Love & Sex
Issat áilsiu damsa ocus bidat áil hi céin bat béo.
(you are * desirable * for-me * and * you will be * desirable * in * length of time * you might be * alive)
You are indeed dear to me and you will be dear to me as long as you live.
Spoken by Cú Chulainn to his wife, Emer, in Serglige Con Culainn when she questions his devotion.
Note: two words, "áil" and "dam" have suffixed emphatic particles, giving "áilsiu" and "damsa", which means that their meaning is stressed.
Cid as méithi saill tuircc mesa?
Miscais do·berar íar serc.
(what * that is * fatter * than salt-meat * of boar * of mast /
hatred * that is given * after * love)
What is fatter than the bacon of an acorn-fed boar?
Hatred that comes after love.
This arresting image comes from "Tochmarc Ailbe", where it is one of thirty riddles that Finn poses and Ailbe answers.
Dia·fagbainn-se bróin úachtair, do·géntae bró íochtair dím.
(if I were to find * millstone * upper * would be made * millstone * lower * of me)
If I found an upper millstone, I would be the lower millstone.
Ailbe says this to Finn during the verbal sparring and word play of their courtship in "Tochmarc Ailbe", letting him know that she'd gladly join in marriage with a man who was suited to her. The image of the wife as the lower millstone, also called an "inneóin" or "anvil", is found in Fíthal's advice to his son on choosing a wife. Their exchange begins:
Cid imma ngabthar trebad? ol a mac fri Fíthal.
Ní hansa. Im indeóin cothaigthe, ol Fíthal.
Ceist. Caide an indeóin threbtha? ol in mac.
Ní hansa. Ben maith, ol Fíthal. (ed. Meyer, ZCP viii 112)
Around what is a household established? said his son to Fíthal.
That's easy. Around a steady lower millstone, said Fíthal.
Tell me, what is the lower millstone of a household? said the son.
That's easy. A good woman, said Fíthal.
"Cá ben dobér?", also in this collection, is from later on in this father-son exchange.
Is mór ní súigios lesrach banscáile!
(is * great * thing * that absorbs * thighs * of woman)
A woman's thighs can absorb a lot!
In the tale "Aided Fergusa" found in "Silva Gadelica", Fergus falls in lust with Bébó, the queen of a very small race of Otherworld folk. The tale then relates the following:
Ocus in uair ro búi Fergus ic comriachtain ria tug lám ar mullach a cinn ocus ro fhiarfaig in rigan de cid imar chuir in lám ar a bathais.
"Ingnam lium," arsé, "in ball ferrda ina bfuilit secht nduirn ocus gan innatsa acht trí duirn gan a dhul trét chenn sechtair. Ocus is uime sin do chuires mo lám ar do chenn."
"Léig as alé, a Ferguis," ar sí. "Is mór ní súigios lesrach banscáile! "
And while Fergus was having sex with her he put a hand on the top of her head and the queen asked him why he put the hand on the crown of her head.
"I'm amazed," he said, "my manly part being seven handwidths and you being only three handwidths that it doesn't go right out through your head. That's why I put my hand on your head."
"Well, stop it, Fergus," she said. "A woman's loins can absorb a lot!"
Gel cech núa, sásad nglé,
utmall álcha ócduine,
áilli bretha bíte im sheirc,
milsi bríathra fir thochmairc.
(bright * every * new thing * satisfaction * clear /
unsteady * desires * of young man /
beautiful * decisions* that are * around * love /
sweet * words * of man * of wooing)
Everything new is shiny, a bright enjoyment,
restless are a young man's desires,
beautiful are decisions about love,
sweet the words of a man who's courting.
This stanza was written into the top margin of page 121a of LL, and has been slightly edited to normalize it. For another instance of the phrase "is gel cach núa", see "Is álaind cech nderg" in this collection.
Díambad messe in banmaccán
no·cechrainn cach felmaccán,
fer nád·fintar co·cluinter,
slánchéill chéin dúib, a muinter.
(if were * I * the * girl /
I would love * every * young student /
man * that is not known * until he is heard /
sound-sense * long * to you * o * (my) people)
If I were a girl,
I'd love every student,
a man you don't know till you've heard him;
I wish you all the best, my people.
A stanza found in the "Auraicept" (ll.533-6), which seems to argue that the young intellectual in his worn cloak may not look like much, but that his golden tongue has its own charms.
Fó mo ruach!
Comrac fri mnaí mo druad:
sech romfácaib mo bhean féin,
bean mo druad ní romaithgéin.
(good * my * mire /
[sexual] encounter * with * wife * of my * druid /
besides * (that) has left me * my * wife * own /
wife * of my * druid * not * has recognized me)
Mine is a fine mess!
A tryst with my druid's wife:
not only has my own wife left me,
my druid's wife ignores me.
This lone stanza is embedded in a compilation of lore surrounding the idiot saint Mac Dá Cherda and St. Cummaine of Foda, edited and translated by J. G. O'Keeffe in Ériu, volume 5. Alan Harrison in "The Irish Trickster" explains that Mac Dá Cherda lost his sanity as a result of this episode, after the aggrieved druid cursed him.
Ilar mbríathar mbláith rot·char.
(a great number * of words * gentle * have loved you)
Many gentle words have loved you.
Spoken by Emer to Cú Chulainn in a poem in "Serglige Con Culaind". The indirection of the subject, "words" rather than "people" or "I", is intriguing.
Is descaid seirce sírshilliud.
(is * sign * of love * constant-gazing)
Long staring is a sign of love.
From "Tochmarc Étaíne", where Ailill Anguba has taken to gazing helplessly at Étaín, so smitten is he. The three-word maxims of "Bríathra Flainn Fhína maic Ossu" contains this version: "Descad serce sírshilliud."
"Cá ben dobér?" ar in mac.
"Da fagair na móra finna ocus na báingela duba, tabair íet."
(what * woman * I will take * quoth * the * son /
if * you find * the * big * blondes * and * the * white-bright * dark ones * take * them)
"What woman shall I take?" said the son.
"If you can find the big blondes and the dark-haired ones with white skin, take them."
So the son asks, so the father replies. This is from a much longer dialogue in which the father advises his son on marriage, which was edited by Meyer in ZCP 8, 113.