Gods and Fighting Men

Credhe's Lament

   Then there came the women and the musicians and the singers and the physicians of the Fianna of Ireland to search out the kings and the princes of the Fianna, and to bury them; and every one that might be healed was brought to a place of healing.
   And Credhe, wife of Cael, came with the others, and went looking through the bodies for her comely comrade, and crying as she went. And as she was searching, she saw a crane of the meadows and her two nestlings, and the cunning beast the fox watching the nestlings; and when the crane covered one of the birds to save it, he would make a rush at the other bird, the way she had to stretch herself out over the birds; and she would sooner have got her own death by the fox than her nestlings to be killed by him. And Credhe was looking at that, and she said: "It is no wonder I to have such love for my comely sweetheart, and the bird in that distress about her nestlings."
   Then she heard a stag in Druim Ruighlenn above the harbour, that was making great lamentations for his hind from place to place, for they had been nine years together, and had lived in the wood at the foot of the harbour, Fidh Leis, and Finn had killed the hind, and the stag was nineteen days without tasting grass or water, lamenting after the hind. "It is no shame for me," said Credhe, "I to die for grief after Cael, since the stag is shortening his life sorrowing after the hind."
   Then she met with Fergus of the True Lips. "Have you news of Cael for me, Fergus?" she said. "I have news," said Fergus, "for he and the last man that was left of the foreigners, Finnachta Fiaclach, are after drowning one another in the sea."
   And at that time the waves had put Cael back on the strand, and the women and the men of the Fianna that were looking for him raised him up, and brought him to the south of the White Strand.
   And Credhe came to where he was, and she keened him and cried over him, and she made this complaint:--
   "The harbour roars, O the harbour roars, over the rushing race of the Headland of the Two Storms, the drowning of the hero of the Lake of the Two Dogs, that is what the waves are keening on the strand.
   "Sweet-voiced is the crane, O sweet-voiced is the crane in the marshes of the Ridge of the Two Strong Men; it is she cannot save her nestlings, the wild dog of two colours is taking her little ones.
   "Pitiful the cry, pitiful the cry the thrush is making in the Pleasant Ridge, sorrowful is the cry of the blackbird in Leiter Laeig.
   "Sorrowful the call, O sorrowful the call of the deer in the Ridge of Two Lights; the doe is lying dead in Druim Silenn, the mighty stag cries after her.
   "Sorrowful to me, O sorrowful to me the death of the hero that lay beside me; the son of the woman of the Wood of the Two Thickets, to be with a bunch of grass under his head.
   "Sore to me, O sore to me Cad to be a dead man beside me, the waves to have gone over his white body; it is his pleasantness that has put my wits astray.
   "A woeful shout, O a woeful shout the waves are making on the strand; they that took hold of comely CaeI, a pity it is he went to meet them.
   "A woeful crash, O a woeful crash the waves are making on the strand to the north, breaking against the smooth rock, crying after Cael now he is gone.
   "A sorrowful fight, O a sorrowful fight, the sea is making with the strand to the north; my beauty is lessened; the end of my life is measured.
   "A song of grief, O a song of grief is made by the waves of Tulcha Leis; all I had is gone since this story came to me. Since the son of Crimthann is drowned I will love no one after him for ever; many a king fell by his hand; his shield never cried out in the battle."
   After she had made that complaint, Credhe laid herself down beside Cae anld died for grief after him. And they were put in the one grave, and it was Caoilte raised the stone over them.
   And after that great battle of the White Strand, that lasted a year and a day, there was many a sword and shield left broken, and many a dead body lying on the ground, and many a fighting man left with a foolish smile on his face.
   And the great name that was on the armies of the World went from them to the Fianna of Ireland; and they took the ships and the gold and the silver and all the spoils of the armies of the World. And from that time the Fianna had charge of the whole of Ireland, to keep it from the Fomor and from any that might come against it.
   And they never lost power from that time until the time of their last battle, the sorrowful battle of Gabhra.


Deidre of the Sorrows, by John Duncan