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 Cúchulainn." And he said:
"Greatest toil, this, greatest toil,
Battle with the Hound of gore!
Rather would I battle twice
With two hundred men of Fal!
"Sad the fight, and sad the fight,
I and Hound of feats shall wage!
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 part!
My heart's half, the blameless Hound;
Half the brave Hound's heart am I!
"By my shield, O by my shield,
If Ath Cliath's brave Hound should fall,
I will drive my slender glaive
Through my heart, my side, my breast!
"By my sword, O by my sword,
If the Hound of Glen Bolg fall!
No man after him I'll slay,
Till I over the world's brink spring!
"By my hand, O, by my hand!
Falls the Hound of Glen in Sgail,
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 slain,
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 hue
Fearless Scathach hath foretold
My fall on a ford through him!
"Woe to Medb, yea, woe to Medb,
Who hath used her guile on us;
She hath set me face to face
'Against Cúchulainn-- hard the toil!"
"You men," spoke Medb, in the wonted fashion of stirring up
disunion and dissension, "true is the word Cúchulainn speaks." "What word is that?" asked Ferdiad. "He said,
then," replied Medb, "he would not think it too much if thou should fall by his hands in the choicest feat of his skill in
arms, in the land where he should come." "It was not just for him to speak so," said 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 pleases 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 Connaught?"
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 Cúchulainn 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 fulfillment of
the terms which had been promised him, should Cúchulainn
fall at his hands.
Then Fergus' horses
were fetched for him and his chariot was yoked, and he came forward to the place of combat
where Cúchulainn was, to inform him of the challenge. Cúchulainn bade him welcome. "Welcome is thy coming, O
my master Fergus!" cried Cúchulainn. "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." "Even so will we hear it from thee," said Cúchulainn.
"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 Daré, the great and mighty warrior of the
men of Domnann."
"As my soul lives," replied Cúchulainn, "it is not to an
encounter we wish our friend to come." "It is even for that," answered Fergus, "thou should be on thy guard and
prepared. For unlike all to whom it fell to fight and contend with thee on the Cualgne Cattle-raid on this occasion is
Ferdiad son of Daman son of Daré." "Truly am I here," said Cúchulainn, "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 spoke Fergus, putting him on his guard, and he said these
words and Cúchulainn responded:
Fergus: "O Cúchulainn-- splendid deed--
Lo, it is time for thee to rise.
Here in rage against thee comes
Ferdiad, red-faced Daman's son!"
Cúchulainn: "Here am I-- no easy task--
Holding Erin's men at bay;
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 glaive;
Ferdiad wears a skin of horn,
Against which fight nor might prevails!"
Cúchulainn: "Be thou still urge not thy tale,
Fergus of the mighty arms.
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!"
Cúchulainn: "If we clash upon the ford,
I and Ferdiad of known skill,
We'll not part without we know:
Fierce will be our weapon fight!"
Fergus: "More I'd wish it than reward,
O Cúchulainn of red sword,
Thou should be the one to bring
Eastward haughty Ferdiad's spoils!"
Cúchulainn: "Now I give my word and vow,
Though unskilled in strife of words,
It is I will conquer this
Son of Daman mac Daré!"
Fergus: It is I brought east the host,
Thus requiting Ulster's wrong.
With me came they from their lands,
With their heroes and their chiefs!"
Cúchulainn: "Were not Conchobar in the 'Pains,'
Hard it would be to come near us.
Never Medb of Mag in Scáil
On more tearful march had come!"
Fergus: "Greatest deed awaits thy hand:
Fight with Ferdiad, Daman's son.
Hard stern arms with stubborn edge,
Shalt thou have, thou Culann's Hound!"
After that, Fergus returned to the camp and halting-place.
As for Ferdiad, he 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
Cúchulainn 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 fulfillment of the covenant she had made with him, should Cúchulainn 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 Cúchulainn on the Raid for the Bull of Cualgne.
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 servant, "it would be better for thee to remain than to go thither,"
said he. And in this manner he spoke, and he uttered these words, and the henchman responded:
Ferdiad: "Let's haste to the encounter,
To battle with this man;
The ford we will come to,
Over which Badb will shriek!
To meet with Cúchulainn,
To wound his slight body,
To thrust the spear through him
So that he may die!"
The Henchman: "To stay it were better;
Your threats are not gentle
Death's sickness will one have,
And sad will ye part!
To meet Ulster's noblest
To meet whence ill cometh;
Long will men speak of it.
Alas, for your course!"
Ferdiad: "Not fair what thou say;
No fear hath the warrior;
We owe no one meekness;
We stay not for thee!
Hush, boy, about us!
The time will bring strong hearts;
More meet strength than weakness;
Let's on to the tryst!"
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, boy," 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 boy unharnessed the horses; he unfastened the chariot under him. He slept off the heavy fit
of sleep that was on him.
Now how Cúchulainn 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, boy," said Cúchulainn, "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 Daré.
"The horses are taken out," said the boy; "the chariot is harnessed. Mount, and be it no shame to thy valour to go
Then it was that the cutting, feat-performing, battle-winning,
red-sworded hero, Cúchulainn son of Sualtam, 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
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 thedeep 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
boy spoke these words:
"The roll of a chariot,
Its fair yoke of silver;
A man great and stalwart
Overtops the strong car!
Over Brí Ross, o'er Branč
Their swift path they hasten;
Past Old-tree Town's tree-stump,
Victorious they speed!
"A sly Hound that drives,
A fair chief that urges,
A free hawk that speeds
His steeds towards the south!
Gore-coloured, the Cua,
It is sure he will take us
We know-- vain to hide it--
He brings us defeat!
Woe him on the hillock,
The brave Hound before him;
Last year I foretold it,
That some time he'd come!
Hound from Emain
Hound formed of all colours,
The Border-hound War-hound,
I hear what I've heard!"
"Come, boy," said Ferdiad; "for what reason do you
praise 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 spoke these words, and the
Ferdiad: "It is time now to help me;
Be silent! cease praising!
'It was no deed of friendship,
No doom over the river bank
The Champion of Cualnge,
Thou sees amidst proud feats,
For that it's for guerdon,
Shall quickly be slain!"
The Henchman: "I see Cualnge's hero,
With feats overweening,
Not fleeing us,
But towards us he comes.
He runs-- not slowly--
Though cunning-- not sparing--
Like water down high cliff
Or thunderbolt quick!"
Ferdiad: "'Tis cause of a quarrel,
So much thou hast praised him;
And why hast thou chose him,
Since I am from home?
And now they extol him,
They fall to proclaim him;
None come to attack him,
Here follows the Description of Cúchulainn's chariot, one of
the three chief Chariots of the Tale of the Foray of Cualnge.
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 Cúchulainn'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 Cúchulainn reached the ford. Ferdiad waited on the south side of the ford; Cúchulainn stood on the north side.
Ferdiad bade welcome to Cúchulainn. "Welcome is thy coming, O Cúchulainn!" said Ferdiad. "Truly spoken
seemed thy welcome till now," answered Cúchulainn; "but to-day I put no more trust in it. And, O Ferdiad," said
Cúchulainn, "it were fitter for me to bid thee welcome than that thou should 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 Cúchulainn," spoke 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 Aoife, thou wast my serving-man, even for arming
my spear and dressing my bed." "That was indeed true,"
answered Cúchulainn; "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 day."
And then it was that each of them cast sharp-cutting reproaches at the other, renouncing his friendship. And
Ferdiad spoke these words there, and Cúchulainn responded:
Ferdiad: "What led thee, O Cua,
To fight a strong champion?
Thy flesh will be gore-red
Over smoke of thy steeds!
Alas for thy journey,
A kindling of firebrands;
In sore need of healing,
If home thou should reach!"
Cúchulainn: "I'm come before warriors
Around the herd's wild Boar,
Before troops and hundreds,
To drown thee in deep
In anger, to prove thee
In hundred-fold battle,
Till on thee comes havoc,
Defending thy head!"
Ferdiad: "Here stands one to crush thee,
'It is I will destroy thee,
. . . . .
From me there shall come
The flight of their warriors
In presence of Ulster,
That long they'll remember
The loss that was theirs!"
Cúchulainn: "How then shall we combat?
For wrongs shall we heave sighs?
Despite all, we'll go there,
To fight on the ford!
Or is it with hard swords,
Or even with red spear-points,
Before hosts to slay thee,
If thy hour hath come?"
Ferdiad: "Before sunset, before nightfall--
If need be, then guard thee--
I'll fight thee at Bairché,
Not bloodlessly fight!
The Ulstermen call thee,
'He has him!' Oh, hearken!
The sight will distress them
That through them will pass!"
Cúchulainn: "In danger's gap fallen,
At hand is thy life's term;
On thee plied be weapons,
Not gentle the skill!
One champion will slay thee;
We both will encounter;
No more shalt lead forays,
From this day till Doom!"
Ferdiad: "Avaunt with thy warnings,
Thou world's greatest braggart;
Nor guerdon nor pardon,
Low warrior for thee!
'Tis I that well know thee,
Thou heart of a cageling--
This lad merely tickles--
Without skill or force!"
Cúchulainn: "When we were with Scathach,
For wonted arms' training,
Together we'd fare forth,
To seek every fight.
Thou wast my heart's comrade,
My clan and my kinsman;
Never found I one dearer;
Thy loss would be sad!"
Ferdiad: "Thou wager's thine honour
Unless we do battle;
Before the cock crows,
Thy head on a spit!
Cúchulainn of Cualnge,
Mad frenzy hath seized thee
All ill we'll wreak on thee,
For thine is the sin!"
"Come now, O Ferdiad," cried Cúchulainn, "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
"Come not nigh me, noble chief,
Ferdiad, comrade, Daman's son.
Worse for thee than 'tis for me;
Thou will bring sorrow to a host!
"Come not nigh me against all right;
Thy last bed is made by me.
Why should thou alone escape
From the prowess of my arms?
"Shall not great feats thee undo,
Though thou are purple, horny-skinned?
And the maid thou boasts of,
Shall not, Daman's son, be thine!
"Finnabair, Medb's daughter fair,
Great her charms though they may be,
Fair as is the damsel's form,
She's not for thee to enjoy!
"Finnabair, the king's own child,
Is the lure, if truth be told;
Many they whom she's deceived
And undone as she has thee!
"Break not, weightless, oath with me;
Break not friendship, break not bond;
Break not promise, break not word;
Come not nigh me, noble chief!
"Fifty chiefs obtained in plight
This same maid, a proffer vain.
Through me went they to their graves;
Spear-right all they had from me!
"Though for brave was held Ferbaeth,
With whom was a warriors' train,
In short space I quelled his rage;
Him I slew with one sole blow!
"Sru Daré-- sore sank his might--
Darling of the noblest dames,
Time there was when great his fame--
Gold nor raiment saved him not!
"Were she mine affianced wife,
Smiled on me this fair land's head,
I would not thy body hurt,
Right nor left, in front, behind!"
"Good, O Ferdiad!" cried Cúchulainn. "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 Aoife, 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:
Cúchulainn: "We were heart-companions once;
We were comrades in the woods;
We were men that shared a bed,
When we slept the heavy sleep,
After hard and weary fights.
Into many lands, so strange,
Side by side we sallied forth,
And we ranged the woodlands through,
When with Scathach we learned arms!"
Ferdiad: "O Cúchulainn, rich in feats,
Hard the trade we both have learned;
Treason hath overcome our love;
Thy first wounding hath been bought;
Think not of our friendship more,
Cua, it avails thee not!"
"Too long are we now in this way," said Ferdiad; "and what arms shall we resort to to-day, O Cúchulainn?" "With
thee is thy choice of weapons this day," answered Cúchulainn, "for thou art he that first didst reach the ford."
"Do you remember at all," asked Ferdiad "the choice deeds of arms we were wont to practice with Scathach and with
Uathach and with Aoife?" "Indeed, and I do remember,"
answered Cúchulainn. "If thou remembers, let us begin with them."
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 straight swords 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 Cúchulainn," said Ferdiad; "for it is not by such our
decision will come." "Yea, surely, let us cease, if the time
hath come," answered Cúchulainn. Then they ceased. They threw their feat-tackle from them into the hands of their
"To what weapons shall we resort next, O Cúchulainn?" asked Ferdiad. "Thine is the choice of weapons till nightfall,"
replied Cúchulainn; "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
Cúchulainn. 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 Cúchulainn," said Ferdiad. "Aye, let us leave off, if the time hath come,"
answered Cúchulainn. 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 Cúchulainn, 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
Cúchulainn; for the purveyors of Ferdiad were more numerous than the purveyors of Cúchulainn. All the men of
Erin were purveyors to Ferdiad, to the end that he might keep Cúchulainn off from them. But only the inhabitants of
Mag Breg ('the Plain of Breg') were purveyors to Cúchulainn.
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
Cúchulainn. "Thine is the choosing of weapons," Ferdiad made answer, "because it was I had my choice of weapons
on the day afore gone." "Let us take, then," said Cúchulainn, "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 broad shields 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 Cúchulainn, "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 spoke, and he uttered these words at that place:
"We need not our chariots break--
This, a struggle fit for giants.
Place the hobbles on the steeds,
Now that din of arms is over!"
"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 philters 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
Cúchulainn, 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
Cúchulainn, for the victuallers of Ferdiad were more
numerous than the victuallers of Cúchulainn. For all the men
of Erin were Ferdiad's nourishers, to the end that he might
ward off Cúchulainn from them. But the indwellers of the
Plain of Breg alone were Cúchulainn's nourishers. They were
wont to come daily, that is, every night, to converse with
They abode there that night. Early on the morrow they arose
and repaired to the ford of combat. Cúchulainn marked an
evil mien and a dark mood that day on Ferdiad. "It is evil
thou appears to-day, O Ferdiad," spoke Cúchulainn; "thy
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
Cúchulainn lamented and moaned, and he spake these words
and Ferdiad responded:
Cúchulainn: "Ferdiad, ah, if it be thou,
Well I know thou are doomed to die!
To have gone at woman's hest,
Forced to fight thy comrade sworn!"
Ferdiad: "O Cúchulainn-- wise decree--
Loyal champion, hero true,
Each man is constrained to go
beneath the sod that hides his grave!"
Cúchulainn: "Finnabair, Medb's daughter fair,
Stately maiden though she be,
Not for love they'll give to thee,
But to prove thy kingly might!"
Ferdiad: "Proved was my might long since,
Cu of gentle spirit thou.
Of one braver I've not heard;
Till to-day I have not found!"
Cúchulainn: "Thou art he provoked this fight,
Son of Daman, Dare's son,
To have gone at woman's word,
Swords to cross with thine old friend!"
Ferdiad: "Should we then unfought depart,
Brothers though we are, bold Hound,
Ill would be my word and fame
With Ailill and Cruachan's Medb!"
Cúchulainn: "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 thee harm!"
Ferdiad: "Culann's Hound, with floods of
Medb, not thou, hath us betrayed;
Fame and victory thou shalt have;
Not on thee we lay our fault!"
Cúchulainn: "Clotted gore is my brave heart,
Near I'm parted from my soul;
Wrongful it is-- with hosts of deeds--
Ferdiad, dear, to fight with thee!"
"How much so ever thou find 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 Cúchulainn,
"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 believe 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,"
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 Cúchulainn!" cried
Ferdiad. "Aye, let us leave off, if the hour has come," said
Cúchulainn. 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
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 Cúchulainn came to meet him. And thus was
the manner of this harness of battle and fight and combat: He
put his silken, glossy tunic 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 Aoife, but he found them of himself that day in the face
Cúchulainn likewise came to the ford, and he beheld the
various, brilliant, manifold, wonderful feats that Ferdiad
performed on high. "Thou see yonder, O Laeg, my master,
the diverse, 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 Cúchulainn, 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 Aoife.
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 Cúchulainn. "With thee is thy choice
of weapons," Ferdiad responded. "Let us go to the 'Feat of
the Ford,' then," said Cúchulainn. "Aye, let us do so,"
answered Ferdiad. Albeit Ferdiad spoke that, he deemed it
the most grievous place where he could go, for he knew
that in that sort Cúchulainn used to destroy every hero and
every battle-soldier who fought with him in the 'Feat of the
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 Cúchulainn gave one spring once from the bank of
the ford till he stood upon the boss of Ferdiad mac Daman'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 Cúchulainn went
from him like a bird onto the brink of the ford. Again
Cúchulainn sprang from the brink of the ford, so that he
alighted upon the boss of Ferdiad mac Daman'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 Cúchulainn went from him like an infant onto
the bank of the ford.
Laeg espied that. "Woe then, Cúchulainn!" cried Laeg;
"it seems 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, Cúchulainn 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,
until 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 Cúchulainn 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 Cúchulainn 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 Cúchulainn 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. Cúchulainn 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 Cúchulainn 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
Cúchulainn. 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
Cúchulainn out of every stress wherein he was.
Ferdiad spake: "Not alike are our foster-brothership and
our comradeship O Cúchulainn," quoth he. "How so, then?"
asked Cúchulainn. "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 Cúchulainn; "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
complain here, Ferdiad?" said Cúchulainn. "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 Cúchulainn's.
Howbeit, when the Fairy friends found Cúchulainn 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
Cúchulainn'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,
Even though three men on it fell?
None the less it washed their spoils--
It is Dolb's and Indolb's Ford!"
When the devoted equally great sires and champions, and
the hard, battle-victorious wild beasts that fought for
Cúchulainn had fallen, it greatly strengthened the courage of
Ferdiad, so that he gave two blows for every blow of
Cúchulainn'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 Cúchulainn,
in such a way that a swelling and an inflation filled Cúchulainn
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 blood-hound.
And Cúchulainn 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 boy, do thou
hold back Laeg from me to-day, and I will hold back
Cúchulainn 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.
Cúchulainn 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 Cúchulainn the measure of nine
paces out to the westward over the ford.
Then Cúchulainn 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 Cúchulainn westwards over the ford. Cúchulainn
sprang on the rim of the shield. Ferdiad shook the shield, so
that he sent Cúchulainn the space of nine paces eastwards
over the ford.
Cúchulainn 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.
Cúchulainn 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 Cúchulainn was
thrown into the waves of the ford.
Thereupon Ferdiad gave three severe woundings to
Cúchulainn. Cúchulainn 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 Cúchulainn 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,
Battle-winning Culann's hound!"
Then it was that Cúchulainn 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 Cúchulainn, 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.
Ferdiad heard the Gae Bulga called for. He thrust his shield
down to protect the lower part of his body. Cúchulainn
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 servant set the Gae Bulga down
the stream, and Cúchulainn 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 its barbs.
"Ah, that now suffices," 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,
Unfairly I'm slain!
Thy guilt clings to me;
My blood falls on thee!
"No respite for the wretch
Who treads treason's gap.
Now weak is my voice;
Ah, gone is my bloom!
"My ribs' armour bursts,
My heart is all gore;
I battled not well;
I'm smitten, O Cu!
Thereupon Cúchulainn 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. Cúchulainn laid Ferdiad there on the ground, and
a cloud and a faint and a swoon came over Cúchulainn 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 Daré is fallen by
thee." "What avails it me to arise, O servant," moaned
Cúchulainn, "now that this one is fallen by my hand?" In this
wise the servant spoke and he uttered these words and
Laeg: "Now arise, O Emain's Hound;
Now most fits thee courage high.
Ferdiad hast thou thrown-- of hosts--
God's fate! How thy fight was hard!"
Cúchulainn: What avails me courage now?
I'm oppressed with rage and grief,
For the deed that I have done
On his body sworded sore!"
Laeg: It becomes thee not to weep;
Fitter for thee to exult!
Yon red-speared one thee hath left
Painful, wounded, steeped in gore!"
Cúchulainn: "Even had he cleaved my leg,
And one hand had severed too;
Woe, that Ferdiad-- who rode steeds--
Shall not ever be in life!"
Laeg: "Rather far what's come to pass,
To the maidens of Red Branch;
He to die, thou to remain;
They grudge not that ye should part!"
Cúchulainn: "From the day I Cualnge left,
Seeking high and splendid Medb,
Carnage has she had-- with fame--
Of her warriors whom I've slain!"
Laeg: "Thou hast had no sleep in peace,
In pursuit of thy great Táin;
Though thy troop was few and small,
Oft thou wouldst rise at early morn!"
Cúchulainn began to lament and bemoan Ferdiad, and he
spake the words:
"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 Connacht men 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
"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 Cúchulainn. Then it was
that Cúchulainn arose and stood over Ferdiad: "Ah, Ferdiad,"
spake Cúchulainn, "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 Bull of Cualnge! Thus he spake, and he
uttered these words:
"Ah, Ferdiad, betrayed to death.
Our last meeting, oh, how sad!
Thou to die I to remain.
Ever sad our long farewell!
"When we over yonder dwelt
With our Scathach, steadfast, true,
This we thought till end of time,
That our friendship ne'er would end!
"Dear to me thy noble blush;
Dear thy comely, perfect form;
Dear thine eye, blue-grey and clear;
Dear thy wisdom and thy speech!
"Never strode to rending fight,
Never wrath and manhood held,
Nor slung shield across broad back,
One like thee, Daman's red son!
Never have I met till now,
Since I Oenfer Aoife slew,
One thy peer in deeds of arms,
Never have I found, Ferdiad!
Finnabair, Medb's daughter fair,
Beauteous, lovely though she be,
As a gad round sand or stones,
She was shown to thee, Ferdiad!"
Then Cúchulainn turned to gaze on Ferdiad. "Ah, my master Laeg," cried Cúchulainn, "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
"Alas, golden brooch;
Ferdiad of the hosts,
O good smiter, strong,
Victorious thy hand!
"Thy hair blond and curled,
A wealth fair and grand.
Thy soft, leaf-shaped belt
Around thee till death!
"Our comradeship dear;
Thy noble eye's gleam;
Thy golden-rimmed shield;
Thy sword, treasures worth!
"Thy white-silver torque
Thy noble arm binds.
Thy chess-board worth wealth;
Thy fair, ruddy cheek!
"To fall by my hand,
I own was not just!
'Twas no noble fight.
Alas, golden brooch!
"Come, O Laeg my master," cried Cúchulainn; "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 Cúchulainn saw his
weapons bloody and red-stained by the side of Ferdiad,
and he uttered these words:--
"O Ferdiad, in gloom we meet.
Thee I see both red and pale.
I myself with unwashed arms;
Thou lie in thy bed of gore!
"Were we yonder in the East,
Scathach and our Uathach near,
There would not be pallid lips
Twixt us two, and arms of strife!
"Thus spake Scathach trenchantly,
Words of warning, strong and stern.
'Go ye all to furious fight;
German, blue-eyed, fierce will come!'
"Unto Ferdiad then I spake,
And to Lugaid generous,
To the son of fair Baetan,
German we would go to meet!
"We came to the battle-rock,
Over Lake Linn Formait's shore.
And four hundred men we brought
From the Isles of the Athissech!
"As I stood and Ferdiad brave
At the gate of German's fort,
I slew Rinn the son of Nel;
He slew Ruad son of Fornel!
Ferdiad slew upon the slope
Blath, of Colba 'Red-sword' son.
Lugaid, fierce and swift, then slew
Mugairne of the Tyrrhene Sea!
"I slew, after going in,
Four times fifty grim, wild men.
Ferdiad killed-- a furious horde--
Dam Dremenn and Dam Dilenn!
"We laid waste shrewd German's fort
O'er the broad, bespangled sea.
German we brought home alive
To our Scathach of broad shield!
"Then our famous nurse made fast
Our blood-pact of amity,
That our angers should not rise
'Amongst the tribes of noble Elg!
"Sad the morn, a day in March,
Which struck down weak Daman's son.
Woe is me, the friend is fallen
Whom I pledged in red blood's draught!
"Were it there I saw thy death,
Midst the great Greeks' warrior-bands,
I'd not live on after thee,
But together we would die!
"Woe, what us befell there from,
Us, dear Scathach's fosterlings,
Me sore wounded, red with blood,
Thee no more to drive thy car!
"Woe, what us befell there from,
Us, dear Scathach's fosterlings,
Me sore wounded, stiff with gore,
Thee to die the death for aye!
"Woe, what us befell there from,
Us, dear Scathach's fosterlings,
Thee in death, me, strong, alive.
Valour is an angry strife!"
"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 Cúchulainn. "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:
All was play, all was sport,
Till came Ferdiad to the ford!
One task for both of us,
Equal our reward.
Our kind, gentle nurse
Chose him over all!
All was play, all was sport,
Till came Ferdiad to the ford!
One our life, one our fear,
One our skill in arms.
Shields gave Scathach twain
To Ferdiad and me!
All was play, all was sport,
Till came Ferdiad to the ford!
Dear the shaft of gold
I smote on the ford.
Bull-chief of the tribes,
Braver he than all!
Only games and only sport,
Till came Ferdiad to the ford!
Lion furious, flaming, fierce;
Swollen wave that wrecks like doom!
Only games and only sport,
Till came Ferdiad to the ford!
Loved Ferdiad seemed to me
After me would live for aye!
Yesterday, a mountain's size--
He is but a shade to-day!
Three things countless on the Táin
Which have fallen by my hand:
Hosts of cattle, men and steeds
I have slaughtered on all sides!
Though the hosts were ever so great,
That came out of Cruachan wild,
More than third and less than half,
Slew I in my direful sport!
Never trod in battle's ring;
Banba nursed not on her breast;
Never sprang from sea or land,
King's son that had larger fame!"