The Celtic Literature Collective

Lebor Gabála Érenn: The Book of Invasions
§26-38: The Invasions of Cessair and of Partholon

§26. Let us cease [at this point] from the stories of the Gaedil, that we may tell of the seven peoples who took Ireland before them. Cessair, d. Bith s. Noe took it, forty days before the Flood. Partholon s. Sera three hundred years after the Flood. Nemed s. Agnomain of the Greeks of Scythia, at the end of thirty years after Partholon. The Fir Bolg thereafter. The Fir Domnann thereafter. The Gailioin thereafter [al., along with them]. The Tuatha De Danann thereafter. [The sons of Mil thereafter as Fintan said]. Unde Fintan cecinit, 

Ireland--whatever is asked of me 
I know pleasantly, 
Every taking that took her 
from the beginning of the tuneful world. 

Cessair came from the East, 
the woman was daughter of Bith; 
with her fifty maidens, 
with her three men. 

Flood overtook Bith in his Mountain, 
it is no secret; 
Ladra in Ard Ladrand, 
Cessair in her Nook. 

But as for me, He buried me, 
the Son of God, above [the] company;
He snatched the Flood from me 
above heavy Tul Tuinde. 

I had a year under the Flood 
in strong Tul Tuinde; 
I found nothing for my sustenance, 
an unbroken sleep were best. 

I was in Ireland here, 
my journey was everlasting, 
till Partholon reached her, 
from the East, from the land of Greeks. 

I was here in Ireland 
and Ireland was desert, 
till the son of Agnomain reached Nemed, 
brilliant his fashion. 

The Fir Bolg and Fir Gailian came, 
it was long ago; 
the Fir Domnann came, 
they landed on a headland in the west. 

Thereafter the Tuath De came, 
in their masses of fog, 
so that there was sustenance for me 
though it was a long lifetime. 

The sons of Mil came from Spain, 
from the south, so that there 
was sustenance for me at their hands, 
though they were strong in battle. 

A long life fell to my lot, 
I shall not conceal it; 
till Faith overtook me 
from the King of Heaven of clouds. 

I am Fintan the white son of Bochna, 
I shall not conceal it; 
after the Flood here I am 
a noble great sage. 

§27. Incipit de The Takings of Ireland. Thereafter Cessair daughter of Bith s. Noe took it, ut poeta dixit, forty days before the Flood. 

This is the reason for her coming, fleeing from the Flood: for Noe said unto them: Rise, said he [and go] to the western edge of the world; perchance the Flood may not reach it. 

§28. The crew of three ships arrived at Dun na mRarc in the territory of Corco Daibne. Two of the ships were wrecked. Cessair with the crew of her ship escaped, fifty women and three men: Bith s. Noe, of whom is Sliab Betha (named) - there was he buried, in the great stone-heap of Sliab Betha; Ladra the pilot, of whom is Ard Ladrand - he is the first dead man who went under the soil of Ireland; Fintan s. Bochra, of whom is "Fintan's Grave" over Tul Tuinde. Cessair died in Cul Cessrach in Connachta, with her fifty maidens. 

§29. These are their names, ut Fintan cecinit 

A just division we shared between us, 
myself and Bith and bold Ladra; 
for peace and for reason was it done, 
in the matter of the fifty magnificent maidens. 

Seventeen women I took, including Cessair--
Lot, Luam, Mall, Mar, Froechar, Femar, Faible, Foroll, 
Cipir, Torrian, Tamall, Tam, Abba, Alla, Baichne, Sille: 
that is the tale which we were there. 

Seventeen Bith took, with Bairrfhind--
Sella, Della, Duib, Addeos, Fotra, Traige, Nera, Buana,
Tamall, Tanna, Nathra, Leos, Fodarg, Rodarg, Dos, Clos: 
be it heard -those were our people further. 

Sixteen thereafter with Ladra: 
Alba, Bona, Albor, Ail, Gothiam, German, Aithne, 
Inde, Rodarg, Rinne, Inchor, Ain, Irrand, Espa, Sine, Samoll: 
that was our fair company. 

None of the seed of Adam took Ireland before the Flood but those. 

§30. Now Ireland was waste [thereafter], for a space of three hundred years, [or three hundred and twelve, quod uerius est] till Partholon s. Sera s. Sru came to it. He is the first who took Ireland after the Flood, on a Tuesday, on the fourteenth of the moon, in Inber Scene: [for three times was Ireland taken in Inber Scene]. Of the progeny of Magog son of Iafeth was he, [ut dixi supra]: in the sixstieth year of the age of Abraham, Partholon took Ireland. 

§31. Four chieftains strong came Partholon: himself and Laiglinne his son, from whom is Loch Laighlinne in Ui mac Uais of Breg; Slanga and Rudraige, the two other sons of Partholon, from whom are Sliab Slanga and Loch Rudraige. When the grave of Rudraige was a-digging, the lake there burst forth over the land. 

§32. Seven years had Partholon in Ireland when the first man of his people died, to wit, Fea, from whom is Mag Fea; for there was he buried, in Mag Fea. 

§33. In the third year thereafter, the first battle of Ireland, which Partholon won in Slemna of Mag Itha against Cichol clapperlag of the Fomoraig. Men with single arms and single legs they were, who joined the battle with him. 

§34. There were seven lake bursts in Ireland in the time of Partholon: Loch Laighlinne in Ui mac Uais of Breg, Loch Cuan and Loch Rudraige in Ulaid, Loch Dechet and Loch Mese and Loch Con in Connachta, and Loch Echtra in Airgialla; for Partholon did not find more than three lakes and nine rivers in Ireland before him--Loch Fordremain in Sliab Mis of Mumu, Loch Lumnig on Tir Find, Loch Cera in Irrus; Aba Life, Lui, Muad, Slicech, Samer (upon which is Ess Ruaid), Find, Modorn, Buas, and Banna between Le and Elle. Four years before the death of Partholon, the burst of Brena over the land. 

§35. Four plains were cleared by Partholon in Ireland: Mag Itha in Laigen, Mag Tuired in Connachta, Mag Li in Ui mac Uais, Mag Ladrand in Dal nAraide. For Partholon found not more than one plain in Ireland before him, the Old Plain [of Elta] of Edar. this is why it is called the "Old Plain" for never did branch of twig of a wood grow through it. 

§36. And it is there that Partholon died, five thousand men and four thousand women, of a week's plague on the kalends of May. On a Monday plauge killed them all except one man tantum--Tuan son of Starn son of Sera nephew of Partholon: and God fashioned him in many forms, and that man survived alone from the time of Partholon to the time of Findian and of Colum Cille. So he narrated to them the Takings of Ireland from the time of Cessair, the first who took, to that time. And that is Tuan son of Cairell son of Muiredach Muinderg. Of him the history-sage sang the following song--

Ye scholars of the Plain of fair, white Conn, 
of the land of the men of Fal, as I relate, 
what company, after the creation of the world, 
first lighted upon Ireland? 

Ireland before the swift Flod, 
as I reckon her courses, knowing, 
pure-white kemps found her, 
including Cessair daughter of Bith. 

Bith son of Noe of the many troops, 
though he overcame with a trench-achievement, 
he died in warlike Sliab Betha; 
Ladra died in Ard Ladrann. 

Fintain went on a journey of weakness, 
his grave was found, it ws a leap of impetuosity; 
he was not in haste into the trench of a churchyeard, 
but a grave over Tul Tuinde. 

To Dun na mBarc for a separation-festival 
faring without scale of reckoning brought them; 
at the stone-heap, beside a fruitful sea 
Cessair died in Cul Cessrach. 

Forty days full-scanty the slender and 
graceful troop arrived in their ship, 
before the noise of the Flood they landed 
on a place of the land of Ireland. 

He rose on a journey for truth-deciding by the might 
of the King whom he used to adore; 
Fintan, who was a man with tidings for lords, 
for mighty ones of the earth. 

Three hundred years, I boast of it, 
I speak through the rules which I reckon, 
pleasant Ireland, I proclaim it against 
the soothsayers was waste, after the Flood. 

Partholon the eminent came, 
a royal course across an oar-beaten sea: 
his quartet of heroes, fair and faithful--
among them was the free-born Slanga. 

Slanga, Laiglinne the brilliant, 
boardlike, noble and strong was his canoe; 
these were his ready trio of chieftains, 
along with the lordly Rudraige. 

Plains were cleared of their great wood, 
by him, to get near to his dear children; 
Mag Itha southward, a hill of victory-head, 
Mag Li of ashes, Lag Lathraind. 

Seven lake-bursts, though ye measure them, 
with renown of name, 
though ye should set them forth they filled, 
amid the fetter of valleys, insular Ireland in his time. 

Loch Laiglinne, bold Loch Cuan, 
the Loch of Rudraige, (he was) a lord without law-giving, 
Loch Techet, Loch Oese abounding in mead, 
Loch Cou, Loch Echtra full of swans. 

Over Ireland of beauty of colour, 
as I relate every foundation 
on the fortress of Bith 
he found not more than three lakes before him. 

Three lakes, vast and tideless (?) 
and nine rivers full of beauty: 
Loch Fordremain, Loch Luimnig, 
Findloch over the borders of Irrus. 

The river of Life, the Lee let us mention, 
which every druid humms who knows diana senga; 
the history of the old rivers of Ireland 
has demonstrated the true height of the Flood. 

Muad, Slicech, Samer, thou dost name it, Buas, 
a flood with the fame-likeness of a summit, Modorn, 
Find with fashion of a sword-blade (?) 
Banna between Lee and Eille. 

He died after pride, with warriors, 
Partholon, of the hundredfold troop: 
they were cut down with possessions, 
with treasures, on the Old Plain of Elta of Edar. 

This is why it is the forutnate Old Plain 
It is God the fashioner who caused it: 
over its land which the sea-mouth cut off 
no root or twig of a wood was found. 

His grave is there according to men of truth, 
Although he had no power among saints: 
Silent was his sleep under resting places 
which are no pilgrimage-way for our scholars. 

Three hundred years, though ye should know it, 
over lands secret to the exalted, 
had the troop, brightly tuneful and lasting, 
over age-old, noble Ireland. 

Men, women, boys and girls, 
on the calends of May, a great hindrance, 
the plaguing of Partholon in Mag Breg 
was no unbroken summer-apportionment of peace. 

It was thirty lean years that she 
was empty in the face of war-champions, 
after the death of her host throughout a week, 
in their troops upon Mag Elta. 

Let us give adoration to the King of the Elements, 
to the good Head, the Fortress of our people, 
whose is every troop, every generation, 
whose is every head, every scholarship. 

I am Ua Flaind who scatters truths; 
an apportionment with kings hath he chosen; 
may everything whatsoever he may say be a speech of grace, 
may it accord with holiness, ye scholars! 

§37. It was the four sons of Partholon who made the first division of Ireland in the beginning, Er, Orba, Fergna, Feron. There were four men, namesakes to them, amoung the sons of Mil, but they were not the same. From Ath Cliath of Laigen to Ailech Neit, is the division of Er. From Ath Cliath to the island of Ard Nemid, is the division of Orba. From Ailech to Ath Cliath of Medraige, is the division of Feron. From that Ath Cliath to Ailech Neit, is the division of Fergna. So that is that manner they first divided Ireland. 

§38. Partholon had four oxen, that is the first cattle of Ireland. Of his company was Brea, son of Senboth, by whom were a jouse, a flesh [cauldron], and dwelling first made in Ireland. Of his company was Samailiath, by whom were ale-drinking and suretyship first made in Ireland. Of his company was Beoir, by whom a guesthouse was first made in Ireland. As the poet saith: 

Partholon, whence he came to Ireland, 
reckon ye! 
on the day when he reached across the sea, 
what was the land from which Partholon came? 

He came from Sicily to Greece--
a year's journey, with no full falsehood: 
a month's sailing from Greece westward, 
to Cappadocia. 

From Cappadocia he journeyed, 
a sailing of three days to Gothia, 
a sailing of a month from white Gothia, 
to three-cornered Spain. 

After that he reached Inis Fail, 
to Ireland from Spain: 
on Monday, the tenth without blemish 
one octad took Ireland. 

He is the first man who took his wife 
in the time of Partholon without falsehood: 
Fintan, who took the woman through combat--
Aife, daughter of Partholon. 

Parthlolon went out one day, 
to tour his profitable land: 
His wife and his henchman together 
he leaves behind him on the island. 

As they were in his house, 
the two, a wonder unheard-of, 
she made an advance to the pure henchman, 
he made no advance to her. 

Since he made her no answer promptly the henchman, 
stubborn against an evil intention, 
she doffs her in desperation--
an impusive action for a good woman! 

The henchman rose without uncertainty, 
a frail thing is humanity--
and came, a saying without pleasure, 
with Delgnat to share her couch. 

Insolent was the prank for a pleasant henchman 
which Topa of tuneful strings wrought: 
to go by a rough trick, a happiness without pleasure, 
with Delgnat, to share her couch. 

Partholon, who was a man of knowledge, 
had a vat of most sweet ale: 
out of which none could drink aught 
save through a tube of red gold. 

Thirst seized them after the deed, 
Topa and Delgnat, according to truth: 
so that their two mouths drank 
their two drinks (?) in the tube. 

When they did it, a couple without remorse, 
there came upon them very great thirst; 
soon they drank a bright coal-drink, 
through the gilded tube. 

Partholon arrived outside, 
after ranging the wilderness; 
there were given to him, 
it was a slight disturbance, his vat and his tube. 

When he took the straight tube, 
he perceived upon it at once, 
the taste of Topa's mouth as far as this, 
and the taste of Delgnat's mouth. 

A black, surly demon revealed 
the bad, false, unpleasant deed: 
"Here is the taste of Topa's mouth" said he, 
"And the taste of Delgnat's mouth." 

Then said the sound son of Sera, 
the man called Partholon: 
"though short the time we are outside, 
we have the right to complain of you." 

The man smote the woman's dog with his palm
--it was no profit--he slew the hound, 
it was a treasure that would be slender; 
so that is the first jealousy of Ireland. 

Degnat answered her husband: 
"Not upon us is the blame, 
though bitter thou thinkest my saying it, 
truly, but it is upon thee." 

Though evil thou thinkest my saying it to thee, 
Partholon, its right shall be mine: 
I am the 'one before one' here, 
I am innocent, recompense is my due. 

Honey with a woman, milk with a cat, 
food with one generous, meat with a child, 
a wright within and an edge[d tool] 
one before one, 'tis a great risk.' 

The woman will taste the thick honey, 
the cat will drink the milk, 
the generous will bestow the pure food, 
the child will eat the meat. 

The wright will lay hold of a tool, 
the one with the one will go together: 
wherefore it is right to guard them 
well from the beginning. 

That is the first adultery to be heard of 
made here in the beginning: 
the wife of Partholon, a man of rank, 
to go to an ignoble henchman. 

He came after the henchman 
and slew him with anger: 
to him there came not the help of God 
upon the Weir of the Kin-murder. 

The place where that was done, 
after its fashioning certainty--
great is its sweetness that was there of 
a day in the land of Inis Saimera. 

And that, without deceit, 
is the first judgement in Ireland so that thence, 
with very noble judgement, 
is "the right of his wife against Partholon." 

Seventeen years had they thereafter, 
till there came the death of that man; 
the battle of Mag Itha of the combats 
was one of the deeds of Partholon. 

Further of the voyaging of Partholon--

Good was the great company 
that Partholon had: 
maidens and active youths, 
chieftains and champions.

Totacht and strong Tarba, 
Eochar and Aithechbel,
Cuaille, Dorcha, Dam, 
the seven chief ploughmen of Partholon. 

Liac and Lecmag with colour, 
Imar and Etrigi, 
the four oxen, a proper group, 
who ploughed the land of Partholon. 

Beoir was the name of the man, 
with his nobles and with his people, 
who suffered a guest in his firm house, 
the first in Ireland's island. 

By that Brea son of Senboth 
a house was first, a cauldron on fire; 
a feat that the pleasant Gaedil desert not, 
dwelling in Ireland. 

By Samaliliath were known 
ale-drinking and surety-ship: 
by him were made thereafter 
worship, prayer, questioning. 

The three druids of Partholon of the harbours, 
Fiss, Eolas, Eochmarc: 
the names of his three chamions further, 
Milchu, Meran, Muinechan. 

The names of the ten noble daughters 
whom Partholon had, 
and the names of his ten sons-in-law 
I have aside, it is a full memory. 

Aife, Aine, lofty Adnad, 
Macha, Mucha, Melepard, 
Glas and Grenach, 
Auach and Achanach. 

Aidbli, Bomnad and Ban, 
Caertin, Echtach, Athchosan, 
Lucraid, Ligair, Lughaid the warrior, 
Gerber who was not vain of word. 

Beothach, Iarbonel, Fergus, Art, Corb, 
who followed (?) without sin, 
Sobairche, active Dobairche, 
were the five chieftains of Nemed, good in strength. 

Bacorb Ladra, who was a sound sage, 
he was Partholon's man of learning: 
he is the first man, without uncertainty, 
who made hospitality at the first. 

Where they ploughed in the west was at Dun Finntain, 
though it was very far: 
and they grazed grass of resting 
in the east of Mag Sanais. 

Bibal and Babal the white, 
were Partholon's two merchants: 
Bibal brought gold hither, 
Babal brought cattle. 

The first building of Ireland without sorrow, 
was made by Partholon: 
the first brewing, churning, ale, a course with grace, 
at first, in good and lofty Ireland. 

Rimad was the firm tall-ploughman, 
Tairle the general head-ploughamn: 
Fodbach was the share, no fiction is that, 
and Fetain the coulter. 

Broken was the name of the man, it was perfect, 
who first wrought hidden shamefulness: 
it was destroyed with a scattering that was not evil, 
Partholon thought this to be good. 

So these are the tidings of the first Taking of Ireland after the Flood.

Lebor Gabála Érenn: Book of the Taking of Ireland. vol 2 and 3. ed. and tr. by R. A. S. Macalister. Dublin: Irish Texts Society, 1941.

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