Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race

Page: 119

180 For Liagan, one of the invaders, stood out before the hosts and challenged the bravest of the Fians to single combat, and the Fians in mockery thrust Conan forth to the fight. When he appeared Liagan laughed, for he had more strength than wit, and he said: “Silly is thy visit, thou bald old man.” And as Conan still approached Liagan lifted his hand fiercely, and Conan said: “Truly thou art in more peril from the man behind than from the man in front.” Liagan looked round; and in that instant Conan swept off his head, and then threw his sword and ran for shelter to the ranks of the laughing Fians. But Finn was very wroth because he had won the victory by a trick.

[pg 261]

Dermot O'Dyna

And one of the chiefest of the friends of Finn was Dermot of the Love Spot. He was so fair and noble to look on that no woman could refuse him love, and it was said that he never knew weariness, but his step was as light at the end of the longest day of battle or the chase as it was at the beginning. Between him and Finn there was great love, until the day when Finn, then an old man, was to wed Grania, daughter of Cormac the High King; but Grania bound Dermot by the sacred ordinances of the Fian chivalry to fly with her on her wedding night, which thing, sorely against his will, he did, and thereby got his death. But Grania went back to Finn, and when the Fianna saw her they laughed through all the camp in bitter mockery, for they would not have given one of the dead man's fingers for twenty such as Grania.

Keelta mac Ronan and Oisīn

Another of the chief men that Finn had was Keelta mac Ronan, who was one of his house-stewards, and a strong warrior as well as a golden-tongued reciter of tales and poems. And there was Oisīn, the son of Finn, the greatest poet of the Gael, of whom more shall be told hereafter.


Oisīn had a son, Oscar, who was the fiercest fighter in battle among all the Fians. He slew in his maiden battle three kings, and in his fury he also slew by mischance his own friend and condisciple Linné. His wife was the fair Aideen, who died of grief after Oscar's death in the battle of Gowra, and Oisīn buried her on Ben Edar (Howth), and raised over her the great [pg 262] dolmen which is there to this day. Oscar appears in this literature as a type of hard strength, with a heart “like twisted horn sheathed in steel,” a character made as purely for war as a sword or spear.

Geena mac Luga

Another good man that Finn had was Geena, the son of Luga; his mother was the warrior-daughter of Finn, and his father was a near kinsman of hers. He was nurtured by a woman that bore the name of Fair Mane, who had brought up many of the Fianna to manhood. When his time to take arms was come he stood before Finn and made his covenant of fealty, and Finn gave him the captaincy of a band. But mac Luga proved slothful and selfish, for ever vaunting himself and his weapon-skill, and never training his men to the chase of deer or boar, and he used to beat his hounds and his serving-men. At last the Fians under him came with their whole company to Finn at Loch Lena, in Killarney, and there they laid their complaint against mac Luga, and said: “Choose now, O Finn, whether you will have us or the son of Luga by himself.”

Then Finn sent to mac Luga and questioned him, but mac Luga could say nothing to the point as to why the Fianna would none of him. Then Finn taught him the things befitting a youth of noble birth and a captain of men, and they were these:

Maxims of the Fianna

“Son of Luga, if armed service be thy design, in a great man's household be quiet, be surly in the narrow pass.

“Without a fault of his beat not thy hound; until thou ascertain her guilt, bring not a charge against thy wife.

[pg 263]

“In battle meddle not with a buffoon, for, O mac Luga, he is but a fool.

“Censure not any if he be of grave repute; stand not up to take part in a brawl; have naught to do with a madman or a wicked one.

“Two-thirds of thy gentleness be shown to women and to those that creep on the floor (little children) and to poets, and be not violent to the common people.

“Utter not swaggering speech, nor say thou wilt not yield what is right; it is a shameful thing to speak too stiffly unless that it be feasible to carry out thy words.

“So long as thou shalt live, thy lord forsake not; neither for gold nor for other reward in the world abandon one whom thou art pledged to protect.

“To a chief do not abuse his people, for that is no work for a man of gentle blood.

“Be no tale-bearer, nor utterer of falsehoods; be not talkative nor rashly censorious. Stir not up strife against thee, however good a man thou be.

“Be no frequenter of the drinking-house, nor given to carping at the old; meddle not with a man of mean estate.

“Dispense thy meat freely; have no niggard for thy familiar.

“Force not thyself upon a chief, nor give him cause to speak ill of thee.

“Stick to thy gear; hold fast to thy arms till the stern fight with its weapon-glitter be ended.

“Be more apt to give than to deny, and follow after gentleness, O son of Luga.”