Conchobar Mac Nessa

First version of the text of Conchobar Mac Nessa (facsimile of the Book of Leinster, published by MR Atkinson, 1880). The version of the text contained in the Book of Leinster is more literary than that which appears in the Book of the Brown Cow.

Conchobar Mac Nessa

Conchobar Mac Nessa

Conchobar, son of Ness Irish MacNessal], was a wonderfully eminent man. This is the opinion of the Ulates [i.e. people of the Kingdom of Ulster]. He is called son of Ness [Mac Nessal], after his mother's name. Indeed, Ness, daughter of Echaid Salbé, king of Munster, was mother of Conchobar. This is why she was given the name Ness. His education was entrusted by Echaid Salbé to twelve tutors. Assa, meaning Easy, was the name they first gave her, because she was very easy to raise. There was in Ireland, at that time, a cruel warrior. Cathba, son of Ross, was his name. Indeed, Cathba was not only a druid, he was a warrior. Once, therefore, he went on a warlike expedition into the territory of Munster. So he went to the house of the guardians of Echaid's daughter. In a single night, he killed the twelve guardians of the daughter of Echaid, and it is not known who was the author of this massacre. Then the daughter of Echaid went to war fully armed. With three times nine companions, she traveled through Ireland, and, wanting to know who had massacred her guardians, she killed people. This is why she killed them all: it was because they did not know the description of the murderers of her guardians; and each one said: This woman will not be easy [in Irish Ni assal]; this is why it was called Niassa [which, in the mind of the author, is shortened to Nessa, genitive of Ness, in the nickname of Conchobar, son of Ness, mac Nessal. Her warlike expedition led her to the country of the Ulates. There, one day, she went alone to bathe. At the bath, she met the warrior who had killed her guardians, that druid Cathba mentioned above. Peace was made between them… Then came the mutual affection; she had a son by him. This son was Conchobar, and his father was Cathba. He was therefore of high birth, this Conchobar.

We must say at what time this birth happened. The hour in which Christ was born is the hour in which Conchobar was born. Four prophets announced it seven years in advance. They predicted that a wonderful child would be born at the same time as Christ, on the stone where Conchobar was born, and that his name would be famous in Ireland.

The dignity of Conchobar was great seven years after his birth. It was then that he became King of Ulster. Here is the reason: Ness, daughter of Echaid Salbé, his mother, was not married. Fergus, son of Ross, was king of Ulster; he wanted to marry Ness. "I will not consent to it," she said, "without a dower, and this dower will be a year of reign for my son, so that later my son will be called the son of a king. "-" Give her what she asks, "all the Ulates said. You will remain our king, whoever is proclaimed and who is given the name of king. So Ness married Fergus, and Conchobar was proclaimed King of Ulster. Ness took possession of her dower, with her son, with her son's guardian and with his family. Fergus was despoiled for Conchobar's benefit. Ness seized Fergus' gold and silver, and distributed it to the warriors of Ulster in his son's name.

The end of the agreed time came after a year. Fergus asked his sureties to restore the kingship to him. "We'll talk about it again," said the Ulates. They deliberated on it in an assembly. "It was necessary," they thought, "that Fergus should despise us greatly to give us a dower. On the contrary, they owed Conchobar gratitude for his beautiful gifts. So they concluded that Fergus had lost what he had given and that Conchobar would keep what he had acquired. This is how Fergus lost the kingship and how the supreme dignity, in one of the five great provinces of Ireland, passed from Fergus to Conchobar, son of Cathba.

The Ulates did Conchobar great honor. This is what that honor consisted of. Every man in Ulster would give his adult daughter to Conchobar to sleep with him the first night, so that he would be her husband. There was not a man on earth who was wiser or who made better judgments than he. No one prevailed over him, for he never made false judgments, and his gifts were without measure. We could not say how high the esteem we had for him. There were no stronger heroes on earth. He was rushing forward in the midst of danger. Leaving the royal children's room, he would place himself face to face with heroes, old warriors and brave men, in combats and battles, without believing in danger. Every man in Ulster would give him hospitality one night and make him sleep with his wife that night. Three hundred and sixty-five men formed the staff of the house of Conchobar. In other words, the number of days that is in the year is the number of men who formed the staff of the house of Conchobar. There was an association between them. Each night, one of them was in charge of the meal. Whoever had presided over the meal one night became president again after a year. This meal was no small thing: a pig, an ox and a vat [of beer] for each man. There were, as an exception, men who were not given this. Such was Fergus, son of Roeg, as the story goes. He was really a tall man. The seventh of the person of this Fergus surpassed the whole person of any other. There were seven feet between his ear and his mouth; seven human hands would have held between his two eyes, as much over the length of his nose, as much over the width of his mouth. To wet his head and wash it well, we needed a tank full of water in which a large sack of barley would have held; it took seven men's hands to cover the tracks of his feet…. and seven women to take care of him if Flidas did not come; he needed a day seven pigs, seven vats of beer and seven oxen to feed and quench his thirst; he had the strength of seven hundred men; we had to let him run the meals for the whole house for a week, on his own.

But it was Conchobar himself who took charge of the meals on the feast of Samain, because of the great crowd. The assembly he had to attend to at this feast was bound to be large, for any man from Ulster who did not come on Samain's night to Emain, the capital, immediately lost his mind; that very morning their grave was dug, and the funeral stone stood on the grave. Conchobar therefore had a lot to do. The custom was that the three days before Samain and the three days after Samain, the Ulates were gathered and ate in the palace of Conchobar. It was pretty, this palace; it included three main buildings: the Rameau-Royal, the Château-Aux-Couleurs-Variées and the Rameau-Rouge. In Rameau-Rouge, the heads and arms of vanquished enemies were preserved; in the Rameau-Royal, the kings were lodged, and it was because of them that he was called royal; in the Château-Aux-Couleurs-Variées were stored the spears, shields and swords of the warriors of Ulster. The varied colors that one saw there were due to the golden hilts of the swords, to the shining and green spears, garnished with circles and rings of gold and silver, to the gold and silver that adorned the fields and the borders of the shields, to the brightness of the drinking pots and horns.

This is why the Ulster Warriors gathered their weapons in a specially designated house: None of the Ulster Warriors could hear an insulting word without immediately wanting revenge; then he would rise to fight, strike his head and his shield against the head and the shield of his adversary to break them, and the battle was fought in the very hall of the feast. To prevent these fights, we had gathered the weapons in the Château-Aux-Couleurs-Variées. There was Conchobar's shield, with the four gold borders surrounding it; there the shields of Cûchulainn, of Conall the triumphant, of Flidas, of Furbaidé, of Causeradé, of Amorgen, of Condairé, of Nuadu, of Fergus, of Dubthach, of Ergi, of Noisé, of Loégairé, of Cormac, of Sencha, from Celtchar and the rest. We stop here an enumeration which would be too long.

The dignity, brilliance, glory and fame of the heroes who made up the house of Conchobar were great.

We pass over in silence a crowd of brave men and heroes. But we will talk about Fergus, son of Roeg. He certainly had enough bravery, the man to whom the three reproaches of Midé arrived, at the battle of Garg, during the expedition made to kidnap the cows of Cûalngé. Angered with Conchobar, he struck the ground three times; these blows caused three hills to spring up, and those hills will last forever.

We won't say anything good about the brave; but we will quote Conall the triumphant, iron-haired son of Amorgen. He certainly had enough ardor in the fight. From the time he first took the spear in his hand, he never let a day go by without hurting, a night without killing a Connaught inhabitant, and he never fell asleep without having his head severed. 'a Connaught resident below his knee. There was not, in Ireland, a land of a petty nobleman where Conall the triumphant had not killed a man. It was Connall the triumphant who shared MacDatho's pig, winning the bravery prize in front of Ireland's greatest heroes; it was he who avenged the men of Ulster, whom the other Irish killed or will kill from now on.

Since Conall the triumphant took the lance in hand, no one has equaled it, except the famous young man whose triumphal march all the Irish escort: Cuchulainn, son of Sualdam; his grandfather was from the country of the side (of the gods); his father's brother was called Dolb. Ethné Ingubé, wife of Elcmairé, from the country of the Sides, was Sualdam's sister. Dechtiré, daughter of Cathba, was the mother of Cûchulainn [we remember that Cathba was the druid, father of Conchobar of whom Dechtiré was the sister, consequently Cûchulainn was nephew of the king]. The exploits of this young man were very formidable; he was terrible, especially when he got angry: the speed of his feet was strange; her hair was becoming more prickly than a point of a white thorn; there was a drop of blood on each of her hair; one of his eyes entered his head, the other protruded about the length of a foot; he no longer recognized either beauty or friendship; he was also hitting behind his back and in front of his face. He surpassed all the men of Ireland by the military talents which he had brought back from the teachings of Scathach Buana in Great Britain… [There follows a list of the feats of strength that Cûchulainn knew how to make: the game of the cat, the game of the apple , the salmon jump, etc…]

It would take too long to enumerate here the men who made up the house of Conchobar; it would also take too long to describe his palace. His palace contained three times fifty rooms, and three couples were lodged in each of these rooms; the palace and the rooms were built of red yew, bandaged with good copper. Conchobar's room was on the ground floor, surrounded by bronze facades, the upper parts of which were silver, surmounted by golden birds, and in the heads of these birds shone precious stones. Above Conchobar rose a silver rod, surmounted by three golden apples; from this rod he gave warnings to the crowd; when he waved his rod or when he himself raised his voice, the crowd fell silent: he would have thrown a needle on the ground, we would have heard the noise, so great was the respectful silence! Thirty warriors could drink together in Conchobar's room. Gerg's vat, known as the "coal drink," 0l n-guala, was on the floor of the palace, always full; it had been brought from the valley of Gerg, when Gerg was slain by Conchobar.

There was a man in Conchobar's palace who was to make great preparations one day; it was Bricriu, son of Carbad 0ll. Nine sons of Carbad 0ll were in the palace; they were: Glainé and Gormainech, Mané, Min, Scoth and Ailill, Dureis and Ret, finally Bricriu, Bricriu the poisonous man with the bad tongue. There was no lack of poison in his heart. When his evil thoughts secretly stirred in his mind, a red pimple he had on his forehead grew bigger and bigger than a man's fist, so that speaking to the king, "My pimple," said he, "fought last night, O Conchobar"

So there were many wonderful people in the palace of Conchobar, King of Ulster.

Second edition of the same account (Manuscript Stowe, 992, end of the 14th century, at the Library from the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin).

There was a king in Ulster: it was Eochu Salbuidhé, son of Loeg. A daughter was born to him; it was: Ness, daughter of Eochu Salbuidhé, and twelve guardians received this girl to raise her. Assa ["easy"] was her name at first, for she was of an easy character, and gentle to bring up. It was at this time that a hero came from South Ulster to make a heroic expedition through Ireland and three times nine men made up his troop: Cathba, the famous druid, was the name of this hero. So he was a man of great science, a skillful druid, a brave hero, and his origin was Ulster, although he was absent from it.

So, Cathba arrived in a desert with his three novenas of men. Here he came to the same desert another hero with three other novenas of men. So immediately they began to fight with each other, so that they were tired, and they made peace in the end: for they would all have succumbed, if they had not made peace, since they were in equal number. Then Cathba and his people, as well as the other hero and his people, went to Ulster and killed the twelve guardians of the girl, for these were all in a house feasting; no one could escape, except the young girl, and it was not known who had carried out this murder. Immediately, with loud cries, she went to find her father. The father told her that he could not avenge her, since no one knew who had carried out the murder. She was very angry.

Then, the young girl left on a heroic expedition, with a troop of three times nine men, to avenge her guardians. So she struck and devastated each territory successively. Assa ["easy"] had been her name until that moment, because she was gentle. Nihassa ["difficult"] was then his name thereafter, because of the harshness (andsatu = an-assatu) of his bravery and his intrepidity. She used to ask the hero story of every stranger she met to see if he knew the name of the man who had killed his guardians.

So once she was in a desert, and her people prepared to eat. So she went ahead alone and explored the desert as she used to explore every desert she went to. As she was there, she saw a pure and beautiful lake spring in the middle of the desert. So she entered the water to bathe and left her weapon and her garment on the ground. Now, Cathba came to explore the same desert, and he arrived at the source where the young girl was bathing. Cathba then came to stand between her, her clothes and her weapon, then he drew his sword and raised it above the girl's head. "Spare me then," cried Ness. - "Grant me my three requests," replied Cathba. - "You will get them," resumed Ness. - "What occurred to me is to put you under my protection," said Cathba, "that is to say that there will be peace between us, alliance between us and that you will be my only one. woman for a long time. "-" It is better for me than to be killed by you, since I do not have my weapon, "said the young girl. They then gathered themselves and their people in a

only place. Then Cathba, at the favorable moment, went to Ulster and to Ness's father. He welcomed them and gave them land. It was Raith Cathbad, in the land of Picts, in the neighborhood of the river which bears the name of Conchobar, in Crich Rois.

But a very great thirst seized Cathba during one night. So Ness went across the whole castle to get him a drink and found nothing to give him. Then she went to the Conchobar, that is to say to the river, filtered water into the cup through her veil, and then brought it to Cathba. - "Let's turn on a light," said Cathba, "to see the water. Now there were two worms in the water. So Cathba drew his sword and raised it over his wife's head to kill her. - "So drink yourself," said Cathba, "whatever you wanted me to drink, or else you will die if you don't drink this water." So Ness takes two sips of water and swallows a worm with each sip. Then she was fat while every woman was fat, and it was one of these lines that she was fat, according to some. But Fachtna Fathachl [king of Ulster] was Ness's lover, and it was he who made her fat, not Cathba, the noble druid.

Cathba once went to speak with the king, that is to say with Fachtna Fathach, son of Rudraige, and he arrived with his wife at Mag Inis. The pains take Ness on a trip. - "If it were in your power, O woman," said Cathba, "do not bring into the world the child that is in your womb before tomorrow, for then your son will be king of Ulster or of the whole of Ireland, and his name will remain in Ireland forever: it is indeed on the anniversary of the same day that the illustrious child will be born whose glory and power have spread over the world, that is to say Jesus Christ, son of the ever-living God. "-" I'll do it on time, "Ness replied; And unless the child comes out by my side, he will not come out elsewhere until that time comes. " 

It was then that Ness went to the meadow which was on the bank of the river which bore the name of Conchobar; she sat down on a stone which was on the bank of the river, and thus came her birth pangs. It was then also that Cathba predicted in these verses the birth of Conchobar; he spoke as follows:

0 Ness, you're in danger!
May everyone get up in front of your childbirth
We can't find anything to calm your pain
Beautiful is the color of your hand;
0 girl deochu Buidhé!
Do not lament, o woman
He will be the leader of hundreds of men and armies
Of the world, your son.

They will have the same prosperity and the same advantage
And he and the king of the world.
Everyone will praise them
Until the day of judgment.
The same night they will be born.
The heroes will not dare to attack them;
As hostages they will not be taken,
Neither he nor Christ.

In Mag-Inis you will give birth to him
On the stone, in the meadow.
Glorious will be its history.
He will be the gracious king,
He will be Ulster's dog,
Who will take the hostages of the heroes.
Great will be the shame,
If he falls ...

Conchobar will be his name,
For whoever calls him.
Red will be his weapons,
And he will stand out in the great carnage.
Then he will find death,
By avenging the God worthy of pity.
Visible will be the trace of his sword,
On the sloping plain of Laim.

He will not be Cathba's son,
The handsome and industrious man.
However he is loved by me,
He will be the son of Fachtna Fathach.
As Scathach knows,
He will often take hostages
North and south. 0 Ness

0 Ness, you're in danger!
May everyone get up in front of your childbirth
We can't find anything to calm your pain
Beautiful is the color of your hand
0 girl deochu Buidhé!
Do not lament, o woman
He will be the leader of hundreds of men and armies
Of the world, your son.

It was then that Ness gave birth to the child who was in her womb, that is to say, the illustrious, famous child, the promised child whose glory spread over Ireland; and the stone on which he was born still remains: it is opposite Airgdig, to the west. This is how this son was born: he had a worm in each hand, he fell backwards into the river called Conchobar; the flood passed over him until Cathba managed to seize him. His name was given to him after the name of the river, and he was called Con chobar, son of Fachtna. Cathba took the child on her womb, gave thanks for his birth, and made a prophecy on him, singing the following poem

Welcome the host who has arrived here,
As we told you,
Lejeune son of the noble Cathba
He will be a power full of grace.

Lejeune son of the noble Cathba
And Ness the strong
Dominate by its power the hills of Ireland.
My son, my little child

My son, my little child,
Soon ornament of the world
He will be a king full of grace
He will be a poet, he will be generous.

He will be a poet, he will be generous
He will be the leader of the warriors on the sea,
And of my troop on the shore,
My little cat, darling head!

Welcome the host who arrives here,
As we told you,
Lejeune son of the noble Cathba
He will be a power full of grace.

This child was then brought up by Cathba; therefore he was called Conchobar, son of Cathba. After this Conchobar became king of Ulster by the rights of his mother and father, for Fachtna Fathach, son of Rudraigh, king of Ireland, was his father, and it was he who begat Conchobar instead of Cathba. And it was by the strength of the valor and the magic 'of this man, that is to say of Cathba, that the famous and terrible battle of Forgarach and Ilgarach was won over Ailill and Medb, when the cows of Cualngé were kidnapped from the province of Ulster. End.