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- Heroic Romances of Ireland Volume 1 - 20/44 -

I will go! in mine honour unsullied depart, Fair Cuchulain! I bid thee good-bye; I have gained not the wish that was dear to my heart, High justice compels me to fly.

It is flight, this alone that befitteth my state, Though to some shall this parting be hard: O thou son of Riangabra! the insult was great: Not by Laeg shall my going be barred.

I depart to my spouse; ne'er to strife with a foe Shall Manannan his consort expose; And, that none may complain that in secret I go, Behold him! his form I disclose!

Then that lady rose behind Manannan as he passed, and Manannan greeted her: "O lady!" he said, "which wilt thou do? wilt thou depart with me, or abide here until Cuchulain comes to thee?" "By my troth," answered Fand, "either of the two of ye were a fitting spouse to adhere to; and neither of you two is better than the other; yet, Manannan, it is with thee that I go, nor will I wait for Cuchulain, for he hath betrayed me; and there is another matter, moreover, that weigheth with me, O thou noble prince!" said she, "and that is that thou hast no consort who is of worth equal to thine, but such a one hath Cuchulain already." And Cuchulain saw the lady as she went from him to Manannan, and he cried out to Laeg: "What meaneth this that I see?" "'Tis no hard matter to answer thee," said Laeg. "Fand goeth away with Manannan the Son of the Sea, since she hath not been pleasing in thy sight!"

Then Cuchulain bounded three times high into the air, and he made three great leaps towards the south, and thus he came to Tara Luachra,[FN#37] and there he abode for a long time, having no meat and no drink, dwelling upon the mountains, and sleeping upon the high-road that runneth through the midst of Luachra. Then Emer went on to Emain, and there she sought out king Conor, and she told Conor of Cuchulain's state, and Conor sent out his learned men and the people of skill, and the Druids of Ulster, that they might seek for Cuchulain, and might bind him fast, and bring him with them to Emain. And Cuchulain strove to slay the people of skill, but they chanted wizard and fairy songs against him, and they bound fast his feet and his hands until he came a little to his senses. Then he begged for a drink at their hands, and the Druids gave him a drink of forgetfulness, so that afterwards he had no more remembrance of Fand nor of anything else that he had then done; and they also gave a drink of forgetfulness to Emer that she might forget her jealousy, for her state was in no way better than the state of Cuchulain. And Manannan shook his cloak between Cuchulain and Fand, so that they might never meet together again throughout eternity.

[FN#37] Pronounced Looch-ra: Tara Luachra is on the borders of Limerick and Kerry.



The version given in the following pages of the well-known tale of Deirdre has been translated from the Irish text of the Book of Leinster version as printed by Windisch in Irische Texte, vol. i. Readings from the two parallel texts of the Book of Lecan, and Egerton, 1782, have been used where the Leinster text is deficient or doubtful, but the older MS. has in the main been followed, the chief alterations being indicated in the notes. The only English translation hitherto given of this version is the unreliable one in Atlantis, vol. iii. There is a German translation in Thurneysen's Sagen aus dem alten Irland which may be consulted for literal renderings of most of the verse portions, which, however, are sometimes nearer the original than Thurneysen's renderings.

It was at first intended to place beside this version the much better known version of the tale given by the Glenn Masain manuscript and its variants; but, as this version is otherwise available in English,[FN#38] it has been thought better to omit most of it: a verse translation of Deirdre's final lament in this version has, however, been added for the purpose of comparing it with the corresponding lament in the Leinster text. These two poems are nearly of the same length, but have no other point in common; the lament in the Leinster version strikes the more personal note, and it has been suggested that it shows internal evidence that it must have been written by a woman. The idea of Deirdre as a seer, which is so prominent in the Glenn Masain version of the tale, does not appear in the older Leinster text; the supernatural Druidic mist, which even in the Glenn Masain version only appears in the late manuscript which continues the story after the fifteenth-century manuscript breaks off, does not appear in the Book of Leinster; and the later version introduces several literary artifices that do not appear in the earlier one. That portion of the Glenn Masain version immediately following after Deirdre's lament is given as an instance of one of these, the common artifice of increase of horror at a catastrophe by the introduction of irrelevant matter, the tragedy of Deirdre's death being immediately followed by a cheerful account of the relationships of the chief heroes of the Heroic Period; a still better example of this practice in the old Irish literature is the almost comic relief that is introduced at the most tragic part of the tale of the murder of the son of Ronan.

[FN#38] See Irische Texte, vol. ii., and the Celtic Review, vol. i. 1904-1905.



In the house of Feidlimid,[FN#39] the son of Dall, even he who was the narrator of stories to Conor the king, the men of Ulster sat at their ale; and before the men, in order to attend upon them, stood the wife of Feidlimid, and she was great with child. Round about the board went drinking-horns, and portions of food; and the revellers shouted in their drunken mirth. And when the men desired to lay themselves down to sleep, the woman also went to her couch; and, as she passed through the midst of the house, the child cried out in her womb, so that its shriek was heard throughout the whole house, and throughout the outer court that lay about it. And upon that shriek, all the men sprang up; and, head closely packed by head, they thronged together in the house, whereupon Sencha, the son of Ailill, rebuked them: "Let none of you stir!" cried he, "and let the woman be brought before us, that we may learn what is the meaning of that cry." Then they brought the woman before them, and thus spoke to her Feidlimid, her spouse:

What is that, of all cries far the fiercest, In thy womb raging loudly and long? Through all ears with that clamour thou piercest; With that scream, from Bides swollen and strong: Of great woe, for that cry, is foreboding my heart; That is torn through with terror, and sore with the smart.

[FN#39] Pronounced Feylimid.

Then the woman turned her, and she approached Cathbad[FN#40] the Druid, for he was a man of knowledge, and thus she spoke to him:

[FN#40] Pronounced Cah-ba.

Give thou ear to me, Cathbad, thou fair one of face, Thou great crown of our honour, and royal in race; Let the man so exalted still higher be set, Let the Druid draw knowledge, that Druids can get. For I want words of wisdom, and none can I fetch; Nor to Felim a torch of sure knowledge can stretch: As no wit of a woman can wot what she bears, I know naught of that cry from within me that tears.

And then said Cathbad:

'Tis a maid who screamed wildly so lately, Fair and curling shall locks round her flow, And her eyes be blue-centred and stately; And her cheeks, like the foxglove, shall glow. For the tint of her skin, we commend her, In its whiteness, like snow newly shed; And her teeth are all faultless in splendour And her lips, like to coral, are red: A fair woman is she, for whom heroes, that fight In their chariots for Ulster, to death shall be dight.

'Tis a woman that shriek who hath given, Golden-haired, with long tresses, and tall; For whose love many chiefs shall have striven, And great kings for her favours shall call. To the west she shall hasten, beguiling A great host, that from Ulster shall steal: Red as coral, her lips shall be smiling, As her teeth, white as pearls, they reveal: Aye, that woman is fair, and great queens shall be fain Of her form, that is faultless, unflawed by a stain.

Then Cathbad laid his hand upon the body of the woman; and the little child moved beneath his hand: "Aye, indeed," he said, "it is a woman child who is here: Deirdre shall be her name, and evil woe shall be upon her."

Now some days after that came the girl child into the world; and then thus sang Cathbad:

O Deirdre! of ruin great cause thou art; Though famous, and fair, and pale: Ere that Felim's hid daughter from life shall part,

Heroic Romances of Ireland Volume 1 - 20/44

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