Ní dlig ferann fer cen treoir,
ní dlig degairm fer cen gliaid,
ní dlig cerchaill cenn co mbeoil,
ní dlig feoil fer cen scíain.
(not * deserves * land * man * without * energy /
not * deserves * good armament * man * without * fight /
not * deserves * pillow * head * with * grease /
not * deserves * meat * man * without * knife)
A man without energy doesn't deserve land,
a man without fight doesn't deserve good weapons,
a greasy head does not deserve a pillow,
a man without a knife doesn't deserve meat.
A quatrain found in the margin of the manuscript Harleian 5280, edited and translated by Meyer in ZCP II.225. I have followed Meyer's suggestion to supply "fer" in the first line, which preserves the syllable count, and have normalized the spelling somewhat. See also maxims beginning "dligid" and "dlighidh" in this collection.
Tigedhus do bheith gan mnaoi,
as iomramh luinge gan laoi.
(household * for * being * without * woman /
is * rowing * of boat * without * rudder)
A household to be without a wife
is the rowing of a rudderless boat.
A half stanza from "Buile Shuibhne" (lines 832-3).
Nochan fhitir mac duine
cuich dá ndénann sé cruinne;
in cruinne do fodéin é,
nó in cruinne do neach aile?
(not * knows * son * of man /
whom * to which * makes * he * universe /
is it * universe * for him * self * it /
or * is it * universe * for * someone * other)
Man doesn't know
for whom he fashions a world;
is it a world for himself,
or a world for someone else?
This quatrain, conventionally attributed to Colum Cille, is found on page 318b of the Yellow Book of Lecan. (My thanks to Clodagh Downey for locating and reporting the text!) The irregular spelling of the MS has been normalized above. T. F. O'Rahilly gave a slightly different version of it as item # 44 in "Dánfhocail":
Nochan fhidir mac duine
cia dá ndéanann a chruinne;
an cruinne dhó féin do-ní,
nó cruinne do neach eile.
Giolla Brighde Ó hEoghusa wrote this quatrain expressing the same idea, asking the man who plants an apple tree who will be there later to harvest the fruit:
A dhuine chuirios an crann
cía bhus beó ag búain a ubhall?
Ar bfás don chraoibh ghégaigh ghil,
ré a fhégoin dáoibh an deimhin?
See also "In bith-sa is bith cáich ar uair" in this collection.
Sladbrad ocus guin duine,
gáir cloc, gáir ceall, gáir ngloine,
saint, feall, fingal co féighe,
báthuidh féli sin uile.
(pillage-robbery * and * killing * of man /
cry * of bells * cry * of churches * cry * of purities /
greed * treachery * kin-slaying * with * eagarness /
drowns * generosity * that * all)
Pillage, robbery, and murder,
the church's curse and excommunication,
greed, treachery, eagar kin-slaying,
generosity wipes all that clean!
This is the third stanza from a poem from the MS Laud 615, known by its first line as "Eineach úaisle ná gach dán". The poem extols "enech" (face, reputation, honor) and "féile" (generosity) as the greatest virtues, and tends to see them as equivalent. A modern proverb from Galway, quoted in "A Miscellany", says "Go dtéidh grian go grinneall, ní rachaidh fial go hifreann." (Until the sun goes to the bottom of the sea, a generous man will not go to hell.)
Dámadh ór in duille donn
chuiris di in chaill,
dámad airget in gheal-tonn
ro thidhluicfed Find.
(if were * gold * the * leaf * brown /
that puts * f rom it * the * wood /
if were * silver * the * bright-wave /
would bestow * Finn)
If the brown leaves
that the trees shed were gold,
if the bright waves were silver,
Finn would give it all away.
In "Acallam na Senórach" Saint Patrick asks Caílte, one of the last surviving members of the Fianna, if Finn was a good lord. He replies with this short encomium ("ocus ro ráid Cáilti in formolad bec-so"), which praises above all his dead leader's generosity, and does so in terms of the natural beauty that the poets return to again and again in the Fiannaíocht. Generosity was arguably the greatest virtue a man could have among the Gael. See "Eochair ferta féile", "Cendaig in mes mór", and especially "Sladbrad ocus guin duine" in this collection.
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.
Cris nathrach mo chris, nathair ima·tá:
náram·gonat fir, náram·millet mná.
(belt * of snake * my * belt * snake * that is around /
may not wound me * men * may not destroy me * women)
My belt is a snake belt, a snake that wraps around:
may men not wound me, may women not destroy me!
This couplet is taken from what is known as the "Klosterneuburg Incantation", which Stokes edited in RC II (1875), and which was discussed and further edited on Old-Irish-L in December, 2004. A comprehensive new edition of the incantation is now available:
David Stifter, "Die Klosterneuburger lorica", in: Kelten-Einfälle an der Donau. Akten des 4. Symposiums deutschsprachigen Keltologinnen und Keltologen. Philologische – Historische – Archäologische Evidenzen. Konrad Spindler (1939–2005) zum Gedenken. (Linz/Donau, 17.–21. Juli 2005), Herausgegeben von Helmut Birkhan unter Mitwirkung von Hannes Tauber, Wien: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften 2007, 503–527
Mo théora ucsi forsin Ríg
in tan noscairiub frim chrí:
nímraib dorat i coibsi,
nímraib náma, nímraib ní.
(my * three * wishes * on the * King /
the * time * that I will separate * from my * body /
may I not have * difficulty * in * confession /
may I not have * enemy * may I not have * thing)
My three wishes of the King
when I part from my body:
may I have nothing to confess,
may I have no enemies, no possessions.
From a three-stanza poem edited and translated by Kuno Meyer in Ériu, vol. 6, p. 116.