Moreover at the same time there came also
messengers from Conchobar Mac
Nessa to ask for the
same hound. They were all made welcome and brought to
him in the hall.
That is one of the six halls that were in
Ireland at that time, the others being the hall of Da Derga in
the territory of Cualu, and the hall of
the hall of Mac Dareo in Brefne, and the hall of Da Choca
in the west of Meath, and the hall of Blai the landowner in
There were seven doors in that hall, and seven
passages through it, and seven hearths in it, and seven
cauldrons, and an ox and a salted pig in each cauldron.
Every man who came along the passage used to thrust the
flesh-fork into a cauldron, and whatever he brought out at
the first catch was his portion. If he did not obtain anything
at the first attempt he did not have another.
Now the messengers were brought to him in his place
that he might learn their requests before the feast. They
delivered their message: "We have come from Ailill and
from Medb to beg the hound," said the messengers of
Connaught; "and there shall be given three score
hundred milch cows at once, and a chariot and two
horses, the best in Connaught, and their equivalent gifts
at the end of a year in addition to this."
"We also have come from Conchobar to ask for it," said
the messengers from Ulster; "and Conchobar's value as
a friend is no less-and to give you treasure and cattle;
and the same amount shall be given you at the end of a
year, and close friendship will be the result."
Thereupon our Mac Dathó lapsed into total silence and in
this way he was a whole day without drink, without food,
without sleep, tossing from side to side. Then his wife said
to him: "You are making a long fast. There is food beside
you but you don't eat it. What ails you?"
He gave the woman no answer, so the woman said:
"Sleeplessness fell upon Mac Dathó at his home. There was
something upon which he was brooding without speaking to
"He turns away from me and turns to the wall, the warrior
of the Fían of fierce valour; it causes concern to his
prudent wife that her husband is sleepless."
The Man: "Crimthann Nia Nair said: 'Do not tell your secret
to women.' The secret of a woman is not well kept. A
treasure is not entrusted to a slave."
The Woman: "Even to a woman you should speak if nothing
should be lost thereby. A thing which your own mind cannot
penetrate the mind of another will penetrate."
The Man: "The hound of Mesroeda Mac Dathó, evil was
the day when they sent for it. Many tall and fair-haired men
will fall on account of it. The strife about it will be more than
we can reckon. "
Unless it is given to Conchobar it will certainly be a churl's
act. His hosts will not leave behind them anything more of
cattle than of land.
"If it be refused to Ailill, he will hew down a heap of
corpses across the country. Mac Matach will carry us
off, he will crush us into bare ashes."
The Woman: "I have advice for you about it. I am not bad
at directing an affair. Give it to them both. It is all the same
whoever perishes for it."
The Man: "The counsel you offer is helpful to me. Ailbe.... It
is not known by whom it was brought."
After that he arose and made a flourish. "Let us then,"
said he, "and the guests who have come to us be well
They remain with him three days and three
nights, and the messengers of Connaught were
summoned to him in private: " Now I have been in great
perplexity and doubt," said he, "until it became clear to
me that I should give the hound to Ailill and Medb; and
let them come for the hound formally, and they shall have
drink and food, and shall take the hound and welcome."
The messengers of Connaught were pleased with the
He then went to the messengers from Ulster: "I have
ceased to have any hesitation," said he, "in giving the
hound to Conchobar, and let him and the host of Ulster
nobles come for it proudly. They shall receive presents
and they will be welcome." The messengers from Ulster
Now the people from East and West made their tryst for
the same day. Moreover they did not neglect it. On the
same day the two provinces of Ireland made their journey
until they reached the door of Mac Dathó's hall.
He went out himself and welcomed them: "O heroes, we did not
expect you. However you are welcome. Come into the
Then they all went into the hall, and half the
house was occupied by the Connaughtmen, and the other
half by the Ulstermen.
Now the house was not a small one.
There were seven doors in it, and fifty places between
each pair of doors. They were not however the faces of
friends at a feast which were in that house.
One party was
at feud with the other. There had been warfare between
them for three hundred years.
Now Mac Dathó's pig was slaughtered for them.
For seven years, sixty milch cows supplied its food. On poison
however it had been nourished and the massacre of the
men of Erin took place through it.
Now the pig was brought to them, and forty oxen as a
relish, and other food as well. Mac Dathó himself was
acting as steward.
"Welcome to you," said he; "the equal to
this cannot be found. Bullocks and pigs are not lacking in
Whatever is lacking now will be slaughtered for
you tomorrow." "The pig is good," said Conchobar. "It is
indeed good," said Ailill.
"How shall the pig be divided,
Conchobar?" "How," said Bricriu mac Carbaid...from
above, "in the place wherein are the brave heroes of the
men of Ireland, except by dividing according to brave
deeds and trophies? And each of you has hit another over
the nose before now."
"Let it be done," said Ailill. "Very
proper," said Conchobar. " We have heroes present who
have raided the borderland."
"You will have need of your young men tonight, O
Conchobar," said Senlaech Arad from Conalad Luachra in
"You have often left a fat bullock of your number
lying dead on his back on the Luachra Dedad roads."
"It was a fatter bullock that you left behind with us, namely
your own brother, Cruachniu mac Rúadluim from Cruachan
"He was no better," said Lugaid mac
the great Loth the son of Fergus mac Léti, who was left
dead by Echbél mac Dedad in Tara Luachra."
"What do you think of this," said Celtchair mac Uthechair, "my having
killed Conganchness mac Dedad and cut off his head?!"
However it so fell out among them in the end that a single
champion, Cet mac Matach, got supremacy over the men
of Ireland. Moreover he flaunted his valour on high above
the valour of the host, and took a knife in his hand and sat
down beside the pig. "Let someone be found now among
the men of Ireland," said he, "to endure battle with me, or
leave the pig to me to divide!"
Silence fell upon the men of Ulster. "You see that,
Loegaire!" said Conchobar. "It is intolerable," said
Loegaire, "for Cet to divide up the pig before our faces."
"Stop a bit, Loegaire, that I may speak to you," said Cet.
"You have a custom among you in Ulster," said Cet, " that
every youth among you on receiving arms makes us his
Now you came into the borderland, and we
encountered there. You left behind the wheel and the
chariot and the horses. You yourself made off with a
spear through you. You will not get the pig in that way."
Thereupon the other sat down.
"It is intolerable," said a tall fair hero who had risen from
his place, "that Cet should divide the pig before our faces."
"Whom have we here?" asked Cet. "He is a better hero
than you are," said everyone; "he is Oengus mac Láma
Gábuid of Ulster."
"Why is your father called Lam
Gábuid?" asked Cet. "Well why?" "I know," said Cet. "I
once went eastward. The alarm was raised around me.
Everyone came on and Lam came too. He threw a cast of
his great spear at me. I sent the same spear back to him,
and it struck off his hand, so that it lay on the ground.
What could bring his son to give me combat?" Oengus sat
"Keep up the contest further," said Cet, "or else let me
divide the pig." "It is intolerable that you should take
precedence in dividing the pig," said a tall fair hero of
Ulster. "Whom have we here?" asked Cet. "That is
mac Durthacht," said everyone. [He is king of Fernmag.]
"I have seen him before," said Cet. "Where have you seen
me?" asked Eogan.
"At the door of your house, when I
deprived you of a drove of cattle. The alarm was raised
around me in the country-side. You came at that cry. You
cast a spear at me so that it stuck out of my shield. I cast
the spear back at you so that it pierced your head and put
out your eye. It is patent to the men of Ireland that you are
one-eyed. It was I who struck out the other eye from your
head." Thereupon the other sat down.
"Prepare now, men of Ulster, for further contest," said
Cet. "You will not divide it yet," said Munremor mac
Gergind. "Is not that Munremor?" asked Cet. "I am the
man who last cleaned my spears in Munremor," said Cet.
"It is not yet a whole day since I took three heads of
heroes from you out of your land, and among them the
head of your eldest son." Thereupon the other sat down.
"Further contest!" said Cet. "That you shall have," said
Mend mac Sálcholcán. "Who is this?" asked Cet. "Mend,"
said everyone. "What next!" said Cet, "sons of rustics with
nick-names to contest with me! --for it was from me your
father got that name. It was I who struck off his heel with
my sword, so that he took away only one foot when he left
me. What could encourage the son of the one-footed man
to fight with me?" Thereupon the other sat down.
"Further contest!" said Cet. "That you shall have," said a
grey, tall, very terrible hero of Ulster. "Who is this?" asked
Cet. "That is Celtchair mac Uthechair," said everyone.
"Stop a bit, Celtchair!" said Cet, "unless we are to come
to blows at once. I came, Celtchair, to the door of your
house. The alarm was raised around me. Everyone came
up. You came too. You went into the doorway in front of
me. You cast a spear at me. I cast another spear at you so
that it pierced your penis and
You have had a bloody sickness ever since. Since
then neither son nor daughter has been begotten by you.
What could encourage you to fight with me?" Thereupon
the other sat down.
"Further contest!" said Cet. "That you shall have," said
Cúscraid Mend Macha, the son of Conchobar. "Who is
this?" asked Cet. "Cúscraid," said the others. "He has the
makings of a king to judge from his appearance."
"No thanks to you," said the boy. "Well," said Cet, "it was to us
you came in the first place, boy, for your first trial of arms.
There was an encounter between us in that borderland.
You left a third of your people behind; and it is thus you
went, with a spear through your throat, so that you have
not an articulate word in your head; for the spear has
injured the tendons of your throat, and that is why you
have been nick-named Cúscraid the Stammerer ever
since." And in this manner he flouted the whole province.
Now while he was making flourishes about the pig with a knife in his
hand they saw Conall Cernach entering. He bounded into the centre
of the house. The men of Ulster gave a great welcome to Conall.
Then Conchobar whipped the hood from his head and made a
flourish. "I am glad that my portion is in readiness," said Conall. "
Who is he who is making the division for you?"
"It has been granted to the man who is dividing it," said Conchobar, "namely Cet mac
"Is it right, Cet," asked Conall, "that you should divide the
pig?" Then Cet answered:
"Welcome, Conall! Heart of stone,
Fierce glowing mass of fire, brightness of ice,
Red strength of wrath! Under the breast of the hero
Who deals wounds, and is victorious in battle
I see the son of Findchoem before me."
Whereupon Conall replied:
Cet mac Matach! great hero,
Heart of ice.... Strong chariot-hero of battle, battling sea,
Beautiful fierce bull, Cet mac Matach!
"It will be clear in our encounter," said Conall,
"and it will be clear in our separation.
There will be a fine saga in Fer m-brot
There will be ill tidings in Fer manath
The heroes will see a lion fierce in battle,
There will be a rough onset
in this house to-night."
"Get up from the pig now," said Conall.
"But what should
bring you to it?" asked Cet.
"It is quite proper," said Conall,
"that you should challenge me! I accept your challenge to
single combat, Cet," said Conall.
"I swear what my tribe
swears, that since I took a spear in my hand I have not often
slept without the head of a Connaughtman under my head,
and without having wounded a man every single day and
every single night."
"It is true," said Cet. "You are a better
hero than I am. If Anlúan were in the house he would offer
you yet another contest. It is a pity for us that he is not in the
"He is though," said Conall, taking the head of
Anlúan from his belt, and throwing it at Cet's breast with
such force that a gush of blood burst over his lips. Cet then
left the pig, and Conall sat down beside it.
"Let them come to the contest now!" said Conall. There
was not found among the men of Connaught a hero to
keep it up. They made however a wall of shields in a circle
around him, for the bad practice had begun among those
bad men there of evil casting.
Conall then went to divide
the pig, and takes the tail-end in his mouth and so attained
to a division of the pig. He devoured the hind-quarters -- a
load for nine men -- until he had left nothing of it.
Moreover he did not give to the men of Connaught
anything except the two fore-quarters of the pig. Now the
men of Connaught thought their portion was small. They
sprang up, and the men of Ulster sprang up, and then they
came to close quarters.
Then it came to blows over the
ears there until the heap on the floor of the house was as
high as the wall of the house, and there were streams of
blood running through the doors.
Then the hosts broke
through the doors so that a great uproar arose, until the
blood on the ground of the liss would have turned a
millshaft, everyone striking his fellow.
Then Fergus seized
by the roots a great oak which was growing in the midst of
the liss and wielded it against them. Thereupon they break
forth out of the liss. A combat takes place at the entrance
of the liss.
Then Mac Dathó went forth leading the hound, and the
hound was let loose among them to find out which of them
its instinct would choose.
The hound chose the men of
Ulster and he set it to slaughtering the men of Connaught--
for the men of Connaught had been routed. They say it is in
the plains of Ailbe that the hound seized the pole of the
chariot in which Ailill and Medb were.
There Ferloga, the
charioteer of Ailill and Medb, ran it down, striking its body
aside, while its head remained on the pole of the chariot.
They say moreover that Mag Ailbe is so named from this
incident, for Ailbe was the hound's name.
Their flight turned southwards, over Bellaghmoon, past
Reerin, over Áth Midbine in Mastiu, past Drum Criach
which to-day is called Kildare, past Rathangan into
Feighcullen to the Ford of Mac Lugna, past the hill of the
two plains over Cairpre's Bridge.
At the Ford of the Dog's
Head in Farbill the dog's head fell from the chariot. Coming
westwards over the heath of Meath, Ferloga, Ailill's
charioteer, lay down in the heather and sprang into the
chariot behind the back of Conchobar, and in this way
seized his head from behind.
"Buy your freedom,
Conchobar," said he. "Make your own terms," said
Conchobar. "It will not be much," replied Ferloga, "namely,
you to take me with you to Emain Macha, and the women
of Ulster and their young daughters to sing a panegyric to
me every evening saying: 'Ferloga is my darling.'"
There was no help for it, for they did not dare do otherwise for
fear of Conchobar; and that day a year hence Ferloga was
sent across Athlone westwards, and a pair of Conchobar's
horses with him, with golden bridles.
source: N. Kershaw Chadwick - An Early Irish
Reader, Cambridge University Press.