The Celtic Literature Collective

The Story of the Courtship of Ferb


CONOR, the son of Nessa, lay one night in his sleep, and as he lay he saw a vision, for there came to him a lady in the bloom of her youth, fair in form and in semblance. “Good is my greeting,” said that lady. “Is it in very truth a good greeting?” said Conor. “What meaneth the vision?" said he. “Honour and good fortune await thee,” she answered. “And what then,” said Conor, “hath the future allotted to me?” “The men of Ireland shall seek thee out,” said the dame, “and thy women, thy sons, thy daughters, and thy cattle shall be carried off by Maev and by Alill, and the crafty counsel of Fergus shall aid them.” “When is the time,” said Conor, “when they shall start for this raid?" “Upon a night,” said she, “that is from this night distant by seven years, shall the White One lay waste the land of Cualgne for the sake of that Dark One that cometh from Cualgne, in the pursuit of whom shall this onslaught on thy people be made.” “No liking,” said Conor, “have I for any such deed as this of which thou hast spoken.” “But ere that day cometh,” said she, “a glorious deed is there for thee to do. Upon the outer marches of thy kingdom is Mani Morgor, the son of Alill; three times fifty is the number of the warriors with him, and in Glen Geirg near to thee is he now, for his wedding with the daughter of Gerg is he come: the name of the maiden is Ferb. Thither hie thee against him; for to-morrow at the ninth hour shall the banquet be spread.” “What,” said Conor, “is the number of the warriors whom I should take?” “Gather together three huiidred fighting men,” said she; and she went away from his side, and she removed herself out of his sight. In the morning Conor awoke, and to Mumain Aiten­chaitrech, his queen, he told the tale he had heard. “If thou wouldest hearken to me,” said she, “thou wouldest not go—enough cause of strife is there already for our folk and for them.” “By the road that we take for our raid,’ answered Conor, “shall I surely return.” “Well then,” said she, “depart on the path that thou seekest.”

And those three hundred departed, and went on till they had come to the house of Gerg, even until they had reached the fortress of Raith Imbuee, where Gerg the king abode. The strains of music within the walls came to their hearing, and the fortress was open before them. Into the castle went Conor, and his three hundred beside him, so that they stood at the door. Fair was the house of the king. Within it were Gerg and Buan his wife, thirty with Flann, thirty with Dubhtach, thirty with Donnell, thirty with Angus, and thirty of his clansmen with Falbe Flann. They were there for the fealty that they owed to the house of Gerg, beside the retainers who in like manner were there; moreover, there was Mani and his followers — three times fifty was their number.

Now all these had their shields made of copper. If from each man a bushel of gold and a bushel of silver and of bronze had been due, the rivets of the spear of each man of them, with the rings of gold that were about their hair, would have made good the debt. In the house were a hundred tables of brass. A brazen vat was upon the floor of the house, and it had been filled up with wine. For the whole time of three days and three nights had they been feasting; and, when Conor came to the door, only one half of the wine remained. In the house was Gerg and Buan his wife and Mani Morgor, with his troop of warriors, drinking the wine and the ale; and the gate of the fortress and the house in which they sat were defenceless. Conor advanced till he came to the door of the house; also the servant of Conor went forward till he was within that house. Now, the name of that servant was Broth. Then did the Druid who was with them raise his cry of lament, and all heard this lay which he chanted

Broth in the bowl is found,
Soon strangers pass it round;
Troops are roused at battle’s sound,
Heroes shall blessed!
Down crashes many a hail,
Warriors in duels fall,
Warlike deeds are rousing all.
Thus ‘tis decreed!

Then Brod hurled his spear against Gerg, so that it passed right through his body. And king Gerg let the cup fall from his hand, and it fell on the floor of the house. “Broth has been found in the beaker, O Gerg!” cried Conor. “Rouse yourselves, ye young men !“ said he and into that house strode thirty warriors by Conor’s side. And from the son of Mill, Conor smote the head, and one hundred heads were smitten off beside. Then out of the house went Conor and Brod, and he left all the rest of his young warriors there behind him; for three days and for three nights were they in that house.

Meanwhile the lady, namely the Badb, went on her way, and in Croghan she appeared. “Thy son,” said she to Maev, “hath been overcome in Glenn Geirg.” “Who hath overcome him?” said she. “Conor, with the valiant heroes of Ulster around him.” Maev took her weapons, and she gathered together six hundred of her warriors and young heroes, also she took with her Fergus and the exiles of Ulster, and she marched till she came to Glenn Geirg, and there they fought together. Maev with her own hand struck down sixteen warriors, also the two Amalgaid, even the two sons of Conor. One hundred of the men of Ulster were slain; but four hundred of the men of Connaught and the people of Maev fell in the fight, and Maev was defeated. Then the men of Ulster went to the burg (where Gerg had dwelt), and none of the folk of that burg escaped from their hands; and they took all of treasure and of costly things that were there; and they carried off the brazen vat, so that into the land of Ulster it came, and they cleared the land from that troop of the men of Connaught, and they returned in triumph back to their own land. Now this tale hath to do with that raid wherein the Bull was carried off to the west, for thus the men of Ulster carried off that vat. When they had all come together for a foray, or when they were together in assembly, that vat was enough for them all; and in this manner came the vat called the Ol-guala into the possession of the men of Ulster, and thence also was (the name of) Loch Guala, which is now in Daminis within the Ulster borders.