Esnada Tige Buchet

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Book of Leinster

Yellow Book of Lecan


Cormac mac Airt (197—267) legendary king and sage


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Irish title for a story known in English as ‘The Melodies of Buchet's House’. A part of the Cycle of Kings or Historical Cycle, the story dates from at least as far back as the 10th century and is preserved in five vellum manuscripts, including the Book of Leinster and the Yellow Book of Lecan. Buchet, a hospitable man of Leinster, fosters Eithne (Eithne Tháebfota, though she is called simply Eithne here), the daughter of Cathaír Mór, king of Ireland. Unhappily for Buchet, Cathaír Mór's twelve rapacious sons invite themselves to his house and consume all his larder and most of his livestock, leaving only seven cows and a bull. Cathaír Mór, now a withered old man, says he cannot control his sons, offers no redress, and tells Buchet to go away. He does so, fleeing with his wife, Eithne, and the remaining cattle, seeking out Cormac mac Airt at Kells. Already a powerful figure, Cormac is not yet king because (in a variant from the usual story) Medb Lethderg, Art's widow, has seized the kingship and kept Cormac away.

While watching Eithne one day, Cormac notices that the comely young girl sets aside the best portions of the rushes, water, and milk she has collected. When he asks her why she does this, she answers that it is to honour someone important, Buchet. Cormac is so charmed by this that he asks Buchet for Eithne's hand, but he cannot give it as her foster-father. So Eithne is carried off and spends the night with Cormac, during which she conceives Cairbre Lifechair. Later she becomes Cormac's queen, for which he pays Buchet an enormous bride-price, including all that can be seen for a week from the ramparts of Kells. Buchet then returns to Leinster with huge herds. This prosperity funds the ‘melodies’ of the title, his warm and generous greeting to guests in his house: abundant food, drink, and entertainment. The best modern edition is in David H. Greene, Fingal Rónáin and Other Stories (Dublin, 1955).

Subjects: Religion.

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