The Book of Leinster
Here begins the story of the Boromean Tribute,
A supreme king that reigned over Ireland: Tuathal, called techtmar or 'the possessor,' son of Fiacha fionnfholaidh or 'of the white kine' son of Feradach finnfechtnach or 'the brightly prosperous'; which Tuathal it was that had Ireland forcibly. By him Elim mac Conrach was slain in the battle of Acaill by Tara; five-and-twenty battles he 'broke' on them of Ulster, other twenty-five on Leinster, thirty-one on the men of Munster, and on Connacht twenty-five: all this to avenge the murder of his father and of his grandfather, whom the Plebeian Tribes of Ireland killed; it being upon such those Plebeians that Tuathal broke all these battles. Then he sat down in Tara, and Tara's Feast was held by him; thither to him flocked all Ireland: both men and women, both lads and lasses, and by all the elements pledged themselves that neither against himself nor against his seed would they ever to all eternity strive for Ireland's sovereignty. The provincial kings present at that festival were these: Fergus of Febhal, king of Ulster; Eoghan son of Ailill érann, king of Cúroi's province or 'West-Munster'; Daire's son Eocho, king of the province of Eochaid mac Luchta or 'Thomond'; Conrach son of Derg, king of Connacht; and Eocho son of Eochaid doimhlén, that ruled Leinster.
Now Tuathal had two daughters, loving and beloved: Fithir and Dáirine their names were, and the elder of them (for in Ireland at that time it was not use and wont that the younger should 'be bedded before the elder's face,' i.e. be married before her) Eochaid doimhlén's son took to wife and brought home to ráth imil in Leinster: this daughter of Tuathal's being also dear fosterling to the king of Connacht above. Leinster however said to their king: "thou hast left behind the better one"; wherefore again he went north to Tara, and to Tuathal said: "the girl that I took away is dead, and now am I fain to take thine other daughter." Tuathal made answer: "had I daughters one-and-fifty, in order that thou mightest enjoy a wife of them they should all be given to thee." The other maiden therefore: Dairine, that was fosterling to the king of Ulster, was given to him and her too he carried to ráth imil, where the first one was before her. When then Fithir saw Dairine, straightway she died for shame; when this latter witnessed her sister's death she likewise died, for grief.
The truth of this story travelled as far as Tara, and to Tuathal, from whom word was carried to the king of Connacht: Fithir's foster-father, and to Dairine's: the king of Ulster. These gathered together their forces to the spot where Tuathal techtmar was, and when they were met in the one place he said: "a great and heinous deed hath the king of Leinster done, in that of his deceitfulness the death of both my daughters is come about"; and even as he spoke he made a lay:—
"Fithir and Dairine, predatory Tuathal's daughters twain..."
What Connacht said now was that from Leinster they would not accept aught but battle; the same it was that Ulster pronounced; but the king of Ireland said: "I indeed care not to give Leinster battle; nevertheless, and if your resolve it be, let all in general march straightways upon them." Together they numbered twelve thousand, and Connacht took their way over Guala to Naas, where they camped; Tara's host, with the king of Ireland, rose out over Buaidghen, over Righe, over magh Nuadhat or'Maynooth' to Naas, and there took camp; over Esa, over Odhba, over Fithart, over Faendruim, Ulster rose out and on to Lethduma, where they pitched. Leinster set on to meet them, and to Ulster gave battle so that Fergus of Febhal their king fell, also the Borbraighe of Ulster.
Again the allied armies rose out: Naas, Aillenn or 'Dunallen,' Maistiu or 'Mullaghmast,' Ráiriu or 'Mullaghreelion' they burned, and levelled báirc Bresail: a mansion of imperishable wood which once Bresal called brathairchenn, emperor of the World, procured to be made. Leinster, to the number of nine thousand, march to meet them; and at ráth imil, which to-day is called the garbthonnach, they gave battle—a wrathful ruthless battle was fought betwixt them, and Leinster (because fair play was not conceded them) were routed; in which engagement were slain Eocho son of Eochaid doimhlén, king of Leinster, and together with him twenty other kings [chiefs of note]. From harvest's first beginning to samhain-tide, inception of winter, Conn's Half harried Leinster until, upon the terms of both his daughters' blood-price to be paid him, Leinster in the end made peace with Tuathal, who thereupon committed the government thereof to Erc son of Eocho above. Now the blood-price was this:—
Thrice fifty times an hundred cows, thrice fifty hundred swine; mantles as many, and chains of silver; thrice fifty hundred wethers; the same of copper cauldrons, and (to be set in Tara's house itself) one great copper reservoir in which should fit twelve pigs and twelve kine; thirty cows, red-eared, with calves of their colour, with halters and spancels of bronze and, over and above that, with bosses of gold; concerning all which one sang:—
"Tuathal the Possessor: all earth's productions they were that used to come to Tuathal to his house..."
Subsequently, Tuathal fell by the hand of Mál son of Rochraide at móin in chatha or 'the battle moor,' he having just completed one hundred and ten years, thirty of which he had passed in supreme rule of Ireland. Next, the same Mal assumed that rule, and lifted the boromha or 'Boromean Tribute'; again, Felim called rechtaidh or 'the legist' levied it from Cú chorb, who by Felim was slain in battle; then after many battles Felim's son Conn lifted it; Conn's son-in-law, Conaire, took it; Art [son of Conn] began to reign, and demanded the boromha but never secured it without a battle; Art's son Cormac lifted it, and one year so did Fergus Blacktooth.
Then Cormac mac Art's son Cairbre Lifechair reigned, and upon them of Leinster proceeded to levy the Tribute; but what Bresal bélach son of Fiacha baicidh said, was that without a battle for it he would not yield it. By Cairbre hereat a general muster of the Northern Half was led to cnámhros or 'Bonewood' in Leinster; which province were gathered together to the Garbthonnach, and Bresal enquired of them: "how shall we deliver the battle?" then he made a lay:—
"Give us now your counsel, O ye of the sore wounded province: tell us, ye right men of Leinster, whether is it peace ye would, or war..."
The head men of the province answered: "let a messenger, O Bresal, be despatched from thee to Finn son of Cumall." "It shall be none other than myself, if I but have your consent." Southwards he took his way therefore, to rinn deiscirt, which to-day men call rinn Dubháin ailithir or 'Duane the Hermit's point,' where Finn mac Cumall was, and in the house of Ireland's prime champion tidings were requested of the king of Leinster. Then the king rehearsed all the illegalities wrought on him, and said: "for none other that perchance should come to relieve Leinster's province of this oppressive tax could that same be kinder than for thee;" and even as he spoke he made a lay:—
"Arisest thou, O Finn, as partisan in fight—with Leinster wilt thou be on the one side?..."
Then Finn, his Fianna being with him, rose and marched (their left hand to the Barrow) to the point of ros broc or 'Brock-wood' upon that river. The royal commander seated himself on a ridge that overhung the wood, and beheld a melodious immaterial host that in companies ascended to Heaven and again descended. "What host is that?" the Fianna asked, and Finn said: "Angels those are, the Household of Heaven's King and Earth's; and táilchenns they are that yet shall come hither, even where yonder Angels are."
Now in this town were three that to Finn were own condisciples of yore: three sons of Fiacha mac Conga, whose names were Molling luath or 'the swift,' Cellach cael or 'the slender,' and Braen; and the Fianna had not long been there when they saw towards them swift Molling, whom when Finn perceived he made this lay:—
"Molling luath, Cellach, good Braen: Fiacha's three sons endowed with nature fierce . . ."
Molling enquired: "wherefore are ye come hither?" and Finn said: "the king of Leinster that is come to lodge a complaint with us respecting hardship and violence done him, inasmuch as all Ireland with Cairbre lifechair have given him the alternative either to fight or to suffer that they lift the Tribute. Hence we desire to come and lend Leinster a helping hand in battle." What Molling told Finn then, was that not with any small number he ought to meet the Monarch followed as he was by all Ireland; now Finn's strength there was fifteen hundred officers having thirty men apiece [46,500 all told]. Molling went on: "abide with us then for this night, and thou shalt have many dainties, which—how far soever apart the places out of which they must be procured—shall be brought together in the one spot"; and even as he addressed Finn he made a lay:—
"In the Brock-wood thou shalt have, O Finn of the battle . . ."
After this, the Fianna rose simultaneously and slipped their wolfdogs; upon these and his multitude the commander gazed, and said: "a place trampled by hunting parties ros broc is tonight;" and he made a lay:—
"Rosbrock this day is a resort of hounds . . ."
To Molling luatlt's fine mansion they took their way accordingly; there every one of them was ranged according to rank and degree of honour, and music played so that from one corner to the other the entire house was flooded with harmony.
In front of the chief commander were three warriors, whose names were: Miledan, Ethledan, and Enan na huarbhoithe or 'of the cold bothie,' this latter in the middle between the other two; and here now follows 'Enan's Vision concerning the Boromha':—
What he had just seen was: clerics, arrayed in fine textile silken vestments, that before him [i.e. as it seemed to him] gave Mass, he too himself being among them and helping them to perform Mass; the clergy there present [in his dream] being the Molling and his clerics of the future. Then Enan rose, and round about him examined the crowd [of Fianna arrived during his ecstasy]; they were a source of wonder to him, and he made a lay predicting that clergy should come thither:—
"Rós broc, a town of much contention, that stands over fair clear Barrow's lymph . . .*
Three days and three nights Finn with his force passed in that place, until out of every airt all Ireland's Fianna were come in to him. They all drew on to ráth imil (which to-day is called the Garbthonnach), and Finn mac Cumall the chief commander enquired: "where here perished the young women because of whom this tribute is lifted from Leinster?" The spot being indicated to him, he sat down there and made a lay:—
"A terrible deed it was that was done here,] and one through which men did incur great enmity . . ."
That night then the Fianna tarried at the Garbthonnach, and on the early morrow rose to join the king of Leinster; the weight of them, that of the Galianic province or 'Leinster' also [when their junction was effected], all together set their faces to Conn's Half: and the place in which they were now was cnámhros or 'Bonewood' above. Between the parties was fought a hardy battle: on either side equally valorous, emulous alike; yet for all that the North could not make shift to hold out, but were defeated so that there were slain of them nine thousand along with Cairbre lifechair's three sons: Eochaid, Eochaid doimhlén, and Fiacha called sraibhtine or 'of the fire-showers'; whence it was said:—
"The battle at Cnámhros . . ."
After which the Boramha was not levied on Leinster until by Dunlaing son of Enna Nia the thirty royal maidens, with to each one of them a hundred young women, were slain in Tara (whence the claenfherta or 'sloping mounds' there) so that again the Boramha was imposed on Leinster. Many a battle Leinster fought in the matter of the Tribute, from that time forth and until Laeghaire son of Niall acquired Ireland's sovereignty; which battles and the chief deaths were these: the battle of Maynooth, won by Bresal bélach; the battle of Cruachan claenta also, by Labradh against Eochaid muighmedóin; twelve battles that Enna 'broke on' Niall of the Nine Hostages, and the latter's slaughter at the hands of Enna's son Eochaid at the Iccian sea.
Then Niall's son Laeghaire, I say, reigned over Ireland; he gathers the North with him to lift the Boramha, and on a hosting enters into Leinster: he that at that period was king of the province being Enna cinnselach or 'the quarrelsome,' son of Bresal bélach's son Labradh. Leinster rally around Enna, and give Laeghaire battle: the battle of áth dara or 'Adare' upon the Barrow; there the latter is defeated, a 'red slaughter' of Conn's Half made, and their heads are collected so that in magh Ailbhe or 'Moyalvy' on Barrow-side a cairn of them was made. Laeghaire himself was taken: he promised that never for all time would he lift the Boramha, and to spare him; he farther pledged himself with guarantee of the Elements that to all eternity no more would he intrude into Leinster to levy it—all which points were the very ones that he did not fulfil, for at the end of two years and a half he came and at sídh Nechtain took kine. For which reason it was that on the bank of the stream called cas or 'the crooked' the Elements meted out death to Laeghaire, as: Earth to swallow him, Sun to scorch him, Wind [his breath] to pass away from him; of which is said:—
"Laeghaire perished, son of Niall . . ."
Afterwards Ailill molt son of Dathi swayed Ireland, and lifts the Boramha. These now are the battles which Leinster won against him and against the other kings that reigned after him, down to Aedh son of Ainmire: the battles of Luachair in Bregia, of dumha Aichir, of Ocha, all against Ailill molt; and in this last he fell, likewise Crimthann mac Enna. The battles of Grainne, of Tortan, of druim Ladhgann, of brigh Eile, of Fremhain in Meath, won by Failghe roth (nomen illius magni regis) son of Cathaeir; twenty-eight battles won by Dunlaing, through S. Bridget's word [intercession]; the battles of Magh ochtair (won against Lughaid mac Laeghaire), of Druim dá maighe, of dún Másc, of Ocha alachath, of Slaibre, of Cenn sratha, of Finnabhair, all gained by Ailill mac Dunlaing; one gained by Coirpre illadach; the battle of druim Laeghaire won by Angus and Fergus, Crimthann mac Enna's two sons, against Dermot son of Cerbhall. Thus, though the kings that had Tara did indeed lift the Boromha, very many of them there were that never got it without a battle [i.e. but few of them did so].
Now Aedh mac Ainmirech reigned over Ireland, and his sons were these: Donall, Maelcoba the cleric, Gabhrán and Cumascach. Which last came to discourse his father, and said to him: "I desire to make 'a stripling's free circuit of Ireland,' and the wife of every king in Ireland shall pass a night with me." He set out therefore on a free excursion round about Ireland, and so arrived from the yonside over Righe, making for Leinster; his strength was four battalions. He that at such time was king over Leinster was Brandubh, son of Eochaid son of Muiredach son of Angus brugach son of Felim son of Enna cinnselach; it was told him that the king of Ireland's son, on free progress bound, drew near him, and says he: "let messengers meet them; and be it told them that I am not there, but gone among the Britons to lift rent and tribute. Have them billeted through the country from Boyne to the Inneoin, and let every man slay them that thus are quartered on him; but let Cumascach himself, having with him three hundred sons of chiefs, come to me and, even as the other provincial kings have done, so will I too give him my wife." The billeting was duly carried out, and the fourth battle of them reached Brandubh's mansion in belach dubhtaire, which to-day men call belach Conghlaise or 'Baltinglass.' Then Cumascach 'sat down' [pitched] in the town's close; people came to meet and to look after him, and they were all drafted off into the one house.
On this day it was that Dunlaing's grandson Maedoc came to Brandubh, and he bringing with him presents: a flesh-hook, a cauldron, a shield, a sword, which he exhibited to the king and made a lay the while:—
"Here be presents for a king . . ."
With that Maedoc takes leave of Brandubh, with uttering of these few words:—
"My fleshfork of three prongs, and powerful to lift . . ."
Maedoc departed; but Brandubh assumed a slave's garb and summoned to him Airnelach son of Airmedach, king of Offaley, to whom he said: "proceed we now to set yon cauldron on a fire, and with swine and beeves to fill up the same." They had it lifted on to a fire accordingly, and charged with hogs and beeves; then all about it a huge red flaring bonfire was kindled, which soon brought it to a boil.
Then it was that the king of Ireland's son said: "but where is Brandubh's wife?" and messengers were sent from him to fetch the queen. She came to confer with him, and with welcome greeted the monarch's son, saying also: "grant me a boon." "What boon seekest thou?" he asked. "Soon said," was her answer: "concede me that I be not stayed till I have done with serving out meat to the multitude, and until I buy off mine honour from them." That favour was yielded her, whereupon she went her ways till she gained the devious hidden shelter of dún Buichet, and so abandoned the town altogether.
Just then it was that Cumascach's lampoonist Glasdamh (accompanied with his nine of the craft) came to solicit of them that tended the cauldron a first helping by way of perquisite, and Brandubh [in his disguise] said: "is it thyself that in thine own behalf wilt give a stroke of the flesh-hook, or shall it be I?" The jester answered: "e'en make it thou." So Brandubh thrust in the hook, and at one stroke brought up nine pieces; then the lampooner began narrowly to examine him, and said: "by my word and sooth, that is no serfs deal, but a king's!" and away he carried his portion to the house of the king's son, who also expressed the same opinion.
Then it was that to Angus, son of Airmedach, Brandubh said: "let us have a barrow laden and taken to the king of Ireland's son." So it was done, and the two kings: Brandubh and Angus, after hoisting the barrow on them, bear it laboriously into Cumascach's presence; out they came again, and after them (for in either man of the two was the strength of nine) shut to the mansion's huge door. Now were four fires set to the house: one to every side [i.e. it was set on fire in four places], and Cumascach said: "who is it takes the house on us?" "I, even I!" Brandubh answered; and then it was that Glasdamh the scurrile jester cried: "on me at any rate let not a deed of shame be wrought, for I have eaten thy meat!" "There shall not any such be done," Brandubh returned: "climb up the house therefore and get on the roofs ridgepole; leap out over the top of the flames and, in so far as regards us, thou shalt be safe." "Cumascach," said the jester, "thou hast heard: take then my duds about thee and away out!" In such guise Cumascach went out, and was shattered greatly; feebly he made his way to mdin Chumascaigh or 'Cumascach's moor,' right against the green of cill Rannairech. There it was that Ldichin lonn, grandson of Lonan, and Herenach of that church, lighted on him and, so soon as Cumascach had declared himself to him, struck off his head. He took it to where Brandubh was, and exhibited it to him; wherefore it was that freedom [exemption] was granted to cill Rannairech.
Then it was that bishop Aidan came to them: bishop of Glendaloch, that was 'mother's son' [half brother] to Aedh mac Ainmirech, and what the churchman said was: "these be great deeds [deaths] that ye have executed." Brandubh asked: "upon whom will such be avenged?" the cleric answered: "I care not though it were upon my mother's son, Aedh mac Ainmirech"; and he made a lay:—
"A Lord all powerful I implore— Lord of cill Rannairech . . ."
To Brandubh bishop Aidan continued: "let there an embassage be sent from thee to Ailech, to Aedh mac Ainmirech's house, and be it told him that his son is slain." "It shall be despatched," Brandubh assented, and he made a lay:—
"From me let messengers proceed to Ailech . . ."
Northward they travelled then and reached Ailech, where the king of Ireland required of them that they had to tell; and what they replied was this: "as for the matter with which we are charged, without a price we will not declare it." Aedh said: "here is this horn for you:" whence the designation of 'Leinster's Horn' in Ailech. Then they tell their news: "by us thy son is killed, and slaughter of his people made." "Those tidings we have heard already," said the king, "yet for all that ye shall get away whole; but if we come after you, ye shall see." Out of the North the envoys returned to where Brandubh was, and impart to him the king of Ireland's appointment to enter Leinster and avenge his son.
By Ainmire's son Aedh a general gathering of Conn's Half was made now, and they progressed as far as the Righe. It was told to Brandubh that the men of Ireland were at the Righe (the place where he himself was being Scadharc in úi Chinnselaigh), and he marched northward, crossing Muintech and Muinichin and Daimhne, Etar, Ardehaillidh, ard mBresta, the Slaney, and over Fé into belach dubhtaire (now called belach Conghlais or 'Baltinglass') his own dún.
At this stage it was that bishop Aidan sought out Brandubh, who said: "Cleric, thou hast news!" The prelate answered: "and it is that the North are at Baeth ebha by dún Buaice, where they have just pitched camp and secured themselves." "Thou then, Cleric, get thee away to thy mother's son, to Aedh son of Ainmire, and in our behalf request of him a truce until such time as our forces have come in to us; after which he shall have either peace or war [as he may desire]." The cleric sought the king of Ireland's tent, and welcome was accorded him; then his errand was required, and he declared how Brandubh was at ráth Branduibh on the Slaney. "Wherefore comest thou in especial?" asked Aedh. "To petition for a present suspension, with a view to either peace or war [as may fall out] later on." "That truce thou never shalt have until thou execute such and such a ribald gesture." Then the ecclesiastic is incensed, and cries: "if God knoweth me, may a bitch wolf carry off to yonder tulach the three dearest members that thou hast!" And it came true; whence from that time to this the name of trtbhall or 'three-limb-place' is given it.
Anger took the king of Ireland; he rose, the men of Ireland rose, and they came on their way bringing with them Aidan the bishop. They reached belach dúin bolg, and the king queried: "what is the name of this belach or 'pass'?" "This is belach dúin bolg or 'pass of the dún of sacks.'" "What sacks are they at all?" pursued the king. "The men of Ireland's provision bags, which this night Leinster will occasion to be left there," the cleric answered. They came on, and to a flagstone, where again the king asked: "and what is this great grey stone's name?" The cleric said: "lic chomairt chnámh or 'the flag of bone-smashing.'" "What bones now can they be?" "It is so called because that to-night thy bones will be broken on it, and thy head taken off." Onward they came still, to berna na sciath, where: "what might be this gap's name?" the king questioned, and the bishop said: "berna na sciath or 'the gap of shields.'" "And what shields are they?" "Those of Conall and of Eoghan [i.e. of their posterity], which to-night will be left there."
The men of Erin crossed that gap, then they took hold and camp; but bishop Aidan repaired to Brandubh, and the king sought his news. The cleric stated that all Ireland were leaguered at cill Bélat or 'S. Bélait's church,' adding that at their hands he had not had honour [i.e. had been dishonoured].
Then said Brandubh: "Clerk, what is thy counsel to us?" "Soon said," quoth the bishop: "in this rath's outer ditch have thou a candle of the very hugest dipped; next be there brought thee three hundred teams with, in each one of them, twelve oxen; upon these let white paniers be charged, which shall hold great number of young men overlaid with straw and, over all again, a layer of actual victual. Be there moreover brought thee thrice fifty unbroken horses, and to their tails be fastened bags; for the purpose of stampeding Ireland's horse-herds let such then be filled with pebbles. Let that great taper, with the cauldron 'about its head' [i.e. shading it], precede thee until thou gain the centre of their camp; send in the meantime a message to the king of Ireland, purporting that to-night the provant of Leinster will be supplied to him."
This plan was executed by Brandubh; but while they were busied with it he said: "it were better for me that I went myself to spy out the house; thou therefore, Clerk, come with me." "I will," he answered.
Brandubh, having with him six score young men that brought along a single horse, set out now (the cleric accompanying them in his chariot) from that spot, and so on till they came and were upon the one side of sídh Nechtain. The ecclesiastic looked abroad, and down upon the camp, over which he saw as it were a motley birdflock of all diverse colours, but without progression; he asked therefore: "what manner of pied birdflock is it we sec?" and Brandubh replied: "the men of Erin's standards on staves and javelins over their bothies." Then the cleric uttered:—
"Standards I see . . ."
Aidan the bishop departs from them now to his own church, and immediately Brandubh saw the mountain all filled with striplings: the striplings that were there being Ulidia's, that followed Dermot son of Aedh róin. The king of Leinster's sons and his household surrounded them, and they [the youths] were seized by the neck. "Who are ye?" asked the Leinstermen. "Ulidia's lads, with the king of Ulidia's son." This was reported to Ulidia, and they rose out: seven thousand seven hundred being their number, both lay and cleric; they approached near to Brandubh, and said: "wherefore hast thou taken our young fellows?" "To relieve myself of your full-grown men of war," he answered. "Thou shalt be relieved of them for ever," the king of Ulster said, "and a pact of amity shall be made between us, and unity, for such was the very thing foretold by Conor mac Fachtna's dream;" and the king declared the vision, saying:—-
"I being in my sleep did see a wondrous dream: knowcth any one of you its true interpretation? I saw that a vat of crystal with the burnished hue of gold I had on miclfloor of my mansion, at Bregia on the Boyne. This vat's one third was of men's blood (a wonderful set-out), while in its inside was new milk but a third. Another third was sparkling wine (a marvel 'twas to me); men too with bowed heads, and come across the inarticulate sea, surrounded it. All Leinster, many though they be, and with the multitude of their achievements—to them I have yielded up my heart's affection, and with it mine intelligence."
For Conor had seen that dream, in which farther he witnessed Leinster and Ulidia round the vat and drinking from it. "I know it all," said he: "the fellowship foretold here is that the blood seen in the vat is that of the two provinces in conflict; the new milk being the dominical canon which the clergy of both provinces chant; the wine, Christ's Body and Blood which they offer up." Then he went on expounding it, and made a lay:—
"Make we our compact, a compact may it be for ever . . ."
Leinster's saints and Ulidia's sat down on the mountain and entered into a fellowship that never should be dissolved. Brandubh proposed to the king of Ulidia that from the king of Ireland's camp he should sunder his own, and the other asked: "but how may we effect it?" "Easily answered," said Brandubh: "on the very ground taken up by the king of Ireland pitch ye too your camp, and ye will be quarrelled with; never put up with that, so shall ye part from them." Ulidia did as Brandubh suggested; Conall and Eoghan rose up against them and, or ever they could be separated, had killed two hundred of them. Thence Ulidia moved off to inis Ulad or 'Ulidia's isle,' in which with their spears they dug a ditch about them; their horses they bestowed between themselves and daingen na m6na.
Again bishop Aidan turned to seek Brandubh, and what he said was: "great in very deed was the dishonour that my mother's son did me, I mean Aedh mac Ainmirech; God will avenge it on him "; and he made this quatrain:—
"A fragment of Aedh mac Ainmirech..."
He continued: "upon Kilcullen's green it shall fall down from the raven [that carries it], and until seven years' end the little boys of Kilcullen shall make a ball of it. The seminary of Kildare will come, and that same ball one of them shall steal; they will put it to another derisory use, and have it till seven more years be out . Then shall Maedoc's seminary of adult clerks come to Kildare, and again a man of them shall steal it; from which time forth I see not what becomes of it. Also this mountain on which the cotach or 'fellowship' is made: sliabh in chotaigh henceforth shall be its name, i.e. 'mountain of fellowship' or 'Slievegadoe,' whereas hitherto it has been sliabh Nechtain." With that the cleric departs.
Upon his only horse Brandubh starts to look for single combat from the men of Erin; and he that came from them to meet him was Blathach, the king of Ireland's master of the horse, and 'the king's horse under him' [i.e. and he mounted on the king's horse]. Now the manner of Blathach was that he was virulent and fierce; also he never threw a spear that missed its mark. All which however profited him nothing: for he fell by the hand of Brandubh, who also struck off his head at dth blathachta (which to-day is named áth Blathcha or 'Blathach's ford').
This triumph won, and he having the king of Ireland's horse as well, Brandubh returned and, according as bishop Aidan had prescribed, his oxen and horses aforesaid are brought in to him. Then he said: "can I have one to go spy out the camp and the king, and to be there awaiting us till we shall come up? for which service he shall have a stipulated fee: if he be slain, Heaven to be his from Leinster's clergy; but should he escape, his own tuath or 'district' exempt of charges, besides the freedom of mine own [and my successors'] table to himself and to his representative [for ever]." Securities for this were given, and: "I will go," said Rón cerr son of Dubhánach, i.e. the king of Imale's son. "Give me now," he went on, "a calf's blood and dough of rye, that they be smeared on me; be there a capacious hood too furnished me, and a wallet." All was done, so that he resembled any leper. A wooden leg was brought him; into the cleft of it he thrust his knee, and in this get-up (with a sword under his raiment) went his way to the place where Ireland's notables were, in front of Aedh mac Ainmirech's tent. Tidings were asked of him, and what he said was that he came from cill Bélat: "at early morn I went to Leinster's camp; in my absence people came, and my hut, my quern, my great spade and my oratory have been destroyed." "Twenty milch kine from me in compensation of the same," said the king of Ireland, "if I come whole out of this hosting; and go now into the tent: there shalt thou have a nine men's room, tithe of my mess, and the whole household's fragments. But what do Leinster?" he enquired. "They are busied with preparing of victual for you, and never have ye had meat with which ye were sated better [than ye will be with this]: they seethe their swine, their beeves, their bacon-hogs." "Curse them for it!" cried Kinelconall and Kinelowen. "A pair of warrior's eyes are what I see in the leper's head," said the king. "Alas for thee and thy notion of keeping Ireland's sovereignty, if it be at my eyes that alarm pervades thee!" "By no manner of means is that so," answered the king: "but send now and fetch Dubhdúin king of Oriel." He appeared, and the monarch said to him: "thou, taking with thee Oriel's battalion, proceed southerly to bun Aife and to the cruadabhall; there keep watch and ward that Leinster surprise not our camp." According as the king had commanded them they marched therefore.
Then it was that Aedh mac Ainmirech said to his horseboy: "bring me now Columbkill'scowl, that this night it be on me and serve me for a safeguard against Leinster." For Columbkill had promised him that never should he be killed while he wore his cowl, as thus: Aedh once on a time had asked the Saint: "how many kings, Cleric, from among them of whom thyself thou hast had cognisance, will win to Heaven?" and Columbkill's answer was: "certain it is that I know of none but three kings only, and they were [Cairbre called] daimhín damhargait, king of Oriel; Ailill bannda, king of Connacht; Feradach fionn mac Duach, of the corca Laighe, king of Ossory." "And what good wrought these beyond all other kings?" asked Aedh. "Soon said," the Saint rejoined: "Daimhín to begin with—from him no clerk ever came away with refusal of his prayer; he never reviled an ecclesiastic; nor sacred person nor church did he ever vex, and much substance he dedicated to the Lord. For this gentleness that he used to the Lord's people therefore he went to Heaven, and the clergy still chant his litany.
"As touching Ailill bannda, the matter whereby he had the Lord's peace was this: the battle of cúil Chonaire it was, which he fought against clann Fiachrach and in which he was defeated, when [as they retreated] he said to his charioteer: 'cast now, I pray thee, a look to the rear and discover whether the killing be great, and the slayers near to us.' The driver looked behind him, and replied: 'the slaughter that is made of thy people is intolerable!' 'Not their own guilt, but my pride and unrighteousness it is that comes against them,' said the king: 'wherefore turn me now the chariot to face the pursuers; for if I be slain, it will be a redemption of many.' Then Ailill did earnest act of penance, and by his foemen fell. That man therefore," said Columbkill, "attained to the Lord's peace."
He continued: "as for Feradach fionn mac Duach, king of Ossory, he was a covetous and unconscionable man who, though it were but a solitary scruple whether of gold or of silver that he heard of as possessed by any in his country, would by force make his own of it that he might apply it to the decoration of drinking-horns, of crannoges, of swords, of chess-boards and -men. In process of time sickness that might not be endured [for long] came upon him, and his treasures were brought together to him so that he had them by him in his bed. Then his enemies, i.e. the children of Connla, came 'to take the house on him'; his own sons also came to carry away [and secure] all the precious things; but said he: 'sons, ye shall not take them; for, because many a one I have persecuted to get those treasures, even therefore I for God's sake desire that in this hither world I in my turn be tormented for them and of my own free will resign them to my enemies, to the end the Lord torment me not 'yonder' [i.e. in the future state].' Hereupon his sons went out from him; the king for his part did fervent act of penance, and at his foes' hands perished. He then has the Lord's peace."
"And now as to myself," said Aedh: "am I to have the Lord's peace?" but Columbkill made answer: "no, not on any account whatsoever!" Then he pleaded: "Cleric, procure me from the Lord that Leinster have not the victory over me." "Alas for that," said the Saint: "for of them my mother was; wherefore they came to me to Durrow, and made as though they would 'fast upon me' till I should grant them a sister's son's appeal: that which they besought of me being that never should an extern king prevail against them. This then I have promised to them; howbeit here is my cowl, by virtue of which (if only it be on thee) thou never shalt be slain."
Such now was the cowl which at this season Aedh demanded of his gilla; but the latter said: "that cowl we have left behind in Ailech." To which Aedh replied: "all the more likely then that by Leinster this night I shall be left lying!"
To resume our account of Brandubh: with loud outcry his horse-troops and ox-teams were incited; he formed up his battalions, and with gloom of night marched till; Oriel heard first a pit-a-pat, and then the great host's full dull sound, with snorting of the horses, puffing of the oxen under the wains. Oriel sprang up and stood to their arms, challenging: "who goes there?" "Soon told," the answer came: "Leinster's gillas, laden with the king of Ireland's provision!" Oriel drew near, and according as each man of them put up a hand [to the loads] he would find under his touch either a porker or a beef. They said therefore: "'tis true for them: let them pass on"; and further: "let us too go along with them, that in the serving out of these rations we be not forgotten." So Oriel betook them to their camp huts; Leinster held on to cnoc na caindle or 'hill of the candle' [as it is called since], and there the cauldron was taken from the taper. "What light is yon that we see?" asked the king, and: "soon said," the leper answered: "it is the food that's come"; whereat he rose, took off his tree leg, and his hand stole to his sword. From the ox-teams their loads were lifted down; the horses were turned loose among those of the men of Erin, so that they were frenzied with fear and broke down their owners' bothies and tents. Out of their hampers now Leinster rose (as it were a surging flood that leaps against the cliffs), with their sword-hilts in their grasp, their shields held by the straps, and clad in their hooded mail. "And who be these?" Kinelconall and Kinelowen enquired; the leper answered: "they that are to serve out the viands." "Bless us all," said the others again, "but they are many!" Then Conall and Eoghan in their turn rose, and if they did, they were but as hands thrust into a nest of snakes. Round about the king of Ireland they threw a bulwark of spears and shields; himself they constrained to mount his horse, and they led him away to berna na sciath or 'the gap of shields,' in front of which the men of Erin now abandon theirs [and hence the name]. Ron cerr charged at the monarch, and in striving to reach him slew nine men; Dubhdúin king of Oriel interposing between the two, he and Rón cerr encountered and by the latter he of Oriel fell. Again Ron launched himself at the king; but Fergus son of Flathrí, king of Tulach óg, comes between them and he too falls by Rón. Yet a third time he rushes for the king; he grasps him by the leg, drags him down from his horse, and on lic chomaigh chndmh as aforesaid hews off his head. Then he takes to him his bag that he had brought, turns out the broken victuals, and puts in the head; into the mountain tracks he gets himself privily away, and until morning there keeps close. But Leinster followed up the North and made red slaughter of them; on the morrow the whole force in triumph and exultation sought the spot where Brandubh was; Rón cerr arrives, and lays before him Aedh mac Ainmircch's head. There then you have 'the battle of Dún bolg, an episode in the History of the Boromha': in which battle it was that Beg also, son of Cuanu, perished.
Subsequently the following lifted the Tribute: Colman rímid or 'the celebrated,' and Aedh uairidhnach or 'of the shivering disease [ague]'; Maelcoba, Suibhne menn, Donall son of Aedh, Cellach and Conall cael; Blathmac and Dermot, Maelcoba's two sons. Blathmac's son ruled Ireland afterwards, but never drove the Boromha; once however he mustered the North and made his plaint to them, saying:—
"Give me your counsel, race of comely Eoghan: shall we attack gallant Leinster, or shall we tarry in our homes?"
Conall and Eoghan came then, the men of Bregia also, and of Meath, so far as lerg mnd fine. Leinster marched against them (their king at the time being Faelan son of Colgu), and they fought a battle. In the result the Tribute is left with Leinster.
Cennfaeladh son of Crunnmael ruled for four years, till he fell by Finnachta [his nephew]. Then Finnachta fledhach or 'the festive,' son of Dunchadh, held Ireland for twenty years and twice brought off the Boromha sine renitenlia; the third time that he came to lift it Leinster rose against him. A great gathering of the North was made by him to láthrach Muiredach or 'Murray's site,' in the marches of Leinster and Meath. Intelligence of this reaches Bran son of Conall [king of Leinster], by whom the province is called out and they repair (both lay and clerk) to Dunallen. Howbeit Molling came not with them, so they sent to fetch him; and where he was just then was at ros broc (which at this present time is called tech Molling, i.e. 'Molling's house 'or 'S. Mullen's'), for from the time when first he came from sruthair Guaire, i.e. 'Guaire's stream' or 'Shrule,' until he gained ros broc, he had not found a place of habitation: unde Molling cecinit:—
"Hither to come I was resolved; here 'tis that I will say mine hours; until the Judgment's Day shall come, from this same dwelling I will never part..."
So soon as that summons reached Molling, he assembled his familia and made a lay:—
"A well-beloved trio, O Christ benign and glorious..."
So Molling took his way to Dunallen, where Leinster were; by all a very gentle welcome was extended to him, and he sat down at the king of Leinster's side.
Then said Bran: "what scheme of action shall be ours— whether shall we give battle to the North, or just put our trust in our saints and so go to crave that the Boromha be remitted? and again: should we have recourse to the saints, then which one of Leinster's holy men shall we send to solicit such remission?" and, even as he spoke he made a lay:—
"Proclaim to us, O Tuathal son of Ailill the terrible, whom shall Leinster have from luathmaigh..."
And Bran of the lofty head continued, fortifying Molling:—
"Molling! arise and, armed with genuine piety, do a thing to preserve us: northward go..."
He went, and bade Tollchenn of cluain ena, the poet, accompany him to the king of Ireland's house in order that he it should be that should chant the panegyric which Molling had made; and the Saint as he girded on his vesture for the journey uttered these words:—
"In name of the Trinity..."
They took their way to the house of Cobthach mac Colman in úi Faeldin, and a banquet was spread for them so that they were satisfied. But to the man of verse his own posse of bards and minstrels said here: "we grudge thy belonging to a mere cleric's company [as at present we must be called]"; and the poet answered: "well then, leave we the clergy and let us get on ahead of them to the king of Ireland's house." So they did and, all being arrived there, the rhymer sang Molling's duan and said that 'twas he had made it.
Touching the Saint: on the morrow he rose, but the bardic choir was not forthcoming, and: "just so," said he—"what the rhymester has done is to slip away with my poem, which he will sell to the monarch." He took his way across a strip of Finnmhagh which to-day is named magh nEchain, and up through magh Cláraigh till he reached láthrach Muiredaigh. The men of Erin's lads, accompanying Finnachta's son Donnghilla, rose at them and (their advent being already beforehand announced to them) let fly a volley of [previously prepared] sods, stones and stumps, so that . . . not . . . [Molling nevertheless] held on [until he entered] the king's [presence], but never met with [either salutation or welcome], whereat he was much mortified. Colgu, son of Macnach son of Dubhanach, however, and Colgu's son Dermot rise before him, and the latter 'raises his knee' to him: the way in which at the time they were situated being that they sat over the leg which supported one angle of a couch. Molling in consequence blessed that Colgu, and Dermot his son. Now ensued a colloquy anent those same youngsters aforesaid, and [when they were gone to hunt] they threw at a wild deer; but a spear of them penetrated Donnghilla mac Finnachta's tenga orcan so that he died presently (all in satisfaction of Molling's plaint for his affront) and great clamour of weeping was made for him. "Thine own son Donnghilla 'tis that is fallen to salve mine honour," said Molling [to the king when they heard the cry]. "Cleric, raise the lad and thou shalt have the price of it." The Saint answered: "in lieu of my poem and of thy son's resurrection, along with Heaven secured to thyself, naught ask I but a respite from the Boramha until Monday"; and the king said: "that thou shalt have." Molling stepped to him: by the Trinity and the dominical Four Gospels he bound him; he imposed on him a covenant with penal clauses, and sang this duan:—
"Finnachta of the úi Néill—as the sun, so is his strength . . ."
"Worse and worse we deem thy design," said the king, "now that thou tellest a lie: inasmuch as the poem that Tollchenn the bard made, thou sellest for thine own." "If he it be that made it," the Saint replied, "let him stand up and sing his duan." The poet rose and went to work, but what he enunciated [in place of the above] was:—
"Dribble drabble . . ."
Then with a wild and frenzied rush the rhymer departed to the water of dún mic Fhánat or 'the dún of Fanait's son,' northward from Assaroe, and in the same was drowned. Which thing when Finnachta saw, he caught the cleric's foot under him [i.e. as he stood there] and besought him that he would no more be incensed at him: only to raise him up his son, and that every single thing for which he was come should be his. With that, Molling went and stood over the boy; he besought the Lord fervently, and God raised Finnachta's son for him; whereupon Molling said:—
"Christ has power of my body . . ."
So Molling came out of the North and back to Leinster, the Boramha having been remitted. But Adamnan heard the story: how the Tribute was forgiven to Molling, and a respite until Monday granted; he sought the place therefore where Finnachta was, and sent a clerk of his familia to summon him to a conference. Finnachta at the instant busied himself with a game of chess, and the cleric said: "come speak with Adamnan." "I will not," he answered, "until this game be ended." The ecclesiastic returned to Adamnan and retailed him this answer; then the Saint said: "go and tell him that in the interval I will chant fifty psalms, in which fifty is a single psalm that will deprive his children and grandchildren, and even any namesake of his [for ever], of the kingdom." Again the clerk accosted Finnachta, and told him this; but until his game was played the king never noticed him at all. "Come speak with Adamnan," repeated the clerk, and: "I will not," answered Finnachta, "till this [fresh] game too shall be finished"; all which the cleric rendered to Adamnan, who said: "a second time begone to him; tell him that I will sing other fifty psalms, in which fifty is one that will confer on him shortness of life." This too the clerk, when he was come back, proclaimed to Finnachta; but till the game was done he never even perceived the messenger, who for the third time reiterated his speech. "Till this new game be played out, I will not go," said the king; and the cleric carried it to Adamnan. "Go to him," the holy man said: "tell him that in the meantime I will sing fifty psalms, and among them is one that will deprive him of attaining to the Lord's peace." This the clerk imparted to Finnachta who, whenever he heard it, with speed and energy put from him the chess-board and hastened to where Adamnan was. "Finnachta," quoth the Saint, "what is thy reason for coming now, whereas at the first summons thou eamest not?" "Soon said," replied Finnachta—"as for that which first thou didst threaten against me: that of my children, or even of my namesakes, not an individual ever should rule Ireland—I took it easily. The other matter which thou heldest out to me: shortness of life—that I esteemed but lightly: for Molling had promised me Heaven. But the third thing which thou threatencdst me: to deprive me of the Lord's peace—that I endured not to hear without coming in obedience to thy voice "(now the motive for which God wrought this was: that the gift which Molling had promised to the king for remission of the Tribute, He suffered not Adamnan to dock him of). "Is it true," questioned the Saint, "that thou, actually thou, hast forgiven the Boramha till Monday?" "True it is," quoth the king. "Thou art cozened in the bargain," said Adamnan: "for the Judgment Monday [i.e. Doomsday] it was that Molling spoke of [meant] and, unless to-day thou transgress the pact, nevermore will any do so." Now since Finnachta had been next heir to the crown, and Adamnan a young scholar, they had been friends. Then it was that Adamnan made these quatrains:—
"Albeit this day the withered, grey, and toothless king doth bind his locks . . ."
Hereat the men of Erin set out to pursue Molling; and where he was [when they came up with him] was in Fornocht, laying out the site of a mill, and they [he and his] saw towards them Finnachta and all Ireland; whom so soon as Molling marked, he uttered:—
"O my Almighty Lord, that hast made every king under Heaven. . . ."
Then he goes straight across the ford and rings his bell, and Leinster's kine strikes with a panic such that [they broke away] and every cow of them gained her own sheltering fastness; but in hostile guise the North hemmed in Molling and his associates, and the Saint said:—
"May ye be as rocks upon brown oaks, may ye be as waves on azure waters, may ye be as belfries surmounting churches, and may all this not be a mere fit of dreaming."
Westward then he came to the place where now S. Mullen's Cross is; there he sat down and made certain quatrains:
"Make we here a bellicose down-sitting, rise we up for fight of victory; whosoever shall be under Columbkill's protection, his body shall not be a prey to wolves. My malediction light on Finnachta, the King of Heaven's curse likewise; Finnachta has tergiversated on me, for which act may his kindred never the higher grow [i.e. may they be cast down]. O Bridget of Kildare—O mac Táil of Kilcullen—and Thou, O Son of Mary—yours be my sitting every time I sit!"
Molling said now: "some succour would be wanting to us here." The thing was revealed to Motharén, that was in the king of Leinster's assemblage, who said: "at this present, Molling is in a straight; were it good in the Lord's eyes therefore, I would fain have a fog to envelop him and his party." Straightway a mist was flung abroad over them and, though so it was, yet they knew it not, but deemed that their enemies still saw them. Nevertheless they moved on as far as áth Laeghaire (where Laeghaire loingsech was born), and there Molling said: "in yon town in which we hear the bell, who dwells?" and Colmnait, or 'Columbella,' the nun answered him: "alas now, Cleric! terror, as I suppose, hath confused thee; that is till Usaille, i.e. 'church of S. Auxilius' or 'Killossy.'" Molling asked: "what great and pinnacled burg is that which we see in cúil na cetharda?" "That," said the nun, "is Kildare"; and thereupon Molling made this invocation:—
"O Bridget, bless our path, that on our journey no disaster fall; O nun from the brimming Liffey, from thee [i.e. from thy shrine of Kildare] may we in safety reach our home . . ."