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1. The Wedding

Hundred grooms prepared the stables,
hundred servants spread the bedding,
hundred maidens laid the tables,
hundred brewers sent their bill;
a thousand guests were coming to the wedding
of Finn and Grainne on the Holy Hill.

From the rocky coast of Kerry,
from the plains of Connemara,
from the murky woods of Derry,
from the hills and vales of Meath
the noblemen and ladies came to Tara,
while champions left their sword's blade in the sheath.

When the High King led his daughter
to the Fianna's chief whose power
could be felt in peace and slaughter,
Finn took Dorraing to the side,
'You've told the truth - she is the fairest flower
of Erin's gardens and a worthy bride!'

But when Grainne saw him staring
at her body, smiling smugly,
she was instantly declaring
her dislike for Dorraing's plan,
'You've lied to me - he's old and grey and ugly,
and I shall never lie beside this man!'

Grainne had a reputation
for her wit, and it was rumoured
that in any situation
her reply would be the best;
as Finn was fond of riddles and good-humoured,
he challenged her and put her to the test.

'What bites more than a bad habit?' -
'That's a cursed man's apprehension.' -
'Who hears better than a rabbit?'
and she said, 'A man who's blind.' -
'What alters faster than a good intention?'
and Grainne answered him, 'A woman's mind.'

On the lawn the harpist gently
touched the strings and sang of beauty,
long-legged waitresses intently
served the bacon and the ale,
and while the fools and jugglers did their duty,
Finn entertained his guests with many a tale.

But the ladies' eyes were resting
on the champion with the bonnet
while the girls and maids were jesting,
and the men were even worse;
Finn realised their interest in the bonnet
and spoke of Diarmait's life and of his curse.

'Once in Angus' famous houses
I was feasting with some other
champions, with their friends and spouses
and with Diarmait's father Donn,
while Diarmait played some games with his small brother,
his father's steward's and his mother's son.

'Suddenly the hounds were fighting
o'er the meat - they were frustrated,
they were growling, scratching, biting,
each one raged, and each one bled;
amongst the hounds, as they were separated,
we found the steward's son, and he was dead.

'But we found no tooth-mark on his
corpse, no sign of any hassle
with the hounds, no bruise upon his
body, on his back or side;
I took a chess-board and a golden vessel
of water to discover how he died.

'It was shown that he was playing
near the hounds, but soon he noted
their bad blood as they were baying,
and he fled to nearby trees.
Donn saw him running through his legs; he gloated
and crushed the little boy between his knees.

'With a druid-rod the father
touched the corpse, mournfully sighing,
and it turned into a rather
huge and fright'ning earless boar,
„Kill Diarmait when he's strongest, and the dying
hero shall kill you as you'll kill before!"

'He is wild and evil-tempered,
and destruction is his feature,
he knocks down the strongest rampart,
and he makes the Fianna blush:
the earless boar is Erin's fiercest creature
and kills two hundred champions in a rush!

'Diarmait grew and joined the forces
of the King - no foot is lighter
than his own, he tames mad horses,
and his spear would never miss;
he is the Fianna's most inventive fighter,
and only four are stronger than he is.

'Once we met a man - a poet,
as he claimed; he told a riddle,
and he asked me would I know it,
and I found the puzzle's keys.
„A feast's prepared for you right in the middle
of Lochlann's woods among the Quicken Trees."

'Four men came along. The pleasant
house was empty and the stable,
but there was some fruit and pheasant,
and a fragrant fire did burn;
our host had spread soft sheets around the table,
so we sat down, awaiting his return.

'Soon the fire stank to heaven
while the food decayed, and banished
was our joy; instead of seven
open gates there was one door,
and it was locked - the precious sheets had vanished,
and we were sitting on the naked floor.

‘Then we found we were unable
to get up; King Miodac's hated
host had reached the nearby stable
while we languished on the ground,
and so we sounded the Dord Fiann and waited,
because we knew the Fianna was around.

'Fighting bravely to deliver
us from Miodac's foul enchantment,
they were cornered at the river,
even though they struggled well;
then Diarmait came, took over the commandment,
and with the traitor's blood he broke the spell.

'Conan said, as he was near him,
„Bring the food he was preparing!"
but, pretending not to hear him,
Diarmait stopped and took a rest.
„I wish I were a maid," he was declaring,
for Diarmait never spurns a girl's request.

'For the night an agèd shepherd
gave us lodging, and his daughter
gave us lamb sticks, richly peppered,
and a smile, intent and bright;
she gave us bacon, self-brewed ale and water
and told us we would share her room that night.

'She was tall; her chestnut tresses
framed her beauty, and her gentle
eyes were warm as the caresses
of the fearless mountain deer,
her slender neck was soft and transcendental,
her endless legs announced a heaven near.

'We retired soon; the setting
sun had set, the day had ended,
and we hoped that we'd be getting
all the boons a man desires:
a meal, a bed, a woman, as the splendid
custom of hospitality requires.

'Conan sneaked up to the naked
beauty, and he introduced him-
self as Conan Mór the Wakèd,
and he looked into her eyes.
„I want to sleep with you," but she refused him,
„You've had me once, and no one has me twice."

'So I walked up to the maiden,
but her luring eyes confused me,
and my heart was passion-laden
as I looked into those eyes.
„I want to lie beside you" - she refused me,
„You've had me once, and no one has me twice."

Diarmait tried, and he was smiling
as my crude attempt amused him
greatly; with his most beguiling
gaze he looked into her eyes.
„I want your love tonight!" but she refused him,
„You've had me once, and no one has me twice."

'Slowly she removed her cover,
„I am Youth, your short-lived shady
romance, and you were my lover."
Then she held him in her arms
and put a love spot on his head; no lady
who ever sees it can resist his charms!'

'Let us see your love spot, Diarmait!'
all the women chanted loudly.
'Let us see your love spot, Diarmait!'
Grainne shrieked with wild delight.
'I can't, for if I did,' said Diarmait proudly,
'I'd probably be loved to death tonight!'

As the silver moon was rising
in the sky, the celebration
still continued, and surprising
deeds were told of olden days,
but Grainne's mind had left the conversation;
she couldn't turn her eyes from Diarmait's face.

2. The Geis

Late at night the feast was over;
watchmen closed the city gates,
Grainne went into her chamber,
languished and dismissed her maids.

In the House of Swords slept Diarmait,
in the yard the restless hounds,
and along the gates of Tara
Finn, as usual, walked his rounds.

Grainne sneaked up to the courtyard;
there she threw a juicy bone
o'er the wall. The hounds were barking,
and she picked a little stone.

Diarmait came to separate them,
Grainne aimed the stone she found
and cast off the champion's bonnet
which was falling to the ground.

Grainne saw the famous love spot,
and she couldn't help but feel
in her heart the piercing passion
like a blade of icy steel.

As he walked back to his chamber,
she awaited him inside,
'I have seen your love spot, Diarmait,
and I want your love tonight!'

'Finn's my friend and my commander;
I will never touch his bride,
and it's from your wedded husband
you shall get your love tonight!'

'No one ever has rejected
what I offer till this day;
from the time I was begotten
I have always got my way!

'But as you refuse to take me,
I shall put a geis on you:
that you flee with me from Tara's
halls before the night is through.

'There's a door beneath my bower,
and a narrow passage leads
to a clearing in the forest
with a cabin made of reeds.'

'If I have to leave the city,
I will take another course;
it is not a champion's habit
sneaking out of secret doors.

'If I flee the Hill of Tara
now, I must be seen by all:
with my sword I'll cut the bushes,
with my spear I'll jump the wall!'

Grainne hurried to the cabin
with a sparkle in her eyes -
meanwhile Diarmait scoured the chambers
of his friends for good advice.

'As you're under bonds,' said Oisin,
'there's no choice. You must give in;
I suggest you follow Grainne,
and you stay away from Finn!'

'You can not be blamed,' said Osgar.
'You must go with Grainne now;
there's no mercy for a champion
who would break a geis or vow.'

'You must follow her,' said Caoilte
with a sneer upon his face.
'You'll be hunted for a lifetime,
but I'd love to take your place!'

'There is no escape,' said Dorraing
who was struggling for his breath.
'You will have to go with Grainne,
and through her you'll meet your death.'

'Thank you for your help,' said Diarmait
to his friends. 'Farewell, ye all!'
With a curse he left the building,
and he leapt across the wall.

3. The Pursuit

Across the woods, the meadows and the river
the fleeing couple headed for the West.
The night was cold, and she began to shiver,
'I'm tired,' said Grainne, 'let us have a rest.'

Diarmait looked up and said, 'The moon is dead now
and pale; it's time for getting tired all right,
so let us turn around and go to bed now,
and Finn shall never know about tonight.'

'I won't go back, and I will never leave you!
I want to share your fate and share your curse;
I'll always love you, and I won't deceive you!' -
'But you'll deceive your husband, which is worse.'

He gathered branches from the trees and bushes
and built a hut with seven doors around,
he spread a bed of birch tree tops and rushes
for Grainne to lie down upon the ground.

They had to leave each lodging in the morning:
Finn followed them through forest, plain and bog,
but when he came, they got an early warning
from Diarmait's friends, Finn's hounds or Angus Og.

The love god then would fly away with Grainne
into his marble house through time and space,
while Diarmait would be fighting with the Fianna
and then collect her from his patron's place.

He was aware her raging spouse would find him,
and even though he knew he couldn't win,
he always left unbroken bread behind him
to show he kept his loyalty to Finn. -

One early morning, while the High King's daughter
was sleeping, Diarmait's name upon her lips,
he climbed a grassy hill to watch the water,
and in the West he saw a fleet of ships.

They anchored in the bay, and from a vessel
the leaders with their weapons went ashore;
he greeted them, aware there might be hassle,
and asked them straight what they were coming for.

'Green Champions, we're considered an ill omen;
we're their three kings, and all these men are chiefs.
Finn asked us for support against his foemen,
because he wants to rid the land of thieves.

'One in particular, who tries to flee him:
we're looking for the man who took away
his wife. His name is Diarmait; did you see him?' -
'I've seen a girl who saw him yesterday.

'Bring me a cask of wine,' adjured the charmer.
'I want to show a brilliant trick to you,
and anyone shall get my sword and armour
who manages to do what I will do!'

The cask rolled down the hill; as Diarmait threw it,
he balanced on it, and no wine was spilled.
'This is no trick, for anyone can do it!' -
But those who tried fell down, and they got killed.

Next morning he went back to them, brave-hearted,
and saw the men preparing for the fight.
'Have you seen Diarmait, stranger, since we parted?' -
'I've seen a girl who saw your man this night.'

He put his sword between two trees, and lighter
than birds' feet were his own. He walked with ease;
'I'll give my sword and armour to the fighter
who walks upon the sword between the trees!'

'This act may be a trick in foreign places
where people know no champions,' laughed the men.
They climbed the tree, a sneer upon their faces,
and in two pieces they came down again.

Next morning they received him in a stately
manner. A chief approached and raised his brow,
'No tricks today! Have you seen Diarmait lately?' -
'I see a man who sees your man right now!'

He drew his sword before he grasped the answer
and with a sudden blow removed his head;
and every champion, every chief and lancer
attacking Diarmait soon as well was dead.

He captured their three kings amidst the battle
while all the champions fled the raven's croak;
he led the hostages away like cattle
and tied them to the root of Ogma's Oak.

Then he told Grainne of his feat, the hurry
of knights, and how their leaders begged and moaned.
'And did you kill those Kings?' - 'Why should I worry?
There's four men who could loose them, and they won't.

'Let's go to Tara now and beg Finn's pardon:
I never touched you, and I never will.
I do not want Finn's heart and mine to harden -
he will forgive me, and he'll love you still.'

'We won't go back! You know you have to hide me
a lifetime, and I swear to all our gods
that Finn mac Cumhail will never sleep beside me,
not if he whipped me with his druid rods!'

‘It's not too healthy being on the razzle
with the whole Fianna following our tracks:
your stubbornness will make us see Hy-Brasil!
But then,' he sighed, 'you're of the stubborn sex.'

Meanwhile the Fianna reached the Western Ocean,
and at the foot of Ogma's Oak they found,
without a sign of life, without a motion,
the kings Diarmait had fastened to the ground.

Finn said to Oisin, 'Will you loose these three that
the man has tied who stole away my bride?'
'I won't,' said Oisin.' There's a geis on me that
I never free a man whom Diarmait tied.'

So Finn was turning to his strongest fighter,
'Now Osgar, bring their suff'rings to an end!' -
'I'd rather make their bonds a little tighter
since they have tried to kill our dearest friend.'

'If Diarmait tied them, he has had a reason,'
said Lugaidh's Son and disobeyed his chief.
'I don't believe that he committed treason,
and I will never fall from my belief.'

'He stole my wife, and he humiliated
my friends, and he shall pay for every bruise!
Now Conan, loose their bonds!' But Conan stated,
'My hands were made to tie and not to loose!'

'Oh, how I wish that I could find this goner
who took my wife, and, by the gods, I will!' -
'We think that it is Diarmait you should honour;
we think that it is Grainne you should kill!' -

In Dubhro's Wood there lived a mighty giant
who guarded sacred berries for the Dea:
the Surly One was vicious and defiant,
and e'en the Fianna feared to hunt out there.

But Diarmait sought him and spoke up before him,
and soon the Surly One came to agree
that he could hunt his forest if he swore him
to stay away from the forbidden tree.

One morning at the brook he scented danger
and saw a champion on the other side.
'What are you looking for?' he asked the stranger.
'Your head, if you are Diarmait, and your bride.

'My father killed Finn's father - since this action
we are at war, and Finn is asking me
to bring him Diarmait's head for satisfaction
or berries from a guarded quicken tree.'

'But he's avenged since Finn has killed your father,
and he knows well that you will not survive
the effort to get either. You should rather
remain at war with him and save your life.'

'So it was not enough to capture Grainne,
his wife, but you must speak of him like that?' -
'Why are those berries,' interrupted Grainne,
'that you are on about so hard to get?'

'They're from the Country of the Everliving:
a giant lives among the mighty roots
to guard the quicken tree, for it is giving
eternal youth to those who eat its fruits.'

'I want those berries,' shrieked the girl. 'I'm sorry,'
said Diarmait, 'but I shall not break my vow;
and while he guards this wood, we needn't worry' -
'I want those berries, and I want them now!'

'It's not too healthy being on the razzle
with the whole Fianna following our tracks;
your greediness will make us see Hy-Brasil!
But then,' he sighed, you're of the greedy sex.'

'You come to break our peace?' the giant shouted.
'It's that this woman caught me in her spell.
Just pass a handful - I have never doubted
the two of us would get on very well.'

The Surly One just raised his club and spitted,
'You want to fight me with that tiny sword?'
But Diarmait leapt and grabbed his club and hit it
upon its owner's head; the giant roared.

His roar awoke Killarney's water fairies,
but after two more blows he roared no more,
and Diarmait climbed the tree and picked some berries
and left the giant lying in his gore.

He gave a fistful to the grateful quitter,
'Tell Finn you picked those berries, and make haste!'
while Grainne spat them out, 'Those fruits are bitter
and hard, and I don't like their pungent taste.'

Finn met the anxious champion at the river,
'I won't make peace with you, for as it stands
you did not pick those berries you deliver -
they carry still the smell of Diarmait's hands!' -

The night was rough and wild, and Grainne felt her
soft skin go cold beneath her wanting dress.
A Fomor came - he asked the two for shelter
and challenged Diarmait to a game of chess.

'So what's the stake?' asked Diarmait. 'Are we playing
for swords?' And Grainne, tossing back a curl,
smiled at the gloomy man as he was saying,
'I'll play for nothing else but for the girl!'

He put his arm around her, and the lampion
adorned her as she sat upon his knee,
'For years I've been the mistress of this champion,
and still he never came that close to me.'

'It's not too healthy being on the razzle
with the whole Fianna following our tracks;
your fickleness will make us see Hy-Brasil!
But then,' he sighed, 'you're of the fickle sex.'

Thus Diarmait raised his sword against the stirrer,
'I'm sorry that I have to kill you now!'
The sword came down, and in the dusky mirror
of Grainne's eyes his head dropped like her vow.

She screamed with terror as the head was falling
into her lap, and with a plaintive cry
she leapt and rid herself of the appalling
remnant and stabbed a knife in Diarmait's thigh.

Without a word he left the cave and wandered
aimlessly through the stormy winter night,
while Grainne - looking at the weather - pondered,
and soon the man she loved was out of sight.

Then she ran after him, and in the morning,
her flimsy garment soaked with rain and dew,
she found the runaway. The day was dawning,
and he was sleeping tight beneath a yew.

'I'm sorry, Diarmait,' Grainne whispered lowly,
'with you I am, with you I want to stay!'
He sourly smiled at her and answered slowly,
'Since when do wolves apologise to prey?'

'I love you, Diarmait, even though you're showing
less warmth than all those distant stars above.
My love for you is strong and ever growing;
I'd rather die than live without your love!'

'I was a champion and a dear companion,
I was a hunter - now I am the prey.
Because of you the warrior and Fennian
is forced to shun the night and flee the day!

'You separated me from all I cherish:
my friends, my lands, my houses - I'm undone,
and in the wilderness I have to perish
in flight from him who loved me like a son!'

'Oh Diarmait of the golden hair, I love you:
to no one else I'll ever give my heart.
I love the air you breathe, the sky above you,
the world around you - never let us part!'

'Oh you whose smile is like the summer breezes,
whose heart is like the coldest moonless night,
whose deed destroys, and yet whose language pleases,
oh you who never took one step aright,

'You worthless woman of the frightful fetter,
voracious vulture dressing as a dove,
even your hatred would have served me better
than this obscure emotion you call love.

'Your heart is but a nuisance for the living,
your love declining sooner than the sun
behind the Western Sea as you are giving
your love to Finn and me and anyone!'

'I'm hungry,' said the girl to end the crisis.
'There's bread,' said Diarmait, 'but it's old and dry.' -
'I wish we had a knife to cut the slices.' -
'The knife is where you left it - in my thigh.'

4. The Victory

I'd run off with the High King's wife
and fear not for my name and life,
but I won't hurt a friend of mine,
and Finn knows well that I'd decline
the precious gift that came to me,
as long as he my friend would be.
He is no more: he wants my head
and will not rest until I'm dead.
So build our house of twigs around
and spread sweet blossoms on the ground,
for I have to take you tonight!

Now I shall pull the raven-hair
and bend the stubborn neck and scare
the evil eye of nightly gloom
and chew the mouth that sealed my doom
and hold the arms that stabbed my thigh
and grip the heart that bound my tie
and tear the dress that dares to hide
the temple of my wicked bride
and squeeze the hips that now lie free
and grab the legs that ran with me
and part them on our flower bed
and leave a trace of broken bread,
for I have to take you tonight!

5. The Defeat

The High King sent for Finn mac Cumhail
and raised his mighty hand,
'For years you've undermined my rule,
endangering our land!

'The Fianna's duty's to protect
my country and my life,
but you have caused them to neglect
their job to chase your wife!

'The gates of Tara stand ajar
for armies to come in,
while all the Fennian champions are
away to fight for Finn!

'I want them back! I also claim
the bravest of them all –
he took your wife, but all the same
this man obeys my call!

'Oisin, your son, is very smart
and clever, one can tell:
a champion after my own heart,
he'll lead the Fianna well!'

'What do you mean?' asked Finn. His knees
were weak, his voice was low.
'I mean that if you don't make peace
with Diarmait, you must go!'

So Finn made peace with Diarmait and
restored his house and lands.
The Fennians greeted their old friend,
and Diarmait hugged his friends.

And soon the wedding was prepared
for Grainne and for him:
no meat, no fish, no ale was spared,
and only Finn looked grim.

The people came from everywhere
after the news went out
to meet this most illustrious pair
they heard so much about.

The High King and his men were pleased,
the brewers sent their bill:
a thousand guests came to the feast
upon the Holy Hill.

The bride, content with life’s design,
took Diarmait's hand and said,
'Now I am yours, and you are mine:
show everyone you're glad,

'And do not leave my side until
the wedding guests are gone,
and tell me that you love me still,
and leave your bonnet on!'

6. The Hunt

The sons of Diarmait played the Tailltin Battle,
his daughter tried to crawl across the floor,
and Grainne lit the fire beneath the kettle,
as Finn mac Cumhail was knocking at the door,
'Hail Diarmait! I am here with many friends;
we're asking for permission to go hunting through your lands.'

'If you go hunting through my forests, will you
not take me with you?' Diarmait asked his guest.
'We hunt the earless boar that's bound to kill you,
and therefore you should stay and have a rest.
The beast would crush your bones like autumn twigs;
thus Angus put the geis on you that you shall hunt no pigs.'

'I never heard of such a geis' the raging
champion replied. 'You are the Fianna's head,
and I am well aware you are engaging
the High King's army just to see me dead.
You planned this hunt to bury me today,
because you know that I would rather die than run away!'

So Diarmait took his coat, his hounds and weapons,
ignoring Grainne's warnings and her sighs.
He kissed his wife goodbye, 'Whatever happens:
I shall be dying as a hero dies!'
He went with Finn who told him not to go;
‘There's one man who can kill him - that is me, and this you know!'

He saw him, grabbed his spear, and with the other
hand Diarmait loosed his hounds who ran away.
He aimed and threw the spear against his brother
who got a scratch; the boar, without delay,
run towards the champion who fell on his back,
the mighty tusks stirred up the ground beside the hero's neck.

Now Diarmait drew his sword, and he was trying
to stab the beast before his blood was spilled.
It broke; he grimly laughed as he was lying
beneath the boar with nothing but the hilt.
The boar turned round to where the Fianna stood,
but Diarmait grabbed his hind legs and was hauled across the wood.

In order to get rid of him he jolted
and jumped the streams; his foe held on, but then
he lost his grip. The beast turned back and halted
and charged the stubborn hunter once again.
His tusks ripped Diarmait open, but the hilt
sliced through his guts which covered Diarmait as the boar was killed.

'I wish the women saw you now,' Finn smugly
commented as he rested on his sword,
'if they could only see how vile and ugly
that body turned that they so much adored,
if Erin's girls and ladies only knew
about this scene, they'd be disgusted at the sight of you!'

'You must not stand there feeding on your passion,
insulting victims, bound in Grainne's ties.
Come to your wits! Remember your profession,
and heal this champion now before he dies.' -
'And how?' Finn asked his son and almost swooned.
'I know a drink of water from your hands heals every wound.'

'This man does not deserve a drink of water,'
Finn answered him, referring to his wife.
'He robbed his leader of the High King's daughter,
and he deserves no drink to save his life!' -
'You know he does!' Finn's son looked stern and grim;
'He had no other choice since Grainne put a geis on him.'

'There is no water in this wood,' Finn muttered.
'You know that there's a well beyond the hill.
If you delay, I'll kill you,' Oisin uttered,
'and bring the water in your hands, I will!'
Finn fetched the water while he thought about
his wife; it trickled through his fingers, and he came without.

'He is not worth a drink,' the chief repeated.
'But when he saved you twixt the quicken trees,
you would have deemed him worthy,' Osgar pleaded.
'Now go and get the drink, or you'll feel these!'
Finn fetched the water while he thought about
his wife; it trickled through his fingers, and he came without.

'You will not save me; I was shown you'll settle
my death after I risked my life for yours
so oft, but in the coming days of battle
you'll miss my service like your nanny's cures.
You hate me for what Grainne did to you,
but yet you know that I oppose her actions as you do.'

'She put him under bonds, for Diarmait never
intended to obey her faithless call.
Therefore he has to stay with her forever;
maybe he doesn't love his wife at all.'
With this in mind the chief suppressed his hate
and brought the water to the hero, but it was too late.

7. The End

Hundred grooms prepared the stables,
hundred servants spread the bedding,
hundred maidens laid the tables,
hundred brewers sent their bill;
a thousand guests were coming to the wedding
of Finn and Grainne on the Holy Hill.

Diarmait's sons had great ambitions:
with the bulls in the arena,
in the champions' competitions
Grainne always saw them win;
she made them swear, before they joined the Fianna,
that they'd revenge their father and kill Finn.

But the power and the pleasures
made her weak; she took a liking
to her status, and the measures
of her hatred emptied out
while Finn opposed and disobeyed the High King
with the whole Fianna echoing his shout.

Soon the High King lost his patience
with the Fianna. At the border
soldiers stood from foreign nations
to protect the High King's right;
paying some Fennians, Grainne gave the order
to kill the sons of Diarmait in the fight.

© 6238-6239 RT (1997-1998 CE) by Frank L. Ludwig