Cuchulain of Muirthemne

VIII. Dream of Angus Og

   Angus, son of the Dagda, was asleep in his bed one night, and he saw what he thought was a young girl standing near him at the top of the bed, and she the most beautiful he had ever seen in Ireland. He put out his hand to take her hand, but she vanished on the moment, and in the morning when he awoke there were no trace or tidings of her.
   He got no rest that day thinking of her, and that she had gone away before he could speak to her. And the next night he saw her again, and this time she brought a little harp in her hand, the sweetest he ever heard, and she played a song to him, so that he fell asleep and slept till morning. And the same thing happened every, night for a year. She would come to his bedside and be playing on the harp to him, but she would be gone before he could speak with her. And at the end of the year she came no more, and Angus began to pine away with love of her and with fretting after her; and he would take no food, but lay upon the bed, and no one knew what it was ailed him. And all the physicians of Ireland came together, but. they could not put a name on his sickness or find any cure for him.
   But at last Fergne, the physician of Conn, was brought to him and as soon as he looked at him he knew it was not on his body the sickness was, but on his mind. And he sent every one away out of the room, and he said: "I think it is for the love of some woman that you are wasting away like this." "That is true, indeed," said Angus; "and it is my sickness has betrayed me." And then he told him how the woman with the most beautiful appearance of any woman in Ireland, used to come and to be playing the harp to him through the night, and how she had vanished away.
   Then Fergne went and spoke with Boann, Angus's mother, and he told her all that happened, and he bade her to send and search all through Ireland if she could find a young girl of the same appearance as the one Angus had seen in his sleep. And then he left him in his mother's care, and she had all Ireland searched for a year, but no young girl of that appearance could be found.
   At the end of the year, Boann sent for Fergne to come again, and she said: "We have not got any help from our search up to this." And Fergne said: "Send for the Dagda, that he may come and speak to his son." So they sent for the Dagda, and when he came, he said: "What have I been called for?" "To give an advice to your son," said Fergne, "and to help him, for he is lying sick on account of a young girl that appeared to him in his sleep, and that cannot be found; and it would be a pity for him to die." "What use will it be, I to speak to him?" said the Dagda, "for my knowledge is no higher than your own." "By my word," said Fergne, "you are the king of all the Sidhe of Ireland, and what you have to do is to go to Bodb, the king of the Sidhe of Munster, for he has a name for knowledge all through Ireland" So messengers were sent to Bodb, at his house in Sidhe Femain, and he bade them welcome. "A welcome before you, messenger of the Dagda," he said, "and what is the message you have brought?" "This is the message," they said, "Angus Og, son of the Dagda, is wasting away these two years with love of a woman he saw in his dreams, and we have not been able to find her in any place. And this is an order to you," they said, "from the Dagda, to search out through Ireland a young girl of the same form and appearance as the one he saw." "The search will be made," said Bodb, "if it lasts me a year."
   And at the end of a year he sent messengers to the Dagda. "Is it a good message you have brought?" said the Dagda. "It is, indeed," they said; "and this is the message Bodb bade us give you, 'I have searched all Ireland until I found the young girl with the same form and appearance that you said, at Loch Beul Draguin, at the Harp of Cliach.' And now," they said, "he bids Angus to come with us, till he sees if it is the same woman that appeared to him in his dream."
   So Angus set out in his chariot to Sidhe Femain, and Bodb bade him welcome, and made a great feast for him, that lasted three days and three nights. And at the end of that time he said: "Come out now with me, and see if this is the same woman that came to you."
   So they set out together till they came to the sea, and there they saw three times fifty young girls, and the one they were looking for among them; and she was far beyond them all. And there was a silver chain between every two of them, but about her own neck there was a necklace of shining gold. And Bodb said, "Do you see that woman you were looking for?" "I see her, indeed," said Angus. 'But tell me who is she, and what her name is." "Her name is Caer Omaith, daughter of Ethal Anbual, from Sidhe Uaman, in the province of Connaught. But you cannot bring her away with you this time," said Bodb.
   Then Angus went to visit his father, the Dagda, and his mother, Boann, at Brugh na Boinne; and Bodb went with him, and they told how they had seen the girl, and they had heard her own name, and her father's name. "What had we best do now?" said the Dagda. I "The best thing for you to do," said Bodb, "is to go to Ailell and Maeve, for it is in their district she lives, and you had best ask their help."
   So the Dagda set out until he came into the province of Connaught, and sixty chariots with him; and Ailell and Maeve made a great feast for him. And after they had been feasting and drinking for the length of a week, Ailell asked the reason of their journey. And the Dagda said: "It is by reason of a young girl in your district, for my son has sickness upon him on account of her, and I am come to ask if you will give her to him." "Who is she?" said Ailell. "She is Caer Ormaith, daughter of Ethal Anbual." "We have no power over her that we could give her to him," said Ailell and Maeve. "The best thing for you to do," said the Dagda, "would be to call her father here to you."
   So Ailell sent his steward to Ethal Anbual, and he said: "I am come to bid you to go and speak with Ailell and with Maeve." "I will not go," he said; "I will not give my daughter to the son of the Dagda." So the steward went back and told this to Ailell. "He will not come," he said, "and he knows the reason you want him for."
   Then there was anger on Ailell and on the Dagda, and they went out, and their armed men with them, and they destroyed the whole place of Ethal Anbual, and he was brought before them. And Ailell said to him: "Give your daughter now to the son of the Dagda." "That is what I cannot do," he said, "for there is a power over her that is greater than mine." "What power is that?" said Ailell. "It is an enchantment," he said, "that is on her, she to be in the shape of a bird for one year, and in her own shape the next year." "Which shape is on her at this time?" said Ailell. "I would not like to say that," said her father. "Your head from you if you will not tell it," said Ailell.
   "Well," said he, "I will tell you this much; she will be in the shape of a swan next month at Loch Beul Draguin, and three fifties of beautiful birds will be along with her, and if you will go there, you will see her."
   So then Ethal was set free, and he made friends again with Ailell and Maeve; and the Dagda went home and told Angus all that had happened, and he said: "Go next summer to Loch Beul Draguin, and call her to you there."
   So when the time came, Angus Og went to the loch, and he saw the three times fifty white birds there, with their silver chains about their necks. And Angus stood in a man's shape at the edge of the loch, and he called to the girl: "Come and speak with me, O Caer!" "Who is calling me?" said Caer. "Angus calls you," he said "and if you come, I swear by my word, I will not hinder you from going into the loch again." "I will come," she said. So she came to him, and he laid his two hands on her, and then, to hold to his word, he took the shape of a swan on himself, and they went into the loch together, and they went around it three times. And then they spread their wings and rose up from the loch, and went in that shape till they were at Brugh na Boinne. And as they were going, the music they made was so sweet that all the people that heard it fell asleep for three days and three nights.
   And Caer stopped there with him ever afterwards, and from that time there was friendship between Angus Og and Ailell and Maeve. And it was on account of that friendship, Angus gave them his help at the time of the war for the Brown Bull of Cuailgne.


Cuchulain by John Duncan
Cuchulain by John Duncan