The Chase of Sid na mBan Finn and the Death of Finn
From Egerton 1782, fo. 20 b 1.
1. A great extensive chase was held hy Finn and by the valorous, red-weaponed fiana of Ireland throughout Sid na mBan Finn and Sid ar Femen and the eastern part of the Plain of Femen and the slopes of Luachair Dedad. And the chiefs of the fiana and their noble tribes went with the royal leader of the fiana to hold that chase, even the children of Baiscne and the children of Moma and the children of Dubh-dithribh and the children of Nemnann and the children of Ronan and the children of Smol and the tribe of Dubh da bhoirenn and all the other ordinary fian.
2. The chase was arranged and spread by them throughout the woods and wildernesses and sloping glens of the lands nearest to them, and throughout smooth, delightful plains and close-sheltering woods and broad-bushed, vast, oak forests. And each man of the fiana of Ireland went separately to his mound of chase and his site of throwing and his gap of danger, as they were wont to arrange every victorious chase before that. But on that day it was not the same for them as on every other day, for the chase failed them, so that they found neither wild swine nor hare nor wolf nor badger nor deer nor hind nor roe nor fawn on which any one of them might redden his hand that day. And that night they spent in sorrow and disgrace; and on the morrow they rose in the early bright morning; and the chase was extended by them along the Shannon of green currents and throughout lofty, cold Slieve Aughty and throughout the ancient Plain, of Adhar son of Timor; but that day also the luck of the chase failed them as it had done on the first day.
3. However, in the morning of the third day they arranged their eager, nimble-footed packs of hounds jointly throughout Sescenn na nAighe and the districts nearest to it. But that day also they had no response, but as on every other day. Great was the astonishment of Finn and of all the fian of Ireland thereat. And after their march and journey and toil on the third day Finn sat down upon the hill of assembly by the side of Sescenn na nAighe; and the fian came towards him in their troops and hosts and small widely scattered bands, in their companies and hundreds and divisions, neck to neck, and back to back, and one after another. And they sat down around the royal leader of the fiana. Then a man of the fiana of Ireland asked Finn: 'Who is the warrior whose grave this is upon which we are, Finn?' said he. I have the truth of that for thee,' said Finn. 'This is the grave of Failbhe Finnmaisech,' said he, 'a brave royal fian-chief of my own household, who this day seven years ago was killed here by a swine, even the giant boar of Formael; and that swine killed fifty of my hounds and fifty of my warriors together with him on that day. And a brave warrior he was who is in this grave,' said Finn, 'when there was battle or contest for the fiana.' And then in praise of Failbhe Finn made a lay:
'The grave of Failbhe, who would respond to the fian both near and afar, until the warrior was buried by the side of Sescenn na nAighe.
'Fifty hounds and fifty men went with him hither upon a time; of them all but one hound escaped and one man.
'They found death by the tusks of the fierce stout-backed swine: the giant boar of Formael killed both hounds and men.
'He found the black, shapely, dusky swine; it made for us intent on fight; it laid low both hounds and men: a combat whence this grave was dug.
'Dear to me was Failbhe the Red on the day when he wrought a slaughter of the foreigners; he would respond to trouble and challenge—he who lies in this grave.'
'And ye fiana of Ireland,' said Finn, 'since other chase and hunting-trophies have failed us, we will make to-morrow morning's chase upon that swine. And it is for this that every other chase has failed us, because it was prophesied to us to encounter that swine, and we will avenge our wrongs upon it.'
4. And that night be went with his people to the stronghold of Maillen, son of Midhna, a noble warrior of Finn's people. And in expectation of them Maillen had a splendid feast prepared for Finn and all the fiana of Ireland. The banqueting-hall had been strewn with fresh rushes, and jointed tables pieced together had been set up in it. And the hosts were seated in the hostel in conformity with their nobility and wealth and honour, according to professions and degrees. And the boards were covered with satin and silk and serge and sendal, and with shining bright napery and delightful coloured cloths, and they were served and waited upon with every choice dainty. And then they raised embossed goblets of crystal and white silver, and beautiful ornamented horns set with precious stones. And Finn's own drinking-horn was raised up; Midhlethan was its name, which was carried by two attendants, Iarratach and Ath-chuingech by name. And the privilege of those two was valuable; for any noble to whom one of them would present the full of the horn, from him he would receive its equivalent in gold or silver, so that by reason of that horn they became rich. And on that night there fell an outburst of mutual recrimination and anger between them, so that they killed one another in the presence of the fian.
5. That deed weighed heavily on Finn's mind, so that for a long time he was silent, without drink or food, or delight of mind. Royal chief of the fiana,' said Maillen, son of Midhna, 'do not let it make you silent or sad that those two have slain each other; for many a brave warrior has been slain ere this on account of his ill-gotten wealth.' 'I regret those two,' said Finn; but I am not so much troubled about their death as about that which gave rise to it. Bring me the horn,' said Finn; and it was brought to him. And Finn said: 'Do ye know, warriors, who gave me this horn, and where I got it?' 'We do not know, royal fian-chief!' said they. 'I know,' said Finn.
6. 'On a day when I and you were engaged in hunting and victorious chase in woods and wildernesses, and when I was on my mound of chase, and two warriors of the fian together with me there, even Cailte and Oisin—for there used to be with me a couple of the fiana of Ireland turn and turn about, watching and guarding me in the hunting-grounds where I was,—on that day it fell to Cailte and Oisin to guard and watch me; and we were listening to the noise of the warriors, and to the din of the multitude, and to the bustle of the attendants, and to the voices of the hounds, and to the whistling of the hunters, and to the inciting of the hounds by the warriors, and to the shouts of the young lads, and to the turmoil of the chase on every side of us. And we had not been there long before a dark, magical mist arose around us, so that none of us three could see the face of the other. And we left the mound, and went through the wood nearest to us searching it until we found in it a waterfall and an estuary and a river. And out of the river we took for every man and every hound a fin-speckled salmon. And a hut and tent were made for us, and a pile of a great fire was kindled by us, and we ate our fill of salmon.
7. 'And thereupon we heard an exquisite, wistful fairy-music being chanted near us, and Cáilte said to Oisin: "Arise," said he, "and let us be on our guard lest the fairy-music beguile us." And so it was done,' said Finn; and thus we spent that night. And all the fian were seeking us throughout the neighbouring territories. And in the early morning we went to the same hunting-mound and found a black, misshapen, enormous, huge churl sitting en the mound before us, who rose up before us and greeted us. And putting his hand into his bosom he brought out two golden pipes and played a tuneful, harmonious strain of melody for us, so that wounded men or women in travail or a host in sickness, or wounded warriors or lacerated heroes would have fallen asleep at the exquisite music which he made. And when he had ceased with the music he took a drinking-horn adorned with gold out of the hidden shelter of his dress and put it into my hand, and it full of intoxicating mead pleasant to drink. And I drank a drink out of it and put it into the hand of Oisin. And he drank out of it, and put it into Cáilte's hand, who also drank. And Cáilte put the horn into the hand of the churl.
8. 'And thus was that horn, with five beautiful variously wrought golden rows of studs, with every setting well-arranged in it, and between each two rows there was drink enough for two. And when we were joyous and happy, we saw a large fierce and powerful proud band coming towards us ou the mountain. And the tall man asked me: "Whose is that large band yonder which I see upon the hill, making for us, Finn?" said he. I answered his question. "That yonder," said Finn, "is a man who takes neither insult nor contempt from anyone in the world." "Whose is the other host yonder?" said the churl, "which is more than three hundred (?) men strong . . . with golden . . . hair in slender plaits upon him. A . . . eye in his head and a . . ." 'That man is the leader of the Connaught fiana," said Finn; "he is steadfast towards friends, kind and gentle towards . . ., fierce, firm, steadfast at the hour of hattle, firm against reavers, his is a hand against which neither hattle nor contest nor comhat has ever heen upheld—even Goll son of Moma, son of Cormac, son of Neman, son of Moma the Great," said Finn. "Good indeed," said the churl; "what is yonder other great company that is more than fiity high-spirited, martial warriors strong . . ., with the terror of hattle and strife upon him? " " The leader of that host is a man with . . . and with delightfulness and prowess and cheerfulness . . ., even the red-handed . . . MacLughach.' Said the churl: "Whose is the proud, conspicuous, numerous host, with garments of every colour . . ., manly, fair and ruddy, masterful, truly hold, with the strength of a lion and with the fierceness of a robber, more than three thousand strong. . . .?' 'Not hard to tell. He is a sea . . .," said Finn, "and a lion for fierceness and a bear for ferocity, and a springtide wave for the rush of his onset, and a bear cub for wildness, and a champion who cannot be beaten, and a man who cannot be resisted when he engages in battle or contest. The leader of that band is the valiant and mighty Oscar, son of Oisin."
9. 'From east and west the mountain was filled with hounds and men around the fierce warlike Oscar,' said Finn, and then he made these quatrains:—
'Morna's son, the ready, noble warrior, Goll the bloody, red-bladed, against him from morning till eventide no bloody battle can stand.
' Mac Rethe yonder upon the mountain and his fian from the west around him,—though a man should beat him (?), his valour is none the less.
'Mac Lughach is next to them; though a hundred warriors should come against him, from the moment they stand face to face 'tis a short while till he subdues them.
'I see Oscar coming behind them, often he is embroiled in strife; his spirits are higher than the sea once it has come to blows.
'They have all speckled the mountain both east and west, so that it is full of stout bands around Oscar, my great son.'
10. 'Thereupon Goll came to us,' said Finn, 'and the churl put the drinking-horn into his hand, and he drank out of it. Then came the valiant fiana of Ireland to us with the trophy of every triumph, carrying the red burdens of the quarry upon them as they boasted of every chase, and the leaders of the fian sat down by me upon the hunting-mound. And the churl gave the fill of the horn to every leader of ^ana, so that they all became joyous and happy. As the light of day came there came upon the churl a beautiful form and shapeliness and radiance, so that there was a delightful beauty upon him, so that there never came from the rise of the sun to its setting a man of better mien and aspect than he, both as to size and . . . and proportion and cheerfulness and wisdom and speech and he had the demeanour of a high-king, and there was the charm of a youth in his figure. 'Well now, royal leader of the fiana,' said Goll, 'who is that fair many-hued unknown warrior near thee? ''And I said,' said Finn: 'I do not know, for he has not made himself fully known to me.' 'Now,' said he, 'here is my full name for you. Cronánach from the fairy-hill on Femen am I,- said the warrior, .... ....... said Finn . . . .all Ireland, and he stayed a year with me and gave me the horn. And five hoops .....and though it should be filled with water, it turns into sweet-tasting, delicious mead ..... when the bearer of the horn ... his mate, so that .....the story of the bora and the cause of my sorrow,' said Finn, and he made this lay:
'Five rows of studs there were in Finn's horn, it was a good hand that put them into it, he was a proper man in every way, the hand that wrought those five.
'It was wrong what the men did, not to wait for fair peace; it is worse what has followed from it, each one to slay his comrade.
'Cronánach of the fairy-hill on Femen we found here without concealment, very sweet was the song of the man, 'tis he that brought the five-studded horn.'
11 . Thereupon with great sadness Finn put the horn from him and thenceforth they ceased from that conversation. And there arose the clamour and mirth of the hostel, and the attendants and servants and waiting-men of the hostel rose to get horns and cups and drinking-vessels, so that they were all merry and joyous, and the pi'oud hands of the fian were conversing affahly and talking sweetly together. However they arose early on the morrow for the chase of the aforesaid swine, even the boar of Formáel. And every warrior cf the fiana of Ireland sat down in his shooting-site and in his gap of danger making ready for the swine. And their hounds, sweet-voiced and nimble-footed, bending their heads to the ground, were unleashed throughout the woods and forests and wildernesses and sloping glens, and they, set their traps of the chase on the expanse and level parts of the land. And they roused that combative boar, so that all the hounds and packs and warriors of the fian saw him. The description of that huge boar were enough to cause mortal teiTor, for he was blue-black, with rough bristles, . . . grey, horrible, without ears, without a tail, without testicles, and his teeth standing out long and horrid outside his big head. Then from every direction a neck and neck race of hounds and warriors began towards him. And that ... of a redmouthed beast wrought a slaughter of hounds and men of the fian on that spot. When the two sons of Scórán son of Scandal, viz. Daelgus and Diangus, saw a chance of fighting with him, they made for him and fought fiercely, bravely and heroically against the boar, and they both fell by him in the confines of the combat, even Daelgus and Diangus. Then swift-handed Lughaidh of Si'dh in Chairn came up and fought with him, and he also fell by him in the confines of the combat. Again Fer-taichim son of Uaithne Irgalach came up and fought with the boar, and he fell by him in the confines of the combat. When Finn heard that those nobles had fallen by the pig, he came himself with Oisin and Oscar and Cáilte and the nobles of the fian to have a look at that combative boar.
12. And when the valiant warlike Oscar son of Oisin saw the number of warriors and hounds and men that had fallen by the swine, there arose a great passion of wratli and a high, fierce, terrible, strange tempest in the soul of the noble warrior on beholding the bonebreaking which the wild, baneful boar had wrought on the hounds and men and on the noble leaders of the fian, nor did the royal warrior think it honourable and worthy that anyone should avenge upon it the evil it had done except himself. Great was the fear and fright caused by the boar upon the hosts, and great was the dread and horror upon Oscar. However, he could not avoid it once he had beheld it. And when Oscar had come on to the spot, a wide passage was made for him towards that red-mouthed beast, which was like a furious bear and a phantom of destruction and a conglomeration of battle and ruin. And like unto the foam of a mighty waterfall was each blood-red, saffron-yellow flake of foam that came over its mouth and over its rough, grinding jaws as it was gnashing its teeth at the noble warrior. And it raised the mane of its back on high, so that a plump, wild apple would have stuck on each of its rough horrid bristles. And Oscar brandished the sharp, mettlesome battle-spear in his hand and made a straight cast at the pig, and that was not a shot that missed its aim,—and he sent the spear into the very front of its chest so that it looked as though the spear would pierce it through and through; but the spear glanced off it up into the air as though it had struck a rock or horn. Oscar strode up to it and dealt it a furious blow with his sword, so that the sword broke upon its shoulder. The pig advanced towards Oscar, and Oscar broke his shield upon it and took hold of its rough mane. And the pig rose upon its huge hind-legs to crush the kingly warrior from above. Oscar stretched his mighty stout arms across the pig from below and gave it a fierce sudden twist, so that he brought the mane of its back to the ground. He thrust his knee into it below, his hands seizing its jaw and palate above, so that in that manner the bands of warriors of the fian pulled its entrails and bowels out behind. So thus fell that huge swine by Oscar in the confines of tlie combat. And the graves and tombs of the fian-chiefs and common warriors ivho had been killed by the pig were dug there.
13. Finn came and stood above those graves and uttered the lay:
'Here now is the grave of Fer-taichim who dealt sorrow to many,—it was a prodigious story, it was a bitter deed—having been killed by the great boar.
'The boar that killed Fer-taichim killed many of our nobles until it fell by Oscar,—it was the chase of a hero, it was speedy triumph.
'He had killed three others of our host, the mighty strong boar, Daelgus, Diangus, stout Lughaidh,—arise and dig their graves!
'It has fallen by noble Oscar, the mighty fierce boar, he granted it neither fairplay nor right, so tliat its last resting-place is on the moor.'
14. Thereupon Finn meditated upon a decision, even to leave Ireland for fear of the prophecy which the Cronánach had made to him; for dread and great fear had seized him that the fian would be slaughtered and he himself meet with death that year. And this is the decision which he took, to leave Ireland and to go across the sea eastward, there to spend his fian-ship (for his kingship was no less in the east 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 Aengus of the Brugh and to the nobles of his people and to all the fian and 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 Luaighne 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.
'Aengus mac in Og will come to our help for the sake of . . .gossipred; it is easy to go to the Brugh before going on the .... journey.'
15. Then the nobles of the fian went to hold counsel, and they came to the decision not to let Finn across the sea that year. 'Thou shalt not go across the sea, 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 own strongholds and homesteads to prepare for Finn, so that he might find a banquet in the house of every man of them. And he to whom it fell to attend and serve Finn on that night was Fer-tái son of Uaithne Irgalach, the fian-chief of Conaille Murthemne and the Luaighne of Tara. And the wife of Fer-tái was Iuchna Ardhmór daughter of Goll, son of Morna; and he had a notable distinguished son, valorous, wise, and clever, whose mother was luchna, and who was called Fer-lí. He resembled his grandfather Goll in size and stateliness and soldiership, in virulence and strength and championship, in liberality and prowess and might, in vigour and dexterity and abundance, in hardness and boldness, in knightliness, recklessness, and intrepidity, in magnanimity, in beauty of form, in valour and dauntlessness.
16. Now, when Fer-lí 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 Cédach Ciothach, the son of the King of Norway, and Laeghaire of the swift blows, son of Dubh, son of Sálmór, son of the King of the Men of Fánnall, 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 honour to them, having left behind all his own clan and his usual company, except Aed of the red limbs, son of Faelan, son of Finn, and the three Cú's from Moinmoy and five hundred other warriors, together with those four, so that the whole company of Finn numbered five thousand. And Fer-lí communicated his treacherous design to Émer Glúnglas, son of Aedh, son of Garadh, 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.'
17. And they determined to slay Finn, with his people, by treachery. And those who came to that decision were Fer-lí, son of Fer-tái, and Emer Glúnglas son of Aedh, son of Garadh, and the five sons of Urgriu of the Luaighne of Meath and the three Táiblennachs from the stable plain of Farney. And these all vowed to slay Finn with his people, and thus they arranged and shaped the treachery, viz., to disperse and to 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 stronghold of Fer-tái to where Finn was billeting his people, and that they should say that slaughter and loss were being inflicted by Finn's people on those of Fer-tái, so that that story might be the beginning of conspiracy and of a general onslaught to kill Finn.
18. When Finn had billeted his people a splendid wide-doored hostel was arranged for him in the stronghold of Fer-tái, with choice drapery and fresh rushes, and a great pile of fire was kindled before Finn and Fer-tái and the few sons of kings and princes that were with them. When Finn had sat down with his people to enjoy the feast, they saw the conspirators and traitors coming towards them into the hostel equipped and armed 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 upraising of battle.
19. They were there but a short while after that when they heard a loud angry hue and cry, and fierce, stark-naked men clamouring and vociferating coming towards 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 those sudden raids,' said Fer-lí. 'It shall be well, however,' said Finn; 'for any damage shall be suitably made good,' said he, 'for two cows shall be given for each single cow and two sheep for one.' ''Tis not for that purpose thou hast come,' said Fer-lí, 'but to slay us as thou hast slain our fathers 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 coming unawares; for Finn and his people responded to it stoutly, martially, wrathfully, and the skirmish was fought between them manfully, bravely, fiercely, upon the central floor of the hostel. And Fer-tái 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.
20. 'Tis then Iuchna Ardmhór, daughter of Goll son of Morna, 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,' said she, 'it is ruin of honour and disgrace to a soldier and a reproach to tell and dispelling of luck to betray the princely Finn of the fiana; and now quickly leave the liostel, my son,' said she. And Fer-lí left the hostel to his mother. And as he went forth he said: 'I announce battle to thee to-morrow, Finn,' said he. '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 jian. And Finn said: 'It ill suits my honour that Fer-lí 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:
'Fer-lí, 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 a drink! since thou dost not grant justice or fair play, thy grave will be on the Boyne, man.'
21. When he had finished that song Finn said: 'Warriors,' said he, 'I fear the words which Fer-lí speaks to us remembering his feud against us. And it is true indeed,' said he, 'that I have seen Garadh son of Morna in the battle of Cruinnmóin 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 fian said Finn, and then he spoke the lay:
'Iuchna Ardmhór daughter of Goll, mother of Fer-lí of slender hand; many are they whose head he has bowed; the son resembles Goll.
'Fer-lí son of Fer-tái without fault, Emer who is accustomed to many a fight, my two foster-sons will fall by me; to me they grant no justice, meseems.
'I saw Garadh early; he would drain a lake though it were a river; on the day that he fell by the fian 'twas he who cried ah! and woe!
'Goll was splitting shields; there was the lord that dealt out blood! in the battle of Cruinnmóin . . . his hand and his wrath seethed.'
22. Thereupon Fer-tái, son of Uaithne Irgalach, came into the house where Finn was and sat down by Finn's side and bade him welcome and pressed drink and merriment upon him and said: ''Tis for this this 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 Fánnall is by ray side, even Laeghaire of the swift blows, and he will keep off three hundred warriors from me in this battle. And Cédach Cicthach, 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 fiayi 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 liundred battle-armed warriors from me in the battle, Fer-tái,' said Finn. 'And there are many other full-bold warriors of fierce deeds by my side who are eager for fight and agile in conflict and of unwearied powers and furious in the onset '; and then he spoke the lay:
'Mac Duibh, son of Sálmór of the cloaks, Laeghaire 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 Ciothach 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! For they do not refuse hard battle, reckless they rise all at once.
'When the Luaighne come to battle to-morrow in the morning, by dint of shields and bhides and hands many a mother will be without a son.'
23. 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 five-thousand warriors went to Ath Brea on the southern Boyne, and arrayed them in battle-order upon the bottom of the ford in a mass of shields and swords and helmets.
24. As to Fer-tái son of Uaithne Irgalach, and Fer-lí son of Fer-tái, they gathered their host and multitude, and they came in their 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 around tliem and advanced in their light dresses and in their ponderous armature. And these are the nobles who were put in the front of that battalion of the 'pillars,' viz. Fer-tái son of Uaithne Irgalach, and Fer-lí, son of Fer-tái, and Emer Glúnglas son of Aedh, son of Garadh, son of Morna, and the five sons of Urgriu of tbe ancient tribes of Tara, and the three Táiblennach's from the stable plain of Famey, and the Luaighne of Tara as well.
25. Now when the manful, puissant, powerful, terrible, fierce-battling prince of the fiatia, and the valorous, fierce, combative hero, even Cumball's son of many battalions beheld that battle-phalanx arrayed against him, 'Methinks,' he said, 'those men are giving us battle in earnest. And 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. "Tis I who 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.
26. Then Birgad the female messenger came to where those nobles were and told them that. 'It is just to accept the terms,' said Fer-tái, 'for Finn loves thee dearly, Fer-lí,' said he. '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-lí, '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-tái, '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 vigour, for fury, for hardiness, for boldness, for fierceness, for heroism in slaying hosts and multitudes '; and then he spoke the lay:
'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 Finn himself and to go submissive into his house.'
[Fer-lí:] '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 into his house.'
[Fer-tái:] 'Finn is good at cutting down the . . . battle; his is the vanquishing hand in every direction; whoever fights with the brilliant King, it is woe to himself, it seems to me.'
27. 'That is ill advice,' said Fer-tái, to give battle to Finn, on account of his nobility and fierceness and valour.' 'Not so at all,' said Fer-lí, 'we shall accept nothing from him but battle. For yon decrepit old warrior will not stand, up against us,' said he, 'for readiness and braveiy in the up-rising of battle '; and the messenger turned back and reported those 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.'
28. And again the messenger came and offered those terms, 'it is just to accept the terms,' said Fer-tái; 'and whoever has given battle to Finn unjustly has ever been routed by Finn '; and Fer-tái spoke a lay on this:
'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!
'Finn will not go without fighting him though fierce be his prowess, until he be as I wish, without sense, without reason.
'The men of Moinmoy will be there with mighty blades; from your conflict, 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 Glúnglas son of Aedh, son of Garadh; and so said the sons of Urgriu, son of Lughaidh Corr, and so said the Luaighne of Tara.
29. The messenger went and gave a true account to Finn; 'and they say that thou art 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 Luaighne of Tara with false words, if they come to Brea, I shall give vigorous battle.
'The son of Aedh, son of Garadh, the son of Émer Glúnglas, this is the end of his . . . to be in the battle . . .
'The children 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 gentlemen and the daring of their counsel; for every enemy is unforgiving, my messenger,' quoth he. 'And offer them their own award, for a battle without terms is not good.' So Birgad, the female messenger, came to where those nobles 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 hitherto,' said the old warrior.' And Fer-lí attempted to kill the messenger, but he was not allowed. 'I pledge my word for it,' said Fer-lí, 'Birgad, if thou art seen again, that I shall shorten thy life.'
30. And Birgad returned upon the road and lifted up her dress above the globe of her buttocks, and ... in her head, her tongue quivering with the great danger in which she was, and so she came to where Finn was. When Finn beheld those signs on Birgad, he made this rhetoric:
'my messenger Birgad, that travellest over tribes, thy tongue is panic-stricken, speak nought to us but truth! If the Luaighne come with their shields upon their shoulders, and the men from Coolney, sorrowful will be . . .'
And Birgad answered him and said:
'Ah Finn, thou man of troubles, long has it been prophesied, thou shalt be in a litter of gore. The Luaighne will come to thee with their shields upon their shoulders, and the men of Coolney and Emer along with them.'
[Finn:] 'If thou goest into battle, let the cause be bloody. 'Tis wrong to oppose a prince for a cause without crime. Wheu the fian has risen, if they be worsted in sense and reason, I shall come against the battle, whence a trunk will be upon a spit.'
'Royal chief of the fiana,' said Birgad, 'those yonder have with one accord taken their counsel against you,' said she, 'and act bravely against those warriors and the Luaighne 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,'
31. Then rose the royal chief of the fiana of Ireland 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 contest, even 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 those 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, ciystal gems and with flashing, full-beautiful, precious stones which had been set in it by the hands of master-smiths and great artists.
32. 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 Ireland and Scotland and the headship of the fiana of the whole world should be in the hands of Finn son of Cumhall at that time; for he was one of the five masters in every great art, and one of the three sons of comfort to Ireland, even Lugh Longhand, son of Cian, who ousted the race of Fomorians from Ireland; and Brian of Bóromha, son of Cennédigh, who brought Ireland out of bondage and oppression so that there was not a winno wing-sheet of any kiln in Ireland without a Norse slave to work it until Brian cast them out; and Finn son of Cumhall, the third son of comfort to Ireland, who expelled from Ireland marauders and reavers and horrible things and monsters and many beasts and full many a fleet of exiles and every other pest. And there came a murrain to Ireland from one corner to another; and for a whole year Finn fed the men of Ireland and put seven cows and a bull in every single steading in Ireland.'
33. Now however that illustrious, puissant . . . senior came and pledged the small host that was with him to behave bravely against the army before them. And the fifteen hundred ^«w- warriors that were with Finn rose at the powerful urging of the voice of their lord; and each warrior leapt into his coat of mail and grasped his sword and seized his lance, so that they were a mass of shield and sword and helmet around Finn son of Cumhall and Cédach Ciothach, the son of the king of Norway, and around Laeghaire of the swift blows, the son of Dubh, son of Sálmhor, son of the king of the men of Fánnall, and around Aedh Balldherg, son of Faelan, son of Finn, and the three Cú's of Moinmoy. And they lifted up dense, vast, huge, dark-red, and flaming forests 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 dark-crimson, spiky shields, and of yellow-speckled, buffalo-horn shields. It was enough however 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 tlieir hearts and the ferocity of their intent. And tliey made a fierce, swift, light-winged, intrepid rush in their well-arranged phalanx and in their destructive mass and in their furious band to the centre of the ford.
34. 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 and combat 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, even Fer-tái, son of Uaithne Irgalach, and Fer-lí, son of Fer-tái, and Émer Glúnglas son of Aedh, son of Garadh, and the five sons of Urgriu, and Aithlech Mór, son of Dubriu, and Urgriu himself and the three Táiblennachs from the stable plain of Farney. And they made a swarming, swift, torrential rush to the centre of the ford from the other side against Finn and his people.
35. And they did not long rest content with looking at each other, when 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 half-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, cnishing, masterful, brisk, bitter, earnest fight, and they flung huge showers of 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 broken shield shattered, and helmets and head-pieces broken to pieces, while soldiers and champions were inflicting wounds. Then 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 the men, and to hear the roar of the champions as they fell, and the clangour 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 the helmets, and the outcry of the host as they were defending themselves against the champions.
36. And the warriors did not cease from the deadly conflict until from one end to another 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 caldron. Then came a couple of Finn's people into the battalion of the 'pillars,' even Thúthach, son of Dubthach, and Tuaran, son of Tomhar, and those 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.
37. Thereupon a fierce, implacable warrior of Finn's people came into the battalion of the 'pillars,' viz. Laeghaii'e of the swift blows, son of Dubh, son of Sálmhor, son of tlie king of the men of Fánnall, and he made a breach of a hundred in the battle right in front of him, and he plied his wrath upon the Luaighne of Tara, so that one hundred warriors of the people of Fer-lí fell by him. However, when Fer-lí saw the spreading of the slaughter and that great royal clearance and the hattle-breaking which Laeghaire wrought on his people, he came to meet him. 'Furious are those onslaughts, Laeghaire,' said Fer-lí. '"lis true, indeed,' said Laeghaire, 'and no thanks to thee. 'Tis not a friendly discourse which you have held with our people.' Then came one hundred flaming full-keen warriors of Fer-lí's people against him in the battle, and they all fell by Laeghaire's hand before the eyes of their lord. And Laeghaire wounded Fer-lí, and in return for his wound Fer-lí wounded him. And just then there came another hundred angry implacable warriors of Fer-lí's people, and those hundred also fell by Laeghaire's hand in the confines of the contest. And Fer-lí wounded him, and he wounded Fer-lí. However, those 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 those two, until Laeghaire fell by Fer-lí in the confines of combat, and Fer-lí boasted of the triumph.
38. That did not intimidate or frighten Finn or his people, but they pressed the battle and urged. . . . After the fall of Laeghaire came Cédach Ciothach, son of the King of Norway, into the battalion of the 'pillars,' and terrible were the ungentle .... which he wrought among the battalions round about him, so that sole would touch sole, and arm arm, and neck neck, wherever he went among the enemy. When Émer Glúnglas, son of Aedh, son of Garadh, beheld the slaughter of warriors and that onset of the royal hero, he came himself to meet Cédach like an angry combative bull to a trial of strength. And 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, even Émer and Cédach Ciothach.
39. Then came Aedh Baillderg 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 Aithlech Mór, son of Duibriu, and Aedh met in the battle, so that thrice nine warriors of the flower of Mac Uirgriu's people fell by Aedh Baillderg, and they made a valiant bloody heroic combat against one another. Those wei-e terrible wounds and perilous maimings, and intersecting were the injuries which they inflicted on each other's bodies, until Aedh Baillderg fell in the confines of the combat.
40. Now when the prince of the fiana 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 senior 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 royul 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 valour arose over the breath of the royal warrior, so that crowds of warriors were unable to stand against his valour, so that men fell round his knee and a heap of them was piled up in their maimed bodies and bloody truncated necks and litter of gore wlierever he would go in the battle. And he went among them and through them and over them like a fierce furious ox 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 which 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 spectres 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. And the royal warrior never ceased from that onset until the battalion of the 'pillars 'was annihilated both by slaughter and flight, all save Fer-lí and Fer-tái and the five sons Uirgriu.
41. "When Fer-lí saw Finn by himself without any troops to protect him and without a friend to guard his back, he came to meet him and rehearsed' his enmity against the royal fian-chief. Finn answered Fer-h' and said: 'Thou wilt thyself fall for those feuds,' said he. However, those two began a combat on the spot. That mutual onset was fierce, wolf-like, equally strong. The encounter of those two was impetuous, vengeful, stern, and of fierce strokes. The harsh clashing of the swords and of the tusk-hilted blades against the heads and helmets of each other was horrible, parlous,
When Fer-lí had worn out his sword against the head and body of the royal fian-chief, he seized the 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-lí had inflicted on him, so that he gave him a . . . fierce, hard, bone-crushing blow with his sword, so that he struck his head off his body. And Finn boasted of that veteran warrior and that prop of battle having fallen by him.
42. However when Fer-tái, son of Uaithne Irgalach, beheld his son falling, he came vehemently, sullenly, impatiently towards Finn and said: 'Those in sooth are great deeds, Finn,' said he. 'That is true,' said Finn; and why hast thou not come till now? ' I had hoped thou wouldst have fallen by Fer-lí and I should have liked thee to fall by him rather than by me.' Hast thou come to com- miserate me,' said Finn, 'or to attack me? ''To attack thee, indeed,' said Fer-lí, 'for nought of lordship nor of . . . nor of wealth has been appointed for which I should forgive the slaying of my son.' Thus . . . 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 to annihilate each other; but it were difficult and impossible for men to give a description of that fight, for the charges were bull -like, headlong, and fierce, parlous, dangerous were the wounds and cruel and terrible the injuries which they inflicted on each other. And Fer-tái 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-tái such a fierce blow with his sword that neither the long . . . corslet nor the compact wadding nor the hard foreign armour was any protection to Fer-tái, so that the champion fell to the ground in two heavy pieces. And Finn boasted of having achieved that great deed.
43. This was the hour in which the five sons of Uirgriu came upon the scene and turned their faces towards Finn. When Finn beheld those 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 children of Uirgriu saw that the hero had been wounded in the earlier combats which he had fought with Fer-tái and his son, even Fer-lí, and that he was feeble from loss of blood. . .
[End of fo. 24a2.]