Cúchulainn and Bláthnat
“I come to win back thy misgotten prize,
Mine own beloved, the bloom-bright Maid of Man!”
“Thou com’st to dye this grass with ruddy dyes
Of thy best blood,” cried Cúroi, “and to ban
All knighthood with thy word forsworn!
Her eyes Shall see the fight, so let him take who can!
Lo! there she stands, with her fear-whitened face;
Look thy last on her now, and take thy place!”p. 9
Meanwhile, as one who on a wreck doth stand,
That the wide wallowing waves toss to and fro,
And sees the saving boat put from the land,
Now high, now in the sea-trough sunken low,
Trembling ’tween fear and hope, each lily hand
Pressed on her heart, as if to hide her woe,
And pale as one who had forsaken life,
Young Blanid stood to watch the coming strife.
Then sprang they to their feet, and warily
Looked in each other’s eyes with look of hate,
And crossed their jarring swords, and with bent knee
Fought a long time, their burning ire to sate,
Till like a storm-uprooted stately tree
Cuhullin fell, and Cúroi stood elate,
Eyeing him as the hunter eyes the hoar,
That fighting falls, but yet may rise once more.
Cúchulainn and the heroes of Ulster resolved to go on a plundering expedition to Niurin, a fairy land ruled by Arawn Midir, as its King. Cúroi, who was a great magician, insinuated himself among the raiders in disguise, and by means of his arts he succeeded in leading them into Arawn’s stronghold, after they had repeatedly failed in their attempts. He did this on the condition that he was to have of the plunder the jewel that pleased him best. They brought away from Arawn’s castle his daughter, Bláthnat, as she was a damsel of exceeding beauty; also Arawn’s three cows and his cauldron, which were objects of special value and virtues. When they came to the division of the spoils, the mean-looking man in grey, who had led the victorious assault, said that the jewel he chose was Bláthnat, whom he took to himself.
Cúchulainn complained that he had deceived them but, by means of his magic, the man in grey managed to carry the girl away unobserved. Cúchulainn pursued, and the dispute came to be settled by a duel on the spot, in which Cúchulainn was so thoroughly vanquished that Cúroi left him on the field bound hand and foot, after having cut off his long hair, which forced Cúchulainn to hide himself for a whole year in the wilds of Ulster, while Cúroi carried away to his stronghold of Caher Conree both Bláthnat and her father’s cows and cauldron.
Later, Cúchulainn got the better of Cúroi, and took Bláthnat away from him, for Bláthnat proved a faithless wife to Cúroi and plotted with Cúchulainn to kill him. At the time fixed upon by her, November eve, Cúchulainn and his followers stationed them selves at the bottom of the hill, watching the stream that came down past Cúroi’s fort; nor had they to wait long before they observed its waters turning white: it was the signal given by Bláthnat, for she had agreed to empty the milk of her father’s three cows from his cauldron into the stream, which has ever since been called the Finnghlais, or White Brook. Cúchulainn entered Cúroi’s fort unopposed, and slew its owner, who happened to be asleep with his head on Bláthnat’s lap while his hair was tied to the bedposts.
Cúchulainn took away Bláthnat, with the famous cows and cauldron; but he was not long to have possession of his new wife, for Cúroi’s poet and harper, called Ferceirtne, resolved to avenge his master; so he paid a visit to Cúchulainn and Bláthnat in Ulster, where he was gladly received by them; but one day, when the Ultonian nobles happened to be at a spot bordering on a high cliff, Ferceirtne suddenly clasped his arms round Bláthnat, and flinging himself over the cliff they died together.