Story Archaeology

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Fer Fio’s Cry: A Poem for Long Life

In exploring the Dindshenchas of Inber Ailbine, we looked at the poem Nuall Fer Fio, “Fer Fio’s Cry”, to gain some understanding of the nine daughters of the sea in their bronze boats.  In the episode, I incorrectly attributed the translation to Dr. John Carey.  This is because I first read about the poem in his excellent article, ‘Téacsanna draíochta in Éirinn sa mheánaois luath’ [‘Magical texts in early medieval Ireland’] (translated into Irish by Pádraig Ó Fiannachta), Léachtaí Cholm Cille 30 (2000) 98-117; presented at Léachtaí Cholm Cille, Dingle, 10 April 1999.  It is also in this article that I read about the charms calling for the help of Goibniu and Dían Cécht, which I discussed in “How to Get Help from a Craftsman“.

Carey points out that Nuall Fer Fio is cited in a medieval text as an example of a cétnad, “hundred-poem”; a quasi-metrical verse form containing 100 stressed syllables.  He also cites Liam Breathnach’s observation that the poem contains those hundred syllables if the Latin coda is omitted. This coda calls for the blessings of God and Christ.  I have omitted this section below, but you can read it in full, with a translation of the Latin by Mary Jones, on her Celtic Literature Collective.  I have made a few amendations to Meyer’s translation.

You can listen to the Old Irish, read by Isolde


Nuall Fer Fio

Ed. by Kuno Meyer from two MSS (Laud 610 and Book of Ballymote). “Miscellany presented to John Macdonald Mackay”. Liverpool, 1914.

Ad-muiniur secht n-ingena trethan

I call on the seven daughters of the sea,

dolbtae snáithi macc n-áesmar.

who shape the threads of long-lived children.

Tri bás flaimm ro-ucaiter,

Three deaths be taken from me,

tri áes dom do-rataiter,

three ages be given to me,

secht tonna tocaid dom do-ra-dáilter!

seven waves [of plenty] poured for me.

Ním chollet messe fom chúairt

May I not be molested on my journey

i llúrig Lasréin cen léiniud!

in my radiant breastplate / Breastplate of Lasrén without stain.

Ní nassar mo chlú ar chel!

May my name not be pledged in vain;


May I have long life;

nim thi bás comba sen!

may death not come to me until I am old.

Ad-muiniur m’Argetnia

I call on my Silver Champion,

nád bá nád bebe;

who has not died and will not die;

amser dom do-r-indnastar

may time be granted to me

findruini febe!

of the quality of bronze.

Ro orthar mo richt,

May my double be slain

ro saerthar mo recht,

may my law be ennobled,

ro mórthar mo nert,

may my strength be increased,

nip ellam mo lecht,

may my tomb not be readied,

nim thí bás for fecht,

may I not die on my journey,

ro firthar mo thecht!

may my return be ensured to me.

Ním ragba nathair díchonn,

May the two-headed serpent not attack me,

ná dorb dúrglass,

nor the hard pale worm,

ná doel díchuinn!

nor the senseless beetle.

Ním millither téol,

May no thief attack me,

ná cuire ban,

nor a company of women,

ná cuire buiden!

nor a company of warriors.

Dom-i urchar n-aimsire

May I have increase of time

ó Rig inna n-uile!

from the king of all.

Ad-muiniur Senach sechtaimserach

I call on Senach of the seven ages,

con-altatar mná side

whom fairy women reared

far bruinnib búais.

on the breasts of good fortune.

Ní báitter mo shechtchaindel!

May my seven candles not be quenched.

Am dun díthagail,

I am an invincible fortress,

am all anscuichthe,

I am an immovable rock,

am ha lógmar,

I am a precious stone,

am sen sechtmainech.

I am the symbol of seven treasures.

Roba chétach

May I be [the man of] hundreds [of possessions],


hundreds of years,  

cach cét diib ar úair.

each hundred in its [proper] time.

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