Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

Poems by Denis Florence MacCarthy

Part 2 out of 6

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.6 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

ah! fierce will be the impending fight!


I'll give a champion's guarantee,
and with thee here a compact make,
That in the assemblies thou shalt be
no longer bound thy place to take;
Rich silver-bitted bridles fair--
for such each noble neck demands--
And gallant steeds that paw the air,
shall all be given into thy hands.
For thou, Ferdiah, art indeed
a truly brave and valorous man,
The first of all the chiefs I lead,
the foremost hero in the van;
My chosen champion now thou art,
my dearest friend henceforth thou'lt be,
The very closest to my heart,
from every toll and tribute free.


Without securities, I say,
united with thy royal word,
I will not go, when breaks the day,
to seek the combat at the Ford.
That contest, while time runs its course,
and fame records what ne'er should die,
Shall live for ever in full force,
until the judgment day draws nigh.
I will not go, though death ensue,
though thou through some demoniac rite,
Even as thy druid sorcerers do,
canst kill me with thy words of might:
I will not go the Ford to free,
until, O queen! thou here dost swear
By sun and moon,[41] by land and sea,
by all the powers of earth and air.


Thou shalt have all; do thou decide.
I'll give thee an unbounded claim;
Until thy doubts are satisfied,
oh! bind us by each sacred name;--
Bind us upon the hands of kings,
upon the hands of princes bind;
Bind us by every act that brings
assurance to the doubting mind.
Ask what thou wilt, and do not fear
that what thou wouldst cannot be wrought;
Ask what thou wilt, there standeth here
one who will ne'er refuse thee aught;
Ask what thou wilt, thy wildest wish
be certain thou shalt have this night,
For well I know that thou wilt kill this
man who meets thee in the fight.


I will have six securities,
no less will I accept from thee;
Be some our country's deities,
the lords of earth, and sky, and sea;
Be some thy dearest ones, O queen!
the darlings of thy heart and eye,
Before my fatal fall is seen
to-morrow, when the hosts draw nigh.
Do this, and though I lose my fame--
do this, and though my life I lose,
The glorious championship I'll claim,
the glorious risk will not refuse.
On, on, in equal strength and might
shall I advance, O queenly Mave,
And Uladh's hero meet in fight,
and battle with Cuchullin brave.


Though Domnal[42] it should be, the sun,
swift-speeding in his fiery car;
Though Niaman's[43] dread name be one,
the consort of the God of War;
These, even these I'll give, though hard
to lure them from their realms serene,
For though they list to lowliest bard,[44]
they may be deaf unto a queen.
Bind it on Morand, if thou wilt,
to make assurance doubly sure;
Bind it, nor dream that dream of guilt
that such a pact will not endure.
By spirits of the wave and wind,
by every spell, by every art,
Bind Carpri Min of Manand,
bind my sons, the darlings of my heart.


O Mave! with venom of deceit
that adder tongue of thine o'erflows,
Nor is thy temper over-sweet,
as well thine earlier consort knows.
Thou'rt truly worthy of thy fame
for boastful speech and lust of power,
And well dost thou deserve thy name--
the Brachail of Rathcroghan's tower.[45]
Thy words are fair and soft, O queen!
but still I crave one further proof--
Give me the scarf of silken sheen,
give me the speckled satin woof,
Give from thy cloak's empurpled fold
the golden brooch so fair to see,
And when the glorious gift I hold,
for ever am I bound to thee.


Oh! art thou not my chosen chief,
my foremost champion, sure to win,
My tower, my fortress of relief,
to whom I give this twisted pin?
These, and a thousand gifts more rare,
the treasures of the earth and sea,
Jewels a queen herself might wear,
my grateful hands will give to thee.
And when at length beneath thy sword
the Hound of Ulster shall lie low,
When thou hast ope'd the long-locked Ford,
and let the unguarded water flow,
Then shall I give my daughter's hand,
then my own child shall be thy bride--
She, the fair daughter of the land
where western Elgga's[46] waters glide.

And thus did Mave Ferdiah bind to fight
Six chosen champions on the morrow morn,
Or combat with Cuchullin all alone,
Whichever might to him the easier seem.
And he, by the gods' names and by her sons,
Bound her the promise she had made to keep,
The rich reward to pay to him in full,
If by his hand Cuchullin should be slain.
For Fergus, young Cuchullin's early friend,
The steeds that night were harnessed, and he flew
Swift in his chariot to the hero's tent.
"Glad am I at thy coming, O my friend!"
Cuchullin said: "My pupil, I accept
With joy thy welcome," Fergus quick replied:
"But what I come for is to give thee news
Of him who here will fight thee in the morn."
"I listen," said Cuchullin, "do thou speak."
"Thine own companion is it, thine own peer,
Thy rival in all daring feats of arms,
Ferdiah, son of Daman, Dare's son,
Of Domnand lord and all its warrior men."
"Be sure of this," Cuchullin made reply,
"That never wish of mine it could have been
A friend should thus come forth with me to fight."
"It therefore doth behove thee now, my son,"
Fergus replied, "to be upon thy guard,
Prepared at every point; for not like those
Who hitherto have come to fight with thee
Upon the 'Tain Bo Cuailgne,' is the chief,
Ferdiah, son of Daman, Dare's son."
"Here I have been," Cuchullin proudly said,
"From Samhain up to Imbule--from the first
Of winter days even to the first of spring--
Holding the four great provinces in check
That make up Erin, not one foot have I
Yielded to any man in all that time,
Nor even to him shall I a foot give way."
And thus the parley went: first Fergus spoke,
Cuchullin then to him in turn replied:


Time is it, O Cuchullin, to arise,
Time for the fearful combat to prepare;
For hither with the anger in his eyes,
To fight thee comes Ferdiah called the Fair.


Here I have been, nor has the task been light,
Holding all Erin's warriors at bay:
No foot of ground have I in recreant flight
Yielded to any man or shunned the fray.


When roused to rage, resistless in his might,
Fearless the man is, for his sword ne'er fails:
A skin-protecting coat of armour bright
He wears, 'gainst which no valour e'er prevails.


Oh! brave in arms, my Fergus, say not so,
Urge not thy story further on the night:--
On any friend, or facing any foe
I never was behind him in the fight.


Brave is the man, I say, in battles fierce,
Him it will not be easy to subdue,
Swords cut him not, nor can the sharp spear pierce,
Strong as a hundred men to dare and do.


Well, should we chance to meet beside the Ford,
I and this chief whose valour ne'er has failed,
Story shall tell the fortune of each sword,
And who succumbed and who it was prevailed.


Ah! liefer than a royal recompense
To me it were, O champion of the sword,
That thine it were to carry eastward hence
The proud Ferdiah's purple from the Ford.


I pledge my word, I vow, and not in vain,
Though in the combat we may be as one,
That it is I who shall the victory gain
Over the son of Daman, Dare's son.


'Twas I that gathered eastward all the bands,
Revenging the foul wrong upon me wrought
By the Ultonians. Hither from their lands
The chiefs, the battle-warriors I have brought.


If Conor's royal strength had not decayed,
Hard would have been the strife on either side:
Mave of the Plain of Champions had not made
A foray then of so much boastful pride.


To-day awaits thy hand a greater deed,
To battle with Ferdiah, Daman's son.
Hard, bloody weapons with sharp points thou'lt need,
Cuchullin, ere the victory be won.

Then Fergus to the court and camp went back,
While to his people and his tent repaired
Ferdiah, and he told them of the pact
Made that same night between him and the queen.

The dwellers in Ferdiah's tent that night
Were scant of comfort, a foreboding fear
Fell on their spirits and their hearts weighed down;
Because they knew in whatsoever fight
The mighty chiefs, the hundred-slaying two
Met face to face, that one of them must fall,
Or both, perhaps, or if but only one,
Certain were they it would their own lord be,
Since on the Tain Bo Cuailgne, it was plain
That no one with Cuchullin could contend.

Nor was their chief less troubled; but at first
The fumes of the late revel overpowered
His senses, and he slept a heavy sleep.
Later he woke, the intoxicating steam
Had left his brain, and now in sober calm
All the anxieties of the impending fight
Pressed on his soul and made him grave.[47] He rose
From off his couch, and bade his charioteer
Harness his pawing horses to the car.
The boy would fain persuade his lord to stay,
Because he loved his master, and he felt
He went but to his death; but he repelled
The youth's advice, and spoke to him these words--
"Oh! cease, my servant. I will not be turned
By any youth from what I have resolved."
And thus in speech and answer spoke the two--


Let us go to this challenge,
Let us fly to the Ford,
When the raven shall croak
O'er my blood-dripping sword.
Oh, woe for Cuchullin!
That sword will be red;
Oh, woe! for to-morrow
The hero lies dead.


Thy words are not gentle,
Yet rest where thou art,
'Twill be dreadful to meet,
And distressful to part.
The champion of Ulster!
Oh! think what a foe!
In that meeting there's grief,
In that journey there's woe!


Thy counsel is craven,
Thy caution I slight,
No brave-hearted champion
Should shrink from the fight.
The blood I inherit
Doth prompt me to do--
Let us go to the challenge,
To the Ford let us go!

Then were the horses of Ferdiah yoked
Unto the chariot, and he rode full speed
Unto the Ford of battle, and the day
Began to break, and all the east grew red.

Beside the Ford he halted. "Good, my friend,"
He said unto his servant, "Spread for me
The skins and cushions of my chariot here
Beneath me, that I may a full deep sleep
Enjoy before the hour of fight arrives;
For in the latter portion of the night
I slept not, thinking of the fight to come."
Unharnessed were the horses, and the boy
Spread out the cushions and the chariot's skins,
And heavy sleep fell on Ferdiah's lids.

Now of Cuchullin will I speak. He rose
Not until day with all its light had come,
In order that the men of Erin ne'er
Should say of him that it was fear or dread
That made him from a restless couch arise.
When in the fulness of its light at length
Shone forth the day, he bade his charioteer
Harness his horses and his chariot yoke.
"Harness my horses, good, my servant," said
Cuchullin, "and my chariot yoke for me,
For lo! an early-rising champion comes
To meet us here beside the Ford to-day--
Ferdiah, son of Daman, Dare's son."
"My lord, the steeds are ready to thy hand;
Thy chariot stands here yoked, do thou step in;
The noble car will not disgrace its lord."

Into the chariot, then, the dextrous, bold,
Red-sworded, battle-winning hero sprang
Cuchullin, son of Sualtam, at a bound.
Invisible Bocanachs and Bananachs,
And Geniti Glindi[48] shouted round the car,
And demons of the earth and of the air.
For thus the Tuatha de Danaans used
By sorceries to raise those fearful cries
Around him, that the terror and the fear
Of him should be the greater, as he swept
On with his staff of spirits to the war.

Soon was it when Ferdiah's charioteer
Heard the approaching clamour and the shout,
The rattle and the clatter, and the roar,
The whistle, and the thunder, and the tramp,
The clanking discord of the missive shields,
The clang of swords, the hissing sound of spears,
The tinkling of the helmet, the sharp crash
Of armour and of arms, the straining ropes,
The dangling bucklers, the resounding wheels,
The creaking chariot, and the proud approach
Of the triumphant champion of the Ford.
Clutching his master's robe, the charioteer
Cried out, "Ferdiah, rise! for lo, thy foes
Are on thee!" Then the Spirit of Insight fell
Prophetic on the youth, and thus he sang.


I hear the rushing of a car,
Near and more near its proud wheels run
A chariot for the God of War
Bursts--as from clouds the sun!
Over Bregg-Ross it speeds along,
Hark! its thunders peal afar!
Oh! its steeds are swift and strong,
And the Victories guide that car.

The Hound of Ulster shaketh the reins,
And white with foam is each courser's mouth;
The Hawk of Ulster swoops o'er the plains
To his quarry here in the south.
Like wintry storm that warrior's form,
Slaughter and Death beside him rush;
The groaning air is dark and warm,
And the low clouds bleed and blush.[49]

Oh, woe to him that is here on the hill,
Who is here on the hillock awaiting the Hound;
Last year it was in a vision of ill
I saw this sight and I heard this sound.
Methought Emania's Hound drew nigh,
Methought the Hound of Battle drew near,
I heard his steps and I saw his eye,
And again I see and I hear.

Then answer made Ferdiah in this wise:
"Why dost thou chafe me, talking of this man?
For thou hast never ceased to sing his praise
Since from his home he came. Thou surely art
Not without wage for this: but nathless know
Ailill and Mave have both foretold--by me
This man shall fall, shall fall for a reward
Just as the deed: This day he shall be slain,
For it is fated that I free the Ford.
'Tis time for the relief."--And thus they spake:


Yes, it is time for the relief;
Be silent then, nor speak his praise,
For prophecy forebodes this chief
Shall pass not the predestined days;
Does fate for this forego its claim,
That Cuailgne's champion here should come
In all his pride and pomp of fame?--
Be sure he comes but to his doom.


If Cuailgne's champion here I see
In all his pride and pomp of fame,
He little heeds the prophecy,
So swift his course, so straight his aim.
Towards us he flies, as flies the gleam
Of lightning, or as waters flow
From some high cliff o'er which the stream
Drops in the foaming depths below.


Highly rewarded thou must be,
For much reward thou sure canst claim,
Else why with such persistency
Thus sing his praises since he came?
And now that he approacheth nigh,
And now that he doth draw more near,
It seems it is to glorify
And not to attack him thou art here.

Not long Ferdiah's charioteer had gazed
With wondering look on the majestic car,
When, as with thunder-speed it wheeled more near,
He saw its whole construction and its plan:
A fair, flesh-seeking, four-peaked front it had,
And for its body a magnificent creit
Fashioned for war, in which the hero stood
Full-armed and brandishing a mighty spear,
While o'er his head a green pavilion hung;
Beneath, two fleetly-bounding, large-eared, fierce,
Whale-bellied, lively-hearted, high-flanked, proud,
Slender-legged, wide-hoofed, broad-buttocked, prancing steeds,
Exulting leaped and bore the car along:
Under one yoke, the broad-backed steed was gray,
Under the other, black the long-maned steed.

Like to a hawk swooping from off a cliff,
Upon a day of harsh and biting wind,
Or like a spring gust on a wild March morn
Rushing resistless o'er a level plain,
Or like the fleetness of a stag when first
'Tis started by the hounds in its first field--
So swept the horses of Cuchullin's car,
Bounding as if o'er fiery flags they flew,
Making the earth to shake beneath their tread,
And tremble 'neath the fleetness of their speed.

At length, upon the north side of the Ford,
Cuchullin stopped. Upon the southern bank
Ferdiah stood, and thus addressed the chief:
"Glad am I, O Cuchullin, thou hast come."
"Up to this day," Cuchullin made reply,
"Thy welcome would by me have been received
As coming from a friend, but not to-day.
Besides, 'twere fitter that I welcomed thee,
Than that to me thou shouldst the welcome give;
'Tis I that should go forth to fight with thee,
Not thou to me, because before thee are
My women and my children, and my youths,
My herds and flocks, my horses and my steeds."
Ferdiah, half in scorn, spake then these words--
And then Cuchullin answered in his turn.
"Good, O Cuchullin, what untoward fate
Has brought thee here to measure swords with me?
For when we two with Scatha lived, in Skye,
With Uatha, and with Aife, thou wert then
My page to spread my couch for me at night,
Or tie my spears together for the chase."
"True hast thou spoken," said Cuchullin; "yes,
I then was young, thy junior, and I did
For thee the services thou dost recall;
A different story shall be told of us
From this day forth, for on this day I feel
Earth holds no champion that I dare not fight!"
And thus invectives bitter, sharp and cold,
Between the two were uttered, and first spake
Ferdiah, then alternate each with each.


What has brought thee here, O Hound,
To encounter a strong foe?
O'er the trappings of thy steeds
Crimson-red thy blood shall flow.
Woe is in thy journey, woe;
Let the cunning leech prepare;
Shouldst thou ever reach thy home,
Thou shalt need his care.


I, who here with warriors fought,
With the lordly chiefs of hosts,
With a hundred men at once,
Little heed thy empty boasts.
Thee beneath the wave to place,
Thee to strike and thee to slay
In the first path of our fight
Am I here to-day.


Thy reproach in me behold,
For 'tis I that deed will do,
'Tis of me that Fame shall tell
He the Ultonian's champion slew.
Yes, in spite of all their hosts,
Yes, in spite of all their prayers:
So it shall long be told
That the loss was theirs.


How, then, shall we first engage--
Is it with the hard-edged sword?
In what order shall we go
To the battle of the Ford?
Shall we in our chariots ride?
Shall we wield the bloody spear?
How am I to hew thee down
With thy proud hosts here?


Ere the setting of the sun,
Ere shall come the darksome night,
If again thou must be told,
With a mountain thou shalt fight:
Thee the Ultonians will extol,
Thence impetuous wilt thou grow,
Oh! their grief, when through their ranks
Will thy spectre go!


Thou hast fallen in danger's gap,
Yes, thy end of life is nigh;
Sharp spears shall be plied on thee
Fairly 'neath the open sky:
Pompous thou wilt be and vain
Till the time for talk is o'er,
From this day a battle-chief
Thou shalt be no more.


Cease thy boastings, for the world
Sure no braggart hath like thee:
Thou art not the chosen chief--
Thou hast not the champion's fee:--
Without action, without force,
Thou art but a giggling page;
Yes, thou trembler, with thy heart
Like a bird's in cage.


When we were with Scatha once,
It but seemed our valour's due
That we should together fight,
Both as one our sports pursue.
Thou wert then my dearest friend,
Comrade, kinsman, thou wert all,--
Ah, how sad, if by my hand
Thou at last should fall.


Much of honour shalt thou lose,
We may then mere words forego:--
On a stake thy head shall be
Ere the early cock shall crow.
O Cuchullin, Cuailgne's pride,
Grief and madness round thee twine;
I will do thee every ill,
For the fault is thine.

"Good, O Ferdiah, 'twas no knightly act,"
Cuchullin said, "to have come meanly here,
To combat and to fight with an old friend,
Through instigation of the wily Mave,
Through intermeddling of Ailill the king;
To none of those who here before thee came
Was victory given, for they all fell by me:--
Thou too shalt win nor victory, nor increase
Of fame in this encounter thou dost dare,
For as they fell, so thou by me shall fall."
Thus was he saying and he spake these words,
To which Ferdiah listened, not unmoved.


Come not to me, O champion of the host,
Come not to me, Ferdiah, as my foe,
For though it is thy fate to suffer most,
All, all must feel the universal woe.

Come not to me defying what is right,
Come not to me, thy life is in my power;
Ah, the dread issue of each former fight
Why hast thou not remembered ere this hour?

Art thou not bright with diverse dainty arms,
A purple girdle and a coat of mail?
And yet to win the maid of peerless charms
For whom thou dar'st the battle thou shalt fail.

Yes, Finavair, the daughter of the queen,
The faultless form, the gold without alloy,
The glorious virgin of majestic mien,
Shalt not be thine, Ferdiah, to enjoy.

No, the great prize shall not by thee be won,--
A fatal lure, a false, false light is she,
To numbers promised and yet given to none,
And wounding many as she now wounds thee.

Break not thy vow, never with me to fight,
Break not the bond that once thy young heart gave,
Break not the truth we both so loved to plight,
Come not to me, O champion bold and brave!

To fifty champions by her smiles made slaves
The maid was proffered, and not slight the gift;
By me they have been sent into their graves,
From me they met destruction sure and swift.

Though vauntingly Ferbaeth my arms defied,
He of a house of heroes prince and peer,
Short was the time until I tamed his pride
With one swift cast of my true battle-spear.

Srub Daire's valour too had swift decline:
Hundreds of women's secrets he possessed,
Great at one time was his renown as thine,
In cloth of gold, not silver, was he dressed.

Though 'twas to me the woman was betrothed
On whom the chiefs of the fair province smile,
To shed thy blood my spirit would have loathed
East, west, or north, or south of all the isle.

"Good, O Ferdiah," still continuing, spoke
Cuchullin, "thus it is that thou shouldst not
Have come with me to combat and to fight;
For when we were with Scatha, long ago,
With Uatha and with Aife, we were wont
To go together to each battle-field,
To every combat and to every fight,
Through every forest, every wilderness,
Through every darksome path and dangerous way."
And thus he said and thus he spake these words:


We were heart-comrades then,--
Comrades in crowds of men,
In the same bed have lain,
When slumber sought us;
In countries far and near,
Hurling the battle spear,
Chasing the forest deer,
As Scatha taught us.

"O Cuchullin of the beautiful feats,"
Replied Ferdiah, "though we have pursued
Together thus the arts of war and peace,
And though the bonds of friendship that we swore
Thou hast recalled to mind, from me shall come
Thy first of wounds. O Hound, remember not
Our old companionship, which shall not now
Avail thee, shall avail thee not, O Hound!"
"Too long here have we waited in this way,"
Again resumed Ferdiah. "To what arms,
Say then, Cuchullin, shall we now resort?"
"The choice of arms is thine until the night,"
Cuchullin made reply; "for so it chanced
That thou shouldst be the first to reach the Ford."
"Dost thou at all remember," then rejoined
Ferdiah, "those swift missive spears with which
We practised oft with Scatha in our youth,
With Uatha and with Aife, and our friends?"
"Them I, indeed, remember well," replied
Cuchullin. "If thou dost remember well,
Let us to them resort," Ferdiah said.
Their missive weapons then on either side
They both resorted to. Upon their arms
They braced two emblematic missive shields,
And their eight well-turned-handled lances took,
Their eight quill-javelins also, and their eight
White ivory-hilted swords, and their eight spears,
Sharp, ivory-hafted, with hard points of steel.
Betwixt the twain the darts went to and fro,
Like bees upon the wing on a fine day;
No cast was made that was not sure to hit.
From morn to nigh mid-day the missiles flew,
Till on the bosses of the brazen shields
Their points were blunted, but though true the aim,
And excellent the shooting, the defence
Was so complete that not a wound was given,
And neither champion drew the other's blood.
"'Tis time to drop these feats," Ferdiah said,
"For not by such as these shall we decide
Our battle here this day." "Let us desist,"
Cuchullin answered, "if the time hath come."
They ceased, and threw their missile shafts aside
Into the hands of their two charioteers.
"What weapons, O Cuchullin, shall we now
Resort to?" said Ferdiah. "Unto thee,"
Cuchullin answered, "doth belong the choice
Of arms until the night, because thou wert
The first that reached the Ford." "Well, let us, then,"
Ferdiah said, "resume our straight, smooth, hard,
Well-polished spears with their hard flaxen strings."
"Let us resume them, then," Cuchullin said.
They braced upon their arms two stouter shields,
And then resorted to their straight, smooth, hard,
Well-polished spears, with their hard flaxen strings.[50]
'Twas now mid-day, and thus 'till eventide
They shot against each other with the spears.
But though the guard was good on either side,
The shooting was so perfect that the blood
Ran from the wounds of each, by each made red.
"Let us now, O Cuchullin," interposed
Ferdiah, "for the present time desist."
"Let us indeed desist," Cuchullin said
"If, O Ferdiah, the fit time hath come."
They ceased, and laid their gory weapons down,
Their faithful charioteers' attendant care.
Each to the other gently then approached,
Each round the other's neck his hands entwined,
And gave him three fond kisses on the cheek.
Their horses fed in the same field that night,
Their charioteers were warmed at the same fire,
Their charioteers beneath their bodies spread
Green rushes, and beneath the heads the down
Of wounded men's soft pillows. Then the skilled
Professors of the art of healing came
With herbs, which to the scars of all their wounds
They put. Of every herb and healing plant
That to Cuchullin's wound they did apply,
He would an equal portion westward send
Over the Ford, Ferdiah's wounds to heal.
So that the men of Erin could not say,
If it should chance Ferdiah fell by him,
That it was through superior skill and care
Cuchullin was enabled him to slay.

Of each kind, too, of palatable food
And sweet, intoxicating, pleasant drink,
The men of Erin to Ferdiah sent,
He a fair moiety across the Ford
Sent northward to Cuchullin, where he lay;
Because his own purveyors far surpassed
In numbers those the Ulster chief retained:
For all the federate hosts of Erin were
Purveyors to Ferdiah, with the hope
That he would beat Cuchullin from the Ford.
The Bregians[51] only were Cuchullin's friends,
His sole purveyors, and their wont it was
To come to him and talk to him at night.

That night they rested there. Next morn they rose
And to the Ford of battle early came.
"What weapons shall we use to-day?" inquired
Cuchullin. "Until night the choice is thine,"
Replied Ferdiah; "for the choice of arms
Has hitherto been mine." "Then let us take
Our great broad spears to-day," Cuchullin said,
"And may the thrusting bring us to an end
Sooner than yesterday's less powerful darts.
Let then our charioteers our horses yoke
Beneath our chariots, so that we to-day
May from our horses and our chariots fight."
Ferdiah answered: "Let it so be done."
And then they braced their two broad, full-firm shields
Upon their arms that day, and in their hands
That day they took their great broad-bladed spears.
And thus from early morn to evening's close
They smote each other with such dread effect
That both were pierced, and both made red with gore,--
Such wounds, such hideous clefts in either breast
Lay open to the back, that if the birds
Cared ever through men's wounded frames to pass,
They might have passed that day, and with them borne
Pieces of quivering flesh into the air.
When evening came, their very steeds were tired,
Their charioteers depressed, and they themselves
Worn out--even they the champions bold and brave.
"Let us from this, Ferdiah, now desist,"
Cuchullin said; "for see, our charioteers
Droop, and our very horses flag and fail,
And when fatigued they yield, so well may we."
And further thus he spoke, persuading rest:--


Not with the obstinate rage and spite
With which Fomorian pirates fight
Let us, since now has fallen the night,
Continue thus our feud;
In brief abeyance it may rest,
Now that a calm comes o'er each breast:--
When with new light the world is blest,
Be it again renewed."

"Let us desist, indeed," Ferdiah said,
"If the fit time hath come."--And so they ceased.
From them they threw their arms into the hands
Of their two charioteers. Each of them came
Forward to meet the other. Each his hands
Put round the other's neck, and thus embraced,
Gave to him three fond kisses on the cheek.
Their horses fed in the same field that night;
Their charioteers were warmed by the same fire.
Their charioteers beneath their bodies spread
Green rushes, and beneath their heads the down
Of wounded men's soft pillows. Then the skilled
Professors of the art of healing came
To tend them and to cure them through the night.
But they for all their skill could do no more,
So numerous and so dangerous were the wounds,
The cuts, and clefts, and scars so large and deep,
But to apply to them the potent charms
Of witchcraft, incantations, and barb spells,
As sorcerers use, to stanch the blood and stay
The life that else would through the wounds escape:--
Of every charm of witchcraft, every spell,
Of every incantation that was used
To heal Cuchullin's wounds, a full fair half
Over the Ford was westward sent to heal
Ferdiah's hurts: of every sort of food,
And sweet, intoxicating, pleasant drink
The men of Erin to Ferdiah sent,
He a fair moiety across the Ford
Sent northward to Cuchullin where he lay,
Because his own purveyors far surpassed
In number those the Ulster chief retained.
For all the federate hosts of Erin were
Purveyors to Ferdiah, with the hope
That he would beat Cuchullin from the Ford.
The Bregians only were Cuchullin's friends--
His sole purveyors--and their wont it was
To come to him, and talk with him at night.

They rested there that night. Next morn they rose,
And to the Ford of battle forward came.
That day a great, ill-favoured, lowering cloud
Upon Ferdiah's face Cuchullin saw.
"Badly," said he, "dost thou appear this day,
Ferdiah, for thy hair has duskier grown
This day, and a dull stupour dims thine eyes,
And thine own face and form, and what thou wert
In outward seeming have deserted thee."
"'Tis not through fear of thee that I am so,"
Ferdiah said, "for Erin doth not hold
This day a champion I could not subdue."
And thus betwixt the twain this speech arose,
And thus Cuchullin mourned and he replied:


O Ferdiah, if it be thou,
Certain am I that on thy brow
The blush should burn and the shame should rise,
Degraded man whom the gods despise,
Here at a woman's bidding to wend
To fight thy fellow-pupil and friend.


O Cuchullin, O valiant man,
Inflicter of wounds since the war began,
O true champion, a man must come
To the fated spot of his final home,--
To the sod predestined by fate's decree
His resting-place and his grave to be.


Finavair, the daughter of Mave,
Although thou art her willing slave,
Not for thy long-felt love has been
Promised to thee by the wily queen,--
No, it was but to test thy might
That thou wert lured into this fatal fight.


My might was tested long ago
In many a battle, as thou dost know,
Long, O Hound of the gentle rule,
Since we fought together in Scatha's school:
Never a braver man have I seen,
Never, I feel, hath a braver been.


Thou art the cause of what has been done,
O son of Daman, Dare's son,
Of all that has happened thou art the cause,
Whom hither a woman's counsel draws--
Whom hither a wily woman doth send
To measure swords with thy earliest friend.


If I forsook the field, O Hound,
If I had turned from the battleground--
This battleground without fight with thee,
Hard, oh, hard had it gone with me;
Bad should my name and fame have been
With King Ailill and with Mave the queen.


Though Mave of Croghan had given me food,
Even from her lips, though all of good
That the heart can wish or wealth can give
Were offered to me, there does not live
A king or queen on the earth for whom
I would do thee ill or provoke thy doom.


O Cuchullin, thou victor in fight,
Of battle triumphs the foremost knight;
To what result the fight may lead,
'Twas Mave alone that prompted the deed;
Not thine the fault, not thine the blame,
Take thou the victory and the fame.


My faithful heart is a clot of blood,
A feud thus forced cannot end in good;
Oh, woe to him who is here to be slain!
Oh, grief to him who his life will gain!
For feats of valour no strength have I
To fight the fight where my friend must die.

"A truce to these invectives," then broke in
Ferdiah; "we far other work this day
Have yet to do than rail with woman's words.
Say, what shall be our arms in this day's fight?"
"Till night," Cuchullin said, "the choice is thine,
For yester morn the choice was given to me."
"Let us," Ferdiah answered, "then resort
Unto our heavy, sharp, hard-smiting swords,
For we are nearer to the end to-day
Of this our fight, by hewing, than we were
On yesterday by thrusting of the spears."
"So let us do, indeed," Cuchullin said.
Then on their arms two long great shields they took,
And in their hands their sharp, hard-smiting swords.
Each hewed the other with such furious strokes
That pieces larger than an infant's head
Of four weeks' old were cut from out the thighs
And great broad shoulder-blades of each brave chief.
And thus they persevered from early morn
Till evening's close in hewing with the swords.
"Let us desist," at length Ferdiah said.
"Let us indeed desist, if the fit time
Hath come," Cuchullin said; and so they ceased.
From them they cast their arms into the hands
Of their two charioteers; and though that morn
Their meeting was of two high-spirited men,
Their separation, now that night had come,
Was of two men dispirited and sad.
Their horses were not in one field that night,
Their charioteers were warmed not at one fire.
That night they rested there, and in the morn
Ferdiah early rose and sought alone
The Ford of battle, for he knew that day
Would end the fight, and that the hour drew nigh
When one or both of them should surely fall.

Then was it for the first time he put on
His battle suit of battle and of fight,
Before Cuchullin came unto the Ford.
That battle suit of battle and of fight
Was this: His apron of white silk, with fringe
Of spangled gold around it, he put on
Next his white skin. A leather apron then,
Well sewn, upon his body's lower part
He placed, and over it a mighty stone
As large as any mill-stone was secured.
His firm, deep, iron apron then he braced
Over the mighty stone--an apron made
Of iron purified from every dross--
Such dread had he that day of the Gaebulg.
His crested helm of battle on his head
He last put on--a helmet all ablaze
From forty gems in each compartment set,
Cruan, and crystal, carbuncles of fire,
And brilliant rubies of the Eastern world.
In his right hand a mighty spear he seized,
Destructive, sharply-pointed, straight and strong:--
On his left side his sword of battle swung,
Curved, with its hilt and pommel of red gold.
Upon the slope of his broad back he placed
His dazzling shield, around whose margin rose
Fifty huge bosses, each of such a size
That on it might a full-grown hog recline,
Exclusive of the larger central boss
That raised its prominent round of pure red gold.

Full many noble, varied, wondrous feats
Ferdiah on that day displayed, which he
Had never learned at any tutor's hand,
From Uatha, or from Aife, or from her,
Scatha, his early nurse in lonely Skye:--
But which were all invented by himself
That day, to bring about Cuchullin's fall.

Cuchullin to the Ford approached and saw
The many noble, varied, wondrous feats
Ferdiah on that day displayed on high.
"O Laegh, my friend," Cuchullin thus addressed
His charioteer, "I see the wondrous feats
Ferdiah doth display on high to-day:
All these on me in turn shall soon be tried,
And therefore note, that if it so should chance
I shall be first to yield, be sure to taunt,
Excite, revile me, and reproach me so,
That wrath and rage in me may rise the more:--
If I prevail, then let thy words be praise,
Laud me, congratulate me, do thy best
To stimulate my courage to its height."
"It shall be done, Cuchullin," Laegh replied.

Then was it that Cuchullin first assumed
His battle suit of battle: then he tried
Full many, various, noble, wondrous feats
He never learned from any tutor's hands,
From Uatha, or from Aife, or from her,
Scatha, his early nurse in lonely Skye.
Ferdiah saw these various feats, and knew
Against himself they soon would be applied.

"Say, O Ferdiah, to what arms shall we
Resort in this day's fight?" Cuchullin said.
Ferdiah answered, "Unto thee belongs
The choice of weapons now until the night."
"Let us then try the Ford Feat on this day,"
Replied Cuchullin. "Let us then, indeed,"
Rejoined Ferdiah, with a careless air
Consenting, though in truth it was to him
The cause of grief to say so, since he knew
That in the Ford Feat lay Cuchullin's strength,
And that he never failed to overthrow
Champion or hero in that last appeal.

Great was the feat that was performed that day
In and beside the Ford: the mighty two,
The two great heroes, warriors, champions, chiefs
Of western Europe--the two open hands
Laden with gifts of the north-western world,--
The two beloved pillars that upheld
The valour of the Gaels--the two strong keys
That kept the bravery of the Gaels secure--
Thus to be brought together from afar
To fight each other through the meddling schemes
Of Ailill and his wily partner Mave.
From each to each the missive weapons flew
From dawn of early morning to mid-day;
And when mid-day had come, the ire of both
Became more furious, and they drew more near.
Then was it that Cuchullin made a spring
From the Ford's brink, and came upon the boss
Of the great shield Ferdiah's arm upheld,
That thus he might, above the broad shield's rim,
Strike at his head. Ferdiah with a touch
Of his left elbow, gave the shield a shake
And cast Cuchullin from him like a bird,
Back to the brink of the Ford. Again he sprang
From the Ford's brink, and came upon the boss
Of the great shield once more, to strike his head
Over the rim. Ferdiah with a stroke
Of his left knee made the great shield to ring,
And cast Cuchullin back upon the brink,
As if he only were a little child.
Laegh saw the act. "Alas! indeed," said Laegh,
"The warrior casts thee from him in the way
That an abandoned woman would her child.
He flings thee as a river flings its foam;
He grinds thee as a mill would grind fresh malt;
He fells thee as the axe does fell the oak;
He binds thee as the woodbine binds the tree;
He darts upon thee as a hawk doth dart
Upon small birds, so that from this hour forth
Until the end of time, thou hast no claim
Or title to be called a valorous man:
Thou little puny phantom form," said Laegh.
Then with the rapid motion of the wind,
The fleetness of a swallow on the wing,
The fierceness of a dragon, and the strength
Of a roused lion, once again up sprang
Cuchullin, high into the troubled air,
And lighted for the third time on the boss
Of the broad shield, to strike Ferdiah's head
Over the rim. The warrior shook the shield,
And cast Cuchullin mid-way in the Ford,
With such an easy effort that it seemed
As if he scarcely deigned to shake him off.

Then, as he lay, a strange distortion came
Upon Cuchullin; as a bladder swells
Inflated by the breath, to such a size
And fulness did he grow, that he became
A fearful, many-coloured, wondrous Tuaig--
Gigantic shape, as big as a man of the sea,
Or monstrous Fomor, so that now his form
In perfect height over Ferdiah stood.

So close the fight was now, that their heads met
Above, their feet below, their arms half-way
Over the rims and bosses of their shields:--
So close the fight was now, that from their rims
Unto their centres were their shields cut through,
And loosed was every rivet from its hold;
So close the fight was now, that their strong spears
Were turned and bent and shivered point and haft;
Such was the closeness of the fight they made
That the invisible and unearthly hosts
Of Spirits, Bocanachs and Bananachs,
And the wild wizard people of the glen
And of the air the demons, shrieked and screamed
From their broad shields' reverberating rim,
From their sword-hilts and their long-shafted spears:
Such was the closeness of the fight they made,
They forced the river from its natural course,
Out of its bed, so that it might have been
A couch whereon a king or queen might lie,
For not a drop of water it retained,
Except what came from the great tramp and splash
Of the two heroes fighting in its midst.
Such was the fierceness of the fight they waged,
That a wild fury seized upon the steeds
The Gaels had gathered with them; in affright
They burst their traces and their binding ropes,
Nay even their chains, and panting fled away.
The women, too, and youths, by equal fears
Inspired and scared, and all the varied crowd
Of followers and non-combatants who there
Were with the men of Erin, from the camp
South-westward broke away, and fled the Ford.

At the edge-feat of swords they were engaged
When this surprise occurred, and it was then
Ferdiah an unguarded moment found
Upon Cuchullin, and he struck him deep,
Plunging his straight-edged sword up to the hilt
Within his body, till his girdle filled
With blood, and all the Ford ran red with gore
From the brave battle-warrior's veins outshed.
This could Cuchullin now no longer bear
Because Ferdiah still the unguarded spot
Struck and re-struck with quick, strong, stubborn strokes;
And so he called aloud to Laegh, the son
Of Riangabra, for the dread Gaebulg.
The manner of that fearful feat was this:
Adown the current was it sent, and caught
Between the toes: a single spear would make
The wound it made when entering, but once lodged
Within the body, thirty barbs outsprung,
So that it could not be withdrawn until
The body was cut open where it lay.
And when of the Gaebulg Ferdiah heard
The name, he made a downward stroke of his shield,
To guard his body. Then Cuchullin thrust
The unerring thorny spear straight o'er the rim,
And through the breast-plate of his coat of mail,
So that its farther half was seen beyond
His body, after passing through his heart.

Ferdiah gave an upward stroke of his shield,
His breast to cover, though it was "the relief
After the danger." Then the servant set
The dread Gaebulg adown the flowing stream;
Cuchullin caught it firmly 'twixt his toes,
And from his foot a fearful cast he threw
Upon Ferdiah with unerring aim.
Swift through the well-wrought iron apron guard
It passed, and through the stone which was as large
As a huge mill-stone, cracking it in three,
And so into his body, every part
Of which was filled with the expanding barbs
"That is enough: by that one blow I fall,"
Ferdiah said. "Indeed, I now may own
That I am sickly after thee this day,
Though it behoved not thee that I should fall
By stroke of thine;" and then these dying words
He added, tottering back upon the bank:


O Hound, so famed for deeds of valour doing,
'Twas not thy place my death to give to me;
Thine is the fault of my most certain ruin,
And yet 'tis best to have my blood on thee.

The wretch escapes not from his false position,
Who to the gap of his destruction goes;
Alas! my death-sick voice needs no physician,
My end hath come--my life's stream seaward flows.

The natural ramparts of my breast are broken,
In its own gore my struggling heart is drowned:--
Alas! I have not fought as I have spoken,
For thou hast killed me in the fight, O Hound!

Cuchullin towards him ran, and his two arms
Clasping about him, lifted him and bore
The body in its armour and its clothes
Across the Ford unto the northern bank,
In order that the slain should thus be placed
Upon the north bank of the Ford, and not
Among the men of Erin, on the west.
Cuchullin laid Ferdiah down, and then
A sudden trance, a faintness on him came
When bending o'er the body of his friend.
Laegh saw the weakness, which was seen as well
By all the men of Erin, who arose
Upon the moment to attack him there.
"Good, O Cuchullin," Laegh exclaimed, "arise,
For all the men of Erin hither come.
It is no single combat they will give,
Since fair Ferdiah, Daman's son, the son
Of Dare, by thy hands has here been slain."
"O servant, what availeth me to rise,"
Cuchullin said, "since he hath fallen by me?"
And so the servant said, and so replied
Cuchullin, in his turn, unto the end;


Arise, Emania's slaughter-hound, arise,
Exultant pride should be thy mood this day:--
Ferdiah of the hosts before thee lies--
Hard was the fight and dreadful was the fray.


Ah, what availeth me a hero's pride?
Madness and grief are in my heart and brain,
For the dear blood with which my hand is dyed--
For the dear body that I here have slain.


It suits thee ill to shed these idle tears,
Fitter by far for thee a fiercer mood--
At thee he flung the flying pointed spears,
Malicious, wounding, dripping, dyed with blood.


Even though he left me crippled, maimed, and lame,
Even though I lost this arm that now but bleeds,
All would I bear, but now the fields of fame
No more shall see Ferdiah mount his steeds.


More pleasing is the victory thou hast gained,
More pleasing to the women of Creeve Rue,
He to have died and thou to have remained,
To them the brave who fell here are too few.

From that black day in brilliant Mave's long reign
Thou camest out of Cuailgne it has been--
Her people slaughtered and her champions slain--
A time of desolation to the queen.

When thy great plundered flock was borne away,
Thou didst not lie with slumber-seal`ed eyes,--
Then 'twas thy boast to rise before the day:--
Arise again, Emania's Hound, arise!

So Laegh addressed the hero, though he seemed
To hear him not, but mourned his friend the more.
And thus he spoke these words, and thus he moaned:

"Alas! Ferdiah, an unhappy chance
It was for thee that thou didst not consult
Some of the heroes who my prowess knew,
Before thou camest forth to meet me here,
In the hard battle combat by the Ford.
Unhappy was it that it was not Laegh,
The son of Riangabra, thou didst ask
About our fellow-pupilship--a bond
That might the unnatural combat so have stayed;
Unhappy was it that thou didst not ask
Honest advice from Fergus, son of Roy;
Or that it was not battle-winning, proud,
Exulting, ruddy Connall thou didst ask
About our fellow-pupilship of old.
For well do these men know there will not be
A being born among the Conacians who
Shall do the deeds of valour thou hast done
From this day forth until the end of time.
For if thou hadst consulted these brave men
About the places where the assemblies meet,
About the plightings and the broken vows
Uttered too oft by Connaught's fair-haired dames;
If thou hadst asked about the games and sports
Played with the targe and shield, the sword and spear,
If of backgammon or the moves of chess,
Or races with the chariots and the steeds,
They never would have found a champion's arm
As strong to pierce a hero's flesh as thine,
O rose-cloud hued Ferdiah! None to raise
The red-mouthed vulture's hoarse, inviting croak
Unto the many-coloured flocks, nor one
Who will for Croghan combat like to thee,
O red-cheeked son of Daman!" Thus he said,
Then standing o'er Ferdiah he resumed:
"Oh! great has been the treachery and fraud
The men of Erin practised upon thee,
Ferdiah, thus to bring thee here to fight
With me, 'gainst whom it is no easy task
Upon the Tain Bo Cuailgne to contend."
And thus he said, and thus again he spake:


O my Ferdiah, O my friend, forgive:
'Tis not my hand but treachery lays thee low:--
Thou doomed to die and I condemned to live,
Both doomed for ever to be severed so!

When we were far away in our young prime,
With Scatha, dread Buannan's chosen friend,
A vow we made, that till the end of time,
With hostile arms we never should contend.

Dear was thy lovely ruddiness to me,
Dear was thy gray-blue eye, so bright and clear,--
Thy comely, perfect form how sweet to see!
Thy wisdom and thy eloquence how dear!

In body-cutting combat, on the field
Of spears, when all is lost or all is won,
None braver ever yet held up a shield,
Than thou, Ferdiah, Daman's ruddy son.

Never since Aife's only son I slew,
Not knowing who the gallant youth might be,--
Ah! hapless deed, that still my heart doth rue!--
None have I found, Ferdiah, like to thee.

Thy dream it was to win fair Finavair,
From Mave her beauteous daughter's hand to gain;
As soon might'st thou in the wide fields of air
The glancing sunbeam's swift-winged flight restrain.

He paused awhile, still gazing on the dead,
Then to his charioteer he spoke: "Friend Laegh,
Strip now Ferdiah, take his armour off,
That I may see the golden brooch of Mave,
For which he undertook the fatal fight."
Laegh took the armour then from off his breast,
And then Cuchullin saw the golden pin
That cost so dear, and then these words he spake:


Alas! O brooch of gold!
O chief, whose fame each poet knows,
O hero of stout slaughtering blows,
Thy arm was brave and bold.

Thy yellow flowing hair,
Thy purple girdle's silken fold
Still even in death around thee rolled,--
Thy twisted jewel rare.

Thy noble beaming eyes,
Now closed in death, make mine grow dim,
Thy dazzling shield with golden rim,
Thy chess a king might prize.

Oh! piteous to behold,
My fellow-pupil falls by me:
It was an end that should not be,
Alas! O brooch of gold!

After another pause Cuchullin spoke:--
"O Laegh, my friend, open Ferdiah now,
And from his body the Gaebulg take out,
For I without my weapon cannot be."

Laegh then approached, and with a strong, sharp knife
Opened Ferdiah's body, and drew out
The dread Gaebulg. And when Cuchullin saw
His bloody weapon lying red beside
Ferdiah on the ground, again he thought
Of all their past career, and thus he said:


Sad is my fate that I should see thee lying,
Sad is the fate, Ferdiah, I deplore,--
I with my weapon which thy blood is dyeing,
Thou on the ground a mass of streaming gore.

When we were young, where Scatha's eye hath seen us
Fond fellow-pupils in her schools of Skye,
Never was heard the angry word between us,
Never was seen the angry spear to fly.

Scatha, with words of eloquent persuading,
Roused us in many a glorious feat to join;
"Go," she exclaimed, "each other bravely aiding,
Go forth to battle with the dread Germoin."

I to Ferdiah said: "Oh, come, my brother,"
I to the ever-generous Luaigh said,
I to fair Baetan's son, and many another:
"Come, let us go and fight this foe so dread."

Crossing the sea in ships of peaceful traders,
All of us came to lone Lind Formairt's lake,
With us we brought four hundred brave invaders
Out of the islands of the Athisech.

I and Ferdiah were the first to enter,
Where he himself, the dread Germoin, held rule,
Rind, Nial's son, I clove from head to centre,
Ruad I killed, the son of Finniule.

First on the shore, as swift our fleet ships flew there,
Blath, son of Calba of red swords, was slain;
Struck by Ferdiah, Luaigh also slew there
Fierce rude Mugarne of the Torrian main.

Bravely we battled against that court enchanted,
Full four times fifty heroes fell by me:
He, by their savage onslaught nothing daunted,
Slew ox-like monsters clambering from the sea.

Wily Germoin, amid so many slaughters,
We took alive as trophy of the field,
Him o'er the broad, bright sea of spangled waters
We bore to Scatha of the bright broad shield.

She, our famed tutoress, with kind endeavour,
Bound us from that day forth with heart and hand,
When met fair Elgga's tribes, that we should never
In hostile ranks before each other stand.

Oh, day of woe! oh, day without a morrow!
Oh, fatal Tuesday morning, when the bud
Of his young life was scattered! Oh! the sorrow,
To give the friend I loved a drink of blood!

Ah, if I saw thee among heroes lying
Dead on some glorious battlefield of Greece,
Soon would I follow thee, and proudly dying,
Sleep with my friend triumphant and at peace.

We, Scatha's pupils, ah, how sad the story!
Thou to be dead and I to be alive:
I to be wounded here, all gashed and gory,
Thou never more thy chariot's steeds to drive.

We, Scatha's pupils, ah! how sad the story;
Sad is the fate to which we both are led:
I to be wounded here, all gashed and gory,
And thou, alas! my friend, to lie here dead.

We, Scatha's pupils, ah, how sad the story!
Sad is the deed and sorrowful the wrong:
Thou to be dead without thy meed of glory,
And I, oh! shame, to be alive and strong!

Laegh interposed at length, and thus he said:
"Good, O Cuchullin, let us leave the Ford,
For long have we been here, by far too long."
"Let us then leave it now," Cuchullin said,
"O Laegh, my friend, but know that every fight
In which I hitherto have drawn my sword,
Has been but as a pastime and a sport
Compared with this one with Ferdiah fought."
And he was saying, and he spake these words:


Until Ferdiah sought the Ford,
I played but with the spear and sword:
Alike the teaching we received,
Alike were glad, alike were grieved,
Alike were we by Scatha's grace
Deemed worthy of the highest place.

Until Ferdiah sought the Ford,
I played but with the spear and sword:
Alike our habits and our ways,
Alike our prowess and our praise,
Alike the trophies of the brave,
The glittering shields that Scatha gave.

Until Ferdiah sought the Ford,
I played but with the spear and sword:
How dear to me, ah! who can know?
This golden pillar here laid low,
This mighty tree so strong and tall,
The chief, the champion of us all!

Until Ferdiah sought the Ford,
I played but with the spear and sword:
The lion rushing with a roar,
The wave that swallows up the shore,
When storm-winds blow and heaven is dim,
Could only be compared to him.

Until Ferdiah sought the Ford,
I played but with the spear and sword:
Through me the friend I loved is dead,
A cloud is ever on my head--
The mountain form, the giant frame,
Is now a shadow and a name.

The countless legions of the 'Tain,'
Those hands of mine have turned and slain:
Their men and steeds before me died,
Their flocks and herds on either side,
Though numerous were the hosts that came
From Croghan's Rath of fatal fame.

Though less than half the foes I led,
Before me soon my foes lay dead:
Never to gory battle pressed,
Never was nursed on Bamba's breast,
Never from sons of kings there came
A hero of more glorious fame.[52]

28. This poem is now published for the first time in its complete

29. Autumn; strictly the last night in October. (See O'Curry's "Sick
Bed of Cuchullin," "Atlantis," i., p. 370).

30. Culann was the name of Conor MacNessa's smith, and it was from him
that Setanta derived the name of Cu-Chulainn, or Culann's Hound.

31. Iorrus Domnann, now Erris, in the county of Mayo. It derived its
name ("Bay of the Domnanns," or "Deep-diggers,") from the party of the
Firbolgs, so called, having settled there, under their chiefs Genann and
Rudhraighe. (See "The Fate of the Children of Lir," by O'Curry,
Atlantis, iv., p. 123; Dr. Reeve's "Adamnan's Life of St. Columba," note
6, p. 31; O'Flaherty's "Ogygia," p. 280; and Hardiman's "West
Connaught," by O'Flaherty, published by the Irish Archaeological

32. The name of Scatha, the Amazonian instructress of Ferdiah and
Cuchullin, is still preserved in Dun Sciath, in the island of Skye,
where great Cuchullin's name and glory yet linger. The Cuchullin
Mountains, named after him, "those thunder-smitten, jagged, Cuchullin
peaks of Skye," the grandest mountain range in Great Britain, attract to
that remote island of the Hebrides many worshippers of the sublime and
beautiful in nature, whose enjoyments would be largely enhanced if they
knew the heroic legends which are connected with the glorious scenes
they have travelled so far to witness. Cuchullin is one of the foremost
characters in MacPherson's "Ossian," but the quasi-translator of Gaelic
poems places him more than two centuries later than the period at which
he really lived. (Lady Ferguson's "The Irish before the Conquest," pp.
57, 58.)

33. For a description of this mysterious instrument, see Dr. Todd's
"Additional Notes to the Irish version of Nennius," p. 12.

34. On the use of mail armour by the ancient Irish, see Dr. O'Donovan's
"Introduction and Notes to the Battle of Magh-Rath," edited for the
Archaeological Society.

35. For an interesting account of this sovereign, so famous in Irish
story, see O'Curry's "Lectures," pp. 33, 34. Her Father, according to
the chronology of the "Four Masters," is supposed to have reigned as
monarch of Erin about a century before the Christian era. "Of all the
children of the monarch Eochaidh Fiedloch," says O'Donovan (cited in
O'Mahony's translation of Keating's "History," p. 276) "by far the most
celebrated was Meadbh or Mab, who is still remembered as the fairy queen
of the Irish, the 'Queen Mab' of Spenser."

36. "The belief that a 'ferb' or ulcer could be produced," says Mr.
Stokes, in his preface to 'Cormac's Glossary,' "forms the groundwork of
the tale of Nede mac Adnae and his uncle, Caier." The names of the
three blisters (Stain, Blemish, and Defect) are almost identical with
those Ferdiah is threatened with in the present poem.

37. A 'cumal' was three cows, or their value. On the use of chariots,
see "The Sick Bed of Cuchullin," Atlantis, i., p. 375.

38. "The plains of Aie" (son of Allghuba the Druid), in Roscommon.
Here stood the palace of Cruachain (O'Curry's "Lectures," p. 35; "Battle
of Magh Leana," p. 61).

39. "Fair-brow" (O'Curry, "Exile of the Children of Uisnech," Atlantis,
ii., p. 386).

40. Here in the original there is a sudden change from prose to verse.
"It is generally supposed that these stories were recited by the ancient
Irish poets for the amusement of their chieftains at their public
feasts, and that the portions given in metre were sung" ("Battle of Magh
Rath," p. 12). The prose portions of this tale are represented in the
translation by blank verse, and the lyrical portions by rhymed verse.

41. "Ugaine Mor exacted oaths by the sun and moon, the sea, the dew,
and colours . . . that the sovereignty of Erin should be invested in his
descendants for ever" (Ib. p. 3).

42. The high dignity of Domnal may be inferred from the following
lines, quoted from MacLenini, in the preface to "Cormac's Glossary,"
p. 51:--
"As blackbirds to swans, as an ounce to a mass of gold,
As the forms of peasant women to the forms of queens,
As a king to Domnal . . .
As a taper to a candle, so is a sword to my sword."

43. She was the wife of Ned, the war-god. See O'Donovan's "Annals of
the Four Masters," vol. i., p. 24.

44. Etan is said to have been 'muime na filed,' nurse of the poets
("Three Irish Glossaries," preface, p. 33).

45. At Rathcroghan was the palace of the Kings of Connacht.

46. A name of Ireland ("Battle of Magh Leana," p. 79).

47. So the night before the battle of Magh Rath, "the monarch, grandson
of Ainmire, slept not, in consequence of the weight of the battle and
the anxiety of the conflict pressing on his mind; for he was certain
that his own beloved foster-son would, on the morrow, meet his last

48. In the "Battle of Magh Leana" these mysterious beings are called
"the Women of the Valley" (p. 120).

49. For this line and for many valuable suggestions throughout the poem
I am indebted to the deep poetical insight and correct judgment of my
friend, Aubrey de Vere.

50. "Derg Dian Scothach saw this order, and he put his forefinger into
the string of the spear." "Fate of the Children of Tuireann," by
O'Curry, Atlantis, iv., p. 233. See also "Battle of Magh Rath," pp.
140, 141, 152.

51. Bregia was the ancient name of the plain watered by the Boyne.

52. According to the marginal note of the learned editor, the last four
lines appear to be a sort of epilogue, in which the poet extols the

A.D. 545.

[We are informed that Brendan, hearing of the previous voyage of his
cousin, Barinthus, in the western ocean, and obtaining an account from
him of the happy isles he had landed on in the far west, determined,
under the strong desire of winning heathen souls to Christ, to undertake
a voyage of discovery himself. And aware that all along the western
coast of Ireland there were many traditions respecting the existence of
a western land, he proceeded to the islands of Arran, and there remained
for some time, holding communication with the venerable St. Enda, and
obtaining from him much information relating to his voyage. Having
prosecuted his inquiries with diligence, Brendan returned to his native
Kerry; and from a bay sheltered by the lofty mountain that is now known
by his name, he set sail for the Atlantic land; and, directing his
course towards the south-west, in order to meet the summer solstice, or
what we should call the tropic, after a long and rough voyage, his
little bark being well provisioned, he came to summer seas, where he was
carried along, without the aid of sail or oar, for many a long day.
This, which it is to be presumed was the great gulf-stream, brought his
vessel to shore somewhere about the Virginian capes, or where the
American coast tends eastward, and forms the New England States. Here
landing, he and his companions marched steadily into the interior for
fifteen days, and then came to a large river, flowing from east to west:
this, evidently, was the river Ohio. And this the holy adventurer was
about to cross, when he was accosted by a person of noble presence--but
whether a real or visionary man does not appear--who told him he had
gone far enough; that further discoveries were reserved for other men,
who would, in due time, come and Christianise all that pleasant land.
It is said he remained seven years away, and returned to set up a
college of three thousand monks, at Clonfert.--"Caesar Otway's Sketches
in Erris and Tyrawley," note, pp. 98, 99.]


[When St. Brendan was an infant, says Colgan, he was placed under the
care of St. Ita, and remained with her five years, after which period he
was led away by Bishop Ercus in order to receive from him the more solid
instruction necessary for his advancing years. Brendan always retained
the greatest respect and affection for his foster-mother, and he is
represented, after his seven years' voyage, amusing St. Ita with an
account of his adventures in the ocean.]

O Ita, mother of my heart and mind--
My nourisher, my fosterer, my friend,
Who taught me first to God's great will resigned,
Before his shining altar-steps to bend;
Who poured his word upon my soul like balm,
And on mine eyes what pious fancy paints--
And on mine ear the sweetly swelling psalm,
And all the sacred knowledge of the saints;

To whom but thee, dear mother, should be told
Of all the wonders I have seen afar?--
Islands more green and suns of brighter gold
Than this dear land or yonder blazing star;
Of hills that bear the fruit-trees on their tops,
And seas that dimple with eternal smiles;
Of airs from heaven that fan the golden crops,
O'er the great ocean 'mid the blessed isles!

Thou knowest, O my mother! how to thee
The blessed Ercus led me when a boy,
And how within thine arms and at thine knee,
I learned the lore that death cannot destroy;
And how I parted hence with bitter tears,
And felt, when turning from thy friendly door,
In the reality of ripening years,
My paradise of childhood was no more.

I wept--but not with sin such tear-drops flow;--
I sighed--for earthly things with heaven entwine;
Tears make the harvest of the heart to grow,
And love though human is almost divine.
The heart that loves not knows not how to pray;
The eye can never smile that never weeps:
'Tis through our sighs hope's kindling sunbeams play
And through our tears the bow of promise peeps.

I grew to manhood by the western wave,
Among the mighty mountains on the shore:
My bed the rock within some natural cave,
My food whate'er the seas or seasons bore:
My occupation, morn and noon and night:
The only dream my hasty slumbers gave,
Was Time's unheeding, unreturning flight,
And the great world that lies beyond the grave.

And thus, where'er I went, all things to me
Assumed the one deep colour of my mind;
Great nature's prayer rose from the murmuring sea,
And sinful man sighed in the wintry wind.
The thick-veiled clouds by shedding many a tear,
Like penitents, grew purified and bright,
And, bravely struggling through earth's atmosphere,
Passed to the regions of eternal light.

I loved to watch the clouds now dark and dun,
In long procession and funeral line,
Pass with slow pace across the glorious sun,
Like hooded monks before a dazzling shrine.
And now with gentler beauty as they rolled
Along the azure vault in gladsome May,
Gleaming pure white, and edged with broidered gold,
Like snowy vestments on the Virgin's day.

And then I saw the mighty sea expand
Like Time's unmeasured and unfathomed waves,
One with its tide-marks on the ridgy sand,
The other with its line of weedy graves;
And as beyond the outstretched wave of time,
The eye of Faith a brighter land may meet,
So did I dream of some more sunny clime
Beyond the waste of waters at my feet.

Some clime where man, unknowing and unknown,
For God's refreshing word still gasps and faints;
Or happier rather some Elysian zone,
Made for the habitation of his saints:
Where Nature's love the sweat of labour spares,
Nor turns to usury the wealth it lends,
Where the rich soil spontaneous harvest bears,
And the tall tree with milk-filled clusters bends.

The thought grew stronger with my growing days,
Even like to manhood's strengthening mind and limb,
And often now amid the purple haze
That evening breathed upon the horizon's rim--
Methought, as there I sought my wished-for home,
I could descry amid the waters green,
Full many a diamond shrine and golden dome,
And crystal palaces of dazzling sheen.

And then I longed, with impotent desire,
Even for the bow whereby the Python bled,
That I might send on dart of the living fire
Into that land, before the vision fled,
And thus at length fix the enchanted shore,
Hy-Brasail, Eden of the western wave!
That thou again wouldst fade away no more,
Buried and lost within thy azure grave.

But angels came and whispered as I dreamt,
"This is no phantom of a frenzied brain--
God shows this land from time to time to tempt
Some daring mariner across the main:
By thee the mighty venture must be made,
By thee shall myriad souls to Christ be won!
Arise, depart, and trust to God for aid!"
I woke, and kneeling, cried, "His will be done!"


Hearing how blessed Enda lived apart,
Amid the sacred caves of Ara-mhor,
And how beneath his eye, spread like a chart,
Lay all the isles of that remotest shore;
And how he had collected in his mind
All that was known to man of the Old Sea,[54]
I left the Hill of Miracles[55] behind,
And sailed from out the shallow, sandy Leigh.

Betwixt the Samphire Isles swam my light skiff,
And like an arrow flew through Fenor Sound,
Swept by the pleasant strand, and the tall cliff,
Whereon the pale rose amethysts are found.
Rounded Moyferta's rocky point, and crossed
The mouth of stream-streaked Erin's mightiest tide,
Whose troubled waves break o'er the City lost,
Chafed by the marble turrets that they hide.

Beneath Ibrickan's hills, moory and tame,
And Inniscaorach's caves, so wild and dark,
I sailed along. The white-faced otter came,
And gazed in wonder on my floating bark.
The soaring gannet, perched upon my mast,
And the proud bird, that flies but o'er the sea,
Wheeled o'er my head: and the girrinna passed
Upon the branch of some life-giving tree.[56]

Leaving the awful cliffs of Corcomroe,
I sought the rocky eastern isle, that bears
The name of blessed Coemhan, who doth show
Pity unto the storm-tossed seaman's prayers;
Then crossing Bealach-na-fearbach's treacherous sound,
I reached the middle isle, whose citadel
Looks like a monarch from its throne around;
And there I rested by St. Kennerg's well.

Again I sailed, and crossed the stormy sound
That lies beneath Binn-Aite's rocky height--
And there, upon the shore, the Saint I found
Waiting my coming though the tardy night.
He led me to his home beside the wave,
Where, with his monks, the pious father dwelled,
And to my listening ear he freely gave
The sacred knowledge that his bosom held.

When I proclaimed the project that I nursed,
How 'twas for this that I his blessing sought,
An irrepressible cry of joy outburst
From his pure lips, that blessed me for the thought.
He said that he, too, had in visions strayed
Over the untracked ocean's billowy foam;
Bid me have hope, that God would give me aid,
And bring me safe back to my native home.

Oft, as we paced that marble-covered land,
Would blessed Enda tell me wondrous tales--
How, for the children of his love, the hand
Of the Omnipotent Father never fails--
How his own sister,[57] standing by the side
Of the great sea, which bore no human bark,
Spread her light cloak upon the conscious tide,
And sailed thereon securely as an ark.

And how the winds become the willing slaves
Of those who labour in the work of God;
And how Scothinus walked upon the waves,
Which seemed to him the meadow's verdant sod.
How he himself came hither with his flock,
To teach the infidels from Corcomroe,
Upon the floating breast of the hard rock,
Which lay upon the glistening sands below.

But not alone of miracles and joys
Would Enda speak--he told me of his dream;
When blessed Kieran went to Clonmacnois,
To found the sacred churches by the stream--
How he did weep to see the angels flee
Away from Arran as a place accursed;
And men tear up the island-shading tree,
Out of the soil from which it sprung at first.

At length I tore me from the good man's sight,
And o'er Loch Lurgan's mouth[58] took my lone way,
Which, in the sunny morning's golden light,
Shone like the burning lake of Lassarae;
Now 'neath heaven's frown--and now, beneath its smile--
Borne on the tide, or driven before the gale;
And, as I passed MacDara's sacred Isle,
Thrice bowed my mast, and thrice let down my sail.

Westward of Arran as I sailed away;
I saw the fairest sight eye can behold--
Rocks which, illumined by the morning's ray,
Seemed like a glorious city built of gold.
Men moved along each sunny shining street,
Fires seemed to blaze, and curling smoke to rise,
When lo! the city vanished, and a fleet,
With snowy sails, rose on my ravished eyes.

Thus having sought for knowledge and for strength,
For the unheard-of voyage that I planned,
I left these myriad isles, and turned at length
Southward my bark, and sought my native land.
There made I all things ready, day by day,
The wicker-boat, with ox-skins covered o'er--
Chose the good monks companions of my way,
And waited for the wind to leave the shore.


At length the long-expected morning came,
When from the opening arms of that wild bay,
Beneath the hill that bears my humble name,
Over the waves we took our untracked way;
Sweetly the morning lay on tarn and rill,
Gladly the waves played in its golden light,
And the proud top of the majestic hill
Shone in the azure air, serene and bright.

Over the sea we flew that sunny morn,
Not without natural tears and human sighs:
For who can leave the land where he was born,
And where, perchance, a buried mother lies;
Where all the friends of riper manhood dwell,
And where the playmates of his childhood sleep:
Who can depart, and breathe a cold farewell,
Nor let his eyes their honest tribute weep?

Our little bark, kissing the dimpled smiles
On ocean's cheek, flew like a wanton bird,
And then the land, with all its hundred isles,
Faded away, and yet we spoke no word.
Each silent tongue held converse with the past,
Each moistened eye looked round the circling wave,
And, save the spot where stood our trembling mast,
Saw all things hid within one mighty grave.

We were alone, on the wide watery waste--
Nought broke its bright monotony of blue,
Save where the breeze the flying billows chased,
Or where the clouds their purple shadows threw.
We were alone--the pilgrims of the sea--
One boundless azure desert round us spread;
No hope, no trust, no strength, except in THEE,
Father, who once the pilgrim-people led.

And when the bright-faced sun resigned his throne
Unto the Ethiop queen, who rules the night,
Who with her pearly crown and starry zone,
Fills the dark dome of heaven with silvery light;--
As on we sailed, beneath her milder sway,
And felt within our hearts her holier power,
We ceased from toil, and humbly knelt to pray,
And hailed with vesper hymns the tranquil hour!

Book of the day:
Facebook Google Reddit StumbleUpon Twitter Pinterest