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The Poems on Ailech

from The Metrical Dindshenchas, Vol IV, edited by Edward Gwynn

Translated by E. Gwynn & Isolde Carmody

The translations are based on Gwynn’s, with some amendations and modernisation of the English idioms.  Short notes are included in the translated text within square brackets.

I only include the sections of the poems that contain our story of the Dagda and his securing of a grave-stone for his son, Áed.  To read the complete poems, see Gwynn’s edition, Vol IV, here, or his translation here.

pp 92 – 115; poems 22, 23, 24

AILECH I

1. Decid Ailech n-Imchill n-úaib

Behold Ailech [lit. “stones”] of Imchell [seems to mean “surrounding, encompassing”] before you,

sosad slúaig sir-thenn síl Néil

the enduring seat of the host of Niall’s descendants,

fert fo dáenai Banbai mbáin

the grave, as known among Banba’s bright folk,

Aida áin meic Dagda déin.

of splendid Áed, son of the diligent Dagda.

2. Dagda daith, ba deog de neim,

The swift Dagda, he was deadly as a poison drink,

flaith for fleid fodla co fuin:

a justly-dispensing lord over the feast till sunset;

maraid assíd [gap: extent: monosyllabic word] céin mair

his mound remains […], long may it remain!

is fair rogníd issin Bruig.

over him was it made in the Brugh.

3. Ba rí h-Erend ílair gíall,

He was king of Ireland with hosts of hostages;

ba flaith fial forsheng, ba fáel;

he was a noble, slender lord, he was a warrior [lit. “wolf”]:

deg-meicc h-i toebnius ria thoéb

good sons were attendant at his side,

Cermait caem, Oengus, iss Áed.

Cermait the beloved, Óengus, and Áed.

4. Aed robíth i mBend Báin Báith

Áed was slain on Benn Bain Baith,

tre neim ind laich col-láim luaith,

through the spite of the hero with the swift hand,

nodforglem, fo indnu áith;

– we proclaim – with a keen spear:

ba bidba cáich Corggend Crúaich.

Corrgend [cf. corrguinech, “sorceror”; and corrgenn, “pointy-head; some kind of sea monster” {DIL}] of Cruach [Crúachán, Co. Roscommon] was every man’s enemy.

5. Corrgend fo chairib don chin

Corrgend was blamed [lit. “under blame”] for the crime:

i fid na maigib na muir

in wood nor fields nor sea

connach fúair port fo gréin gil

he never found [safe] harbour under the shining sun,

cen chorp ind fhir for a muin.

wthout the corpse of the man on his back.

6. Mathi h-Erend imma ríg

The good [folk] of Ireland were around their king

as cach thír tren-sheing co tráig;

from every land, [they were] strong and slender, [shore] to shore;

niptar tlaithenaid a thúir

they were no weak-looking [folk] pursuing him

ó dún meic Fathemain Fáil.

from the fort of the son of Fatheman of Fál [i.e. Ireland].

7. Fríth Corrgend co cridi crao;

Corrgend was found stained with heart’s gore;

ba bráu borb-leng inna bíu;

he was a senseless-clothed mill-stone when he was alive:

dobert ainech ris tre thnú

he gained his reputation through envy,

dú ita Ailech indiu.

in the spot where Ailech is today.

8. Dia do glan-fhert glan rogníth,

A good pure grave was built

fích inid faderc do chach,

in the district where it is seen by all;

don Dagdo dil foluig líach

it hides a sorrow for the kindly Dagda

i n-iath bil Banba co bráth.

in the good meadow-land of Banba for ever.

9. Ninbói síd na slán ind uilc

There was no peace for him nor healing of the harm

cen chrad a chuirp co níth nert

except by torment of his body, strong and fighting,

on Dagdea, do díth a maic,

(from the Dagda for the loss of his son,)

cen marb-lia mairt forsin fert.

and a memorial stone laid on the grave.

10. Fuair lia linne os loch

He got a stone of the pool by the lake;

fo thinniu throch trait atbath;

in pangs of suffering suddenly he died:

robriss a blaid iss a bruth:

his fame was shattered and his fury;

assbert guth, ba ‘hail’ co n-‘ach’.

he spoke a sound, it was ‘ail’ with an ‘ach’!

11. Ailech cen Chorrcend fo chlói

Ailech, without Corrgend’s shouting,

ni toirm-thend in graigech glé;

would not be strong in fame, that bright home of horse-herds;

bói fer tuachill fora thí

there was a wise man on his track

ropo rí do thuathaib Dé. D.

who was king over the Túatha Dé D[anann].

12. Ailech n-Imchill os cech áit

Ailech Imchell, above every [other] place,

dia do báirc bir-chinn fri ét

a right sharp-prowed ship, all-envied,

la tuatha De dremuin dúairc,

among the Túatha Dé, fierce and solemn,

cuaird i m-bái Nemain is Nét.

the district where Nemain and Néit [lived].

13. Imchéll casleóir Dagdai dúir

Imchell was the castle-builder of the stern Dagda,

in múir mas-móir magdai muaid;

of the fair great vast and noble wall;

Coblán ua Gairb gaela gráid

Gablan [“Little Branch”], grandson of Garb [“Rugged”], of respected relatives [i.e. family],

rodfáig im fhert Aeda úaig.

raised it round the grave of faultless Áed.

14. Atbath Corrcend co crúais chuirp:

Corrcend died with bodily hardship

húais n-uilc nad ordnenn a shercc:

great ill to him whose love degrades him;

rodechraig fón ail co h-aircc,

bearing the stone he dug out with toil

ind ailt rodechlaid in fert.

the dwelling, he dug the grave.

p 100 ff

AILECH II

FLAND MANISTRECH cecinit (chants)

1. Cía triallaid nech aisneis senchais Ailig eltaig

Whoever attempts the telling of the history of Ailech of the herds

d’éis Echdach áin, is gait claidib al-láim Ercail.

after the noble Eochaid, it is robbing the sword from the hand of Hercules.

2. Ermór neich roiarfaig uli úa Maelcholuim

The greater part of all that O’Maelcholuim requested

Eochaid iar cund rosluind ria sund do druing Dobuill.

Eochaid pronounced intelligibly before now for the hosts of the Doball.

3. Derb mar roiarfaig cía sóer doróni Ailech,

Surely, when he asked, what craftsman built Ailech?

ní cheil Eochaid arm-shlán airech: Garbán graigech.

Eochaid the weapon-proof noble did not conceal that it was Garbán [cf. Gablán úa Garb in Ailech I] of the horses.

4. Cía robuí ar cáe ‘ca dénam? Imchell fin-fher,

Who was present at the building? His tribesman Imchell

is Garbán sóer úa Gairb ó gáel fáel nofiged.

and Garbán the builder, grandson of Garb, from a warlike [lit. “wolf-like”] family, who built it.

5. Fég cía lasa n-dernad iarum in gním glanda?

Look, who was he by whom was made after that the pure work?

in fer las’ tucad a damna i n-deil Dagda.

The man by whom was brought its materials, [in recompense for] the Dagda’s prop [i.e. his son].

6. Dia n-iarfaigther cíasu fochond ar a n-dernad?

If it be asked, what was the cause why it was made?

a maic im lecht cundail rofhecht in fert feb-glan.

Round his son’s enduring grave he raised the tomb nobly-pure.

7. Fégthar cid dia n-apar Ailech airdairc etir?

Let it be seen why the illustrious Ailech is called so at all?

dond ail túargaib Corrgend cicuil torgenn gletin.

From the stone lifted up by Corrgend of the Great Cycle [i.e. 19-year astronomical cycle] who waged battle.

8. Geguin Corrgend mac Flathemain ó Chruaich, cluinid,

Corrgend, son of Flatheman, from Cruach (listen!), wounded

Áed ard amra ropo mac don Dagda duilig,

Áed, high-born, wondrous, who was son to the hard Dagda,

9. Dia n-dechaid Áed co mnaí Corrgind ina lepaid,

Because Áed came to Corrgend’s wife into her bed;

ba h-olc opair, úair nách fer cotaig rochetaig.

It was a bad job, since her partner did not permit it.

10. Cechaing Corrgend iarna chrád for lár a thige;

Corrgend strode forth, after tormenting [Áed tormenting Corrgend?] him in the middle of his house,

co romarb Áed iar n-óeth aire, ba bóeth bine.

so he killed Áed, though he was under oath; it was a foolish crime.

11. Bátar óic Érenn ‘ca iarair, amra in lucht-sin,

The youth of Ireland were seeking him – wondrous that folk –

co ná fúaratar dond fhecht-sin iarsind ulc-sin.

but they did not find him, at that time, after that evil.

12. ‘Oirrgther,’ or cách, ‘na h-anagar dáig na n-derna.’

‘Kill him!’ said everyone, ‘let him not be spared for what he has done.’

‘Nítha a díth,’ ol in Dagda, ‘fo bíth Temra;’

‘He shall not die,’ said the Dagda, ‘for Tara’s sake,’

13. ‘Acht tócbaid in marb romudaig fora muin-seom,’

‘But lift ye the dead man he has destroyed onto his back;

‘is ferr dún trá trell dia thoil-seom andá a guin-seom.’

It is better for us to take a spell of his service than to injure him,’

14. ‘Co raib fo méla fon marb-sin, cen nach cáemna,’

‘And he shall carry the shame of that dead man, without mercy,

‘co fagba lícc bas bert búada for lecht n-Áeda.’

till he find a stone that shall be a pre-eminence over Áed’s grave.’

15. Arigis líc ós loch Fhebail, ba feidm fénned,

He erected a stone by Loch Foyle (it was a soldier’s task),

co tórgab súas co crúas chórad, úais int én-fher.

and raised it up with a champion’s grit; noble was the hero [lit. “bird-man”].

16. Ed asbert oc breith ind eire dar sreith slige,

This is what he said, bearing the burden over a flood of roads,

‘Ach ach do ail! is deshin domaid mo chride.’

‘Ach! ach! for the stone! it is that which breaks my heart!’

17. ‘Coir cid Ailech doraga ris,’ ol in Dagda;

‘It is right that Ail-ach should go after it [i.e. stay as its name],’ said the Dagda;

corop ed a ainm in dindgna, airm i tarla.

so that was the name of the prominence, in the spot where this happened.

18. Techtad Néit mac Induí Ailech, bráthair athar,

Néit, son of Indui, his father’s brother, possessed Ailech,

ocus Nemain a ben brethach na cned cathach,

with Nemain, his judge-wife of the battle-scars,

19. Corop Ailech Néit asberthar ó cech duine

So that it may be called Ailech Néit by all,

gibis glaine, ór is leis ind inis uile.

the pure gorge; to him the whole island belonged.

20. Iarfais nech and cía díne rogab in insi,

Some one might ask then, what people held the island,

tan dorigned in gním gland-sa ósind lind-si?

when this mighty work was raised above this lake?

21. Lán-memor lim, it Túatha Dé Danann drongaig

I remember perfectly; it was the hosts of the Túatha Dé Danann,

cona ngáib cona scíathaib cona congaib.

with their spears, with their shields, with their war-harness.

22. Cía rí buí for Érinn uile glé-binn glaine,

Who was king over all Ireland, pure, sweet-sounding, radiant?

acht in Dagda druine? ni chluine nach n-amra n-aile.

Who but the solid Dagda? You hear of none other so wondrous.

p 106 ff

AILECH III

1. Ailech Frigrenn, faithche na ríg rígda in domain

Ailech Frigrenn, lawn of the world’s royal kings,

dún cos’ roichdis róit fo gregaib tre chóic clodaib.

fortress to which roads reached under horse-herds, through five ditches:

2. Cnoc arar-chotail in Dagda, derg a scotha,

Hill where the Dagda slept, red are its flowers,

imda a thige, terc a chrecha, cert a chlocha.

many its houses, few its plunderings, proper its stones.

3. Caislén airard Ailech Frigrenn, ráith in degfhir,

A high castle is Ailech Frigrenn, the good man’s rath,

dún ina scaíltech ar scolaib, aíl-tech emir.

a fort that scatters [forth] schools, lime[-washed?] house of granite.

4. Inad aíbind Ailech Gabráin, glas a chráeba,

A sublime spot is Ailech Gabráin, green its branches,

fót ‘ca fuair in Dagda dúana adba Áeda.

on its sod the Dagda of the songs found a dwelling for Áed.

5. Innisim duíb dindshenchas anai Ailig

I tell to ye the place-history of Ailech’s treasures:

nolesaigfed leth in domain tech dia thaigib.

one of its houses would feed half the world.

6. Cach fáth óa fríth ainm ar Ailech cona fhailgib

Every reason from which the name was found for Ailech with its gaps,

atá lim duíb, ma’s ed chuindgid, fer ‘ca faigbid.

if that is what ye seek, I know one with whom ye may find it.

7. Eochaid Ollathair roindsaig Érinn uile:

Eochaid Ollathair went through all Ireland:

robo lethiu ná leth maige drech in duine.

his face was broader than half a plain.

8. Trí maic in deg-duine Echach cen úair formait,

The good person Eochaid’s three sons, [who knew] no time [i.e. moment] of jealousy,

Óengus ocus Áed is Cermait na cáer comraic.

[were] Óengus, and Áed and Cermat of the battle squadrons.

9. Corrgend mac Faithemain fénnid d’fheraib domain

Corrgend son of Faitheman, a warrior among men of the world,

óclach d’Eochaid rofúaig fedain cen úair n-omain,

was Eochaid’s soldier, that knit the ranks and [knew] no time [i.e. moment] of fear,

10. Géc gillai móir a maig Cruachan co céib ór-glain

A tall sprig of a lad from Mag Cruachan, with locks of pure gold,

co n-aíb aignig, co n-icht ánraid, co nirt nónbair.

with a quality of grace, with a poet’s kindness, with the strength of nine.

11. Iarna rád riss do ríg Érenn tre réim suirge

When the king of Ireland spoke to him with wooing words

tánic Corrgenn ó Chrúaich Aigle co túaith Tuirbe.

Corrgenn came from Crúach Aigle to the kingdom of Tuirbe.

12. Tethra bán-gel ba ben Chorrginn in chuirp shéim-sheing:

Tethra, radiant-white, was wife of Corrgenn with a slim slender body;

nocharb áille duine iar n-dílinn uile i n-Érinn.

there was none lovelier since the Flood in all Ireland.

13. Dorat Tethra iar tocht h-i Temraig h-i tig fhleide

When Tethra came to the feasting-hall at Tara,

áeb a h-aire ar Áed, cen co raibe reime.

[she bestowed] the beauty of her care on Áed, though he was portly.

14. Dochúaid Corgenn d’ fhis a fherainn, nírb olc léi-se:

Corrgend went to see his land – she did not find this ill:

dochar Tethra tre tháem n-drúise Áed dia éise.

Tethra gave her love in a fit of lust to Áed, in his [i.e. Corrgend’s] absence.

15. Dochúaid Aed co céile Corrgenn, cíarb ord ainshéin,

Áed went to Corrgenn’s companion, though it was an unlucky errand:

do fhir Tethra na slúag soréid trúag a thaibéim.

for Tethra’s man of the smooth troops, tragic his revenge.

16. Is andsin dorigne Corrgenn, in chleth fhuilech,

It was then that Corrgenn, blood-stained chieftain,

guin in meic romill a enech ind cen fhuirech.

wounded the lad that crushed his honour without hesitation.

17. Dochúaid Corrgenn d’ éis ind échta i n-íarthar Connacht

Corrgenn went, after the deed, on his way to western Connacht,

iar n-díth Áeda, cen co fríth cáemna ara chomolc.

after Áed was slain, though he found no shelter for his guilt.

18. Dochúaid Eochaid d’ íarraid Chorrginn i crích n-Umaill

Eochaid went seeking Corrgenn to the territory of Umaill

coros-timairc tre dlúim n-dodaing i cúil cumaing.

and hemmed him with relentless pressure in a narrow nook.

19. Gabthar Corrgenn ina chinaid, acht cíar chalma,

Corrgenn is taken in his fault, despite all his bravery:

robuí in trén-fher tre tháem n-dogra dáer ‘con Dagda.

the strong man in a fit of woe became the Dagda’s bondman.

20. Co n-epirt cách ‘Crochthar Corrgenn, cenn na fénned,’

Then all said, ‘Let us hang Corrgenn, chief of warriors,

‘ma dorinne úaill ná úabar a grúaid glé-gel.’

if his clear bright cheek has shown haughtiness or pride.’

21. ‘Nocho dénaim’ ar in Dagda, ‘mar atberar,’

‘I will not do that’, said the Dagda: ‘as it is said;

‘aní nach dír is nach dliged ní dím dlegar.’

‘that which is not right nor lawful may not be done by me.’

22. ‘Ní dlegar anim is enech i n-íc n-anma:’

‘Soul and honour are not due as the price of a soul:

ní h-ed béras ó breith nemda dreich in Dagda.

this shall not turn aside the Dagda’s face from the lofty judgement.’

23. ‘Acht bíd amáin ara muin in mac romudaig’

‘Only that he shall bear on his back the boy he killed

‘nocho fagba cloich bas chubaid ina chomair.’

till he find a stone of size to match him.’

24. ‘Cuirther in mac ar muin Chorrginn Chnuic na Taíden’

‘Let the boy be put on the back of Corrgenn of Cnoc na Taiden

‘d’ airbríg íaram da phíanad ri gairg-ríg nGaídel.’

to entail from now on his punishment at the hands of the stern king of the Gaels.’

25. Dohimcuired Áed la h-Eochaid in áig adbail:

Áed was borne by Eochaid mighty in battle:

nocho ruc rí reime a Temraig eire amlaid.

no king before him bore to Tara such a load.

26. Hi cnuc Themra tuargbad in fer forsin fénnid:

On Tara’s hill the dead man was lifted onto the warrior:

rosuc leis co tech Néit náraig in ngéic nglé-gil.

he bore with him to the house of noble Nét the bright-clear stripling.

27. Rogab Corrgenn dar clár medóin maige Senaig:

Corrgenn took his way through the central plain of Mag Senaig,

rosíacht co rind-moch in rogein find-loch Febail:

and the good person reached, at point of dawn, the bright lake of Febal,

28. Febal mac Lotain, lám glé-gel, gúala roboc,

Febal mac Lotain, of clear-bright hand, soft of shoulder:

rolád ón loch dar in lenab cloch a chomfhot.

a stone was cast up from the lake of equal length [with Áed].

29. Ó ‘tchondairc Corrgenn cloich Febail, rosfég reime,

When Corrgenn saw the stone of Febal, which he spotted before him,

rosuc leis tre uinnem uile d’ fhuilled eire.

he bore it with him by uttermost effort, an added burden.

30. Roinnis co derb don Dagda cen deilb n-dúabair

He spoke assuredly to the Dagda, not gloomy of appearance,

‘Ac-so in clach amuig, a mílid! ach ail úabair!’

‘Here is the stone brought out, O warrior! ah stone of pride!’

31. Atrubairt bodéin in Dagda co n-dreich idain,

Said the Dagda himself, pure of face:

(tairm ‘na thigib) ‘Bid ón ailig ainm ind inaid.’

(a saying in its homes) ‘From the stone shall be the place’s name’.

32. ‘Bid Ailech bías ar in baile seo don Banba’

‘Ailech shall this place be called throughout Banba,

‘sech cach cnoc mar chnoc taí Temra,’ ar draí in Dagda.

honoured above hills like the silent hill of Tara,’ said the Dagda’s druid. [said Dagda the druid?]

33. Rotuit Corrgenn fon chloich buirb, robris a chride;

Corrgenn fell under the rude stone’s weight, his heart broke:

ní bo chaise a chur ‘na laige do bun bile.

the quicker was he laid in his grave at the foot of a great tree.

34. Desin gairther Ailech Áeda na n-ech side,

From this Ailech is called, after Áed of the fairy horses,

ocus Ailech Corrginn Chrúaiche borb-thinn bithe.

and after rough-strong beaten Corrgenn of Crúach Aigle.

35. Iarsin tuctha na dá deg-fher ri dán crithir

After that were brought two good men of nimble art,

Garbán is Imchell co h-Eochaid find-chenn frithir.

Garbán and Imchell, to sorrowing fair-headed Eochaid.

36. Co n-epert riu ráith do dénum ‘mon dreim séim-sheing

He told them to build a rath round the smooth-slender group

combad h-í ráith na n-eng n-álaind bad fherr d’ Erinn.

so that it would be a rath of beautiful surfaces, the best in Ireland.

37. Atrubairt riu Néit mac Induí in aicnid doilig

Néit son of Indui, of troubled nature, told them

nocha n-derntais deg-slóg domain ermór Ailig.

that the world’s good host could not build the greater part of Ailech.

38. Rogab Garbán gnímach oc saírse is oc snaide,

Busy Garbán was taken with building and shaping,

rogab Imchell ara aire timchell taige.

Imchell was taken with keeping guard about the house.

39. Tarnic dénam daingin Ailig, cíarb ord sáethrach,

The building of Ailech’s stronghold was completed, though the  work was toilsome;

mullach tige na ngíall ngáibthech roíad áen-chlach.

a single stone closed the apex of the house of terrible hostages.

40. Tánic Néit mac Induí in allaid, in airm lebair,

Néit son of Indui, the stranger of the long weapon, came

ocus ruc leis in mnaí m-builid robaí i mBregaib:

and brought with him the beautiful woman who was in Brega:

nocho rucad i tech n-Ailig nech mar Nemain.

one like Nemain was never brought to the house of Ailech.

41. Ailech Néit ó Néit mac Induí ainm in baile,

Ailech Néit, from Néit son of Indui, was the name of the place,

sul tucad air in t-ainm aile, airm ‘ca aire.

before the other name was given to it; it was guarded by weapons.

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