The Poet and the King

Nuadhé, the celebrated poet, is remembered in history by a memorable exercise of his malific power, and the punishment that fell on him in consequence; for Heaven is just, and even a bard cannot escape the penalty due for sin.

He was nephew to Caer, the king of Connaught, who reared him with all kindness and gentleness as his own son. But by an evil fate the wife of Caer the king loved the young man; and she gave him a silver apple in proof of her love, and further promised him the kingdom and herself if he could overthrow Caer and make the people depose him from the sovranty.

"How can I do this?" answered Nuadhé, "for the king has ever been kind to me."

"Ask him for some gift," said the queen, "that he will refuse, and then put a blemish on him for punishment, that so he can bo no longer king;" for no one with a blemish was ever suffered to reign in Erin.

"But he refuses me nothing," answered Nuadhé.

"Try him," said the queen. "Ask of him the dagger he brought from Alba, for he is under a vow never to part with it."

So Nuadhé went to him, and asked for the dagger that came out of Alba as a gift.

"Woe is me!" said the king. "This I cannot grant; for I am under a solemn vow never to part with it, or give it to another."

Then the poet by his power made a satire on him, and this was the form of the imprecation—

"Evil death, and a short life Be on Caer the king! Let the spears of battle wound him, Under earth, under ramparts, under stones, Let the malediction be on him!"

And when Caer rose up in the morning he put his hand to his face and found it was disfigured with three blisters, a white, a red, and a green. And when he saw the blemish he fled away filled with fear that any man should see him, and took refuge in a fort with one of his faithful servants, and no one knew where he lay hid.

So Nuadhé took the kingdom and held it for a year, and had the queen to wife. But then grievous to him was the fate of Caer, and he set forth to search for him.

And he was seated in the king's own royal chariot, with the king's wife beside him, and the king's greyhound at his feet, and all the people wondered at the beauty of the charioteer.

Now Caer was in the fort where he had found shelter, and when he saw them coming he said—

"Who is this that is seated in my chariot in the place of the champion, and driving my steeds? "

But when he saw that it was Nuadhé he fled away and hid himself for shame.

Then Nuadhé drove into the fort in the king's chariot, and loosed the dogs to pursue Caer. And they found him hid under the flagstone behind the rock even where the dogs tracked him. And Caer fell down dead from shame on beholding Nuadhé, and the rock where he fell flamed up and shivered into fragments, and a splinter leaped up high as a man, and struck Nuadhé on the eyes, and blinded him for life. Such was the punishment decreed, and just and right was the vengeance of God upon the sin of the poet.