The Great Battle
T Samhain-time, the Dagda, Ogma, and Nuada sat together in the place that is called the Plain of Assembly. It was early in the day and the dew was still on the grass. They saw Angus coming towards them. His hair was wound about two discs of shining gold, and he had on a cloak the colour of an amethyst: as he walked he brushed the dew in little pearls from the grass. The Pooka trotted beside him in the shape of a spotted fawn. Angus was singing:--
"Ships are sailing
O'er height and hollow,
Lift your heads and follow."
"Why are you so merry? "asked the Dagda.
"Because I have good news!" said Angus. "The People of the Fomor are coming in black-hulled ships. Balor has sworn to tow the Sacred Land behind him and drop it into the blackness of the sea!"
"I had a thousand ships and ten
The sea-waves kissed my feet."
"Angus! " said the Dagda, "I think your mirth unseemly."
"Lugh didn't--he only laughed."
"Where did you see Lugh?" asked Ogma.
"I saw him near the Wood of Femen. He had a great white hound straining in a leash--a war-dog. There will be good hunting when the Fomor show themselves. Come, Pooka!"
The Pooka skipped up to him, and Angus went away singing:
"I had a white hound crowned with gold,
Three Champions sought him over sea
O, he'll be young when the world is old,
Following, following me."
"Sound the great War-Horn!" said Nuada, "so that all may know to prepare for the battle."
Ogma put the mighty trumpet to his lips and blew a champion-blast. When the echoes of it died away, the Three Waves thundered round Ireland.
"Look at the hills!" said the Dagda.
A glancing flame shone like a jewel on the fore head of every hill in Ireland.
"The earth remembers the Oath," said Ogma.
At the sound of the mighty trumpet, the Tuatha De Danaan hurried to the Plain of Assembly. Gobniu the Smith came, and Diancecht the Great Healer, and Airmid the druidess, and Miach, who had the secret of life. Lugh came, with the shining host from Tir-nan-Oge: they made a radiance in the assembly. Bove Darrig came, and Midyir the Haughty, and Luchtna, and Credne, and harpers came from the faery hills, and cup-bearers and magicians.
"What help will you give in the battle?" asked Lugh, of Mathgen the Magician.
"I have power" said Mathgen, "to roll the mountains and high hills of Ireland on the Fomor. I will grind them as corn is ground between two stones. The twelve most royal mountains in Ireland will fight for you: Slieve League, Slieve Snechtai, Maccu Belgodon, Denna Ulad, Bri Run, Slemish, Blai Slieve, Nemthann, The Curlieu Hills, Crauchan Aigle, The Mourne Mountains, and the Mountains of Slieve Bloom."
"What help will you give?" asked Lugh, of the Cup-Bearers.
"We will put a burning thirst on the Fomor, and the lakes and rivers of Ireland will refuse to give them water. Though they should go to Loch Luimnigh, Derg-loch, Lough Corrib, Lough Ree, Lough Mask, Strangford Lough, Lough Laeig, Lough Neagh, Lough Foyle, Lough Gara, Lough Reagh, and Murloch, the twelve most royal lakes, they would not find in any one a single drop of water to quench their thirst.
Though they should go to every river in Ireland, and supplicate the twelve that are most royal: the Bush, the Boyne, the Baa, the Nem, the Lee, the Shannon, the Moy, the Sligo, the Erne, and the Finn, they would not get from them a mouthful of water; but the Tuatha De Danaan will get water and refreshment and strength and delight from every well and lake and river in Ireland."
"What help will you give?" asked Lugh, of Figol.
"I," said Figol, the Son of Marnos, "will cause showers of druid fire to fall on the Fomor. I will wither the strength in their bodies--they shall be as green leaves shrivelled by flame. But the men of Ireland shall have the fire of youth in them--they shall be like green leaves breaking out in the Spring time."
"What help will you give?" asked Lugh, of the enchantress Dianan and the enchantress Bechulle. They said:
"We will put enchantment on withered sticks and on sods of grass and on the stones of the earth, and they will become a terror to the Fomor. They will become a multitudinous bewildering host."
"What help will you give?" asked Lugh, of Carpre the poet, son of Etain; and Carpre said:
"I will stand on the top of a mountain before sunrise. I will have in my hands a thorn of cursing and a stone of malediction. The wind will be blowing from the north and I will have my back to a thorn tree. I will make a satire on the Fomor. They will wish to hide their faces from that satire, and because of it they will have no heart to stand up against warriors."
"What help will you give?" asked Lugh, of Gobniu.
"I will make sharp-biting swords," said Gobniu, "and spears that know the death-thrust. My weapons do not ask for themselves a second blow, a second thrust. It is more than Dolb the smith of the Fomor can say."
"And I," said Credne the brass-cerd, " I will make rivets for spears, and hilts for swords, and bosses for shields."
"And I," said Luchta, "will make spear-shafts and shield-grips."
"And I," said Diancecht, "will heal every man who has not lost the breath of life."
The Dagda had been sitting quiet all this time, lacing a thong into his brogues. He stood up now and shook out the nine folds of his cloak.
"All that each one of you has promised, loud mouthed," said the Dagda, "I will do myself, single-handed!"
"'Tis yourself is the Good God!" said the others, and they let three shouts of laughter out of them.
HE coming of the Fomor was terrible. They were multitudinous as grains of sand; multitudinous as waves in a sea-storm. A wind of death went before them and darkness covered them. The Tuatha De Danaan drew brightness to themselves and went into the battle. Lugh did not go into the battle, because it was known that Balor would not fight till near the end.
Lugh waited for Balor. He sat on a great hill, and below him the hosts contended. He saw the spears of the Tuatha De Danaan fly like fiery rain, and those of the Fomor like hissing sleet; and in the hissing sleet and fiery rain the demons of the air screamed and fought. At times the Fomor drove back the Tuatha De Danaan. At times the Tuatha De Danaan prevailed against the Fomor: it was so until the night came and put an end to fighting.
There was no brightness on the Tuatha De Danaan when they drew themselves out of the conflict: they were wounded and weary, and Airmid, Diancecht, and Miach, went among them with herbs of healing. It was vexation of spirit to look on the grievousness of their wounds.
Suddenly a delicate sweet music sounded in the air and the Tuatha De Danaan saw Brigit coming to them. She towered to the heavens and her mantle swept the ground like a purple mist. Her hair was plaited in nine loosened locks, and in each lock of the nine a star glittered. Wrapped in a corner of her mantle she held a crystal ball, clear as a dew-drop.
"Hail, Brigit, the Battle-Queen! " cried the warriors, but those who were wounded and nigh to death, cried:--"Hail, Dana, the Mighty Mother! Brigit smiled, and a soft radiance filled the night. "I bring you a gift," she said, and she shook the crystal drop from her mantle. When it touched the earth it became a deep clear lake.
It is a lake from Tir-na-Moe," said Brigit, and there is healing in it for all weariness and
all battle-wounds--it will even give back life to the dead."
The Tuatha De Danaan bathed in the lake and rose out of the water joyous and radiant. At day-break they leaped to the battle, and as they went they drew down little fleecy clouds from the sky, and the clouds became shining helmets of protection to them. Terrible was the battle that day. The Fomor transformed themselves into huge serpents and scaly dragons and shapeless abominations writhing in poisonous spume. The Tuatha De Danaan drove in on them like fire that is fanned by tempest. They stabbed the twisting monstrosities as light stabs darkness--yet they could not utterly destroy them, and the battle swayed uncertain till night came.
Through the night the Tuatha De Danaan rested and bathed in the lake from Tir-na-Moe. Strength and healing came to them. At dawn they leaped to the battle. Stupendous was the conflict. Twice the Fomor broke before the Tuatha De Danaan. Once the Tuatha Dc Danaan broke before the Fomor. They were like waves contending--like Fire and Water striving for mastery. Terrible was the devastation, and in the midst of it a shout went up:
"Balor! Balor! Balor Beimann! Balor of the Mighty Blows!"
Balor heaved himself against the horizon, a mighty bulk, and the Fomor gave their strength to him and their fierceness so that no power remained in them, and because of that Balor towered to the heavens and his shadow darkened half the sky.
The Tuatha De Danaan cried aloud on Lugh.
"Lugh! Lugh! Lugh Lauve Fauda! Strike for us, Long-Handed son of Cian! Strike, Ildana!"
Lugh leaped to his feet. The Tuatha De Danaan gave him their strength and their fierceness so that he towered to the heavens, and his brightness was more terrible than the brightness of the sun at noonday.
Swift was the advance of Lugh, the Sun-Hawk. Swift was the advance of Balor, the Hooded Vulture of Night. Lugh shouted in a voice that echoed exultant to the stars. Balor shouted in a voice that shook the depths of the Abyss. Lugh gathered his strength and the strength of the Tuatha De Danaan into the Spear of Victory which he held in his hand. Balor gathered his strength and the strength of the Fomor into his mighty death-dealing Eye. He raised the baleful lid, but before the gleam that could destroy the world shot forth from it, Lugh hurled the Spear. It struck and entered the Evil Eye as fire enters a dark cavern. The strength of Lugh and all the gods of light went with it. Balor trembled the strength that was bound up in him loosened; his huge bulk wavered and became a shadow, and the shadow melted and became a shapeless gloom.
In the shapeless gloom something glittered. It was the Sword of Tethra, the Great Sword of the Abyss. Lugh swooped upon it, and as he lifted it the Tuatha De Danaan pressed behind him and before him and about him and scattered the darkness and drew into themselves the fierceness and might of the Fomor so that they were girt with the powers of Night and Day.
The Sword of Tethra, the Great Sword of the Abyss, was given to Ogma. He drew it from its sheath. The sunshine ran along the blade like a river of light, and the spirits that live under the sliding green waves of the sea and the spirits of the storm-wind shouted for joy. Ogma held the Sword aloft, and thunderous music broke over the earth and died away among the stars. Then Brigit, the Mor Reegu, the Battle-Queen that is called Dana, cried out to the hills and lakes and rivers and woods and valleys and plains of
Ireland the news of victory. This is the Peace-Chant she made:---
"Peace up to Heaven,
Heaven down to Earth;
The Earth under Heaven
Strength to every one."