While these things were being done, the Connachtman determined to send messengers by the counsel of Ailill and Medb and Fergus, to look at the Ulstermen, to see whether they had reached the plain. It is there that Ailill said:
‘Go, O Mac Roth,’ said Ailill, ‘and look for us whether the men are all(?) in the plain of Meath in which we are. If they have not come, I have carried off their spoil and their cows; let them give battle to me, if it suits them. I will not await them here any longer.’
Then Mac Roth went to look at and to watch the plain. He came back to Ailill and Medb and Fergus. The first time then that Mac Roth looked from the circuit of Sliab Fuait, he saw that all the wild beasts came out of the wood, so that they were all in the plain.
‘The second time,’ said Mac Roth, ‘that I surveyed the plain, I saw a heavy mist that filled the glens and the valleys, so that it made the hills between them like islands in lakes. Then there appeared to me sparks of fire out of this great mist: there appeared to me a variegation of every different colour in the world. I saw then lightning and din and thunder and a great wind that almost took my hair from my head, and threw me on my back; and yet the wind of the day was not great.’
‘What is it yonder, O Fergus?’ said Ailill. ‘Say what it means.’1
‘That is not hard; this is what it means,’ said Fergus: ‘This is the Ulstermen after coming out of their sickness. It is they who have come into the wood. The throng and the greatness and the violence of the heroes, it is that which has shaken the wood; it is before them that the wild beasts have fled into the plain. The heavy mist that you saw, which filled the valleys, was the breath of those warriors, which filled the glens so that it made the hills between them like islands in lakes. The lightning and the sparks of fire and the many colours that you saw, O Mac Roth,’ said Fergus, ‘are the eyes of the warriors from their heads which have shone to you like sparks of fire. The thunder and the din and the noise(?) that you heard, was the whistling of the swords and of the ivory-hilted weapons, the clatter of arms, the creaking of the chariots, the beating of the hoofs of the horses, the strength of the warriors, the roar of the fighting-men, the noise of the soldiers, the great rage and anger and fierceness of the heroes going in madness to the battle, for the greatness of the rage and of the fury(?). They would think they would not reach it at all,’ said Fergus.
‘We will await them,’ said Ailill; ‘we have warriors for them.’
‘You will need that,’ said Fergus, ‘for there will not be found in all Ireland, nor in the west of the world, from Greece and Scythia westward to the Orkneys and to the Pillars of Hercules and to the Tower of Bregon and to the island of Gades, any one who shall endure the Ulstermen in their fury and in their rage,’ said Fergus.
Then Mac Roth went again to look at the march of the men of Ulster, so that he was in their camp at Slemon Midi, and Fergus; and he told them certain tidings, and Mac Roth said in describing them:
‘A great company has come, of great fury, mighty, fierce, to the hill at Slemon Midi,’ said Mac Roth. ‘I think there is a cantred therein; they took off their clothing at once, and dug a mound of sods under their leader’s seat. A warrior fair and tall and long and high, beautiful, the fairest of kings his form, in the front of the company. Hair white-yellow has he, and it curly, neat, bushy (?), ridged, reaching to the hollow of his shoulders. A tunic curly, purple, folded round him; a brooch excellent, of red-gold, in his cloak on his breast; eyes very grey, very fair, in his head; a face proper, purple, has he, and it narrow below and broad above: a beard forked, very curly, gold-yellow he has; a shirt white, hooded, with red ornamentation, round about him; a sword gold-hilted on his shoulders; a white shield with rivets(?) of gold; a broad grey spear head on a slender shaft in his hand. The fairest of the princes of the world his march, both in host and rage and form and dress, both in face and terror and battle and triumph, both in prowess and horror and dignity.
‘Another company has come there,’ said Mac Roth; ‘it is next to the other in number and quarrelling and dress and terror and horror. A fair warrior, heroic, is in the front of this company. A green cloak folded round him; a brooch of gold over his arm; hair curly and yellow: an ivory-hilted sword with a hilt of ivory at his left. A shirt with — to his knee; a wound-giving shield with engraved edge; the candle of a palace2 in his hand; a ring of silver about it, and it runs round along the shaft forward to the point, and again it runs to the grip. And that troop sat down on the left hand of the leader of the first troop, and it is thus they sat down, with their knees to the ground, and the rims of their shields against their chins. And I thought there was stammering in the speech of the great fierce warrior who is the leader of that company.
‘Another company has come there,’ said Mac Roth; ‘its appearance is vaster than a cantred; a man brave, difficult, fair, with broad head, before it. Hair dark and curly on him; a beard long, with slender points, forked, has he; a cloak dark-grey, —, folded round him; a leaf-shaped brooch of white metal over his breast; a white, hooded shirt to his knees; a hero’s shield with rivets on him; a sword of white silver about his waist; a five-pointed spear in his hand. He sat down in front of the leader of the first troop.’
‘Who is that, O Fergus?’ said Ailill.
‘I know indeed,’ said Fergus, ‘those companies. Conchobar, king of a province of Ireland, it is he who has sat down on the mound of sods. Sencha Mac Aililla, the orator of Ulster, it is he who has sat down before him. Cuscraid, the Stammerer of Macha, son of Conchobar, it is he who has sat down at his father’s side. It is the custom for the spear that is in his hand in sport yonder before victory — before or after. That is a goodly folk for wounding, for essaying every conflict, that has come,’ said Fergus.
‘They will find men to speak with them here,’ said Medb.
‘I swear by the god by whom my people swear,’ said Fergus, ‘there has not been born in Ireland hitherto a man who would check the host of Ulster.’3
‘Another company has come there,’ said Mac Roth. ‘Greater than a cantred its number. A great warrior, brave, with horror and terror, and he mighty, fiery-faced, before it. Hair dark, greyish on him, and it smooth-thin on his forehead. A round shield with engraved edge on him, a spear five-pointed in his hand, a forked javelin beside him; a hard sword on the back of his head; a purple cloak folded round him; a brooch of gold on his arm; a shirt, white, hooded, to his knee.’
‘Who is that, O Fergus?’ said Ailill.
‘He is the putting of a hand on strife; he is a battle champion for fight; he is judgment against enemies who has come there; that is, Eogan Mac Durthacht, King of Fermoy is that,’ said Fergus.
‘Another company has come, great, fierce, to the hill at Slemon Midi,’ said Mac Roth. ‘They have put their clothing behind them. Truly, it is strong, dark, they have come to the hill; heavy is the terror and great the horror which they have put upon themselves; terrible the clash of arms that they made in marching. A man thick of head, brave, like a champion, before it; and he horrible, hideous; hair light, grey on him; eyes yellow, great, in his head; a cloak yellow, with white — round about him. A shield, wound-giving, with engraved edge, on him, without; a broad spear, a javelin with a drop of blood along the shaft; and a spear its match with the blood of enemies along its edge in his hand; a great wound-giving sword on his shoulders.’
‘Who is that, O Fergus?’ said Ailill.
‘The man who has so come does not avoid battle or combat or strife: that is, Loegaire the Victorious, Mac Connaid Meic Ilech, from Immail from the north,’ said Fergus.
‘Another great company has come to Slemon Midi to the hill,’ said Mac Roth. ‘A warrior thick-necked, fleshy, fair, before that company. Hair black and curly on him, and he purple, blue-faced; eyes grey, shining, in his head; a cloak grey, lordly (?), about him; a brooch of white silver therein; a black shield with a boss of bronze on it; a spear, covered with eyes, with —(?), in his hand; a shirt, braided (?), with red ornamentation, about him; a sword with a hilt of ivory over his dress outside.’
‘Who is that, O Fergus?’ said Ailill.
‘He is the putting of a hand on a skirmish; he is the wave of a great sea that drowns little streams; he is a man of three shouts; he is the judgment of — of enemies, who so comes,’ said Fergus; ‘that is, Munremar Mac Gerrcind, from Moduirn in the north.’
‘Another great company has come there to the hill to Slemon Midi,’ said Mac Roth. ‘A company very fair, very beautiful, both in number and strife and raiment. It is fiercely that they make for the hill; the clatter of arms which they raised in going on their course shook the host. A warrior fair, excellent, before the company. Most beautiful of men his form, both in hair and eyes and fear, both in raiment and form and voice and whiteness, both in dignity and size and beauty, both in weapons and knowledge and adornment, both in equipment and armour and fitness, both in honour and wisdom and race.’
‘This is his description,’ said Fergus; ‘he is the brightness of fire, the fair man, Fedlimid, who so comes there; he is fierceness of warriors, he is the wave of a storm that drowns, he is might that is not endured, with triumphs out of other territories after destruction of his foes; that is Fedlimid — there.’
‘Another company has come there to the hill to Slemon Midi,’ said Mac Roth, ‘which is not fewer than a warlike cantred (?). A warrior great, brave, grey, proper, —, in front of it. Hair black, curly, on him; round eyes, grey(?), very high, in his head. A man bull-like, strong, rough; a grey cloak about him, with a brooch of silver on his arm; a shirt white, hooded, round him; a sword at his side; a red shield with a hard boss of silver on it. A spear with three rivets, broad, in his hand.’
‘Who is that, O Fergus?’ said Ailill.
‘He is the fierce glow of wrath, he is a shaft(?) of every battle; he is the victory of every combat, who has so come there, Connad Mac Mornai from Callann,’ said Fergus.
‘Another company has come to the hill at Slemon Midi,’ said Mac Roth. ‘It is the march of an army for greatness. The leader who is in front of that company, not common is a warrior fairer both in form and attire and equipment. Hair bushy, red-yellow, on him; a face proper, purple, well-proportioned; a face narrow below, broad above; lips red, thin; teeth shining, pearly; a voice clear, ringing; a face fair, purple, shapely; most beautiful of the forms of men; a purple cloak folded round him; a brooch with full adornment of gold, over his white breast; a bent shield with many coloured rivets, with a boss of silver, at his left; a long spear, grey edged, with a sharp javelin for attack in his hand; a sword gold-hilted, of gold, on his back; a hooded shirt with red ornamentation about him.’
‘Who is that, O Fergus?’ said Ailill.
‘We know, indeed,’ said Fergus. ‘He is half of a combat truly,’ said he, ‘who so comes there; he is a fence(?) of battle, he is fierce rage of a bloodhound; Rochad Mac Fathemain from Bridamae, your son-in-law, is that, who wedded your daughter yonder, that is, Findabair.’
‘Another company has come to the hill, to Slemon Midi,’ said Mac Roth. ‘A warrior with great calves, stout, with great thighs, big, in front of that company. Each of his limbs is almost as thick as a man. Truly, he is a man down to the ground,’ said he. ‘Hair black on him; a face full of wounds, purple, has he; an eye parti-coloured, very high, in his head; a man glorious, dexterous, thus, with horror and terror, who has a wonderful apparel, both raiment and weapons and appearance and splendour and dress; he raises himself with the prowess of a warrior, with achievements of —, with the pride of wilfulness, with a going through battle to rout overwhelming numbers, with wrath upon foes, with a marching on many hostile countries without protection. In truth mightily have they come on their course into Slemon Midi.’
‘He was — of valour and of prowess, in sooth,’ said Fergus he was — of pride(?) and of haughtiness, he was — of strength and dignity, — then of armies and hosts of my own foster-brother, Fergus Mac Leiti, King of Line, point of battle of the north of Ireland.’
‘Another company, great, fierce, has come to the hill, to Slemon Midi,’ said Mac Roth. ‘Strife before it, strange dresses on them. A warrior fair, beautiful, before it; gift of every form, both hair and eye and whiteness, both size and strife and fitness; five chains of gold on him; a green cloak folded about him; a brooch of gold in the cloak over his arm; a shirt white, hooded, about him; the tower of a palace in his hand; a sword gold-hilted on his shoulders.’
‘Fiery is the bearing of the champion of combat who has so come there,’ said Fergus. ‘Amorgene, son of Eccet Salach the smith, from Buais in the north is that.’
‘Another company has come there, to the hill, to Slemon Midi,’ said Mac Roth. ‘It is a drowning for size, it is a fire for splendour, it is a pin for sharpness, it is a battalion for number, it is a rock for greatness, it is — for might, it is a judgment for its —, it is thunder for pride. A warrior rough-visaged, terrible, in front of this company, and he great-bellied, large-lipped; rough hair, a grey beard on him; and he great-nosed, red-limbed; a dark cloak about him, an iron spike on his cloak; a round shield with an engraved edge on him; a rough shirt, braided(?), about him; a great grey spear in his hand, and thirty rivets therein; a sword of seven charges of metal on his shoulders. All the host rose before him, and he overthrew multitudes of the battalion about him in going to the hill.’
‘He is a head of strife who has so come,’ said Fergus; ‘he is a half of battle, he is a warrior for valour, he is a wave of a storm which drowns, he is a sea over boundaries; that is, Celtchar Mac Uithechair from Dunlethglaisi in the north.’
‘Another company has come there to the hill, to Slemon Midi,’ said Mac Roth. ‘A warrior of one whiteness in front of it, all white, both hair and eyelashes and beard and equipment; a shield with a boss of gold on him, and a sword with a hilt of ivory, and a broad spear with rings in his hand. Very heroic has his march come.’
‘Dear is the bear, strong-striking, who has so come,’ said Fergus; ‘the bear of great deeds against enemies, who breaks men, Feradach Find Fechtnach from the grove of Sliab Fuait in the north is that.’
‘Another company has come there to the hill, to Slemon Midi,’ said Mac Roth. ‘A hideous warrior in front of it, and he great bellied, large-lipped; his lips as big as the lips of a horse; hair dark, curly, on him, and he himself —, broad-headed, long-handed; a cloak black, hairy, about him; a chain of copper over it, a dark grey buckler over his left hand; a spear with chains in his right hand; a long sword on his shoulders.’
‘He is a lion red-handed, fierce of —, who so comes,’ said Fergus. ‘He is high of deeds, great in battle, rough; he is a raging on the land who is unendurable, Eirrgi Horse-lipped from Bri Eirge in the north,’ said Fergus.
‘Another company has come there to the hill, to Slemon Midi,’ said Mac Roth. ‘Two warriors, fair, both alike, in front of it; yellow hair on them; two white shields with rivets of silver; they are of equal age. They lift up their feet and set them down together; it is not their manner for either of them to lift up his feet without the other. Two heroes, two splendid flames, two points of battle, two warriors, two pillars of fight, two dragons, two fires, two battle-soldiers, two champions of combat, two rods(?), two bold ones, two pets of Ulster about the king.’
‘Who are those, O Fergus?’ said Ailill.
‘Fiachna and Fiacha, two sons of Conchobar Mac Nessa, two darlings of the north of Ireland,’ said Fergus.
‘Another company has come to the hill, to Slemon Midi,’ said Mac Roth. ‘Three warriors, fiery, noble, blue-faced, before it. Three heads of hair very yellow have they; three cloaks of one colour in folds about them; three brooches of gold over their arms, three shirts — with red ornamentation round about them; three shields alike have they; three swords gold-hilted on their shoulders; three spears, broad-grey, in their right hands. They are of equal age.’
‘Three glorious champions of Coba, three of great deeds of Midluachair, three princes of Roth, three veterans of the east of Sliab Fuait,’ said Fergus ‘the three sons of Fiachna are these, after the Bull that is, Rus and Dairi and Imchath,’ said Fergus.
‘Another company has come there to the hill, to Slemon Midi,’ said Mac Roth. ‘A man lively, fiery, before it; eyes very red, of a champion, in his head; a many-coloured cloak about him; a chain of silver thereon; a grey shield on his left; [a sword] with a hilt of silver at his side; a spear, excellent with a striking of cruelty in his vengeful right hand; a shirt white, hooded, to his knee. A company very red, with wounds, about him, and he himself wounded and bleeding.’
‘That,’ said Fergus, ‘is the bold one, unsparing; that is the tearing —; it is the boar4 of combat, it is the mad bull; it is the victorious one of Baile; it is the warlike one of the gap; it is the champion of Colptha, the door of war of the north of Ireland: that is, Menn Mac Salchalca from Corann. To avenge his wounds upon you has that man come,’ said Fergus.
‘Another company has come there to the hill, to Slemon Midi,’ said Mac Roth, ‘and they very heroic, mutually willing. A warrior grey, great, broad, tall, before it. Hair dark, curly, on him; a cloak red, woollen, about him; a shirt excellent; a brooch of gold over his arms in his cloak; a sword, excellent, with hilt of white silver on his left; a red shield has he; a spear-head broad-grey on a fair shaft5 of ash in his hand.’
‘A man of three strong blows who has so come,’ said Fergus; ‘a man of three roads, a man of three highways, a man of three gifts, a man of three shouts, who breaks battles on enemies in another province: Fergrae Mac Findchoime from Corann is that.’
‘Another company has come there to the hill, to Slemon Midi,’ said Mac Roth. ‘Its appearance is greater than a cantred. A warrior white-breasted, very fair, before it; like to Ailill yonder in size and beauty and equipment and raiment. A crown of gold above his head; a cloak excellent folded about him; a brooch of gold in the cloak on his breast; a shirt with red ornamentation round about him; a shield wound-giving with rims of gold; the pillar of a palace in his hand; a sword gold-hilted on his shoulders.’
‘It is a sea over rivers who has so come, truly,’ said Fergus; ‘it is a fierce glow of fire; his rage towards foes is insupportable: Furbaidi Ferbend is that,’ said Fergus.
‘Another company has come there to the hill, to Slemon Midi,’ said Mac Roth.
‘Very heroic, innumerable,’ said Mac Roth; ‘strange garments, various, about them, different from other companies. Famously have they come, both in arms and raiment and dress. A great host and fierce is that company. A lad flame-red before it; the most beautiful of the forms of men his form; … a shield with white boss in his hand, the shield of gold and a rim of gold round it; a spear sharp, light, with — in his hand; a cloak purple, fringed, folded about him; a brooch of silver in the cloak, on his breast; a shirt white, hooded, with red ornamentation, about him; a sword gold hilted over his dress outside.’
Therewith Fergus is silent.
‘I do not know indeed,’ said Fergus, ‘the like of this lad in Ulster, except that I think it is the men of Temair about a lad proper, wonderful, noble: with Erc, son of Coirpre Niafer and of Conchobar’s daughter. They love not one another; — without his father’s leave has that man come, to help his grandfather. It is through the combat of that lad,’ said Fergus, ‘that you will be defeated in the battle. That lad knows not terror nor fear at coming to you among them into the midst of your battalion. It would be like men that the warriors of the men of Ulster will roar in saving the calf their heart, in striking the battle. There will come to them a feeling of kinship at seeing that lad in the great battle, striking the battle before them. There will be heard the rumble of Conchobar’s sword like the barking of a watch-dog in saving the lad. He will throw three walls of men about the battle in seeking the lad. It will be with the affection of kinsmen that the warriors of Ulster will attack the countless host,’ said Fergus.
‘I think it long,’ said Mac Roth, ‘to be recounting all that I have seen, but I have come meanwhile(?) with tidings to you.’
‘You have brought it,’ said Fergus.
‘Conall Cernach has not come with his great company,’ said Mac Roth; ‘the three sons of Conchobar with their three cantreds have not come; Cú Chulainn too has not come there after his wounding in combat against odds. Unless it is a warrior with one chariot,’ said Mac Roth, ‘I think it would be he who has come there. Two horses … under his chariot; they are long-tailed, broad hoofed, broad above, narrow beneath, high-headed, great of curve, thin-mouthed, with distended nostrils. Two wheels black, —, with tyres even, smooth-running; the body very high, clattering; the tent … therein; the pillars carved. The warrior in that chariot four square, purple-faced; hair cropped short on the top, curly, very black has he, down to his shoulders; … a cloak red — about him; four thirties of feat-poles (?) in each of his two arms. A sword gold-hilted on his left; shield and spear has he, and twenty-four javelins about him on strings and thongs. The charioteer in front of him; the back of the charioteer’s head towards the horses, the reins grasped by his toes (?) before him; the chessboard spread between them, half the men of yellow gold, the others of white metal; the buanfach6 under their thighs. Nine feats were performed by him on high.’
‘Who is that, O Fergus?’ said Ailill.
‘An easy question,’ said Fergus. ‘Cú Chulainn Mac Sualtaim from the Sid,7 and Loeg Mac Riangabra his charioteer. Cú Chulainn is that,’ said Fergus.
‘Many hundreds and thousands,’ said Mac Roth, ‘have reached the camp of Ulster. Many heroes and champions and fighting-men have come with a race to the assembly. Many companies,’ said Mac Roth, ‘were reaching the same camp, of those who had not reached or come to the camp when I came; only,’ said Mac Roth, ‘my eye did not rest on hill or height of all that my eye reached from Fer Diad’s Ford to Slemon Midi, but upon horse and man.’
‘You saw the household of a man truly,’ said Fergus.
Then Conchobar went with his hosts and took camp near the others. Conchobar asked for a truce till sunrise on the morrow from Ailill, and Ailill ratified it for the men of Ireland and for the exiles, and Conchobar ratified it for the Ulstermen; and then Conchobar’s tents are pitched. The ground between them is a space, —, bare, and the Ulstermen came to it before sunset. Then said the Morrigan in the twilight between the two camps:8
Now Cú Chulainn was at Fedan Chollna near them. Food was brought to him by the hospitallers that night; and they used to come to speak to him by day.
He did not kill any of them to the left of Fer Diad’s Ford.
‘Here is a small herd from the camp from the west to the camp to the east,’ said the charioteer to Cú Chulainn. ‘Here is a troop of lads to meet them.’
‘Those lads shall come,’ said Cú Chulainn. ‘The little herd shall come over the plain. He who will not — (?) shall come to help the lads.’
This was done then as Cú Chulainn had said.
‘How do the lads of Ulster fight the battle?’
‘Like men,’ said the charioteer.
‘It would be a vow for them, to fall in rescuing their herds,’ said Cú Chulainn. ‘And now?’
‘The beardless striplings are fighting now,’ said the charioteer.
‘Has a bright cloud come over the sun yet?’
‘Not so,’ said the charioteer.
‘Alas, that I had not strength to go to them!’ said Cú Chulainn.
‘There will be contest without that today,’ said the charioteer, ‘at sunrise; haughty folk fight the battle now,’ said the charioteer, ‘save that there are not kings there, for they are still asleep.’
Then Fachna said when the sun rose (or it is Conchobar who sang in his sleep):
‘Arise, Kings of Macha, of mighty deeds, noble household, grind your weapons, fight the battle,’ etc.
‘Who has sung this?’ said every one.
‘Conchobar Mac Nessa,’ said they; ‘or Fachtna sang it,’ said they. ‘Sleep, sleep, save your sentinels.’
Loegaire the Victorious was heard: ‘Arise, Kings of Macha,’ etc.
‘Who has sung that?’ said every one.
‘Loegaire the Victorious, son of Connad Buide Mac Ilech. Sleep, sleep, except your sentinels.’
‘Wait for it still,’ said Conchobar, ‘till sunrise … in the glens and heights of Ireland.’
When Cú Chulainn saw the kings from the east taking their crowns on their heads and marshalling (?) the companies, Cú Chulainn said to his charioteer that he should awaken the Ulstermen; and the charioteer said (or it is Amairgen, son of Eccet the poet, who said):
‘Arise, Kings of Macha,’ etc.
‘I have awakened them,’ said the charioteer. ‘Thus have they come to the battle, quite naked, except for their arms only. He, the door of whose tent is east, has come out through it west.’
‘It is a “goodly help of necessity,”’ said Cú Chulainn.
The adventures of the Ulstermen are not followed up here now. As for the men of Ireland, Badb and Net’s wife and Nemain9 called upon them that night on Garach and Irgarach, so that a hundred warriors of them died for terror; that was not the most peaceful of nights for them.
1 Literally, ‘is like.’
2 i.e. spear.
3 Conjectural; the line is corrupt in the MS.
4 Ir. rop, said to be a beast that wounds or gores.
5 Conjecture; the Irish is obscure.
6 Buanfach, the name of a game; probably, like fidchill and brandub, of the nature of chess or draughts.
7 Cú Chulainn was of fairy birth.
8 Rhetoric, seven lines.
9 Nemain was the wife of Net, the war-god, according to Cormac.