Our Myths: Lebor Gabála Érenn – The Book of the Taking of Ireland

– A complete account of the various colonisations of Ireland until the arrival of Patrick, as delivered by Fintan, the Fair-man, a poet

Should any enquire about Eirinn,
It is I who can tell him the truth,
Concerning the deeds of each daring Invader,
since Time was a youth.

First Cassir, Bith’s venturesome daughter,
Came here o’er the Eastern Sea;
And fifty fair damsels she brought her —
To solace her warriors three.

Bith died at the foot of his mountain,
And Ladra on top of his height;
And Cassir by Boyle’s limpid fountain.
Ere rushed down the Flood in its might.

For a year, while the waters encumber
The Earth, at Tul-Tunna of strength,
I slept, none enjoyed such sweet slumber
As that which I woke from at length.

When Partholan came to the island.
From Greece, in the Eastern land,
I welcomed him gaily to my land,
And feasted the whole of his band.

Again, when Death seized on the strangers,
I roamed the land, merry and free,
Both careless and fearless of dangers,
Till blithe Nemid came o’er the sea.

The Firbolgs and roving Fir-Gallians,
Came next like the waves in their flow;
The Fir-Dennans arrived in battalions,
And landed in Erris — Mayo.

Then came the wise Tuatha-de-Danann,
Concealed in black clouds from their foe;
I feasted with them near the Shannon,
Though that was a long time ago.

After them came the Children of Mile,
From Spain, o’er the Southern waves:
I lived with the tribes as their Filea
And chanted the deeds of their braves.

Time ne’er my existence could wither,
From Death’s grasp I always was freed:
Till Patrick, the Christian, came hither
To spread the Redeemer’s pure creed.

My name it is Fintan, the Fair-man,
Of Bochra, the son, you must know it;
I lived through the Flood in my lair,
man, I am now an illustrious poet.

 

Lebor Gabála Érenn  – The Book of the Taking of Ireland – is the Middle Irish title of a loose collection of poems and prose narratives recounting the mythical origins and history of the Irish race from the creation of the world down to the Middle Ages.

An important record of the folkloric history of Ireland, it is compiled and edited by an anonymous scholar in the 11th century, and might be described as a mélange of mythology, legend, history, folklore and Christian historiography.

It is usually known in English as The Book of Invasions or The Book of Conquests, and in Modern Irish as Leabhar Gabhála Éireann or Leabhar Gabhála na hÉireann.

 

Online text © 1998-2010 Poetry X. All rights reserved.
From Anthology of Irish Verse | Boni and Liveright, 1922

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