Standish O'Grady.

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the country, who dwelt in the borders of
that forest, stood on the neighbouring hills
and watched the scene with great joy.
Before noon there were killed many boars
and badgers, many an antlered stag, many
wolves, and as for hares and such like small
game, it would have been hard to count
them. So eager were the huntsmen that
they did not feel hunger till the sun was
nigh his setting.




Then said Finn to some of his people who
knew that country —

** Is there any lord or wealthy hru-fear
living hard hy, who can give us good enter-
tainment to-night?"

They said, " There is not."

" I marvel how you can say that," said
Finn, " for it is but little time since I my-
self saw the mansion of such a one. It is in
a green and fertile valley beyond the forest
in the west, large and handsome, and the
walls white with lime. I saw an orchard
gay with apple-blossom and stacked corn
and all the outward signs of good living."

Thereat they laughed and said —

" We shall get no entertainment there,
Captain of the Fianna of Erin. The
owner of that house is the least hospitable
man in Ireland. Many a stranger has gone
thither and departed as he came."

Finn was very angry, and said —

*' I swear by the generous and all-liberal


Sun who has ripened that churl's corn and
given him wealth and abundance, that he
shall yield hospitality to me and the Fians
this night with his will or against it."

Then calling to him a trusty attendant,
he said —

' ' Dering, go to that man and say that
Finn, the son of Cool, Captain of the
Fianna Eireann, requests entertainment
and rest for his people now spent with the
chase and famished with sharp hunger."

So saying, Finn winded his horn to sum-
mon to him his scattered men.

Dering having gone, returned, and
standing before Finn, said —

" Captain of the Fianna, I went to the
man according to thy command. He was
sitting at the end of his table with his
people about him at supper, which I per-
ceived to be a very meagre repast. His wife
sat at his right hand, her look was as kind
and gentle as his was not, and she is very
beautiful. I walked up the hall to where
he sat, and having made a fitting reverence
delivered thy message in thy very words.
Yet he answered sternly, ' Go back and tell
thy master that he and his young men may
roast their own supper in Fian ovens as they

(D 436) C


are accTistomed to do, and couch themselves
in thick brakes, for they are healthy and
hardy. From me he will get no entertain-
ment.' "

Before he had made an end of speaking
Finn strode in anger through the forest in
the direction of the man's house. Finn
entered the inhospitable house, where the
master had just risen from supper; he
seized him with his left hand and threw him
on his knees, and while he was in that
posture addressed him thus —

" As thou hast not given hospitality to
us willingly thou shalt give it unwillingly.
From the rafters of thy house, hanging
there with a rope round thy breast, thou
shalt this night look down uncomfortably on
the consumption of thy goods. Then I think
thy covetous soul will be much distressed;
and mark this, too, that when I leave in the
morning the cord will not be around thy
breast, that all men may know how loath-
some are covetousness and inhospitality in
my eyes."

A long cord was then procured, and
when a running loop had been made in it at
one end and the hands of the man tied
together, it was put round his breast under


the arm-pits. In the centre of the house
there was a tall smooth tree which was the
main support of the roof and therefore was
called the roof-tree. One of Finn's grand-
sons, holding the end of the cord in
his teeth, swarmed up the roof -tree, and,
passing the cord over one of the cross
beams, slid down again, bringing the
cord with him. Then they hoisted the
curmudgeon and drew him swiftly up till
his poll struck against the cross beam and
they wound the cord round the roof -tree and
made it fast. There, pale and astonished,
the owner of the house looked down upon
the scene while Finn issued his orders to the
house-steward and to the servants.



The chamber in which these things were
done was the great central hall of the
palace. At the end of this hall, facing the
door of the house, there was a small door
having carved jambs and a carved lintel,
which communicated w ith inner chambers —


the quarters which were reserved for women
only. Hardly had Finn's people made fast
the cord round the foot of the roof -tree when
from these inner chambers there arose loud
cries and lamentations. Presently the door
was opened and a young woman beautifully
attired stood in the doorway. She was very
fair and shone like a star against the dark
background. It was the man's wife. Any-
one looking at him would have supposed
that the curmudgeon was made fast in the
cord of his slaughter ; but a full account of
what had been done was brought to the
woman, and she knew that her husband was
more frightened than hurt. For a moment
she stood still, while her eyes travelled
round the great chamber filled with strange
forms of men, then letting fall her veil she
hastened down, followed by her attendants,
who wept and smote their hands together,
and cast herself before Finn's feet weeping.

Finn was moved by her beauty and her
distress, and said : ' ' Name thy petition, my
child, for it is already granted."

And she said —

" Captain of the Fians, spare my hus-
band, and I promise from him and from
myself that all thy people shall be well and


liberally entertained, as is only right. I
looked for no other end of our slender house-
keeping, and lo, I have beside me much store
of food and drink reserved for some such
day of destruction as hath now come upon

And Finn said : " Lady, I perceive
that thou art wise as well as fair. Thy
boon is granted, and by my right hand I
swear that had I known this man was dear
to thee, though greatly angered, I would not
have put him to such shame."



Then the curmudgeon was let down from
his uncomfortable position and untied, and
Finn and his men left the house and went in
quest of the remainder of the Fians. The
latter had in the meantime come together
from different parts of the great forest to
the place where Finn had winded his horn,
and when they did not find him there their
trackers traced him till they came to a place
which commanded a distant view of that
green valley in which was the great white


inhospitable house, and lo, from all the
chimneys of the same there went up thick
rolling pillars of dark smoke to the violet
sky, each distinct and straight, for it was a
windless evening. When the Fianna saw
that sight their laughter was loud and long,
yea, though they were sore spent with the
chase they laughed till their tears flowed and
they leaned against each other for laughing,
and one said to another, " It is easy to see
that Finn has paid an early visit to that
house." And also, ' ' The man who is called
Nod must get to himself another name from
this night," for in their language the name
Nod meant " stinginess."

Then they met Finn, and afterwards all
went together to an adjoining lake and
bathed there, and the surrounding woods
and hills resounded with their cries and
joyful exclamations and laughter as they
swam to and fro there like waterfowl and
beat the still lake into foaming waves as if
a hurricane had descended upon its quiet
surface. There was always a lake or river
in the neighbourhood of Finn's forests, and
when there was not he commanded a lake to
be dug. When they came out of the lake
their attendants handed to each of them a


change of raiment, bright banqueting
attire, and after that they all proceeded
together joyfully to " the house of inhos-

Now, though Finn and his companions
had often been well entertained in many
houses, they agreed that they had seldom
been so well entertained as they were that
night. For, not only was the fare good and
abundant, and the drink likewise, but the
banqueting table flashed throughout from
end to end with vessels of silver and gold,
and cups of dazzling crystal, and the table
linen .was of the finest texture and inlaid
with curious patterns, for by the advice of
his prudent wife the man Nod brought forth
all his hidden treasures and jewels of great
price, which he had amassed and had stored
away in dark places. Moreover, the man
and his wife — the man impelled by fear and
the woman by her own generous heart —
exerted themselves to the utmost in order
that every desire of their strange guests
might be satisfied. The attendants and the
dog-boys and the dogs, the tired beaters, too,
were all royally entertained, each according
to his degree. Cheerful was the laughter
of the heroes in the inhospitable house, and


their hearts rejoiced greatly to think that
in such a house these things could be. After
supper was ended Finn called for music, and
his harpers harped before him, and also
Ossian, the son of Finn, chaunted for them
a tale of some ancient woe, and bowed all
their heads and relaxed their hearts. After
that they sang Fian songs full-toned and
strong, singing loud all together with open
mouths, songs of war or of the chase or of
adventure, rejoicing in their glory and their
matchless career, and far away the Leinster-
men heard them, both those who dwelt by the
eastern sea and those who lived along the
green borders of the Barrow, for it was not
a little noise that Finn's men made when
they sang. So the Fians passed that even-
ing in the house of inhospitality, and those
of Nod's people who witnessed the scene
used to speak about it as long as they lived.
When it grew towards the hour for sleep
Finn called for his little magic tympan or
lyre, of which long since he had mightily
deprived Allen, the son of Midna the
enchanter, and he gently touched the
strings. The virtue of this Ivre was such
that no man could hear it without sleeping
well afterwards. When Finn played on


this lyre it was a signal to his men that they
should go to rest. This night each hero
found a good bed ready to receive him and
all of less degree also, according to what was
customary in houses of hospitality or even
better, and the hounds too, such as the great
boar had not slain, were abundantly pro-
vided with clean straw. There Finn and
all his people slept sweetly, but the man Nod
and his wife took counsel together, and
made preparations so that in the morning
their guests might break their fast well.

They all breakfasted next morning in
the gloaming, and departed with the rising
of the sun. Finn saluted the lady respect-
fully and afterwards her lord cheerfully,
only he added with a stern look, " Come to
me to the Hill of Allen on the tenth day."
So Finn and his people and their numerous
dogs passed away, and the noisy and many-
coloured procession entered the woods,
going swiftly, so that soon even the sound
of their voices was not heard and a great
silence reigned over the whole valley. Nod
and his wife were standing together at the
door of the mansion, and they turned and
looked at each other without speech.

Nod's substance was not impaired by


that extensive billeting of Finn's men and
hounds, such was the amount of game, large
and small presented by Finn to the lady of
the house as a token and a gift.



The man Nod was tall and strong, well-
shaped and erect, but of a grim and dour
aspect, save only when his looks were turned
upon his wife and child. His cheeks were
hollow and colourless, and though he was
young his black hair already showed the
blemish of early grayness. He was proud,
too, and the indignities which he had en-
dured before the eyes of his wife and his
people preyed upon his mind, so that his
sleep forsook him and he wandered to and
fro by night and by day like a dead man in
motion. On the seventh day his wife brought
to him a cunningly-prepared sleeping
draught, and that night he slept well, yet on
the morrow it was with great difficulty she
persuaded him to set out on his journey to
the Hill of Allen Yet he went and two


armed men with him. They crossed the
Slaney and the Barrow, rivers of Leinster,
and crossed the Plain of the Liffey, which
is noY7 called the Curragh. Here they were
attacked by robbers, whom they defeated.
Nod behaved well in the conflict, for though
inexpert in arms he was by no means a
coward. On the tenth day, in the forenoon,
they saw the camp of the Fians on the Hill
of Allen — tents innumerable and banners
floating there with many devices. There
was one high above all the rest, which
showed the likeness of the golden sun half
risen from the blue floor of the sea. It was
the banner of Finn, and was a sign to all
men that Finn was there and that whoever
desired food and drink, or peace and happi-
ness, or the redress of injuries, might come
to him, and all who were in any distress.

As Nod drew nigh to the camp he won-
dered more and more to see how carelessly
Finn and the Fians resided on this hill, for
there were no ramparts or moats or trenches
around the camp, and no towers of defence
or of observation; no strong palisades of
timber, therefore no gates. Also there were
no scouts or sentinels, and no bodies of
armed men, keeping the approaches to the


camp. The hill too, which was flat on the
top, was no more than a great rising ground,
and the broad green streets of the camp com-
municated with the open green plains of



Trembling and sorely distressed in mind,
Nod began to enter the camp. Before him
was one very broad green street bordered on
both sides by the white brown-roofed tents
of the Fians, each tent standing apart by
itself. All the people were of great stature,
well shaped, and graceful in all their
motions and brightly attired. There was
a tall, very handsome young man standing
by a tent upon the right side, which was the
last there and touched the open country.
The young man was talking pleasantly with
two maidens who leaned from a window in
an upper storey of that tent. Yet he was not
so much absorbed in the conversation as not
to notice the coming of Nod and his com-
pany. He had long glossy and curling black
hair, which rolled over a scarlet mantle, a


round shield on his left arm and a spear in
his right, his eyes were of bright hazel with
long lashes, his complexion a rich brown,
and smiles played ever sweetly round his red
lips. Never had Nod beheld such an appari-
tion of youth and beauty. He was tall too
and straight and lissom as a young fir-tree
which bends to every breath of the wind yet
ever recovers its straightness.

The youth approached Nod, and when he
had saluted him courteously and saluted also
the man's servants one by one, he said —

" My lord Finn bade me meet thee and
conduct thee through the camp to his tent.
My own name is Diarmid."

As they went through the camp. Nod,
who looked around him eagerly on every
side, said —

" I see here on the left one strange tent
standing by itself in a hollow. It is black,
both sides and roof, and the banner over it
is black with a pale device. There is a black
man standing at the door, and two black
hounds are beside him."

" Look no more," said Diarmid, "or it
will be the worse for thee. I see him not,
yet well I know that he is there. Few of us


ever see him. His name is Dara-duff, from
the Black Mountain of the North."

Presently a company of young Fians met
them, descending the slope of the hill, and
laughing much as they came They enclosed
in their midst a man of great size, whose
head was bald. He was fat, with a very big
stomach, and his eyes twinkled with
laughter and twinkled more as he drew
nigh, and took note of the stranger's

He accosted Nod with mock politeness.

" Happy art thou," he said, " illus-
trious stranger, for it is not necessary for
thee at any time to declare thy name and
breeding, for Nod is in thine eye and cut out
and carved all over thy countenance."

Diarmid's anger arose at this. He raised
the haft of his spear, and, as the fat man
turned to flee, brought it down with a
resounding noise upon the other's broad
back. He uttered also a fierce rebuke.
Many of the Fians stood at the doors of their
tents watching this scene, and when they
saw the man beaten they laughed sweetly
and said —

" O Conan, thou wilt find a better sub-
ject for thy jibes and jests another time."


The fat man walked away crestfallen,
and wiped a big tear from either eye. Now
on the right sounded music and drums,
trumps and trumpets of many kinds, so gay
and exhilarating that Nod's sad heart
leaped with animation as he heard it.
Presently a battalion, emerging from the
tents, crossed the green way swiftly, and
disappeared on the left. They had a
banner which showed the rowan-tree with
green leaves and scarlet clusters of berries
woven on a white ground. Then a troop of
light-footed youths ran past them; beside
each youth a hound bounded, led in leashes
of white bronze or glistening silver.

Many bright or strange sights were seen
by Nod that day, as he went with Diarmid
through the mighty camp of the Fianna.
Save the two already mentioned, there was
no one who showed any blemish. All were
of great size, well shaped and handsome,
and every eye bright with the light of life.
Through such sights and sounds Nod drew
nigh to Finn.




The door of Finn's tent was open, and so
wide that an army might march through it.
As Nod drew nigh trembling he heard low,
very sweet music, like that of a recorder
perfectly played, only sweeter. Then he
saw within the tent a man of great size
sitting upon a couch, whose hair was like-
snow and glittered like boiling silver poured
out of the crucible. It was Finn. A young
man whose name was Oscur sat beside him.
He leaned his head upon Finn's shoulder
and held Finn's left hand in his right.
Behind Finn stood Bering, and upon the
floor at Finn's feet sat another young man
who whistled. It was his whistling that
Nod mistook for the music of a recorder.

His name was MacLewy. It was one of
Finn's chief pleasures listening to that
young man as he whistled. Many of Finn's
chief men were there standing or sitting
through the great tent. There were
daughters and granddaughters of Finn
there too.


Finn saw Nod through the open door,
and started up and hastened towards him,
and he took him by the hand and led him
into the tent joyfully and affectionately, and
made him sit in his own seat. Finn's people
also, both men and women, welcomed him
with shining faces and pleasant words, and
they set before him a small beechen table
round and very white, and put before him
such viands as they had by them, also a
carved mether having four silver corners
and two silver handles, and Finn himself
poured out the ale. When Nod saw all this,
and how he, a man of no repute in Erin, or
of bad repute, nay the worst, was received
here with so much kindness, then the vein of
penury that was in Nod's heart brake. He
put his hands before his face and bowed his
head and wept aloud. When he had made
an end of weeping Finn put his hand gently
on his shoulder and said, ' I know it all, my
son. Eat and drink a little now, and after-
wards one of my young men will lead thee
to the guest chamber. There thou shalt have
change of raiment and all else that thou
needest, and he will be thy companion till
the evening. Thou must sup with me here
this night and remain with me many days,

(S 436) D


for thou hast suffered much, but now thou
shalt suffer no more.



Before proceeding farther with Nod's
story, I desire to tell something about two
young men whom Nod found in the camp,
namely, the youth who was whistling for
Finn in his tent and the very handsome
youth who met Nod and conducted him
through the camp to Finn. And first con-
cerning MacLew^y, whose whistling was so
delightful to Finn.

Finn had a daughter named Lewy, and
Lewy had a son who, as he had no other
name, was called Lewy's son or MacLewy.
It was he who sat whistling before Finn
when Nod w^as approaching Finn's tent.
When this youth w^as born his mother con-
sidered with herself to w^hom she would
send him to be nursed. There was a cele-
brated nurse and instructor of children in
those days called Mongfinn or Fair-hair.
She had nursed and brought up in her time


eight hundred shield-armed warriors who
were admitted into Finn's army. Lewy sent
her child to her to be nursed and educated.
When the boy was twelve years old the
woman gave him a spear, sword, helmet, and
shield, and sent him to Finn.

" Thou art a child," said Finn.

'' I am a man," answered the boy. " Try

' ' Dost thou know the seven severe proofs
to which I put candidates?" said Finn.

" I know them," said the boy, " I did not
come here to be engaged in conversation, but
to be proved; and make your proofs stiff,
for I promise you that they will be a laugh-
ing-stock when I have done with them."

At that Finn flushed and said, ' ' Beware
of pride and vainglory, my son; they soon
come to a fall."

' ' Not where there is a corresponding or
even excessive degree of merit to support
them," answered the lad unabashed.

" Make me a poem according to the
rules of the Imbus-for-Osna," said Finn,
' ' every second line rhymed and every other
line assonanced, and with three alliterations
in every line. Let the theme be thy coming
to Finn's house.'*


The boy made the poem on the spot, mag-
nifying himself and censuring the manner
of his reception. Also he glanced disparag-
ingly at certain of the great men who stood
around, Goll mac Morna, Ossian, and
others, mingling satire with his song.

"Thou art indeed an astonishing youth,"
said Finn.

* ' I thought I would astonish thee before
our interview came to an end," answered the

" Hold out thy spear," said Finn.
*' Nay, lad, that will not do. Take it by the
extreme end, hold it at an equal distance
from the ground along its whole length, and
thyself perfectly upright the while."

The lad held the spear-end not in his
hand but with three fingers only. ' ' Doth it
tremble?" he said.

Unwillingly, and yet gladly too, they all
had to admit that it did not.

" That will do," said Finn; " I shall
put thee to no more proofs after that."

" That is to deprive me of my glory,'*
said the boy; " I see that you are all jealous
of me already."

** Hast thou any amiable accomplish-


merit ?" said Finn. "Canst thou play on an

" Set a battalion before me," answered
the boy; "and me before it with my weapons
of war in my hands, I will play upon it

" I mean a musical instrument," said
Finn, laughing.

** Yes," said he; "I play on an instru-

" Is it with thee?" said Finn.

" It is indeed," he replied, " now, and at
all times. It is a flute, alive, red, flexible,
with ivory keys white as May blossom."

"It is thy mouth," said Finn; "now
play for us."

The youth whistled, and never before or
since did such music pass the human lips.
All who were in that presence wept save
Finn only.

"Stop now," said Finn; "before my
mighty men are dissolved away in salt
rivers. Whose son art thou?"

' * I am the son of Lewy, and the grand-
son of Finn. Of my father I have no know-
ledge and no care."

" Thou art my man from this day forth,'*
said Finn. The lad put his right hand into


the right hand of his grandfather and be-
came his man.



From the day that MacLewy came into the
camp there was no peace in it, but all was

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Online LibraryStandish O'GradyFinn and his companions / by Standish O'Grady → online text (page 2 of 9)