The Hound of Ulster.


When Setanta was a young boy

A hurling stick was his favourite toy

He practised long and hard each day

Learning the skills of the warrior’s way

A hero, a legend, he would come to be

A life of bloody battles, pain and tragedy

The royal blacksmith Culainn, was hosting a feast

His hunting dog was famous, a fierce and mighty beast

But when he saw Setanta coming over the hill

He charged the young boy, with every intention to kill

But Setanta saw him coming, his jaws open wide

There was no time to run or any place to hide

Drawing his hurley and ball he took careful aim

And using all the skills he had learned from the game

He drove the slíothar down the wolfhound’s gaping mouth

The hound choked and Setanta gave a triumphant shout

Which brought the guests running to see this tragic scene

It was even brought to the attention of the king and his queen

On hearing the dreadful news that his famous dog had died

Culainn was heartbroken and cried 

Who shall guard my house  – now that my hound is dead ?

Setanta stepped forward, Sir I will be your guard dog instead

Until a new pup has been trained and ready to take my place

With such determination and honesty upon his brave young face.

From that day forward, Cu Chulainn was his name

A mighty warrior he would become and hurling was his game

Known throughout many kingdoms so widespread was his fame

No man could defeat him, but only a woman could tame

He took many lovers and Emer as his wife

Like most heroes, short and bloody would be his life

A Geis* had been placed upon his head

No woman’s request could he deny, if summoned to her bed

Among his many lovers was Fand,  Manannan the Sea God’s wife.

When he rescued her from three Formorians, an act that saved her life

But tragedy and heartbreak were never far away

His own son Connia in single combat he did slay

He stood alone against queen Maebh and the men of the west

And many a brave warrior fell while trying his very best

With the Gáe Bulg**, his deadly barbed spear 

Bringing bloodshed, death and fear

Forced to fight his foster brother Fedia, in a tragic battle scene

In a war about two bulls and the egoes of a king and queen.

A hero, a warrior, a demiGod, a victim to fame

Even to this day we still remember his name 

The Gods granted him a gory and glorious death

As his enemies waited for his last breath

A raven upon his shoulder, they knew it was endgame

The boy once called Setanta, the man we know by another name.

C Denis Murphy 02 June 2021.

*A Geis – not necessarily always  a curse, more a  restriction or condition or an obligation placed upon a person. A taboo which if broken, can lead to dire consequences.

 **An Gáe Bulg – a legendary spear once thrown never missed it’s target and inflicted a mortal wound. Thought to contain seven barbed points which were released like the spokes of an umbrella after entering  the body, probably disemboweling the victim….. 

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