ith ocus blicht

ith ocus blicht
(grain * and * milk)

grain and milk

This pairing is found repeatedly in Early Irish literature, usually in this Middle Irish form, but also in the Old Irish form "ith ocus mlicht". It is a metonym for "food and drink" in general, and a metaphor very similar to the biblical "milk and honey" ("a land flowing with milk and honey" Ex. 3:8). The core "ith ocus blicht" may be expanded with mention of "mess" (mast, wild tree fruit and nuts), "torud" (fruit), or "íasc" (fish). The "Carmun" poem in the Metrical Dindshenchas describes a happy, prosperous Ireland blessed with "ith, blicht, síth, sáma sona / lína lána, lerthola" (grain, milk, peace, happy ease / full nets, ocean-plenty). In the Early Irish worldview, it was primarily the honesty and generosity of the ruler that assured abundant "ith ocus blicht", and conversely his dishonesty or niggardliness that could cause the land to withhold its bounty. An early poem tells how the "aithechthúatha" or "vassal tribes" of Ireland extirpated the ruling tribes, only to find that the earth itself objected to their massacre of the nobility, holding back from them it produce (ZCP xi.57):

Do·rónsat comairli cain
athig Érenn in tan sin,
uair tallad forro as cach mud,
ith blicht mes ocus torud.

The vassals of Ireland
took good counsel then,
since grain, milk, mast and fruit
had been taken from them in every way.