The Celtic Literature Collective

The Melody of the House of Buchet
Summary by Myles Dillon

There was a hospitable man in Leinster named Buchet. He had Eithne, the daughter of Cathaer Mór, king of Ireland, in fosterage. Cathaer had twelve sons, and they used to come for guesting with large companies, so that they wasted all Buchet’s substance. At last he was left with only seven cows and a bull, where there had been seven herds of cattle.

Buchet went to Cathaer to seek redress. But Cathaer was then a withered old man and told him that he could not restrain his Sons, and advised him to go away. Buchet fled secretly in the night until he came to Kells of the Kings. He brought with him only his old wife, his seven cows and the bull, and the girl, Eithne daughter of Cathaer. They dwelt in a hut in the forest, and the girl served them.

Cormac was in Kells at that time, for he had not yet taken the kingship of Ireland. Medb of the Red Side, the wife of Art, took the kingship after Art’s death and did not suffer Cormac. Kells was then the royal seat, and it was Cormac, when he became king, who founded Tara on the land of Odrán, a herdsman.

One day, when he was king, Cormac saw the girl milking the cows. She put the last milk into a vessel apart. Then she cut rushes and put the best rushes in a separate bundle. She drew water and put the water from the middle of the stream in a separate pail.

‘“Who are you, girl ?“ said Cormac. “The daughter of a poor herdsman yonder,” she said. “Why do you divide the water and the rushes and the milk?” “A man who was honoured formerly,” said she, “to him I bring the freshest of the rushes and the last of the milk, and the rest is for myself, so that he may not be without honour so far as I can find. And if I should find greater honour he should have it.” “It may be that you shall find it,” said Cormac. “Whom do you honour so?" “His name is Buchet,” she said. “Is that Buchet of Leinster?” said Cormac. “It is he,” she said. “Are you Eithne of the Long Side, daughter of Cathaer Mór?” said Cormac. “Yes,” said she.’

Cormac sent a message to Buchet to ask for the hand of Eithne, but he did not give her for he was not her father. She was carried off that night, and spent one night with Cormac. Next day she escaped, but that night she had conceived a son, Cairpre Lifechar son of Cormac.

Afterwards she became Cormac’s queen, but only when her bride-price had been paid to Buchet. And Cormac gave him all that he could see from the rampart of Kells for a whole week, cow and man and ox and horse, so that Buchet was unable to bring all his wealth of herds back into Leinster.

‘The music of Buchet’s house was his laughing cry to his guests: “Welcome! You will be happy, and I shall be happy along with you!” Fifty warriors made music when the guests were drunk. Fifty maidens too played for the company. And then fifty harpers soothed the guests until morning.

And so men speak of “The Melodies of Buchet’s House”.’