Three hundred years after Ceasair’s people were gone, a second wave of settlers came to Ireland. These were Dealgnat, her husband Partholón and their people who came from Greece. This is Delgnat’s account of the first adultery, the first jealousy, how Tallaght got its name and who made the first pint in Ireland.
The world had many places yet untouched and though it seemed it, it was not one of them. After seven years on the sea, it was like walking into someone else’s dream. I could feel it. I could feel those who had breathed with it, still there in the shadows, speaking in shadows, asking us to smell the air before you light a fire, see a river flow green and silver before you take a fish, gallop with the horses on the hills before you harness them, lurk like wolves in the forest before you begin their ending, walk to the edge of the highest cliff, look down above the white sea birds to know the edge of death, the vibrant swirl of life before you touch a sword again.
We came on a fair wave, I, Dealgnat, my husband, Partholón, the a one eyed leader of an odyssey, laden with infamy. We came in ships bearing a thousand smiling women, men and children relieved at the sight of an honest ground to call our own. But before seven sunrises has risen we were engrossed with what we could make and harness with our learning. Partholón and I were leaders who came from the houses of leaders, scarred with memories of battles lost and won. The bloodiest had been our last, when Partholón lost one of his big brown eyes while taking the life of his own mother and father and I who had handed him his sword, would do it again.
We searched for clear plains. We found one, settled there, then went to work to clear many more. We saw lakes spring up from under forests to reflect the sky for the first time. We hurried with our making. We walked on fresh ground without stopping to feel it envelop our feet. Hurry was the steed we rode until we had taken possession. We were not the same as those who came before us, whose bliss had been to breathe with the land. Our bliss was the four oxen that had survived the sailing so well that the bull was in the first cow as soon as she had taken three steps from the boat.
Our ideas were great. We brought a man called Beoil who made a guest house. He would ask for payment from those who needed shelter because some had houses and some had not. So came the question: Who is the greater, The host or the guest? We didn’t stop to answer that.
We brought Brea, a cauldron maker who was a great fighter too, so strong that his cauldrons would never be stolen from how much he loved them to be full of meat.
We brought Malaliach our wine maker who lamented that he found no grapes but his thirst was stronger than his grumbling and so, he concocted a drink he called ale that was made from the fern living damp under the trees. It was only then, with bellies full of ale that we could loose ourselves into questioning the world we had made. We knew that questions are better asked when drunk as the answers can be forgotten if necessary.
We came with jesters and champions and gold. We came with seeds for grain. We built mills for grinding. We churned the milk of the cow into butter for human consumption. We used the world around us, rivers were our veins sharing their life giving water.
I had done my share for Partholón’s politic. We had three sons who had three wives and so, he began to leave me to my own devices as you would leave a tired mare on a scraggy grass. I didn’t like it. It is not right for a man to forget the woman who has given him his on and on-ness and as well as that, I felt myself to be still fair and buxom. So it was an easy thing for my insides to alight when our smiles touched. I knew him and he knew me, from some deep story making place within us. Topa was his name. He was my husband’s attendant and I lay in love under and over him and I swear it was a sacred thing; for it was on the deep moss that I had first walked upon and we washed inside the green and silver river and we walked in the hills and lay down there too. Then one night when Partholón was gone on a tour to measure all his making, we drank his best greek wine that he kept only for himself and we drank it from his ritual drinking tube of red gold. We drank and it was only when we were drinking and laughing that the premonition came: we would cause an avalanche in our world.
Partholón was outraged at our insolence. He had the smell of both of us already in his nose from how close we were to him and he knew that tube of red gold as well as if it was his own member. He rose up into a rage. But he was my husband so I knew how his chest would rise and I knew what he would say, That we had no idea with whom we were dealing and I knew that a threat would follow and it was: that he would make it known through our story, that a woman cannot go away from her husband and usurp the lot of his doing, shaming him into the bargain. I would have to die for it.
But I said, What of the woman’s story? I didn’t know you had decided to make yourself into a God. It was you husband, who left me alone to the nature of this fair land as if you were putting honey on my plate, asking me not to eat it. If you stopped to look with the eye you have left you’ll see every living thing is giving in to each other. Look! The bee is gone into the flower, the wolf is in the bitch, the bull is in the cow, the birds are singing songs. What kind of head have you who says we are different to all this. Is drinking the best wine through a gold tube all by yourself the best result of your coming here? Look fast my lord or you will go blind in your good eye. It is I who deserves apology. You must acknowledge the part you played in my carrying-on for all I did was seek a little comfort because of your desertion of me, who stood by you even when you murdered your own father and mother.
But reminding him of that, stabbed his last sliver of patience. And just at that moment, my little dog Samer, who knew when I needed comfort, came to me; my little constant friend since we had set out, who had a piece of my heart inside him. And before I took him into my arms, Partholon struck a blow to his head and killed my little pet and after that another blow to kill my poor lover Topa.
And then I rose up into a rage of my own and my chest got bigger and so did my voice and I said, Partholón, how can you keep killing every thing that gets into your way. You are guilty by nature’s own laws. You are wrong to have killed Topa. You are wrong to have killed the little dog that I loved and you know it and everyone around us knows it. How can it be that our lives have come to this, in this land of generosity? How can you say that you own it. How can you say that you own me who has given more to you than any human being in your whole life. Look at the sun husband, that shaft there, beaming down on things growing underneath it. One thing needs another, there is no earth without sun, there is no sun without earth.
All this I said as the tears fell from my eyes making rivers through my breasts. All this I said and it was witnessed and it was deemed by all that my husband would not kill me. In fact it was deemed that what I said had fairness in it and so the row was to be over.
But I was heartbroken because we had begun to name that fair place with tragedy and satire and that was a bitter thing, because that day, when I buried my little dog, the place was named Samer’s Island; the place of Partholón’s vanity and the place where I lay with Topa was named the waterfall of the two fools after all the carrying-on we did there.
And then, one day, ten years later, a day when the sea was like a lake, clouds collected overhead in grey and purple and black making a peculiar ghost light I had never seen before. And underneath them came a host of cormorants diving for the kill, heralding the coming of the one eyed Formhóire; ghostly phantoms from the haunted hem of sea and land. The Formhóire, black and dripping with skullduggery and bad blood.
But we had the remnants of a magic of our own. The gods we brought with us, were behind us still. They told us: fight them as they are themselves; with single arms, single legs, and single eyes and because we did that, not one of us died from that battle. But they came again. We beat them back again and again and again so that, we began to believe there was nothing we needed but our own guts for prosperity. Until one day after we had grown from one thousand people to nine came a filthy black plague. So terrible that by sunrise on the seventh day our people were ended. Everyone, except for one: a man by the name of Tuán mac Cairell who lived long enough to name that place *Sean Mhagh nEalta.
- County Dublin, Ireland : Meaning : Plague Pit
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