CELT document T201014

Betha Naile

English Translation

Betha Naile



Once upon a time, a king succeeded to the rule and authority over the two provinces of Munster, to wit, Aengus, son of Nadfraech, son of Corc, son of Lugaid, son of Oilill Flannbec, son of Fiacha Muillethan (thick-neck), son of Eogan Mor (the great), son of Oilill Ólom (crop-ear). And this Aengus succeeded to the full sovereignty of the whole of Leth Mogha (Mogh's half, i.e. Southern Ireland), and reigned over them for thirty-four years. And the consort of this good king was Eithne, daughter of Crimthann the victorious; and it was she who bore to the king the noble offspring, to wit, Eochaid, son of Aengus, who was high king after his father.


Now to this Eithne appeared a strange and wondrous vision. (She dreamed) that she was pregnant, and her delivery imminent, and that of this pregnancy a sturdy dog-whelp was born, which was washed in milk, so that therefrom every quarter and nook in Ireland was filled with milk and lactage.

And the queen started from her sleep at the strangeness of the vision, and roused the king promptly, and they made these stanzas:

  1. 'A vision I saw without guilt,
    O Aengus of the sprightly horses;
    O king of Cliu, whose valour is royal,
    It caused great trouble in my mind.
  2. I saw as a woman heavily pregnant,
    O Aengus of the steady eyes,
    O king of Munster, 'tis a great charter,
    Without change for the space of nine months.
  3. After this I was delivered,
    O sturdy son of Nadfraech;
    And this is what I bore, O white tooth,
    A lusty dog-whelp.
  4.  p.127
  5. It is washed in milk in full measure,
    The whelp with its little swimming;
    So that it filled every region with its liquor
    Of milk throughout all Ireland.'
  6. Said Aengus of the fair skin:
    'Thou shalt bear a son, this will be thy fortune,
    He will fill Ireland without deceit
    With his (ascetic) piety and fair learning.
  7. Patrick conferred a lasting blessing
    On thee and me in strong Cashel,
    When we conveyed the sweet-voiced place
    To great Patrick, son of Calpurn.
  8. He said to thee that thou shouldest bear a son
    To me, O lady of the fair hands,
    That the mouths of all the men of Erin should be full
    Of his piety and fair learning.
  9. O daughter of Crimthann of the tall horses,
    Be joyful, O white and fierce;
    Here is for thee, though fair thy hue,
    The ready interpretation of the vision.'
    A vision.


So then they passed the time of their reign right prosperously, without trouble or lack; and the queen became pregnant, and of her pregnancy was born a notable birth of a son. And when they were minded to take him to be baptised, an angel appeared on the horn of the altar in the presence of them all, and said to them in a loud clear voice: 'Let the name of Naile be given to the young child; for verily this golden candle shall be holy, and everyone will believe on the fair patron saint.'


So then the young child was nurtured after this, and assuredly every word he uttered was full of grace from the royal angel. And at the end of his seven years the steadfast patron saint was assuredly a doctor in the seven liberal sciences owing to his persevering study. And then the angel ordered the weighty clerk to go to Colum Cille in order that a mother church complete p.128 might be consecrated for the young child, and a place in which he might make his abode with his clergy and with his sacred bells.


And Naile set out on this holy errand (or holy instruction) with his retinue of clerks in attendance. Now Colum Cille, son of Feidlimid, son of Fergus Cennfada (long-head), son of Conall Gulban, son of Niall of the Nine Hostages, was then at fresh-featured Inber Naile, reciting his psalms, and chanting his 'Beati' and devoutly praising the Creator, with the clerks of Leth Cuinn (Conn's half, i.e. Northern Ireland) about him, when they saw the slow-stepping bell-hallowed troop approaching them, and a young fresh modest tree in the centre of the clerks to instruct them fairly, and a thousand reverend angels haunting them unfailingly.

And when Colum Cille and his clerks looked on Naile with his noble troop, they fell on their knees before him. And when Naile saw this honour paid to him by the crimson-penned primate of the sweet pater-nosters, he hastily sank on his knees to the ground out of reverence to the lofty patron saint. And they eagerly kissed each other three times, to wit, Colum Cille and Naile; and the clerks also joined in welcoming him; and Colum Cille spake these words:


  1. 'Welcome thy coming from the south,
    O Naile, to our added profit;
    Thou shalt receive, O sweet-voiced saint,
    Our pleasure and our honour.'
  2. Naile answered: 'An angel from heaven enjoined me,
    O devout Colum Cille,
    To beg this abode of thee,
    Wherein my bells and clerks may abide.'
  3. The venerable Colum Cille said:
    'Bless the place in which we are,
    Make a fair pleasant church
    In it, O son of the great king of Munster.'
  4.  p.129
  5. Bright Naile arose
    And Colum Cille, 't was a rule-right word,
    And by them the fair place was blessed,
    Both by the youth and the patron saint.
  6. Naile lifted up his hands,
    And prayed to God right boldly,
    That he might receive food and pleasant drink
    For Colum Cille and his clerks.
  7. Full of fish was the whole strand
    (Mighty was the miracle),
    Full too of red wheat
    The strand; 'twas a cause of great praise.
  8. All the clerks genuflected
    At the sight of the miracle,
    The greatness of his wonders side by side,
    And the youth of the boy.
  9. Inber Naile of the ford
    Is its name till the day of doom.
    'I give it,' said Colum of the sighs,
    'To thee, O Naile, and welcome.'


So then Naile spent part of his life in Inber Naile modestly, piously, devotedly, in mighty works, and he fashioned there a church for labour, and an oratory for hard devotion, wherein to nobly recite his psalm-reading, and to mightily praise his Lord; so that the relation of the mighty works of the saint was a destruction to the great sin and to the misbelief of high Erin.


So then it was at this time and hour that Molaise of Devenish came as venerable high legate, with twelve saints of his household round about him in place of the apostles. Thereupon a dangerous sudden illness seized Molaise on the spot, and he was commending himself to God and the good saints without ceasing. And the clerks said: 'To whom dost thou leave thy place, O great patron saint? or who will act as a divine son to instruct us duly, to blot out our sins, and direct our theology?' p.130 'To whom in sooth should I leave it?' said Molaise, 'save to the steadfast ready-witted tree, and the godly devout candle, even to my disciple and good brother, to wit, Naile the nobly intelligent; and if ye believe not that the clerk has been duly chosen by me and by God, this sweet-voiced intact bell which is under my head will leap into the bosom of the man for whom the place is fitting.'

So then after this mutual discourse, his soul departed from his body, and his soul was carried without doubt to fill up the nine orders of angels. And as they were preparing his funeral rites, and the saints were in bright attendance on him, then came Naile to the place where he (Molaise) was. And while they were there, the sweet-voiced fair wonder-working bell leaped from (under) the head of Molaise in presence of the clerks, and settled on the breast of the holy clerk; and the clerks in greeting him sang:


  1. 'Slow is thy coming after starting on the way,
    O Naile, it is no deceit;
    Thou didst not find in life
    Molaise of Devenish.'
  2. Naile: 'Since my divine master is gone,
    Molaise, who was gentle of rule,
    The head of all Erin's devotion,
    Who was godly, a right good man.'
  3. The clerks: 'He gave a sign to us before his death,
    Molaise, who ne'er spoke false;
    The one on whom his fair bell should light
    Should be our lord on earth.
  4. Our headship to thee, O heavenly saint,
    O Naile of the fresh form;
    Take the lordship over us for a time,
    That our faith may be well-ordered.'
  5. In Devenish of the sweet bells
    Was Naile, as we know right well, p.131
    He came for the space of nine sweet years,
    To order our rule aright.
  6. Great was his devotion and his right,
    His law was divine and consistent;
    His body was sanctified and good,
    Among the clerks of Devenish.
  7. Thankful were the clerks of Leth Cuinn,
    And the saints of slow Leth Mogha,
    For Naile who loved not riches (lit. kine),
    And for his words gentle and slow.

  8. Slow.


Now when Maedoc heard of the many and various miracles of this saint, Naile, and that he was a proper worthy saint in the place of Molaise, he sent messengers to him to confirm the close compact, and to establish the fair faith which had been between Molaise and Maedoc. And this was the definite special place agreed on by the pure patron saints, to wit, the rich bright-gleaming Disert na Topar (Hermitage of the Springs), which is now called Cell Naile (Naile's Church) of the noble judgements, and which had assuredly a further name, Cluain Caem (the Fair Mead) till Dathernoc (Ternoc) occupied the princely place.

So then Naile came with his numerous clergy, and Maedoc with his monks to keep this tryst to the fair church with its wonder-working bell. And Naile took his seat with his numerous clergy on the summit of the high hill, with his back against a pillar-stone above the place. And a mighty thirst seized him on the spot; and he called Flannan, son of Fiachna, son of Fergus, to him, and bade him to go without long delay to ask speedily for a drink. And Flannan went on this errand, and asked a drink of Ternoc for his lord. And Ternoc refused and denied the request, and spoke to this effect: 'As I have produced water by my miracles and mighty works, so the head of the faith and devotion of Leth Cuinn shall do the like.'

And Flannan departed in great perturbation at this answer, and made his report to his master. And Naile was furiously angry at this response, and this is how he was, with p.132 his ever-wonder-working staff erect in his right hand; and he hurled the finely carved staff across three full ploughlands (?), so that it went speedily under the fixed stones of the land. And Naile said furiously: 'Follow my staff, O Flannan, and take with thee my stone-red cup of polished form, and wherever the staff shall enter the ground seek there for water for our patron saints.'

And Flannan set out on this commission, and unhesitatingly took the cup; and this is how he found the staff, stuck in a huge infrangible rock, and a pure-cold stream of blue water burst forth instantly and spontaneously after it. And he dipped the cup into the fair water, and lifted the staff out of the solid earth, and proceeded untiringly to Naile, and related the miracles to the clerks and gave a drink of the good water to Naile. And then Flannan said:

  1. 'O Naile, pleasant is the treasure
    When thou didst find, it is no lie,
    A sunny fountain, as I am sure,
    (Bursting) through a hidden great rock.
  2. Thou didst throw thy fair staff
    From the foot of the pillar stone without anguish
    Across the three full ploughlands beside us;
    Into the earth it went, and remained fixed.
  3. There it raised its head
    From the hidden great rock,
    And the pure sunny water arose
    In its place speedily.'
  4. Naile: 'I leave excellences on my fountain,
    Let each one relate it to the people.
    (It is) equally good for washing and for drinking,
    My fountain with its fair whiteness.
  5. Other excellences I leave on it,'
    Said Naile, 'twas a smoothe story,
    'Fell diseases shall be healed
    By its water irresistibly.
  6.  p.133
  7. Let him wash early at my fountain,
    My erenagh who is affluent of riches;
    A sufficiency of food for hospitality in his time
    He shall receive in his guest-house.
  8. After speedily washing
    Recite a 'Pater' no less speedily.
    My far-famed service will free
    From devils and heinous sins.
  9. Woe to him who outrages my venerable church,
    Woe to any against whom they cry out,
    Woe to him against whom my bells are rung
    Every morning and every evening.
  10. Woe to the man who trespasses on my asylum,
    Woe to him who outrages my temple;
    He shall receive here for a time
    Shortness of life, and hell (hereafter).
  11. I am the fire fiercely burning,
    I am the serpent cruelly restraining;
    Sharper than wounding spear would be
    My clerks and my relics.'
    O Naile.


So then when Ternoc saw these weighty miracles, and Naile furiously punishing him, the patron saint proceeded on his knees from the sunny fountain where he was, to the hill where Naile was with his clerks, and thus addressed him: 'O divine loving tree of fair behaviour, O steadfast pious blazing candle, O royal gracious saint, do not deprive me of heaven through thy great miracles.' Naile answered without bitterness in these words and said: 'I do not deprive thee of heaven, O holy clerk; but I will deprive thee of this place, where thou didst obstinately refuse to us patron-saints (a drink of) cold water. And I leave to thee that to whatever district thou shalt move, and in whatever place thou shalt occupy a church, where its priest shall be preaching, and its good clerks continually praying to God, wolves will be burrowing in thy cemetery, and foxes routing in it with their snouts.'


And Ternoc answered these heavy sayings, and spake thus: 'I leave (to thee) to have no sheep in thy fair church.' Naile replied and said: 'I leave thee jealousy of the keepers of the sheep for their fair fleeces.' 'I leave,' said Ternoc, 'fleas to plague you afresh, and mice to ravage you speedily.' Naile answered and said: 'I relegate the fleas to the dense fens, and the mice to the wide woods.' And Ternoc spake and said: 'I leave the bloom of (only) one night on your rushes.' And Naile said: 'I leave rushes up to the door-posts in the high place; and I leave excellences in the smoothe church, to wit, to be one of the three hearths of most hospitable service in the land of mild miracles, Breifne; to wit, the hearth of my holy church, the great wonder-working hearth of Maedoc, and the ever grace-endowed hearth of Bricin.'

And the saints spoke these stanzas:

  1. Naile: 'O Ternoc, arise and go,
    Leave the place rightfully to me;
    Depart from the pure-hued church,
    Its riches shall not be for thee.'
  2. Ternoc: 'O Naile of the melodious speech,
    No saint is thy peer;
    Unjustly am I being driven eastwards
    From my own proper church.'
  3. Naile: O Ternoc, who art at the cross,
    No piety was it that thou didst,
    To refuse a man in respect of a drink,
    Of the produce of the earth with its flocks.'
  4. 'I leave,' said contentious Ternoc,
    'Defect of sheep here in the south.'
    'You may', said Naile, 'from heaven
    Excellence of clothing and hospitality (will be mine).'
  5. 'Abundance of fleas there, and mice,'
    Said Ternoc then maliciously.
    Said Naile: 'I will destroy them
    In bogs and woods.'
  6.  p.135
  7. 'I leave there,' said fair Ternoc,
    'Bloom of a night on its rushes.',
    There shall be,' said Naile, 'and this is sure,
    Rushes in it up to the door-posts.
  8. I will christen thy smoothe place,
    Cluain Caem was the fort's first name,
    Disert Topair, an easy road,
    Was its name in the time of Ternoc.
  9. Cell Naile, true the cause,
    Shall be its name till doom shall come;
    To me the fair place shall belong,
    For devotion and reciting of canonical hours.
  10. It shall be one of the three fair hearths
    That are most pure in service,
    The fair-turfed hearth of Naile,
    The hearths of Bricin and Maedoc.
  11. Illustrious shall be my melodious place,
    Numerous the clerks in my church,
    Numerous the companies (entertained) in my fair fort,
    And severe will be its devotion.
  12. Woe to anyone who assails my liberty,
    Woe to anyone who brings me into bondage,
    Woe to him who judges me, sharp my spear,
    Woe on whom my resentment shall rest.
  13. Woe to the neighbour who trespasses on my bank,
    Woe to him who injures my grass and my enclosure,
    Hell both for old and young,
    And shortness of life, O Ternoc.'
    O Ternoc.


So then after the confirming of their covenant by Maedoc of the sweet speech and Naile of the fresh form, and after the hasty departure of Ternoc, Naile remained behind ordering the fair church, and levelling its cemetery, and strengthening its oratories, and ennobling its altars, and making ready its monuments, and consolidating its crosses, and cleansing the side of its fountains, so that thereafter it was a church angelic, p.136 golden-belled, heavenly, noble, of sacred beauty, divine, charitable, intelligent, hallowed.


So then there was convened a conference of meeting and consultation of the clerks of the district assuredly, and of the high saints of Lough Erne without doubt. And there came to attend it Tigernach the long-fair-sided, prompt to recite his hours; Ronan of the appropriate speech, graciously acute; Sinell of the mild appearance, prompt in genuflexion; fair Senach of the liberal arts; and Fergus of the clear-judging advocacy; and Comgall the intelligent of the sacred bells, and many other saints in this general council.

And this is the place where the meeting of the fair clerks took place, at the celebrated weir, the spot where lies the stone of Naile, at which baptism was performed without contradiction. So then preparations were made by Naile, the holy saint, and he went briskly towards the saints at the weir of meeting; and the high saints welcomed Naile and his clergy, and extolled his miracles and mighty works, and the great devotion of the holy clerk.


And as they were there, arranging their league, and strengthening their good rule, and being roused by his mighty works, they saw a stalwart triumphant band and a young proper shapely youth at the head of the valiant band, and they greeted the clerks firmly with intelligent speech; and were answered by them fluently in melodious words; and the clerks with one accord asked who that unknown handsome young scion might be. And to these questions answer was made by them, and they said it was the son of Irgalach, son of Eignech, son of Fergus, son of Aed, son of Cormac, son of Cairpre Damairgit (Silver Ox), son of Fecc, son of Degad Dorn, son of Rochaid, son of Colla Fochrich, son of Eochaid Doimlen, son of Cairpre Lifechar, who was there.

And the clerks asked with one accord, what was the cause of their coming with such active promptness, and of their eager errand. And the youth answered this converse with sweet words, and this is what he said: “I put myself on your protection,” said he, “and to meet you have I come; and I am full sixteen years  p.137 old by good reckoning, and from my birth to this steadfast age in which I am, I have never been baptized. And this is my wish, to be baptized (and rescued) from the rough devil, and to be chosen (and brought) to the Trinity.”

And the clerks said that the plan was a fitting one, and that the answer was worthy of a prince. And the clerks asked Sinell the virtuous who without contradiction should perform the baptism, for he was bishop over the noble saints, and was the oldest of the freeborn clerks. And Sinell of the great revenue answered and said that it was most fitting that Naile should do it, because the chief clerk (Naile) had no endowment on the firm land as his revenue, but only the stronghold of his piety protecting him closely. And Naile answered the holy bishop and said that it was himself that the one God had permitted to baptize him firmly.

And envy and strong jealousy possessed the clerks at the baptism being permitted to Naile the modest and melodious. And thereupon there was brought to Naile his fair ever-wonderworking book of baptism, and he recited his effectual lasting lection of baptism over the youth in presence of the high clerks. And he laid hold of his hand-bell and filled it thrice from the fair water of the sunny lake and poured it on the head of the youth, greatly baptizing him; so that this bell of perfect form was the father and ever-illustrious font of baptism to Luan, tending him.

And after this Naile took the youth on his bosom or between his two hands, tending him, and plunged him under the water; and thus did the youth emerge, with a red-spotted salmon in each of his forks, and the saint raised him onto the famous flagstone of Naile. And Flannan, the son of Fiachna, son of Fergus, and the other clerks saw these wonderful works, and Flannan said explicitly: 'Vigorously (luthamail) or worthily has the crimson-cheeked modest-faced blue-eyed offspring emerged from the fair baptism.' And Naile answered these sayings with distinction and said thus: 'Victoriously hast thou named (lit. baptized) the flourishing candle, for Luan shall surely be his name, from the vigour (lúth) which the youth showed at his baptism.'


So then Naile said: p.138

  1. Luan above every child (luan)
    Till doom, though it be difficult;
    King over these clans,
    Until thou shalt oppose me.

As he said:

  1. I grant grace of kingship
    And lordship of land
    To thee, O Luan, henceforth,
    Until thou oppose me by withholding (my dues).

And the youth flushed at this, and said: 'Wherefore should I oppose thee, O holy clerk? ' And Naile said: 'In the withholding of my baptism-penny (fee) from my holy clerks by thyself and thy descendants. ' And Luan said joyfully: 'Set forth thyself diligently whatever is due for good baptism; and let the holy clerks be sureties and witnesses of the tribute from now till doom without contradiction.'

And Naile spoke these words while enumerating the tribute:

  1. Here is the price of thy tending,
    O youthful Luan of the crimson weapons,
    For thy rescue from the rude devil
    To the excellent Trinity;
    And for the kingship of thy mighty race
    Over the borders of many-harboured Erne.
  2. Of thyself and thy descendants
    The bright bell of Naile claims
    At the beginning of every battle
    (To go) before you in very deed.
  3. Your enemies shall not prevail
    Against you in battle or strife for mastery,
    If there be (on you) without contention
    The ringing of my valiant bell.
  4. It will be safe from newly-whetted weapons,
    I myself and my miracles will interpose
    Between you and every blow
    Which is discharged against you from red arms.
  5.  p.139
  6. Maintain my valiant tribute
    To me duly and zealously,
    And your great dominion will not be ruined
    Till the end of this bad age.
  7. Here to thee is the compact tribute
    Which I claim of thy kindreds:
    The first foal of every mare;
    The first pigling of every sow;
    The first calf of every smoothe-horned cow;
    The first lamb of every single sheep;
  8. A full-grown beef of every lasting capture
    In the raids on your neighbours;
    Or if its heavy capture be in (your) land,
    It is a beef of three handfuls which I am wont
    To receive from thee and from thy descendants;
    The fun of a hand in its fair horn,
    The full of a fist in its lasting hoofs,
    The full of a palm in its lasting tail.
  9. I claim also justly
    A (drinking) horn for every stout hoop
    Of vat and compact tun,
    And a sheaf of every (kind of) flourishing wheat;
    A share of distribution thereafter
    To everyone of our noble clergy;
    I claim also with strong evidence
    A roll of butter from every great churning.
  10. I claim a scruple of fair puberty
    From every member of thy families,
    Whether boy or grown maiden;
    A gold penny at the naming of it (i.e. baptism),
    Or six (pence) of refined silver;
    A triumphant marriage scruple
    Is due to me from every good marriage
    Of the seed of Luan the rapid ravager.
  11. I claim an Easter(-due) valiantly
    From every chief of a stalwart nine
    Of thy seed, O youth of the deadly arms;
    Decay and shortness of wretched life p.140
  12. If they refuse this sacred Easter(-due).
    I take Christ as my guarantee,
    O Luan of the swift weapons,
    To thee and to thy children right after thee.
  13. May your great prosperity be greater
    In food and soft clothing,
    In flocks and treasures,
    If my tax is not withholden.
  14. I declare after this,
    If this great tax be annulled,
    I will bring weakness on you
    Throughout the neighbouring territories;
  15. I will bring sharp-threatening hunger,
    And murrain on good herds,
    And dangerous short life
    To women and to youths,
    Unless thou maintain this fair tax
    Which I claim of thy great race.
  16. O Luan, son of Irgalach,
    Here is the price of thy tendance.


After this Naile took the securities of Tigernach, Sinell and Ronan, and every saint who was at the meeting, for the maintenance of the tribute, and if they (i.e. the seed of Luan) should not pay it, they were to rise and help Naile to curse and expel them from the good kingship.


Now this was the hour and time when Colum Cille of the noble devotion had gone to the smooth-bordered country of Alba, to bless it and better it lastingly. And after he had duly replenished the fair Alba, his coracle was steered by Colum Cille in a path as straight as a sword. And he had not been long on the unexplored abyss, when he saw a monster furious, surly, hideously tall, broad-breasted, armed with a sting, hugeheaded, wide-mawed. And a wondrous great fear seized the honourably judging son of Fedlimid at the sight of it. And it made for lofty Colum, for it was minded to swallow with excessive eagerness the coracle with Colum and his clerks.


And Colum Cille prayed earnestly to Senach the ancient smith, for he was mother's son to Colum Cille; and this is how Senach was, with a sparkling flickering charge (of metal) lifted between the strong legs of his tongs. And a warning sign appeared to him at that moment, and it was shown to him, how that the son of his mother was in this great necessity; and he made a cast in the direction of Colum Cille from Doire Brosca to the western ocean between Erin and Alba. And this is the place where the valiant charge lighted, to wit, in the mouth of the monster, and slew it with a single blow.

And Colum Cille prayed God that, as the monster had followed them when alive, so it might follow them after it had been slain to a chief harbour of Ireland. And when Colum and his clerks came into port, the monster came to land at the same time with them. And it was cut up by the clerks, and the charge was extracted from it forthwith. And the charge was taken to Senach to his forge; and he made from it three wonder-working halidoms of great potency, to wit, the Glunan (little knee) of Senach, the Gerr curaig (short thing of the coracle), and the polished carved bell of Naile; for it was the industrious Senach who gave to Tigernach of the long fair sides the noble bell; for it was this which had the name of Tigernach's Glasan (little grey thing). And Tigernach gave the broad bell to Molaise to be in his kitchen on the stone; and in its honour a meal for a hundred would be found in the kitchen. And this was the bell of the bequest and of the pillow, which Molaise had at the time of his death, and was a bird of dignity to Naile, and of his election in place of Molaise in presence of the sacred Lough of Erne; and it became Naile's holy bell thenceforth, as was declared in making known its miracles.

  1. The bell of Naile, great its virus,
    I will tell of its wondrous works on earth;
    Listen to me each one of you,
    While I extol its miracles.
  2. Many the services of its monks
    Both (for) heaven and earth,
    Great the revenue of the proper bell,
    Great its nobleness and honour.
  3.  p.142
  4. Great its inheritance and its right,
    Great its tribute from every race;
    Since Senach made it,
    Great its wondrous works on the earth.
  5. Senach hurled the strong charge
    Towards Colum of the churches,
    The hideous fierce monster died,
    With its naked feet, great head, and blemished body.
  6. The monster follows them to the harbour,
    Colum and his company as they moved;
    It comes forth in their wake, (though) dead,
    After the cast of Senach.
  7. Then was it cut up by Colum,
    The monster with the hideous body;
    He took thence to Senach
    The charge from the breast of the monster.
  8. Three fair halidoms were made
    By Senach from the charge, 'twas gracious,
    Senach's 'Glunan' the first offspring,
    And the strong 'Gerr curaig'.
  9. This bell, the bell of great Naile,
    Is the third relic of them, as appears;
    Here, as is evident to you,
    Are halidoms the most potent on earth.
  10. To Tigernach gave Senach
    The bell, he gave it from the pass(?);
    Tigernach's 'Glasan ' prevalently
    Is its name with everyone in general.
  11. Tigernach gave to Molaise
    The bell, great was its beauty,
    The bell of Molaise's kitchen,
    And the bell which he bequeathed in his sickness.
  12. When it was in the kitchen due,
    The bell which was royal as far as Rome,
    From heaven a meal for a hundred, great its force,
    Would be obtained from it every night.
  13.  p.143
  14. When Molaise died in the south,
    In Devenish with its fair surface,
    Naile is chosen by heaven,
    To him the bell and his clerks are bequeathed.
  15. The bird of great Naile's dignity,
    To the bell it was a fitting name;
    This is the bell which afterwards chose
    Naile on behalf of God the Creator.
  16. To Naile, true the cause,
    Belongs the bell, and shall do till doom;
    This is the truth of it, stern the judgement,
    From Naile to Senach.
  17. A great share of revenue for the bell
    Did Colum Cille then bestow on him there;
    Decline and death to the children of Conall duly,
    Unless they respond to it in honour.
  18. White-footed Tigernach bestowed
    A great share of revenue for his halidoms,
    For the service of strong Tigernach
    In the noble district of Oriel.
  19. Naile took with him thence
    The bell with Molaise's consent,
    And Molaise bequeathed to the bell
    Pre-eminence of honour in his high place.
  20. Brilliant Naile possessed
    The bell according to rule,
    And with it was baptised the full grown Luan,
    The noble son of Irgalach.
  21. The bell was a father of baptism
    To Luan the prince of valour; p.144
    At the weir, great matter of mirth,
    (Were) Sinell and Tigernach.
  22. Luan came with sixteen men
    To seek his baptism, it is no lie,
    Finnachta and Murchad from outside,
    From whom come the lively Clann Murchaid.
  23. The sixteen men were baptised
    By Naile, it is no lie;
    By permission of Tigernach from the sea,
    And of Sinell and Ronan.
  24. Luan performed a victorious movement,
    Renowned of everyone who heard it,
    He had a salmon in each fork
    Both of foot and long hand.
  25. Then said Flannan of the white skin,
    Son of Lugh: ' Thou hast performed a feat.'
    'There shall be upon him,' said noble Naile,
    'From now till doom the name of Luan.'
  26. From this glorious movement that he made,
    The youth, the subject of baptism,
    {} (A line wanting in MS.)
    Equally good to him sea and land.
  27. Naile the heavenly said
    In converse with Luan with magnanimity:
    'Thy slender seed will violate, but do not thou violate,
    My tribute, O most lovely Luan.'
  28. Luan of the fair aspect gazed
    On Naile as he uttered the words:
    'What is this tribute which they will violate,
    My seed, O noble young saint?'
  29. 'I claim of thee and of thy seed
    Thy baptism-fee, great its might,
    A tribute from thee and from thy seed afterwards,
    Kingship as a reward to them thereafter.
  30.  p.145
  31. An Easter(-offering) of them every third year
    Is part of my tribute, right it is to demand it;
    Decline and death to whoever refuses it,
    May he be a chief of nine (only).
  32. A cow or horse to me as its Easter(-offering)
    From the seed of Luan following it
    My bell claims, true is this,
    Clothing of feet and hands following it.
  33. And a scruple of puberty, better my business,
    I claim of them and of their women,
    Six pennies of white silver,
    Or a penny of gold is my due.
  34. A horn of every hoop of the vat
    My monks further claim of them;
    From vat and tun is this,
    A share of distribution in addition to this horn.
  35. A victorious marriage scruple
    I claim of thy children, (as) I have heard;
    Pre-eminence in children and prosperity
    Shall they have, if I leave (them) my blessing.
  36. If my mighty bell curses
    The couple through disgrace,
    They shall both receive without deception
    Shortness of life and hell.
  37. The first increase of every mare belongs to me,
    I claim it from thy seed, it is a strong course;
    I must have from thy race continually
    The first calf of every butting cow.
  38. The first piglet of every pig is due to me,
    Of the seed of Luan of the combats;
    The first lamb of every sheep of quality
    From thy seed belongs to me, O Luan.
  39. The first sheaf of all new wheat
    Belongs to me before it goes into the store; p.146
    In return for this I grant to the wheat
    Prosperity in rick and in kitchen.
  40. A roll of butter out of every churning, of you
    I claim as my tribute of kine;
    In return for this ye shall have of me
    Pre-eminence in milk and in produce.
  41. A beef of three handfuls from every stern raid,
    I claim of your host at least this much;
    This share is my special due,
    Though few may be captured.
  42. Pre-eminence of victory I give in return
    To the host which pays this beast,
    To the men of Lough Erne I grant
    Pre-eminence in battle and in rising.
  43. I will not let them be wounded with spears,
    As long as they maintain the tribute;
    I will not permit pestilence to enter their land,
    Or raid by neighbour land.
  44. I will not permit any hideous disease
    Or any considerable plague;
    As long as they maintain my due tribute,
    I will do them no evil or injustice.
  45. My blessing from now till doom
    On the seed of Luan, true the cause;
    And let them maintain to me my right tribute
    With piety and humanity.
  46. My curse I give unless they maintain
    To me my royal tribute promptly,
    The curse of Sinell, 'tis a lasting vow,
    The curse of Bricin and of Maedoc;
  47. The curse of vigorous Tigernach
    On thy seed, O magnanimous son,
    The curse of bishop Eogan Finn,
    If the tribute which I claim be violated.
  48.  p.147
  49. Good is my company who would avenge wrong,
    Sinell, Senach of the white body,
    Molaise and strong Tigernach,
    Fergus, Ronan and Comgall.
  50. Fainche, and bishop Eogan Mór,
    Bishop Carthainn, and great Lasar;
    Lo, they arise with me here
    To sanctify my protection.
  51. Great Maedoc is my guarantee,
    Christ is surety between us twice over,
    That herein we may thus fulfil it,
    As long as sun rises over earth.
  52. To my bell belongs Breifne of the roads,
    It is equal to the halidoms of Maedoc;
    Maedoc granted me, and this is sure,
    A circuit every year to my clerks.
  53. Maedoc in his place laid a curse
    On every man of Breifne who should do ill to me,
    To my bell or to my church in the east,
    By way of maintaining their covenant.
  54. Every one of them who shall not protect me,
    Of the men of Breifne, lasting their force,
    I will give to them, and so will Maedoc of the halidoms,
    Shortness of life and hell.
  55. The seed of Luan and the noble men of Breifne.
    That to our clerks should be equally just
    That the seed of Luan should have many hosts,
    I promised with noble Maedoc
  56. Our covenant cannot be changed,
    Our contest cannot be withstood,
    Our household cannot be resisted,
    Mine, and magnanimous Maedoc's.
  57. Molaise strengthened first of all
    This covenant through guidance;
    I strengthened afterwards
    With Maedoc the firmness of our covenant.
  58.  p.148
  59. Friendly Bricin promised to me,
    And (so did) Maedoc of the great assemblies,
    Destruction on the men of Breifne of every territory
    For outraging my asylum.'
  60. Said Luan of the white body:
    'What one of my seed does thee ill,
    When thy fair tribute is violated,
    O gentle gracious Naile?'
  61. 'A son shall be born of thee, O noble fair one,
    O lofty Luan of the pleasant arms,
    Cernach (victorious) is his name pursuing raids,
    Seven sons has Cernach.
  62. Some of them will do my will,
    The children of Cernach, who shall be a royal succession;
    (But) by them will the hard tribute be violated,
    By some of the red-sworded progeny.
  63. Stephen, Dalach, lasting their grace,
    Virgil and proud Odar,
    Four heroes of great valour,
    They maintain my fitting tribute.
  64. Maelduin and Caeman the brave
    Will violate my civic (i.e. monastic) tribute;
    They shall receive from me for the matter,
    Disgrace of offspring and of fortune.
  65. I curse from now till doom
    The seed of Maelduin, true the cause;
    Let there not be bom of it, 'tis a right course,
    Anyone to whom belongs country or assembly.
  66. The seed of curly-haired Caeman will make
    An utter destruction of my tribute;
    I will expel them from Magh Lemna
    By (my) curse into Munster.
  67. Cernach will have a son assuredly,
    He will be king without opposition; p.149
    Odar will be his name at his house,
    Of whom will be born the family of Odar.
  68. His seed will inherit the strong kingship,
    They will maintain my tribute for a time;
    I will deprive them of the kingship for the matter,
    When they cease to maintain my tribute.
  69. When my hard tribute is violated,
    Let all my hosts assemble,
    Let them come with me as shields from their homes,
    The maintainers of my covenant.
  70. Let my bells be rung as a shield
    Against the seed of Luan, stern is their misery,
    And the bells of firm Sinell,
    And the bells of white-sided Tigernach.
  71. Let the bells of Molaise be rung then,
    Of Ronan, and Fainche the energetic,
    Against the seed of Luan vigorously,
    To expel them from their fair kingship.
  72. They shall not sit in their illustrious kingship,
    The offspring of Luan, though lively their succession;
    They shall not receive hereafter duly
    Kingship over-country or assembly.
  73. I will be a serpent destroying hosts,
    I am a fire of blood-red coal,
    I am a lion destroying cattle,
    I am a bear for courage.
  74. I am the bear of royal succession,
    I am great lordly Naile;
    To those who injure me, 'tis a strong course,
    Shall be shortness of life and hell.
  75. I am the son of the king of great Munster,
    I am the casket of the scriptures,
    I am the one most potent in couch and place,
    I am the saint chiefest for noble bell.'
    The bell.



So then after the bell-hallowed meeting was dissolved, and the clerks had departed from the conference, it befell that a palatable feast was prepared by the pious assiduous Ronan, for Tigernach, son of Cairpre of the noble devotion, and the other clerks. And the clerks went to partake of the feast; and couches were set for the clerks in costly chambers. And the dispenser of the glittering feast was black-browed Murchad of whom are the family of Murchad. So then the banquet was carved by Murchad, (and distributed) to the clerks.

And it chanced that Naile and his company of clerks were not remembered. And it occurred to Luan and to Murchad that Naile and his clerks had been carelessly forgotten. And when Naile heard that he had been forgotten in the matter of this good feast, the steadfast, cautious, wise, true-judging tree, and the pious, loving, humane spirit was angry and furious; for he did not think that even a small portion of his tax or tribute would be maintained to his bells or his clerks after him, if it were violated so early as this.

So then the clerks arose together, and Luan went speedily towards him, and they were fearful and terrified, crushed and disordered, both clerks and valiant laymen, bishop and high saint, priest and psalm-singer, youth and grown maiden, for dread of his swift curse. So then Luan proceeded quickly on his knees to Naile; and Tigernach began to soothe the great anger of the holy clerk, and to relate how that it was not Luan who was the full culprit, but Murchad who had greatly forgotten him.

And Naile said without delay: 'I curse that Murchad with his descendants; defect of carving on his carving, and on himself, and on his families after him.' And Luan said right promptly: 'The decision of Tigernach shall be accepted right promptly by myself, and by my family after me.' And Naile said that he would accept the judgement of Tigernach in the matter. And this was the judgement which Tigernach pronounced to Naile in this cause: a tithe of the banquet and a tithe of all hospitality outside his chief place from himself (i.e. Luan), and from his family after him, to Naile, and to his chief relics after him. And as part of the same agreements, protection for the red hand (i.e. murderer) to his asylum and to his bellhalidoms.



Document details

The TEI Header

File description

Title statement

Title (uniform): Life of Naile

Title (original, Irish): Betha Naile

Title (supplementary): English Translation

Editor: Charles Plummer

Responsibility statement

translated by: Charles Plummer and Benjamin Hazard

Electronic edition compiled by: and Benjamin Hazard

Funded by: University College, Cork and The Higher Education Authority via the LDT Project at CELT

Edition statement

2. Second draft.

Extent: 8830 words

Publication statement

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

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

Date: 2005

Date: 2008

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

CELT document ID: T202014

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

Source description

Manuscript sources

  • Bruxelles, Bibliothèque Royale, O'Clery numbers MS Br. 4190–4200, fo. 129–142. For details see J. Van den Gheyn, Catalogue des manuscrits de la Bibliothèque Royale de Belgique, Bruxelles 1906–1948 (13 vols.); vol. 5.


  • Charles Plummer, Miscellanea Hagiographica Hibernica: vitae adhuc ineditae sanctorum Mac Creiche, Naile, Cranat (Subsidia Hagiographica 15) Bruxelles 1925. Life of Naile ed. with transl. from Br. 4190–4200, fo. 129–142: 97–155.

Further reading

  1. Eugene O'Curry, On the manners and customs of the Ancient Irish, (Dublin 1873) vol. 3, 44.
  2. Charles Plummer, Vitae Sanctorum Hiberniae, Tom. I-II, 8vo (Oxford 1910).
  3. Felim Ó Briain, Miracles in the lives of the Irish saints, Irish Eccelsiastical Record 66 (1945) 331–42.
  4. D. D. C. Pochin-Mould, Ireland of the saints (London 1953).
  5. Nora K. Chadwick, The age of saints in the early celtic church (London 1961) [Riddell memorial lectures, 32nd series, University of Durham 1960].
  6. Kathleen Hughes, The church and the world in early Christian Ireland, Irish Historical Studies 13 1962/63 (1963) 99–116.
  7. Kathleen Hughes, The church in early Irish society (London 1966).
  8. James F. Kenney, The sources for the early history of Ireland: ecclesiastical, an introduction and guide (Shannon 1968, repr. of 1929 ed.) corrections and additions, and preface, by Ludwig Bieler.
  9. James Doan, A structural approach to celtic saints' lives, in: Patrick K. Ford (ed.), Celtic folklore and Christianity: studies in memory of William W. Heist, 16-28 (Los Angeles 1983).
  10. Kim McCone, An introduction to early Irish saints' lives, Maynooth Review 11 (1984) 26–59.
  11. Daniel F. Melia, Irish saints' lives as historical sources, in: Glanmor Williams and Robert Owen Jones (eds.), The celts and the Renaissance: tradition and innovation. Proceedings of the Eighth International Congress of Celtic Studies, held at Swansea, 19-24 July 1987 (Cardiff: University of Wales Press 1990).
  12. Laurence Flanagan, A chronicle of Irish saints (Belfast 1990).
  13. Dorothy Ann Bray, A list of motifs in the lives of the early Irish saints, Folklore Fellows Communications 252 (Helsinki: Academia Scientiarum Fennica, 1992).
  14. Review of D. A. Bray. (1) Dorothy Africa, Speculum 71 (1996) 129–132.
  15. Review of D. A. Bray. (2) Clare Stancliffe, Cambrian Medieval Celtic Studies 31 (Summer 1996) 73–75.
  16. Review of D. A. Bray. (3) Caoimhín Breatnach, Éigse 31 (1999) 200–202.
  17. Review of D. A. Bray. (4) Dáibhí Ó hÓgain, Béaloideas: The Journal of the Folklore of Ireland Society 67 (1999) 194–196.

The edition used in the digital edition

Plummer, Charles, ed. (1925). Miscellanea Hagiographica Hibernica‍. 1st ed. cxx + 288 pp. Brussels: Société des Bollandistes.

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

  title 	 = {Miscellanea Hagiographica Hibernica},
  editor 	 = {Charles Plummer},
  edition 	 = {1},
  note 	 = {cxx + 288 pp.},
  publisher 	 = {Société des Bollandistes},
  address 	 = {Brussels},
  date 	 = {1925}


Encoding description

Project description: CELT: Corpus of Electronic Texts

Sampling declarations

The present text represents pages 126–51 of the volume. The original Irish is available in a separate file.

Editorial declarations

Correction: Text proofread twice. Text supplied by the editor is tagged sup resp="CP".

Quotation: Direct speech is not not tagged.

Hyphenation: Soft hyphens are silently removed. When a hyphenated word (hard or soft) crosses a page-break, this break is marked after the completion of the hyphenated word.

Segmentation: div0=the saint's life; div1=the individual saint's Life or religious text; page-breaks and paragraphs are marked. Passages in verse are marked by poem and stanza.

Standard values: Dates are standardized in the ISO form yyyy-mm-dd.

Interpretation: Personal names, group and place names are not tagged.

Reference declaration

A canonical reference to a location in this text should be made using “section”, eg section 1.

Profile description

Creation: Translation by Charles Plummer.

Date: c.1924

Language usage

  • The translation is in English. (en)
  • Some words in Irish are retained. (ga)
  • Some words in Latin are retained. (la)

Keywords: religious; prose; medieval; Saint's Life; Naile; translation

Revision description

(Most recent first)

  1. 2010-11-14: New wordcount made. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  2. 2008-10-23: Keywords added; file validated, title elements streamlined. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  3. 2005-08-25: Normalised language codes and edited langUsage for XML conversion (ed. Julianne Nyhan)
  4. 2005-08-04T16:39:36+0100: Converted to XML (ed. Peter Flynn)
  5. 2005-02-08: Translation scanned and proof-read (1). (Data capture Benjamin Hazard)
  6. 2004-02-08: Text proofed (2); structural markup applied; header inserted and adapted from companion file. File parsed and HTML file created. (ed. Benjamin Hazard)

Index to all documents

Standardisation of values

CELT Project Contacts



For details of the markup, see the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI)

page of the print edition

folio of the manuscript

numbered division

 999 line number of the print edition (in grey: interpolated)

underlining: text supplied, added, or expanded editorially

italics: foreign words; corrections (hover to view); document titles

bold: lemmata (hover for readings)

wavy underlining: scribal additions in another hand; hand shifts flagged with (hover to view)

TEI markup for which a representation has not yet been decided is shown in red: comments and suggestions are welcome.

Other languages

G201014: Betha Naile (in Irish)

Source document


Search CELT

  1. In the house of the friars on the Drowes this fragment of the Life of Naile was copied from an old obscure book beloging to Niall Mergech (of the banners), son of Mac Sweeny of Banagh, on the 29th of January 1629. The poor friar Michael wrote it. 🢀


2 Carrigside, College Road, Cork