Cuchulain of Muirthemne
VII. Fate of the Sons of Usnach
Now it was one Fedlimid, son of Doll, was harper to King
Conchubar, and he had but one child, and this is the story of her birth.
Cathbad, the Druid, was at Fedlimid's house one day. "Have you got knowledge
of the future?" said Fedlimid. "I have a little," said Cathbad. 'What is it you
are wanting to know?" "I was not asking to know anything," said Fedlimid, "but
if you know of anything that may be going to happen to me, it is as well for you
to tell me."
Cathbad went out of the house for a while, and when he came back he said:
"Had you ever any children?" "I never had," said Fedlimid, "and the
wife I have had none, and we have no hope ever to have any; there is no one with us but only
myself and my wife." "That puts wonder on me," said Cathbad, "for I see by
Druid signs that it is on account of a daughter belonging to you, that more blood will
be shed than ever was shed in Ireland since time and race began. And great
heroes and bright candles of the Gad will lose their lives because of her." "Is
that the foretelling you have made for me?" said Fedlimid, and there was anger
on him, for he thought the Druid was mocking him; "if that is all you can say,
you can keep it for yourself; it is little I think of your share of knowledge."
"For all that," said Cathbad, "I am certain of its truth, for I can see it all
clearly in my own mind."
The Druid went away, but he was not long gone when Fedlimid's wife was found
to be with child. And as her time went on, his vexation went on growing, that he
had not asked more questions of Cathbad, at the time he was talking to him, and
he was under a smouldering care by day and by night, for it is what he was
thinking, that neither his own sense and understanding, or the share of friends
he had, would be able to save him, or to make a back against the world, if this
misfortune should come upon him, that would bring such great shedding of blood
upon the earth; and it is the thought that came, that if this child should be
born, what he had to do was to put her far away, where no eye would see her, and
no ear hear word of her.
The time of the delivery of Fedlimid's wife came on, and it was a girl-child
she gave birth to. Fedlimid did not allow any living person to come to the house
or to see his wife, but himself alone.
But just after the child was born, Cathbad, the Druid, came in again, and
there was shame on Fedlimid when he saw him, and when he remembered how be would
not believe his words. But the Druid looked at the child and he said: "Let
Deirdre be her name; harm will come through her.
"She will be fair, comely, bright-haired; heroes will fight for her, and
kings go seeking for her."
And then he took the child in his arms, and it is what he said: "O Deirdre,
on whose account many shall weep, on whose account many women shall be envious,
there will be trouble on Ulster for your sake, O fair daughter of Fedlimid.
"Many will be jealous of your face, O flame of beauty; for your sake heroes
shall go to exile. For your sake deeds of anger shall be done in Emain; there is
harm in your face, for it will bring banishment and death on the sons of kings.
"In your fate, O beautiful child, are wounds, and ill-doings, and shedding of
"You will have a little grave apart to yourself; you will be a tale of wonder
for ever, Deirdre."
Cathbad went away then, and he sent Levarcham, daughter of Aedh, to the
house; and Fedlimid asked her would she take the venture of bringing up the
child, far away where no eye would see her, and no ear hear of her. Levarcham
said she would do that, and that she would do her best to keep her the way he
So Fedlimid got his men, and brought them away with him to a mountain, wide
and waste, and there he bade them to make a little house, by the side of a round
green hillock, and to make a garden of apple-trees behind it, with a wall about
it. And he bade them put a roof of green sods over the house, the way a little
company might live in it, without notice being taken of them.
Then he sent Levarcham and the child there, that no eye might see, and no ear
hear of Deirdre. He put all in good order before them, and he gave them
provisions, and he told Levarcham that food and all she wanted would be sent
from year to year as long as she lived.
And so Deirdre and her foster-mother lived in the lonely place among the
hills without the knowledge or the notice of any strange person, until Deirdre
was fourteen years of age. And Deirdre grew straight and clean like a rush on
the bog, and she was comely beyond comparison of all the women of the world, and
her movements Were like the swan on the wave, or the deer on the bill. She was
the young girl of the greatest beauty and of the gentlest nature of all the
women of Ireland.
Levarcham, that had charge of her, used to be giving Deirdre every knowledge
and skill that she had herself. There was not a blade of grass growing from
root, or a bird singing in the wood, or a star shining from heaven, but Deirdre
had the name of it. But there was one thing she would not have her know, she
would not let her have friendship with any living person of the rest of the
world outside their own house.
But one dark night of winter, with black clouds overhead, a hunter came
walking the hills, and it is what happened, he missed the track of the hunt, and
lost his way and his comrades.
And a heaviness came upon him, and he lay down on the side of the green
hillock by Deirdre's house. He was weak with hunger and going, and perished with
cold, and a deep sleep came upon him. While he was lying there a dream came to
the hunter, and he thought that he was near the warmth of a house of the Sidhe,
and the Sidhe inside making music, and he called out in his dream, "If there is
any one inside, let them bring me in, in the name of the Sun and the Moon."
Deirdre heard the voice, and she said to Levarchain, "Mother, mother, what is
that?" But Levarcham said, "It is nothing that matters; it is the birds of the
air gone astray, and trying to find one another. But let them go back to the
branches of the wood." Another troubled dream came on the hunter, and he cried
out a second time. "What is that?" asked Deirdre again. "It is nothing that
matters," said Levarcham. "The birds of the air are looking for one another; let
them go past to the branches of the wood." Then a third dream came to the
hunter, and he cried out a third time, if there was any one in the hill to let
him in for the sake of the Elements, for he was perished with cold and overcome
with hunger. "Oh! what is that, Levarcham?" said Deirdre. "There is nothing
there for you to see, my child, but only the birds of the air, and they lost to
one another, but let them go past us to the branches of the wood. There is no
place or shelter for them here to-night." "Oh, mother," said Deirdre, "the
bird asked to come in for the sake of the Sun and the Moon, and it is what you
yourself told me, that anything that is asked like that, it is right for us to
give it. If you will not let in the bird that is perished with cold and overcome
with hunger, I myself will let it in." So Deirdre rose up and drew the bolt from
the leaf of the door, and let in the hunter. She put a seat in the place for
sitting, food in the place for eating, and drink in the place for drinking, for
the man who had come into the house. "Come now and eat food, for you are in want
of it." said Deirdre. "Indeed it is I was in want of food and drink and warmth
when I came into this house; but by my word, I have forgotten that since I saw
yourself," said the hunter. "How little you are able to curb your tongue," said
Levarcham. "It is not a great thing for you to keep your tongue quiet when you
get the shelter of a house and the warmth of a hearth on a dark winter night."
"That is so," said the hunter, "I may do that much, to keep my mouth shut; but I
swear by the oath my people swear by, if some others of the people of the world
saw this great beauty that is hidden away here, they would not leave her long
with you." "What people are those?" said Deirdre. "I will tell you that,"
said the hunter; "they are Naoise, son of Usnach, and Ainnle and Ardan, his two
brothers." "What is the appearance of these men, if we should ever see them?"
said Deirdre. "This is the appearance that is on those three men," said the
hunter: "the colour of the raven is on their hair, their skin is like the swan
on the wave, their cheeks like the blood of the speckled red calf, and their
swiftness and their leap are like the salmon of the stream and like the deer of
the grey mountain; and the head and shoulders of Naoise are above all the other
men of Ireland." "However they may be," said Levarcham, "get you out from
here, and take another road; and by my word, little is my thankfulness to yourself, or
to her that let you in." "You need not send him out for telling me that," said
Deirdre, "for as to those three men, I myself saw them last night in a dream,
and they hunting upon a hill."
The hunter went away, but in a little time after he began to think to himself
how Conchubar, High King of Ulster, was used to lie down at night and to rise up
in the morning by himself, without a wife -or any one to speak to; and that if
he could see this great beauty it was likely he would bring her home to Emain,
and that he himself would get the good-will of the king for telling him there
was such a queen to be found on the face of the world.
So he went straight to King Conchubar at Emain Macha, and he sent word into
the king that he had news for him, if he would hear it. The king sent for him to
come in. "What is the reason of your Journey?" he said. "It is what I have to
tell you, King," said the hunter, "that I have seen the greatest beauty that
ever was born in Ireland, and I am come to tell you of it."
"Who is this great beauty, and in what place is she to be seen, when she was
never seen before you saw her, if you did see her?" "I did see her, indeed,"
said the hunter, "but no other man can see her, unless he knows from me the
place where she is living." "Will you bring me to the place where she is, and
you will have a good reward?" said the king. "I will bring you there," said the
hunter. Let you stay with my household to-night," said Conchubar, "and I myself
and my people will go with you early on the morning of to-morrow." "I will
stay," said the hunter, and he stayed that night in the household of King
Then Conchubar sent to Fergus and to the other chief men of Ulster, and he
told them of what he was about to do. Though it was early when the songs
and the music of the birds began in the woods, it was earlier yet when
Conchubar, king of Ulster, rose with his little company of near friends, in the
fresh spring morning of the fresh and pleasant month of May, and the dew was
heavy on every bush and flower as they went out towards the green hill where
Deirdre was living.
But many a young man of them that had a light glad, leaping step when they
set out, had but a tired, slow, failing step before the end, because of the
length and the roughness of the way. "It is down there below," said the hunter,
"in the house in that valley, the woman is living, but I myself will not go
nearer it than this."
Conchubar and his troop went down then to the green hillock, where Deirdre
was, and they knocked at the door of the house. Levarcham called out that
neither answer nor opening would be given to any one at all, and that she did
not want disturbance put on herself or her house. "Open," said Conchubar, "in
the name of the High King of Ulster." When Levarcham heard Conchubar's voice,
she knew there was no use trying to keep Deirdre out of sight any longer, and
she rose up in haste and let in the king, and as many of his people as could
When the king saw Deirdre before him, he thought in himself that he never saw
in the course of the day, or in the dreams of the night, a creature so beautiful
and he gave her his full heart's weight of love there and then. It is what he
did; he put Deirdre up on the. shoulders of his men, and she herself and
Levarcham were brought away to Emain Macha.
With the love that Conchubar had for Deirdre, he wanted to marry her with no
delay, but when her leave was asked, she would not give it, for she was young
yet, and she had no knowledge of the duties of a wife, or the ways of a king's
house. And when Conchubar was pressing her hard, she asked him to give her a
delay of a year and a day. He said he would give her that, though it was hard
for him, if she would give him her certain promise to marry him at the year's
end. She did that, and Conchubar got a woman teacher for her, and nice, fine,
pleasant, modest maidens to be with her at her lying down and at her rising up,
to be companions to her. And Deirdre grew wise in the works of a young girl, and
in the understanding of a woman; and if any one at all looked at her face,
whatever colour she was before that, she would blush crimson red.
And it is what Conchubar thought, that he never saw with the eyes of his body
a creature that pleased him so well.
One day Deirdre and her companions were out on a hill near Emain Macha,
looking around them in the pleasant sunshine, and they saw three men walking
together. Deirdre was looking at the men and wondering at them, and when they
came near, she remembered the talk of the hunter, and the three men she saw in
her dream, and she thought to herself that these were the three sons of Usnach,
and that this was Naoise, that had his head and shoulders above all the men of
Ireland. The three brothers went by without turning their eyes at all upon the
young girls on the hillside, and they were singing as they went, and whoever
heard the low singing of the sons of Usnach, it was enchantment and music to
them, and every cow that was being milked and heard it, gave two-thirds more of
milk. And it is what happened, that love for Naoise came into the heart of
Deirdre, so that she could not but follow him. She gathered up her skirt and
went after the three men that had gone past the foot of the hill, leaving her
companions there after her.
But Ainnle and Ardan had heard talk of the young girl that was at Conchubar's
Court, and it is what they thought, that if Naoise their brother would see her,
it is for himself he would have her, for she was not yet married to the king. So
when they saw Deidre coming after them, they said to one another to hasten their
steps, for they had a long road to travel, and the dusk of night coming on.
They did so, and Deirdre saw it, and she cried out after them, "Naoise, son
of Usnach, are you going to leave me?" "What cry was that came to my ears, that
it is not well for me to answer, and not easy for me to refuse?" said Naoise.
"It was nothing but the cry of Conchubar's wild ducks," said his brothers; "but
let us quicken our steps and hasten our feet, for we have a long road to travel,
and the dusk of the evening coming on." They did so, and they were widening the
distance between themselves and her. Then Deirdre cried, "Naoise! Naoise! son of
Usnach, are you going to leave me?" "What cry was it that came to my ears and
struck my heart, that it is not well for me to answer, or easy for me to
refuse?" said Naoise. "Nothing but the cry of Conchubar's wild geese," said his
brothers; "but let us quicken our steps and hasten our feet, the darkness of
night is coming on." They did so, and were widening the distance between
themselves and her. Then Deirdre cried the third time, "Naoise! Naoise! Naoise!
son of Usnach, are you going to leave me?" "What sharp, clear cry was that, the
sweetest that ever came to my ears, and the sharpest that ever struck my heart,
of all the cries I ever heard," said Naoise. "What is it but the scream of
Conchubar's lake swans," said his brothers. "That was the third cry of some
person beyond there," said Naoise, "and I swear by my hand of valour," he said,
"I will go no further until I see where the cry comes from." So Naoise turned
back and met Deirdre, and Deirdre and Naoise kissed one another three times, and
she gave a kiss to each of his brothers. And with the confusion that was on her,
a blaze of red fire came upon her, and her colour came and went as quickly as
the aspen by the stream. And it is what Naoise thought to himself, that he never
saw a woman so beautiful in his life; and he gave Deirdre, there and then, the
love that he never gave to living thing, to vision, or to creature, but to
Then he lifted her high on his shoulder, and he said to his brothers to
hasten their steps; and they hastened them.
"Harm will come of this," said the young men. "Although there
should harm come," said Naoise, "I am willing to be in disgrace while I live. We
will go with her to another province, and there is not in Ireland a king who will not
give us a welcome." So they called their people, and that night they set out
with three times fifty men, and three times fifty women, and three times fifty
grey-hounds, and Deirdre in their midst.
They were a long time after that shifting from one place to another all
around Ireland, from Essruadh in the south, to Beinn Etair in the east again,
and it is often they were in danger of being destroyed by Conchubar's devices.
And one time the Druids raised a wood before them, but Naoise and his brothers
cut their way through it. But at last they got out of Ulster and sailed to the
country of Alban, and settled in a lonely place; and when hunting on the
mountains failed them, they fell upon the cattle of the men of Alban, so that
these gathered together to make an end of them. But the sons of Usnach called to
the king of Scotland, and he took them into his friendship, and they gave him
their help when he went out into battles or to war.
But all this time they had never spoken to the king of Deirdre, and they kept
her with themselves, not to let any one see her, for they were afraid they might
get their death on account of her, she being so beautiful.
But it chanced very early one morning, the king's steward came to visit them,
and he found his way into the house where Naoise and Deirdre were, and there he
saw them asleep beside one another. He went back then to the king, and he said:
"Up to this time there has never been found a woman that would be a fitting wife
for you; but there is a woman on the shore of Loch Ness now, is well worthy of
you, king of the East. And what you have to do is to make an end of Naoise, for
it is of his wife I am speaking." "I will not do that," said the king;
"but go to her," he said, "and bid her to come and see me secretly."
The steward brought her that message, but Deirdre sent him away, and all that he had said
to her, she told it to Naoise afterwards. Then when she would not come to him, the king
sent the sons of Usnach into every hard fight, hoping they would get their
death, but they won every battle, and came back safe again. And after a while
they went to Loch Eitche, near the sea, and they were left to themselves there
for a while in peace and quietness. And they settled and made a dwelling house
for themselves by the side of Loch Ness, and they could kill the salmon of the
stream from out their own door, and the deer of the grey hills from out their
window. But when Naoise went to the court of the king, his clothes were splendid
among the great men of the army of Scotland, a cloak of bright purple, rightly
shaped, with a fringe of bright gold; a coat of satin with fifty hooks of
silver; a brooch on which were a hundred polished gems; a gold-hilted sword in
his hand, two blue-green spears of bright points, a dagger with the colour of
yellow gold on it, and a hilt of silver. But the two children they had, Gaiar
and Aebgreine, they gave into the care of Manannan, Son of the Sea. And he cared
them well in Emhain of the Apple Trees, and he brought Bobaras the poet to give
learning to Gaiar. And Aebgreine of the Sunny Face he gave in marriage
afterwards to Rinn, son of Eochaidh Juil of the Land of Promise.
Now it happened after a time that a very great feast was made by Conchubar,
in Emain Macha, for all the great among his nobles, so that the whole company
were easy and pleasant together. The musicians stood up to play their songs and
to give poems, and they gave out the branches of relationship and of kindred.
These are the names of the poets that were in Emain at the time, Cathbad, the
Druid, son of Conall, son of Rudraige; Geanann of the Bright Face, son of
Cathbad; Ferceirtne, and Geanann Black-Knee, and many others, and Sencha, son of
They were all drinking and making merry until Conchubar, the king, raised his
voice and spoke aloud, and it is what he said: "I desire to know from you, did
you ever see a better house than this house of Emain, or a hearth better than my
hearth in any place you were ever in?" "We did not," they said. "If that
is so," said Conchubar, "do you know of anything at all that is wanting to
you?" We know of nothing," said they. "That is not so with me," said
Conchubar. "I know of a great want that is on you, the want of the three best candles
of the Gael, the three noble sons of Usnach, that ought not to be away from us for the
sake of any woman in the world, Naoise, Ainnle, and Ardan; for surely they are the sons
of a king, and they would defend the High Kingship against the best men of
Ireland." "If we had dared," said they, "it is long ago we would have
said it, and more than that, the province of Ulster would be equal to any other province
in Ireland, if there was no Ulsterman in it but those three alone, for it is
lions they are in hardness and in bravery." "If that is so," said Conchubar,
"let us send word by a messenger to Alban, and to the dwelling-place of the sons
of Usnach, to ask them back again." "Who will go there with the message?" said
they all. "I cannot know that," said Conchubar, "for there is geasa, that
is bonds, on Naoise not to come back with any man only one of the three, Conall
Cearnach, or Fergus, or Cuchulain, and I will know now," said he, "which one of
those three loves me best." Then he called Conall to one side, and he asked him,
"What would you do with me if I should send you for the sons of Usnach, and if
they were destroyed through me--a thing I do not mean to do?" "As I am not going
to undertake it," said Conall, "I will say that it is not one alone I would
kill, but any Ulsterman I would lay hold of that had harmed them would get
shortening of life from me and the sorrow of death." "I see well," said
Conchubar, "you are no friend of mine," and he put Conall away from him. Then he
called Cuchulain to him, and asked him the same as he did the other. "I give my
word, as I am not going," said Cuchulain, "if you want that of me, and that you
think to kill them when they come, it is not one person alone that would die for
it, but every Ulsterman I could lay hold of would get shortening of life from me
and the sorrow of death." "I see well," said Conchubar, "that you are
no friend of mine." And he put Cuchulain from him. And then he called Fergus to him,
and asked him the same question, and Fergus said, "Whatever may happen, I promise
your blood will be safe from me, but besides yourself there is no Ulsterman that
would try to harm them, and that I would lay hold of, but I would give him
shortening of life and the sorrow of death." "I see well," said Conchubar,
"it is yourself must go for them, and it is to-morrow you must set out, for it is
with you they will come, and when you are coming back to us westward, I put you
under bonds to go first to the fort of Borach, son of Cainte, and give me your
word now that as soon as you get there, you will send on the sons of Usnach to
Emain, whether it be day or night at the time." After that the two of them went
in together, and Fergus told all the company how it was under his charge they
were to be put.
Then Conchubar went to Borach and asked had he a feast ready prepared for
him. "I have," said Borach, "but although I was able to make it ready, I was not
able to bring it to Emain." "If that is so" said Conchubar, "give it to Fergus
when he comes back to Ireland, for it is geasa on him not to refuse your
feast." Borach promised he would do that, and so they wore away that night.
So Fergus set out in the morning, and he brought no guard nor helpers with
him, but himself and his two sons, Fair-Haired Iollan, and Rough-Red Buinne, and
Cuillean, the shield-bearer, and the shield itself. They went on till they got
to the dwelling-place of the Sons of Usnach, and to Loch Eitche in Alba. It is
how the sons of Usnach lived; they had three houses, and the house where they
made ready the food, it is not there they would eat it, and the house where they
would eat it, it is not there they would sleep.
When Fergus came to the harbour he let a great shout out of him. And it is
how Naoise and Deirdre were, they had a chessboard between them, and they
playing on it. Naoise heard the shout, and he said, "That is the shout of a man
of Ireland." "It is not, but the cry of a man of Alban," said Deirdre. She knew
at the first it was Fergus gave the shout, but she denied it. Then Fergus let
another shout out of him. "That is an Irish shout," said Naoise again. "It is
not, indeed," said Deirdre, "let us go on playing." Then Fergus gave the third
shout, and the sons of Usnach knew this time it was the shout of Fergus, and
Naoise said to Ardan to go out and meet him. Then Deirdre told him that she
herself knew at the first shout that it was Fergus. "Why did you deny it, then,
Queen?" said Naoise. "Because of a vision I saw last night," said Deirdre.
"Three birds I saw coming to us from Emain Macha, and three drops of honey in
their mouths, and they left them with us, and three drops of our blood they
brought away with them." "What meaning do you put on that, Queen?" said Naoise.
"It is," said Deirdre. "Fergus that is coming to us with a message of peace from
Conchubar, for honey is not sweeter than a message of peace sent by a lying
man." "Let that pass," said Naoise. "Is there anything in it but troubled sleep
and the melancholy of woman? And it is a long time Fergus is in the harbour.
Rise up, Ardan, to be before him, and bring him with you here." And Ardan went
down to meet him, and gave a fond kiss to himself and to his two sons. And it is
what he said: "My love to you, dear comrades." After that he asked news of
Ireland, and they gave it to him, and then they came to where Naoise and Ainnie
and Deirdre were, and they kissed Fergus and his two sons, and they asked news
of Ireland from them. "It is the best news I have for you," said Fergus, "that
Conchubar, king of Ulster, has sworn by the earth beneath him, by the high
heaven above him, and by the sun that travels to the West, that he will have no
rest by day nor sleep by night, if the sons of Usnach, his own foster-brothers,
will not come back to the land of their home and the country of their birth; and
he has sent us to ask you there." "It is better for them to stop here," said
Deirdre, "for they have a greater sway in Scotland than Conchubar himself has in
Ireland." "One's own country is better than any other thing," said Fergus, "for
no man can have any pleasure, however great his good luck and his way of living,
if he does not see his own country every day." "That is true," said Naoise, "for
Ireland is dearer to myself than Alban, though I would get more in Alban than in
Ireland." "It will be safe for you to come with me," said Fergus. "It will be
safe indeed," said Naoise, "and we will go with you to Ireland; and though there
were no trouble beneath the sun, but a man to be far from his own land, there is
little delight in peace and a long sleep to a man that is an exile. It is a pity
for the man that is an exile; it is little his honour, it is great his grief,
for it is he will have his share of wandering."
It was not with Deirdre's will Naoise said that, and she was greatly against
going with Fergus. And she said: "I had a dream last night of the three sons of
Usnach, and they bound and put in the grave by Conchubar of the Red Branch." But
Naoise said: "Lay down your dream, Deirdre, on the heights of the hills, lay
down your dream on the sailors of the sea, lay down your dream on the rough grey
stones, for we will give peace and we will get it from the king of the world and
from Conchubar." But Deirdre spoke again, and it is what she said: "There is the
howling of dogs in my ears; a vision of the night is before my eyes, I see
Fergus away from us, I see Conchubar without mercy in his dun; I see Naoise
without strength in battle; I see Ainnle without his loud-sounding shield; I see
Ardan without shield or breastplate, and the Hill of Atha without delight; I see
Conchubar asking for blood; I see Fergus caught with hidden lies; I see Deirdre
crying with tears, I see Deirdre crying with tears."
"A thing that is unpleasing to me, and that I would never give in
to," said Fergus, "is to listen to the howling of dogs, and to the dreams of
women; and since Conchubar, the High King, has sent a message of friendship, it would not
be right for you to refuse it." "It would not be right indeed," said Naoise,
"and we will go with you to-morrow." And Fergus gave his word, and he said, "If
all the men of Ireland were against you, it would not profit them, for neither
shield nor sword or a helmet itself would be any help or protection to them
against you, and I myself to be with you." "That is true," said Naoise,
"and we will go with you to Ireland."
They spent the night there until morning, and then they went where the ships
were, and they went on the sea, and a good many of their people with them, and
Deirdre looked back on the land of Alban, and it is what she said: "My love to
you, O land to the east, and it goes ill with me to leave you; for it is
pleasant are your bays and your harbours and your wide flowery plains and your
green-sided hills; and little need was there for us to leave you." And she made
this complaint: "Dear to me is that land, that land to the east, Alban, with its
wonders; I would not have come from it hither but that I came with Naoise.
"Dear to me, Dun Fiodhaigh and Dun Fionn; dear is the dun above them;
dear to me mis Droignach, dear to me Dun Suibhne.
"O Coil Cuan! Ochone! Coil Cuan! where Ainnle used to come. My grief! it was
short I thought his stay there with Naoise in Western Alban. Glen Laoi, O Glen
Laoi, where I used to sleep under soft coverings; fish and venison and badger's
flesh, that was my portion in Glen Laoi.
"Glen Masan, my grief! Glen Masan! high its hart's-tongue, bright its stalks;
we were rocked to pleasant sleep over the wooded harbour of Masan.
"Glen Archan, my grief! Glen Archan, the straight valley of the pleasant
ridge; never was there a young man more light-hearted than my Naoise used to be
in Glen Archan.
"Glen Eitche, my grief! Glen Eitche, it was there I built my first house;
beautiful were the woods on our rising; the home of the sun is Glen Eitche.
"Glen-da-Rua, my grief! Glen-da-Rua, my love to every man that belongs to it;
sweet is the voice of the cuckoo on the bending branch on the hill above
"Dear to me is Droighin over the fierce strand, dear are its waters over the
clean sand; I would never have come out from it at all but that I came with my
After she had made that complaint they came to Dun Borach, and Borach gave
three fond kisses to Fergus and to the sons of Usnach along with him. It was
then Borach said he had a feast laid out for Fergus, and that it was geasa
for him to leave it until he would have eaten it. But Fergus reddened with
anger from head to foot, and it is what he said: "It is a bad thing you have
done, Borach, laying out a feast for me, and Conchubar to have made me give my
word that as soon as I would come to Ireland, whether it would be by day or in
the night-time, I would send on the sons of Usnach to Emain Macha." "I hold you
under bonds," said Borach, "to stop and use the feast."
Then Fergus asked Naoise what should he do about the feast. "You must
choose," said Deirdre, "whether you will forsake the children of Usnach or the
feast, and it would be better for you to refuse the feast than to forsake the
sons of Usnach." "I will not forsake them," said he, "for I will send my two
sons, Fair-Haired Iollan and Rough-Red Buinne, with them to Emain Macha." "On my
word," said Naoise, "that is a great deal to do for us; for up to this no other
person ever protected us but ourselves." And he went out of the place in great
anger; and Ainnle, and Ardan, and Deirdre, and the two sons of Fergus followed
him, and they left Fergus dark and sorrowful after them. But for all that,
Fergus was full sure that if all the provinces of Ireland would go into one
council, they would not consent to break the pledge he had given.
As for the sons of Usnach, they went on their way by every short road, and
Deirdre said to them, "I will give you a good advice, Sons of Usnach, though you
may not follow it." "What is that advice, Queen?" said Naoise. "It is,"
said she, "to go to Rechrainn, between Ireland and Scotland, and to wait there until
Fergus has done with the feast; and that will be the keeping of his word to
Fergus, and it will be the lengthening of your lives to you." "We will not
follow that advice," said Naoise; and the children of Fergus said it was little
trust she had in them, when she thought they would not protect her, though their
hands might not be so strong as the hands of the sons of Usnach; and besides
that, Fergus had given them his word. "Alas! it is sorrow came on us with the
word of Fergus," said Deirdre, "and he to forsake us for a feast," and she made
this complaint: "It is grief to me that ever I came from the east on the word of
the unthinking son of Rogh. It is only lamentations I will make. Och! it is very
sorrowful my heart is!
"My heart is heaped up with sorrow; it is to-night my great hurt is. My
grief! my dear companions, the end of your days is come."
And it is what Naoise answered her: "Do not say that in your haste, Deirdre,
more beautiful than the sun. Fergus would never have come for us eastward to
bring us back to be destroyed."
And Deirdre said, "My grief! I think it too far for you, beautiful sons of
Usnach, to have come from Alban of the rough grass; it is lasting will be its
After that they went forward to Finncairn of the watch-tower on sharp-peaked
Slieve Fuad, and Deirdre stayed after them in the valley, and sleep fell on her there.
When Naoise saw that Deirdre was left after them, he turned back as she was
rising out of her sleep, and he said, "What made you wait after us, Queen?"
"Sleep that was on me," said Deirdre; "and I saw a vision in it." "What
vision was that?" said Naoise. "It was," she said, "Fair-Haired
Iollan that I saw without his head on him, and Rough-Red Buinne with his head on him; and
it is without help of Rough-Red Buinne you were, and it is with the help of
Fair-Haired Iollan you were." And she made this complaint:
"It is a sad vision has been shown to me, of my four tall, fair, bright
companions; the head of each has been taken from him, and no help to be had one
But when Naoise heard this he reproached her, and said, "O fair, beautiful
woman, nothing does your mouth speak but evil. Do not let the sharpness and the
great misfortune that come from it fall on your friends." And Deirdre answered
him with kind, gentle words, and it is what she said: "It would be better to me
to see harm come on any other person than upon any one of you three, with whom I
have travelled over the seas and over the wide plains; but when I look on you,
it is only Buinne I can see safe and whole, and I know by that his life will be
longest among you; and indeed it is I that am sorrowful to-night."
After that they came forward to the high willows, and it was then Deirdre
said, "I see a cloud in the air, and it is a cloud of blood; and I would give
you a good advice, sons of Usnach," she said. "What is that advice?" said
Naoise. "To go to Dundealgan where Cuchulain is, until Fergus has done with the
feast, and to be under the protection of Cuchulain, for fear of the treachery of
Conchubar." "Since there is no fear on us, we will not follow that advice," said
Naoise. And Deirdre complained, and it is what she said: "O Naoise, look at the
cloud I see above us in the air; I see a cloud over green Macha, cold and deep
red like blood. I am startled by the cloud that I see here in the air; a thin,
dreadful cloud that is like a clot of blood. I give a right advice to the
beautiful sons of Usnach not to go to Emain to-night, because of the danger that
is over them.
"We will go to Dundealgan, where the Hound of the Smith is; we will come
to-morrow from the south along with the Hound, Cuchulain."
But Naoise said in his anger to Deirdre. "Since there is no fear on us, we
will not follow your advice." And Deirdre turned to the grandsons of Rogh, and
it is what she said: "It is seldom until now, Naoise, that yourself and myself
were not of the one mind. And I say to you, Naoise, that you would not have gone
against me like this, the day Manannan gave me the cup in the time of his great
After that they went on to Emain Macha. "Sons of Usnach," said Deirdre,
"I have a sign by which you will know if Conchubar is going to do treachery on
you." "What sign is that?" said Naoise. If you are let come into the house
where Conchubar is, and the nobles of Ulster, then Conchubar is not going to do
treachery on you. But if it is in the House of the Red Branch you are put, then
he is going to do treachery on you."
After that they came to Emain Macha, and they took the hand-wood and struck
the door, and the doorkeeper asked who was there. They told him that it was the
sons of Usnach, and Deirdre, and the two sons of Fergus were there.
When Conchubar heard that, he called his stewards and serving men to him, and
he asked them how was the House of the Red Branch for food and for drink. They
said that if all the seven armies of Ulster would come there, they would find
what would satisfy them. "If that is so," said Conchubar, "bring the sons of
Usnach into it."
It was then Deirdre said, "It would have been better for you to follow my
advice, and never to have come to Emain, and it would be right for you to leave
it, even at this time." "We will not," said Fair-Haired Iollan, "for it
is not fear or cowardliness was ever seen on us, but we will go to the house." So they
went on to the House of the Red Branch, and the stewards and the serving-men
with them, and well-tasting food was served to them, and pleasant drinks, till
they were all glad and merry, except only Deirdre and the sons of Usnach; for
they did not use much food or drink, because of the length and the greatness of
their journey from Dun Borsch to Emain Macha. Then Naoise said, "Give the
chessboard to us till we go playing." So they gave them the chessboard and they
began to play.
It was just at that time Conchubar was asking, "Who will I send that will
bring me word of Deirdre, and that will tell me if she has the same appearance
and the same shape she had before, for if she has, there is not a woman in the
world has a more beautiful shape or appearance than she has, and I will bring
her out with edge of blade and point of sword in spite of the sons of Usnach,
good though they be. But if not, let Naoise have her for himself." "I myself
will go there," said Levarcham, "and I will bring you word of that." And it is
how it was, Deirdre was dearer to her than any other person in the world; for it
was often she went through the world looking for Deirdre and bringing news to
her and from her. So Levarcham went over to the House of the Red Branch, and
near it she saw a great troop of armed men, and she spoke to them, but they made
her no answer, and she knew by that it was none of the men of Ulster were in it,
but men from some strange country that Conchubar's messengers had brought to Emain.
And then she went in where Naoise and Deirdre were, and it is how she found
them, the polished chessboard between them, and they playing on it; and she gave
them fond kisses, and she said:
"You are not doing well to be playing; and it is to bring Conchubar word if
Deirdre has the same shape and appearance she used to have that he sent me here
now; and there is grief on me for the deed that will be done in Emain to-night,
treachery that will be done, and the killing of kindred, and the three bright
candles of the Gael to be quenched, and Emain will not be the better of it to
the end of life and time," and she made this complaint sadly and wearily:
"My heart is heavy for the treachery that is being done in Emain this night;
on account of this treachery, Emain will never be at peace from this out.
"The three that are most king-like to-day under the sun; the three best of
all that live on the earth, it is grief to me to-night they to die for the sake
of any woman. Naoise and Ainnle whose deeds are known, and Ardan, their brother;
treachery is to be done on the young, bright-faced three, it is not I that am
not sorrowful tonight."
When she had made this complaint, Levarcham said to the sons of Usnach and to
the children of Fergus to shut close the doors and the windows of the house and
to do bravery. "And oh, sons of Fergus," she said, "defend your charge and your
care bravely till Fergus comes, and you will have praise and a blessing for it."
And she cried with many tears, and she went back to where Conchubar was, and he
asked news of Deirdre of her. And Levercham said, "It is good news and bad news
I have for you." "What news is that?" said Conchubar. "It is the good
news," she said, "the three sons of Usnach to have come to you and to be over there,
and they are the three that are bravest and mightiest in form and in looks and in
countenance, of all in the world; and Ireland will be yours from this out, since
the sons of Usnach are with you; and the news that is worst with me is, the
woman that was best of the women of the world in form and in looks, going out of
Emain, is without the form and without the appearance she used to have."
When Conchubar heard that, much of his jealousy went backward, and he was
drinking and making merry for a while, until he thought on Deirdre again the
second time, and on that he asked, "Who will I get to bring me word of Deirdre?"
But he did not find any one would go there. And then he said to Gelban, the
merry, pleasant son of the king of Lochlann: "Go over and bring me word if
Deirdre has the same shape and the same appearance she used to have, for if she
has, there is not on the ridge of the world or on the waves of the earth, a
woman more beautiful than herself."
So Gelban went to the House of the Red Branch, and he found the doors and the
windows of the fort shut, and fear came on him. And it is what he said: "It is
not an easy road for any one that would get to the sons of Usnach, for I think
there is very great anger on them." And after that he found a window that was
left open by forgetfulness in the house, and he was looking in. Then Deirdre saw
him through the window, and when she saw him looking at her, she went into a red
blaze of blushes, and Naoise knew that some one was looking at her from the
window, and she told him that she saw a young man looking in at them. It is how
Naoise was at that time, with a man of the chessmen in his hand, and he made a
fair throw over his shoulder at the young man, that put the eye out of his head.
The young man went back to where Conchubar was. "You were merry and pleasant
going out," said Conchubar, "but you are sad and cheerless coming back." And
then Gelban told him the story from beginning to end. "I see well," said
Conchubar, "the man that made that throw will be king of the world, unless he
has his life shortened. And what appearance is there on Deirdre?" he said. "It
is this," said Gelban, "although Naoise put out my eye, I would have wished to
stay there looking at her with the other eye, but for the haste you put on me;
for there is not in the world a woman is better of shape or of form than
When Conchubar heard that, he was filled with jealousy and with envy, and he
bade the men of his army that were with him, and that had been drinking at the
feast, to go and attack the place where the sons of Usnach were. So they went
forward to the House of the Red Branch, and they gave three great shouts around
it, and they put fires and red flames to it. When the sons of Usnach heard the
shouts, they asked who those men were that were about the house. "Conchubar and
the men of Ulster," they all said together. "It is the pledge of Fergus you
would break?" said Fair-Haired Iollan. "On my word," said Conchubar,
"there will be sorrow on the sons of Usnach, Deirdre to be with them." "That
is true," said Deirdre, "Fergus had deceived you." "By my oath,"
said Rough-Red Buinne, "if he betrayed, we will not betray." It was then Buinne
went out and killed three-fifths of the fighting men outside, and put great disturbance on
the rest; and Conchubar asked who was there, and who was doing destruction on his men like
that. "It is I, myself, Rough-Red Buinne, son of Fergus," said he. "I will give
you a good gift if you will leave off," said Conchubar. "What gift is that?"
said Rough-Red Buinne. "A hundred of land," said Conchubar. "What besides?"
said Rough-Red Buinne. "My own friendship and my counsel," said Conchubar. "I
will take that," said Rough-Red Buinne. It was a good mountain that was given him as
a reward, but it turned barren in the same night, and no green grew on it again
for ever, and it used to be called the Mountain of the Share of Buinne.
Deirdre heard what they were saying. "By my word," she said,
"Rough-Red Buinne has forsaken you, and in my opinion, it is like the father the son
is." "I give my word," says Fair-Haired Iollan, "that is not so with me;
as long as this narrow, straight sword stays in my hand,! will not forsake the sons of
After that, Fair-Haired Iollan went out, and made three courses around the
house, and killed three-fifths of heroes outside, and he came in again where
Naoise was, and he playing chess, and Ainnle with him. So Iollan went out the
second time, and made three other courses round the fort, and he brought a
lighted torch with him on the lawn, and he went destroying the hosts, so that
they dared not come to attack the house. And he was a good son, Fair-Haired
Iollan, for he never refused any person on the ridge of the world anything that
he had, and he never took wages from any person but only Fergus.
It was then Conchubar said: "What place is my own son, Fiacra the
Fair?" "I am here, High Prince," said Fiacra. "By my word,"
said Conchubar, "it is on the one night yourself and Iollan were born, and as it
is the aims of his father he has with him, let you take my arms with you, that is, my
shield, the Ochain, my two spears, and my great sword, the Gorm Glas, the Blue Green--and
do bravery and great deeds with them."
Then Fiacra took Conchubar's arms, and he and Fair-Haired Iollan attacked one
another,' and they made a stout fight, one against the other. But however it
was, Fair-Haired Iollan put down Fiacra, so that he made him lie under the
shelter of his shield, till it roared for the greatness of the strait he was in;
for it was the way with the Ochain, the shield of Conchubar, to roar when the
person on whom it would be was in danger; and the three chief waves of Ireland,
the Wave of Tuagh, the Wave of Cliodna, and the Wave of Rudraige. roared in
answer to it.
It was at that time Conall Cearnach was at Dun Sobairce, and he heard the
Wave of Tuagh. "True it is," said Conall, "Conchubar is in some danger, and it
is not right for me to be here listening to him."
Conall rose up on that, and he put his arms and his armour on him, and came
forward to where Conchubar was at Emain Macha, and he found the fight going on
on the lawn, and Fiacra, the son of Conchubar, greatly pressed by Fair-Haired
Iollan, and neither the king of Ulster nor any other person dared to go between
But Conall went aside, behind Fair-Haired Iollan and thrust his sword through
him. "Who is it has wounded me behind my back?" said Fair-Haired Iollan.
"Whoever did it, by my hand of valour, he would have got a fair fight, face to
face, from myself." "Who are you yourself?" said Conall. "I am
Iollan, son of Fergus, and are you yourself Conall?" "It is I," said Conall.
"It is evil and it is heavy the work you have done," said Iollan, "and the
sons of Usnach under my protection." "Is that true?" said Conall. "It
is true, indeed," said Iollan. "By my hand of valour," said Conall,
"Conchubar will not get his own son alive from me to avenge it," and he gave a
stroke of the sword to Fiacra, so that he struck his head off, and he left them so. The
clouds of death came upon Fair-Haired Iollan then, and he threw his arms towards the fortress,
and called out to Naoise to do bravery, and after that he died.
It is then Conchubar himself came out and nineteen hundred men with him, and
Conall said to him: "Go up now to the doorway of the fort, and see where your
sister's children are lying on a bed of trouble." And when Conchubar saw them he
said: "You are not sister's children to me; it is not the deed of sister's
children you have done me, but you have done harm to me with treachery in the
sight of all the men of Ireland." And it is what Ainnle said to him: "Although
we took well-shaped, soft-handed Deirdre from you, yet we did a little kindness
to you at another time, and this is the time to remember it. That day your ship
was breaking up on the sea, and it full of gold and silver, we gave you up our
own ship, and ourselves went swimming to the harbour." But Conchubar said: "If
you did fifty good deeds to me, surely this would be my thanks; I would not give
you peace, and you in distress, but every great want I could put on you."
And then Ardan said: "We did another little kindness to you, and this is the
time to remember it; the day the speckled horse failed you on the green of
Dundealgan, it was we gave you the grey horse that would bring you fast on your
But Conchubar said: "If you had done fifty good deeds to me, surely this
would be my thanks; I would not give you peace, and you in distress, but every
great want I could put on you."
And then Naoise said: "We did you another good deed, and this is the time to
remember it; we have put you under many benefits; it is strong our right is to
"The time when Murcael, son of Brian, fought the seven battles at Beinn
Etair, we brought you, without fail, the heads of the sons of the king of the
But Conchubar said: "If you had done me fifty good deeds, surely this is my
thanks; I would not give you peace in your distress, but every great want I
could put upon you.
"Your death is not a death to me now, young sons of Usnach, since he that was
innocent fell by you, the third best of the horsemen of Ireland."
Then Deirdre said: "Rise up, Naoise, take your sword, good son of a king,
mind yourself well, for it is not long that life will be left in your fair
It is then all Conchubar's men came about the house, and they put fires and
burning to it. Ardan went out then, and his men, and put out the fires and
killed three hundred men. And Ainnle went out in the third part of the night,
and he killed three hundred, and did slaughter and destruction on them.
And Naoise went out in the last quarter of the night, and drove away all the
army from the house.
He came into the house after that, and it is then Deirdre rose up and said to
him: "By my word, it is well you won your way; and do bravery and valour from
this out, and it was bad advice you took when you ever trusted Conchubar."
As for the sons of Usnach, after that they made a good protection with their
shields, and they put Deirdre in the middle and linked the shields around her,
and they gave three leaps out over the walls of Emain, and they killed three
hundred men in that sally.
When Conchubar saw that, he went to Cathbad, the Druid, and said to him: "Go,
Cathbad, to the sons of Usnach, and work enchantment on them; for unless they
are hindered they will destroy the men of Ulster for ever if they go away in
spite of them; and I give the word of a true hero, they will get no harm from
me, but let them only make agreement with me." When Cathbad heard that, he
agreed, believing him, and he went to the end of his arts and his knowledge to
hinder the sons of Usnach, and he worked enchantment on them, so that he put the
likeness of a dark sea about them, with hindering waves. And when Naoise saw the
waves rising he put up Deirdre on his shoulder, and it is how the sons of Usnach
were, swimming on the ground as they were going out of Emain; yet the men of
Ulster did not dare to come near them until their swords had fallen from their
hands. But after their swords fell from their hands, the sons of Usnach were
taken. And when they were taken, Conchubar asked of the children of Durthacht to
kill them. But the children of Durthacht said they would not do that. There was
a young man with Conchubar whose name was Maine, and his surname Rough-Hand, son
of the king of the fair Norwegians, and it is Naoise had killed his father and
his two brothers; Athrac and Triathrach were their names. And he said he himself
would kill the sons of Usnach. "If that is so," said Ardan, "kill me the first,
for I am younger than my brothers, so that I will not see my brothers killed."
"Let him not be killed but myself," said Ainnle. "Let that not be done," said
Naoise, "for I have a sword that Manannan, son of Lir, gave me, and the stroke
of it leaves nothing after it, track nor trace; and strike the three of us
together, and we will die at the one time." "That is well," said they all,
"and let you lay down your heads," they said. They did that, and Maine gave a
strong quick blow of the sword on the three necks together on the block, and struck the
three heads off them with one stroke; and the men of Ulster gave three loud
sorrowful shouts, and cried aloud about them there.
As for Deirdre, she cried pitifully, wearily, and tore her fair hair, and she
was talking on the sons of Usnach and on Alban, and it is what she said:
"A blessing eastward to Alban from me; good is the sight of her bays and
valleys, pleasant was it to sit on the slopes of her hills, where the sons of
Usnach used to be hunting.
"One day, when the nobles of Scotland were drinking with the sons of Usnach,
to whom they owed their affection, Naoise gave a kiss secretly to the daughter
of the lord of Duntreon. He sent her a frightened deer, wild, and a fawn at its
foot; and he went to visit her coming home from the host of Inverness. When
myself heard that, my head filled full of jealousy; I put my boat on the waves,
it was the same to me to live or to die. They followed me swimming, Ainnle and
Ardan, that never said a lie; they turned me back again, two that would give
battle to a hundred; Naoise gave me his true word, he swore three times with his
arms as witness, he would never put vexation on me again, until he would go from
me to the hosts of the dead.
"Och! if she knew to-night, Naoise to be under a covering of clay, it is she
would cry her fill, and it is I would cry along with her."
After she had made this complaint, seeing they were all taken up with one
another, Deirdre came forward on the lawn, and she was running round and round,
up and down, from one to another, and Cuchulain met her, and she told him the
story from first to last, how it had happened to the sons of Usnach. It is
sorrowful Cuchulain was for that, for there was not in the world a man was
dearer to him than Naoise. And he asked who killed him. "Maine Rough Hand," said
Deirdre. Then Cuchulain went away, sad and sorrowful, to Dundealgan.
After that Deirdre lay down by the grave, and they were digging earth from
it, and she made this lament after the sons of Usnach:
"Long is the day without the sons of Usnach; it was never wearisome to be in
their company; sons of a king that entertained exiles; three lions of the Hill
of the Cave.
"Three darlings of the women of Britain; three hawks of Slieve Cuilenn; sons
of a king served by valour, to whom warriors did obedience. The three mighty
bears; three lions of the fort of Conrach; three sons of a king who thought well
of their praise; three nurslings of the men of Ulster.
"Three heroes not good at homage; their fall is a cause of sorrow; three sons
of the sister of a king; three props of the army of Cuailgne.
"Three dragons of Dun Monad, the three valiant men from the Red Branch; I
myself will not be living after them, the three that broke hard battles.
"Three that 'were brought up by Aoife, to whom lands were under tribute;
three pillars in the breach of battle; three pupils that were with Scathach.
"Three pupils that were with Uathach; three champions that were lasting in
might; three shining sons of Usnach; it is weariness to be without them.
"The High King of Ulster, my first betrothed, I forsook for love of Naoise;
short my life will be after him; I will make keening at their burial.
"That I would live after Naoise let no one think on the earth I will not go
on living after Ainnle and after Ardan.
"After them I myself will not live; three that would leap through the midst
of battle; since my beloved is gone from me I will cry my fill over his grave.
"O young man, digging the. new grave, do not make the grave narrow; I will be
along with them in the grave, making lamentation and ochones!
"Many the hardship I met with along with the three heroes; I suffered want of
house, want of fire, it is myself that used not to be troubled.
"Their three shields and their spears made a bed for me often. O young man,
put their three swords close over their grave.
"There three hounds, their three hawks, will be from this time Without
huntsmen; three helpers of every battle; three pupils of Conan Cearnach.
"The three leashes of those three hounds have brought a sigh from my heart;
it is I had the care of them, the sight of them is a cause of grief.
"I was never one day alone to the day of the making of this grave, though it
is often that myself and yourselves were in loneliness.
"My sight is gone from me with looking at the grave of Naoise; it is short
till my life will leave me, and those who would have keened me do not live.
"Since it is through me they were betrayed I will be tired out with sorrow;
it is a pity I was not in the earth before the sons of Usnach were killed.
"Sorrowful was my journey with Fergus, betraying me to the Red Branch; we
were deceived all together with his sweet, flowery words. I left the delights of
Ulster for the three heroes that were bravest; my life will not be long, I myself am alone
"I am Deirdre without gladness, and I at the end of my life; since it is
grief to be without them, I myself will not be long after them."
After that complaint Deirdre loosed out her hair, and threw herself on the
body of Naoise before it was put in the grave and gave three kisses to him, and
when her mouth touched his blood, the colour of burning sods came into her
cheeks, and she rose up like one that had lost her wits, and she went on through
the night till she came to where the waves were breaking on the strand. And a
fisherman was there and his wife, and they brought her into their cabin and
sheltered her, and she neither smiled nor laughed, nor took food, drink, or
sleep, nor raised her head from her knees, but crying always after the sons of
But when she could not be found at Emain, Conchubar sent Levarcham to look
for her, and to bring her back to his palace, that' he might make her his wife.
And Levarcham found her in the fisherman's cabin, and she bade her come back to
Emain, where she would have protection and riches and all that she would ask.
And she gave her this message she brought from Conchubar: "Come up to my house,
O branch with the dark eye-lashes, and there need be no fear on your fair face,
of hatred or of jealousy or of reproach." And Deirdre said: "I will not go up to
his house, for it is not land or earth or food I am wanting, or gold or silver
or horses, but leave to go to the grave where the sons of Usnach are lying, till
I give the three honey kisses to their three white, beautiful bodies." And she
made this complaint:
"Make keening for the heroes that were killed on their coming to Ireland;
stately they used to be, coming to the house, the three great sons of Usnach.
"The sons of Usnach fell in the fight like three branches that were growing
straight and nice, and they destroyed in a heavy storm that left neither bud nor
twig of them.
"Naoise, my gentle, well-learned comrade, make no delay in crying him with
me; cry for Ardan that killed the wild boars, cry for Ainnie whose strength was
"It was Naoise that would kiss my lips, my first man and my first sweetheart;
it was Ainnle would pour out my drink, and it was Ardan would lay my pillow.
"Though sweet to you is the mead that is drunk by the soft-living son of
Ness, the food of the sons of Usnach was sweeter to me all through my lifetime.
"Whenever Naoise would go out to hunt through the woods or the wide plains,
all the meat he would bring back was better to me than honey.
"Though sweet to you are the sounds of pipes and of trumpets, it is truly I
say to the king, I have heard music that is sweeter.
"Delightful to Conchubar, the king, are pipes and trumpets; but the singing
of the sons of Usnach was more delightful to me.
"It was Naoise had the deep sound of the waves in his voice; it was the song
of Ardan that was good, and the voice of Ainnle towards their green
"Their birth was beautiful and their blossoming, as they grew to the strength
of manhood; sad is the end to-thy, the sons of Usnach to be cut down.
"Dear were their pleasant words, dear their young, high strength; in their
going through the plains of Ireland there was a welcome before the coming of
"Dear their grey eyes that were loved by women, many looked on them as they
went; when they went freely searching through the woods, their steps were
pleasant on the dark mountain.
"I do not sleep at any time, and the colour is gone from my face; there is no
sound can give me delight since the sons of Usnach do not come.
"I do not sleep through the night; my senses are scattered away from me, I do
not care for food or drink. I have no welcome to-day for the pleasant drink of
nobles, or ease, or comfort, or delight, or a great house, or the palace of a
"Do not break the strings of my heart as you took hold of my young youth,
Conchubar; though my darling is dead, my love is strong to live. What is country
to me, or land, or lordship? What are swift horses? What are jewels and gold?
Och! it is I will be lying to-night on the strand like the beautiful sons of
So Levarcham went back to Conchubar to tell him what way Deirdre was, and
that she would not come with her to Emain Macha.
And when she was gone, Deirdre went out on the strand, and she found a
carpenter making an oar for a boat, and making a mast for it, clean and
straight, to put up a sail to the wind. And when she saw him making it,
she said: "It is a sharp knife you have, to cut the oar so clean and so
straight, and if you will give it to me," she said, "I will give you a ring of
the best gold in Ireland for it, the ring that belonged to Naoise, and that was
with him through the battle and through the fight; he thought much of it in his
lifetime; it is pure gold, through and through." So the carpenter took the in
his hand, and the knife in the other hand, and he looked at them together, and
he gave her the knife for the ring, and for her asking and her tears. Then
Deirdre went close to the waves, and she said:
"Since the other is not with me now, I will spend no more of my lifetime
without him." And with that she drove the black knife into her side, but she
drew it out again and threw it in the sea to her right hand, the way no one
would be blamed for her death.
Then Conchubar came down to the strand and five hundred men along with him,
to bring Deirdre away to Emain Macha, but all he found before him was her white
body on the ground, and it with-out life. And it is what he said:
"A thousand deaths on the time I brought death on my sister's children; now I
am myself without Deirdre, and they themselves are without life.
"They were my sister's children, the three brothers I vexed with blows,
Naoise, and Ainnle, and Ardan; they have died along with Deirdre."
And they took her white, beautiful body, and laid it in a grave, and a
flagstone was raised over her grave, and over the grave of the' sons of Usnach,
and their names were written in Ogham, and keening was made for their burial.
And as to Fergus, son of Rogh, he came on the day after the children of
Usnach were killed, to Emain Macha. And when he found they had been killed and
his pledge to them broken, he himself, and Cormac Conloingeas, Conchubar's own
son, and Dubthach, the Beetle of Ulster, with their men, made an attack on
Conchubar's house and men, and a great many were killed by them, and Emain Macha
was burned and destroyed.
And after doing that, they went into Connaught, to Ailell and to Maeve at
Cruachan, and they were made welcome there, and they took service with them and
fought with them against Ulster because of the treachery that was done by
Conchubar. And that is the way Fergus and the others came to be on the side of
the men of Connaught in the war for the Brown Bull of Cuailgne.
And Cathbad laid a curse on Emain Macha, on account of that great wrong. And
it is what he said, that none of the race of Conchubar should have the kingdom,
to the end of life and time.
And that came true, for the most of Conchubar's sons died in his, own
lifetime, and when he was near his death, he bade the men of Ulster bring back
Connac Conloingeas out of Cruachan, and give him the kingdom.
So they sent messengers to Cormac, and he set out and his three troops of men
with him, and he left his blessing with Ailell and with Maeve, and he promised
them a good return for all the kind treatment they had given him. And they
crossed the river at Athmain, and there they saw a red woman at the edge of the
ford, and she washing her chariot and her harness. And after that they met a
young girl coming towards them, and a light green cloak about her, and a brooch
of precious stones at her breast. And Connac asked her was she coming with them,
and she said she was not, and it would be better for himself to turn back, for
the ruin of his life was come.
And he stopped for the night at the House of the Two Smiths on the hill of
Bruighean Mor, the great dwelling-place.
But a troop of the men of Connaught came about the house in the night, for
they were on the way home after destroying and robbing a district of Ulster, and
they thought to make an end of Cormac before he would get to Emain.
And it chanced there was a great harper, Craiftine, living close by, and his
wife, Sceanb, daughter of Scethern, a Druid of Connaught, loved Cormac
Conloingeas, and three times she had gone to meet him at Athluain, and she
planted three trees there--Grief, and Dark, and Dumbness.
And there was great hatred and jealousy of Cormac on Craiftine, so when he
knew the men of Connaught were going to make an attack on him, he went outside
the house with his harp, and played a soft sleepy tune to him, the way he had
not the strength to rouse himself up, and himself and the most of his people
were killed. And Amergin, that had gone with the message to him, made his grave
and his mound, and the place is called Cluain Duma, the Lawn of the Mound.
Cuchulain by John Duncan