The Celtic Literature Collective

The Cattle-Raid of Regamna
The Yellow Book of Lecan

WHEN Cuchulain lay in his sleep at Dun Imrid, there he heard a cry from the north; it came straight towards him; the cry was dire, and most terrifying to him. And he awaked in the midst of his sleep, so that he fell, with the fall of a heavy load, out of his couch,[1] to the ground on the eastern side of his house. He went out thereupon without his weapons, so that he was on the lawns before his house, but his wife brought out, as she followed behind him, his arms and his clothing. Then he saw Laeg in his harnessed chariot, coming from Ferta Laig, from the north; and "What brings thee here?" said Cuchulain. "A cry," said Laeg, "that I heard sounding over the plains. "On what side was it?" said Cuchulain. "From the north-west it seemed," said Laeg, "that is, across the great road of Caill Cuan. "[2] "Let us follow after to know of it (lit. after it, to it for us)," said Cuchulain.

They went out thereupon till they came to Ath da Ferta. When they were there, straightway they heard the rattle of a chariot from the quarter of the loamy district of Culgaire. Then they saw the chariot come before them, and one chestnut (lit. red) horse in it. The horse was one footed, and the pole of the chariot passed through the body of the horse, till a wedge went through it, to make it fast on its forehead. A red[3] woman was in the chariot, and a red mantle about her, she had two red eye-brows, and the mantle fell between the two ferta[4] of her chariot behind till it struck upon the ground behind her. A great man was beside her chariot, a red[5] cloak was upon him, and a forked staff of hazel at his back, he drove a cow in front of him. "That cow is not joyful at being driven by you!" said Cuchulain. "The cow does not belong to you," said the woman, "she is not the cow of any friend or acquaintance of yours." "The cows of Ulster," said Cuchulain, "are my proper (care)." "Dost thou give a decision about the cow?" said the woman; "the task is too great to which thy hand is set, O Cuchulain." "Why is it the woman who answers me?" said Cuchulain, "why was it not the man?" "It was not the man whom you addressed," said the woman. "Ay," said Cuchulain, "(I did address him), though thyself hath answered for him:" "h-Uar-gaeth-sceo-luachair-sceo[6] is his name," said she. "Alas! his name is a wondrous one," said Cuchulain. "Let it be thyself who answers,[7] since the man answers not. What is thine own name?" said Cuchulain. "The woman to whom thou speakest," said the man, "is Faebor-begbeoil-cuimdiuir-folt-scenbgairit-sceo-uath."[8] "Do ye make a fool of me?" cried Cuchulain, and on that Cuchulain sprang into her chariot: he set his two feet on her two shoulders thereupon, and his spear on the top of her head. "Play not sharp weapons on me!" "Name thyself then by thy true name!" said Cuchulain. "Depart then from me!" said she: "I am a female satirist in truth," she said, "and he is Daire mac Fiachna from Cualnge: I have brought the cow as fee for a master-poem." "Let me hear the poem then," said Cuchulain. "Only remove thyself from me," said the woman; "it is none[9] the better for thee that thou shakest it over my head." Thereon he left her until he was between the two poles (ferta) of her chariot, and she sang to him[10] . . . . . . Cuchulain threw a spring at her chariot, and he saw not the horse, nor the woman, nor the chariot, nor the man, nor the cow. Then he saw that she had become a black bird upon a branch near to him. "A dangerous[11] (or magical) woman thou art," said Cuchulain: "Henceforward," said the woman, "this clay-land shall be called dolluid (of evil,)" and it has been the Grellach Dolluid ever since. "If only I had known it was you," said Cuchulain, "not thus should we have separated." "What thou hast done," said she, "shall be evil to thee from it." "Thou hast no power against me," said Cuchulain. "I have power indeed," said the woman; "it is at the guarding of thy death that I am; and I shall be," said she. "I brought this cow out of the fairy-mound of Cruachan, that she might breed by the Black Bull[12] of Cualnge, that is the Bull of Daire Mae Fiachna. It is up to that time that thou art in life, so long as the calf which is in this cow's body is a yearling; and it is this that shall lead to the Tain bo Cualnge." "I shall myself be all the more glorious for that Tain," said Cuchulain: "I shall slay their warriors: I shall break their great hosts: I shall be survivor of the Tain." "In what way canst thou do this?" said the woman, "for when thou art in combat against a man of equal strength (to thee), equally rich in victories, thine equal in feats, equally fierce, equally untiring, equally noble, equally brave, equally great with thee, I will be an eel, and I will draw a noose about thy feet in the ford, so that it will be a great unequal war for thee." "I swear to the god that the Ulstermen swear by," said Cuchulain, "I will break thee against a green stone of the ford; and thou shalt have no healing from me, if thou leavest me not." "I will in truth be a grey wolf against thee," said she, "and I will strip a stripe' from thee, from thy right (hand) till it extends to thy left." "I will beat thee from me," said he, "with the spear, till thy left or thy right eye bursts from thy head, and thou shalt never have healing from me, if thou leavest me not." "I shall in truth," she said, "be for thee as a white heifer with red ears, and I will go into a lake near to the ford in which thou art in combat against a man who is thine equal in feats, and one hundred white, red-eared cows shall be behind me and 'truth of men' shall on that day be tested; and they shall take thy head from thee." "I will cast at thee with a cast of my sling," said Cuchulain, "so as to break either thy left or thy right leg from under thee; and thou shalt have no help from me if thou leavest me not," They[14] separated, and Cuchulain went back again to Dun Imrid, and the Morrigan with her cow to the fairy mound of Cruachan; so that this tale is a prelude to the Tain bo Cualnge.

Heroic Romances of Ireland, Volume II ed. and trans. A.H. Leahy. London: David Nutt, 1906.

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