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INTRODUCTION


The following pages give, with an interlinear word for word[FN#130] translation, the text of Leabhar na h-Uidhri, page 130 b. line 19 to the end of page 132 a. of the facsimile. The text corresponds to the end of the tale of the Court ship of Etain in vol. i., from page 27, line 21, to the end of the story; it also contains the poem which is in that volume placed on page 26, but occurs in the manuscript at the place where the first line of it is quoted on page 30 of vol. i.


[FN#130] The Irish idiom of putting the adjective after the noun is not always followed in the translation.


It is hoped that the text may be found to be convenient by scholars: special care has been taken to make it accurate, and it has not, with the exception of the poem just referred to, been published before except in the facsimile; the remainder of the text of the L.U. version of the Courtship of Etain, together with the poem, has been given by Windisch in the first volume of the Irische Texte.

The immediate object of the publication of this text, with its interlinear translation, is however somewhat different; it was desired to give any who may have become interested in the subject, from the romances contained in the two volumes of this collection, some idea of their exact form in the original, and of the Irish constructions and metres, as no Irish scholarship is needed to follow the text, when supplemented by the interlinear translation. The translation may be relied on, except for a few words indicated by a mark of interrogation.

The passage is especially well suited to give an idea of the style of Irish composition, as it contains all the three forms used in the romances, rhetoric, regular verse, and prose: the prose also is varied in character, for it includes narrative, rapid dialogue, an antiquarian insertion, and two descriptive passages. The piece of antiquarian information and the resume of the old legend immediately preceding the second rhetoric can be seen to be of a different character to the flowing form of the narrative proper; the inserted passage being full of explanatory words, conid, issairi, is aice, &c., and containing no imagery. The two descriptions, though short, are good examples of two styles of description which occur in some other romances; neither of these styles is universal, nor are they the only styles; the favour shown to one or the other in a romance may be regarded as a characteristic of its author.

The first style, exemplified by the description of Mider's appearance, consists of a succession of images presented in short sentences, sometimes, as in this case, with no verb, sometimes with the verb batar or a similar verb repeated in each sentence, but in all cases giving a brilliant word-picture, absolutely clear and definite, of what it is intended to convey. The second style, exemplified here by the description of the horses that Mider offers to Eochaid, consists of a series of epithets or of substantives, and is often imitated in modern Irish. These passages are usually difficult to translate, as many words appear to be coined for the purpose of the descriptions; but, in the best writings, the epithets are by no means arbitrary; they are placed so as to contrast sharply with each other, and in many cases suggest brilliant metaphors; the style being in this respect more like Latin than English. Absolutely literal translations quite fail to bring out the effect of such passages; for not only is the string of adjectives a distinctively Irish feature, but both in English and in Greek such metaphors are generally expressed more definitely and by short sentences. There is also a third style of description which does not appear in the prose of any of the romances in this collection, but appears often in other romances, as in the Bruidne da Derga, Bricriu's Feast, and the Great Tain; it resembles the first style, but the sentences are longer, yet it does not give clear descriptions, only leaving a vague impression. This style is often used for descriptions of the supernatural; it may be regarded as actual reproductions of the oldest pre-Christian work, but it is also possible that it is the result of legends, dimly known to the authors of the tales, and represented by them in the half-understood way in which they were apprehended by them: the Druidic forms may have been much more clear. Such passages are those which describe Cuchulain's distortions; the only passage of the character in this collection is in the verse of the Sick-bed, vol. i. page 77. Five of the romances in the present collection have no descriptive passages in the prose; the Combat at the Ford and the Tain bo Fraich show examples of both the first and the second form, but more often the first; the Tain bo Regamna, though a very short piece, also shows one example of each; for the description of the goblins met by Cuchulain is quite clear, and cannot be regarded as belonging to the third form. There is also one case of the second form in the Tain bo Dartada, and two other cases of the first in the Court ship of Etain-one in the Egerton, one in the Leabhar na h-Uidhri version. The best example of the first style is in the Egerton version of Etain (vol. i. page 12); the best example of the second is the description of Cuchulain's horses (vol. i. page 128); a still better example of contrasts in such a description is in the Courtship of Ferb (Nutt, page 23).

The piece of regular verse contained in the extract should give a fair idea of the style of this form of composition. Description is common in the verse, and it is in this case a prominent feature. It may be noted that lines 8, 16, 23, 26 will not scan unless the present diphthongs are divided, also that the poem has fewer internal rhymes than is usual in this regular verse.

The two passages in rhetoric, for so I take them to be, are good examples of the style. An attempt has been made to divide them into lines, but this division is open to criticism, especially as some lines in one of the two passages cannot be translated, and the translation of some other lines is doubtful: the division suggested does, however, appear to me to give a rough metre and occasional rhymes. It is possible that, if attention is called to those lines which are at present untranslatable, something may be done for them. The verse translations given in vol. i. pages 27 and 29, give the meaning that I take the Irish to bear where I can get any meaning at all.

As to the text, the usual abbreviation for n has in general not been italicized, nor has that for fri; all other abbreviations, including acht, final n in the symbol for con, and that for or in the recognized symbol for for, have been italicized. In the rhetorics, owing to their difficulty, the abbreviation for n has been italicized throughout; the symbol for ocus is not italicised. A few conjectures have been inserted, the text being given as a foot-note; a conjectured letter supposed to be missing has been inserted in brackets, and a restoration by Professor Strachan of a few letters where the MS. is torn are similarly placed in brackets. The rest of the text is carefully copied from the facsimile, including the glosses, which are inserted above the words in the same places that they occupy in the manuscript.




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