Of all the great battles the Fianna fought to keep the foreigners out of Ireland, the greatest was the one that was fought at Finntraigh the White Strand, in Munster; and this is the whole story of it, and of the way the Fianna came to have so great a name.
One time the enemies of Ireland gathered together under Daire Donn, High King of the Great World, thinking to take Ireland and to put it under tribute.
The King of Greece was of them, and the King of France, and the King of the Eastern World, and Lughman of the Broad Arms, King of the Saxons, and Fiacha of the Long Hair, King of the Gairean, and Tor the son of Breogan, King of the Great Plain, and Sligech, son of the King of the Men of Cepda, and Comur of the Crooked Sword, King of the Men of the Dog–Heads, and Caitchenn, King of the Men of the Cat–Heads, and Caisel of the Feathers, King of Lochlann, and Madan of the Bent Neck, son of the King of the Marshes, and three kings from the rising of the sun in the east, and Ogarmach, daughter of the King of Greece, the best woman-warrior that ever came into the world, and a great many other kings and great lords.
The King of the World asked then: “Who is there can give me knowledge of the harbours of Ireland?” “I will do that for you, and I will bring you to a good harbour,” said Glas, son of Bremen, that had been put out of Ireland by Finn for doing some treachery.
Then the armies set out in their ships, and they were not gone far when the wind rose and the waves, and they could hear nothing but the wild playing of the sea-women, and the screams of frightened birds, and the breaking of ropes and of sails. But after a while, when the wind found no weakness in the heroes, it rose from them and went up into its own high place. And then the sea grew quiet and the waves grew tame and the harbours friendly, and they stopped for a while at an island that was called the Green Rock. But the King of the World said then: “It is not a harbour like this you promised me, Glas, son of Dremen, but a shore of white sand where my armies could have their fairs and their gatherings the time they would not be fighting.” “I know a harbour of that sort in the west of Ireland,” said Glas, “the Harbour of the White Strand in Corca Duibhne.” So they went into their ships again, and went on over the sea towards Ireland.
Now as to Finn, when it was shown to him that the enemies of Ireland were coming, he called together the seven battalions of the Fianna. And the place where they gathered was on the hill that was called Fionntulach, the White Hill, in Munster. They often stopped on that hill for a while, and spear-shafts with spells on them were brought to them there, and they had every sort of thing for food, beautiful blackberries, haws of the hawthorn, nuts of the hazels of Cenntire, tender twigs of the bramble bush, sprigs of wholesome gentian, watercress at the beginning of summer. And there would be brought to their cooking-pots birds out of the oak-woods, and squirrels from Berramain, and speckled eggs from the cliffs, and salmon out of Luimnech, and eels of the Sionnan, and woodcocks of Fidhrinne, and otters from the hidden places of the Doile, and fish from the coasts of Buie and Beare, and dulse from the bays of Cleire.
And as they were going to set out southwards, they saw one of their young men, Gael, grandson of Nemhnain, coming towards them. “Where are you come from, Cael?” Finn asked him. “From Brugh na Boinne,” said he. “What were you asking there?” said Finn. “I was asking to speak with Muirenn, daughter of Derg, that was my own nurse,” said he. “For what cause?” said Finn. “It was about a high marriage and a woman of the Sidhe that was showed to me in a dream; Credhe it was I saw, daughter of the King of Ciarraighe Luachra.” “Do you know this, Cael,” said Finn, “that she is the greatest deceiver of all the women of Ireland; and there is hardly a precious thing in Ireland but she has coaxed it away to her own great dun.” “Do you know what she asks of every man that comes asking for her?” said Cael. “I know it,” said Finn; “she will let no one come unless he is able to make a poem setting out the report of her bowls and her horns and her cups, her grand vessels and all her palaces.” “I have all that ready,” said Cael; “it was given to me by my nurse, Muirenn, daughter of Derg.”
They gave up the battle then for that time, and they went on over every hilly place and every stony place till they came to Loch Cuire in the west; and they came to the door of the hill of the Sidhe and knocked at it with the shafts of their long gold-socketted spears. And there came young girls having yellow hair to the windows of the sunny houses; and Credhe herself, having three times fifty women with her, came out to speak with them. “It is to ask you in marriage we are come,” said Finn. “Who is it is asking for me?” said she. “It is Cael, the hundred-killer, grandson of Nemhnain, son of the King of Leinster in the east.” “I have heard talk of him, but I have never seen him,” said Credhe. “And has he any poem for me?” she said. “I have that,” said Cael, and he rose up then and sang his poem:
“A journey I have to make, and it is no easy journey, to the house of Credhe against the breast of the mountain, at the Paps of Dana; it is there I must be going through hardships for the length of seven days. It is pleasant her house is, with men and boys and women, with Druids and musicians, with cup-bearer and door-keeper, with horse-boy that does not leave his work, with distributer to share food; and Credhe of the Fair Hair having command over them all.
“It would be delightful to me in her dun, with coverings and with down, if she has but a mind to listen to me.
“A bowl she has with juice of berries in it to make her eyebrows black; crystal vats of fermenting grain; beautiful cups and vessels. Her house is of the colour of lime; there are rushes for beds, and many silken coverings and blue cloaks; red gold is there, and bright drinking-horns. Her sunny house is beside Loch Cuire, made of silver and yellow gold; its ridge is thatched without any fault, with the crimson wings of birds. The doorposts are green, the lintel is of silver taken in battle. Credhe’s chair on the left is the delight of delights, covered with gold of Elga; at the foot of the pleasant bed it is, the bed that was made of precious stones by Tuile in the east. Another bed there is on the right, of gold and silver, it is made without any fault, curtains it has of the colour of the foxglove, hanging on rods of copper.
“The people of her house, it is they have delight, their cloaks are not faded white, they are not worn smooth; their hair is fair and curling. Wounded men in their blood would sleep hearing the birds of the Sidhe singing in the eaves of the sunny house.
“If I have any thanks to give to Credhe, for whom the cuckoo calls, she will get better praise than this; if this love-service I have done is pleasing to her, let her not delay, let her say, ‘Your coming is welcome to me.’
“A hundred feet there are in her house, from one corner to another; twenty feet fully measured is the width of her great door; her roof has its thatch of the wings of blue and yellow birds, the border of her well is of crystals and carbuncles.
“There is a vat there of royal bronze; the juice of pleasant malt is running from it; over the vat is an apple-tree with its heavy fruit; when Credhe’s horn is filled from the vat, four apples fall into it together.
“She that owns all these things both at low water and at flood, Credhe from the Hill of the Three Peaks, she is beyond all the women of Ireland by the length of a spear-cast.
“Here is this song for her, it is no sudden bride-gift it is, no hurried asking; I bring it to Credhe of the beautiful shape, that my coming may be very bright to her.”
Then Credhe took him for her husband, and the wedding-feast was made, and the whole of the Fianna stopped there through seven days, at drinking and pleasure, and having every good thing.
Finn now, when he had turned from his road to go to Credhe’s house, had sent out watchmen to every landing-place to give warning when the ships of the strangers would be in sight. And the man that was keeping watch at the White Strand was Conn Crither, son of Bran, from Teamhair Luachra.
And after he had been a long time watching, he was one night west from the Round Hill of the Fianna that is called Cruachan Adrann, and there he fell asleep. And while he was in his sleep the ships came; and what roused him was the noise of the breaking of shields and the clashing of swords and of spears, and the cries of women and children and of dogs and horses that were under flames, and that the strangers were making an attack on.
Conn Crither started up when he heard that, and he said: “It is great trouble has come on the people through my sleep; and I will not stay living after this,” he said, “for Finn and the Fianna of Ireland to see me, but I will rush into the middle of the strangers,” he said, “and they will fall by me till I fall by them.”
He put on his suit of battle then and ran down towards the strand. And on the way he saw three women dressed in battle clothes before him, and fast as he ran he could not overtake them. He took his spear then to make a cast of it at the woman was nearest him, but she stopped on the moment, and she said: “Hold your hand and do not harm us, for we are not come to harm you but to help you.” “Who are you yourselves?” said Conn Crither. “We are three sisters,” she said, “and we are come from Tir nan Og, the Country of the Young, and we have all three given you our love, and no one of us loves you less than the other, and it is to give you our help we are come.” “What way will you help me?” said Conn. “We will give you good help,” she said, “for we will make Druid armies about you from stalks of grass and from the tops of the watercress, and they will cry out to the strangers and will strike their arms from their hands, and take from them their strength and their eyesight. And we will put a Druid mist about you now,” she said, “that will hide you from the armies of the strangers, and they will not see you when you make an attack on them. And we have a well of healing at the foot of Slieve Iolair, the Eagle’s Mountain,” she said, “and its waters will cure every wound made in battle. And after bathing in that well you will be as whole and as sound as the day you were born. And bring whatever man you like best with you,” she said, “and we will heal him along with you.”
Conn Crither gave them his thanks for that, and he hurried on to the strand. And it was at that time the armies of the King of the Great Plain were taking spoils from Traigh Moduirn in the north to Finntraighe in the south. And Conn Crither came on them, and the Druid army with him, and he took their spoils from them, and the Druid army took their sight and their strength from them, and they were routed, and they made away to where the King of the Great Plain was, and Conn Crither followed, killing and destroying. “Stop with me, king-hero,” said the King of the Great Plain, “that I may fight with you on account of my people, since there is not one of them that turns to stand against you.”
So the two set their banners in the earth and attacked one another, and fought a good part of the day until Conn Crither struck off the king’s head. And he lifted up the head, and he was boasting of what he had done. “By my word,” he said, “I will not let myself be parted from this body till some of the Fianna, few or many, will come to me.”
The King of the World heard that, and he said: “It is a big word that man is saying,” he said; “and rise up now, Glas, son of Dremen, and see which of the Fianna of Ireland it is that is saying it.”
Glas left the ship then, and he went to where Conn
Crither was, and he asked who was he. “I am Conn Crither, son of Bran, from Teamhair Luachra,” said he. “If that is so,” said Glas, “you are of the one blood with myself, for I am Glas, son of Bremen from Teamhair Luachra.” “It is not right for you to come fighting against me from those foreigners, so,” said Conn. “It is a pity indeed,” said Glas; “and but for Finn and the Fianna driving me from them, I would not fight against you or against one of themselves for all the treasures of the whole world.” “Do not say that,” said Conn, “for I swear by my hand of valour,” he said, “if you had killed Finn’s own son and the sons of his people along with him, you need not be in dread of him if only you came under his word and his protection.” “I think indeed the day is come for me to fight beside you,” said Glas, “and I will go back and tell that to the King of the World.”
He went back then to where the king was, and the king asked him which of the men of the Fianna was in it. “It is a kinsman of my own is in it, High King,” said Glas; “and it is weak my heart is, he to be alone, and I have a great desire to go and help him.” “If you go,” said the King of the World, “it is what I ask you, to come and to tell me every day how many of the Fianna of Ireland have fallen by me; and if a few of my own men should fall,” he said, “come and tell me who it was they fell by.” “It is what I ask you,” said Glas, “not to let your armies land till the Fianna come to us, but to let one man only come to fight with each of us until that time,” he said.
So two of the strangers were sent against them that day, and they got their death by Glas and by Conn Crither. Then they asked to have two men sent against each of them, and that was done; and three times nine fell by them before night. And Conn Crither was covered with wounds after the day, and he said to Glas: “Three women came to me from the Country of the Young, and they promised to put me in a well of healing for my wounds. And let you watch the harbour to-night,” he said, “and I will go look for them.” So he went to them, and they bathed him in the well of healing, and he was whole of his wounds.
And as to Glas, son of Dremen, he went down to the harbour, and he said: “O King of the World,” he said, “there is a friend of mine in the ships, Madan of the Bent Neck, son of the King of the Marshes; and it is what he said in the great world in the east, that he himself would be enough to take Ireland for you, and that he would bring it under tribute to you by one way or another. And I ask you to let him come alone against me to-night, till we see which of us will fight best for Ireland.”
So Madan came to the land, and the two attacked one another, and made a very hard fight; but as it was not in the prophecy that Glas would find his death there, it was the son of the King of the Marshes that got his death by him.
And not long after that Conn Crither came back to Glas, and he gave Glas great praise for all he had done.
Then Taistellach that was one of Finn’s messengers came to the White Strand asking news; and Conn bade him go back to where Finn was and tell him the way things were. But Taistellach would not go until he had wetted his sword in the blood of one of the enemies of Ireland, the same as the others had done. And he sent a challenge to the ships, and Coimhleathan, a champion that was very big and tall, came and fought with him on the strand, and took him in his arms to bring him back living to the ship of the High King; but Taistellach struck his head off in the sea and brought it back to land.
“Victory and blessing be with you!” said Conn Crither. “And go now to-night,” he said, “to the house of Bran, son of Febal my father at Teamhair Luachra, and bid him to gather all the Tuatha de Danaan to help us; and go on tomorrow to the Fianna of Ireland.” So Taistellach went on to Bran’s house, and he told him the whole story and gave him the message.
Then Bran, son of Febal, went out to gather the Tuatha de Danaan, and he went to Dun Sesnain in Ui Conall Gabra, where they were holding a feast at that time. And there he found three of the best young men of the Tuatha de Danaan, Ilbrec the Many Coloured, son of Manannan, and Nemanach the Pearly, son of Angus Og, and Sigmall, grandson of Midhir, and they made him welcome and bade him to stop with them. “There is a greater thing than this for you to do, Men of Dea,” said Bran; and he told them the whole story, and the way Conn Crither his son was. “Stop with me to-night,” said Sesnan, “and my son Dolb will go to Bodb Dearg, son of the Dagda, and gather in the Tuatha de Danaan to us.”
So he stopped there, and Dolb, son of Sesnan, went to Sidhe Bean Finn above Magh Femen, and Bodb Dearg was there at that time, and Dolb gave him his message. “Young man,” said Bodb Dearg, “we are no way bound to help the men of Ireland out of that strait.” “Do not say that,” said Dolb, “for there is not a king’s son or a prince or a leader of the Fianna of Ireland without having a wife or a mother or a foster-mother or a sweetheart of the Tuatha de Danaan; and it is good help they have given you every time you were in want of it.” “I give my word,” said Bodb Dearg, “it is right to give a good answer to so good a messenger.” With that he sent word to the Tuatha de Danaan in every place where they were, and they gathered to him. And from that they went on to Dun Sesnain, and they stopped there through the night And they rose up in the morning and put on their shirts of the dearest silk and their embroidered coats of rejoicing, and they took their green shields and their swords and their spears. And their leaders at that time besides Bodb Dearg were Midhir of Bri Leith, and Lir of Sidhe Finnachaidh, and Abarthach, son of Ildathach, and Ilbrec, son of Manannan, and Fionnbhar of Magh Suil, and Argat Lamh, the Silver Hand, from the Sionnan, and the Man of Sweet Speech from the Boinn.
And the whole army of them came into Ciarraighe Luachra, and to red-haired Slieve Mis, and from that to the harbour of the White Strand. “O Men of Dea,” said Abarthach then, “let a high mind and high courage rise within you now in the face of the battle. For the doings of every one among you,” he said, “will be told till the end of the world; and let you fulfil now the big words you have spoken in the drinking-houses.” “Rise up, Glas, son of Dremen,” said Bodb Dearg then, “and tell out to the King of the World that I am come to do battle.” Glas went then to the King of the World. “Are those the Fianna of Ireland I see?” said the king. “They are not,” said Glas, “but another part of the men of Ireland that do not dare to be on the face of the earth, but that live in hidden houses under the earth, and it is to give warning of battle from them I am come.” “Who will answer the Tuatha de Danaan for me?” said the King of the World. “We will go against them,” said two of the kings that were with him, Comur Cromchenn, King of the Men of the Dog–Heads, and Caitchenn, King of the Men of the Cat–Heads. And they had five red-armed battalions with them, and they went to the shore like great red waves. “Who is there to match with the King of the Dog–Heads for me?” said Bodb Dearg. “I will go against him,” said Lir of Sidhe Finnachaidh, “though I heard there is not in the world a man with stronger hands than himself.” “Who will be a match for the King of the Cat–Heads?” said Bodb Dearg. “I will be a match for him,” said Abarthach, son of Ildathach.
So Lir and the King of the Dog–Heads attacked one another, and they made a hard fight; but after a while Lir was getting the worst of it. “It is a pity the way Lir is,” said Bodb Dearg; “and let some of you rise up and help him,” he said. Then Ilbrec, son of Manannan, went to his help; but if he did, he got a wound himself and could do nothing. Then Sigmal, grandson of Midhir, went to his help, and after him the five sons of Finnaistucan, and others of the Men of Dea, but they were all driven off by the King of the Dog–Heads. But at that time Abarthach had made an end of the King of the Cat–Heads, and he rose on his spear, and made a leap, and came down between Lir and his enemy. “Leave off now and look on at the fight,” he said to Lir, “and leave it to me and the foreigner.” With that he took his sword in his left hand and made a thrust with his spear in through the king’s armour. And as the king was raising up his shield, he struck at him with the sword that was in his left hand, and cut off both his legs at the knees, and the king let fall his shield then, and Abarthach struck off his head. And the two kings being dead, their people broke away and ran, but the Men of Dea followed them and made an end of them all; but if they did, they lost a good many of their own men.
Ana Finn and the Fianna were at the house of Credhe yet, and they saw Taistellach coming towards them. It was the custom, now, with Finn when he sent any one looking for news, that it was to himself it was to be told first, the way that if he got bad news he would let on not to mind it; and if it was good news he got, he would have the satisfaction of telling it himself. So Taistellach told him how the foreigners were come to the harbour of the White Strand.
Then Finn turned to his chief men, and he said: “Fianna of Ireland, there never came harm or danger to Ireland to be put aside this great danger that is come against us now. And you get great tribute and great service from the chief men of Ireland,” he said, “and if you take that from them it is right for you to defend them now.”
And the Fianna all said they would not go back one step from the defence of Ireland. And as to Credhe, she gave every one of them a battle dress, and they were taking leave of her, and Finn said: “Let the woman come along with us till we know is it good or bad the end of this journey will be.” So she came with them, bringing a great herd of cattle; and through the whole length of the battle, that lasted a year and a day, she had new milk for them, and it was to her house the wounded were brought for healing.
Then the Fianna set out, and they went to the borders of Ciarraighe Luachra and across by the shores of the Bannlid with their left hand to Slieve Mis, and they made shelters for themselves that night, and kindled fires.
But Caoilte and Oisin and Lugaidh’s Son said to one another they would go on to the harbour, the way they would have time to redden their hands in the blood of the foreigners before the rest of the Fianna would come.
And at that time the King of the World bade some of his chief men to go on shore and to bring him back some spoils. So they went to land and they gave out a great shout, and the people of the ships gave out a great shout at the same time. “I swear by the oath my people swear by,” said Caoilte, “I have gone round the whole world, but I never heard so many voices together in the one place.” And with that he himself and Oisin and Lugaidh’s Son made an attack on the strangers, and struck great blows at them. And when Conn Crither and Glas, son of Bremen, heard the noise of those blows, they knew they were struck by some of the Fianna of Ireland, and they came and joined with them, and did great destruction on the strangers, till there was not one left of all that had come to land.
And in the morning they saw Finn and all his people coming to the rath that is above the harbour. “My father Finn,” said Oisin than, “let us fight now with the whole of the foreigners altogether.” “That is not my advice,” said Finn, “for the number of their armies is too great for us, and we could not stand against them. But we will send out every day,” he said, “some son of a king or of a leader against some king of the kings of the world that is equal in blood to ourselves. And let none of you redden your arms,” he said, “but against a king or a chief man at first, for when a king is fallen, his people will be more inclined to give way. And who will give out a challenge of battle from me now?” he said. “I will do that,” said the son of Cuban, leader of the Fianna of Munster. “Do not go, my son,” said Finn, “for it is not showed to me that you will have good luck in the battle, and I never sent out any man to fight without I knew he would come back safe to me.” “Do not say that,” said Cuban’s son, “for I would not for the treasure of the whole world go back from a fight on account of a bad foretelling. And as it is my own country they have done their robbery in first,” he said, “I will defend it for you.” “It is sorrowful I am for that,” said Finn, “for whichever of the kings of the world will meet you today, yourself and himself will fall together.”
Then Glas, son of Dremen, gave out a challenge of fight from Cuban’s son, and the King of Greece answered it. And the two fought hand to hand, and the King of Greece made a great cast of his thick spear at Cuban’s son, that went through his body and broke his back in two. But he did not take that blow as a gift, but he paid for it with a strong cast of his own golden spear that went through the ringed armour of the King of Greece. And those two fell together, sole to sole, and lip to lip. “There is grief on me, Cuban’s son to have fallen,” said Finn, “for no one ever went from his house unsatisfied; and a man that I would not keep, or the High King of Ireland would not keep for a week, he would keep him in his house through the length of a year. And let Follamain, his son, be called to me now,” he said, “and I will give him his father’s name and place.”
They stopped there then till the next morning. “Who will go and fight today?” said Finn then. “I will do that,” said Goll Garb, son of the King of Alban and of the daughter of Goll, son of Morna.
So he put on his battle dress, and there came against him the three kings from the rising of the sun in the east, and their three battalions with them. And Goll Garb rushed among their men, and wounded and maimed and destroyed them, and blinded their eyes for ever, so that their wits went from them, and they called to him to stop his deadly sword for a while. So he did that; and it is what they agreed to take their three kings and to give them over to Goll Garb that he might stop doing destruction with his sword.
“Who will go out and fight today?” said Finn, on the morning of the morrow. “I will go,” said Oisin, “and the chief men of the sons of Baiscne with me; for we get the best share of all the pleasant things of Ireland, and we should be first to defend her.” “I will answer that challenge,” said the King of France, “for it is against Finn I am come to Ireland, on account of my wife that he brought away from me; and these men will fall by me now,” he said, “and Finn himself at the last; for when the branches of a tree are cut off, it is not hard to cut down the tree itself.”
So the King of France and Oisin met one another at the eastern end of the strand, and they struck their banners of soft silk into the green hill, and bared their swords and made a quick attack on one another. And at one time the king struck such a great blow that he knocked a groan out of Oisin. But for all that he was worsted in the end, and great fear came on him, like the fear of a hundred horses at the sound of thunder, and he ran from Oisin, and he rose like a swallow, that his feet never touched the earth at all; and he never stopped till he came to Gleann na-n Gealt, the Valley of Wild Men. And ever since that time, people that have lost their wits make for that valley; and every mad person in Ireland, if he had his way, would go there within twenty-four hours.
And there rose great cries of lamentation from the armies of the World when they saw him going from them, and the Fianna of Ireland raised great shouts of joy.
And when the night was coming on, it is what Finn said: “It is sad and gloomy the King of the World is to-night; and it is likely he will make an attack on us. And which of you will keep watch over the harbour through the night?” he said. “I will,” said Oisin, “with the same number that was fighting along with me today; for it is not too much for you to fight for the Fianna of Ireland through a day and a night,” he said.
So they went down to the harbour, and it was just at that time the King of the World was saying, “It seems to me, men of the World, that our luck of battle was not good today. And let a share of you rise up now,” he said, “and make an attack on the Fianna of Ireland.” Then there rose up the nine sons of Garb, King of the Sea of Icht, that were smiths, and sixteen hundred of their people along with them, and they all went on shore but Dolar Durba that was the eldest of them. And the sons of Baiscne were ready for them, and they fought a great battle till the early light of the morrow. And not one of them was left alive on either side that could hold a weapon but only Oisin and one of the sons of Garb. And they made rushes at one another, and threw their swords out of their hands, and closed their arms about one another, and wrestled together, so that it was worth coming from the east to the west of the world to see the fight of those two. Then the foreigner gave a sudden great fall to Oisin, to bring him into the sea, for he was a great swimmer, and he thought to get the better of him there. And Oisin thought it would not be worthy of him to refuse any man his place of fighting. So they went into the water together, and they were trying to drown one another till they came to the sand and the gravel of the clear sea. And it was a torment to the heart of the Fianna, Oisin to be in that strait. “Rise up, Fergus of the Sweet Lips,” said Finn then, “and go praise my son and encourage him.” So Fergus went down to the edge of the sea, and he said: “It is a good fight you are making, Oisin, and there are many to see it, for the armies of the whole world are looking at you, and the Fianna of Ireland. And show now,” he said, “your ways and your greatness, for you never went into any place but some woman of high beauty or some king’s daughter set her love on you.” Then Oisin’s courage increased, and anger came on him and he linked his hands behind the back of the foreigner and put him down on the sand under the sea with his face upwards, and did not let him rise till the life was gone from him. And he brought the body to shore then, and struck off his head and brought it to the Fianna.
But there was great grief and anger on Dolar Durba, the eldest of the sons of Garb, that had stopped in the ship, and he made a great oath that he would have satisfaction for his brothers. And he went to the High King, and he said: “I will go alone to the strand, and I will kill a hundred men every day till I have made an end of the whole of the armies of Ireland; and if any one of your own men comes to interfere with me,” he said, “I will kill him along with them.”
The next morning Finn asked who would lead the battle that day. “I will,” said Dubhan, son of Donn. “Do not,” said Finn, “but let some other one go.”
But Dubhan went to the strand, and a hundred men along with him; and there was no one there before him but Dolar Durba, and he said he was there to fight with the whole of them. And Dubhan’s men gave a great shout of laughter when they heard that; but Dolar Durba rushed on them, and he made an end of the whole hundred, without a man of them being able to put a scratch on him. And then he took a hurling stick and a ball, and he threw up the ball and kept it in the air with the hurl from the west to the east of the strand without letting it touch the ground at all. And then he put the ball on his right foot and kicked it high into the air, and when it was coming down he gave it a kick of his left foot and kept it in the air like that, and he rushing like a blast of March wind from one end of the strand to the other. And when he had done that he walked up and down on the strand making great boasts, and challenging the men of Ireland to do the like of those feats. And every day he killed a hundred of the men that were sent against him.
Now it chanced at that time that news of the great battle that was going on reached to the court of the King of Ulster. And the king’s son, that was only twelve years of age, and that was the comeliest of all the young men of Ireland, said to his father: “Let me go to help Finn, son of Cumhal, and his men.” “You are not old enough, or strong enough, boy; your bones are too soft,” said the king. And when the boy went on asking, his father shut him up in some close place, and put twelve young men, his foster-brothers, in charge of him.
There was great anger on the young lad then, and he said to his foster-brothers: “It is through courage and daring my father won a great name for himself in his young youth, and why does he keep me from winning a name for myself? And let you help me now,” he said, “and I will be a friend to you for ever.” And he went on talking to them and persuading them till he got round them all, and they agreed to go with him to join Finn and the Fianna. And when the king was asleep, they went into the house where the arms were kept, and every lad of them brought away with him a shield and a sword and a helmet and two spears and two greyhound whelps. And they went across Ess Ruadh in the north, and through Connacht of many tribes, and through Caille an Chosanma, the Woods of Defence, that were called the choice of every king and the true honour of every poet, and into Ciarraighe, and so on to the White Strand.
And when they came there Dolar Durba was on the strand, boasting before the men of Ireland. And Oisin was rising up to go against him, for he said he would sooner die fighting with him than see the destruction he was doing every day on his people. And all the wise men and the fighting men and the poets and the musicians of the Fianna gave a great cry of sorrow when they heard Oisin saying that.
And the King of Ulster’s son went to Finn and stood before him and saluted him, and Finn asked who was he, and where did he come from. “I am the son of the King of Ulster,” he said; “and I am come here, myself and my twelve foster-brothers, to give you what help we can.” “I give you a welcome,” said Finn.
Just then they heard the voice of Dolar Durba, very loud and boastful. “Who is that I hear?” said the king’s son. “It is a man of the foreigners asking for a hundred of my men to go and meet him,” said Finn.
Now, when the twelve foster-brothers heard that, they said no word but went down to the strand, unknown to the king’s son and to Finn.
“You are not a grown man,” said Conan; “and neither yourself or your comrades are fit to face any fighting man at all.” “I never saw the Fianna of Ireland till this day,” said the young lad; “but I know well that you are Conan Maol, that never says a good word of any man. And you will see now,” he said, “if I am in dread of that man on the strand, or of any man in the world, for I will go out against him by myself.”
But Finn kept him back and was talking with him; but then Conan began again, and he said: “It is many men Dolar Durba has made an end of, and there was not a man of all those that could not have killed a hundred of the like of you every day.”
When the king’s son heard that, there was great anger on him, and he leaped up, and just then Dolar Durba gave a great shout on the strand. “What is he giving, that shout for?” said the king’s son. “He is shouting for more men to come against him,” said Conan, “for he is just after killing your twelve comrades.” “That is a sorrowful story,” said the king’s son.
And with that he took hold of his arms, and no one could hold him or hinder him, and he rushed down to the strand where Dolar Durba was. And all the armies of the strangers gave a great shout of laughter, for they thought all Finn’s men had been made an end of, when he sent a young lad like that against their best champion. And when the boy heard that, his courage grew the greater, and he fell on Dolar Durba and gave him many wounds before he knew he was attacked at all. And they fought a very hard fight together, till their shields and their swords were broken in pieces. And that did not stop the battle, but they grappled together and fought and wrestled that way, till the tide went over them and drowned them both. And when the sea went over them the armies on each side gave out a great sorrowful cry.
And after the ebb-tide on the morrow, the two bodies were found cold and quiet, each one held fast by the other. But Dolar Durba was beneath the king’s son, so they knew it was the young lad was the best and had got the victory. And they buried him, and put a flag-stone over his grave, and keened him there.
Then Finn said he would send a challenge himself to Daire Bonn, the King of the Great World. But Caoilte asked leave to do that day’s fighting himself. And Finn said he would agree to that if he could find enough of men to go with him. And he himself gave him a hundred men, and Oisin did the same, and so on with the rest. And he gave out his challenge, and it was the son of the King of the Great Plain that answered it. And while they were in the heat of the fight, a fleet of ships came into the harbour, and Finn thought they were come to help the foreigners. But Oisin looked at them, and he said: “It is seldom your knowledge fails you, Finn, but those are friends of our own: Fiachra, son of the King of the Fianna of the Bretons, and Duaban Donn, son of the King of Tuathmumain with his own people.”
And when those that were in the ships came on shore, they saw Caoilte’s banner going down before the son of the King of the Great Plain. And they all went hurrying on to his help, and between them they made an end of the king’s son and of all his people.
“Who will keep watch to-night?” said Finn then. “We will,” said the nine Garbhs of the Fianna, of Slieve Mis, and Slieve Cua, and Slieve Clair, and Slieve Crot, and Slieve Muice, and Slieve Fuad, and Slieve Atha Moir, and Dun Sobairce and Dundealgan.
And they were not long watching till they saw the King of the Men of Dregan coming towards them, and they fought a fierce battle; and at the end of the night there were left standing but three of the Garbhs, and the King of the Men of Dregan. And they fought till their wits were gone from them; and those four fell together, sole against sole, and lip against lip.
And the fight went on from day to day, and from week to week, and there were great losses on both sides. And when Fergus of the Sweet Lips saw that so many of the Fianna were fallen, he asked no leave but went to Teamhair of the Kings, where the High King of Ireland was, and he told him the way it was with Finn and his people. “That is good,” said the High King, “Finn to be in that strait; for there is no labouring man dares touch a pig or a deer or a salmon if he finds it dead before him on account of the Fianna; and there is no man but is in dread to go from one place to another without leave from Finn, or to take a wife till he knows if she has a sweetheart among the Fianna of Ireland. And it is often Finn has given bad judgments against us,” he said, “and it would be better for us the foreigners to gain the day than himself.”
Then Fergus went out to the lawn where the High King’s son was playing at ball. “It is no good help you are giving to Ireland,” said Fergus then, “to be playing a game without lasting profit, and strangers taking away your country from you.” And he was urging him and blaming him, and great shame came on the young man, and he threw away the stick and went through the people of Teamhair and brought together all the young men, a thousand and twenty of them that were in it. And they asked no leave and no advice from the High King, but they set out and went on till they came to Finntraigh. And Fergus went to where Finn was, and told him the son of the High King of Ireland was come with him; and all the Fianna rose up before the young man and bade him welcome. And Finn said: “Young man,” he said, “we would sooner see you coming at a time when there would be musicians and singers and poets and high-up women to make pleasure for you than at the time we are in the straits of battle the way we are now.” “It is not for playing I am come,” said the young man, “but to give you my service in battle.” “I never brought a lad new to the work into the breast of battle,” said Finn, “for it is often a lad coming like that finds his death, and I would not wish him to fall through me.” “I give my word,” said the young man, “I will do battle with them on my own account if I may not do it on yours.” Then Fergus of the Fair Lips went out to give a challenge of battle from the son of the High King of Ireland to the King of the World.
“Who will answer the King of Ireland’s son for me?” said the King of the World. “I will go against him,” said Sligech, King of the Men of Cepda; and he went on shore, and his three red battalions with him. And the High King’s son went against them, and his comrades were near him, and they were saying to him: “Take a good heart now into the fight, for the Fianna will be no better pleased if it goes well with you than if it goes well with the foreigner.” And when the High King’s son heard that, he made a rush through the army of the foreigners, and began killing and overthrowing them, till their chief men were all made an end of. Then Sligech their king came to meet him, very angry and destroying, and they struck at one another and made a great fight, but at the last the King of Ireland’s son got the upper hand, and he killed the King of the Men of Cepda and struck off his head.
And the fighting went on from day to day, and at last Finn said to Fergus of the Sweet Lips: “Go out, Fergus, and see how many of the Fianna are left for the fight today.” And Fergus counted them, and he said: “There is one battalion only of the Fianna left in good order; but there are some of the men of it,” he said, “are able to fight against three, and some that are able to fight against nine or thirty or a hundred.” “If that is so,” said Finn, “rise up and go to where the King of the World is, and bid him to come out to the great battle.”
So Fergus went to the King of the World, and it is the way he was, on his bed listening to the music of harps and pipes. “King of the World,” said Fergus, “it is long you are in that sleep; and that is no shame for you,” he said, “for it will be your last sleep. And the whole of the Fianna are gone out to their place of battle,” he said, “and let you go out and answer them.” “In my opinion,” said the King of the World, “there is not a man of them is able to fight against me; and how many are there left of the Fianna of Ireland?” “One battalion only that is in good order,” said Fergus. “And how many of the armies of the World are there left?” he said. “Thirty battalions came with me to Ireland; and there are twenty of them fallen by the Fianna, and what is left of them is ten red battalions in good order. And there are eight good fighters of them,” he said, “that would put down the men of the whole world if they were against me; that is, myself, and Conmail my son, and Ogarmach, the daughter of the King of Greece, that is the best hand in battle of the whole world after myself, and Finnachta of the Teeth, the chief of my household, and the King of Lochlann, Caisel Clumach of the Feathers, and his three sons, Tocha, and Forne of the Broad Shoulders, and Mongach of the Sea.”
“I swear by the oath of my people,” said the King of Lochlann then, “if any man of the armies goes out against the Fianna before myself and my three sons, we will not go at all, for we would not get the satisfaction we are used to, unless our swords get their fill of blood.” “I will go out against them alone,” said Forne, the youngest son of the King of Lochlann. With that he put on his battle suit, and he went among the Fianna of Ireland, and a red-edged sword in each of his hands. And he destroyed those of their young men that were sent against him, and he made the strand narrow with their bodies.
And Finn saw that, and it was torment to his heart, and danger of death and loss of wits to him, and he was encouraging the men of Ireland against Forne. And Fergus of the True Lips stood up, and it is what he said: “Fianna of Ireland,” he said, “it is a pity the way you are under hardship and you defending Ireland. And one man is taking her from you today,” he said, “and you are like no other thing but a flock of little birds looking for shelter in a bush from a hawk that is after them. And it is going into the shelter of Finn and Oisin and Caoilte you are,” he said; “and not one of you is better than another, and none of you sets his face against the foreigner.” “By my oath,” said Oisin, “all that is true, and no one of us tries to do better than another keeping him off.” “There is not one of you is better than another,” said Fergus. Then Oisin gave out a great shout against the King of Lochlann’s son. “Stop here with me, king’s son,” he said, “until I fight with you for the Fianna.” “I give my word it is short the delay will be,” said Forne.
Then he himself and Oisin made an attack on one another, and it seemed for a while that the battle was going against Oisin. “By my word, Man of Poetry,” said Finn then to Fergus of the True Lips, “it is a pity the way you sent my son against the foreigner. And rise up and praise him and hearten him now,” he said. So Fergus went down to where the fight was, and he said: “There is great shame on the Fianna, Oisin, seeing you so low in this fight; and there is many a foot messenger and many a horsemen from the daughters of the kings and princes of Ireland looking at you now,” he said. And great courage rose in Oisin then, and he drove his spear through the body of Forne, the King of Lochlann’s son. And he himself came back to the Fianna of Ireland.
Then the armies of the World gave out a great cry, keening Forne; and there was anger and not fear on his brothers, for they thought it no right thing he to have fallen by a man of the Fianna. And Tocha, the second son of the King of Lochlann, went on shore to avenge his brother. And he went straight into the middle of the Fianna, and gave his sword good feeding on their bodies, till they broke away before him and made no stand till Lugaidh’s Son turned round against him. And those two fought a great fight, till their swords were bent and their spears crumbled away, and they lost their golden shields. And at the last Lugaidh’s Son made a stroke of his sword that cut through the foreigner’s sword, and then he made another stroke that cut his heart in two halves. And he came back high and proud to the Fianna.
Then the third son of the King of Lochlann, Mongach of the Sea, rose up, and all the armies rose up along with him. “Stop here, Men of the World,” he said, “for it is not you but myself that has to go and ask satisfaction for the bodies of my brothers.” So he went on shore; and it is the way he was, with a strong iron flail in his hand having seven balls of pure iron on it, and fifty iron chains, and fifty apples on every chain, and fifty deadly thorns on every apple. And he made a rush through the Fianna to break them up entirely and to tear them into strings, and they gave way before him. And great shame came on Fidach, son of the King of the Bretons, and he said: “Come here and praise me, Fergus of the True Lips, till I go out and fight with the foreigner.” “It is easy to praise you, son,” said Fergus, and he was praising him for a long time.
Then the two looked at one another and used fierce, proud words. And then Mongach of the Sea raised his iron flail and made a great blow at the King of the Bretons’ son. But he made a quick leap to one side and gave him a blow of his sword that cut off his two hands at the joint; and he did not stop at that, but made a blow at his middle that cut him into two halves. But as he fell, an apple of the flail with its deadly thorns went into Fidach’s comely mouth and through his brain, and it was foot to foot those two fell, and lip to lip.
And the next that came to fight on the strand was the King of Lochlann himself, Caisel of the Feathers. And he came to the battle having his shield on his arm; and it is the way the shield was, that was made for him by the smith of the Fomor, there were red flames coming from it; and if it was put under the sea itself, not one of its flames would stop blazing. And when he had that shield on his arm no man could come near him.
And there was never such destruction done on the men of Ireland as on that day, for the flames of fire that he sent from his shield went through the bodies of men till they blazed up like a splinter of oak that was after hanging through the length of a year in the smoke of a chimney; and any one that would touch the man that was burning would catch fire himself. And every other harm that ever came into Ireland before was small beside this.
Then Finn said: “Lift up your hands, Fianna of Ireland, and give three shouts of blessing to whoever will hinder this foreigner.” And the Fianna gave those three shouts; and the King of Lochlann gave a great laugh when he heard them. And Druimderg, grandson of the Head of the Fianna of Ulster, was near him, and he had with him a deadly spear, the Croderg, the Red–Socketed, that came down from one to another of the sons of Rudraighe. And he looked at the King of Lochlann, and he could see no part of him without armour but his mouth that was opened wide, and he laughing at the Fianna. Then Druimderg made a cast with the Croderg that hit him in the open mouth, and he fell, and his shield fell along with its master, and its flame went out. And Druimderg struck the head from his body, and made great boasts of the things he had done.
It is then Fergus of the True Lips set out again and went through the length of Ireland till he came to the house of Tadg, son of Nuada, that was grandfather to Finn.
And there was great grief on Muirne, Finn’s mother, and on Labran of the Long Hand her brother, and on all her people, when they knew the great danger he was in. And Tadg asked his wife who did she think would escape with their lives from the great fighting at the White Strand. “It is a pity the way they are there,” said she; “for if all the living men of the world were on one side, Daire Donn, the King of the World, would put them all down; for there are no weapons in the world that will ever be reddened on him. And on the night he was born, the smith of the Fomor made a shield and a sword, and it is in the prophecy that he will fall by no other arms but those. And it is to the King of the Country of the Fair Men he gave them to keep, and it is with him they are now.” “If that is so,” said Tadg, “you might be able to get help for Finn, son of Cumhal, the only son of your daughter. And bid Labran Lamfada to go and ask those weapons of him,” he said. “Do not be asking me,” said she, “to go against Daire Donn that was brought up in my father’s house.” But after they had talked for a while, they went out on the lawn, and they sent Labran looking for the weapons in the shape of a great eagle.
And he went on from sea to sea, till at noon on the morrow he came to the dun of the King of the Country of the Fair Men; and he went in his own shape to the dun and saluted the king, and the king bade him welcome, and asked him to stop with him for a while. “There is a thing I want more than that,” said Labran, “for the wife of a champion of the Fianna has given me her love, and I cannot get her without fighting for her; and it is the loan of that sword and that shield you have in your keeping I am come asking now,” he said.
There were seven rooms, now, in the king’s house that opened into one another, and on the first door was one lock, and on the second two locks, and so on to the door of the last room that had seven locks; and it was in that the sword and the shield that were made by the smith of the Fomor were kept. And they were brought out and were given to Labran, and stalks of luck were put with them, and they were bound together with shield straps.
Then Labran of the Long Hand went back across the seas again, and he reached his father’s dun between the crowing of the cock and the full light of day; and the weakness of death came on him. “It is a good message you are after doing, my son,” said Tadg, “and no one ever went that far in so short a time as yourself.” “It is little profit that is to me,” said Labran, “for I am not able to bring them to Finn in time for the fight tomorrow.”
But just at that time one of Tadg’s people saw Aedh, son of Aebinn, that was as quick as the wind over a plain till the middle of every day, and after that, there was no man quicker than he was. “You are come at a good time,” said Tadg. And with that he gave him the sword and the shield to bring to Finn for the battle.
So Aedh, son of Aebinn, went with the swiftness of a hare or of a fawn or a swallow, till at the rising of the day on the morrow he came to the White Strand. And just at that time Fergus of the True Lips was rousing up the Fianna for the great fight, and it is what he said: “Fianna of Ireland,” he said, “if there was the length of seven days in one day, you would have work to fill it now; for there never was and there never will be done in Ireland a day’s work like the work of today.”
Then the Fianna of Ireland rose up, and they saw Aedh, son of Aebinn, coming towards them with his quick running, and Finn asked news from him. “It is from the dun of Tadg, son of Nuada, I am come,” he said, “and it is to yourself I am sent, to ask how it is you did not redden your weapons yet upon the King of the World.” “I swear by the oath of my people,” said Finn, “if I do not redden my weapons on him, I will crush his body within his armour.” “I have here for you, King of the Fianna,” said Aedh then, “the deadly weapons that will bring him to his death; and it was Labran of the Long Hand got them for you through his Druid arts.” He put them in Finn’s hand then, and Finn took the coverings off them, and there rose from them flashes of fire and deadly bubbles; and not one of the Fianna could stay looking at them, but it put great courage into them to know they were with Finn. “Rise up now,” said Finn to Fergus of the True Lips, “and go where the King of the World is, and bid him to come out to the place of the great fight.”
Then the King of the World came to the strand, and all his armies with him; and all that were left of the Fianna went out against them, and they were like thick woods meeting one another, and they made great strokes, and there were swords crashing against bones, and bodies that were hacked, and eyes that were blinded, and many a mother was left without her son, and many a comely wife without her comrade.
Then the creatures of the high air answered to the battle, foretelling the destruction that would be done that day; and the sea chattered of the losses, and the waves gave heavy shouts keening them, and the water-beasts roared to one another, and the rough hills creaked with the danger of the battle, and the woods trembled mourning the heroes, and the grey stones cried out at their deeds, and the wind sobbed telling them, and the earth shook, foretelling the slaughter; and the cries of the grey armies put a blue cloak over the sun, and the clouds were dark; and the hounds and the whelps and the crows, and the witches of the valley, and the powers of the air, and the wolves of the forests, howled from every quarter and on every side of the armies, urging them against one another.
It was then Conan, son of Morna, brought to mind that himself and his kindred had done great harm to the sons of Baiscne, and he had a wish to do some good thing for them on account of that, and he raised up his sword and did great deeds.
And Finn was over the battle, encouraging the Fianna; and the King of the World was on the other side encouraging the foreigners. “Rise up now, Fergus,” said Finn, “and praise Conan for me that his courage may be the greater, for it is good work he is doing on my enemies.” So Fergus went where Conan was, and at that time he was heated with the dust of the fight, and he was gone outside to let the wind go about him.
“It is well you remember the old quarrel between the sons of Morna and the sons of Baiscne, Conan,” said Fergus; “and you would be ready to go to your own death if it would bring harm on the sons of Baiscne,” he said. “For the love of your good name, Man of Poetry,” said Conan, “do not be speaking against me without cause, and I will do good work on the foreigners when I get to the battle again.” “By my word,” said Fergus, “that would be a good thing for you to do.” He sang a verse of praise for him then, and Conan went back into the battle, and his deeds were not worse this time than they were before. And Fergus went back to where Finn was.
“Who is best in the battle now?” said Finn. “Duban, son of Cas, a champion of your own people,” said Fergus, “for he never gives but the one stroke to any man, and no man escapes with his life from that stroke, and three times nine and eighty men have fallen by him up to this time.” And Duban Donn, great-grandson of the King of Tuathmumhain, was there listening to him, and it is what he said: “By my oath, Fergus,” he said, “all you are saying is true, for there is not a son of a king or of a lord is better in the battle than Duban, son of Cas; and I will go to my own death if I do not go beyond him.” With that he went rushing through the battle like flames over a high hill that is thick with furze. Nine times he made a round of the battle, and he killed nine times nine in every round.
“Who is best in the battle now?” said Finn, after a while. “It is Duban Donn that is after going from us,” said Fergus. “For there has been no one ahead of him since he was in his seventh year, and there is no one ahead of him now.” “Rise up and praise him that his courage may be the greater,” said Finn. “It is right to praise him,” said Fergus, “and the foreigners running before him on every side as they would run from a heavy drenching of the sea.” So Fergus praised him for a while, and he went back then to Finn.
“Who is best in the battle now?” said Finn. “It is Osgar is best in it now,” said Fergus, “and he is fighting alone against two hundred Franks and two hundred of the men of Gairian, and the King of the Men of Gairian himself. And all these are beating at his shield,” he said, “and not one of them has given him a wound but he gave him a wound back for it.” “What way is Caoilte, son of Ronan?” said Finn. “He is in no great strait after the red slaughter he has made,” said Fergus. “Go to him then,” said Finn, “and bid him to keep off a share of the foreigners from Osgar.” So Fergus went to him. “Caoilte,” he said, “it is great danger your friend Osgar is in under the blows of the foreigners, and let you rise up and give him some help,” he said.
Caoilte went then to the place where Osgar was, and he gave a straight blow of his sword at the man who was nearest him, that made two halves of him. Osgar raised his head then and looked at him. “It is likely, Caoilte,” he said, “you did not dare redden your sword on any one till you struck down a man that was before my sword. And it is a shame for you,” he said, “all the men of the great world and the Fianna of Ireland to be in the one battle, and you not able to make out a fight for yourself without coming to take a share of my share of the battle. And I give my oath,” he said, “I would be glad to see you put down in your bed of blood on account of that thing.” Caoilte’s mind changed when he heard that, and he turned again to the army of the foreigners with the redness of anger on his white face; and eighty fighting men fell in that rout.
“What way is the battle now?” said Finn. “It is a pity,” said Fergus, “there never came and there never will come any one that can tell the way it is now. For by my word,” he said, “the tree-tops of the thickest forest in the whole of the western world are not closer together than the armies are now. For the bosses of their shields are in one another’s hands. And there is fire coming from the edges of their swords,” he said, “and blood is raining down like a shower on a day of harvest; and there were never so many leaves torn by the wind from a great forest as there are locks of long golden hair, and of black curled hair, cut off by sharp weapons, blowing into the clouds at this time. And there is no person could tell one man from another, now,” he said, “unless it might be by their voices.” With that he went into the very middle of the fight to praise and to hearten the men of the Fianna.
“Who is first in the battle now, Fergus?” said Finn, when he came back to him. “By my oath, it is no friend of your own is first in it,” said Fergus, “for it is Daire Donn, the King of the World; and it is for you he is searching through the battle,” he said, “and three times fifty of his own people were with him. But two of the men of your Fianna fell on them,” he said, “Cairell the Battle Striker, and Aelchinn of Cruachan, and made an end of them. But they were not able to wound the King of the World,” he said, “but the two of them fell together by him.”
Then the King of the World came towards Finn, and there was no one near him but Arcallach of the Black Axe, the first that ever brought a wide axe into Ireland. “I give my word,” said Arcallach, “I would never let Finn go before me into any battle.” He rose up then and made a terrible great blow of his axe at the king, that went through his royal crown to the hair of his head, but that did not take a drop of blood out of him, for the edge of the axe turned and there went balls of fire over the plain from that blow. And the King of the World struck back at Arcallach, and made two halves of him.
Then Finn and the King of the World turned on one another. And when the king saw the sword and the shield in Finn’s hand, he knew those were the weapons that were to bring him to his death, and great dread came on him, and his comeliness left him, and his fingers were shaking, and his feet were unsteady, and the sight of his eyes was weakened.
And then the two fought a great fight, striking at one another like two days of judgment for the possession of the world.
But the king, that had never met with a wound before, began to be greatly weakened in the fight. And Finn gave great strokes that broke his shield and his sword, and that cut off his left foot, and at the last he struck off his head. But if he did, he himself fell into a faint of weakness with the dint of the wounds he had got.
Then Finnachta of the Teeth, the first man of the household of the King of the World, took hold of the royal crown of the king, and brought it where Conmail his son was, and put it on his head.
“That this may bring you success in many battles, my son,” he said. And he gave him his father’s weapons along with it; and the young man went through the battle looking for Finn, and three fifties of the men of the Fianna fell by him. Then Goll Garbh the Rough, son of the King of Alban, saw him and attacked him, and they fought a hard fight. But the King of Albain’s son gave him a blow under the shelter of the shield, in his left side, that made an end of him.
Finnachta of the Teeth saw that, and he made another rush at the royal crown, and brought it to where Ogarmach was, the daughter of the King of Greece. “Put on that crown, Ogarmach,” he said, “as it is in the prophecy the world will be owned by a woman; and it will never be owned by any woman higher than yourself,” he said.
She went then to look for Finn in the battle, and Fergus of the True Lips saw her, and he went where Finn was. “O King of the Fianna,” he said then, “bring to mind the good fight you made against the King of the World and all your victories before that; for it is a great danger is coming to you now,” he said, “and that is Ogarmach, daughter of the King of Greece.”
With that the woman-fighter came towards him. “O Finn,” she said, “it is little satisfaction you are to me for all the kings and lords that have fallen by you and by your people; but for all that,” she said, “there is nothing better for me to get than your own self and whatever is left of your people.” “You will not get that,” said Finn, “for I will lay your head in its bed of blood the same as I did to every other one.” Then those two attacked one another like as if there had risen to smother one another the flooded wave of Cliodna, and the seeking wave of Tuaigh, and the big brave wave of Rudraighe. And though the woman-warrior fought for a long time, a blow from Finn reached to her at last and cut through the royal crown, and with a second blow he struck her head off. And then he fell himself in his bed of blood, and was the same as dead, but that he rose again.
And the armies of the World and the Fianna of Ireland were fallen side by side there, and there were none left fit to stand but Cael, son of Crimthan of the Harbours, and the chief man of the household of the King of the World, Finnachta of the Teeth. And Finnachta went among the dead bodies and lifted up the body of the King of the World and brought it with him to his ship, and he said: “Fianna of Ireland,” he said, “although it is bad this battle was for the armies of the World, it was worse for yourselves; and I am going back to tell that in the East of the World,” he said. Finn heard him saying that, and he lying on the ground in his blood, and the best men of the sons of Baiscne about him, and he said: “It is a pity I not to have found death before I heard the foreigner saying those words. And nothing I myself have done, or the Fianna of Ireland, is worth anything since there is left a man of the foreigners alive to go back into the great world again to tell that story. And is there any one left living near me?” he said. “I am,” said Fergus of the True Lips. “What way is the battle now?” said Finn. “It is a pity the way it is,” said Fergus, “for, by my word,” he said, “since the armies met together today, no man of the foreigners or of the men of Ireland took a step backward from one another till they all fell foot to foot, and sole to sole. And there is not so much as a blade of grass or a grain of sand to be seen,” he said, “with the bodies of fighting men that are stretched on them; and there is no man of the two armies that is not stretched in that bed of blood, but only the chief man of the household of the King of the World, and your own foster-son, Cael, son of Crimthan of the Harbours.” “Rise up and go to him,” said Finn. So Fergus went where Cael was, and asked what way was he. “It is a pity the way I am,” said Cael, “for I swear by my word that if my helmet and my armour were taken from me, there is no part of my body but would fall from the other; and by my oath,” he said, “it is worse to me to see that man beyond going away alive than I myself to be the way I am. And I leave my blessing to you, Fergus,” he said; “and take me on your back to the sea till I swim after the foreigner, and it is glad I would be the foreigner to fall by me before the life goes out from my body.” Fergus lifted him up then and brought him to the sea, and put him swimming after the foreigner. And Finnachta waited for him to reach the ship, for he thought he was one of his own people. And Cael raised himself up when he came beside the ship, and Finnachta stretched out his hand to him. And Cael took hold of it at the wrist, and clasped his fingers round it, and gave a very strong pull at him, that brought him over the side. Then their hands shut across one another’s bodies, and they went down to the sand and the gravel of the clear sea.
Then there came the women and the musicians and the singers and the physicians of the Fianna of Ireland to search out the kings and the princes of the Fianna, and to bury them; and every one that might be healed was brought to a place of healing.
And Credhe, wife of Cael, came with the others, and went looking through the bodies for her comely comrade, and crying as she went. And as she was searching, she saw a crane of the meadows and her two nestlings, and the cunning beast the fox watching the nestlings; and when the crane covered one of the birds to save it, he would make a rush at the other bird, the way she had to stretch herself out over the birds; and she would sooner have got her own death by the fox than her nestlings to be killed by him. And Credhe was looking at that, and she said: “It is no wonder I to have such love for my comely sweetheart, and the bird in that distress about her nestlings.”
Then she heard a stag in Druim Ruighlenn above the harbour, that was making great lamentations for his hind from place to place, for they had been nine years together, and had lived in the wood at the foot of the harbour, Fidh Leis, and Finn had killed the hind, and the stag was nineteen days without tasting grass or water, lamenting after the hind. “It is no shame for me,” said Credhe, “I to die for grief after Cael, since the stag is shortening his life sorrowing after the hind.”
Then she met with Fergus of the True Lips. “Have you news of Cael for me, Fergus?” she said. “I have news,” said Fergus, “for he and the last man that was left of the foreigners, Finnachta Fiaclach, are after drowning one another in the sea.”
And at that time the waves had put Cael back on the strand, and the women and the men of the Fianna that were looking for him raised him up, and brought him to the south of the White Strand.
And Credhe came to where he was, and she keened him and cried over him, and she made this complaint:—
“The harbour roars, O the harbour roars, over the rushing race of the Headland of the Two Storms, the drowning of the hero of the Lake of the Two Dogs, that is what the waves are keening on the strand.
“Sweet-voiced is the crane, O sweet-voiced is the crane in the marshes of the Ridge of the Two Strong Men; it is she cannot save her nestlings, the wild dog of two colours is taking her little ones.
“Pitiful the cry, pitiful the cry the thrush is making in the Pleasant Ridge, sorrowful is the cry of the blackbird in Leiter Laeig.
“Sorrowful the call, O sorrowful the call of the deer in the Ridge of Two Lights; the doe is lying dead in Druim Silenn, the mighty stag cries after her.
“Sorrowful to me, O sorrowful to me the death of the hero that lay beside me; the son of the woman of the Wood of the Two Thickets, to be with a bunch of grass under his head.
“Sore to me, O sore to me Cael to be a dead man beside me, the waves to have gone over his white body; it is his pleasantness that has put my wits astray.
“A woeful shout, O a woeful shout the waves are making on the strand; they that took hold of comely Cael, a pity it is he went to meet them.
“A woeful crash, O a woeful crash the waves are making on the strand to the north, breaking against the smooth rock, crying after Cael now he is gone.
“A sorrowful fight, O a sorrowful fight, the sea is making with the strand to the north; my beauty is lessened; the end of my life is measured.
“A song of grief, O a song of grief is made by the waves of Tulcha Leis; all I had is gone since this story came to me. Since the son of Crimthann is drowned I will love no one after him for ever; many a king fell by his hand; his shield never cried out in the battle.”
After she had made that complaint, Credhe laid herself down beside Cael and died for grief after him. And they were put in the one grave, and it was Caoilte raised the stone over them.
And after that great battle of the White Strand, that lasted a year and a day, there was many a sword and shield left broken, and many a dead body lying on the ground, and many a fighting man left with a foolish smile on his face.
And the great name that was on the armies of the World went from them to the Fianna of Ireland; and they took the ships and the gold and the silver and all the spoils of the armies of the World. And from that time the Fianna had charge of the whole of Ireland, to keep it from the Fomor and from any that might come against it.
And they never lost power from that time until the time of their last battle, the sorrowful battle of Gabhra.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:54