forgery, are ascribed to Finn’s sons, Oisin and
Fergus the Eloquent, and to his kinsman Caeilte, as
well as to himself. Five poems only are ascribed
to him, but these are found in MSS. of considerable
antiquity. The poems of Oisin were selected by
the Scotch writer for his grand experiment. He
gave a highly poetical translation of what purported
to be some ancient and genuine composition, but, unfortunately
for his veracity, he could not produce the original.
Some of the real compositions of the Fenian hero are,
however, still extant in the Book of Leinster, as
well as other valuable Fenian poems. There are
also some Fenian tales in prose, of which the most
remarkable is that of the Pursuit of Diarmaid and
Grainne—a legend which has left its impress
in every portion of the island to the present day.
Finn, in his old age, asked the hand of Grainne, the
daughter of Cormac Mac Airt; but the lady being young,
preferred a younger lover. To effect her purpose,
she drugged the guest-cup so effectually, that Finn,
and all the guests invited with him, were plunged
into a profound slumber after they had partaken of
it. Oisin and Diarmaid alone escaped, and to them
the Lady Grainne confided her grief. As true
knights they were bound to rescue her from the dilemma.
Oisin could scarcely dare to brave his father’s
vengeance, but Diarmaid at once fled with the lady.
A pursuit followed, which extended all over Ireland,
during which the young couple always escaped.
So deeply is the tradition engraven in the popular
mind, that the cromlechs are still called the “Beds
of Diarmaid and Grainne,” and shown as the resting-places
of the fugitive lovers.
There are many other tales of a purely imaginative
character, which, for interest, might well rival the
world-famous Arabian Nights’ Entertainments;
and, for importance of details, illustrative of manners,
customs, dress, weapons, and localities, are, perhaps,
Nial of the Nine Hostages and Dathi are the last pagan
monarchs who demand special notice. In the year
322, Fiacha Sraibhtine was slain by the three Collas,
and a few short-lived monarchs succeeded. In 378,
Crimhthann was poisoned by his sister, who hoped that
her eldest son, Brian, might obtain the royal power.
Her attempt failed, although she sacrificed herself
for its accomplishment, by taking the poisoned cup
to remove her brother’s suspicions; and Nial
of the Nine Hostages, the son of her husband by a
former wife, succeeded to the coveted dignity.
This monarch distinguished himself by predatory warfare
against Albion and Gaul. The “groans"
of the Britons testify to his success in that quarter,
which eventually obliged them to become an Anglo-Saxon
nation; and the Latin poet, Claudian, gives evidence
that troops were sent by Stilicho, the general of
Theodosius the Great, to repel his successful forays.
His successor, Dathi, was killed by lightning at the
foot of the Alps, and the possibility of this occurrence
is also strangely verified from extrinsic sources.