Story Archaeology

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Poems of the Morrigan

from Cath Maige Tuired, edited by Elizabeth Gray

These translations were originally posted with Mythical Women episode 6: Encountering the Morrigan

Poem A: Section 137, Lines 683 – 693

Translation by Isolde Carmody:

Afraigid rig don cath

Kings arise to [meet] the battle

rucatair gruaide

Cheeks are seized

aisnethir rossa

Faces [honours] are declared

ronnatair feola,

Flesh is decimated,

fennátair enech,

Faces are flayed

ethátair catha -rruba

[incomplete word] ?? of battle are seized

segatar ratha

Ramparts are sought

radatar fleda

Feasts are given

fechatar catha,

Battles are observed

canátair natha,

Poems are recited

noatair druith

Druids are celebrated

dénaitir cuaird

Circuits are made

cuimnitir arca

Bodies are recorded

alat(-) ide

Metals cut

sennat(-) deda

Teeth mark

tennat(-) braigit

Necks break

blathnuigh[i]t(-) [cét] tufer

[A hundred] cuts blossom

cluinethar eghme

Screams are heard

ailitir cuaird

Battallions are broken

cathitir lochtai

Hosts give battle


Ships are steered

snaat(-) arma

Weapons protect

scothaitir sronai.

Noses are severed

At_ci[ú] cach ro_genair

I see all who are born

ruad_cath derg_bandach

[in the] blood-zealous vigorous battle,

dremnad fiach_lergai fo_eburlai.

raging [on the] raven-battlefield [with] blade-scabbards.

Fri uabar rusmebat

They attempt our defeat

re_nar_már_srotaib sinne

over our own great torrents

fri fur fo_abad líni Fomoire

Against your attack on the full [compliment] of Fomoire

i margnaich incanaigh

In the mossy margins;

copraich aigid fiach

the helpful raven drives

dorar fri_ar_solga garuh

strife to our hardy hosts

dálaig for_m_desigter rodbadh

mustered, we prepare ourselves to destroy

samlaidh derg_bandaib dam

To me, the full-blooded exploits are like

aim_critaighid conn_aechta

shaking to-and-fro of hound-kills

sameth donn_curidh dibur fercurib fristongarar.

goodly decay of muddy war-bands, your violations are renounced.

Poem B: Section 166, Lines 819 – 827

Interpretation by Chris Thompson:

Beneath the peaceful heavens lies the land.

It rests beneath the bowl of the bright sky.

The land lies, itself a dish, a cup of honeyed strength, there, for the taking, offering strength to each

There it lies, the splendour of the land.

The land is like a mead worth the brewing, worth the drinking.

It stores for us the gifts of summer even in winter.

It protects and armours us, a spear upon a shield

Here we can make for ourselves strong places, the fist holding the shield

Here we can build safe places, our spear-bristling enclosures.

This is where we will turn the earth. This is where we will stay.

And here will our children live to the third of three generations

Here there will be a forest point of field fences

The horn counting of many cows

And the encircling of many fields

There will be sheltering trees

So fodderful of beech mast that the trees themselves will be weary with the weight.

In this land will come abundance bringing:

Wealth for our children

Every boy a warrior,

Every watch dog, warrior-fierce

The wood of every tree, spear-worthy

The fire from every stone a molten spear-stream

Every stone a firm foundation

Every field full of cows

Every cow calf-fertile

Our land shall be rich with banks in birdsong

Grey deer before Spring

And fruitful Autumns

The plain shall be thronged from the hills to the shore.

Full and fertile.

And as time runs its sharp and shadowy journey, this shall be true.

This shall be the story of the land and its people

We shall have peace beneath the heavens.


Translation by Isolde Carmody:

Sith co nem

Peace to [the] heaven[s],

[NOTE: Síd = peace & Síd = faery – most likely same root]

Nem co doman.

Heaven to [the] world / earth

Doman fo ním,

Earth under sky / heavens

nert hi cach,

Strength in each.

án for_lann,

Cup on a plate

lan do mil,

Full of honey

mid co saith.

Mead to [one’s] satisfaction

Sam hi ngam,

Summer in winter

gai for sciath,

Spear upon a shield

sciath for durnd.

Shield upon a fist

Dunad lonn_garg;

Blade-bristling fort

longa(i)t(-) trom_foíd

Consumption of solid earth

fod di uí

Rights of [the] grandchildren [descendents]

ross for_biur

Forest on a point

benna a_bu

Horns from a cow

airbe im_etha.

Encircling fence {?}

Mess for crannaib,

Mast upon trees

craob do scis

Weary [its] bough

scis do áss

Weary from growth

saith do mac

Wealth for a boy

mac for muin,

Boy on a neck

[NOTE: “Macc for muin” is also a food-portion or ration, deemed appropriate for a free person.]

muinel tairb

Neck of a bull

tarb di arccoin

Bull from[?] a watch-dog

odhb do crann,

Knot for [on] a tree

crann do ten.

Tree for fire

Tene a nn-ail.

Fire from a stone

Ail a n-uír

Stone from earth

uích a mbuaib

[Young?] from cows

boinn a mbru.

Cows from a womb

Brú la_fefaid

[River-]Bank with birdsong

oss_glas iaer errach,

Grey deer before spring

foghamar for_asit etha.

Autumn whence grows corn

Iall do tir,

Flock [of birds, warriors, people] for [the] land

tir co trachd

Land [extending] to the shore

la feabrae.

With sharp edges

Bid_ruad rossaib síraib rith_már,

The great run {time} to the eternal woods / promintory will be fierce

‘Nach scel laut?’

“Have you any story?”

Sith co nemh,

Peace to the heavens

bid_sirnae .s[ith].’

It will be eternal peace.

Poem C: Section 167, lines 831 – 840

Translation by Isolde Carmody:

Ni accus bith no_mbeo:

I do not see a world of the living:

Baid sam cin blatha,

Summer will be without flowers

beti bai cin blichda,

Cows will be without milk

mna can feli,

Women without modesty [/ generosity / pudenda]

[NOTE: féle is a defining “virtue” of women; a tlás, a fos, a féile (characteristics of a good woman) = “her yielding / compassion, her perseverance / steadfastness, her modesty / generosity” (ZCP viii)  See more about “féle” in “The Poems of Sinann“.]

fir gan gail.

Men without valour [semen]

[NOTE: gal is literally “steam”; as “vigour”, it is a defining “virtue” of men, hence my reference to semen as male essence.]

Gabala can righ

Conquests without a king

rinna ulcha ilmoigi

walls of spear-points [on] every plain

beola bron,

Sad mouths

feda cin mes.

Forests without mast

Muir can toradh.

Sea without fruit

Tuir bain(b)thine /// Tuirb ain(b)thine

Tower-wall of white metal /// A multitude of storms

immat moel rátha,

around bare fortresses

fás a forgnam locha

Empty their dark buildings

di_ersitir dinn

High places cannot endure

at_rifiter linn

A lake has attempted

lines sech_ilar flaithie

to flood past a multitude of kingdoms

faoilti fria holc,

Welcome to its evil

ilach imgnath

Howling occupies

gnuse ule.

every face

Incrada docredb-

Great unbelievable torments

gluind ili,

many crimes

imairecc catha,

Battles waged everywhere

toebh fri ech delceta

Trust in spiked horses

imda dala

Many (hostile) meetings

braith mac flaithi

treacherous princelings

forbuid bron

A shroud of sorrows

sen saobretha.

on old high judgements

Brecfásach mbrithiom-

False maxims of judges

braithiomh cech fer.

Every man a betrayer

Foglaid cech mac.

Every son a brigand.

Gignitir cen_mair

[People] will be born without surviving

olc aimser

Evil time

i_mmera mac a athair,

in which the son will derange his father

i_mera ingen …

In which the daughter will derange…



    1. Notes and Quotes | Banshee Arts
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