THERE was a time, now, after the war for
the Bull of Cuailgne, when King Conchubar
got someway down-hearted, and there was a heaviness on his mind.
And the men of Ulster thought it might be
lonesome he was, and fretting after Deirdre
yet, and they searched about through the whole province for a wife for him.
And at last they found a beautiful young
girl of good race, whose name was Luain, and they brought her to Emain
Macha, and a great wedding was made, and great feasting; and the king grew
to be quiet and happy in his mind. But among the men that came to the wedding
were the two sons of the poet Aithirne, that had such a bad name for
covetousness and for cruelty.
The two sons were poets as well,
Cuingedach and Abhartach, and when they saw Luain, Conchubar’s queen, and
she so beautiful, the two of them fell in love with her there and then. And
they stopped at Emain, and after a while each of them tried to gain her secret
love. But there was great anger and displeasure on Luain at that, and she
drove them from her.
They went home then to their father,
Aithirne, and the three of them, to avenge themselves on Luain, made satires
on her, that brought blotches out on her face. And when her face that was so
beautiful was spoiled like that, she went back and hid herself in her
father’s house, and with the shame and the sorrow that were on her, she died
Then great anger and rage came on
Conchubar, and he sent the men of Ulster to Aithirne’s house, and they
killed himself and his two sons, and they pulled his house down to the ground.
But the rest of the poets of Ulster were
not well pleased that Conchubar should put such disrespect on one of
themselves and do such a great vengeance on him, and they gathered together
and gave Aithirne a great burial and keened him, and it was Amergin that made
a lament over his grave.
And then Conchubar stopped in Emain Macha,
and the cloud of trouble came on him again, and he used to be thinking of the
war for the Bull of Cuailgne, and of all that Maeve’s
army did when he was in his weakness; and he did not sleep in the night, and
there was no food that pleased him.
And then the men of Ulster bid Cathbad,
the Druid, go to Conchubar, and rouse him out of his sickness.
So Cathbad went to him, and he cried tears
down when he saw him, and he said: "Tell me, Conchubar, what wound it is
or what sickness has weakened you and has made your face so pale?"
"It is no wonder sickness to be on
me," said Conchubar, "when I think of the way the four provinces of
Ireland came and destroyed my forts and my duns and my walled towns and the
houses of my people, and when I think how Maeve brought away cattle and gold
and silver; and how she came as far as Dun Sescind and Dun Sobairce, and
brought away Daire’s bull out of my own province.
And it is what vexes me, Maeve herself to
have got away safe from the battle; and it is time for me to go and avenge
that time on the men of Ireland," he said.
"That is no right you are
saying," said Cathbad, "for the men of Ulster did a good vengeance
on the men of Ireland the time they gained the battle of
"I do not count any battle to be a
battle," said Conchubar, "unless a king or a queen has fallen in it;
and I swear by the oath of my people, Cathbad," he said, "that kings
and great men will be brought to their death by me, or else I myself will go
to my death."
"This is my advice to you," said
Cathbad, "not to set out till the winter is gone by; for at this time the
winds are rough, and the roads are heavy, and the rivers are full and flooded,
and every windy gap is cold. It is best to wait for the summer," he said,
"till the fords are shallow and the roads are smooth, till the thick
leaves on the bushes will be shelters, till every sod of grass will be a
pillow, till our colts will be strong, till the nights will be short for
keeping watch against an enemy.
It is best to wait," he said,
"till you can gather together the men of Ulster, and till you can send
messengers to your friends among the Gall."
"I am willing to do that,"
said Conchubar, "but I give my word," he said, "let them come,
or let them not come, I will go myself to Teamhair to get satisfaction from Cairbre
Niafer, my own son-in-law, that did not come to help me at the gathering
at Ilgairech, and to Lugaid,
son of Curoi,
and to Eocha, son of Luchta, and to Maeve, and to Ailell,
till I throw down the stones over the graves of their chief men, till I
destroy and lay waste their country, the same way as the men of Ireland
destroyed my province."
So then Conchubar sent out messengers to Conall
Cearnach, that was raising his tribute in the islands of Leodus, and of
Cadd, and of Orc, and to the countries of the Gall, to Olaib, grandson of the
king of Norway, and to Baire of the Scigger islands, and to Siugraid Soga,
king of Sudiam; to the seven sons of Romra, and to the son of the king of
Alban, and to the king of the island of Orc.
And the first to answer the messengers,
and to set out for Ulster Conall Cearnach, for there was great anger on him
when he heard of all that had happened in Ulster in the war for the Bull of
Cuailgne, and he not in it.
"And if I had been in it," he
said, "the men of Connaught would not have taken spoil from Ulster,
without an equal vengeance being measured to them again."
And Olaib, grandson of the king of
Norway, came with him, and Baire, of the Scigger islands, and their men with
them in their ships, and they came through the green waves, and the seals and
the sword-fishes rising about them, towards Dundealgan, and the place where
they landed was at the Strand of Baile, son of Buan.
This, now, is the story of Baile that was
buried at that strand.
He was of the race of Rudraige, and
although he had but little land belonging to him, he was the heir of Ulster,
and every one that saw him loved him, both man and woman, because he was so
sweet-spoken; and they called him Baile of the Honey-Mouth.
And the one that loved him best was
Aillinn, daughter of Lugaidh, the King of Leinster’s son. And one time she
herself and Baile settled to meet one another near Dundealgan, beside the sea.
Baile was the first to set out, and he came from Emain Macha, over Slieve
Fuad, over Muirthemne, to the strand where they were to meet; and he stopped
there, and his chariots were unyoked, and his horses were let out to
And while he and his people were waiting
there they saw a strange, wild-looking man, coming towards them from the
South, as fast as a hawk that darts from a cliff or as the wind that blows
from off the green sea.
"Go and meet him," said Baile to
his people, "and ask him news of where he is going and where he comes
from, and what is the reason of his haste."
So they asked news of him, and he
said: "I am going back now to Tuagh Inbhir, from Slieve Suidhe Laighen,
and this is all the news I have, that Aillinn, daughter of Lugaidh, was on her
way to meet Baile, son of Buan, that she loved.
And the young men of Leinster overtook
her, and kept her back from going to him, and she died of the heartbreak there
and then. For it was foretold by Druids that were friendly to them that they
would not come together in their life-time, but that after their death they
would meet, and be happy for ever after."
And with that he left them, and was gone
again like a blast of wind, and they were not able to hinder him.
And when Baile heard that news, his life
went out from him, and he fell dead there on the strand.
And at that time the young girl Aillinn
was in her sunny parlour to the south, for she had not set out yet. And the
same strange man came in to her, and she asked him where he came from.
"I come from the North," he
said, "from Tuagh Inver, and I am going past this place to Slieve Suidhe
Laighen. And all the news I have," he said, "is that I saw the men
of Ulster gathered together on the strand near Dundealgan, and they raising a
stone, and writing on it the name of Baile, son of Buan, that died there when
he was on his way to meet the woman he had given his love to; for it was not
meant for them ever to reach one another alive, or that one of them should see
the other alive."
And when he had said that he vanished
away, and as to Aillinn, her life went from her, and she died the same way
that Baile had died.
And an apple-tree grew out of her grave,
and a yew tree out of Baile’s grave. And it was near that yew-tree Conall
Cearnach landed, and Baire, and the grandson of the king of Norway. And Cuchulain
had made ready a great feast for them, and for Conchubar that had come to meet
them, at bright-faced Dundealgan.
And the Hound bade them a kind, loving
welcome, and he said:
"Welcome to those I know, and those I
do not know, to the good and the bad, the young and the old among you."
And they stopped there a week, and Conchubar was well pleased to see the whole
strand full of his friends that were come in their ships.
And then he bade farewell to Emer,
daughter of Forgall,
and he said to Cuchulain: "Go now to the three fifties of old fighting
men, that are resting in their age, under Irgalach, son of Macclach, and say
to them to come with me to this gathering and to this war, the way I will have
their help and their advice."
"Let them go to it if they have a
mind," said Cuchulain; "but it is not I that will go and ask it of
So then Conchubar himself went to the
great house, where the old fighting men used to be living that had laid by
their arms. And when he came in, they raised their heads from their places to
look at the great king. And then they leaped up, and they said: "What has
brought you to us to-day, our chief and our lord?"
"Did you get no word," he said,
"of the way the four provinces of Ireland came against us, and how they
burned down our forts and our houses, and how they brought their makers of
poems and of stories along with them, that their deeds might be told, and our
disgrace might be the greater. And I am going out against them now," he
said, "to get satisfaction from them; and let you come with me, and I
will have your advice."
Then the hearts of the old men rose in
them, and they caught their old horses and yoked their old chariots. And they
went on with the king to the mouth of the Water of Luachann that night.
And the next day Conchubar set out with
his own men and his friends from beyond the sea, to Slieve Breagh, that is
near Rosnaree on the Boinne. And they made their camp at Cuanglas, the green
harbour, and lighted their fires, and music and merry songs were made for
But Cuchulain stopped behind in Dundealgan
to gather his own people, and to make provision for them on the march.
Now news had been brought to Cairbre
Niafer at Teamhair, that Conchubar was gathering his men to get satisfaction
for all that had been done to Ulster in the war for the Bull of Cuailgne, and
that it was likely he himself would be the first he would come against.
For there was some bad feeling between
Cairbre and the men of Ulster, since the time he drove the sons of Umor into
Connaught, with the heavy rent he put on them, and that after Conall Cearnach
and Cuchulain giving their own security for their good behaviour. They turned
on their securities after that, and fought with them, and Conall Cool, the son
of their chief, fell; and Cuchulain, and his father, and his friends, raised
the heap of stones over him that is called Cam Chonaill, in the province of
And Cairbre sent a message to Cruachan, to
say to Ailell and to Maeve: "If it is towards us Conchubar and the men of
Ulster are coming, let you come to our help; but if it is past us they go,
into the fair-headed province of Connaught, we will go to your
So when Conchubar came to Cuanglas, at
Rosnaree, there was a good army gathered there to make a stand against him;
the three troops of the children of Deagha, and a great troop of the
Collamnachs, and of the men of Bregia, and of the Gailiana. And he rose up
early in the morning, and he could see the moving of men and the shining of
spears, and he heard the noise of a great army, and he said: "We will
send some one of our men to bring us word about them."
And he sent out Feic, son of Follaman. And
Feic went up to a lull beside the Boinne, and he began to look at the army and
to count it, and it vexed him to see how many were in it. "If I go back
now and tell this," he said, "the men of Ulster will come and will
begin the battle, and there will be no better chance for me to get a great
name and do great deeds than for any other man. And why would I not go and
begin a fight now by myself?" And with that he crossed the river.
But the men that were in front caught
sight of him, and the whole army began shouting around him, and he had not
courage to go against them, but he turned to cross the river again. But he
gave a false leap, just where the water was deepest, and a wave laughed over
him, and he died.
It seemed a long time to Conchubar that he
was away, and he said to the men of Ulster: "What is your advice to us
about this battle?" "It is what we advise," they said, "to
wait till our strong fighters and our chief men are come. And they had not
long to wait before they saw troops coming, Cathbad with twelve hundred men,
and Amergin with twelve hundred men, and Eoghan,
king of Fernmaighe, and Laegaire
Buadach, and the three sons of Conall Buide.
And then they saw another troop coming,
and in the front of it a fierce, brown man. Rough, dark hair he had, and a big
nose and hollow cheeks, and his talk was quick and hurried.
A blue cloak about him, and a brooch of
silver as white as a bird, a heavy sword, and a shield with iron rims. And
this is who he was, Daire of Cuailgne, that was come to get satisfaction for
his bull and for his herds on the men of Ireland.
"What is delaying you
here?" he said to Conchubar. "I have good reason for delaying,"
said Conchubar, "for there is a great army under Cairbre Niafer before us
at Rosnaree, and there are not enough of us to go against them. And it is not
refusing a battle we are, but waiting till we get our full number."
"By my word," said Daire,
"if you do not go out against them, it is I will go against them by
Then Conchubar put on his armour, and took
his many-coloured shield, and his sword, the Ochain. And all the men of Ulster
gathered around him, and they raised their spears and their shields, and it
was like a great river breaking from the side of a mountain, and breaking what
it meets of stones and trees before it, that they went to meet the men of
Leinster at Rosnaree on the Boinne.
And when Cairbre Niafer and his friends
and his men saw them coming, they made ready for them, and came towards the
And the men of Ulster crossed the river,
and the two armies met, and each of them took to hacking and destroying the
other. And the Gailiana pressed heavily on the men of Ulster, and came in to
the middle of them, and cut them down like trees are cut in a wood. And as for
Conchubar he did not give back, where he was, and Celthair on his right hand,
and Amergin the poet on his right hand again, and Eoghan, king of Fernmaighe,
on his left, and Daire of Cuailgne near him.
These few stood against the Gailiana, and
fought against them, stout and proud. But as to the young men and those that
were never in a fight before, they turned round and burst through the battle
It was just then Conall Cearnach was
coming in his chariot, and when the young men of Ulster saw the face of
Conall, they came to a stop, and Conall saw that they were beaten and running
from the battle, and he called out sharp words to them, for there was anger on
him, they to have left the fight, and with no sign of blood or of wounds upon
But they were ashamed then, and content to
go back to the battle, when they had Conall’s hand to help them; and each
one of them tore a green branch off the oak trees that were near them, and
held it up, and they went with him; for they knew there would be no running
away in any place where Conall’s face would be seen.
And it happened just at that time
Conchubar, the High King, was taking three backward steps out of the battle
northward, but when he saw the face of Conall coming towards him, he called to
him to stop the army from falling back. "I give my word," said
Conall, "I think it easier to fight the battle by myself than to stop the
And just then the three royal poets of the
king of Teamhair came in to give him their help, Eochaid the Learned, and
Diarment of the Songs, and Forgel the Just, and they went into the fight
And Conall looked at them and he said:
"I give my true word," he said, "if you were not poets and men
of learning, you would have got your death by me before this; and now that you
are come fighting with your master," he said, "where is there any
reason for sparing you?" And with that he made a blow at them with a
heavy stick that was in his hand, that struck the three heads off them.
Then Conall drew his sword out of its
sheath, and he played the music of his sword on the armies of Leinster, and
the sound of it was heard on every side; and when the men near him heard it
their faces whitened, and each one of them went back to his place in the
battle. And at that time Cuchulain came into the battle, and the men of the
Gailiana gave wild shouts at him, and anger came on him and he scattered them.
And strength came again into the hearts of
the men of Ulster, and their anger rose, and the earth shook under their feet,
and there was clashing of swords on both sides, and the shouting of young men,
and the screams of old men, and the groaning of chariot-fighters, and the
crying of ravens. And there were many lying in cold pools, the white soles of
their feet close together, and the red lips turning grey, and the bright faces
very pale, and darkness coming on their grey eyes, and confusion on their
It is then Cuchulain met with Cairbre
Niafer, and he went against him, and put his shield against his shield and
there they were face to face. And Cairbre said words of insult to Cuchulain,
and Cuchulain answered him back and said: "It is all I ask of you, to
fight with me now alone." "I will do that," said Cairbre
Niafer, for I am a king in my way of living, and a champion in
Then each attacked the other, and it was
hard for them to hold their feet firm, or to strike with their hands, in the
closeness of the fight And Cairbre broke all his weapons, but nine of his men
came and kept up the fight against Cuchulain till more weapons could be
brought to him. And then Cuchulain’s weapons were broken, and Cairbre and
nine of his men came and held up their shields before him till Laeg could
bring him his own right weapons, the Dubach, the grim one, his spear, and the
Cruaidin, his sword. And then they took to hitting at one another again, and
at last Cuchulain took his spear into his left hand, and struck at Cairbre
with it, and he lowered his shield to protect his body.
And then Cuchulain changed it to his right
hand, and struck at him over the rim of his shield, and it went through his
heart; and before his body could reach the ground, Cuchulain made a spring and
struck his head off. And then he held up the head, and shook it before the two
Then Sencha, son of Ailell, rose up and
shook the branch of peace, and the men of Ulster stood still. As to the men of
Leinster, when they saw their king was killed, they fell back; but Iriel of
the Great Knees, the son of Conall
Cearnach, followed after them, and did a
great slaughter on the Gailiana and on the rest of the army till they reached
to the Rye of Leinster.
And then the men of Ulster went back to
their homes. And as to Conchubar, he went back to Emain, and it was not till a
good while after that he got the wound in his head that Fintan sewed up with
gold thread, to match the colour of his hair, and that brought him to his
death in the end.