Story Archaeology

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The Ulster Women’s War of Words 2: Lendabair

In “Fled Bricrenn 1: The Feasting Hall“, we discussed the so-called Ulster Women’s War of Words.  This is where the partners of the three contending heroes take turns to boast of their own greatness as well as that of their men-folk.

Here is the second of these poetic weapons, here weilded by Lendabair, partner to Conall Cernach.

The text is taken from the Codex Vossianius version of Fled Bricrenn. You can read George Henderson’s translation (based on the Lebor na hUidre version) here. It is marked as Section 23 in both versions.

You can listen to Isolde reading the Old Irish and her translation here:

§23 Isbert Lendubair ingen Eogain maic Derthacht, ben Connaill Cernaig maic Aimergin

Lendabair, daughter of Eogan the son of Derthacht, wife of Conall the Victorious, the son of Amergin:


“Roscad” – marks a passage of non-syllabic alliterative poetry

Ar is mesi cruth cell congraim

For I am a body of intelligent bearing

coblethar ceimb crut cain curcastai

My shapely step celebrated, graceful as reeds,

a tech medrach Medquartai righ ria mnaib Ulad.

From the kingly, intoxicating Mead-Circling Hall, before the women of Ulster.

Ar is mo celi coem Conull coscurach credmaír

For victorious, great-chested Conall is my beloved partner,

coblethar cem n-ard nadguidhe

[whose] high inspiring stride is celebrated [lit. “feasted”]

i nuchtai ergal errind ria cach.

Pre-eminent in bursting breasts before all.

Cain tinnta cucum co cernaib co cennaib

Cleanly cut for me with warriors, with heads / cheifs,

con rucai calcae cruaidii comraicthi Ulad.

bearing hard lances, acclaimed [by the] Ulaid.

Arsaidh cech nath

He guards every ford

conid dia tul targlai

which is why he is [called] “head-most of hostings”.

arslaith a natha

He cuts down their fords

arfich a ngresae

He defeats their assaults

commaich laeich ar a bi lecht líac

Shattering heroes who [now] underlie grave-stones

laimethar mac ain Aimirgin acollaim.

This splendid son of Amergin dares a declaration.

Ar is Connall ar lin a cern

For it is Conall, with his compliment of warriors,

cingius ria cech laech.

Who strides before every hero.

Qid na budsi an Lendobair-si

Why should not this Lendabair,

li sulaie caich

The delight of every eye,

[NOTE: “lí súla”, “delight / lustre of the eye”, is one of the so-called kennings of the Ogam letter Luis.  It is a phrase often used in poetry.]

cichsid ria cech mnai a tech ricc?

Step before every woman into the kingly [?] house?

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