Text: Dindsenchas of Carmun

Although the exact location of Carmun is still disputed, it appears to have been an important ritual site for some time before this poem was composed.

The following text extract 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. Listen, o all you people of Leinster of the grave-stones, o people over Raigne of proper rights, until you, in every direction, get from me the pleasing historical lore about glorious, famous Carmun.

§ 2. Carmun, a lavish place of assembly with smooth, level fields; the folks who come to celebrate were victorious in its fair races.

§ 3. A burial-ground of kings is its noble cemetery, even though it was beloved of old to the aristocrats; an important location, human burial-mounds of those forever-loved ancestors.

§ 4. A fair company often came across the smooth cheek of noble, ancient Carmun for the keening of kings and queens, and the lamenting of vengeance and evil deeds.

§ 5. Was it a group of men, or a single man of great energy, or was it a woman of excessive passion […] after whom the good Carmun was truly named? […]

§ 18. Death and emotion seized Carmun and her sorrow got worse until she found her death between the oaks of the solid grave-mounds as was proper.

§ 19. Because of her surpassing beauty the Tuatha Dé [Danann] came eastwards over this noble plain to keen her and to make the first lament; this was the first true gathering of (the fair of) Carmun.

§ 20. The little grave-mound of Carmun: Who dug it? Do you know or can you find out? According to the opinion of every good elder, it was Bres the son of Eladu: Listen!

§ 21. It was 580 fair years – it is no lie! – from the time of Carmun’s payment of bondage (death) to the incarnation of Jesus, sung in psalms.

§ 22. 432 years from the conception of Christ – no false reckoning! – to Crimthand, the ruler over captive Carmun, (and) to great and glorious Saint Patrick.

§ 23. There were 53 kings of Leinster, uncursed, in the east, before (the coming of) Christianity; the commotion they made from your melodious assembly went over Ireland, o Carmun! […]

§ 27. From the Tuatha Dé to the children of Míl, it was a stronghold for great women and kingly-men; it is a clear fact, it was a stronghold from the children of Míl to Patrick of Armagh.

§ 28. Heaven, earth, sun, moon, and sea, the produce of the earth and flotsam of the ocean; mouths, ears, eyes, possessions; feet, hands, warrior-tongues.

§ 29. Horses, swords, fair chariots, spears, shields, and the faces of men; dew, the fruit of forest trees, colours of foliage, day and night, ebb and heavy water-fall.

§ 30. The groups of Banbha [Ireland] gave all those as guarantees, free of sorrow, so that it would not have the threat of suspension hanging over it, it was held every third year.

§ 31. The pagan Gaels often held a fair with great acclaim without church-laws [cáin], without sin, without violent deeds or impurities.

§ 32. O people baptized under Christianity, do not hide it! Pay attention to him, for it is certain that those who leave Christ and Christianity are more deserving of damnation.

§ 33. There were nine fairs before the time of the Tuatha Dé above the embankments of famous Carmun; exactly fifty between Eireamhain and Patrick. […]

§ 42. Together, Patrick, Brigit, Caemgen and Colum Cille are the guarantors over every troop so that no one may harrass the cavalry.

§ 43. The assembly of the saints, it takes strength to hold it from the beginning, and law to govern it; assembly of the pure high-kings, this is what happens next.

§ 44. The next day are the games of the women of Leinster, of the radiant folks – it is no lie – a female company esteemed far afield, this is their gathering place, the third fair.

§ 45. The Laigsi [kin-group], the Fothairt [kin-group], long-lasting in fame; they came after the women; theirs is Leinster, full of treasures, the good men are to guard it. […]

§ 53. On the first of August [Lúgnasa], blameless day, they would come every third year; they would hold a seven races around the glorious event, seven days of the week.

§ 54. They would discuss with argumentative lips the rights and laws of the province; every legal enactment (discussed) keenly; every third year it was settled.

§ 55. Cereal crops, dairy, peace, happy contentment; full nets (of fish), plenty from ocean; kingly heroes, in peace treaties for their troops in Ireland.

§ 56. Law-suits, harsh exaction of debts, satirizing, harsh-words, misbehavior, sneaking away with a deposit, distraint – none of these were allowed during the races.

§ 57. No man was allowed into the gathering of women, and no woman was allowed into the gathering of fair, pure men; elopement was not heard of there, nor was a second husband or second family.

§ 58. Benén has given out a precise rule that anyone who breaks the law of the kings would not survive in his kin-group but would suffer death as a punishment.

§ 59. These are the great privileges: trumpets, stringed instruments, holed-mouthed horns, aerophones, tireless bowed-instruments, files [“high-poets”], and reclining poets.

§ 60. The inexhaustible subjects of Fionn and the Fian; tales of sieges, cattle-raids, romantic pursuits; writing tablets and books of ancient lore; satires and arousing secrets.

§ 61. Proverbs, prose passages, rules and the true teachings of Fithal; the obscure lays of the Dindshenchas [place lore] for you, the teachings of Cairpre and Cormac.

§ 62. The feasts around the powerful feast of Tara; the fairs around the fair of Emhain; it is true that there are chronicles; Ireland has been divided into regions.

§ 63. The tale of the household of Tara is not trifling; the knowledge about every cantred [“barony”] in Ireland; the historical lore about women, tales of war-bands, disputes, hostels, magical dooms, conquests.

§ 64. The ten-fold testimony of Cathair of the hundreds for his very fair children of kingly proportions; the land-estate of each person according to rights so that everyone can hear it.

§ 65. Reed-pipes, fiddles, linked men [probably dancers]; bone-players and chanter-players; barkers and shouters are a gruesome, noisy, criminal gang.

§ 66. They exert themselves fully for the King of sweltering Berba; the noble king pays for each art according to its proper value.

§ 67. Tales of death, stories of murder, strains of music, the precise chronology of the fair kin-group, the king’s lineage, a blessing on the plain of Brega [in Meath], his battle and his harsh weapons skill.

§ 68. That is when the courageous, ever-prosperous folks will bring the gathering to an end; may the Lord grant them land with its fair produce! […]

§ 79. If the fair is not held, baldness, frailty, and early grey hair will result; depressed and lethargic kings, having no generosity or truthfulness.

§ 80. The wrath of the plentiful people of the royal court of Labraid has been strong until now; every people who is not aggressive will wither away; they will be challenged but not challenge.

§ 81. A welcome of the heavenly host of the saints for me [the poet as reward?], and of beautiful, kind God; the King, with the blessed followers that he rules, listens to all requests.

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