- The culture, history and people of Ireland and the Irish

Prev | Next | Contents | Main Page


Line 4. The Plain of Speech (Mag Luada) and the Tree of Triumphs (Bile Buada) are apparently part of the Irish mythology; they appear again in Laeg's second description of Fairyland, which is an additional reason for keeping this poem where it is in the second version, and not following Thurneysen in transferring it to the first. Mag Luada is sometimes translated as "moving plain," apparently deriving the word from luath, "swift."

Laeg's two descriptions of the Fairyland are (if we except the voyage of Bran) the two most definite descriptions of that country in Irish literature. There is very little extravagance in these descriptions; the marvellously fruitful trees, the ever-flowing vat of mead, and the silver-branched tree may be noted. Perhaps the trees of "purple glass" may be added, but for these, see note on line 30. The verse translation has been made to follow the original as closely as possible; for a literal translation Thurneysen's versions (pp. 94 and

  1. may be referred to, but some alterations may be made.

The first description seems to begin thus:

I went with noble sportiveness
to a land wonderful, yet well-known; until I came to a cairn for twenty of troops where I found Labraid the Long-haired.

There I found him on that hill
sitting among a thousand weapons,
yellow hair on him with beautiful colour, an apple of gold for the confining of it.

And it ends thus:

Alas I that he went not long ago,
and each cure (should come) at his searching, that he might see how it is
the great palace that I saw.

Though all Erin were mine
and the kingship of yellow Bregia,
I would resign it; no slight trial; for knowledge of the place to which I came.

The following points should also be noted:

Line 30 of this first description is tri bile do chorcor glain. This undoubtedly means "three trees of purple glass"; but do chorcor glan would mean "of bright purple"; and this last rendering, which is quite a common expression (see Etain, p. 12), has been adopted in the verse translation. The order of the words in the expression in the text is unusual, and the adoption of them would give an air of artificiality to the description which is otherwise quite absent from it.

Lines 37 and 38 run thus:

There are there thrice twenty trees, their tops meet, and meet not.

Lines 43, 44, rendering: "Each with splendid gold fastening well hooked through its eye," are literally "and a brooch of gold with its splendour in the 'ear' of each cloak." The ears of a cloak, usually described as made of the peculiar white bronze, occur elsewhere in the tales, and there are different speculations as to their use and meaning. The most probable explanation is that they were bronze rings shaped like ears, and sewn into the cloak; a brooch to fasten the cloak being passed through the rings. This explanation has been suggested by Professor Ridgeway, and seems to fit admirably the passages in which these "ears" occur. Compare Fraech, line 33, in the second volume; also the "Courtship of Ferb" (Nutt), p. 6.

There are also a few corrections necessary to Thurneysen's translation of the second description.

Lines 13 to 20 should run thus:

A beautiful band of women;--victory without fetters;-- are the daughters of Aed Abra;
the beauty of Fand is a rushing sound with splendour, exceeding the beauty of a queen or king.

(The last line is more literally, "not excepting a queen or, &c.")

I will say, since it hath been heard by me, that the seed of Adam was sinless;
but the beauty of Fand up to my time hath not found its equal.

For the allusion to Adams sin, compare Etain, p. 26. Allusions like these show that the tales were composed in Christian times. There seems no reason to suppose them to be insertions, especially in cases like this one, where they come in quite naturally.

Line 21 is literally "with their arms for slaying"; not "who warred on each other with weapons" as in Thurneysen.

Prev | Next | Contents | Main Page


This is a website about Irish history and culture.