The Celtic Literature Collective

The Courtship of Ferb

Here we show how the third troop was equipped-even the troop wherein Mani was. Fifty chestnut horses were in it-they were big of body and of wondrous size-also fifty white horses with chestnut ears-their tails were long, and the manes and the tails were dyed to the colour of purple. On each horse was a bridle of two reins, shells of gold ornamented one of the reins and shells of silver were on the other. The bits of them all were of gold and of silver. At the neck of each horse hung a round plate of gold, to which little bells had been fastened, and the bells, as they swung to the horses’ tread, chimed together in music as sweetly as lute strings struck by a master’s hand. Each pair of horses was yoked to a chariot of white bronze, whose rim was made of silver and gold; fifty caparisons of purple, with threads of silver run through them, were bound to the bodies of the chariots; they had golden buckles to fasten them, and hung over the rims, marvellous figures were embroidered thereon. Fifty graceful youths with fair countenances stood in these fifty chariots; amongst them there was none who was not the son of a king and a queen, and of a hero and warrior of Connaught. They were clothed in fifty purple cloaks, whose borders were adorned with silver and gold; there were four bronze ears on every cloak, and each was fastened with a clasp of red gold purified in the fire. Close fitting garments, woven with silk, and with fastenings of glowing yellow gold, were girded on their white bodies. Fifty silver bucklers for the fight hung on their backs, the rims of the bucklers were of gold, and they were adorned with many kinds of carbuncles and with costly stones of every colour. Two gleams of valour shone from the five-pointed spears that were in the hand of each man of them; there were fifty rivets of white bronze and of gold upon every spear. If from each of these heroes a bushel of gold had been due, the rivets of his lance had been enough for the full payment of the debt. Each of the spears had about it rings of gold purified in the fire, and rested on a socket of carbuncles, which, in like fashion to the spears, had been embellished with many coloured costly stones. They shone in the night like the beams of the sun. At their belts hung fifty long swords; the hilts of the swords were of tooth, adorned with gold and with silver; the scabbards were of white silver. In their hands were fifty whips of white bronze with clasps of gold upon them.

Very beautiful and splendid was the young prince whom they accompanied; long were his cheeks, radiant and broad was his countenance. Long, curling, and golden was his hair, and it fell to his shoulders; proud and glowing were his eyes, blue, and clear as the crystal. Like to the tops of the woods in May, or to the foxglove of the mountain, was each of his cheeks. You might fancy that a rain of pearls had fallen into his mouth, and that his lips were twin branches of coral. White as the new-fallen snow of the night was his neck, and such was the fashion of his skin. Seven dogs of the chase surrounded his chariot, with chains of silver upon them, and an apple of gold on every chain, and the tinkle of the apples on the chains made a pleasant music. No colour can be imagined that was not upon the dogs that were with him. Seven buglers with bugles of silver and gold went with the dogs; many coloured were the garments in which they were clad, and yellow was their hair. Before them went three Druids with crowns of silver on their heads; their mantles were of many colours, their shields were of copper, and the rims of the shields were brass. They were attended by three harp-players in purple cloaks, each of them kingly to look upon.

In this fashion then they came to Croghan, and three times they paraded upon the plain of Croghan. They parted from Maev and from Alill, and they turned to the road for the journey to Rath mi. “Fair is the start that you make,” said Briccriu, as he saw them go, “but will you look so fair when you return? for that I cannot tell.”

“By the journey before us,” said Mani, “shall the riddle you set us be solved!"

“Right well do I know,” answered Briccriu, “that one day is enough for your march; nor for a night will you dare to remain within the kingdom of Conor to hold therein your feast.”

“Now I pledge you my word,” answered Mani, “that till for three days and three nights we have kept our feast at Dun Geirg, we turn not again to Croghan.” No longer did he tarry to bandy words, but he gat him on his way for the journey.

Now when the news of their coming arrived at Dun Geirg, they commenced to prepare for the reception of the bridal party. The houses were strewn with fair-leaved, green-leaved birches, and with a deep litter of fresh rushes. And Ferh sent her friend and playmate, Findchoem, who was the daughter of Erg, that she might go with the woman who acted as herald, and observe the coming of that party in what fashion they came. Not long was the time that she needed. And when she had well beheld the host, and had noted their array, she hastened and came with sure tidings to the bower where Ferb was, and thus she spoke to her—“I see,” said she, “a host come to this burg; and never, since Conor has ruled in Eman, bath come nor shall come to the end of time a fairer host or one more skilled in dainty feats than this that comes across the plain. It seemed to me that I was in a sweet orchard of apples, such was the fragrance that came from their garments when they were waved by the gentle breeze that swept across them. And for the feats and the frolics shown by the prince that is among them, never before saw I the like. He casts his staff for the dis­tance of a spear cast in front of him, his dogs springing behind, in such fashion that there are the dogs bounding between the staff and the ground, there is the prince leaning over between the staff and the sky, and the staff falleth not to the ground, for together between them they seize it.”

The people of Dun Geirg pressed around as the party approached, so that sixteen of the beholders were stifled at the viewing of it. And they leapt from their chariots at the gate of the burg, and the chariots were let down, and their horses were unyoked, and they came into the castle, and a right fair welcome was bid them, and preparations were made for a goodly bath. They gave them that bath in the great hail of the warriors that was hard by the castle; and presently noble supplies came in to them of all those kinds of excellent provisions that can be found on the ridge of the earth.

But, while yet they had joy in the pleasure of the feast, a fierce and violent blast of wind arose; and it shook the whole hill on which the castle stood, and the house of wood, wherein the guests were, quaked at the blast; so that the shields fell from their hooks, and the spears from their places, and the tables were moved like the leaves in a forest of oak. The young men were astonished, and Gerg demanded of the Druid who attended upon Mani what this wind should betide. And to him answered Ollgaeth the Druid of Mant— “Truly,” said he, “to me it seemeth that no good omen is this with which we have come hither for the courtship this evening. Conor shall come upon you; beware of his coming, and at the dawn of the morning Maev shall be defeated in battle, whilst you all shall perish, as many as are within this house.” And he made thereupon the following poem—a model for future times


The storm wind roars, its warning’s clear, with dread we hear the cry;
Pierced through the loins by charioteer, the kingly Cerg must die,
Slain by the javelin’s cast; a deed of poison Ito and fro 
Fly lances, dripping shoulders bleed; to triumph rides the foe!
The hands flash white, as blows they heap on shields that roar and quake;
A peaceful couch for men that sleep in death the cairn shall make.
The king uplifts his spear, and slays a prince; sharp deeds are done;
A tomb above the dead they raise, and sad the tale will run:
Badb shall destroy! force wild and dread from Maev the field shall win;
The slain lie heaped, her host hath fled; how sad the storm wind’s din I

“If ye be obedient to my counsel,” said the Druid, “this very night shall ye depart from the castle.” And Mani was wroth, and with anger he rebuked the Druid for the words which he had spoken; and “No cause,” said Gerg, “is there why ye should be in terror for him of whom he hath warned you, since no muster of heroes or of warriors from Ulster hath Conor with him at all. Even were you not here to defend yourselves,” said he, “I myself with my two sons would give battle to Conor.” And they lifted up their fallen weapons, and they paid no heed to the words which the Druid had spoken.

Now as Conor in the morning of that day lay asleep in Eman, his queen, Mugain Etanchaitrech, the daughter of Eocho Fedlech, lying beside him, he saw a fair woman who came to him as he lay on his couch. Her bearing was the bearing of a queen; her hair was golden and wavy, and was braided into a tress coiled about her head. Through a thin robe, woven of silken threads, shone her white skin, a soft and glossy kerchief of green silk lay on her neck. Two sandals of white bronze, rounded in front, appeared between her tender feet and the ground.

“All blessings be on thee, O Conor,” said she.

“Tell me,” said Conor,” what this vision showeth to me.”

“In seven years from this night,” said the lady, “shall the Raid of the Kine of Cualgne’ be accomplished, and the land of Ulster shall be laid waste, and the Dun Bull of Cualgne shall be driven off, and the son of the man who shall do these deeds, even Mani Morgor, the son of Alill and Maev, he hath come hither for his wedding with Ferb, the daughter of Gerg of Glenn Geirg, three times fifty is the number of his companions. Make ready,” said she, “three times fifty of the men of the Fomorians to match them, and victory shall be with thee.” Up sprang Conor, and he waked his queen and told her of his vision.

“Truly,” said Mugain the Queen, “there hath been enough of strife already betwixt us and the men of Connaught.”

“Nevertheless,” said Conor, “it is a certain thing that, even if we hold back from the war, the Raid of which she bath spoken shall be accomplished.”

“Take counsel with Cathba,” said Mugairi, “and the counsel that he giveth to thee, let that be what thou shalt follow.”

Upon that Conor spoke to Cathba on the matter, desiring him to give him a prophetic reply. And he made thereon the first lines of a poem, and Cathba replied to him, and the poem runs as follows


Cathba,’ speak! ray mind is troubled
Let thine art the clouds dispel;
What destruction hangs before me,
Eman’s Druid, Cathba, tell!

Conor, stately king of Ulster,
As the lord of heroes known!
Many men shall fall in battle,
This was by your vision shown

Tell me all the ill that follows
Give a prophecy that’s true!
Cheat me not for fear of danger;
Never Druid spoke like you.

Mani, raised above dishonour,
Son of Croghan’s Maev shall fall;
Three times fifty comrades with him,
Wailing shall arise for all.

None escape or find returning
Of the troops from Croghan fair;
Higher shall your fame be burning;
Seek it, guard yourself with care!

“In safety shalt thou return, O king,” said he, “with triumph and conquest and fame.”

Now it happened that at that time Cathach the cat­headed, Dimor’s daughter, had arrived in Eman. A famous warrior was she; and from the land of Spain she had come to Eman for the love that she bore to Cuchulainn, and she joined with Conor for that war.

Also there joined with him three men of renown who came of the race of the Fomorians—famous were they for their cruelty—namely, Siabarchenn, the son of Suilremar, and Berngal the Freckled, and Bun of the Cruel Speech. Thither came also Facen, the son of Dublongsech, who was of the race of the men who of old time dwelled in the land of Ulster, and Fabric, called Fabric of the venomous tooth, who came from the Greater Asia, and Foras, the slayer of his brother, who dwelt in the island of Man. And Conor marched away, three times fifty warriors who surrounded these chiefs being with him, and he took none of the Ulstermen with him, save himself only, and Brod his charioteer, and Imrinn the Druid, who was the son of Cathba. And none of these warriors had a servant with him save that servant of Conor only, but they had their shields on their backs, and their bright green spears in their hands, and their heavy hard-striking swords at their belts. Yet they were not to be despised on account of their numbers, the pride of their souls was great. And when they had come to such Y place that the castle of Gerg could be seen by them, they saw a vast and heavy cloud that brooded over the castle. The one end of the cloud was black as coal, and its middle was red and the other end was green. Where­upon Conor spoke to Imrinn the Druid.-"Tell me, O Imrinn,” said he, “what omen signifieth that cloud that we see over the castle.”

“Truly,” said Imrinn, “it signifleth a night-long contest and death for this night.” Then he made the following poem of lyric verse


Yon dark cloud that stifles
With poisonous breath—
Green and red are its edges,
Compelling the death
For keen weapons cut gashes
In sides, and hands tear,
And aloft the sword flashes
And necks are swept bare!
In Gerg’s lofty dwelling
The ninth hour is knelling,
Of death it is telling
That rages till noon;
A youth in his daring
Black death is preparing,
The ground shall be bearing
A grave-harvest soon!

Conor then advanced and drew towards the castle. Now there was at that time a brazen vat set up in the house, which in later times was known by the name of the Ol-guala, and it was filled with wine. From the band of the cupbearer a polished drinking vessel fell into the vat, so that three ripples were formed therein, and the ripples flowed over the rim. Then thus spoke Ollgaeth the Druid


Woe’s me, said the Druid, there’s “Broth in the cup”;
Too soon shall a stranger the beaker fill up;
Troops shall wounded be lying,
And heroes be dying,
Eman Macha be sighing,
And houses shall fall!
Knights of Gerg fight in duel
With Conor’s men cruel,
Till the daylight’s renewal
Drives night from the hall!
Sad was the birth of men, foredoomed to fight
Within the house of royal Gerg to-night!

Conor came to the door, and his foreign warriors, as their custom was, raised their cry of havock round about the castle. And Gerg arose, and with him his two sons—to wit, Conn the victorious and Cobhtach of the fair skin, and they caught hold of their weapons. And Gerg said to Mani, “Do then leave us Ulstermen to ourselves to decide this matter, that thou mayest see which of us is the more valiant. We are all bound in honour to see to thy safety, and it would be no hurt to thee should we all fall here together. And if it should indeed be that it is for us that death hath here been decreed, then do thou win the mastery in this place if so be that thou art able.” Gerg and his two sons then went out, and his people with him. And they set them to defend the burg, and after that to go outside and to fight against Conor, and for a long time they let in none behind them. Now on a time Gerg went across the threshold to meet the foremost of those who pressed forward, and eagerly they strove to cut that hero off from the fortress, and in all directions and on all sides sword cuts and thrusts fell upon him as he stood outside the castle. And it followed that during this attack five of the Fomorians fell at the hand of Gerg, also by him fell Imrinn the Druid, who was the son of Cathba, and Gerg struck the head from his shoulders, and he took the head with him and he made for the door. Then came Cathach the cat-headed between Gerg and the door, and a sharp hot contest she gave him. Nevertheless Gerg struck off het head, and he took it with him into the house where Mani was, though he himself had been sorely wounded. And he threw the head from him in front of Mani, and he sat him down upon a couch, and he sighed grievously and bade them give him to drink. And Conor came up with his people, so that they were on the outside of the stockade They held their shields in their left hands over their heads, and with their right hands they tore down the stockade; and they strode across it, so that they were on the soil of that burg ; thus they had a good door made for them after that they had broken the rampart.

Thereupon Brod—the servant aforementioned of Conor—hurled one of the two spears that he had in his hand; and the spear flew into the house, and it went through the shield that was on the breast of king Gerg, and into his tender flesh, so that a cross was made by the spear as it passed through his body after piercing his heart, also it passed through Airidech the servant of Gerg, so that both fell lifeless. Conor then turned him to attack the followers of Gerg throughout the castle, so that thirty fighting men of Gerg’s people fell at his single hand, besides what fell by the hands of his followers. And many of the people also fell at their hands.

Then Nuagel arose, the daughter of Erg, she who was the wife of Gerg, and she raised her three bitter cries of grief, and she took the head of her man into her lap.

“Truly,” said she, “a great deed do I reckon that deed which the servant Brod hath wrought, in that he hath slain Gerg in his own palace. And many,” said she, “will lament thee; and though it was in thy daughter’s quarrel that thou art fallen, many were the maidens to whom thou thyself wert dear.” And loudly she gave testimony of this, and thus she commenced her lay


Here Gerg lies slain ; his daughter’s fault
Hath caused the woe that now I tell;
For her, struck down in fierce assault,
That lordly chieftains fighting, fell.

Gerg’s wars were great; to war he went
With blood-red weapons, active still,
Fair, noble, and magnificent,
Wise, handsome, manly, full of skill.

No hero ever Gerg surpassed;
Each heath that knew his martial tread
Boils up with wrath ; the tears fall fast
In every host, for Gerg is dead.

‘Tis sad your death-bed thus to tend, 
My lovely Gerg, with locks so fair, 
Whom armies hailed as constant friend; 
‘Tis woe for me to see you there.

With me who in Glenn Geirg here stand,
By Irard and by Loch Ane’s shore,
By many a spring in southern land,
Are loving dames who weep you sore.

The hosts to you were friends, and each
Your lightest wish with joy obeyed;
To all was dear your friendly speech;
Your counsels wise their judgment swayed.

The lawyers hailed your wise decrees,
Assemblies of your state could learn,
Your nobles knew your courtesies,
And foes your deeds in battle stern.

Your house was great, and widely known,
Although you wounded were therein;
They killed you there, upon your throne;
The deed they did was deadly sin.

The Courtship of Ferb
For little he deserved such fame,
The servant Brod, his spear passed through,
And with one cast it overcame
Your henchman Airidech and you.

Brod’s feat of arms was great, although
An impious deed that slave hath wrought;
Before his time a king’s laid low,
And I with him to death am brought.

Now after these things had been done the two sons of Gerg, namely Cobhtach of the fair skin and Conn the victorious, strove to hold the castle, and deadly was the fight that was fought before they gave way. Nor did the might of Mani permit him to bide still in his place, or to hold back from avenging his father-in-law against the men of Ulster. He arose, and he took his great battle-shield upon him, and his two smooth sharp spears into his hand, and his heavy hard-striking sword at his belt ; and three times fifty of his comrades rose together with him. It were no easy thing to restrain him; the mind and the nature of each of these heroes was swollen with pride, the hearts of them all overflowed with their arrogance, greatly they longed and desired to do some doughty deed.

Stately, love-worthy, and of gallant bearing was the king’s son that went before them; though to the eyes of an older man he seemed but a boy, he showed himself afterward to be a warrior of great valour. Pleasant was he in the banqueting-hall, and stubborn in the strife; he was a snake full of poison; he was wary of the craft of his enemies; he was the flame of war; he was a fit match for a foe that rose up against him ; he was liberal with his treasure; he could show compassion to the wounded; he cr~uld blaze up at an insult; he stood like a firm-rooted rock against violence; he could overwhelm wild might like a billow of justice; he was swift as a roebuck; he was steadfast as an oak; he was the head of the three provinces of Connaüght in battle and wounding; ~he was their chief in assemblies, their dis­tributor of treasure, and their good material for an accomplished king.

He held it to be dishonourable that any man at all in the world should come with numbers no greater than his own and take the house where he was; therefore he and his warriors chased the Fomorians, and they drove them from the palace. In that hour the hand of Mani was not the hand of a healer, for nine of the men of the Fomorians fell at his first attack. And then to the front of the fight came the pirate of Greater Asia—even Fabric of the venomous tooth; and upon the press of people that were before him caine blows, and destruction, and confusion, and death; nor could any resist him till he came to that part of the battle where Mani was. Then those two set shield against shield, and they strove with each other in a strife that lasted till the middle of the night; and Fabric dealt Mani three grievous wounds, and Mani smote the head off him after that he had grown weary in the strife. And as to Conor, the might of a hero was his, for at his hand fell thirty valiant men of the people of Gerg, and with them fell the son of Gerg, even Conn the victorious. Thus on either side the army rushed to the attack; almost it seemed that the toes on their feet warred together in the strife. Throughout the castle the warriors stood knee-deep in blood, and through the surrounding country was heard the splintering of the shields and the bucklers, and the whirr of the bright green lances, and the clash of the sharp hard swords, and the shatterir~g of skulls in the slaughter, and the cries of the warriors who were overcome in a strife that was greater than they could endure.

Now, after the death of the chief of the Fomorians, Mani met Facen, the son of Dublongsech, and for a long time they fought, and Facen fell at the end of that fight. Also at the hand of Cobhtach the fair-skinned, who was the son of Gerg, died Siaburchenn, the son of Suilremuir. But Mani and Cobhtach were forced into the royal palace after their people had suffered defeat, and they held that palace bravely and manfully till the morning, nor could any enter in of those who fought against them.

At the end of this night, the same woman who had brought the message to Conor went on her way, and came to Maev, where she lay asleep on her couch at Cruachan Ay, and thus she addressed her: “Hadst thou the gift of prophecy, O Maev,” said she, “thou wouldest not be sleeping!"

“What then hath happened?” said the queen.

“Conor,” said the woman, “hath all but gained the victory over Mani, ~ihd Mani shall fall at his hand. Arise, and thou shalt avenge him.”

Then she made the first lines of a poem, and Maev, while she slept, replied to her


Hath your fate from you been hidden,
Maev, that sleeping here you lie?
Rest to you would be forbidden,
Were you skilled in prophecy!

Sure your tale’s of evil omen,
Lady pale, divinely fair!
Tell me whence they come, my foemen,
What their state, what name they bear.

Conor, many a field who gaineth,
Chief of Ulster’s lords in fight,
Rage and fury naught restraineth
Till he sack Glenn Geirg to-night!

Why of Conor be affrighted?
He will hardly win the glen!
Gerg, to Mani’ s power united,
Is enough for Conor’s men.

Mani is of noble figure,
Lofty courage fires his mind;
Yet too small to-night his vigour
In the glen the war shall find.

Well, if Mani More is dying,
Death shall rage through vanquished hosts;
Connaught raises heroes, vieing
With the best that Eman boasts!

Rise! the hosts of Connaught calling,
Vengeance full for Mani take;
Troops shall at your hand be falling,
Royal Maev, when you awake.

Thereupon Maev awoke, and she waked Alill, and she told him of the vision which she had seen; and afterwards she recounted it to her people.

“I know well that there is no truth in that story,” said Briccriu. But when Fiannamail, the son of Fergus Forderg, even the son of him that was the steward of Croghan, heard the news, he waited not for any other, but departed before Maev was ready, for Mani was his foster-brother; now the eighth place among the youths of Connaught belonged to Fiannamail. Maev selected seven hundred armed men, the best that could at the time be found in Croghan. Then came Donnell the Red, surnamed Donnell of the broad countenance, the son of Duban, who was the son of lngamain; he was the best warrior under shield and sword and spear to be found in the province of Connaught, and he also was foster-brother to Mani. And he followed on the track of Fiannamail in front of all the others; thirty warriors had he with him, and the name of each one of them was Donnell. Maev also followed with her host behind Donnell and his men. Thus far runs the tale of the Vision of Maev, and the cause of the war that she made.

Now we return to tell of the doom of Mani. He held the palace till sunrise, and pleasant was the dawn of the day; but no cheerful or pleasant rest for him and his foes had been found that night. And when those two warring hosts saw each other by daylight, they bethought them anew of their quarrel, each of them desiring to do each other hurt, and thus be~an Conor to urge on his followers to the fight : “Had it been Ulstermen that I had with me,” said he, “this battle would not have been fought in such fashion as it hath been by the Fomorians.” Courage rose high in the hearts of all the Fomorians as they heard this rebuke, and stubbornly and vehemently they rushed to the fight, and they ceased not from it till they had entered through the door of the royal palacei The palace into which they had come was fair and of great renown; evil and sad was the fate that befell it. There were therein a hundred tables of silver, and three hundred of brass, and three hundred of white bronze. There were, moreover, thirty drinking bowls, with white silver from Spain on the rims of the bowls. Also there were two hundred drinking horns made from the horns of oxen, with chasings of gold and of silver, and thirty beakers of silver and thirty of brass.

And at the wall there was a bed-place with fair white linen sheets, wondrous designs were woven upon them.

Then came both those hosts together into the midst of the house, and ~much of death befell. Cobhtach the fair-skinned, he who was the son of Gerg, after that he had smitten the Fomorians, came to that part of the fight where Berngal the Freckled was raging and smiting the heads off the warriors of Connaught. A?nd Berngal became weary in the strife, and he fell by the hand of Cobhtach. In another part of the palace Bun of the Cruel Speech died at the hand of Mani, who then fell into a wild frenzy, and raged among the Fomorians throughout the palace, thirty falling at his hand. But when that valiant hero Conor, the ever-victorious in war, saw the fury of Mani, he turned to meet him, and Mani awaited him, vigilant in his wrath; and they fought a long time together, and they trampled nine young men under foot. Mani hurled his spear the breadth of a spear-cast with wrath and fury, so that it made a cross passing through the body of Conor. And as Conor struggled to draw out the spear, Mani wounded him again with the bright green spear that was in his hand. And Brod came up to aid Conor, and Mani fetched him three grievous wounds, and Brod was after that unfit for war. Conor turned him again upon Mani, and over­whelmed him with crushing blows, so that he fell lifeless and dead. Then he began to hew down upon all sides the men that were round him, so that they fell foot to foot and neck to neck throughout the palace. Moreover it so chanced that of the thrice fifty warriors who came with Conor into that house, none escaped alive save him­self and Brod, and although these two came out, yet t~hey came not out unhurt. And Cobhtach, the son of Gerg, fled from out of the castle, and Conor chased him. And as he followed him over the plain, the maiden, namely Ferb, the daughter of Gerg, came, and with her her comrade who had brought her the news of the coming of Mani. They came together to the place where Mani lay in his gore, a bloody disfigured form; and she mourned and she wept.

“Truly,” said she, “thou art lonely now, yet on many nights, as I reckon, thou hast had the fellow­ship of many.’ And she sang this lament while she made testimony for him


O boy, your couch is red with gore, 
Ill-omened from your home you came! 
For signs had told, that weeping sore 
Your kindred soon should hear your name.

O son of Maev, her people’s queen,
O lofty shoot of high renown!
Who cause of all our grief hast been
Since here at dusk-you laid you down.

No weakling Alill is, whose deeds
On you as son his fame confer;
My heart for grief within me bleeds
That low you lie in sepulchre.

O golden sceptre on a bed!
Your skill, bright youth, all skill surpassed;
Yet, when to fight your foe was led,
For you that contest was the last!

Your hand was rough in fiercest fight,
Fomorians of your force can tell;
Down crashed your blows with thund’ring might,
Not few the men on whom you fell.

Your colour beauteous was, and bright,
With care you did all duties well;
Across each vale your foot flew light,
Not few the men on whom you fell.

‘Tis right that I your loss should moan; 
Although I never knew your kiss 
Not less my love, in silence shown, 
Though love bath set my life amiss.

O son of Maev, my heart is woe
For you, my love, that here you lie;
My heart itself I mourning know,
Awaits the self-same destiny.

Not often weaponless you went
Till, stiff and cold, in death you lay;
One shining spear your flesh bath rent,
Another took your life away.

And you were hacked by cruel sword,
And down your cheeks fell crimson rain,
And all the troop that called you lord
Have felt, with you, death’s grievous pain.

Small note I make of all on earth,
For none such grief as mine can see;
My sweetheart dear, my man of worth,
And chosen from the world for me.

My man of worth fo; all my days,
My Mani More, great Alill’s son— 
Not once mine eyes to his to raise— 
I cannot bear it, life is done!

Upon his purple robe I look,
His royal garb, and know with grief
That none that vesture from him took
Since first he stood, a weaponed chief.

He on the ground, his hand lies near,
Cut by a blow some foeman dealt;
And in a hero stands his spear,
His head, it hangs at Conor’s belt!

The heavy sword he well could wield
Has Conor taken far from hence;
And, where he fell, there lies his shield
Wherewith for all he made defence.

Thrice fifty warriors lie around,
Alas! they no protection gave;
They sighed to leave their native ground,
But bravely died, their prince to save.

He truly valiant was, to all
Largesse he freely gave of gold;
No little quarrel caused his fall;
To save his people, life he sold.

His guards lie round, of life bereft,
The prince of Connaught lieth there!
Woe for his folk !—though Honour’s left,
And woe for me, his consort fair.

And nothing I for you can do,
An evil deed hath wrecked my joy,
And, as the grisly sight I view,
My heart is broken for you, boy!

Then came Fiannamail, the son of Fergus Forderg, to the castle, and three times fifty was the number of the warriors that were with him. And a herald who preceded him gave to Ferb the news of his coming, and to Fiannamail he brought back a sad message to tell him of the deeds which had been done. Fiannamail immediately flew into a rage, and sought eagerly for tidings of where Conor was to be found, and he and Ferb between them made this song


Fiannamail,’ whose kin for ever
Lie in death, draws nigh the hail;
Truly gallant is his bearing,
As he answers to our call.

Maiden, much your message moved me, 
Mournful was the news it brought, 
“That my kin were dead” ; but valiant 
Was the fight, if here they fought.

Here your kindred lie; yet little
Need to speak, their forms you know;
Far and wide they fell, and falling
Slew in blood full many a foe.

Speak of Mani, is he living?
Is my comrade lying here?
Whom as chief in hail I follow,
Who as friend to me is dear.

Champion Fiannamail, arouse you,
Grief, as yet unknown, to face;
Grieved I hear your word; and answer— 
You have found his resting-place.

Fairest Ferb, my wrath is rising,
Tell me all the tidings sore
If you know—the son of Alill—
Tell me—where is Mani More?

Ah, ochone! the bitter sorrow!
Was not all my meaning plain?
Mani’s dead; and in the battle
All his chivalry were slain.

Who has caused the cruel conflict?
Whose the arms that shone in strife?
Who has slain the royal Mani?
Have his foes been left in life?

Blood-red swords of warlike Ulster
Came in strength from out the north;
Three times fifty valiant warriors
From the palace drove us forth.

Though the guilty now escape us
Not for them the poet’s lay!
Ulster east and west shall perish,
Connaught’s sons are here to-day!

Fiannamail, the skilled in battle,
Listen ! all the tale I tell:
Two of those who came are living,
All the rest from Ulster fell.

Name for me the two; who are they?
Tell me how in fight they fared!
Whither fled they, who, to hurt us,
Such a deed to do have dared?

Fear no lie from me! with Conor
Brod escaped that slaughter great;
With two spears was Conor smitten,
Brod with three, alike their state.

Who hath wounded crooked Conor?
Who hath made him thus to bleed?
Though from here he fled in safety,
Woe to him! if leech he need.

Thus it chanced. The spear of Mani
Twice the blood from Conor drew;
To the death then Conor smote him;
Fiannamail, the tale is true.

After this Fiannamail pushed forward in pursuit of Conor, and to meet him came Niall the fair; headed, who was the son of Conor, and with him a hundred armed men of Conor’s household, who were seeking where the king might be. A hot, wild battle was fought between them, and as the upshot thereof, Fiannamail, ‘overcome by the numbers against him, was vanquished,’ nor did he reap advantage from the equal number on his own side, for he fell lifeless and dead; yet thirty of his foes fell by his single arm alone. And then the maiden, namely Ferb, turned her and looked at the young warriors of Connaught.

“Truly,” said she, “do I reckon that it is not owing to lack of valour or of skill that you died; nay, but you, overcome by the numbers against you, were vanquished; yet,” said she, “an equal number of your foes have been slain by you, even though you also have fallen.” And she sang the following song


For Connaught’s young warriors
Hard cushions are spread;
Their eyes have been smitten,
Their light step has fled!

What army excelled you
In beauty, or strife?
Ah! masterless flutter
The threads of your life!

For your eye-strings are shattered;
Death’s poison prevails;
As the cold corpses gather,
The stubborn fight fails.

A hundred armed heroes
The Dog for you tore;
Your grim tale foreshadows
Fresh fights, sorrow sore.

I know you with sorrow,
And, weeping, I yearn
In company with you
To ashes to burn!

Young Connaught men,—Erin
No fairer troop knows,— 
I mourn for you; slaughtered
By ill-shapen foes.

Your fight with Fomorians
A fierce fight has been;
Behind your proud corpses
The women will keen.

To the house you came proudly,
No vassal your sire;
As chieftains it was not
For you to retire.

Pale Badb have you feasted
The weapons among;
Of the fair youths of Connaught
The sad fate is sung.

Then came Donnell the Red, the son of Duban—he that was called Donnell of the broad countenance—and he arrived at the foot of the hill upon which the castle stood.

“Donnell the Red, the son of Duban,” said the maiden who had been Ferb’s messenger, “is a trusty man in all matters where the spear and the sword can avail. Dauntless in the hour wherein valiant deeds are done is each of those who have come hither, and mighty would have been the aid that Donnell would have lent to his foster-brother had it been his fortune to come hither while Mani was yet in life.” And when the maiden Ferb heard that, she went out that she might meet Donnell, and much she incited him to the fight, and she made a part of a song, and Donnell Derg of the broad countenance, he made answer to her


Valiant hawk of danger, flying
Forth for fame, who here hast sped;
Donnell, see! before thee lying
Is thy foster-brother, dead.

Mani died in fight; the story
Lives how he his rivals still
Passed in fame, in valour, glory,
In his mercy, in his skill.

Not for heroes is such prattle,
Sighs, laments, and anguish sore
You can meet his foes in battle,
Mani will return no more.

As a bull, behold me rushing
On King Conor’s ruddy sword;
Blood shall through his skin be gushing
As with many a stroke he’s gored!

Well, the death of noble Conor
Vengeance were, yet none too great;
Never Mani’s match in honour
Lived, nor shall in Connaught’s state.

Now, for Mani’s slaughter paying,
Famous Conor’s death is nigh;
Ferb, my hand shall do the slaying,
Niall and Ferdach with him die!

Donnell Derg, had you, contending
Here with Ulster, died for me;
Glorious vengeance for your ending
All from Mani’s deeds would see.

In his warrior might lies yonder
Mani Morgor, dead to-day.
From my western home I’ll wander
Till all Ulster for him pay!

Ah, my soul would then be cheerful,
Peace would then my heart enjoy,
If but Donnell’s arms so fearful
All of Ulster would destroy.

No long time had Donnell to wait, for he saw a great host coming towards him, in which were four hundred armed men, and their leader was Feradach of the long hand, who was the son of Conor. Each of these foes set themselves against the other. Then Donnell, finding himself overcome by the numbers against him, fell into a rage; fifty warriors fell at his single hand; and all the men of his following were slain, while he himself twice succeeded in wounding Feradach. But with murder his foes strove against him, and Feradach struck off his head, and he raised the shout of victory; moreover, the heads of all his companions were struck off, and loudly the cries of triumph were raised by the victors.

And that maiden went back to the castle, and she entered in; and as her eyes fell upon Mani she was overwhelmed with her grief. “Hideous,” said she, “is that which hath befallen us, oh youth; and it is on your account that in sorrow I will die, although my father and his son also have died in your quarrel, and methinks that yet more of slaughter shall there be when Maev shall have come.” And she made the following lament in her sorrow


O son of Maev, in sadness I complain,
O lovely youth, endowed with wondrous skill!
Your skin so clear the ruddy blood-drops stain,
In you I see the cause of all our ill.

On your account my father fought and fell;
A vassal true was he, a warrior stout,
In your defence his son has died as well,
Not easily such thoughts are blotted out.

Much evil springs from you; full well I know
The cause that did our quiet life disturb,
Whence much of evil shall in future flow
For all the folk of Mani, and of Ferb.

My heart within me with sharp pain was racked
When first your death-bed to mine eyes was shown;
I curse the hands that thus your flesh have hacked
And on a cruel couch your corpse have thrown.

To dames and maidens comes a bitter grief
For you, who showed such skill the spear to toss;
And many hosts are mourning for their chief,
Lamenting you, a single, deepest loss.

But yesterday you shone in beauty bright,
Your hounds careering in the cheerful chase,
Your soul was lofty, and a youthful light
Was proudly shining in your glorious face.

Ill favoured now your countenance, and dead
Beside you lie your hands so cold and pale;
And severed from your body is your head,
Alas for him who cannot for you wail!

An evil news they carry to the west
To that bright hostage, Finnabar the fair;
Her brother’s death with grief will fill her breast,
She’ll weep for Ferb who such a loss must bear.

Nor Maev, nor Alill, on Mag Ay who dwell,
Can yet endure to live and bear such woes;
And none thy countenance so changed can tell,
Alas, my cup of sorrow overflows!

Then came to the side of Conor his two sons, even Niall and Feradach. And Macv drew nigh till she was in sight of the field of battle, and seven hundred warriors was the following that she had with her. She formed her troops into a compact and stubborn band, and she raised weapons fit for the battle before her; and she made straight for Conor to take vengeance on him for the death of her son and of the people thai were with him. And although Conor was full of wounds and of hurts, yet he was not minded to give way and to retire before Maev, but he advanced eagerly to seek her out till those two stood face to face. Each then commenced to deal out blows and mutilation and destruction, and to hew down and to crush and to slay; and the “Piercer of the ranks of War” was by Maev carried into the battle host of Ulster, so that five men fell at her hand besides the two Sons of Conor, even Niall the fair-headed and Feradach of the long hand. And on the other side Conor began to rend asunder the remaining part of her host, and to tear and to slay like a wrathful wounded lioness among swine, so that quickly had he found his healing from his wounds, after which, as it were, great pieces of flesh, full of blood, fell from him in the greatness of the wrath that had seized him after his two sons had been slain.

Then Maev was defeated; and three times fifty mightily valiant warriors of her people fell in the fight, and her guards, as their custom was, bore her safely back; and Conor followed hard upon her routed host till he passed beyond Mag mi. Then back he turned him, and he made for the castle of Gerg with the intent to lay it in ruins. Thereupon the people of Gerg gathered together, and Cobhtach of the fair-skin, who was the son of Gerg, led them to the fight; a violent and a well- matched battle they fought in defence of their fortress. But Conor rushed upon them like a wolf among sheep, and he and Cobhtach fought in single combat, and Cobhtach fell in that fight, and then fell also all of his people that were doomed to death. And Conor took with him whatsoever he found there of gold and of silvei and of white bronze and of horn and of beakers and of vessels and of weapons and of apparel. He took with him also the brazen vat that stood in the house, which when full of beer was wont to be sufficient for the whole land of Ulster, and this is that vat which by the men of Ulster was called the Ol Guala or Coal-vat, since a fire of coals (guail) was wont to be in that house in Eman in which that vat was drunk. And from it bath been named Loch Guala Umai in the island of Daim, which is in the realm of Ulster; for underneath the lake unto this day is that vat, hidden in a secret place. Also Conor took with him the queen, even Nuagel, the daughter of Erg, and her daughter Ferb, and three times fifty maidens with her. And immediately after this, Ferb and her maidens all died from the sorrow that they felt at the death of the young man Mani; Nuagel also died of grief for the death of her husband and her two sons. And they dug a grave for Ferb, and a pillar of stone was erected for her, and her name was written upon it in letters of Ogham, and a monument of stone was made, so that Duma Ferbe is the name that is now for Raith Ini--in the north-west doth that monument stand.

Conor returned to Eman with victory and triumph, and to Mugain he related his tale from the beginning to the end; and he gave command to his bard Ferchertne, the son of Dergerdne, who was the son of Garb, who was the son of Fer Rossa the Red, who was the son of Rury, that he should forthwith make a great poem which should serve as a model to future times, and should preserve the memory of that tale. He then sang the poem that now follows; and he prophesied that in future days, by means of the tale he had told, should men unravel the threads of the story of the Tain Bo Cualgne


Hear the dream of upright Conor,
Cathba’s son, so fair and great,
From his foray safe returning,
He who rules in Ulster’s state.

Conor lay one night in Eman,
Heavy sleep had wrapped his frame,
Something rose to view, a woman
Towards his couch of slumber came.

Red her robe, with gold embroidered,
Far from mean her garments were,
And a golden crown was shining
On her silken, braided hair.

Thus the noble dame addressed him, 
“Conor! good’s the sign I bring! 
Honour and good luck in all things 
Wait for thee, illustrious king."

“Tell me what the future brings me,” 
Thus spoke Nessa’s royal son, 
“Glorious lady, tell the moment 
When the strife shall be begun.”

“Seven years hence thy forces gather, 
Wives and boys the ranks fill full; 
Then shall glory slay them, fighting 
For the Dun—for Cualgne’s Bull.”

“Who shall drive the Dun? speak truly; 
Who prepares the deadly war?” 
“Alill on the plains of Connaught 
Draws all Ireland near and far.”

“Nay,” said Conor, lord of armies, 
“Evil path is here foretold; 
Is none other battle fated, 
Whitest dame, with locks of gold?”

“Fear no lie, a deed is ready,
Food to cheer thy waiting days, 
Alill’s son approaches boldly,
Mani More, whom heroes praise.”

“Ferb, the child of Gerg, awaits him, 
For the wedding is he come, 
Three times fifty warriors round him, 
This their number—true the sum.”

“Nine hours after noon this evening 
They the wedding feast prepare, 
In Glenn Geirg they wait assembled, 
Hear me, king of Eman fair!”

“If we wisely plan our foray 
In what numbers should we go?” 
“Three times fifty bold Fomorians— 
Trust my words—to match the foe.”

“Conor, rich in wars, thy valour 
Triumph from the foe shall bear; 
Mine the task to tell the story, 
Hear me, king of Eman fair!"

Conor woke, and swift arising
From his couch, he waked his queen;
All the wondrous tale he told her
In the trusty vision seen.

Up and spoke the gracious Mugain, 
Conor’s noble, prudent wife, 
“Far too much with Connaught’s kingdom 
We in Ulster have of strife.”

Answered her the glorious Conor, 
He who war with skill can guide, 
“Connaught brings the battle to us 
If we in our house abide!"

Said the queen, “Since fate hath willed it,
From your foray to restrain
I attempt not; Lord of Ulster,
May you conquering come again!”

Conor, with the self-same numbers
That the trusty vision told,
Marches bravely to Rath mi,
Where dwelt Gerg in royal hold.

To the feast set forth in splendour
Comes the stedfast warrior band;
Guided skilfully they enter,
In the castle porch they stand.

Three times fifty warriors waited,
Conor sought the court alone,
All his force outside disposing
With the skill he oft had shown.

Up the hail the son of Nessa
Passed, the glorious hattie-lord;
Silently approached a vessel
All of brass, where wine was stored.

Then the Druid, who attended
On king Gerg, cried, “Woe is me
Knowledge is to us extended,
Broth shall in that beaker be!"

Brod the charioteer, who waited,
Hurled his spear without delay;
This through Gerg within his palace
And the ‘beaker’ made its way.

Conor through the house of feasting
Three times fifty warriors led;
Seven times twenty men were slaughtered,
He from Mani struck the head.

In that house he left behind him
All his troops, who fighting fell
Brod excepted, of his people
None escaped the tale to tell.

Westward flew the fairy woman, 
And to Maev brief tidings brought:
“Lo! thy son is slain by Conor, 
Bad the hour in which they fought!”

From the West Queen Maev to battle
Marched with seven hundred men;
On the plains of royal Ulster
Conor took the field again.

Maev upon the plains of Ulster
Far surpassed a hero’s might,
Slew two sons of Conor, vanquished
Seven heroes in the fight.

Yet her host was routed, westwards
Home she fled, of might bereft;
And upon the field of battle
Seven times twenty warriors left.

Proudly marched the Ulster heroes
Towards the ancient home of Gerg,
There they swarmed the walls and plundered
All the treasures of the burg.

Bloody was the battle truly
That Gerg’s folk with Ulster waged,
When, to death each other dooming,
King and kingly hero raged.

Seven fair-haired, seven brown-haired,
Seven black-haired nobles died;
And of those who filled the castle
Thirty fell by Fergus’ side.

Thirty heroes, as the battle
Ceased, with Muredach death have found;
Falbe thirty, Fland led thirty,
Donnell thirty men renowned.

Cobhtach thirty, Cond led thirty,
Corpre thirty, dark they were:
Dubhtach thirty, Ross led thirty,
Angus thirty warriors fair.

Of their hero-craft and valour
There is none the truth to speak,
There is none their end who knoweth,
All are numbered with the weak!

Loudly rose the cries, for terror
On the followers pressed with power;
With their lords who fought the battle
They were slain that very hour.

Thus the Vision runs—a prelude
To the Tain-bo-Cualgne’s strain— 
Greater grows the battle story,
Mani, son of Maev, is slain.

Mighty deeds are then unfolded,
Though the Vision terrifies,
Gerg must fall, with all his people,
Famed for hospitalities.

Home with conquering banners flying,
Praised on many a foughten field,
Conor comes to fame undying:
Thus the Vision is revealed.