The Cattle Raid of Cualnge, by L. Winifred Faraday, , at sacred-texts.com
Then came the men of the bodyguard to the ford of the hosting. Fine the way in which the fighting-men came to the battle on Garach and Irgarach. Then came the nine chariot-men of the champions of Iruath, three before them on foot. Not more slowly did they come than the chariot-men. Medb did not let them into the battle, for dragging Ailill out of the battle if it is him they should defeat, or for killing Conchobar if it is he who should be defeated.
Then his charioteer told Cuchulainn that Ailill and Medb were asking Fergus to go into the battle; and they said to him that it was only right for him to do it, for they had done him much kindness on his exile.
'If I had my sword indeed,' said Fergus, 'the heads of men over shields would be more numerous with me than hailstones in the mire to which come the horses of a king after they have broken into the land (?).'
Then Fergus made this oath: 'I swear, etc., there would be broken by me cheeks of men from their necks, necks of men with their (lower) arms, arms of men with their elbows, elbows of men with their arms, arms of men with their fists, fists of men with their fingers, fingers of men with their nails, [nails] of men with their skull-roofs, skull-roofs of men with their middle, middle of men with their thighs, thighs of men with their knees, knees of men with their calves, calves of men with their feet, feet of men with their toes, toes of men with their nails. I would make their necks whizz (?) ——— as a bee would move to and fro on a day of beauty (?).'
Then Ailill said to his charioteer: 'Let there come to me the sword which destroys skin. I swear by the god by whom my people swear, if you have its bloom worse to-day than on the day on which I gave it to you in the hillside in the boundary of Ulster, though the men of Ireland were protecting you from me, they should not protect you.'
Then his sword was brought to Fergus, and Ailill said: 'Take thy sword,' etc. 1
'A pity for thee to fall on the field of battle, thick [with slain?],' said Fergus to Ailill.
The Badb and Net's wife and the Nemain called on them that night on Garach and Irgarach; so that a hundred warriors of them died for terror. That was not the quietest of nights for them.
Then Fergus takes his arms and turns into the battle, and clears a gap of a hundred in the battle with his sword in his two hands. Then Medb took the arms of Fergus (?) and rushed into the battle, and she was
victorious thrice, so that she was driven back by force of arms.
'I do not know,' said Conchobar to his retinue who were round him, 'before whom has the battle been broken against us from the north. Do you maintain the fight here, that I may go against him.'
'We will hold the place in which we are,' said the warriors, 'unless the earth bursts beneath us, or the heaven upon us from above, so that we shall break therefrom.'
Then Conchobar came against Fergus. He lifts his shield against him, i.e.. Conchobar's shield Ochan, with three horns of gold on it, and four ——— of gold over it. Fergus strikes three blows on it, so that even the rim of his shield over his head did not touch him.
'Who of the Ulstermen holds the shield?' said Fergus.
'A man who is better than you,' said Conchobar; 'and he has brought you into exile into the dwellings of wolves and foxes, and he will repel you to-day in combat in the presence of the men of Ireland.'
Fergus aimed on him a blow of vengeance with his two hands on Conchobar, so that the point of the sword touched the ground behind him.
Cormac Condlongas put his hands upon him, and closed his two hands about his arm.
'———. O my friend, O Fergus,' said Cormac. '… Hostile is the friendship; right is your enmity; your compact has been destroyed; evil are the blows that you strike, O friend, O Fergus,' said Cormac.
'Whom shall I smite?' said Fergus.
'Smite the three hills … in some other direction over them; turn your hand; smite about you on
every side, and .have no consideration for them. Take thought for the honour of Ulster: what has not been lost shall not be lost, if it be not lost through you to-day (?).
'Go in some other direction, O Conchobar,' said Cormac to his father; 'this man will not put out his rage on the Ulstermen any more here.'
Fergus turned away. He slew a hundred warriors of Ulster in the first combat with the sword. He met Conall Cernach.
'Too great rage is that,' said Conall Cernach, 'on people and race, for a wanton.'
'What shall I do, O warriors?' said he.
'Smite the hills across them and the champions (?) round them,' said Conall Cernach.
Fergus smote the hills then, so that he struck the three Maela 1 of Meath with his three blows. Cuchulainn heard the blows then that Fergus gave on the hills or on the shield of Conchobar himself.
'Who strikes the three strong blows, great and distant?' said Cuchulainn.
… Then Loeg answered and said: 'The choice of men, Fergus Mac Roich the very bold, smites them.' …
Then Cuchulainn said: 'Unloose quickly the hazel-twigs; blood covers men, play of swords will be made, men will be spent therefrom.'
Then his dry wisps spring from him on high, as far as ——— goes; and his hazel-twigs spring off, till they were in Mag Tuag in Connaught … and he smote the head of each of the two handmaidens against the other, so that each of them was grey from the brain of the other. They came from Medb for pretended
lamentation over him, that his wounds might burst forth on him; and to say that the Ulstermen had been defeated, and that Fergus had fallen in opposing the battle, since Cuchulainn's coming into the battle had been prevented. The contortion came on him, and twenty-seven skin-tunics were given to him, that used to be about him under strings and thongs when he went into battle; and he takes his chariot on his back with its body and its two tyres, and he made for Fergus round about the battle.
'Turn hither, O friend Fergus,' said Cuchulainn; and he did not answer till the third time. 'I swear by the god by whom the Ulstermen swear,' said he, 'I will wash thee as foam 1 (?) is washed in a pool, I will go over thee as the tail goes over a cat, I will smite thee as a fond mother smites her son.'
'Which of the men of Ireland speaks thus to me?' said Fergus.
'Cuchulainn Mac Sualtaim, sister's son to Conchobar,' said Cuchulainn; 'and avoid me,' said he.
'I have promised even that,' said Fergus.
'Your promise falls due, then,' said Cuchulainn.
'Good,' said Fergus, '(you avoided me), when you are pierced with wounds.'
Then Fergus went away with his cantred; the Leinstermen go and the Munstermen; and they left in the battle nine cantreds of Medb's and Ailill's and their seven sons.
In the middle of the day it is that Cuchulainn came into the battle; when the sun came into the leaves of the wood, it is then that he defeated the last company,
so that there remained of the chariot only a handful of the ribs about the body, and a handful of the shafts about the wheel.
Cuchulainn overtook Medb then when he went into the battle.
'Protect me,' said Medb.
'Though I should slay thee with a slaying, it were lawful for me,' said Cuchulainn.
Then he protected her, because he used not to slay women. He convoyed them westward, till they passed Ath Luain. Then he stopped. He struck three blows with his sword on the stone in Ath Luain. Their name is the Maelana 1 of Ath Luain.
When the battle was broken, then said Medb to Fergus: 'Faults and ——— meet here to-day, O Fergus,' said she.
'It is customary,' said Fergus, 'to every herd which a mare precedes; … after a woman who has ill consulted their interest.'
135:1 Rhetoric, twelve lines.
137:1 i.e. flat-topped hills.
138:1 Reading with LL.
139:1 See note on p. 137.