Mac Dathó's Pig

No feast of friends, this: Mac Dathó slaughters
his monstrous pig, fattened on milk and spite,
stretched over nine hearths on an oak-trunk spit,

turned and roasted by three fifties of cooks:
sweating, they serve it up - with forty oxen
as garnish, mind you - to feed Ulaid and Connaught.

Anlúan greets the Ulstermen, and utters
a blood-gush of fine speech; allows
that Conall Cernach carve the champion's portion -

who tears off rump and shoulders with his teeth,
and flings the Connaughta bare bones and trotters.
Each man starts up, a salmon leaping skyward,

an ocean wave to crash against his fellows,
a wolf's wide gullet, a grinning gallows,
a thirsty spear, a boar's-tusk sharp with death,

a tower of blood, a warrior's moon at full,
a lightning storm of sword-sparks, a bull
to slay hard veterans just with angry looks.

Smoking brains are splashed across the rafters;
mead-vats tipped; the house, lopsided, totters,
its walls redecorated, splinters scattered;

dining-hall and doorways all corpse-littered;
the heroes' dinners cooling on their plates:
such worthies always relish fierce debates.

Read the original Legend of Mac Dathó

Paul Stevens was born in Sheffield, England, but has lived most of his life in Australia. In previous incarnations he has been a brickies' labourer, fettler and sandal-maker. He studied Archaeology and Mediaeval Studies, including Old Irish, at the University of Sydney. Now he teaches Literature, Ancient History and Historiography, and has published on the Julio-Claudians, as well as poetry and literary criticism.

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