Fiction > Harvard Classics > The Destruction of Dá Derga’s Hostel
  The Destruction of Dá Derga’s Hostel.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
THERE was a famous and noble king over Erin, named Eochaid Feidlech. Once upon a time he came over the fairgreen of Brí Léith, and he saw at the edge of a well a woman with a bright comb of silver adorned with gold, washing in a silver basin wherein were four golden birds and little, bright gems of purple carbuncle in the rims of the basin. A mantle she had, curly and purple, a beautiful cloak, and in the mantle silvery fringes arranged, and a brooch of fairest gold. A kirtle she wore, long, hooded, hard-smooth, of green silk, with red embroidery of gold. Marvellous clasps of gold and silver in the kirtle on her breasts and her shoulders and spaulds on every side. The sun kept shining upon her, so that the glistening of the gold against the sun from the green silk was manifest to men. On her head were two golden-yellow tresses, in each of which was a plait of four locks, with a bead at the point of each lock. The hue of that hair seemed to them like the flower of the iris in summer, or like red gold after the burnishing thereof.  1
  There she was, undoing her hair to wash it, with her arms out through the sleeve-holes of her smock. White as the snow of one night were the two hands, soft and even, and red as foxglove were the two clear-beautiful cheeks. Dark as the back of a stag-beetle the two eyebrows. Like a shower of pearls were the teeth in her head. Blue as a hyacinth were the eyes. Red as rowan-berries the lips. Very high, smooth and soft-white the shoulders. Clear-white and lengthy the fingers. Long were the hands. White as the foam of a wave was the flank, slender, long, tender, smooth, soft as wool. Polished and warm, sleek and white were the two thighs. Round and small, hard and white the two knees. Short and white and rulestraight the two shins. Justly straight and beautiful the two heels. If a measure were put on the feet it would hardly have found them unequal, unless the flesh of the coverings should grow upon them. The bright radiance of the moon was in her noble face: the loftiness of pride in her smooth eyebrows: the light of wooing in each of her regal eyes. A dimple of delight in each of her cheeks, with a dappling (?) in them, at one time, of purple spots with redness of a calf’ blood, and at another with the bright lustre of snow. Soft womanly dignity in her voice; a step steady and slow she had: a queenly gait was hers. Verily, of the world’ women ’twas she was the dearest and loveliest and justest that the eyes of men had ever beheld. It seemed to King Eochaid and his followers that she was from the elfmounds. Of her was said: “Shapely are all till compared with Etáin,” “Dear are all till compared with Etáin.”  2
  A longing for her straightway seized the king; so he sent forward a man of his people to detain her. The king asked tidings of her and said, while announcing himself: “Shall I have an hour of dalliance with thee?”  3
  “’Tis for that we have come hither under thy safeguard,” quoth she.  4
  “Query, whence art thou and whence hast thou come?” says Eochaid.  5
  “Easy to say,” quoth she. “Etáin am I, daughter of Etar, king of the cavalcade from the elfmounds. I have been here for twenty years since I was born in an elfmound. The men of the elfmound, both kings and nobles, have been wooing me: but nought was gotten from me, because ever since I was able to speak, I have loved thee and given thee a child’ love for the high tales about thee and thy splendour. And though I had never seen thee, I knew thee at once from thy description: it is thou, then, I have reached.”  6
  “No ‘seeking of an ill friend afar’ shall be thine,” says Eochaid. “Thou shalt have welcome, and for thee every other woman shall be left by me, and with thee alone will I live so long as thou hast honour.”  7
  “My proper bride-price to me!” she says, “and afterwards my desire.”  8
  “Thou shalt have both,” says Eochaid.  9
  Seven cumals 1 are given to her.  10
  Then the king, even Eochaid Feidlech, dies, leaving one daughter named, like her mother, Etáin, and wedded to Cormac, king of Ulaid.  11
  After the end of a time Cormac, king of Ulaid, “the man of the three gifts,” forsakes Eochaid’s daughter, because she was barren save for one daughter that she had borne to Cormac after the making of the pottage which her mother—the woman from the elfmounds—gave her. Then she said to her mother: “Bad is what thou hast given me: it will be a daughter that I shall bear.”  12
  “That will not be good,” says her mother; “a king’s pursuit will be on her.”  13
  Then Cormac weds again his wife, even Etáin, and this was his desire, that the daughter of the woman who had before been abandoned [i. e. his own daughter] should be killed. So Cormac would not leave the girl to her mother to be nursed. Then his two thralls take her to a pit, and she smiles a laughing smile at them as they were putting her into it. Then their kindly nature came to them. They carry her into the calfshed of the cowherds of Etriscél, great-grandson of Iar, king of Tara, and they fostered her till she became a good embroideress; and there was not in Ireland a king’s daughter dearer than she.  14
  A fenced house of wickerwork was made by the thralls for her, without any door, but only a window and a skylight. King Eterscél’s folk espy that house and suppose that it was food that the cowherds kept there. But one of them went and looked through the skylight, and he saw in the house the dearest, beautifullest maiden! This is told to the king, and straightway he sends his people to break the house and carry her off without asking the cowherds. For the king was childless, and it had been prophesied to him by his wizards that a woman of unknown race would bear him a son.  15
  Then said the king: “This is the woman that has been prophesied to me!”  16
  Now while she was there next morning she saw a Bird on the skylight coming to her, and he leaves his birdskin on the floor of the house, and went to her and possessed her, and said: “They are coming to thee from the king to wreck thy house and to bring thee to him perforce. And thou wilt be pregnant by me, and bear a son, and that son must not kill birds. 2 And ‘Conaire, son of Mess Buachalla’ shall be his name,” for hers was Mess Buachalla, “the Cowherds’ fosterchild.”  17
  And then she was brought to the king, and with her went her fosterers, and she was betrothed to the king, and he gave her seven cumals and to her fosterers seven other cumals. And afterwards they were made chieftains, so that they all became legitimate, whence are the two Fedlimthi Rechtaidi. And then she bore a son to the king, even Conaire son of Mess Buachalla, and these were her three urgent prayers to the king, to wit, the nursing of her son among three households, that is, the fosterers who had nurtured her, and the two Honeyworded Mainés, and she herself is the third; and she said that such of the men of Erin as should wish to do aught for this boy should give to those three households for the boy’s protection.  18
  So in that wise he was reared, and the men of Erin straightway knew this boy on the day he was born. And other boys were fostered with him, to wit, Fer Le and Fer Gar and Fer Rogein, three great-grandsons of Donn Désa the champion, an army-man of the army from Muc-lesi.  19
  Now Conaire possessed three gifts, to wit, the gift of hearing and the gift of eyesight and the gift of judgment; and of those three gifts he taught one to each of his three fosterbrothers. And whatever meal was prepared for him, the four of them would go to it. Even though three meals were prepared for him each of them would go to his meal. The same raiment and armour and colour of horses had the four.  20
  Then the king, even Eterscéle, died. A bull-feast is gathered by the men of Erin, in order to determine their future king; that is, a bull used to be killed by them and thereof one man would eat his fill and drink its broth, and a spell of truth was chanted over him in his bed. Whosoever he would see in his sleep would be king, and the sleeper would perish if he uttered a falsehood.  21
  Four men in chariots were on the Plain of Liffey at their game, Conaire himself and his three fosterbrothers. Then his fosterers went to him that he might repair to the bullfeast. The bull-feaster, then in his sleep, at the end of the night beheld a man stark-naked, passing along the road of Tara, with a stone in his sling.  22
  “I will go in the morning after you,” quoth he.  23
  He left his fosterbrothers at their game, and turned his chariot and his charioteer until he was in Dublin. There he saw great, white-speckled birds, of unusual size and colour and beauty. He pursues them until his horses were tired. The birds would go a spearcast before him, and would not go any further. He alighted, and takes his sling for them out of the chariot. He goes after them until he was at the sea. The birds betake themselves to the wave. He went to them and overcame them. The birds quit their birdskins, and turn upon him with spears and swords. One of them protects him, and addressed him, saying: “I am Némglan, king of thy father’s birds; and thou hast been forbidden to cast at birds, for here there is no one that should not be dear to thee because of his father or mother.”  24
  “Till today,” says Conaire, “I knew not this.”  25
  “Go to Tara tonight,” says Némglan; “’tis fittest for thee. A bull-feast is there, and through it thou shalt be king. A man stark-naked, who shall go at the end of the night along one of the roads of Tara, having a stone and a sling—’tis he that shall be king.”  26
  So in this wise Conaire fared forth; and on each of the four roads whereby men go to Tara there were three kings awaiting him, and they had raiment for him, since it had been foretold that he would come stark-naked. Then he was seen from the road on which his fosterers were, and they put royal raiment about him, and placed him in a chariot, and he bound his pledges.  27
  The folk of Tara said to him: “It seems to us that our bullfeast and our spell of truth are a failure, if it be only a young, beardless lad that we have visioned therein.”  28
  “That is of no moment,” quoth he. “For a young, generous king like me to be in the kingship is no disgrace, since the binding of Tara’s pledges is mine by right of father and grandsire.”  29
  “Excellent! excellent!” says the host. They set the kingship of Erin upon him. And he said: “I will enquire of wise men that I myself may be wise.”  30
  Then he uttered all this as he had been taught by the man at the wave, who said this to him: “Thy reign will be subject to a restriction, but the bird-reign will be noble, and this shall be thy restriction, i. e. thy tabu.  31
  “Thou shalt not go righthandwise round Tara and lefthandwise round Bregia.  32
  “The evil-beasts of Cerna must not be hunted by thee.  33
  “And thou shalt not go out every ninth night beyond Tara.  34
  “Thou shalt not sleep in a house from which firelight is manifest outside, after sunset, and in which light is manifest from without.  35
  “And three Reds shall not go before thee to Red’s house.  36
  “And no rapine shall be wrought in thy reign.  37
  “And after sunset a company of one woman or one man shall not enter the house in which thou art.  38
  “And thou shalt not settle the quarrel of thy two thralls.  39
  Now there were in his reign great bounties, to wit, seven ships in every June in every year arriving at Inver Colptha, 3 and oakmast up to the knees in every autumn, and plenty of fish in the rivers Bush and Boyne in the June of each year, and such abundance of good will that no one slew another in Erin during his reign. And to every one in Erin his fellow’s voice seemed as sweet as the strings of lutes. From mid-spring to mid-autumn no wind disturbed a cow’s tail. His reign was neither thunderous nor stormy.  40
  Now his fosterbrothers murmured at the taking from them of their father’s and their grandsire’s gifts, namely Theft and Robbery and Slaughter of men and Rapine. They thieved the three thefts from the same man, to wit, a swine and an ox and a cow, every year, that they might see what punishment therefor the king would inflict upon them, and what damage the theft in his reign would cause to the king.  41
  Now every year the farmer would come to the king to complain, and the king would say to him. “Go thou and address Donn Désá’s three great-grandsons, for ’tis they that have taken the beasts.” Whenever he went to speak to Donn Désá’s descendants they would almost kill him, and he would not return to the king lest Conaire should attend his hurt.  42
  Since, then, pride and wilfulness possessed them, they took to marauding, surrounded by the sons of the lords of the men of Erin. Thrice fifty men had they as pupils when they (the pupils) were were-wolfing in the province of Connaught, until Maine Milscothach’s swineherd saw them, and he had never seen that before. He went in flight. When they heard him they pursued him. The swineherd shouted, and the people of the two Mainés came to him, and the thrice fifty men were arrested, along with their auxiliaries, and taken to Tara. They consulted the king concerning the matter, and he said: “Let each (father) slay his son, but let my fosterlings be spared.”  43
  “Leave, leave!” says every one: “it shall be done for thee.”  44
  “Nay indeed,” quoth he; “no ‘cast of life’ by me is the doom I have delivered. The men shall not be hung; but let veterans go with them that they may wreak their rapine on the men of Alba.”  45
  This they do. Thence they put to sea and met the son of the king of Britain, even Ingcél the One-eyed, grandson of Conmac: thrice fifty men and their veterans they met upon the sea.  46
  They make an alliance, and go with Ingcél and wrought rapine with him.  47
  This is the destruction which his own impulse gave him. That was the night that his mother and his father and his seven brothers had been bidden to the house of the king of his district. All of them were destroyed by Ingcél in a single night. Then the Irish pirates put out to sea to the land of Erin to seek a destruction as payment for that to which Ingcél had been entitled from them.  48
  In Conaire’s reign there was perfect peace in Erin, save that in Thomond there was a joining of battle between the two Carbres. Two fosterbrothers of his were they. And until Conaire came it was impossible to make peace between them. ’Twas a tabu of his to go to separate them before they had repaired to him. He went, however, although to do so was one of his tabus, and he made peace between them. He remained five nights with each of the two. That also was a tabu of his.  49
  After settling the two quarrels, he was travelling to Tara. This is the way they took to Tara, past Usnech of Meath; and they saw the raiding from east and west, and from south and north, and they saw the warbands and the hosts, and the men stark-naked; and the land of the southern O’Neills was a cloud of fire around him.  50
  “What is this?” asked Conaire. “Easy to say,” his people answer.  51
  “Easy to know that the king’s law has broken down therein, since the country has begun to burn.”  52
  “Whither shall we betake ourselves?” says Conaire.  53
  “To the Northeast,” says his people.  54
  So then they went righthandwise round Tara, and lefthandwise round Bregia, and the evil beasts of Cerna were hunted by him.  55
  But he saw it not till the chase had ended.  56
  They that made of the world that smoky mist of magic were elves, and they did so because Conaire’s tabus had been violated.  57
  Great fear then fell on Conaire because they had no way to wend save upon the Road of Midluachair and the Road of Cualu.  58
  So they took their way by the coast of Ireland southward.  59
  Then said Conaire on the Road of Cualu: “whither shall we go tonight?”  60
  “May I succeed in telling thee! my fosterling Conaire,” says Mac cecht, son of Snade Teiched, the champion of Conaire, son of Eterscél. “Oftener have the men of Erin been contending for thee every night than thou hast been wandering about for a guesthouse.”  61
  “Judgment goes with good times,” says Conaire. “I had a friend in this country, if only we knew the way to his house!”  62
  “What is his name?” asked Mac cecht.  63
  “Dá Derga of Leinster,” answered Conaire. “He came unto me to seek a gift from me, and he did not come with a refusal. I gave him a hundred kine of the drove. I gave him a hundred fatted swine. I gave him a hundred mantles made of close cloth. I gave him a hundred blue-coloured weapons of battle. I gave him ten red, gilded brooches. I gave him ten vats good and brown. I gave him ten thralls. I gave him ten querns. I gave him thrice nine hounds all-white in their silvern chains. I gave him a hundred race-horses in the herds of deer. There would be no abatement in his case though he should come again. He would make return. It is strange if he is surly to me tonight when reaching his abode.”  64
  “When I was acquainted with his house,” says Mac cecht, “the road whereon thou art going towards him was the boundary of his abode. It continues till it enters his house, for through the house passes the road. There are seven doorways into the house, and seven bedrooms between every two doorways; but there is only one doorvalve on it, and that valve is turned to every doorway to which the wind blows.”  65
  “With all that thou hast here,” says Conaire, “thou shalt go in thy great multitude until thou alight in the midst of the house.”  66
  “If so be,” answers Mac cecht, “that thou goest thither, I go on that I may strike fire there ahead of thee.”  67
  When Conaire after this was journeying along the Road of Cuálu, he marked before him three horsemen riding towards the house. Three red frocks had they, and three red mantles: three red bucklers they bore, and three red spears were in their hands: three red steeds they bestrode, and three red heads of hair were on them. Red were they all, both body and hair and raiment, both steeds and men.  68
  “Who is it that fares before us?” asked Conaire. “It was a tabu of mine for those Three to go before me—the three Reds to the house of Red. Who will follow them and tell them to come towards me in my track?”  69
  “I will follow them,” says Lé fri flaith, Conaire’s son.  70
  He goes after them, lashing his horse, and overtook them not.  71
  There was the length of a spearcast between them: but they did not gain upon him and he did not gain upon them.  72
  He told them not to go before the king. He overtook them not; but one of the three men sang a lay to him over his shoulder: “Lo, my son, great the news, news from a hostel … Lo, my son!”  73
  They go away from him then: he could not detain them.  74
  The boy waited for the host. He told his father what was said to him. Conaire liked it not. “After them, thou!” says Conaire, “and offer them three oxen and three bacon-pigs, and so long as they shall be in my household, no one shall be among them from fire to wall.”  75
  So the lad goes after them, and offers them that, and overtook them not. But one of the three men sang a lay to him over his shoulder:  76
  “Lo, my son, great the news! A generous king’s great ardour whets thee, burns thee. Through ancient men’s enchantments a company of nine yields. Lo, my son!”  77
  The boy turns back and repeated the lay to Conaire.  78
  “Go after them,” says Conaire, “and offer them six oxen and six bacon-pigs, and my leavings, and gifts tomorrow, and so long as they shall be in my household no one to be among them from fire to wall.”  79
  The lad then went after them, and overtook them not; but one of the three men answered and said:  80
  “Lo, my son, great the news. Weary are the steeds we ride. We ride the steeds of Donn Tetscorach from the elfmounds. Though we are alive we are dead. Great are the signs: destruction of life: sating of ravens: feeding of crows, strife of slaughter: wetting of sword-edge, shields with broken bosses in hours after sundown.  81
  Lo, my son!”  82
  Then they go from him.  83
  “I see that thou hast not detained the men,” says Conaire.  84
  “Indeed it is not I that betrayed it,” says Lé fri flaith.  85
  He recited the last answer that they gave him. Conaire and his retainers were not blithe thereat: and afterwards evil forebodings of terror were on them.  86
  “All my tabus have seized me tonight,” says Conaire, “since those Three Reds are the banished folks.” 4  87
  They went forward to the house and took their seats therein, and fastened their red steeds to the door of the house.  88
  That is the Forefaring of the Three Reds in the Bruden Dá Derga.  89
  This is the way that Conaire took with his troops, to Dublin.  90
  ’Tis then the man of the black, cropt hair, with his one hand and one eye and one foot, overtook them. Rough cropt hair upon him. Though a sackful of wild apples were flung on his crown, not an apple would fall on the ground, but each of them would stick on his hair. Though his snout were flung on a branch they would remain together. Long and thick as an outer yoke was each of his two shins. Each of his buttocks was the size of a cheese on a withe. A forked pole of iron black-pointed was in his hand. A swine, black-bristled, singed, was on his back, squealing continually, and a woman big-mouthed, huge, dark, sorry, hideous, was behind him. Though her snout were flung on a branch, the branch would support it. Her lower lip would reach her knee.  91
  He starts forward to meet Conaire, and made him welcome.  92
  “Welcome to thee, O master Conaire! Long hath thy coming hither been known.”  93
  “Who gives the welcome?” asks Conaire.  94
  “Fer Caille here, with his black swine for thee to consume that thou be not fasting tonight, for ’tis thou art the best king that has come into the world!”  95
  “What is thy wife’s name?” says Conaire.  96
  “Cichuil,” he answers.  97
  “Any other night,” says Conaire, “that pleases you, I will come to you,—and leave us alone tonight.”  98
  “Nay,” say the churl, “for we will go to thee to the place wherein thou wilt be tonight, O fair little master Conaire!”  99
  So he goes towards the house, with his great, big-mouthed wife behind him, and his swine short-bristled, black, singed, squealing continually, on his back. That was one of Conaire’s tabus, and that plunder should be taken in Ireland during his reign was another tabu of his.  100
  Now plunder was taken by the sons of Donn Désa, and five hundred there were in the body of their marauders, besides what underlings were with them. This, too, was a tabu of Conaire’s. There was a good warrior in the north country, “Wain over withered sticks,” this was his name. Why he was so called was because he used to go over his opponent even as a wain would go over withered sticks. Now plunder was taken by him, and there were five hundred in the body of their marauders alone, besides underlings.  101
  There was after that a troop of still haughtier heroes, namely, the seven sons of Ailill and Medb, each of whom was called “Mane`.” And each Mane` had a nickname, to wit, Mane` Fatherlike and Mane` Motherlike, and Mane` Gentle-pious, Mane` Very-pious, Mane` Unslow, and Mane` Honeyworded, Mane` Grasp-them-all, and Mane` the Loquacious. Rapine was wrought by them. As to Mane` Motherlike and Mane` Unslow there were fourteen score in the body of their marauders. Mane` Fatherlike had three hundred and fifty. Mane` Honeyworded had five hundred. Mane` Grasp-them-all had seven hundred. Mane` the Loquacious had seven hundred. Each of the others had five hundred in the body of his marauders.  102
  There was a valiant trio of the men of Cúalu of Leinster, namely, the three Red Hounds of Cualu, called Cethach and Clothach and Conall. Now rapine was wrought by them, and twelve score were in the body of their marauders, and they had a troop of madmen. In Conaire’s reign a third of the men of Ireland were reavers. He was of sufficient strength and power to drive them out of the land of Erin so as to transfer their marauding to the other side (Great Britain), but after this transfer they returned to their country.  103
  When they had reached the shoulder of the sea, they meet Ingcél. the One-eyed and Eiccel and Tulchinne, three great-grandsons of Conmac of Britain, on the raging of the sea. A man ungentle, huge, fearful, uncouth was Ingcél. A single eye in his head, as broad as an oxhide, as black as a chafer, with three pupils therein. Thirteen hundred were in the body of his marauders. The marauders of the men of Erin were more numerous than they.  104
  They go for a sea-encounter on the main. “Ye should not do this,” says Ingcél: “do not break the truth of men (fair play) upon us, for ye are more in number than I.”  105
  “Nought but a combat on equal terms shall befall thee,” say the reavers of Erin.  106
  “There is somewhat better for you,” quoth Ingcél. “Let us make peace since ye have been cast out of the land of Erin, and we have been cast out of the land of Alba and Britain. Let us make an agreement between us. Come ye and wreak your rapine in my country, and I will go with you and wreak my rapine in your country.”  107
  They follow this counsel, and they gave pledges therefor from this side and from that. There are the sureties that were given to Ingcél by the men of Erin, namely, Fer gair and Gabur (or Fer lee) and Fer rogain, for the destruction that Ingcél should choose to cause in Ireland and for the destruction that the sons of Donn Désa should choose in Alba and Britain.  108
  A lot was cast upon them to see with which of them they should go first. It fell that they should go with Ingcél to his country. So they made for Britain, and there his father and mother and his seven brothers were slain, as we have said before. Thereafter they made for Alba, and there they wrought the destruction, and then they returned to Erin.  109
  ’Tis then, now, that Conaire son of Eterscél went towards the Hostel along the Road of Cualu.  110
  ’Tis then that the reavers came till they were in the sea off the coast of Bregia overagainst Howth.  111
  Then said the reavers: “Strike the sails, and make one band of you on the sea that ye may not be sighted from land; and let some lightfoot be found from among you to go on shore to see if we could save our honors with Ingcél. A destruction for the destruction he has given us.”  112
  “Who will go on shore to listen? Let some one go,” says Ingcél, “who should have there the three gifts, namely, gift of hearing, gift of far sight, and gift of judgment.”  113
  “I,” says Mane` Honeyworded, “have the gift of hearing.”  114
  “And I,” says Mane` Unslow, “have the gift of far sight and of judgment.”  115
  “’Tis well for you to go thus,” say the reavers: “good is that wise.”  116
  Then nine men go on till they were on the Hill of Howth, to know what they might hear and see.  117
  “Be still a while!” says Mane` Honeyworded.  118
  “What is that?” asks Mane` Unslow.  119
  “The sound of a good king’s cavalcade I hear.”  120
  “By the gift of far sight, I see,” quoth his comrade.  121
  “What seest thou here?”  122
  “I see there,” quoth he, “cavalcades splendid, lofty, beautiful, warlike, foreign, somewhat slender, weary, active, keen, whetted, vehement, a good course that shakes a great covering of land. They fare to many heights, with wondrous waters and invers.” 5  123
  “What are the waters and heights and invers that they traverse?”  124
  “Easy to say: Indéoin, Cult, Cuiltén, Máfat, Ammat, Iarmáfat, Finne, Goiste, Guistíne. Gray spears over chariots: ivory-hilted swords on thighs: silvery shields above their elbows. Half red and half white. Garments of every color about them.  125
  “Thereafter I see before them special cattle specially keen, to wit, thrice fifty dark-gray steeds. Small-headed are they, red-nosed, pointed, broad-hoofed, big-nosed, red-chested, fat, easily-stopt, easily-yoked, foray-nimble, keen, whetted, vehement, with their thrice fifty bridles of red enamel upon them.”  126
  “I swear by what my tribe swears,” says the man of the long sight, “these are the cattle of some good lord. This is my judgment thereof: it is Conaire, son of Eterscél, with multitudes of the men of Erin around him, who has travelled the road.”  127
  Back then they go that they may tell it to the reavers. “This,” they say, “is what we have heard and seen.”  128
  Of this host, then, there was a multitude, both on this side and on that, namely, thrice fifty boats, with five thousand in them, and ten hundred in every thousand. Then they hoisted the sails on the boats, and steer them thence to shore, till they landed on the Strand of Fuirbthe.  129
  When the boats reached land, then was Mac cecht a-striking fire in Dá Derga’s Hostel. At the sound of the spark the thrice fifty boats were hurled out, so that they were on the shoulders of the sea.  130
  “Be silent a while!” said Ingcél. “Liken thou that, O Fer rogain.”  131
  “I know not,” answers Fer rogain, “unless it is Luchdonn the satirist in Emain Macha, who makes this handsmiting when his food is taken from him perforce: or the scream of Luchdonn in Temair Luachra: or Mac cecht’s striking a spark, when he kindles a fire before a king of Erin where he sleeps. Every spark and every shower which his fire would let fall on the floor would broil a hundred calves and two half-pigs.”  132
  “May God not bring that man (even Conaire) there tonight!” say Donn Dés’s sons. “Sad that he is under the hurt of foes!”  133
  “Meseems,” says Ingcél, “it should be no sadder for me than the destruction I gave you. This were my feast that Conaire should chance to come there.”  134
  Their fleet is steered to land. The noise that the thrice fifty vessels made in running ashore shook Dá Derga’s Hostel so that no spear nor shield remained on rack therein, but the weapons uttered a cry and fell all on the floor of the house.  135
  “Liken thou that, O Conaire,” says every one: “what is this noise?”  136
  “I know nothing like it unless it be the earth that has broken, or the Leviathan that surrounds the globe and strikes with its tail to overturn the world, or the barque of the sons of Donn Désa that has reached the shore. Alas that it should not be they who are there! Beloved foster-brothers of our own were they! Dear were the champions. We should not have feared them tonight.”  137
  Then came Conaire, so that he was on the green of the Hostel.  138
  When Mac cecht heard the tumultuous noise, it seemed to him that warriors had attacked his people. Thereat he leapt on to his armour to help them. Vast as the thunderfeat of three hundred did they deem his game in leaping to his weapons. Thereof there was no profit.  139
  Now in the bow of the ship wherein were Donn Désa’s sons was the champion, greatly-accoutred, wrathful, the lion hard and awful, Ingcél the One-eyed, great-grandson of Conmac. Wide as an oxhide was the single eye protruding from his forehead, with seven pupils therein, which were black as a chafer. Each of his knees as big as a stripper’s caldron; each of his two fists was the size of a reaping-basket: his buttocks as big as a cheese on a withe: each of his shins as long as an outer yoke.  140
  So after that, the thrice fifty boats, and those five thousands—with ten hundred in every thousand,—landed on the Strand of Fuirbthe.  141
  Then Conaire with his people entered the Hostel, and each took his seat within, both tabu and non-tabu. And the three Reds took their seats, and Fer caille with his swine took his seat.  142
  Thereafter Dá Derga came to them, with thrice fifty warriors, each of them having a long head of hair to the hollow of his polls, and a short cloak to their buttocks. Speckled-green drawers they wore, and in their hands were thrice fifty great clubs of thorn with bands of iron.  143
  “Welcome, O master Conaire!” quoth he. “Though the bulk of the men of Erin were to come with thee, they themselves would have a welcome.”  144
  When they were there they saw a lone woman coming to the door of the Hostel, after sunset, and seeking to be let in. As long as a weaver’s beam was each of her two shins, and they were as dark as the back of a stag-beetle. A greyish, wooly mantle she wore. Her lower hair used to reach as far as her knee. Her lips were on one side of her head.  145
  She came and put one of her shoulders against the door-post of the house, casting the evil eye on the king and the youths who surrounded him in the Hostel. He himself addressed her from within.  146
  “Well, O woman,” says Conaire, “if thou art a wizard, what seest thou for us?”  147
  “Truly I see for thee,” she answers, “that neither fell nor flesh of thine shall escape from the place into which thou hast come, save what birds will bear away in their claws.”  148
  “It was not an evil omen we foreboded, O woman,” saith he: “it is not thou that always augurs for us. What is thy name, O woman?”  149
  “Cailb,” she answers.  150
  “That is not much of a name,” says Conaire.  151
  “Lo, many are my names besides.”  152
  “Which be they?” asks Conaire.  153
  “Easy to say,” quoth she. “Samon, Sinand, Seisclend, Sodb, Caill, Coll, Díchóem, Dichiúil, Díthím, Díchuimne, Dichruidne, Dairne, Dáríne, Déruaine, Egem, Agam, Ethamne, Gním, Cluiche, Cethardam, Níth, Némain, Nóennen, Badb, Blosc, B[l]oár, Huae, óe Aife la Sruth, Mache, Médé, Mod.”  154
  On one foot, and holding up one hand, and breathing one breath she sang all that to them from the door of the house.  155
  “I swear by the gods whom I adore,” says Conaire, “that I will call thee by none of these names whether I shall be here a long or a short time.”  156
  “What dost thou desire?” says Conaire.  157
  “That which thou, too, desirest,” she answered.  158
  “’Tis a tabu of mine,” says Conaire, “to receive the company of one woman after sunset.”  159
  “Though it be a tabu,” she replied, “I will not go until my guesting come at once this very night.”  160
  “Tell her,” says Conaire, “that an ox and a bacon-pig shall be taken out to her, and my leavings: provided that she stays tonight in some other place.”  161
  “If in sooth,” she says, “it has befallen the king not to have room in his house for the meal and bed of a solitary woman, they will be gotten apart from him from some one possessing generosity—if the hospitality of the Prince in the Hostel has departed.”  162
  “Savage is the answer!” says Conaire. “Let her in, though it is a tabu of mine.”  163
  Great loathing they felt after that from the woman’s converse, and ill-foreboding; but they knew not the cause thereof.  164
  The reavers afterwards landed, and fared forth till they were at Lecca cinn slébe. Ever open was the Hostel. Why it was called a Bruden was because it resembles the lips of a man blowing a fire.  165
  Great was the fire which was kindled by Conaire every night, to wit, a “Boar of the Wood.” Seven outlets it had. When a log was cut out of its side every flame that used to come forth at each outlet was a big as the blaze of a burning oratory. There were seventeen of Conaire’s chariots at every door of the house, and by those that were looking from the vessels that great light was clearly seen through the wheels of the chariots.  166
  “Canst thou say, O Fer rogain, what that great light yonder resembles?”  167
  “I cannot liken it to aught,” answers Fer rogain, “unless it be the fire of a king. May God not bring that man there tonight! ’Tis a pity to destroy him!”  168
  “What then deemest thou,” says Ingcél, “of that man’s reign in the land of Erin?”  169
  “Good is his reign,” replied Fer rogain. “Since he assumed the kingship, no cloud has veiled the sun for the space of a day from the middle of spring to the middle of autumn. And not a dewdrop fell from grass till midday, and wind would not touch a beast’s tail until nones. And in his reign, from year’s end to year’s end, no wolf has attacked aught save one bullcalf of each byre; and to maintain this rule there are seven wolves in hostageship at the sidewall in his house, and behind this a further security, even Maclocc, and ’tis he that pleads for them in Conaire’s house. In Conaire’s reign are the three crowns on Erin, namely, crown of corn-ears, and crown of flowers, and crown of oak mast. In his reign, too, each man deems the other’s voice as melodious as the strings of lutes, because of the excellence of the law and the peace and the goodwill prevailing throughout Erin. May God not bring that man there tonight! ’Tis sad to destroy him. ’Tis a branch through its blossom.’ ’Tis a swine that falls before must. ’Tis an infant in age.  170
  Sad is the shortness of his life!”  171
  “This was my luck,” says Ingcél, “that he should be there, and there should be one Destruction for another. It were not more grievous to me than my father and my mother and my seven brothers, and the king of my country, whom I gave up to you before coming on the transfer of the rapine.”  172
  “’Tis true, ’tis true!” say the evildoers who were along with the reavers.  173
  The reavers make a start from the Strand of Fuirbthe, and bring a stone for each man to make a cairn; for this was the distinction which at first the Fians made between a “Destruction” and a “Rout.” A pillar-stone they used to plant when there would be a Rout. A cairn, however, they used to make when there would be a Destruction. At this time, then, they made a cairn, for it was a Destruction. Far from the house was this, that they might not be heard or seen therefrom.  174
  For two causes they built their cairn, namely, first, since this was a custom in marauding, and, secondly, that they might find out their losses at the Hostel. Every one that would come safe from it would take his stone from the cairn: thus the stones of those that were slain would be left, and thence they would know their losses. And this is what men skilled in story recount, that for every stone in Carn leca there was one of the reavers killed at the Hostel. From that cairn Leca in Húi Cellaig is so called.  175
  A “boar of a fire” is kindled by the sons of Donn Désa to give warning to Conaire. So that is the first warning-beacon that has been made in Erin, and from it to this day every warning-beacon is kindled.  176
  This is what others recount: that it was on the eve of samain (All-Saints-day) the destruction of the Hostel was wrought, and that from yonder beacon the beacon of samain is followed from that to this, and stones (are placed) in the samain-fire.  177
  Then the reavers framed a counsel at the place where they had put the cairn.  178
  “Well, then,” says Ingcél to the guides, “what is nearest to us here?”  179
  “Easy to say: the Hostel of Hua Derga, chief-hospitaller of Erin.”  180
  “Good men indeed,” says Ingcél, “were likely to seek their fellows at that Hostel to-night.”  181
  This, then, was the counsel of the reavers, to send one of them to see how things were there.  182
  “Who will go there to espy the house?” say everyone.  183
  “Who should go,” says Ingcél, “but I, for ’tis I that am entitled to dues.”  184
  Ingcél went to reconnoitre the Hostel with one of the seven pupils of the single eye which stood out of his forehead, to fit his eye into the house in order to destroy the king and the youths who were around him therein. And Ingcél saw them through the wheels of the chariots.  185
  Then Ingcél was perceived from the house. He made a start from it after being perceived.  186
  He went till he reached the reavers in the stead wherein they were. Each circle of them was set around another to hear the tidings—the chiefs of the reavers being in the very centre of the circles. There were Fer gér and Fer gel and Fer rogel and Fer rogain and Lomna the Buffoon, and Ingcél the One-eyed—six in the centre of the circles. And Fer rogain went to question Ingcél.  187
  “How is that, O Ingcél?” asks Fer rogain.  188
  “However it be,” answers Ingcél, “royal is the custom, hostful is the tumult: kingly is the noise thereof. Whether a king be there or not, I will take the house for what I have a right to. Thence my turn of rapine cometh.”  189
  “We have left it in thy hand, O Ingcél!” say Conaire’s foster-brothers. “But we should not wreak the Destruction will we know who may be therein.”  190
  “Question, hast thou seen the house well, O Ingcél?” asks Fer rogain.  191
  “Mine eye cast a rapid glance around it, and I will accept it for my dues as it stands.”  192
  “Thou mayest well accept it, O Ingcél,” saith Fer rogain: “the foster father of us all is there, Erin’s overking, Conaire, son of Eterscél.”  193
  “Question, what sawest thou in the champion’s high seat of the house, facing the King, on the opposite side?”  194
Note 1. l. e., twenty-one cows. [back]
Note 2. This passage indicates the existence in Ireland of totems, and of the rule that the person to whom a totem belongs must not kill the totem-animal.—W. S. [back]
Note 3. The mouth of the river Boyne.—W. S. [back]
Note 4. They had been banished from the elfmounds, and for them to precede Conaire was to violate one of his tabus.—W. S. [back]
Note 5. Mouths of rivers. [back]


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