CELT document T402361

Find and the Phantoms


Find and the Phantoms

The text of the following poem is taken from the Book of Leinster, a ms. of about the middle of the twelfth century, preserved in the library of Trinity College, Dublin, and recently reproduced in lithographic facsimile. The poem begins p. 206b and ends on the first line of p. 207b. It contains in fifty-four quatrains 216 heptasyllabic lines. I know of no other copy. A free metrical version by the late Dr Anster was published in the Dublin University Magazine, vol. 39, where it is entitled the Rath of Badammar, and the poem is noticed in O'Curry's Lectures on the Ms. Materials of Irish History, p. 305.

The teller of the tale introduces himself as Guaire the Blind. But it soon appears that this is a new name for Oisin (Ossian), the famous son of Find mac Cumaill, whose return to earth, after dwelling 300 years in the Tír na n-Óg, is told so well in a poem printed in the Transactions of the Ossianic Society, vol. 4, pp. 234–278, and whose blindness is mentioned in the same book, p. 8. The story now published is not devoid of imagination, and, from the literary point of view, the description of the quartette shrieked by the three-headed hag, the trunk with its solitary eye, the nine headless bodies and the nine bodiless heads has a certain amount of ghastly effectiveness. Moreover, it illustrates various superstitions, manners and customs. Consider the spear with a spell of venom (l. 35), the spits of rowan-tree (l. 158), the sunrise dispersing evil phantoms 1 (ll. 187–192), the cooking of horseflesh (ll. 157–164), barter (l. 23), and horseracing (ll. 13–20). The poem, lastly, throws some light on the topography of Kerry (see lines 69–89): it contains some words and forms of philological interest, which are mentioned in the notes; and it illustrátes the metrical rules recently investigated by professors Windisch and Thurneysen.

Whitley Stokes.


Edited by Whitley Stokes

Whole text

  1. Today the king went to a fair,
    The fair of Liffey with its splendour.
    Pleasant it is to every one who goes thither!
    Not so is Guaire the Blind. 2
  2. Not "Guaire the Blind" was I called
    On the day we went at the king's call,
    To the house of Fiachu who wrought valour,
    To the fortress over Badammar. 3
  3. (It was) Oenach Clochair 4 that Find greatened,
    And the champions of Ireland on every hilltop.
    Munstermen from the plain greatened it,
    And Fiachu son of Eogan.
  4. The champions' horses were brought, it is known,
    And the Munstermen's horses, into the great contest.
    They ran three clear races
    On the green of Mairid's son.
  5. A black horse belonging to Dil son of Two-Raids
    Was in every game that he played.
    Unto the rock over Loch Gair
    He won the three prizes of the meeting.
  6. Thereafter Fiachu asked the horse
    Of the king, of his grandfather:
    He promised him a hundred of every (kind of) cattle
    To be given to him in recompense.
  7. Then the wizard there uttered
    A good answer to Eogan's son:
    "Take my blessing: take the horse,
    And bestow it for thy honour's sake."
  8.  p.293
  9. "There for thee is the black swift horse"
    Saith Fiachu to the prince of the champions,
    "There is my famous chariot,
    And there is a horse for thy charioteer."
  10. There is a sword, the pledge of hundreds,
    There is a shield from the lands of Greeks,
    There is a spear with a spell of venom,
    And my silvern weapons.
  11. There for thee are three hounds, fair their colour,
    Feirne and Derchaem and Dualath,
    With their collars of yellow gold,
    With their chains of white bronze.
  12. If thou preferrest to have somewhat
    O son of Cumall, O overking!
    Thou wilt not go hence without a gift,
    prince of the fierce champions!"
  13. Then Find rose up:
    Thankful was he to Eogan's son:
    Each blessed the other:
    Gallant was their rising together.
  14. Thereafter Find went forward
    We went with him, three score hundred,
    Unto Cacher, to Cluain-da-loch,
    We all went from the meeting.
  15. During three days and three nights—it was a festival—
    We all abode in Cacher' s house,
    Without lack of ale or food
    For the hosts together with their overking.
  16. Fifty rings were given him,
    Fifty horses and fifty cows:
    Find gave the price of his ale
    To Cacher son of Cairill.
  17.  p.295
  18. Then Find went over Luachair
    To the strand at Berramain.
    Find rested with Ireland's champions
    Over the bank of the fair-watered lake.
  19. Find went to gallop his black horse
    On the strand at Berraman.
    I and Cailte through wantonness
    We raced against him, it was deception.
  20. As the king saw (us)
    He smites his horse to Tralee,
    From Tralee to Lerg Daim glais,
    Over Heatherfield and over Findnais.
  21. Over Moy-da-Eo, over Moin-Cend,
    Unto Old-yew, over Old-glen,
    To the estuary of fair Flesc,
    To the pillars of Crofinn.
  22. Over Sruth-Muinne, over Moin-Cet,
    Over the estuary of Lemain, no falsehood,
    From Lemain to Loch Léin,
    Both smooth and unsmooth.
  23. As to us, we were not slow:
    Swift were our leaps,
    One of us on his left, one on his right,
    There is no deer that we would not overtake.
  24. One hand towards Flesc, past the Wood of the Cairn,
    Past Mungairit of the son of the Stammering Champion,
    Find did not rein in his horse
    Till (he came) to the hillock named Bairnech.
  25.  p.297
  26. As we reached the hillock
    It is we that were first at coming to it:
    Though we were foremost there
    The king's horse was not very slow.
  27. "Night (is) this, end of the day",
    Saith Find himself, no error,
    "We three have come hither:
    Go forward to seek a hunting lodge".
  28. To look the king looked forth
    At the rock on his left hand,
    Till he saw the house with its fire
    In the glen before us.
  29. Said Find, the prince of the champions:
    "There is a house I never saw before!
    O Chailte, I never heard of a house
    In this glen, though I am knowing".
  30. "We had better go and find out:
    There are many things we do not know:
    It is a marvel of hospitality, it is better than everything,
    O son of Cumall, O overking!"
  31. We three went on to the house,
    A night's journey that was lamentable,
    When wailing was found, and scream and cry,
    And a household fierce, vehement.
  32. A grey giant in front on its floor
    Seizes our horses swiftly,
    Fastens the door of the house
    With iron hooks.
  33. "My welcome, famous Find!"
    Saith the giant cruelly:
    "(It is) long till thou camest hither,
    son of Cumall of Almain!"
  34.  p.299
  35. We sit on the hard bedrail:
    He tends us for one hour:
    He flings firewood of elder on his fire:
    It almost smothered us with the smoke.
  36. A hag abode in the great house
    With three heads on her thin neck:
    A headless man on the other side,
    With one eye (protruding) from his breast.
  37. "Make music for the king!"
    Saith the giant without sorrow.
    "Arise, folk that are within,
    Sing ye a strain for the kingly champion!"
  38. Nine bodies arise out of the recess
    From the side nearest us,
    And nine heads on the other side
    On the iron bed-rail.
  39. They raise nine harsh shrieks:
    They were discordant though uttered together:
    The hag replies separately,
    And the (headless) trunk answers.
  40. Though passing harsh the strain of every one,
    Harsher was the strain of the trunk:
    What strain of them was not desirable
    Save the strain of the one-eyed man?
  41. That strain which was sung to us
    Would waken the dead out of mould:
    It almost broke the bones of our heads:
    The concert was not melodious.
  42.  p.300
  43. The giant gets him from us in front,
    Lifts on him the fire-wood-axe,
    Deftly smites our horses,
    Flays, destroys without delaying.
  44. "Be silent, O Chailte, as thou art!"
    Saith Find himself without falsehood.
    "Well for us if he grant (life) to us,
    To me and thee and Ossin."
  45. Fifty spits whereon were points
    He brought with him of spits of rowan:
    He put a joint on each spit separately,
    And arranged them by the hearth..
  46. Of those not a spit was cooked
    When they were taken from the fire.
    He brought with him before Find
    Raw flesh on spits of rowan.
  47. "Take away thy food, giant!
    For I have never devoured raw food.
    I will never eat it from today till Doom
    Because of being foodless for one watch".
  48. "If thou hast come into our house,"
    Saith the giant, "to refuse our food,
    "It is certain that we shall go against yourselves,
    O Cailte, O Find, O Ossin!"
  49. After that we rose up:
    We seize our swords hardily:
    Each grasps another's head:
    It was an occasion of fighting hand to hand.
  50. The fire that lay below is quenched:
    Its flame or embers was not clear:
    We are driven into a dark black nook,
    We three in one place.
  51.  p.303
  52. When we were head to head
    And there was no help save Find,
    We had been dead, great the deed,
    Had it not been for Find alone.
  53. We were head to head within
    All through the night till morning,
    Till the sun lighted up the house
    At the time of rising on the morrow.
  54. When the sun rose
    Each man falls hither and thither:
    A mist falls into every one's head
    So that he was dead on the spot.
  55. For a short time we lay in our rest:
    We rise up, and we are whole!
    There the house is hidden from us:
    Every one of the household is hidden.
  56. Thus arose Find of Inisfail,
    With his own horse in his hand:
    Whole were (we) all, both head and foot:
    Every blemish was absent.
  57. We fared thence wearily, feebly;
    We took our bearings and saw which way we had to go:
    We fared, though it was long thereafter,
    To the strand by Berramar.
  58. They asked of us tidings:
    We had no wish to deny it:
    "We found", saith Find, "on our way
    Tribulation for our billeting."
  59. Those are they that came against us,
    The three Shapes out of Yew-glen,
    To take vengeance on us for their sister 207b
    Whose name was Cullenn Wide-maw.
  60.  p.305
  61. We went on a hunting round
    All about the isle of Elga:
    We searched many mountains and many plains,
    Many rough places and many fairs.

Document details

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Title statement

Title (uniform): Find and the Phantoms

Title (firstline, Irish): Oenach indiu luid in rí

Author: unknown

Editor: Whitley Stokes

Responsibility statement

Translated into English by: Whitley Stokes

Electronic edition compiled by: Beatrix Färber

Funded by: School of History, University College, Cork

Edition statement

1. First draft.

Extent: 2780 words

Publication statement

Publisher: CELT: Corpus of Electronic Texts: a project of University College, Cork

Address: College Road, Cork, Ireland—http://www.ucc.ie/celt

Date: 2016

Distributor: CELT online at University College, Cork, Ireland.

CELT document ID: T402361

Availability: Available with prior consent of the CELT programme for purposes of academic research and teaching only.

Source description

Manuscript Source for the Irish original

  • Dublin, Trinity College Library, MS 1339 (H 2.18, Book of Leinster). 206b–207b.

Editions and Translations

  1. Ludwig Christian Stern (ed), 'Le manuscrit Irlandais de Leide', Revue Celtique 13 (1892) 1–31, 274 (prose version).
  2. Lady Augusta Gregory, Gods and Fighting Men: The Story of the Tuatha De Danaan and of the Fianna of Ireland. arranged and put into English by Lady Gregory; with a preface by W.B. Yeats. (London and New York 1904).
  3. Marieke van Kranenburg, An edition of the three known versions of "Finn and the phantoms" with translation and textual notes. MA thesis. July 2008. Celtic Studies. University of Utrecht. (Available online.)

Secondary literature

  1. Joseph Falaky Nagy, 'Shamanic Aspects of the "Bruidhean" Tale', History of Religions, 20:4 (May 1981) 302–322.
  2. Pádraig A. Breatnach, 'Irish Narrative Poetry after 1200 A.D.', Studia Hibernica 22/23 (1982/1983) 7–20.
  3. James MacKillop, Celtic Myth in English Literature (Syracuse 1986).
  4. Sharon J. Arbuthnot and Geraldine Parsons (eds.) The Gaelic Finn Tradition (Dublin 2012).
  5. For more bibliographic information, see http://vanhamel.nl/codecs/Oenach_indiu_luid_in_r%C3%AD.

The edition used in the digital edition

‘Find and the Phantoms’ (1886). In: Revue Celtique‍ 7. Ed. by Whitley Stokes, pp. 289–308.

You can add this reference to your bibliographic database by copying or downloading the following:

  editor 	 = {Whitley Stokes},
  title 	 = {Find and the Phantoms},
  journal 	 = {Revue Celtique},
  number 	 = {7},
  address 	 = {Paris },
  publisher 	 = {F. Vieweg },
  date 	 = {1886},
  pages 	 = {289–308}


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Project description: CELT: Corpus of Electronic Texts

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The present text represents pages 289–305 of the published edition, including introduction and footnotes. The Irish original is available in a separate file, G402361.

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Creation: By Whitley Stokes

Date: 1886

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  • The text is in English. (en)
  • Irish occurs in the original title (first line). (ga)

Keywords: poetry; Finn cycle; medieval; phantoms; translation

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(Most recent first)

  1. 2016-03-15: SGML and HTML files created. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  2. 2016-02-10: File captured, proofread (1,2); encoded; header created; file parsed and validated. (ed. Beatrix Färber)

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  1. 1. Compare Dasent's Popular Tales from the Norse, 2d ed., 1859, p. 347: “So the Troll turned round, and, of course, as soon as he saw the sun, he burst.” 🢀

  2. Oisin's name at the time this poem was composed. 🢀

  3. Near the town of Cahir in Tipperary, O'Curry. 🢀

  4. Now Manistir near Croom, co. Limerick, O'Curry. 🢀


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