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…..