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Old Irish Online

Lesson 8

Patrizia de Bernardo Stempel, Caren Esser, and Jonathan Slocum

The present selection is taken from the Early Middle Irish Fingal Rónaín, 'The Kin-slaying of Ronan'. Preserved in two manuscripts, one transcribed around 1160 and the other from ca. 1500 A.D., the original seems to date back to the early 10th century A.D. on account of linguistic evidence. Although the Irish author is, as usual, unknown, we have shown the tale, which in the indigenous literary tradition is also described as a well-known (irdairc) tragedy (Aided Maelfothartaig maic Rónaín 'The tragedy of Maelfothartaig son of Ronan'), to go back to the Classical story of Phaedra and Hippolytus, in the versions both by Euripides and Seneca, the latter one being the more similar of the two. As is usual with medieval Irish "translations" from Classical works, the Irish scholar extracts his materials from more than one source (this time including Vergil and possibly even Apuleius), adapting the general setting to early medieval Ireland and even attempting to characterize both the old king and the father of his second young bride with two indigenous kings, albeit the time gap between the two historical kings was ca. 200 years.

Beside no less than seventeen coincidences in the plot, also the names are meaningful, given that an equivalent of the onomastic element Greek Hippo- appears in the name Echaid (from ech 'horse') of the father of the evil queen, who is herself nameless and always referred to as ingen Echdach 'the daugther of Eochaid (i.e. Horseman)'. Moreover, the name Aedán, 'Son of Aed' of the killer of the prince reveals him to be just a literary alter ego of king Rónán mac Aeda, 'Ronan son of Aed', surely because the Irish scholar had to operate without the god Neptunus, who in the Classical plot is the king's father and the prince's punisher.

Even if the extant and very short Fingal Rónaín is told in the usual ancient Irish manner as a mixture of verse (94 lines) with prose and dialogues (176 lines on the whole), its structure still bears witness of the original five acts, of which it seems to have been a kind of abridged version used for theatrical improvisation. The 1st act contains an introduction where the young prince is described as a mighty hunter and the sweetheart of all young women; in the following four or perhaps even five scenes, the king seeks a new bride, the bride is introduced to his son, and a maid is sent by the new queen to arrange a date with the stepson. In the five scenes corresponding to the 2nd act, the maid goes to the prince, but only speaks to Congal, one of his foster-brothers, who is shocked and offers to arrange a sexual encounter between Mael Fotharthaig and the maid instead; the queen, to whom this is reported, at first decides to accept the offer, as it will give the maid a chance to communicate the queen's desire to her stepson personally, but afterwards grows impatient and threatens to kill the maid unless she acts on her behalf; at her next encounter with the prince, the maid tells him about the queen's desire and threats, while Mael Fotharthaig is horrified and decides to leave the country. In the six scenes corresponding to the 3rd act, the prince is asked back by his own people, visits the father of his stepmother, dates the maid, and arranges with his stepbrothers a system to avoid meeting the queen, while she is eager to meet him. The next group of five scenes, corresponding to the 4th act, shows Congal chasing the queen away from the mock meeting-point, then the queen accusing the stepson of attempted rape, which is allegedly proved with the help of a riddle recited partly by Mael Fothartaig and partly by the queen, and subsequently the killing of the prince by a warrior called Aedán as ordered by king Rónán; before dying, the prince declares his innocence, accuses the queen, and tells the wounded jester to mind the laughing audience. Only four scenes form the 5th act, where the parents of the queen are killed, Rónán laments his son's death, the queen is rueful and kills herself, and Mael Fothartaig is finally avenged by one of his sons (by the name of Aed!) killing his murderer.

N.B. To give an idea of the dramatic fourth act of the tragedy, we quote here both halves of the riddle together with the lament by king Ronan and the queen in the poetic rendering of Ruth Lehmann (An Introduction to Old Irish, with Winfred P. Lehmann: The Modern Language Association of America, New York, 1975). Note that her rendering, which follows, is intended to convey the poetical devices employed by the Irish author but not the literal content of the verses.

    Mael Fothartaig:   Cold in the whirlwind girding
        for Aife's cattle herding.
    Eochaid's daughter:   Vain herding: no cows coming
        nor anyone for loving.

Ronan and Eochaid's daughter after the prince's death --

    Ronan:   Cold the wind
        past the warrior's house skimmed;
        dear the warriors I would find
        between me and winds that whined.
         
        Sleep now, daughter of Eochaid,
        bitterly winds are stinging;
        woe is me, Mael Fothartaig
        slain for a woman's sinning.
         
        Sleep now, daughter of Eochaid,
        I rest not till thou'rt sleeping,
        looking on Mael Fothartaig
        in his shirt of blood steeping.
         
    Eochaid's daughter:   Woe is me, corpse laid yonder
        toward whom all eyes would wander;
        what we committed of sin
        was thy pain, since rejecting.
         
    Ronan:   Sleep now, daughter of Eochaid,
        mad men might take thy scheming,
        though thy damp cloak thou smearest,
        not my dearest thou'rt keening.

Reading and Textual Analysis

Our selected passage corresponds to the last four scenes of the 2nd act. Note that the words of Mael Fotharthaig when he gives gives vent to his indignation about the proposal of his stepmother are very similar to those of Hippolytos in Seneca's Phaedra (more details in P. de Bernardo Stempel, "Phaedra und Hippolytos in irischem Gewand," Nachleben der Antike - Formen ihrer Aneignung: Festschrift Klaus Ley, ed. B. Bosold DasGupta et al., Berlin: Weidler 2006, pp. 237-266).

Ní dam ass áil, or sí, acht do ingin Echdach rop áil Mael Fothartaig na cardess.

  • -- independent negative particle; <ní, ni> not -- not
  • dam -- pronominalized preposition; 1st person singular dative of <duL, doL> to -- with me
  • ass -- verb; 3rd person singular present indicative, absolute, relative of copula <is> is -- that is
  • áil -- noun; nominative singular feminine, ā-stem, of <áil> desire -- desire
  • or -- indeclinable; variant of <ol> says, said -- said
  • -- personal pronoun 3rd person singular feminine of <(h)é, síL, (h)ed> he, she, it -- she
  • acht -- preposition; <acht> except, only, save, but -- but
  • do -- preposition; <duL, doL> to -- with
  • ingin -- noun; dative singular feminine, ā-stem, of <ingen> daughter -- the daughter
  • Echdach -- proper name masculine; genitive singular of <Echaid> Echaid -- of Echaid
  • rop -- verb; 3rd person singular RO-present subjunctive, syntactically relative, of copula <is> is -- that would be
  • áil -- noun; nominative singular feminine, ā-stem, of <áil> desire -- desire
  • Mael Fothartaig -- proper name masculine; accusative singular masculine of <Mael Fothartaig> Mael Fothartaig -- for Mael Fothartaig
  • na -- article; genitive plural of <in, aN, indL> the -- of the
  • cardess -- noun; genitive plural masculine, u-stem, of <cardess, cairdes> friendship, love, cohabitation -- sexual encounters

Ná hapair, a ben!, or Congal.

  • -- dependent negative particle; <ná, na> not, nor -- not
  • hapair -- verb; aspirated 2nd person singular imperative active, prototonic, of <as°beir> says, speaks -- do... say
  • a -- particle; introduces vocative; <aL> o -- ...
  • ben -- noun; vocative singular feminine, ā-stem, of <ben> woman, wife -- woman
  • or -- indeclinable; variant of <ol> says, said -- said
  • Congal -- proper name masculine; nominative singular of <Congal> Congal -- Congal

Bia marb dianat chluine Mael Fothartaig!

  • bia -- verb; variant of 2nd person singular future indicative, absolute, of substantive verb <attá> is -- you will be
  • marb -- adjective; nominative singular feminine of <marb> dead -- dead
  • dianat -- conjunction; compound form of conjunction <diaN> when; if + infixed pronoun 2nd person singular <datL> you -- if... you
  • chluine -- verb; lenited 3rd person singular present subjunctive active, conjunct, of <ro°cluinethar> hears -- should hear
  • Mael Fothartaig -- proper name masculine; nominative singular masculine of <Mael Fothartaig> Mael Fothartaig -- Mael Fothartaig

Dogénsa do lessu féin frisseom chena, mad áil duit.

  • dogénsa -- verb; compound form of 1st person singular future indicative active, absolute, of <do°gní> does; makes + emphasizing particle 1st person singular <se, sa> I -- indeed I shall do
  • do -- possessive pronoun 2nd person singular <doL, tL> your -- your
  • lessu -- noun; compound form of accusative singular masculine, u-stem, of <les> remedy; advantage + emphasizing particle 2nd person singular <siu, so, su> you -- bidding
  • féin -- pronominal; <féin, feissin> -self, own -- own
  • frisseom -- pronominalized preposition; 3rd person singular masculine accusative of <frithL, friH> against, towards + emphasizing particle 3rd person singular masculine <seom, som> he, it -- in respect to him
  • chena -- adverb; <chena> besides -- though
  • mad -- verb; compound form of adverb <má, ma> if + 3rd person singular present subjunctive of copula <is> is -- if it should be
  • áil -- noun; nominative singular feminine, ā-stem, of <áil> desire -- a desire
  • duit -- pronominalized preposition; 2nd person singular dative of <duL, doL> to -- with you

Atbeir ind ócben friesi.

  • atbeir -- verb; 3rd person singular present indicative active, deuterotonic, of <as°beir> says, speaks + infixed pronoun 3rd person singular neuter <tL> this -- communicates this
  • ind -- article; nominative singular feminine of <in, aN, indL> the -- the
  • ócben -- noun; compound of adjective <oac, óc> young + nominative singular feminine, ā-stem, of <ben> woman, wife -- maid
  • friesi -- pronominalized preposition; compound form of 3rd person singular feminine accusative of <frithL, friH> against, towards + emphasizing particle 3rd person singular feminine <si> she -- to her

Is maith lem, or sisi, ar rolémasu a rád ind aithisc acht co comrís féin fris; ocus déna mo lessa iarum friss.

  • is -- verb; 3rd person singular present indicative, absolute, of copula <is> is -- it is
  • maith -- adjective; nominative singular neuter of <maith> good -- very well
  • lem -- pronominalized preposition; 1st person singular accusative of <laH> among, by, with -- with me
  • or -- indeclinable; variant of <ol> says, said -- said
  • sisi -- emphatic personal pronoun 3rd person singular feminine <(h)é, síL, (h)ed> he, she, it -- she
  • ar -- conjunction; <air, ar> for -- since
  • rolémasu -- verb; 2nd person singular future indicative, deuterotonic, of <ro°laimethar> dares + emphasizing particle 2nd person singular <siu, so, su> you -- you will dare
  • a -- possessive pronoun; 3rd person singular masculine <aL> his, its -- to him
  • rád -- verbal noun; accusative singular masculine, o-stem, of <ráidid> saying, uttering, speaking -- communicating
  • ind -- article; genitive singular neuter of <in, aN, indL> the -- the
  • aithisc -- noun; genitive singular neuter, o-stem, of <aithesc> message -- message
  • acht -- preposition; <acht> except, only, save, but -- provided
  • co -- conjunction; used as verbal particle; <con, coN> until; so that; and -- that
  • comrís -- verb; 2nd person singular present subjunctive active, prototonic, of <con°ricc> meets, encounters -- you should meet
  • féin -- pronominal; <féin, feissin> -self, own -- yourself
  • fris -- preposition; 3rd person singular masculine accusative of <frithL, friH> against, towards -- with him
  • ocus -- conjunction; <ocus> and -- and
  • déna -- verb; 2nd person singular imperative active, prototonic, of <do°gní> does; makes -- you shall do
  • mo -- possessive pronoun; 1st person singular of <moL, mL> my -- my
  • lessa -- noun; compound form of accusative singular masculine, u-stem, of <les> remedy; advantage + emphasizing particle 1st person singular <se, sa> I -- own bidding
  • iarum -- pronominalized preposition; 3rd person singular neuter dative of <íarN, íarmL-> after -- afterwards
  • friss -- pronominalized preposition; 3rd person singular masculine accusative of <frithL, friH> against, towards -- to him

Dogníther.

  • dogníther -- verb; 3rd person singular present indicative passive, deuterotonic, of <do°gní> does; makes -- is done

Foid ind ócben leis .i. la Mael Fothartaig.

  • foid -- verb; 3rd person singular present indicative active, absolute, of <foad, foid, foaid> sleeps together -- sleeps with
  • ind -- article; nominative singular feminine of <in, aN, indL> the -- the
  • ócben -- noun; compound of adjective <oac, óc> young + nominative singular feminine, ā-stem, of <ben> woman, wife -- maid
  • leis -- pronominalized preposition; 3rd person singular masculine accusative of <laH> among, by, with -- with him
  • .i. -- abbreviation of <ed-ón> that is -- that is
  • la -- preposition; <laH> among, by, with -- with
  • Mael Fothartaig -- proper name masculine; accusative singular masculine of <Mael Fothartaig> Mael Fothartaig -- Mael Fothartaig

Maith tra, or sí, ní dingnesu mo lessa a fechtsa?

  • maith -- adjective; used as adverb; <maith> good -- well
  • tra -- adverb; <trá, tra> then, well, so, indeed, moreover -- then
  • or -- indeclinable; variant of <ol> says, said -- said
  • -- personal pronoun 3rd person singular feminine of <(h)é, síL, (h)ed> he, she, it -- she
  • -- independent negative particle; <ní, ni> not -- not
  • dingnesu -- verb; compound form of 2nd person singular future indicative active, prototonic, of <do°gní> does; makes + emphasizing particle 2nd person singular <siu, so, su> you -- will you indeed... do
  • mo -- possessive pronoun; 1st person singular of <moL, mL> my -- my
  • lessa -- noun; compound form of accusative singular masculine, u-stem, of <les> remedy; advantage + emphasizing particle 1st person singular <se, sa> I -- own bidding
  • a -- article; accusative singular neuter of <in, aN, indL> the -- this
  • fechtsa -- noun; compound form of accusative singular neuter, o-stem, of <fecht> course, journey; time, occasion + emphasizing particle 1st person singular <se, sa> I -- time

Is ferr let in fer ucut t' oenur?

  • is -- verb; 3rd person singular present indicative, absolute, of copula <is> is -- is it
  • ferr -- adjective; comparative of <maith> good -- better
  • let -- pronominalized preposition; 2nd person singular accusative of <laH> among, by, with -- with you
  • in -- article; nominative singular masculine of <in, aN, indL> the -- the
  • fer -- noun; nominative singular masculine, o-stem, of <fer> man -- man
  • ucut -- adverb; <ucut> yonder -- yonder
  • t' -- possessive pronoun; 2nd person singular of <doL, tL> your -- yours
  • oenur -- noun; dative singular masculine, o-stem, of <oenar> one person, one alone -- alone

Bet marbso dano limsa!

  • bet -- verb; variant of 2nd person singular future indicative of copula <is> is -- you will be
  • marbso -- adjective; compound form of nominative singular feminine of <marb> dead + emphasizing particle 2nd person singular <siu, so, su> you -- dead
  • dano -- enclitic emphatic particle; <dano, dono> again, now, then -- then
  • limsa -- pronominalized preposition; 1st person singular accusative of <laH> among, by, with + emphasizing particle 1st person singular <se, sa> I -- through myself

Feccaid in ben laa nand ic coí fri Mael Fothartaig.

  • feccaid -- verb; 3rd person singular present indicative active, absolute, of <feccaid> begins -- starts
  • in -- article; nominative singular feminine of <in, aN, indL> the -- the
  • ben -- noun; nominative singular feminine, ā-stem, of <ben> woman, wife -- woman
  • laa -- noun; accusative singular neuter, yo-stem, of <láaN, láN> day, daylight -- one day
  • nand -- pronominalized preposition; nasalized 3rd person singular neuter dative of <in, iN> in, into -- then
  • ic -- preposition; variant of <oc> at, with, by -- to
  • coí -- verbal noun; dative singular feminine of <caí> weeping -- cry
  • fri -- preposition; <frithL, friH> against, towards -- in front of
  • Mael Fothartaig -- proper name masculine; accusative singular masculine of <Mael Fothartaig> Mael Fothartaig -- Mael Fothartaig

Cid daí, a ben? or sé.

  • cid -- stressed interrogative pronoun; neuter; <cidL, cedL> what; why -- why
  • daí -- verb; 2nd person singular present indicative, conjunct, of substantive verb <attá> is -- are you vexed
  • a -- particle; introduces vocative; <aL> o -- ...
  • ben -- noun; vocative singular feminine, ā-stem, of <ben> woman, wife -- woman
  • or -- indeclinable; variant of <ol> says, said -- said
  • -- personal pronoun; 3rd person singular masculine <(h)é, síL, (h)ed> he, she, it -- he

Ingen Echdach oc báig mo marbtha frim, olsi, uair nach dénaim a lles fritso, co comairsed frit.

  • ingen -- noun; nominative singular feminine, ā-stem, of <ingen> daughter -- the daughter
  • Echdach -- proper name masculine; genitive singular of <Echaid> Echaid -- of Echaid
  • oc -- preposition; <oc> at, with, by -- at
  • báig -- verbal noun; dative singular feminine, ā-stem, of <bág> threat -- threatening
  • mo -- possessive pronoun; 1st person singular of <moL, mL> my -- my
  • marbtha -- verbal noun; genitive singular masculine, u-stem, of <marbad> killing, slaying -- killing
  • frim -- pronominalized preposition; 1st person singular accusative of <frithL, friH> against, towards -- to me
  • olsi -- indeclinable; compound form of indeclinable <ol> says, said + personal pronoun 3rd person singular feminine <(h)é, síL, (h)ed> he, she, it -- said she
  • uair -- conjunction; <úair, uair> since -- since
  • nach -- negative particle; compound form of negative <nad> not + 3rd person singular present indicative, conjunct, of copula <is> is -- it is not
  • dénaim -- verb; 1st person singular present indicative active, prototonic, syntactically relative, of <do°gní> does; makes -- that I do
  • a -- possessive pronoun; 3rd person singular feminine <aH> her -- her
  • lles -- noun; accusative singular masculine, u-stem, of <les> remedy; advantage -- bidding
  • fritso -- pronominalized preposition; compound form of 2nd person singular accusative of <frithL, friH> against, towards + emphasizing particle 2nd person singular <siu, so, su> you -- to you
  • co -- conjunction; used as verbal particle; <con, coN> until; so that; and -- so that
  • comairsed -- verb; 3rd person singular preterite subjunctive active, prototonic, of <con°ricc> meets, encounters -- she could meet
  • frit -- pronominalized preposition; 2nd person singular accusative of <frithL, friH> against, towards -- with you

Dóich dano, or sé.

  • dóich -- adverb; <doích> likely -- likely
  • dano -- enclitic emphatic particle; <dano, dono> again, now, then -- then
  • or -- indeclinable; variant of <ol> says, said -- said
  • -- personal pronoun; 3rd person singular masculine <(h)é, síL, (h)ed> he, she, it -- he

Ní sechbaid duit, or sé, rogabais chommairchi.

  • -- independent negative particle; <ní, ni> not -- not
  • sechbaid -- noun; nominative singular, i-stem, of <sechbaid> excess; error -- wrong
  • duit -- pronominalized preposition; 2nd person singular dative of <duL, doL> to -- of you
  • or -- indeclinable; variant of <ol> says, said -- said
  • -- personal pronoun; 3rd person singular masculine <(h)é, síL, (h)ed> he, she, it -- he
  • rogabais -- verb; 2nd person singular perfect indicative active, absolute, of <gaibid> takes; proceeds; recites -- you took
  • chommairchi -- noun; lenited accusative singular feminine, yā-stem, of <commairche> protection, refuge -- protection

Dianom berthasa, a ben, or sé, i cualchlais tened fo thrí co ndernad min ocus luaith dím, ní chomraicfind fri mnaí Rónáin, cid ed nommainsed airi sin uile.

  • dianom -- conjunction; compound form of <diaN> when; if + infixed pronoun 1st person singular <domL, dumL> I -- even if I
  • berthasa -- verb; compound form of 3rd person singular past subjunctive passive, conjunct, of <berid> carries, brings + emphasizing particle 1st person singular <se, sa> I -- myself were thrown
  • a -- particle; introduces vocative; <aL> o -- ...
  • ben -- noun; vocative singular feminine, ā-stem, of <ben> woman, wife -- woman
  • or -- indeclinable; variant of <ol> says, said -- said
  • -- personal pronoun; 3rd person singular masculine <(h)é, síL, (h)ed> he, she, it -- he
  • i -- preposition; <in, iN> in, into -- into
  • cualchlais -- noun; compound of <cúal> faggot + lenited accusative singular feminine, ā-stem, of <clas, class> ditch, furrow; pit -- a faggot-pit
  • tened -- noun; genitive singular feminine, dental stem, of <tene, teine> fire -- of fire
  • fo -- preposition; <foL> under -- times
  • thrí -- numeral; lenited accusative singular masculine of <trí, tri, teoir> three -- three
  • co -- conjunction; used as verbal particle; <con, coN> until; so that; and -- and
  • ndernad -- verb; nasalized 3rd person singular perfect subjunctive, prototonic, of <do°gní> does; makes -- were made
  • min -- noun; nominative singular feminine of <men, min> powder, dust -- dust
  • ocus -- conjunction; <ocus> and -- and
  • luaith -- noun; nominative singular feminine, i-stem, of <lúaith> ashes -- ashes
  • dím -- pronominalized preposition; 1st person singular dative of <diL, deL> from, of -- of me
  • -- independent negative particle; <ní, ni> not -- not
  • chomraicfind -- verb; variant of 1st person singular secondary future, prototonic, of <con°ricc> meets, encounters -- I would... meet
  • fri -- preposition; <frithL, friH> against, towards -- with
  • mnaí -- noun; accusative singular feminine, ā-stem, of <ben> woman, wife -- the wife
  • Rónáin -- proper name masculine; genitive singular of <Rónán> Ronan -- of Ronan
  • cid -- conjunction; compound form of conjunction <cía> although, even if + enclitic present subjunctive of copula <is> is -- though it be
  • ed -- personal pronoun; 3rd person singular neuter of <(h)é, síL, (h)ed> he, she, it -- it
  • nommainsed -- verb; compound form of 3rd person singular past subjunctive active, conjunct, syntactically relative, of <aingid> protects + infixed pronoun 1st person singular <mL, mmL> I -- that might save me
  • airi -- pronominalized preposition; 3rd person singular neuter accusative <arL, airL> before, for, in front of, east of -- from
  • sin -- anaphoric demonstrative pronoun; <sin> this, that, those, the aforementioned -- that
  • uile -- adjective; accusative singular neuter of <uile> all, whole -- all

Regatsa dano, or sé, for a himgabáil.

  • regatsa -- verb; compound form of 1st person singular future indicative, absolute, of <téit> goes + emphasizing particle 1st person singular <se, sa> I -- I shall go
  • dano -- enclitic emphatic particle; <dano, dono> again, now, then -- then
  • or -- indeclinable; variant of <ol> says, said -- said
  • -- personal pronoun; 3rd person singular masculine <(h)é, síL, (h)ed> he, she, it -- he
  • for -- preposition; <for> on, over -- in order to
  • a -- possessive pronoun; 3rd person singular feminine <aH> her -- her
  • himgabáil -- verbal noun; aspirated dative singular feminine, ā-stem, of <imgabál, imgabáil> avoiding; evasion -- avoid

Lesson Text

Ní dam ass áil, or sí, acht do ingin Echdach rop áil Mael Fothartaig na cardess.

Ná hapair, a ben!, or Congal. Bia marb dianat chluine Mael Fothartaig! Dogénsa do lessu féin frisseom chena, mad áil duit.

Atbeir ind ócben friesi.

Is maith lem, or sisi, ar rolémasu a rád ind aithisc acht co comrís féin fris; ocus déna mo lessa iarum friss.

Dogníther.

Foid ind ócben leis .i. la Mael Fothartaig.

Maith tra, or sí, ní dingnesu mo lessa a fechtsa? Is ferr let in fer ucut t' oenur? Bet marbso dano limsa!

Feccaid in ben laa nand ic coí fri Mael Fothartaig.

Cid daí, a ben? or sé.

Ingen Echdach oc báig mo marbtha frim, olsi, uair nach dénaim a lles fritso, co comairsed frit.

Dóich dano, or sé. Ní sechbaid duit, or sé, rogabais chommairchi. Dianom berthasa, a ben, or sé, i cualchlais tened fo thrí co ndernad min ocus luaith dím, ní chomraicfind fri mnaí Rónáin, cid ed nommainsed airi sin uile. Regatsa dano, or sé, for a himgabáil.

Translation

"[It is] not with me that [there] is desire," said she, "but with the daughter of Echaid that [there] would be desire for Mael Fothartaig, of the(ir) sexual encounters."
"Do not say [this], woman!" said Congal. "You will be dead if Mael Fothartaig should hear you! Indeed I shall do your own bidding in respect to him, though, if it should be a desire with you."
The maid communicates this to her (i.e. to her mistress).
"It is very well with me," said she, "since you will dare communicating the message to him, provided that you yourself should meet with him, and you shall do my own bidding to him afterwards."
[It] is done [then].
The maid sleeps with him, that is, with Mael Fothartaig.
"Well then," she said, "will you indeed not do my own bidding this time? Is it better with you [that] the man yonder [be] yours alone? You will be dead then through myself!"
One day then the woman starts to cry in front of Mael Fothartaig.
"Why are you vexed, woman?" said he.
"The daughter of Echaid at threatening my killing to me," said she, "since it is not that I do her bidding to you so that she could meet with you."
"Likely then," said he. "[It was] not wrong of you," said he, "you took protection." "Woman," said he, "even if I myself were thrown into a faggot-pit of fire three times, and dust and ashes were made of me, I would not meet with the wife of Ronan, though it be it that might save me from all that [burning]." "I shall go then," he said, "in order to avoid her."

Grammar

36. Subordination
36.1. Temporal Clauses

In our selections, we find temporal clauses with

  • ó 'since' and the perfect indicative (ó ro°scarus 'since I have parted' in Lesson 5);
  • in 'when' and the present indicative (in-de cluinethar 'when he hears it' and in-den aici 'when he sees it' in Lesson 6);
  • aN 'when' and the preterite indicative (a m-boí 'when he was' in Lesson 2);
  • in da(i)n 'at the time' and the preterite indicative (in dan m-bátar ann 'when they were there' in Lesson 2) or the future indicative (in dain no-m-bia-su oc comruc 'at the time when you will be in combat' in Lesson 4, where it is also repeated as in n-attan ro-m-bia-su oc comruc 'another time when you will be in combat'). In Middle Irish this conjunction is shortened to tan and used with the past indicative, cf. tan tánuc 'when I came' in Lesson 10;
  • coN 'until' and the preterite indicative (co m-boí hi 'until he was' in Lesson 5) or the perfect (co-n-us°toracht 'until he came' in Lesson 9). With the perfective present subjunctive (i.e. the present subjunctive prefixed with ro) it expresses an action to be completed in the future, as in Lesson 3: coN rab dartaid in lóeg 'until the calf ... will have become a yearling'.
36.2. Causal Clauses

In our selections, causal clauses are introduced by ar and by uair, both with the indicative:

  • ar 'for' is attested with the present indicative in Lesson 6 (ar nícon chotli 'for he does not sleep' and ar is dortuth fuiliche 'for bloodshed is the destruction...'), with the preterite indicative in Lesson 1 (ar ba bes 'for it was custom'), and with the future in Lesson 4 (ar bam escong-sa ocus fo chichiur 'for ... I will be an eel and I will throw ...') and Lesson 8 (ar ro°lema-su 'since you will dare').
  • uair 'since' as in Lesson 8 (uair nach dénaim 'since it is not that I do'), where it is followed by a negated and hence prototonic present indicative, was originally a temporal conjunction, being derived from the loanword corresponding to Latin hora 'hour'.
36.3. Concessive Clauses

Concessive clauses are usually introduced by cíaL/L 'although, even if', which appears as ci before initial vowels and coalesces with the negative particle into cení/ceni or cini.

In Lesson 5, the past subjunctive of the subordinate clause is linked to a preterite indicative of the principal clause: ba he-som mo chrideserc cia no°charainn 'it was him my heart's love, even if I might have loved ...' In Lesson 9, the irreality expressed by both subordinate clauses in the past subjunctive (dia-nom bertha co n-dernad min ocus luaith 'even if I were thrown ... and dust and ashes were made') is mirrored by the use of the secondary future as a conditional in the principal clause: ní chomraicfind 'I would not meet'.

Cia with the present subjunctive of the copula coalesces into cid, as in Lesson 3 where the present subjunctive of the subordinate clause is governed by a future indicative in the principal clause: cid dorrignis bieith olc de 'whatever [it be that] you may do ..., misfortune will result'. It is also often found in the sense of 'even' as in Lesson 1: conná facbatis cid mecnu 'until they left not even roots' (lit. 'until they left nothing, although it be roots').

37. The Verb: The Subjunctive

As already stated (Lesson 1, point 3.3), the stem of the subjunctive, from which the present and the past subjunctive are formed, is independent from the present stem.

This stem mostly takes the shape of a so-called a-subjunctive, but those strong verbs whose root ends in a dental or guttural stop or spirant, or whose present or preterite indicative has a geminated nn, show an s-subjunctive.

The inflection of the past subjunctive shows no special forms for deponentia and is practically always used as a conjunct form.

The different formations are confronted in the following table (móraid 'magnifies', lécid 'leaves', suidigedar 'sets', berid 'bears', téit 'goes' and guidid 'prays'):

Present Subjunctive Active Absolute

    A I   A II (Act., Dep.)   Strong Verbs
1 Sg.   móra   lécea, *suidiger   bera, tíasu
2 Sg.   mór(a)e   léce, suidigther   ber(a)e, tési
3 Sg.   mór(a)id/-(a)ith   lécid/-ith, suidigidir   ber(a)id/-(a)ith, téis
Rel.   móras(s)   léces(s), suidigedar   beras(s), tías
             
1 Pl.   mórm(a)i/-(a)immi   léicmi, suidigmir   berm(a)i, tíasm(a)i
Rel.   mórm(a)e   léicme, suidigmer   berm(a)e, tíasm(a)e
2 Pl.   mórth(a)e   léicthe, suidigthe   berth(a)e, *téiste
3 Pl.   mór(a)it   lécit, suidigitir   ber(a)it, tías(a)it
Rel.   mórd(a)e/-t(a)e/   lé(i)cde/-te/   berd(a)e/-t(a)e, tíast(a)e
    mór(a)ite   lécite, suidigetar    

Present Subjunctive Active Conjunct

    A I   A II (Act., Dep.)   Strong Verbs
1 Sg.   °mór   °léic, °suidiger   °ber, °tías
2 Sg.   °mór(a)e   °léce, °suidigther   °ber(a)e, °téis
3 Sg.   °móra   °lécea, °suidigedar   °bera, °téi/°té
             
1 Pl.   °móram   °lécem, °suidigmer   °beram, °tíasam
2 Pl.   °mór(a)id/-aith   °lécid/-ith, °suidigid/-ith   °ber(a)id/-(a)ith, °tésid
3 Pl.   °mórat   °lécet, °suidigetar   °berat, °tíasat

Present Subjunctive Passive Absolute

    A I   A II (Act. = Dep.)   Strong Verbs
3 Sg.   mórth(a)ir   suidigthir   berth(a)ir, gessair
Rel.   mórthar   suidigther   berthar, gessar
3 Pl.   mórt(a)ir/mór(a)itir   suidigtir   bert(a)ir, ----
Rel.   mórtar/móratar   suidigter   bertar, ----

Present Subjunctive Passive Conjunct

    A I   A II (Act. = Dep.)   Strong Verbs
General Form   °mórthar   °suidigther   °berthar, °gessar
3 Pl.   °mórtar/°móratar   °suidigter   °bertar, °gessatar

Past Subjunctive Active

    A I   A II (Act. = Dep.)   Strong Verbs
1 Sg.   mór(a)in(n)   suidigin(n)   ber(a)in(n), gessin(n)
2 Sg.   mórtha   suidigthea   bertha, gesta
3 Sg.   mórad/-ath   suidiged/-eth   berad/-ath, gessed
             
1 Pl.   mórm(a)is   suidigmis   berm(a)is, gesm(a)is
2 Pl.   mórth(a)e   suidigthe   berth(a)e, gest(a)e
3 Pl.   mórt(a)is   suidigtis   bert(a)is, gest(a)is

Past Subjunctive Passive

    A I   A II (Act. = Dep.)   Strong Verbs
General Form   mórth(a)e   suidigthe   berth(a)e, gest(a)e
3 Pl.   mórt(a)is   suidigtis   bert(a)is, gest(a)is

The addition of ro to the subjunctive either strenghtens the semantic component of possibility or ability (as in rop áil 'that would be desire' in Lesson 8 and in ropud án 'he would be brilliant' in Lesson 5) or expresses completion of the performed action (as in the coN rab dartaid 'until it will have become' of Lesson 3 discussed here under point 36.1).

38. Irregular Nouns

To the nouns with irregular declension belong the feminine 'cow' (in Lessons 2 to 4) and the masculine 'month' (in Lesson 5):

    Singular   Plural   Dual
Nom.   'cow'   baí   baí
Acc.   boin     ---
Gen.   bou/báu/báo/   bou/báu/báo/   bou/báu/báo/
Dat.   boin   buaib   buaib
             
    Singular   Plural   Dual
Nom.   'month'   mís  
Acc.   mís   mísa  
Gen.   mís   mís   ---
Dat.   mís   ---   ---

Further substantives that may appear irregular at first sight, even if they are quite regular from a historical point of view, are the ā-stem ben 'woman' (in Lessons 2 to 5, 8 and 9) and the neuter láa/ 'day, daylight' (in Lessons 1, 4, 5, 9), which is actually a short form of the neuter yo-stem la(i)the:

    Singular   Plural   Dual
Nom/Voc.   ben   mná   mnaí
Acc.   bein/mnaí   mná   mnaí
Gen.   mná   ban   ban
Dat.   mnaí   mnáib   mnáib
             
    Singular   Plural
Nom/Acc.   lae/laa/láa   lae/
Gen.   lai   lae/
Dat.   láu/láo//lóu   laïb
39. Comparison of the Adjective: the Superlative Grade
39.1. The Regular Formation

The normal superlative suffix is em, which palatalizes the preceding consonant whereas am appears after consonants resisting palatalization: cf. sinem 'oldest' from sen 'old' as opposed to ardam 'highest' from ard 'high'.

39.2. Irregular Formations

The superlative of some adjectives is formed from the same root as the positive but without its suffix (i.a. máam and moam from már/mór 'great', síam from sír 'long', tressam from trén 'strong'), while for other superlatives altogether different roots and formations are used, such as messam 'worst' as opposed to olc 'bad' or dech/deg 'best' as opposed to maith 'good'.

One should also not forget superlative compounds such as ad-amrae 'very wonderful' and for-lán 'very full' in Lessons 6 and 10.

39.3. Syntax

None of these forms shows any traces of inflection. Like the other comparison grades, the superlatives are only used in nominative constructions and not as attributes.

40. Interrogative Pronouns and Sentences

Both direct and indirect interrogative clauses can be introduced:

  • by an unstressed pronoun nom/acc. ce/ci/cía 'who or what?' (cich if there is an infixed pronoun) with gen. coich 'whose?': it is invariant in gender and number and requires the conjunct form of a full verb as in cía°beir 'who carries?' and cía°acca 'whom didst thou see?'. When the subjunctive is used, this pronoun supplies an indefinite pronoun. Cf. also cía° tíasam 'wherever we go';
  • by its stressed allomorphs cía 'who?', with ntr. cidL/cedL 'what?' and plural citné 'who/what (is it) that they are?': these are mostly used with the relative form of a verb (as in cía rannas dúib 'who [is it that] divides for you?' or cid as dénti 'what is [that is] to be done?') or precede a substantive, in which case a feminine requires cesíL and the 3rd person singular of the copula is implicit, cf. cid leth 'which direction?' in Lesson 2. Cf. also cid do-t-ucai 'what brings you?', cid arndid í 'why [is it] that it is her?', cid nach é 'why is it not him?', cid ná dénaim-ni óentaid 'why don't we make a union?' and cid dai 'why are you vexed?' in Lessons 2, 5 and 8.
  • by coH 'how or (of) what sort?', with the conjunct form of the verb as in co°acci in slúag 'how seest thou the host?', or by its equivalent cinnas 'how?' < cindas < cía indas 'which manner or kind?', as in Lesson 4: cinnas conicfae-su 'how will you be able?';
  • by the interrogative particle iN, also requiring the conjunct form of the verb: cf. in°n-aci 'seest thou?' or as°rubart i°m-boí 'he said, i.e. asked, whether there was'. A double interrogative is introduced by in faL/L/baL and a negative interrogative by in nád as in in-nád °n-accai 'seest thou not?', whereas an interrogative expecting a positive answer is introduced by cani.

Dús introduces indirect interrogative clauses with the meaning of 'to know, to ascertain if'.