The Tain Bo Culaigne
The Harrying Of Cualnge
Followeth Here Below
After every one had come with
their spoils and they were all gathered in
Finnabair of Cualnge, Medb spake: "Let the camp be divided here," said Medb;
"the foray cannot be carried on by a single road. Let Ailill with half his force
go by Midluachair. We and Fergus will go by Bernas Bo Ulad ('the Pass of the
Cattle of Ulster')." "Not fair is the part that has fallen to us of the force,"
said Fergus; "the cattle cannot be driven over the mountain without dividing."
This then is done. Hence cometh Bernas Bo Ulad ('the Pass of the Cattle of
Then spake Ailill to his charioteer Cuillius: "Find out for me to-day Medb
and Fergus. I wot not what hath led them to keep thus together. I would fain
have a token from thee." Cuillius went where Medb and Fergus wantoned. The pair
dallied behind while the warriors continued their march. Cuillius stole near
them and they perceived not the spy. It happened that Fergus' sword lay close by
him. Cuillius drew it from its sheath and left the sheath empty. Then Cuillius
betook himself to Ailill. "Well?" said Ailill." Well, then," replied Cuillius;
"thou knowest the signfication of this token. As thou hast thought," continued
Cuillius, " it is thus I discovered them, lying together." "It is so, then."
Each of them laughs at the other. "It is well so," said Ailill; "she had no
choice; to win his help on the Táin she hath done it. Keep the sword carefully
by thee," said Ailill; "put it beneath thy seat in the chariot and a linen cloth
wrapped round it."
When Fergus got up to take his sword, "Alas!" cried he. "What aileth thee?"
Medb asked. "An ill deed have I done Ailill," said he. "Wait thou here till I
come out of the wood," said Fergus, "and wonder not though it be long till I
come." It happened that Medb knew not of the loss of the sword. Fergus went out
taking his charioteer's sword with him in his hand, and he fashioned a sword
from a tree in the wood. Hence is Fid Mor Thruailli ('Great Scabbard-Wood') in
"Let us hasten after our comrades," said Fergus. "The forces of all came
together in the plain. They raised their tents. Fergus was summoned to Ailill
for a game of chess. When Fergus entered the tent Ailill laughed at him.
Cuchulain came so that he was before Ath Cruinn ('the Ford of the Cronn'). "O
master Laeg," he cried to his driver, "here are the hosts for us." "I swear by
the gods," said the charioteer, "I will do a mighty feat in the eyes of
chariot-fighters, in quick spurring-on of the slender steeds; with yokes of
silver and golden wheels shall they be urged on (?) in triumph. Thou shalt ride
before heads of kings. The steeds I guide will bring victory with their
bounding." "Take heed, O Laeg," said Cuchulain; "hold the reins for the great
triumph of Macha, that the horses drag thee not over the mass at the . . . (?)
of a woman. Let us go over the straight plain of these . . . (?). I call on the
waters to help me," cried Cuchulain. "I beseech heaven and earth and the Cronn
Then the Cronn opposes them,
Therewith the water rose up till it was in the tops of the trees.
Holds them back from Murthemne
heroes' work is done
On the mount of Ocaine!
Manè son of Ailill and Medb marched in advance of the rest. Cuchulain slew
him on the ford and thirty horsemen of his people were drowned. Again Cuchulain
laid low twice sixteen warriors of theirs near the stream. The warriors of Erin
pitched their tents near the ford. Lugaid son of Nos grandson of Lomarc
Allcomach went to parley with Cuchulain. Thirty horsemen were with him. "Welcome
to thee, O Lugaid," cried Cuchulain. "Should a flock of birds graze upon the
plain of Murthemne, thou shalt have a wild goose with half the other. Should
fish come to the falls or to the bays, thou shalt have a salmon with as much
again. Thou shalt have the three sprigs, even a sprig of cresses, a sprig of
laver, and a sprig of sea-grass; there will be a man to take thy place at the
"This welcome is truly meant," replied Lugaid; "the choice of people for the
youth whom I desire!" "Splendid are your hosts," said Cuchulain. "It will be no
misfortune," said Lugaid, "for thee to stand up alone before them." "True
courage and valour have I," Cuchulain made answer. "Lugaid, my master," said
Cuchulain, "do the hosts fear me?" "By the god," Lugaid made answer, "I swear
that no one man of them nor two men dares make water outside the camp unless
twenty or thirty go with him." "It will be something for them," said Cuchulain,
"if I begin to cast from my sling. He will be fit for thee, O Lugaid, this
companion thou hast in Ulster, if the men oppose me one by one. Say, then, what
wouldst thou?" asked Cuchulain. "A truce with my host." "Thou shalt have it,
provided there be a token therefor. And tell my master Fergus that there shall
be a token on the host. Tell the leeches that there shall be a token on the
host, and let them swear to preserve my life and let them provide me each night
Lugaid went from him. It happened that Fergus was in the tent with
Lugaid called him out and reported that (proposal of Cuchulain's) to him. Then
Ailill was heard:
"I swear by the god, I cannot," said Fergus, "unless I ask the lad. Help me,
O Lugaid," said Fergus. "Do thou go to him, to see whether Ailill with a
division may come to me to my company. Take him an ox with salt pork and a keg
of wine." Thereupon Lugaid goes to Cuchulain and tells him that. "'Tis the same
to me whether he go," said Cuchulain. Then the two hosts unite. They remain
there till night, or until they spend thirty nights there. Cuchulain destroyed
thirty of their warriors with his sling. "Your journeyings will be ill-starred,"
said Fergus (to Medb and Ailill); "the men of Ulster will come out of their
'Pains' and will grind you down to the earth and the gravel. Evil is the
battle-corner wherein we are." He proceeds to Cul Airthir ('the Eastern Nook').
Cuchulain slays thirty of their heroes on Ath Duirn ('Ford of the Fist'). Now
they could not reach Cul Airthir till night. Cuchulain killed thirty of their
men there and they raised their tents in that place. In the morning Ailill's
charioteer, Cuillius to wit, was washing the wheel-bands in the ford. Cuchulain
struck him with a stone so that he killed him. Hence is Ath Cuillne ('Ford of
Destruction') in Cul Airthir.'