The Celtic Literature Collective

The Exile of Conall Corc

...Dublin and saw the ships going over the sea. He went with them east­wards over the sea and perceived the mountains of Scotland. They let him go onto the land. He went to a mountain in the west of Scotland. Much snow descended on him so that it reached his girdle. For five days he was without drink and without food until he cast himself down in a dying condition in a glen. Gruibne the scholar, the poet of Feradach, king of Scotland, came, twelve horse­men strong, into the glen to seek his pigs. He beheld a lap of his mantle above the snow.

“A dead man!” he said. He saw that his body was [still] warm. “Frost has done that to the man,,” said the poet. “Kindle a fire around him in order that his limbs will be able to rise.”

That was done so that he steamed. Suddenly he arose.

“Steady, O warrior,” Gruibne said. “Do not fear anything.”

Then, on beholding his countenance, Gruibne spoke as follows: “Welcome, O fair Conall Corc who took each land in the west beyond the region of the sea. Here, the ocean confused you so that sleep stretches you out. A host with silent troops of valor uttered a heavy cry for nine hours so that you were unable to find a word. Good [is] the meeting to which I am destined, [namely,] that you came upon me (and] that you did not abide upon the surface of another land. [It was] a plan of sin that sword-ends were brought for your betrayal over the flatness of your body... of Lugaid mac Ailella. With honor he was honored ... O mighty Corc about whom lirebrands raise a cry, for fair Cashel protects you so that it will be over Femen that you will rule with fine feasting. Well will you suppress bad weather. In Munster-of­the-great-hosts you will receive hostages so that you will be the lion of Loch Lein. Your fame will fill Ireland’s vast plain and the race of Oengus above the surface of each land. The adze-heads will come over the sea’s ocean with hooks of crooked staves.”

Actually the poet who had recited the poetic composition was one of the two captives whom Corc had protected from the Leinstermen. Then he put both his arms around him. “It were indeed fitting for us,” he said, “to welcome you. Who,” said he, “saw to your advantage by means of the Ogham writing which is on your shield?’ It was not good fortune that it indicated.”

“What is on it?” said Corc.

“This is on it: If it be during the day that you might go to Feradach, your head is to be removed before it were evening. If it be in the night, your bead is to be removed before it were morning. Not thus will it be.”

Afterwards, be bore him with him to his own house, and a hurdle [was] under him, and eight men [were] under the hurdle. On that day a month later, he went forthwith to speak with Feradach, and he left Corc outside. He related to him his whole story, namely, how he went to seek his pigs, and he said that he had intended to kill the man. When be saw the Ogham writing on the shield, he was loath tt slay him, for this was on it: “A son of the king of Munster has come to you. If it be during the day that he might come, your daughter is to be given to him before evening. If it be in the night, she is to sleep with him before morning.”

"The news is bad,” said Feradach. “Anyone would indeed be sad that you have brought him alive.”

“Gruibne bound his equal weight in silver on Feradach and brought him in. That one offered him a great welcome. But the daughter was not given to him, for Feradach said that be would not grant his daughter to a hireling soldier... from abroad. This availed him not, because the couple had intercourse with each other so that the woman became pregnant by him, and she was brought down, and bore him a son. She did not admit that it was Corc’s. They intended to burn her [and] the men of Scotland came for the burning. It was formerly a custom that any maiden who committed fornication without bethrothal was burnt. Hence, these hills are [named] Mag Breoa, that is Mag Breg. Then the men of Scotland besought a respite for the girl to the end of a year until her son had assumed the form, voice or habit of the sept.

At the end of a year they came to burn her. “I will not bring your son to you,” said she.

“You shall, however, bring him,” said he, “into the presence of Feradach.” When, then, she was about to be burned, she brought him before both of them.

“O woman,” said Feradach, “does the boy belong to Corc?”

“He does,” said the woman.

“I will not take him from you,” said Corc, “for he is a bastard until his grandfather gives him.’

“I do indeed give him to you,” said Feradach. “The son is yours.”

“Now he will be accepted,” said Corc.

“Go forth, O woman,” said Feradach, “and you shall have no luck.”

“She shall, however, not go,” said Corc, “since she is not guilty.”

“She is, nevertheless, guilty,” said Feradach.

“But she is not guilty,” said Corc. “To each son (belongs] his mother. On her son falls her misdeed, that is, on her womb.”

“Let the son, therefore, be expelled,” said Feradach.

“He shall indeed not be expelled,” said Corc, “since that youth has not attained manhood. For the son will pay for her offence.”

“You have saved them both,” said Feradach.

“That will be fortunate,” said Corc.

“Well, O Corc,” said Feradach, “sleep with your wife. It is you whom we would have chosen for her, if we had had a choice. I will pay her price to the men of Scotland.”

That was done. He remained in the east until she had born him three Sons. “Well, O Corc,” said Feradach, “take your sons and your wife with you to your country, for it is sad that they should be outside of their land. Take the load of three men of silver with you. Let thirty warriors accompany you.”

That was done. He came from the east, thirty warriors strong, until he reached Mag Femin. There, snow descended upon them so that it led them astray at Cnocc Graffand. His father was infirm. That brought them’s northwards into the north of Mag [Femin].

On that day, the swineherd of Aed, the king of Muscraige, was tending his pigs. That night, he said to Aed: “I saw a wonder today,” said he, “on these ridges in the north. I beheld a yew-bush on a stone, and I perceived a small oratory in front of it and a flagstone before it. Angels were in attendance going up and down from the flagstone.”

“Verily,” said the druid of Aed,” that will be the residence of the king of Munster forever, and he who shall first kindle a fire under that yew, from him shall descend the kingship of Munster.”

“Let us go to light it,” said Aed.

“Let us wait until morning,” said the druid.

[Thither] then came the aforesaid Corc in his wanderings. ... He kindled a fire for his wife and for his sons so that Aed found him on the following day by his fire with his sons about him. He recognized him then, and be gave him a great welcome, and he put his son in surety under his custody. When, now, after the death of his father there was contention about the kingship of Munster, then Corc came. Thereupon, a residence was at once established by him in Cashel and before the end of a week, he was the undisputed king of the Munstermen.

The surety of the Muscraige is the first surety that a king of Munster ever took, and, afterwards, they were freed, and a queen of theirs [was] in Cashel. Moreover, the swineherd who was found in Cashel, freedom was given to him and to his children by the king of Cashel, that is, without tribute and without exaction of king or steward. It is he, too, who raises the cry of kingship for the king of Cashel, and is given a blessing by the king, and straightway receives the garment of the king. Hence it is, then, that Corc’s Cashel exists, and it is the progeny and the seed of Corc mac Lugthach that abides forever in Cashel I from that time forth.

"The Exile of Conall Corc." ed. and trans. Vernam Hull. PMLA. vol. 56, no. 4 (Dec. 1941), p. 937-950.