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FROM THE YELLOW BOOK OF LECAN (FOURTEENTH CENTURY)


AT Dun Imrid lay Cuchulain,[FN#104] and slept, when a cry rang out; And in fear he heard from the north-land come ringing that terrible shout:
He fell, as he woke from his slumber, with the thud of a weight, to the ground,
From his couch on that side of the castle that the rising sun first found.
He left his arms in the castle, as the lawns round its walls he sought, But his wife, who followed behind him, apparel and arms to him brought: Then he saw his harnessed chariot, and Laeg,[FN#105] his charioteer, From Ferta Laig who drave it: from the north the car drew near: "What bringeth thee here?" said Cuchulain: said Laeg, "By a cry I was stirred,
That across the plain came sounding." "And whence was the cry thou hast heard?"
"From the north-west quarter it travelled, it crossed the great Cayll[FN#106] Cooen road!"
"Follow on, on that track," said Cuchulain, "till we know what that clamour may bode!"


[FN#104] Pronounced Cu-hoolin.

[FN#105] Pronounced Layg.

[FN#106] Spelt Caill Cuan.


At the ford of the Double Wonder, at Ah[FN#107] Fayrta, the car made stand
For a chariot rattled toward them, from the clay-soiled Coolgarry[FN#108] land
And before them came that chariot; and strange was the sight they saw: For a one-legged chestnut charger was harnessed the car to draw; And right through the horse's body the pole of the car had passed, To a halter across his forehead was the pole with a wedge made fast: A red woman sat in the chariot, bright red were her eyebrows twain A crimson cloak was round her: the folds of it touched the plain: Two poles were behind her chariot: between them her mantle flowed; And close by the side of that woman a mighty giant strode; On his back was a staff of hazel, two-forked, and the garb he wore Was red, and a cow he goaded, that shambled on before.


[FN#107] Spelt Ath Ferta, or more fully Ath da Ferta, the ford of the two marvels.

[FN#108] Spelt Culgaire.


To that woman and man cried Cuchulain, "Ye who drive that cow do wrong, For against her will do ye drive her!" "Not to thee doth that cow belong,"
Said the woman; "no byre of thy comrades or thy friends hath that cow yet barred."
"The kine of the land of Ulster," said Cuchulain, "are mine to guard!" "Dost thou sit on the seat of judgment?" said the dame, "and a sage decree
On this cow would'st thou give, Cuchulain?--too great is that task for thee!"
Said the hero, "Why speaketh this woman? hath the man with her never a word?"
"'Twas not him you addressed," was her answer, "when first your reproaches we heard."
"Nay, to him did I speak," said Cuchulain, "though 'tis thou to reply who would'st claim!"
'Ooer-gay-skyeo-loo-ehar-skyeo[FN#109] is the name that he bears," said the dame.


[FN#109] Spelt Uar-gaeth-sceo-luachair-sceo


"'Tis a marvellous name!" said Cuchulain, "if from thee all my answer must come,
Let it be as thou wishest; thy comrade, this man, as it seemeth, is dumb.
Tell me now of thine own name, O woman." "Faebor-bayg-byeo-ill,"[FN#110] said the man. "Coom-diewr-folt-skayv-garry-skyeo-ooa is her name, if pronounce it you can!"
Then Cuchulain sprang at the chariot: "Would ye make me a fool with your jest?"
He cried, as he leapt at the woman; his feet on her shoulders he pressed,
And he set on her head his spear-point: "Now cease from thy sharp weapon-play!"
Cried the woman. Cuchulain made answer: Thy name to me truth fully say!" "Then remove thyself from me!" she answered: I am skilled in satirical spells;
The man is called Darry I mac Feena[FN#111]: in the country of Cualgne[FN#112] he dwells;
I of late made a marvellous poem; and as fee for the poem this cow Do I drive to my home." "Let its verses," said Cuchulain," be sung to me now!"
"Then away from me stand!" said the woman: "though above me thou shakest thy spear,
It will naught avail thee to move me." Then he left her, but lingered near,
Between the poles of her chariot: the woman her song then sang; And the song was a song of insult. Again at the car he sprang, But nothing he found before him: as soon as the car he had neared, The woman, the horse, and the chariot, the cow, and the man disappeared.


[FN#110] Spelt Faebor-begbeoil-cuimdiuir-folt-seenb-gairit-sceo-uath.

[FN#111] Spelt Daire mac Fiachna: he is the owner of the Dun of Cualgne in the Great Tain.

[FN#112] Pronounced Kell-ny.


At a bird on a bough, as they vanished, a glance by Cuchulain was cast, And he knew to that bird's black body the shape of the woman had passed: As a woman of danger I know you," he cried, "and as powerful in spell!" From to-day and for ever," she chanted, "this tale in yon clay-land shall dwell!"
And her word was accomplished; that region to-day is the Grella Dolloo,[FN#113]
The Clay-land of Evil: its name from the deeds of that woman it drew.


[FN#113] Spelt Grellach Dolluid.


"Had I known it was you," said Cuchulain, "not thus had you passed from my sight!"
And she sang, "For thy deed it is fated that evil shall soon be thy plight!"
Thou canst. do naught against me," he answered. "Yea, evil in sooth can I send;
Of thy Bringer of Death I am guardian, shall guard it till cometh thine end:
From the Under-world Country of Croghan this cow have I driven, to breed By the Dun Bull of Darry[FN#114] Mae Feena, the Bull that in Cualgne doth feed.
So long as her calf be a yearling, for that time thy life shall endure; But, that then shall the Raid have beginning, the dread Raid of Cualgne, be sure."


[FN#114] Spelt Daire mac Fiachna.


"Nay, clearer my fame shall be ringing," the hero replied," for the Raid:
All bards, who my deeds shall be singing, must tell of the stand that I made,
Each warrior in fight shall be stricken, who dares with my valour to strive:
Thou shalt see me, though battle-fields thicken, from the Tain Bo returning alive!"

"How canst thou that strife be surviving?" the woman replied to his song,
"For, when thou with a hero art striving, as fearful as thou, and as strong,
Who like thee in his wars is victorious, who all of thy feats can perform,
As brave, and as great, and as glorious, as tireless as thou in a storm, Then, in shape of an eel round thee coiling, thy feet at the Ford I will bind,
And thou, in such contest when toiling, a battle unequal shalt find."

"By my god now I swear, by the token that Ulstermen swear by," he cried; "On a green stone by me shall be broken that eel, to the Ford if it glide:
From woe it shall ne'er be escaping, till it loose me, and pass on its way!"
And she said: "As a wolf myself shaping, I will spring on thee, eager to slay,
I will tear thee; the flesh shall be rended from thy chest by the wolf's savage bite,
Till a strip be torn from thee, extended from the arm on thy left to thy right!
With blows that my spear-shaft shall deal thee," he said, "I will force thee to fly
Till thou quit me; my skill shall not heal thee, though bursts from thy head either eye!"
I will come then," she cried, "as a heifer, white-skinned, but with ears that are red,
At what time thou in fight shalt endeavour the blood of a hero to shed, Whose skill is full match for thy cunning; by the ford in a lake I will be,
And a hundred white cows shall come running, with red ears, in like fashion to me:

As the hooves of the cows on thee trample, thou shalt test 'truth of men in the fight':
And the proof thou shalt have shall be ample, for from thee thy head they shall smite!"
Said Cuchulain: "Aside from thee springing, a stone for a cast will I take,
And that stone at thee furiously slinging, thy right or thy left leg will break:
Till thou quit me, no help will I grant thee." Morreegan,[FN#115] the great Battle Queen,
With her cow to Rath Croghan departed, and no more by Cuchulain was seen.
For she went to her Under-World Country: Cuchulain returned to his place.
The tale of the Great Raid of Cualgne this lay, as a prelude, may grace.


[FN#115] Spelt Morrigan.




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