The Celtic Literature Collective

The Death of Finn

Finn meditated upon a decision to leave Ireland for fear of the prophecy which the Cronanach had made to him; for dread and fear had seized upon him that the fian would be slaughtered and he himself would meet with death that year. And this is the decision that he made, to leave Ireland and go across the sea eastward to Britain, there to conclude his fian-ship, for his power was no less in Britain than here, so that the issue of that year and of the prophecy which had been made of him might be the further off. And he communicated that decision about going eastward across the sea to Angus of the Brug and to the nobles of his people and to all the fian, and he uttered the lay:

Let us go across the murmuring placid sea, oh fian of Finn from great Tara; unless I find speedy help I shall part from ever-fair Ireland.

To the Luagne the battle is destined, not a deed of wailing, but a cause of tears; unless I find proper help I shall part from my own fian here.

Angus mac Oc will come to our help for the sake of kinship; it is easy to go to the Brug before going on the journey.

Then the nobles of the fian went to hold counsel, and they came to the decision not to let Finn cross the sea that year. “Do not go across the sea, O royal leader of the fian,” said they, “for if chase and spoil fail us in Ireland, there are enough of us here, leaders of the fian, and landowners, to support you to the end of the year; and we shall make a fresh feast for you every night until the year is ended.” And upon this decision they fixed, and the fian dispersed to their strongholds and homesteads to prepare for Finn, so that he might find a banquet in the house of every one of them. And the one to whom it fell to attend and serve Finn on that night was Fer-tai son of Uaithne Irgalach the fian-chief of Conall Muirthemne and the Luagne of Tara. And the wife of Fer-tai was Iuchna Ardmor daughter of Goll mac Morna; and he had a notable, distinguished son, valorous, wise, and clever, whose mother was Iuchna, and who was called Fer-li. He resembled his grandfather Goll in size and stateliness and soldiership, in virulence and strength and championship, in liberality and prowess and might, in vigor and dexterity and abundance, in hardness and boldness, in knightliness, recklessness, and intrepidity, in magnanimity, in beauty of form, in valor and dauntlessness.

Now when Fer-li saw the small number of the host that Finn had with him, he meditated to practice treachery and deceit and guile upon him with his people; for there were of his people with him only Cedach Cithach the son of the King of Norway, and Loegaire of the Swift Blows son of Dub son of Salmor son of the King of the Men of Fannal, and five hundred warriors with each of them. They had just come across the sea to meet Finn, who had taken them with him that night as an honor to them, having left behind all own clan and his usual company except Aed Ballderg son of Faelan son of Finn, and the three Cu’s from Moenmuig and five hundred other warriors, together with these four, so that the whole company of Finn numbered five thousand. And Fer-li communicated his treacherous design to Emer Glunglas son of Aed son of Garad son of Morna. “That is a fitting, forcible design,” said Emer; “for Finn is our hereditary enemy, since Goll the Great son of Morna has fallen by him, and all the Clan Morna and our fathers and grandfathers.”

And they determined to slay Finn, with his people, by treachery. And those who came to that decision were Fer-li son of Fer-tai, and Emer Glunglas son of Aed son of Garad, and the five sons of Urgriu of the Luagne of Meath, and the three Taiblinnacbs from the stable plain of Fermoy. And these all vowed to slay Finn with his people, and thus they arranged and shaped the treachery; that is, to disperse and hold up the small company that was with Finn; for there were with him only five thousand, not counting the hounds and gillies. And this is the device they shaped: that fierce, stark naked men should come to the household of Fer-tai to where Finn was billeting his people, and they should say that slaughter and loss were being inflicted by Finn’s people on those of Fer-tai, so that the story might be the beginning of a conspiracy, and of a general onslaught to kill Finn.

When Finn had billeted his people, a splendid wide-doored hostel was arranged for him in the stronghold of Fer-tai, with choice drapery and fresh rushes, and a great pile of fire was kindled before Finn and Fer-tai and the few sons of kings and princes that were with them. When Finn sat down with his people to enjoy the feast, they saw the conspirators and traitors coming toward them into the hostel equipped with edge-speckled shields on the back of each champion. When Finn saw the bloody aspect of assassins upon those men, he knew what they were, and did not allow the enter­tainment to proceed, but kept watching the crew of veritable enemies that had come into the hostel to him. And Finn was arrayed thus he had a broad-chested, wadded corslet about him, in which were twenty-seven board-like, compact, waxed shirts protecting his body against fights and the hazards of battle.

It was but a short time after that when they heard the loud angry hue and cry, and fierce, stark-naked men clamoring and vociferating coming toward the stronghold where those nobles were. And this is what they said, that the fian and Finn’s people were slaughtering and attacking the cows and the farmers of the land.

“We do not like these sudden raids,” said Fer-li.

“It shall be well, however,” said Finn; “for any damages shall be suitably made good, for two cows shall be given for each single cow, and two sheep for one.”

“It is not for that purpose thou hast come,” said Fer-li, “but to slay us as thou hast slain our father and our grandfathers before us.” And as he said that he attacked Finn suddenly, furiously, like one out of his senses. But that was not an attack unawares, for Finn and his people responded to it stoutly, martially, wrathfully, and the battle was fought between them manfully, bravely, fiercely, upon the central floor of the hostel. And Fer-tai was Intervening and was protecting Finn. However, the champions did not deign to look at each other until thrice nine brave warriors had fallen between them upon the floor of the hostel.

It was then that Iuchna Ardmor, wife of Fer-tai and mother of Fer-li, heard the turmoil of the multitude and the fierce shouts of the warriors as they were hacking each other, and she came to the hostel, tore her checkered coif from her head, loosed her fair yellow hair, bared her breasts, and said, “My son, it is the ruin of honor and disgrace to a soldier and a reproach to tell and dispelling of luck to betray the princely Finn of the Lan; and now quickly leave the hostel, my son,” said she.

And Fer-li left the hostel to his mother. And as he went forth be said, “I announce battle to thee to-morrow, Finn.”

“That battle will be responded to,” said Finn, “for we should be in no strait, if we were an equal number to give battle to thee.” And that night Finn was served until he was satiated, invigorated, and cheerful, both he and his fian. And Finn said, “It ill suits my honor that Per-li should importune me to-night nor grant me fair play. A time will come,” said he, “when no one will grant fair play to another,” and then he made this lay:

O Fer-li, whether it will be long or short till it come, the time when the keen man will come he will not submit to the like of thee.

He will be put down in the time of the blue-weaponed foreigners, nor will he get Ireland from me, but a rout in the north and a rout in the south.

The time will come when the foreigners will be slaughtered. Whether it be long or short till it come, it is senseless for anyone to overthrow his children.

I am Finn; good is your ale: so drink and drink! Since thou dost not grant justice or fair play, thy grave will be on the Boyne, O man.

When he had finished that song Finn said: “Warriors, I fear the words which Fer-li speaks to us, remembering his feud against us. It is true indeed,” said he, “that I have seen Garad son of Morna in the battle of Cruinmoinn cutting down the fian so that they did not dare to face him for the boiling wrath of the champion. And indeed I have also seen the veteran in sore plight by the Ban,” said Finn, and then he spoke the lay:

Iuchna Ardmor daughter of Goll, mother of Fer-li of slender hand; many are they whose head he has bowed; the son resembles Goll.

Fer-li son of Fer-tai without fault, Emer who is accustomed to many a fight, my two foster-sons will fall with me; to me they grant no justice, meseems.

I saw Garad early; he would drain a lake as though it were a river; on the day he fell by the fian ‘twas he that cried ah! and woe!

Goll was splitting shields; there was the lord that dealt out blood! in the battle of Cruinmoinn his hand and his wrath seethed.

Thereupon Fer-tai son of Uaithne Lrgalach came into the house where Finn was and sat down by Finn’s side and pressed drink and merriment upon him, and said, “It is for this that the battle has been proclaimed against thee to-morrow, O royal fian-chief, because thou art without a host or multitude.”

“I am by no means in that condition,” said Finn. “For the son of the King of the Men of Fannal is by my side, that is Loegaire of the Swift Blows, and he will keep off three hundred warriors from me in this battle. And Cedach Citach son of the King of Norway is with me, who came to avenge his brothers upon me and the fian; and when he had seen the hounds and the men of the fian he fell greatly in love with them and abandoned his intent of plunder and spoliation and stayed with me. And he will keep off three hundred battle-armed warriors from me in the battle, O Fer-tai,” said Finn. “And there are many other full-bold warriors of fierce deeds by my side who are eager for fight and agile in con­ffict and of unwearied powers and furious in the onset”; and then he spoke the lay:

Mac Duib son of Salmor of the cloaks, Loegaire of the Swift Blows, they will slay three hundred champions, the prophecy shall not be falsified.

There is here the son of Norway’s king, Cedach Citach of the com­bats; by him three hundred of the host shall fall, of warriors fierce and sword-red.

Woe to him who will oppose the fian when all shall rise for combat! They do not refuse hard battle, reckless they rise all at once.

When the Luagne come to battle to-morrow in the morning, by dint of shields and blades and hands many a mother will be without a son.

That night they were discussing the appointed battle and conflict of the morrow. In the early-bright morning Finn arose and sent messengers for his people, who responded stoutly, bravely, and proudly from all directions; and Finn with his fifteen hundred; warriors went to Ath Brea on the southern Boyne, and they arrayed themselves in battle-order upon the bottom of the ford in a mass of shields and swords and helmets.

As for Fer-tai son of Uaithne Jrgalach and Fer-li son of Fer-tai, they gathered their host and multitude, and they came in fine, huge, brave, companies to one place, so that they were three thousand battle-armed warriors. And they came to Ath Brea and when they saw the small number on the other side upon the bottom of the ford, they grumbled at it. And this is the counsel they took they took their dresses of battle and combat about them and advanced in their light dresses and in their ponderous armor And these are the nobles that were put in the front of the battalion of the “pillars,” that is, Fer-tai son of Uaithne Urgalach, and Fer-h son of Fer-tai, and Emer Glunglas son of Aed son of Garad son of Morna, and the five sons of Urgriu of the ancient tribes of Tara, and the three Tablinnachs from the stable plain of Fermoy, and the Luagne of Tara as well.

Now when the manful, puissant, powerful, terrible, fierce-battling prince of the fian, and the valorous, fierce, combative hero Finn mac Cumaill of many battalions beheld that battle-phalanx arrayed against him, “It seems to me,” said he, “those men are giving us battle in earnest. And O my messenger Birgad,” said Finn, “go and speak to those people and offer them terms.”

“What terms?” said Birgad.

“I will tell you,” said Finn. “It is I that gave them their wealth and territory and their landed estates, and I will give them as much again if they will not at this time come against me. And remind them that they are foster-sons of mine,” said Finn.

Then Birgad the female messenger came to where those nobles were and told them that. “It is just to accept the terms,” said Fer-tai, “for Finn loves thee dearly, Fer-li,” he said. “For thou wast one of the twelve men that used to be with Finn in his house; and thou always hadst the first of counsel from him and the last of drink. And thou art a foster-son of his,” said he.

“I pledge my word,” said Fer-li, “that I and Finn shall never again drink together in friendship, nor will I ever enter his house again.”

“That is ill advice,” said Fer-tai, “because Finn is a noble, puissant, excellent prince,” said he, “for he with his fian is valiant and ready for fight and attack. And I have seen Finn in battles and combats, and I never saw his equal for swiftness, for vigor, for fury, for hardness, for boldness, for fierceness, for heroism in slaying hosts and multitudes”; and then he spoke this lay and Fer-li replied:

Fer-tai. Woe to him who would give battle to the fian if he were in his senses,—their deeds are fierce. It were better to stay by Fiim himself and to go submissive to his house.

Fer-li. I shall not go to Finn, I shall meet him in the round of battle, and I shall not stay by him, nor shall I go submissive to his house.

Fer-tai. Finn is good at cutting down the battalions; his is the vanquish­ing hand in every direction; whoever fights with the brilliant king, it is woe to himself, it seems to me.

“It is ill advice,” said Fer-tai, “to give battle to Finn, on account of his nobility and fierceness and valor.”

“Not so at all,” said Fer-li; “we shall accept nothing at all from him but battle. For yon decrepit old warrior will not stand up against us,” said he, “for readiness and bravery in the up-rising of battle”; and the messenger turned back and reported these words to Finn.

“I pledge my word,” said Finn, “if our army would come to us, we should not propose those terms to them. Go thou again, my messenger,” said Finn, “and offer them further terms.”

“What further terms?” said the messenger.

“The award of judges, and in addition to it their own award to them.”

And again the messenger came and offered those terms. “It is just to accept the terms,” said Fer-tai; “and whoever has given battle to Finn unjustly has always been routed by Finn”; and Fer-tai spoke a lay thus and Fer-li replied:

Fer-tai. I have seen Finn cutting down hosts on which he broke the battle; to fight with him is an unequal contest, woe to him who goes to meet him!

Fer-li. Finn will not go without fighting him though fierce be his prowess, until he be as I wish, without sense, without reason.

Fer-tai. The men of Moinmuig will be there with mighty blades; from your conflict, 0 fearless fian, oxen will be without a yoke.

“It is time for me to depart now,” said the messenger.

“No other substance or terms will be accepted from you except battle,” said Emer Glunglas son of Aed son of Garad; and so said the sons of Urgriu son of Lugaid Corr, and so said the Luagne of Tara.

The messenger went and gave a true account to Finn; “and they say that you are a worn-out, feeble-handed old man, Finn,” said the messenger.

“I pledge my word,” said Finn, “that I will fight them like a youngster,” and then he spoke this lay:

The ancient Luagne of Tara with false words, if they come to Brea, I shall give vigorous battle.

The son of Aed son of Garad, Emer Glunglas, this is the end of his sway to be in this battle.

The sons of Urgriu will fall in witness of it; every wrong which I recount, to them it shall be destruction.

Foes will deem it sport when they scatter spears; they will carry with them on their lips the ancient stories.

Thereupon Finn said, “Go, my messenger, and offer them further terms on account of the pride of their host and the excellence of their prowess and the boldness of their noblemen and the daring of their counsel; for every enemy is unforgiving, my messenger,” said he; “and offer them their own award, for a battle without terms is not good.”

So Birgad the messenger came to where those chieftains were and offered them their own award. “We shall not accept substance nor terms nor territory nor land, but battle, so that we may avenge our ancient wrongs,” said the old warrior. And Fer-li attempted to kill the messenger but he was prevented. “I pledge my word for it,” said Fer-li, “O Birgad, if thou art seen again, that I will shorten thy life.”

And Birgad returned upon the road and lifted up her dress to the rounds of her legs, her tongue quivering with the great danger in which she was, and so she came to where Finn was.

“O royal chief of the fian,” said Birgad, “those yonder have with one accord taken their counsel against you,” said she, “and act bravely against those warriors and the Luagne of Tara.”

“It shall be done, then,” said Finn; “for the debtor’s speech which I shall hold with them will be bloody and crushing, wrathful and relentless.”

Then rose the royal chief of the fian of Erin and Scotland and of the Saxons and Britons, of Lewis and Norway, and of the hither islands, and put on his battle-dress of combat and conflict, a thin, silken shirt of wonderful, choice satin of the fair-cultivated Land of Promise over the face of his white skin: and outside over that he put his twenty-four waxed, stout shirts of cotton, firm as a board, about him, and on the top of these he put his beautiful plaited, three-meshed coat of mail of cold, refined iron, and around his neck his graven gold-bordered breastplate, and about his waist he put a stout corslet with a decorated firm belt with gruesome images of dragons, so that it reached from the thick of his thighs to his arm-pit, whence spears and blades would rebound. And his stout-shafted martial, five-edged spears were placed over against the king, and he put his gold-hafted sword in readiness on his left, and he grasped his broad-blue, well-ground Norse lance, and upon the arched expanse of his back he placed his emerald-tinted shield with flowery designs and with variegated, beautiful bosses of pale gold, and with delightful studs of bronze, and with twisted stout chains of old silver; and to protect the hero’s head in battle he seized his crested, plated, four-edged helmet of beautiful, refined gold with bright, magnificent, crystal gems and with flashing, full- beautiful, precious stones which had been set in it by the hands of master-smiths and great artists.

And in that way he went forth, a famous tree of upholding battle, and a bush of shelter for brave warriors, and a stable stake for hosts and multitudes, and a protecting door-valve for warriors and battle-soldiers of the western world; nor did he stop in his course until he reached the brink of the ford. Truly it was no wonder that the kingship of Erin and Scotland and the headship of the fian of the whole world would be in the hands of Finn mac Cumaill at that time; for be was one of the five masters in every great art, and one of the three sons of comfort to Erin, along with Lug Lamfada son of Cian, who ousted the race of Fomorians from Ireland; and Brian Boruma (Boru) son of Cennedig, who brought Ireland out of bondage and oppression so that there was not a winnowing-sheet of any kiln without a Norse slave to work it until Brian cast them out; and Finn mac Cumaill, the third son of comfort to Ireland, who expelled from Ireland marauders and reavers and monsters and many beasts and full many a fleet of piles and every other pest. And there came a plague to Ireland from one corner to another; and for a whole year Finn fed the men Ireland and put seven cows and a bull in every single farm­stead in Ireland.

Now, however, that illustrious puissant chieftain came and pledged the small host that was with him to behave bravely gainst the army before them. And the fifteen hundred fian­warriors that were with Finn rose at the powerful urging of the voice of their lord; and each warrior leaped into his coat of mail snd grasped his sword and seized his lance, so that they were a mass of shield and sword and helmet around Finn mac Cumail and Cedach Citach son of the King of Norway, and around Loegaire of the Swift Blows the son of Dub son of Salmor son of the King of the Men of Fannall, and around Aed Ballderg son of Faelan son of Finn, and the three Cus of Moinmuige. And they lifted up a dense, vast, huge, dark-red, and flaming forest of stout-shafted, martial, fire-edged spears and of broad-blue lances and of bloody, red-edged javelins, and made a triumphant, angry, fierce fold, and a firm, compact, indestructible, inseparable platform of beautiful, bulging shields, and of delightful, all-white shields, and of graven, emerald shields, and of crimson, blood-red shields, and of shining, variegated shields, and of crimson, spiky shields, and of yellow-speckled, buffalo-horn shields. It was enough of horror and heart-trembling to their enemies to see them in that wise, for the venomousness of their weapons and the warlike array of their equipment and the stoutness of their hearts and the ferocity of their intent. And they made a fierce, swift, light-winged, intrepid rush in their well­arranged phalanx and in their destructive mass and in their furious band to the center of the ford.

Then from the other side came to the ford the three thousand battle-equipped warriors that the “pillars” of Tara numbered, and put their attire of battle and contest about them, and their trumpets were sounded before them, and their war-cries were raised defiantly, and their battle was put in order, and their impetuous, bold soldiers and their fierce warriors and their valiant heroes were arrayed in the forefront of the mutual smiting, that is, Fer-tai son of Tlaithne Irgalach, and Fer-li son of Fer-tai, and Emer Glunglas son of Aed son of Garad, and the five sons of Urgriu, and Aithlech Mor son of Dubriu, and Urgriu himself, and the three Tablinnachs: from the stable plain of Fermoy. And they made a swarming, swift, torrential rush to the center of the ford from the other side against Finn and his people.

And they did not long rest content with looking at each other, before the two armies flung themselves against one another. And they uttered loud, mighty shouts so that their echo rang in woods and rocks, in cliffs and river-mouths and the caves of the earth and in the cold outer zones of the firmament. And there were hurled between them showers of bloody, sharp-edged javelins, and of broad ball-spears for throwing, and of hard, mighty stones. And the battle became closer and the conflict intense, and the slaughter grew vast, and the combat became embittered, and each warrior attacked another vehemently, fiercely, impatiently, furiously, madly, and they made an angry, wrathful, crushing, masterful, brisk, bitter, earnest fight, and they flung huge stones to break each other’s heads and skulls and helmets, and the fringes of the two armies became mingled in confusion. Then indeed many a stout spear was broken, and many a hard-ground sword bent, and many a shield shattered, and helmets and head-pieces broken to pieces, while soldiers and champions were inflicting wounds. Then there were many bodies maimed and skins lacerated, and sides pierced, and bold warriors mangled, and champions cut down, and bodies of heroes in their litter of blood. It was enough to kill half-hearted warriors and cowards merely to behold the transverse smiting of the crooked blades upon the shoulders of men, and to hear the roar of the champions as they fell, and the clangor of the shields as they were split, and the crack of the lined corslets as they were broken, and the ringing of the swords upon the crests of helmets, and the outcry of the hosts as they were defending themselves against the champions.

And the warriors did not cease from the deadly conflict until from one end to the other the ford was crimson and turbid, and until with the mass of blood that flowed out of the warriors’ wounds the heavy troubled waters of the Boyne from the ford downward were a blood-red foaming cauldron. Then came a couple of Finn’s people into the battalion of the “pillars,” that is Tnuthach son of Dubtach, and Tuaran son of Tomar, and these two brought disaster upon the troops, so that nine warriors fell by each of them, until two of the sons of Urgriu came against them in the battle, so that the four fought together. And that couple of Finn’s people fell by the sons of Urgriu in the confines of the combat.

Thereupon a fierce, implacable warrior of Finn’s people came into the battalion of the “pillars,” namely, Loegaire of the Swift Blows son of Dub son of Salmor son of the King of the Men of Fannall, and he made a breach of a hundred in the battle right in front of him, and he plied his wrath upon the Luagne of Tara, so that one hundred warriors of the people of Fer-li fell by it. However, when Fer-li saw the spreading of the slaughter and that great royal clearance and the battle-breaking which Loegaire wrought on his people, he came to meet him.

“Furious are these onslaughts, O Loegaire,” said Fer-li.

“It is true, indeed,” said Loegaire, “and no thanks to thee. ‘Tis not a friendly discourse which you have held with our people.”

Then came a hundred flaming full-keen warriors of Fer-li’s people against Loegaire in battle, and they all fell by Loegaire’s hand before the eyes of their lord. And Loegaire wounded Fer-li, and in return for his wound Fer-li wounded him. And just then there came another hundred angry implacable warriors of Fer-li’s people, and those hundred also fell by Loegaire’s hand in the confines of the battle. And he wounded Fer-li and Fer-li wounded him. However, these two pledged each other to encounter and combat, so that they planted stout-shafted martial hard-socketed spears into each other’s sides and ribs. It was confusion to the companies and trembling to the battalions to be looking on at the encounter of these two, until Loegaire fell by Fer-li in the confines of combat, and Fer-li boasted of the triumph.

That did not intimidate or frighten Finn or his people, but they pressed the battle and urged the attack. After the fall of Loegaire came Cedach Citach son of the King of Norway, into the battalion of the “pillars,” and terrible were the slaughters which he wrought among the battalions round about him, so that sole would touch sole, and aim arm, and neck neck, wherever he went among the enemy. When Emer Glunglas beheld the slaughter of the warriors and that onset of the royal hero, he came himself to meet Cedach like an angry combative bull to a trial of strength. When they saw one another they rushed at each other stoutly for the contest, so that everyone who was Looking on was confounded. However, three hundred valiant, fierce warriors fell between them, and their household guard fell, nor was there any help found against the men, and to come near them was certain end of life. They never spared one another's body until they both fell at each other’s hands in the presence of the battalions.

Then came Aed Ballderg son of Faelan Finn among the hosts of the “pillars,” and a wide passage was made for him in the battle, so that he was terrible to see wherever he went. And Aitlech Mor son of Dubriu, and Aed met in battle, so that thrice nine warriors of the flower of Urgriu’s people fell by Aed Ballderg, and they made a valiant bloody heroic combat against one another. Those were terrible wounds and perilous maimings, and intersecting were the injuries which they inflicted on each other’s bodies, until Aed Ballderg fell in the confines of the combat.

Now when the prince of the fian, Finn, saw that the champions of the fian were laid low and that their strong men had fallen and men of rank had been slain, the perfect, wise chieftain understood that fame was more lasting than life for him and that it was better for him to die than to flinch before the enemy. ‘Twas then the royal fian-chief came to the hosts of the “pillars,” and his spirits grew high and his courage rose and he quickened his hands and he plied his blows, so that his bird of valor arose over the breath of the royal warrior, so that crowds of warriors were unable to stand against his prowess, so that men fell round his knee and a heap of them was piled up in their maimed-bodied and bloody-truncated necks and litter of gore wherever he would go into the battle. And he went among them and through them and over them like a fierce, furious bull that has been badly beaten, or like a lion whose young have been wounded, or like a turbulent wave of deluge that in the time of flood spouts from the breast of a high mountain, breaking and crushing everything that it reaches. And three times he went round the battalion of the “pillars,” as the woodbine hugs a tree, or as a fond woman clasps her son, and the crushing of thighs and shin-bones and halves of heads under the edge of his sword in the battle was like the smiting of a smith in the forge, or like the uproar of withered trees cracking, or like sheets of ice under the feet of a cavalcade. And pale-faced and buck-shaped sprites and red-mouthed battle-demons and the specters of the glen and the fiends of the air and the giddy phantoms of the firmament shrieked as they waged warfare and strife above the head of the fian-chief wherever he went in the battle. rAnd the royal warrior never ceased from that onset until the bat­tajion of the “pillars” was annihilated both by slaughter and flight, all save Fer-li, Fer-tai, and the five sons of Urgriu.

When Fer-li saw Finn by himself without any troops to protect him and without a friend to guard his back, he came to meet him maid rehearsed his enmity against the royal fian-chief. Finn answered Fer-li and said, “Thou wilt thyself fall because of these feuds.” And these two began a long combat on the spot. The encounter of these two was impetuous, vengeful, stern, and of fierce strokes. The harsh clashing of the swords and of the tusk-hilted blades against the helmets of each other was horrible, parlous. When Fer-li bad worn out his sword against the head and body of the royal fian-chief, he seized his stout-shafted, five-edged spear and made a stout, valiant, justly-poised warrior-like cast at Finn, so that he sent the spear through the ample dress which was about the royal warrior, so that the spear pierced him through and through after mangling his body. Angrily and destructively did the royal fian-chief answer that murderous wound which Fer-li had inflicted upon him, so that he gave him a fierce, hard, bone- crushing blow with his sword, and struck his head off his body. And Finn boasted of that veteran warrior and that prop of battle having fallen by him.

However, when Fer-tai beheld his son falling he came vehemently, sullenly, impatiently towards Finn, and said, “Those in sooth are great deeds, Finn.”

“That is true,” said Finn, “and why hast thou not come until now?”

“I had hoped thou wouldst have fallen by Fer-li, and I should have liked thee to fall by him rather than by me.”

“Hast thou come to commiserate me,” said Finn, “or to attack me?”

“To attack thee indeed,” said Fer-tai; “for nought of lordship nor of wealth has been appointed for which I should forgive the slaying of my son.”

And he attacked Finn without sense, without reflection, and without sparing. Finn met that truly bold champion. Those two performed many heroic feats to destroy and annihilate each other; but it were difficult and impossible to give a description of that fight, for the charges were bull-like, headlong, and fierce, parlous and dangerous were the wounds and cruel and terrible the injury which they infficted on each other. And Fer-tai seized an opportunity of wounding the royal fian-chief, and gave him such a thrust with his spear that the wound yawned no less on the other side than on the side on which he had struck. And in revenge for his wound Finn dealt Fer-tai such a fierce blow with his sword that neither the long corslet nor the compact wadding nor the hard foreign armor was any protection to Fer-tai, so that the champion fell to the ground in two heavy pieces. And Finn boasted of having achieved that great deed.

This was the hour in which the five eons of Urgriu came upon the scene and turned their faces toward Finn. When Finn beheld these inveterate enemies making for him, he avoided them not. And each of them planted a spear in the royal fian-chief. And he replied to the five champions with equal force and gave them wound for wound. When the sons of Urgriu saw that the hero had been wounded in the earlier combats which he had fought with Fer-tai and his son Fer-li, and that he was feeble from loss of...

(The rest is lacking in the manuscript.)

Ancient Irish Tales. ed. and trans. by Tom P. Cross & Clark Harris Slover. NY: Henry Holt & Co., 1936

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