Maxims & Wise Counsel

Ogal neach re ráidhtear olc.

Ogal neach re ráidhtear olc.

(riled-up * one * to-whom * is said * evil)

One spoken harshly to will take offence.

So explains one poet to his poetic adversary in "Iomarbhágh na bhFileadh ~ The Contention of the Bards" (poem 14, verse 3). He completes the half-stanza by adding:

Aibriosg fa ríor an daonnacht.

(fragile * alas * the * humanity).

Lambert McKenna translates this as "Alas! human nature is frail!"

Armad ard in crand…

Armad ard in crand is móide co mór benaid* na gaetha fris.

(so-might-be * high * the * tree * tis * the-more * greatly * strike * the * winds * against-it)

The higher the tree is, the greater the winds beat upon it.

The metaphor continues. The fulll sentence, which is found in "Tegasc Ríg Solmain" in the Yellow Book of Lecan, col. 865, is:

Armad ard in crand is móide co mór benaid na gaetha fris,
ocus cach airde bias in torad bid trumaide a thuind-seom ac toitim.

… and the higher the fruit is, the greater its crash when it falls.

*benaid = benait in Old Irish

Nád-bí caínfoltach ní-bí caínfuillmech.

Nád-bí caínfoltach ní-bí caínfuillmech.

(that-not-is * well-wealthy * is-not-usually * well-profited)

Whoever is not wealthy is not likely to profit.

This maxim appears in Ancient Laws of Ireland, v. 112.7. While in a broad sense it might be restated as "it takes money to make money", it probably had a more narrow application in early Ireland. A gloss on it says "In ti ag na bi tochus taitnemach ni bi eneclann taitnemach do" (Whoever does not have a lot of property does not have much of an honour price). Or more crudely, "if you don't have much, you don't amount to much."

The original, non-normalized spelling is "Nadbi caínfoltach nibi caínfuillmech."

Con·éitet nád fúacair.

Con·éitet nád fúacair.

(goes-along * that not * discloses)

Whoever does not denounce accepts.

This is pretty much the Old Irish equivalent of the Latin "Qui tacet consentit" (He who is silent consents), which is a short form of the formula "Qui tacet consentire videtur, ubi loqui debuit ac potuit" (He who is silent, when he should have spoken and was able to, is understood to agree.)

The Irish formula is found in Apgitir Crábaid, as edited by Kuno Meyer in ZCP, vol. 3. I have normalized the spelling. The original spelling is "Conetet nāt fūacair".

Nárab cumthach duit ainfhial.

Nárab cumthach duit ainfhial.

(let-not-be * companion * to-you * ungenerous-one)

Do not make a friend of an ungenerous person.

This bit is found in the eleventh of twelve stanzas in Acallam na Senórach, in which Finn imparts good advice to Mac Lugach. The whole stanza reads:

Nársad diultadach um biad
nárab cumthach duit ainfhial,
nárad furáil féin ar flaith
na h-écnaiged gach n-ard-flaith.

Is do Mhícheál Ó Cathasaigh, nach bhfuil sásta a chuid M&M's a roinnt le héinne eile, a thiomnaím an iontráil seo. :-)

Ní saithi cen aipgitri.

Ní saithi cen aipgitri.

(is-not * sages * without * alphabets)

There are no sages without alphabets.

Auraicept na nÉces, 387.

Mairg faemas a anfine.

Mairg faemas a anfine.
Mairg móras a mogduine.

(woe betide * (who) accepts * his * outsiders)
(woe betide * (who) exhalts * his * vassal)

Woe to him who welcomes outsiders.
Woe to him who raises the status of his serf.

This harsh prescription is found at LL 48a17 in a thoroughly pessimistic doomsaying poem.

Nárbat soithiuch senáruscc.

Nárbat soithiuch senáruscc.

(be-not • vessel • of old-maxims)

Don't be a bowl of old saws!

This piece of advice comes from a poem about how to be a poet in the Book of Rights, which Kuno Meyer edited in ZCP iv, 238.

An tan is caeine an cluiti…

An tan is caeine an cluiti is and dlegur a discur.

(the * time * is * more beautiful * the * game * is * then * it is proper * its * ceasing)

The best time to give up the game is when it's at its best.

This maxim is found in “Lorgaireacht an tSoidhigh Naomhtha”, the 15th century Irish version of “La Queste del Saint Graal” (The Quest for the Holy Grail). A more standard spelling of the sentence would be “An tan is caoine an cluiche is and dlegar a díscor.” “Quit when you're ahead” may come close to it in today's English. In Modern Irish I'd say “Nuair is fearr an cluiche, is ansan ba chóir éirí as.”

Nípa deoladacht acht bid fiach.

Nípa deoladacht acht bid fiach.

(will-not-be * favour * but * will-be * debt)

There are no favours without debts.

This is found in the Würzburg Glosses (ca. 750 AD), where it glosses “non secundum gratiam sed secundum debitum”. A modern take on this might be “there are no free lunches.”

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