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


For those who may be interested in the subsequent history of Fraech, it may be mentioned that he was one of the first of the Connaught champions to be slain by Cuchulain in the war of Cualnge; see Miss Faraday's translation (Grimm Library, page 35).

PERSONS IN THE STORY

MORTALS

Ailill, King of Connaught.

Medb (or Maev), Queen of Connaught.

Findbar (or Finnabar), their daughter.

Froech (or Fraech), (pronounced Fraych); son of a Connaught man and a fairy mother.

Conall Cernach (Conall the Victorious), champion of Ulster.

Two Irish women, in captivity in the Alps, north of Lombardy.

Lothar (or Lothur), a follower of Fraech.

Bicne, a follower of Conall.

IMMORTALS

Befind, Fraech's fairy mother.

Boand (pronounced like "owned"), sister to Befind; Queen of the Fairies.

Three fairy harpers.

TAIN BO FRAICH

THE RAID FOR THE CATTLE OF FRAECH

Now the news of the love of that maid to Fraech, at his home where he dwelt, was brought, And he called his folk, and with all he spoke, and for speech with the maid he sought: And they counselled him thus: "Let a message from thee be sent to thy fairy kin To entreat their aid when we seek that maid; a boon we may chance to win: For the wondrous robes of the fairy land, and for gifts from the fairies plead; And sure thy mother's sister's hand will give to thee all thy need."

To Mag Breg,[FN#1] where his mother's sister dwelt, to Boand he away hath gone, And she gave to him mantles of dark black-blue, like a beetle's back they shone: Four dark-grey rings in each cloak she gave were sewn, and a brooch shone, bright With the good red gold in each mantle's fold; she gave tunics pale and white, And the tunics were bordered with golden loops, that forms as of beasts displayed; And a fifty she added of well-rimmed shields, that of silver white were made.

[FN#1] Pronounced Maw Brayg.

Then away they rode, in each hero's hand was a torch for a kingly hall, For studs of bronze, and of well-burned gold, shone bright on the spears of all; On carbuncle sockets the spears were set, their points with jewels blazed; And they lit the night, as with fair sunlight, as men on their glory gazed.

By each of the fifty heroes' side was a sword with a hilt of gold; And a soft-grey mare was for each to ride, with a golden curb controlled; At each horse's throat was a silver plate, and in front of that plate was swung, With a tinkling sound to the horse's tread, a bell with a golden tongue. on each steed was a housing of purple hide, with threads of silver laced, And with spiral stitch of the silver threads the heads of beasts were traced, And each housing was buckled with silver and gold: of findruine[FN#2] was made the whip For each rider to hold, with a crook of gold where it came to the horse man's grip.

[FN#2] Pronounced "find-roony," the unknown "white-bronze" metal.

By their sides, seven chase-hounds were springing At leashes of silver they strained, And each couple a gold apple, swinging On the fetter that linked them, sustained: And their feet with bronze sheaths had been guarded, As if greaves for defence they had worn, Every hue man hath seen, or hath fancied, By those chase-hounds in brilliance was borne.

Seven trumpeters strode on the road before, with colour their cloaks were bright, And their coats, that shone with the gauds they wore, flashed back as they met the light; On trumpets of silver and gold they blew, and sweet was the trumpets' sound, And their hair, soft and yellow, like fairy threads, shone golden their shoulders round.

Three jesters marched in the van, their-crowns were of silver, by gilt concealed, And emblems they. carried of quaint device, engraved on each jester's shield; They had staves which with crests were adorned, and ribs down their edges in red bronze ran; Three harp-players moved by the jesters' sides, and each was a kingly man. All these were the gifts that the fairy gave, and gaily they made their start, And to Croghan's[FN#3] hold, in that guise so brave, away did the host depart.

[FN#3] Pronounced Crow-han.

On the fort stands a watchman to view them, And thus news down to Croghan he calls: "From yon plain comes, in fulness of numbers, A great army to Croghan's high walls; And, since Ailill the throne first ascended, Since the day we hailed Maev as our Queen, Never army so fair nor so splendid Yet hath come, nor its like shall be seen."

"'Tis strange," said he," as dipped in wine, So swims, so reels my head, As o'er me steals the breath divine Of perfume from them shed."

"A fair youth," said he, "forth with them goeth, And the grace of such frolicsome play, And such lightness in leap as he showeth Have I seen not on earth till to-day: For his spear a full shot's length he flingeth, Yet the spear never reacheth to ground, For his silver-chained hounds follow after, In their jaws is the spear ever found!" The Connaught hosts without the fort To see that glory rushed: Sixteen within, of baser sort, Who gazed, to death were crushed.

To the fort came the youths, from their steeds they leapt, for the steeds and the stabling cared, And they loosed the hounds that in leash they kept, for the hunt were the hounds prepared; Seven deer, seven foxes and hares, they chased to the dun on Croghan's plain, Seven boars they drave, on the lawn in haste the game by the youths was slain: With a bound they dashed into Bree, whose flood by the lawns of Croghan flows; Seven otters they caught in its stream, and brought to a hill where the gateway rose.

'Twas there that Fraech and the princes sat at the castle-gate to rest, And the steward of Croghan with Fraech would speak, for such was the king's behest: Of his birth it was asked, and the men he led all truth to the herald spake: "It is Idath's son who is here," they said, and they gave him the name of Fraech. To Ailill and Maev went the steward back of the stranger's name to tell; "Give him welcome," said they: "Of a noble race is that youth, and I know it well; Let him enter the court of our house," said the king, the gateway they opened wide; And the fourth of the palace they gave to Fraech, that there might his


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