THE FOUR WHITE
DERMAT AND GRANIA
Told to the Children
This little book was written
after several variants of the Tales had been read:—'Old Celtic Romances,'
by Dr. Joyce; 'Reliquae Celticae,' by Dr. Cameron; 'The Pursuit after
Diarmud O'Duibhne and Grainne the daughter of Cormac Mac Airt,' by
Standish Hayes O'Grady; 'The Three Sorrows of Story-telling,' by Dr.
Douglas Hyde; 'The Laughter of Peterkin,' by Fiona Macleod, and other
translations and retellings.
ABOUT THIS BOOK
One of my friends tells me
that you, little reader, will not like these old, old tales; another says
they are too sad for you, and yet another asks what the stories are meant
Now I, for my part, think
you will like these Celtic Tales very much indeed. It is true they are
sad, but you do not always want to be amused. And I have not told the
stories for the sake of anything they may teach, but because of their
sheer beauty, and I expect you to enjoy them as hundreds and hundreds of
Irish and Scottish children have already enjoyed them—without knowing or
THE STAR-EYED DEIRDRE
In olden days, when many
Kings reigned throughout the Green Island of Erin, none was greater than
the great Concobar. So fair was his realm that poets sang its beauty, and
such the wonder of his palace that the sweetest songs of Erin were of its
In a castle of this fair
realm dwelt Felim, a warrior and harper dear unto the King. And it was
told him that Concobar with his chief lords would visit the castle.
Then Felim made a feast, and
there was great rejoicing, and all men were glad.
But in the midst of the
feast an old magician, who was of those that had come with the King, stood
up before the great gathering. Long and white was the hair that fell upon
his bent shoulders, black were the eyes that gazed into space from beneath
his shaggy eyebrows.
'Speak,' said the King to
the old man, 'speak, and tell us that thou seest, for well we know thou
piercest the veil that hideth from us the secrets of the morrow.'
Silently and with great awe
did all the company look at the wise old man, for those things that he had
already foretold had they not come to pass? The magician, also silent,
looked from the face of one to the face of another, but when his eyes fell
on Concobar, the King, long did they dwell there, and when he lifted them,
on Felim did they rest.
Then the Wise Man spake:
'This night, O Felim the
Harper, shall a girl-babe be born to thee within these castle walls.
Loveliest among the lovely shall thy star-eyed daughter be; no
harp-strings shall yield such music as her voice, no fairy strains pour
forth such wonder-stirring sound. Yet, O Felim, in days to come, because
of this fair child shall great sorrow come upon our King Concobar and upon
all his realm. In those days shall Erin's chief glory perish, for if the
House of the Red Branch fall, who shall stand?'
Then did a cry of fear burst
from those gathered to the feast, and leaping to their feet, each man laid
his hand upon his sword, for the word that the wise man had spoken would
it not come to pass?
'Let our swords be in
readiness,' they cried, 'to kill the babe that shall be born this night,
for better far is it that one child perish than that the blood of a nation
And Felim spake: 'Great
sorrow is mine that fear of the child who shall be born this night should
be upon you. Therefore, if it please the King, let my daughter die, and so
may peace yet reign in the realm. For dear as would be a child to my wife
and to me, dearer yet is the common weal.'
But the answer of King
Concobar came not for a time. His soul was filled with desire to see the
star-eyed maiden and to hear the wonder of her voice. Still was the hand
of each upon his sword when the King spake.
'Put far from thee, O Felim,
the will to do this thing. Bend not thy mind to the death of thine own
child. And ye, my people, sheathe your swords. Let the babe live. I,
Concobar, will be her guardian, and if ill befall, let it be upon me, your
At these words arose a
'It would be well, O King,
but for the word spoken by the Wise Man, for hath he not said, “Because of
this fair child shall great sorrow come upon the King Concobar”? If we let
the babe live, then must thy people see thee in sore distress, for the
word that the Wise Man speaketh, shall it not come to pass?'
'Of that am I not unmindful.
Deep within the forest, beyond the Moor of Loneliness, shall her childish
days be spent. Gently tended shall she be, but the eye of man shall not
behold her, and solitary shall she live as some unmated bird in distant
Then with one accord did the
people cry, 'Wilt thou indeed be guardian to this child, knowing the ill
that the Wise Man hath foretold?'
'Yea, truly will I be
guardian to the child, and when she be a woman then shall she be my wedded
wife. And if with the maiden come sorrow, then be that sorrow upon me, and
not upon the land.'
'What sayest thou, O Felim
the Harper?' cried the people.
'It were better to slay the
child than to let that come which hath been foretold.'
'And what sayest thou, O
'That which shall come,
At the same moment there
entered the hall a servant of Felim, and loudly did he proclaim that the
girl-babe, who had been foretold, was born. 'Right beautiful and strong is
the child, most fair to look upon.'
'And Deirdre shall her name
be,' said the Wise Man, 'Deirdre the Star-eyed.'
And because of the words
that the King Concobar had spoken, the life of the babe was spared, and
when the days of feasting were past, Concobar returned to his palace, and
with him he took the infant child and her mother. Yet after a month he
bade the mother return to Felim her husband, but the babe Deirdre he kept.
And deep within the forest,
beyond the Moor of Loneliness, did the King command that a cottage be
built, and when Deirdre was one year, thither was she sent with a trusted
nurse. But on the trees of the forest and throughout the land was
proclaimed the order of the King Concobar, that whosoever should hunt, or
for other purpose enter the wood, death should be his portion.
Once each week did the King
visit the fair babe, and daily were stores of food and milk brought to the
lone dwelling. And Deirdre each year grew more fair, but none beheld her
beauty, save her nurse, her tutor, and Lavarcam.
This Lavarcam was a woman
well trusted of the King, and she alone went to and fro between the palace
and the cottage. It was she who told to Deirdre the old tales of knights
and ladies, of dragons and of fairies that dwelt in the Enchanted Land.
When Deirdre was seven years
old the King no longer came every week to the forest, but twice in the
year only, and that as the Spring put forth her first green shoots, and
again when Autumn gleaned her harvest of gold.
And when another seven years
had sped, then came not the King thither, either when the earth was green
or golden, nor in the blue summer nor the hoary winter, but from Lavarcam
he heard that it was well with the maid.
One white winter's morning
Deirdre looked from her window, and saw lying in the snow a calf. It had
been killed by her nurse to provide food for the little household, and its
bright red blood dyed the thick-lying snow. As Deirdre watched the flow of
the scarlet stream, a raven, black as night, flew down and drank of the
warm blood. Then Deirdre smiled.
'Where are thy thoughts,
fair child?' asked Lavarcam, entering the room.
'Only did I think,' said
Deirdre, 'that if a youth could be found whose skin was white as snow, his
cheek crimson as that pool of blood, and his hair black as the raven's
wing, him could I love right gladly.'
Then Lavarcam spake: 'Such a
man have I seen, and one only.'
'His name, Lavarcam, his
name?' cried Deirdre. 'Whence comes he, and wherefrom he be found?'
'The fairest of three fair
brothers is this Nathos, the son of Usna, and now is he with Concobar the
And Deirdre would thereafter
think of none but Nathos, and Lavarcam was much troubled because of the
words that she had spoken. And when Deirdre longed grievously by day and
night to see this Nathos of whom she had heard, Lavarcam thought of a plan
whereby she might end the maiden's dream.
One day, as she came from
the palace of the King, she met on the Moor of Loneliness a swineherd and
two shepherd lads. And well though she knew that none might enter the
forest, she led them to a well in its leafy depths. Then said this woman
trusted of the King, 'Wait here by this well until the jay cry and the
hill-fox bark. Then move slowly on your way, but speak to none whom ye may
meet, and when ye leave the wood let not your lips tell those things ye
shall have seen and heard.'
With these words Lavarcam
left the three men, and entered the cottage.
'Come, Deirdre,' she cried,
'the crisp snow glistens in the sunshine. Let us wander forth.'
And Deirdre came, and
dreamily she trod where Lavarcam led. Of a sudden the older woman left her
side, and bent as though she would gather a woodland flower. At the same
moment was heard the cry of the jay and the bark of the hill-fox. Then
came Lavarcam to the maiden's side.
'Passing strange is it,'
said Deirdre, 'to hear the jay cry and the hill-fox bark while yet the
snow lies thick.'
'Heed not strange sounds,
fair Deirdre, but cast thine eyes toward yonder well.'
And as Deirdre gazed she
saw, as in a dream, the forms of three men come slowly through the forest.
'These, Deirdre, are men,'
'Yet seem they not as the
men I have seen ride by across the Moor of Loneliness, for they were fair
to look upon, but mine eyes have no pleasure in beholding these strange
'Yet you look upon Nathos,
for these men are none other than the three sons of Usna.'
Deirdre started. 'Idle are
your words, false Lavarcam. Yonder walks not a man with skin white as
snow, with cheek crimson as blood, nor with hair black as the raven's
wing. You lie!' And the maid made haste, and she reached the men, and
stood before them.
Amazed at her exceeding
beauty, they gazed in silence. 'Tell me if ye be the sons of Usna. Speak!'
But in wonder at the
loveliness of the maiden, and in fear of the anger of Lavarcam, the men
'Speak!' she again cried.
'If indeed ye be Nathos and his brothers, then truly hath Concobar the
King my pity.'
At these words the swineherd
could no longer keep silence.
'It is thy exceeding beauty
that telleth us that thou art that Deirdre whom the King hideth in this
forest. Why mock us by asking if we are the fairest of Concobar's nobles?
Clearly canst thou see we are but men of the hills, I a poor swineherd,
and these men shepherds.'
'Then wilt thou, swineherd,
for truly do I believe thy words, get thee to the sons of Usna, and say to
Nathos the eldest, that in the forest beyond the Moor of Loneliness,
Deirdre awaits his coming. Tell him that to-morrow, an hour before the
setting of the sun, he will find her by this well.'
'If it be known that I so
break the law of the King, I die, yet will I go right gladly.'
Then Deirdre left the men,
and walked slowly after Lavarcam. And Lavarcam would fain have known what
Deirdre had told the swineherd, but the girl told her nought, and was in a
dream all that day and all the morrow.
It was in the wane of the
morrow that Lavarcam went forth to take counsel of the King. And Deirdre
ran with great speed to the well, but no man was there, and she waited
long, but none came.
While Deirdre waited by the
well, Lavarcam came near to the King's palace. And lo! there, on the
ground before her, lay the dead body of the swineherd. Thus was it made
known to Lavarcam that in some wise Concobar the King had heard that the
swineherd had spoken with Deirdre.
Therefore Lavarcam went not
to the palace, but turned aside to the camp of the sons of Usna. And
Nathos came out to her, and she told him of the loneliness of the fair
Deirdre and of her longing to see him.
Then said Nathos, 'But it
may not be yet awhile, for Concobar found that the fair Deirdre had spoken
with the swineherd, and for that cause lies he yonder, a dead man.'
'Yet tarry not long, for if
thou wouldst hunt in the forest, beyond the well, then surely wouldst thou
see Deirdre the Star-eyed, and none should know.'
Seven days passed, and
Deirdre roamed in the wood dreaming her dream, when of a sudden there came
an unknown sound. Ah, could it be the hunting-horn of which Lavarcam had
spoken in her tales of chase? The maiden paused. The horn ceased. Nathos
had left the hunt and wandered through the glade. There, against a
background of blue haze, encircled by a network of blossoming blackthorn,
shone forth the fairest vision mortal eye had beheld.
Speech tarried as Nathos
At length the maiden
questioned, 'Nathos, son of Usna, what wouldst thou?'
'Strange is it that thou
shouldst know my name, most fair. No mortal art thou. Fain would I enter
yonder cottage, did I but dare, and speak with the daughter of Felim the
Harper. Yet it is death should the King know of my desire.'
'I am that Deirdre whom thou
seekest, and if I be fair in thine eyes, it pleaseth me well. It is for
thee I have watched long, for is not thy skin white as snow, thy cheek
crimson as blood, and thy hair black as the raven's wing? Lonely are my
days in this place, where none dwells save my nurse, my tutor, and
Never did harp-strings yield
such music as her voice, never did fairy strains pour forth such
'Art thou indeed Deirdre the
Star-eyed, and is it that King Concobar keepeth thee here like some caged
[Illustration: 'Art thou
'I am Deirdre, and it is the
King's will that I wander not forth from yonder cottage but by the side of
Lavarcam. Ill would it please him that I should thus roam the forest
'I love thee, Deirdre, and I
would serve thee ever.'
'I love thee, Nathos, and I
would that I might be ever by thy side. Let me flee with thee from this
Nathos knit his brows in
thought. 'Fair one, if we are seen as we leave the forest, then is it
death to us both; and if we are not seen, still is it death, for when it
is known of the King that Deirdre is fled, then will the land be searched
until she be found, and then shall we die.'
'But, Nathos, Concobar is
not King in the land of Alba. Let us flee from Erin, and there in thine
own land shall we surely find safety.'
'Thou speakest well, brave
Deirdre. If a host be sent from Concobar to Alba, then shall it be met by
a host of mine own land. And a fair land it is. Scented with pine and
seaweed are its shores, blue as thine eyes are its waters, and of its
setting sun the glory cannot be told.'
'Let us go forth,' said
'Then let it be now and
without delay, or it may never be,' and as Nathos uttered these words
Deirdre saw a strange look in his eyes, and in a moment he had flung his
javelin among the bracken but a few paces apart.
'What beast wouldst thou
slay?' cried Deirdre, affrighted.
'It was no beast,' said
Nathos, 'but yonder among the bracken lieth a dead man, if my javelin
missed not its mark.'
In fear and wonder Deirdre
ran to the spot. No man lay there, but she saw on the bracken the form of
a crouching man. She saw, too, the tracks that marked his escape.
Nathos followed her, and
stooped to take his javelin from the ground. And there, beside it, lay a
'It is as I thought,' he
said. 'This knife is used but by the hillmen who are in bondage to
Concobar. The King seeketh my life. Go thou, then, back to thy lonely
cottage, and await that day when he shall make thee his Queen.'
'Ask me not to turn from
following thee, O Nathos, for thy way must be mine, this day and ever.'
'Come, then,' and Nathos
took her by the hand.
Through the shadowy forest
they walked swiftly, until of a sudden he bade her rest among the bracken.
Then went he forward and told his waiting huntsmen to return by a long and
winding path to the castle of the sons of Usna.
Three days would it thus
take them to reach it, and Nathos with Deirdre would be there on the
morrow, if, tarrying not, they walked on through the dark night. But
Concobar's messengers would follow the hounds, thinking so to capture
'By dawn, Deirdre, shall we
reach the castle, and there may we rest in safety one day and one night.
Then must we set out for the hills and lochs of Alba, and with us Ailne
and Ardan, for if the King cometh and findeth me fled, then will he slay
On and on they sped, through
the forest, across the Moor of Loneliness, up the glens and gorges, and
over the hills. Above glimmered the pale stars, around them was the
screech and the moan of wakeful bird and beast.
It was not till the dawn
broke that they rested on the mountain-side. There they stayed till the
pink stole through the grey, and the sky gleamed mother-o'-pearl. Then
they rose and followed the stream that trickled to the valley below. And
now Nathos was glad.
'Look, Deirdre, yonder
stands the castle of the sons of Usna.' And with that he gave a cry known
by the brothers each of the other, and Ailne and Ardan came forth gladly.
But when they stood before Deirdre, so great was their wonder at her
exceeding beauty, that they stood spell-bound and uttered no word.
Then Nathos spake: 'The fair
maiden whom ye behold is none other than Deirdre, the daughter of Felim
the Harper. From this day I hold her as my wedded wife, and to you she
cometh as a sister.'
But when the brothers heard,
they were filled with fear, for had not the King Concobar vowed that this
same fair maid should be his Queen? And had not the Wise Man foretold the
sorrow that the daughter of Felim should bring upon the land?
'I ask none to share the
sorrow that may come,' said Nathos. 'To-morrow Deirdre and I set forth for
the bay where our galley is harboured, and if so be that we gain the
shores of Alba, before Concobar overtake us, there, if he come thither,
shall he be met by a host of our own land. Yet, lest the King should
follow me hither, and, finding me not, seek to slay you, were it not well
that ye leave this place?'
Ardan spake: 'Not for fear
of that which might come upon us, but for the love we bear you and our
fair sister Deirdre will we never leave thee. If sorrow come upon thee,
let it be upon us also. Are we not the children of one mother, and if
death come, let us face it together like men. Are we not under a bond that
we will stand each by each, even unto death?'
Then said Ailne, 'As Ardan
hath spoken, so let it be, for although the words of the Wise Man come to
pass, and sorrow be upon us, yet will we not henceforth leave thee.'
But when Deirdre heard how
the sons of Usna would thus face death for her sake, she sighed aloud.
'Alas! it is not for me to bring sorrow upon the land. Let me even now
return to the cottage in the forest, and there with Lavarcam will I live
and die, unless it be that Concobar take me thence.'
But Ardan answered: 'For
fear of what may befall us, the sons of Usna, shalt thou never leave us,
nor shalt thou go forth from us, but of thine own free will.'
Early next morning one
hundred and fifty men rode with the three sons of Usna and Deirdre, the
wife of Nathos, toward the bay where their black galley was harboured. It
was not till night, when on the high ridge of a hill, that they looked
backward, and there in the far valley below, where stood the castle of the
sons of Usna, they beheld a column of flame.
And Nathos' brow grew dark.
'The fire that ye see in the valley below devours the castle of the sons
of Usna. The hand that lit the fire is none other than the hand of
Concobar the King.'
Then they rode on and rested
not until they reached the black galley in the golden bay. The scent of
the sea and the gleam of its blue waters and dancing waves made them
strong and glad and free.
As for Deirdre, who had
never beheld the sea and its great wonders, she laughed with joy and sang
a song of the ocean which Lavarcam had taught her long since and when its
meaning was dark.
At sundown the galley came
to the shores of Mull, and because the wind fell they put into a bay, and
as they gazed across the waters to the rocky headlands of Alba, they
talked long as to whither they should sail on the morrow. Should it be to
crave protection of the King, or should it be to where their father's
castle had stood before it had been destroyed?
But that night there came a
galley from the long island to the north. In it sailed twenty men with
their chief. And with the chief came a richly-clad stranger, but so hooded
that none might look upon his face.
Steadfastly did the stranger
gaze upon Deirdre, as the chief urged the sons of Usna to cross the sea to
Alba, and journey inland to the palace of the King.
'But first come, Nathos, to
my high-walled castle,' said the stranger, 'and bring with thee thy wife
and thy brothers.'
'It were not well to come to
a man's castle and know not the man's name,' said Nathos.
'My name is Angus,' answered
'Then, Angus, let me behold
thy face, for it were not well to come to a man's castle, having not
looked upon the man's face.'
So Angus threw back his
hood, and Nathos saw that Deirdre's lips grew white, as she said, 'Not
to-morrow, Angus; but on the morn that follows, if thou wilt come again,
then shalt thou lead us to thy high-walled castle. This day have we
travelled far and would fain rest.'
But Angus turned him again
to the sons of Usna and pleaded that they should linger no longer in the
isle. 'To-night may this island be tempest-swept, to-night may the host of
Concobar be upon you, and then what shall befall this fair one? Bring her
rather to my castle, and there let her rest in safety with my wife and her
But as Nathos glanced at
Deirdre, he saw that her purpose was firm, and he said once again the
words she had spoken, 'Not tomorrow, Angus; but on the morn that follows,
if thou wilt come again, then shall we come with thee to thy high-walled
Then Angus, frowning, went
with the chief and his men to their galley. And as they set sail he asked
how many men the sons of Usna had with them. But when it was told him that
they numbered one hundred and fifty, he said no more, for there were but
thirty that sailed with the chief, and what could one man do against five?
It was not until the
strangers had gone that Nathos asked Deirdre wherefore she delayed to
visit so great a lord as Angus.
'Thou shalt hear wherefore I
went not this day, nor shall go on any day to come to the castle of him
who calleth himself Angus. So he calleth himself, but in truth he is none
other than the King of Alba. In a dream was it so revealed unto me, when I
saw him stand victorious over your dead body. Nathos, that man would fain
steal me from you, and deliver you into the hands of Concobar.'
'Deirdre hath wisdom,' said
Ardan. 'By the morn after to-morrow we must be far hence, for ere the sun
shall rise may not yonder chief be upon us with thrice the number of our
And Nathos, though he was
sore grieved for the weariness of Deirdre, bowed his head. So they set
sail, and through the thick mist of a starless night their galley silently
breasted the unseen waves. But when they came north of the long island,
they bent to their oars, and as they rowed yet northward Deirdre laughed
again for joy, as she listened to the music of the rowers' strokes.
When dawn glimmered they
came to a sea-loch, its waters o'ershadowed by the sleeping hills. And
there they were told that the King of Alba, who had called himself Angus,
had no castle in the west, and had already left for Dunedin. They heard,
too, that the chief who sailed with him to Mull was no longer a great
lord, and that they had nought to fear.
Greatly did the sons of Usna
rejoice, for now might they sail south to the land upon which their
father's castle had stood in their boyhood.
But for eight days they
lingered by the shores of the sea-loch, and as its salt breath touched
Deirdre's cheeks, she grew yet more fair, and as her eyes drank in the
glory of Western Alba, they shone with a radiance that dazzled the
Then when the eighth day was
come, they sailed forth and settled close by the ground on which had stood
their boyhood's home. And it was with great joy that those who dwelt on
hill and shore heard of the return of the sons of Usna, and many gathered
around them, doing homage.
Then the hundred and fifty
men whom Nathos had brought with him, sent he back to their own Green
'And thou, Ailne, and thou,
Ardan, will ye not also return? Here may Deirdre and I, with a few
followers, dwell alone in safety.'
But his brothers would not
leave Nathos, for were they not under a bond that they would stand each by
each, even unto death?
All through the winter they
dwelt in peace and content. By day they would hunt and fish, and when
night fell Deirdre let fall from her lips such wonder-stirring sounds that
their heroic bosoms swelled with dreams of noble deeds and high endeavour.
But when Spring burst upon
the land with her blossom and her singing-birds, it was told the sons of
Usna that the King of Alba had sworn to burn to the ground every stone
that stood on the land that had been their father's, and to slay Nathos,
and wed the Star-eyed Deirdre.
So in their great galley
they set forth, taking with them fifty men. Northward they sailed, through
narrow sea-lochs, until they reached the mountains that had been the
childhood's home of their dead mother.
On the summit of a high hill
stood the castle where she had once dwelt. Now it was forsaken of all save
wandering shepherds and nesting birds, and here, in all the glory of
spring, did the sons of Usna make their home. Nor was it long before the
chiefs of the mountain-lands swore allegiance to Nathos and did him
homage, and he was as a king among the people of his mother's land.
And while yet the wild thyme
bloomed, word was brought to the sons of Usna that the King of Alba was
dead, and that the King who now reigned would fain sign a bond of
friendship with Nathos and his brothers.
And the bond was signed, and
for three years the sons of Usna dwelt in peace and great joy. In the
north they rested while yet the mountain-sides were aglow with the purple
and gold of heather and bracken, but ever before the first frosts came
would they sail south to the land that the brave Usna had ruled, where now
they could dwell in safety and in peace.
Thence ofttimes in the young
summer would they sail southwards. No bluer blue, no greener green, had it
been given mortal eye to behold. And throughout the land of Alba was it
told of the fame of the sons of Usna, and no poet or bard had a song so
fair as that which sang of the wondrous beauty of Deirdre.
ofttimes in the young summer would they sail southward]
* * * * *
In his dazzling palace in
the Green Isle of Erin, Concobar dwelt with gloomy thoughts of vengeance.
This Nathos who had stolen Deirdre from the forest beyond the Moor of
Loneliness should no longer be suffered to live in peace. He should surely
die, and Deirdre the Star-eyed should yet be Concobar's Queen.
And the King made a feast so
magnificent that such had never been seen in the Green Isle. And to it
were called all the princes and nobles of the land over which Concobar
It was in the midst of the
feast, as they sat around the board, that a hush fell upon the great
company, while Concobar spoke to them of his discontent. 'It is not meet
that these three heroes of the realm, Nathos, Ardan and Ailne, should be
exiled from our isle for the sake of a woman, be she fair as May. Should
dark days befall, sore would be our need, therefore let the sons of Usna
be brought hither from their northern mountain home.'
At these words great was the
joy of all, for there was not one but knew that it was for fear of the
pitiless anger of Concobar that Nathos had fled from the Green Isle.
'Go forth,' said Concobar,
when he saw the gladness of the people, 'go hence to Alba and come not
again until ye bring with you the three sons of Usna.'
Then spake one among them,
'Right gladly we go, but who can bring to thee Nathos, if it be not his
'He who loves me most,'
answered the King, 'he it is that will fail not to bring with him the
And after the feast the King
drew aside a warrior prince, and spake thus: 'Were I to send thee to Alba
to the sons of Usna, and if at my command thou didst see them slain before
thee, what then wouldst thou do?'
'Then, O King, would I slay
those who did the monstrous deed, even were it at thy command.'
Again the King called to him
a warrior prince. To him he spake as to the first. And this prince made
answer, 'If by thy command I saw the sons of Usna lie dead before me, then
woe be upon thee, for with mine own hand should I take thy life.'
Then spake the King likewise
to Fergus, and Fergus answered, 'Let what may befall the sons of Usna,
never shall my hand be lifted against the King.'
'To thee, good Fergus, do I
intrust this thing. Go thou to Alba and bring hither with thee Nathos, and
Ailne, and Ardan. And when thou art come again to Erin, keep thou thy bond
to feast at the house of Borrach, but the three sons of Usna send thou
So it was that on the morrow
Fergus set sail in a black barge for Alba, taking with him but his two
sons and a steersman.
The bloom of early summer
made bright the earth, and Nathos and his brothers had not yet left their
father's home for the castle in the north. But the days were hot, and they
had pitched three tents on the seashore, one for Nathos and Deirdre, one
for Ailne and Ardan, and one in which to eat and to drink. It was on a
bright noon that Nathos and Deirdre sat before the tents, playing chess.
The chess-board was of
ivory, the chessmen were of wrought gold, and they had belonged to
Concobar, for on the day before the sons of Usna fled from Alba, the King
had been hunting by their castle, and there had he left the board and men.
As Nathos and Deirdre
played, of a sudden was a cry heard from adown the shore.
'Yonder is the voice of a
man of Erin,' said Nathos, as they paused in their game.
Again a loud cry, and the
sons of Usna were called by name.
'Yea, most truly is that the
cry of a man of Erin.'
But Deirdre said, 'Nay, thou
dreamest, Nathos. Let us play on.'
Then nearer and clearer came
a third cry, and there was none but knew that it was indeed the voice of a
man of Erin.
'Go, Ardan,' said Nathos,
'go to the harbour, and there welcome Fergus from the Green Isle, for he
indeed it is and none other.'
But when Ardan went, Nathos
saw that Deirdre's lips grew pale and a great fear looked out from her
'What terror is it that hath
hold of thee?' he asked.
'Hath it not been revealed
to me in a dream, O Nathos, that this Fergus who should come with
honey-sweet words hath in his mind the shedding of our blood?'
Even as she spake Ardan led
Fergus to where the two sat on either side of the chess-board.
Eagerly did the exiled sons
of Usna beg for tidings of their friends in the Green Isle.
'I come to you,' said
Fergus, 'with greetings from Concobar the King. Fain would he see once
more in Erin the fairest and bravest heroes of his realm. Peace he would
pledge with you, and great shall be your welcome, if ye will come back
But before the brothers
could answer, Deirdre spake. 'Here in Alba is Nathos now lord over lands
wider than the realm of Concobar. Wherefore then should he seek
forgiveness of the King?'
'Yet,' replied Fergus, 'Erin
is the land of his adoption. Since his boyhood's days Nathos has been a
hero in the Green Isle, and it were well that he should yet rejoice in the
land, and, if need be, defend it still.'
'We have two lands,' said
Ardan, 'and both are dear unto us. Yet, if Nathos will go with thee to
Erin, so also will Ailne and I, myself.'
'I will go,' said Nathos,
but he looked not at his star-eyed wife as he spake the words.
That night all rejoiced save
Deirdre. Heavy was her heart as she thought she would never again, in
shadow or in sunlight, rest in the land of Alba of the lochs.
On the morrow they set sail,
and swiftly the galley bore them to the shores of the Green Isle. And when
Deirdre stood once more on the soil of her own land, then was her heart
glad, and for a brief space she remembered not her fears or her dreams.
In three days they came to
the castle of Borrach, and there had Fergus to keep his bond to feast with
Borrach. 'For,' he said, turning to those with him, 'my feast-bond I must
keep, yet send I with you my two sons.'
'Of a surety, Fergus, must
thou keep thy feast-bond,' answered Nathos, 'but as for thy sons, I need
not their protection, yet in the company each of the other will we fare
But as they went, Deirdre
urged that they should tarry, and when they had gone further, Nathos found
that his wife had vanished from his side. Going back he found her in deep
sleep by the wayside.
Gently waking her, Nathos
read terror in her starry eyes.
'What aileth thee, my
'Again have I dreamed, O
Nathos, and in my dream I saw our little company, but as I looked, on the
younger son of Fergus alone, was the head left upon his body. Turn aside,
and let us go not to Concobar, or that thing which I saw in my dream, it
shall come to pass.'
But Nathos feared not, for
had not Fergus come to them with the bond of peace from the King?
And on the morrow they came
to the great palace.
When it was told Concobar
that the three sons of Usna and Deirdre the Star-eyed, and the two sons of
Fergus were without, he ordered that they should be taken into the House
of the Red Branch. And he ordered, too, that there should be given unto
them of pleasant foods, and that all that dwelt in the castle should do
But when evening was come,
and all the company was merry, Deirdre was wearied with journeying, and
she lay upon a couch draped with deerskins, and played with Nathos upon
the gold and ivory chess-board.
And as Deirdre rested, the
door opened, and there entered a messenger from the King. And this
messenger was none other than Lavarcam, who had been sent to discover if
Deirdre were still as fair as in days of old. And when Lavarcam beheld
Deirdre, her eyes filled with tears. 'You do not well, O Nathos, thus to
play upon the chess-board which Concobar holds dearer than aught else save
Deirdre, thy wife. Both have ye taken from him, and here, within these
walls, are ye now in his power.'
Of a sudden Deirdre spake,
her gaze fixed as if on some strange thing. 'I see as in a dream. As in a
dream I see three torches. The three torches are this night put out. The
names on the torches are Nathos, Ailne, Ardan. Alas! it is but for the
beauty of a woman that these brave ones perish.'
The sons of Usna were silent
awhile, and the sons of Fergus spake not. Then said Nathos, 'It were
better, Deirdre, to be a torch quenched for thy sake than to live for
aught save thee. That which shall come, shall come.'
'Now must I get me hence,'
said Lavarcam, 'for Concobar awaiteth my coming. But, sons of Usna, see ye
well to it, that the doors and windows be this night barred.'
Then Lavarcam hastened to
the King and told him how that the sons of Usna had come to Erin to live
peaceably, but how that the beauty of Deirdre had faded until she was no
longer fairest among women.
Then was Concobar wroth, and
he sent yet another messenger.
To this man he said, 'Who
was it that slew thy father and thy brother?'
'Nathos, son of Usna, O
'Then go thou to the House
of the Red Branch, and bring me word hither if Deirdre be still the
fairest among women.'
And the man went. But when
he found that bar and bolt were drawn across door and window, he knew well
that the sons of Usna were warned of the wrath of the King. But espying
one open window, he put his eye near to the lower corner that he might
glance within. And Deirdre saw the man's eye, and told Nathos, and he,
with the ivory bishop that was in his hand, took aim as if with a javelin,
and the chessman pierced the spy's eye, and it became blind.
And the man returned to King
Concobar and said, 'Of a surety Deirdre, the wife of Nathos, is yet of all
fair women the most fair.'
Then could not Concobar
contain his wrath, but burst forth, 'Arise, ye Ultonians; the fort that
surroundeth the House of the Red Branch set ye in flames.'
And the Ultonians set it in
Then came out the younger of
the sons of Fergus from the burning fort, and he rushed upon the Ultonians
and killed three hundred men. And when King Concobar beheld the onslaught,
he cried aloud, 'Who hath done this thing?'
And when it was told him
that it was the son of Fergus, he said, 'To such a hero will I give the
choice of lands, and he will be to me as a son, if he will but forsake the
sons of Usna.'
And the son of Fergus made
answer, 'I swear to abide by thee and to return not to the House of the
And when he returned not,
Deirdre, said, 'Even as Fergus hath deceived us, even so hath his son.'
Then went forth the elder
son of Fergus, and he fell upon the Ultonians, and there perished by his
hand three hundred men. And when Concobar saw who it was that had done
this thing, he called his own son, who had been born the same night as
this son of Fergus. 'Take these, my magic arms,' he cried, 'and fall upon
Then did the son of Concobar
strike with his enchanted weapons, and all the waves of Erin thundered at
the stroke. And a great warrior, hearing the thunder, came riding across
the plain, and in his hand he held a magic sword with blade of blue.
Coming upon the fighting men, he rushed at the son of Fergus from behind,
and thrust the blue blade through his heart. 'I would that mine enemy had
fought me fair,' said the dying man.
'Who art thou?' asked the
And the son of Fergus told
his name, and of that which had come to pass in the House of the Red
Then answered the stranger,
'I shall not depart hence, no, not until the son of Concobar be slain in
the dust'; and thereupon he rushed upon the King's son, and with one
stroke of the blue blade severed his head from his body. So he departed,
and soon the son of Fergus also lay dead.
And now the Ulstermen
surrounded the House of the Red Branch and set fire to its walls. But
Ardan came forth, and put out the fire, and slew three hundred men, and
after he had gone in, then came Ailne forth, and slew a countless
A glimmering ray of dim grey
light now broke, and spread over the forms of dead and dying men.
It was at that hour that
Nathos kissed Deirdre and went forth from the House. And there was not a
man but quailed as the hero rushed upon the Ultonians and slew a thousand
When Concobar heard this, he
sent for that Wise Man who in the house of Felim the Harper had foretold
the sorrow that would come upon his realm.
And when the old man had
come, Concobar said, 'I swear that I mean no harm unto the sons of Usna,
yet will they slay every Ultonian in the land. Therefore I would that thou
wouldst help me by thy magic power.'
And the Wise Man believed
the words of Concobar, and he caused a hedge of spears to encircle the
burning House. And as the flames rose higher the sons of Usna came forth
with Deirdre the Star-eyed. And around her they placed their shields, and
they cleft a way through the Hedge of Spears and came safely to the plain
[Illustration: The Hedge of
But when the Wise Man saw
that his magic availed nought, he laid upon the land yet another
enchantment, for the plain upon which Deirdre stood with the sons of Usna,
he caused to be covered with tempestuous water.
And the magic sea rose
higher and yet more high, so that Nathos raised Deirdre on his shoulder,
and there she rested, her white arms around the hero's neck.
But now the waters grew
calm, and it was seen that drowning was not their doom.
Then, as the waters withdrew
from the plain, soldiers came to bind Nathos, Ailne, and Ardan, and to
take them before the King. And Concobar commanded that they should be
slain before his eyes.
'If such be our doom, then
slay me first,' said Ardan, 'for I am the youngest of Usna's sons.'
'Nay,' said Ailne, 'but let
the first blow fall upon me.'
Then Nathos spake: 'It were
not meet that we three, the sons of one mother, should be divided in
death. Together have we sowed the seeds in the springtime, side by side
have we plucked the fruits of summer; autumn is still afar, yet must we be
cut down as ripe corn. But let us fall each by each, that there may not be
left the one to mourn the other. With this sword that was given me by a
hero of the land may our heads at one stroke be severed from our bodies.'
With that they laid their
heads upon the block. A flash of the steel, and Alba was bereft of the
fairest and noblest of her sons. And the air was rent with cries of
Then did a great champion
ride across the plain, and to him did Deirdre tell of the fate of the sons
of Usna. And under his care the star-eyed maiden came where the heroes lay
And Deirdre kneeled, and she
bent low over the head of Nathos, and kissed his dead lips.
Then, at the bidding of the
champion, three graves were digged, and in them, standing upright, were
buried Nathos and Ailne and Ardan, and upon the shoulders of each was his
And as Deirdre gazed into
the grave of Nathos, she moaned a lay which told of the brave deeds of the
sons of Usna. It told, too, of her love for Nathos, and as she ended the
mournful strain, her heartstrings broke, and she fell at the feet of her
husband, and there did she die, and by his side was she buried.
In that same hour died the
Wise Man; and as he died, he cried aloud, 'That which shall come, shall
And so it was, for on the
morrow Concobar's host was scattered as autumn leaves, and the House of
the Red Branch perished, and ere long Concobar died in a madness of
despair, and throughout the Green Isle was mourning and desolation.
But through the ages has the
tale of the wondrous beauty of Deirdre been sung, and yet shall it be told
again, for when shall the world tire of the sorrowfullest of 'The Three
Sorrows of Story-telling,'—the Fate of the Sons of Usna and of Deirdre the
THE FOUR WHITE SWANS
In the days of long ago
there lived in the Green Isle of Erin a race of brave men and fair
women—the race of the Dedannans. North, south, east, and west did this
noble people dwell, doing homage to many chiefs.
But one blue morning after a
great battle the Dedannans met on a wide plain to choose a King. 'Let us,'
they said, 'have one King over all. Let us no longer have many rulers.'
Forth from among the Princes
rose five well fitted to wield a sceptre and to wear a crown, yet most
royal stood Bove Derg and Lir. And forth did the five chiefs wander, that
the Dedannan folk might freely say to whom they would most gladly do
homage as King.
Not far did they roam, for
soon there arose a great cry, 'Bove Derg is King. Bove Derg is King.' And
all were glad, save Lir.
But Lir was angry, and he
left the plain where the Dedannan people were, taking leave of none, and
doing Bove Derg no reverence. For jealousy filled the heart of Lir.
Then were the Dedannans
wroth, and a hundred swords were unsheathed and flashed in the sunlight on
the plain. 'We go to slay Lir who doeth not homage to our King and
regardeth not the choice of the people.'
But wise and generous was
Bove Derg, and he bade the warriors do no hurt to the offended Prince.
For long years did Lir live
in discontent, yielding obedience to none. But at length a great sorrow
fell upon him, for his wife, who was dear unto him, died, and she had been
ill but three days. Loudly did he lament her death, and heavy was his
heart with sorrow.
When tidings of Lir's grief
reached Bove Derg, he was surrounded by his mightiest chiefs. 'Go forth,'
he said, 'in fifty chariots go forth. Tell Lir I am his friend as ever,
and ask that he come with you hither. Three fair foster-children are mine,
and one may he yet have to wife, will he but bow to the will of the
people, who have chosen me their King.'
When these words were told
to Lir, his heart was glad. Speedily he called around him his train, and
in fifty chariots set forth. Nor did they slacken speed until they reached
the palace of Bove Derg by the Great Lake. And there at the still close of
day, as the setting rays of the sun fell athwart the silver waters, did
Lir do homage to Bove Derg. And Bove Derg kissed Lir and vowed to be his
friend for ever.
And when it was known
throughout the Dedannan host that peace reigned between these mighty
chiefs, brave men and fair women and little children rejoiced, and nowhere
were there happier hearts than in the Green Isle of Erin.
Time passed, and Lir still
dwelt with Bove Derg in his palace by the Great Lake. One morning the King
said, 'Full well thou knowest my three fair foster-daughters, nor have I
forgotten my promise that one thou shouldst have to wife. Choose her whom
Then Lir answered, 'All are
indeed fair, and choice is hard. But give unto me the eldest, if it be
that she be willing to wed.'
And Eve, the eldest of the
fair maidens, was glad, and that day was she married to Lir, and after two
weeks she left the palace by the Great Lake and drove with her husband to
her new home.
* * * * *
Happily dwelt Lir's
household and merrily sped the months. Then were born unto Lir twin babes.
The girl they called Finola, and her brother did they name Aed.
Yet another year passed and
again twins were born, but before the infant boys knew their mother, she
died. So sorely did Lir grieve for his beautiful wife that he would have
died of sorrow, but for the great love he bore his motherless children.
When news of Eve's death
reached the palace of Bove Derg by the Great Lake all mourned aloud for
love of Eve and sore pity for Lir and his four babes. And Bove Derg said
to his mighty chiefs, 'Great indeed is our grief, but in this dark hour
shall Lir know our friendship. Ride forth, make known to him that Eva, my
second fair foster-child, shall in time become his wedded wife and shall
cherish his lone babes.'
So messengers rode forth to
carry these tidings to Lir, and in time Lir came again to the palace of
Bove Derg by the Great Lake, and he married the beautiful Eva and took her
back with him to his little daughter, Finola, and to her three brothers,
Aed and Fiacra and Conn.
Four lovely and gentle
children they were, and with tenderness did Eva care for the little ones
who were their father's joy and the pride of the Dedannans.
As for Lir, so great was the
love he bore them, that at early dawn he would rise, and, pulling aside
the deerskin that separated his sleeping-room with theirs, would fondle
and frolic with the children until morning broke.
And Bove Derg loved them
well-nigh as did Lir himself. Ofttimes would he come to see them, and
ofttimes were they brought to his palace by the Great Lake.
And through all the Green
Isle, where dwelt the Dedannan people, there also was spread the fame of
the beauty of the children of Lir.
* * * * *
Time crept on, and Finola
was a maid of twelve summers. Then did a wicked jealousy find root in
Eva's heart, and so did it grow that it strangled the love which she had
borne her sister's children. In bitterness she cried, 'Lir careth not for
me; to Finola and her brothers hath he given all his love.'
And for weeks and months Eva
lay in bed planning how she might do hurt to the children of Lir.
At length, one midsummer
morn, she ordered forth her chariot, that with the four children she might
come to the palace of Bove Derg.
When Finola heard it, her
fair face grew pale, for in a dream had it been revealed unto her that
Eva, her step-mother, should that day do a dark deed among those of her
own household. Therefore was Finola sore afraid, but only her large eyes
and pale cheeks spake her woe, as she and her brothers drove along with
Eva and her train.
On they drove, the boys
laughing merrily, heedless alike of the black shadow resting on their
step-mother's brow, and of the pale, trembling lips of their sister. As
they reached a gloomy pass, Eva whispered to her attendants, 'Kill, I pray
you, these children of Lir, for their father careth not for me, because of
his great love for them. Kill them, and great wealth shall be yours.'
But the attendants answered
in horror, 'We will not kill them. Fearful, O Eva, were the deed, and
great is the evil that will befall thee, for having it in thine heart to
do this thing.'
Then Eva, filled with rage,
drew forth her sword to slay them with her own hand, but too weak for the
monstrous deed, she sank back in the chariot.
Onward they drove, out of
the gloomy pass into the bright sunlight of the white road. Daisies with
wide-open eyes looked up into the blue sky overhead. Golden glistened the
buttercups among the shamrock. From the ditches peeped forget-me-not.
Honeysuckle scented the hedgerows. Around, above, and afar, carolled the
linnet, the lark, and the thrush. All was colour and sunshine, scent and
song, as the children of Lir drove onward to their doom.
Not until they reached a
still lake were the horses unyoked for rest. There Eva bade the children
undress and go bathe in the waters. And when the children of Lir reached
the water's edge, Eva was there behind them, holding in her hand a fairy
wand. And with the wand she touched the shoulder of each. And, lo! as she
touched Finola, the maiden was changed into a snow-white swan, and behold!
as she touched Aed, Fiacra, and Conn, the three brothers were as the maid.
Four snow-white swans floated on the blue lake, and to them the wicked Eva
chanted a song of doom.
[Illustration: As she
touched Aed, Fiacra, and Conn, the three brothers were as the maid]
As she finished, the swans
turned towards her, and Finola spake:
'Evil is the deed thy magic
wand hath wrought, O Eva, on us the children of Lir, but greater evil
shall befall thee, because of the hardness and jealousy of thine heart.'
And Finola's white swan-breast heaved as she sang of their pitiless doom.
The song ended, again spake
the swan-maiden. 'Tell us, O Eva, when death shall set us free.'
And Eva made answer, 'Three
hundred years shall your home be on the smooth waters of this lone lake.
Three hundred years shall ye pass on the stormy waters of the sea betwixt
Erin and Alba, and three hundred years shall ye be tempest-tossed on the
wild Western Sea. Until Decca be the Queen of Largnen, and the good Saint
come to Erin, and ye hear the chime of the Christ-bell, neither your
plaints nor prayers, neither the love of your father Lir, nor the might of
your King, Bove Derg, shall have power to deliver you from your doom. But
lone white swans though ye be, ye shall keep for ever your own sweet
Gaelic speech, and ye shall sing, with plaintive voices, songs so haunting
that your music will bring peace to the souls of those who hear. And still
beneath your snowy plumage shall beat the hearts of Finola, Aed, Fiacra
and Conn, and still for ever shall ye be the children of Lir.'
Then did Eva order the
horses to be yoked to the chariot, and away westward did she drive.
And swimming on the lone
lake were four white swans.
* * * * *
When Eva reached the palace
of Bove Derg alone, greatly was he troubled lest evil had befallen the
children of Lir.
But the attendants, because
of their great fear of Eva, dared not to tell the King of the magic spell
she had wrought by the way. Therefore Bove Derg asked, 'Wherefore, O Eva,
come not Finola and her brothers to the palace this day?'
And Eva answered, 'Because,
O King, Lir no longer trusteth thee, therefore would he not let the
children come hither.'
But Bove Derg believed not
his foster-daughter, and that night he secretly sent messengers across the
hills to the dwelling of Lir.
When the messengers came
there, and told their errand, great was the grief of the father. And in
the morning with a heavy heart he summoned a company of the Dedannans, and
together they set out for the palace of Bove Derg. And it was not until
sunset as they reached the lone shore of Lake Darvra, that they slackened
Lir alighted from his
chariot and stood spellbound. What was that plaintive sound? The Gaelic
words, his dear daughter's voice more enchanting even than of old, and
yet, before and around, only the lone blue lake. The haunting music rang
clearer, and as the last words died away, four snow-white swans glided
from behind the sedges, and with a wild flap of wings flew toward the
eastern shore. There, stricken with wonder, stood Lir.
'Know, O Lir,' said Finola,
'that we are thy children, changed by the wicked magic of our step-mother
into four white swans.' When Lir and the Dedannan people heard these
words, they wept aloud.
Still spake the swan-maiden.
'Three hundred years must we float on this lone lake, three hundred years
shall we be storm-tossed on the waters between Erin and Alba, and three
hundred years on the wild Western Sea. Not until Decca be the Queen of
Largnen, not until the good Saint come to Erin and the chime of the
Christ-bell be heard in the land, not until then shall we be saved from
Then great cries of sorrow
went up from the Dedannans, and again Lir sobbed aloud. But at the last
silence fell upon his grief, and Finola told how she and her brothers
would keep for ever their own sweet Gaelic speech, how they would sing
songs so haunting that their music would bring peace to the souls of all
who heard. She told, too, how, beneath their snowy plumage, the human
hearts of Finola, Aed, Fiacra, and Conn should still beat—the hearts of
the children of Lir. 'Stay with us to-night by the lone lake,' she ended,
'and our music will steal to you across its moonlit waters and lull you
into peaceful slumber. Stay, stay with us.'
And Lir and his people
stayed on the shore that night and until the morning glimmered. Then, with
the dim dawn, silence stole over the lake.
Speedily did Lir rise, and
in haste did he bid farewell to his children, that he might seek Eva and
see her tremble before him.
Swiftly did he drive and
straight, until he came to the palace of Bove Derg, and there by the
waters of the Great Lake did Bove Derg meet him. 'Oh, Lir, wherefore have
thy children come not hither?' And Eva stood by the King.
Stern and sad rang the
answer of Lir. 'Alas! Eva, your foster-child, hath by her wicked magic
changed them into four snow-white swans. On the blue waters of Lake Darvra
dwell Finola, Aed, Fiacra, and Conn, and thence come I that I may avenge
A silence as the silence of
death fell upon the three, and all was still save that Eva trembled
greatly. But ere long Bove Derg spake. Fierce and angry did he look, as,
high above his foster-daughter, he held his magic wand. Awful was his
voice as he pronounced her doom. 'Wretched woman, henceforth shalt thou no
longer darken this fair earth, but as a demon of the air shalt thou dwell
in misery till the end of time.' And of a sudden from out her shoulders
grew black, shadowy wings, and, with a piercing scream, she swirled
upward, until the awe-stricken Dedannans saw nought save a black speck
vanish among the lowering clouds. And as a demon of the air do Eva's black
wings swirl her through space to this day.
But great and good was Bove
Derg. He laid aside his magic wand and so spake: 'Let us, my people, leave
the Great Lake, and let us pitch our tents on the shores of Lake Darvra.
Exceeding dear unto us are the children of Lir, and I, Bove Derg, and Lir,
their father, have vowed henceforth to make our home for ever by the lone
waters where they dwell.'
And when it was told
throughout the Green Island of Erin of the fate of the children of Lir and
of the vow that Bove Derg had vowed, from north, south, east, and west did
the Dedannans flock to the lake, until a mighty host dwelt by its shores.
And by day Finola and her
brothers knew not loneliness, for in the sweet Gaelic speech they told of
their joys and fears; and by night the mighty Dedannans knew no sorrowful
memories, for by haunting songs were they lulled to sleep, and the music
brought peace to their souls.
Slowly did the years go by,
and upon the shoulders of Bove Derg and Lir fell the long white hair.
Fearful grew the four swans, for the time was not far off, when they must
wing their flight north to the wild sea of Moyle.
And when at length the sad
day dawned, Finola told her brothers how their three hundred happy years
on Lake Darvra were at an end, and how they must now leave the peace of
its lone waters for evermore.
Then, slowly and sadly, did
the four swans glide to the margin of the lake. Never had the snowy
whiteness of their plumage so dazzled the beholders, never had music so
sweet and sorrowful floated to Lake Darvra's sunlit shores. As the swans
reached the water's edge, silent were the three brothers, and alone Finola
chanted a farewell song.
With bowed white heads did
the Dedannan host listen to Finola's chant, and when the music ceased and
only sobs broke the stillness, the four swans spread their wings, and,
soaring high, paused but for one short moment to gaze on the kneeling
forms of Lir and Bove Derg. Then, stretching their graceful necks toward
the north, they winged their flight to the waters of the stormy sea that
separates the blue Alba from the Green Island of Erin.
And when it was known
throughout the Green Isle that the four white swans had flown, so great
was the sorrow of the people that they made a law that no swan should be
killed in Erin from that day forth.
* * * * *
With hearts that burned with
longing for their father and their friends, did Finola and her brothers
reach the sea of Moyle. Cold and chill were its wintry waters, black and
fearful were the steep rocks overhanging Alba's far-stretching coasts.
From hunger, too, the swans suffered. Dark indeed was all, and darker yet
as the children of Lir remembered the still waters of Lake Darvra and the
fond Dedannan host on its peaceful shores. Here the sighing of the wind
among the reeds no longer soothed their sorrow, but the roar of the
breaking surf struck fresh terror in their souls.
In misery and terror did
their days pass, until one night the black, lowering clouds overhead told
that a great tempest was nigh. Then did Finola call to her Aed, Fiacra,
and Conn. 'Beloved brothers, a great fear is at my heart, for, in the fury
of the coming gale, we may be driven the one from the other. Therefore,
let us say where we may hope to meet when the storm is spent.'
And Aed answered, 'Wise art
thou, dear, gentle sister. If we be driven apart, may it be to meet again
on the rocky isle that has ofttimes been our haven, for well known is it
to us all, and from far can it be seen.'
Darker grew the night,
louder raged the wind, as the four swans dived and rose again on the giant
billows. Yet fiercer blew the gale, until at midnight loud bursts of
thunder mingled with the roaring wind, but, in the glare of the blue
lightning's flashes, the children of Lir beheld each the snowy form of the
other. The mad fury of the hurricane yet increased, and the force of it
lifted one swan from its wild home on the billows, and swept it through
the blackness of the night. Another blue lightning flash, and each swan
saw its loneliness, and uttered a great cry of desolation. Tossed hither
and thither, by wind and wave, the white birds were well-nigh dead when
dawn broke. And with the dawn fell calm.
Swift as her tired wings
would bear her, Finola sailed to the rocky isle, where she hoped to find
her brothers. But alas! no sign was there of one of them. Then to the
highest summit of the rocks she flew. North, south, east, and west did she
look, yet nought saw she save a watery wilderness. Now did her heart fail
her, and she sang the saddest song she had yet sung.
As the last notes died
Finola raised her eyes, and lo! Conn came slowly swimming towards her with
drenched plumage and head that drooped. And as she looked, behold! Fiacra
appeared, but it was as though his strength failed. Then did Finola swim
toward her fainting brother and lend him her aid, and soon the twins were
safe on the sunlit rock, nestling for warmth beneath their sister's wings.
Yet Finola's heart still
beat with alarm as she sheltered her younger brothers, for Aed came not,
and she feared lest he were lost for ever. But, at noon, sailing he came
over the breast of the blue waters, with head erect and plumage sunlit.
And under the feathers of her breast did Finola draw him, for Conn and
Fiacra still cradled beneath her wings. 'Rest here, while ye may, dear
brothers,' she said.
And she sang to them a
lullaby so surpassing sweet that the sea-birds hushed their cries and
flocked to listen to the sad, slow music. And when Aed and Fiacra and Conn
were lulled to sleep, Finola's notes grew more and more faint and her head
drooped, and soon she too slept peacefully in the warm sunlight.
But few were the sunny days
on the sea of Moyle, and many were the tempests that ruffled its waters.
Still keener grew the winter frosts, and the misery of the four white
swans was greater than ever before. Even their most sorrowful Gaelic songs
told not half their woe. From the fury of the storm they still sought
shelter on that rocky isle where Finola had despaired of seeing her dear
Slowly passed the years of
doom, until one mid-winter a frost more keen than any known before froze
the sea into a floor of solid black ice. By night the swans crouched
together on the rocky isle for warmth, but each morning they were frozen
to the ground and could free themselves only with sore pain, for they left
clinging to the ice-bound rock the soft down of their breasts, the quills
from their white wings, and the skin of their poor feet.
And when the sun melted the
ice-bound surface of the waters, and the swans swam once more in the sea
of Moyle, the salt water entered their wounds, and they well-nigh died of
pain. But in time the down on their breasts and the feathers on their
wings grew, and they were healed of their wounds.
The years dragged on, and by
day Finola and her brothers would fly toward the shores of the Green
Island of Erin, or to the rocky blue headlands of Alba, or they would swim
far out into a dim grey wilderness of waters. But ever as night fell it
was their doom to return to the sea of Moyle.
[Illustration: They would
swim far out into a dim grey wilderness of waters]
One day, as they looked
toward the Green Isle, they saw coming to the coast a troop of horsemen
mounted on snow-white steeds, and their armour glittered in the sun.
A cry of great joy went up
from the children of Lir, for they had seen no human form since they
spread their wings above Lake Darvra, and flew to the stormy sea of Moyle.
'Speak,' said Finola to her
brothers, 'speak, and say if these be not our own Dedannan folk.' And Aed
and Fiacra and Conn strained their eyes, and Aed answered, 'It seemeth,
dear sister, to me, that it is indeed our own people.'
As the horsemen drew nearer
and saw the four swans, each man shouted in the Gaelic tongue, 'Behold the
children of Lir!'
And when Finola and her
brothers heard once more the sweet Gaelic speech, and saw the faces of
their own people, their happiness was greater than can be told. For long
they were silent, but at length Finola spake.
Of their life on the sea of
Moyle she told, of the dreary rains and blustering winds, of the giant
waves and the roaring thunder, of the black frost, and of their own poor
battered and wounded bodies. Of their loneliness of soul, of that she
could not speak. 'But tell us,' she went on, 'tell us of our father, Lir.
Lives he still, and Bove Derg, and our dear Dedannan friends?'
Scarce could the Dedannans
speak for the sorrow they had for Finola and her brothers, but they told
how Lir and Bove Derg were alive and well, and were even now celebrating
the Feast of Age at the house of Lir. 'But for their longing for you, your
father and friends would be happy indeed.'
Glad then and of great
comfort were the hearts of Finola and her brothers. But they could not
hear more, for they must hasten to fly from the pleasant shores of Erin to
the sea-stream of Moyle, which was their doom. And as they flew, Finola
sang, and faint floated her voice over the kneeling host.
As the sad song grew fainter
and more faint, the Dedannans wept aloud. Then, as the snow-white birds
faded from sight, the sorrowful company turned the heads of their white
steeds from the shore, and rode southward to the home of Lir.
And when it was told there
of the sufferings of Finola and her brothers, great was the sorrow of the
Dedannans. Yet was Lir glad that his children were alive, and he thought
of the day when the magic spell would be broken, and those so dear to him
would be freed from their bitter woe.
* * * * *
Once more were ended three
hundred years of doom, and glad were the four white swans to leave the
cruel sea of Moyle. Yet might they fly only to the wild Western Sea, and
tempest-tossed as before, here they in no way escaped the pitiless fury of
wind and wave. Worse than aught they had before endured was a frost that
drove the brothers to despair. Well-nigh frozen to a rock, they one night
cried aloud to Finola that they longed for death. And she, too, would fain
But that same night did a
dream come to the swan-maiden, and, when she awoke, she cried to her
brothers to take heart. 'Believe, dear brothers, in the great God who hath
created the earth with its fruits and the sea with its terrible wonders.
Trust in Him, and He will yet save you.' And her brothers answered, 'We
And Finola also put her
trust in God, and they all fell into a deep slumber.
When the children of Lir
awoke, behold! the sun shone, and thereafter, until the three hundred
years on the Western Sea were ended, neither wind nor wave nor rain nor
frost did hurt to the four swans.
On a grassy isle they lived
and sang their wondrous songs by day, and by night they nestled together
on their soft couch, and awoke in the morning to sunshine and to peace.
And there on the grassy island was their home, until the three hundred
years were at an end. Then Finola called to her brothers, and tremblingly
she told, and tremblingly they heard, that they might now fly eastward to
seek their own old home.
Lightly did they rise on
outstretched wings, and swiftly did they fly until they reached land.
There they alighted and gazed each at the other, but too great for speech
was their joy. Then again did they spread their wings and fly above the
green grass on and on, until they reached the hills and trees that
surrounded their old home. But, alas! only the ruins of Lir's dwelling
were left. Around was a wilderness overgrown with rank grass, nettles, and
Too downhearted to stir, the
swans slept that night within the ruined walls of their old home, but,
when day broke, each could no longer bear the loneliness, and again they
flew westward. And it was not until they came to Inis Glora that they
alighted. On a small lake in the heart of the island they made their home,
and, by their enchanting music, they drew to its shores all the birds of
the west, until the lake came to be called 'The Lake of the Bird-flocks.'
Slowly passed the years, but
a great longing filled the hearts of the children of Lir. When would the
good Saint come to Erin? When would the chime of the Christ-bell peal over
land and sea?
One rosy dawn the swans
awoke among the rushes of the Lake of the Bird-flocks, and strange and
faint was the sound that floated to them from afar. Trembling, they
nestled close the one to the other, until the brothers stretched their
wings and fluttered hither and thither in great fear. Yet trembling they
flew back to their sister, who had remained silent among the sedges.
Crouching by her side they asked, 'What, dear sister, can be the strange,
faint sound that steals across our island?'
With quiet, deep joy Finola
answered, 'Dear brothers, it is the chime of the Christ-bell that ye hear,
the Christ-bell of which we have dreamed through thrice three hundred
years. Soon the spell will be broken, soon our sufferings will end.' Then
did Finola glide from the shelter of the sedges across the rose-lit lake,
and there by the shore of the Western Sea she chanted a song of hope.
Calm crept into the hearts
of the brothers as Finola sang, and, as she ended, once more the chime
stole across the isle. No longer did it strike terror into the hearts of
the children of Lir, rather as a note of peace did it sink into their
Then, when the last chime
died, Finola said, 'Let us sing to the great King of Heaven and Earth.'
Far stole the sweet strains
of the white swans, far across Inis Glora, until they reached the good
Saint Kemoc, for whose early prayers the Christ-bell had chimed.
And he, filled with wonder
at the surpassing sweetness of the music, stood mute, but when it was
revealed unto him that the voices he heard were the voices of Finola and
Aed and Fiacra and Conn, who thanked the High God for the chime of the
Christ-bell, he knelt and also gave thanks, for it was to seek the
children of Lir that the Saint had come to Inis Glora.
In the glory of noon, Kemoc
reached the shore of the little lake, and saw four white swans gliding on
its waters. And no need had the Saint to ask whether these indeed were the
children of Lir. Rather did he give thanks to the High God who had brought
[Illustration: It was Saint
Then gravely the good Kemoc
said to the swans, 'Come ye now to land, and put your trust in me, for it
is in this place that ye shall be freed from your enchantment.'
These words the four white
swans heard with great joy, and coming to the shore they placed themselves
under the care of the Saint. And he led them to his cell, and there they
dwelt with him. And Kemoc sent to Erin for a skilful workman, and ordered
that two slender chains of shining silver be made. Betwixt Finola and Aed
did he clasp one silver chain, and with the other did he bind Fiacra and
Then did the children of Lir
dwell with the holy Kemoc, and he taught them the wonderful story of
Christ that he and Saint Patrick had brought to the Green Isle. And the
story so gladdened their hearts that the misery of their past sufferings
was well-nigh forgotten, and they lived in great happiness with the Saint.
Dear to him were they, dear as though they had been his own children.
Thrice three hundred years
had gone since Eva had chanted the fate of the children of Lir. 'Until
Decca be the Queen of Largnen, until the good Saint come to Erin, and ye
hear the chime of the Christ-bell, shall ye not be delivered from your
The good Saint had indeed
come, and the sweet chimes of the Christ-bell had been heard, and the fair
Decca was now the Queen of King Largnen.
Soon were tidings brought to
Decca of the swan-maiden and her three swan-brothers. Strange tales did
she hear of their haunting songs. It was told her, too, of their cruel
miseries. Then begged she her husband, the King, that he would go to Kemoc
and bring to her these human birds.
But Largnen did not wish to
ask Kemoc to part with the swans, and therefore he did not go.
Then was Decca angry, and
swore she would live no longer with Largnen, until he brought the singing
swans to the palace. And that same night she set out for her father's
kingdom in the south.
Nevertheless Largnen loved
Decca, and great was his grief when he heard that she had fled. And he
commanded messengers to go after her, saying he would send for the white
swans if she would but come back. Therefore Decca returned to the palace,
and Largnen sent to Kemoc to beg of him the four white swans. But the
messenger returned without the birds.
Then was Largnen wroth, and
set out himself for the cell of Kemoc. But he found the Saint in the
little church, and before the altar were the four white swans. 'Is it
truly told me that you refused these birds to Queen Decca?' asked the
'It is truly told,' replied
Then Largnen was more wroth
than before, and seizing the silver chain of Finola and Aed in the one
hand, and the chain of Fiacra and Conn in the other, he dragged the birds
from the altar and down the aisle, and it seemed as though he would leave
the church. And in great fear did the Saint follow.
But lo! as they reached the
door, the snow-white feathers of the four swans fell to the ground, and
the children of Lir were delivered from their doom. For was not Decca the
bride of Largnen, and the good Saint had he not come, and the chime of the
Christ-bell was it not heard in the land?
But aged and feeble were the
children of Lir. Wrinkled were their once fair faces, and bent their
little white bodies.
At the sight Largnen,
affrighted, fled from the church, and the good Kemoc cried aloud, 'Woe to
thee, O King!'
Then did the children of Lir
turn toward the Saint, and thus Finola spake: 'Baptize us now, we pray
thee, for death is nigh. Heavy with sorrow are our hearts that we must
part from thee, thou holy one, and that in loneliness must thy days on
earth be spent. But such is the will of the High God. Here let our graves
be digged, and here bury our four bodies, Conn standing at my right side,
Fiacra at my left, and Aed before my face, for thus did I shelter my dear
brothers for thrice three hundred years 'neath wing and breast.'
Then did the good Kemoc
baptize the children of Lir, and thereafter the Saint looked up, and lo!
he saw a vision of four lovely children with silvery wings, and faces
radiant as the sun; and as he gazed they floated ever upward, until they
were lost in a mist of blue. Then was the good Kemoc glad, for he knew
that they had gone to Heaven.
But, when he looked
downward, four worn bodies lay at the church door, and Kemoc wept sore.
And the Saint ordered a wide
grave to be digged close by the little church, and there were the children
of Lir buried, Conn standing at Finola's right hand, and Fiacra at her
left, and before her face her twin brother Aed.
And the grass grew green
above them, and a white tombstone bore their names, and across the grave
floated morning and evening the chime of the sweet Christ-bell.
DERMAT AND GRANIA
It was at Tara that King
Cormac would hold a great meeting, and the chiefs and nobles of the land
were gathered together there.
But ere the business of the
day was begun, it was told that two warriors were without and would talk
with the King.
Then did Cormac welcome the
messengers, and when he heard that they came from the broad hill slopes of
Allen and bore a message from Finn, their King, he said that the meeting
should not be held that day, but that he would speak with the warriors
And after they had eaten and
drunk, Cormac bade them tell their errand.
Then spake Oisin, the son of
Finn, and he told how his mother had long been dead, and how his father
would fain marry Grania, the fair daughter of Cormac.
But Cormac made answer,
'Scarce in all Erin is there a prince that hath not sought in marriage the
hand of my daughter, but she hath refused them all. For this cause have I
their ill-will, for the Princess hath ever made me tell how none had won
her favour. Wherefore shall I bring you to my daughter's presence, that
from her own lips ye may hear the answer that ye shall carry to your
So Cormac went with Oisin
the son of Finn and with Dering his friend to the sunny room of the
Princess. And Cormac sat by Grania on the couch and told her wherefore the
champions were come.
And Grania, giving little
heed to the matter, made answer, 'If Finn be a fitting son-in-law for my
father, the King, then may he well be a worthy husband for me.'
When Oisin the son of Finn
and Dering his friend heard these words they were glad, for they knew not
how little thought the Princess gave to her words.
And Cormac made a feast for
the champions, and ere they departed he told them that after two weeks
Finn should come thither.
So the warriors bade
farewell to the palace of Cormac and went back to Allen, and there they
told Finn that after two weeks he should go to Tara and wed the fair
Slow sped the days, but when
they were passed, Finn, with many chiefs and nobles as his guard, marched
to Tara. And there Cormac received him right royally and made ready a
great feast. On his right hand sat Finn and on his left the Queen. And
next the Queen sat Grania.
Now it chanced that the
chief who sat on the other side of Grania was a story-teller, and the
Princess listened gladly to the tales he told.
But when he ceased from his
tales Grania asked, 'Wherefore is it that Finn hath come hither to feast?'
And the chief, filled with
wonder that the Princess should question him thus, made answer, 'Of a
truth hath Finn come hither this day to claim thee for his wife.'
Then Grania bethought her of
the words she had spoken to Oisin the son of Finn and to Dering his
friend, and of how she spake without heed. And now was Finn come hither to
seek her for his wife.
A long, deep silence fell
upon the Princess, while her eyes roved among the goodly company.
At length she turned again
to the chief who sat next her. 'Of this goodly company,' she said, 'I know
none save Oisin the son of Finn and Dering his friend. Tell me, I pray
thee, who sitteth yonder by Oisin's side?'
And the chief told his name
and sang his praise.
Again Grania asked, 'And
who, I pray thee, sitteth by his side?'
And the chief told his name
and sang his praise.
Afterwards Grania sought of
the chief the names of many of the nobles, and he told her, and he told
too of the deeds they had done.
Then the Princess called her
handmaid and said, 'Bring me from my room the jewelled drinking horn.' And
the handmaiden brought it and Grania filled it to the brim and said, 'Take
it to Finn, and say that I would have him drink from it.'
And Finn drank from the
drinking horn, and then passed it to Cormac the King. And the King drank
from it and also the Queen.
Then again Grania filled the
drinking horn to the brim, and yet again, until all whom she wished to
drink had drunk from it. And it was not long until a deep sleep had fallen
upon all who had drunk.
Grania then rose slowly from
her seat and crossed the hall to where Dermat sat, for Dermat, of those
nobles that Finn brought with him, pleased her the best. And to him she
'Dermat, it is from the
champion who sat next me that I have learnt thy name, but ere I knew it I
loved thee. From the sunny window of my chamber did I not watch thee on
the day of the hurling-match? No part didst thou take in the contest till,
seeing the game go against the men of Allen, thou didst rush into the
crowd, and three times didst thou win the goal. My heart went out to thee
that day, and now do I know that thee only do I love. Sore is my distress
for the heedless words I spake which have brought Finn hither. Older is he
than Cormac my father, and him will I not wed. Therefore, I pray thee,
flee with me hence.'
Sore troubled was Dermat as
he listened to these words, and at length he replied, 'Unworthy am I of
thy love, and there is not a stronghold in Erin that would shelter us from
the wrath of Finn were this thing to be.'
When Grania heard the words
that Dermat spake, she said, 'I place thee under a solemn vow that thou
follow me from Tara ere Finn shall wake. And thou knowest there is no true
hero but will hold his vow binding even unto death.'
'Even though we so willed
it,' replied Dermat, 'could we not escape from Tara, for Finn hath in his
keeping the keys of the great gate.'
'Yet canst thou escape if
thou wilt,' said Grania, 'for a champion such as thou canst bound over the
highest wall in Erin. By the wicket-gate leading from my chamber shall I
go forth, and if thou followest me not, alone shall I flee from the sight
of Finn.' And having spoken thus, Grania went forth from the hall.
Then was Dermat in sore
plight, for he would not depart from the solemn vow that Grania had laid
upon him, and yet he feared lest the Princess should not escape the wrath
And he took counsel of the
nobles who had come hither with Finn, and there was not one but said,
'Even though death come of it, thou canst not depart from thy solemn vow.'
Then Dermat arose, and when
he was armed he bade his companions a tearful farewell, for he knew they
might see his face no more.
Forth he went, and with an
exceeding light bound he cleared the rampart and alighted on the green
grass beyond. And there Grania met him.
And Dermat said to the
Princess, 'Even now, I pray of thee, return to thy father's home and Finn
shall hear nought of this thing.'
But Grania's will was firm,
and she said, 'I will not return now nor will I return hereafter, for
death only shall part me and thee.'
'Then go forward, O Grania,'
said Dermat, and the two went forth.
But when they were scarce a
mile from Tara Grania told Dermat that she was weary.
And Dermat said, 'It is a
good time to weary, O Grania. Get thee back to thine own household, for I
plight thee the word of a true warrior that I will not carry thee from thy
'Neither is there need,'
answered Grania, 'for my father's horses are in a fenced meadow by
themselves, and chariots also will ye find there. Yoke two horses to a
chariot, and I will wait for thee on this spot until thou overtake me
Then Dermat did as Grania
said, and he brought the horses and the chariot, and they drove forth.
But when they came to the
banks of the river Shannon, Dermat said, 'Now that we have the horses it
is easier for Finn to follow in our track.'
'Then,' said Grania, 'leave
the horses on this spot and I will journey on foot henceforth.'
And Dermat, when he saw that
the Princess would not be moved, told her how great was his love for her,
and how he would defend her even with his life from the wrath of Finn.
And Dermat wed Grania, and
they vowed solemn vows that they would be faithful each to each even unto
Then tenderly did Dermat
lift his wife in his strong arms and bear her across the ford, and neither
the sole of her foot nor the hem of her mantle touched the stream.
Afterwards Dermat led one of
the horses across the ford, but the other he left on the far side.
Dermat and Grania then
walked until they came to a thick wood, and there Dermat lopped branches
from the trees and made a hut, and he made for Grania a bed of the soft
rushes and of the tops of the birch.
And there Grania rested, and
there did Dermat bring to her food of the forest and water from a clear
* * * * *
It was early dawn at Tara
when Cormac and Finn awoke from their deep sleep.
When Finn found that Grania
had fled with Dermat, great was his wrath, and he called to him his
nobles, and ordered them with all speed to follow in the track of Dermat
And Finn went with them, nor
was the track hard to follow until they came to the river Shannon, but
there it was lost and no man could find it.
Then was the wrath of Finn
so great that he said he would hang his nobles, and not one would he
spare, if they did not again find the track, and that with all speed.
So, being sore afraid, they
crossed the river, and when they had searched they saw the horses one on
either side, and they found, too, the spot where Dermat and Grania had
turned from the river.
And when they told Finn, he
was content, for he knew of a surety that Dermat and Grania hid in the
Now among the nobles were
those who loved Dermat, and would fain save him from the hate of Finn. And
one said, 'It behooveth us to send warning to Dermat. Let us send to him
Bran, the hound of Finn, for Bran loveth Dermat as though he were his own
And they called the hound
and told him secretly what he should do.
Bran listened with ears
erect, and then, losing no time, he followed the track, nor did he miss it
once until it brought him unto the hut. And going in he found Dermat and
Grania asleep, and he thrust his head into Dermat's bosom.
And Dermat woke with a
start, and when he saw Bran there was no need for the hound to tell whence
Then Dermat awoke his wife
and told her that Finn was near.
Great fear looked from out
the eyes of Grania when she heard, and she begged that they might flee.
But Dermat answered, 'Were
we to flee, yet would Finn overtake us, and it were as ill to fall into
his hands then as at this time, but neither he nor his men shall enter
this hut without my leave.'
Still Grania feared greatly,
but she spake no further, for in Dermat's eyes she read his gloom.
While Bran still tarried by
the hut, the nobles who loved Dermat thought of yet another warning to
send their friend. They had with them a serving-man whose voice was so
loud that it could be heard for many miles, and they made this man give
three shouts that Dermat might hear.
And when Dermat heard the
shouts he said to Grania, 'Well I know whose is the voice that shouteth,
and full well I know that it cometh as a warning that Finn is nigh.'
Then great fear took hold of
Grania, and she trembled, and again she said, 'Let us flee, for how shall
we withstand the wrath of Finn?'
But Dermat said, 'We will
not flee, but neither Finn nor his men shall enter the hut without my
Then was Grania filled with
foreboding, yet spake she no further, for sad and stern was her husband's
voice, and in his eyes she read his gloom.
Now Finn, having reached the
wood, sent forward his men, but when they came to the thickest part of the
forest they beheld a fence which no man could break through or climb. For
Dermat had cleared a space round his hut and around the space had he built
the strong fence.
Then the nobles climbed a
high tree and from it did they look within the fence, and there they saw
Dermat and with him a lady.
But for their love of Dermat
did the nobles hide from Finn that they had seen his foe. And one said to
him, 'Far would it be from the mind of Dermat to await thee here, knowing
as he does that his life is in peril.'
Then did Finn's wrath wax
strong, and he replied, 'That Dermat hath thee for friend will avail him
nought. Was it not to warn him that your serving-man gave three shouts,
and was it not to warn him that ye sent unto him my dog Bran? Full well I
know that Dermat is hid behind yonder strong fence.'
And Finn cried aloud, 'Which
of us, Dermat, is it that speaketh truth? Art thou behind the fence?'
'Thou, as ever, art right, O
King,' cried Dermat. 'I am here, and with me is Grania, but none other
shall come hither save with my leave.'
Now in the circle fence were
seven doors, and at each door did Finn place strong men, so that Dermat
should by no means escape.
And Grania, when she heard
Finn's voice, was filled with fear, and she trembled greatly. Then Dermat
kissed her three times and bade her be of good cheer for all would yet be
Now it was by Angus of Bruga
that Dermat had been brought up. Most skilled in magic was this Angus, and
to him was the plight of Dermat revealed—Dermat, whom he loved as though
he were his own son.
So Angus arose and travelled
on the wings of the wind until he came to the hut where Dermat and Grania
dwelt, and, unseen of Finn or his chiefs, he entered the dwelling.
And Dermat, when he saw his
foster-father, greeted him gladly and told him of the solemn vow which the
Princess Grania had laid upon him, and how she was his wedded wife. 'And
now are we in sore strait, for Finn, whose will it was to marry Grania,
hath pursued us and would fain take my life.'
'No harm shall befall you,'
said Angus, 'if ye will but shelter under my mantle, the one on the right
side and the other on the left, for then will I bring you both forth from
this place, and Finn shall know it not.'
But Dermat would not flee
from Finn, yet it was his will that Grania should go with Angus. 'And I
will follow if it be that I leave this place alive, yet should I be slain,
I pray thee, Angus, send the Princess to her father and beg him that he
deal gently with her.'
Then Dermat kissed Grania,
and Angus, having told the way that they would go, placed the Princess
beneath his mantle and was carried forth on the wings of the wind unseen
When Angus and Grania had
gone, Dermat girded on his armour, and, deep in thought, he walked to one
of the seven doors and asked who was without.
And the answer came, 'True
friends are we, and no harm shall befall thee, shouldst thou venture
But Dermat answered, 'I seek
the door guarded by Finn, and by none other shall I leave this place.'
And he came to another door
and asked who was without, and again was it told him, 'Thy bounden
Then to the third, to the
fourth, and to the fifth door did Dermat go, and at each was he told how
the men without were willing to fight to the death for their love of him.
But when Dermat came to the
sixth door and asked by whom it was guarded, the answer came, 'No friends
of thine, for shouldst thou dare to venture forth, we will make thee a
mark for our swords and spears.'
'Cowards, no fear of you
keepeth me from coming forth, but I crave not the blood of such as ye.'
And he went to the seventh
door and asked who was without. And the voice of Finn answered, 'He that
hateth thee, and will sever thy head from thy body shouldst thou dare to
'At length have I found the
door I seek, for by the door that Finn guardeth, by it only shall I pass
But Dermat, seeing of a
sudden an unguarded spot, sprang with a light bound over the fence, and
ran so swiftly that soon he was beyond the reach of sword or spear. And no
man dared to follow Dermat. Nor did the hero rest until he came to the
warm, well-lighted hut where Grania sat with Angus before a blazing fire.
When Grania saw Dermat her
heart leaped for joy. Then did he tell her his tidings from beginning to
end, and after they had eaten they slept in peace until the morning brake.
And while it was yet early
Angus bid them farewell, and he left with them this warning, knowing that
Finn would pursue them still: 'Go into no tree that has but one trunk; nor
into any cave having but one opening; land on no island that has but one
way leading to it; where you cook your food, there eat it not; where you
eat, sleep not there; and where you sleep to-night, rise not there
to-morrow.' [Footnote: Angus meant that Dermat should change his place of
sleeping during the night.]
And when Angus had left
them, Dermat and Grania sorrowed after him, and it was not long until they
* * * * *
All that befell Dermat and
Grania cannot be told in this book, but of Sharvan the giant and of the
fairy quicken-tree you shall hear now.
After many wanderings Dermat
came with Grania to the wood where Sharvan guarded the quicken-tree.
Honey-sweet were the berries of the tree, and gladness flowed through the
veins of him who ate thereof. Though he were one hundred years old, yet
would he be but thirty so soon as he had eaten three of the fairy berries.
By day Sharvan the giant sat
at the foot of the tree, and by night he sat in a hut in its branches, and
no man dared to come near. Fearful to behold and wicked was this Sharvan.
One eye, one red eye gleamed from the middle of his black forehead. On his
body was a girdle of iron, and from the girdle was a heavy club hung by a
heavy chain. And by magic was Sharvan saved from death, for water would
not drown him nor fire burn; neither was there weapon, save one, that
could wound the giant. The one weapon was Sharvan's own club, for were he
by it dealt three blows, his doom was come.
Now Dermat knew of the giant
that guarded the fairy quicken-tree, therefore he left Grania in shelter
and went alone to the foot of the tree. And there sat Sharvan, for it was
And Dermat told the giant
how he would fain build a hut in the forest and hunt amid the woods.
Then the giant, casting his
red eye upon the champion, told him in surly tone that it mattered not to
him who lived or hunted in the forest, so long as he did not eat the
berries of the quicken-tree.
So Dermat built a hut near
to a clear well, and there he and Grania lived in peace for many days,
eating the food of the forest and drinking water from the spring.
Now it was at this time that
two chiefs came to Finn on the green slopes of Allen. And when he asked
them who they were and whence they came, they told how they were enemies
that would fain make peace.
But Finn answered, 'One of
two things must ye bring hither would ye win peace from me. Either must ye
bring me the head of a warrior or a handful of berries from the
Then said Oisin the son of
Finn, 'I counsel you, get ye hence, for the head that the King seeketh
from you is the head of Dermat, and were ye to attempt to take it, then
would Dermat take yours, were ye twenty times the number that ye be. And
as for the quicken-berries, know ye that they grow on a fairy tree,
guarded by the one-eyed giant Sharvan.'
But the two chiefs were firm
and would not be moved, for it were better to die in their quest than to
return to the hilly slopes of Allen at enmity with Finn. So they left the
palace, and journeyed without rest until they came to Dermat's hut by the
Now Dermat, when he heard
footsteps without, seized his weapons, and going to the door, asked of the
strangers who they were and whence they came.
And the chiefs told their
names and for what cause they were come thither.
Then Dermat said, 'I am not
willing to give you my head, nor will you find it an easy matter to take
it. Neither may ye hope to fare better in your quest of the
quicken-berries, for the surly giant Sharvan guards the tree. Fire will
not burn him nor water drown, nor is there a weapon that hath power to
wound him, save only his own club. Say, therefore, which ye will do battle
for first, my head or the quicken-berries?'
And they answered, 'We will
first do battle with thee.'
So they made ready, and it
was agreed that they should use nought save their hands in the combat. And
if Dermat were overcome then should his head be taken by the chiefs to
Finn; if they were overpowered then should their heads be forfeit to
But the fight was short, for
the chiefs were as children in the hands of the hero, and he bound them
sore in bitter bonds.
Now when Grania heard of the
quicken-berries she longed with a great longing to taste them. At first
she said nought for she knew how they were guarded by the surly giant
Sharvan; but when she could hide her desire no longer, she said to Dermat,
'So great is my longing for the berries of the quicken-tree that if I may
not eat of them I shall surely die.'
And Dermat, who would see no
ill befall his dear wife, said he would bring her the berries.
When the two chiefs heard
this, they prayed Dermat to loose their bonds that they also might fight
But Dermat answered, 'At the
mere sight of Sharvan ye would flee, and even were it not so I wish the
aid of none.'
Then the chiefs begged that
they might see the fight, and Dermat gave them leave.
When the champion came to
the foot of the quicken-tree he found Sharvan there, asleep. And he struck
the giant a mighty blow to awake him.
Then Sharvan raised his
head, and, glaring at Dermat with his one red eye, said, 'There hath been
peace betwixt us heretofore, wherefore should we now depart from it?'
And Dermat said, 'It is not
to strive that I come hither, but to beg of thee berries from the
quicken-tree, for Grania, my wife, longeth for them with a great longing.'
But the giant answered,
'Though the Princess were at the point of death, yet would I not give her
berries from the quicken-tree.'
When Dermat heard this he
said, 'It had pleased me well to remain at peace with thee, but now must I
take the berries from the tree whether it be thy will or no.'
At these words Sharvan waxed
exceeding wroth, and with his club did he deal Dermat three sore blows.
But the champion, recovering, sprang upon the giant, and seizing his great
club, he ceased not to belabour him until he fell to earth a dead man.
Then Dermat sat down to
rest. And he told the captive chiefs to drag the body of the giant into
the wood and bury it, that Grania might not be affrighted. And when they
had come back he sent for the Princess.
And Grania, when she came to
the quicken-tree, would not gather the fruit, for she said, 'I will eat no
berries save those plucked by the hand of my husband.'
So Dermat plucked the
berries, and Grania ate and was satisfied.
Then the champion gave
berries of the quicken-tree to the captive chiefs, saying, 'Take these to
Finn and so win your peace.' And this he said as though they were free
They thanked the hero for
his words, and also for the berries, which they could not have got of
themselves. Then having bid Dermat and Grania farewell they journeyed
forth towards the hilly slopes of Allen.
When they were gone, Dermat
and Grania went to the top of the quicken-tree, into the hut of Sharvan,
and the berries below were but bitter compared to the berries that were
above upon the tree.
Now when Finn's two enemies
were come to Allen he asked them how they had fared, and whether they had
brought with them the head of Dermat or a handful of berries from the
And they answered, 'Sharvan
the giant is slain, and behold here we have brought thee berries from the
quicken-tree so that henceforth we may live at peace.'
Then Finn took the berries
in his hand, and when he had smelled them three times he said, 'Of a truth
these be the berries of the quicken-tree, but not of your own strength
have ye gotten them. Full well I know that by Dermat hath Sharvan the
giant been slain, and from his hand have ye gotten the berries. Therefore
have ye no peace from me, and now shall I summon an army that I may march
to the wood of the quicken-tree, for there surely doth Dermat dwell.'
Now when Finn came with his
army to the quicken-tree it was noon, and the sun shone with great heat.
Therefore Finn said to his
men, 'Under this tree shall we rest until the sun be set, for well I know
that Dermat is among the branches. Bring hither a chess-board that I may
And Finn sat down to play
against Oisin his son, but there were with Oisin three nobles to help him,
while Finn played without aid.
With care and with skill did
they play, until at length Finn said to his son, 'I see one move, Oisin,
that would win thee the game, yet is there none of thine helpers that can
show thee how thou mayest win.'
Then Dermat, who had watched
the game from among the branches overhead, spoke aloud to himself the move
that should be played.
And Grania sat by her
husband ill at ease. 'It matters not, Dermat,' she said, 'whether Oisin
win or lose the game, but if thou speakest so that they hear, it may cost
thee thy life.'
Yet did Dermat pay no heed
to the counsel of Grania, but plucked a berry, and with it took aim so
true that he hit the chessman that Oisin should move.
And Oisin moved the man and
won the game.
Yet again did Finn play
against Oisin and his friends, and once more had Oisin to make but one
move to win the game.
Then did Dermat throw down a
berry as before and it struck the right man.
And Oisin moved the piece
and won the game.
A third time did Oisin, son
of Finn, play against his father, and it fell as before, for once more he
won with Dermat's aid. And this time the nobles raised a mighty cheer.
But Finn said, 'No marvel is
it, Oisin, that thou hast won the game, for of a surety thou hast had the
aid of Dermat who dwelleth amid the branches of the quicken-tree.' And
looking up he said, 'Have I not, Dermat, spoken truth?'
'I have never known thy
judgment err, O King,' replied Dermat. 'In truth I dwell here with Grania
in the hut that was built by Sharvan the giant.'
And they looked up, and
through an opening in the branches they beheld Dermat kiss Grania three
times, for the Princess was in great fear.
Then was Finn exceeding
wroth, and he bade his men surround the tree, each holding the hand of
each so that Dermat might by no means escape. And he offered great reward
to any man that would go up into the tree and bring to him the hero's head
or force him to come down.
One of Finn's men then
spake: 'It was Dermat's father that slew my father, therefore will I go up
into the tree.' And he went up.
Now it was revealed to Angus
of Bruga that Dermat was in sore plight, and on the wings of the wind he
came to his aid, unseen of Finn or his chiefs. So when the avenger climbed
into the tree, Angus was there. And when Dermat with a stroke of his foot
flung his enemy to the ground, Angus caused him to take the shape of
Dermat, and for this reason Finn's men fell upon him and slew him.
But no sooner was he slain
than he again took his own shape, and Finn knew that Dermat was still
alive in the quicken-tree. Then nine times did a man of Finn's army climb
the tree, and nine times was he thrown to earth and killed by his own
friends. For each time did Angus cause the warrior to take Dermat's shape.
When Finn saw nine of his
men lie dead before him his heart failed him, and his soul was filled with
At this time Angus said that
he would take Grania away with him. And Dermat was content and said, 'If
it be that I live until evening I will follow thee, but if Finn killeth
me, I pray thee send the Princess to her father at Tara.'
So Angus flung his magic
mantle around Grania, and on the wings of the wind they were carried to
Bruga, unknown to Finn or his men.
Then Dermat spake from the
tree: 'Thou surely shalt not escape my vengeance, O Finn, nor shalt thou
easily compass my death. Oft have I cleared the way for thee when thou
didst go forth to battle, and oft have I sheltered thy retreat when thou
didst quit the field. Yet art thou unmindful of mine help, and I swear
that I will be avenged.'
When the hero ceased from
speaking, one of Finn's nobles said, 'Dermat speaketh truth, now therefore
grant him thy forgiveness.'
But Finn answered, 'I will
not to the end of my life grant him forgiveness, nor shall he know rest or
peace until he yieldeth to me his head.'
Again the noble spake: 'Now
pledge I thee the word of a true warrior that, unless the skies fall upon
me or the earth open and swallow me up, no harm shall come nigh Dermat,
for under my care I take his body and his life.' And looking up, the noble
cried, 'O Dermat, I pledge thee my body and my life that no ill shall
befall thee this day, therefore come down out of the tree.'
Then Dermat rose and stood
upon a high bough. With an airy, bird-like bound he sprang forward and
alighted outside the circle formed by the men who had joined hands, and
was soon far beyond the reach of Finn.
And the noble who saved him
followed, and they came together to Bruga, and there Angus and Grania met
them, and the joy of the Princess cannot be told.
Yet was it not long ere
Dermat was again in sore strait, for Finn followed him to Bruga, and with
Finn came his old nurse. And she was a witch.
Now it chanced on the day
that they came thither that Dermat hunted alone in the wood. And the witch
flew on the leaf of a yellow water-lily till she came straight over the
place where Dermat was. Then through a hole in the leaf she aimed deadly
darts at the hero, and though he was clad in strong armour they did him
So sore were his wounds that
Dermat thought the witch would cause his death on the spot, unless he
could pierce her through the hole in the leaf.
Therefore he took his red
javelin and cast it with all care. And so sure was his aim that it reached
the witch through the leaf, and she fell to the ground dead. Then Dermat
cut off her head and took it to Angus.
Early on the morrow Angus
rose and went where Finn was, and he asked him if he would make peace with
And Finn, because he had now
lost his witch-nurse as well as many men, was glad to make peace in
whatever way Dermat might choose.
Then Angus went to Cormac,
and he too was glad to make peace with the hero.
But when Angus came to
Dermat he said he would not make peace unless he received from Finn and
from Cormac all the wide lands that he asked.
And Cormac and Finn gave him
the lands, and forgave him all he had done.
Then was there at last peace
between them, and Dermat and Grania built a house in Sligo, far from
Cormac and Finn, and they called the name of their house Rath-Grania. And
there were born unto them one daughter and four sons.
And it was said that there
was not living in Erin a man richer than Dermat in gold and silver, in
sheep and cattle herds.
* * * * *
Now it fell on a day after
many years that Grania sat as one in a dream. And Dermat asked his wife in
what troublous thought she was lost, for he saw well that she was ill at
And Grania answered, 'It
seemeth not well to me that, having so great wealth, we live removed from
the world, and welcome to our home neither my father nor Finn, though with
both are we now at peace.'
Dermat gave heed to the
words of his wife and then spake thus: 'Of a truth there is peace betwixt
us, but thou knowest well that neither thy father the King nor yet Finn
bears me aught but ill-will, and for this cause have we dwelt apart.'
'Yet will time have softened
their hearts,' replied Grania, 'and wouldst thou but make them a feast, so
mightest thou win their favour and their love.'
And Dermat, because of the
love he bore Grania, granted her wish, and for a year they were making
ready for the great feast.
Then were messengers sent to
bid thither Cormac and Finn. And they came, and with them their nobles,
their horses and their dogs, and for a full year they hunted and feasted
When a year had passed, it
chanced one night that the distant yelping of a hound woke Dermat from his
sleep, and Grania too awoke and in great fear said, 'Of a truth doth that
sound forebode ill. Heed it not, but lie down on thy bed and rest.'
Dermat lay down, but ere
long he again heard the hound's voice. Then he started up, and made as
though he would go to find for himself wherefore the hound disturbed the
silence of the night. But again Grania begged him to lie down and to give
no heed to the matter.
So Dermat lay down and fell
into a light sleep, and when the hound awakened him the third time it was
broad day. And Grania, seeing that his mind was set, did not beg him
longer to stay, yet, fearing danger, she begged him to take with him his
red javelin and his sword named 'The Greater Fury.'
But Dermat, deeming the
matter light, took with him his yellow javelin and his sword 'The Lesser
Fury,' and leading his faithful hound by the chain, went forth. And he did
not rest till he came to the summit of a hill where he found Finn, and of
him he asked the meaning of the chase.
And Finn answered that the
men and hounds were tracking a wild boar which had ofttimes been chased,
but had always escaped. Even now was it coming towards them, so it were
well that they should betake themselves to some safer spot.
Dermat knew no fear of the
wild boar, and he would not leave the summit of the hill where he stood.
Yet did he pray Finn to leave with him his hound Bran, that it might help
his own dog were he in need.
But Finn would not leave
Bran to be torn by the wild boar that could now be seen coming towards
So Dermat stood alone on the
summit of the hill, and he knew well it was that he might meet his death
that Finn's men did hunt the boar this day. Yet would he not leave the
hill, for if it were his fate to meet death, nought could save him from
Then as the boar came
rushing up the face of the hill, Dermat let loose his good hound, but it,
seeing the fearful monster, fled before him.
And now Dermat knew that he
would have need of his red javelin, and he sorrowed that he had given no
heed to the counsel of Grania. Yet seizing his yellow javelin he cast it
with careful aim and it struck the boar in its forehead. But it fell
harmless to the ground, doing the monster no hurt.
Then Dermat drew his sword
from its sheath, and with a mighty blow did he strike at the boar's neck.
But the sword broke in his hand, and the boar felt not so much as a prick.
Now was Dermat without any
weapon save the hilt of his sword, and the boar made a deadly onslaught,
thrusting his tusk into the hero's side. But with the strength that was
left him Dermat flung the hilt of the sword at the brute's head, and it
pierced his skull and entered his brain, whereupon the boar fell dead.
But so deep was the wound in
Dermat's side that when Finn came to him he found the hero near unto
And Finn said, 'Now am I
well content, for thine end hath come.'
'Sure the words that thou
speakest come not from thine heart,' answered Dermat, 'for it is in thy
power to heal me, and that thou knowest full well.'
'How might I heal thee?'
'Thou knowest that power was
given thee to heal him who might be at the point of death. Let him but
drink water from the palms of thy closed hands, and he is healed of his
'Yet wherefore should I heal
thee who hast worked me nought but ill?'
'Thou wouldst not speak thus
wert thou mindful of the day when I saved thee from the flames. Thou wast
bidden to a banquet, and ere the feast began the palace was set a-fire by
those who wished thee ill. And I and my men rushed forth and quenched the
flames and slew thy foes. Had I begged water from thy hands that night
thou hadst not said me nay.'
'Thou forgettest that but
for thee the fair Grania were my wedded wife.'
'Of a surety am I not
blameworthy in this matter, O Finn, for Grania laid upon me a solemn vow
that I should follow her from Tara ere thou shouldst wake from thy sleep.
And I took counsel of many nobles, and there was not one but said, “Even
though death come of it, thou canst not depart from the solemn vow that
Grania hath laid upon thee.” And now, I pray of thee, let me drink from
thine hands, else surely death will overtake me in this place. From many
another deadly strait have I delivered thee, yet hast thou forgotten them
all. But the hour will come when surely thou wilt need my help shouldst
thou let me die this day. Yet grieve I not to think that thou wilt be in
deadly strait, but rather grieve I for those true heroes whom I shall no
Then one of the nobles,
hearing these words, prayed Finn that he would let Dermat drink from his
Finn replied, 'I know not of
any well on this hill whence I can bring water.'
But Dermat said, 'Right well
thou knowest that hidden by yonder bush is a well of crystal water. No
more than nine paces must thou go to reach it. Let me, I pray thee, drink
from thine hands.'
Then Finn went to the well,
and in his two hands tightly together did he bring the water towards
Dermat. But as he came nearer he spilled it through his fingers, saying
that he could not in such manner carry water so far.
But Dermat believed him not,
and said, 'Of thine own will hast thou spilled the water. I pray thee go
once more to the well and bring me to drink, or I die.'
Again the King went to the
well, and with failing sight did Dermat follow the dripping hands that
came nearer and yet more near. But of a sudden Finn thought of Grania, and
a second time was the water spilled. And when Dermat saw it, he uttered a
Then were the champions no
longer able to see Dermat in such grievous plight, and one said to Finn,
'I swear to thee that if thou bringest not water to Dermat, thou shalt not
leave this hill alive, save I be a dead man.'
Finn, hearing these words
and seeing their frowns, went a third time to fetch water from the well.
And this time he made haste to bring it to Dermat, but ere he had got
half-way, the hero's head fell backward and he died.
Then were raised three long
cries of sorrow for Dermat, who had been dear unto them all.
After some time had passed
Finn said, 'Let us leave this hill lest Angus come, for he may not believe
that it was not at our hands that Dermat met his death.'
So Finn and his nobles left
the hill, Finn leading Dermat's hound. But four of the nobles turned back
and laid their mantles over the champion. Then they once more followed the
Grania sat that day on the
highest tower of Rath-Grania, watching for Dermat. The fear she had felt
in the night would not be stilled, and when at length Finn came in sight,
leading by the chain Dermat's hound, she knew that she would not
henceforth see Dermat alive. And when the truth had taken hold upon her,
she fell in a swoon from the tower, and her handmaiden stood over her in
But at length her eyes
opened, and when it was told her that Dermat was dead she uttered a long,
piercing cry, so that all flocked to hear what had befallen the Princess.
And when it was told that Dermat had been killed by the wild boar, the air
was rent with cries of lamentation.
At length, when silence had
fallen upon her grief, Grania arose, and ordered that five hundred men
should go to the hill and bring to her the body of Dermat. Then turning to
Finn she begged of him to leave with her Dermat's hound. And Finn would
not. But a noble, hearing that Grania wished the hound took him from the
hand of Finn and gave him to the Princess.
Now as the men left
Rath-Grania to bring home the body of Dermat, it was revealed to Angus of
Bruga that the hero lay dead on the hill. And he at once set out on the
wings of the wind and reached the sorrowful place ere Grania's messengers
had come there. And they, when they came, found Angus mourning over the
body of Dermat, and he asked them wherefore they were come.
When it was told Angus that
Grania had sent them to bring the body of Dermat to Rath-Grania, he stayed
for some time wrapt in thought. At length he spake these words: 'Let it be
told the Princess that I will take with me the body of Dermat to my home,
that he may be preserved by my power as though he still lived. For though
I cannot bring him back to life, yet each day shall he speak with me for
And Angus turned to his men
that he had brought with him there and ordered that Dermat's body should
be placed on a golden bier, with the red and yellow javelins, one on
either side, points upward. Thus was the dead hero carried to the home of
When Grania's messengers
came back to her bringing not with them the body of Dermat, she was at
first sore grieved. But when she heard how the hero lay on a golden bier
in the keeping of his foster-father, and would each day speak with Angus
for some space, then was she content, for she knew that Angus loved Dermat
as a father loveth his only son.
And Grania sent messengers
to her sons to bid them come to her. And when they were come, she welcomed
them gently and kissed them. Then with an exceeding loud and clear voice
she said, 'O dear children, your father hath been slain by the will of
Finn, though peace had been sworn between them. Therefore get ye hence and
avenge his death. And that ye may have success in the battle, I will
myself portion out among you your inheritance of arms, of arrows, and of
sharp weapons. Spare none that would do good to Finn, yet see ye to it
that ye deal not treacherously with any man. Hasten ye and depart.'
Then the sons of Dermat bade
their mother a tender farewell, and went forth to avenge their father's