bade Ardán go to meet Fergus (and his sons). So he went; and when he came to them he gave them three kisses fervently and right loyally, and brought them with him to the stronghold of the sons of Usnech, wherein were Náisi and Deirdre; and they (too) gave three kisses lovingly and fervently to Fergus and to his sons. And they asked tidings of Ireland and of Ulster in special. "These are the best tidings we have," saith Fergus, "that Conchobar hath sent me for you, and that I have entered into warranty and covenant, for I am ever dear and loyal to you, and my word is on me to fulfill my warranty." "It is not meet for you to go thither," saith Deirdre; "for greater is your own lordship in Scotland than Conchobar's lordship in Ireland." "Better than every thing is (one's) native land," saith Fergus; "for not delightful to any one is excellence of (any) greatness unless he sees his native land." "That is true," saith Náisi; "for dearer to myself is Ireland than Scotland, though more of Scotland's goods I should get." "My word and my warranty are firm to you," saith Fergus. "Verily, they are firm," saith Náisi, "and we will go with thee." And Deirdre consented not to what they said there, and she was forbidding them. Fergus himself gave them his word that if all the men of Ireland should betray them, they (the men of Ireland) would have no protection of shield or sword or helmet, but that he would overcome them. "That is true," saith Náisi; "and we will go with thee to Emain Macha."

They bore away that night till the early-bright morning came on the morrow. And Náisi and Fergus arose and sat in the galley, and came on along the sea and mighty main till they arrived at the fortress of Borrach son of Annte. And Deirdre looked behind her at the territories of Scotland, and this she said: "My love to thee, you land in the east!" saith she; "and it is sad for me to leave the sides of thy havens and thy harbours and thy smooth -flowered, delightful, lovely plains, and thy bright green-sided hills. And little did we need to make that ***" And she sang the lay:

A loveable land (is) yon land in the east,
Alba with its marvels.
I would not have come hither out of it
Had I not come with Náisi.

Loveable are Dún-fidga and Dún-finn,
Loveable the fortress over them,
Loveable Inis Draigende,
And loveable Dún Suibni.

Caill Cuan!
Unto which Ainnle would wend, alas!
It was short I thought the time
And Náisi in the region of Alba.

Glenn Laid!
I used to sleep under a fair rock.
Fish and venison and badger's fat
This was my portion in Glenn Laid.

Glenn Masáin!
Tall its garlic, white its branchlets:
We used to have an unsteady sleep
Over the grassy estuary of Masán.

Glenn Etive!
There I raised my first house.
Delightful its wood, after rising
A cattlefold of the sun is Glenn Etive.

Glenn Urcháin!
It was the straight, fair- ridged glen.
Not prouder was (any) man of his age
Than Náisi in Glenn Urcháin.

Glenn Dá-Rúad!
My love to every man who hath it as an heritage!
Sweet is cuckoos' voice on bending branch
On the peak over Glenn dá Ruad.

Beloved is Draigen over a strong beach:
Dear its water in pure sand;
I would not have come from it, from the east,
Had not I come with my beloved.

After that they came to Borrach's stronghold along with Deirdre; and Borrach gave three kisses to the sons of Usnech, and made welcome to Fergus with his sons. And Borrach said this: "I have a feast for thee, Fergus!" he saith, "and a prohibition of thine is to leave a feast before it shall have ended." And when Fergus heard that a purple *** was made of him from sole to crown. "Evil hast thou done, Borrach!" saith Fergus, "to put me under prohibitions, and Conchobar to make me promise to bring the sons of Usnech to Emain on the day that they should come to Ireland." "I put thee under prohibitions," saith Borrach, "even prohibitions that true heroes endure not upon thee, unless thou come to consume that feast."

And Fergus asked of Náisi what he should do as to that. "Thou shalt do, [what Borrach desires"], saith Deirdre, "if thou preferrest to forsake the sons of Usnech and to consume the feast. Howbeit, great is the ** of a feast to forsake them." "I will not forsake them," saith Fergus, "because I will put my two sons with them, even Illann the Fair and Buinne the Rude-Red, unto Emain Macha, and my own word moreover," saith Fergus. "Enough is his goodness," saith Náisi, "for no one but ourselves hath ever defended us in battle or in conflict."

And Náisi moved in anger from the spot, and Deirdre followed him, and Ainnle and Ardán, and Fergus' two sons. And not according to Deirdre's desire was that counsel carried out. And Fergus was left in gloom and sadness. Howbeit Fergus was sure of one thing; if the five great fifths of Ireland should be at one spot, and take counsel with each other they would not attain unto destroying that safeguard.

As to the sons of Usnech, they moved forward in the shortness of every way and every fair direction. And Deirdre said unto them: "I would give you a good counsel, although it be not carried out for me." "What is that counsel which thou hast, girl?" saith Náisi. "Let us go to Inis Cuilenni, between Ireland and Scotland, to-night, and let us remain there tell Fergus consumes his feast; and that is a fulfillment of Fergus' word, and unto you it is a long increase of princedom. "That is an utterance of evil as to us," saith Illann the Fair and saith Buinne the Rude-red. "It is impossible for us to carry out that counsel," say they. "Even though there were not the might of your own hands along with us, and the word of Fergus (given) to you, ye would not be betrayed." "(It is) woe that came with that word," saith Deirdre, "when Fergus forsook us for a feast." And she was in grief and in great dejection at coming into Ireland (relying) on Fergus' word. And then she said:

Woe that I come at the *** word
Of Fergus the frantic son of Roig.
I will not make repentance of it —
Alas and bitter is my heart!

My heart as a clot of sorrow
Is to-night under great shame
My grief, goodly sons!
Your last days have come."

"Say not, vehement Deirdre,
woman that art fairer than the sun!
Fergus will come on ***
Unto us that we be not slain together."

"Alas, I am sad for you,
delightful sons of Usnech!
To come out of Alba of the red deer,
Long shall be the lasting woe of it!

After that lay they went forward to Finncharn of the Watching, on Sliab Fuait, and Deirdre remained behind them in the glen, and her sleep fell upon her there. And they left her without knowing it, and Náisi perceived that, and he turned at once to meet her, and that was the hour at which she was rising out of her sleep. And Náisi said: "Wherefore didst thou stay there, queen?" saith he. "A sleep I had," saith Deirdre, "and a vision and a dream appeared to me there." "What was that dream?" "I beheld," saith Deirdre, "each of you without a head, and Illann the Fair without a head, and his own head upon Buinne the Rude-red, and his assistance not with us." And she made the staves:

Sad the vision that appeared to me,
stately (?) fair-pure four!
Without a head on each of you,
Without (one) man's help to the other."

"Thy mouth has sung nought save evil,
delightful radiant damsel!
Let *** thin slow lip
On the foreigner of the sea of Mann.

"I would rather have every one's ill,"
Said Deirdre, without darkness,
Than your ill, gentle three!
With whom I have searched sea and mighty land.

"I see his head on Buinne,
Since it is his life that is largest.
Sad indeed it is with me to-night,
His head (to be) on Buinne the Rough-red!

Hereafter they went forward to Ard na Sailech, which is called Armagh today. Then said Deirdre: "Sad I deem what I now perceive, thy cloud, Náisi, in the air — and it is a cloud of blood. And I would give you counsel, sons of Usnech!" saith Deirdre. "What counsel is that which thou hast?" saith Náisi. To go to-night to Dundalk where there is Cúchulainn, and to abide there until Fergus shall come, or to go under Cúchulainn's safeguard to Emain." "We have no need to carry out that," saith Náisi. And the girl said this:

"O Náisi, look on the cloud
Which I see here in the air!
I see over green Emain
A great cloud of crimson blood.

I am startled at the cloud
Which I see here in the air.
Likened to a clot of blood
(Is) the fearful, thin cloud.

I would give you counsel,
beautiful sons of Usnech!
Not to go to Emain to-night,
With all the danger that is on you.

We will go to Dundalk
Where there is Cú of the crafts:
We will come to-morrow from the south
Together with the expert Cu."

Said Náisi in wrath
Unto Deirdre the sage, red-cheeked,
"Since there is no fear upon us,
We will not carry out thy counsel."

"Seldom (were) we ever before,
O royal descendant of Rugraide!
Without our being in accord3
I and thou, Náisi!

On the day that Manannán and the enduring
Cú gave us a cup,
Thou wouldst not have been against me,
I say unto thee, Náisi!

On the day that thou tookest with thee
Me over Assaroe of the oars,
Thou wouldst not have been against me,
I say unto thee, Náisi!"

After those staves, they went forward by the shortest way till they beheld Emain Macha before them. "I have a sign for you," saith Deirdre, "if Conchobar is about to work treachery or parricide upon you." "What is that sign?" saith Náisi. "If ye are let into the house wherein are Conchobar and the nobles of Ulster, Conchobar is not about to do evil to you. If ye are are put to the house of the Red-Branch and Conchobar (stays) in the house of Emain, treachery and guile will be wrought be upon you."

And they went forward in that wise to the door of the house of Emain and asked that it should be opened for them. The doorward answered and asked who was there. He was told that it was three sons of Usnech who were there, and Fergus' two sons, and Deirdre. That was told to Conchobar, and his servants and attendants were brought to him, and he asked them how stood the house of the Red-Branch as to food or as to drink. They said that if the five battalions of Ulster should come there they would find enough for them of food and drink. "If so," saith Conchobar, "let the sons of Usnech be taken into it." And that was told to the sons of Usnech." Said Deirdre: "Ah Náisi, the loss caused by not taking my counsel hath hurt you," saith she; "and let us go on henceforward." "We will not do so," saith Illann the Fair, son of Fergus, "and we confess, girl, that great is the timidity and cowardice that thou didst suggest to us when thou sayest that. And we will go to the house of the Red-Branch," saith he. "We will go assuredly," saith Náisi.

And they moved forward to the house of the Red-Branch; and servants and attendants were sent with them, and they were supplied with noble sweet-tasted viands, and with sweet, intoxicating drinks, till every one of their servants and attendants was drunk and merry and loud-voiced. But there was one thing, however, they themselves did not take, food or drink, from the weariness caused by their travel and journey; for they had neither stopped nor stayed from the time they left the fort of Borrach, son of Andert, till they came to Emain Macha. Then said Náisi: "Let the 'Fair-head'4 of Conchobar be brought to us, so that we may play upon it." The 'Fairhead' was brought to them, and its men were placed upon it, and Náisi and Deirdre began to play.

It is at that hour and time that Conchobar said: "Which of you, warriors, should I get to know whether her own form or make remains on Deirdre; and if it remains, there is not of Adam's family a woman whose form is better than hers." "I myself will go thither," saith Levarcham, "and I will bring thee tidings." Now thus was Levarcham; and dearer to her was Náisi than any one on the globe, for often she had gone throughout the districts of the great world to seek for Náisi, and to bear tidings to him and from him.

Thereafter Levarcham came forward to the place wherein were Náisi and Deirdre. And thus were they, with the 'Fair-head' of Conchobar between them, a-playing on it. And she gave the son of Usnech and Deirdre kisses of loyalty, lovingly, fervently; and she wept showers of tears, so that her bosom and her fore-breast were wet. And after that she spake and said: "It is not well for you, O beloved children," she said, "for you to have the thing which he was most loath to lose5, and you in his power. And I have been sent to visit you, and to see whether her shape or her make remains on her, on Deirdre. And sad to me is the deed they do to-night in Emain, namely to work treachery and shame and trothbreach6 upon you, darling friends," saith he." And till the end of the world Emain will not be better for a single night than it is to-night." And she made the lay therein:.

"Sad to my heart is the shame
Which is done to-night in Emain;
And from the shame henceforward
It will be the contentious Emain.

Three brothers the best under heaven
Who have walked on the thick earth,
Grievous to me as it is
The slaying of them on account of one woman.

Náisi and Ardan with fame
White-palmed Ainnle their brother,
Treachery on this group being mentioned,
It is to me fully sorrowful."

After that Levarcham told the sons of Fergus to shut the doors of the house of the Red -Branch, and its windows, "And if ye be attacked, victory and blessing to you! And defend yourselves well, and your safeguard and Fergus's safeguard." And after that she went forth forward gloomily, sadly, unhappily, to the place wherein was Conchobar; and Conchobar asked tidings of her. Then said Levarcham answering him, "I have evil tidings for thee, and good tidings." "What are those?" saith the king of Ulster. "Good are the tidings," saith Levarcham: "the three whose form and make are best, whose motion and throwing of darts are best, whose action and valour and prowess, are best in Ireland, and in Scotland, and in the whole great world, have come to thee; and thou wilt have henceforward the driving of a bird-Hock against the men of Ireland since the sons of Usnech go with thee. And that is the best tidings I have for thee. And this is the worst tidings that I have, the woman whose form and make were the best in the world when she went from us out of Emain, her own shape or make is not upon her."

When Conchobar heard that, his jealousy and his bitterness abated. And they drunk a round or two after that, and Conchobar asked again: "Who would go before me to know whether her own shape or her form or her make remains upon Deirdre?" And he asked thrice before he had his answer. Then said Conchobar to Trén-dorn Dolann, "O Trén-Dorn," saith Conchobar, "knowest thou who slew thy father?" "I know," saith he, "that it was Náisi, son of Usnech, that slew him." "If so," saith Conchobar, "go and see whether her own shape or her make remains on Deirdre."

And Trén-dorn moved forward, and came to the hostel, and found the doors and the windows shut; and dread and great fear seized him, and this he said, "There is no proper way to approach the sons of Usnech, for wrath is on them." And after that he found a window unclosed, in the hostel, and he began to look at Náisi and Deirdre through the window. Deirdre looked at him for she was the most quick-witted7 there, and she nudged (?) Náisi, and Náisi looked after her look and beheld the eye of that man. And thus was he himself, having a dead man of the men of the draught-board, and thereof made he a fearful successful cast, so that it came to the young man's eye *** interchange was made between them, and his eye came on the young man's cheek, and he went to Conchobar having only one eye, and told tidings to him from beginning to end: and this he said: "There is the one woman whose form is best in the world, and Náisi would be king of the world if she is left to him."

Then arose Conchobar and the Ulstermen, and came around the hostel, and uttered many mighty shouts there, and cast fires and fire-brands into the hostel. That was told to Deirdre and the children of Fergus, and they asked "Who is there under the Red-Branch?" "Conchobar and the Ulstermen," say they. "And Fergus's safeguard against them," said Illann the Fair. "My conscience!" saith Conchobar, "it is a shame to you, and to the sons of Usnech, that my wife is with you." "True is that," saith Deirdre," and Fergus hath betrayed you, Náisi." "My conscience!" saith Buinne the Rude, "he hath not done so and we will not do so." Then Buinne the Rude came forth and slew three fifties outside at that onrush, and he quenched the fires and the torches, and confounded the hosts with that shout of doom. Said Conchobar: "Who causes this confusion to the troops?" "I Buinne the Rude, son of Fergus." "Bribes from me to thee," saith Conchobar, "and desert the children of Usnech." "What are those bribes that thou hast?" saith Buinne. "A cantred of land," saith Conchobar, "and my own privacy, and my counsel to thee." "I will take," saith Buinne, and Buinne took those bribes: and through God's miracle that night, moorland was made of the cantred, whence the name Sliab Dáil Buinni (Moorland of Buinne's Division).

And Deirdre heard that parley. "My conscience!" saith Deirdre, "Buinne hath deserted you, sons of Usnech, and your son is like (his) father." "By my own word!" saith Illann the Fair, "I myself will not leave them so long as this hard sword remains in my hand." And thereafter Illann came forth and gave three swift rounds of the hostel, and slew three hundreds of the Ulstermen outside, and came in to the place where Náisi was biding, and he a-playing draughts with Ainnle the Rough. And Illann made a circuit round them, and drank a drink, and carried a lamp alight with him out on the green, and began smiting the hosts, and they durst not go round the hostel.

Good was the son who was there — even Illann the Fair son of Fergus! He never refused any one as to jewel or many treasures; and pay was not given him from a king and he never accepted a cow save only from Fergus.

Then said Conchobar, "Where is my own son Fiacha?" saith Conchobar. "Here," saith Fiacha. "By my conscience, it is on one night that thou and Illann the Fair were born, and he hath his father's arms; and do thou bring my arms with thee, even the Bright-rim, and the Victorious, and the Gapped spear, and my sword; and do valiantly with them." Then each of them approached the other, and Fiacha came straight to Illann, and Illann asked of Fiacha, "What is that, Fiacha?" saith he. "A combat and conflict I wish to have with thee," saith Fiacha. "Ill hast thou done," saith Illann, "and the sons of Usnech under my safeguard." They attacked each other, and they fought a combat warlike, heroic, bold, daring, rapid. And Illann gained the better of Fiacha, and made him lie on the shadow of his shield, and the shield roared at the greatness of the need wherein he was. And in answer to it roared the three chief waves of Ireland, even the wave of Clidna, and the wave of Tuad, and the wave of Rugraide.

Conall the Victorious, son of Amergen, was at that time in Dunseverick, and he heard the thunder of the wave of Rugraide. "That is true," saith Conall, "Conchobar stands in danger, and it is wrong not to go to him." And he took his arms, and went forward to Emain, and found the fight, Fiacha son of Conchobar having been overthrown, and the Brightrim roaring and bellowing ; and the Ulstermen durst not rescue him. And Conall came from behind Illann and through him thrust his spear, even Conall's Culghlas.

"Who hath wounded me?" saith Illann. "I, Conall," saith he; "and who art thou?" "I am Illann the Fair, son of Fergus," saith he; "and ill is the deed thou hast done, and the sons of Usnech under my safeguard." "Is that true?" saith Conall. "True it is." MS. LIII ends here]

"Ah, my sorrow," saith Conall, "by my word, Conchobar will not take his own son from me, without being killed in vengeance for that deed." And after that Conall gave a swordblow to Fiacha the Fair, and shore his head from his body, and Conall left them.

Thereafter came the signs of death to Illann, son of Fergus, and he flung his arms into the hostel, and he told Náisi to do valiantly, and he himself was slain unwittingly8 by Conall the Victorious.

Then came the Ulstermen around the hostel, and cast fires and firebrands into it; and Ardan came forth, and quenched the fires, and slew three hundreds of the host, and after being a long *** outside ***, And Ainnle went forth the second third of the night, protecting the hostel. And he slew an innumerable number of Ulstermen, so that they went with loss from the hostel.

Then Conchobar began to hearten the host, and Náisi came forth at last, and it is not possible to number all that fell by him. The Ulstermen gave the battle of the morning to Náisi, and Náisi alone inflicted a three hours' rout upon them. After that Deirdre arose to meet him, and said to him, "Victorious is the conflict that thyself and thy two brothers have wrought, and do valiantly henceforward. And ill was the counsel for you to trust to Conchobar and to the Ulstermen, and sad it is that you did not do what I counselled." Then the Children of Usnech made a fence of the borders of each other's shields; and they put Deirdre between them, and they set their faces at once against the host, and they slew three hundreds of the hosts at that onrush.

Then came Conchobar where Cathbad the wizard abode. And he said, "O Cathbad" said he, "stay the Children of Usnech, and work wizardry upon them, for they will destroy this province for ever, if they escape from the Ulstermen, in spite of them at this turn; and I give thee my word, that I will be no danger to the children of Usnech." Cathbad believed those sayings of Conchobar, and he went to restrain the Children of Usnech, and he wrought wizardry upon them, for he put a great-waved sea along the field before the Children of Usnech. And the men of Ulster two feet behind them, and sad it was that the Children of Usnech were overwhelmed in the great sea, and Náisi uplifting Deirdre on his shoulder to save her from being drowned.

Then Conchobar called out to slay the Children of Usnech, and all the men of Ulster refused to do that. For there was not one man in Ulster who had not wages from Náisi. Conchobar had a youth whose name was Maine Redhand, the son of the king of Norway, and Náisi had slain his father and his two brothers, and he said that he himself would behead the Children of Usnech in vengeance for that deed. "If so," saith Ardan, "slay myself first, for I am the youngest of my brothers." "Let not that be done," saith Ainnle, "but let me be slain the first." "Not so is it right," saith Náisi; "but I have a sword which Manannan Mac Lir gave me and which leaves no relic of stroke or blow. And let us three be struck by it at once, so that none of us may see his brother being beheaded." Then those noble ones stretched forth their necks on one block, and Maine gave them a sword-blow, and shore the three heads at once from them at that spot. And each of the Ulstermen at that grievous sight gave forth three heavy cries of grief for them.

As to Deirdre, when each of them was attending to the other, she came forward on the green of Emain, fluttering hither and thither from one to another, till Cúchulainn happened to meet (?) her. And she went under his safeguard, and told him tidings of the Children of Usnech, from beginning to end, how they had been betrayed9. "That is sad to me," saith Cúchulainn; "and dost thou know10 who killed them?" "Maine Red-hand, son of the king of Norway," saith she.

Cúchulainn and Deirdre came where the Children of Usnech were, and Deirdre disshevelled her hair, and began drinking Náisi's blood, and the colour of embers came to her cheeks, and she uttered the lay:

Great these deeds in Emain
Where the shameful thing was done,
The death of Usnech's Children without guile,
The branches of the honour of Ireland!

The makings of a king of all Ireland
Ardan *** Yellow-haired
Ireland and Scotland without reproach
Hath Ainnle opposite to him.

The world west and east
With thee, mighty Náisi,
Would all have been, and no lie,
Had they not wrought the great outrage.

Let me be buried in the grave
And let my bed there be covered with stones
From looking at them, thence comes my death,
Since the great outrage hath been wrought.

After that lay Deirdre said, "Let me kiss my husband." And she began kissing Náisi, and drinking his blood, and she uttered the lay there:

Long the day without Usnech's Children:
It was not mournful to be in their company:
Sons of a king, by whom pilgrims were rewarded,
Three lions from the Hill of the Cave!

Three dragons of Dun Monaid,
The three champions from the Red Branch:
After them I am not alive:
Three that used to break every onrush.

Three darlings of the women of Britain,
Three hawks of Slieve Gullion,
Sons of a king whom valour served,
To whom soldiers used to give homage.

Three heroes who were not good at homage,
Their fall is cause of sorrow —
Three sons of Cathbad's daughter,
Three props of the battalion of Cuilgne.

Three vigorous bears,
Three lions out of Lis Una,
Three heroes who loved their praise,
The three sons of the breast of the Ulstermen.

Three who were fostered by Aife,
To whom a district was under tribute:
Three columns of breach of battle,
Three fosterlings whom Scathach had.

Three who were reared by Boghmhain.
At learning every feat;
Three renowned sons of Usnech:
It is mournful to be absent from them.

That I should remain after Náisi
Let no one in the world suppose:
After Ardan and Ainnle
My time would not be long.

Ulster's over-king, my first husband,
I forsook for Náisi's love:
Short my life after them:
I will perform their funeral game,

After them I will not be alive —
Three that would go into every conflict,
Three who liked to endure hardships,
Three heroes who refused not11 combats.

A curse on thee. wizard Cathbad,
That slewest Náisi through a woman!
Sad that there was none to help him,
The one king that satisfies the world!

O man, that diggest the tomb,
And that puttest my darling from me,
Make not the grave too narrow:
I shall be beside the noble ones.

[Much hardship would I take12
Along with the three heroes;
I would endure without house, without fire,
It is not I that would be gloomy.

Their three shields and their spears
Were often a bed for me,
Put their three hard swords,
Over the grave, gillie!

Their three hounds, and their three hawks
Will henceforth be without hunters —
The three who upheld every battle,
Three fosterlings of Conall the Victorious.

The three leashes of those three hounds
Have struck a sigh out of my heart:
With me was their keeping:
To see them is cause of wailing.]

I was never alone,
Save the day of making your grave,
Though often have I been
With you in a solitude.

My sight hath gone from me
At seeing Náisi's grave:
Shortly my soul will leave me,
And those whom I lament13 remain not.

Through me guile was wrought upon them,
Three strong waves of the flood!
Sad that I was not in earth
Before Usnech's Children were slain!

Sad my journey with Fergus
To deceive me to the Red Branch:
With his soft sweet words
He ruined me at the same time.

I shunned the delightfulness of Ulster,
Many champions and friends.
Being after them alone
My life will not be long.

After that, then, Deirdre sat in the tomb and gave three kisses to Náisi, before going into the grave. And Cúchulainn fared onward to Dundalk sadly and mournfully. And Cathbad the wizard cursed Emain Macha, in vengeance for that great evil. And he said that, after that treachery, neither Conchobar nor any other of his race would possess that stead.

As to Fergus son of Rossa the Ruddy, he came, on the morrow after the slaying of the Children of Usnech, to Emain Macha. And when he found that they had been slain in breach of his guarantees, he himself and Cormac Conloinges son of Conchobar, and Dubthach Dael-ultach, with their troop, gave battle to Conchobar's household, and Maine, son of Conchobar fell by them, and three hundreds of his household together with him. Emain Macha is burnt and destroyed, and Conchobar's women are slain by them, and they collect their *** from every side.

And this was the number of their host, three thousand warriors. And from that they proceed to Connaught to Ailill the Great, who was king of Connaught at that time, and to Medb of Cruachan, where they found welcome and support.

As to Fergus and Cormac Conloinges with their warriors, after they had reached Connaught they were not a single night without sending from them marauders destroying and burning Ulster, as that was (done) to them. So that the district of Cuailgne was subdued by them, a deed from which came abundance of difficulties and robberies between the two provinces. And they spent seven years, or according to some others, ten years, on that arrangement, without a truce between them for a single hour.

It is within that time that Fergus mingled (in love) with Medb, so that she became pregnant by him, and brought forth three sons to him, at one birth, even Ciar, Core, and Conmac. As saith the poet in this stave:

Pregnant (was) Medb in fair Cruachu
By Fergus, who increased not reproach.
She bore three (sons) without fault, which was not weak,
Ciar, Core and Conmac.

It is from this Ciar that Ciarraige (Kerry) in Munster is called, and a descendant of him14, is Conchubair Ciarraige. From Core is Conchubair Corcomruadh. And from Conmac is every Conmaicne, that is, in Connaught. And whosoever will read the poem beginning "Clan of Fergus, clan over veryone," will clearly find that great was the pre-eminence which those three sons of Medb obtained in Connaught and in Munster. That evidence is on the lands that are named from them in those two provinces.

Fergus and Dubloinges and a host of pilgrims that went with him into Connaught were long inflicting destruction and evil on the Ulstermen because of the death of the Children of Usnech. The Ulstermen in the same way plundering them and the men of Connaught, on account of the drove of kine which Fergus took from them, and for every other hardship of theirs, so that the destructions and the hardships which they wrought one against the other were so great that the books written on them are tedious to read.

Of Deirdre's Death here15.

As to Deirdre, when those deeds came to pass she was near Conchobar in the household throughout a year after the slaying of the Children of Usnech. And though it might be a little thing to raise her head, or to make a laugh over her lip, she never did it during that space of time. As Conchobar saw that neither game nor mildness profited her, and that neither jesting nor pleasant exaltation put courage into her nature, he gave_notice to Eogan son of Durthacht, prince of Fernmagh; and some of the historians say that it was this Eogan who had slain Náisi at Emain Macha. And after Eogan had come to Conchobar's place, Conchobar said to Deirdre, that since he himself had not been able to turn her nature from her grief, that she would have to go for another spell with Eogan. And with that she is put behind Eogan into his chariot, and Conchobar goes (also) to give her away. And as they were proceeding she cast a glance upon Eogan in front of her, fiercely, and a glance on Conchobar behind her, for there were not in the world two whom she hated more than they together. Now when Conchobar perceived (this) as he was looking at her and at Eogan, he said to her, in jest. "Ah Deirdre," saith he, "it is the glance of a ewe between two rams which thou castest on me and on Eogan!" When Deirdre heard that, she made a start at that word, and gave a leap out of the chariot, and struck her head against the rocks of stones that were before her, and made fragments of her head, so that her brain leapt suddenly out. And thus came Deirdre's death.

Here is the Genealogical Tree, and the Relationship of some of the Champions of the Red Branch, before we shall speak in full of the deeds of Cúchulainn:

Cathbad, son of Maelchro of the Battles,
The first king who had Magach,
Two others, lasting was their anger —
Rossa the Ruddy, and Cairbre Red-head.

There were three for whom Magach bore fair children,
Rossa the Ruddy, Cairbre, and Cathbad.
It was a gracious three respectively
That Magach the brown-eyelashed had.

Three sons had she by Rossa the Ruddy,
And four sons by Cairbre,
Fair white rods without disgrace,
Three daughters by Cathbad.

Magach bore to Cathbad the wizard
Three daughters with white beauty.
Their shape outwent everyone:
Deithchim, Ailbhe and Finnchoim.

Finnchoim, the daughter of the wizard Cathbad,
Good mother of Conall the Victorious,
Three sons of Ailbhe, who had no fear,
Naisi, Ainnle and Ardan.

The son of Deithchim of the pure cheeks
Cúchulainn of Dundalk.
Children with no horror of wounds
Had Cathbad's three daughters.

Usnech's Children, the shield of the men,
They fell by the might of the hosts.
Good their fellowship, white their skin.

There for you is the third Sorrow!

Pro scriptore lector oret!


1. lit. consumed.

2. the name, apparently, of a boat or galley belonging to Fergus.

3. lit. on me story of it.

4. The name of Conchobar's draught-board.

5. literally "taken most difficulty from him".

6. Perhaps "breach of trust."

7. literally "quick-headed."

8. literally "in disguise."

9. literally "how treachery had heen practised upon them."

10. lit. "is there knowledge with thee?"

11. lit. "without refusal of"

12In Transactions of the Gaelic Society of Dublin, Dublin 1808, O'Flanagan here inserts the following four stanzas.

13. lit. "folk of my lamentation".

14. lit. it is on his track.

15. This in the ms. LIII is an abstract of the Version I, and contradicts with the tale given above.

Sources : Whitley Stokes, Irische Texte