The Celtic Literature Collective

Here is the Panegyric of Conn’s son Cormac and the
Death of Finn son of Cumhall

A monarch, noble and worshipful, that attained to rule Ireland: Cormac, son of Art son of Conn of the Hundred Battles. Subsequently he reigned over her for forty years, excepting the two during which Ulster usurped: that is to say Fergus Black-knee for one year, and Eochaid Gonnat for another. Twice in fact the Ulidians deposed Cormac. The same Cormac too was for four months missing from among his people nor, until he himself came back and told his adventures, was it known in what direction he was gone.

To proceed: saving David’s son Solomon there never was in the world a king that for lustre of his intellect, for opulence oi his reign, might be likened to Cormac. For he never gave judgment but he had the three judicial requisites: that of a mind gifted with sagacity; that of judicial precedent, and that of bai bias. As a result of which judgments’ wisdom and science it was that in Cormac’s time the calf commonly was born at the term of three months’ gestation; in his day a sack of wheat was produced from every ridge; in his day the colpach-heifers were already calved cows. Any river that was but knee-deep, in his time a salmon was got there in every one mesh of the net. In his time the cow had her udderful of biestings. In his time. it was with the finger’s tip that men might gather honey [as they walked], seeing that for the righteousness of Cormac’s governance it was rained down from Heaven. In his time it was that vessels could not be had for the milk, for the kine shed their milk without cessation.

That king was comparable to Octavius Augustus also: for even as to the former every one paid Caesarian [i.e. imperial] tribute for his patrimony; so to Cormac likewise all men out of their own natural localities paid the royal rent, for Cormac never deprived any one of that which was his own.

In the world there was not a king like Cormac: for he it was that excelled in form, in figure and in vesture; in size, in justice and in equity; in his eyes too, in either one of which were seven pupils, as Senuath the poet tells us when he says

“Beautiful was the difference that was between them which were a variegated pair: for in the man’s eyes fourteen pupils were extant."

He it was that in respect of sagacity, of wisdom, of eloquence, of action and of valour, of royal sway, of domination, of splendour, of emulation, of ethics and of race, was vigorous in his Own time. Of Ireland he made a land of promise: she being then free of theft, of rapine, of violence; exempt from all necessity of watching, of herding, and without perplexity in the matter of either meat or raiment to affect any man.

But in the way of Cormac’s eulogy this [that we have said] is all too little; for unless that an angel should instruct him a man may not declare it all. Great were his power and control over the men of Ireland, seeing that (unless one rendered Cormac military service) none of them dared abstain from work.

Now he whom Cormac had for chief of the household and for stipendiary master of the hounds was Finn son of Cumhall; for the primest leader that the king of Ireland had was his master of the hounds always.

Warrior better than Finn never struck his hand into a chief’s: inasmuch as for service he was a soldier, a hospitaller for hospitality, and in heroism a hero; in fighting functions he was a fighting man, and in strength was a champion worthy of a king; so that ever since, and from that time until this day, it is with Finn that every such is co-ordinated. Forby all which, Finn with the king’s especial bands enjoyed general right and exercise of chase and venery throughout Ireland.

Where Finn’s abiding was mostly was in Almha of Leinster; but when decrepitude and old age weighed on him (Cormac also being now gone) he dwelt in Almha permanently; unless that he might have occasion to make some passing excursion out of it. She that was spouse to Finn was Fatha Canann’s daughter, Smirgat; she was a prophetess and wise woman, and had told him that whensoever he should drink a draught out of a horn that act would end his life; so that thenceforth he never took a drink out of a horn, but out of cuach [scot. ‘quaighs ‘].

One day Finn sallied out of Almha, and by-and-by found himself in the place called adharcha iuchbadh in Offaley; there on a hillside he came upon a well, out of which he took a drink. Under his ‘knowledge-tooth’ he put his thumb then, and worked the incantation of teinm laeghda, whereby it was revealed to him that the end of his term and of his life was come; and he sang these quatrains following:

The prophecy is befallen Finn...

Then he went on till he reached druim Bregh [i.e. ‘the Ridge of Bregia’], in which country existed causes of enmity to Finn and the Fianna; for by him it was that Uirgrenn, of the tribe called the Luiaghne of Tara, fell once. These gathered now, with Uirgrenn’s three sons, and Aichlech More: son namely of Duibrenn, that was third man of the sons of Uirgrenn. Between them is fought an extraordinary and a ruthless battle, manly, masculine and fierce, in which all and several recalled to mind their grievances (whether remote or more immediately touching themselves) that they had the one against the other. At Brea upon the Boyne: that is where that battle came off; they were at the hand-to-hand work for a length of time, and till on both sides their mischiefs were very many. The fight was won against Finn, and he perished in it. Duibrenn’s son Aichlech: by him Finn fell, and he it was that beheaded him; wherefore in order to the commemoration of the deed, and to bring the ignorant to the way of knowledge, the sennachie sung these quatrains:

Brea’s great battle of exploits bright ...

This then, according to archaeological verity and as experts relate it, is Finn’s death; but his origin they declare variously. Some of them say that he was of the corca-Oiche in ua Fidhgeinte; others again assert (and this is the truth of the matter) that he was of the úi Tairrsigh of Offaley, which were of the Attacotti, as Maelmura has said in the chronicle: six stocks there are that shall have territorial settlement, but are not of Breogan’s people, viz, the Garbraighe of the Suca; the úi Tairrsigh; the Galeoin of Leinster [and others].

They of Leinster however state that Finn was great-grandson to Nuada Necht, and that his pedigree is this: Finn, son of Cumhail son of Sualtach son of Baeiscne son of Nuada Necht.

The above is Cormac’s Panegyric and Finn’s Death. 



Silva Gadelica. ed. and trans. Standish Hayes O'Grady. 1892. reprint: NY: C. Lemma Publishing Corporation, 1970.

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