But as to the Tuatha de Danaan after they were beaten, they would not go under the sway of the sons of Miled, but they went away by themselves. And because Manannan, son of Lir, understood all enchantments, they left it to him to find places for them where they would be safe from their enemies. So he chose out the most beautiful of the hills and valleys of Ireland for them to settle in; and he put hidden walls about them, that no man could see through, but they themselves could see through them and pass through them.
And he made the Feast of Age for them, and what they drank at it was the ale of Goibniu the Smith, that kept whoever tasted it from age and from sickness and from death. And for food at the feast he gave them his own swine, that though they were killed and eaten one day, would be alive and fit for eating again the next day, and that would go on in that way for ever.
And after a while they said: “It would be better for us one king to be over us, than to be scattered the way we are through the whole of Ireland.”
Now the men among them that had the best chance of getting the kingship at that time were Bodb Dearg, son of the Dagda; and Ilbrech of Ess Ruadh; and Lir of Sidhe Fionnachaidh, the Hill of the White Field, on Slieve Fuad; and Midhir the Proud of Bri Leith, and Angus Og, son of the Dagda; but he did not covet the kingship at all, but would sooner be left as he was. Then all the chief men but those five went into council together, and it is what they agreed, to give the kingship to Bodb Dearg, for the sake of his father, for his own sake, and because he was the eldest among the children of the Dagda.
It was in Sidhe Femen Bodb Dearg had his house, and he put great enchantments about it. Cliach, the Harper of the King of the Three Rosses in Connacht, went one time to ask one of his daughters in marriage, and he stayed outside the place through the whole length of a year, playing his harp, and able to get no nearer to Bodb or to his daughter. And he went on playing till a lake burst up under his feet, the lake that is on the top of a mountain, Loch Bel Sead.
It was Bodb’s swineherd went to Da Derga’s Inn, and his squealing pig along with him, the night Conaire, the High King of Ireland, met with his death; and it was said that whatever feast that swineherd would go to, there would blood be shed before it was over.
And Bodb had three sons, Angus, and Artrach, and Aedh. And they used often to be living among men in the time of the Fianna afterwards. Artrach had a house with seven doors, and a free welcome for all that came, and the king’s son of Ireland, and of Alban, used to be coming to Angus to learn the throwing of spears and darts; and troops of poets from Alban and from Ireland used to be with Aedh, that was the comeliest of Bodb’s sons, so that his place used to be called “The Rath of Aedh of the Poets.” And indeed it was a beautiful rath at that time, with golden-yellow apples in it and crimson-pointed nuts of the wood. But after the passing away of the Fianna, the three brothers went back to the Tuatha de Danaan.
And Bodb Dearg was not always in his own place, but sometimes he was with Angus at Brugh na Boinn.
Three sons of Lugaidh Menn, King of Ireland, Eochaid, and Fiacha, and Ruide, went there one time, for their father refused them any land till they would win it for themselves. And when he said that, they rose with the ready rising of one man, and went and sat down on the green of Brugh na Boinn, and fasted there on the Tuatha de Danaan, to see if they could win some good thing from them.
And they were not long there till they saw a young man, quiet and with pleasant looks, coming towards them, and he wished them good health, and they answered him the same way. “Where are you come from?” they asked him then. “From the rath beyond, with the many lights,” he said. “And I am Bodb Dearg, son of the Dagda,” he said, “and come in with me now to the rath.”
So they went in, and supper was made ready for them, but they did not use it. Bodb Dearg asked them then why was it they were using nothing. “It is because our father has refused land to us,” said they; “and there are in Ireland but the two races, the Sons of the Gael and the Men of Dea, and when the one failed us we are come to the other.”
Then the Men of Dea consulted together. And the chief among them was Midhir of the Yellow Hair, and it is what he said: “Let us give a wife to every one of these three men, for it is from a wife that good or bad fortune comes.”
So they agreed to that, and Midhir’s three daughters, Doirenn, and Aife, and Aillbhe, were given to them. Then Midhir asked Bodb to say what marriage portion should be given to them. “I will tell you that,” said Bodb. “We are three times fifty sons of kings in this hill; let every king’s son give three times fifty ounces of red gold. And I myself,” he said, “will give them along with that, three times fifty suits of clothing of all colours.” “I will give them a gift,” said a young man of the Tuatha de Danaan, from Rachlainn in the sea. “A horn I will give them, and a vat. And there is nothing wanting but to fill the vat with pure water, and it will turn into mead, fit to drink, and strong enough to make drunken. And into the horn,” he said, “you have but to put salt water from the sea, and it will turn into wine on the moment.” “A gift to them from me,” said Lir of Sidhe Fionnachaidh, “three times fifty swords, and three times fifty well-riveted long spears.” “A gift from me,” said Angus Og, son of the Dagda, “a rath and a good town with high walls, and with bright sunny houses, and with wide houses, in whatever place it will please them between Rath Chobtaige and Teamhair.” “A gift to them from me,” said Aine, daughter of Modharn, “a woman-cook that I have, and there is geasa on her not to refuse food to any; and according as she serves it out, her store fills up of itself again.” “Another gift to them from me,” said Bodb Dearg, “a good musician that I have, Fertuinne, son of Trogain; and although there were women in the sharpest pains of childbirth, and brave men wounded early in the day, in a place where there were saws going through wood, they would sleep at the sweetness of the music he makes. And whatever house he may be in, the people of the whole country round will hear him.”
So they stopped in Brugh na Boinne three days and three nights, and when they left it, Angus bade them bring away from the oak-wood three apple-trees, one in full bloom, and one shedding its blossom, and the third covered with ripe fruit.
They went then to their own dun that was given them, and it is a good place they had there, and a troop of young men, and great troops of horses and of greyhounds; and they had three sorts of music that comely kings liked to be listening to, the music of harps and of lutes, and the chanting of Trogain’s son; and there were three great sounds, the tramping on the green, and the uproar of racing, and the lowing of cattle; and three other sounds, the grunting of good pigs with the fat thick on them, and the voices of the crowd on the green lawn, and the noise of men drinking inside the house. And as to Eochaid, it was said of him that he never took a step backwards in flight, and his house was never without music or drinking of ale. And it was said of Fiacha that there was no man of his time braver than himself, and that he never said a word too much. And as to Ruide, he never refused any one, and never asked anything at all of any man.
And when their lifetime was over, they went back to the Tuatha de Danaan, for they belonged to them through their wives, and there they have stopped ever since.
And Bodb Dearg had a daughter, Scathniamh, the Flower of Brightness, that gave her love to Caoilte in the time of the Fianna; and they were forced to part from one another, and they never met again till the time Caoilte was, old and withered, and one of the last that was left of the Fianna. And she came to him out of the cave of Cruachan, and asked him for the bride-price he had promised her, and that she was never able to come and ask for till then. And Caoilte went to a cairn that was near and that was full up of gold, that was wages earned by Conan Maol and hidden there, and he gave the gold to Bodb Dearg’s daughter. And the people that were there wondered to see the girl so young and comely, and Caoilte so grey and bent and withered. “There is no wonder in that,” said Caoilte, “for I am of the sons of Miled that wither and fade away, but she is of the Tuatha de Danaan that never change and that never die.”
And it was at Brugh na Boinne the Dagda, the Red Man of all Knowledge, had his house. And the most noticeable things in it were the Hall of the Morrigu, and the Bed of the Dagda, and the Birthplace of Cermait Honey–Mouth, and the Prison of the Grey of Macha that was Cuchulain’s horse afterwards. And there was a little hill by the house that was called the Comb and the Casket of the Dagda’s wife; and another that was called the Hill of Dabilla, that was the little hound belonging to Boann. And the Valley of the Mata was there, the Sea–Turtle that could suck down a man in armour.
And it is likely the Dagda put up his cooking oven there, that Druimne, son of Luchair, made for him at Teamhair. And it is the way it was, the axle and the wheel were of wood, and the body was iron, and there were twice nine wheels in its axle, that it might turn the faster; and it was as quick as the quickness of a stream in turning, and there were three times nine spits from it, and three times nine pots. And it used to lie down with the cinders and to rise to the height of the roof with the flame.
The Dagda himself made a great vat one time for Ainge, his daughter, but she was not well satisfied with it, for it would not stop from dripping while the sea was in flood, though it would not lose a drop during the ebb-tide. And she gathered a bundle of twigs to make a new vat for herself, but Gaible, son of Nuada of the Silver Hand, stole it from her and hurled it away. And in the place where it fell a beautiful wood grew up, that was called Gaible’s Wood.
And the Dagda had his household at Brugh na Boinne, and his steward was Dichu, and Len Linfiaclach was the smith of the Brugh. It was he lived in the lake, making the bright vessels of Fand, daughter of Flidhais; and every evening when he left off work he would make a cast of the anvil eastward to Indeoin na Dese, the Anvil of the Dese, as far as the Grave End. Three showers it used to cast, a shower of fire, and a shower of water, and a shower of precious stones of pure purple.
But Tuirbe, father of Goibniu the Smith, used to throw better again, for he would make a cast of his axe from Tulach na Bela, the Hill of the Axe, in the face of the flood tide, and he would put his order on the sea, and it would not come over the axe.
And Corann was the best of the harpers of the household; he was harper to the Dagda’s son, Diancecht. And one time he called with his harp to Cailcheir, one of the swine of Debrann. And it ran northward with all the strength of its legs, and the champions of Connacht were following after it with all their strength of running, and their hounds with them, till they got as far as Ceis Corain, and they gave it up there, all except Niall that went on the track of the swine till he found it in the oak-wood of Tarba, and then it made away over the plain of Ai, and through a lake. And Niall and his hound were drowned in following it through the lake. And the Dagda gave Corann a great tract of land for doing his harping so well.
But however great a house the Dagda had, Angus got it away from him in the end, through the help of Manannan, son of Lir. For Manannan bade him to ask his father for it for the length of a day and a night, and that he by his art would take away his power of refusing. So Angus asked for the Brugh, and his father gave it to him for a day and a night. But when he asked it back again, it is what Angus said, that it had been given to him for ever, for the whole of life and time is made up of a day and a night, one following after the other.
So when the Dagda heard that he went away and his people and his household with him, for Manannan had put an enchantment on them all.
But Dichu the Steward was away at the time, and his wife and his son, for they were gone out to get provisions for a feast for Manannan and his friends. And when he came back and knew his master was gone, he took service with Angus.
And Angus stopped in Brugh na Boinne, and some say he is there to this day, with the hidden walls about him, drinking Goibniu’s ale and eating the pigs that never fail.
As to the Dagda, he took no revenge, though he had the name of being revengeful and quick in his temper. And some say it was at Teamhair he made his dwelling-place after that, but wherever it was, a great misfortune came on him.
It chanced one time Corrgenn, a great man of Connacht, came to visit him, and his wife along with him. And while they were there, Corrgenn got it in his mind that there was something that was not right going on between his wife and Aedh, one of the sons of the Dagda. And great jealousy and anger came on him, and he struck at the young man and killed him before his father’s face.
Every one thought the Dagda would take Corrgenn’s life then and there in revenge for his son’s life. But he would not do that, for he said if his son was guilty, there was no blame to be put on Corrgenn for doing what he did. So he spared his life for that time, but if he did, Corrgenn did not gain much by it. For the punishment he put on him was to take the dead body of the young man on his back, and never to lay it down till he would find a stone that would be its very fit in length and in breadth, and that would make a gravestone for him; and when he had found that, he could bury him in the nearest hill.
So Corrgenn had no choice but to go, and he set out with his load; but he had a long way to travel before he could find a stone that would fit, and it is where he found one at last, on the shore of Loch Feabhail. So then he left the body up on the nearest hill, and he went down and raised the stone and brought it up and dug a grave and buried the Dagda’s son. And it is many an Ochone! he gave when he was putting the stone over him, and when he had that done he was spent, and he dropped dead there and then.
And the Dagda brought his two builders, Garbhan and Imheall, to the place, and he bade them build a rath there round the grave. It was Garbhan cut the stones and shaped them, and Imheall set them all round the house till the work was finished, and then he closed the top of the house with a slab. And the place was called the Hill of Aileac, that is, the Hill of Sighs and of a Stone, for it was tears of blood the Dagda shed on account of the death of his son.
And as to Angus Og, son of the Dagda, sometimes he would come from Brugh na Boinn and let himself be seen upon the earth.
It was a long time after the coming of the Gael that he was seen by Cormac, King of Teamhair, and this is the account he gave of him.
He was by himself one day in his Hall of Judgment, for he used to be often reading the laws and thinking how he could best carry them out. And on a sudden he saw a stranger, a very comely young man, at the end of the hall; and he knew on the moment it was Angus Og, for he had often heard his people talking of him, but he himself used to be saying he did not believe there was any such person at all. And when his people came back to the hall, he told them how he had seen Angus himself, and had talked with him, and Angus had told him his name, and had foretold what would happen him in the future. “And he was a beautiful young man,” he said, “with high looks, and his appearance was more beautiful than all beauty, and there were ornaments of gold on his dress; in his hand he held a silver harp with strings of red gold, and the sound of its strings was sweeter than all music under the sky; and over the harp were two birds that seemed to be playing on it. He sat beside me pleasantly and played his sweet music to me, and in the end he foretold things that put drunkenness on my wits.”
The birds, now, that used to be with Angus were four of his kisses that turned into birds and that used to be coming about the young men of Ireland, and crying after them. “Come, come,” two of them would say, and “I go, I go,” the other two would say, and it was hard to get free of them. But as to Angus, even when he was in his young youth, he used to be called the Frightener, or the Disturber; for the plough teams of the world, and every sort of cattle that is used by men, would make away in terror before him.
And one time he appeared in the shape of a land-holder to two men, Ribh and Eocho, that were looking for a place to settle in. The first place they chose was near Bregia on a plain that was belonging to Angus; and it was then he came to them, leading his horse in his hand, and told them they should not stop there. And they said they could not carry away their goods without horses. Then he gave them his horse, and bade them to put all they had a mind to on that horse and he would carry it, and so he did. But the next place they chose was Magh Find, the Fine Plain, that was the playing ground of Angus and of Midhir. And that time Midhir came to them in the same way and gave them a horse to put their goods on, and he went on with them as far as Magh Dairbthenn.
And there were many women loved Angus, and there was one Enghi, daughter of Elcmair, loved him though she had not seen him. And she went one time looking for him to the gathering for games between Cletech and Sidhe in Broga; and the bright troops of the Sidhe used to come to that gathering every Samhain evening, bringing a moderate share of food with them, that is, a nut. And the sons of Derc came from the north, out of Sidhe Findabrach, and they went round about the young men and women without their knowledge and they brought away Elcmair’s daughter. There were great lamentations made then, and the name the place got was Cnoguba, the Nut Lamentation, from the crying there was at that gathering.
And Derbrenn, Eochaid Fedlech’s daughter, was another that was loved by Angus, and she had six fosterlings, three boys and three girls. But the mother of the boys, Dalb Garb, the Rough, put a spell on them she made from a gathering of the nuts of Caill Ochuid, that turned them into swine.
And Angus gave them into the care of Buichet, the Hospitaller of Leinster, and they stopped a year with him. But at the end of that time there came a longing On Buichet’s wife to eat a bit of the flesh of one of them. So she gathered a hundred armed men and a hundred hounds to take them. But the pigs made away, and went to Brugh na Boinn, to Angus, and he bade them welcome, and they asked him to give them his help. But he said he could not do that till they had shaken the Tree of Tarbga, and eaten the salmon of Inver Umaill.
So they went to Glascarn, and stopped a year in hiding with Derbrenn. And then they shook the Tree of Tarbga, and they went on towards Inver Umaill. But Maeve gathered the men of Connacht to hunt them, and they all fell but one, and their heads were put in a mound, and it got the name of Duma Selga, the Mound of the Hunting.
And it was in the time of Maeve of Cruachan that Angus set his love on Caer Ormaith, of the Province of Connacht, and brought her away to Brugh na Boinn.
As to the Morrigu, the Great Queen, the Crow of Battle, where she lived after the coming of the Gael is not known, but before that time it was in Teamhair she lived. And she had a great cooking-spit there, that held three sorts of food on it at the one time: a piece of raw meat, and a piece of dressed meat, and a piece of butter. And the raw was dressed, and the dressed was not burned, and the butter did not melt, and the three together on the spit.
Nine men that were outlaws went to her one time and asked for a spit to be made for themselves. And they brought it away with them, and it had nine ribs in it, and every one of the outlaws would carry a rib in his hand wherever he would go, till they would all meet together at the close of day. And if they wanted the spit to be high, it could be raised to a man’s height, and at another time it would not be more than the height of a fist over the fire, without breaking and without lessening.
And Mechi, the son the Morrigu had, was killed by Mac Cecht on Magh Mechi, that till that time had been called Magh Fertaige. Three hearts he had, and it is the way they were, they had the shapes of three serpents through them. And if Mechi had not met with his death, those serpents in him would have grown, and what they left alive in Ireland would have wasted away. And Mac Cecht burned the three hearts on Magh Luathad, the Plain of Ashes, and he threw the ashes into the stream; and the rushing water of the stream stopped and boiled up, and every creature in it died.
And the Morrigu used often to be meddling in Ireland in Cuchulain’s time, stirring up wars and quarrels. It was she came and roused up Cuchulain one time when he was but a lad, and was near giving in to some enchantment that was used against him. “There is not the making of a hero in you,” she said to him, “and you lying there under the feet of shadows.” And with that Cuchulain rose up and struck off the head of a shadow that was standing over him, with his hurling stick. And the time Conchubar was sending out Finched to rouse up the men of Ulster at the time of the war for the Bull of Cuailgne, he bade him to go to that terrible fury, the Morrigu, to get help for Cuchulain. And she had a dispute with Cuchulain one time he met her, and she bringing away a cow from the Hill of Cruachan; and another time she helped Talchinem, a Druid of the household of Conaire Mor, to bring away a bull his wife had set her mind on. And indeed she was much given to meddling with cattle, and one time she brought away a cow from Odras, that was of the household of the cow-chief of Cormac Hua Cuined, and that was going after her husband with cattle. And the Morrigu brought the cow away with her to the Cave of Cruachan, and the Hill of the Sidhe. And Odras followed her there till sleep fell on her in the oak-wood of Falga; and the Morrigu awoke her and sang spells over her, and made of her a pool of water that went to the river that flows to the west of Slieve Buane.
And in the battle of Magh Rath, she fluttered over Congal Claen in the shape of a bird, till he did not know friend from foe. And after that again at the battle of Cluantarbh, she was flying over the head of Murchadh, son of Brian; for she had many shapes, and it was in the shape of a crow she would sometimes fight her battles.
And if it was not the Morrigu, it was Badb that showed herself in the battle of Dunbolg, where the men of Ireland were fighting under Aedh, son of Niall; and Brigit was seen in the same battle on the side of the men of Leinster.
And as to Aine, that some said was a daughter of Manannan, but some said was the Morrigu herself, there was a stone belonging to her that was called Cathair Aine. And if any one would sit on that stone he would be in danger of losing his wits, and any one that would sit on it three times would lose them for ever. And people whose wits were astray would make their way to it, and mad dogs would come from all parts of the country, and would flock around it, and then they would go into the sea to Aine’s place there. But those that did cures by herbs said she had power over the whole body; and she used to give gifts of poetry and of music, and she often gave her love to men, and they called her the Leanan Sidhe, the Sweet-heart of the Sidhe.
And it was no safe thing to offend Aine, for she was very revengeful. Oilioll Oluim, a king of Ireland, killed her brother one time, and it is what she did, she made a great yew-tree by enchantment beside the river Maigh in Luimnech, and she put a little man in it, playing sweet music on a harp. And Oilioll’s son was passing the river with his step-brother, and they saw the tree and heard the sweet music from it. And first they quarrelled as to which of them would have the little harper, and then they quarrelled about the tree, and they asked a judgment from Oilioll, and he gave it for his own son. And it was the bad feeling about that judgment that led to the battle of Magh Mucruimhe, and Oilioll and his seven sons were killed there, and so Aine got her revenge.
And Aoibhell, another woman of the Sidhe, made her dwelling-place in Craig Liath, and at the time of the battle of Cluantarbh she set her love on a young man of Munster, Dubhlaing ua Artigan, that had been sent away in disgrace by the King of Ireland. But before the battle he came back to join with Murchadh, the king’s son, and to fight for the Gael. And Aoibhell came to stop him; and when he would not stop with her she put a Druid covering about him, the way no one could see him.
And he went where Murchadh was fighting, and he made a great attack on the enemies of Ireland, and struck them down on every side. And Murchadh looked around him, and he said; “It seems to me I hear the sound of the blows of Dubhlaing ua Artigan, but I do not see himself.” Then Dubhlaing threw off the Druid covering that was about him, and he said: “I will not keep this covering upon me when you cannot see me through it. And come now across the plain to where Aoibhell is,” he said, “for she can give us news of the battle.”
So they went where she was, and she bade them both to quit the battle, for they would lose their lives in it. But Murchadh said to her, “I will tell you a little true story,” he said; “that fear for my own body will never make me change my face. And if we fall,” he said, “the strangers will fall with us; and it is many a man will fall by my own hand, and the Gael will be sharing their strong places.” “Stop with me, Dubhlaing,” she said then, “and you will have two hundred years of happy life with myself.” “I will not give up Murchadh,” he said, “or my own good name, for silver or gold.” And there was anger on Aoibhell when he said that, and she said: “Murchadh will fall, and you yourself will fall, and your proud blood will be on the plain tomorrow.” And they went back into the battle, and got their death there.
And it was Aoibhell gave a golden harp to the son of Meardha the time he was getting his learning at the school of the Sidhe in Connacht and that he heard his father had got his death by the King of Lochlann. And whoever heard the playing of that harp would not live long after it. And Meardha’s son went where the three sons of the King of Lochlann were, and played on his harp for them, and they died.
It was that harp Cuchulain heard the time his enemies were gathering against him at Muirthemne, and he knew by it that his life was near its end.
And Midhir took a hill for himself, and his wife Fuamach was with him there, and his daughter, Bri. And Leith, son of Celtchar of Cualu, was the most beautiful among the young men of the Sidhe of Ireland at that time, and he loved Bri, Midhir’s daughter. And Bri went out with her young girls to meet him one time at the Grave of the Daughters beside Teamhair. And Leith came and his young men along with him till he was on the Hill of the After Repentance. And they could not come nearer to one another because of the slingers on Midhir’s hill that were answering one another till their spears were as many as a swarm of bees on a day of beauty. And Cochlan, Leith’s servant, got a sharp wound from them and he died.
Then the girl turned back to Midhir’s hill, and her heart broke in her and she died. And Leith said: “Although I am not let come to this girl, I will leave my name with her.” And the hill was called Bri Leith from that time.
After a while Midhir took Etain Echraide to be his wife. And there was great jealousy on Fuamach, the wife he had before, when she saw the love that Midhir gave to Etain, and she called to the Druid, Bresal Etarlaim to help her, and he put spells on Etain the way Fuamach was able to drive her away.
And when she was driven out of Bri Leith, Angus Og, son of the Dagda, took her into his keeping; and when Midhir asked her back, he would not give her up, but he brought her about with him to every place he went. And wherever they rested, he made a sunny house for her, and put sweet-smelling flowers in it, and he made invisible walls about it, that no one could see through and that could not be seen.
But when news came to Fuamach that Etain was so well cared by Angus, anger and jealousy came on her again, and she searched her mind for a way to destroy Etain altogether.
And it is what she did, she persuaded Midhir and Angus to go out and meet one another and to make peace, for there had been a quarrel between them ever since the time Etain was sent away. And when Angus was away from Brugh na Boinn, Fuamach went and found Etain there, in her sunny house. And she turned her with Druid spells into a fly, and then she sent a blast of wind into the house, that swept her away through the window.
But as to Midhir and Angus, they waited a while for Fuamach to come and join them. And when she did not come they were uneasy in their minds, and Angus hurried back to Brugh na Boinn. And when he found the sunny house empty, he went in search of Fuamach, and it was along with Etarlaim, the Druid, he found her, and he struck her head off there and then.
And for seven years Etain was blown to and fro through Ireland in great misery. And at last she came to the house of Etar, of Inver Cechmaine, where there was a feast going on, and she fell from a beam of the roof into the golden cup that was beside Etar’s wife. And Etar’s wife drank her down with the wine, and at the end of nine months she was born again as Etar’s daughter.
And she had the same name as before, Etain; and she was reared as a king’s daughter, and there were fifty young girls, daughters of princes, brought up with her to keep her company.
And it happened one day Etain and all the rest of the young girls were out bathing in the bay at Inver Cechmaine, and they saw from the water a man, with very high looks, coming towards them over the plain, and he riding a bay horse with mane and tail curled. A long green cloak he had on him, and a shirt woven with threads of red gold, and a brooch of gold that reached across to his shoulders on each side. And he had on his back a shield of silver with a rim of gold and a boss of gold, and in his hand a sharp-pointed spear covered with rings of gold from heel to socket. Fair yellow hair he had, coming over his forehead, and it bound with a golden band to keep it from loosening.
And when he came near them he got down from his horse, and sat down on the bank, and it is what he said:
“It is here Etain is today, at the Mound of Fair Women. It is among little children is her life on the strand of Inver Cechmaine.
“It is she healed the eye of the king from the well of Loch da Lig; it is she was swallowed in a heavy drink by the wife of Etar.
“Many great battles will happen for your sake to Echaid of Midhe; destruction will fall upon the Sidhe, and war on thousands of men.”
And when he had said that, he vanished, and no one knew where he went. And they did not know the man that had come to them was Midhir of Bri Leith.
And when Etain was grown to be a beautiful young woman, she was seen by Eochaid Feidlech, High King of Ireland, and this is the way that happened.
He was going one time over the fair green of Bri Leith, and he saw at the side of a well a woman, with a bright comb of gold and silver, and she washing in a silver basin having four golden birds on it, and little bright purple stones set in the rim of the basin. A beautiful purple cloak she had, and silver fringes to it, and a gold brooch; and she had on her a dress of green silk with a long hood, embroidered in red gold, and wonderful clasps of gold and silver on her breasts and on her shoulder. The sunlight was falling on her, so that the gold and the green silk were shining out. Two plaits of hair she had, four locks in each plait, and a bead at the point of every lock, and the colour of her hair was like yellow flags in summer, or like red gold after it is rubbed.
There she was, letting down her hair to wash it, and her arms out through the sleeve-holes of her shift. Her soft hands were as white as the snow of a single night, and her eyes as blue as any blue flower, and her lips as red as the berries of the rowan-tree, and her body as white as the foam of a wave. The bright light of the moon was in her face, the highness of pride in her eyebrows, a dimple of delight in each of her cheeks, the light of wooing in her eyes, and when she walked she had a step that was steady and even like the walk of a queen.
And Eochaid sent his people to bring her to him, and he asked her name, and she told him her name was Etain, daughter of Etar, King of the Riders of the Sidhe. And Eochaid gave her his love, and he paid the bride-price, and brought her home to Teamhair as his wife, and there was a great welcome before her there.
And after a while there was a great feast made at Teamhair, and all the chief men of Ireland came to it, and it lasted from the fortnight before Samhain to the fortnight after it. And King Eochaid’s brother Ailell, that was afterwards called Ailell Anglonach, of the Only Fault, came to the feast. And when he saw his brother’s wife Etain, he fell in love with her on the moment, and all through the length of the feast he was not content unless he could be looking at her. And a woman, the daughter of Luchta Lamdearg, of the Red Hand, took notice of it, and she said: “What far thing are you looking at, Ailell? It is what I think, that to be looking the way you are doing is a sign of love.” Then Ailell checked himself, and did not look towards Etain any more.
But when the feast was at an end, and the gathering broken up, great desire and envy came on Ailell, so that he fell sick, and they brought him to a house in Teffia. And he stopped there through the length of a year, and he was wasting away, but he told no one the cause of his sickness. And at the end of the year, Eochaid came to visit his brother, and he passed his hand over his breast, and Ailell let a groan. “What way are you?” said Eochaid then. “Are you getting any easier, for you must not let this illness come to a bad end.” “By my word,” said Ailell, “it is not easier I am, but worse and worse every day and every night.” “What is it ails you?” said Eochaid. “And what is it that is coming against you.” “By my word, I cannot tell you that,” said Ailell. “I will bring one here that will know the cause of your sickness,” said the king.
With that he sent Fachtna, his own physician, to Ailell; and when he came he passed his hand over Ailell’s heart, and at that he groaned again. “This sickness will not be your death,” said Fachtna then; “and I know well what it comes from. It is either from the pains of jealousy, or from love you have given, and that you have not found a way out of.” But there was shame on Ailell, and he would not confess to the physician that what he said was right. So Fachtna went away then and left him.
As to King Eochaid, he went away to visit all the provinces of Ireland that were under his kingship, and he left Etain after him, and it is what he said: “Good Etain,” he said, “take tender care of Ailell so long as he is living; and if he should die from us, make a sodded grave for him, and raise a pillar stone over it, and write his name on it in Ogham.” And with that he went away on his journey.
One day, now, Etain went into the house where Ailell was lying in his sickness, and they talked together, and then she made a little song for him, and it is what she said:
“What is it ails you, young man, for it is a long time you are wasted with this sickness, and it is not the hardness of the weather has stopped your light footstep.”
And Ailell answered her in the same way, and he said: “I have good cause for my hurt; the music of my own harp does not please me; there is no sort of food is pleasant to me, and so I am wasted away.” Then Etain said: “Tell me what is it ails you, for I am a woman that is wise. Tell me is there anything that would cure you, the way I may help you to it?” And Ailell answered her: “O kind, beautiful woman, it is not good to tell a secret to a woman, but sometimes it may be known through the eyes.” And Etain said: “Though it is bad to tell a secret, yet it ought to be told now, or how can help be given to you?” And Ailell answered: “My blessing on you, fair-haired Etain. It is not fit I am to be spoken with; my wits have been no good help to me; my body is a rebel to me. All Ireland knows, O king’s wife, there is sickness in my head and in my body.” And Etain said: “If there is a woman of the fair-faced women of Ireland tormenting you this way, she must come to you here if it pleases you; and it is I myself will woo her for you,” she said.
Then Ailell said to her: “Woman, it would be easy for you yourself to put my sickness from me. And my desire,” he said, “is a desire that is as long as a year; but it is love given to an echo, the spending of grief on a wave, a lonely fight with a shadow, that is what my love and my desire have been to me.”
And it is then Etain knew what was the sickness that was on him, and it was a heavy trouble to her.
But she came to him every day to tend him, and to make ready his food, and to pour water over his hands, and all she could do she did for him, for it was a grief to her, he to wither away and to be lost for her sake. And at last one day she said to him: “Rise up, Ailell, son of a king, man of high deeds, and I will do your healing.”
Then he put his arms about her, and she kissed him, and she said: “Come at the morning of tomorrow at the break of day to the house outside the dun, and I will give you all your desire.”
That night Ailell lay without sleep until the morning was at hand. And at the very time he should have risen to go to her, it was at that time his sleep settled down upon him, and he slept on till the full light of day.
But Etain went to the house outside the dun, and she was not long there when she saw a man coming towards her having the appearance of Ailell, sick and tired and worn. But when he came near and she looked closely at him, she saw it was not Ailell that was in it. Then he went away, and after she had waited a while, she herself went back into the dun.
And it was then Ailell awoke, and when he knew the morning had passed by, he would sooner have had death than life, and he fretted greatly. And Etain came in then, and he told her what had happened him. And she said: “Come tomorrow to the same place.”
But the same thing happened the next day. And when it happened on the third day, and the same man came to meet Etain, she said to him: “It is not you at all I come to meet here, and why is it that you come to meet me? And as to him I came to meet,” she said, “indeed it is not for gain or through lightness I bade him come to me, but to heal him of the sickness he is lying under for my sake.” Then the man said: “It would be more fitting for you to come to meet me than any other one. For in the time long ago,” he said, “I was your first husband, and your first man.” “What is it you are saying,” she said, “and who are you yourself?” “It is easy to tell that,” he said; “I am Midhir of Bri Leith.” “And what parted us if I was your wife?” said Etain. “It was through Fuamach’s sharp jealousy and through the spells of Bresal Etarlaim, the Druid, we were parted. And will you come away with me now?” he said. But Etain said: “It is not for a man whose kindred is unknown I will give up the High King of Ireland.” And Midhir said: “Surely it was I myself put that great desire for you on Ailell, and it was I hindered him from going to meet you, the way you might keep your good name.”
And when she went back to Ailell’s house, she found his sickness was gone from him, and his desire. And she told him all that had happened, and he said: “It has turned out well for us both: I am well of my sickness and your good name is not lessened.” “We give thanks to our gods for that,” said Etain, “for we are well pleased to have it so.”
And just at that time Eochaid came back from his journey, and they told him the whole story, and he was thankful to his wife for the kindness she had showed to Ailell.
It was a good while after that, there was a great fair held at Teamhair, and Etain was out on the green looking at the games and the races. And she saw a rider coming towards her, but no one could see him but herself; and when he came near she saw he had the same appearance as the man that came and spoke with her and her young girls the time they were out in the sea at Inver Cechmaine. And when he came up to her he began to sing words to her that no one could hear but herself. And it is what he said:
“O beautiful woman, will you come with me to the wonderful country that is mine? It is pleasant to be looking at the people there, beautiful people without any blemish; their hair is of the colour of the flag-flower, their fair body is as white as snow, the colour of the foxglove is on every cheek. The young never grow old there; the fields and the flowers are as pleasant to be looking at as the blackbird’s eggs; warm, sweet streams of mead and of wine flow through that country; there is no care and no sorrow on any person; we see others, but we ourselves are not seen.
“Though the plains of Ireland are beautiful, it is little you would think of them after our great plain; though the ale of Ireland is heady, the ale of the great country is still more heady. O beautiful woman, if you come to my proud people it is the flesh of pigs newly killed I will give you for food; it is ale and new milk I will give you for drink; it is feasting you will have with me there; it is a crown of gold you will have upon your hair, O beautiful woman!
“And will you come there with me, Etain?” he said. But Etain said she would not leave Eochaid the High King. “Will you come if Eochaid gives you leave?” Midhir said then. “I will do that,” said Etain.
One day, after that time, Eochaid the High King was looking out from his palace at Teamhair, and he saw a strange man coming across the plain. Yellow hair he had, and eyes blue and shining like the flame of a candle, and a purple dress on him, and in his hand a five-pronged spear and a shield having gold knobs on it.
He came up to the king, and the king bade him welcome. “Who are you yourself?” he said; “and what are you come for, for you are a stranger to me?” “If I am a stranger to you, you are no stranger to me, for I have known you this long time,” said the strange man. “What is your name?” said the king. “It is nothing very great,” said he; “I am called Midhir of Bri Leith.” “What is it brings you here?” said Eochaid. “I am come to play a game of chess with you,” said the stranger. “Are you a good player?” said the king. “A trial will tell you that,” said Midhir. “The chessboard is in the queen’s house, and she is in her sleep at this time,” said Eochaid. “That is no matter,” said Midhir, “for I have with me a chess-board as good as your own.” And with that he brought out his chessboard, and it made of silver, and precious stones shining in every corner of it. And then he brought out the chessmen, and they made of gold, from a bag that was of shining gold threads.
“Let us play now,” said Midhir. “I will not play without a stake,” said the king. “What stake shall We play for?” said Midhir. “We can settle that after the game is over,” said the king.
They played together then, and Midhir was beaten, and it is what the king asked of him, fifty brown horses to be given to him. And then they played the second time, and Midhir was beaten again, and this time the king gave him four hard things to do: to make a road over Moin Lamraide, and to clear Midhe of stones, and to cover the district of Tethra with rushes, and the district of Darbrech with trees.
So Midhir brought his people from Bri Leith to do those things, and it is bard work they had doing them. And Eochaid used to be out watching them, and he took notice that when the men of the Sidhe yoked their oxen, it was by the neck and the shoulder they used to yoke them, and not by the forehead and the head. And it was after Eochaid taught his people to yoke them that way, he was given the name of Eochaid Airem, that is, of the Plough.
And when all was done, Midhir came to Eochaid again, looking thin and wasted enough with the dint of the hard work he had been doing, and he asked Eochaid to play the third game with him. Eochaid agreed, and it was settled as before, the stake to be settled by the winner. It was Midhir won the game that time, and when the king asked him what he wanted, “It is Etain, your wife, I want,” said he. “I will not give her to you,” said the king. “All I will ask then,” said Midhir, “is to put my arms about her and to kiss her once.” “You may do that,” said the king, “if you will wait to the end of a month.” So Midhir agreed to that, and went away for that time.
At the end of the month he came back again, and stood in the great hall at Teamhair, and no one had ever seen him look so comely as he did that night. And Eochaid had all his best fighting men gathered in the hall, and he shut all the doors of the palace when he saw Midhir come in, for fear he would try to bring away Etain by force.
“I am come to be paid what is due to me,” said Midhir. “I have not been thinking of it up to this time,” said Eochaid, and there was anger on him. “You promised me Etain, your wife,” said Midhir. The redness of shame came on Etain when she heard that, but Midhir said: “Let there be no shame on you, Etain, for it is through the length of a year I have been asking your love, and I have offered you every sort of treasure and riches, and you refused to come to me till such a time as your husband would give you leave.” “It is true I said that,” said Etain, “I will go if Eochaid gives me up to you.” “I will not give you up,” said Eochaid; “I will let him do no more than put his arms about you in this place, as was promised him.” “I will do that,” said Midhir.
With that he took his sword in his left hand, and he took Etain in his right arm and kissed her. All the armed men in the house made a rush at him then, but he rose up through the roof bringing Etain with him, and when they rushed out of the house to follow him, all they could see was two swans high up in the air, linked together by a chain of gold.
There was great anger on Eochaid then, and he went and searched all through Ireland, but there were no tidings of them to be had, for they were in the houses of the Sidhe.
It was to the Brugh of Angus on the Boinn they went first, and after they had stopped there a while they went to a hill of the Sidhe in Connacht. And there was a serving-maid with Etain at that time, Cruachan Croderg her name was, and she said to Midhir: “Is this your own place we are in?” “It is not,” said Midhir; “my own place is nearer to the rising of the sun.” She was not well pleased to stop there when she heard that, and Midhir said to quiet her: “It is your own name will be put on this place from this out.” And the hill was called the Hill of Cruachan from that time.
Then they went to Bri Leith; and Etain’s daughter Esa came to them there, and she brought a hundred of every sort of cattle with her, and Midhir fostered her for seven years. And all through that time Eochaid the High King was making a search for them.
But at last Codal of the Withered Breast took four rods of yew and wrote Oghams on them, and through them and through his enchantments he found out that Etain was with Midhir in Bri Leith.
So Eochaid went there, and made an attack on the place, and he was for nine years besieging it, and Midhir was driving him away. And then his people began digging through the hill; and when they were getting near to where Etain was, Midhir sent three times twenty beautiful women, having all of them the appearance of Etain, and he bade the king choose her out from among them. And the first he chose was his own daughter Esa. But then Etain called to him, and he knew her, and he brought her home to Teamhair.
And Eochaid gave his daughter Esa her choice of a place for herself. And she chose it, and made a rath there, that got the name of Rath Esa. And from it she could see three notable places, the Hill of the Sidhe in Broga, and the Hill of the Hostages in Teamhair, and Dun Crimthain on Beinn Edair.
But there was great anger on Midhir and his people because of their hill being attacked and dug into. And it was in revenge for that insult they brought Conaire, High King of Ireland, that was grandson of Eochaid and of Etain, to his death afterwards at Da Derga’s Inn.
Now as to Manannan the Proud, son of Lir, after he had made places for the rest of the Tuatha de Danaan to live in, he went away out of Ireland himself. And some said he was dead, and that he got his death by Uillenn Faebarderg, of the Red Edge, in battle. And it is what they said, that the battle was fought at Magh Cuilenn, and that Manannan was buried standing on his feet, and no sooner was he buried than a great lake burst up under his feet in the place that was a red bog till that time. And the lake got the name of Loch Orbson, from one of the names of Manannan. And it was said that red Badb was glad and many women were sorry at that battle.
But he had many places of living, and he was often heard of in Ireland after. It was he sent a messenger to Etain, mother of Conaire the High King, the time she was hidden in the cowherd’s house. And it was he brought up Deirdre’s children in Emhain of the Apple Trees, and it was said of that place, “a house of peace is the hill of the Sidhe of Emhain.” And it was he taught Diarmuid of the Fianna the use of weapons, and it was he taught Cuchulain the use of the Gae Bulg, and some say it was he was Deirdre’s father, and that he brought Conchubar, king of Ulster, to the place she was hidden, and he running with the appearance of a hare before the hounds of the men of Ulster to bring them there.
And it is what they say, that the time Conchubar had brought the sons of Usnach to Emain Macha, and could not come at them to kill them because of their bravery, it was to Manannan he went for help. And Manannan said he would give him no help, for he had told him at the time he brought Deirdre away that she would be the cause of the breaking up of his kingdom, and he took her away in spite of him. But Conchubar asked him to put blindness for a while on the sons of Usnach, or the whole army would be destroyed with their blows. So after a while he consented to that. And when the sons of Usnach came out again against the army of Ulster, the blindness came on them, and it was at one another they struck, not seeing who was near them, and it was by one another’s hands they fell. But more say Manannan had no hand in it, and that it was Cathbad, the Druid, put a sea about them and brought them to their death by his enchantments.
And some say Culain, the Smith, that gave his name to Cuchulain afterwards, was Manannan himself, for he had many shapes.
Anyway, before Culain came to Ulster, he was living in the Island of Falga, that was one of Manannan’s places. And one time before Conchubar came into the kingdom, he went to ask advice of a Druid, and the Druid bade him to go to the Island of Falga and to ask Culain, the smith he would find there, to make arms for him. So Conchubar did so, and the smith promised to make a sword and spear and shield for him.
And while he was working at them Conchubar went out one morning early to walk on the strand, and there he saw a sea-woman asleep on the shore. And he put bonds on her in her sleep, the way she would not make her escape. But when she awoke and saw what had happened, she asked him to set her free. “And I am Tiabhal,” she said, “one of the queens of the sea. And bid Culain,” she said, “that is making your shield for you, to put my likeness on it and my name about it. And whenever you will go into a battle with that shield the strength of your enemies will lessen, and your own strength and the strength of your people will increase.”
So Conchubar let her go, and bade the smith do as she had told him. And when he went back to Ireland he got the victory wherever he brought that shield.
And he sent for Culain then, and offered him a place on the plains of Muirthemne. And whether he was or was not Manannan, it is likely he gave Cuchulain good teaching the time he stopped with him there after killing his great dog.
Manannan had good hounds one time, but they went hunting after a pig that was destroying the whole country, and making a desert of it. And they followed it till they came to a lake, and there it turned on them, and no hound of them escaped alive, but they were all drowned or maimed. And the pig made for an island then, that got the name of Muc-inis, the Pigs Island afterwards; and the lake got the name of Loch Conn, the Lake of the Hounds.
And it was through Manannan the wave of Tuaig, one of the three great waves of Ireland, got its name, and this is the way that happened.
There was a young girl of the name of Tuag, a fosterling of Conaire the High King, was reared in Teamhair, and a great company of the daughters of the kings of Ireland were put about her to protect her, the way she would be kept for a king’s asking. But Manannan sent Fer Ferdiad, of the Tuatha de Danaan, that was a pupil of his own and a Druid, in the shape of a woman of his own household, and he went where Tuag was, and sang a sleep-spell over her, and brought her away to Inver Glas. And there he laid her down while he went looking for a boat, that he might bring her away in her sleep to the Land of the Ever–Living Women. But a wave of the flood-tide came over the girl, and she was drowned, and Manannan killed Fer Ferdiad in his anger.
And one time Manannan’s cows came up out of the sea at Baile Cronin, three of them, a red, and a white, and a black, and the people that were there saw them standing on the strand for a while, as if thinking, and then they all walked up together, side by side, from the strand. And at that time there were no roads in Ireland, and there was great wonder on the people when they saw a good wide road ready before the three cows to walk on. And when they got about a mile from the sea they parted; the white cow went to the north-west, towards Luimnech, and the red cow went to the south-west, and on round the coast of Ireland, and the black cow went to the north-east, towards Lis Mor, in the district of Portlairge, and a road opened before each of them, that is to be seen to this day.
And some say it was Manannan went to Finn and the Fianna in the form of the Gilla Decair, the Bad Servant, and brought them away to Land-under-Wave. Anyway, he used often to go hunting with them on Cnoc Aine, and sometimes he came to their help.
And it was he went playing tricks through Ireland a long time after that again, the time he got the name of O’Donnell’s Kern. And it is the way it happened, Aodh Dubh O’Donnell was holding a feast one time in Bel-atha Senaig, and his people were boasting of the goodness of his house and of his musicians.
And while they were talking, they saw a clown coming towards them, old striped clothes he had, and puddle water splashing in his shoes, and his sword sticking out naked behind him, and his ears through the old cloak that was over his head, and in his hand he had three spears of hollywood scorched and blackened.
He wished O’Donnell good health, and O’Donnell did the same to him, and asked where did he come from. “It is where I am,” he said, “I slept last night at Dun Monaidhe, of the King of Alban; I am a day in Ile, a day in Cionn-tire, a day in Rachlainn, a day in the Watchman’s Seat in Slieve Fuad; a pleasant, rambling, wandering man I am, and it is with yourself I am now, O’Donnell,” he said. “Let the gate-keeper be brought to me,” said O’Donnell. And when the gate-keeper came, he asked was it he let in this man, and the gate-keeper said he did not, and that he never saw him before. “Let him off, O’Donnell,” said the stranger, “for it was as easy for me to come in, as it will be to me to go out again.” There was wonder on them all then, any man to have come into the house without passing the gate.
The musicians began playing their music then, and all the best musicians of the country were there at the time, and they played very sweet tunes on their harps. But the strange man called out: “By my word, O’Donnell, there was never a noise of hammers beating on iron in any bad place was so bad to listen to as this noise your people are making.”
With that he took a harp, and he made music that would put women in their pains and wounded men after a battle into a sweet sleep, and it is what O’Donnell said: “Since I first heard talk of the music of the Sidhe that is played in the hills and under the earth below us, I never heard better music than your own. And it is a very sweet player you are,” he said. “One day I am sweet, another day I am sour,” said the clown.
Then O’Donnell bade his people to bring him up to sit near himself. “I have no mind to do that,” he said; “I would sooner be as I am, an ugly clown, making sport for high-up people.” Then O’Donnell sent him down clothes, a hat and a striped shirt and a coat, but he would not have them. “I have no mind,” he said, “to let high-up people be making a boast of giving them to me.”
They were afraid then he might go from them, and they put twenty armed horsemen and twenty men on foot to hold him back from leaving the house, and as many more outside at the gate, for they knew him not to be a man of this world. “What are these men for?” said he. “They are to keep you here,” said O’Donnell. “By my word, it is not with you I will be eating my supper tomorrow,” he said, “but at Cnoc Aine, where Seaghan, Son of the Earl is, in Desmumain.” “If I find you giving one stir out of yourself, between this and morning, I will knock you into a round lump there on the ground,” said O’Donnell.
But at that the stranger took up the harp again, and he made the same sweet music as before. And when they were all listening to him, he called out to the men outside: “Here I am coming, and watch me well now or you will lose me.” When the men that were watching the gate heard that, they lifted up their axes to strike at him, but in their haste it was at one another they struck, till they were all lying stretched in blood. Then the clown said to the gate-keeper: “Let you ask twenty cows and a hundred of free land of O’Donnell as a fee for bringing his people back to life. And take this herb,” he said, “and rub it in the mouth of each man of them, and he will rise up whole and well again.” So the gate-keeper did that, and he got the cows and the land from O’Donnell, and he brought all the people to life again.
Now at that time Seaghan, Son of the Earl, was holding a gathering on the green in front of his dun, and he saw the same man coming towards him, and dressed in the same way, and the water splashing in his shoes. But when he asked who was he, he gave himself the name of a very learned man, Duartane O’Duartane, and he said it was by Ess Ruadh he was come, and by Ceiscorainn and from that to Corrslieve, and to Magh Lorg of the Dagda, and into the district of Hy’Conaill Gabhra, “till I came to yourself,” he said, “by Cruachan of Magh Ai.” So they brought him into the house, and gave him wine for drinking and water for washing his feet, and he slept till the rising of the sun on the morrow. And at that time Seaghan, Son of the Earl, came to visit him, and he said: “It is a long sleep you had, and there is no wonder in that, and your journey so long yesterday. But I often heard of your learning in books and of your skill on the harp, and I would like to hear you this morning,” he said. “I am good in those arts indeed,” said the stranger. So they brought him a book, but he could not read a word of it, and then they brought him a harp, and he could not play any tune. “It is likely your reading and your music are gone from you,” said Seaghan; and he made a little rann on him, saying it was a strange thing Duartane O’Duartane that had such a great name not to be able to read a line of a book, or even to remember one. But when the stranger heard how he was being mocked at, he took up the book, and read from the top to the bottom of the page very well and in a sweet-sounding voice. And after that he took the harp and played and sang the same way he did at O’Donnell’s house the day before. “It is a very sweet man of learning you are,” said Seaghan. “One day I am sweet, another day I am sour,” said the stranger.
They walked out together then on Cnoc Aine, but while they were talking there, the stranger was gone all of a minute, and Seaghan, Son of the Earl, could not see where he went.
And after that he went on, and he reached Sligach just at the time O’Conchubar was setting out with the men of Connacht to avenge the Connacht hag’s basket on the hag of Munster. And this time he gave himself the name of the Gilla Decair, the Bad Servant. And he joined with the men of Connacht, and they went over the Sionnan westward into Munster, and there they hunted and drove every creature that could be made travel, cattle and horses and flocks, into one place, till they got the hornless bull of the Munster hag and her two speckled cows, and O’Conchubar brought them away to give to the Connacht hag in satisfaction for her basket.
But the men of Munster made an attack on them as they were going back; and the Gilla Decair asked O’Conchubar would he sooner have the cows driven, or have the Munster men checked, and he said he would sooner have the Munster men checked. So the Gilla Decair turned on them, and with his bow and twenty-four arrows he kept them back till O’Conchubar and his people were safe out of their reach in Connacht.
But he took some offence then, on account of O’Conchubar taking the first drink himself when they came to his house, and not giving it to him, that had done so much, and he took his leave and went from them on the moment.
After that he went to where Tadg O’Cealaigh was, and having his old striped clothes and his old shoes as before. And when they asked him what art he had, he said: “I am good at tricks. And if you will give me five marks I will show you a trick,” he said. “I will give that,” said Tadg.
With that the stranger put three rushes on the palm of his hand. “I will blow away the middle rush now,” he said, “and the other two will stop as they are.” So they told him to do that, and he put the tops of two of his fingers on the two outside rushes, and blew the middle one away. “There is a trick now for you, Tadg O’Cealaigh,” he said then. “By my word, that is not a bad trick,” said O’Cealaigh. But one of his men said: “That there may be no good luck with him that did it. And give me the half of that money now, Tadg,” he said, “and I will do the same trick for you myself.” “I will give you the half of what I got if you will do it,” said the stranger. So the other put the rushes on his hand, but if he did, when he tried to do the trick, his two finger-tips went through the palm of his hand. “Ob–Ob-Ob!” said the stranger, “that is not the way I did the trick. But as you have lost the money,” he said, “I will heal you again.”
“I could do another trick for you,” he said; “I could wag the ear on one side of my head and the ear on the other side would stay still.” “Do it then,” said O’Cealaigh. So the man of tricks took hold of one of his ears and wagged it up and down. “That is a good trick indeed,” said O’Cealaigh. “I will show you another one now,” he said.
With that he took from his bag a thread of silk, and gave a cast of it up into the air, that it was made fast to a cloud. And then he took a hare out of the same bag, and it ran up the thread; and then took out a little dog and laid it on after the hare, and it followed yelping on its track; and after that again he brought out a little serving-boy and bade him to follow dog and hare up the thread. Then out of another bag he had with him he brought out a beautiful, well-dressed young woman, and bade her to follow after the hound and the boy, and to take care and not let the hare be torn by the dog. She went up then quickly after them, and it was a delight to Tadg O’Cealaigh to be looking at them and to be listening to the sound of the hunt going on in the air.
All was quiet then for a long time, and then the man of tricks said: “I am afraid there is some bad work going on up there.” “What is that?” said O’Cealaigh. “I am thinking,” said he, “the hound might be eating the hare, and the serving-boy courting the girl.” “It is likely enough they are,” said O’Cealaigh. With that the stranger drew in the thread, and it is what he found, the boy making love to the girl and the hound chewing the bones of the hare. There was great anger on the man of tricks when he saw that, and he took his sword and struck the head off the boy. “I do not like a thing of that sort to be done in my presence,” said Tadg O’Cealaigh. “If it did not please you, I can set all right again,” said the stranger. And with that he took up the head and made a cast of it at the body, and it joined to it, and the young man stood up, but if he did his face was turned backwards. “It would be better for him to be dead than to be living like that,” said O’Cealaigh. When the man of tricks heard that, he took hold of the boy and twisted his head straight, and he was as well as before.
And with that the man of tricks vanished, and no one saw where was he gone.
That is the way Manannan used to be going round Ireland, doing tricks and wonders. And no one could keep him in any place, and if he was put on a gallows itself, he would be found safe in the house after, and some other man on the gallows in his place. But he did no harm, and those that would be put to death by him, he would bring them to life again with a herb out of his bag.
And all the food he would use would be a vessel of sour milk and a few crab-apples. And there never was any music sweeter than the music he used to be playing.
And there were some that went to Manannan’s country beyond the sea, and that gave an account of it afterwards.
One time Bran, son of Febal, was out by himself near his dun, and he heard music behind him. And it kept always after him, and at last he fell asleep with the sweetness of the sound. And when he awoke from his sleep he saw beside him a branch of silver, and it having white blossoms, and the whiteness of the silver was the same as the whiteness of the blossoms.
And he brought the branch in his hand into the royal house, and when all his people were with him they saw a woman with strange clothing standing in the house.
And she began to make a song for Bran, and all the people were looking at her and listening to her, and it is what she said:
“I bring a branch of the apple-tree from Emhain, from the far island around which are the shining horses of the Son of Lir. A delight of the eyes is the plain where the hosts hold their games; curragh racing against chariot in the White Silver Plain to the south.
“There are feet of white bronze under it, shining through life and time; a comely level land through the length of the world’s age, and many blossoms falling on it.
“There is an old tree there with blossoms, and birds calling from among them; every colour is shining there, delight is common, and music, in the Gentle–Voiced Plain, in the Silver Cloud Plain to the south.
“Keening is not used, or treachery, in the tilled familiar land; there is nothing hard or rough, but sweet music striking on the ear.
“To be without grief, without sorrow, without death, without any sickness, without weakness; that is the sign of Emhain; it is not common wonder that is.
“There is nothing to liken its mists to, the sea washes the wave against the land; brightness falls from its hair.
“There are riches, there are treasures of every colour in the Gentle Land, the Bountiful Land. Sweet music to be listening to; the best of wine to drink.
“Golden chariots in the Plain of the Sea, rising up to the sun with the tide; silver chariots and bronze chariots on the Plain of Sports.
“Gold-yellow horses on the strand, and crimson horses, and others with wool on their backs, blue like the colour of the sky.
“It is a day of lasting weather, silver is dropping on the land; a pure white cliff on the edge of the sea, getting its warmth from the sun.
“The host race over the Plain of Sports; it is beautiful and not weak their game is; death or the ebbing of the tide will not come to them in the Many–Coloured Land.
“There will come at sunrise a fair man, lighting up the level lands; he rides upon the plain that is beaten by the waves, he stirs the sea till it is like blood.
“An army will come over the clear sea, rowing to the stone that is in sight, that a hundred sounds of music come from.
“It sings a song to the army; it is not sad through the length of time; it increases music with hundreds singing together; they do not look for death or the ebb-tide.
“There are three times fifty far islands in the ocean to the west of us, and every one of them twice or three times more than Ireland.
“It is not to all of you I am speaking, though I have made all these wonders known. Let Bran listen from the crowd of the world to all the wisdom that has been told him.
“Do not fall upon a bed of sloth; do not be overcome by drunkenness; set out on your voyage over the clear sea, and you may chance to come to the Land of Women.”
With that the woman went from them, and they did not know where she went. And she brought away her branch with her, for it leaped into her hand from Bran’s hand, and he had not the strength to hold it.
Then on the morrow Bran set out upon the sea, and three companies of nine along with him; and one of his foster-brothers and comrades was set over each company of nine.
And when they had been rowing for two days and two nights, they saw a man coming towards them in a chariot, over the sea. And the man made himself known to them, and he said that he was Manannan, son of Lir.
And then Manannan spoke to him in a song, and it is what he said:
“It is what Bran thinks, he is going in his curragh over the wonderful, beautiful clear sea; but to me, from far off in my chariot, it is a flowery plain he is riding on.
“What is a clear sea to the good boat Bran is in, is a happy plain with many flowers to me in my two-wheeled chariot.
“It is what Bran sees, many waves beating across the clear sea; it is what I myself see, red flowers without any fault.
“The sea-horses are bright in summer-time, as far as Bran’s eyes can reach; there is a wood of beautiful acorns under the head of your little boat.
“A wood with blossom and with fruit, that has the smell of wine; a wood without fault, without withering, with leaves of the colour of gold.
“Let Bran row on steadily, it is not far to the Land of Women; before the setting of the sun you will reach Emhain, of many-coloured hospitality.”
With that Bran went from him; and after a while he saw an island, and he rowed around it, and there was a crowd on it, wondering at them, and laughing; and they were all looking at Bran and at his people, but they would not stop to talk with them, but went on giving out gusts of laughter. Bran put one of his men on the island then, but he joined with the others, and began to stare the same way as the men of the island. And Bran went on rowing round about the island; and whenever they went past his own man, his comrades would speak to him, but he would not answer them, but would only stare and wonder at them. So they went away and left him on that island that is called the Island of Joy.
It was not long after that they reached to the Land of Women. And they saw the chief one of the women at the landing-place, and it is what she said: “Come hither to land, Bran, son of Febal, it is welcome your coming is.” But Bran did not dare to go on shore. Then the woman threw a ball of thread straight to him, and he caught it in his hand, and it held fast to his palm, and the woman kept the thread in her own hand, and she pulled the curragh to the landing-place.
On that they went into a grand house, where there was a bed for every couple, three times nine beds. And the food that was put on every dish never came to an end, and they had every sort of food and of drink they wished for.
And it seemed to them they were only a year there when the desire of home took hold on one of them, Nechtan, son of Collbrain, and his kinsmen were begging and praying Bran to go back with him to Ireland. The woman said there would be repentance on them if they went; but in spite of that they set out in the end. And the woman said to them not to touch the land when they would come to Ireland, and she bade them to visit and to bring with them the man they left in the Island of Joy.
So they went on towards Ireland till they came to a place called Srub Bruin. And there were people on the strand that asked them who they were that were coming over the sea. And Bran said: “I am Bran, son of Febal.” But the people said: “We know of no such man, though the voyage of Bran is in our very old stories.”
Then Nechtan, son of Collbrain, made a leap out of the curragh, and no sooner did he touch the shore of Ireland than he was a heap of ashes, the same as if he had been in the earth through hundreds of years.
And then Bran told the whole story of his wanderings to the people, from the beginning. And after that he bade them farewell, and his wanderings from that time are not known.
And another that went to Manannan’s country was Cormac, grandson of Conn, King of Teamhair, and this is the way it happened. He was by himself in Teamhair one time, and he saw an armed man coming towards him, quiet, with high looks, and having grey hair; a shirt ribbed with gold thread next his skin, broad shoes of white bronze between his feet and the ground, a shining branch, having nine apples of red gold, on his shoulder. And it is delightful the sound of that branch was, and no one on earth would keep in mind any want, or trouble, or tiredness, when that branch was shaken for him; and whatever trouble there might be on him, he would forget it at the sound.
Then Cormac and the armed man saluted one another, and Cormac asked where did he come from. “I come,” he said, “from a country where there is nothing but truth, and where there is neither age nor withering away, nor heaviness, nor sadness, nor jealousy nor envy, nor pride.” “That is not so with us,” said Cormac, “and I would be well pleased to have your friendship,” he said. “I am well pleased to give it,” said the stranger. “Give me your branch along with it,” said Cormac. “I will give it,” said the stranger, “if you will give me the three gifts I ask in return.” “I will give them to you indeed,” said Cormac.
Then the strange man left the branch and went away, and Cormac did not know where was he gone to.
He went back then into the royal house, and there was wonder on all the people when they saw the branch. And he shook it at them, and it put them all asleep from that day to the same time on the morrow.
At the end of a year the strange man came back again, and he asked for the first of his three requests. “You will get it,” said Cormac. “I will take your daughter, Aille, today,” said the stranger.
So he brought away the girl with him, and the women of Ireland gave three loud cries after the king’s daughter. But Cormac shook the branch at them, until it put away sorrow from them, and put them all into their sleep.
That day month the stranger came again, and he brought Cormac’s son, Carpre Lifecar, away with him. There was crying and lamenting without end in Teamhair after the boy, and on that night no one ate or slept, and they were all under grief and very downhearted. But when Cormac shook the branch their sorrow went from them.
Then the stranger came the third time, and Cormac asked him what did he want. “It is your wife, Ethne, I am asking this time,” he said. And he went away then, bringing Ethne, the queen, along with him.
But Cormac would not bear that, and he went after them, and all his people were following him. But in the middle of the Plain of the Wall, a thick mist came on them, and when it was gone, Cormac found himself alone on a great plain. And he saw a great dun in the middle of the plain, with a wall of bronze around it, and in the dun a house of white silver, and it half thatched with the white wings of birds. And there was a great troop of the Riders of the Sidhe all about the house, and their arms full of white birds’ wings for thatching. But as soon as they would put on the thatch, a blast of wind would come and carry it away again.
Then he saw a man kindling a fire, and he used to throw a thick oak-tree upon it. And when he would come back with a second tree, the first one would be burned out. “I will be looking at you no longer,” Cormac said then, “for there is no one here to tell me your story, and I think I could find good sense in your meanings if I understood them,” he said.
Then he went on to where there was another dun, very large and royal, and another wall of bronze around it, and four houses within it. And he went in and saw a great king’s house, having beams of bronze and walls of silver, and its thatch of the wings of white birds. And then he saw on the green a shining well, and five streams flowing from it, and the armies drinking water in turn, and the nine lasting purple hazels of Buan growing over it. And they were dropping their nuts into the water, and the five salmon would catch them and send their husks floating down the streams. And the sound of the flowing of those streams is sweeter than any music that men sing.
Then he went into the palace, and he found there waiting for him a man and a woman, very tall, and having clothes of many colours. The man was beautiful as to shape, and his face wonderful to look at; and as to the young woman that was with him, she was the loveliest of all the women of the world, and she having yellow hair and a golden helmet. And there was a bath there, and heated stones going in and out of the water of themselves, and Cormac bathed himself in it.
“Rise up, man of the house,” the woman said after that, “for this is a comely traveller is come to us; and if you have one kind of food or meat better than another, let it be brought in.” The man rose up then and he said: “I have but seven pigs, but I could feed the whole world with them, for the pig that is killed and eaten today, you will find it alive again tomorrow.”
Another man came into the house then, having an axe in his right hand, and a log in his left hand, and a pig behind him.
“It is time to make ready,” said the man of the house, “for we have a high guest with us today.”
Then the man struck the pig and killed it, and he cut the logs and made a fire and put the pig on it in a cauldron. “It is time for you to turn it,” said the master of the house after a while. “There would be no use doing that,” said the man, “for never and never will the pig be boiled until a truth is told for every quarter of it.” “Then let you tell yours first,” said the master of the house. “One day,” said the man, “I found another man’s cows in my land, and I brought them with me into a cattle pound. The owner of the cows followed me, and he said he would give me a reward to let the cows go free. So I gave them back to him, and he gave me an axe, and when a pig is to be killed, it is with the axe it is killed, and the log is cut with it, and there is enough wood to boil the pig, and enough for the palace besides. And that is not all, for the log is found whole again in the morning. And from that time till now, that is the way they are.”
“It is true indeed that story is,” said the man of the house.
They turned the pig in the cauldron then, and but one quarter of it was found to be cooked. “Let us tell another true story,” they said. “I will tell one,” said the master of the house. “Ploughing time had come, and when we had a mind to plough that field outside, it is the way we found it, ploughed, and harrowed, and sowed with wheat. When we had a mind to reap it, the wheat was found in the haggard, all in one thatched rick. We have been using it from that day to this, and it is no bigger and no less.”
Then they turned the pig, and another quarter was found to be ready. “It is my turn now,” said the woman. “I have seven cows,” she said, “and seven sheep. And the milk of the seven cows would satisfy the whole of the men of the world, if they were in the plain drinking it, and it is enough for all the people of the Land of Promise, and it is from the wool of the seven sheep all the clothes they wear are made.” And at that story the third quarter of the pig was boiled.
“If these stories are true,” said Cormac to the man of the house, “you are Manannan, and this is Manannan’s wife; for no one on the whole ridge of the world owns these treasures but himself. It was to the Land of Promise he went to look for that woman, and he got those seven cows with her.”
They said to Cormac that it was his turn now. So Cormac told them how his wife, and his son, and his daughter, had been brought away from him, and how he himself had followed them till he came to that place.
And with that the whole pig was boiled, and they cut it up, and Cormac’s share was put before him. “I never used a meal yet,” said he, “having two persons only in my company.” The man of the house began singing to him then, and put him asleep. And when he awoke, he saw fifty armed men, and his son, and his wife, and his daughter, along with them. There was great gladness and courage on him then, and ale and food were given out to them all. And there was a gold cup put in the hand of the master of the house, and Cormac was wondering at it, for the number of the shapes on it, and for the strangeness of the work. “There is a stranger thing yet about it,” the man said; “let three lying words be spoken under it, and it will break into three, and then let three true words be spoken under it, and it will be as good as before.” So he said three lying words under it, and it broke in three pieces. “It is best to speak truth now under it,” he said, “and to mend it. And I give my word, Cormac,” he said, “that until today neither your wife or your daughter has seen the face of a man since they were brought away from you out of Teamhair, and that your son has never seen the face of a woman.” And with that the cup was whole again on the moment. “Bring away your wife and your children with you now,” he said, “and this cup along with them, the way you will have it for judging between truth and untruth. And I will leave the branch with you for music and delight, but on the day of your death they will be taken from you again.” “And I myself,” he said, “am Manannan, son of Lir, King of the Land of Promise, and I brought you here by enchantments that you might be with me to-night in friendship.
“And the Riders you saw thatching the house,” he said, “are the men of art and poets, and all that look for a fortune in Ireland, putting together cattle and riches. For when they go out, all that they leave in their houses goes to nothing, and so they go on for ever.
“And the man you saw kindling the fire,” he said, “is a young lord that is more liberal than he can afford, and every one else is served while he is getting the feast ready, and every one else profiting by it.
“And the well you saw is the Well of Knowledge, and the streams are the five streams through which all knowledge goes. And no one will have knowledge who does not drink a draught out of the well itself or out of the streams. And the people of many arts are those who drink from them all.”
And on the morning of the morrow, when Cormac rose up, he found himself on the green of Teamhair, and his wife, and his son, and his daughter, along with him, and he having his branch and his cup. And it was given the name of Cormac’s Cup, and it used to judge between truth and falsehood among the Gael. But it was not left in Ireland after the night of Cormac’s death, as Manannan had foretold him.
And it was in the time of the Fianna of Ireland that Ciabhan of the Curling Hair, the king of Ulster’s son, went to Manannan’s country.
Ciabhan now was the most beautiful of the young men of the world at that time, and he was as far beyond all other kings’ sons as the moon is beyond the stars. And Finn liked him well, but the rest of the Fianna got to be tired of him because there was not a woman of their women, wed or unwed, but gave him her love. And Finn had to send him away at the last, for he was in dread of the men of the Fianna because of the greatness of their jealousy.
So Ciabhan went on till he came to the Strand of the Cairn, that is called now the Strand of the Strong Man, between Dun Sobairce and the sea. And there he saw a curragh, and it having a narrow stern of copper. And Ciabhan got into the curragh, and his people said: “Is it to leave Ireland you have a mind, Ciabhan?” “It is indeed,” he said, “for in Ireland I get neither shelter or protection.” He bade farewell to his people then, and he left them very sorrowful after him, for to part with him was like the parting of life from the body.
And Ciabhan went on in the curragh, and great white shouting waves rose up about him, every one of them the size of a mountain; and the beautiful speckled salmon that are used to stop in the sand and the shingle rose up to the sides of the curragh, till great dread came on Ciabhan, and he said: “By my word, if it was on land I was I could make a better fight for myself”
And he was in this danger till he saw a rider coming towards him on a dark grey horse having a golden bridle, and he would be under the sea for the length of nine waves, and he would rise with the tenth wave, and no wet on him at all. And he said: “What reward would you give to whoever would bring you out of this great danger?” “Is there anything in my hand worth offering you?” said Ciabhan. “There is,” said the rider, “that you would give your service to whoever would give you his help.” Ciabhan agreed to that, and he put his hand into the rider’s hand.
With that the rider drew him on to the horse, and the curragh came on beside them till they reached to the shore of Tir Tairngaire, the Land of Promise. They got off the horse there, and came to Loch Luchra, the Lake of the Dwarfs, and to Manannan’s city, and a feast was after being made ready there, and comely serving-boys were going round with smooth horns, and playing on sweet-sounding harps till the whole house was filled with the music.
Then there came in clowns, long-snouted, long-heeled, lean and bald and red, that used to be doing tricks in Manannan’s house. And one of these tricks was, a man of them to take nine straight willow rods, and to throw them up to the rafters of the house, and to catch them again as they came down, and he standing on one leg, and having but one hand free. And they thought no one could do that trick but themselves, and they were used to ask strangers to do it, the way they could see them fail.
So this night when one of them had done the trick, he came up to Ciabhan, that was beyond all the Men of Dea or the Sons of the Gael that were in the house, in shape and in walk and in name, and he put the nine rods in his hand. And Ciabhan stood up and he did the feat before them all, the same as if he had never learned to do any other thing.
Now Gebann, that was a chief Druid in Manannan’s country, had a daughter, Cliodna of the Fair Hair, that had never given her love to any man. But when she saw Ciabhan she gave him her love, and she agreed to go away with him on the morrow.
And they went down to the landing-place and got into a curragh, and they went on till they came to Teite’s Strand in the southern part of Ireland. It was from Teite Brec the Freckled the strand got its name, that went there one time for a wave game, and three times fifty young girls with her, and they were all drowned in that place.
And as to Ciabhan, he came on shore, and went looking for deer, as was right, under the thick branches of the wood; and he left the young girl in the boat on the strand.
But the people of Manannan’s house came after them, having forty ships. And Iuchnu, that was in the curragh with Cliodna, did treachery, and he played music to her till she lay down in the boat and fell asleep. And then a great wave came up on the strand and swept her away.
And the wave got its name from Cliodna of the Fair Hair, that will be long remembered.
And it is likely it was Manannan sent his messenger for Connla of the Red Hair the time he went away out of Ireland, for it is to his country Connla was brought; and this is the way he got the call.
It chanced one day he was with his father Conn, King of Teamhair, on the Hill of Uisnach, and he saw a woman having wonderful clothing coming towards him. “Where is it you come from?” he asked her. “I come,” she said, “from Tir-nam-Beo, the Land of the Ever–Living Ones, where no death comes. We use feasts that are lasting,” she said, “and we do every kind thing without quarrelling, and we are called the people of the Sidhe.” “Who are you speaking to, boy?” said Conn to him then, for no one saw the strange woman but only Connla. “He is speaking to a high woman that death or old age will never come to,” she said. “I am asking him to come to Magh Mell, the Pleasant Plain where the triumphant king is living, and there he will be a king for ever without sorrow or fret. Come with me, Connla of the Red Hair,” she said, “of the fair freckled neck and of the ruddy cheek; come with me, and your body will not wither from its youth and its comeliness for ever.”
They could all hear the woman’s words then, though they could not see her, and it is what Conn said to Coran his Druid: “Help me, Coran, you that sing spells of the great arts. There is an attack made on me that is beyond my wisdom and beyond my power, I never knew so strong an attack since the first day I was a king. There is an unseen figure fighting with me; she is using her strength against me to bring away my beautiful son; the call of a woman is bringing him away from the hands of the king.”
Then Coran, the Druid, began singing spells against the woman of the Sidhe, the way no one would hear her voice, and Connla could not see her any more. But when she was being driven away by the spells of the Druid, she threw an apple to Connla.
And through the length of a month from that time, Connla used no other food nor drink but that apple, for he thought no other food or drink worth the using. And for all he ate of it, the apple grew no smaller, but was whole all the while. And there was great trouble on Connla on account of the woman he had seen.
And at the end of a month Connla was at his father’s side in Magh Archomnim, and he saw the same woman coming towards him, and it is what she said: “It is a high place indeed Connla has among dying people, and death before him. But the Ever–Living Living Ones,” she said, “are asking you to take the sway over the people of Tethra, for they are looking at you every day in the gatherings of your country among your dear friends.”
When Conn, the king, heard her voice, he said to his people: “Call Coran, the Druid to me, for I hear the sound of the woman’s voice again.” But on that she said: “O Conn, fighter of a hundred, it is little love and little respect the wonderful tribes of Traig Mor, the Great Strand, have for Druids; and where its law comes, it scatters the spells on their lips.”
Then Conn looked to his son Connla to see what he would say, and Connla said: “My own people are dearer to me than any other thing, yet sorrow has taken hold of me because of this woman.” Then the woman spoke to him again, and it is what she said: “Come now into my shining ship, if you will come to the Plain of Victory. There is another country it would not be worse for you to look for; though the bright sun is going down, we shall reach to that country before night. That is the country that delights the mind of every one that turns to me. There is no living race in it but women and girls only.”
And when the woman had ended her song, Connla made a leap from his people into the shining boat, and they saw him sailing away from them far off and as if in a mist, as far as their eyes could see. It is away across the sea they went, and they have never come back again, and only the gods know where was it they went.
And another that went to the Land of the Ever–Living Ones, but that came back again, was Tadg, son of Cian, son of Olioll; and this is the way that happened.
It was one time Tadg was going his next heir’s round, into the west of Munster, and his two brothers, Airnelach and Eoghan, along with him. And Cathmann, son of Tabarn, that was king of the beautiful country of Fresen that lay to the south-east of the Great Plain, was searching the sea for what he could find just at that time, and nine of his ships with him. And they landed at Beire do Bhunadas, to the west of Munster, and the country had no stir in it, and so they slipped ashore, and no one took notice of them till all were surrounded, both men and cattle. And Tadg’s wife Liban, daughter of Conchubar Abratrudh of the Red Brows, and his two brothers, and a great many of the people of Munster, were taken by the foreigners and brought away to the coasts of Fresen. And Cathmann took Liban to be his own wife, and he put hardship on Tadg’s two brothers: Eoghan he put to work a common ferry across a channel of the coast, and Airnelach to cut firing and to keep up fires for all the people; and all the food they got was barley seed and muddy water.
And as to Tadg himself, it was only by his courage and the use of his sword he made his escape, but there was great grief and discouragement on him, his wife and his brothers to have been brought away. But he had forty of his fighting men left that had each killed a man of the foreigners, and they had brought one in alive. And this man told them news of the country he came from. And when Tadg heard that, he made a plan in his own head, and he gave orders for a curragh to be built that would be fit for a long voyage. Very strong it was, and forty ox-hides on it of hard red leather, that was after being soaked in bark. And it was well fitted with masts, and oars, and pitch, and everything that was wanting. And they put every sort of meat, and drink, and of clothes in it, that would last them through the length of a year.
When all was ready, and the curragh out in the tide, Tadg said to his people: “Let us set out now on the high sea, looking for our own people that are away from us this long time.”
They set out then over the stormy, heavy flood, till at last they saw no land before them or behind them, but only the hillsides of the great sea. And farther on again they heard the singing of a great flock of unknown birds; and pleasant white-bellied salmon were leaping about the curragh on every side, and seals, very big and dark, were coming after them, breaking through the shining wash of the oars; and great whales after them again, so that the young men liked to be looking at them, for they were not used to see the like before.
They went on rowing through twenty days and twenty nights, and at the end of that time they got sight of a high land, having a smooth coast. And when they reached it they all landed, and they pulled up the curragh and lit their fires, and food was given out to them, and they were not long making an end of it. They made beds for themselves then on the beautiful green grass, and enjoyed their sleep till the rising of the sun on the morrow.
Tadg rose up then and put on his arms, and went out, and thirty of his men along with him, to search the whole island.
They went all through it, but they found no living thing on it, man or beast, but only flocks of sheep. And the size of the sheep was past all telling, as big as horses they were, and the whole island was filled with their wool. And there was one great flock beyond all the others, all of very big rams, and one of them was biggest of all, nine horns he had, and he charged on Tadg’s chief men, attacking them and butting at them.
There was vexation on them then, and they attacked him again, and there was a struggle between them. And at the first the ram broke through five of their shields. But Tadg took his spear that there was no escape from, and made a lucky cast at the ram and killed him. And they brought the ram to the curragh and made it ready for the young men to eat, and they stopped three nights on the island, and every night it was a sheep they had for their food. And they gathered a good share of the wool and put it in the curragh because of the wonder and the beauty of it. And they found the bones of very big men on the island, but whether they died of sickness or were killed by the rams they did not know.
They left that island then and went forward till they found two strange islands where there were great flocks of wonderful birds, like blackbirds, and some of them the size of eagles or of cranes, and they red with green heads on them, and the eggs they had were blue and pure crimson. And some of the men began eating the eggs, and on the moment feathers began to grow out on them. But they went bathing after that, and the feathers dropped off them again as quick as they came.
It was the foreigner they had with them gave them the course up to this time, for he had been on the same track before. But now they went on through the length of six weeks and never saw land, and he said then, “We are astray on the great ocean that has no boundaries.” Then the wind with its sharp voice began to rise, and there was a noise like the tramping of feet in the sea, and it rose up into great mountains hard to climb, and there was great fear on Tadg’s people, for they had never seen the like. But he began to stir them up and to rouse them, and he bade them to meet the sea like men. “Do bravery,” he said, “young men of Munster, and fight for your lives against the waves that are rising up and coming at the sides of the curragh.” Tadg took one side of the curragh then and his men took the other side, and he was able to pull it round against the whole twenty-nine of them, and to bale it out and keep it dry along with that. And after a while they got a fair wind and put up their sail, the way less water came into the curragh, and then the sea went down and lay flat and calm, and there were strange birds of many shapes singing around them in every part. They saw land before them then, with a good coast, and with that courage and gladness came on them.
And when they came nearer to the land they found a beautiful inver, a river’s mouth, with green hills about it, and the bottom of it sandy and as bright as silver, and red-speckled salmon in it, and pleasant woods with purple tree-tops edging the stream. “It is a beautiful country this is,” said Tadg, “and it would be happy for him that would be always in it; and let you pull up the ship now,” he said, “and dry it out.”
A score of them went forward then into the country, and a score stopped to mind the curragh. And for all the cold and discouragement and bad weather they had gone through, they felt no wish at all for food or for fire, but the sweet smell of the crimson branches in the place they were come to satisfied them. They went on through the wood, and after a while they came to an apple garden having red apples in it, and leafy oak-trees, and hazels yellow with nuts. “It is a wonder to me,” said Tadg, “to find summer here, and it winter time in our own country.”
It was a delightful place they were in, but they went on into another wood, very sweet smelling, and round purple berries in it, every one of them bigger than a man’s head, and beautiful shining birds eating the berries, strange birds they were, having white bodies and purple heads and golden beaks. And while they were eating the berries they were singing sweet music, that would have put sick men and wounded men into their sleep.
Tadg and his men went farther on again till they came to a great smooth flowery plain with a dew of honey over it, and three steep hills on the plain, having a very strong dun on every one of them. And when they got to the nearest hill they found a white-bodied woman, the best of the women of the whole world, and it is what she said: “Your coming is welcome, Tadg, son of Cian, and there will be food and provision for you as you want it.”
“I am glad of that welcome,” said Tadg; “and tell me now, woman of sweet words,” he said, “what is that royal dun on the hill, having walls of white marble around it?” “That is the dun of the royal line of the kings of Ireland, from Heremon, son of Miled, to Conn of the Hundred Battles, that was the last to go into it.” “What is the name of this country?” Tadg said then. “It is Inislocha, the Lake Island,” she said, “and there are two kings over it, Rudrach and Dergcroche, sons of Bodb.” And then she told Tadg the whole story of Ireland, to the time of the coming of the Sons of the Gael. “That is well,” said Tadg then, “and you have good knowledge and learning. And tell me now,” he said, “who is living in that middle dun that has the colour of gold?” “It is not myself will tell you that,” she said, “but go on to it yourself and you will get knowledge of it.” And with that she went from them into the dun of white marble.
Tadg and his men went on then till they came to the middle dun, and there they found a queen of beautiful shape, and she wearing a golden dress. “Health to you, Tadg,” she said. “I thank you for that,” said Tadg. “It is a long time your coming on this journey was foretold,” she said. “What is your name?” he asked then. “I am Cesair,” she said, “the first that ever reached Ireland. But since I and the men that were with me came out of that dark, unquiet land, we are living for ever in this country.”
“Tell me, woman,” said Tadg, “who is it lives in that dun having a wall of gold about it?” “It is not hard to tell that,” she said, “every king, and every chief man, and every noble person that was in a high place of all those that had power in Ireland, it is in that dun beyond they are; Parthalon and Nemed, Firbolgs and Tuatha de Danaan.” “It is good knowledge and learning you have,” said Tadg. “Indeed I have good knowledge of the history of the world,” she said, “and this island,” she said, “is the fourth paradise of the world; and as to the others, they are Inis Daleb to the south, and Inis Ercandra to the north, and Adam’s Paradise in the east of the world.” “Who is there living in that dun with the silver walls?” said Tadg then. “I will not tell you that, although I have knowledge of it,” said the woman; “but go to the beautiful hill where it is, and you will get knowledge of it.”
They went on then to the third hill, and on the top of the hill was a very beautiful resting-place, and two sweethearts there, a boy and a girl, comely and gentle. Smooth hair they had, shining like gold, and beautiful green clothes of the one sort, and any one would think them to have had the same father and mother. Gold chains they had around their necks, and bands of gold above those again. And Tadg spoke to them: “O bright, comely children,” he said, “it is a pleasant place you have here.” And they answered him back, and they were praising his courage and his strength and his wisdom, and they gave him their blessing.
And it is how the young man was, he had a sweet-smelling apple, having the colour of gold, in his hand, and he would eat a third part of it, and with all he would eat, it would never be less. And that was the food that nourished the two of them, and neither age or sorrow could touch them when once they had tasted it.
“Who are you yourself?” Tadg asked him then. “I am son to Conn of the Hundred Battles,” he said. “Is it Connla you are?” said Tadg. “I am indeed,” said the young man, “and it is this girl of many shapes that brought me here.” And the girl said: “I have given him my love and my affection, and it is because of that I brought him to this place, the way we might be looking at one another for ever, and beyond that we have never gone.”
“That is a beautiful thing and a strange thing,” said Tadg, “and a thing to wonder at. And who is there in that grand dun with the silver walls?” he said. “There is no one at all in it,” said the girl. “What is the reason of that?” said Tadg. “It is for the kings that are to rule Ireland yet,” she said; “and there will be a place in it for yourself, Tadg. And come now,” she said, “till you see it.”
The lovers went on to the dun, and it is hardly the green grass was bent under their white feet. And Tadg and his people went along with them.
They came then to the great wonderful house that was ready for the company of the kings; it is a pleasant house that was, and any one would like to be in it. Walls of white bronze it had, set with crystal and with carbuncles, that were shining through the night as well as through the day.
Tadg looked out from the house then, and he saw to one side of him a great sheltering apple-tree, and blossoms and ripe fruit on it. “What is that apple tree beyond?” said Tadg. “It is the fruit of that tree is food for the host in this house,” said the woman. “And it was an apple of that apple-tree brought Connla here to me; a good tree it is, with its white-blossomed branches, and its golden apples that would satisfy the whole house.”
And then Connla and the young girl left them, and they saw coming towards them a troop of beautiful women. And there was one among them was most beautiful of all, and when she was come to them she said: “A welcome to you, Tadg.” “I thank you for that welcome,” said Tadg; “and tell me,” he said, “who are you yourself?” “I am Cliodna of the Fair Hair,” she said, “daughter of Gebann, son of Treon, of the Tuatha de Danaan, a sweetheart of Ciabhan of the Curling Hair; and it is from me Cliodna’s wave on the coast of Munster got its name; and I am a long time now in this island, and it is the apples of that tree you saw that we use for food.” And Tadg was well pleased to be listening to her talk, but after a while he said: “It is best for us to go on now to look for our people.” “We will be well pleased if you stop longer with us,” said the woman.
And while she was saying those words they saw three beautiful birds coming to them, one of them blue and his head crimson, and one was crimson and his head green, and the third was speckled and his head the colour of gold, and they lit on the great apple-tree, and every bird of them ate an apple, and they sang sweet music then, that would put sick men into their sleep.
“Those birds will go with you,” Cliodna said then; “they will give you guidance on your way, and they will make music for you, and there will be neither sorrow or sadness on you, by land or by sea, till you come to Ireland. And bring away this beautiful green cup with you,” she said, “for there is power in it, and if you do but pour water into it, it will be turned to wine on the moment. And do not let it out of your hand,” she said, “but keep it with you; for at whatever time it will escape from you, your death will not be far away. And it is where you will meet your death, in the green valley at the side of the Boinn; and it is a wandering wild deer will give you a wound, and after that, it is strangers will put an end to you. And I myself will bury your body, and there will be a hill over it, and the name it will get is Croidhe Essu.”
They went out of the shining house then, and Cliodna of the Fair Hair went with them to the place they had left their ship, and she bade their comrades a kindly welcome; and she asked them how long had they been in that country. “It seems to us,” they said, “we are not in it but one day only.” “You are in it through the whole length of a year,” said she, “and through all that time you used neither food nor drink. But however long you would stop here,” she said, “cold or hunger would never come on you.” “It would be a good thing to live this way always,” said Tadg’s people when they heard that. But he himself said: “It is best for us to go on and to look for our people. And we must leave this country, although it is displeasing to us to leave it.”
Then Cliodna and Tadg bade farewell to one another, and she gave her blessing to him and to his people. And they set out then over the ridges of the sea; and they were downhearted after leaving that country until the birds began to sing for them, and then their courage rose up, and they were glad and light-hearted.
And when they looked back they could not see the island they had come from, because of a Druid mist that came on it and hid it from them.
Then by the leading of the birds they came to the country of Fresen, and they were in a deep sleep through the whole voyage. And then they attacked the foreigners and got the better of them, and Tadg killed Cathmann, the king, after a hard fight; and Liban his wife made no delay, and came to meet her husband and her sweetheart, and it is glad she was to see him.
And after they had rested a while they faced the sea again, and Tadg and his wife Liban, and his two brothers, and a great many other treasures along with them, and they came home to Ireland safely at the last.
And another that went to visit Magh Mell, the Happy Plain, was Laegaire, son of the King of Connacht, Crimthan Cass.
He was out one day with the king, his father, near Loch na-n Ean, the Lake of Birds, and the men of Connacht with them, and they saw a man coming to them through the mist. Long golden-yellow hair he had, and it streaming after him, and at his belt a gold-hilted sword, and in his hand two five-barbed darts, a gold-rimmed shield on his back, a five-folded crimson cloak about his shoulders.
“Give a welcome to the man that is coming towards you,” said Laegaire, that had the best name of all the men of Connacht, to his people. And to the stranger he said: “A welcome to the champion we do not know.”
“I am thankful to you all,” said he.
“What is it you are come for, and where are you going?” said Laegaire then.
“I am come to look for the help of fighting men,” said the stranger. “And my name,” he said, “is Fiachna, son of Betach, of the men of the Sidhe; and it is what ails me, my wife was taken from my pillow and brought away by Eochaid, son of Sal. And we fought together, and I killed him, and now she is gone to a brother’s son of his, Goll, son of Dalbh, king of a people of Magh Mell. Seven battles I gave him, but they all went against me; and on this very day there is another to be fought, and I am come to ask help. And to every one that deserves it, I will give a good reward of gold and of silver for that help.”
And it is what he said:
“The most beautiful of plains is the Plain of the Two Mists; it is not far from this; it is a host of the men of the Sidhe full of courage are stirring up pools of blood upon it.
“We have drawn red blood from the bodies of high nobles; many women are keening them with cries and with tears.
“The men of the host in good order go out ahead of their beautiful king; they march among blue spears, white troops of fighters with curled hair.
“They scatter the troops of their enemies, they destroy every country they make an attack on; they are beautiful in battle, a host with high looks, rushing, avenging.
“It is no wonder they to have such strength: every one of them is the son of a king and a queen; manes of hair they have of the colour of gold.
“Their bodies smooth and comely; their eyes blue and far-seeing; their teeth bright like crystal, within their thin red lips.
“White shields they have in their hands, with patterns on them of white silver; blue shining swords, red horns set with gold.
“They are good at killing men in battle; good at song-making, good at chess-playing.
“The most beautiful of plains is the Plain of the Two Mists; the men of the Sidhe are stirring up pools of blood on it; it is not far from this place.”
“It would be a shameful thing not to give our help to this man,” said Laegaire.
Fiachna, son of Betach, went down into the lake then, for it was out of it he had come, and Laegaire went down into it after him, and fifty fighting men along with him.
They saw a strong place before them then, and a company of armed men, and Goll, son of Dalbh, at the head of them.
“That is well,” said Laegaire, “I and my fifty men will go out against this troop.” “I will answer you,” said Goll, son of Dalbh.
The two fifties attacked one another then, and Goll fell, but Laegaire and his fifty escaped with their lives and made a great slaughter of their enemies, that not one of them made his escape.
“Where is the woman now?” said Laegaire. “She is within the dun of Magh Mell, and a troop of armed men keeping guard about it,” said Fiachna. “Let you stop here, and I and my fifty will go there,” said Laegaire.
So he and his men went on to the dun, and Laegaire called out to the men that were about it: “Your king has got his death, your chief men have fallen, let the woman come out, and I will give you your own lives.” The men agreed to that, and they brought the woman out. And when she came out she made this complaint:
“It is a sorrowful day that swords are reddened for the sake of the dear dead body of Goll, son of Dalbh. It was he that loved me, it was himself I loved, it is little Laegaire Liban cares for that.
“Weapons were hacked and were split by Goll; it is to Fiachna, son of Betach, I must go; it is Goll son of Dalbh, I loved.”
And that complaint got the name of “The Lament of the Daughter of Eochaid the Dumb.”
Laegaire went back with her then till he put her hand in Fiachna’s hand. And that night Fiachna’s daughter, Deorgreine, a Tear of the Sun, was given to Laegaire as his wife, and fifty other women were given to his fifty fighting men, and they stopped with them there to the end of a year.
And at the end of that time, Laegaire said: “Let us go and ask news of our own country.” “If you have a mind to go,” said Fiachna, “bring horses with you; but whatever happens,” he said, “do not get off from them.”
So they set out then; and when they got back to Ireland, they found a great gathering of the whole of the men of Connacht that were keening them.
And when the men of Connacht saw them coming they rose up to meet them, and to bid them welcome. But Laegaire called out: “Do not come to us, for it is to bid you farewell we are here.” “Do not go from us again,” said Crimthan, his father, “and I will give you the sway over the three Connachts, their silver and their gold, their horses and their bridles, and their beautiful women, if you will not go from us.”
And it is what Laegaire said: “In the place we are gone to, the armies move from kingdom to kingdom, they listen to the sweet-sounding music of the Sidhe, they drink from shining cups, we talk with those we love, it is beer that falls instead of rain.
“We have brought from the dun of the Pleasant Plain thirty cauldrons, thirty drinking horns; we have brought the complaint that was sung by the Sea, by the daughter of Eochaid the Dumb.
“There is a wife for every man of the fifty; my own wife to me is the Tear of the Sun; I am made master of a blue sword; I would not give for all your whole kingdom one night of the nights of the Sidhe.”
With that Laegaire turned from them, and went back to the kingdom. And he was made king there along with Fiachna, son of Betach, and his daughter, and he did not come out of it yet.
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:50