Maxims & Wise Counsel

Ferr reconn íarcunn.

Ferr reconn íarcunn.

(better * fore-intelligence * than after-intelligence)

Foresight is better than hindsight.

A maxim from "Bríathra Flainn Fhína maic Ossu". Compare "Messam airli íargáes" in this collection.

Fotha filed foglaim.

Fotha filed foglaim.

(foundation * of poet * learning)

Learning is a poet's foundation.

This alliterating maxim on the importance of education in the formation of a "fili" is found in "Brethad Nemed Toísech" (CIH 2224.25)

Codnach cách co sendata.

Codnach cách co sendata.

(sensible * everyone * until * old age)

Everyone is compos mentis until old age.

This maxim from the law tract "Bretha Nemed Toísech"(CIH 2225.25) seems to imply that senility or "leanbaíocht na haoise" (the childishness of age) was the normally expected outcome of any long life. The Laws (e.g. CIH 2106.36) actually presume legal incompetence beginning at the age of 88.

A modern quatrain ("Dánfhocail", p. 23) expresses this expectation in these words:

Óg gach neach san aois óige,
óg arís gach seanóire;
óg deireadh aoise gach duine,
deireadh gach seanaoise óige.

Áithiu cech delg is óa.

Áithiu cech delg is óa.

(sharper * every * thorn * that is * younger)

Younger thorns are shaper.

This maxim is found in "Passions and Homilies" (4136-37), where King David tells his son Solomon that he is more clever and keener-witted than himself, "amal atbeir isin derbárusc" ("as it says in the proverb"), which he then quotes. A slightly different version is found in "Acallam na Senórach" (1384), where Garad begs off playing fidchell with the women of the Fían, claiming that he is too old: "Is áithe cach n-delg as só".

Ní·fríth ní·fuigébthar brithem bas fíriu cathroí.

Ní·fríth ní·fuigébthar brithem bas fíriu cathroí.

(not was found * not will be found * judge * that might be * more true * (than) battle-field)

A truer judge than the battle field has never been found, and never will be.

This maxim is found in Fergus Kelly's edition of "Audacht Morainn" (p. 64) and in Rudolf Thurneysen's earlier edition in ZCP 11 (p. 83). It is also quoted by Lughaidh Ó Cléirgh in “Beatha Aodha Ruaidh Uí Dhomhnaill” as “Ni frith ni fuighbhither breithemh bus firiu cathraé.”

Dligid cach gúbrethach garsécle 7 athshuidi 7 díbad.

Dligid cach gúbrethach garsécle 7 athshuidi 7 díbad.

(deserves * every * false-judging * short-life * & * removal * & * extinction)

Every false judge deserves short life, removal from office, and death without an heir.

Or today, at least a twenty year term in prison! Early Irish legal literature mentions various punishments that judges or other authorities can suffer if they give an improper or corrupt judgment, ranging from fines to loss of rank. A rather dramatic symptom of a false judgment is the appearance of blotches or blisters ("bolga") on the face of the judge. The above maxim, which combines a triadic structure with the common "dligid" formula, is quoted in "Audacht Morainn" (p. 64), and in Thurneysen's edition of the same text in ZCP 11 (p. 84, §34).

Ferrdi ciall comairli.

Ferrdi ciall comairli.

(better-of-it * sense * advice)

Sense is the better of advice.
Advice makes good sense better.

This is one of a series of eleven similar maxims in "Cath Muighe Rath" (FDG, p. 158-160), all beginning with "(Is) ferrdi" (is the better of, is improved by). See also "Ferrdi fis fiafraigid" in this collection.

Ferrdi fis fiafraigid.

Ferrdi fis fiafraigid.

(better-of-it * knowledge * asking)

Knowledge is the better of inquiry.
Inquiry improves knowledge.

This is one of a series of eleven similar maxims in "Cath Muighe Rath" (FDG, p. 158-160), all beginning with "(Is) ferrdi" (is the better of, is improved by). Other maxims in this collection which express a similar idea are "Tosach eólais imchomarc" and "Eochair fessa foglaim."

Ní fhulaing seanshlat a sníomh.

Ní fhulaing seanshlat a sníomh.

(not * endures * old rod * its * twisting)

An old rod cannot be bent.

This is equivalent to the saying "You can't teach an old dog new tricks." It's from the Irish Grammatical Tracts, originally edited in "Ériu" and quoted in DIL s.v. "sním".

Is rechtaid cách for a déis fodeisin.

Is rechtaid cách for a déis fodeisin.

(is * law-giver * everyone * over * his * domain * own)

Every man is master in his own domain.

A maxim quoted in Laws i 230.7, 18, and in DIL s.v. "rechtaid".

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