Story Archaeology

Uncovering the layers of Irish Mythology through a regular podcast and related articles.

Verba Scathaige – Scathach’s Words

We opened the episode “Women Warriors: The Training of Cú Chulainn“, with a reading, in Irish and English, of Verba Scathaige. This is the poem that Scáthach creates using her imbás forosna, one of the most advanced poetic techniques, used in story to see events far off in time and space. This attribute of Scáthach’s is reminiscent of the Mór Rígain, especially of her role in Cath Maige Tuired, the Battle of Moytura.

To compare this poem with the three roscada of the Mór Rígain in Cath Maige Tuired, you can read all three in “The Mór Rígain Speaks: Her Three Poems“.

 

Verba Scathaige – the poem

This piece of rosc poetry comes from the edition and translation by P.L. Henry, published in the paper “Verba Scathaige“, Celtica 21, pp 191-207 (Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, 1990). I have made the English translation a bit more readable (a bit more modern), and given a line-by-line translation. For all notes, variants and analysis of the manuscript tradition of this piece, please read Henry’s original article.

A mbeë eirr óengaile,

When you are a peerless champion,

arut-ossa ollgábud,

great extremity awaits you,

uathad fri h-éit n-imlebair.

alone against the vast herd.

 

Cotut- chaurith -céillfetar,

Warriors will be set aside against you,

fortat- brágit -bibsatar,

necks will be broken by you,

biëd do chalcc cúlbéimmen

your sword will strike strokes to the rear

cruäch fri sruth Sétanti.

against Sétanta’s gory stream.

 

Tithis fidach fáeburamnus

Hard-bladed, he will cut and conjure the trees

fethul feulae, ferchlessaib.

by the sign of slaughters, by manly feats.

 

Ferba do breig braitfiter,

Cows will be carried off from your hill,

brágit do- thuaith -tithsitir;

captives will be forfeited by your people;

triänchithach coicdigis,

harried by the troop for a fortnight,

cichis do buar mbélatu.

your cattle will walk the passes.

 

Ba h-oín fri slóg sírdochrai.

You will be alone in great hardship against the host.

 

Sifis de fuil flanntenmen

Scarlet gushes of blood will strike

fernaib ilib ildlochtaib.

upon many variously-cloven shields.

 

Cuan dia lilis loscannaib

A band of parasites that you will adhere to

lín di-fedat ildamaib.

will bring away many people and oxen.

 

Ilar fuile firfitir

Many wounds will be inflicted

fort Choin Chaulainn.

upon you, Cú Chulainn.

 

Césfe álad n-ainchridi

You will suffer a wound of revenge (in)

dál de dálaib dedarbe.

one of the encounters at the final breach.

 

Dedirn bródirc brisfither,

From your red-pronged weapon there will be defeat,

bruthaich fri toind tregtaigthi,

(men) pierced against the furious wave,

frisin mbelend mbandernach,

against the whale equipped for exploits,

belend di chét clessamnach.

a whale performing feats with blows.

 

Cichit, biët banchuriu.

Women will wail and beat (hands) in their troop,

Báigthi Medb sceu Ailella.

Medb and Ailill boast of it.

 

Arut-ossa otharlige

A sick-bed awaits you

ucht fri h-échta airgairce.

in face of slaughters of great ferocity.

 

At-chiu fírféth Findbennach

I see the very glossy Finnbennach

fri Donn Cuailnge ardbúrach.

in great rage against Donn Cuailnge.

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