Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race

Page: 120

And the son of Luga, it is written, heeded these counsels, and gave up his bad ways, and he became one of the best of Finn's men.

[pg 264]

Character of Finn

Suchlike things also Finn taught to all his followers, and the best of them became like himself in valour and gentleness and generosity. Each of them loved the repute of his comrades more than his own, and each would say that for all noble qualities there was no man in the breadth of the world worthy to be thought of beside Finn.

It was said of him that “he gave away gold as if it were the leaves of the woodland, and silver as if it were the foam of the sea”; and that whatever he had bestowed upon any man, if he fell out with him afterwards, he was never known to bring it against him.

The poet Oisīn once sang of him to St. Patrick:

“These are the things that were dear to Finn—
The din of battle, the banquet's glee,
The bay of his hounds through the rough glen ringing,
And the blackbird singing in Letter Lee,
“The shingle grinding along the shore
When they dragged his war-boats down to sea,
The dawn wind whistling his spears among,
And the magic song of his minstrels three.”

Tests of the Fianna

In the time of Finn no one was ever permitted to be one of the Fianna of Erin unless he could pass through many severe tests of his worthiness. He must be versed in the Twelve Books of Poetry, and must himself be skilled to make verse in the rime and metre of the masters of Gaelic poesy. Then he was buried to his middle in the earth, and must, with a shield and a hazel stick, there defend himself against nine warriors casting spears at him, and if he were wounded he was not accepted. Then his hair was woven into braids, and he was chased through the forest by the Fians. If [pg 265] he were overtaken, or if a braid of his hair were disturbed, or if a dry stick cracked under his foot, he was not accepted. He must be able to leap over a lath level with his brow, and to run at full speed under one level with his knee, and he must be able while running to draw out a thorn from his foot and never slacken speed. He must take no dowry with a wife.

Keelta and St. Patrick

It was said that one of the Fians, namely, Keelta, lived on to a great age, and saw St. Patrick, by whom he was baptized into the faith of the Christ, and to whom he told many tales of Finn and his men, which Patrick's scribe wrote down. And once Patrick asked him how it was that the Fianna became so mighty and so glorious that all Ireland sang of their deeds, as Ireland has done ever since. Keelta answered: “Truth was in our hearts and strength in our arms, and what we said, that we fulfilled.”