The Tain Bo Culaigne

Cethern's Bloody Wounds

   ["Look at this bloody wound for me, O Fingin," said Cethern.] Fingin looked at the bloody wound. "Why, it is a slight, unwillingly given wound we behold here," said the physician. "A lone man came upon me there; bushy hair on him; a blue mantle wrapped around him; a silver brooch in the mantle over his breast; an oval shield with plaited rim he bore; a five-pointed spear in his hand; a pronged spare spear at his side. He gave this bloody wound. He bore away a slight wound from me too." "Why, we know that man!" cried Cuchulain; "'twas Illann Ilarchless ('Illann of many feats') son of Fergus macRoig. And he would not wish that thou shouldst fall by his hand, but he gave thee this mock-blow that the men of Erin might not have it to say it was to betray them or to forsake them if he gave it not."
   "Now look at this bloody wound for me, O Fingin my master," said Cethern. Fingin looked closely into the bloody wound. "Why, 'tis a woman's wanton deed of arms we behold here," said the physician. "Aye, that is true then," quoth Cethern; "a woman came upon me there by herself. A woman, beautiful, fair-faced, long-cheeked, tall; a golden-yellow head of hair, down to the top of her two shoulder-blades she wore; a smock of royal sammet next to her white skin; two birds of gold on her shoulders; a purple cloak without other colour she had around her; a brooch of gold in the cloak over her bosom; a straight, ridged spear, red-flaming in her hand. She it was that gave me this bloody wound. She bore away a slight wound from me too." "Ah, but we know that woman," cried Cuchulain; "Medb daughter of Eocho Fedlech, daughter of the High King of Erin; it is she that came unto us in that dress. A victory and triumph and trophy she had considered it hadst thou fallen at her hands."
   "Look at this bloody wound for me too, O Fingin my master," said Cethern. Fingin looked at the bloody wound. "Why, the feat of arms of two warriors is this," said the physician. "Yea, that is true," answered Cethern. "There came two men-at-arms upon me in that place; two, with bushy hair on them; two blue cloaks wrapped around them; brooches of silver in the cloaks over their breasts; a necklace of all-white silver around the neck of each of them." "Indeed we know that pair," quoth Cuchulain; "Oll and Othinè they, of the bodyguard of Ailill and Medb; they never go to a hosting, to battle or combat, but when the wounding of a man is certain. They would have held it for victory and triumph and a boast hadst thou fallen at their hands."
   "Look on this bloody wound also for me, O Fingin my master," said Cethern. Fingin looked closely at the bloody wound. "There came upon me a pair of young warriors of the Fian," said Cethern; "a splendid, manly appearance they had. Each of them cast a spear at me. I crave this spear through the one of them." Fingin looked into the bloody wound. "Why, this blood is all black," quoth the physician; "through thy heart those spears passed so that they formed a cross of themselves through thy heart; and I prophesy no cure here, but I would get thee some healing plants and curing charms that they destroy thee not forthwith." "Ah, but we know them, that pair," quoth Cuchulain; "Bun and Mecconn ('Stump' and 'Root') are they, of the bodyguard of Ailill and Medb. It was their hope that thou shouldst fall at their hands."
   "Look at this bloody wound for me, too, O Fingin my master," said Cethern. Fingin examined the bloody wound "Why, it is the red rush of the two sons of Ri Cailè ('the King of the Woods') that is here," said the physician. "Aye 'tis so," replied Cethern; "there attacked me there two fair-faced, dark-browed youths, huge, with diadems of gold on their heads. Two green mantles folded about them; two pins of bright silver on the mantles over their breasts; two five-pronged spears in their hands." "Why, near each other are the bloody wounds they gave thee," said the physician; "into thy gullet they went, so that the points of the spears struck one another within thee, and none the easier is it to work thy cure here." "We know that pair," quoth Cuchulain; "noble youths of Medb's great household, Broen and Brudni, are they, two sons of Ri teora Soillse ('the King of the three Lights'), that is, the two sons of the King of the Woods. It had been victory and triumph and a boast for them, hadst thou fallen at their hands."
   "Look at this bloody wound for me, too, my good Fingin," said Cethern. Fingin looked into the bloody wound. "The joint deed of two brothers is here," said the physician. "'Tis indeed true," replied Cethern. "There came upon me two leading, king's warriors. Yellow hair upon them; dark-grey mantles with fringes, wrapped around them; leaf-shaped brooches of silvered bronze in the mantles over their breasts; broad, grey lances in their hands." "Ah, but we know that pair," quoth Cuchulain; "Cormac Colomon rig ('King's pillar') is the one, and Cormac son of Mael Foga, of the bodyguard of Ailill and Medb (the other). What they sought was that thou shouldst fall at their hands."
   "Look at this bloody wound for me too, O Fingin my master," said Cethern. Fingin looked into that bloody wound. "The assault of two brothers is here," said the physician. "Aye then, 'tis true," answered Cethern. "There came upon me two tender youths there; very much alike were they; curly dark hair on the one of them; curly yellow hair on the other; two green cloaks wrapped around them; two bright-silver brooches in the cloaks over their breasts; two tunics of smooth yellow silk next their skin; two white-hilted swords at their belts; two bright shields having the likenesses of beasts in white silver they bore; two five-pronged spears with veins of all-white silver in their hands." "Ah, but we know that pair," quoth Cuchulain; "Manè 'Like to his mother' and Manè 'Like to his father,' two sons of Ailill and Medb; and it would be matter of victory, triumph and boasting to them, hadst thou fallen at their hands.
   "Look at this bloody wound for me, too, O Fingin my master," said Cethern. "There came upon me a pair of young warriors there. A brilliant appearance, stately-tall and manlike, they had; wonderful garments from far-away countries upon them. Each of them thrust the spear he had at me. Then I thrust this spear through each of them." Fingin looked into the bloody wound. "Cunning are the bloody wounds they inflicted upon thee," said the physician; "they have severed the strings of thy heart within thee, so that thy heart rolls about in thy breast like an apple in motion or like a ball of yarn in an empty bag, and there is no string at all to support it, and no healing can I effect here." "Ah, but we know those twain," quoth Cuchulain; "a pair of champions from Norway who have been sent particularly by Ailill and Medb to slay thee; for not often does one ever issue alive from their combats, and it would be their will that thou shouldst fall at their hands."
   "Look upon this bloody wound for me too, my good Fingin," said Cethern. Fingin looked at that bloody wound. "Why, the alternate woundings of a son and his father we behold here," answered the physician. "Yea it is so," quoth Cethern; "two tall men, red as torches, came upon me there, with diadems of burnished gold upon them; kingly garments they wore; gold-hilted, hammered swords at their girdles, with scabbards of pure-white silver, with supports of mottled gold outside upon them. "Ah but we know that pair," quoth Cuchulain; "Ailill and his son are they, Manè 'That embraces the traits of them all.' They would deem it victory and triumph and a boast shouldst thou fall at their hands."
   Thus far the "Bloody Wounds" of the Táin.
   "Speak, O Fingin prophetic physician," spake Cethern son of Fintan; "what verdict and what counsel givest me now?" "This verily is what I say to thee," replied Fingin the prophetic physician: "Count not on thy big cows for yearlings this year; for if thou dost, it is not thou that will enjoy them, and no profit will they bring thee." "This is the judgement and counsel the other surgeons did give me, and certain it is it brought them neither advantage nor profit, and they fell at my hands; and none the more will it bring thee advantage or profit, and thou shalt fall at my hands!" And he gave Fingin a strong, stiff kick with his foot, and sent him between the chariot's two wheels. "Oh, but vicious is the kick from the old warrior," cried Cuchulain. Hence, from this saying, is the name Uachtar Lua ('the Height of the Kick') in the land of Ross from then until this day.
   Nevertheless Fingin the prophet-physician gave his choice to Cethern son of Fintan: A long illness for him and afterwards to obtain help and succour, or a red healing for the space of three days and three nights, so that he might then employ his strength on his enemies. What Cethern son of Fintan chose was a red healing for the space of three days and three nights, to the end that he might then vent his anger and strength on his enemies. For what he said was that there would not be found after him any one he would rather have vindicate or avenge him than himself.
   Thereupon Fingin the prophetic physician asked of Cuchulain a vat of marrow wherewith to heal and to cure Cethern son of Fintan. Cuchulain proceeded to the camp and entrenchment of the men of Erin, and whatsoever he found of herds and flocks and droves there he took away with him. And he made a marrow-mesh of their flesh and their bones and their skins; and Cethern son of Fintan was placed in the marrow-bath till the end of three days and three nights. And his flesh began to drink in the marrow-bath about him and the marrow-bath entered in within his stabs and his cuts, his sores and his many wounds. Thereafter he arose from the marrow-bath at the end of three days and three nights. It was thus Cethern arose, with a slab of the chariot pressed to his belly so that his entrails and bowels would not drop out of him.
   That was the time when his wife came from the north, from Dûn da Benn ('Fort of the two Gables'), and she brought his sword with her, even Finna daughter of Eocho. Cethern son of Fintan seized his arms and proceeded to attack the men of Erin. But this is to be added: They sent a warning before him; Ithall, physician of Ailill and Medb, had remained as one dead of the great stun from the blow of Gethern among the bodies of the other physicians for a long space and time [and he, the physician that had alone escaped from Cethern, brought the alarm to the camp.]
   "Hark, ye men of Erin," shouted the physician; "Cethern son of Fintan comes to attack you, now that he has been healed and cured by Fingin the prophetic physician, and take ye heed of him!" Thereat the men of Erin in fear put Ailill's dress and his golden shawl and his regal diadem on the pillar-stone in Crich Ross, that it might be thereon that Cethern son of Fintan should first give vent to his anger on his arrival.
   Soon Cethern saw those things, namely Ailill's dress and his golden shawl around the standing-stone in Crich Ross, and he, being unaware and witless, conceived it to be Ailill himself that was in it. And he made a rush at it like a blast of wind and crave the sword through the stone pillar till it went up to its pommel. "Deceit is here," cried Cethern son of Fintan, "and on me have ye worked this deceit. And I swear an oath, till there be found among ye of the men of Erin one that will put yon royal dress about him and the golden shawl, I will not stay my hand from them, slaughtering and destroying withal!"
   Manè Andoe son of Ailill and Medb heard that, and he put his father's royal raiment about him and the golden shawl and the diadem on his head, and he dashed off through the midst of the men of Erin. Cethern son of Fintan pursued him closely and hurled his shield, so that the chiselled rim of the shield crave him to the ground, with chariot, driver, and horses. When the men of Erin saw that, they surrounded Cethern on every side, so that he fell at their hands in the strait wherein he was. Wherefore 'Cethern's Strait-Fight and the Bloody Wounds of Cethern' is the name of this tale.
   His wife, Finna daughter of Eocho Salbuidê ('Yellow-heel') stood over him and she was in great sorrow, and she made the funeral-song below:

"I care for naught, care for naught;
Ne'er more man's hand 'neath my head,
Since was dug the earthy bed,
Cethern's bold, of Dun da Benn!

"Kingly Cethern, Fintan's son;
Few were with him on the ford.
Connacht's men with all their host,
For nine hours he left them not!

"Arms he bore not--this an art--
But a red, two-headed pike;
With it slaughtered he the host,
While his anger still was fresh!

"Felled by double-headed pike,
Cethern's hand held, with their crimes,.
Seven times fifty of the hosts,
Fintan's son brought to their graves!

"Willa-loo, oh, witla-loo!
Woman's d wandering through the mist.
Worse it is for him that's dead.
She that lives may find a man!

"Never I shall take a man
Of the hosts of this good world;
Never shall I sleep with man;
Never shall my man with wife!

Dear the homestead, 'Horse-head's Dûn,'
Where our hosts were wont to go.
Dear the water, soft and sweet;
Dear the isle, 'Isle of the Red!'

Sad the care, oh, sad the care,
Cualnge's Cow-raid brought on me:
Cethern, Fintan's son, to keen.
Oh that he had shunned his woe!

Great the doings, these, oh, great,
And the deed that here was done:
I bewailing him till death,
Him that has been smitten down!

Finna, Eocho's daughter, I,
Found a fight of circling spears.
Had my champion had his arms:
By his side a slaughtered heap!"