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Miotaseolaíócht - Mythology
Oideachas - Education
Admhálacha - Acknowledgments
Altrom Tige Dá Medar - The Fosterage of the House of the Two Pails
A valiant victorious king of the numerous active rude and spirited race . . . three sons of Cearmad Midbeoil son of the Dagda . . . the first great king of Eire, Erimon . . . held Banba for his brothers. It was he inflicted [defeats?] and great losses on the Tuatha De Danann at Druim Lighean and at Loch Foyle so that he held Eire firmly for his brother, Finer Find, and for himself, so that he and his brother were rulers of Fire for a year till there arose war-madness and fierce anger and rupture of brotherliness . . . for it was Emer who was responsible for that revolt for he acted on the envy and evil council of his own wife. It was he who haughtily challenged Erimon to battle and prepared difficulty and tyranny for his own descendants, for the fierce battle of Geashill was fought between those kings till Emer fell by Erimon in that contest. But there is one thing: it was wrong of Emer to revolt because it was Erimon who held the kingdom of Fire for himself and his brother and it was he won the battle of Tailltiu at the start over the Tuatha De Danann in which fell three kings of Fire, viz. Mac Cuill, Mac Cecht and Mac Greine. He also won the battle of Druim Lighean over the Tuatha De Danann and, not only over them, but over the warriors of Scandinavia also. [Though the aforesaid prophecy occurs here as well as the matter of Emer and Erimon, the end of this story is not written about them: so far concerning the Sons of Mil.)
2. Here we give the adventures of the Tuatha de Danann aloud: the victories of Tailltiu and Druim Lighean gave Erimon’s heroes and soldiers a military grip of the divisions of [ire’s territory. The noble monarch, almighty Manannan, was brought to settle their [Tuatha D. D.] problems and councils and his advice to the warriors was to scatter and quarter themselves on the hills and plains of [ire. The men made Bodb Derg and Manannan their rulers and Manannan ordained the settlement of the nobles in their magic dwellings: Bodb Derg at Sith Buidb on Lake Derggert, haughty Midir at fair-sided Sith Truim, aimiable Sithmall at Sith Neannta of the shining form, Finnbarr Meadha at bare-topped Sith Meadha, Thadg Mor son of Nuadu at the Sith of Druim Dean, Abhartach son of Illathar at Sidh Buidhe of the fair summit, and Fagartach at most lovely Sith Finnabrach, Ilbreac at Sith Aeda of Assaroe, Lir son of Lugaid at verdant Sith Finnachadh, Derg Diansgothach at Sith Cleitidh, and every single . . . house and place of residence left to the Tuatha De D. Manannan assigned a special dwelling to each noble and made for the warriors the Feth Fiadha, the Feast of Goibniu and Manannan’s Swine: that is, the princes could not be seen through the Feth Fiadha, the monarchs escaped age and decay by the Feast of Goibniu and Manannan’s Swine could be killed by the warriors but come alive again. Manannan taught the nobles their array at Sidh Brugh and to carry on their mansions in the manner of the peoples of the fair-sided Land of Promise and fair [main Ablach. The nobles conceded to Manannan that when they had possession of their dwellings he should be over the wedding of every house and the feast of every lord so that his statute and due and law were over every mansion.
3. There was another ruler in [in at that time who was not haughty, and Ealcmar was that warrior’s name. With him was Cairbre Cromfll son of Sigma son of Cairbre Cromm another ruler and also Aengus Og son of the Dagda. His home was in Brugh over the Boyne. . . the nobles of the Tuatha De D. to that noble and he undertook. . . charge of a feast in his house by Bodb Derg son of the Dagda to send word to fetch Manannan and to the nobles of his people to eat that feast of report and fame . . . ‘But we knew there was no scarcity of good things’ said the people.
But one thing now: Manannan made a round of visits to every Sidh he owned and when Ealcmar heard he was on that round . . . he sent his foster-son to meet him and invite him [that is Aengus Og son of the Dagda] and Manannan went . . . on to the dewy-green bank of the Boyne . . . Assaroe and to Irluachair . . . the light of the mansion opposite Manannan . . . and Manannan came at the head of the hosts.... [to the] fortress and this was the description of the mansion: a beautiful bronze floor from each door... [to that] opposite in the mansion, and structures . . . of flndruine on the floors, and wellshaped silver couches on the structures with beautiful posts with shapely edges to them and corners, with crimson[?] birds sweetly musical on top of those corners . . . and it was not . • . the monarch making merry...listening to the.., and jollity of the youths and the merriment of the maidens at their slow embroidery and the noise of chess being played. Howbeit it were almost carelessly done to report . . . of that house though . . . But one thing: the rulers of the Tuatha and the nobles of the Land of Promise were all there and there was not one of them prince or lord who was not envious and jealous of that house.
4. Ealcmar took thought and counsel and called his servants and his head-steward to come to him (Dicu was his honourable name) and this is what he said: ‘go for me, my good people’ said he ‘to the ravines and cataracts and river-mouths of fire to seek fish, fowl and venison for the sovereign.’ Dichu went along with his good son, Roc, and the princes sat down to the feast. Manannan sat with the warriors. Bodb Derg sat at his right hand, Ealcmar at the hand that holds the shield in every fray, Eachdond Mor, Manannan’s son, sat at the side of the palace and Abartach to that noble’s right and Sidhmall Siteach to his left, and every man of the warriors from that on in his place of safety among contemporaries. Aengus was with the attendants arranging and giving orders, and every kind of drink and delicacy was given out correctly so that the company were cheerful and gay.
But one thing: the heroes spent three days and three nights in that manner, and at the end of the fourth day Manannan was obliged to clear the house, for not a mother’s son was left in the mansion with a spark of consciousness except Manannan and Aengus. He began to argue with Aengus and spoke as follows: ‘this is a pleasant house, Aengus, and I never saw its like save Cruitin na Cuan or Emain Ablach and the situation on the bank of the Boyne at the border of the five provinces is good. If I were you, Aengus, this house would be mine and I would summon Ealcmar to quit it. You would get “luck and prosperity” from your powerful friends to do it.’ He recited the poem. After that poem Manannan addressed Aengus again and said:
‘Do you know, Aengus, that of all you of the Tuatha De Danann who are alive that I am chief of your kings, senior of your hosts, shining light of your battalions and lord of your champions, and though Ealcmar be your tutor yet it is I am your tutor in valour, in feats of arms, in magic, and I am foster-son of your good father, the Daghda, and to any child of your father who has wealth I have somewhat also to give him.’ ‘I am glad you admit that’, said Aengus. ‘What is the reason this cairn of worship is so called?’ ‘I will inform you’ said Manannan, ‘and pledge your word, your crimson shield, your sword and the fair adorable gods that you will act on my advice this time.’ He convinced Aengus by his urgency for he almost understood ‘do you know, Aengus, that it is not fitting that Ealcmar. . . and that it is not for him to defend the fort or establish the mansion and the lordship. We shall sit in the house which he made before Ealcmar and do you summon him to depart, for that will bring to you good luck and prosperity and to him misfortune and adversity and exile. (That is; the luck that angels came from the king of the palace and the Creator of the universe, the luck that we took the kingship of Fodla from the Fir Bolg, the luck that the Milesians took the throne of Eire themselves again.) Warn him that he may not come to the house he leaves till ogham and pillar be blent together, till heaven and earth, till sun and moon be blent together.’ ‘God is not above our gods’ said Aengus. ‘There is one thing’, said Manannan. ‘The one almighty God is able to subdue our idol gods and they are not able to despoil Him who is the powerful Lord made heaven and earth and the sea with wonders, and made the universe complete.’
‘Do you know, Aengus’ said Manannan, ‘why mankind were first created?’ ‘I know not’ said Aengus. ‘This is the cause’ said Manannan. ‘The one God of whom we spoke fashioned ten orders of angels round Him. The lord of the tenth order grew scornful and envious in his mind and they left the heavenly plain without cause and God . . . the tenth order of his land . . . and fashioned mankind . . . and those who left His land with scorn He turned into demons and made a dungeon and prison for their torments. Everyone who does His will is brought to the palace and everyone who goes against it is put in that dungeon for torments and that is the urgent cause of creation’ said Manannan. ‘We are not of that origin’ he said: ‘but act on my advice this time.’ ‘It moves me to pity’ said Aengus, ‘for the pleasure and honour of the house are under my control and its profit and substance are mine, and foster-sons will not be honoured after me if I do this thing.’ ‘Stop that’, said Manannan; ‘for a king is nobler than a kingdom, and a lord than the heir, and control is better than assisting and assured means better than doles. Your own will is better than your father’s or mother’s, or a request to either of them from behind their yoke.’ That convinced Aengus completely, and he said: ‘your advice shall be acted on this time, oh wizard.’
5. As to Ealcmar: he was consulting his friends as to whether the king’s dinner should be cooked by those messengers who went to seek fish and fowl and venison. It was the general opinion that the king should not be kept waiting for them and that there was no shortage of liquor. Manannan came forth bringing goblin treachery, and the mansion was prepared by Ealcmar for Manannan, and he came into the Sidh with his people and sat with the warriors and each one of them sat in his right and natural place from that time on. They were eating their dinner and consuming their food till all the company were merry and cheerful save Aengus only, for he was sick with fright at challenging his tutor, yet nevertheless he came before Ealcmar at the cnoment Manannan had arranged for the challenge to be made and wrought a horrible incantation to challenge his tutor. He summoned Ealcmar to leave the mansion without halt or delay. After that speech e recited to his tutor:
Ealcmar arose quickly, wondrously, lightly, as risesEalcmar went out of the mansion with all his people both men and women. (And since that summons no foster-father but has power from the devil; for if all the people in Eire were trying to hinder one of them they could not do it by reason of the strength of that ‘luck and prosperity’.) When Ealcmar came out on the dewy-sloped lawn of the mansion he looked upon his wife and on his household. ‘It is pitiful and wretched ye are now, dear people’ he said, ‘ye are reluctant to leave the Boyne and the mansion and hence-forward ye will find great woe and final madness. It is treacherous Manannan who taught “luck and prosperity” to my fosterling by magic and devilry so as to banish me, and woe to him, but it is well for my fosterling after me. I swear by my doom’, said Ealcmar, ‘that had Aengus begged the rule of the mansion of me I would certainly have given it to him without being challenged.’ After that Ealcmar left them and Aengus came out on the lawn and began to talk to him earnestly. He came to delay and stop him for shame and repentance had seized him. But he could not be delayed by reason of the power of the ‘luck and prosperity’ which Aengus had laid on him. After that Ealcmar went forward and, before he was out of sight, the company had gone. At that moment Aengus saw the steward of the mansion, his wife and his fair son approaching. They told each other their news and the steward accepted Aengus’ protection, and Aengus said to him; ‘remain in office as you did not arrive before the summons’; and the whole superintendance of the mansion was put in his charge.
the timid flitting deer when chased to the hill;
or as rises the bird-flock before a hawk.
6. It so happened that the wife of the steward was pregnant at that time. When Aengus perceived it he asked to be foster-father and they came together into the mansion and the chief steward asked for Manannan’s friendship. The nobles inquired of Manannan where Ealcmar would find rest. ‘I know not’, said Manannan, ‘and no prophet or sage in the whole world knows, but the one God almighty knows.’ Then Aengus held the feast of the mansion in honour of Manannan and the nobles of the Tuatha De Danann. When the time came at the end of the feast for the nobles . . . to listen to singing...Aengus said to him . . . ‘your wife is pregnant and whatever child is born I receive to bring up and educate.’ ‘The child of every other member of the Tuatha De Danann shall get the same’ said Manannan, and so said all in general. Aengus enjoined noble marriage on all in general. Manannan went away to his fort and the time came and his wife bore the fruit of her womb, a shapely lovely daughter with a tip[?] of curly yellow-coloured hair on her head, for which reason she was baptized and called by the name of Curcog (= bushy tuft). She was given to Aengus to bring up and educate and daughters of other rulers of her own age along with her.
As to the steward’s wife; she bore a daughter at that time and she was named Eithne and Aengus took her like every other foster-child to educate. A beautiful sunny house of varied design was made for the maidens and they were there for a good while being educated. There was never before or after them a band of women so severe and so chaste as that band of Curcog’s and one of them excelled all the others in appearance in severity and in chastity viz., Eithne the daughter of Dicu. There was no one who saw her who did not fall in love with her. It is she was most pleasing to Aengus of the maidens and the fame of that company spread to the four corners of Eire. The daughter of the steward was more famous than all the womenfolk or than Curcog, and the nobles of the Tuatha De Danann came by reason of the repute of those women. Finnbarr Meadha came from the Sidh of the bare hill of Meadha to the mansion on the Boyne to behold those women. He was warmly welcomed, his horses and chariot were unyoked, and he entered the mansion with Aengus and they were drinking and making merry. Finnbarr said he came in order to see the women. Aengus said, ‘which do you choose: to go to the apartment where they are, or for them to be brought to you?’ Finnbarr chose that the women should come before him, and Aengus sent word to Curcog and her ladies, and Curcog came with them before Aengus and Finnbarr. Finnbarr gazed at Curcog and all her ladies. He looked keenly at Eithne daughter of Dicu and he asked who was she who made[?] a dirty mess and, though he asked, he said: ‘it is the daughter of the worthless steward and I had almost christened her “dirty mess.”’ He quoted the verse:
The royal daughter of the Munster steward,And after that the maiden’s lovely face grew white, then livid, then red; she went away sorrowful and troubled with wet cheeks and flushed face to her accustomed dwelling, the sunny house. When Aengus saw that he became terribly [angry] and nearly killed Finnbarr and his people. But one thing: he remembered their friendship and repented in his heart and changed his mind. And after that Finnbarr set forth to depart from his joyance while at variance with Aengus, and his people counselled him not to separate from his brother at variance. Finnbarr went back again to the mansion and went into Aengus’ presence and bent low on his two active white knees before his brother. ‘Why is this done, oh Finnbarr?’ said Aengus. ‘Because thou art the eldest and noblest and I am the youngest of the Daghda’s fair children, because it behoves every criminal to make his own amends.’ ‘It is accepted’ said Aengus, and they put their two fair red mouths together and kissed each other warmly. The mansion was got ready for Finnbarr and Aengus, and Curcog and her ladies were fetched to the hail and Aengus and Finnbarr sat with the princes and they put Curcog between them to do her honour, and Aengus put his loved ward at his side, that is, Eithne daughter of Dicu.
the delicate stately swan,
is a woman of the race abhorrent to us
who made the dirty mess.
Howbeit, there was no lack of food in the hail or of the best of drink and there was not one of them who was not cheerful and satisfled save Eithne only, and there was not one of Finnbarr’s or Aengus’ or Curcog’s people who did not kneel before her to oblige her to eat and she consented not. One thing however: Finnbarr feasted for three days and three nights in the fort. They said farewell on the third day and Fmnbarr went away to Cnoc Medha of delicate beauty.
7. As regards Eithne: she was seven days and nights without touching food or drink, and if all the men of Ireland were ordering her to eat or drink she would not, and there was no sort of food or drink in the world they did not ask the maiden if she could eat it, and when they persisted she would say she would not. And Aengus bethought him would she drink the milk of the Dun Cow, milked into a beautiful gold goblet; that is, a dun cow belonging to Aengus then and so unique and remarkable that its like was not in Eire or in the whole world save one other. ‘Who will milk her for me, Aengus?’ said the maiden. ‘Take your choice of any woman in the house including Curcog or yourself, my maid’, said Aengus. ‘I will milk her myself said the maiden. ‘You shall get your wish’ said Aengus, and the cow was brought to Eithne to be milked with its spancel of special silk and with the beautiful gold goblet. The maiden washed her sharp white-fingered fair-hued brown- nailed hands, and she milked the cow after that without delay, and she and Aengus drank the milk of the Dun Cow thereupon. At every hour of the common meals the cow was brought to the maiden to be milked and that milk was her food and drink. If all the food in the world had been brought to the maiden she would have had none of it save the milking of the Dun Cow only. One day that she was milking the Dun Cow she asked Aengus: ‘how did you find the Dun or was she [brought(?)] to the mansion by Ealcmar?’ ‘You shall know that’, said Aengus. ‘I went a journey with Manannan eastward over-seas till we reached the Golden Pillars in the East and we went from that to India and we found there a wonderful acquisition whose like we never found before, that is: two cows with twisted horns always in milk, a speckled cow and a dun cow, and two beautiful gold goblets and two spancels of rare silk along with them. We took them with to Eire and we divided our gains and Manannan gave half of them to me’ said Aengus, ‘namely; a goblet, a cow and a spancel and I brought with me the share you see, the Dun of Aengus. It is in full milk every season of the year and its milk tastes of honey and intoxicating wine and the satisfaction of good food. That I how I got the Dun Cow’, said Aengus.
8. After that Aengus inquired of every druid and seer and sage and ruler in Eire for what cause the maiden would eat no earthly food save the milking of the Dun Cow only and he learnt nothing from anyone. The story reached Cruitin na Cuan and Emain Ablach and the Nobles of the Land of Promise, and they were astonished at the story they heard of Eithne in Eire. Manannan sent envoys to Curcog and her ladies, and to Ethne also in particular, to find out what caused her to go without food and those envoys came to Brugh na Boinne. Aengus sent his loved ones and his servants to Emain Ablach and they came to the lawn of Cruitin na Cuan and all the youths rose up to meet them, and Manannan [with his nobles] and his wife with her ladies, and they heartily welcomed the women.., making much of the maidens. And Manannan called Curcog and Eithne into a lonely spot and said to Eithne; ‘Is it true you eat no food?’ ‘It is quite true’ said the maiden. ‘How comes it thus with you, oh maid?’ said Manannan. ‘I know not’ said Eitlme ‘save one thing. After the insult I received from Finnbarr I could not eat earthly food save the milking of the Dun of Aengus milked by myself into a golden goblet’. ‘I myself will prepare your helping to night,’ said Manannan. (But there is one thing. It is thus it was with the man who made that speech: there was never a man sick or ill he did not discern and diagnose the damage and he was healed by his aid, and there was never a man loathed food or drink to whom he did not restore his liking with diligence.) Manannan went to where was his head-steward, and piquant flavours must be put in every dish prepared for Eithne, and Manannan practised all his powers on them, and he came with the ladies of the mansion into the hail and . . . of every food and flavour was brought to them. Nothing was gained by that plot . . . to make Eithne taste it and all who were there wondered that Manannan could not get the maiden to taste food or drink. Manannan wondered that his power was brought to nought, and he felt it a shame that anyone[?] should be fasting in his house, and he asked the maiden would she drink the milking of the Speckled Cow and she herself or some other woman to milk it . . . a golden goblet as in Asia . . . whence they were brought; that is, the Dun [and the Speckled]... goblets and spancels which are for the milking, and the cow’s buttock was given to Eithne (that is the Speckled Cow of Manannan) and the golden goblet and the silken spancel and the maiden milked her after that and her milking was her food and drink that night and she was not weak in that house.
‘Do you know’, said Manannan to his people, ‘wherefore you maiden eats no food?’ ‘We know not’ said they. ‘I will inform you’ said Manannan. ‘She belongs neither to the people of Aengus nor yet to our people. For when Finnbarr insulted yon maiden her guardian demon left her heart and an angel came in his place, and that prevents us searching her heart and she worships neither wizardry nor devilry, and that is why she drinks the milk of yonder cow because it Was brought from a righteous land, from India, and . . . nourishing and fosterage of yon maiden watching over her. . . that is: the nourishing of the house of two goblets. It is the Trinity... are the gods whom that maiden adores’ said he.
But one thing also: Curcog and her ladies and Eithne were a month and a fortnight at Emain Ablach and she tasted no food in the house save the milking of the Speckled Cow; and then they travelled to their own home for, though great was the mirth and frisking and the pleasure and gaiety of Emain Ablach, . . . to Curcog [it fell] short of being in the mansion on the Boyne at that time. Manannan was trying to delay Curcog, and repeated the poem:
Oh Curcog, of pure beauty, be not reluctant to remain.9. After that Curcog went on with her ladies and she bade farewell to Manannan and to his wife and household and travelled to Brugh na Boinne. Aengus came to meet them and welcomed the company and asked news of them. He inquired of Curcog what food or drink had Eithne taken or did Manannan not know the cause why she did not eat. ‘She tasted no food or drink during the visit’, said Curcog, ‘save the milking of Manannan’s Speckle . . . the stoppage of Manannan’S great power, food or drink . . . Nevertheless he recognized the cause why she would not taste food on the Isle of Man.’ ‘. . . the cause’ said Aengus. ‘He said it soon,’ said Curcog ‘and this is what he said: that it is the one almighty God is the cause why she eats no food of the Tuatha De Danann, and he said when Finnbarr insulted the maiden that she parted from her magic iind an angelic Spfrt came in her heart’s place, and he said that it was the cause of her desertion and that she belonged to no other people but the true people of the Almighty Monarch.’ Howbeit from the time of Eremon son of Mil the maiden abode in that manner to the time of Laegaire son of Niall Noigiallach (that is; the time when the Tailginn came to Ireland). This was the maiden’s manner of life in that age: a while in the house of her guardian Aengus at Brugh na Boinne and a while in Manannan’s house at Emain Ablach and she tasted no food or drink in the house of Manannan save the milking of the Speckled Cow nor in the Brugh save the milking of Aengus’ Dun Cow and she herself milking each cow into a golden goblet as we said before. But one thing: the nourishing of the house of two goblets was magnified throughout Eire by the Tuatha De Danann and by the Milesians, and it was also called ‘the fosterage of the house of the two goblets’, and that nourishing is proverbial still and shall be for ever.
Thy nourishment every evening
the songs of the Land of Promise.
* * * *
the vast appeasement of every trouble.
* * of its rough clean wave-loud strand.
* * * *
10. When the Tailginn came, and when druids and demons were expelled by him from Eire, and when every one in the community had submitted to religion and piety, Curcog and her ladies were on the lawn of Brugh na Boinne in summer weather. Heat and sultriness overcame the ladies and they went to swim in the Boyne. When the maidens had had enough of swimming and diving each one of them went to her garments and left the river. Eithne did not notice the maidens’ departure and it so happened to them that the ‘Fed Fiar’ and the magic left that lovely maiden, that is Eithne. (For it is through that the cornany could not be seen at the beginning and that Eithne was not seen till that hour.) Eithne did not see the company then (and every one could see her) and she came ashore and put on her clothes and began to search for them on the banks of the Boyne and found them not. And before long she saw a branchy blue-boughed garden and the bare wall of a cemetery built round it and the maiden went towards that cemetery and saw a greyhaired joyous cleric in the door of the church, and a Testament, and he was earnestly praising the Creator. The maiden at once saluted the cleric and he answered; ‘What brings thee here alone oh maiden?’ said he. She told him her adventures. ‘Who art thou, oh cleric?’ said the maiden ‘and to what household dost thou belong?’ ‘I am of the household of God’, said the cleric, ‘and Patrick son of Calpurnius is my lord and viceroy. Who are thy people, oh maiden?’ said the cleric. ‘I am of the Tuatha De Danann’ said she ‘till now, and my people and thine are the same.’ ‘Thy coming to us is welcome’ said the cleric ‘and not to thee ...' '...if of God’s faithful people, that faith of thine?’ said the maiden. ‘Praising the Lord and reading aloud from this book, and if thou art of God’s faithful people it were strange thou didst not know it.’ ‘Teach me to know it’ said the maiden ‘for I never saw its like. Moreover I would like thee to teach me henceforward and give me a lesson on every poem.’ She said:
Give me its own profit,11. After that poem Eithne bent her head over the book and read it without delay as if she had learnt it from the night she was born. The cleric was amazed at the maiden’s recitation and how she read the book for if she had had all the books Patrick brought to Ireland she would have read them without delay and the cleric loved and respected her the more. They were at this till the cleric’s dinner hour. He then rose and took his fishing-rod and went to the river and Eithne had not long to wait till he came to the house with a beautiful salmon. ‘What hast thou got?’ said the maiden. ‘My share of provisions from the Lord’ said the cleric ‘and I have need of it tonight that I never had before.’ ‘What wilt thou eat?’ said the maiden. ‘I am pledged to an individual inordinate appetite.’ ‘If I knew how thou didst it, noble sir’ said the maiden ‘I would not take from thy share but take thou the rod and seek my share from the Lord as thou didst get for thyself.’ ‘I will go myself, oh maiden’, said he. The cleric went to the river and let down the rod and he had not long to wait till he caught a most splendid salmon. Its like was never seen and he took it to the maiden and it was an exploit to carry it from the river to the church. He laid the salmon down and did reverence to the maiden after that, and said: ‘thou art indeed one of God’s people, oh maiden’, said he, ‘and may my soul be under thy soul’s protectoin.' Then the cleric sat down and began to pound the fish till it was ready and they ate the roe of it, that is half and half. . . every morsel of it tasted like honey. Then he made a bed for the maiden and another bed for himself, and they were sharing everything fairly with harmony and unanimity for a long time.
oh warrior, to whom I vow my service.
Its like for sweetness
I heard not in the Land of Promise.
If sweet to thee to hear it,
oh fair yellow-haired maiden,
you will listen indeed this time
to what is in this book.
Take the little psalter steadfastly,
oh pregnant cleric of the Tailginn.
Put in memory all the learning
that is in it. Give.
But as to the company of ladies: they had left Eithne and could not find her and they approached Aengus sadly and told him timidly of the loss of the maiden. Aengus at once transformed Curcog, and his steed was brought him, and Curcog went with him on the search. Aenghus went forward to Ros Dighair and he searched every fort in Eire for the maiden and he found her not, and he came to the banks of the Boyne and searched for her. While they were there they saw the oratory and the dwelling and came just opposite on the far side of the river. Fithne looked forth on the riders and recognized Aengus and Curcog and their companions. The cleric brought her food, also for himself, on the side near the maiden’s fishing-weir and, though he looked, he did not see them because the ‘Feth Fiar’ was over them. The cleric asked the maiden: ‘What see’st thou, oh maiden?’ said he. ‘I see Aengus my guardian searching for me, and my comrade, Curcog, and the household of the Brugh, and her ladies. It will be a vain search for them’ said the maiden. ‘. . . indeed if it be the will of God’ said the cleric.
Dear to me is yon host of riders12. After that poem the cleric prayed to the Lord for Patrick to come to comfort and succour him for fear the maiden should be taken from them against her will. The Lord granted to the cleric to get his righteous prayer so that at the same moment Patrick came with his clerics to the door of the oratory and Aengus to the other side of the river. Then Patrick asked the cleric for the maiden’s story and an argument began between him and Aengus concerning her so that Aengus asked: ‘Will you let my ward come to me, oh cleric?’ ‘The maid is not thy ward’ said Patrick ‘but the ward of the God of creation though she was lent by her father to thee.’ ‘I impute capability . . . to the maiden’ said Aengus ‘if she thinks it to her advantage to come to... and I lacking the power of the Lord.’ ‘I am afraid’ said Patrick. ‘If you took my advice Aengus’ said he ‘I fear not your interference in any righteous affair.’ ‘What is it?’ said Aengus. ‘Worship the true Almighty God and shun vain gods and arise in the name of the Trinity and change thy name and depart from torments.’ ‘That is not the cause for which we came from our home’ said Aengus. He then spurred his horse from the river and retired sadly and sorrowfully, and his ward perceived his reluctance. He recited the poem:
whom I see along the blue-banked Boyne,
a royal haughty company.
There was no strife or calamity.
The joy of the company
Aengus Og, son of the Dagda,
is a horseman, is a sailor.
The pleasant household of the fair Brugh
are warlike, wound-dealing, valiant.
The sad and sorrowful lad
shall be Aengus’ name to night.
The women of the fair-shielded Brugh
find no rest from searching,
and my comrade Curcog
ceases not from lamenting me.
It was the duty of all to guard her.
From the day I was taunted
by Finnbarr, by my guardian’s brother,
I will not wait for Manannan
for noble Ilbrec or Sigmall.
I bless that Finnbarr
through whom came my love of God,
the speech of the long haired one
which put me to shame that day.
I will not wait for Abhartach who withstood Bodhb of armaments
His religion is a shield which shall be praised
* * * *
The escort on this journey
is for none of the Tuatha De Danann.
My body to Jesus and my soul.
Welcome is the arrival of the Tailgenn
who came to Eire of the yew-wood.
Without this suffering
death with him would yet be sweet.
Let us return in sorrow. Oh Eithne of the bright shapely head,After that Aengus and his household uttered a terrible wailing cry lamenting Eithne. When Eithne heard Aengus’ people weeping her heart leapt in her bosom and from that start came grief from one breast into the other. She asked Patrick for baptism and remission of sins and received it from him and was named after him. But one thing: for a whole fortnight the maiden grew steadily worse and was praying to God and to Patrick who with his clerics was much grieved. When Eithne felt her death was near she commended her soul to God and to Patrick and recited the poem:
the fair white ungrateful swan [whom I shall] cherish no more.
[Since] they took away her comrade it is useless guarding Curcog.
...of the treachery since parting I will put away most of them.
There is an edge of three loud cries lamenting as a wounded man
the departure from the mansion on the right of the brown river-side pasture.
Eithne is no more my child from this out.
oh host of the Land of Promise, but though grievous for us let us do it.
The coming of the Tailgenn to this land is my misfortune (I do not conceal it)
departing from her I leave. But though hard and harsh let us do it.
Call me, ye people of heaven, call my soul by your prayers.After that poem Patrick took the maiden’s head on his breast atrtd sent her spirit to heaven and they gave her honourable burial. So that Ceall Eithne (Eithne’s Church) at Brugh of the Boyne is called after her. The name of the cleric to whom the maiden came was Ceasan, a Scotch prince and chaplain to Patrick. He could not bear the hermitage because Eithne had died there and left it and went to Fid Gaible and there led a holy life so that the church named after him is there, Cluain Cesain at Ros Mic Treoin in Fid Gaible. It was a pleasant camp of the Fianna before that. That is ‘the Fosterage of the House of Two Goblets’ so far.
I will not forsake God’s heaven for the mansion of my guardian Aengus.
Pleasant is the house where are the people of the Holy Lord.
His grace shall be sung and his changeless felicity.
Though the women of the Brugh weep and wail greatly
I prefer the cry of clerics at my head defending my soul from hell.
I thank Christ of the children for my parting from the Tuatha De Danann.
Though I am of their race I am not one of them. I believe in Jesus, the great king.
The story of the Fosterage of the House of Two Goblets is not an unknown story.
All the nobles of grassy Fodla will ask for it.
Oh Patrick son of noble Calpurnius, defend my soul from anguish,
Absolve me of my sins and faults if you hear my appeal.
And Patrick commanded that no one should sleep or talk during this story and that it should not be told save at the prayer of good people who were worthiest to hear it and he ordained many other distinctions concerning it as is told in this elegy:
Dig ye the grave of generous Eithne
in the church above the dewy-green Boyne:
a fair scion of bright knowledge.
The host of Aengus were distressed.
I and Aengus, expert in arms,
a pair whose hidden mystery had not its like,
there was never in the wide world
one we loved like Eithne.
I will attach these blessings
to the story of Eithne of Finn-magh:
the best of children, the best of companions,
shalt thou see when sleeping with fair women.
If thou repeatest the ‘Nourishing’
going on a ship or vessel
thou shalt go safe and sound. wave or billow.
If thou repeatest the ‘Nourishing’
* * * *
If thou repeatest the story of Eithne when taking a stately wife
good is the step thou takest
thou shalt have the heat of wives and children.
Repeat the story of noble Eithne
when going into a new ale-house;
there will be no squabbling or foolishness
no drawing of curved valiant weapons.
Repeat to a wealthy king
the story of Eithne during destruction
he will not lose his throne if he listens in silence.
If you repeat this wondrous story
to the prisoners of Ireland.
...they will be freed of their fetters and prisons.
Blessed be the soul was in Eithne’s fair body.
Who ever knows this elegy
shall carry off the victory.
Beloved was the smooth golden hair
and the fair rosy countenance
the fair foam-like body
and the sweet-spoken mouth.
Beloved was the noble attractive body
and the fair face,
the lovely modest mouth and white thighs.
Let her festival be written in our songs
and seen and ordered in our world.
Let her body be buried in this church.
ed. and trans. Maighréad ni C. Dobs. Zeitchrift für Celtische Philologie vol. 18 (1929-30)