The Celtic Literature Collective

The Songs of Buchet's House
Book of Leinster, p. 270

1. The Leinstennen had a "caldron of hospitality", named Buchet. A guest-house of the men of Erin was the dwelling of that Buchet. From the time he began householding the fire under his caldron was never quenched.

2. A daughter of Catháir Mór, son of Feidlimid, king of Ireland, was in his bosom for fosterage, even Ethne Catháir's daughter. Twelve sons and twenty had Catháir Mór, and they used to come for guesting and to have speech of their sister. In scores and in thirties they would enjoy the guestings. This they deemed little till they got gifts. Frequent, then, was their asking and (great was) their number. Unless they obtained what sufficed them they would grossly misbehave to Buehet's household. One man would take the geldings, another the foals, a third the branches of the kine; so that at last Catháir's sons laid Buehct waste, and left him nought save seven cows and a bull in the steading where there had been seven herds of cattle, and seven houses with each herd.

3. So one day he went to complain to Catháir, who, at that time, was a decrepit old man. And Buchet said.

"O my just Catháir, preserve... law over Eriu's land! l cry out for my wealth (carried off) by thy fair sons, without real faults (on my part).

Manifest (thy) goodness, for my landholding was worth any landholding with its land-dues..,

My loss will be a great blemish to Catháir's country.

My landholding (and) cattle, Catháir's sons have ruined, namely Ross Red-strilter, Crimtltan First-wounding, Dáre Loscán the splendid, Eochaid the Princely, Bressal Greenface the..., Fiacha Longhair who will cut off (?) every one.

Buchet will not be as he hath been before until he reaches another tribe which the grandsons of Feidlimid the Fair would not reach."

4, Then Catháir answered what Buchat said:

"True, O Buchet, thou hast been a nourishing landlholder of mine.

Precious is thy fervour, thy hospitality, thy valour, which would make welcome to every one in thy great midcourt.

But that I should have power over my sons (so that) they should not cause thy heart's torment, strength I cannot exercise, running I cannot run, leaping I cannot leap, (as to) sight, not far do we perceive.

Kingship I have enjoyed for fifty lasting years.

But that I should be able to bring his kine to Buchet I have no power for thee, O Buchet, (nothing) save (the proverb) sharper is every thorn that is younger. Get thee out of the country!".

5. Buchet fled southwards from them out of the country, by stealth, the length ofthe night till morning, so that he was in Kells of the kings. And small was the drove that was taken there, to wit, seven cows and a bull, and he himself, and his old wife, and the damsel, Ethne daughter of Catháir.

6. They dwelt in a small cabin there in the forest, with the damsel serving them.

7. Cormac grandson of Conn was then living in Kells before he should take the kingship of Erin, for Maive Redside did not let him into Tara after the death of his father (Art). Now Maive Redside of Leinster had been Art's wife, and after his death she enjoyed the kingship. Kells, then, was the residence of the kings. But after Cormac had gained the kingship Tara was founded by him, and that was the land of Odrán, a herdsman of the Déssi of Bregia.

8. Now when the rath of Tara was being dug by Cormac, Odran gave (?) his three groans out of him.

"Why groanest thou?" says Cormac.

"I groan for my oppression", quoth he, "the support of a king of Erin on my land and my soil for ever."

9. Then when they were setting the stakes of the house, he groaned again; and when, on a lucky day, Cormac was entering it, Odrán set his back against the doorvalve. "What is that?" says Cormac. "Do not outrage me!" a says Odran. "Tis untruth to outrage thee", quoth Cormac; "it is not I that will do it, unless I am not admitted for (this) payment, to wit, thy weight in silver, and rations for nine men every noontide so long as I am alive, and land equal to thy land beside this land, for visiting me and supplying thy tribute"

"Tis well", says Odran: "there are two good banks to the south of us thus", says Odrán.

"What is their name?" a asks Cormac.

"The Odra of Tara", says Odran.

"Then thou art a, says Cormac, "Odor between Odra". Hence is (the place-name) Odra Temrach.

10. Early one morning, after he had taken kingship, Cormac was in Kells, arising with his rainment of satin about him. He saw the damsel milking the cows. Their first milking (she put) inro a vessel apart; their last milking inro another vessel. Then he sees her cutting rushes, and the middle ofthe tussock of rushes she puts iuro a bundle apart. So the water which she took from the brink of the stream she put into one vessel, and the water from the midst of it into another.

11. Then Cormac asked the girl:

"Who art thou, O damsel?" says Cormac.

"The daughter of a poor herdsman yonder", she answered.

"Why dose thou divide the water and the rushes and the milk?"

"A man" she answers "who was formerly honoured, 'tis to him that the middle of the rushes and the after-milk is given, and the rest to me, so that he may not be without honour from what I shall get. lf I could find a greater honour he should have it."

"'Tis very likely that thou wilt find it", says Cormac. "To whom is this honour given?"

"Buchet is his name", she replied.

"Is that Buchet of Leinster?", says Cormac.

"`Tis he indeed", she answers.

"Art thou Ethe Longside, daughter of Catháir Mor?" says Cormac.

"Su it seems", quoth she.

12. Thereafter then a message was sent by Cormac to Buchet to ask her (in marriage). He gave her not, for to give her belonged, not to him, but to her father. So then they say that on the following evening she was brought by force to Cormac, and she staid with him only that night, and then escaped from him. But on that night there entered her womb the son of Cormac, Carbre Lifechair (so called because) he loved Liffey and in Lifechair he was fostered between his mother's tribe and his fathers tribe. And Cormac did not take him (as his son) until the Leinstermen swore that the boy was his.

13. Afterwards Ethne as Cormac's wife became a queen. Howbeit she did not accept him without bestowing her bride-price on Buchet. This is what Cormac gave him: all that his eyesight reached from the rampart of Kells, both cow and man, and gold and silver, and horse and ox, to the end of a week. It was impossible for Buchet to take again over the kingdom southward into the country of Leinster all the herds that he (then) received.

14. The song of Buchet's house to the companies: his laughing cry to the companies: "Welcome to you! It will be well to you with us! Let it then be well to us with you!"

15. The song of the fifty warriors with their purple garments and their armours, to make music when the companies were drunk.

16. The song, too, of the fifty maidens in the midst of the house, in their purple dresses, with their golden-yellow manes over their garments, and their song delighting the host. The song of the fifty harps afterwards till morning, soothing the host with music.

Hence is (the name) "The Songs of Buchet's House."

Stokes, Whitley. `The songs of Buchet's house', Revue Celtique 25 (1904) 18-38, 225-27 [Esnada Tige Buchet , LL, Rawl B 502].