CELT document T402362

The Burning of Finn's House


Toitean Tighe Fhind

Edited by Edward J. Gwynn

Whole text

     p.17 118
  1. Sad is it here, O ruined keep!
    where was wrought that destruction:
    here remain your traces:
    we remember those tidings of evil.
  2. A grievous sight to me to see thee in this plight,
    O ruin, once glorious, crowned with brightness!
    The Clann Morna, who lie under headstones in the grave,
    thou hast brought to bareness, O ruin!
  3. Said Ailbe, we remember:
    "Perilous the place where we find ourselves:
    if anyone should come over sea,
    he would not leave a woman of us with her mate."
  4. Said the women truly
    to the king's daughter white of skin:
    "Since there are no neighbours to do us right,
    let us see what help our elder can afford."
  5. "Let us raise a cry of battle without craft,
    throughout the white-rodded red-satined hostel,
    till we see what stay is best
    to support us in the land of Erin."
  6. "Garaid mac Morna, impetuous hero,
    if he should hear the cry of unequal combat,
    would come at the cry without craft,
    and our laughter would be stirred at him."
  7.  p.19
  8. "Let us bind his hair and his beard tight
    to the side of the hostel,
    since he chances to be sound asleep,
    so that he should not wreak his will on us."
  9. The women bound in sooth mac Morna
    (great was the deed):
    they raised the cry of battle without reason:
    for our lays it was cause of grief.
  10. Up started Garaid at the cry:
    he left his hair and his flesh right to the bone:
    he went forth among the women:
    no cause had they to be proud.
  11. He said, as he drove them into the dun
    that it should be a journey with no returning:
    "Your mocking cry shall be your shame:
    ye shall be a bonfire by morning."
  12. "Withered elder, hold thy peace!
    let us alone with your teaching."
    (I shall cause horror thereat,
    a shudder as of a woman after her washing.)
  13. "Feeble elder though I be —
    it is long since I gripped my shield —
    I will avenge on you your mockery;
    I will kindle the torch's head."
  14. Garaid arose and went forth from the house:
    he took in hand the woodman's axe:
    he cut in the wood, 'tis past denial,
    nine stout faggots of ash.
  15.  p.21
  16. He kindled a fire in the great house,
    from the floor to the ceiling (?):
    he set the house in a great blaze:
    that old man had no mercy.
  17. He shut the seven doors of Finn's house:
    he fastened seven locks on every door-post;
    he makes a fire to kill them:
    hence came their sore sufferings.
  18. "Let me out for my father's sake!"
    said the daughter of Conn the Hundred-fighter's grandson;
    "for my own sake, and to earn the thanks of Finn,
    O noble, fair-haired Garaid!"
  19. "I will not let thee out for thy father's sake,
    O daughter of Conn the Hundredfighter's grandson;
    nor for thine own sake, nor to earn the thanks of Finn,
    will I let thee out."
  20. "Let out the wife of Conan of the conflict,
    and the wife of prosperous Caoilte
    and the wife of Mac Reithe here—
    I have known no furtive love."
  21. "Come forth, O wife of Mac Reithe,
    if furtive love be thy desire:
    since Mac Reithe is not here
    I myself have not the power."
  22. "Accept a price, O Garaid of the great deeds!"
    said the noble daughter of Cormac ua Cuinn;
    "the full of thy fist of all that is in the dun
    to be granted thee without revoking."
  23.  p.23
  24. Garaid accepted a fair price from the women
    (yet kept not his promise to them),
    till he saw a lock of hair from each woman
    in the shapely palm of the chief lady.
  25. As soon as Garaid, never mild of mood,
    saw how many of the princely families were within,
    once the powerless throng was gathered,
    he shut the door boldly.
  26. "May Garaid live no longer till the day of doom,
    since ye are fast inside,
    if he lets a soul in or a soul out,
    of all that are there."
  27. Garaid made haste into the glen,
    as the house was falling;
    in Glen Cuaich away in Munster
    slept he thereafter.
  28. "A strange thing has been revealed to me,"
    said Finn of the Fiann of the Gaels;
    "the outcry of dogs and women and men
    a-burning and a-wailing."
  29. "What is yon smoke that comes towards us from the west?"
    said Finn, prince of the Fianna:
    "it is the smoke of havoc a-doing,
    or of a house cruelly burned."
  30. We made a wondrous leap for battle;
    on all sides we leave our chase;
    and we found of our houses eastward
    nought save the stump of each stake in earth.
  31. Each man thrust the shaft of his spear among the women-folk,
    amidst the burning heap:
    and they found of their winsome wives
    nought save fragments black and charred.
  32.  p.25
  33. That death which Lugaid found,
    it was no seemly death for a hero,
    to die of grief for his wife —
    keen Lugaid son of Luchorman.
  34. Finn of the Fiann was alive no longer,
    though he lived afterward:
    the strength of a travailing woman
    was not in the chief of the Fiann among his comrades.
  35. There was burned in that hostel in the west
    the best wife Finn ever had:
    bright was her cheek and her hand —
    beautiful dapple-cheeked Ailbe.
  36. There were burned there Finn's two horses
    and his high splendid car:
    great was the household loss
    for the son of Cumall of Almain.
  37. There were burned a hundred shields
    cunningly wrought and a hundred conquering targes
    and two hundred corslets and two hundred blades
    and two hundred mail caps and helmets.
  38. There was burned a stud of a hundred horses,
    of horses belonging to the over-kingship,
    with their breast-ornament of crystal,
    with their gilded bridles.
  39. There were burned by Garaid in Finn's hostel
    three hundred whelps
    of mac Cumaill's beautiful dogs,
    a great loss were they.
  40. There were burned three hundred great chests
    for hoarding silver and gold:
    there were burned — and it is no lie to say it —
    three hundred horns and three hundred cups.
  41.  p.27
  42. I pledge my word before God,
    by my sword and my shield,
    that there died of grief for their wives
    three hundred like white-handed Lugaid.
  43. There was burned there the harp of Daire:
    there was burned the lulling pipe of Saigen:
    when they were played, without a spell,
    the Fianna of Finn fell asleep thereat.
  44. There were burned there three hundred lithe
    elders of the princely nobles of the Fianna of Erin,
    both of the Clann Griogoil
    and of the vigorous Clann Baoisgne.
  45. There were burned three hundred old women,
    fair and famous in the hostel
    (the princelings are nurtured apart)
    to the loss of mac Cumaill of Almain.
  46. There were burned three hundred shorn maidens,
    that were brightest of bosom and side:
    lovely were the pure women folk
    that were burning in agony.
  47. Nine nights we spent thereafter
    and we on Garaid's track:
    we found Garaid, grey and fierce,
    in the rock above Craobh-liath.
  48. When they saw each other
    — Garaid and Finn of the Fianna,
    the two that were boldest on any path —
    bitterly they set to chiding.
  49. "Hate and reproach on thee from us,
    thou fierce white-bearded Garaid!
    thou hast burnt our women but now:
    their sore suffering is thy boast."
  50.  p.29
  51. "Go ye from us into the cave,
    a great company of our hosts!
    seize the sinewy shaggy fellow,
    and fetch out the old fox."
  52. "Since it is thyself that is on my trail,
    brave son of Cumall of the red weapons,
    come thou into the cave to flay me,
    and take firm hold of my old hairs!"
  53. Said Finn, prince of the Fianna of Ireland:
    "Bring with you Garaid in your keeping:
    make ye his bed and his bier
    where the women-folk were burnt by him!"
  54. A hundred and thirty men,
    sixteen, and eight
    fell by Garaid's hand in the cave:
    great was the carnage for one time.
  55. So long was Garaid without food
    that he made a cast of his shield from him:
    he put a hand under his hoary breast,
    and came forth, alone.
  56. Desire of sport or laughter or inclination
    to ought were it never so pleasant
    was not in fierce Garaid
    till he saw the women folk dead and stark.
  57. When fierce Garaid saw the women burned,
    dead and stark,
    he let fly a peal of laughter over them
    to be heard among the Fianna throughout Erin.
  58. "Pleasant it is to me to find you thus,
    O women!" said Garaid:
    "that you may learn for good
    not to mock at a miserable old man."
  59.  p.31
  60. "I beg a boon of thee, O Finn!"
    said Garaid of Crumlin:
    "that thou slay me not — great the task —
    till the hour of dawn to-morrow."
  61. "Thou hast thy boon from me,"
    said the son of Cumaill of the red weapons:
    "that I should not slay thee in this place
    till the hour of dawn to-morrow."
  62. Garaid was without food that night,
    and the Fiann guarding him;
    at sunrise in the early morning
    Garaid stole away covertly.
  63. Garaid stole away from the Fiann,
    and none of them knew of his going:
    they knew not whither on the wide earth
    Garaid from Liatruim had gone.
  64. Over Sliabh Tulchon he went in truth
    till he reached Tuag Inbir:
    from Tuag Inbir went Garaid of the exploits
    (alas! it is cause for tearful heaviness) —
  65. To Mag an Roid across all ways,
    to Dun Macha of the potent saints,
    to the Cam of Eile daughter of Echaid
    hastened Garaid the fierce vassal.
  66. To Mag an Bhoill bheo in his flight,
    his right hand towards Dun an Laoich Leith:
    he happened on melodious Glenn Beacain,
    close by the head of Loch Liatruim.
  67. Afterwards he reached a height over the sea
    — fierce black-browed Garaid:
    he entered the cavern with a leap:
    there fierce grey Garaid fell asleep.
  68.  p.33
  69. Garaid was never ware of the Fiann
    till they gathered from east and west:
    they raised a battle-cry in the cavern:
    an unseasonable sleep was his.
  70. Aod and keen Garaid encountered in the cavern —
    it was cause of tears:
    and Aod struck off his father's head:
    it was a horrid unheard-of deed.
  71. For the hand that slew Garaidh,
    which numbness and disease have filled —
    the blood of Garaidh has stained that hand —
    it were meet to catch all diseases.
  72. Aod fled away;
    he met no man of the Fianna;
    he drowned himself in the sea-waves:
    Aod was cause of heavy grief.
  73. Garaid and Aod are buried by the bay's verge,
    side by side:
    sad and sorrowful is my heart
    with thinking on them every hour.
  74. Here is a tale for thee, O Patrick!
    I am Oisin of the many crimes:
    through the greatness of my grief in telling of them
    sad and sorrowful is my heart.

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Title statement

Title (uniform): The Burning of Finn's House

Title (original, Irish): Toitean Tighe Fhind

Author: unknown

Editor: Edward J. Gwynn

Responsibility statement

Electronic edition compiled by: Beatrix Färber

Funded by: School of History, University College, Cork

Edition statement

1. First draft.

Extent: 2880 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: T402362

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

Source description

Manuscript Sources for Irish text

  1. Dublin, R.I.A., 23 A 47, 18th century, p. 118ff (on which the edition is based).
  2. Dublin, R.I.A., 23 C 26, 18th century, p. 208ff.
  3. Dublin, R.I.A., 23 O 32, 19th century, p. 119ff.

Editions and related versions of this poem

  1. See below.
  2. J. F. Campbell, Leabhar na Feinne: heroic Gaelic ballads collected in Scotland chiefly from 1512 to 1871 (London 1872, reprint Shannon: Irish University Press, 1972), p. 177.
  3. John Smith, Galic antiquities: Consisting of a history of the druids, particularly of those of Caledonia; a dissertation on the authenticity of the poems of Ossian; and a collection of ancient poems, translated from the Galic of Ullin, Ossian, Orran, etc. by John Smith, minister at Kilbrandon, Argyleshire (Edinburgh 1787; 1780).
  4. More details are available on the CODECS website at http://www.vanhamel.nl/codecs, when you search for Tóiteáin Tighe Fhinn.

The edition used in the digital edition

‘The Burning of Finn’s House’ (1904). In: Ériu‍ 1. Ed. by Edward J. Gwynn. 13–37: 17–33.

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

  editor 	 = {Edward J. Gwynn},
  title 	 = {The Burning of Finn's House},
  journal 	 = {Ériu},
  number 	 = {1},
  address 	 = {Dublin },
  publisher 	 = {Royal Irish Academy },
  date 	 = {1904},
  note 	 = {13–37: 17–33}


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Project description: CELT: Corpus of Electronic Texts

Sampling declarations

The present text represents even pages 17–33 of the published edition. The Irish text is available in a separate file, G402362.

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Correction: Text has been proof-read twice.

Normalization: The electronic text represents the edited text.

Quotation: Direct speech is tagged ".

Hyphenation: Hyphenation was introduced. When a hyphenated word (hard or soft) crosses a page-break, the page-break is marked after the completion of the hyphenated word. Soft hyphens are silently removed.

Segmentation: div0=the poem. Stanzas are numbered; page-breaks are marked pb n="".

Interpretation: Names are not tagged, nor are terms for cultural and social roles.

Profile description

Creation: English translation by E.G. Gwynn.

Date: 1904

Language usage

  • Irish occurs in the original title. (ga)
  • The translation is in English. (en)

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

Revision description

(Most recent first)

  1. 2016-06-09: SGML and HTML files created. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  2. 2016-06-08: File captured, proofread (1,2); encoded; header created; file parsed and validated. (ed. Beatrix Färber)

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G402362: Toitean Tighe Fhind (in Irish)

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