CELT document T301042

Scél Baili Binnbérlaig


In his Appendix to his Lectures on the MS. Materials of Ancient Irish History, pp. 472–475, O'Curry has published and translated the story of Baile Binnbérlach from H. 3. 18, p. 47. The same text is found in the British Museum MS Harl. 5280, fo. 48a; with this difference that for many ordinary Irish words (gnáthfhocla) of H. 3. 18, Latin, Hebrew, and archaic Irish words have been substituted. We have here, in fact, an instructive example of that delight in obscure modes of diction, which Irish poetry so often shows in its use of kennings, extinct forms of language, antiquated native, and  p.221 lastly even foreign words. We know that a regular training in the use of such expressions formed part of the curriculum of the aspiring fili, and I think that it was these various modes of expression that were comprehended under the name of bérla na filed “the language or dialect of the poets”, which the young fili, then called anroth, was required to master in the sixth year of his apprenticeship. See Thurneysen, Irische Texte, vol. III, I, p. 38. An amusing example of the use of such language occurs in Cormac's Glossary, s.v. lethech.

While in a literary point of view the use of the incongruous elements, misplaced fragments of learning, only serves to mar a pretty tale, it supplies the modern student with some valuable linguistic material. For this reason I have thought it worth while to publish the following text. I add a translation and a glossary of the old and rare words.


Edited by Kuno Meyer

Whole text

The story of Baile the Sweet-spoken


Baile the sweet-spoken, son of Buan. Three grandsons had Caba, son of Cing, son of Ross, son of Rugraide: Monach and Buan and Fercorb, de quibus Dál m-Buain, and Dál Cuirb and Monaig Arad. Buan's only son was Baile. He was the special love of Ailinn, daughter of Lugaid, son of Fergus of the Sea; or of the daughter of Eogan, son of Dathi; and he was the special amour of every one who saw him or heard of him, both men and women, on account of the tales about him. And they (he and Ailinn) agreed to meet in a love-tryste, at Ross na Ríg, at the house of Maelduib, on the brink of the Boyne in Breg.

 10The man (Baile) came from the north to meet her, from Emain Macha, across Sliabh Fuaid, over Murthemne to Tráig Baili. They unyoked their chariots and put their horses on the turf to graze. And there was glee and merry-making.

 14 As they were there, they saw a horrible apparition(?) of a man coming towards them from the south. Fitful was his course and his approach. He sped over the earth like the darting of a hawk from a cliff, or the wind from the green sea. His left was towards the land.

 17“To him!” said Baile, “and ask him whither he goes or whence he comes, or what is the cause of his haste.”

 19“To Tuaig-Inber I am going and back northward now from Mount Leinster, and I have 1 no news but that the daughter of Lugaid, son of Fergus, has given love to Baile, son of Buan, and was coming to meet him, when the warriors of Leinster overtook her and killed her, as druids and good seers foretold of them, that they would not meet in life, and that they would meet after their deaths, never to part. This is my news.” And he went from them after that, and they were not able to detain him.

 26When Baile heard that, he falls dead without life; and  p.225 his tomb is raised and his rath, his stone is put up and his funeral games are held by the men of Ulster. And a yew grew up through his grave, and on its top the form and shape of Baile's head was visible. Hence it is called Tráig Baili.

 31The the same man went southward to the place where was the maiden Aillinn, and went into the bower. “Whence cometh he whom we know not?” said the maiden. “From the north of Erin, from Tuaig-Inber, and past this place to Mount Leinster.” “Hast thou news?” said the maiden. “I have no news worth lamenting here, but by the side of Tráig Baili I saw the men of Ulster at funeral games, digging a rath and placing a stone and writing the name of Baile, son of Buan, the royal heir of Ulster, who was coming to meet a sweetheart and lady-love to whom he had given love; for it is not their fate to meet in life, not that one of them should see the other alive.” He darted out when he had completed his evil tale. Aillinn fell dead without life, and her grave is dug, etc.

 42And an apple-tree grew through her grave and was a large tree at the end of the seventh year, and the shape of Aillinn's head on its top. At the end of seven years princes and seers and prophets cut down the yew which was over Baile and make a poet's tablet of it; and the are written in it. In the same manner the wooings of Leinster are written in the tablet (made of the tree that grew on Aillinn's grave).

 49The came Halloween, and its feast was made by Cormac, son of Art. Poets and men of every art came to that feast, as was the custom, and they brought their tablets with them. And Art saw them and when he saw them he asked for them. And the two tablets were brought to him, and they were in his hands face to face. The one tablet of them sprang upon the other, and they twined together as the woodbine round a branch, nor was it possible to sever them. And they were (kept) like any other jewel in the treasury at Tara, until Dunlang, son of Enna, burnt it when he slew the maidens. Hence said the poet etc. 2


  1. The apple tree of noble Aillinn
    the yew of Baile,—small inheritance—
    Although they are introduced into poems,
    They are not understood by unlearned people.

“And the daughter of Cormac, the grandson of Conn, said:—”

  1. What I liken Aluime to,
    Is to the yew of Ráith Baile,
    What I liken the other to,
    Is to the apple tree of Aillinn.


“Fland mac Lonan dixit:—”

  1. Let Cormac decide with proper sense,
    So that he be envied by the hosts;
    Let him remember,—the illustrious saint,—
    The tree of the strand of Baile Mac Buain.
  2. There grew up a tree under which companies could sport,
    With the form of his face set out on its clustering top;
    When he was betrayed, truth was betrayed,—
    It is in that same way they betray Cormac.

“Cormac dixit:—”
Here was entombed the son of White Buan.

Document details

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File description

Title statement

Title (uniform): Scél Baili Binnbérlaig

Author: unknown

Editor: Kuno Meyer

Responsibility statement

Translated by: Kuno Meyer, Beatrix Färber, and Beatrix Färber

Electronic edition compiled by: Beatrix Färber, and Beatrix Färber

Proof corrections by: and Beatrix Färber

Funded by: The HEA via PRTLI 4

Edition statement

2. Second draft, revised and corrected.

Extent: 1670 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: 2009

Date: 2010

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

CELT document ID: T301042

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

Source description

Manuscript source for the Irish text

  • London, British Library, MS Harl. 5280, fo. 48a–b.


  1. Eugen O'Curry, Lectures on the Manuscript Materials of Ancient Irish History, Dublin 1861, 465–468.
  2. Vernam Hull, The Text of Baile Binnbérlach mac Buain from MS 23. N. 10 of the Royal Irish Academy, The Journal of Celtic Studies 1 (1950) 94–97.

The edition used in the digital edition

‘Scél Baili Binnbérlaig’ (1892). In: Revue Celtique‍ 13. Ed. by Kuno Meyer, pp. 220–225.

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

  editor 	 = {Kuno Meyer},
  title 	 = {Scél Baili Binnbérlaig},
  journal 	 = {Revue Celtique},
  number 	 = {13},
  address 	 = {Paris},
  publisher 	 = {Émile Bouillon},
  date 	 = {1892},
  pages 	 = {220–225}


Encoding description

Project description: CELT: Corpus of Electronic Texts

Sampling declarations

The electronic text covers pages 220–221 and 224–225. O'Curry's translation of the poem is integrated with minor editorial changes.

Editorial declarations

Correction: Text has been proof-read twice.

Normalization: The electronic text represents the edited text including footnotes.

Quotation: Quotations are rendered q.

Hyphenation: When a hyphenated word (hard or soft) crosses a page-break, the page-break is marked after the completion of the hyphenated word (and punctuation).

Segmentation: div0=the tale.

Interpretation: Names of persons (given names) and places are not tagged.

Profile description

Creation: Translation by Kuno Meyer

Date: 1892

Language usage

  • Introduction and translation are in English. (en)
  • Some words are in Middle Irish. (ga)
  • Some words are in Latin. (la)

Keywords: saga; prose; medieval; Kings Cycle; translation

Revision description

(Most recent first)

  1. 2010-03-22: File proofed (2); place-names encoded; new wordcount made. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  2. 2009-05-25: File proofed (1); introduction and content of footnotes added; text encoded for structure and content. Header created; file parsed; SGML and HTML files created. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  3. 2009-05-25: Text keyed in. (text capture Beatrix Färber)

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G301042: Scél Baili Binnbérlaig (in Irish)

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  1. lit. “we have” (ni-n-tha). 🢀

  2. For a translation of these verses see O'Curry, MS Mat, p. 466. 🢀


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