The Tain Bo Culaigne
The Combat of Ferdiad and Cuchulain
Then the men of Erin took counsel who would be fit to send to the ford to
fight and do battle with Cuchulain, to drive him off from them at the morning
hour early on the morrow. With one accord they declared that it should be
Ferdiad son of Daman son of Darè, the great and valiant warrior of the men of
Dornnann. And fitting it was for him to go thither, for well-matched and alike
was their manner of fight and of combat. Under the same instructresses had they
done skillful deeds of valour and arms, when learning the art with Scathach
('the Modest') and with Uathach ('the Dreadful') and with Aifè ('the Handsome').
And neither of them overmatched the other, save in the feat of the Gae Bulga
('the Barbed Spear') which Cuchulain possessed. Howbeit, against this, Ferdiad
was horn-skinned when fighting and in combat with a warrior on the ford.
Then were messengers and envoys sent to Ferdiad. Ferdiad denied them their
will, and sent back the messengers, and he went not with them, for he knew
wherefore they would have him, to fight and combat with his friend, with his
comrade and foster-brother, Cuchulain. Then did Medb despatch the druids and the
poets of the camp, the lampoonists and hard-attackers, for Ferdiad, to the end
that they might make three satires to stay him and three scoffing speeches
against him, that they might raise three blisters on his face, Blame, Blemish
and Disgrace, if he came not with them.
Ferdiad came with them for the sake of his own honour, forasmuch as he deemed
it better to fall by the shafts of valour and bravery and skill, than to fall by
the shafts of satire, abuse and reproach. And when Ferdiad was come into the
camp, he was honoured and waited on, and choice, well-flavoured strong liquor
was poured out for him till he became drunken and merry. Great rewards were
promised him if he would make the fight and combat, namely a chariot worth four
times seven bondmaids, and the apparel of two men and ten men, of cloth of every
colour, and the equivalent of the Plain of Murthemne of the rich Plain of Ai,
free of tribute, without duress for his son, or for his grandson, or for his
great-grandson, till the end of time and existence.
Such were the words of Medb, and she spake them here and Ferdiad responded:
Medb: "Great rewards in arm-rings,
Then said they, one and all, those gifts were great. "'Tis true, they are
great. But though they are," said Ferdiad, "with Medb herself I will leave them,
and I will not accept them if it be to do battle or combat with my
foster-brother, the man of my alliance and affection, and my equal in skill of
arms, namely, with Cuchulain." And he said:
Share of plain and
Freedom of thy children
From this day till doom!
More than thou couldst hope for,
Why shouldst thou refuse
That which all would take?"
Ferdiad: "Naught I'll take without bond--
No ill spearman am
Hard on me to-morrow:
Great will be the strife!
hight of Culann,
How his thrust is grievous!
No soft thing to stand
Rude will be the wound!"
Medb: "Champions will be surety,
Thou needst not keep
Reins and splendid horses
Shall be given as
Ferdiad, good, of battle,
For that thou art dauntless,
shalt be my lover,
Past all, free of cain !"
Ferdiad: "Without bond I'll go not
To engage in
It will live till doomsday
In full strength and
Ne'er I'll yield-- who hears me,
Whoe'er counts upon
Without sun- and moon-oath,
Without sea and land!"
Medb: "Why then dost delay it?
Bind it as it please thee,
kings' hands and princes',
Who will stand for thee!
Lo, I will repay
Thou shalt have thine asking,
For I know thou'lt slaughter
that meeteth thee!"
Ferdiad: "Nay, without six sureties--
It shall not be
Ere I do my exploits
There where hosts will be!
will be granted,
I swear, though unequal,
That I'll meet in
Cuchulain the brave!"
Medb: "Domnall, then, or Carbrè,
Niaman famed for
Or e'en folk of barddom,
Natheless, thou shalt have.
thyself on Morann,
Wouldst thou its fulfilment
Bind on smooth Man's
And our two sons, bind!"
Ferdiad: "Medb, with wealth of cunning,
Whom no spouse can
Thou it is that herdest
Cruachan of the mounds!
High thy fame
and wild power!
Mine the fine pied satin;
Give thy gold and
Which were proffered me!"
Medb: "To thee, foremost champion,
I will give my ringed
From this day till Sunday,
Shall thy respite be!
All the earth's fair treasures
Shall to thee be
Everything be thine!
"Finnabair of the champions (?),
Queen of western Erin,
thou'st slain the Smith's Hound,
Ferdiad, she's thine!"
"Greatest toil, this, greatest toil,
"Ye men," spake Medb, in the wonted fashion of stirring up disunion and
dissension, "true is the word Cuchulain speaks." "What word is that?" asked
Ferdiad. "He said, then," replied Medb, "he would not think it too much if thou
shouldst fall by his hands in the choicest feat of his skill in arms, in the
land whereto he should come." "It was not just for him to speak so," quoth
Ferdiad; "for it is not cowardice or lack of boldness that he hath ever seen in
me. And I swear by my arms of valour, if it be true that he spoke so, I will be
the first man of the men of Erin to contend with him on the morrow!" "A blessing
and victory upon thee for that!" said Medb; "it pleaseth me more than for thee
to show fear and lack of boldness. For every man loves his own land, and how is
it better for him to seek the welfare of Ulster, than for thee to seek the
welfare of Connacht?"
Battle with the Hound of
Liefer would I battle twice
With two hundred men of Fal!
"Sad the fight, and sad the fight,
I and Hound of feats shall
We shall hack both flesh and blood;
Skin and body we shall hew!
"Sad, O god, yea, sad, O god,
That a woman should us
My heart's half, the blameless Hound;
Half the brave Hound's heart
"By my shield, O by my shield,
If Ath Cliath's brave Hound
I will drive my slender glaive
Through my heart, my side,
"By my sword, O by my sword,
If the Hound of Glen Bolg
No man after him I'll slay,
Till I o'er the world's brink spring!
"By my hand, O, by my hand!
Falls the Hound of Glen in
Medb with all her host I'll kill
And then no more men of Fal!
"By my spear, O, by my spear!
Should Ath Cro's brave Hound be
I'll be buried in his grave;
May one grave hide me and him!
"Tell him this, O tell him this,
To the Hound of beauteous
Fearless Scathach hath foretold
My fall on a ford through him!
"Woe to Medb, yea, woe to Medb,
Who hath used her guile on
She hath set me face to face
'Gainst Cuchulain-- hard the
Then it was that Medb obtained from Ferdiad the easy surety of a covenant to
fight and contend on the morrow with six warriors of the champions of Erin, or
to fight and contend with Cuchulain alone, if to him this last seemed lighter.
Ferdiad obtained of Medb the easy surety, as he thought, to send the aforesaid
six men for the fulfilment of the terms which had been promised him, should
Cuchulain fall at his hands.
Then were Fergus' horses fetched for him and his chariot was yoked, and he
came forward to the place of combat where Cuchulain was, to inform him of the
challenge. Cuchulain bade him welcome. "Welcome is thy coming, O my master
Fergus!" cried Cuchulain. "Truly intended, methinks, the welcome, O fosterling,"
said Fergus. "But, it is for this I am here, to inform thee who comes to fight
and contend with thee at the morning hour early on the morrow." "E'en so will we
hear it from thee," said Cuchulain. "Thine own friend and comrade and
foster-brother, the man thine equal in feats and in skill of arms and in deeds,
Ferdiad son of Daman son of Darè, the great and mighty warrior of the men of
"As my soul liveth," replied Cuchulain, "it is not to an encounter we wish
our friend to come." "It is even for that," answered Fergus, "thou shouldst be
on thy guard and prepared. For unlike all to whom it fell to fight and contend
with thee on the Cualnge Cattle-raid on this occasion is Ferdiad son of Daman
son of Darè." "Truly am I here," said Cuchulain, "checking and staying four of
the five grand provinces of Erin from Monday at Summer's end till the beginning
of spring. And in all this time, I have not put foot in retreat before any one
man nor before a multitude, and methinks just as little will I turn foot in
flight before him."
So spake Fergus, putting him on his guard, and he said these words and
Fergus: "O Cuchulain-- splendid deed--
After that, Fergus returned to the camp and halting-place. As for
betook himself to his tent and to his people, and imparted to them the easy
surety which Medb had obtained from him to do combat and battle with six
warriors on the morrow, or to do combat and battle with Cuchulain alone, if he
thought it a lighter task. He made known to them also the fair terms he had
obtained from Medb of sending the same six warriors for the fulfilment of the
covenant she had made with him, should Cuchulain fall by his hands. The folk of
Ferdiad were not joyful, blithe, cheerful or merry that night, but they were
sad, sorrowful and downcast, for they knew that where the two champions and the
two bulwarks in a gap for a hundred met in combat, one or other of them would
fall there or both would fall, and if it should be one of them, they believed it
would be their king and their own lord that would fall there, for it was not
easy to contend and do battle with Cuchulain on the Raid for the Kine of Cualnge.
Lo, 'tis time for thee
Here in rage against thee comes
Ferdiad, red-faced Daman's
Cuchulain: "Here am I-- no easy task--
Holding Erin's men at
Foot I've never turned in flight
In my fight with single foe!"
Fergus: "Dour the man when anger moves,
Owing to his gore-red
Ferdiad wears a skin of horn,
'Gainst which fight nor might
Cuchulain: "Be thou still urge not thy tale,
Fergus of the
On no land and on no ground,
For me is there aught defeat!"
Fergus: "Fierce the man with scores of deeds;
No light thing,
him to subdue.
Strong as hundreds-- brave his mien--
Point pricks not,
edge cuts him not!"
Cuchulain: "If we clash upon the ford,
I and Ferdiad of known
We'll not part without we know:
Fierce will be our weapon fight!"
Fergus: "More I'd wish it than reward,
O Cuchulain of red
Thou shouldst be the one to bring
Eastward haughty Ferdiad's
Cuchulain: "Now I give my word and vow,
Though unskilled in
strife of words,
It is I will conquer this
Son of Daman macDarè!"
Fergus: It is I brought east the host,
Thus requiting Ulster's
With me came they from their lands,
With their heroes and their
Cuchulain: "Were not Conchobar in the 'Pains,'
Hard 'twould be
to come near us.
Never Medb of Mag in Scail
On more tearful march had
Fergus: "Greatest deed awaits thy hand:
Fight with Ferdiad,
Hard stern arms with stubborn edge,
Shalt thou have, thou
Ferdiad slept right heavily the first part of the night, but when the end of
the night was come, his sleep and his heaviness left him. And the anxiousness of
the combat and the battle came upon him. And he charged his charioteer to take
his horses and to yoke his chariot. The charioteer sought to dissuade him from
that journey. "By our word," said the gilla, "'twould be better for thee to
remain than to go thither," said he. And in this manner he spake, and he uttered
these words, and the henchman responded:
Ferdiad: "Let's haste to th' encounter,
Ferdiad's horses were now brought forth and his chariot was hitched, and he
set out from the camp for the ford of battle when yet day with its full light
had not come there for him. "Come, gilla," said Ferdiad, "spread for me the
cushions and skins of my chariot under me here, so that I sleep off my heavy fit
of sleep and slumber here, for I slept not the last part of the night with the
anxiousness of the battle and combat." The gilla unharnessed the horses; he
unfastened the chariot under him. He slept off the heavy fit of sleep that was
To battle with this
The ford we will come to,
O'er which Badb will shriek!
To wound his slight body,
To thrust the spear through
So that he may die!"
The Henchman: "To stay it were better;
Your threats are not
Death's sickness will one have,
And sad will ye part!
To meet whence ill cometh;
Long will men speak of
Alas, for your course!"
Ferdiad: "Not fair what thou speakest;
No fear hath the
We owe no one meekness;
We stay not for thee!
The time will bring strong hearts;
More meet strength than
Let's on to the tryst!"
Now how Cuchulain fared is related here: He arose not till the day with its
bright light had come to him, lest the men of Erin might say it was fear or
fright of the champion he had, if he should arise early. And when day with its
full light had come, he passed his hand over his face and bade his charioteer
take his horses and yoke them to his chariot. "Come, gilla," said Cuchulain,
"take out our horses for us and harness our chariot, for an early riser is the
warrior appointed to meet us, Ferdiad son of Daman son of Darè. "The horses are
taken out," said the gilla; "the chariot is harnessed. Mount, and be it no shame
to thy valour to go thither!"
Then it was that the cutting, feat-performing, battle-winning, red-sworded
hero, Cuchulain son of Sualtaim, mounted his chariot, so that there shrieked
around him the goblins and fiends and the sprites of the glens and the demons of
the air; for the Tuatha De Danann ('the Folk of the Goddess Danu') were wont to
set up their cries around him, to the end that the dread and the fear and the
fright and the terror of him might be so much the greater in every battle and on
every field, in every fight and in every combat wherein he went.
Not long had Ferdiad's charioteer waited when he heard something: A rush and
a crash and a hurtling sound, and a din and a thunder, and a clatter and a
clash, namely, the shield-cry of feat-shields, and the jangle of javelins, and
the deed-striking of swords, and the thud of the helmet, and the ring of spears,
and the striking of arms, the fury of feats, the straining of ropes, and the
whirr of wheels, and the creaking of the chariot, and the trampling of horses'
hoofs, and the deep voice of the hero and battle-warrior on his way to the ford
to attack his opponent. The servant came and touched his master with his hand.
"Ferdiad, master," said the youth, "rise up! They are here to meet thee at the
ford." And the gilla spake these words:
"The roll of a chariot,
"Come, gilla," said Ferdiad; "for what reason laudest thou this man ever
since I am come from my house? And it is almost a cause for strife with thee
that thou hast praised him thus highly. But, Ailill and Medb have prophesied to
me that this man will fall by my hand. And since it is for a reward, he shall
quickly be torn asunder by me, but it is time to fetch help." And he spake these
words, and the henchman responded:
Its fair yoke of silver;
A man great
O'ertops the strong car!
O'er Bri Ross, o'er Branè
swift path they hasten;
Past Old-tree Town's tree-stump,
"A sly Hound that driveth,
A fair chief that urgeth,
hawk that speedeth
His steeds towards the south!
'Tis sure he will take us
We know-- vain to hide it--
Woe him on the hillock,
The brave Hound before him;
year I foretold it,
That some time he'd come!
Hound from Emain
Hound formed of all colours,
The Border-hound War-hound,
hear what I've heard!"
Ferdiad: "'Tis time now to help me;
Here followeth the Description of Cuchulain's chariot, one of the three chief
Chariots of the Tale of the Foray of Cualnge.
Be silent! cease
'Twas no deed of friendship,
No doom o'er the brink(?)
Champion of Cualnge,
Thou seest 'midst proud feats,
For that it's for
Shall quickly be slain!"
The Henchman: "I see Cualnge's hero,
Not fleeing he flees us,
But towards us he comes.
runneth-- not slowly--
Though cunning-- not sparing--
Like water down
Or thunderbolt quick!"
Ferdiad: "'Tis cause of a quarrel,
So much thou hast praised
And why hast thou chose him,
Since I am from home?
And now they
They fall to proclaim him;
None come to attack him,
soft simple men(?)."
It was not long that Ferdiad's charioteer remained there when he saw
something: a beautiful, five-pointed chariot, approaching with swiftness, with
speed, with perfect skill; with a green shade, with a thin-framed, dry-bodied
(?) box surmounted with feats of cunning, straight-poled, as long as a warrior's
sword. On this was room for a hero's seven arms, the fair seat for its lord;
behind two fleet steeds, large-eared, gaily prancing, with inflated nostrils,
broad-chested, quick-hearted, high-flanked, broad-hoofed, slender-limbed,
overpowering and resolute. A grey, broad-hipped, small-stepping, long-maned
horse was under one of the yokes of the chariot; a black, crisped-maned,
swift-moving, broad-backed horse under the other. Like unto a hawk after its
prey on a sharp tempestuous day, or to a tearing blast of wind of Spring on a
March day over the back of a plain, or unto a startled stag when first roused by
the hounds in the first of the chase, were Cuchulain's two horses before the
chariot, as if they were on glowing, fiery flags, so that they shook the earth
and made it tremble with the fleetness of their course.
And Cuchulain reached the ford. Ferdiad waited on the south side of the ford;
Cuchulain stood on the north side. Ferdiad bade welcome to Cuchulain. "Welcome
is thy coming, O Cuchulain!" said Ferdiad. "Truly spoken meseemed thy welcome
till now," answered Cuchulain; "but to-day I put no more trust in it. And, O
Ferdiad," said Cuchulain, "it were fitter for me to bid thee welcome than that
thou should'st welcome me; for it is thou that art come to the land and province
wherein I dwell, and it is not fitting for thee to come to contend and do battle
with me but it were fitter for me to go to contend and do battle with thee. For
before thee in flight are my women and my boys and my youths, my steeds and my
troops of horses, my droves, my flocks and my herds of cattle."
"Good, O Cuchulain," spake Ferdiad; "what has ever brought thee out to
contend and do battle with me? For when we were together with Scathach and with
Uathach and with Aifè, thou wast my serving-man, even for arming my spear and
dressing my bed." "That was indeed true," answered Cuchulain; "because of my
youth and my littleness did I so much for thee, but this is by no means my mood
this day. For there is not a warrior in the world I would not drive off this
And then it was that each of them cast sharp-cutting reproaches at the other,
renouncing his friendship. And Ferdiad spake these words there, and Cuchulain
Ferdiad: "What led thee, O Cua,
"Come now, O Ferdiad," cried Cuchulain, "not meet was it for thee to come to
contend and do battle with me, because of the instigation and intermeddling of
Ailill and Medb. And all that came because of those promises of deceit, neither
profit nor success did it bring them, and they have fallen by me. And none the
more, Ferdiad, shall it win victory or increase of fame for thee; and, shalt
thou too fall by my hand!" Thus he spake, and he further uttered these words and
Ferdiad hearkened to him:--
To fight a strong
Thy flesh will be gore-red
O'er smoke of thy steeds!
for thy journey,
A kindling of firebrands;
In sore need of
If home thou shouldst reach!"
Cuchulain: "I'm come before warriors
Around the herd's wild
Before troops and hundreds,
To drown thee in deep
In anger, to
In hundred-fold battle,
Till on thee come havoc,
Ferdiad: "Here stands one to crush thee,
'Tis I will destroy
. . . . .
From me there shall come
The flight of their
In presence of Ulster,
That long they'll remember
that was theirs!"
Cuchulain: "How then shall we combat?
For wrongs shall we heave
Despite all, we'll go there,
To fight on the ford!
Or is it
with hard swords,
Or e'en with red spear-points,
Before hosts to slay
If thy hour hath come?"
Ferdiad: "'Fore sunset, 'fore nightfall--
If need be, then
I'll fight thee at Bairchè,
Not bloodlessly fight!
Ulstermen call thee,
'He has him!' Oh, hearken!
The sight will distress
That through them will pass!"
Cuchulain: "In danger's gap fallen,
At hand is thy life's
On thee plied be weapons,
Not gentle the skill!
will slay thee;
We both will encounter;
No more shalt lead
From this day till Doom!"
Ferdiad: "Avaunt with thy warnings,
Thou world's greatest
Nor guerdon nor pardon,
Low warrior for thee!
'Tis I that
well know thee,
Thou heart of a cageling--
This lad merely
Without skill or force!"
Cuchulain: "When we were with Scathach,
For wonted arms'
Together we'd fare forth,
To seek every fight.
Thou wast my
My clan and my kinsman;
Ne'er found I one
Thy loss would be sad!"
Ferdiad: "Thou wager'st thine honour
Unless we do
Before the cock croweth,
Thy head on a spit!
Mad frenzy hath seized thee
All ill we'll wreak on thee,
thine is the sin!"
"Come not nigh me, noble chief,
"Good, O Ferdiad!" cried Cuchulain. "It is not right for thee to come to
fight and combat with me; for when we were with Scathach and with Uathach and
with Aifè, and it was together we were used to seek out every battle and every
battle-field, every combat and every contest, every wood and every desert, every
covert and every recess." And thus he spake and he uttered these words:
Ferdiad, comrade, Daman's
Worse for thee than 'tis for me;
Thou'lt bring sorrow to a host!
"Come not nigh me 'gainst all right;
Thy last bed is made by
Why shouldst thou alone escape
From the prowess of my arms?
"Shall not great feats thee undo,
Though thou'rt purple,
And the maid thou boastest of,
Shall not, Daman's son, be
"Finnabair, Medb's daughter fair,
Great her charms though they
Fair as is the damsel's form,
She's for thee not to enjoy!
"Finnabair, the king's own child,
Is the lure, if truth be
Many they whom she's deceived
And undone as she has thee!
"Break not, weetless, oath with me;
Break not friendship, break
Break not promise, break not word;
Come not nigh me, noble
"Fifty chiefs obtained in plight
This same maid, a proffer
Through me went they to their graves;
Spear-right all they had
"Though for brave was held Ferbaeth,
With whom was a warriors'
In short space I quelled his rage;
Him I slew with one sole blow!
"Srubdarè-- sore sank his might--
Darling of the noblest
Time there was when great his fame--
Gold nor raiment saved him
"Were she mine affianced wife,
Smiled on me this fair land's
I would not thy body hurt,
Right nor left, in front,
Cuchulain: "We were heart-companions once;
"Too long are we now in this way," quoth Ferdiad; "and what arms shall we
resort to to-day, O Cuchulain?" "With thee is thy choice of weapons this day,"
answered Cuchulain, "for thou art he that first didst reach the ford." "Rememberest thou at all," asked Ferdiad "the choice deeds of arms we were wont
to practise with Scathach and with Uathach and with Aifè?" "Indeed, and I do
remember," answered Cuchulain. "If thou rememberest, let us begin with them."
We were comrades in
We were men that shared a bed,
When we slept the heavy
After hard and weary fights.
Into many lands, so strange,
by side we sallied forth,
And we ranged the woodlands through,
Scathach we learned arms!"
Ferdiad: "O Cuchulain, rich in feats,
Hard the trade we both
Treason hath o'ercome our love;
Thy first wounding hath
Think not of our friendship more,
Cua, it avails thee
They betook them to their choicest deeds of arms. They took upon them two
equally-matched shields for feats, and their eight-edged targes for feats, and
their eight small darts, and their eight straightswords with ornaments of
walrus-tooth and their eight lesser, ivoried spears which flew from them and to
them like bees on a day of fine weather. They cast no weapon that struck not.
Each of them was busy casting at the other with those missiles from morning's
early twilight till noon at mid-day, the while they overcame their various feats
with the bosses and hollows of their feat-shields. However great the excellence
of the throwing on either side, equally great was the excellence of the defence,
so that during all that time neither of them bled or reddened the other. "Let us
cease now from this bout of arms, O Cuchulain," said Ferdiad; "for it is not by
such our decision will come." "Yea, surely, let us cease, if the time hath
come," answered Cuchulain. Then they ceased. They threw their feat-tackle from
them into the hands of their charioteers.
"To what weapons shall we resort next, O Cuchulain?" asked
Ferdiad. "Thine is
the choice of weapons till nightfall," replied Cuchulain; "for thou art he that
didst first reach the ford." "Let us begin, then," said Ferdiad, "with our
straight-cut, smooth-hardened throwing-spears, with cords of full-hard flax on
them." "Aye, let us begin then," assented Cuchulain. Then they took on them two
hard shields, equally strong. They fell to their straight-cut, smooth-hardened
spears with cords of full-hard flax on them. Each of them was engaged in casting
at the other with the spears from the middle of noon till the hour of evening's
sundown. However great the excellence of the defence, equally great was the
excellence of the throwing on either side, so that each of them bled and
reddened and wounded the other during that time. "Let us leave off from this
now, O Cuchulain," said Ferdiad. "Aye, let us leave off, if the time hath come,"
answered Cuchulain. So they ceased. They threw their arms from them into the
hands of their charioteers.
Thereupon each of them went toward the other in the middle of the ford, and
each of them put his hand on the other's neck and gave him three kisses. Their
horses were in one and the same paddock that night, and their charioteers at one
and the same fire; and their charioteers made ready a litter-bed of fresh rushes
for them with pillows for wounded men on them. Then came healing and curing folk
to heal and to cure them, and they laid healing herbs and grasses and a curing
charm on their cuts and stabs, their gashes and many wounds. Of every healing
herb and grass and curing charm that was brought and was applied to the cuts and
stabs, to the gashes and many wounds of Cuchulain, a like portion thereof he
sent across the ford westward to Ferdiad, so that the men of Erin should not
have it to say, should Ferdiad fall at his hands, it was more than his share of
care had been given to him.
Of every food and of every savoury, soothing and strong drink that was
brought by the men of Erin to Ferdiad, a like portion thereof he sent over the
ford northwards to Cuchulain; for the purveyors of Ferdiad were more numerous
than the purveyors of Cuchulain. All the men of Erin were purveyors to Ferdiad,
to the end that he might keep Cuchulain off from them. But only the inhabitants
of Mag Breg ('the Plain of Breg') were purveyors to Cuchulain. They were wont to
come daily, that is, every night, to converse with him.
They bided there that night. Early on the morrow they arose and went their
ways to the ford of combat. "To what weapons shall we resort on this day, O
Ferdiad?" asked Cuchulain. "Thine is the choosing of weapons," Ferdiad made
answer, "because it was I had my choice of weapons on the day aforegone." "Let
us take, then," said Cuchulain, "to our great, well-tempered lances to-day, for
we think that the thrusting will bring nearer the decisive battle to-day than
did the casting of yesterday. Let our horses be brought to us and our chariots
yoked, to the end that we engage in combat over our horses and chariots on this
day." "Aye, let us go so," Ferdiad assented.
Thereupon they girded two full-firm broadshields on them for that day. They
took to their great, well-tempered lances on that day. Either of them began to
pierce and to drive, to throw and to press down the other, from early morning's
twilight till the hour of evening's close. If it were the wont for birds in
flight to fly through the bodies of men, they could have passed through their
bodies on that day and carried away pieces of blood and flesh through their
wounds and their sores into the clouds and the air all around. And when the hour
of evening's close was come, their horses were spent and their drivers were
wearied, and they themselves, the heroes and warriors of valour, were exhausted.
"Let us give over now, O Ferdiad," said Cuchulain, "for our horses are spent and
our drivers tired, and when they are exhausted, why should we too not be
exhausted?" And in this wise he spake, and he uttered these words at that place:
"We need not our chariots break--
"Yea, we will cease, if the time hath come," replied Ferdiad. They ceased
then. They threw their arms away from them into the hands of their charioteers.
Each of them came towards his fellow. Each laid his hand on the other's neck and
gave him three kisses. Their horses were in the one pen that night, and their
charioteers at the one fire. Their charioteers prepared two litter-beds of fresh
rushes for them with pillows for wounded men on them. The curing and healing men
came to attend and watch and mark them that night; for naught else could they
do, because of the direfulness of their cuts and their stabs, their gashes and
their numerous wounds, but apply to them philtres and spells and charms, to
staunch their blood and their bleeding and their deadly pains. Of every magic
potion and every spell and every charm that was applied to the cuts and stabs of
Cuchulain, their like share he sent over the ford westwards to Ferdiad. Of every
food and every savoury, soothing and strong drink that was brought by the men of
Erin to Ferdiad, an equal portion he sent over the ford northwards to Cuchulain,
for the victuallers of Ferdiad were more numerous than the victuallers of
Cuchulain. For all the men of Erin were Ferdiad's nourishers, to the end that he
might ward off Cuchulain from them. But the indwellers of the Plain of Breg
alone were Cuchulain's nourishers. They were wont to come daily, that is, every
night, to converse with him.
This, a struggle fit for
Place the hobbles on the steeds,
Now that din of arms is
They abode there that night. Early on the morrow they arose and repaired to
the ford of combat. Cuchulain marked an evil mien and a dark mood that day on
Ferdiad. "It is evil thou appearest to-day, O Ferdiad," spake
hair has become dark to-day, and thine eye has grown drowsy, and thine upright
form and thy features and thy gait have gone from thee!" "Truly not for fear nor
for dread of thee is that happened to me to-day," answered Ferdiad; "for there
is not in Erin this day a warrior I could not repel!" And Cuchulain lamented and
moaned, and he spake these words and Ferdiad responded:
Cuchulain: "Ferdiad, ah, if it be thou,
"How much soever thou findest fault with me to-day," said Ferdiad, "it will
be as an offset to my prowess." And he said, "To what weapons shall we resort
to-day?" "With thyself is the choice of weapons to-day," replied Cuchulain, "for
it is I that chose on the day gone by." "Let us resort, then," said Ferdiad, "to
our heavy, hard-smiting swords this day, for we trow that the smiting each other
will bring us nearer to the decision of battle to-day than was our piercing each
other on yesterday." "Let us go then, by all means," responded Cuchulain.
Well I know thou'rt
doomed to die!
To have gone at woman's hest,
Forced to fight thy comrade
Ferdiad: "O Cuchulain-- wise decree--
Loyal champion, hero
Each man is constrained to go
'Neath the sod that hides his
Cuchulain: "Finnabair, Medb's daughter fair,
though she be,
Not for love they'll give to thee,
But to prove thy
Ferdiad: "Provèd was my might long since,
Cu of gentle spirit
Of one braver I've not heard;
Till to-day I have not found!"
Cuchulain: "Thou art he provoked this fight,
Son of Daman,
To have gone at woman's word,
Swords to cross with thine old
Ferdiad: "Should we then unfought depart,
Brothers though we
are, bold Hound,
Ill would be my word and fame
With Ailill and
Cuchulain: "Food has not yet passed his lips,
Nay nor has he
yet been born,
Son of king or blameless queen,
For whom I would work
Ferdiad: "Culann's Hound, with floods of deeds,
Medb, not thou,
hath us betrayed;
Fame and victory thou shalt have;
Not on thee we lay
Cuchulain: "Clotted gore is my brave heart,
Near I'm parted
from my soul;
Wrongful 'tis-- with hosts of deeds--
Ferdiad, dear, to
fight with thee!"
Then they took two full-great long-shields upon them for that day. They
turned to their heavy, hard-smiting swords. Each of them fell to strike and to
hew, to lay low and cut down, to slay and undo his fellow, till as large as the
head of a month-old child was each lump and each cut, that each of them took
from the shoulders and thighs and shoulder-blades of the other.
Each of them was engaged in smiting the other in this way from the twilight
of early morning till the hour of evening's close. "Let us leave off from this
now, O Cuchulain!" cried Ferdiad. "Aye, let us leave off, if the hour has come,"
said Cuchulain. They parted then, and threw their arms away from them into the
hands of their charioteers. Though it had been the meeting of two happy, blithe,
cheerful, joyful men, their parting that night was of two that were sad,
sorrowful and full of suffering. Their horses were not in the same paddock that
night. Their charioteers were not at the same fire.
They passed there that night. It was then that Ferdiad arose early on the
morrow and went alone to the ford of combat. For he knew that that would be the
decisive day of the battle and combat; and he knew that one or other of them
would fall there that day, or that they both would fall. It was then he donned
his battle-weed of battle and fight and combat, or ever Cuchulain came to meet
him. And thus was the manner of this harness of battle and fight and combat: He
put his silken, glossy trews with its border of speckled gold, next to his white
skin. Over this, outside, he put his brown-leathern, well-sewed kilt. Outside of
this he put a huge, goodly flag, the size of a millstone. He put his solid, very
deep, iron kilt of twice molten iron over the huge, goodly flag as large as a
millstone, through fear and dread of the Gae Bulga on that day.
About his head he put his crested war-cap of battle and fight and combat,
whereon were forty carbuncle-gems beautifully adorning it and studded with
red-enamel and crystal and rubies and with shining stones of the Eastern world.
His angry, fierce-striking spear he seized in his right hand. On his left side
he hung his curved battle-falchion, with its golden pommel and its rounded hilt
of red gold. On the arch-slope of his back he slung his massive, fine-buffalo
shield of a warrior, whereon were fifty bosses, wherein a boar could be shown in
each of its bosses, apart from the great central boss of red gold. Ferdiad
performed diverse, brilliant, manifold, marvellous feats on high that day,
unlearned from any one before, neither from foster-mother nor from
foster-father, neither from Scathach nor from Uathach nor from Aifè, but he
found them of himself that day in the face of Cuchulain.
Cuchulain likewise came to the ford, and he beheld the various, brilliant,
manifold, wonderful feats that Ferdiad performed on high. "Thou seest yonder, O
Laeg my master, the divers, bright, numerous, marvellous feats that Ferdiad
performs on high, and I shall receive yon feats one after the other. And,
therefore, if defeat be my lot this day, do thou prick me on and taunt me and
speak evil to me, so that the more my spirit and anger shall rise in me. If,
however, before me his defeat takes place, say thou so to me and praise me and
speak me fair, to the end that the greater may be my courage!" "It shall surely
be done so, if need be, O Cucuc," Laeg answered.
Then Cuchulain, too, girded his war-harness of battle and fight and combat
about him, and performed all kinds of splendid, manifold, marvellous feats on
high that day which he had not learned from any one before, neither with
Scathach nor with Uathach nor with Aifè.
Ferdiad observed those feats, and he knew they would be plied against him in
turn. "To what weapons shall we resort to-day, Ferdiad?" asked Cuchulain. "With
thee is thy choice of weapons," Ferdiad responded. "Let us go to the 'Feat of
the Ford,' then," said Cuchulain. "Aye, let us do so," answered Ferdiad. Albeit
Ferdiad spoke that, he deemed it the most grievous thing whereto he could go,
for he knew that in that sort Cuchulain used to destroy every hero and every
battle-soldier who fought with him in the 'Feat of the Ford.'
Great indeed was the deed that was done on the ford that day. The two heroes,
the two champions, the two chariot-fighters of the west of Europe, the two
bright torches of valour of the Gael, the two hands of dispensing favour and of
giving rewards in the west of the northern world, the two veterans of skill and
the two keys of bravery of the Gael, to be brought together in encounter as from
afar, through the sowing of dissension and the incitement of Ailill and Medb.
Each of them was busy hurling at the other in those deeds of arms from early
morning's gloaming till the middle of noon. When mid-day came, the rage of the
men became wild, and each drew nearer to the other.
Thereupon Cuchulain gave one spring once from the bank of the ford till he
stood upon the boss of Ferdiad macDaman's shield, seeking to reach his head and
to strike it from above over the rim of the shield. Straightway Ferdiad gave the
shield a blow with his left elbow, so that Cuchulain went from him like a bird
onto the brink of the ford. Again Cuchulain sprang from the brink of the ford,
so that he alighted upon the boss of Ferdiad macDaman's shield, that he might
reach his head and strike it over the rim of the shield from above. Ferdiad gave
the shield a thrust with his left knee, so that Cuchulain went from him like an
infant onto the bank of the ford.
Laeg espied that. "Woe then, Cuchulain!" cried Laeg; "meseems the
battle-warrior that is against thee hath shaken thee as a fond woman shakes her
child. He hath washed thee as a cup is washed in a tub. He hath ground thee as a
mill grinds soft malt. He hath pierced thee as a tool bores through an oak. He
hath bound thee as the bindweed binds the trees. He hath pounced on thee as a
hawk pounces on little birds, so that no more hast thou right or title or claim
to valour or skill in arms till the very day of doom and of life, thou little
imp of an elf-man!" cried Laeg.
Thereat for the third time, Cuchulain arose with the speed of the wind, and
the swiftness of a swallow, and the dash of a dragon, and the strength (of a
lion) into the clouds of the air, til he alighted on the boss of the shield of
Ferdiad son of Daman, so as to reach his head that he might strike it from above
over the rim of his shield. Then it was that the battle-warrior gave the shield
a violent and powerful shake, so that Cuchulain flew from it into the middle of
the ford, the same as if he had not sprung at all.
It was then the first twisting-fit of Cuchulain took place, so that a
swelling and inflation filled him like breath in a bladder, until he made a
dreadful, terrible, many-coloured, wonderful bow of himself, so that as big as a
giant or a man of the sea was the hugely-brave warrior towering directly over
Such was the closeness of the combat they made, that their heads encountered
above and their feet below and their hands in the middle over the rims and
bosses of the shields. Such was the closeness of the combat they made, that
their shields burst and split from their rims to their centres. Such was the
closeness of the combat they made, that their spears bent and turned and
shivered from their tips to their rivets.
Such was the closeness of the combat they made, that the boccanach and the
bananach and the sprites of the glens and the eldritch beings of the air
screamed from the rims of their shields and from the guards of their swords and
from the tips of their spears.
Such was the closeness of the combat they made, that they forced the river
out of its bed and out of its course, so that there might have been a reclining
place for a king or a queen in the middle of the ford, and not a drop of water
was in it but what fell there with the trampling and slipping which the two
heroes and the two battle-warriors made in the middle of the ford.
Such was the closeness of the combat they made, that the steeds of the Gael
broke loose affrighted and plunging with madness and fury, so that their chains
and their shackles, their traces and tethers snapped, and the women and children
and pygmy-folk, the weak and the madmen among the men of Erin broke out through
the camp southwestward.
At that time they were at the edge-feat of swords. It was then Ferdiad caught
Cuchulain in an unguarded moment, and he gave him a thrust with his tusk-hilted
blade, so that he buried it in his breast, and his blood fell into his belt,
till the ford became crimsoned with the clotted blood from the battle-warrior's
body. Cuchulain endured it not under Ferdiad's attack, with his death-bringing,
heavy blows, and his long strokes and his mighty, middle slashes at him.
Then Cuchulain bethought him of his friends from the Faery land and of his
mighty folk who would come to defend him and of his scholars to protect him,
what time he would be hard pressed in the combat. It was then that Dolb and
Indolb arrived to help and to succour their friend, namely Cuchulain. Then it
was that Ferdiad felt the onset of the three together smiting his shield against
him, and he gave all his care and attention thereto, and thence he called to
mind that, when they were with Scathach and with Uathach [learning together,
Dolb and Indolb used to come to help Cuchulain out of every stress wherein he
Ferdiad spake: "Not alike are our foster-brothership and our comradeship O
Cuchulain," quoth he. "How so, then?" asked Cuchulain. "Thy friends of the
Fairy-folk have succoured thee, and thou didst not disclose them to me before,"
said Ferdiad. "Not easy for me were that," answered Cuchulain; "for if the magic
veil be once revealed to one of the sons of Mile, none of the Tuatha De Danann
will have power to practise concealment or magic. And why complainest thou here,
Ferdiad?" said Cuchulain. "Thou hast a horn skin whereby to multiply feats and
deeds of arms on me, and thou hast not shown me how it is closed or how it is
opened." Then it was they displayed all their skill and secret cunning to one
another, so that there was not a secret of either of them kept from the other
except the Gae Bulga, which was Cuchulain's.
Howbeit, when the Fairy friends found Cuchulain had been wounded, each of
them inflicted three great, heavy wounds on him, on Ferdiad, to wit. It was then
that Ferdiad made a cast to the right, so that he slew Dolb with that goodly
cast. Then followed the two woundings and the two throws that overcame him, till
Ferdiad made a second throw towards Cuchulain's left, and with that throw he
stretched low and killed Indolb dead on the floor of the ford. Hence it is that
the story-teller sang the rann:
"Why is this called Ferdiad's Ford,
When the devoted equally great sires and champions, and the hard,
battle-victorious wild beasts that fought for Cuchulain had fallen, it greatly
strengthened the courage of Ferdiad, so that he gave two blows for every blow of
Cuchulain's. When Laeg son of Riangabair saw his lord being overcome by the
crushing blows of the champion who oppressed him, Laeg began to stir up and
rebuke Cuchulain, in such a way that a swelling and an inflation filled
Cuchulain from top to ground, as the wind fills a spread, open banner, so that
he made a dreadful, wonderful bow of himself like a skybow in a shower of rain,
and he made for Ferdiad with the violence of a dragon or the strength of a
E'en though three men on it
None the less it washed their spoils--
It is Dolb's and Indolb's
And Cuchulain called for the Gae Bulga from Laeg son of Riangabair. This was
its nature: With the stream it was made ready, and from between the fork of the
foot it was cast; the wound of a single spear it gave when entering the body,
and thirty barbs had it when it opened and it could not be drawn out of a man's
flesh till the flesh had been cut about it.
Thereupon Laeg came forward to the brink of the river and to the place where
the fresh water was dammed, and the Gae Bulga was sharpened and set in position.
He filled the pool and stopped the stream and checked the tide of the ford.
Ferdiad's charioteer watched the work, for Ferdiad had said to him early in the
morning: "Now gilla, do thou hold back Laeg from me to-day, and I will hold back
Cuchulain from thee." "This is a pity," quoth the henchman; "no match for him am
I; for a man to combat a hundred is he, and that am I not. Still; however slight
his help, it shall not come to his lord past me."
He was then watching his brother thus making the dam till he filled the pools
and went to set the Gae Bulga downwards. It was then that Id went up and
released the stream and opened the dam and undid the fixing of the Gae Bulga.
Cuchulain became deep purple and red all over when he saw the setting undone on
the Gae Bulga. He sprang from the top of the ground so that he alighted light
and quick on the rim of Ferdiad's shield. Ferdiad gave a strong shake to the
shield, so that he hurled Cuchulain the measure of nine paces out to the
westward over the ford.
Then Cuchulain called and shouted to Laeg to set about preparing the Gae
Bulga for him. Laeg hastened to the pool and began the work. Id ran and opened
the dam and released it before the stream. Laeg sprang at his brother and they
grappled on the spot. Laeg threw Id and handled him sorely, for he was loath to
use weapons upon him. Ferdiad pursued Cuchulain westwards over the ford.
Cuchulain sprang on the rim of the shield. Ferdiad shook the shield, so that he
sent Cuchulain the space of nine paces eastwards over the ford.
Cuchulain called and shouted to Laeg. Laeg attempted to come, but Ferdiad's
charioteer let him not, so that Laeg turned on him and left him on the sedgy
bottom of the ford. He gave him many a heavy blow with clenched fist on the face
and countenance, so that he broke his mouth and his nose and put out his eyes
and his sight. And forthwith Laeg left him and filled the pool and checked the
stream and stilled the noise of the river's voice, and set in position the Gae
Bulga. After some time Ferdiad's charioteer arose from his death-cloud, and set
his hand on his face and countenance, and he looked away towards the ford of
combat and saw Laeg fixing the Gae Bulga. He ran again to the pool and made a
breach in the dike quickly and speedily, so that the river burst out in its
booming, bounding, bellying, bank-breaking billows making its own wild course.
Cuchulain became purple and red all over when he saw the setting of the Gae
Bulga had been disturbed, and for the third time he sprang from the top of the
ground and alighted on the edge of Ferdiad's shield, so as to strike him over
the shield from above. Ferdiad gave a blow with his left knee against the
leather of the bare shield, so that Cuchulain was thrown into the waves of the
Thereupon Ferdiad gave three severe woundings to Cuchulain. Cuchulain cried
and shouted loudly to Laeg to make ready the Gae Bulga for him. Laeg attempted
to get near it, but Ferdiad's charioteer prevented him. Then Laeg grew very
wroth at his brother and he made a spring at him, and he closed his long,
full-valiant hands over him, so that he quickly threw him to the ground and
straightway bound him. And then he went from him quickly and courageously, so
that he filled the pool and stayed the stream and set the Gae Bulga. And he
cried out to Cuchulain that it was served, for it was not to be discharged
without a quick word of warning before it. Hence it is that Laeg cried out:--
"Ware! beware the Gae Bulga,
Then it was that Cuchulain let fly the white Gae Bulga from the fork of his
irresistible right foot. Ferdiad prepared for the feat according to the
testimony thereof. He lowered his shield, so that the spear went over its edge
into the watery, water-cold river. And he looked at Cuchulain, and he saw all
his various, venomous feats made ready, and he knew not to which of them he
should first give answer, whether to the 'Fist's breast-spear,' or to the 'Wild
shield's broad-spear,' or to the 'Short spear from the middle of the palm,' or
to the white Gae Bulga over the fair, watery river.
Battle-winning Culann's hound!"
Ferdiad heard the Gae Bulga called for. He thrust his shield down to protect
the lower part of his body. Cuchulain gripped the short spear, cast it off the
palm of his hand over the rim of the shield and over the edge of the corselet
and horn-skin, so that its farther half was visible after piercing his heart in
his bosom. Ferdiad gave a thrust of his shield upwards to protect the upper part
of his body, though it was help that came too late. The gilla set the Gae Bulga
down the stream, and Cuchulain caught it in the fork of his foot, and threw the
Gae Bulga as far as he could cast underneath at Ferdiad, so that it passed
through the strong, thick, iron apron of wrought iron, and broke in three parts
the huge, goodly stone the size of a millstone, so that it cut its way through
the body's protection into him, till every joint and every limb was filled with
"Ah, that now sufficeth," sighed Ferdiad: "I am fallen of that! But, yet one
thing more: mightily didst thou drive with thy right foot. And 'twas not fair of
thee for me to fall by thy hand." And he yet spake and uttered these words:
"O Cu of grand feats,
Thereupon Cuchulain hastened towards Ferdiad and clasped his two arms about
him, and bore him with all his arms and his armour and his dress northwards over
the ford, that so it should be with his face to the north of the ford the
triumph took place and not to the south of the ford with the men of Erin.
Cuchulain laid Ferdiad there on the ground, and a cloud and a faint and a swoon
came over Cuchulain there by the head of Ferdiad. Laeg espied it, and the men of
Erin all arose for the attack upon him. "Come, O Cucuc," cried Laeg; "arise now
from thy trance, for the men of Erin will come to attack us, and it is not
single combat they will allow us, now that Ferdiad son of Daman son of Darè is
fallen by thee." "What availeth it me to arise, O gilla," moaned Cuchulain, "now
that this one is fallen by my hand?" In this wise the gilla spake and he uttered
these words and Cuchulain responded:
Unfairly I'm slain!
Thy guilt clings
My blood falls on thee!
"No meed for the wretch
Who treads treason's gap.
is my voice;
Ah, gone is my bloom!
"My ribs' armour bursts,
My heart is all gore;
I battled not
I'm smitten, O Cu!
Laeg: "Now arise, O Emain's Hound;
Cuchulain began to lament and bemoan Ferdiad, and he spake the words:
Now most fits thee courage
Ferdiad hast thou thrown-- of hosts--
God's fate! How thy fight
Cuchulain: What avails me courage now?
I'm oppressed with rage
For the deed that I have don
On his body sworded sore!"
Laeg: It becomes thee not to weep;
Fitter for thee to
Yon red-speared one thee hath left
Plaintful, wounded, steeped in
Cuchulain: "Even had he cleaved my leg,
And one hand had
Woe, that Ferdiad-- who rode steeds--
Shall not ever be in
Laeg: "Liefer far what's come to pass,
To the maidens of Red
He to die, thou to remain;
They grudge not that ye should part!"
Cuchulain: "From the day I Cualnge left,
Seeking high and
Carnage has she had-- with fame--
Of her warriors whom
Laeg: "Thou hast had no sleep in peace,
In pursuit of thy great
Though thy troop was few and small,
Oft thou wouldst rise at early
"Alas, O Ferdiad," spake he, "'twas thine ill fortune thou didst not take
counsel with any of those that knew my real deeds of valour and arms, before we
met in clash of battle! Unhappy for thee that Laeg son of Riangabair did not
make thee blush in regard to our comradeship! Unhappy for thee that the truly
faithful warning of Fergus thou didst not take! Unhappy for thee that dear,
trophied, triumphant, battle-victorious Conall counselled thee not in regard to
our comradeship! For those men would not have spoken in obedience to the
messages or desires or orders or false words of promise of the fair-haired women
of Connacht. For well do those men know that there will not be born a being that
will perform deeds so tremendous and so great among the Connachtmen as I, till
the very day of doom and of everlasting life, whether at plying of spear and
sword, at playing at draughts and chess, at driving of steeds and chariots."
"There shall not be found the hand of a hero that will wound warrior's flesh,
like cloud-coloured Ferdiad! There shall not be heard from the gap the cry of
red-mouthed Badb to the winged, shade-speckled flocks! There shall not be one
that will contend for Cruachan that will obtain covenants equal to thine, till
the very day of doom and of life henceforward, O red-cheeked son of Daman!" said
Cuchulain. Then it was that Cuchulain arose and stood over Ferdiad: "Ah,
Ferdiad," spake Cuchulain, "greatly have the men of Erin deceived and abandoned
thee, to bring thee to contend and do battle with me. For no easy thing is it to
contend and do battle with me on the Raid for the Kine of Cualnge! Thus he
spake, and he uttered these words:
"Ah, Ferdiad, betrayed to death.
Then Cuchulain turned to gaze on Ferdiad. "Ah, my master Laeg," cried
Cuchulain, "now strip Ferdiad and take his armour and garments off him, that I
may see the brooch for the sake of which he entered on the combat and fight with
me." Laeg came up and stripped Ferdiad. He took his armour and garments off him
and he saw the brooch and he began to lament and complain over Ferdiad, and he
spake these words:
Our last meeting, oh, how
Thou to die I to remain.
Ever sad our long farewell!
"When we over yonder dwelt
With our Scathach, steadfast,
This we thought till end of time,
That our friendship ne'er would
"Dear to me thy noble blush;
Dear thy comely, perfect
Dear thine eye, blue-grey and clear;
Dear thy wisdom and thy
"Never strode to rending fight,
Never wrath and manhood
Nor slung shield across broad back,
One like thee, Daman's red
Never have I met till now,
Since I Oenfer Aifè slew,
peer in deeds of arms,
Never have I found, Ferdiad!
Finnabair, Medb's daughter fair,
Beauteous, lovely though she
As a gad round sand or stones,
She was shown to thee,
"Alas, golden brooch;
"Come, O Laeg my master," cried Cuchulain; "now cut open Ferdiad and take the
Gae Bulga out, because I may not be without my weapons." Laeg came and cut open
Ferdiad and he took the Gae Bulga out of him. And Cuchulain saw his weapons
bloody and red-stained by the side of Ferdiad, and he uttered these words:--
Ferdiad of the hosts,
O good smiter,
Victorious thy hand!
"Thy hair blond and curled,
A wealth fair and grand.
soft, leaf-shaped belt
Around thee till death!
"Our comradeship dear;
Thy noble eye's gleam;
Thy sword, treasures worth!
"Thy white-silver torque
Thy noble arm binds.
chess-board worth wealth;
Thy fair, ruddy cheek!
"To fall by my hand,
I own was not just!
'Twas no noble
Alas, golden brooch!
"O Ferdiad, in gloom we meet.
"Good, O Cucuc," spake Laeg, "let us leave this ford now; too long are we
here!" "Aye, let us leave it, O my master Laeg," replied Cuchulain. "But every
combat and battle I have fought seems a game and a sport to me compared with the
combat and battle of Ferdiad." Thus he spake, and he uttered these words:
Thee I see both red and
I myself with unwashed arms;
Thou liest in thy bed of gore!
"Were we yonder in the East,
Scathach and our Uathach
There would not be pallid lips
Twixt us two, and arms of strife!
"Thus spake Scathach trenchantly (?),
Words of warning, strong
'Go ye all to furious fight;
German, blue-eyed, fierce will
"Unto Ferdiad then I spake,
And to Lugaid generous,
son of fair Baetan,
German we would go to meet!
"We came to the battle-rock,
Over Lake Linn Formait's
And four hundred men we brought
From the Isles of the Athissech!
"As I stood and Ferdiad brave
At the gate of German's
I slew Rinn the son of Nel;
He slew Ruad son of Fornel!
Ferdiad slew upon the slope
Blath, of Colba 'Red-sword'
Lugaid, fierce and swift, then slew
Mugairne of the Tyrrhene Sea!
"I slew, after going in,
Four times fifty grim, wild
Ferdiad killed-- a furious horde--
Dam Dremenn and Dam Dilenn!
"We laid waste shrewd German's fort
O'er the broad, bespangled
German we brought home alive
To our Scathach of broad shield!
"Then our famous nurse made fast
Our blood-pact of
That our angers should not rise
'Mongst the tribes of noble Elg!
"Sad the morn, a day in March,
Which struck down weak Daman's
Woe is me, the friend is fall'n
Whom I pledged in red blood's
"Were it there I saw thy death,
Midst the great Greeks'
I'd not live on after thee,
But together we would die!
"Woe, what us befel therefrom,
Us, dear Scathach's
Me sore wounded, red with blood,
Thee no more to drive thy
"Woe, what us befel therefrom,
Us, dear Scathach's
Me sore wounded, stiff with gore,
Thee to die the death for
"Woe, what us befel therefrom,
Us, dear Scathach's
Thee in death, me, strong, alive.
Valour is an angry
All was play, all was sport,
Thus far the Death of Ferdiad.
Till came Ferdiad to the
One task for both of us,
Equal our reward.
Our kind, gentle
Chose him over all!
All was play, all was sport,
Till came Ferdiad to the
One our life, one our fear,
One our skill in arms.
To Ferdiad and me!
All was play, all was sport,
Till came Ferdiad to the
Dear the shaft of gold
I smote on the ford.
Bull-chief of the
Braver he than all!
Only games and only sport,
Till came Ferdiad to the
Lion furious, flaming, fierce;
Swollen wave that wrecks like doom!
Only games and only sport,
Till came Ferdiad to the
Loved Ferdiad seemed to me
After me would live for
Yesterday, a mountain's size--
He is but a shade to-day!
Three things countless on the Táin
Which have fallen by my
Hosts of cattle, men and steeds
I have slaughtered on all sides!
Though the hosts were e'er so great,
That came out of Cruachan
More than third and less than half,
Slew I in my direful sport!
Never trod in battle's ring;
Banba nursed not on her
Never sprang from sea or land,
King's son that had larger