Gods and Fighting Men

The Flight from Teamhair

   Finn rose up one morning early in Almhuin of Leinster, and he sat out alone on the green lawn without a boy or a servant being with him. And Oisin followed him there, and Diorraing the Druid. "What is the cause of your early rising, Finn?" said Oisin. "It is not without cause, indeed, I rise early," said Finn, "for I am without a wife or a companion since Maighneis, daughter of Black Garraidh, died from me; for quiet sleep is not used to come to a man that is without a fitting wife." "Why would you be like that?" said Oisin, "for there is not a woman in all green Ireland you would throw a look on but we would bring her to you, willing or unwilling." "I myself could find a wife would be fitting for you," said Diorraing. "Who is that?" said Finn. "It is Grania, daughter of the High King of Ireland," said Diorraing; "and she is the woman of the best make and shape and the best speech of the women of the whole world." "By my word, Diorraing," said Finn, "there is strife and disagreement between the High King and myself this long time, and it would not be pleasing to me to get a refusal from him. And it is best for you two to go together," he said, "and to ask his daughter for me in marriage; the way that if he gives a refusal, it will be to you and not to myself he will give it." "We will go," said Oisin, "even if it is little profit we will get by it. And let no one at all know of our going," he said, "until such time as we are come back again."
   After that the two bade farewell to Finn, and set out, and it is not told what they did till they came to Teamhair. The King of Ireland was holding a gathering at that time on the green of Teamhair, and the chief nobles of his people were with him. And there was a friendly welcome given to Oisin and to Diorraing, and the king put off the gathering till the next day, for he was sure it was some pressing thing had brought these two men of the Fianna to Teamhair. And Oisin went aside with him, and told him it was to ask his daughter Grania in marriage they were come from Finn, Head of the Fianna of Ireland.
   The king spoke, and it is what he said: "There is not a son of a king or of a great prince, there is not a champion in Ireland my daughter has not given a refusal to, and it is on me they all lay the blame of that. And I will give you no answer at all," he said, "till you go to herself; for it is better for you to get her own answer, than to be displeased with me."
   So they went together to the sunny house of the women, and the king sat down at the head of the high seat beside Grania, and he said: "Here, Grania, are two of the people of Finn, son of Cumhal, come to ask you as a wife for him, and what answer have you a mind to give them?" And it is what Grania said: "If he is a fitting son-in-law for you, why would he not be a fitting husband for me?"
   They were satisfied then, and there was a feast made for them that night in Grania's sunny house, and the king settled for a meeting a fortnight from that time between himself and Finn at Teamhair.
   So Oisin and Diorraing went back again to Almhuin and told Finn their story from beginning to end. And as everything wears away, so did that time of delay.
   And then Finn gathered together the seven battalions of the Fianna from every part where they were to Almhuin. And they set out in great bands and troops till they came to Teamhair.
   The king was out on the green before them, and the great people of the men of Ireland, and there was a great welcome before Finn and the Fianna.
   But when Grania saw grey-haired Finn, she said: "It is a great wonder it was not for Oisin Finn asked me, for he would be more fitting for me than a man that is older than my father."
   But they talked together for a while, and Finn was putting questions to Grania, for she had the name of being very quick with answers. "What is whiter than snow?" he said. "The truth," said Grania. "What is the best colour?" said Finn. "The colour of childhood," said she. "What is hotter than fire?" "The face of a hospitable man when he sees a stranger coming in, and the house empty." "What has a taste more bitter than poison?" "The reproach of an enemy." "What is best for a champion?" "His doings to be high, and his pride to be low." "What is the best of jewels?" "A knife." "What is sharper than a sword?" "The wit of a woman between two men." "What is quicker than the wind?" said Finn then. "A woman's mind," said Grania. And indeed she was telling no lie when she said that. And for all their talk together she had no liking for Finn, and she felt the blood in her heart to be rising against him.
   And the wedding-feast was made ready then, and they all went into the king's feasting-house in the Middle Court. And the king sat down to take his share of drinking and pleasure, and his wife at his left side, and Grania beside her again; and Finn, son of Cumhal, at the right hand of the king, and Oisin at the other side, and every one according to his nobility and his birth.
   Then Daire of the poems stood up before Grania, and sang the songs and good poems of her fathers to her. And there was sitting near to Grania a knowledgeable man, a Druid of Finn's people, and it was not long until they began to talk together. "Tell me now," said Grania, "who is that man on the right hand of Oisin?" "That is Goll, son of Morna," said the Druid, "the ready fighter." "Who is that beside Goll?" said Grania. "Osgar, son of Oisin," said the Druid. "And who is that thin-legged man beside Osgar?" "That is Caoilte, son of Ronan." "Who is that proud, hasty man beside Caoilte?" "Lugaidh's Son of the Strong Hand." 'Who is that sweet-worded man," she said then, "with the dark hair, and cheeks like the rowan berry, on the left side of Oisin, son of Finn?" "That is Diarmuid, grandson of Duibhne," said the Druid, "that is the best lover of women in the whole world." "That is a good company," said Grania.
   And after the feast had gone on a while, their own feast was made for the dogs outside. And the dogs began to fight with one another, and the noise was heard in the hail, and the chief men of the Fianna went to drive them away from one another.
   Now Diarmuid was used to keep his cap always over the love-spot the woman had left on his forehead, for no woman could see the spot but she would give him her love. And it chanced, while he was driving the dogs apart, the cap fell from him, and Grania was looking out at him as it fell, and great love for him came on her there and then. And she called her serving-maid to her, and bade her bring the great golden cup that held drink for nine times nine men from the sunny house. And when the serving-maid brought the cup, she filled it with wine that had enchantment in it, and she said: "Give the cup first to Finn, and bid him take a drink from it, and tell him it is I myself sent it to him." So the serving-maid did that, and Finn took the cup and drank out of it, and no sooner did he drink than he fell into a deep sleep. And then the cup was given to the king, and the queen, and the sons of kings, and the whole company, but only Oisin and Osgar and Caoilte and Diarmuid, and Diorraing the Druid. And all that drank of it fell into the same heavy sleep.
   And when they were all in their sleep, Grania rose up softly from the seat where she was, and she turned her face to Diarmuid, and she said: "Will you take my love, Diarmuid, son of Duibhne, and will you bring me away out of this house to-night?"
   "I will not," said Diarmuid; "I will not meddle with the woman that is promised to Finn." "If that is so," said Grania, "I put you under Druid bonds, to bring me out of this house to-night before the awaking of Finn and of the King of Ireland from their sleep."
   "It is under bad bonds you are putting me, Grania," said Diarmuid. "And why is it," he said, "that you put them on me more than on the great men and sons of kings that ale in the Middle Court to-night? For there is not one of them all but is as well worthy of a woman's love as myself." "By my hand, Diarmuid, it is not without cause I laid those bonds on you," said Grania; "for I was at the door a while ago when you were parting the dogs," she said, "and my eyes fell on you, and I gave you the love there and then that I never gave to any other, and never will give for ever."
   "It is a wonder you to give that love to me, and not to Finn," said Diarmuid, "for there is not in Ireland a man is a better lover of a woman than himself. And do you know this, Grania," he said, "the night Finn is in Teamhair it is he himself is the keeper of its gates. And as that is so, we cannot leave the town." "There is a side door of escape at my sunny house," said Grania, "and we will go out by it." "It is a thing I will never do," said Diarmuid, "to go out by any side door of escape at all." "That may be so," said Grania, "but I heard it said that every fighting man has leave to pass over the walls of any dun of any strong place at all by the shafts of his spears. And I will go out through the door," she said, "and Iet you follow me like that."
   With that she went out, and Diarmuid spoke to his people, and it is what he said, "O Oisin, son of Finn, what must I do with these bonds that are laid on me?" "You are not guilty if the bonds were laid on you," said Oisin; "and I tell you to follow Grania, and to keep yourself well out of the hands of Finn." "Osgar, son of Oisin," he said then, "what must I do with these bonds that are put on me?" "I tell you to follow Grania," said Osgar, "for it is a pitiful man that would break his bonds." "What advice do you give me, Caoilte?" said Diarmuid. "It is what I say," said Caoilte, "that I myself have a fitting wife; and that it would be better to me than all the riches of the world Grania to have given me that love." "What advice do you give me, Diorraing?" "I tell you to follow Grania," said Diorraing, "although you will get your death by it, and that is bad to me." "Is that the advice you all give me?" said Diarmuid. "It is," said Oisin, and all the rest with him. With that Diarmuid stood up and stretched out his hand for his weapons, and be said farewell to Oisin and the others, and every tear he shed was of the size of a mountain berry. He went out then to the wall of the dun, and he put the shafts of his two spears under him, and he rose with a light leap and he came down on the grassy earth outside, and Grania met him there. Then Diarmuid said: "It is a bad journey you are come on, Grania. For it would be better for you to have Finn, son of Cumhal, as a lover than myself, for I do not know any part or any western corner of Ireland that will hide you. And if I do bring you with me," he said, "it is not as a wife I will bring you, but I will keep my faith to Finn. And turn back now to the town," he said, "and Finn will never get news of what you are after doing." "It is certain I will not turn back," said Grania, "and I will never part with you till death parts us." "If that is so, let us go on, Grania," said Diarmuid.
   They went on then, and they were not gone far out from the town when Grania said: "I am getting tired, indeed." "It is a good time to be tired," said Diarmuid, "and go now back again to your own house. For I swear by the word of a true champion," he said, "I will never carry yourself or any other woman to the end of life and time." "That is not what you have to do," said Grania, "for my father's horses are in a grass field by themselves, and chariots with them; and turn back now, and bring two horses of them, and I will wait in this place till you come to me again."
   Diarmuid went back then for the horses, and we have no knowledge of their journey till they reached to the ford on the Sionnan, that is called now Ath-luain.
   And Diarmuid said then to Grania: "It is easier to Finn to follow our track, the horses being with us." "If that is so," said Grania: "leave the horses here, and I will go on foot from this out."
   Diarmuid went down to the river then, and he brought a horse with him over the ford, and left the other horse the far side of the river. And he himself and Grania went a good way with the stream westward, and they went to land at the side of the province of Connacht. And wherever they went, Diarmuid left unbroken bread after him, as a sign to Finn he had kept his faith with him.
   And from that they went to Doire-da-Bhoth, the Wood of the Two Huts. And Diarmuid cut down the wood round them, and he made a fence having seven doors of woven twigs, and he set out a bed of soft rushes and of the tops of the birch-tree for Grania in the very middle of the wood.

Deidre of the Sorrows, by John Duncan