Ailill Mac Matae sang that night before the battle, and said: ‘Arise, arise,’ etc.1
As for Cú Chulainn, this is what is told here now.
‘Look for us, O my friend, O Loeg, how the Ulstermen are fighting the battle now.’
‘Like men,’ said the charioteer.
‘Though I were to go with my chariot, and Oen the charioteer of Conall Cernach with his chariot, so that we should go from one wing to the other along the dense mass, neither hoofs nor tyres shall go through it.’
‘That is the stuff for a great battle,’ said Cú Chulainn. ‘Nothing must be done in the battle,’ said Cú Chulainn to his charioteer, ‘that we shall not know from you.’
‘That will be true, so far as I can,’ said the charioteer. ‘The place where the warriors are now from the west,’ said the charioteer, ‘they make a breach in the battle eastwards. Their first defence from the east, they make a breach in the battle westwards.’
‘Alas! that I am not whole!’ said Cú Chulainn; ‘my breach would be manifest like the rest.’
Then came the men of the bodyguard to the ford of the hosting. Fine the way in which the fighting-men came to the battle on Garach and Irgarach. Then came the nine chariot-men of the champions of Iruath, three before them on foot. Not more slowly did they come than the chariot-men. Medb did not let them into the battle, for dragging Ailill out of the battle if it is him they should defeat, or for killing Conchobar if it is he who should be defeated.
Then his charioteer told Cú Chulainn that Ailill and Medb were asking Fergus to go into the battle; and they said to him that it was only right for him to do it, for they had done him much kindness on his exile.
‘If I had my sword indeed,’ said Fergus, ‘the heads of men over shields would be more numerous with me than hailstones in the mire to which come the horses of a king after they have broken into the land (?).’
Then Fergus made this oath: ‘I swear, etc., there would be broken by me cheeks of men from their necks, necks of men with their (lower) arms, arms of men with their elbows, elbows of men with their arms, arms of men with their fists, fists of men with their fingers, fingers of men with their nails, [nails] of men with their skull-roofs, skull-roofs of men with their middle, middle of men with their thighs, thighs of men with their knees, knees of men with their calves, calves of men with their feet, feet of men with their toes, toes of men with their nails. I would make their necks whizz (?) — as a bee would move to and fro on a day of beauty (?).’
Then Ailill said to his charioteer: ‘Let there come to me the sword which destroys skin. I swear by the god by whom my people swear, if you have its bloom worse today than on the day on which I gave it to you in the hillside in the boundary of Ulster, though the men of Ireland were protecting you from me, they should not protect you.’
Then his sword was brought to Fergus, and Ailill said: ‘Take thy sword,’ etc.2
‘A pity for thee to fall on the field of battle, thick [with slain?],’ said Fergus to Ailill.
The Badb and Net’s wife and the Nemain called on them that night on Garach and Irgarach; so that a hundred warriors of them died for terror. That was not the quietest of nights for them.
Then Fergus takes his arms and turns into the battle, and clears a gap of a hundred in the battle with his sword in his two hands. Then Medb took the arms of Fergus (?) and rushed into the battle, and she was victorious thrice, so that she was driven back by force of arms.
‘I do not know,’ said Conchobar to his retinue who were round him, ‘before whom has the battle been broken against us from the north. Do you maintain the fight here, that I may go against him.’
‘We will hold the place in which we are,’ said the warriors, ‘unless the earth bursts beneath us, or the heaven upon us from above, so that we shall break therefrom.’
Then Conchobar came against Fergus. He lifts his shield against him, i.e. Conchobar’s shield Ochan, with three horns of gold on it, and four — of gold over it. Fergus strikes three blows on it, so that even the rim of his shield over his head did not touch him.
‘Who of the Ulstermen holds the shield?’ said Fergus.
‘A man who is better than you,’ said Conchobar; ‘and he has brought you into exile into the dwellings of wolves and foxes, and he will repel you today in combat in the presence of the men of Ireland.’
Fergus aimed on him a blow of vengeance with his two hands on Conchobar, so that the point of the sword touched the ground behind him.
Cormac Condlongas put his hands upon him, and closed his two hands about his arm.
‘—, O my friend, O Fergus,’ said Cormac. ‘… Hostile is the friendship; right is your enmity; your compact has been destroyed; evil are the blows that you strike, O friend, O Fergus,’ said Cormac.
‘Whom shall I smite?’ said Fergus.
‘Smite the three hills … in some other direction over them; turn your hand; smite about you on every side, and have no consideration for them. Take thought for the honour of Ulster: what has not been lost shall not be lost, if it be not lost through you today (?).
‘Go in some other direction, O Conchobar,’ said Cormac to his father; ‘this man will not put out his rage on the Ulstermen any more here.’
Fergus turned away. He slew a hundred warriors of Ulster in the first combat with the sword. He met Conall Cernach.
‘Too great rage is that,’ said Conall Cernach, ‘on people and race, for a wanton.’
‘What shall I do, O warriors?’ said he.
‘Smite the hills across them and the champions (?) round them,’ said Conall Cernach.
Fergus smote the hills then, so that he struck the three Maela3 of Meath with his three blows. Cú Chulainn heard the blows then that Fergus gave on the hills or on the shield of Conchobar himself.
‘Who strikes the three strong blows, great and distant?’ said Cú Chulainn.
… Then Loeg answered and said: ‘The choice of men, Fergus Mac Roich the very bold, smites them.’ …
Then Cú Chulainn said: ‘Unloose quickly the hazel-twigs; blood covers men, play of swords will be made, men will be spent therefrom.’
Then his dry wisps spring from him on high, as far as — goes; and his hazel-twigs spring off, till they were in Mag Tuag in Connacht … and he smote the head of each of the two handmaidens against the other, so that each of them was grey from the brain of the other. They came from Medb for pretended lamentation over him, that his wounds might burst forth on him; and to say that the Ulstermen had been defeated, and that Fergus had fallen in opposing the battle, since Cú Chulainn’s coming into the battle had been prevented. The contortion came on him, and twenty-seven skin-tunics were given to him, that used to be about him under strings and thongs when he went into battle; and he takes his chariot on his back with its body and its two tyres, and he made for Fergus round about the battle.
‘Turn hither, O friend Fergus,’ said Cú Chulainn; and he did not answer till the third time. I swear by the god by whom the Ulstermen swear,’ said he, ‘I will wash thee as foam4 (?) is washed in a pool, I will go over thee as the tail goes over a cat, I will smite thee as a fond mother smites her son.’
‘Which of the men of Ireland speaks thus to me?’ said Fergus.
‘Cú Chulainn Mac Sualtaim, sister’s son to Conchobar,’ said Cú Chulainn; ‘and avoid me,’ said he.
‘I have promised even that,’ said Fergus.
‘Your promise falls due, then,’ said Cú Chulainn.
‘Good,’ said Fergus, ‘(you avoided me), when you are pierced with wounds.’
Then Fergus went away with his cantred; the Leinstermen go and the Munstermen; and they left in the battle nine cantreds of Medb’s and Ailill’s and their seven sons.
In the middle of the day it is that Cú Chulainn came into the battle; when the sun came into the leaves of the wood, it is then that he defeated the last company, so that there remained of the chariot only a handful of the ribs about the body, and a handful of the shafts about the wheel.
Cú Chulainn overtook Medb then when he went into the battle.
‘Protect me,’ said Medb.
‘Though I should slay thee with a slaying, it were lawful for me,’ said Cú Chulainn.
Then he protected her, because he used not to slay women. He convoyed them westward, till they passed Ath Luain. Then he stopped. He struck three blows with his sword on the stone in Ath Luain. Their name is the Maelana5 of Ath Luain.
When the battle was broken, then said Medb to Fergus: ‘Faults and — meet here today, O Fergus,’ said she.
‘It is customary,’ said Fergus, ‘to every herd which a mare precedes; … after a woman who has ill consulted their interest.’
They take away the Bull then in that morning of the battle, so that he met the White-horned at Tarbga in Mag Ai; i.e. Tarbguba or Tarbgleo.6 The first name of that hill was Roi Dedond. Every one who escaped in the fight was intent on nothing but beholding the two Bulls fighting.
Bricriu Poison-tongue was in the west in his sadness after Fergus had broken his head with his draughtmen.7 He came with the rest then to see the combat of the Bulls. The two Bulls went in fighting over Bricriu, so that he died therefrom. That is the Death of Bricriu.
The foot of the Dun of Cualnge lighted on the horn of the other. For a day and a night he did not draw his foot towards him, till Fergus incited him and plied a rod along his body.
‘’Twere no good luck,’ said Fergus, ‘that this combative old calf which has been brought here should leave the honour of clan and race; and on both sides men have been left dead through you.’ Therewith he drew his foot to him so that his leg (?) was broken, and the horn sprang from the other and was in the mountain by him. It was Sliab nAdarca8 afterwards.
He carried them then a journey of a day and a night, till he lighted in the loch which is by Cruachan, and he came to Cruachan out of it with the loin and the shoulder-blade and the liver of the other on his horns. Then the hosts came to kill him. Fergus did not allow it, but that he should go where he pleased. He came then to his land and drank a draught in Findlethe on coming. It is there that he left the shoulder-blade of the other. Findlethe afterwards was the name of the land. He drank another draught in Ath Luain; he left the loin of the other there: hence is Ath Luain. He gave forth his roar on Iraird Chuillend; it was heard through all the province. He drank a draught in Tromma. There the liver of the other fell from his horns; hence is Tromma. He came to Etan Tairb.9 He put his forehead against the hill at Ath Da Ferta; hence is Etan Tairb in Mag Murthemne. Then he went on the road of Midluachair in Cuib. There he used to be with the milkless cow of Dairi, and he made a trench there. Hence is Gort Buraig.10 Then he went till he died between Ulster and Iveagh at Druim Tairb. Druim Tairb is the name of that place.
Ailill and Medb made peace with the Ulstermen and with Cú Chulainn. For seven years after there was no wounding of men between them. Findabair stayed with Cú Chulainn, and the Connachtmen went to their country, and the Ulstermen to Emain Macha with their great triumph. Finit, amen.
1 Here follows a list of names.
2 Rhetoric, twelve lines.
3 i.e. flat-topped hills.
4 Reading with LL.
5 i.e. flat-topped hills.
6 ‘Bull-Sorrow or Bull-Fight,’ etymological explanation of Tarbga.
7 This story is told in the Echtra Nerai. (See Revue Celtique, vol. x. p. 227.)
8 Mountain of the Horn.
9 The Bull’s Forehead.
10 The Field of the Trench.