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Gods and Fighting Men, by Lady Gregory, [1904], at

Part II Book VII: The Boar of Beinn Gulbain

BUT at last one day Grania spoke to Diarmuid, and it is what she said, that it was a shame on them, with all the people and the household they had, and all their riches, the two best men in Ireland never to have come to the house, the High King, her father, and Finn, son of Cumhal. "Why do you say that, Grania," said Diarmuid, "and they being enemies to me?"

"It is what I would wish," said Grania, "to give them a feast, the way you would get their affection." "I give leave for that," said Diarmuid.

So Grania was making ready a great feast through the length of a year, and messengers were sent for the High King of Ireland, and for Finn and the seven battalions of the Fianna; and they came, and they were using the feast from day to day through the length of a year.

And on the last night of the year, Diarmuid was in his sleep at Rath Grania; and in the night he heard the voice of hounds through his sleep, and he started up, and Grania caught him and put her two arms about him, and asked what had startled him. "The voice of a hound I beard," said he; "and it is a wonder to me to hear that in the night." "Safe keeping on you," said Grania, "for it is the Tuatha de Danaan are doing that on you, on account of Angus of Brugh na Boinn, and lie down on the bed again." But for all that no sleep came to him, and be heard the voice of the hound again, and be started up a second time to follow after it. But Grania caught hold of him the second time and bade him to lie down, and she said it was no fitting thing to go after the voice of a hound in the night. So he lay down again, and he fell asleep, but the voice of the hound awakened him the third time. And the day was come with its full light that time, and he said: "I will go after the voice of the hound now, since the day is here." "If that is so," said Grania, "bring the Mor-alltach, the Great Fierce One, the sword of Manannan, with you, and the Gae Dearg." "I will not," he said; "but I will take the Beag-alltach, the Little Fierce One, and the Gae Buidhe in the one hand, and the hound Mac an Chuill, the Son of the Hazel, in the other hand."

Then Diarmuid went out of Rath Grania, and made no delay till he came to the top of Beinn Gulbain, and he found Finn before him there, without any one at all in his company. Diarmuid gave him no greeting, but asked him was it he was making that hunt. Finn said it was not a hunt he was making, but that he and some of the Fianna had gone out after midnight; "and one of our hounds that was loose beside us, came on the track of a wild boar," he said, "and they were not able to bring him back yet. And there is no use following that boar he is after," he said, "for it is many a time the Fianna hunted him, and he went away from them every time till now, and he has killed thirty of them this morning. And he is coming up the mountain towards us," he said, "and let us leave this hill to him now."

"I will not leave the hill through fear of him," said Diarmuid.

"It would be best for you, Diarmuid," said Finn, "for it is the earless Green Boar of Beinn Gulbain is in it, and it is by him you will come to your death, and Angus knew that well when he put-bonds on you not to go hunting pigs." "I never knew of those bonds," said Diarmuid; "but however it is, I will not quit this through fear of him. And let you leave Bran with me now," be said, "along with Mac an Chuill." "I will not," said Finn, "for it is often he met this boar before and could do nothing against him." He went away then and left Diarmuid alone on the top of the hill. "I give my word," said Diarmuid, "you made this hunt for my death, Finn; and if it is here I am to find my death," he said, "I have no use in going aside from it now."

The boar came up the face of the mountain then, and the Fianna after him. Diarmuid loosed Mac an Chuill from his leash then, but that did not serve him, for he did not wait for the boar, but ran from him. "It is a pity not to follow the advice of a good woman," said Diarmuid, "for Grania bade me this morning to bring the Mor-ailtach and the Gae Dearg with me." Then he put his finger into the silken string of the Gae Buidhe, and took a straight aim at the boar and hit him full in the face; but if he did, the spear did not so much as give him a scratch. Diarmuid was discouraged by that, but he drew the Beag-ailtach, and made a full stroke at the back of the boar, but neither did that make a wound on him, but it made two halves of the sword. Then the boar made a brave charge at Diarmuid, that cut the sod from under his feet and brought him down; but Diarmuid caught hold of the boar on rising, and held on to him, having one of his legs on each side of him, and his face to his hinder parts. And the boar made away headlong down the hill, but he could not rid himself of Diarmuid; and he went on after that to Ess Ruadh, and when he came to the red stream he gave three high leaps over it, backwards and forwards, but he could not put him from his back, and he went back by the same path till he went up the height of the mountain again. And at last on the top of the mountain he freed himself, and Diarmuid fell on the ground. And then the boar made a rush at him, and ripped him open, that his bowels came out about his feet. But if he did, Diarmuid made a cast at him with the hilt of his sword that was in his hand yet, and dashed out his brains, so that he fell dead there and then. And Rath na h-Amhrann, the Rath of the Sword Hilt, is the name of that place to this day.

It was not long till Finn and the Fianna of Ireland came to the place, and the pains of death were coming on Diarmuid at that time. "It is well pleased I am to see you that way, Diarmuid," said Finn; "and it is a pity all the women of Ireland not to be looking at you now, for your great beauty is turned to ugliness, and your comely shape to uncomeliness." "For all that, you have power to heal me, Finn," said Diarmuid, "if you had a mind to do it."

"What way could I heal you?" said Finn. "Easy enough," said Diarmuid, "for the time you were given the great gift of knowledge at the Boinn, you got this gift with it, any one you would give a drink to out of your hands would be young and well again from any sickness after it." "You are not deserving of that drink from me," said Finn. "That is not true," said Diarmuid; "it is well I deserve it from you; for the time you went to the house of Dearc, son of Donnarthadh, and your chief men with you for a feast, your enemies came round the house, and gave out three great shouts against you, and threw fire and firebrands into it. And you rose up and would have gone out, but I bade you to stop there at drinking and pleasure, for that I myself would go out and put them down. And I went out, and put out the flames, and made three red rushes round the house, and I killed fifty in every rush, and I came in again without a wound. And it is glad and merry and in good courage you were that night, Finn," he said, "and if it was that night I had asked a drink of you, you would have given it; and it would be right for you to give it to me now." "That is not so," said Finn; "it is badly you have earned a drink or any good thing from me; for the night you went to Teamhair with me, you took Grania away from me in the presence of all the men of Ireland, and you being my own guard over her that night."

"Do not blame me for that, Finn," said Diarmuid, "for what did I ever do against you, east or west, but that one thing; and you know well Grania put bonds on me, and I would not fail in my bonds for the gold of the whole world. And you will know it is well I have earned a drink from you, if you bring to mind the night the feast was made in the House of the Quicken Tree, and how you and all your men were bound there till I heard of it, and came fighting and joyful, and loosed you with my own blood, and with the blood of the Three Kings of the Island of the Floods; and if I bad asked a drink of you that night, Finn, you would not have refused it. And I was with you in the smiting of Lon, son of Liobhan, and you are the man that should not forsake me beyond any other man. And many is the strait has overtaken yourself and the Fianna of Ireland since I came among you, and I was ready every time to put my body and my life in danger for your sake, and you ought not to do this unkindness on me now. And besides that," he said, "there has many a good champion fallen through the things you yourself have done, and there is not an end of them yet; and there will soon come great misfortunes on the Fianna, and it is few of their seed will be left after them. And it is not for yourself I am fretting, Finn," he said, "but for Oisin and Osgar, and the rest of my dear comrades, and as for you, Oisin, you will be left lamenting after the Fianna. And it is greatly you will feel the want of me yet, Finn," he said; "and if the women of the Fianna knew I was lying in my wounds on this ridge, it is sorrowful their faces would be at this time."

And Osgar said then: "Although I am nearer in blood to you, Finn, than to Diarmuid, grandson of Duibbne, I will not let you refuse him this drink; and by my word,"he said, "if any prince in the world would do the same unkindness to Diarmuid that you have done, it is only the one of us that has the strongest hand would escape alive. And give him a drink now without delay," he said.

"I do not know of any well at all on this mountain," said Finn. "That is not so," said Diarmuid, "for there is not nine footsteps from you the well that has the best fresh water than can be found in the world."

Then Finn went to the well, and he took the full of his two hands of the water. But when he was no more than half-way back, the thought of Grania came on him, and he let the water slip through his hands, and he said he was not able to bring it. "I give my word," said Diarmuid, "it was of your own will you let it from you." Then Finn went back the second time to get the water, but coming back he let it through his hands again at the thought of Grania. And Diarmuid gave a pitiful sigh of anguish when he saw that. "I swear by my sword and by my spear," said Osgar, "that if you do not bring the water without any more delay, Finn, there will not leave this hill but yourself or myself." Finn went back the third time to the well after what Osgar said, and he brought the water to Diarmuid, but as he reached him the life went out of his body. Then the whole company of the Fianna that were there gave three great heavy shouts, keening for Diarmuid.

And Osgar looked very fiercely at Finn, and it is what he said, that it was a greater pity Diarmuid to be dead than if he himself had died. And the Fianna of Ireland had lost their yoke of battle by him, he said. "Let us leave this hill," said Finn then, "before Angus and the Tuatha de Danaan come upon us, for although we have no share in the death of Diarmuid, he would not believe the truth from us." "I give my word," said Osgar, "if I had thought it was against Diarmuid you made the hunt of Beinn Gulbain, you would never have made it."

Then Finn and the Fianna went away from the hill, and Finn leading Diarmuid's hound Mac an Chuill. But Oisin and Osgar and Caoilte and Lugaidh's Son turned back again and put their four cloaks over Diarmuid, and then they went after the rest of the Fianna.

And when they came to the Rath, Grania was out on the wall looking for news of Diarmuid; and she saw Finn and the Fianna of Ireland coming towards her. Then she said: "If Diarmuid was living, it is not led by Finn that Mac an Chuill would be coming home." And she was at that time heavy with child, and her strength went from her and she fell down from the wall. And when Oisin saw the way she was he bade Finn and others to go on from her, but she lifted up her head and she asked Finn to leave Mac an Chuill with her. And he said he would not, and that he did not think it too much for him to inherit from Diarmuid, grandson of Duibhne.

When Oisin heard that, he snatched the hound out of Finn's hand and gave it to Grania, and then he followed after his people.

Then when Grania was certain of Diarmuid's death she gave out a long very pitiful cry that was heard through the whole place, and her women and her people came to her, and asked what ailed her to give a cry like that. And she told them how Diarmuid had come to his death by the Boar of Beinn Gulbain in the hunt Finn had made. "And there is grief in my very heart," she said, "I not to be able to fight myself with Finn, and I would not have let him go safe out of this place."

When her people heard of the death of Diarmuid they gave three great heavy cries in the same way, that were heard in the clouds and the waste places of the sky. And then Grania bade five hundred that she had for household to go to Beinne Gulbain for the body of Diarmuid.

And when they were bringing it back, she went out to meet them, and they put down the body of Diarmuid, and it is what she said:

"I am your wife, beautiful Diarmuid, the man I would do no hurt to; it is sorrowful I am after you to-night.

"I am looking at the hawk and the hound my secret love used to be hunting with; she that loved the three, let her be put in the grave with Diarmuid.

"Let us be glad to-night, let us make all welcome to-night, let us be open-handed to-nigh; since we are sitting by the body of a king.

And O Diarmuid," she said, "it is a hard bed Finn has given you, to be lying on the stones and to be wet with the rain. Ochone!" she said, "your blue eyes to be without sigh; you that were friendly and generous and pursuing. O love! O Diarmuid! it is a pity it is he sent you to your death.

"You were a champion of the men of Ireland, their prop in the middle of the fight; you were the head of every battle; your ways were glad and pleasant.

"It is sorrowful I am, without mirth, without light, but only sadness and grief and long dying; your harp used to be sweet to me, it wakened my heart to gladness. Now my courage is fallen down, I not to hear you but to be always remembering your ways. Och! my grief is going through me.

"A thousand curses on the day when Grania gave you her love, that put Finn of the princes from his wits; it is a sorrowful story your death is to-day.

"Many heroes were great and strong about me in the beautiful plain; their hands were good at wrestling and at battle; Ochone! that I did not follow them.

"You were the man was best of the Fianna, beautiful Diarmuid, that women loved. It is dark your dwelling-place is under the sod, it is mournful and cold your bed is; it is pleasant your laugh was to-day; you were my happiness, Diarmuid."

And she went back then into the Rath, and bade her people to bring the body to her there.

Now just at that time, it was showed to Angus at Brugh na Boinne that Diarmuid was dead on Beinn Gulbain, for he had kept no watch over him the night before.

And he went on the cold wind towards Beinn Gulbain, and his people with him, and on the way they met with Grania's people that were bringing the body to the Rath.

And when they saw him they held out the wrong sides of their shields as a sign of peace, and Angus knew them; and he and his people gave three great terrible cries over the body of Diarmuid.

And Angus spoke then, and it is what he said: "I was never one night since the time I brought you to Brugh na Boinne, being nine months old, without keeping watch and protection over you till last nigh; Diarmuid, grandson of Duibhne; and now your blood has been shed and you have been cut off sharply, and the Boar of Beinn Gulbain has put you down, Diarmuid of the bright face and the bright sword. And it is a pity Finn to have done this treachery," he said, "and you at peace with him.

"And lift up his body now," he said, "and bring it to the Brugh in the lasting rocks. And if I cannot bring him back to life," he said, "I will put life into him the way he can be talking with me every day."

Then they put his body on a golden bier, and his spears over it pointed upwards, and they went on till they came to Brugh na Boinne.

And Grania's people went to her and told her how Angus would not let them bring the body into the Rath, but brought it away himself to Brugh na Eoinne. And Grania said she had no power over him.

And she sent out then for her four sons that were being reared in the district of Corca Ui Duibhne. And when they came she gave them a loving welcome, and they came into the Rath and sat down there according to their age. And Grania spoke to them with a very loud, clear voice, and it is what she said: "My dear children, your father has been killed by Finn, son of Cumhal, against his own bond and agreement of peace, and let you avenge it well upon him.

And here is your share of the inheritance of your father," she said, "his arms and his armour, and his feats of valour and power; and I will share these arms among you myself," she said, "and that they may bring you victory in every battle. Here is the sword for Donnchadh," she said, "the best son Diarmuid had; and the Gae Dearg for Eochaidh; and here is the armour for Ollann, for it will keep the body it is put on in safety; and the shield for Connla. And make no delay now," she said, "but go and learn every sort of skill in fighting, till such time as you will come to your full strength to avenge your father."

So they took leave of her then, and of their household.

And some of their people said: "What must we do now, since our lords will be going into danger against Finn and the Fianna of Ireland?" And Donnchadh, son of Diarmuid, bade them stop in their own places; "For if we make peace with Finn," he said, "there need be no fear on you, and if not, you can make your choice between ourselves and him." And with that they set out on their journey.

But after a while Finn went secretly and unknown to the Fianna to the place where Grania was, and he got to see her in spite of her high talk, and he spoke gently to her. And she would not listen to him, but bade him to get out of her sight, and whatever hard thing her tongue could say, she said it. But all the same, he went on giving her gentle talk and loving words, till in the end he brought her to his own will.

And there is no news told of them, until such time as they came to where the seven battalions of the Fianna were waiting for Finn. And when they saw him coming, and Grania with him, like any new wife with her husband, they gave a great shout of laughter and of mockery, and Grania bowed down her head with shame. "By my word, Finn," said Oisin, "you will keep a good watch on Grania from this out."

And some said the change had come on her because the mind of a woman changes like the water of a running stream; but some said it was Finn that had put enchantment on her.

And as to the sons of Diarmuid, they came back at the end of seven years, after learning all that was to be learned of valour in the far countries of the world. And when they came back to Rath Grania they were told their mother was gone away with Finn, son of Cumhal, without leaving any word for themselves or for the King of Ireland. And they said if that was so, there was nothing for them to do. But after that they said they would make an attack on Finn, and they went forward to Almhuin, and they would take no offers, but made a great slaughter of every troop that came out against them.

But at last Grania made an agreement of peace between themselves and Finn, and they got their father's place among the Fianna; and that was little good to them, for they lost their lives with the rest in the battle of Gabhra. And as to Finn and Grania, they stopped with one another to the end.

Next: Part II Book VIII: Tailc, Son of Treon