I have been looking at another poem on the adventures of Tadg mac Céin.
This is not part of ‘Cath Crinna’ but a separate poem collected after it
in Lec and BB. I appreciate that we will not want to look at this one on
the List, but I wondered if anyone had a better solution to one of the
couplets than I could come up with this afternoon.
Here are the MSS readings:
BB 108 r b line 3 (ignoring notes at top of col)
IS f4 tar mairt / (corm-c) gai . i~oc*at* i~ocat* rai
Lec 222 r a line 4
IS fairtotharmairt agai imochath imochat* rai .
4 = air compendium
* = mark of lenition over preceding letter
~ = m-bow over preceding letter
/ (corm-c) = / added to line and cormc (with line above the c) written
above the line in a much later hand.
In plain type this gives:
BB Is fair tar mairt (cormac) gai . imochath imocath rai
Lec IS fairtotharmairt agai imochath imochathrai .
The metre of this poem is ‘deibide scaílte’, so this extract represents
a couplet with uneven rhyme (rinn airdrinn), and seven syllables in each
I think we should ignore the late 'correction' in BB (supplying:
cormac). This stanza and its neighbours are all concerned with Tadg's
deeds in the battle. If we ignore 'cormac', Lec has the required number
of syllables, but BB is two short (which may have promptedt he
'correction'). However, it seems plausible that ‘fair tar’ in BB arose
by haplography from a reading similar to ‘fairtothar’ in Lec – with a
scribe skipping from the first ‘t’ to the second (and ignoring its mark
of lenition). BB lost another syllable when 'agai' (cf Lec) was
transcribed as 'gai'.
Here is how I divide and translate the couplet in Lec:
Is fa irt othar mairt a gaî
imo chath imo chath-raî.
“And the slaughterous work of his spear was death
around his battle, around his battle-field”
As the action is set in the past (the other verbs in the opening
quatrains are in the perf/pret), I don’t think ‘IS’ can be the copula
(unless ‘fairtothar’ means ‘well known’ or something like that).
‘Irt’ (death) faces two hurdles that I am aware of.
(1) The DIL entries suggest to me that it is a learned word which was
invented for the purposes of pseudo-etymologies. Such words do find
their way into poetry, but a real word would be better.
(2) BB has ‘f4 tar’ which is not itself compatible with a word division
‘fa irt’ (even if we ignore the space between the 4 and the t). I would
have to assume the omission by haplography occurred in an examplar,
giving ‘fairtar’, and that a subsequent scribe (the scribe of BB, say)
misunderstood this as ‘fair tar’.
I am not thrilled about the second line either.
Any suggestions for improvement?