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The Text of Immram Brain Part 1: The Woman’s Poem

Here is the first part of the text of Immram Brain, as edited by Séamus Mac Mathúna.  The translation is based on that of Kuno Meyer, although where my translation differs significantly from his, I have included his translation in brackets.

I have also marked the scribe’s glosses with brackets, introduced with .i. in the text and i.e. in the translation. I think many of these glosses highlight the cross-referencing of Christian with non-Christian material, as we discussed in the episode.

Points of interest, such as the names for various Otherworld places, are marked in bold.

Isolde Carmody

¶1] Cóeca rand ro-gab in ben a tírib ingnad for lár in t(a)ige do Bran mac Febail óro-boí a rígthech lán di rígaib, a nnád-fetatar can do-lluid in ben óro-bátar ind liss dúntai.

Fifty quatrains sang the woman from unknown lands on the floor of the house to Bran son of Febal, when the royal house was full of kings, who did not know from where the woman had come, since the ramparts were closed.

¶2] Is ed tossach in scéoil. Im-luid Bran láa n-and a oenur i comocus dia dún co-cóalae a céol íarna chúl.

This is the beginning of the story. Bran went about one day on his own, in the neighbourhood of his stronghold, when he heard music behind him.

A ndon-écad tara éssi ba íarna chúl béus no-bíth a céol. Con-tuil asennad frissa céol ara bindi.

Whenever he looked back, it was still behind him the music was. He fell asleep at last to the music, because of its sweetness.

A ndo-foisich asa chotlud co-accae in cróeb n-aircit fua bláth find ina farrud, na-pu hasse etarscarad a bláthae frissin croíb.

When he awoke from his sleep, he saw the silver branch with white blossoms beside him; it was not easy to separate [Meyer: “distinguish”] its flowers from the branch.

Do-bert íarom Bran in croíb ina láim dia rígth(a)ig. Óro-bátar inna sochaidi isind rígth(a)ig co n-accatar in mnaí i n-étuch ingnad for lár in t(a)ige.

Bran then took the branch in his hand to his royal house. When the hosts were in the royal house, they saw a woman in strange clothing on the floor of the house.

Is and cachain in coícait rand-so do Braun, arron-chóalai in slóg, ocus ad-condarcatar uili in mnaí.

It was then she sang these fifty quatrains to Bran, while the host heard her, and all watched the woman.


¶3] Cróeb dind abaill a hEmain

[.i. Emnae nomen regionis.]

A branch of the apple-tree from Emain

[i.e. Emainis the name of the place]

do-fet samail do gnáthaib,

I bring, like those familiar ones;

gésci findarc(a)it foiri

Twigs of white silver are on it,

abrait gloini co mbláthaib.

Glass brows with blossoms.


¶4] Fil inis i n-etarcéin

There is an island far away

imma-taitnet gabra réin,

Around which shine horses of the sea,

rith find friss toíb gel-tonnat

A fair course by the shining waves

cethrar cossa fos-longat.

Four feet support it.

¶5] Is lí súla, sreth íar bóid,

It is a delight to the eye, a peerless pasture,

{Note: “lí súla” is a kenning for the Ogam letter “Luis” (“flame”).  This phrase is the kenning I have found most frequently in early Irish poetry.}

a mmag for-clechtat in slóig;

The plain on which the hosts practise;

cosnai curach fri carpat

Currach contends with chariot

isin maig des Findarcat

[.i. nomen regionis.]

in the orderly [Meyer: “southern”] plain of Fair Silver

[i.e. name of the place]

¶6] Cossa findru(i)ne foë;

Feet of white-bronze below it;

taitni tre bithu gnóë; [.i. bus.]

Shining through wondrous worlds;

caín tír tria bithu bátha

Lovely land throughout the age of the world

for-snig inna hilblátha.

Onto which drops the multitude of flowers.

¶7] Fil and bile co mbláthaib

There is a great tree there with flowers

fors-ngairet éoin do thráthaib,

On which birds call to the hours,

is tre cho(i)cetal is gnáth

It is through chorusing all the time

con-gairet uili cach tráth.

They all call as one every hour.


¶8] Taitnet líga cach datha

The splendours of every colour shine

tresna maige moíthgnatha;

across the ever-soft plains;

is gnáth sube, sreth imm chéul,

Joy is ever-present, strewn around music,

isin maig des Arcatnéul.

[.i. nomen regionis.]

in the orderly [Meyer: “southern”] plain of Silver Cloud.

[i.e. name of the place.]

¶9] Ní gnáth ecoíniud ná mrath

Not common is bawling or betrayal

i mruig de(a)nda etargnath:

in the familiar, colourful [Meyer “cultivated”] territory;

ní-bí nach guth garc fri cró(a)is

There is no-one with a harsh voice in their craw

acht mad céul mbind friss-ben cló(a)is.

Only sweet music which strikes the ear.


¶10] Cen brón, cen dub(a)e, cen bás,

Without sadness, without despair, without death,

cen na galar / nach ngalar, cen indgas:

Without / Or sickness, without disability:

is ed etargnae nEmnæ,

[.i. regio. .i. nomen regionis.]

That is the custom of Emain,

[i.e. place i.e. name of the place]

ní comtig a comamræ.

Not likely [to find] its equal in wonder.

¶11] Caíne tíre adamrai

Loveliness of a truly wondrous land

ata comgnú(i)si cadli,

Which has beauty in every face,

asa rodarc find fiä, [.i. flaith nime.]

From which can be viewed a fair wilderness [i.e. prince of heaven]

{Note: “fía[d]” has many meanings, including “lord”.  The Glossator here interprets “find fia” as “fair lord”, so has specified “flaith nime”, “prince of heaven”}

ní frithid boith i ciä.

One cannot find its equal in mist.

¶12] Má ad-cetha Aircthech

[.i. regio. .i. nomen regionis.]

If Inventive is seen

[i.e. place i.e. name of the place]

íar tain for-snig dracoin ocus glain,

Afterwards, onto which dragonstones and crystals drop,

do-snig a mmuir fri tír toinn,

The sea pours against the land a wave

trillsi glana asa moing.

Of crystal tresses from its hair.

¶13] Moíni, dússi cach datha

Treasures, gifts of every colour

i Cíuin, [.i. insola. in insola. nomen regionis.] ca(í)ne étatha

In Quiet [i.e. island, in the island, name of the place.], loveliness of freshness

étsecht fri céul co mbindi,

Listening to sweet music,

óol fíno cétingrindi / co n-ingrindi.

Drinking perfect wine.


¶14] Carpait órdi íar Maig Réin

Golden chariots over the Plain of the Sea,

taircet la tu(i)le don gréin;

they rise with the tide to the sun;

carpait aircit i Maig Mon

[.i. regio.  .i. nomen regionis.]

Chariots of silver in the Plain of Sport,

[i.e. place i.e. name of the place]

ocus crédum(a)i cen on.

And of flawless bronze.

¶15] Graig óir buidi and for srath,

A herd of yellow-golden horses is there on the meadow,

graig aile co corcardath,

Another herd with crimson-purple colour,

graig aile olaili tar aiss

Another herd with woolly behinds

co ndath nime uileglaiss.

With the colour of the sky, truly turquoise.

¶16] Do-feith la turcbáil ngréne

There will come, with the rising of the sun,

fer find for-osndi réde;

A fair man illuminating level places;

{Note: “for-osni” as in “imbas for-osni” – “inspiration which illuminates”, one of the techniques for creating poetry ex-tempore by the highest grade of poet.}

rédid mag find friss-mben muir,

he rides on the fair plain which the sea strikes,

mesc(a)id fairci co-mbi fuil.

he mixes the seas until they are blood.

¶17] Do-fet in slóag tar muir glan,

The host will come over a pure sea,

don tír don-aidbri imram;

to the land which the Immrám [journey] verifies;

imrat íarom dond liic léur

they row afterwards to the conspicuous stone

asa-comérig cét céul.

from which arises a hundred musics.

¶18] Can(a)id airfitiud dond tslóg

It sings music to the host

tre bithu sír, nád-bí tróg;

throughout the eternal world, it is not sad;

tormaig céol co córib cét,

its music expands with hundred-fold choruses,

ní-frescat aithbe ná éc.

they expect neither decay nor death.

{Note: This line repeats at the end of paragraph 23}

¶19] Emnæ ildelbach fri rían,

Many-shaped Emain by the sea,

bésu ocus, bésu chían,

Whether it is near, whether it is far,

i fil ilmíli mbrecc ban;

in which are many thousands of speckled [i.e. freckled?] women;

immus-timchella muir glan.

which is encircled by the pure sea.

¶20] Márod-chó(a)la[e] ló(a)d in chiúil,

If he has heard the voice of the music,

esnad énán a hImchíuin,

[.i. regio.  .i.nomen regionis.]

the melody of the little birds from Very Quiet,

[i.e. place i.e. name of the place]

do-fet banchuire di á

a woman-band will come out of a chariot

cusa cluichemag i-tá.

to the sporting-ground in which he is.

¶21] To-fet soíre la slá(i)ni

Freedom will come with wholeness

don tír friss-ferat gá(i)ri;

to the land alongside which laughter goes;

is i nImchíuin co n-ó(a)gi

It is in Very Quiet perfectly

do-fet bóane la há(i)ni.

will come everlasting splendour.

¶22] Is la suthaini síne

It is a day of lasting storms

do-snig arcat i tíre;

which rain silver onto the land;

aill érfind for idnu / idnai réin

a pure-white rock on the edge of the sea

foa-feid a grís a gréin.

which receives its warmth from the sun.

¶23] Graibnid in slóg íar Maig Mon, [.i. mare.]

The host race their horses over the Plain of Sport [i.e. the sea]

clu(i)che n-álaind nád indron;

a beautiful game which is not feeble;

i mbruig mbrecht óas ma(i)sse mét,

in the patchwork territory over which is a quantity of goodness,

ní-frescat aithbe ná éc.

they expect neither decay nor death.

{Note: This is the same line that ends paragraph 18}


¶24] Étsecht fri céul in[d] adig

Listening to music at night

ocus techt i nIldath(a)ig;

[.i. regio. .i. nomen regionis.]

And going to Multi-Coloured;

[i.e. place i.e. name of the place]

mbruig mbrecht, liig óas ma(i)sse mind

a patchwork territory, delights over a crown of beauty,

asa-taitni in nél find.

out of which the fair cloud shines .

¶25] Fil trí coícta[e]a inse cían

There are three fifties of islands far away

isind oceon frinn aníar;

in the ocean to the west of us;

is mó Érinn co fa dí

Bigger than Ireland twice

cach aí díïb nó fa thrí.

Is each of them, or three times [bigger].

¶26] Ticfa mórgein [.i. Crist.  .i. ci.] íar mbethaib

A great birth [i.e. Christ i.e. JC] will come after ages

nád-biä for forclethaib;

that will not be upon great pallisades;

mac mná nád-festar céle,

son of a woman whose partner is unknown

gébaid flaith na n-ilmíle.

he will take lordship of many thousands.

¶27] Flaith cen tossach cen forcenn,

Lordship without beginning, without end,

do-rósat bith co coitchenn;

they have made the world for the common good

[Meyer: “he has made the world so that it is perfect”]

dos-roirbe talam ocus muir,

Who inherits land and sea,

is mairc bíäs foa étuil.

it is sad to be under his displeasure.

¶28] Is é do-rigni nime,

It is he that made the skies,

cé (i)n-mair dia-mba findchride;

who is eternal if he has a fair heart,

glainfid slúagu tre linn nglan,

he will purify hosts by means of a pure pool

is é ícfas for tedman.

it is he who will heal your plagues.

¶29] Ní dúib uili mo labræ,

Not for all of you are my words,

ci ad-fés a mmóramræ;

although their great wonder is announced;

étsed Bran de betho bró

May Bran hear from the world’s masses

a ndi ecnu ad-féat dó.

that [piece] of information which has been told to him.

¶30] Ná tuit fri lige lescæ;

Do not fall to lazy lying;

nachid-throíthad do mescæ;

do not submit to your drunkenness,

tinscan imram tar muir glan

undertake an Immram over the pure sea

dús in-rísta Tír na mBan.

so that you may reach the Land of Women.

¶31] Luid in ben úadaib íarom, a nnád-fetatar cia-luid, ocus birt a croíb lee.

The woman went from them after that, while they did not know where she went, and she took her branch with her.

Leblaing in chroíb di láim inna mná co mboí for láim Brain, ocus ní-boí nert i lláim Brain do gabáil inna croíbe.

The branch leapt into the woman’s hand that had been in Bran’s hand, and there was not strength in Bran’s hand to grasp the branch.

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