I'm going to resurrect a thread from 3/02 concerning the meaning and use of
firt/feart/fiurt on its own and in relation to nert/neart, because I came on
a slant not addressed initially.
David Stifter wrote:
>Latin uirtus means the "ability to create a miracle" in Hiberno-Latin
>texts. OIr. fiurt, itself a loan from Latin, on the other hand refers to
>the miracle itself.
Dennis King wrote:
>All the early citations in DIL (and the results of a quick search of the
>CELT database) confirm that the sole meaning of "fiurt" was "miracle". So
>how do we account for the fact that "feart" has been used in more recent
>Scottish Gaelic and Irish to mean "virtue, power, force, strength,
>efficacy"? These are meanings which seem to reach back to, or continue, the
>semantic range of Latin "virtus", the source of OI "fiurt".
and later Dennis added:
>>All the early citations in DIL (and the results of a quick search of the
>>CELT database) confirm that the sole meaning of "fiurt" was >"miracle". So
>>how do we account for the fact that "feart" has been >used in more recent
>>Scottish Gaelic and Irish to mean "virtue, power, >force, strength,
>>efficacy"? These are meanings which seem to reach back to, or continue,
>>the semantic range of Latin "virtus", the source of OI "fiurt".
I'm not sure that certain uses of "firt" are so decidedly "miracle" in
meaning. In fact, I think there's more latitude in connotation. For example,
consider the following uses in connection with firt filed:
The Annals of Ulster. 1024
Cuan H. Lothcan, prim-eices Erenn, do marbad i Tebtha d’Fearaibh Teabhtha
fein. Brenait a n-aen -uair in lucht ro marb. Firt filed innsein.
Tigernach has an almost identical entry.
The Annals of Connacht at 1414 details the armed assaults led by John
Styanley and the response of poets. It ends:
Et Seon Stanlai do aerad la Muintir Uicind iar sin. Et ni raibi Seon Stanlai
beo acht v. sechdmaine nama in tan fuair bas do nem na n-aer-sin; & is e sin
an dara firt filed doronad ar Niall h. nUiginn .i. Clann Connmaig do lethad
aidchi creiche Neill a Cladaind & Seon Stanlai do marbad do nem na n-aer.
This is translated, "After this the Ui Uicinn made lampoons on John Stanley
and he lived only five weeks till he died from the venom of th lampoons. Now
this is one of two poet's miracles which were worked for Niall O hUicinn:
the freezing to death of the Clanconway on the night after he was plundered
in Clada, and the death of John Stanley from the venom of the lampoons."
So, when firt is used with filed to refer to the actions of poets to bring
about the death or physical harm of an opponent, the meaning is a miracle
but it also seems to encompass the performance of the wonder or perhaps the
means by which the miracle is wrought. In his _Guide to Early Irish Law_,
(p. 44), Fergus Kelly translates firt filed as "poet's spell." I'm not sure
this is merited but suppose for a moment that it is. Look at how that
changes the meaning of the ortha from the Carmina where feart was, in the
earlier discussion, translated as "strength":
Feart fithich dhuit, Spell/miracle/wonder of raven to you,
Feart fiolair dhuit, Spell/miracle/wonder of eagle to you,
Feart Féinne. Spell/miracle/wonder of the Fiann.
Feart gaillinn dhuit Spell/miracle/wonder of storm to you,
Feart gealaich dhuit, Spell/miracle/wonder of moon to you,
Feart gréine. Spell/miracle/wonder of sun.
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