When Cú Chulainn was in this great weariness, the Morrigan met him in the form of an old hag, and she blind and lame, milking a cow with three teats, and he asked her for a drink. She gave him milk from a teat.
‘He will be whole who has brought it(?),’ said Cú Chulainn; ‘the blessings of gods and non-gods on you,’ said he. (Gods with them were the Mighty Folk;1 non-gods the people of husbandry.)
Then her head was healed so that it was whole.
She gave the milk of the second teat, and her eye was whole; and gave the milk of the third teat, and her leg was whole. So that this was what he said about each thing of them, ‘A doom of blessing on you,’ said he.
‘You told me,’ said the Morrigan, ‘I should not have healing from you for ever.’
‘If I had known it was you,’ said Cú Chulainn, ‘I would not have healed you ever.’
So that formerly Cú Chulainn’s throng(?) on Tarthesc was the name of this story in the Foray.
It is there that Fergus claimed of his securities that faith should not be broken with Cú Chulainn; and it is there that Cú Chulainn …2 i.e. Delga Murthemne at that time.
Then Cú Chulainn killed Fota in his field; Bomailce on his ford; Salach in his village (?); Muine in his hill; Luair in Leth-bera; Fer-Toithle in Toithle; these are the names of these lands for ever, every place in which each man of them fell. Cú Chulainn killed also Traig and Dornu and Dernu, Col and Mebul and Eraise on this side of Ath Tire Moir, at Methe and Cethe: these were three3 druids and their three wives.
Then Medb sent a hundred men of her special retinue to kill Cú Chulainn. He killed them all on Ath Ceit-Chule. Then Medb said: ‘It is cuillend4 to us, the slaying of our people.’ Hence is Glass Chrau and Cuillend Cind Duin and Ath Ceit-Chule.
Then the four provinces of Ireland took camp and fortified post in the Breslech Mor in Mag Murthemne, and send part of their cattle and booty beyond them to the south into Clithar Bo Ulad. Cú Chulainn took his post at the mound in Lerga near them, and his charioteer Loeg Mac Riangabra kindled a fire for him on the evening of that night. He saw the fiery sheen of the bright golden arms over the heads of the four provinces of Ireland at the setting of the clouds of evening. Fury and great rage came over him at sight of the host, at the multitude of his enemies, the abundance of his foes. He took his two spears and his shield and his sword; he shook his shield and brandished his spears and waved his sword; and he uttered his hero’s shout from his throat, so that goblins and sprites and spectres of the glen and demons of the air answered, for the terror of the shout which they uttered on high. So that the Nemain produced confusion on the host. The four provinces of Ireland came into a tumult of weapons about the points of their own spears and weapons, so that a hundred warriors of them died of terror and of heart-burst in the middle of the camp and of the position that night.
When Loeg was there, he saw something: a single man who came straight across the camp of the men of Ireland from the north east straight towards him.
‘A single man is coming to us now, O Little Hound!’ said Loeg.
‘What kind of man is there?’ said Cú Chulainn.
‘An easy question: a man fair and tall is he, with hair cut broad, waving yellow hair; a green mantle folded round him; a brooch of white silver in the mantle on his breast; a tunic of royal silk, with red ornamentation of red gold against the white skin, to his knees. A black shield with a hard boss of white metal; a five-pointed spear in his hand; a forked (?) javelin beside it. Wonderful is the play and sport and exercise that he makes; but no one attacks him, and he attacks no one, as if no one saw him.’
‘It is true, O fosterling,’ said he; ‘which of my friends from the síd is that who comes to have pity on me, because they know the sore distress in which I am, alone against the four great provinces of Ireland, on the Cattle-Foray of Cualnge at this time?’
That was true for Cú Chulainn. When the warrior had reached the place where Cú Chulainn was, he spoke to him, and had pity on him for it.
‘This is manly, O Cú Chulainn,’ said he.
‘It is not much at all,’ said Cú Chulainn.
‘I will help you,’ said the man.
‘Who are you at all?’ said Cú Chulainn.
‘It is I, your father from the síd, Lug Mac Ethlend.’
‘My wounds are heavy, it were high time that I should be healed.’
‘Sleep a little, O Cú Chulainn,’ said the warrior; ‘your heavy swoon5 (?) of sleep at the mound of Lerga till the end of three days and three nights, and I will fight against the hosts for that space.’
Then he sings the ferdord to him, and he sleeps from it. Lug looked at each wound that it was clean. Then Lug said:
‘Arise, O great son of the Ulstermen, whole of thy wounds … Go into thy chariot secure. Arise, arise!’6
For three days and three nights Cú Chulainn was asleep. It were right indeed though his sleep equalled his weariness. From the Monday after the end of summer exactly to the Wednesday after Candlemas, for this space Cú Chulainn had not slept, except when he slept a little while against his spear after midday, with his head on his clenched fist, and his clenched fist on his spear, and his spear on his knee; but he was striking and cutting and attacking and slaying the four great provinces of Ireland for that space.
It is then that the warrior of the síd cast herbs and grasses of curing and charms of healing into the hurts and wounds and into the injuries and into the many wounds of Cú Chulainn, so that Cú Chulainn recovered in his sleep without his perceiving it at all.
Now it was at this time that the boys came south from Emain Macha: Folloman Mac Conchobair with three fifties of kings’ sons of Ulster, and they gave battle thrice to the hosts, so that three times their own number fell, and all the boys fell except Folloman Mac Conchobair. Folloman boasted that he would not go back to Emain for ever and ever, until he should take the head of Ailill with him, with the golden crown that was above it. This was not easy to him; for the two sons of Bethe Mac Bain, the two sons of Ailill’s foster mother and foster-father, came on him, and wounded him so that he fell by them. So that that is the death of the boys of Ulster and of Folloman Mac Conchobair.
Cú Chulainn for his part was in his deep sleep till the end of three days and three nights at the mound in Lerga. Cú Chulainn arose then from his sleep, and put his hand over his face, and made a purple wheel-beam from head to foot, and his mind was strong in him, and he would have gone to an assembly, or a march, or a tryst, or a beer-house, or to one of the chief assemblies of Ireland.
‘How long have I been in this sleep now, O warrior?’ said Cú Chulainn.
‘Three days and three nights,’ said the warrior.
‘Alas for that!’ said Cú Chulainn.
‘What is the matter?’ said the warrior.
‘The hosts without attack for this space,’ said Cú Chulainn.
‘They are not that at all indeed,’ said the warrior.
‘Who has come upon them?’ said Cú Chulainn.
‘The boys came from the north from Emain Macha; Folloman Mac Conchobair with three fifties of boys of the kings’ sons of Ulster; and they gave three battles to the hosts for the space of the three days and the three nights in which you have been in your sleep now. And three times their own number fell, and the boys fell, except Folloman Mac Conchobair. Folloman boasted that he would take Ailill’s head, and that was not easy to him, for he was killed.’
‘Pity for that, that I was not in my strength! For if I had been in my strength, the boys would not have fallen as they have fallen, and Folloman Mac Conchobair would not have fallen.’
‘Strive further, O Little Hound, it is no reproach to thy honour and no disgrace to thy valour.’
‘Stay here for us tonight, O warrior,’ said Cú Chulainn, ‘that we may together avenge the boys on the hosts.’
‘I will not stay indeed,’ said the warrior, ‘for however great the contests of valour and deeds of arms any one does near thee, it is not on him there will be the renown of it or the fame or the reputation, but it is on thee; therefore I will not stay. But ply thy deed of arms thyself alone on the hosts, for not with them is there power over thy life this time.’
‘The scythe-chariot, O my friend Loeg!’ said Cú Chulainn; ‘can you yoke it? and is its equipment here? If you can yoke it, and if you have its equipment, yoke it; and if you have not its equipment, do not yoke it at all.’
It is then that the charioteer arose, and he put on his hero’s dress of charioteering. This was his hero’s dress of charioteering that he put on: his soft tunic of skin, light and airy, well-turned,7 made of skin, sewn, of deer-skin, so that it did not restrain the movement of his hands outside. He put on his black (?) upper-cloak over it outside: Simon Magus had made it for Darius, King of the Romans, so that Darius gave it to Conchobar, and Conchobar gave it to Cú Chulainn, and Cú Chulainn gave it to his charioteer. The charioteer took first then his helm, ridged, like a board (?), four-cornered, with much of every colour and every form, over the middle of his shoulders. This was well-measured (?) to him, and it was not an overweight. His hand brought the circlet of red-yellow, as though it were a plate of red-gold, of refined gold smelted over the edge of an anvil, to his brow, as a sign of his charioteering, in distinction to his master.
He took the goads (?) of his horses, and his whip (?) inlaid in his right hand. He took the reins to hold back his horses in his left hand.8 Then he put the iron inlaid breastplates on the horses, so that they were covered from forehead to forefoot with spears and points and lances and hard points, so that every motion in this chariot was spear-near, so that every corner and every point and every end and every front of this chariot was a way of tearing. It is then that he cast a spell of covering over his horses and over his companion, so that he was not visible to any one in the camp, and so that every one in the camp was visible to them. It was proper that he should cast this, because there were the three gifts of charioteering on the charioteer that day, the leap over —, and the straight —, and the —.
Then the hero and the champion and he who made the fold of the Badb9 of the men of the earth, Cú Chulainn Mac Sualtaim, took his battle-array of battle and contest and strife. This was his battle-array of battle and contest and strife: he put on twenty-seven skin tunics, waxed, like board, equally thick, which used to be under strings and chains and thongs, against his white skin, that he might not lose his mind nor his understanding when his rage should come. He put on his hero’s battle-girdle over it outside, of hard-leather, hard, tanned, of the choice of seven ox-hides of a heifer, so that it covered him from the thin part of his sides to the thick part of his armpit; it used to be on him to repel spears, and points, and darts, and lances, and arrows. For they were cast from him just as if it was stone or rock or horn that they struck (?). Then he put on his apron, skinlike, silken, with its edge of white gold variegated, against the soft lower part of his body. He put on his dark apron of dark leather, well tanned, of the choice of four ox-hides of a heifer, with his battle-girdle of cows’ skins (?) about it over his silken skinlike apron. Then the royal hero took his battle-arms of battle and contest and strife. These then were his battle-arms of battle: he took his ivory-hilted, bright-faced weapon, with his eight little swords; he took his five-pointed spear, with his eight little spears;10 he took his spear of battle, with his eight little darts; he took his javelin with his eight little javelins; his eight shields of feats, with his round shield, dark red, in which a boar that would be shown at a feast would go into the boss (?), with its edge sharp, keen, very sharp, round about it, so that it would cut hairs against the stream for sharpness and keenness and great sharpness; when the warrior did the edge-feat with it, he would cut equally with his shield, and with his spear, and with his sword.
Then he put on his head a ridged-helmet of battle and contest and strife, from which there was uttered the shout of a hundred warriors, with a long cry from every corner and every angle of it. For there used to cry from it equally goblins and sprites and ghosts of the glen and demons of the air, before and above and around, wherever he used to go before shedding the blood of warriors and enemies. There was cast over him his dress of concealment by the garment of the Land of Promise that was given by his foster-father in wizardry.
It is then came the first contortion on Cú Chulainn, so that it made him horrible, many-shaped, wonderful, strange. His shanks shook like a tree before the stream, or like a rush against the stream, every limb and every joint and every end and every member of him from head to foot. He made a — of rage of his body inside his skin. His feet and his shins and his knees came so that they were behind him; his heels and his calves and his hams came so that they were in front. The front-sinews of his calves came so that they were on the front of his shins, so that every huge knot of them was as great as a warrior’s clenched fist. The temple-sinews of his head were stretched, so that they were on the hollow of his neck, so that every round lump of them, very great, innumerable, not to be equalled (?), measureless, was as great as the head of a month-old child.
Then he made a red bowl of his face and of his visage on him; he swallowed one of his two eyes into his head, so that from his cheek a wild crane could hardly have reached it [to drag it] from the back of his skull. The other sprang out till it was on his cheek outside. His lips were marvellously contorted. He drew the cheek from the jawbone, so that his gullet was visible. His lungs and his lights came so that they were flying in his mouth and in his throat. He struck a blow of the — of a lion with his upper palate on the roof of his skull, so that every flake of fire that came into his mouth from his throat was as large as a wether’s skin. His heart was heard light-striking (?) against his ribs like the roaring of a bloodhound at its food, or like a lion going through bears. There were seen the palls of the Badb, and the rain-clouds of poison, and the sparks of fire very red in clouds and in vapours over his head, with the boiling of fierce rage, that rose over him.
His hair curled round his head like the red branches of a thorn in the gap of Atalta (?). Though a royal apple-tree under royal fruit had been shaken about it, hardly would an apple have reached the ground through it, but an apple would have fixed on every single hair there, for the twisting of the rage that rose from his hair above him.
The hero’s light rose from his forehead, so that it was as long, and as thick, as a warrior’s whet-stone, so that it was equally long with the nose, till he went mad in playing with the shields, in pressing on (?) the charioteer, in — the hosts. As high, as thick, as strong, as powerful, as long, as the mast of a great ship, was the straight stream of dark blood that rose straight up from the very top of his head, so that it made a dark smoke of wizardry like the smoke of a palace when the king comes to equip himself in the evening of a wintry day.
After that contortion wherewith Cú Chulainn was contorted, then the hero of valour sprang into his scythed battle-chariot, with its iron points, with its thin edges, with its hooks, and with its hard points, with its sharp points (?) of a hero, with their pricking goads (?), with its nails of sharpness that were on shafts and thongs and cross-pieces and ropes (?) of that chariot.
It was thus the chariot was, with its body thin-framed (?), dry-framed (?), feat-high, straight-shouldered (?), of a champion, on which there would have been room for eight weapons fit for a lord, with the speed of swallow or of wind or of deer across the level of the plain. The chariot was placed on two horses, swift, vehement, furious, small-headed, small-round, small-end, pointed, —, red-breasted, —, easy to recognise, well-yoked, … One of these two horses was supple, swift-leaping, great of strength, great of curve, great of foot, great of length, —. The other horse was flowing-maned, slender-footed, thin-footed, slender-heeled, —.
It is then that he threw the thunder-feat of a hundred, and the thunder-feat of four hundred, and he stopped at the thunder-feat of five hundred, for he did not think it too much for this equal number to fall by him in his first attack, and in his first contest of battle on the four provinces of Ireland; and he came forth in this way to attack his enemies, and he took his chariot in a great circuit about the four great provinces of Ireland, and he put the attack of an enemy among enemies on them. And a heavy course was put on his chariot, and the iron wheels of the chariot went into the ground, so that it was enough for fort and fortress, the way the iron wheels of the chariot went into the ground; for there arose alike turfs and stones and rocks and flagstones and gravel of the ground as high as the iron wheels of the chariot.
The reason why he cast the circle of war round about the four great provinces of Ireland, was that they might not flee from him, and that they might not scatter, that he might make sure of them, to avenge the boys on them; and he comes into the battle thus in the middle, and overthrew great fences of his enemies’ corpses round about the host thrice, and puts the attack of an enemy among enemies on them, so that they fell sole to sole, and neck to neck; such was the density of the slaughter.
He went round again thrice thus, so that he left a layer of six round them in the great circuit; i.e. soles of three to necks of three in the course of a circuit round the camp. So that its name in the Foray is Sesrech Breslige, and it is one of the three not to be numbered in the Foray; i.e. Sesrech Breslige and Imslige Glendamnach and the battle on Garach and Irgarach, except that it was alike dog and horse and man there.
This is what others say, that Lug Mac Ethlend fought along with Cú Chulainn the Sesrech Breslige. Their number is not known, and it is impossible to count what number fell there of the rabble. But the chief only have been counted. These are the names of the princes and chiefs: two Cruads, two Calads, two Cirs, two Ciars, two Ecells, three Croms, three Caurs, three Combirge, four Feochars, four Furachars, four Cass, four Fotas, five Caurs, five Cermans, five Cobthachs, six Saxans, six Dachs, six Dares, seven Rochads, seven Ronans, seven Rurthechs, eight Roclads, eight Rochtads, eight Rindachs, eight Corpres, eight Mulachs, nine Daigs, nine Dares, nine Damachs, ten Fiachs, ten Fiachas, ten Fedelmids.
Ten kings over seven fifties did Cú Chulainn slay in Breslech Mor in Mag Murthemne; and an innumerable number besides of dogs and horses and women and boys and people of no consequence and rabble. For there did not escape one man out of three of the men of Ireland without a thigh-bone or half his head or one eye broken, or without being marked for ever. And he came from them after giving them battle without wound or blood-stain on himself or on his servant or on either of his horses.
Cú Chulainn came next day to survey the host and to show his soft fair form to the women and the troops of women and the girls and the maidens and the poets and the bards, for he did not hold in honour or dignity that haughty form of wizardry that had appeared to them on him the night before. Therefore he came to show his soft fair form that day.
Fair indeed the boy who came then to show his form to the hosts, that is, Cú Chulainn Mac Sualtaim. The appearance of three heads of hair on him, dark against the skin of his head, blood-red in the middle, a crown gold-yellow which covers them. A fair arrangement of this hair so that it makes three circles round the hollow of the back of his head, so that each hair —, dishevelled, very golden, excellent, in long curls, distinguished, fair-coloured, over his shoulders, was like gold thread.
A hundred ringlets, bright purple, of red-gold, gold-flaming, round his neck; a hundred threads with mixed carbuncle round his head. Four dimples in each of his two cheeks; that is, a yellow dimple, and a green dimple, and a blue dimple, and a purple dimple. Seven gems of brilliance of an eye, in each of his two royal eyes. Seven toes on each of his two feet, seven fingers on each of his two hands, with the grasp of a hawk’s claws, with the seizure of a griffin’s claws on each of them separately.
Then he puts on his feast-dress that day. This was his raiment on him: a fair tunic, proper; bright-purple, with a border with five folds. A white brooch of white silver with adorned gold inlaid over his white breast, as if it was a lantern full of light, that the eyes of men could not look at for its splendour and its brightness. A silken tunic of silk against his skin so that it covered him to the top of his dark apron of dark-red, soldierly, royal, silken.
A dark shield, dark red, dark purple, with five chains of gold, with a rim of white metal on it. A sword gold-hilted, inlaid with ivory hilt of red-gold raised high on his girdle. A spear, long, grey edged, with a spear-head sharp, attacking, with rivets of gold, gold-flaming by him in the chariot. Nine heads in one of his two hands, and ten heads in the other hand. He shook them from him towards the hosts. So that this is the contest of a night to Cú Chulainn. Then the women of Connacht raised themselves on the hosts, and the women were climbing on the men to look at Cú Chulainn’s form. Medb hid her face and dare not show her face, but was under the shield-shelter for fear of Cú Chulainn. So that it is hence Dubthach Doeltenga of Ulster said:
‘If it is the Riastartha, there will be corpses
Of men therefrom,’ etc.11
Fiacha Fialdana from Imraith (?) came to speak with the son of his mother’s sister, Mane Andoe his name. Docha Mac Magach went with Mane Andoe: Dubthach Doeltenga of Ulster came with Fiacha Fialdana from Imraith (?). Docha threw a spear at Fiacha, so that it went into Dubthach. Then Dubthach threw a spear at Mane, so that it went into Docha. The mothers of Dubthach and Docha were two sisters. Hence is Imroll Belaig Euin.12
(Or Imroll Belaig Euin is from this: the hosts go to Belach Euin, their two troops wait there. Diarmait Mac Conchobair comes from the north from Ulster.
‘Let a horseman go from you,’ said Diarmait, ‘that Mane may come to speak with me with one man, and I will come with one man to meet him.’ They meet then.
‘I have come,’ said Diarmait, ‘from Conchobar, who says to Medb and Ailill, that they let the cows go, and make whole all that they have done there, and bring the Bull13 from the west hither to the Bull, that they may meet, because Medb has promised it.’
‘I will go and tell them,’ said Mane. He tells this then to Medb and Ailill.
‘This cannot be got of Medb,’ said Mane.
‘Let us exchange arms then,’ said Diarmait, ‘if you think it better.’
‘I am content,’ said Mane. Each of them throws his spear at the other, so that the two of them die, and so that the name of this place is Imroll Belaig Euin.)
Their forces rush at each other: there fall three twenties of them in each of the forces. Hence is Ard-in-Dirma.14
Ailill’s folk put his king’s crown on Tamun the fool; Ailill dare not have it on himself. Cú Chulainn threw a stone at him at Ath Tamuin, so that his head broke thereby. Hence is Ath Tamuin and Tuga-im-Tamun.15
Then Oengus, son of Oenlam the Fair, a bold warrior of Ulster, turned all the host at Moda Loga (that is the same as Lugmod) as far as Ath Da Ferta. He did not let them go past, and he pelted them with stones, and the learned say — before till they should go under the sword at Emain Macha, if it had been in single combat that they had come against him. Fair-play was broken on him, and they slew him in an unequal fight.
‘Let some one come from you against me,’ said Cú Chulainn at Ath Da Ferta.
‘It will not be I, it will not be I,’ said everyone from his place. ‘A scapegoat is not owed from my race, and if it were owed, it would not be I whom they would give in his stead for a scapegoat.’
Then Fergus Mac Roich was asked to go against him. He refuses to go against his foster-son Cú Chulainn. Wine was given to him, and he was greatly intoxicated, and he was asked about going to the combat. He goes forth then since they were urgently imploring him.
Then Cú Chulainn said: ‘It is with my security that you come against me, O friend Fergus,’ said he, ‘with no sword in its place.’ For Ailill had stolen it, as we said before.
‘I do not care at all,’ said Fergus; ‘though there were a sword there, it would not be plied on you. Give way to me, O Cú Chulainn,’ said Fergus.
‘You will give way to me in return then,’ said Cú Chulainn.
‘Even so,’ said Fergus.
Then Cú Chulainn fled back before Fergus as far as Grellach Doluid, that Fergus might give way to him on the day of the battle. Then Cú Chulainn sprang in to Grellach Doluid.
‘Have you his head, O Fergus?’ said every one.
‘No,’ said Fergus, ‘it is not like a tryst. He who is there is too lively for me. Till my turn comes round again, I will not go.’
Then they go past him, and take camp at Crich Ross. Then Ferchu, an exile, who was in exile against Ailill, hears them. He comes to meet Cú Chulainn. Thirteen men was his number. Cú Chulainn kills Ferchu’s warriors. Their thirteen stones are there.
Medb sent Mand of Muresc, son of Daire, of the Domnandach, to fight Cú Chulainn. Own brothers were he and Fer Diad, and two sons of one father. This Mand was a man fierce and excessive in eating and sleeping, a man ill-tongued, foul mouthed, like Dubthach Doeltenga of Ulster. He was a man strong, active, with strength of limb like Munremar Mac Gerrcind; a fiery warrior like Triscod Trenfer of Conchobar’s house.
‘I will go, and I unarmed, and I will grind him between my hands, for I deem it no honour or dignity to ply weapons on a beardless wild boy such as he.’
He went then to seek Cú Chulainn. He and his charioteer were there on the plain watching the host.
‘One man coming towards us,’ said Loeg to Cú Chulainn.
‘What kind of man?’ said Cú Chulainn.
‘A man black, dark, strong, bull-like, and he unarmed.’
‘Let him come past you,’ said Cú Chulainn.
He came to them therewith.
‘To fight against you have I come,’ said Mand.
Then they begin to wrestle for a long time, and Mand overthrows Cú Chulainn thrice, so that the charioteer urged him.
‘If you had a strife for the hero’s portion in Emain,’ said he, ‘you would be mighty over the warriors of Emain!’
His hero’s rage comes, and his warrior’s fury rises, so that he overthrew Mand against the pillar, so that he falls in pieces. Hence is Mag Mand Achta, that is, Mand Echta, that is, Mand’s death there.
1 i.e. the dwellers in the Sid. The words in brackets are a gloss incorporated in the text.
2 Corrupt; one and a half lines.
3 MS. ‘two.’
4 Interlinear gloss: ‘We deem it a crime.’
5 Conjectural—MS. tromthortim.
7 Lit. ‘kneaded.’
8 Gloss incorporated in text ‘i.e. to direct his horses, in his left hand, for the great power of his charioteering.’
9 The Badb (scald-crow) was a war-goddess. This is an expressive term for the piled-up bodies of the slain
10 In the margin: ‘and his quiver,’ probably an interpolation.
11 Rhetoric, fifty-four lines.
12 i.e. the Random Throw of Belach Euin.
13 i.e. bring Findbennach to meet the Dun of Cualnge.
14 The Height of the Troop.
15 i.e. Covering about Tamun.