The Wooing of Emer

Tochmarc Emire
Rawlinson B. 512

Trans. Kuno Meyer

The Oldest Version of Tochmarc Emire


Tochmarc Emire, the Wooing of Emer, is the name of one of those Old Irish sagas, which have gathered around the Ul ster king Conchobar and the chief heroes of his court. It was considered and classified1, as one of the remscela or introductory tales of the greatest epic of this cycle, the Tain Bo Cuailnge, because its purport is the love of the principal hero of the Tain, Cuchulind. To judge from the considerable number of manuscripts — eight in all — in which the text has come down to us, as well as from references to it in Irish literature2, Tochmarc Emire was a favourite saga with the Irish, until, like the rest of the heroic tales, it was superseded by those of the Ossianic cycle.

T.E. has not hitherto been edited. Extracts from it were printed and translated by O'Curry Manners and Customs pass., who also gave some account of the contents, ib. III, p. 315. A tentative and often erroneous3 translation of the whole tale was published by me two years ago in the first volume ot the Archaeological Review, n° 1-4.

Besides, T.E. has recently been treated by Professor Rhys in his Hibbert Lectures pp. 448 seqq. He sees in Cûchulind's quest of a wife and his expedition to Alba and Scathach a version of the sunhero's visit to the other world. I know little of the methods of mythological investigation ; but I would point out the fallacy of two arguments, which Professor Rhys uses for his interpretation. It is true, that Cuchulind travels, but it should be pointed out that he does so in the opposite direction to the sun, from west to east. Secondly, there is nothing about Emer or her father to suggest the realms of darkness. Professor Rhys in bestowing the epithet « coal-faced king » on Forgall, has fallen into a serious error. The Irish words are ingen rig, richis garta and are applied by Emer to herself : « (I am) the daughter of a king, a ruddy flame of hospitality. » richis never means « black coal », but « live, burning coal or embers »; and garta is the genitive of gart, often glossed by >I or féile « liberality, bounty, hospitality ».

But by far the most important treatment T.E. has received at the hands of Professor Zimmer in his paper on Teutonic influences upon the Irish heroic sagas, Zeitschrift für Deutsches Alterthum XXXII. Unfortunately, in this as in other papers of the same author, the gold is so mixed up with the dross that it is difficult to purge the one from the other. But in spite of the wrong statements, hasty conclusions, and idle conjectures with which this paper abounds, and some of which I have pointed out elsewhere, I hold that Zimmer has proved one of his main points which concerns us here, viz. that in several of the Irish heroic sagas we can distinguish between a pre-Norse and a post-Norse redaction. As will be shown later on, T.E. is one of these.

The following is a list of the MSS. in which T.E. has come down to us. Only the two first MSS. contain a complete text.

(1) H, contained in the Harleian MS. 5280, from fo. 27a- 35b. The MS. was written by Gilla Riabhach O'Clery, as appears from the foliowing entry on fo 76a : « Oraid ar anmain an truaghain scribas an cuilmen so dà fen .i. Gilla Riabacb mac Tuathail maic Taide Caim i Clerich 7 tabrad cech oen dia foigena in oraid don scribnid. » Tuathal O'Clery died in 1512 according to the Four Masters.

(2) S, contained in the Stowe MS. 992, now in the R.I. A, and classed D.4.2, fo. 80a 1-85 b1. This MS. was written at Frankford, King's Co., in 1300. See my edition of the Merugud Uilix, p. V.

(3) U, contained in the Lebar na hUidre, from p. 121a- 127b. Part of it is now illegible, and between pp. 124/25 and 126/27 leaves are lost.

(4) E, a fragment contained in the Egerton MS. 92, fo. 24a, 1-25b. This MS. was written in 1453, as appears from the following entry on fo. 12b: finitt anno domini m° cccc° 1° 3°

(5) F, a fragment contained in the Book of Fermoy, pp. 207a — 212b. The beginning is illegible, there is a gap between pp. 210/11, and the end is wanting.

(6) B, a fragment contained in the vellum quarto classed Betham 145 (R.I.A.), pp. 21-26. There is a gap between pp. 24/25.

(7) b. This is a paper MS. bound up with the preceding vellum MS. p. 68 : Incipiunt uerba Scathaige etc. followed by the episode beginning Cid diatá Emain Machae, — p. 70. pp. 113-128 a fragment of T.E. There is a gap between pp. 124/25.

(8) R. The Bodleian MS. Rawlinson B. 512 contains from fo. 117a,1 —118a,2 a version of the second half of the tale, followed by Scathach's parting words to Cuchulind. That portion of the MS. to which these texts belong was copied in the 15th century from the lost Book of Dubdaleithe. This is evident from the following heading to the first tale of the layer : INcipit di Baili in Scail inso ar slicht hsenlibair Duibdaleithi .i. comarpa Patraic. As O'Curry, Ms. Materials p. 19, has shown, this Dubdaleithe is almost certainly identical with the bishop of Armagh of that name, who filled the see from 1049-1064. It is to be assumed that he was the compiler of the book named after him. Thus we have strong evidence that R represents a version existing about the middle of the 11th century. But there are valid reasons for dating the original redaction of this version at least three centuries further back.

An examination of the eight versions enumerated above at once reveals the fact that, with one exception, all contain an identical text, and throughout agree so closely that they must have sprung from one archetypus. The one MS that stands apart and varies from all the others in such a manner that it cannot have sprung from the same source, is R. The most important points in which it differs are the following.

1. The text is not glossed. 2. The style is much simpler. Only the main features of the narrative are given, and these shortly, and without any adornment or repetition. 3. A large number of incidents and episodes are not found, of which the following are the more important :
(a) The incident of the drochet ind alta or Cliff Bridge, which leads to Scathach's abode. Scathach does not dwell on an island (Archaeological Review, p. 299.)
(b) Scathach's pupils are not enumerated (ib.)
(c) The name of Cuchulind's and Aiffe's son (Connla in the other versions) is not given ; nor does the incident with the finger-ring occur, nor does Cuchulind put any gessa on his son (Arch. Rev., p. 302.)
(d) Cuchulind's feats are not enumerated (ib.)
(e) There is no visit to Ruad, the king of the Isles; the episode of Derbforgaill and the three Fomori does not occur (Arch. Rev., p. 304.)
(f) Lastly, the end is cut very short. The various combats at the fords, Bricriu's taunt, and the other proceedings at Emain are not told (Arch. Rev., p. 306.)

To those who have read Zimmer's arguments for the assumption of a twofold redaction of Old Irish sagas, a pre-Norse and a post-Norse one, the absence in R of the incidents mentioned under (c), and possibly under (a), will be a strong argument for regarding R as the only extant representative of a pre-Norse, and the other versions as representing a post-Norse redaction of Tochmarc Emire. This is rendered certain by a consideration of the following fact.

The incident of Forgall Manach's visit at Emain is thus told in R. « Therefore F. M. went to E. M. in a Gaulish garb, as if it were an embassy from the king of the Gauls, to confer with Conchobar, with an offering to him of golden treasures and wine of Gaul. » Here we have clearly a voice from that oldest period of Irish history, when Gall was used in its original sense of Gallus « a Gaul ». Now, all the other versions give the end of this passage thus: « with an offering to him of golden treasures of the Norwegians, and all sorts of good things besides. » In the interval between the first and second redaction of T.E. the term Gall had changed its meaning to that of « Norseman ». The new redactor, having before him a copy of the old version — as will be shown elsewhere — fourni there an absurdity, viz. « Norse wine » or « wine of Norway ». By one stroke of the pen he changed fin gall to finngall, and altered the sentence accordingly.

There can be no doubt, then, that in the case of T.E. we may distinguish between
I. a pre-Norse version of, say, the 8th century, represented by R, and
II. a post-Norse version of, say, the 11th century, represented more or less faithfully by all the other MSS.

It will now be necessary to show that the language of R bears out the result arrived at. It must, of course, be borne in mind that R was copied in the 15th century, i.e. at the threshold of modern Irish, from an 11th century MS. But even thus there are but few Middle-Irish forms, and the Old-Irish character of the language stands out so clearly that we can safely claim the text of R as a piece of Irish the 8th century.

The relations of the second version of T.E. to the first I hope to deal with in an introduction to an edition of the complete text, on which I have been engaged for some time.

The young of every kind of cattle used to be assigned to the possession of Bel. Bel-dine, then, i. e. Beltine. To Bron Trogin, i. e. the beginning of autumn, viz. it is then the earth sorrows under its fruit. Trogan, then, is a name for « earth ».

The maidens afterwards told the lords entertainers the warrior had come to them in the splendid chariot. These told Forgall the Wily everything that the maiden had said to him.

« True, » said Forgall. « The madman from Emain Macha. He has come to converse with Emer, and the girl has fallen in love. That is why she conversed with him. It shall not avail him. I shall prevent their meeting, » he said.

Therefore Forgall the Wily went to Emain Macha in a Gaulish garb, as if it were an embassy from the king of the Gauls, to converse with Conchobar, with an offering to him of golden treasures and wine of Gaul.

Welcome was made to him. Their number was three.

When he had sent away his men on the third day, Cuchulind and the chariot-chiefs of the men of Ulster were praised before him. Then he said that it was true, and it was wonderful, but then if Cuchulind were to go to Domnall the War-like in Alba, it would be the more wonderful. Now, it was for this that he proposed that, in order that he might not come back again. Forgall went away, when he had imposed on Cuchulind what he wished.

However, Cuchulind went then, and Loegaire the Victorious, and Conchobar. This is where Cuchulind went, across Brega to visit the maiden. He spoke with Emer when he went in his ship. Each of them promised chastity to the other until they should meet again.

When they had come to Domnall, they were taught by him one thing on a flagstone with a small hole, to blow bellows. Then they would perform on it till their soles were all but black or livid. Another thing on a spear, on which they would climb. They would perform on its point ; or dropping down on their soles.

Then the daughter of Domnall fell in love with Cuchulind. Bigfist was her name. Large were her knees. Her heels (turned) before her, her feet behind her. Her shape was loathsome. Cuchulind refused her. She vows to have a good revenge on him.

Then Domnall said that Cuchulind would not have profession of instruction until he came to Scathach, who was in the east of Alba. So the three of them went across Alba, viz. Cuchulind, and Conchobar, the king of Emain, and Loegaire the Victorious.

There Emain Macha appeared to them before their eyes. Conchobar and Loegaire do not go beyond that. Cuchulind went of his (own) will from them. He did not stop, he ***, for the powers of the maiden were supernatural. She wrought harm against him, so that his friends were severed from him. When he had gone across Alba, he was sorrowful through the loss of his comrades. Therefore he waited when he had noticed it.

Then he encountered some dreadful beast like a lion, which fought with him, but did him no harm. And the foul play of the youths, who laughed at him. On the fourth day the beast parted from him.

Then he came upon a house there in a glen. In it he found a maiden. She addressed him. She bade him welcome. He asked whence she knew him. She said they had been foster-children both with Wulfkin the Saxon, « when I was with him and thou learning sweet speech, » said she.

Then again he met a warrior. He made the same welcome to him. It is he who taught him the way across the plain of Ill-luck which was before him. On the hither half of the plain men would freeze fast. On the other half they would be raised on the grass. He took a wheel with him from the warrior, that he might reach like that wheel across one half of the plain, so that he would not freeze fast. He also gave him an apple that he might follow the ground as that apple would follow it. Thus he escaped across the plain, which he found before him afterwards.

He told him there was a large glen before him. One narrow path across it, yet that was his way to the house of Scathach. Across a terrible stony height besides.

He then went that way. He went to the dun. He struck the door with the shaft of his spear, so that it went through it.

Uathach, the daughter of Scathach, went to meet him. She looked at him. She did not speak to him, so much did his shape move her desire. However, she went, and praised him to her mother.

« The man has pleased thee », said her mother. « He shall come into my bed, and I will sleep with him to-night.»

« That (were) not wearisome to me. »

The maiden served him with water and food. She made him welcome in the guise of a servant. He hurt her, and broke her finger. The maiden shrieked. This ran through h all the host of the dun, so that a champion rose up against him, viz. Cochor Crufe. He and Cuchulind fought, and the champion fell.

Sorrowful was the woman Scathach at this, so that he said to her, he would take (upon himself) the services of the man that had fallen. Then on the third day the maiden advised Cuchulind, that if it was to achieve valour that he had gone forth, he should go through the chariot-chief's salmon-leap at Scathach in the place where she was teaching her two sons, Cuar and Cet, in the great yew tree, when she was reclining there ; that he should set his sword between her two breasts, until she gave him his three wishes, viz. to teach him without neglect, and that she should wed him with payment of her dowry, and say everything that would befal him ; for she was also a prophetess.

It was all done thus.

Now this was the time when he was with Scathach and was the mate of Uathach her daughter, when a certain famous warrior who lived in Munster, Lugaid Noes, the son of Alamacc, the king, went from the west, and twelve underkings of the underkings of Munster with him, to woo the twelve daughters of Corpre Niafer. All these were betrothed (to men) before (they came). When Forgall the Wily heard this, he came to Tara. He betrothed his daughter to the king, and the twelve daughters of the twelve lords entertainers besides.

The king went to the wedding feast to him. When Emer was brought to Lugaid to the seat where he was, to sit by his side, she takes his two cheeks and lays it on the truth of his honour, and confessed to him that it was Cuchulind she loved. Then the king dared her not, and they parted hence.

At that time also Scathach had a feud against other tribes, over whom was the princess Aife. And Cuchulind was put in bonds by Scathach, and a sleeping potion had been given him before, that he might not go to the battle, lest anything should happen (to him) there. As a precaution this was done. However, Cuchulind awoke promptly. While anybody else would have slept twenty-four hours from the sleeping potion, it was but one hour for him.

hen he went with the two sons of Scathach against the three sons of Ilsuanu, viz. Cuar, Cet, Cruffe, three warriors of Aiffe's. Alone he met them (all) three.

On the morrow the same three went against the three sons of Eiss Enchend, viz. Ciri and Biri and Bailcne, three other warriors of Aiffe's. Now, Scathach would utter a sigh everv day and knew not what would come (of it). Then he would go on the path. One thing was that there was no third man with her two sons against three ; and then she was afraid of Aiffe, because she was the hardest woman-warrior in the world.

Then Cuchulind went to meet Aiffe, and asked what it was she had ever loved most. Scathach said : « This is what Aiffe loves most, her charioteer and her two chariot-horses. » Then they fought upon the path, Cuchulind and Aiffe. Then she broke Cuchulind's weapon so that his sword was no longer than its hilt. Then Cuchulind said : « Woe is me ! » said he, « Aiffe's charioteer and her two chariot-horses have fallen dovvn the glen, and all have perished. » At that Aiffe looked up. At that Cuchulind approached her, seized her under her breast, threw her across (his shoulder) like a burden, and went to his own host. He *** to throw her on the ground.

« Life for life ! » she said.
« My three wishes to me ! » said he.
« Thou shalt have them. »
« These are my three wishes : thou to give hostages to Scathach without ever again opposing her, to be with me this night before thy own dun, and to bear me a son. »

It is granted thus and was all done. Then she said she was pregnant. She also said that it was a son she would bear, and that the boy would come to Erin that day seven year. And he left a name for him.

He then returned. He went back again. On the path before him he met an old blind woman, blind of her left eye. She said to him to beware and not be in her way. There was no footing on the cliff of the sea. He let himself down from the path, and only his toes clung to it. When she passed over them she hit his great toe to throw him down the cliff. Then he leapt the chariot-chief's salmon-leap up again, and strikes her head off. She was the mother of the last chariot-chief that had fallen by him, viz. Eiss Enchend.

Thereafter the hosts went with Scathach to her land, and he stayed there for the day of his recovery.

And she told him what befel him after he came to Erin, and Scathach said this : « Great peril awaits thee » (and the rest, which is in the book).

Then he came to Erin, and chanced upon the cattle-spoil of Cualnge.

He went then, as he had promised, to Luglochta Loga to the dun of Forgall the Wily. He leapt across the three ramparts and dealt three blows in the close, so that eight fell from each blow, and one man in the midst of nine was saved, Scibor, and Ibor, and Catt, the three brothers of the maiden. And he took the maiden Emer with her fostersister, with their two loads of gold, and leapt once more across the three ramparts with the two maidens. And he fulfilled all those deeds which he had promised to her, and went until he was in Emain Macha.

Notes :

1. It is mentioned as such in LL. 245b, 33 : de thochmurc [Emire], though not in the list of remscela in D.4.2. Rev. Celt., VI, p. 191.

2. It is mentioned in the list of tales published by Jubainville, Catalogue p. 262, under the title Tochmarc Emire la Coinculainn, and in the Introduction to the Senchus Mór, Ancient Laws I, p. 46, 11. In that part of the Tain Bo Cualgne which is called Inna Formolta and in which Fergus speaks of Cuchulind's age, LU. 58 b, 24 (and Eg. 1782, fo. 92a, 2, which seems to be a copy of LU.), these words occur : issint sessed bliadain luid do foglaim gaiscid 7 chless la Scáthaig "in the sixth year he went to learn valour and feats with Scathach". Here both MSS have the following note in the margin : Obicitur Tochmarc Emire deso (doso Eg,), which I take to mean « T.E. contradicts this ». T.E. was used by Cormac in the compilation of his glossary, as appears from the articles belltaine and ói ; and it was one of the seinscreaptra meamruin, from which O'Clery took his glosses, as may be seen by such entries as easomain .i. failte, gart .i. eineach, genide grainne, misimirt .i. droichimirt, etc., which occur in the text of T.E. Lastly, I would quote an amusing passage from the H.3.17 version of Aislinge Meic Comglinne, in which the appearance of the faihhaig, who cures Mac Conglinne from his voracity, is thus described (p. 739): cona triubhus do biud scabail fo cossaibh, cona assaibh ierslesai hiraibe Táin Bó Cúailgne ocus Pruigen Dá Derg isin asa robói fo cois deis, Tochmarc Etaine ocus Tochmarc Emere isin asa robói foa cois cli. « With his trousers of pancake around his legs, with his shoes made of a hind-quarter, the Tain Bo Cuailgne and Bruiden Dà Derg in the shoe, which was on his right foot, Tochmarc Etaine and Tochmarc Emere in the shoe, which was on his left foot. »

3 . e. g. p. 69, 3 : class is translated by « fatness » instead of « chase » ; cf. adclaidim « I chase », Stokes Trip. Life Ind. — p. 70, 18 : rengarodaim « reins of a great ox » is wrongly rendered by « moustache » — p. 72, 10; dubithir leth dubfolach should have been rendered by « as black as the side of a black ruin ». folachis the gen. of fol which occurs Rev. Celt. IX, p. 90. — p. 74, 29 : « I earn thanks from no one ». Cf. ni tuille buidhe fri nach rig inti Domnall Breacc, Fled Duin na n-Ged, p. 54. — p. 133, 5 : muir druidechta rusha fair co muirseilche and co n-aicniud suigech leis cosuiged in fer cona armgaisciud for lar a istadbuilc « a magic sea was on it. with a sea-turtle in it of a sucking nature, so that it would suck a man with his armour on to the ground of its. . . » — p. 154, 7 : is ed dolodmar-ni « this is the way we went ». — p, 155, 35 : amhor « wail, lament », not « music». Cf. Rev. Celt. X. p. 367.

Sources : Kuno Meyer, Revue Celtique, 11