I: Oisin's Story
As to Oisin, it was a long time after he was brought away by Niamh that he came back again to Ireland. Some say it was
hundreds of years he was in the Country of the Young, and some say it was thousands of years he was in it; but whatever time
it was, it seemed short to him.
And whatever happened him through the time he was away, it is a withered old man he was found after coming back to Ireland,
and his white horse going away from him, and he lying on the ground.
And it was Patrick had power at that time, and it was to him Oisin was brought; and he kept him in his house, and used
to be teaching him and questioning him. And Oisin was no way pleased with the way Ireland was then, but he used to be talking of
the old times, and fretting after the Fianna.
And Patrick bade him to tell what happened him the time he left Finn and the Fianna and went away with Niamh. And it is the
story Oisin told: —" The time I went away with golden-haired Niamh, we turned our backs to the land, and our faces
westward, and the sea was going away before us, and filling up in waves after us.
And we saw wonderful things on our
journey," he said, "cities and courts and duns and lime-white houses, and shining sunny- houses and palaces. And one time we
saw beside us a hornless deer running hard, and an eager white red-eared hound following after it.
And another time we saw a young girl on a horse and having a golden apple in her right hand, and she going over the tops of the waves; and there was
following after her a young man riding a white horse, and having a crimson cloak and a gold-hilted sword in his right hand."
"Follow on with your story, pleasant Oisin," said Patrick, "for you did not tell us yet what was the country you went
"The country of the Young, the Country of Victory, it was," said Oisin. "And O Patrick," he said, "there is no lie in that name;
and if there are grandeurs in your Heaven the same as there are there, I would give my friendship to God.
"We turned our backs then to the dun," he said, "and the horse under us was quicker than the spring wind on the backs of the
mountains. And it was not long till the sky darkened, and the wind rose in every part, and the sea was as if on fire, and there
was nothing to be seen of the sun.
"But after we were looking at the clouds and the stars for a while the wind went down, and the storm, and the sun brightened.
And we saw before us a very delightful country under full blossom, and smooth plains in it, and a king's dun that was very
grand, and that had every colour in it, and sunny-houses beside it, and palaces of shining stones, made by skilled men.
And we saw coming out to meet us three fifties of armed men, very lively and handsome. And I asked Niamh was this the Country of
the Young, and she said it was. 'And indeed, Oisin,' she said. 'I told you no lie about it, and you will see all I promised you
before you for ever.'
"And there came out after that a hundred beautiful young girls, having cloaks of silk worked with gold, and they gave me a
welcome to their own country. And after that there came a great shining army, and with it a strong beautiful king, having a shirt
of yellow silk and a golden cloak over it, and a very bright crown on his head. And there was following after him a young
queen, and fifty young girls along with her.
"And when all were come to the one spot, the king took me by the hand, and he said out before them all: 'A hundred thousand
welcomes before you, Oisin, son of Finn. And as to this country you are come to,' he said, 'I will tell you news of it without a
lie. It is long and lasting your life will be in it, and you yourself will be young for ever.
And there is no delight the heart ever thought of,' he said, 'but it is here against your coming. And you can believe my words, Oisin,' he said, 'for I myself am the King
of the Country of the Young, and this is its comely queen, and it was golden- headed Niamh our daughter that went over the
sea looking for you to be her husband for ever.'
I gave thanks to him then, and I stooped myself down before the queen, and
we went forward to the royal house, and all the high nobles came out to meet us, both men and women, and there was a great
feast made there through the length of ten days and ten nights.
"And that is the way I married Niamh of the Golden Hair, and that is the way I went to the Country of the Young, although it is
sorrowful to me to be telling it now, O Patrick from Rome," said Oisin.
"Follow on with your story, Oisin of the destroying arms," said Patrick, "and tell me what way did you leave the Country of the
Young, for it is long to me till I hear that; and tell us now had you any children by Niamh, and was it long you were in that
"Two beautiful children I had by Niamh," said Oisin, "two young sons and a comely daughter. And Niamh gave the two sons
the name of Finn and of Osgar, and the name I gave to the daughter was The Flower.
"And I did not feel the time passing, and it was a long time I stopped there," he said, "till the desire came on me to see Finn and
my comrades again. And I asked leave of the king and of Niamh to go back to Ireland. 'You will get leave from me,' said
Niamh; 'but for all that,' she said, 'it is bad news you are giving me, for I am in dread you will never come back here again
through the length of your days.'
But I bade her have no fear, since the white horse would bring me safe back again from
Ireland. 'Bear this in mind, Oisin,' she said then, 'if you once get off the horse while you are away, or if you once put your foot
to ground, you will never come back here again. And O Oisin,' she said, 'I tell it to you now for the third time, if you once get
down from the horse, you will be an old man, blind and withered, without liveliness, without mirth, without running, without
And it is a grief to me, Oisin,' she said, 'you ever to go back to green Ireland; and it is not now as it used to be, and
you will not see Finn and his people, for there is not now in the whole of Ireland but a Father of Orders and armies of saints;
and here is my kiss for you, pleasant Oisin,' she said, 'for you will never come back any more to the Country of the Young.'
"And that is my story, Patrick, and I have told you no lie in it," said Oisin. "And O Patrick," he said, "if I was the same the day I
came here as I was that day, I would have made an end of all your clerks, and there would not be a head left on a neck after
"Go on with your story," said Patrick, "and you will get the same good treatment from me you got from Finn, for the sound of
your voice is pleasing to me."
So Oisin went on with his story, and it is what he said: "I have nothing to tell of my journey till I came back into green Ireland,
and I looked about me then on all sides, but there were no tidings to be got of Finn. And it was not long till I saw a great troop
of riders, men and women, coming towards me from the west. And when they came near they wished me good health; and
there was wonder on them all when they looked at me, seeing me so unlike themselves, and so big and so tall.
"I asked them then did they hear if Finn was still living, or any other one of the Fianna, or what had happened them. 'We often
heard of Finn that lived long ago,' said they, 'and that there never was his equal for strength or bravery or a great name; and
there is many a book written down,' they said, 'by the sweet poets of the Gael, about his doings and the doings of the Fianna,
and it would be hard for us to tell you all of them.
And we heard Finn had a son,' they said, 'that was beautiful and shining, and
that there came a young girl looking for him, and he went away with her to the Country of the Young.'
"And when I knew by their talk that Finn was not living or any of the Fianna, it is downhearted I was, and tired, and very
sorrowful after them. And I made no delay, but I turned my face and went on to Almhuin of Leinster. And there was great
wonder on me when I came there to see no sign at all of Finn's great dun, and his great hall, and nothing in the place where it
was but weeds and nettles."
And there was grief on Oisin then, and he said: "Och, Patrick! Och, ochone, my grief! It is a bad journey that was to me; and
to be without tidings of Finn or the Fianna has left me under pain through my lifetime."
"Leave off fretting, Oisin," said Patrick, "and shed your tears to the God of grace. Finn and the Fianna are slack enough now,
and they will get no help for ever."
"It is a great pity that would be," said Oisin, "Finn to be in pain for ever; and who was it
gained the victory over him, when his own hand had made an end of so many a hard fighter?"
"It is God gained the victory over Finn," said Patrick, "and not the strong hand of an enemy; and as to the Fianna, they are
condemned to hell along with him, and tormented for ever.
"O Patrick," said Oisin, "show me the place where Finn and his people are, and there is not a hell or a heaven there but I will
put it down. And if Osgar, my own son, is there," he said, "the hero that was bravest in heavy battles, there is not in hell or in
the Heaven of God a troop so great that he could not destroy it."
"Let us leave off quarrelling on each side now," said Patrick; "and go on, Oisin, with your story. What happened you after you
knew the Fianna to be at an end?"
"I will tell you that, Patrick," said Oisin. "I was turning to go away, and I saw the stone trough that the Fianna used to be putting
their hands in, and it full of water. And when I saw it I had such a wish and such a feeling for it that I forgot what I was told,
and I got off the horse. And in the minute all the years came on me, and I was lying on the ground, and the horse took fright and
went away and left me there, an old man, weak and spent, without sight, without shape, without comeliness, without strength or
understanding, without respect
"There, Patrick, is my story for you now," said Oisin, "and no lie in it, of all that happened me going away and coming back
again from the Country of the Young."
II: Oisin in Patrick's House
And Oisin stopped on with Patrick, but he was not very well content with the way he was treated. And one time he said:
"They say I am getting food, but God knows I am not, or drink; and I Oisin, son of Finn, under a yoke, drawing stones." "It is
my opinion you are getting enough," said Patrick then, "and you getting a quarter of beef and a churn of butter and a griddle
of bread every day."
"I often saw a quarter of a blackbird bigger than your quarter of beef," said Oisin, "and a rowan berry as
big as your churn of butter, and an ivy leaf as big as your griddle of bread." Patrick was vexed when he heard that, and he
said to Oisin that he had told a lie.
There was great anger on Oisin then, and he went where there was a litter of pups, and he bade a serving-boy to nail up the
hide of a freshly killed bullock to the wall, and to throw the pups against it one by one. And every one that he threw fell down
from the hide till it came to the last, and he held on to it with his teeth and his nails. "Rear that one," said Oisin, "and drown all
Then he bade the boy to keep the pup in a dark place, and to care it well, and never to let it taste blood or see the daylight.
And at the end of a year, Oisin was so well pleased with the pup, that he gave it the name of Bran Og, young Bran.
And one day he called to the serving-boy to come on a journey with him, and to bring the pup in a chain. And they set out and
passed by Slieve-na m-ban, where the witches of the Sidhe do be spinning with their spinning-wheels; and then they turned
eastward into Gleann-na-Smol. And Oisin raised a rock that was there, and he bade the lad take from under it three things, a
great sounding horn of the Fianna, and a ball of iron they had for throwing, and a very sharp sword.
And when Oisin saw those things, he took them in his hands, and he said: "My thousand farewells to the day when you were put here!" He bade the lad to
clean them well then; and when he had done that, he bade him to sound a blast on the horn. So the boy did that, and Oisin
asked him did he see anything strange.
"I did not," said the boy. "Sound it again as loud as you can," said Oisin. "That is as hard
as I can sound it, and I can see nothing yet," said the boy when he had done that.
Then Oisin took the horn himself, and he put
it to his mouth, and blew three great blasts on it. "What do you see now?" he said. "I see three great clouds coming," he said,
"and they are settling down in the valley; and the first cloud is a flight of very big birds, and the second cloud is a flight of birds
that are bigger again, and the third flight is of the biggest and the blackest birds the world ever saw."
"What is the dog doing?"
said Oisin. "The eyes are starting from his head, and there is not a rib of hair on him but is standing up." "Let him loose now,"
The dog rushed down to the valley then, and he made an attack on one of the birds, that was the biggest of all, and that had a
shadow like a cloud. And they fought a very fierce fight, but at last Bran Og made an end of the big bird, and lapped its blood.
But if he did, madness came on him, and he came rushing back towards Oisin, his jaws open and his eyes like fire. "There is
dread on me, Oisin," said the boy, "for the dog is making for us, mad and raging."
"Take this iron ball and make a cast at him
when he comes near," said Oisin. "I am in dread to do that," said the boy. "Put it in my hand, and turn it towards him," said
Oisin. The boy did that, and Oisin made a cast of the ball that went into the mouth and the throat of the dog, and choked him,
and he fell down the slope, twisting and foaming.
Then they went where the great bird was left dead, and Oisin bade the lad to cut a quarter off it with the sword, and he did so.
And then he bade him cut open the body, and in it he found a rowan berry, the biggest he had ever seen, and an ivy leaf that
was bigger than the biggest griddle.
So Oisin turned back then, and went to where S. Patrick was, and he showed him the quarter of the bird that was bigger than
any quarter of a bullock, and the rowan berry that was bigger than a churning of butter, and the leaf.
"And you know now, Patrick of the Bells," he said, "that I told no lie; and it is what kept us all through our lifetime," he said, "truth that was in our
hearts, and strength in our arms, and fulfilment in our tongues."
"You told no lie indeed," said Patrick.
And when Oisin had no sight left at all, he used every night to put up one of the serving-men on his shoulders, and to bring him
out to see how were the cattle doing. And one night the servants had no mind to go, and they agreed together to tell him it was
a very bad night.
And it is what the first of them said; "It is outside there is a heavy sound with the heavy water dropping from the tops of trees;
the sound of the waves is not to be heard for the loud splashing of the rain." And then the next one said: "The trees of the wood
are shivering, and the birch is turning black; the snow is killing the birds; that is the story outside." And the third said: "It is to the
east they have turned their face, the white snow and the dark rain; it is what is making the plain so cold is the snow that is
dripping and getting hard."
But there was a serving-girl in the house, and she said: "Rise up, Oisin, and go out to the white-headed cows, since the cold
wind is plucking the trees from the hills."
Oisin went out then, and the serving-man on his shoulders; but it is what the serving- man did, he brought a vessel of water and
a birch broom with him, and he was dashing water in Oisin's face, the way he would think it was rain. But when they came to
the pen where the cattle were, Oisin found the night was quiet, and after that he asked no more news of the weather from the
III: The Arguments
And Patrick took in hand to convert Oisin, and to bring him to baptism; but it was no easy work he had to do, and
everything he would say, Oisin would have an answer for it And it is the way they used to be talking and arguing with one
another, as it was put down afterwards by the poets of Ireland:—
Patrick. "Oisin, it is long your sleep is. Rise up and listen to the Psalm. Your strength and your readiness are gone from you,
though you used to be going into rough fights and battles.
Oisin. "My readiness and my strength are gone from me since Finn has no armies living; I have no liking for clerks, their music
is not sweet to me after his."
Patrick. "You never heard music so good from the beginning of the world to this day; it is well you would serve an army on a
hill, you that are old and silly and grey."
Oisin. "I used to serve an army on a hill, Patrick of the closed-up mind; it is a pity you to be faulting me; there was never shame
put on me till now.
"I have heard music was sweeter than your music, however much you are praising your clerks: the song of the blackbird in
Leiter Laoi, and the sound of the Dord Fiann; the very sweet thrush of the Valley of the Shadow, or the sound of the boats
striking the strand. The cry of the hounds was better to me than the noise of your schools, Patrick.
"Little Nut, little Nut of my heart, the little dwarf that was with Finn, when he would make tunes and songs he would put us all
into deep sleep.
"The twelve hounds that belonged to Finn, the time they would be let loose facing out from the Siuir, their cry was sweeter than
harps and than pipes.
"I have a little story about Finn; we were but fifteen men; we took the King of the Saxons of the feats, and we won a battle
against the King of Greece.
"We fought nine battles in Spain, and nine times twenty battles in Ireland: from Lochlann and from the eastern world there was a
share of gold coming to Finn.
"My grief! I to be stopping after him, and without delight in games or in music; to be withering away after my comrades; my
grief it is to be living. I and the clerks of the Mass books are two that can never agree.
"If Finn and the Fianna were living, I would leave the clerks and the bells; I would follow the deer through the valleys, I would
like to be close on his track.
"Ask Heaven of God, Patrick, for Finn of the Fianna and his race; make prayers for the great man; you never heard of his like."
Patrick. "I will not ask Heaven for Finn, man of good wit that my anger is rising against, since his delight was to be living in
valleys with the noise of hunts."
Oisin. "If you had been in company with the Fianna, Patrick of the joyless clerks and of the bells, you would not be attending
on schools or giving heed to God."
Patrick. "I would not part from the Son of God for all that have lived east or west; O Oisin, O shaking poet, there will harm
come on you in satisfaction for the priests.
Oisin. "It was a delight to Finn the cry of his hounds on the mountains, the wild dogs leaving their harbours, the pride of his
armies, those were his delights."
Patrick. "There was many a thing Finn took delight in, and there is not much heed given to it after him; Finn and his hounds are
not living now, and you yourself will not always be living, Oisin."
Oisin. "There is a greater story of Finn than of us, or of any that have lived in our time; all that are gone and all that are living,
Finn was better to give out gold than themselves."
Patrick. "All the gold you and Finn used to be giving out, it is little it does for you now; he is in Hell in bonds because he did
treachery and oppression."
Oisin. "It is little I believe of your truth, man from Rome with the white books, Finn the open-handed head of the Fianna to be
in the hands of devils or demons.
Patrick. "Finn is in bonds in Hell, the pleasant man that gave out gold; in satisfaction for his disrespect to God, he is under grief
in the house of pain."
Oisin. "If the sons of Morna were within it, or the strong men of the sons of Baiscne, they would take Finn out of it, or they
would have the house for themselves."
Patrick. "If the five provinces of Ireland were within it, or the strong seven battalions of the Fianna, they would not be able to
bring Finn out of it, however great their strength might be."
Oisin. "If Faolan and Goll were living, and brown-haired Diarmuid and brave Osgar, Finn of the Fianna could not be held in
any house that was made by God or devils."
Patrick. "If Faolan and Goll were living, and all the Fianna that ever were, they could not bring out Finn from the house where
he is in pain."
Oisin. "What did Finn do against God but to be attending on schools and on armies? Giving gold through a great part of his
time, and for another while trying his hounds."
Patrick. "In payment for thinking of his hounds and for serving the schools of the poets, and because he gave no heed to God,
Finn of the Fianna is held down."
Oisin. "You say, Patrick of the Psalms, that the Fianna could not take out Finn, or the five provinces of Ireland along with
"I have a little story about Finn. We were but fifteen men when we took the King of Britain of the feasts by the strength of our
spears and our own strength.
'We took Magnus the great, the son of the King of Lochlann of the speckled ships; we came back no way sorry or tired, we
put our rent on far places.
"O Patrick, the story is pitiful, the King of the Fianna to be under locks; a heart without envy, without hatred, a heart hard in
"It is an injustice, God to be unwilling to give food and riches; Finn never refused strong or poor, although cold Hell is now his
"It is what Finn had a mind for, to be listening to the sound of Druim Dearg; to sleep at the stream of Ess Ruadh, to be hunting
the deer of Gallimh of the bays.
"The cries of the blackbird of Leiter Laoi, the wave of Rudraighe beating the Strand, the bellowing of the ox of Magh Maoin,
the lowing of the calf of Gleann da Mhail.
"The noise of the hunt on Slieve Crot, the sound of the fawns round Slieve Cua, the scream of the sea-gulls there beyond on
Iorrus, the screech of the crows over the battle.
"The waves vexing the breasts of the boats, the howling of the hounds at Druim Lis; the voice of Bran on Cnoc-an-Air, the
outcry of the streams about Slieve Mis.
"The call of Osgar going to the hunt; the voice of the hounds on the road of the Fianna, to be listening to them and to the poets,
that was always his desire.
"A desire of the desires of Osgar was to listen to the striking of shields; to be hacking at bones in a battle, it is what he had a
mind for always.
"We went westward one time to hunt at Formaid of the Fianna, to see the first running of our hounds.
"It was Finn was holding Bran, and it is with myself Sceolan was; Diarmuid of the Women had Fearan, and Osgar had lucky
"Conan the Bald had Searc; Caoilte, son of Ronan, had Daol; Lugaidh's Son and Goll were holding Fuaim and Fothran.
"That was the first day we loosed out a share of our hounds to a hunting; and Och! Patrick, of all that were in it, there is not one
left living but myself.
"O Patrick, it is a pity the way I am now, a spent old man without sway, without quickness, without
"Without the great deer of Slieve Luchra; without the hares of Slieve Cuilinn; without going into fights with Finn; without listening
to the poets.
"Without battles, without taking of spoils; without playing at nimble feats; without going courting or hunting, two trades that
were my delight."
Patrick. "Leave off, old man, leave your foolishness; let what you have done be enough for you from this out. Think on the
pains that are before you; the Fianna are gone, and you yourself will be going."
Oisin. "If I go, may yourself not be left after me, Patrick of the hindering heart; if Conan, the least of the Fianna, were living,
your buzzing would not be left long to you.
"Or if this was the day I gave ten hundred cows to the headless woman that came to the Valley of the Two Oxen; the birds of
the air brought away the ring I gave her, I never knew where she went herself from me."
Patrick. "That is little to trouble you, Oisin; it was but for a while she was with you; it is better for you to be as you are than to
be among them again."
Oisin. "O Son of Calphurn of the friendly talk, it is a pity for him that gives respect to clerks and bells; I and Caoilte my friend,
we were not poor when we were together.
"The music that put Finn to his sleep was the cackling of the ducks from the lake of the Three Narrows; the scolding talk of the
blackbird of Doire an Cairn, the bellowing of the ox from the Valley of the Berries.
"The whistle of the eagle from the Valley of Victories, or from the rough branches of the ridge by the stream; the grouse of the
heather of Cruachan; the call of the otter of Druim- re-Coir.
"The song of the blackbird of Doire an Cairn indeed I never heard sweeter music, if I could be under its nest.
Oisin. "This mouth that is talking with you, may it never confess to a priest, if I would not sooner have the leavings of Finn's
house than a share of your own meals."
Patrick. "He got but what he gathered from the banks, or what- ever he could kill on the rough hills; he got hell at the last
because of his unbelief."
Oisin. "That was not the way with us at all, but our fill of wine and of meat; justice and a right beginning at the feasts, sweet
drinks and every one drinking them.
"It is fretting after Diarmuid and Goll I am, and after Fergus of the True Lips, the time you will. not let me be speaking of them,
O new Patrick from Rome."
Patrick. "We would give you leave to be speaking of them, but first you should give heed to God. Since you are now at the
end of your days, leave your foolishness, weak old man."
Oisin. "O Patrick, tell me as a secret, since it is you have the best knowledge, will my dog or my hound be let in with me to the
court of the King of Grace?"
Patrick. "Old man in your foolishness that I cannot put any bounds to, your dog or your hound will not be let in with you to the
court of the King of Power."
Oisin. "If I had acquaintance with God, and my hound to be at hand, I would make whoever gave food to myself give a share
to my hound as well.
"One strong champion that was with the Fianna of Ireland would be better than the Lord of Piety, and than you yourself,
Patrick. "O Oisin of the sharp blades, it is mad words you are saying. God is better for one day than the whole of the Fianna
Oisin. "Though I am now without sway and my life is spent to the end, do not put abuse, Patrick, on the great men of the sons
"If I had Conan with me, the man that used to be running down the Fianna, it is he would break your head within among your
clerks and your priests."
Patrick. "It is a silly thing, old man, to be talking always of the Fianna; remember your end is come, and take the Son of God
to help you."
Oisin. "I used to sleep out on the mountain under the grey dew; I was never used to go to bed without food, while there was a
deer on the hill beyond."
Patrick. "You are astray at the end of your life between the straight way and the crooked. Keep out from the crooked path of
pains, and the angels of God will come beneath your head."
Oisin. "If myself and open-handed Fergus and Diarmuid were together now on this spot, we would go in every path we ever
went in, and ask no leave of the priests."
Patrick. "Leave off, Oisin; do not be speaking against the priests that are telling the word of God in every place. Unless you
leave off your daring talk, it is great pain you will have in the end."
Oisin. "When myself and the leader of the Fianna were looking for a boar in a valley, it was worse to me not to see it than all
your clerks to be without their heads."
Patrick. "It is pitiful seeing you without sense; that is worse to you than your blindness; if you were to get sight within you, it is
great your desire would be for Heaven."
Oisin. "It is little good it would be to me to be sitting in that city, without Caoilte, without Osgar, without my father being with
"The leap of the buck would be better to me, or the sight of badgers between two valleys, than all your mouth is promising me,
and all the delights I could get in Heaven."
Patrick. "Your thoughts are foolish, they will come to nothing; your pleasure and your mirth are gone. Unless you will take my
advice to-night, you will not get leave on this side or that."
Oisin. "If myself and the Fianna were on the top of a hill to-day drawing our spear- heads, we would have our choice of being
here or there in spite of books and priests and bells."
Patrick. "You were like the smoke of a wisp, or like a stream in a valley, or like a whirling wind on the top of a hill, every tribe
of you that ever lived."
Oisin. "If I was in company with the people of strong arms, the way I was at Bearna da Coill, I would sooner be looking at
them than at this troop of the crooked croziers.
"If I had Scolb Sceine with me, or Osgar, that was smart in battles, I would not be without meat to-night at the sound of the bell
of the seven tolls."
Patrick. "Oisin, since your wits are gone from you be glad at what I say; it is certain to me you will leave the Fianna and that
you will receive the God of the stars."
Oisin. "There is wonder on me at your hasty talk, priest that has travelled in every part, to say that I would part from the
Fianna, a generous people, never niggardly."
Patrick. "If you saw the people of God, the way they are settled at feasts, every good thing is more plentiful with them than
with Finn's people, however great their name was.
"Finn and the Fianna are lying now very sorrowful on the flagstone of pain; take the Son of God in their place; make your
repentance and do not lose Heaven."
Oisin. "I do not believe your talk now, O Patrick of the crooked staves, Finn and the Fianna to be there within, unless they find
pleasure being in it."
Patrick. "Make right repentance now, before you know when your end is coming; God is better for one hour than the whole of
the Fianna of Ireland."
Oisin. "That is a daring answer to make to me, Patrick of the crooked crozier; your crozier would be in little bits if I had Osgar
with me now.
"If my son Osgar and God were hand to hand on the Hill of the Fianna, if I saw my son put down, I would say that God was a
"How could it be that God or his priests could be better men than Finn, the King of the Fianna, a generous man without
"If there was a place above or below better than the Heaven of God, it is there Finn would go, and all that are with him of his
"You say that a generous man never goes to the hell of pain; there was not one among the Fianna that was not generous to all.
"Ask of God, Patrick, does He remember when the Fianna were alive, or has He seen east or west any man better than
themselves in their fighting.
"The Fianna used not to be saying treachery; we never had the name of telling lies. By truth and the strength of our hands we
came safe out of every battle.
"There never sat a priest in a church, though you think it sweet to be singing psalms, was better to his word than the Fianna, or
more generous than Finn himself.
"If my comrades were living to-night, I would take no pleasure in your crooning in the church; as they are not living now, the
rough voice of the bells has deafened me.
"Och! in the place of battles and heavy fights, where I used to have my place and to take my pleasure, the crozier of Patrick
being carried; and his clerks at their quarrelling.
"Och! slothful, cheerless Conan, it is great abuse I used to be giving you; why do you not come to see me now? you would get
leave for making fun and reviling through the whole of the niggardly clerks.
"Och! where are the strong men gone that they do not come together to help me! O Osgar of the sharp sword of victory, come
and free your father from his bonds!
"Where is the strong son of Lugaidh? Och! Diarmuid of all the women! Och! Caoilte, son of Ronan, think of our love, and
travel to me!"
Patrick. "Stop your talk, you withered, witless old man; it is my King that made the Heavens, it is He that gives blossom to the
trees, it is He made the moon and the sun, the fields and the grass."
Oisin. "It was not in shaping fields and grass that my king took his delight, but in overthrowing fighting men, and defending
countries, and bringing his name into every part.
"In courting, in playing, in hunting, in baring his banner at the first of a fight; in playing at chess, at swimming, in looking around
him at the drinking-hall.
"O Patrick, where was your God when the two came over the sea that brought away the queen of Lochlann of the Ships?
Where was He when Dearg came, the son of the King of Lochlann of the golden shields? Why did not the King of Heaven
protect them from the blows of the big man?
"Or when Tailc son of Treon, came, the man that did great slaughter on the Fianna; it was not by God that champion fell, but by
Osgar, in the sight of all.
"Many a battle and many a victory was gained by the Fianna of Ireland; I never heard any great deed was done by the King of
Saints, or that He ever reddened His hand.
"It would be a great shame for God not to take the locks of pain off Finn; if God Himself were in bonds, my king would fight
for His sake.
"Finn left no one in pain or in danger without freeing him by silver or gold, or by fighting till he got the victory.
"For the strength of your love, Patrick, do not forsake the great men; bring in the Fianna unknown to the King of Heaven.
"It is a good claim I have on your God, to be among his clerks the way I am; without food, without clothing, without music,
without giving rewards to poets.
"Without the cry of the hounds or the horns, without guarding coasts, without courting generous women; for all that I have
suffered by the want of food, I forgive the King of Heaven in my will."
Oisin. said: "My story is sorrowful. The sound of your voice is not pleasant to me. I will cry my fill, but not for God, but
because Finn and the Fianna are not living."
IV: Oisin's Laments
And Oisin used to be making laments, and sometimes he would be making praises of the old times and of Finn; and these are
some of them that are remembered yet:
I saw the household of Finn; it was not the household of a soft race; I had a vision of that man yesterday.
I saw the household of the High King, he with the brown, sweet-voiced son; I never saw a better man.
I saw the household of Finn; no one saw it as I saw it; I saw Finn with the sword, Mac an Lain. Och! it was sorrowful to see it.
I cannot tell out every harm that is on my head; free us from our trouble for ever; I have seen the household of Finn.
It is a week from yesterday I last saw Finn; I never saw a braver man. A king of heavy blows; my law, my adviser, my
and my wisdom, prince and poet, braver than kings, King of the Fianna, brave in all countries; golden salmon of the sea, clean
hawk of the air, rightly taught, avoiding lies; strong in his doings, a right judge, ready in courage, a high messenger in bravery
and in music.
His skin lime-white, his hair golden; ready to work, gentle to women. His great green vessels full of rough sharp wine, it is rich
the king was, the head of his people.
Seven sides Finn's house had, and seven score shields on every side. Fifty fighting men he had about him having woollen
cloaks; ten bright drinking-cups in his hall; ten blue vessels, ten golden horns.
It is a good household Finn had, without grudging, without lust, without vain boasting, without chattering, without any slur on
any one of the Fianna.
Finn never refused any man; he never put away any one that came to his house. If the brown leaves falling in the woods were
gold, if the white waves were silver, Finn would have given away the whole of it.
Blackbird of Doire an Chairn, your voice is sweet; I never heard on any height of the world music was sweeter than your voice,
and you at the foot of your nest.
The music is sweetest in the world, it is a pity not to be listening to it for a while, O son of Calphurn of the sweet bells, and you
would overtake your nones again.
If you knew the story of the bird the way I know it, you would be crying lasting tears, and you would give no heed to your God
for a while.
In the country of Lochlann of the blue streams, Finn, son of Cumhal, of the red-gold cups, found that bird you hear now; I will
tell you its story truly.
Doire an Chairn, that wood there to the west, where the Fianna used to be delaying, it is there they put the blackbird, in the
beauty of the pleasant trees.
The stag of the heather of quiet Cruachan, the sorrowful croak from the ridge of the Two Lakes; the voice of the eagle of the
Valley of the Shapes, the voice of the cuckoo on the Hill of Brambles.
The voice of the hounds in the pleasant valley; the scream of the eagle on the edge of the wood; the early outcry of the hounds
going over the Strand of the Red Stones.
The time Finn lived and the Fianna, it was sweet to them to be listening to the whistle of the blackbird; the voice of the bells
would not have been sweet to them.
There was no one of the Fianna without his fine silken shirt and his soft coat, without bright armour, without shining stones on
his head, two spears m his hand, and a shield that brought victory.
If you were to search the world you would not find a harder man, best of blood, best in battle; no one got the upper hand of
him. When he went out trying his white hound, which of us could be put beside Finn?
One time we went hunting on Slieve-na m-ban; the sun was beautiful overhead, the voice of the hounds went east and
from hill to hill. Finn and Bran sat for a while on the hill, every man was jealous for the hunt. We let out three thousand hounds
from their golden chains; every hound of them brought down two deer.
Patrick of the true crozier, did you ever see, east or west, a greater hunt than that hunt of Finn and the Fianna? O son of
Calphurn of the bells, that day was better to me than to be listening to your lamentations in the church.
There is no strength in my hands to-night, there is no power within me; it is no wonder I to be sorrowful, being thrown down in
the sorrow of old age.
Everything is a grief to me beyond any other man on the face of the earth, to be dragging stones along to the church and the hill
of the priests.
I have a little story of our people. One time Finn had a mind to make a dun on the bald hill of Cuailgne, and he put it on the
Fianna of Ireland to bring stones for building it, a third on the sons of Morna, a third on myself, and a third on the sons of
I gave an answer to Finn, son of Cumhal; I said I would be under his sway no longer, and that I would obey him no more.
When Finn heard that, he was silent a long time, the man without a lie, without fear. And he said to me then: "You yourself will
be dragging stones before your death comes to you."
I rose up then with anger on me, and there followed me the fourth of the brave battalions of the Fianna. I gave my own
judgments, there were many of the Fianna with me.
Now my strength is gone from me, I that was adviser to the Fianna; my whole body is tired to-night, my hands, my feet, and my
head, tired, tired, tired.
It is bad the way I am after Finn of the Fianna; since he is gone away, every good is behind me.
Without great people, without mannerly ways; it is sorrowful I am after our king that is gone.
I am a shaking tree, my leaves gone from me; an empty nut, a horse without a bridle; a people without a dwelling-place, I Oisin,
son of Finn.
It is long the clouds are over me to-night! It is long last night was; although this day is long, yesterday was longer again to me;
every day that comes is long to me!
That is not the way I used to be, without fighting, without battles, without learning feats, without young girls, without music,
without harps, without bruising bones, without great deeds; without increase of learning, without generosity, without drinking at
feasts, without courting, without hunting, the two trades I was used to; without going out to battle Ochone! the want of them is
sorrowful to me.
No hunting of deer or stag, it is not like that I would wish to be; no leashes for our hounds, no hounds; it is long the clouds are
over me to-night!
Without rising up to do bravery as we were used, without playing as we had a mind; without swimming of our fighting men in
the lake; it is long the clouds are over me to-night!
There is no one at all in the world the way I am: it is a pity the way I am; an old man dragging stones; it is long the clouds are
over me to-night!
I am the last of the Fianna, great Oisin, son of Finn, listening to the voice of bells; it is long the clouds are over me
Translated and adapted by Lady Gregory - Gods and Fighting