Gods and Fighting Men

Finn's Madness

   One time Finn and the Fianna were come to a ford of the Slaine, and they sat down for a while. And as they were sitting there they saw on the round rock up over the ford a young woman, having a dress of silk and a green cloak about her, and a golden brooch in the cloak, and the golden crown that is the sign of a queen on her head. "Fianna of Ireland," she said, "let one of you come now and speak with me."
   Then Sciathbreac, of the Speckled Shield, went towards her.
   "Who is it you are wanting?" he said. "Finn, son of Cumhal," said she. Finn went over then to talk with her. "Who are you?" he said, "and what is it you are wanting?" "I am Daireann, daughter of Bodb Dearg, son of the Dagda," she said; "and I am come to be your wife if you will give me the bride-gift I ask." "What bride-gift is that?" said Finn. "It is your promise," said she, "I to be your only wife through the length of a year, and to have the half of your time after that." "I will not give that promise," said Finn, "to any woman of the world, and I will not give it to you," he said.
   On that the young woman took a cup of silver from under a covering, and filled it with strong drink, and she gave it to Finn. "What is this?" said Finn. "It is very strong mead," said she. Now there were bonds on Finn not to refuse anything belonging to a feast, so he took the cup and drank what was in it, and on the moment he was like one gone mad. And he turned his face towards the Fianna, and every harm and every fault and every misfortune in battle that he knew against any one of them, he sprang it on them, through the mad drunkenness the young woman had put on him.
   Then the chief men of the Fianna of Ireland rose up and left the place to him, every one of them setting out for his own country, till there was no one left upon the hill but Finn and Caoilte. And Caoilte rose up and followed after them, and be said: "Fianna of Ireland," he said, "do not leave your lord and your leader through the arts and the tricks of a woman of the Sidhe." Thirteen times he went after them, bringing them back to the hill in that way. And with the end of the day and the fall of night the bitterness went from Finn's tongue; and by the time Caoilte had brought back the whole of the Fianna, his sense and his memory were come back to him, and he never would sooner have fallen on his sword and got his death, than have stayed living.
   And that was the hardest day's work Caoilte ever did, unless the day he brought the flock of beasts and birds to Temnhair, to ransom Finn from the High King of Ireland.
   Another time Maer, wife of Bersa of Berramain, fell in love with Finn, and she made nine nuts of Segair with love charms, and sent them to Finn, and bade him eat them. "I will not," said Finn; "for they are not nuts of knowledge, but nuts of ignorance; and it is not known what they are, unless they might be an enchantment for drinking love." So he buried them a foot deep in the earth.


Deidre of the Sorrows, by John Duncan