Text: Dindsenchas of Tara 1

The following is one of the poems purporting to explain the origins of the Hill of Tara, which is originally called Teamhair in Gaelic. Rather than taking the attribution of the text to the ancient poet Fintán literally, we should understand that the author put the text in the voice of this legendary literary character for the purposes of assuming authenticity and antiquity. Veronica Phillips has argued (in “Authority and Dispossession in the dindshenchas of Temair”) that the poems relating to Tara can be dated to the reign of Máel Sechnaill mac Domhnaill (976-1022).

The following text was translated by Michael Newton from the edition of Gwynn, Metrical Dindshenchas, taking the emendations suggested on CELT http://www.ucc.ie/celt/publishd.html

§ 1. Tara of the plain of Brega: Where did its name come from? Tell us, o ollamhs [“appointed high- poets”]! When was it distinguished from the landscape? When did Tara become Tara?

§ 2. Was it due to Partholan of the battles? Or the first conquest of Cesair? Or Nemed of pure valour? Or Cigal who had knocking knees?

§ 3. Was it due to the Fir Bolg of the boats? Or the line of the Lupracans? Give the account of which of those caused Tara to be so named.

§ 4. O Dubán, o generous Findchad, o Bran, o unhesitating Cú Alad, o Tuan, you fine five – from what was Tara named?

§ 5. There was a time when it was a fair hazel forest, during the life of the noble son of Ollcán, until Líath, the son of Laigne the pale and broad, laid prostrate the tangled forest.

§ 6. From then on it was called Druim Léith [“the Ridge of Líath”]; it grew plump cereal crops; until joyful Cáin the son of Fiachu Cendfindan arrived.

§ 7. From then on it was called Druim Cáin [“the Ridge of Cáin”], the hillock to which the great men went, until the arrival of fair Crofhind, the daughter of renowned Allod.

§ 8. The Tuatha Dé Danann called it the “Seat of Crofhind” – (this name) was not inappropriate – until Tea, who was never sinister, the wife of Erimón, of noble disposition, arrived.

§ 9. Great Tea the daughter of Lugaid built an embankment around her house; she was buried beyond the outer ridge, so that Tara is named after her.

§ 10. Its name was “The Mound of Kings”: the kings of the sons of Míl were there; five names were given to it from “Fordruim” to “Tara.”

§ 11. I am Fintán the file [“high-poet”]; I am a salmon of many bodies of water; it was there that I was bestowed with fame on the sod-covered dwelling above Tara.

About Michael Newton

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