Many of these compositions are of a truly epic character ; but as preserved in the MSS. they are more commonly in detached form-episodes, or remscela, of a larger drama. Sometimes, and especially in more recent times, the particular episode is recorded entirely in verse---a ballad ; but the classical form is the Tale. The Gaelic Tale is of a distinct type, varying somewhat in the MS. and in popular literature. The MS. tale is a skilfully composed narrative of events in historical order. Here and there, the more important incidents are gathered up, and repeated by the leading actor for the time, in lyric verse. The style varies. As a rule, the prose tale is wordy, inflated, exaggerated ; but not infrequently the style is vigorous and chaste, adapting itself with ease to the varying mental movements of the narrator. In the popular tale the style is less elaborate ; the diction as a rule is simpler, the syntax easier. The laoidh, or "lay," so frequently met in the MS. tale, hardly ever appears. But the reciter, in recounting a stirring incident, passes from plain prose into a semi-rhythmical movement which is neither prose verse, but partaking of the character of both. This peculiar style is technically termed ruitheannan or " runs." In the mouth of a skilful reciter, this impassioned recitative is highly effective. Examples are found in all the most elaborate of Campbell's Tales—a very good one, e.g., is the description of the Iubhrach Bhallach, or “Speckled Barge, in the opening of the Tale of the Knight of the Red Shield (West Highland Tales II., 456), and which Macdonald of Ardnamurchan must have had in his mind when composing Clanranald's Birlinn.

The Scottish Gael has preserved orally and in MS. a large and valuable collection of this heroic literature. In the Dean of Lismore's Book there are some thirty poems and ballads classed as Ossianic. Down through the later MSS. (xlviii. and others) are additional ballads and variant versions. Mainly in consequence of Macpherson's publications, Ossianic literature has since been diligently collected by several scholars, and published. The exploits of Fionn and his band form the subject of many a MS. tale, as well as of a large number in Campbell's and other publications. Of the earlier periods of Gaelic romance, our Scottish Collection preserves valuable relics. Our oldest copy of the great Gaelic saga, the Tain Chuailgne, was in MS. xxxii. now amissing. And MS. xl., of which Dr Kuno Meyer has given a detailed account in Vol. XII. of the Celtic Magazine, preserves better versions of several characters and incidents of the Cuchullin epoch than

any found in the larger and fuller Irish MSS.

Of two at least of the three classical Gaelic tragedies—The three Sorrows of Story telling, as they are technically called-our Scottish Collection has preserved the oldest, and presumably the best, copies. These tragedies are—the Aided, or “Death by Violence,” of the Children of Tuirenn ; the Aided of the Children of Lir; and the Aided of the Children of Uisneach. The two first belong to the Mythological period; the last to the Cuchullin period. The Children of Tuirenn kill Cian, the father of Lugha Lamhfhada, and the son imposes upon them as eric nine tasks or labours which they successfully accomplish, but from the effects of which they die. The tale is in MS. lvi. of our collection. The main incidents, apart from the labours of the Children of Tuirenn, are concerned with the wars of the Tuatha Dé and the Fomori, who, according to the tale, dwelt at the time in Lochlann. In the opening pages, we are told that Nuada, King of the Tuatha Dé, had only one hand, and his doorkeeper only one eye. Two famous doctors came the way of the palace, and they fitted the king with a silver hand, whence he is known, not as Nuada Lamh Airgid, as we should say, but as Nuada Airgiod-lamh. The name survives in Maynooth, the Magh or "plain" of Nuada. Into the doorkeeper's head the doctors put a cat's eye, and the author, with delicious humour, tells of the poor doorkeeper's troubles with his new organ :—When everything was quiet, and the porter needed sleep, the cat's eye was wide awake, starting “at the squeaking of the mice, the flying of the birds, and the motion of tne reeds ;” when the doorkeeper was marshalling a pageant, and required all his wits about him, at such times the cat's eye s would be in deep repose and sleep.” Ireland was the nightmare of politicians then

In our own day, a statesman suggested the removing of the island 1000 miles out into the Atlantic as a solution of the Irishi problem. John Bright's remedy was but an echo of that of the King of the Fomori, Balar of the Mighty Blows. Balar charged his son Breas, after he had conquered the Tuatha Dé, “ to put his cables round Erin, which gives so much trouble, and tie it to the stern of his ships, and tow it to the North of Lochlann,” evidently hoping that the transfer of the Green Isle to the North Pole would remove all diff.culties.

The Aided Cloinne Lir is found in our MSS. Xxxviii. and lvi. The Children of Lir, three sons and a daughter, were, through the jealousy of their stepmother, changed into swans, and doomed to pass 300 years on Loch Dairbhreach, 300 in Sruth na Maoile, as the wild belt of sea between Kintyre and Antrim appropriately named, and 300 in the Western Sea round Glora

as now.


Isle, their spells to be broken when they would hear the voice of the Christian bell. Their human reason and Gaelic speech remained to the wanderers, and so the Lady Fingola, who occupies the leading place in the tale, describes with spirit, in one of her many laoidhs, the discomforts of life on a winter night off the Muli of Kintyre

Olc a' bheatha-sa ;
Fuachd na h-oidhche-sa;
Meud an t-sneachda-sa;
Cruas na gaoithe-sa.

Do chuir leas-mhathair,
Sinn an ceathrar-sa ;
A nochd 's an dochar-sa,
Olc a' bheatha-sa.

The tragedy of the children of Uisneach is the most popular and best known of these tales. Copies of the shorter version are found in the old Irish MSS. But the oldest copy of the expanded version is found in our MSS. liii. and lvi. Deirdre was a child of surpassing beauty, reared in seclusion by King Conchobar MacNessa, with the view eventually of marrying her. Meanwhile the young lady causes Naoise, son of Visneach, to elope with her. With a large retinue the pair, to avoid the vengeance of Conchobar, pass over to Alba, and spend happy days on the shores of Loch Etive. They are induced to return to Ireland, their safe-conduct being guaranteed by Fergus MacRoich, a champion of honour who comes to Alba for them.

The lady has her suspicions, and on leaving Alba she sing the well-known laoidh

Inmain tír an tír ut thoir
Alba cona h-ingantaibh
Nocha ticfuinn eisdi ille,

Mana tisainn le Naise. On their arrival in Ireland, Fergus is by stratagem detached from the party. Naoise and his brothers are treacherously put to death, and the lady commits suicide. On the cover of MS. liii. (the Glenmasan MS.) is the date 1238. The existing MS. is assigned on linguistic grounds by Whitley Stokes (who has printed this tale, Irische Texte, Leipzig, 1887) to the fifteenth century, but it may well be a copy of a MS. of the earlier date, the transcriber altering the orthography and grammatical flexions to the standard of his own day. This MS. at present consists of twenty-five leaves of large quarto, closely written upon. There are two breaks, the extent of which we know not. The tale of the sons of Uisneach occupies only four of these leaves, the remainder being taken up with the exploits and intrigues of the champion Fergus M‘Roich after the murder of Naoise and his companions and before the Tain B) Chuailgne opens. Notwithstanding the blanks this portion of the MS. is extremely valuable, for the preserved Irish literature hardly touches the subject.

Fergus, angry because of the treachery of one of his sons, Buinne Borb Ruadh, who had joined the party of Conchobar; the death of another, Iollann Fionn ; and, more than all, because his own guarantee of safe-conduct to the sons of Uisneach was not respected, heads a party against the king, commits great devastation, and thereafter with several companions, including Cormac Conloinges, son of Conchobar, retires in dudgeon to Cruachan, the capital of Connaught, where Queen Meave, a woman of great talent but easy virtue, rules both her husband and her kingdom. Meave cordially receives the exiles. But the volatile Fergus soon tires of the life of inglorious ease he leads at Cruachan. He hears much of the beauty of Flidais, the wife of a petty prince in Iorrus Domnann

Erris,” and the gifted Lothario, bent on fresh conquests, resolves to proceed to the wild west. In his train at the time was an o'lamh of great talent, named in our manuscript Bricne, son of Cairpre, a man whose capacity for making mischief must surely identify him with Bricriu Nemthenga or "poisoned tongue,” the Ultonian satirist who at his famous feast, the Fled Bricrend, set the ladies of Ulster so violently by the ears. (The Fled Bricrend is printed in Windisch & Stokes's Irische Texte, Leipzig, 1884.) Bricne went in advance of Fergus to trumpet the praises of his patron, and specially to interest Queen Flidais in his fortunes. When the great poet is seen on the plain of Dun-atha-fein, the youth of the place go forth to meet him, and they carry him shoulder high to the presence of Oilill Fionn or the “Fair,” son of Domnall Dual-buidhe king of the Gamanraid. A great feast is given in Bricne's honour. The guests are seated according to their rank, Bricne occupying the place of honour, “at the king's shoulder.” The choicest in foods and drinks that the castle affords is produced on the occasion. There is white wine for the nobles ; light mead for the old gentry ; brogoid which Cormac derives from the Welsh, a variant of the Gaulish brace and our braich malt, "bragget," a drink made from malt and honey, for the landlords; and cuirm (Welsh cwrw) “ale” for all and sundry The feasting over, song and story go round. Bricne is asked whether he will be good enough to contribute anything to the entertainment, a duan or airchetal or ealadha. The poet calls for bis nine-stringed harp with its uaithni made of gold, and sings, the cliar accompanying, a song which he made ar cepoig to the prince. (O'Curry explains that cepog was the technical term used in Alba for what the Irish called ciobsi "great chorus or vocal concert.”) In Sutherland ceapag is (or was until recently) the term for “a catch,” a verse composed impromptu (cf. Rob Donn Ed. 1829 p. 344.) The Gamanraid applaud; they never heard a better duan. It had only one fault; they were not able to understand a word of it. Whereupon Bricne is good enough to expound the verses for them, clause by clause. In conversation with the prince, Bricne says he never lived in better quarters—the castle needed only a queen to make it perfect. He is told that Queen Flidais is temporarily absent, being at the time looking after the Maol Flidais, a wonderful cow that yielded at one milking sufficient for 300 men, besides women and children. Bricne is invited to visit the Queen, and here the festivities of Dun-atha-fein are repeated. The poet is popular to a degree; but he so manages matters that wherever he goes, no two men however friendly previously but are deadly enemies thereafter. Flidais asks what sort of man this champion Fergus is of whom she has heard so much. " Vain to ask such a question ;" says Bricne, “for though I had seven heads, and in each head there were seven mouths, and in each mouth seven tongues, and on each tongue the eloquence of a suadh, I would be unable to speak of the man aright. Among the heroes of the earth there is none to compare with him. Nor have I ever heard of any except Lugh Lamhfhada or 'Longhand' (the famous king of the Tuatha Dé), and Hercules the son of Amphitryon the hero warrior of the Greeks, and Hector, son of Priam the hero warrior of the Trojans; and I give my word that Fergus is superior to these heroes in courage, in valour, in sense, in nobility, in spirit, in generosity; and besides there is no king on earth whose gifts to his household at each samhain are so rich as his." The poet then expatiates in detail on the magnificence and generosity of Fergus. Bricne shortly thereafter is able to return to his patron at Cruachan, loaded with gifts from Oilill Fionn, and bringing a secret message from Flidais that she is prepared to follow the fortunes of Fergus, and to contribute men and treasure for the approaching war between Connaught and Ulster.

Fergus now goes to the west in person, and the remainder of the saga

is taken with his intrigues and adventures among the


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