War

Immgaib ág ocus not·imgéba.

Immgaib ág ocus not·imgéba.

(avoid * battle * and * it will avoid you)

Avoid a fight and it will avoid you.

Given in "Passions and Homilies" as the Irish equivalent of "Devitabis periculum et devitabit te." An almost identical version of the maxim is used as the first line of a poem in FDG (p. 172): "Imgaib ágh 's rod imgéba." Compare both "Is cian ó ghuasacht cech faitech" and "Ná hinguib, ná hindsaig ág" in this collection.

Gal chon for otrach sin.

Gal chon for otrach sin.

(battle fury * of dogs * on * dunghill * that)

That's the sound and fury of dogs on a dung heap.

Congal uses this proverbial image of empty valour to belittle the might of the Leinstermen in "Cath Muigi Rath" (p. 124 in FDG). He goes on to describe the forces of Connacht as a boiled cow's udder, and the men of Ossory as a pig's belly hanging between its flanks.

Bid co h-eistechtach cailli...

Bid co h-eistechtach cailli,
bid co féchsanach muigi,
oir ní fedrais, mór in mod,
nach biad t' escara it fharrad.

(be * hearingful * of forest /
be * watchful * of plain /
for * not * you know - great * the * deed /
that not * would be * your * enemy * in your * presence)

Keep your ears open in the forest
and your eyes open on the plain,
for you don't know -- this is important --
whether your enemy is near.

This is the eleventh stanza in the poem "Fionn's Advice to Mac Lugach" at the beginning of "Acallam na Senórach". See also "Dá trian do mhíne re mnáibh" in this collection.

Láech cach fer co forragar.

Láech cach fer co forragar.

(warrior * every * man * until * is overcome)

Every man is a hero until he meets defeat.

One line, a quarter-stanza, from a long poem of good advice edited by Kuno Meyer in ZCP iv.468.

Mallacht a gaiscid fair!

Mallacht a gaiscid fair!

(curse * of his * weaponry * on him)

A curse on his weapons!

This is Lugaid's curse on Ferbáeth, who has agreed to fight his old comrade Cú Chulainn in exchange for the hand of Finnabair, the daughter of Ailill and Medb.

Íbait fíaich lúgbairt lacht!

Íbait fíaich lúgbairt lacht!

(will drink * ravens * of (battle) garden * milk)

Ravens will drink the milk of battle!

From a poem of foreboding that Dubthach chanted to the army of Medb and Ailill at the outset of the Táin (LU & YBL). It employs two deceptively domestic metaphors for battle. "Lubgort" (here metathesized to "lúgbart") was used poetically in the sense of "garden of heroism" = battlefield, and "lacht" (milk) here becomes "blood".

Mór de chóemaib do·rochratar ann i mbúaile báis.

Mór de chóemaib do·rochratar ann i mbúaile báis.

(great * of * fair ones * have fallen * there * in * cattle fold * of death)

Many fair men fell there in the fold of death.

From the description of the carnage of the final battle in "Cath Maige Tuired".

Ní ar lín óc brister cath.

Ní ar lín óc brister cath.

(not * according to * number * of warriors * is broken * a battle)

Numbers alone don't win a battle.

A maxim from "Diambad messe bad rí réil". In an entry for the year 649 in the Mionannala (Egerton Annals, p. 397 in "Silva Gadelica"), Diarmait tells Cuimín Fota "nach ar líon na cruth brister cath acht amail as áil ra Dia" ("that it is not by numbers or appearance that a battle is won but by the will of God"). The opposite view is found in a maxim quoted in the Annals of the Four Masters in an entry for the year 1593: "Luighidh iolar ar uathadh" ("Many overpower few"), or in the English saying, "Providence fights on the side of big batallions".

Ferr síd sochocad.

Ferr síd sochocad.

(better * peace * (than) a successful war)

Peace is better than a successful war.

This three word maxim is found in "Bríathra Flainn Fína maic Ossu".

In the poem "An tSí Mhór agus an tSí Bheag", edited by Douglas Hyde in _Amhráin Chúige Chonnacht_, the penultimate stanza makes the argument, in Modern Irish, that peace, even an onerous peace, is preferable to war:

Tá sé anois is ariamh á rá
An cogadh is lú go milleann a lán,
Gur fearr an tsíth is measa dlí
Ná bailte is tíortha a bhánú.

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