Erchoitmed ingine Gulidi
Author: Kuno Meyer
An electronic edition
The Excuse Of Gulide’s Daughter This
1. There was a king who took Munster, to wit, Fedlimid son of Crimthan.
Once upon a time he went on a visitation of Munster and fared westward into
West Munster, till he reached Áth Lóche. It was there was the stead of Gulide,
the sharpest and bitterest and keenest lampooner that was in Ireland in his time.
Now, in the hard time of spring the hosts went westward. Great snow fell on
them, so that the hosts were unable to proceed. That was no wonder, for the
snow reached up to men’s knees. Fedlimid asked of the guides: Who is nearest
to us here? saith he. We do not know indeed, said they, unless it be Gulide
of Áth Lóche, thy own friend. Truly I declare, saith Fedlimid, if it is he
that is here, he is biting and sharp and bitter and is fierce, furious, keen-worded,
creditor-like. He is ready to ask anything of anybody, and he himself is not good
at giving. But still, saith Fedlimid, though he be not liberal to warriors, though
he be not bountiful in bestowing, though he be not kind in giving, he is under
obligations to us. He has accepted our gold and our silver and our goblets,
he has accepted our horses and our bridles and our saddles. Hence we deserve
to be helped in hospitality for the night.
2. The hosts then went on until they reached the green, and the hornblowers
sound their horns, and the trumpeters their trumpets on the rampart of the green.
And there was no one before them in the stead save only Gulide and his daughter.
And Gulide at that time was a withered grey old man, for his seven score years
3. Thus however had Gulide been, he had been a warrior in warriorship and in
prowess, and a champion in championship, and a soldier in soldiership, and
a landholder for the land he held, and a satirist for satire, even for sharpness
and bitterness and acrimony. Hence [the name] Gulide the Satirist clave to him.
4. Then Gulide arose and resting on his elbow looked around him, and saw
no one in the house save only himself and his daughter. Well now, daughter,
saith Gulide, go out and see who are these hornblowers and trumpeters, and who
is he before whom they sound.
5. Then the daughter rose up and went out. She returned into the house and
said: Here are great hosts, saith she. It seems to me it is Fedlimid son of
Crimthan with the nobles of the men of Munster around him. Well, daughter,
saith Gulide, go out to the hosts and make brave words to them to see whether
they will pass us by tonight. Then the daughter rose up and took her dress
round her, to wit, a purple cloak, and a finespun smock of silk next her white skin,
and a small brooch of red gold in her cloak.
6. She went till she reached the hosts and said: Hail, O Fedlimid, with
thy hosts as well! But every one is master of his place, every one is . . ., but
thy princedom has not served . . . For at the time when things went best with
Gulide before, it was not too much for him to send an invitation to thee for three
days or five or ten, or a month or a quarter or a year, however great thy retinue
and however numerous thy men. Ye have come at a bad time. The wind is
piercing. The front bridges are miry. The stewards are slow. The . . . are . . .
This is always a high-road for many. Here are forges of smiths, lampooners of
the road. It is a church on two ridges. It is as frequented as Armagh. It is
grass for a cow of one field, it is pasture for one goose, it is a honey-ground for
one bee. Our fleshforks are raised, our churn-dashes have not been lowered.
Our old food is gone, our new food has not come. Ye have come at a bad
time, the time when the old hag shares her cakelet with the girl. The raven’s tail
stands high with us, the hound’s low. The noses of our women are strained.
There is water in our milchcows after our heifers have run dry. Our women are
pregnant, our kine barren. There is great dryness in our kilns, drought in our
mills, dearth in our hounds, our cats are keen and greedy. We have many eager
quick . . . mice. The grey hard stiff benches are rotten after a long cold night.
But still there is one thing,
saith the girl. It is not I who am here always
to address gentle folk. Cuil and Gaeloc and Grech are the three daughters of
Gulide. Gendud and Slipred and Lorgad are Gulide’s three doorkeepers. If it
were my elder sister that were here, she would get whatever she would say to you.
But as it is I, I am not skilled at an excuse.
8. Truly I declare, saith Fedlimid, if she were here, we should leave the bit
[of land] from Luachair east with her. And as thou art here, we will let thee have
the land between Drong and Loch Léin.
Well now, son of Crimthan,
saith the maiden. I went one night for
hospitality, and the hospitality that was given me was not kingly. What was
given thee? saith Fedlimid. Not hard to tell, saith the maiden, to wit, the
forty-fourth part of a rotten jaundiced haunch of the left front-part of a mangy
calf, with an equal portion of a belt of a bare stripped rib, with a snail of thin
lean bacon, with the thin side of a lean pig, with four nasty burnt little scruples
of oats left in the low bitter north-east [corner] of a field on which wind never
blew nor sun ever shone, which they reaped before it would be reaped and crushed
before it would be crushed, with an equal portion of four . . . of Norse curds
after they had been strained through the hard mouth of an old vessel. A little
measure, narrow below and wide above, of the top of split alder-wood, its
undermost bottom of bad milk, its upper part . . ., its lower part . . ., its middle
empty and vacant. But it was of the blueish sickening milk, that was on the . . .
of the lowest back-part of the churn, after having been churned to putrefaction
by pilfering servants in the mad days of spring. But it was of the first milk of
the first cow that first came to the milking-place of the kitchen-yard in the early
morning the day before. This is not the hospitality that shall be given you on
the night that ye have come, namely wet . . . for you to the root of your ears,
houses half-bare, bread half-dry, cups half-full, beds half-empty.
10. After that the girl arose and took the hand of Fedlimid [and led him] into
the house. There Fedlimid was three days and three nights and he had not in
his kingship nor in his princely reign a time in which he fared better as regards
white-meat. And Fedlimid left his blessing. Finit.
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