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Cuchulain of Muirthemne, by Lady Augusta Gregory, [1902], at

p. 354 p. 355


THE Irish text, from which the greater number of the stories in this book have been taken, has been published either in Irische Texte or the Revue Celtique, or by O'Curry in Atlantis and elsewhere, and I have worked from this text, comparing it with the translations that have been already made. In some cases, as in the greater part of "The War for the Bull of Cuailgne," a very small part of the Irish text has as yet been printed, and I have had to work by comparing and piecing together various translations.

I have had to put a connecting sentence of my own here and there, and I have condensed many passages, and I have sometimes tried to give the meaning of a formula that has lost its old meaning. Thus I have exchanged for the grotesque accounts of Cuchulain's distortion--which no doubt merely meant that in time of great strain or anger he had more than human strength--the more simple formula that his appearance changed to the appearance of a god. In the same way, I have left out Levarcham's distortion, which was the recognised way of saying she was a swift messenger.

As to the date of the stories, I cannot do better than quote from Mr Alfred Nutt's "Cuchulain, the Irish Achilles":--

"It suffices to say that we possess a MS. literature of which Cuchulain and his contemporaries are the subject, the extent of which may be roughly reckoned at 2000 8vo pages. The great bulk of this is contained in MSS. which are older than the twelfth century, or which demonstrably are copied from pre-twelfth century MSS.; where post-twelfth-century versions alone remain, the story itself is nearly always known from earlier sources; in fact, there is hardly a single scene or incident in the whole cycle which has reached us only in MSS. of the thirteenth and following centuries. At the same time a not inconsiderable portion of the cycle comes before us altered in language, and to some extent in content, style of narrative, and characterisation, showing that

p. 356

the saga as a whole remained a living element of Irish culture and participated in the accidents of its evolution.

"The great bulk of this literature is, as I have said, certainly older than the twelfth century; but we can carry it back much farther, apart from any considerations based upon the subject matter. Arguments of a nature purely philological, based upon the language of the texts, or critical, based upon the relations of the various MSS. to each other, not only allow, but compel us to date the redaction of the principal Cuchulain stories, substantially in the form under which they have survived, back to the seventh to ninth centuries. Whether or no they are older yet, is a question that cannot be answered without preliminary examination of the subject-matter. In the meantime it is something to know that the Cuchulain stories were put into permanent literary form at about the same date as Beowulf, some 100 to 250 years before the Scandinavian mythology crystallised into its present form, at least 200 years before the oldest Charlemagne romances, and probably 300 years before the earliest draft of the Nibelungenlied. Irish is the most ancient vernacular literature of modem Europe, a fact which of itself commends it to the attention of the student."

A critical account of this and the other Irish cycles is also given in Dr Douglas Hyde's "Literary History of Ireland."


The Tuatha de Danaan, or the Sidhe, so often mentioned, were the divine race, the people of the Gods of Dana, who conquered the Fomor, the powers of darkness and their helpers the Firbolgs, in the battle of Magh Tuireadh, and possessed Ireland until they were in their turn conquered by the children of the Gael, under the leadership of the Sons of Miled. Then they became invisible, and made their homes in hills and raths.

The Morrigu was their goddess of battle, and Angus Og, Son of the Dagda, their god of youth and love, and Lugh, the Master of many Arts, their Hermes, their Apollo, and Manannan, Son of Lir, their Sea-God, or, as some say, the sea itself.


The spelling of Irish names for English readers is always a difficulty. I have not gone by any fixed rule but have taken the spelling of names from various good authorities. As to pronunciation, the modem is generally used, but we know so little what the ancient pronunciation was, that we are left some freedom, and some words have taken a shape from English-speaking generations, that it is hard to change. Teamhair, for instance, has become Tara through a mistaken use of the genitive; Muirthemne is called by

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[paragraph continues] Irish speakers "Mur-hev-na," but others call it Muir’them-mé and I am inclined to prefer this for the charm of its sound, and I do not see any stronger reason against using it than against sounding as we do the "s" in Paris. After all, it has not been definitely settled whether Trafalgar is to be spoken in the Spanish or the English way; English poets have given it one or the other emphasis.

This is the approximate pronunciation of some of the more difficult names:--



Ae (rhyming to "day").




Bibe (as "jibe").










Cuhoolin, or Cu-hullin



Dun Sobairce

Dom Se^ve^rka











Glen na (m) Bodhar

Glen na Mower (as "bower")





Magh Tuireadh










Slieve Suidhe Laighen

Slieve se lihon








I give below some names of places that can still be identified--

Ard Inver

Mouth of the Avoca, Co. Wicklow


On the Nore Co. Kilkenny. The Silver Wood

Ath Firdiadh

(Ferdiad's Ford) Ardee

Ath Truim


Ath Cliath


Beinn Edair


Boinne River

The Boyne

Brugh na Boinne

On the Boyne

Bri Leith

In Co. Longford p. 358






Probably River Muilchean, Co. Limerick


Clara, near Mullingar.


On the Boyne


Between the Cooley Mountains and the Boyne


South-west of Kells


Cooley, Co. Louth


In Co. Roscommon

Dun Scathach

Isle of Skye



Dun Rudraige

Dundrum, Co. Down

Dun Sobairce

Dunseverick, Co. Antrim

Drium Criadh

Drumcree, Co. Westmeath

Emain Macha

Navan fort, near Armagh. A description and plan of Emain are given by D'Arbois de Jubainville in Revue Celtique, vol. xvi




In Co. Westmeath


At Slieve na Man, Co. Tipperary

Gairech and Ilgaireth

Two hills near Mullingar

Hill of Brughean Mor

In Parish of Drumany, Co. Westmeath

Hy Maine

A part of Roscommon, bordering Sligo and Mayo

Inver Colptha

Estuary of the Boyne

Loch Cuan

Strangford Loch

Loch Riach

In Co. Galway

Leodus, Cadd and Ork

Lewis, Shetland, and Orkney

Magh Ai

In Co. Roscommon

Magh Breagh

In East Meath

Magh Mucrime

Near Athenry, Co. Galway

Magh Slecht

Near Ballymagauran, Co. Cavan


The part of Co. Lough bordering the sea, between the Boyne and Dundalk

Road of Midluachair

The north-eastern road from Teamhair

Slieve Breagh

Co. Louth

Slieve Cuilinn

Co. Londonderry

Slieve Fuad

Co. Armagh

Slieve Mis

Co. Kerry

Slieve Suidhe Laighen

Mount Leinster

Sleamhain of Meath

Near Mullingar p. 359

Sligger Isles

Faröe Isles


The Shannon






Tara, Co. Meath



Uaran Garad

River Cruind


The Hill of Usnogh in West Meath

Wave of Cliodna

At Glandore, Co. Cork

Wave of Assaroe

At Ballyshannon

Wave of Inbhir

Mouth of the Bann


The following is a list of the authorities I have been chiefly helped by in putting these stories together. But I cannot make it quite accurate, for I have sometimes transferred a mere phrase, sometimes a whole passage from one story to another, where it seemed to fit better. I have occasionally used Scottish Gaelic versions, as in the account of Deirdre's birth, and the manner of her death, and in a part of "The Only Son of Aoife." "O'Curry" stands for his two books, "The Manners and Customs of Ancient Ireland," and "MS. Materials for Ancient Irish History," and his contributions to Atlantis.

BIRTH OF CUCHULAIN.--O'Curry; De Jubainville, Epopée Celtique; Nutt, "Voyage of Bran"; Kuno Meyer, Revue Celtique; Duvau, Revue Celtique; Windisch, lrische Texte; Stokes, Irische Texte.

BOY DEEDS OF CUCHULAIN.--Same as "War for the Bull of Cuailgne."

COURTING OF EMER.--Kuno Meyer, Revue Celtique; Kuno Meyer, Archaeological Review; Dr Douglas Hyde, Literary History of Ireland; De Jubainville, Epopée Celtique; O'Curry.

BRICRIU'S FEAST, and THE CHAMPIONSHIP OF ULSTER.--Text, with Henderson's translation, published by Irish Texts Society; De Jubainville, Epopée Celtique; O'Curry; Windisch, Irische Texte.

THE HIGH KING OF IRELAND.--Whitley Stokes, Revue Celtique; O'Curry; Zimmer, Keltische Studien.

FATE OF THE CHILDREN OF USNACH.--Text and Translations published by the Society for the Preservation of the Irish Language; Hyde, Literary History of Ireland; Hyde, Zeitschrift Celt. Philologie; O'Curry; Whitley Stokes, Irische Texte; Windisch, Irische Texte; Cameron, Reliquae Celticae; O'Flanagan, Translations of Gaelic Society; O'Flanagan, Reliquae Celticae;

p. 360

[paragraph continues] Carmichael, Transactions of Gaelic Society; Ultonian Ballads, De Jubainville, Epopée Celtique; Dottin, Revue Celtique.

THE DREAM OF ANGUS.--Müller, Revue Celtique.

CRUACHAN--Kuno Meyer, Revue Celtique; O'Beirne Crowe, Proceedings of Royal Irish Academy; O'Curry; Rhys, Celtic Heathendom.

WEDDING OF MAINE MORGOR.--Windisch, Irische Texte.

WAR FOR THE BULL OF CUAILGNE, and AWAKENING OF ULSTER.--MS. translations by O'Daly in Royal Irish Academy; MS. translations by O'Looney in Royal Irish Academy; O'Curry; Standish Hayes O'Grady's Synopsis in Miss Hull's Cuchulain Saga; Zimmer, Synopsis in Zeitschrift für Vergleichende Sprachforschung.

THE TWO BULLS.--Windisch, Irische Texte; Nutt, Voyage of Bran; O'Curry.

THE ONLY JEALOUSY OF EMER, and INSTRUCTION TO A PRINCE.--O'Curry, Atlantis; De Jubainville, Epopée Celtique.

THE SONS OF DOEL DERMAIT.--Windisch, Irische Texte; Rhys, Hibbert Lectures.

BATTLE OF ROSNAREE.--Text with Father Hogan's translation; Todd Lecture Series; O'Curry; Kuno Meyer, Revue Celtique.

ONLY SON OF AOIFE.--Keating's History of Ireland; Miss Brooke's Reliques; Curtain's Folk Tales; Some Gaelic Ballads.

GATHERING AT MUIRTHEMNE, and DEATH OF CUCHULAIN--"Brislech Mor Magh Muirthemne," and "Deargruatar Conaill Cearnaig"--published in Gaelic Journal, 1901; S. Hayes O'Grady in Miss Hull's Cuchulain Saga; Whitley Stokes, Revue Celtique; an unpublished MS. in Dr Hyde's possession.

We must be grateful to all these scholars, workers, or compilers, those who have passed away, and those who are living. And I am personally grateful to my friend Douglas Hyde for patient answering of many questions; and to my friend and critic, W. B. Yeats, for his kindness and for his severity.

A. G.