Maxims & Wise Counsel

Ro-segat renna na n-áer conair nach rochet renna na n-arm.

Ro-segat renna na n-áer conair nach rochet renna na n-arm.

(reach * points * of satire * in a way * that not * reach * points * of the * weapons)

The points of satire hit home in a way that the points of weapons do not.

The early Irish feared the satire of the poets as fervently as they craved their praise. This saying gives the lie to the old saw that "sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me." This observation comes from "Immacallam in Dá Thúarad".

Cid bec, mét frigi, do locht...

Cid bec, mét frigi, do locht,
airige for nech do chéin;
cid métithir slíab do locht,
nocha n-airige fort féin.

(although * small * size * of mite * for * a fault / you notice * on * someone * to * distance / although * as sizeable (as) * a mountain * for * a fault / not * you notice * on you * self)

Though a fault be small, a trifle,
you see it on another at a distance;
Though a fault be the size of a mountain,
You do not see it on yourself.

A sententious verse first edited by Kuno Meyer and published in ZCP vol. 1. The poet Dáibhí Ó Bruadair (c. 1625 - 1698) echoed the biblical sentiment (Matt. 7:3) of the first couplet in a leathrann of his own: "A chéillidh dochí an teimheal / ar rosc cháich don chéadshilleadh" (You're careful in a glance to see the blemishes in others' eyes).

Trí búada insci...

Trí búada insci: fosta, gáes, gairte.

(three * virtues * of speech * composure * wisdom * brevity)

Three virtues of speech: composure, wisdom, brevity.

Triad #177 from "Trecheng Breth Féne". Praise of concise speech is common throughout Irish tradition. Another triad in this same collection, #93, says it this way:

Trí húathaid ata ferr sochaidi: úathad dagbríathar, úathad bó hi feór, úathad carat im chuirm.

Three fewnesses that are better than plenty: a fewness of fine words, a fewness of cows in grass, a fewness of friends around ale.

In "Tochmarc Ailbe" Finn asks "Cid as dech indsci?" (What is the best of speech?) The reply he gets is "gáes, gairde" (wisdom, brevity).

A song by Clannad says "an seanchas gearr, an seanchas is fearr" (the short tale is the best tale).

A Modern Irish quatrain quoted in "Dánfhocail" (221) gives the advice of brevity in the second couplet, after a proverb about a drink coming before a tale:

Is luaithe deoch ná sgéal,
is duine mé ar a mbíonn tart;
ní hé an sgéal fada is fearr,
acht an sgéal gearr ar a mbí blas.

Suí cech sochoisc.

Suí cech sochoisc.

(a sage * every * easily taught one)

Anyone who can be taught is wise.

A maxim found in "Tecosca Cormaic".

Do-léici gó do fhír.

Do-léici gó do fhír.

(yields * untruth * to * truth)

Untruth yields to truth.

A maxim from "Audacht Morainn", an early text in the "advice for princes" tradition.

A rigne is messu don gaís.

A rigne is messu don gaís.

(its * slowness * (that) is * worse * for the * wisdom)

The worst of wisdom is its slowness.

A maxim from the gnomic poem "Diambad messe bad rí réil".

Suthain cach flaith lasa forbaither fír.

Suthain cach flaith lassa forbaither fír.

(everlasting * every * ruler * by whom * is achieved * truth)

Every ruler who attains justice endures.

A maxim from "Aibidil Cuigni maic hEmoin".

Is cert cáich amal a nert.

Is cert cáich amal a nert.

(is * right * of each one * as * his * strength)

One's right is as one's strength.

This expression of "might makes right" comes from the gnomic poem "Diambad messe bad rí réil".

Is maith cech dál dia ticc síd.

Is maith cech dál dia ticc síd.

(is * good * every * meeting * of which * comes * peace)

Any meeting that produces peace is good.

A maxim from the gnomic poem "Diambad messe bad rí réil".

Syndicate content