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- Heroic Romances of Ireland Volume 2 - 10/27 -

Here his wife abideth, there where dwells the king, Turn, and see his cattle, yonder pasturing."

[FN#36] Pronounced Eeda.

Out spoke Conall Cernach;[FN#37] "Aid us thou" he cried: "Strength I lack," she answered, "I can only guide." "Here is Fraech," said Conall, "yon his stolen cows": "Fraech!" she asked him, "tell me, canst thou trust thy spouse?" "Why," said Fraech, "though trusty, doubtless, when she went; Now, since here she bideth, truth may well be spent." "See ye now yon woman?" said she, "with your herd, Tell to her your errand, let her hear your word; Trust in her, as Irish-sprung ye well may place; More if ye would ask me, Ulster reared her race."

[FN#37] Pronounced Cayr-nach.

To that woman they went, nor their names from her hid; And they greeted her; welcome in kindness she bid: "What hath moved you," she said, "from your country to go?" "On this journey," said Conall, "our guide hath been woe: All the cattle that feed in these pastures are ours, And from us went the lady that's kept in yon towers." "'Tis ill-luck," said the woman, "that waits on your way, All the men of this hold doth that lady obey; Ye shall find, amid dangers, your danger most great In the serpent who guardeth the Liss at the gate."

"For that lady," said Fraech, "she is none of my She is fickle, no trust from me yet did she win: But on thee we rely, thou art trusty, we know; Never yet to an Ulsterman Ulster was foe."

"Is it men out of Ulster," she said, "I have met?" "And is Conall," said Fraech, "thus unknown to you yet? Of all heroes from Ulster the battle who faced Conall Cernach is foremost." His neck she embraced, And she cried, with her arms around Conall: "Of old Of the conquering Conall our prophets have told; And 'tis ruin and doom to this hold that you bring; For that Conall shall sack it, all prophecies sing."

"Hear my rede," she told him: "When at fall of day Come the kine for milking, I abroad will stay; I the castle portal every eve should close: Ye shall find it opened, free for tread of foes: I will say the weakling calves awhile I keep; 'Tis for milk, I'll tell them: come then while they sleep; Come, their castle enter, all its wealth to spoil; Only rests that serpent, he our plans may foil: Him it rests to vanquish, he will try you most; Surely from that serpent swarms a serpent host!"

"Trust us well," answered Conall, "that raid will we do! And the castle they sought, and the snake at them flew: For it darted on Conall, and twined round his waist; Yet the whole of that castle they plundered in haste, And the woman was freed, and her sons with her three And away from her prison she went with them free: And of all of the jewels amassed in that dun The most costly and beauteous the conquerors won.

Then the serpent from Conall was loosed, from his belt It crept safely, no harm from that serpent he felt: And they travelled back north to the Pictish domains, And a three of their cattle they found on the plains; And, where Olla Mae Briuin[FN#38] his hold had of yore, By Dunolly their cattle they drove to the shore.

[FN#38] Pronounced "Brewin."

It chanced at Ard Uan Echach,[FN#39] where foam is hurled on high, That doom on Bicne falling, his death he came to die: 'Twas while the cows were driven that Bicne's life was lost: By trampling hooves of cattle crushed down to death, or tossed; To him was Loegaire[FN#40] father, and Conall Cernach chief And Inver-Bicne's title still marks his comrades' grief.

[FN#39] Pronounced "Ard Oon Ay-ha,"

[FN#40] Pronounced "Leary."

Across the Stream of Bicne the cows of Fraech have passed, And near they came to Benchor, and there their horns they cast: 'Tis thence the strand of Bangor for aye is named, 'tis said: The Strand of Horns men call it; those horns his cattle shed.

To his home travelled Fraech, with his children, and And his cattle, and there with them lived out his life, Till the summons of Ailill and Maev he obeyed; And when Cualgne was harried, he rode on the Raid.




It happened that his cows had been in the meanwhile stolen. His mother came to him. "Not active (or "lucky") of journey hast thou gone; it shall cause much of trouble to thee," she says. "Thy cows have been stolen, and thy three sons, and thy wife, so that they are in the mountain of Elpa. Three cows of them are in Alba of the North with the Cruthnechi (the Picts)." "Query, what shall I do?" he says to his mother. "Thou shalt do a non-going for seeking them; thou wouldest not give thy life for them," she says. "Thou shalt have cows at my hands besides them." "Not so this," he says: "I have pledged my hospitality and my soul to go to Ailill and to Medb with my cows to the Spoil of the Cows from Cualnge." "What thou seekest shall not be obtained," says his mother. At this she goes off from him then.

He then sets out with three nines, and a wood-cuckoo (hawk), and a hound of tie with them, until he goes to the territory of the Ulstermen, so that he meets with Conall Cernach (Conall the Victorious) at Benna Bairchi (a mountain on the Ulster border).

He tells his quest to him. "What awaits thee," says the latter, "shall not be lucky for thee. Much of trouble awaits thee," he says, "though in it the mind should be." "It will come to me," says Fraech to Connall, "that thou wouldest help me any time we should meet." (?) "I shall go truly," says Conall Cernach. They set of the three (i.e. the three nines) over sea, over Saxony of the North, over the Sea of Icht (the sea between England and France), to the north of the Long-bards (the dwellers of Lombardy), until they reached the mountains of Elpa. They saw a herd-girl at tending of the sheep before them. "Let us go south," says Conall, "O Fraech, that we may address the woman yonder, and let our youths stay here."

They went then to a conversation. She said, "Whence are ye?" "Of the men of Erin," says Conall. "It shall not be lucky for the men of Erin truly, the coming to this country. From the men of Erin too is my mother. Aid thou me on account of relationship."

"Tell us something about our movements. What is the quality of the land we have to come to?" "A grim hateful land with troublesome warriors, who go on every side for carrying off cows and women as captives," she says. "What is the latest thing they have carried off?" says Fraech. "The cows of Fraech, son of Idath, from the west of Erin, and his wife, and his three sons. Here is his wife here in the house of the king, here are his cows in the country in front of you." "Let thy aid come to us," says Conall. Little is my power, save guidance only." "This is Fraech," says Conall, and they are his cows that have been carried off." "Is the woman constant in your estimation?" she says. "Though constant in our estimation when she went, perchance she is not constant after coming." "The woman who frequents the cows, go ye to her; tell ye of your errand; of the men of Ireland her race; of the men of Ulster exactly."

They come to her; they receive her, and they name themselves to her, and she bids welcome to them. "What hath led you forth?" she says. "Trouble hath led us forth," says Conall; "ours are the cows and the woman that is in the Liss."

"It shall not be lucky for you truly," she says, "the going up to the multitude of the woman; more troublesome to you than everything," she says, "is the serpent which is at guarding of the Liss." "She is not my country-name(?)," says Fraech, "she is not constant in my estimation; thou art constant in my estimation; we know thou wilt not lead us astray, since it is from the men of Ulster thou art." "Whence are ye from the men of Ulster?" she says. "This is Conall Cernach here, the bravest hero with the men of Ulster," says Fraech. She flings two hands around the throat of Conall Cernach. "The destruction has come in this expedition," she says, "since he has come to us; for it is to him the destruction of this dun has been prophesied. I shall go out to my house,"[FN#41] she says, "I shall not be at the milking of the cows. I shall leave the Liss opened; it is I who close it every night.[FN#42] I shall say it is for drink the calves were sucking. Come thou into the dun, when they are sleeping; only trouble. some to you is the serpent which is at the dun; several tribes are let loose from it."

[FN#41] "To my house" is in the Egerton MS. only.

[FN#42] "Every night" is in the Egerton MS. only.

"We will go truly," says Conall. They attack the Liss; the serpent darts leap into the girdle of Conall Cernach, and they plunder the dun at once. They save off then the woman and the three sons, and they carry away whatever was the best of the gems of the dun, and Conall lets the serpent out of his girdle, and neither of them did harm to the other. And they came to the territory of the people of the Picts, until they saw three cows of their cows in it. They drove off to the Fort of Ollach mac Briuin (now Dunolly near Oban) with them, until they

Heroic Romances of Ireland Volume 2 - 10/27

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