The Killing of a Poet


When Fachtna Finn (who was Chief Poet of Ulster away before the Christian Era) learned that the Ulster chiefs plotted to slay at a feast their two kings, Congal Clairnach and Fergus MacLeide, he saved both their lives by seating each between poets. The assassins then had to stay their murderous hands lest the poets should be accidentally slain or injured. In the very rare instances in which such disaster befell the land, the whole nation mourned the calamity, and the sacrilegious scoundrel, who had been guilty of the appalling crime, was shunned by man, cursed by God and punished, moreover, with immortal obloquy.
When Cuain O'Lochain, chief poet of Erin, was, in 1024, put to death by the people of Teffia, the Annals of Clonmacnois records--"after committing of which there grew an evil scent and odour off the party that killed him, that he was easily known among the rest of the land." And the Annals of Loch Cé, continuing the after history of the sacrilegious ones who had hand in the poet's death, says: "God manifestly wrought a poet's power upon the parties who killed him, for they were put to a cruel death, and their bodies putrefied, until worms and vultures had devoured them.

The Story of the Irish Race, by Seumas MacManus (The Devin-Adair Company: New York, 1944/1967) page 176.

A modern 'living' translation of an Irish tale of poets, warriors, and kings, can be found in The Tain, translated by Thomas Kinsella from the Irish eighth-century Ulster cycle epic Tåin Bó Cuailnge (London: Oxford University Press, 1974)


Last Modified 23 January 1998