Acallam na Senórach

Acallam na Senórach

The Colloquy with the Ancients


Extracts from the translation by Standish O'Grady

Relating to Scotland and the Gall Gaedhil




How the Fiann hunted in Arran

329-353: Patrick said again: "it is well, Caeilte; what was the best hunting that the Fianna ever had, whether in Ireland or in Scotland?" "The hunting of Arran." Patrick enquired: "where is that land?" "Betwixt Scotland and Pictland: on the first day of the trogan-month (which now is called lughnasadh i.e. 'Lammastide') we, to the number of the Fianna's three battalions, practised to repair thither and there have our fill of hunting until such time as from the tree-tops the cuckoo would call in Ireland. More melodious than all music whatsoever it was to give ear to the voices of the birds as they rose from the billows and from the island's coast-line; thrice fifty separate flocks there were that encircled her, and they clad in gay brilliance of all colours: as blue, and green, and azure, and yellow.

Here Caeilte uttered a lay:-

Arran of the many stags—the sea impinges on her very shoulders! an island in which whole companies were fed—and with ridges among which blue spears are reddened ! Skittish deer are on her pinnacles, soft blackberries on her waving heather; cool water there is in her rivers, and mast upon her russet oaks! Greyhounds there were in her, and beagles; blaeberries and sloes of the dark blackthorn; dwellings with their backs set close against her woods, and the deer fed scattered by her oaken thickets ! A crimson crop grew on her rocks, in all her glades a faultless grass; over her crags affording friendly refuge, leaping went on and fawns were skipping! Smooth were her level spots—her wild swine, they were fat; cheerful her fields (this is a tale that may be credited), her nuts hung on her forest-hazels' boughs, and there was sailing of long galleys past her! Right pleasant their condition all when the fair weather sets in: under her rivers' brinks trouts lie; the sea-gulls wheeling round her grand cliff answer one the other—at every fitting time delectable is Arran !
[O’Grady, Standish H (ed): Silva Gadelica: A Collection of Tales in Irish (London, 1892), p.108-9]

Cáilte goes to Ráith Aine

3042-3140: At this point it was that from rath Aine to the red stag's loch Eochaid Red-edge sent a message to fetch Caeilte. This latter bade Colman and Eoganan farewell therefore; while to him the saints promised eternal happiness, to entertain his complaint, and for his welfare to supplicate Heaven's King and Earth's. Then in the king of Ulidia's chariot Caeilte journeyed to rath Aine in that country's easternmost part, where with their king the nobles of the Ulidians were. Now our Eochaid Rededge was virtuous and was worshipful; for without justice on his side he never harried any, nor from any man was taken that which in virtue of original racial right was his own.

Three battles by the way, that was the king's strength on this day. Caeilte in due course reaches them; he leaps from the chariot, and the king of Ulidia in concert with all his host gives him ardent welcome. "Good now, Caeilte, my soul”, said the king: what thing could we enquire of thee which should profit us more than the lore of this rath: rath Ainie?

Caeilte answered: I possess its origin:-

It was Aine, daughter of Modharn king of Scotland across the sea; to whom the men of Alba kept saying: what ails thee, lady, that with some good man [i.e. one of high degree] in either Alba or Erin thou matest not?' The young woman affirmed that, Finn mac Cumall excepted, in those lands was no man that might match her; and her words being reported to Finn he commissioned Finn, called fer an champair or man of quarrel and Ronan the royal óglaech, Scotland's two Fian-chiefs, to go and to crave her of her father. What conditions shall we take with us ?' they asked. 'Promise her power over all that I possess both in Ireland and in Scotland. Fian-chief, it is well: but send with us now two confidentials of thine own people, to the end the lady may the more readily believe us. Finn told me and mac Lughach to accompany them, saying: ' although in my behalf ye shall undertake never so much, yet will I give it to her.

We four free-born óglaech therefore took our way to dim mónaidh, or 'Edinburgh' in Scotland; there we were quartered in a special house apart, in which Modharn king of Scotland, and together with him his daughter Aine, came to visit us. He questioned us anent our expedition and our journey; we told him all our charge. 'Thou hearest that, daughter,' said the king: 'that the best man in Ireland and in Scotland solicits thee.'

The young woman answered: 'I will go with him' and, upon condition that all she asked of him were given her, was betrothed to Finn mac Cumall. We and the girl with us (she furnished with all sorts of precious chattels in abundance) returned to Ireland and came to this rath where we are; Finn too and the three battles of the Fianna arrived hither from Tara-luachra to meet and to fall in with us. Here she caused to be constructed a mansion, a proper town and a lodge of her own, in which for a year she [of her own substance] ministered to and entertained the Fianna's three battles in such style that neither they nor our guests lacked meat or liquor at all.

At a year's end then mac Lughach said to Finn: by way of country and of lands Modharn's daughter Aine is all-sufficient for thee. Finn answered: by my word, mac Lughach, I know not what I could require, whether in Ireland or in Scotland that the Fianna have not in Aine's house. Subsequently this queen was with Finn for seven whole years, during which she abundantly gratified all Ireland and Scotland; she bore Finn two sons: Illann of the red edge and Aedh Beg, but died in child birth of Aedh:—

Caeilte cecinit

"Empty to-day is Aine's rath, in which once young men laughed many a laugh; frequent were men in crowds, horses in studs, upon its slope with the smooth sward. Three hundred ladies were in the liss (many are they that are in ignorance of it); three hundred men of trust were there, three hundred fosterers of befitting quality. Better than all other women that woman was; and such the multitude of her guests—one and all are dead together now that she made her town to be all empty [i.e. exhausted it].

Here she was laid in excavations of the earth,"continued Caeilte," her stone was reared over her resting-place, her funeral ceremony was performed, and her ogham-name inscribed.

Victory and benediction be thine, Caeilte!" cried the king of Ulidia: a good story it is that thou hast told us; and be it’ by you others written on the tabular staves of poets and on monumental stones of the Fianna." The king of Ulidia with his force now proceeded to ráth na sciath or 'the rath of shields' standing over the boisterous trácht Rudhraighe or ' Rury's strand': the present tonn Rudhraighe or ‘Rury's wave’. They entered the dwelling, and a sequestered house apart was assigned to Caeilte; he was served well, and the whole town from small to great committed to his discretion.

Again the king of Ulidia questioned Caeilte: "here are two graves on Rury's strand: what is their origin?" "It was two that were sons to Aedh mac Fidach mac Fintan, king of Connacht, and were buried there; these were dear to Finn and to the Fianna all, the cause of whose love for them was this: that whatever the paucity or whatever the copiousness of art and mystery possessed by any it never would come unrewarded away from them [i.e. their generosity to artists was not regulated by their degree of proficiency in art]; neither was any ever in dispute with Finn and the Fianna but they would for a year's time make peace between them. A single-handed match for a hundred óglaechs either of them was, and they would have made a worthy pair of sons whether for Cormac son of Art or for Finn; seventeen years they were in the Fianna.

Now once upon a time Finn and the three battles, in exercise of their privilege to hunt all Ireland, came hither to Rury's strand and Finn prescribed to keep watch and ward. Two sons of kings with their people it was that nightly mounted guard over Finn and the Fianna, and on the night in question the duty fell to the king of Connacht's two: Art and Eoghan. They moved off, four hundred óglaechs all told, with four hundred gillas, and marched to the head of this strand; there they had not been any time when up came two kings of the kings of Lochlann in the north: Conus and Conmael were their names, whose fathers had been slain by Finn mac Cumall in the battle of druim derg over in Scotland. Both which kings, being two valiant and equal battalions strong, gained this shore in order to the avenging of their father upon Finn, but saw four hundred that bore shield and weapon drawn up ready before them on the beach; the manner of the king of Connacht's son Art being that he had a sharp glittering-edged spear of special deadly virtue which Finn had a twelvemonth before given to him: the órlasrach or 'gold-flaming' was its name; another spear too there was, that Finn had given to Eoghan: the muinderg or 'red-neck' it was called.
[O’Grady, Standish H (ed): Silva Gadelica: A Collection of Tales in Irish (London, 1892), p.179-182]

3383-3393: It was a king that was in Scotland: Iruath mac Alpine, and had daughters three: Muiresc and Aeife and Aillbhe were their names. These fell in love with three Oglaechs of the Fianna of Ireland: Encherd of Beare's three sons Ger and Glas and Gabha; which Oglaechs also fell in love with them, and for twenty years there was reciprocal affection between them. But once upon a time [i.e. at length] the women eloped and came to this tulach, where a fit of sleep and slumber fell on them.
[O’Grady, Standish H (ed): Silva Gadelica: A Collection of Tales in Irish (London, 1892), p.189]

3343-3357: Good now, Caeilte, my soul, said Patrick: "knowest thou who it was that before Eoghan occupied this seat?" "An easy thing it is for me to know it,"he made answer," seeing that I was one of the eight that were at the giving of this town to the man on whom Finn mac Cumall conferred it: the solitary warrior that ever by use of compulsion effected his fellowship with Finn, Conan namely, son of the liath Luachra or 'grey man of Luachra,' out of the west. For it was befallen him to have worked Finn great mischief: as to have from one samhain-tide to another slain a wolf-dog, a gilla and an óglaech of the Fianna, besides the killing of one among the three best men appertaining to clan-Ronan: Aedh rinn mac Ronan, together with his three sons Aedh and Eoghan and Eobhran. [Conan's device was executed thus:] the Fian-chief being come to cam Luighdech or 'Lughaid's cairn' in the west, in the province of Munster, and he after the chase sitting down there, here came Conan at him from behind, and round his shoulders outside of all his armature clasped the chief captain before he was aware.
[O’Grady, Standish H (ed): Silva Gadelica: A Collection of Tales in Irish (London, 1892), p.193]

4538-4562: Those original Fianna of Finn's were a noble set, said the king of Leinster. "No worse than each man of us their survivors was each man of them, except in so far as they attained not to be in the one epoch and time with you; and a thing that served shepherds and herdsmen for a pastime was to practise here the gathering up of their weapons and of their raiment that once were the three battalions of the Fianna: Finn mac Cumall's, and those of Ferdoman mac Innoman from lathrach caein or 'pleasant site,' of the Galianic province." Eochaid king of Leinster said: "by the reality of thy valour and of thy skill at arms, Caeilte, I conjure thee to recite for us in their companies and in their cohorts all such as loch Lurgan's bramble−bush drowned of them." Then Caeilte said:

1. Faelan of Finnloch out of the province of Connacht in the west
2. Angus and Dobarchoe or 'waterdog,' i.e. 'otter,' out of Leinster's province;
3. Druimdherg or 'red−back' of Derry,
4. And Dubh dha det or 'black one of two teeth,' of Kinelconall in the north;
5. Iubhar and Aicher, Aedh and Art, the four kings of coill an chosnamha at this present called Ossory;
6. Cairell, Caicher, Cormac and Caemh, the king of Dalaradia's four sons out of the north;
7. Maine and Art and Aralt or 'Harold,' the king of Scotland's three sons from beyond;
8. Eobhran and Aedh and Eoghan, the king of Bretan's three sons;
9. Uai king of Isla and his two sons: Cerna and Cernabroc, the two kings of innse gall or 'the isles of strangers,' i.e. the Hebrides, in the north;
10. Diure and Barrac and Idae, the king of northern Lochlann's three sons;
11. Luath and Innell and Eoghan, the three kings of the Mairtine of Munster in the west;
12. Glas and Delga and Duibhne, three sons of the king of the tuatha of Bregia and of Meath;
13. Illann and Aedh and Eoghanan, three sons of the king of Kinelowen in the north;
14. Samaisc and Arthur and Inbeir, three sons of the king of the gallghaedhel from beyond.

Which make up the names of the chiefs and lords and men of territory which the bramble-bush drowned of Finn mac Cumall's original Fianna.
[O’Grady, Standish H (ed): Silva Gadelica: A Collection of Tales in Irish (London, 1892), p. 211-12]

4456-4752: There the king questioned Caeilte: wherefore was that name given to this hill, and cnoc Aeife to that one below?" and Caeilte began:

It was a monarch that swayed Scotland: Aehel mac Domnaill Dubloingsig, and he had a son: Máil mac Aiel, who again had a spouse: Aeife, daughter of Scoa's son Albh king of Lochlann to the northward. Now of Finn's people was a warrior, mac Lughach, and in every laudatory composition whatsoever that in both Ireland and Scotland was made for Finn, mac Lughach's praises were recited. What then—why when the king of Lochlann's daughter heard the great testimonies that authors and ollaves bore to mac Lughach she loved him for his reputation.

Mail mac Aiel, three hundred óglaechs strong, went to hunt sliabh mor monaidh in Scotland; who being gone the lady in her bower framed a design: to take with her over to Ireland nine own foster-sisters that she had; and such nine women accordingly came over the 'sea's mane' [i.e. wave-crests] to Ben-Edar, where the nine women, the queen tenth, landed.

That was the day on which the hunting of Ben-Edar was made, its extent being from the little field of Meille mac Lurga Lom's house against Slievebloom up to Ben-Edar ; and where Finn was was in his hunting-seat, with his gentle loving fosterling by him: Duibhrinn, son of the king of Kinelconall out of the north:—

Caeilte cecinit.

Brown-haired Duibhrinn that could fight the fight many a time I summon to the flowing ale; my pleasant right-spoken little fosterling and my very heart the sportive Duibhrinn was.

Far and wide on every side the youngster looked about him and there before him saw a vessel that took the haven's beach, there being in her after part a modest-eyed queenly lady with nine women in her company. With great store of all rich things such as they had brought with them they joined Finn, by whose side Aeife sat down. The Fian-chief looks upon her and requests an account of herself, whereupon from first to last she tells him all her doings: that she, being fallen in love with mac Lughach, was come over the sea to seek him. Then Finn welcomed her, for close was his kinship with him to whom she came: his daughter's son.

The hunting had an end and the gentles of the Fianna by bands and companies repaired to Finn, each party as they came up enquiring who might the queen be. Finn told them her name and style, and the errand on which she came to Ireland. We greet her that has taken such a journey/ they made answer: 'for in Ireland or in Scotland, save only Finn the chief, is no better man than he to whom she is come’.

It was to mac Lughach that the hunting of Slievebloom's western side was fallen that day and [that being the farthest point] he last with all his number reached us. Finn's tent was spread over him, and into it were brought the lady and the chieftains of the Fianna; mac Lughach entering sat on one side of Finn, she took the other. As all the rest had done, so too mac Lughach questioned concerning her, and Finn gave him her whole history from the beginning to the end, saying: 'to thee she is come, and out of my hand into thine here she is, together with all her battle and her strife; yet upon thee will not that lie more heavily than on the Fianna at large [who will have to back thee].'

That same night Finn (and with him the Fianna bringing the lady with her woman-folk) came to Almain, where mac Lughach and she were bedded, and for a year and a month she was with him unclaimed. But then," continued Caeilte," we the three battles of the Fianna being upon this hill saw before long three bold divisions equal in size that marched on us. We demanded who was there, and they answered:' it is Mail mac Aiel meic Domnaill Dubloingsig, to avenge his wife upon the Fianna.' 'A good time it is at which he comes,' said Fionn, 'just when we are all in one spot.'

Then the battalia advanced on each other: [Mail mac] Aiel meic Domnaill Dubloingsig grasped his arms, came, and ten times charged through and through the Fianna, of whom at each rush fell a hundred warriors. In the battle's centre he and mac Lugach fought: past the smooth hard spears' necks either towards other took four paces, and with the broad-grooved swords laid on: each one upon his fellow's head. Be it a long time or a short that they were at it, at all events Mail fell by mac Lughach, and was buried in this tulach".

Caeilte said, and uttered:—

Tulach an mhdil this is: a ticlach where much carnage was; there warriors lay in their blood, and strength in martial strokes there was. Seven score of ships in number Mal came o'er the glittering and foaming brine; of which save only a single vessel's crew no soul escaped alive. In virtue of shield and battle-sword, of many-coloured raiment, gallantly Mai crossed the sea: whose hand in action was a hero's. Many a cliff and many a famous inver, many a river and many a burn [he faced], many a hazard and tribulation [he endured, and emitted] many an uch! or ever he won to the tulach ! Hence that name belongs to the tulach, and we have cath tulcha an mhdil or 'the battle of tulach an mhdil'; but tulach Aeife is the name of yon hill farther down, for upon that one the lady stood so long as the battle was a-fighting.

From which time forth she belong time forth she belonged to mac Lughach, and to him became a mother of children.
[O’Grady, Standish H (ed): Silva Gadelica: A Collection of Tales in Irish (London, 1892), p. 214-15]

5067-5069: Yonder eight-and-twenty óglaechs whom thou seest in the sidh* the other answered, ' had the same father and mother, and indeed are sons to the Daghda's son Midir Yellow-mane our mother being Fionnchaem or 'the fair- lovely,' daughter of the king of sidli monaidh in the east [i.e. in Scotland].
[O’Grady, Standish H (ed): Silva Gadelica: A Collection of Tales in Irish (London, 1892), p. 223-24]

5125-5126: Cian and Coban and Conn, three sons of the king of sidh monaidh over from Scotland.
[O’Grady, Standish H (ed): Silva Gadelica: A Collection of Tales in Irish (London, 1892), p. 225]

6565-6593: What were the standing Fianna's names?" asked the king. "Finn mac Cumall verile” Caeilte began, " and Ossian with his four sons: Oscar, Ossian, Echtach and Ulach; Raighne Wide-eye, Caine the crimson-red, Uillenn Sharp-edge, Faelan the virile and Aedh Beg, all sons of Finn ; Finn More son of Cuan son of Murrough, high chief of Munster's Fianna; Finn son of Temenan, chief of the Decian Fianna in Munster; Finn son of Urgna, chief of Kinelconall's Fianna; Finn son of Foghaeth and Finn son of Abhratruadh or 'Red-eyebrow’ the two Fian-chiefs of Dalaradia in the north; Finn Bane grandson of Bresal, Fian-chief of Hy-Kinsellach; Finn fer an champair or 'man of contention,' Fian-chief of Scotland; Goll Gulbain and Cas of Cuailgne, the two Fian-chiefs of Ulidia in the north; Deghoc's three sons: Fead and Faeidh and Foscadh; Encherd Beirre's three sons Glas and Gear and Gubha; Caeilte mac Ronan and his two sons : Faelan and Colla; Goth gaeithe or 'spear of the wind' mac Ronan, who when he desired to assert his own running power used to be a javelin cast in front of all the Fianna; Lergan the swift from Luachair in the west, that used to bring in the wild hinds as another would fetch home his own proper kine; Diarmaid ó Duibhne of the men of Munster, that never knew weariness of foot nor shortness of breath nor, whether in going out or in coming in, ever flagged; mac Lugach the impetuous and strong: primest young man of Ireland's and of Scotland's Fianna, mainstay of universal Fianry's valour; Bran Beg, grandson of Buacachan, chief comptroller of Ireland's and of Scotland's Fianna; Scannal grandson of Liathan, leader of their striplings; Sciathbreac son of Dathchain, the Irish Fianna's best man at games; Goll More mac Morna, with his twice thirty own brothers and fifteen hundred of one kith and kin; and the three men of instrument' from Slievefuad, having three instruments of music which they played concertedly and facing each other [i.e. all three facing inwards], and the which when any heard neither trouble nor hardship any more afflicted him.
[O’Grady, Standish H (ed): Silva Gadelica: A Collection of Tales in Irish (London, 1892), p. 245-46]

7928-7964: The king of Ireland enquired of them now: who was it that in the battle of Gabrain (Gowra), slew Cairbre Lifechair?" "Ossian's son, Oscar, it was that killed him," said Caeilte. "The exact truth of the matter it is that's best, my soul," put in Ossian. "Who then was it that destroyed him?" asked Dermot. "Orlamh or 'gold−hand,' king of the Fotharta in the south: an Oglaech whom I had, and my father before me." "And Oscar," pursued the king: "who slew him?" "It was a single cast by Cormac's son Cairbre Lifechair that did it." "And mac Lughach: who killed him in the same battle?" "Bresal mac Eirge, son of the Gallgaeidel king from out of the Hebrides yonder away, that was captain of the king of Ireland's household."

Then the men of Erin broke up to their various provinces, each into his own borders and ancestral seat. The king of Ireland likewise drew off, and came to lie na ndruadh or 'flagstone of the magicians' north-easterly from Tara. Bebhionn daughter of Alasc mac Angus, of the king of Scotland, was his wife; to whom he spoke, and what he said was this: " I desire to proceed upon the grand visitation of Ireland, and my wish is that thou be in Tara ministering to the ancients so that from the men of Erin neither disgrace nor reproach reach me.
[O’Grady, Standish H (ed): Silva Gadelica: A Collection of Tales in Irish (London, 1892), p. 243]




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