The Celtic Literature Collective

The Excuse of Gulide's Daughter
Summary by Myles Dillon

(1—2) Fedlimid son of Crimthann became king of Munster. Once he went on a circuit of Munster and came into West Munster as far as Ath Lóchi, where Gulide the satirist lived. It was in the depth of winter and the snow was so deep that the king’s retinue found it difficult to make their way. Fed­limid inquired who lived nearest, and the guides replied that it was his friend Gulide of Ath Lóchi. Fedlimid said that he was bitter, fierce, and given to hard words, quick to ask a favour and slow to grant one. Yet Gulide had accepted gifts of gold and silver, horses, bridles, and saddles, and they were entitled to his hospitality for the night. The company went therefore to his house, and horns and trumpets were sounded on the rampart of the enclosure. Only Gulide and his daughter were within, for he was a grey-haired old man of seven score years.

(3—8) Gulide had been a great warrior, a great hospitaller, and a great satirist, so that he was known as Gulide the Satirist. He rose from where he lay and leaned on his elbow to look around, but he saw only his daughter. He bade her go out to see who was come. She went out and came back with the news that a great company was there, and that she thought it was Fedlimid son of Crimthann with the chiefs of the Men of Munster. ‘Go out to the company,’ said Gulide, ‘and make a fine speech (ségantus briathar) so that they may pass on from us tonight.’

The girl went out and spoke to Fedlimid. Her speech con­tains many obscure words, but the burden of it is that when Gulide was prosperous he did not grudge Fedlimid hospitality for three days or five or ten or a month or even a year, however great his retinue. Now, however, the times are bad, too many guests pass that way and his estate is poor. There is no food in the house. The girl apologizes finally for her poor speech and wishes that her three elder sisters might have been there to speak in her stead. But Fedlimid is delighted with her eloquence, and bestows upon her the land from Drong to Loch Léin.

(9—10) The girl says that she once went on a visit and received poor entertainment, the twenty-fourth part of the mouldy skin of a scabby calf, a little oats from the north end of a field that had gone back to meadow,—neither sun nor wind had ripened it, it had been reaped before it should have been reaped and ground before it should have been ground, and so forth. Here again much is obscure. Finally she says that Fedlimid will not be treated so. He shall get hospitality for the night, even if it be a wet covering in half-roofed houses, with bread half-stale and joints half-bare.

Then the girl took Fedlimid by the hand and led him inside. He was there for three days and three nights, and never was he better fed as long as he was king. And Fedlimid left them his blessing.