The Characters Speak

Ní bara fri búre daitsiu ón.

Ní bara fri búre daitsiu ón.

(not * anger * against * anger * for-you * that)

I will not answer your anger with anger.

The words "barae" and "búire", neither of which has survived into Modern Irish, both mean "anger". Eochu speaks this line to Midir in the LU telling of Tochmarc Étaíne (LU 10832).

Tú-sa i ndulig.

“Tú-sa i ndulig.”

(I am * in * difficulty)

I'm in a fix!

The charioteer Ibar says this to Sétanta (the young Cú Chulainn) when the impetuous lad asks him to make a seemingly impossible move. This takes place in the Macgnímrada section of the LL recension of the Táin.

Bíaidh do berad ar ndee 7 ar dtoicthe dúin.

Bíaidh do·berad ar ndee 7 ar dtoicthe dúinn.

(will be * might bring * our * gods * & * our * fortune * to us)

We will have whatever our gods and our fate bring us.

This pagan sentiment is put in the mouth of the Danish chieftain Horm in the Fragmentary Annals (p. 92).

Is ó mhnáib do·gabar rath nó amhrath.

Is ó mhnáib do·gabar rath nó amhrath.

(is * of * women * is taken * good fortune * or * bad fortune)

It is from women that fortune comes, good or bad.

Spoken in the council of the Túatha Dé Danann by Midir Mongbuide, son of the Dagda, in "Acallam na Senórach" (408-09).

Gémad ór Sliab Monaid nos·fodailfed fri hoen uair.

Gémad ór Sliab Monaid nos·fodailfed fri hoen uair.

(although was * gold * Sliabh Monaidh / Hill of Dunadd * he would distribute it * during * one * hour)

If the Hill of Dunadd were made of gold he would distribute it all in an hour.

The wife of Domnall Brecc in "Fled Dúin na nGédh" (FDG p. 56) describes his generosity in those terms. Compare "Dámadh ór in duille donn" in which Fionn's generosity is lauded in similar terms.

Condolb cách ima dáinib fodesin.

Condolb cách ima dáinib fodesin.

(kin-loving * everyone * regarding his * people * own)

Everyone loves his own people best.

Medb uses this saying on Fer Diad as part of her campaign to persuade him to fight on behalf of Connacht against the Ulster hero Cú Chulainn, despite the fact that the two had a deep bond of affection. This version of the saying is from the YBL Táin. Another similar saying in found in Windisch's edition of the text:

"uair as badhach nech imá tir fén" (for one is partial to ones own country).

Ba maith fer for a ferand fadessin.

Ba maith fer for a ferand fadessin.

(would be * good * a man * on * his * land * own)

A man were well in his own land.

Spoken by Conall Corc in "Conall Corc & the Corcu Luigde", published in Anecdota, iii.59. Conall is in Scotland but wants to return to Ireland. The heavy alliteration on 'f' in the original lends this statement the feel of a maxim.

At·tá lá i ndegaid alaile.

At·tá lá i ndegaid alaile.

(is * day * in * following * of another)

One day follows another.
Tomorrow is another day.

In the tale "Tochmarc Étaíne" Ailill feels remorse because he fell asleep and missed his tryst with Étaín. She reassures him, saying "Ní ba son, ata la i ndegaid aloile." (Never mind. There's always tomorrow.)

Ní gilla i ngillaidecht é ...

Ní gilla i ngillaidecht é, ní óclach i n-óclachas, ocus ní gaiscedach i ngaisced.

(is not * page * in * pageship * he * is not * squire * in * squireship * and * is not * knight * in * knighthood)

His actions befit neither page nor squire nor knight.

This imprecation was delivered, entirely petulantly and inappropriately, by Gúaire against Finn Bán after losing a series of fidchell games to him. This episode is found in "Acallam na Senórach". I have restated the line slightly, shifting it from indirect to direct speech, and normalizing the orthography to the Old Irish norm. I have also, rather more radically, translated the threefold insult in terms of Anglo-Norman chivalry. In more Gaelic terms, the "gilla" was a serving boy, the "óclach" was a young warrior, and the "gaiscedach" was a seasoned champion.

The original text is "Adubairt nár' ghilla a n-gillaighecht h-é, & nár' óclach i n-óclachus & nár' ghaisceadach a n-gaisced." (He said that he was not a page....) A very similar formula is found in the short tale "Erchoitmed Ingine Gulidi", where it is used positively to praise Gulide:

"Is amlaid immorro bái Gulide, co mba laech ar laechdacht ... 7 co mba feinnid ar fheinnidecht 7 ba mílid ar milidacht 7 ba brugaid ar brugamnus 7 ba cainti ar caintecht." (Thus indeed was Gulide, having been a warrior in warriorship, and a fenian in fenianship, and a soldier in soldiership, and a landholder in holding land, and a satirist in satire.)

Is beó nech tar éis a anma...

Is beó nech tar éis a anma, ocus ní beó d'éis a einigh.

(is * living * one * after * his * soul * and * is not * alive * after * his * honor)

A man lives after losing his life, but he does not live after losing his honor.

Goll mac Morna says this when Fionn asks him whether the Fiann should stand their ground or retreat, in the "Cath na bPunann" episode of "Duanaire Finn". Goll's response is the equivalent of "Death before dishonor!"

In the heroic world of the old tale, a warrior who fell bravely would live on in song and memory, while a warrior who dishonored himself in battle would be shunned and reviled in life. As the young Cú Chulainn said (in this collection) "Acht ropa airdirc-se, maith limm cen co beinn acht óenlá for domun."

Syndicate content