Margaret Anne Cusack
start of chapter | Chapter VI

Love affairs form a staple ground for fiction, with a very substantial under-strata of facts, even in the nineteenth century; and the annals of pre-Christian Erinn are by no means deficient in the same fertile source of human interest. The History of the Exile is still preserved in the Leabhar Buidhe Lecain, now in the Library of Trinity College, Dublin. It is a highly romantic story, but evidently founded on fact, and full of interest as descriptive of public and private life in the fifth century before Christ. It tells how Maen, though supposed to be deaf and dumb, was, nevertheless, given in charge of two officers of the court to be educated; that he recovered or rather obtained speech suddenly, in a quarrel with another youth; and that he was as symmetrical of form and noble of bearing as all heroes of romance are bound to be. His uncle expelled him from the kingdom, and he took refuge at the court of King Scoriath. King Scoriath had a daughter, who was beautiful; and Maen, of course, acted as a knight was bound to do under such circumstances, and fell desperately in love with the princess. The Lady Moriath's beauty had bewildered more heads than that of the knight-errant; but the Lady Moriath's father and mother were determined their daughter should not marry.

The harper Craftiné came to the rescue, and at last, by his all-entrancing skill, so ravished the whole party of knights and nobles, that the lovers were able to enjoy a tête-a-tête, and pledged mutual vows. As usual, the parents yielded when they found it was useless to resist; and, no doubt, the poet Craftiné, who, poet and all as he was, nearly lost his head in the adventure, was the most welcome of all welcome guests at the nuptial feast. Indeed, he appears to have been retained as comptroller of the house and confidential adviser long after; for when Labhraidh Maen was obliged to fly the country, he confided his wife to the care of Craftiné. On his return from France,[4] he obtained possession of the kingdom, to which he was the rightful heir, and reigned over the men of Erinn for eighteen years.


[4] France.—It is said that foreigners who came with him from Gaul were armed with broad-headed lances (called in Irish laighne), whence the province of Leinster has derived its name. Another derivation of the name, from coige, a fifth part, is attributed to the Firbolgs.