CELT document G503001

The instructions of King Cormac Mac Airt: Tecosca Cormaic


Tecosca Cormaic: The Instructions of King Cormac mac Airt


AMONG the gnomic literature of ancient Ireland, the instructions given by princes to their heirs, by tutors to their disciples, or by foster-fathers to their sons form a group by themselves. The oldest among them are those ascribed to Morann mac Móin, addressed to his foster-son Nére to be delivered by him to King Feradach Finḋfechtnach, who, according to the Annals of the Four Masters, was King of Ireland from 15 to 36 A.D. They are known as Audacht, Auraicept, or Tecosc Morainn “The Bequest, Precept, or Instruction of Morann,” and to judge from their language were composed early in the eighth century. 1

The Instructions of Cúchulaind to his foster-son Lugaid of the Red Stripes, known as Bríatharthecosc Conculaind, form an episode in the tale called the Sickbed of Cuchulaind, edited by Windisch in his Irische Texte, vol. 1, p. 213-214. They have often been translated, by O'Curry in Atlantis, vol. 1, pp. 362-392, and vol. II, pp. 98-124; by Brian O'Looney in the Facsimiles of the National MSS. of Ireland; by D'Arbois de Jubainville in L'Épopée celtique en Irlande, pp. 186 -191; and by Miss E. Hull in her Cuchuilin Saga, pp. 231-234.

A third collection of precepts and wise sayings is ascribed  p.vi to the poet Fíthel or Fíthal, who is said to have lived at the court of King Cormac mac Airt in the third century. They are addressed to his son, and are known as Senbríatha or Senraite Fíthail. 2 Some of them are in the form of question and answer, like Tecosca Cormaic, a circumstance which has led many scribes to a confusion of the two. Some extracts from them will be found in Hardiman's Minstrelsy, vol. II, p.396. Like Tecosca Cormaic, I would ascribe them to the ninth century.

Certain sayings of Fíthel are in some MSS. attributed to Flann Fina mac Ossu, by which name Aldfrid the son of king Osuiu (Oswy) of Northumberland was known in Ireland. Thus the strings of proverbs beginning respectively Atchota soichell saidbrius, Ba faitech ar ná ba fiachach, Descaid cotulta freslige, Tosach eoluis imchomairc, Ferr dán orba are ascribed to him in 23 N 10 and 23 D 2. Both these MSS. also attribute to him a number of sayings which begin like paragraph 15 of my edition of Tecosca Cormaic, and continue Dligid fí fortacht, dligid gó a cairiugud, &c. Under the heading Flann Fí beos 23 D 2 further assigns to him the following interesting piece, which, as I have never come across it in any other manuscript, I will print and translate in extenso:

  • Cia féighe rángais? Fir Mhuighi Féine ⁊ gaoth.
  • Cia hannsa rángais? Araidh Cliach ⁊ archoin.
  • Cia solmha rángais? Osraighe ⁊ deamhnae.
  • Cia dana rángais? Corco Laeighde ⁊ ...
  • Cia tétem rángais? Na Déisi ⁊ miolchoin.
  • Cia heglaige rángais? Húi Líatháin ⁊ caoirigh.
  • Cia mesgamla rángais? Cíarraige ⁊ menntáin.
  • Cia húallcha rángais? Muscraige ⁊ coiligh fedha.
  • Cia gairbe rángais? Orbraige ⁊ aitend.
  •  p.vii
  • Caite as dech rángais? A n-as mesa do shíol Aodha Sláine ⁊ a n-as ferr díb-sein as fri hainglib nime at cosmaile.
  • Cia mesamh rángais? A n-as deach Glasraighe ⁊ a n-as mesa díb-sein as fri demnaibh at cosmaile.
  • Who are the keenest you have met? The men of Mag Féne and wind.
  • Who are the most troublesome you have met? The Araid Cliach and watch-hounds. 3
  • Who are the swiftest you have met? The men of Ossory and demons.
  • Who are the boldest you have met? The Corco Laeigde and {}
  • Who are the wantonest you have met? The Deissi and hounds. Who are the most timid you have met? The Húi Liatháin and sheep.
  • Who are the most drunken you have met? The men of Kerry 4 and titmice.
  • Who are the proudest you have met? The men of Muskerry and wood-cocks.
  • Who are the roughest you have met? The men of Orbraige 5 and furze.
  • Who are the best you have met? The worst part of the race of Aed Sláne; 6 and those who are best of them are like unto angels of Heaven.
  • Who are the worst you have met? The best part of the Glasraige; 7 and those who are worst of them are like unto demons.

In 23 N 27, p. 33, a set of sayings beginning Maith dán ecna dogní ríg do bocht is attributed to Flann Fíona mac Cosa (sic). The Instructions of Cormac have not before been published or translated in their entirety. A few selections from the text of the Book of Ballymote were translated by  p.viii Hardiman l.c. O'Donovan's edition and translation from the Book of Lecan in the Dublin Penny Journal of December, 1832, and January, 1833, are well known; but the text which he followed is both incomplete and faulty, and his renderings can now be much improved upon. The following edition is based upon a comparison of all available MSS. which I will briefly characterize.

L, i.e. the Book of Leinster, a MS. of the twelfth century, pp. 343-345. In spite of its age and fine penmanship this MS. does not, as I have repeatedly pointed out, supply us with accurate and trustworthy texts. The copy of Tecosca Cormaic contained in it has many faulty readings, such as ríglach (p. 343b 40) for riaglach (paragraph 3, 10), ales (p. 343b21) for ata lais (paragraph 2, 24), imtholta (p. 345, 17) for imscoltad (paragraph 22, 10), cátingud (ib. 25) for cathugud (ib.17), éthech (p. 345c) for etech (paragraph 31, 9), trebar (ib.) for trebad (ib. 10), forus (ib.) for árus (ib. 11), fuacht (ib.) for fuchacht or fuichecht (ib. 14) &c.

B, i.e. the Book of Ballymote, a MS. of the fourteenth century, pp. 62a-65a. Like L, it mixes up Tecosca Cormaic with Bríathra Fíthail, passing suddenly from Cormac dixit fri Coirpre (p. 65a13) to ol a mac fri Fíthul (ib.32). The text, though good on the whole, is never quite reliable, the scribe often blundering in an almost incredible manner. 8 Several sections are left out.

Lec, i.e. the Book of Lecan, a MS. of the fifteenth century, fo. 420a-422a, and pp. 179-180 in the codex H. 2. 17 (Trin. Coll.), with which some of the leaves of the Book of Lecan are now bound up. Neither a complete nor very accurate version.


N1, i.e. the MS. marked 23 N 10 (R.I.A.) containing in its vellum portion from p. 1-6 a large fragment of our text. 9 A careful and trustworthy copy on the whole.

N2, i.e. the paper MS. marked 23 N 17 (R.I.A.) written in 1714 by Domhnall Ó Duind mac Eimuinn. Here on fo. 7b-32b is a carefully written and heavily glossed copy of the Tecosca. In 1828 O'Donovan made a transcript of it which, numbered 23 O 20, is preserved in the library of the Royal Irish Academy.

D, i.e. a small paper octavo marked 23 D 2 (R.I.A.). Though written in the seventeenth century it contains in a remarkably neat hand both the most complete and by far the best copy of the Tecosca.

H1, i.e. the paper MS. numbered H. 1. 15 (Trin. Coll.), written in 1745 by Tadhg Ua Neachtain. Under the title Teagasg Riogh it contains on pp. 140-174 a fairly complete and on the whole pretty accurate copy of our text.

H2, i.e. the eighteenth-century paper manuscript numbered H. 1. 9. (Trin. Coll.) pp. 59 to the end, a poor copy, of which I have hardly made any use.

H3, i.e. the paper MS. numbered H. 4. 8. (Trin. Coll.), copied in the latter half of the seventeenth century by Dr. Joannes Beaton from a vellum manuscript. It once belonged to the Welsh antiquary Edward Lloyd, entries in English and Welsh by whom are found at the beginning of the volume. This copy also has so many defects that I have but rarely used it.

K, i.e. the sixteenth-century vellum marked VII, No. 3 in the Advocates' Library, Edinburgh. It contains from fo. 9 a1-9b2 an imperfect, but fairly good copy of our text. It breaks off with paragraph 18 of my edition.


Lastly, the paper MS. No. II among the Gaelic MSS. in the Advocates' Library in Edinburgh contains on ten pages an incomplete and faulty copy of our text written in the seventeenth century. I have not used it. 10 Nor have I thought it worth while to collate throughout a copy in the Book of Húi Maine, fo. 182a-182b, as it is identical with that of B.

I have already stated that N2 is copiously glossed. Occasionally glosses are also found in B and in some of the other MSS. These glosses, like those of the Triads, were written at a time when Old-Irish was no longer understood, and are therefore of hardly any value. Besides, some of them are not explanatory, but etymological, such as ilach (paragraph 10, 4 in my edition) .i. imat focul. Many of them were collected for the purpose of forming a glossary of Old-Irish words, 11 and are to be found under the title Incipit din Tecusc Rig budesta in H. 3. 18, col. 539a. A few samples will characterise them sufficiently: — argrinn goit (paragraph 2, 8) .i. tabach. airiti dála (paragraph 6, 39) .i. aentugud. turchomrac (paragraph 3, 4) .i. tinol. clandad dligid (paragraph 2, 11) .i. sadad nó cur. forsmaltaib (paragraph 2,21) .i. caithem. foltaib (paragraph 2, 2;1) .i. acra. athcomarc (paragraph 3, 6) .i. fiarfaide. diubairt (paragraph 3, 30) .i. lethtrom. deide (paragraph 1, 6) senchasa .i. damachtain nó fulang. rob sobraid (paragraph 6, 4) .i. soabraid. rop  p.xi sognasaig12 (paragraph 6, 17) .i. gnai uais. tochus (paragraph 6, 43) .i. ealada. suilid (paragraph 7, 10) .i. sofulaing. duilid (paragraph 7, 10) .i. dofulaing. meilcend (paragraph 7, 17) .i. tabartus. cuire. (paragraph 8, 5) .i. uir. riancobra (paragraph 11, 5) .i. rianocobrach .i. saithech. teiti (paragraph 10, 10) .i. slighi. suanach (paragraph 13, 12) .i. conaich. solom (paragraph 13, 34) .i. soluam. gabail (paragraph 14, 1) .i. tinol ut dixit (leg. dicitur) Lebar Gabála. turrtugud (paragraph 14, 27) .i. timpud. tirfochraic13 (paragraph 14, 27) .i. cennach. toimdinach (paragraph 15, 2) .i. dochusach. crinnach14 (paragraph 15, 5) .i. crin. disgir (paragraph 15, 17) .i. diaisc. itfaide (paragraph 16, 17) .i. saithech. resca (paragraph 16, 81) .i. grasta. forcomat (paragraph 16, 87) .i. rogabat. faenbleogan (paragraph 16, 106) .i. cendsugad, &c.

Some of the glosses were evidently made on a text occasionally differing from ours, e.g. déide senchasa instead of dethide senchasa paragraph 1, 6. Here déitiu, the O.-Ir. verbal noun of damur or daimim (Middle-Ir. daimthiu), is rightly glossed by .i. damachtain no fulang.

I think there can be no doubt that Tecosca Cormaic in the form in which it has come down to us was compiled during the Old-Irish period of the language, and, so far as I can judge, not later than the first half of the ninth century. The numerous verbal forms which it contains seem to point to that time. The later forms of the infixed pronouns which Strachan has pointed out in Ériu III, p. 158, such as -das- or -dos-, do not appear in our text.

A tendency is occasionally apparent to link some of the lines of each paragraph together by alliteration in such a way that the initial sound of the last word in one line is repeated at the beginning of the next, e.g. paragraph 14, 4:

  1. luge ria mbreith,
    bretha díana,
    dúscud ferge
    folabra gúach &c.


Professor O. J. Bergin and Dr. Whitley Stokes have had the kindness to read proofs of the text and translation, to point out mistakes and to suggest the emendations, for which I desire to express my best thanks to them.

K. M.


Edited by Kuno Meyer




“A húi Chuind, a Chormaic,” ol Carpre, “cid as dech do ríg?” “Ní hansa,” ol Cormac. “Dech dó

  1. Fosta cen ̇feirg,
    Ainmne cen debaid,
    Soacallaim cen mórdataid,
    Deithide senchasa,
    Fritḣfolad fír,
    Géill i nglassaib,
    Slógad fri deithbiri,10 
    Fír cen ̇fuillem,
    Trócaire co ndlúthugud rechta,
    Síd do thúathaib,
    Rátha écsamla,
    Bretha fíra,15 
    Troscud for cocrichaib,
    Mórad nemed,
    Airmitiu ̇filed,
    Adrad De móir,
    Torud inna ̇flaith,20 
    Deicsiu cach thrúaig,
    Almsana ile,
    Mess for crannaib,
    Īasc i n-inberaib,
    Talam torthech,25 
    Bárca do thochor i port,
    Allmaire sét,
    Murchuirthe dílse, p.4
    Étach sirecda,
    Drong claidebbémnech ar choimét cacha túaithe,30 
    Forrana dar crícha,
    Torramad lubru,
    Lessaiged triunu,
    Techtad fír,
    Cairiged gói,35 
    Carad fírinni,
    Dinged oman,
    Báded bidbadu,
    Bered fírbretha,
    Bíathad cech n-ái,40 
    Uaged cach síd,
    Criad máine,
    Lessaiged anmain
    Aisnéided cach réilbreth,
    Imbed fína sceo meda,45 
    Canad cach fír,
ar is tria fír flaitheman dobeir Día in sin uile.”


“A húi Chuind, a Chormaic,” ol Carpre, “cate cóir rechta ríg?”

“Ní hansa. Recht fallnathar for talman tuind, atáthum, atchous duit,” ol Cormac fri Carpre.

  1. Congbad máru,
    Marbad ulcu,
    Mórad maithi,
    Tróethaid foglaide,
    Argaired gait,
    Córaigid coibnius, p.610 
    Comúaiged síd,
    Clandad dliged,
    Cosced indliged,
    Dóeraid bidbadu,
    Sóerad enngu,15 
    Anced idnu,
    Cuimriged essidnu,
    Fócraid foglaide,
    Lándílse do cach láim la fíachu,
    Comláithre lánfíachaib fis, letḣfiachaib, aṅfis,20 
    Co cátu ríg,
    Co fursmaltaib flatha,
    Conóiged dliged téchta cech ̇fír do neoch as leis muir ⁊ tír,
    Foltaib fíraib do thúathaib ata lais cintaib láime,25 
    Forimthecht coss,
    Silliud súla, cintaib bél,
    Étsecht clúas,
    Co fíraib cuibse,
    Lérigider cert cech cind,30 
    Timmoirged cách fo recht —
ar it é téchta flatha in sin fri túatha.


“A húi Chuind, a Chormaic,” ol Carpre, “cid as dech do less túathe?” “Ní hansa,” ol Cormac.

  1. Terchomrac dagdóine,
    Dála menci,
    Menma athchomairc, p.8
    Fochmarc do gáethaib,
    Airdíbdud cech uilc,
    Comalnad cech mathiusa,10 
    Airecht ríaglach,
    Sechem senchusa,
    Senad rechtaide,
    Rechtge la flaith,
    Tóisech fíréna,15 
    Cen ̇forbrisiud trúag,
    Comad chairddine,
    Trócaire co ndagbésaib,
    Dlúthugud coibniusa,
    Comúaim coimgne,20 
    Comalnad rechtge,
    Recht senchairdde,
    Cotach cen timdibe,
    Fíanna cen díummus,
    Inire fri náimtiu,25 
    Indraccus fri bráthriu,
    Rátha fíala,
    Aithi slána,
    Bretha fíra,
    Fiadain indraicce,30 
    Astud cundrada cen diupairt,
    Fullem ndiuparto,
    Folaid chutrummae,
    Airlicud éim,
    Géill do inchaib,35 
    Íasacht follán,
    Óin fri toich,
    Cubés cach maith, p.10
    Taithesc míadchar,
    Messair dílmain,40 
    Foglaimm cach dána,
    Eolas cech bérlai,
    Druine mrechtrad,
    Tacra co fásaigib,
    Brithemnas co roscadaib,45 
    Tabairt almsan,
    Trócaire fri bochtu,
    Gella fri bretha,
    Nadmann indraicce,
    Étsecht fri sruithi,50 
    Buidre fri dáescarsluag,
    Lessugud críche ar cach n-olc,
    Ní ba réidenech oc less túaithe,
    Ní ba gerthide i n-ailt midchúarto —
dech do les túathe in sin.


“A húi Chuind, a Chormaic,” ol Carpre, “cadeat ada flatha ⁊ cuirmthige?” “Ní hansa,” ol Cormac.

  1. Costud im daġflaith,
    Lassamna do lochrannaib,
    Luthbas im ˙sochaide,
    Samugud suide,
    Soichlige do dáleman,
    Díanlám oc fodail,10 
    Fochraibe oc timthirecht,
    Tigerna do charthain,
    Mesrugud senma,
    Scélugud ngairit,
    Gnúis ̇fáilid, p.1215 
    Fáilte fri dáma,
    Tóe fri comad,
    Cocetla bindi,
“it é sin adae flatha ⁊ cormthige, ” ol Cormac fri Carpre.


“A húi Chuind, a Chormaic,” ol Carpre, “cid asa ngaibther flaithemnas for túathaib ⁊ chlandaib ⁊ chenéaib?” “Ní hansa,” ol Cormac. “A feib chrotha ⁊ cheneóil ⁊ érgnai, a gáis ⁊ ordan ⁊ eslabrai ⁊ inraccus, a feib dúthchusa ⁊ airlabra, a nirt imgona ⁊ sochraite gaibther.”


“Cest, caté téchta flatha?” ol Carpre. “Ní hansa,” ol Cormac.

  1. rop sogeis,
    rop sobraig,
    rop saigthech,
    rop soaccobrach,
    rop soacallmach,
    rop becda,
    rop mórda,10 
    rop dían,
    rop fossaid,
    rop fili,
    rop fénech,
    rop gáeth,15 
    rop gartaid,
    rop sochraid,
    rop sognais,
    rop máeth,
    rop crúaid,20 
    rop carthach, p.14
    rop concardell,
    rop fírén,
    rop féig,
    rop fedil,25 
    rop ainmnetach,
    rop áintech,
    turgbad lubair la triunu,
    bered fírbretha,
    bíathad cach ndíllechta,30 
    báthed cach n-anslicht,
    miscniged gói,
    carad fírinni,
    rop dermatach uilc,
    rop cuimnech mathiusa,35 
    rop slúagach i ndálaib,
    rop úathad i sanasaib,
    rop sorche fri gnáis,
    rop grían tige midchúarto,
    rop airitid dála ⁊ airechta,40 
    rop sercaid fis ⁊ érgnai,
    rop cundrigid uilc,
    rop smachtaid coisc cáich mbes ingor,
    míastar cách íarna thochus,
    dobera a théchta do chách,45 
    rop midid cáich iarna míad,
    rop tairbertaidich iarna ngrád ⁊ iarna ndán,
    ropat dlúthe a nadmann,
    ropat laxa a thobaig,
    ropat áithe étrumma a bretha ⁊ a chocerta,
50  “ar is triasna téchta sin miditir ríg ⁊ flaithi,” ol Cormac fri Carpre.


“A húi Chuind, a Chormaic,” ol Carpre, “cia bátar do bésa intan ropsa gilla?” “Ní hansa,” ol Cormac.

  1. Ba-sa coistechtach caille,
    ba déscenach renda,
    ba dall rúine,
    ba tó fásaig,
    ba labor sochuide,
    ba shulig midchúarta,10 
    ba dulig irgaile,
    ba solam d'̇foraire,
    ba cennais cairdine,
    ba liaig lobor,
    ba fann fri amnirt,15 
    ba trén fri rúanaid,
    nírba chrúaid ar ná ba áertha,
    nírba timm ar ná ba maelchend,
    nírba ocus ar ná ba tromm,
    nírba labar ciapsa gáeth,20 
    nírba taircsinach ciarba trén,
    nírba laimthenach ciarba lúath,
    ní cuitbinn sen ciarba óc,
    nírba moidmech ciarba gonach,
    ní lúaidinn nech ina écmais,25 
    ní aiscinn is nomolainn,
    ní cuinginn is doberainn,
“ar is triasna bésu sin rosegat óic corbat sin ⁊ rígláich.”



“A húi Chuind, a Chormaic,” ol Carpre, “cia bátar do gníma intan ropsa gilla?” “Ní hansa,” ol Cormac. “

  1. Nogonainn muic, nolenainn lorc i mba m'óenur,
    nocinginn ar chuire cóicir i mba cóicer,
    ba-sa oirgnech imbsa dechenborach,
    ba-sa indredach imbsa fichtech,
    ba-sa cathach imbsa cétach —
rop íat sin mo gníma,” ol Cormac fri Carpre.


“A húi Chuind, a Chormaic,” ol Carpre, “cid messam lat adchondarc?” “Ní hansa,” ol Cormac. “Gnúsi námat i rói chatha.”


“A húi Chuind, a Chormaic,” ol Carpre, “cid bindem lat rochúala?”

  1. “Ní hansa,” ol Cormac.
    Ilach íar mbúaid,
    molad íar lúag,
    itge degmná dia hadurt.


“A húi Chuind, a Chormaic,” ol Carpre, “cid as dech dam?” “Ní hansa,” ol Cormac. “Ma contúaisi frim thecosc, nír tharta th'enech ar choirm ná ar biad, ar is ferr dín cloth oldás dín mbiid.”

  1. Nírba úallach minba trebthach,
    nírba sriangabrach cen eocho,
    nírba ólchobrach cen choirm,
    nírba lachtmar cen bú,
    nírba massech mani bet cáerchach,
 p.20 ar is col i ndálaib in domain úall cen trebad,
  1. 10 téte cen eochu,
    ólchobra cen choirm,
    lachtmaire cen bú,
    maisse cen cáircha.


“A húi Chuind, a Chormaic,” ol Carpre, “cid as fó dam?” “Ní hansa,” ol Cormac. “Ma contúaissi frim thecosc,

  1. ní cuitbe nach sen ciarba óc,
    ná bocht ciarba soimm,
    ná nocht ciarba suim,
    ná losc ciarba lúath,
    ná dall ciarba ̇féig,
    ná lobor ciarba thrén,
    ná borb ciarba threbar,10 
    ná óinmit ciarba gáeth,
    nírba lesc,
    nírba lonn,
    nírba súanach,
    nírba neóit,15 
    nírba deáith,
    nírba étaid,
ar cach lesc lond súanach neóit deáith étaid is miscais Dé ⁊ dóine.”


“A húi Chuind, a Chormaic,” ol Carpre, “cia étargen síl nÁdaim?” “Ní hansa,” ol Cormac. “Nosnetargén uili, fir, mná, maic sceo ingena archena.” “Cinnas ón?” ol Carpre.

  1. Gáeth cach fossaid,
    fírén cech fíal,
    fedil cech ainmnetach,
    fissid cech foglaintid, p.2210 
    fúarrech cech finechar,
    fáilid cech slán,
    suánach cech slemon,
    serb cech borb,
    báeth cech trén,15 
    tibir cech mer,
    múcna cech mog,
    mórda cech ndindba,
    imresnaid cech n-aneólach,
    anbal cech anecnaid,20 
    ecal cech uamnach,
    inraicc cech lobur,
    altromaid cech dochraid,
    ál cech angtha,
    faitech cech uaimnech,25 
    andgid cech ecal
    diupartach cech ndindba,
    dálach cech cosnamach,
    conchar cech sáithech,
    solepthach cech suirgech,30 
    sétach cech selbach,
    slichtlethan cech sáer,
    sothcherna cech suaibsech
    menmar cach cáinte,
    solam cech marcach,35 
    domblas cech gó,
    milis cech fír,
    milbéla druinecha,
    dálacha drochmná,
    dodáil a maic,mairg oca mbíat!



“A húi Chuind, a Chormaic,” ol Carpre, “ocus gabála báise cis lir?” “Ní hansa,” ol Cormac.

  1. Luge ria mbreith,
    bretha díana,
    dúscud ferge,
    folabra gúach,
    cairigud fír,
    freitech derthige,10 
    tintúd breth,
    brón oc fleid,
    flaithem gúach,
    gáire im sen,
    senchas do chleith,15 
    cluiche for aill,
    erchor cen chommus,
    comrith fri báeth,
    mórthu fri ríg,
    recht cen chomallad,20 
    comallad cech uilc,
    olc fri carddine,
    cétlud fri cách,
    gel cech núa,
    náma cech gnáth,25 
    gním cen ̇fiadnaisi,
    fíada tláith,
    tuṙfochraic breth,
    bith cen seotu,
    airlicud il,30 
    ilar carat,
    brón fri ríg,
    rolabra cen gáis, —
“is í sin gabáil báise,” ar Cormac.



  1. Dligid ecna airmitin,
    arfich gáis gail,
    tomtenach cech n-uamnach,
    torsech cech sercach,
    crimnach cech galrach,
    imresnach cech gúach,
    gáibthech cech báeth,
    báeglach cech labor,
    imgonaid cech lond,10 
    trebar cech trebthach,
    dreman cech drochláech,
    anbal cech rudrach,
    úathmar cech ecal,
    adúathmar cech ndorcha,15 
    ísel cech athech,
    collach cech sámach,
    díscir cech dona,
    uamnach cech cintach,
    fán cech aithisech,20 
    ecal cech faittech,
    cosáitech cech dotheng,
    án cech cétludach,
    dálach cech dagthúath,
    dúnadach cech degrí,25 
    sétrech cech saigthech,
    suabais cach dána,
    éslessach cech brass,
    gúach cech tairngertach,
    soisil cech bronntach,30 
    cuitbide cech denmnetach,
    athissech cech coimsech,
    arrachtach cech athissech,
    coimsech cech céillid, p.28
    comairlech cech irisech,35 
    midlaech cech díchoisc,
    sái cech sochoisc,
    aititiu cech indraic,
    innmusach cech dán maith,
    dóinech cech dindba.


“A húi Chuind, a Chormaic,” ol Carpre, “cia etargén mná?” “Ní hansa,” ol Cormac. “Nosnetargén ⁊ nísnetargléim.”

  1. Serba sirgnáse,
    mórda tathigthe,
    drútha follaigthi,
    báetha comairle,
    santacha tormaig,
    aigde aisnéise,
    debthaige frecnairce,10 
    míanacha léicthe,
    santacha tabarta,
    freslige roscéla,
    cailte dígbála,
    feidle miscne,15 
    dermatcha seirce,
    ítfaide toile,
    deithite cairddine,
    cundamna écnaig,
    écundla airechta,20 
    airrechtga ugrai,
    étairise rúne,
    rudracha táithe,
    garechtga eóit,
    immaicse taithlig, p.3025 
    tórachtcha báise,
    brassa airnadma,
    airlama forgill,
    foille foichlige,
    sóera ainme,30 
    essóera ícce,
    consuidet nád comraicet,
    ro mairnet nád aincet,
    úallcha tochmairc,
    écnaig míadamla,35 
    fóille foimrime,
    táithe abrais,
    rigne célide,
    diumsacha dagdóine,
    doirche gusmara,40 
    dermatcha coisc,
    cumnige debtha,
    fanna immargaile,
    inire debtha,
    díarithe lítha,45 
    bróncha cuirmthige,
    comnarta imresna,
    énairte fedma,
    todiúre ciúil,
    étradcha lige,50 
    labra écundla,
    tuillmecha augrai,
    cessachtaige biid,
    amairsi erlabra,
    eitche trebaire,55 
    tailce erlabra,
    ána athise, p.32
    airrechtga fresligi,
    frithbertacha cóemnai,
    cuimnige díchoemnai,60 
    dimbeóda tinóil,
    cétludcha báise,
    béoda tingill,
    tomtencha uilc,
    santacha dála,65 
    duabaise tairirid,
    tromda coblige,
    bodra forcetail,
    dalla dagairle,
    dochéille sochaide,70 
    míancha blassachta,
    mina tairberta,
    terca tidnacuil,
    tláithe timgaire,
    aidble irnaidi,75 
    ainble céilidi,
    imda labartha,
    fossaide im thoil,
    cumge airberta,
    eólaige rebraid,80 
    aneólaige réire,
    rescacha rurit,
    dulbaire torbai,
    sulbaire espai,
    snímcha cendmaisse,85 
    canait nád comaillit,
    triallait nád forbait,
    forcomat nád comraicet,
    rodíallat nád astat,
    adgellat nád firat, p.3490 
    dorairngerat nád chomallat,
    conrannat nád fúaslaigit,
    rocollet nád íccat,
    foṙfodlat nád tinólat,
    ronertat nád dernat,95 
    adsegat nád táircet,
    conscarat nád rothinólat,
    rorenat nád toibget,
    robronnat nád rothrebat,
    fó cach tan tene,100 
    fó cách náchasríaraig,
    a n-úaman amail tenid,
    a n-ecla mar fiadmíla,
    elca míla mná,
    maith fidbad cech ráithe,105 
    mairg rodafóinblig,
    ferr a flescad a fóenblegon,
    ferr a sroigled a subugud,
    ferr a túargain a táltugud,
    ferr a mbúalad a mbuidechas,110 
    ferr a foimtiu a tairisi,
    ferr a tróethad a turgorud,
    ferr a ndinge a ngrádugud,
“ní bí enech ná anim ná cloth ac neoch contúasi fri drochmná,” ol Cormac fri Carpe.
  1. 115 At tonna notbáidet,
    at tene notloisc,
    at airm dėfáebracha notchloidmet,
    at legaim ar lenamain,
    at nathracha ar túaichli,120 
    at dorcha i soillsi,
    at olca etir maithi,
    at messa etir olcu.



“A húi Chuind, a Chormaic,” ol Carpre, “cia etargén sína?” “Ní hansa,” ol Cormac.

  1. Máthair etha aig,
    athair saille snechta,
    túar fola fleochud,
    túar tedma tart,
    andsom gobél gáeth,
    dech do shínaib ceó,
    ferr a bráthair bróen,10 
    acht do muir ní thorthech torann.


“A húi Chuind, a Chormaic,” ol Carpre, “cid messam trebad?” “Ní hansa. Trebad do ná crenar enech ná anim. Atá araile trebad as messa .i. uic, thuic, beir, tabair!”


Item Cormac ad Carpre.

  1. Ní bága fri ríg,
    ní chomrís fri báeth,
    ní chomthéis fri díbergach,
    ní chomthana fri échtaid,
    ní cria di secht mbáethaib file la Féne,
    .i. di mnái, di chimbid, di mesc, di drúth, di dásachtach, di ardd,
    di arusc,
    nír imthige fri roth ná rout ná roilbe ná romur ná 10 báegul ná ga,
    ní dlútha écnach,
    ní ba thibre dála,
    ní ba bronach cuirmthige,
    ní ba dermatach dála, p.3815 
    ní ba dochoisc,
    ní ba imresnaid fír,
    ní ba aichneich for gói,
    ní ba foss foglaide,
    ní ba chond ugra,20 
    ní ba muine debtha,
    ní ois do beólu do chách,
    ní thairngire ná dotbé,
    ní ba choibchech ar ná ba ̇fíachach,
    ní ba imgonaid ar ná ba mélachtnach,25 
    ní ba chomramach ar ná ba miscnech,
    ní ba imresnaid ar ná ba cennscoilte,
    ní ba garg ar ná ba dobláith,
    ní ba ugrach ar ná ba aitchennach,
    ní ba éitir ar ná ba éslesach,30 
    ní ba cotut ar ná ba dothcherna,
    ní ba rogartaid ar ná ba aithbe,
    ní ba lesc ar ná ba meirb,
    ní ba roescaid ar ná ba dáiscuir,
    ní ba debthach ar ná ba scarthach,35 
    ní ba ráth ar neoch ar ná ba eirse do chomaithech.


“A húi Chuind, a Chormaic,” ol Carpre, “cid as búaine for bith?” “Ní hansa. Fér, umae, ibar.”


“A húi Chuind, a Chormaic,” ol Carpre, “cid as messam do chorp duine?” “Ní hansa,” ar Cormac. “Rosuide, rolige, airissem fota, tócbála tromma, fedmanna ós niurt, élud elta, roretha, roléimenna, tuitmenna mince, coss tar crann siúil, éirimm grib, silliud fri grís, dallchéimmenna, cér, nús, núa corma, tarb, táth, turach, uisce móna,  p.40 mochéirge, úacht, grían, gorta, roól, rosáith, rochotlud, ropheccad, cuma, rith fri hard, gairm fri gáith, beimm ós niurt, tirad, samdrúcht, gamdrúcht, slige luaithred, snám iar sáith, cotlud fóen, 10 deoch mór, baile, báithe.”


“A húi Chuind, a Chormaic,” ol Carpre, “cia messam tacra ⁊ fuigell?” “Ní hansa,” ol Cormac. “Secht comartha deac drochthacra .i.

  1. Frithchathugud fessa,
    attach ndrochbérlai,
    ilar n-athise,
    cathugud cen chomartha,
    rigne labartha,
    folabra n-indsci,10 
    imscoltad ngáise,
    derbad n-inderb,
    dínsem lebar,
    sóud fri nóisi,
    roairde ngotha,15 
    útmaille tacrai,
    sprecad sochuide,
    cathugud cáich,
    a adbchlos fadéin,
    grécha cinn,20 
    luga iar mbreith.


“A húi Chuind, a Chormaic,” ol Carpre, “cia mesam tacra?” “Ní hansa,” ol Cormac. “A báis, a dermatche.”


“A húi Chuind, a Chormaic,” ol Carpre, “cia mesam ái?” “Ní hansa,” ol Cormac. “Ái lugach, ái móeth mall rigin.”



“A húi Chuind, a Chormaic,” ol Carpre, “cia mesam ái airechta?” “Ní hansa,” ol Cormac.

  1. Ái lonn lenamuach fota,
    ái útmaille,
    toiched toll telachtach,
    tacra dían dermatach,
    dúscad ferge,
    fordinge forlonn,10 
    báide báeglaige,
    luige lúatha laimthecha,
    frecra n-ard n-óbéle,
    búaidred n-airechta,
    ainme mbréithre,15 
    lám do sund.


“A húi Chuind, a Chormaic,” ol Carpre, “cia mesam tacra?” “Ní hansa,” ol Cormac.

  1. Tacra cen foglaimm, cen eólus,
    luinde fri heclaimm,
    eclaimm cen dliged,
    tacra cen toga, cen chuindrech, cen astud, cen airbert.


“A húi Chuind, a Chormaic,” ol Carpre, “cia mesam frismbia condelg duit?” “Ní hansa,” ol Cormac.

  1. Fer co n-ainbli cáinti,
    co n-ugra cumaile,
    co foilli con cermna,
    co cubus con,
    col-láim latrainn,
    co nirt tairb,10 
    co n-érgna bretheman,
    co n-ecna airctech amnus, p.44
    co n-erlabra fir sochraid,
    co cuimne senchada,
    co n-airbert comarba,15 
    co luga echthadat,
“os é gáeth gúach líath lond lugach labar a n-asbeir “tairnic, tung, tithis.””


“A húi Chuind, a Chormaic,” ol Carpre, “cia mesam frismbia condelg duit beos?” “Ní hansa,” ol Cormac. “Fer garb serb borb lonn dían dóescair díscir dermatach engach anbal iarngáesach nád ana nech fris, ní ana fri nech. Ní bind lais-sium a n-asbeir nech, ní bind la nech a n-asbeir sium, is e co n-urgairt túaithe ⁊ eclaise.”


“A húi Chuind, a Chormaic,” ol Carpre, “is áil dam-sa co fessur cindas beo itir gáethu ⁊ báethu, itir gnáthu ⁊ ingnathu, itir senu ⁊ ócu, itir engu ⁊ anengu.” “Ní hansa,” ol Cormac.

  1. Ní ba rogáeth, ní ba robáeth,
    ní ba roúallach, ní ba dimbrígach,
    ní ba romórda, ní ba robecda,
    ní ba rolabar, ní ba rothó,
    ní ba rochrúaid, ní ba rothimm,
    Dia mba rogáeth, fritotsáilfider,10 
    dia mba robáeth, nottogáethfaider,
    dia mba roúallach, notdimdaigfaider,
    dia mba robecda, bid dígráid,
    dia mba rolabar, bid dérgna,15 
    dia mba rothó, nitsúilfider,
    dia mba rochrúaid, fordotbrisfider,
    dia mba rothimm, notdreisfider.



“Cest,” ol Carpre, “cindas nombeo?” “Ní hansa,” ol Cormac.

  1. Ba gáeth fri gáis ar ná rottogáitha nech i ngáis,
    ba úallach fri úaill ar ná tucca nech crith fort,
    ba becda fri becdataid a ndéntar do thol,
    ba labar fri labra ...
    ba tó fri tói i n-éitsider aisnéis,
    ba crúaid fri crúas ar náchattarda nech i n-éislis,
    ba móeth fri móithi ar náchatrochru cách.


Cormac beos roráid inso: “

  1. Gáeth cách co reic a ̇forbbai,
    báeth cách co lóg tíre,
    cara cách co fíachu,
    rechtaid cách co lelbu,
    súanach cách co clemnas,
    ferach cách co cresine,
    sochlu cách co áir,
    brugaid cách co eitech,10 
    fénnid cách co trebad,
    amos cách co árus,
    sochonn cách co meisci,
    codnach cách co feirg,
    sognaid cách co fuichecht,15 
    sobraig cách co altrom,
    rúnaid cách co ugra,
    urraid cách co fócra,
    fáilid cách co dona,
    dána cách co hetech,20 
    troigthech cách co cairptech,
    cáid cách ceól co cruit, p.48
    sochraid cách sona,
    dochraid cách dona,
    milsem codalta freislige,25 
    milsem cormae cétdeoch,
    milsem ceól ceól i ndoirche,
    milsem lochta airigid.
Duine óc sochoisc umal erlataid bus léir cubus ⁊ cobais, bid cóem a óitiu, bid sruith a sentu, bid fír a briathar, bid cáid a ̇forgnúis, bid 30 úasal cid ísel, bid sen cid óc, bid maith a ̇forcenn la Día ⁊ duine.”


“A húi Chuind, a Chormaic,” ol Carpre, “cate forus cuitbeda la Féine?” “Ni hansa,” ol Cormac.

  1. Fer sotal im gáis, im dán, im thocad,
    fer suirig míadach máithmech,
    fer lesc lond timm teichmech,
    fer báeth borb brasbríathrach,
    fer fergach forránach forsmachtach,
    fer neóit anfossaid étaid
“coirpetae ecal ocal opunn anfaitech ansercach anraitech imda andíarraid.”


“A húi Chuind, a Chormaic,” ol Carpre, “cia mesam comairge?” “Ní hansa,” ol Cormac. “Comairge béldub becenech renas a grúaid ⁊ a glún ⁊ a lám ⁊ a chích ⁊ a chride ⁊ fír a chlainde ⁊ a cheneóil ⁊ a gaisced.”

  1. Is lomm a díre,
    is toll a eneclann,
    is prap a persannacht,
    is gerr a chuire,
    is seng a snádugud,10 
    ní lugu a lám nách a ordan,
    is fúathledb genaige a delb fiad cach duine,
    is cuitbide cennísel sechip maigen imté ⁊ i mbé.



“A maic, ma contúaisi frim,” ol Cormac, “is é mo chosc duit:”

  1. Ní bad rechtaire duit fer co célib,
    ní bad tairbertaid duit ben co maccaib ⁊ daltaib,
    ní bad rannaire duit fer ilmíanach,
    ní bad muilleóir duit fer il̇fuirig,
    ní bad techtaire duit fer lonn dothengthach,
    ní bad foss duit fer lesc geránach,
    ní bad rúinid duit fer labar,
    ní bad dáilem duit fer somesc,10 
    ní bad dercaid duit fer drochruisc,
    ní bad doraid duit fer serb sotal,
    ní bad brethem duit fer condarcell,
    ní bad túisech duit fer cen eólus,
    ní bad cenn athchomairc duit fer dotcadach.


“A húi Chuind, cid buidre lat rochúala?” “Ní hansa.”

  1. Trú cusa mberar robad,
    nech ara condegar ní nád cara,
    risi mná báithe.


“A húi Chuind, cid as dech do ráithib?” “Ní hansa.”

  1. Gem cáin cuisnech,
    errach tirim gáethach,
    sam tur frossach,
    fogmar tromdrúchtach torthech.


“A húi Chuind, cid mesam lat rochúala?” “Ní hansa.”

  1. Égem iar ngalgait,
    cnet galair,
    banugra eter dá fer.

Document details

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Title statement

Title (uniform): The instructions of King Cormac Mac Airt: Tecosca Cormaic

Author: unknown

Editor: Kuno Meyer

Responsibility statement

Electronic edition compiled by: Beatrix Färber and Beatrix Färber

Proof corrections by: and Beatrix Färber

Funded by: University College, Cork, School of History

Edition statement

1. First draft, revised and corrected.

Extent: 7050 words

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Publisher: CELT: Corpus of Electronic Texts: a project of University College, Cork

Address: College Road, Cork, Ireland — http://www.ucc.ie/celt

Date: 2017

Distributor: CELT online at University College, Cork, Ireland.

CELT document ID: G503001

Availability: Available with prior consent of the CELT programme for purposes of academic research and teaching only.

Source description

Manuscript Sources (see Preface and/or http://www.vanhamel.nl/codecs/Tecosca_Cormaic for details).

  1. Dublin, TCD, MS 1339 (olim H 2. 18), Book of Leinster, pp. 343–345. The text from the Book of Leinster, which is considerably shorter than that edited by Meyer, is available in file G800011F on CELT.
  2. Dublin, RIA, MS 23 P 12 (536), Book of Ballymote, pp. 621–65a.
  3. Dublin, RIA, MS 23 P 2, Book of Lecan, ff. 420r–422r.
  4. Dublin, TCD, MS 1319 (olim H 2. 17), a fragment of the Book of Lecan, pp. 179–180.
  5. Dublin, RIA MS 23 N 10, (Betham 145 967), pp. 1–6.
  6. Dublin, RIA 23 N 27 (966), ff. 7v–16v.
  7. Dublin, RIA 23 O 20 (a transcript of RIA 23 N 27 written in 1828 by John O'Donovan.
  8. Dublin, TCD H. 1. 15 (1289), Psalter of Tara, pp. 149–174.
  9. Dublin, TCD H. 1. 9, (olim H 1.9) p. 59 to end.
  10. Dublin, TCD H. 4. 8.
  11. Edinburgh, NLS, Adv. MS 72.1.7 (Gaelic VII), ff. 9ra–9vb.

Translations and Literature

  1. John O'Donovan, in: Dublin Penny Journal I, 1832–33, pp. 214–15, 231–32 [from H 2. 17].
  2. Rudolf Thurneysen, Zu irischen Handschriften und Litteraturdenkmälern [I], Abhandlungen der kgl. Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften zu Göttingen, Phil.-Hist. Klasse 14.2 (Berlin 1912).
  3. Maxim Fomin, 'A newly discovered fragment of the early Irish wisdom-text Tecosca Cormaic in TCD MS 1298 (H. 2. 7)', in: Piotr Stalmaszczyk, and Maxim Fomin (eds), Dimensions and categories of Celticity: studies in literature and culture. Proceedings of the Fourth International Colloquium of the Learned Association Societas Celto-Slavica held at the University of Lódz between 13–15 September 2009, vol. 2, Studia Celto-Slavica 5, (Lódz 2010) 159–169.
  4. Maxim Fomin, Instructions for kings: secular and clerical images of kingship in early Ireland and ancient India (Heidelberg 2013).

The edition used in the digital edition

‘The instructions of King Cormac Mac Airt: Tecosca Cormaic’ (1909). In: Todd lecture series (Royal Irish Academy)‍ 15. Ed. by Kuno Meyer. v–xii; 2–62.

You can add this reference to your bibliographic database by copying or downloading the following:

  editor 	 = {Kuno Meyer},
  title 	 = {The instructions of King Cormac Mac Airt: Tecosca Cormaic},
  journal 	 = {Todd lecture series (Royal Irish Academy)},
  number 	 = {15},
  address 	 = {Dublin},
  publisher 	 = {Hodges Figgis \& Co},
  date 	 = {1909},
  note 	 = {v–xii; 2–62}


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The electronic edition represents the edited text, pp. v–xii; and even pages 2–50. Notes (52–56) and Glossary (57–62) have been omitted. The English translation is available in a separate file, T503001.

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Normalization: The electronic text represents the edited text. In Meyer's edition, the acute accent is used to mark long vowels. The macron does not appear. Text in Latin is indicated. Variant readings are not recorded in this electronic edition. For these, the reader is referred to the printed edition, for example that available at archive.org. The shorter text version from the Book of Leinster, to which Meyer refers in his introduction and footnotes, is available on CELT in file G800011F, p. 1503ff.

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Profile description

Creation: By (an) unknown Irish author(s). c.800–850

Language usage

  • The text is in Old Irish. (ga)
  • Some words are in Latin. (la)
  • Some words and the footnotes are in English. (en)

Keywords: prose; medieval; wisdom; didactic; speculum principis; mirror for princes

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  1. 2019-06-05: Changes made to div0 type. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  2. 2017-06-14: SGML and HTML files created. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  3. 2017-06-13: Header created, file parsed and validated. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  4. 2017-06-12: Introduction and main text proofed (2). (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  5. 2017-06-08: Main text proofed (1) and encoded. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  6. 2017-06-06: Introduction proofed (2). (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  7. 2017-06-06: Introduction proofed (1) and encoded. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  8. 2017-05: Text captured. (text capture Beatrix Färber)

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  1. For an enumeration of the MSS. in which this text has come down to us, see D'Arbois de Jubainville's Catalogue, p. 41, and add: Additional 33,993 (British Museum), a fifteenth-century vellum, fo. 76-8 a. This is a fragment beginning: Incipit auraiecpt Morainn nó tecusc Morainn for Feradach finnfechtnach. Comerig a Neire nuallgnaith noithint buaid ngaire; and breaking off abruptly with the words: dligid beos cach dotche miscais dligid cach gúbrethach gaire. As to the age of Auraicept Morainn see Strachan's note in his Deponent Verb p. 50. In the Laws sets of legal maxims are ascribed to Morann. See vol. iv, p. 384. 🢀

  2. See the MSS. enumerated in D'Arbois de Jubainville's Catalogue, p.205. For a poetical dialogue between Fíthel and King Cormac see my Hibernica Minora, p. 82. 🢀

  3. Perhaps, árchoin “slaughter-hounds.” 🢀

  4. Perhaps one of the other districts anciently called Ciarraige is meant, such as Ciarraige Ái in co. Roscommon. 🢀

  5. The name of this tribe is preserved in that of the barony of Orrery, in co. Cork. 🢀

  6. King of Ireland from 598-604. 🢀

  7. In the Triads paragraph 45 this tribe is mentioned as one of the three “evils” or “evil ones” of Ireland. 🢀

  8. A warning instance of such blundering is to be found on p. 37d32, where a sentence which stands correctly in LL. p. 354b as follows: Ruman mac Colmain in fili diata síl Rumain i nAth Truim. Tri filid in domain .i. Homer ó Grécaib ⁊ Fergil ó Latinnaib et Rumam ó Gaedelaib, is made into: Rumann mac Colmáin .i. poeta diada síl Rumaind a nAth Truim .i. Hi Aenir oc Craeibh ⁊ Fergil o Laitrib. 🢀

  9. For a brief description of the MS. see Ériu, vol. 1, p. 38, and Triads of Ireland, p. vi. 🢀

  10. I take this opportunity of saying that the copy of the Triads contained in the Kilbride MS. VII, No. 3 of the Edinburgh collection (not III, as stated in my Preface, p. vii), bears a close resemblance to the copies in the Book of Ballymote and in the Book of Húi Maine. A partial collation made by me yielded no important results. I have further found two fragments of the Triads, in 23 N 7 (see above) fo. 1a-6b, beginning ratha Laighnen(paragraph 56), and ending Cetheora aibghitre baoise baoithe condailbe imreasoin doingthe. FINIS. and in C. 2. 3 (R.I.A.), a vellum MS. written in 1552, fo. 13a, beginning Cend Eirenn Ardmacha, and ending tri scenb Hérenn Tulach na n-espoc Achadh Dea Duin mBuirigh (paragraph 106), neither however of much importance. 🢀

  11. As for the various stages in the preparation of alphabetical glossaries see Archiv iii, p. 138. That O'Clery made use of a collection of glosses on our text is shown by such items in his glossary as atach ndroichbhérla (paragraph 22, 5), iomsgoltadh ngaoisi (ib. 10), perhaps also deithide (paragraph 1, 6), collach (paragraph 15, 16), goibhél (paragraph 17, 7) &c. 🢀

  12. The reading of L. 🢀

  13. The reading of D, N2. 🢀

  14. Instead of crimnach. 🢀


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