The Celtic Literature Collective

The Battle of Cen Abrad

The Battle of Cen Abrad here below:

1. In kingly fashion this muster had been summoned by Mac Con at Cend Abrad and Ailill Ólomm in Mag Locha.

2. There came with Mac Con Neimed mac Sraibgind, king of the Eraind, and Lugchorb mac Temais, king of the Mairtine, and Find mac Cumaill, his (Mac Con’s) mother’s sister’s son (that is, son of Fuinche ingen Dáiri), chief warrior of the war-bands of Ireland, and Óengus mac Lámgáe, king of the southern Laigin, and Eocho mac Buidi maic Buidir, king of the northern Laigin and his own fosterbrother, Lugaid Lága mac Moga Núadat, brother of Ailill Ólomm, and Cathmáel mac Cirb maic Lugair from Ráth Lugair in Connacht, his fosterfather, and Núada Eiges, and Mairbgein mac Moga Ruith, the chief druid and warrior, and Airmrige, the ancestor of the Orbraige, and Enbas from whom are [named] the Creca Enbais in Sliab Cain, and Da Déra mac Dairbrech the chief jester, and a multitude besides.

3. After that Mac Con took up position with his army on Tulach na Tennál (it was called Tulach na Tennál from the beacon-fires that had been made on it). Then Ailill took up position with his forces in Mag Locha and a mound of sods was dug for his tent there on the height so that from it comes [the name] Ard Ferta today.

4. This was Ailill’s army: Eogan Mór mac Ailella and Eocho Find Füath n-Airt to the number of fifty hundred warriors and Corpre Músc to the number of twenty hundred warriors and a champion’s helmet as a warrior’s token on each man’s head and a gold or silver or bronze horn on each helmet according to [the status of] the man, and Corpre Baschain had twenty hundred mercenaries and Corpre Rigfota had twenty hundred youths and there were a great many more besides.

5. Ailill and Eogan went secretly into consultation to see how they might bring about strife between Corpre Muse and Mac Con so that Mac Con might fall by Corpre. This was the decision they came to together, namely, to make peace with Mac Con without the knowledge of Corpre and that would arouse Corpre’s anger and he would give battle to Mac Con; and thus the treacherous plot was laid.

6. Then messengers went from Ailill to Mac Con to give him his own terms as regards chattels and treasures. Mac Con said he would accept and would not go to battle against his fosterfather It was then his druid told Mac Con not to go with few followers to confer with Ailill for it was Ailill’s intention to kill Mac Con by treachery. Mac Con said he would trust Corpre Muse if he should be at the parley.

7. After that then Mac Con came with his host onto the summit of Cend Abrad so that all might see his army deployed along the mountain. Then came Eogan and Ailill and Eochaid Find Fáath nAirt mac Feidlimid Rechtada [ ]. Afterwards Mac Con came to the parley against the wishes of his people and he came - with seven hundred warriors with a coupling fetter between ench two of them, and the whole host was like that for they had determined not to flee.

8. Ailill said to Mac Con: ‘Pronounce your judgement’. ‘No’, said Mac Con, ‘the mouth that pronounced the unjust judgement let the same mouth give the true one’. ‘You cannot have it [so]’, said Ailill, ‘according to law the giving of judgement is yours and do you pronounce the verdict’. ‘No’, said Mac Con, ‘but if it is your wish to grant my terms treat me with honour this time [even] though you have dishonoured me before’. ‘No’, said Ailill, ‘I will grant Mac Con no award except an award pronounced by himself’. It was then that Mac Con came to understand from AiIill’s false and treacherous words that he had a wolfish heart.

9. Now the Corpres are informed that Ailill is making peace with Mac Con in disregard of them, and to the number of sixty hundred they rose up at one and the same time, angrily and fiercely, violently and wrathfully, with the vehement fury of their impetuous anger, and all the warriors put on their helmets and thus they go towards the ford at which the parley was being held.

10. When it was heard throughout the whole camp that the Corpres had gone out to give battle all the host rose up and Corpre Músc ran towards the ford before the hosts and all the warriors threw the horns from the helmets on their heads into the ford so that since that time its name is Ath mBennchuir because of the horns that the warriors cast from them there.

11. When Mac Con saw the treacherous move and saw the battalions approaching him he went to meet his [own] troops so that together they might come to the battle. Mac Con’s entire army was defeated there and Mac Con himself was defeated.

12. Then his jester, Da Déra mac Dairbrech, came to Mac Con and said to him: ‘Put my crown on your head and take off your royal diadem’. All this was done and the jester puts on Mac Con’s diadem and goes eastward along the mountain. And Corpre Másc follows him thinking him to be Mac Con and strikes off his head and hence is named Cam Maic Dairbrech on Cend Abrad.

13. Corpre Músc realized that it was not Mac Con. ‘This was an unworthy deed’, said Corpre, ‘this is a king’s diadem on a jester’s head’. Then Corpre turned westwards in pursuit of Mac Con as far as Leiter Cind Abrad. And he did not overtake the host and he gazes southward over Mag Femin and sees the troop in which Mac Con was, and he saw also the calf of his leg in the midst of them. ‘II should think it very likely’, said Corpre, ‘[that] yonder is the back of a king’s knee amid the hosts’. He makes a cast of the spear at him so that it struck home in the hollow of his knee and thrust its point between his knee and his calf and he was lamed in his leg. And Corpre returned to his people.

14. After that Mac Con went to Rosach Rúad for treatment and from then on Mac Con did not dwell in Ireland until at a later time he seized the kingship of Ireland.