Ní bhiann gort gan diasach fiadh...
(not * is habitually * field * without * ears of grain * wild)
There's never a field of grain without some wild oats.
This is the first line of a quatrain, in the hand of Manus O'Davoren in a 16th century manuscript, reproduced in volume one of O'Grady's catalogue of MSS in the British Museum (now British Library):
Ní bhiann gort gan diasach fiadh.
Ag sin acaibh ciall ma rainn.
Is terc duine dhá mbiann maith
ná biann meth ar chuit dá chlainn.
There is never a field without wild oats.
There you have the sense of my verse.
Rare is the man who has gained wealth
without one child that goes to the worse.
Ná cuindig do chís
for duine nad·fóel
is ferr úad a lleth
andá a meth mar óen.
(not * seek * your * rent
on * person * that will not bear
is * better * from him * the * half
than * their * failure * as * one)
Seek not to collect tribute
from one who cannot pay;
better to accept half from him
than to lose both man and money.
The word "cís" can mean "tribute, tax, rent" in Early Irish. This bit of advice to a prince, stanza 13 of "Cert cech ríg co réil", seems to fall somewhere between "you can't squeeze blood from a turnip" and "don't kill the goose that lays the golden eggs".
Sinn ag loighe ar in lucht romhainn,
lucht oile orainn san úaigh.
(we * at * lying * on * the * people * before us /
people * other * on us * in the * grave)
We rest on those who came before us,
and others will rest on us in the grave.
This half stanza is quoted in §72 of the "Irish Grammatical Tracts", edited by Osborn Bergin in "Ériu" (vol. 9, part 2, p. 118). A similar idea is expressed, somewhat less morbidly, in the saying "In bith-sa is bith cáich ar uair" in this collection.
Mad comairle duit do ben,
nítbia talam, nítbia nem;
is mairg tréces na huili
ar grád anma óenduini.
(if would be * counsel * for you * your * wife/
you will not have * earth * you will not have * heaven/
is * pitiful * that abandons * the * all/
for * love * of soul * of one person)
If your wife would be your counsel,
you will have neither earth nor heaven;
woe to him who forsakes the whole
for the love of a single soul.
This severe little verse, conventionally attributed to Saint Brigit, is quoted in ZCP 7 (p. 298).
Atá ben is tír
ní abar a hainm;
maidid esi a deilm
amal chloich a tailm!
(is * woman * in the * country /
not * I say * her * name /
breaks * from her * her * fart /
like * stone * out of * sling)
There's a woman in the country,
I won't say her name;
She lets a fart
like a stone from a sling!
A quatrain found in the commentary on "Amra Choluim Chille" in LU (543-6). A more recent quatrain attributed to Blind Raftery has fun with the same theme:
A bhean úd thall a lig an broim,
is nach mór do shuim sa cheol;
Ní hionadh liom mar a chanas do bhéal,
is a fheabhas is a chanas do thóin.
Ar in bith án astaither
A coraib bél bertaigter.
(for * the * world * splendid * is established /
from * contracts * of lips * that are proclaimed)
For the great world is secured
By contracts which are proclaimed.
These two lines of verse are from §36 of "Di Astud Chor". The translation is by Neil McLeod. In traditional Irish law, contracts -- formal agreements between individuals -- were the bedrock on which an ordered society was established. The "social contract" that allowed men to live together without destructive conflict in early Ireland was literally a network of deliberate civil contracts that individuals entered into in public rituals.
A Brigit bennach ar sét
nachar·tair bét ar ar cúairt;
a chaillech a l-Lifi lán
co·rísem slán ar tech úait.
(o * Brigit * bless * our * road /
that may not come to us * calamity * on * our * trip /
o * nun * from * Liffey * full /
may we reach * safe * our * house * from you)
O Brigit, bless our road,
that calamity may not overtake us as we travel;
O veiled one from the laden Liffey
may we reach home safely by your intercession.
This verse, the first in a longer prayer, is found at LL 308a, where it is recited by St. Mo Ling. Elsewhere (Irische Texte iii.53) there is a long incantation containing a mix of pagan and christian elements that begins "Ad·muiniur secht n-ingena trethan" (I invoke the seven daughters of the sea). Two lines in it also call for a safe journey:
Ním·thí bás for fecht,
ro·fírthar mo thecht!
May death not come to me on a journey,
may my return be realized!
See also "Rop soraid in sét-sa" in this collection for another prayer for safe travel.
Is éicen do neoch a thecht
cosin fót forsa mbí a thiglecht.
(is * necessity * for * one * his * going /
to the * place * on which * is always * his * last-grave)
Everyone must go at last
to the place of his death.
This half-stanza was spoken in the LL Táin (lines 10633-4) by Fer Diad as he and Cú Chulainn prepare for their fight to the death. The word "fót" means specifically a sod or clod or earth, or a definite patch of ground. The phrase "fód an bháis" (the sod of death) is still used to mean the place where one is fated to die. An early stanza, quoted in "A Miscellany" (p. 87), says there are three locations that cannot be avoided: the place of birth, the place of death, and the place of burial:
Trí fótáin nach sechainter,
cia toiscet na habrochtair,
fót in gene, fót in báis,
ocus fót ind adnacuil.
Congal in FDG (p. 172) states that there are three times that cannot be avoided: the time of death, the time of birth, and the time of conception ("tri h-uaire nach imgaibther .i. uair éca, uair gene, uair choimperta").
Cách a bfuil acat i tig
etir ith is blicht is mil,
nocha berair lat ar sét
in tan racha d'éc, a fhir.
(all * that * is * at you * in * house /
between * grain * and * milk * and * honey /
not * is carried * with you * on * road /
the * time * you will go * to death * o * man)
Everything you have at home,
all your honey, milk and grain,
you can't take with you on the road
when, my friend, you go to death.
This is the third and final stanza of a poem on generosity edited by Kuno Meyer from MS Laud 615, p. 101, in ACL III.3.
Mór in bét!
Immad sliged ocus sét
tar lebaid na sruthi soer,
tar nar chóir acht óen de chét.
(great * the * calamity /
abundance * of ways * and * paths /
across * bed * of the * streams * noble /
across * would not be * right * but * one * of * hundred)
What a pity!
Many are the roads and ways
across the bed of noble rivers,
yet only one in a hundred is right.
A quatrain left in the margin of a page in the Lebor Brecc, edited and translated by Kuno Meyer in ZCP.II.225. See also "Is mór in bét" in this collection.