CELT document T502003

The Scholar's Primer



The Handbook of the Learned, here edited for the first time, is a work that opens up many questions.

Éces is often equivalent to fili. Filidecht covered the whole field of poetry, romance, history, biography, geography, grammar, antiquities, and law. The poet-jurist, who, seated, gave judgments in verse, is probably referred to at lines 407,8. The Auraicept treats chiefly of the Ogham alphabet and grammar, but if the Trefhocul be included, it treats also of poetry in the strict sense.

The poets,filid, were a guild, making their own special laws,and exercising discipline upon their own members (2193). They claimed and used the right to quarter themselves and their retinue upon society (2221), and they exacted a fixed sum for their poetic compositions. In general this was cheerfully paid; the means for enforcing unwilling payment was satire. The exercise of this potent weapon was moderated by rule (1935), certain forms of satire, such as tamall n-aire (1932), being forbidden in the Trefhocul; and though the poets have been abolished by law for over a century, even at this day in certain districts the phrase, dheanamh aoir air, to satirise one, is not without its terrors.

The poets were a secret society with a language peculiar and intelligible to themselves only. According to their literary tradition Fenius, at their request, devised this language for them (195), and its obscurity was essential (21).  p.xx The people often rose up against the poets and attempted to repudiate their claims. One such rising was that at Drumketta, A.D. 590 (1472). About that time they numbered 15,000. Owing to the advocacy of St Columba, himself a fili, they were suffered to continue, but under restrictions.

The filid were a strictly professional class, undergoing a rigorous training to fit them for their position. The bards, on the other hand, were unprofessional, and more or less untrained, but they practised a large number of metres in which the filid also were required to become proficient.

The following tables (cf. the later scheme in Joyce's Social Hist., i. 430), will show what place the Auraicept occupied in their studies.

The Fili, his Rank, Name, and Compositions, with the Rewards therefor, and his Retinue (2219–2254).

RankNameMetreRewardRetinue at feastsRet. on circuitRet. ordinarilyRet. at poetic feasts/contests
I.ollamanamaina chariot (=one bondmaid)2481210
II.anradnathfive cows12658
III.clíanairfour cows8546
IV.canoemainone horse (=two cows)6324
V.dossláidone milch cow4213
VI.macfuirmidsetradone cow-in-calf3112
VII.foclócdíanone three-year-old heifer1111(?)


The Yearly Studies of the Fili.
Each year included the studies of all preceding years.

YearNameStudies covered
1foclócl. oghum, besides regular oghum; the Auraicept with its prologue and with its flexions; l. drécht, vi. dían.
2macfuirmidl. oghum, besides usual oghum; vi. detailed lessons of filidecht; xxx. drécht; x. setrada, senamain, and snaithe senamna.
3dossl. oghum, besides ebadach nIlmain; vi. other detailed lessons of filidecht; xl. drécht; xvi. láid.
4canol. drécht; l. bretha nemid; xx. emain.
5clílx. drécht; xxx. anair; xxx. iarmberla.
6anradlxx. drécht; lxxx. nath mór; lxxx. nath becc ⁊ berla na filed.
7ollambrosnacha suad, i.e. the bard metres which the poet ought to know, for that is the poet's lesson of the seventh year; e.g. l. divisions of brosnacha, i.e. dechnad mór, and two species of nedchnad mór are there reckoned, viz. sned and trebrad.
8...fiscomarca filed .i. dúili berla ⁊ clethchor choem ⁊ reicne roscadach ⁊ láide .i. tenmláida ⁊ immas forosnai ⁊ dichetal do chennaib na tuaithe ⁊ dinshenchus, and all the principal tales of Ireland in order to relate them to the kings, lords, and gentlemen. For the fili is not yet perfect.
9, 10...xl. sennath .i.; xv. luasca ⁊ vii. ena; eochraid of lx. words with metres and xiv. srotha and vi. dúili feda.
11...l. anamain mór l. anamain becc.
12...cxx. rochetal; iiii. cerda, i. e. cerd of Ladchend mic Bairchida, ⁊ cerd hi Chota ⁊ cerd hui Bicni, ⁊ cerd Béci.


A brief study of the Auraicept is sufficient to convince one that the leading extraneous source is the Latin Grammarians. Some of them are cited by name, Priscian (A.D. 450), Donatus (A.D. 350), Pompeius, and Consentius.

If it be urged that the quotations from these authors are a late addition to the Auraicept by way of learned illustration, it is answered that in any case the general setting of the matter follows closely the didactic style of the grammarians, as the following examples, occurring passim, will show:—
Quaestio est, Gr. Lat. v. 537, 16, 29; 541, 20, 32.
cest, Aur. 9, 57.
Ouaesitum est, v. 228, 18,
Quaeritur, v. 165, 27; 210, 38,
De qua quaeritur, Origg, xvi. 10, 2
conagar, Aur. 1019, 1375.
ut sciam, v. 195, 19.
ut scias, v. 121, 15, 18; 173, 18: co fesear, Aur. 1577.
ut sciamus, v. 10, 16.
sciendum est, v. 180, 32: is soigti Aur. 3508, is fisid 3523.
scire debemus, v. 277, 30.
scire debes, v. 142, 15.

The matter itself of the Auraicept is largely identical with that treated of by the Latin Grammarians in their early chapters—the alphabet, classification of letters, sounds and syllables, consonant and vowel changes, gender and declension of nouns, comparison of adjectives, prepositions governing dative and accusative cases, the accent, artificial and natural, genus and species, and a few other incidental points. The omissions are almost equally significant. There is no classification of declensions, no declension of adjectives which are tacitly included with the substantives, no treatment of pronouns except as tokens of gender (aurlonn, 585), or as emphasised by féin = met (726), and  p.xxiii the whole accidence of the verb is wanting. The similarity between Latin and Gaelic failed at this point. The paradigm of the verb is tentative and native (304, 653). An endeavour is made to show that, while there is a correspondence in meaning between the two languages, Gaelic is the more comprehensive (1081).

The language is Middle Irish, but the basis, which has been much worked over, all belongs to the Old Irish period.

The composition consists of Text and Commentary, the latter forming the great bulk of the work. The text is the oldest portion; the commentary, in parts as old as the text, was in a process of continuous growth. The text, written in a large hand in most MSS., is printed in leaded type. BB, here followed, curtails the text. The Book of Lecan and T. make a much larger delineation of text. The question as to what is text and what is commentary will require further study for a satisfactory solution, but it may be here remarked that much of the primary material is embodied in the tract in the ordinary hand of the commentary so as to be indistinguishable from the commentary at sight, and that the commentary itself occasionally points to the text by the use of such expressions as Cid ara tuc-somh (97), Cid ara n-ebairt (378, 484, 512, 385), intan roraidh (421), ata acht lem (2973), amal asbert i curp in libuir (173, 241) where corp in libuir always means the text of the book under comment.

Another but a rather uncertain criterion is this. A passage which does not occur by way of commentary on any previous quotation, but which is itself made the subject of commentary, is in a sense primary material, though not necessarily so old as the principal text on which the commentary is written.

The use of conagar is generally to introduce commentary even though the passage so introduced is itself subjected to  p.xxiv comment. In a word, there is a primary commentary used to explain the original text, and a secondary commentary developing the content of the primary commentary (e.g., 1072 on 1068, 1637 on 1515). The etymological glosswork belongs to this last stage, and is incorporated without any regard to the context. The language even of the commentary is based on Old Irish usage. It explicitly recognises three genders in substantives and pronouns. In it airdíbdad (1264) means the silencing of the consonants, f and s. In later usage this term becomes airdibad, urdubad (uirdhiughadh, O'Molloy, Grammatica Latino-Hibernica 61), and denotes eclipsis, obnubilatio. The tract before us takes no account of eclipsis. At the time the tract was written the combinations mb, nd, had evidently not yet become assimilated (but cf. Nembroth, Nemruad). For, if such assimilations had taken place, an account would have been given of the phenomenon under such questions as “What two consonants have the force of one consonant?” (1375).

As regards ng initial, the evidence is not so clear. The nasal infection may have produced (ng+g) and not ng simply (255). On the other hand the combination is an Ogham letter (442)—but even vowels of diphthongs were pronounced separately (1430)—and is, considered along with the example, uingi (4926), curiously suggestive of:
NT. ‘N Latinum adiuncto Gamma Graeco significat semiunciam.’ (Origg. xvi. 27, 4.)
The scheme of declension, also, distinguishes clearly between dative and accusative after prepositions (1651, 1770), a distinction not uniformly or often observed in Middle Irish, though a much later tract draws a distinction between acc. after a preposition importing motion, siubhal, and dat. after a preposition importing rest, comhnaidhe  p.xxv (Ériu, 8. 17, § 72, 73). This last, however, may be merely a grammatical recrudescence, or an imitation of Latin.

A few sporadic examples of Old Irish are here added:—
1. The article.
nominative plural m. in muite 447, in taebomna tuissecha 918, in tri focail 2018, but ainm n., has art. nominative plural m. ind anmanda 4828.
nominative plural f. inna iiii. aipgitri-sea 1132. For article developed from projected n., v. condelc, etargoire n-inchoisc 647, in incoisc 641.

2. NOUN Stems.
A. o-stems:
nominative plural n. araile crand 1149.
B. io-stems:
nominative singular n. a mberla sain 1044. dative singular oc nach ailiu 1044; accusative singular fria araill 3106, ar araill 5613; gan araill 3105.
nominative singular ⁊ araill 3410; 'nas i n-aill 1272. quam i n-aill 4593, 4579 no da fhir-inaill 338.
C. n-stem:
gach reim n-olc 2177.
3. NUMERALS: teora, ceitheora 4708, 3747, cf. 872.
4. THE Verb: ailsius 5319, adrodamas 135; copula verb, arnid 693, nadat 4588.

As to the native elements, we are told that Cenn Faelad—in English Kinealy—wrote the Prologue (80). As this preface is not likely to have been omitted by the compilers of the extant tract, one concludes that this must be the actual introduction (1–62). This view is confirmed by the displacement in version ii. of the section (63–78) which is the work of a ommentator of Cenn Faelad; also by the particle tra in the first sentence quoted from Cenn Faelad, which follows the introduction in both versions.


There are four authors of the Auraicept proper, Cenn Faelad, Ferchertne, Amergen, and Fenius.

The excerpts from the Book of Cenn Faelad deal with:
The origin of Gaelic (100).
Divisions of the Latin alphabet (312), and of the Irish alphabet (392),
Latin and Irish treatment of semivowels contrasted (445).
Genders in Irish (520).
Degrees of comparison in Latin, and qualitative and quantitative distinctions in Irish (639).

The excerpts from the Book of Ferchertne deal with:
The seven elements of speech in Irish (739), and The formation and powers of Ogham letters (943).

There is a long excerpt from the Book of Amergen dealing with: the origin of Goedelg (1034). This passage is of earher date and language than the general run of the tract. In substance it is an alternative prologue.

The excerpts from the Book of Fenius (1102) deal with:
The alphabets of Hebrew, Greek, and Latin (1129), hence probably the ascription to Fenius who was learned in those languages (160), and contemporary with the Exodus (1104).

Verse feet or syllabic content of Irish words (1213).
Consonant changes (1264).
The five kinds of Irish (1302).
The twenty-five inflections (1515).
What is alt? (1577).
The end of the text of the Auraicept is noted (1636).

Besides those four ancient books cited, the Book of Cenn Faelad, the Book of Ferchertne (735), the Book of Amergen (1028), the Book of Fenius, Iair mac Nema, and Gaedel mac Ethiuir (1102), two others are mentioned, the Dúile Feda (5416), of which the Ogham tract is perhaps an expansion,  p.xxvii and the Cin Ollaman (1204, 4385) possibly an early form of the tract on Metrics. The quotations from the first four books are set forth as usual in large hand; but possibly other passages from them are embodied in the commentary in the normal hand. For wherever a passage in the commentary is afterwards explained in detail with the usual artificial etymologies, this is an indication that the passage probably belonged originally to the ancient text.

While the ascription of the Book of Cenn Faelad is probably genuine, the same cannot be said of the Books of Ferchertne, Amergen, and Fenius. The quotations may be from writings approximately of the time of Cenn Faelad, but of unknown authorship. A commentator (1019–1027) takes the view that the work of these authors were successive steps leading up to the grand consummation, the Trefhocul. By the statement also of a commentator that “what is first according to book order was invented last, to wit, the Book of Cenn Faelad” (66) may be meant that this author co-ordinated all the ancient material, and presented it as it now stands. This view is upheld by another commentator who says that Ferchertne composed the Auraicept but Cenn Faelad rewrote it, or copied it, along with the greater part of Scripture (2638).

There seems no reason to question the ascription of the Book of Cenn Faelad to the author of that name. He is a well authenticated person. He died A.D. 679. His pedigree is found in the genealogy of the Cenél n-Eogain. His poems, dealing to a large extent with the wars of his kinsfolk, the Northern Uí Néill, are quoted largely in the annals. The curious tradition about his “brain of forgetfulness” (77) had no doubt a foundation in fact. Possibly he got a good education in youth, but developed a “brain of forgetfulness” by turning from learning to soldiering. He certainly fought in the battle of Moira A.D. 637, where he was wounded.  p.xxviii Returning again to civil life and his early pursuits, “poetry, words, and reading” (78), he laid the foundation of that reputation which as “Cenn Faelad, the Learned” he still enjoys (O'Curry, Lectures). His period as an author therefore extends over the forty-two years between the battle of Moira and his death, and quotations from him must take rank among the oldest dated specimens of the language. But he refers to still older Irish writers, augdair na n-Gaideal (79), who wrote on the subject of Irish grammar, or of Irish origins. He may refer to such works as the Irish Chronicon Eusebii (Ériu 7, 62) which came down to A.D. 609, and of which the lost portion at the beginning may well have contained the story of Fenius. Writing in 603, S. Columbanus refers to “antiqui philosophi Hiberniae” as experts in chronography. Thus that earlier than the seventh century a state of learning existed which was held in esteem by the writers of that century is proved, though the direct products of that earlier learning are no longer extant. If we assume Cenn Faelad to be really the author, and therefore that the Auraicept was begun about the middle of the seventh century, how did it happen that while the other Western nations were sunk in ignorance, the Irish enjoyed the light of learning? Zimmer (Sitzungsberichte der Königl.-Preussischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Dec. 1910, p. 1049) quoting the passage in Aur. 1859–1876 puts the question with great force:
“Das sind die “Elemente der Kasus- und Numeruslehre,”, wie man sie als Teil des über viele lahre sich erstreckenden Studiums der irischen fili (Grammatiker, Metriker, Antiquare und professionsmässiger Dichter) in den nationalen Schulen Irlands traktierte, als Klemens der Ire an der Hofschule Karls des Grossen jungen Franken das abc beibrachte, als Dicuil in St Denis, Dungal in Pavia, Sedulius in Lüttich und Metz, Moengal in St Gallen, Johannes Scottus an der Hofschule Karls des Kahlen tätig waren; durch diesen  p.xxix Unterricht ist Cormac mac Cuilennáin gegangen (gest. 908), der nebenbei ganz austándige Kenntnis im Latein, Griechisch, Hebráisch, Altnordisch, Angelsächsisch und Kymrisch besass.”

The high tide of learning at a very early period in ancient Ireland was beyond a doubt caused by the influx of learned men from the Continent. In his researches Zimmer came upon this passage:
“Huni, qui ex nephario concubitu progeniti sunt, scilicet demonum, postquam praeheunte caterva viam invenerunt per Meotides paludes, invaserunt Cothos quos nimium terruerunt ex improviso monstro quod in illis erat. Et ab his depopulatio totius imperii exordium sumpsit, quae ab Unis et Guandelis, Gotis et Alanis peracta est, sub quorum vastatione omnes sapientes cismarini fugam ceperunt, et in transmarinis, videlicet in Hibernia, et quocunque se receperunt maximum profectum sapientiae incolis iliarum regionum adhibuerunt.”

The first part of this statement relating to the Huns is taken from Jordanis, who wrote about A.D. 550, and fixes approximately the date of the depopulation of the empire and the rush of learned men into Ireland. We may assume that the migration had already continued for a time before this account was written. The intercourse between Ireland and the continent was certainly kept up.

Three centuries later we have this testimony respecting the “Natio Scottorum quibus consuetudo peregrinandi jam paene in naturam conversa est. Quid Hiberniam memorem, contempto pelagi discrimine, paene totam cum grege philosophorum ad littora nostra migrantem!”—(Sitzungsberichte der Königl.-Preussischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1910, p. 1080).

Zimmer with great learning, breadth of view, and  p.xxx mastery of detail builds upon these facts a history at once picturesque and surprising.

Stated briefly his hypotheses amount to this. The exodus from Gaul to Ireland (A.D. 419–507) was caused by the Homoousian persecution. Aquitania and the modern Baskish territory suffered like other parts, and Ireland was then the only haven of orthodoxy. Among the refugees from that region was the “fatuus homunculus” who was so called by his fellow-countryman the deacon Ennodius (A.D. 473–521) but who called himself Virgilius Maro, Grammaticus. He found an asylum with a native prince as was the fashion for learned men in those days, settled, and taught grammar, nay more, gained for himself fame, recognition, and a place among the native poets, being in fact none other than Ferchertne fili.

The Auraicept bears abundant evidence of the influence of two Latin authors, Isidore and Maro. The latter Zimmer laboured to identify with Ferchertne fili. It can be shown that the Auraicept lends no support to this proposed identification. This Ferchertne fili (ZCP 3, 13) is described in the tract as a contemporary of Conchobar mac Nessa (736), who, whatever reckoning be adopted, lived somewhere about the second century (cf. AU 484). According to this chronology, therefore, the identification of Ferchertne fili and Maro would place the latter at least a couple of centuries before his known floruit. Again the matter treated of by Ferchertne fili—the seven elements of speech in Irish, and the formation and powers of Ogham letters—does not correspond to anything in Maro's pages. If it be proved also that, while Isidore's influence is felt chiefly in the earlier part of the Auraicept, Maro's influence is confined entirely to the later, Zimmer's main contention that Maro was Ferchertne fili cannot succeed. Several centuries lay between the inception of the Auraicept and its close.  p.xxxi Maro's tract had a profound influence on the Auraicept, but none on its early stages. According to internal evidence Cenn Faelad wrote the part ascribed to him about the middle or second half of the seventh century. That is the superior limit. The inferior limit lies in the eleventh century, or perhaps the tenth, and is determined generally by two facts—(i) that the Auraicept is found in two families of MSS., the variations in which postulate many generations of scribes, and (2) the immense development which has taken place in the tract itself as it has advanced from crude statements to a prosody which is exceedingly complicated and difficult. But the argument does not rest entirely on general considerations.

The second text (3382) quotes native grammarians by name, Ua Bruic, Ua Coindi, Ua Coirill and Ua Finn (3391). They are named by their surnames (each being the acknowledged head of his family), a usage that is not found earlier than the tenth century, one of the earliest instances being that of Ua Ruairc, AU 953. Ua Coirill mentioned above may have been the professor of law and history, who died AU1083. Hence the Auraicept was not completed before the middle of the tenth century, perhaps not till towards the end of the eleventh, when Maro's influence is still in evidence.

Let us now look at some excerpts from the works of the two Latin authors, Isidore and Maro.

I. Isidore of Seville, who died A.D. 636.
His Etymologiae or Origines in twenty books contain a vast amount of information of such a sort that one finds it impossible to resist the conclusion that the compilers of the Auraicept had this document before them. At least that Cenn Faelad and Isidore drew matter from a common  p.xxxii source is a certainty, for the facts (or alleged facts) and the phraseology are the same.

If we keep in mind that Isidore died the year before the battle of Moira, and that after that event Cenn Faelad began and pursued his studies with such success that he was popularly supposed to forget nothing (so one may interpret the words), and if we remember further that there was a constant coming and going of learned men, and a steady exchange of books between the continent and Ireland, there is no inherent improbability in the supposition that Cenn Faelad assimilated some of his material from the Origines published perhaps some twenty years before. True, the name of Isidore does not occur in the Auraicept, but no more does that of Eusebius from whom he probably made extracts, nor that of Luccreth Mocu Chiara (Älteste irische Dichtung, p. 51), from whose poem the passage about the seventy-two races (Aur. 215–227) was certainly taken.

There being no difficulty as to date or the omission of a name, full weight may be allowed to any other considerations tending to connect the two authors. The following quotations from many books of the Origines show how much the Auraicept was indebted to that source both in general structure and in detail.

Some references demonstrate that the Irish and Ireland were not unfamiliar to Isidore, at least as an author:
‘Horrent et male tecti cum latratoribus linguis Scotti.’ (Origg. xix. 23, 6.) ‘Scotia idem et Hibernia proximae Brittaniae insula, spatio terrarum angustior, sed situ fecundior. Haec ab Africo in Boream porrigitur. Cujus partes priores Hiberiam et Cantabricum Oceanum intendunt, unde et Hibernia dicta: Scotia autem, quod ab Scotorum gentibus colitur, appellata.’ (Origg. xiv. 6, 6.)


Time, place, person, and cause of writing (Aur. 63, 735, 1029), define the general plan and treatment of a subject, and are usually found in the íntroduction to any serious work in Irish.

‘Iam vero in elocutionibus illud uti oportebit, ut res, locus, tempus, persona audientis efflagitat.’ (Origg. ii. 16, 1.)

The cradle of letters was in Achaia, or by projection of d from art., Dacia, or by early French pronunciation, Asia.

‘Ubi fuit Athenae civitas.’ (Origg. xiv. 4, 10.) ‘Apud Eotenam (uel Athena) civitatem.’ (Aur. 214.) ‘Fuit autem Isis regina Aegyptiorum, Inachis regis filia, quae de Graecia veniens Aegyptios litteras docuit.’ (Origg. viii. 11, 84.)

These sentences show that, unless the Biblical Accad was introduced from some other source, Achaia (251) was probably the original reading; but the possibility that Achaia lay in Maeotidis Paludibus (ZCP 10 126) must not be overlooked.

‘Namque omnium ferocissumi ad hoc tempus Achaei atque Tauri sunt, quod, quantum conjicio, locorum egestate rapto vivere coacti.’ (Glossae Juvenalis (Sall. Fragmenta).)

Authority, written authority, ugdaracht (131), perhaps includes the following authors of whom, however, only two, Moses and Hieronymus (q.v.), are mentioned by name:
Moyses, Dares Phrygius, Herodotus, Pherecydes.
‘Vnde Sallustius ex historia, Livius, Eusebius et Hieronymus ex annalibus et historia constant.’ (Origg. i. 42; 44, 4.)

What are the names of the seventy-two races from which the many languages were learnt? (215, 263):
‘Gentes autem a quibus divisa est terra, quindecim sunt de Japhet, triginta et una de Cham, viginti et  p.xxxiv septem de Sem, quae fiunt septuaginta tres, vel potius, ut ratio declarat, septuaginta duae; totidemque linguae, quae per terras esse coeperunt, quaeque crescendo provincias et insulas impleverunt.’ (Origg. ix. 2, 2.)

In definition a bias existed towards the heptad or the octave, Aur. 639, 739.
‘De septem liberalibus disciplinis. Grammatica dialectica, etc.,’ (Aur. 51.—Origg. i. 2, 1.)

Occasionally individual words are closely defined:
‘Materia inde dicitur omne lignum quod ex ea aliquid efficiatur.’ (Origg. xix. 19, 4.) Fid, Aur. 943, cf. later the use of adbar.

The importance of Hebrew is insisted on:
‘Illa lingua quae ante diluvium omnium una fuit, quae Hebraea nuncupatur.’ (Origg. xii. 1, 2.)

The Hebrew language was in the world first and it will remain after doomsday (190).
‘Item quaeritur qua lingua in futurum homines loquantur.’ (Origg. ix. 1, 13.)

The following passage explains why Gaelic was deemed a worldly speech (46), not being one of the three sacred tongues in which was written the superscription on the cross (165).
‘Linguarum diversitas exorta est in aedificatione turris post diluvium. Nam priusquam superbia turris illius in diversos signorum sonos humanam divideret societatem, una omnium nationum lingua fuit, quae Hebraea vocatur. Initio autem quot gentes, tot linguae fuerunt, deinde plures gentes. Tres sunt autem linguae sacrae: Hebraea, Graeca, Latina quae toto orbe maxime excellunt. His enim tribus linguis super crucem Domini a Pilato fuit causa eius scripta.’ (Origg. ix. 1–3.)


The early Irish rhythmical alliterative poetry, e.g.
arnin arding [d]éd,
forsail for fot fedair,
dinin disail for gair gabhaidh (1546),
extending up to and running into the eighth century, might almost be defined by the words:
‘Huic adhaeret rythmus, qui non est certo fine moderatus, sed tamen rationabiliter ordinatis pedibus currit; qui Latine nihil aliud quam numerus dicitur.’ (Origg. i. 39, 3.)

A verse of dithyramb or metrical rhythm is to be measured by a breath of the poet, five words to each breath (930).
‘Periodos autem longior esse non debet quam ut uno spiritu proferatur.’ (Origg. ii. 18, 2.)

Grammatical questions as to gender and comparison of adjectives find a like expression in Latin and Gaelic:
‘Neutrum dictum quia nec hoc nec illud, id est nec masculinum nec femininum.’ (Origg. i. 7, 28; Aur. 614.)

‘Octo autem modis conparatio analogiae colligitur: id est qualitate, conparatione, genere, numero, figura, casu, extremitatibus similium syllabarum, et similitudine temporum.’ (Origg. i. 28, i; Aur. 639.)

‘Non est maius nisi ad minus referatur.
Sic et parvum opponitur magno ita ut ipsud parvum ad magnum, cui opponitur, sit parvum.’ (Origg. ii. 31, 4, 5; Aur. 676.)

‘Inde Ponticus sinus amplissimus a tergo Maeotidis paludibus; quod mare ex multitudine fluminum dulcius quam cetera.’ (Sallust, quoted by Priscian, Macrobius, Servius, and Origg. xiii. 16, 4.)

‘in dulci aqua’ (xii. 6, 56;)

‘sive salsae sint sive dulces.’ (xiii. 14, 1; Aur. 730.)


Artificial etymologies carry their influence into the Gaelic text; vir is derived from vīres, mulier from mollities, fēmina from fēmur:
‘Vir nuncupatus, quia maior in eo vis est quam in feminis.’ (Origg. xi. 2, 17; Aur. 605.)
‘Mulier vero a mollitie, tanquam mollier, detracta littera vel mutata, appellata est mulier.’ (Origg. xi. 2, 18;) cf. ‘femina de flescda no maithchnechas,’ (Aur. 610.)

‘Femora dicta sunt, quod ea parte a femina sexus viri discrepet. Sunt autem ab inguinibus usque ad genua. Femina autem per derivationem femorum partes sunt, quibus in equitando tergis equorum adhaeremus.’ (Origg. xi, 1, 106.)

‘Femina vero a partibus femorum dicta ubi sexus species a viro distinguitur.’ (Origg. xi. 2, 24; Aur. 608.)

Consonants, semi-vowels, and mutes are treated similarly in the Gaelic and the Latin texts:
‘Et vocatae consonantes quia per se non sonant sed iunctis vocalibus consonant. Haec in duabus partibus dividuntur: in semivocalibus et in mutis. Semivocales dictas eo, quod quiddam semis de vocalibus habeant.’ ()
‘Mutae autem dictae quia nisi subiectis sibi vocalibus nequaquam erumpunt.’ (Origg. i. 4, 3, 4; cf. Aur. 358 et seq.; 367 et seq.; 468 et seq.)
‘Vnde et legitimae nominantur illa ratione, scilicet vel quod ab E vocali incipiunt et in mutum sonum desinunt, ut sunt consonantes, vel quod a suo sono incipiunt et in vocalem E desinunt ut sunt mutae.’ (Origg. i. 4, 10; Aur. 488.)

The active and the passive of verbs:
Etargaire persainni i ngnim (651); i cessadh (653).
‘In persona verbi agentis et patientis significatio est.’ (Origg. i. 9, 1.)


The Origines contain well-known quotations (and the above may be of this sort):
‘Litterae autem dictae quasi legiterae, quod iter legentibus praestent, vel quod in legendo iterentur.’ (Origg. i. 3, 3; Aur. 360.)

Some quotations are hard to find elsewhere:
‘Nam unum semen numeri esse, non numerum.’ (Origg. iii. 3, 1; Aur. 688.)

It is not time that is divided but our actions (93).

‘Nam tempus per se non intellegitur, nisi per actus humanos.’ (Origg. v. 31, 9.)

These references I have not found.—Aur. 464, 517, 728.

The foregoing quotations are found in the portion of the Auraicept attributed to Cenn Faelad. They occur not only in commentary but often in the structure of the composition. Hence the conclusion that Cenn Faelad had before him the Origines or a document based thereon, and closely resembling it, is amply justified.

The use of the Origines is continued in the Gaelic text, after the portion attributed to Cenn Faelad ends. In the latter part of the book occur also some few suggestions of Ogham.

What is known as nihilus, Aur. 970, 8, is thus explained:
‘V quoque littera proinde interdum nihil est, quia alicubi nec vocalis nec consonans est, ut QVIS. Vocalis enim non est quia I sequitur; consonans non est quia Q praecedit. Ideoque quando nec vocalis, nec consonans est, sine dubio nihil est.’ (Origg. i. 4, 8.)

A quotation common in the grammarians is:
‘Nisi enim nomen scieris, cognitio rerum perit.’ (Origg. i. 7, 1; Aur. 1099.)


A quotation not seen by me elsewhere:
‘Lapis autem dictus quod laedat pedem.’ (Origg. xvi. 3, 1; Aur. 3396.)

OccasionaIly the Latin helps to decide the reading of the Gaelic text:
‘Incorporalia, quia carent corpus; unde nec videri nec tangi possunt, ut veritas, iusticia.’ (Origg. i. 7, 4; cf. Aur. 3238.)

Occasionally the Gaelic is a running commentary on the Latin:
“Perspicuae voces sunt quae longius protrahuntur ita ut omnem inpleant continuo locum, sicut clangor tubarum” (stocaireacht no cornaireacht, Aur. 1477). “Subtiles voces” (cronan no certan bec, 1474) “sunt, quibus non est spiritus, qualis est infantium vel mulierum vel aegrotantium, sicut in nervis” (intan is cruit, 1484). “Quae enim subtilissimae cordae sunt, subtiles ac tenues sonos emittunt” (intan as bindi is tuiu ⁊ is isliu ata na a n-aill, 1484). “Pingues sunt voces, quando spiritus multus simul egreditur, sicut virorum” (mod .i. mo od .i. od ceol intan is mascul 1470). “Acuta vox tenuis, alta, sicut in cordis videmus” (traethait na ciulu isli na ciuil arda 1477). “Dura vox est, quae violenter emittit sonos sicut tonitruum, sicut incudis sonos, quotiens in durum malleus percuititur ferum” (intan is torand no is crand 1479, tourand no caint 4575).

“Caeca vox est, quae, mox emissa fuerit, conticescit, atque suffocata nequaquam longius producitur, sicut est in fictilibus” (tae a ed intan is fod 1479, fouta 4578). ‘’ (Origg. iii. 20, 10–13.)

Occasionally the Latin determines the interpretation of the Gaelic, the latter being an almost literal translation of the former:
‘Superflui sunt, quorum partes simul ductae plenitudinem excedunt, ut puta duodenarius. Habet enim partes  p.xxxix quinque: duodecimam, quod est unum; sextam, quod duo; quartam, quod tria; tertiam, quod quattuor; dimidiam, quod sex. Vnum enim et duo, et tria, et quattuor, et sex simul ducta xvi faciunt et longe a duodenario excedunt. {} Perfectus numerus est, qui suis partibus adinpletur, ut senarius; habet enim tres partes, sextam, tertiam, dimidiam: sexta eius unum est, tertia duo, dimidia tres. Haec partes in summam ductae, id est unum et duo et tria simul eundem consummant perficiuntque senarium.’ (Origg. iii. 5, 9—11; Aur. 1443—1453.)

Occasionally the Gaelic gives merely the gist of the Latin:
‘Primum enim diem a Sole appellaverunt, qui princeps est omnium siderum, sicut et idem dies caput est cunctorum dierum. Secundum a Luna, quae Soli et splendore et magnitudine proxima est, et ex eo mutuat lumen. Tertium ab stella Martis quae Vesper vocatur. Quartum ab stella Mercurii, quam quidam candidum circulum dicunt. Quintum ab stella Iovis, quam Phaethontem aiunt. Sextum a Veneris stella, quam Luciferum asserunt, quae inter omnia sidera plus lucis habet. Septimus ab stella Saturni, quae sexto caelo locata triginta annis fertur explere cursum suum.’ (Origg. v. 30, 5–7; Aur. 3531–9.)

Titles of chapters or sections in the Origines appear as names of Ogham:
De homine xi. 1. daenogam 5709.
De avibus xii. 7. enogam 5692.
Oppida nobilia xv. 1, 6. dinnogam 5687.
De aedificiis sacris xv. 4. ceallogam 5702.
De navibus xix. 1,1. ogam n-eathrach 6132.
De instrumentis rusticis xx. 14. ogam tírda 5724.
De coloribus xix. 17 dathogam 5697.


Bible names suffer change in passing into the Gaelic text through the Latin transliteration:
‘Nebuchadnezzar, Nabuchodonosar,’ (Origg. v, 39, 18; Nabgodon, Aur, 127.)
‘Nimrod, Nembroth,’ (Origg. vii. 6, 22; Neamruad, Aur. 112.)
‘Noah, Noe,’ (Origg. vii. 6, 15; Nóe, Aur. 107.)

Secrecy—the avowed purpose of Ogham—is outlined in a simple code similar to that which finds expression in Aur. 6011.
‘Caesar quoque Augustus ad filium, “quoniam,” inquit, “innumerabilia accidunt assidue quae scribi alterutro oporteat et esse secreta, habeamus inter nos notas si vis tales ut, cum aliquid notis scribendum erit, pro unaquaque littera scribamus sequentem hoc modo pro a b, pro b c, et deinceps eadem ratione ceteras; pro s autem redeundum erit ad duplex a a.” Quidam etiam versis verbis scribunt.’ (Origg. i. 25, 2.)

This reference I have not found: Aur. 3244–8, but cf. Maro 24, 10–24.

II. Virgilius Maro, Grammaticus

The editor, Huemer, in his Praefatio, p. xi., after giving a list of blunders common to all the MSS. of Maro, concludes:
Atque archetypum illud litteris scotticis scriptum fuerit necesse est, cum a et u, c et t, r et s, s et f, p et f, saepe permutatae videntur.

The conclusion is irresistible. Whether the scribe was himself perpetrating these blunders, or, as his editor thinks, merely copying them from others, the sources of Maro, as we know him, are Irish.

Meyer, in two lists (Sitzungsberichte der Kgl. Preuss. Akad. d. Wiss. July, December 1912), gives,  p.xli from Maro's tract, a selection of forty-two names, which he considers to be of Celtic origin. They are as follows:
Aemerius p. (22).
Andrianus (173).
Arca rex (15).
Asp-orius (5).
Assianus (173).
Bi-entius (137).
Breg-andus (162).
Don (15, 30).
Fassica f. (123).
Gabr-itius (126).
Galb-arius (163).
Galb-ungus (10, 122, 133).
Gal-irius (146).
Gall-ienus (129).
Gelb-idius (36).
Gerg-esus (15).
Glengus (122, 133).
Gurg-ilius (173).
Iuu-anus (54).
Lap-idus (19).
Lassius (107).
Lato-mius (123).
Lugenicus (162).
Mart-ulis (92).
Mitterius (114).
Ninus (119).
Oss-ius (163).
Perrichius (163).
Plastus (151).
Prass-ius (61).
Regulus (?) (133).
Rigas f. Rigadis (122).
Rithea Nini regis uxor (119).
Sagillius Germanus (17).
Samm-inius, Virgil's uncle (28).
Sarbon (122).
Sarr-icius (123).
Saur-inus (28).
Sedulus (138, 139).
Senenus (138).
Sulpita (24).
Ursinus (90).

Further examination may shorten the list without seriously disturbing the contention that if Maro had no connection with Ireland, his circle of Irish friends was unaccountably large.

Sua apte (116, 11; 81, 4) has been recognised as an Irish-Latin hybrid, su-apte, which later came into common use in Irish Latin.

There is a sprinkling of the loci communes of Latin Grammar, e.g.

Maro denies that Latinitas is derived from Latinus, preferring latitudo, p. 5, 6: Aur. 355.
‘litera ab ipsis etiam cerae caracteribus usque ad quassorum compossitionem hosce ordines directat,’ (p. 7, 10; Aur. 1756.)
‘syllabae monades senas literas transcendere non debent ut scrobs,’ (Maro, p. 11, 7; Aur. 1229.)
 p.xlii ‘Grama est litteraturae peruidatio, quae quasi quaedam totius lectionis semitula est unde et a peritis litera interpretatur legitera quod est legendi itinerarium.’ (Maro, p. 19, 11; Aur. 1758.)

A certain resemblance is discernible between Maro, 24, 10–23, and Aur. 3244, and between
‘Nec aperte masculinum nec absolute dicitur esse feminum.’ (Maro, 31, 13; Aur. 614.)
‘verbum est omne quod lingua profertur et voce.’ (Maro, 88, 6, and Aur. 1924.)

The device scinderatio fonorum, Maro declares (p. 76, 7), was resorted to in order to sharpen the wits, to adorn expression, and:
‘tertia (causa) ne mystica quaeque, et quae solis gnaris pandi debent, passim ab infimis ac stultis facile repperiantur.’ (Maro, (p. 76, 7))
The same reason, here called tertia, is alleged for the invention of Ogham:—
‘Co mbeth in bescna-sa ic lucht in eolais fo leth, sech lucht na tirdachta ⁊ na buicnechta,’ (Aur. 5472.)

One device consisted in breaking up a sentence into groups of letters, e.g.
‘RRR. SS. PP. MM. NT. EE. OO. A.V.I., i.e., spes Romanorum perit.’ (Maro, 77, 12; cf. Aur. 3501–3.)

Also, words may be broken up into syllables, and these again may be strewn about in the jingle of a so-called sentence, e.g.
‘sicut Lucanus edidit; ge. ves. ro. trum. quando. tum. a. fec. om. ni. libet aeuo, [which is thus explained, quandolibet vestrum gero omni aeuo affectum.]’ (Maro, 77, 6.)

Or in single words, e.g. nodo for dono, nesi for sine, germen  p.xliii for regnum.—Maro 78, 28. This process appears in Irish as delidin sillabacda, Aur. 5312.

Amans may be transformed into manas (Maro, 79, 4), heri into hrei, is into si (78, 31); atat into tata (79, 10), a process which is called delitin litterda, metathesis of letters, Aur. 5308.

A meaningless syllable or disyllable may be introduced into a word, e.g. naviga-be-re for navigare, b-u-onum for bonum (Maro, 78, 17); forti-osi-ter for fortiter, compt-os-e for compte (Maro, p. 70, 6). A meaningless disyllable so introduced into Gaelic is called condall, Aur. 5317.

The unstressed syllable following an accented syllable is sometimes dropped, e.g. rogassem, rogasse for rogauissem, rogauisse; rogarunt, rogarit for rogauerunt, rogauerit (Maro, 78, 10). In Gaelic poetry this is called cotut, Aur. 5287.

Still more does the influence of Maro emerge in the Trefhocul.

The name Trefhocul bears a resemblance to the heading of the chapter De trimodo dicendi genere, Orig. ii. 17 which may have suggested it. Similarly the twelve items composing the Trefhocul might have been originally suggested by the duodecim latinitates of Maro, p. 88, 22, e.g.

  1. lumbrosa, hoc est perlonga, cum pro uno usitato totus uersus scribitur, with perlonga, cf. (can) rofota, Aur. 5060; and for the matter, cf. Aur. 5943 where each letter besides being written is spelt.
  2. sincolla, hoc est perbreuis, uersa uice cum totus uersus usitatus in uno continetur fono. With perbreuis, cf. (can) rogair, Aur. 5059, and for the matter, cf. Aur. 1326.
  3. belsauia, hoc est peruersa, cum casus nominum modusque uerborum transmutat. With peruersa, cf. (can) chlóen.Aur. 5057, 5086.
  4. spela, hoc est humillima, quae semper res terrenas loquitur, with humillima, cf. a irisel, used of an appended syllable, a. — Aur. 5079, 5346.
  5.  p.xliv
  6. polema, hoc est superna quae de superioribus tractat. With superna, cf. a irard, an appended syllable, aib.—Aur. 5078, 5341.
  7. Assena, hoc est notaria, quae una tantum littera pro toto sono contenta est, cf. Q for ceirt, Aur. 5816, and R for Ruis 5820.

These coincidences are too numerous to be accidental. Omitting other lesser similarities, to lay stress on which might be regarded as fanciful, we come to the solid ground of quotation, (Hereon Zimmer, not having the whole tract before him, could find no footing.)

  1. metrofia, hoc est intellectualis, ut dictantabat, id est principium; sade, id est iustitia; gno utilitas; bora, hoc est fortitudo; ter hoc est dualitas coniugalis; rfoph, hoc est ueneratio; brops, hoc est pietas; rihph, hoc est hilaritas; gal, hoc est regnum; fkal, hoc est religio; clitps, hoc est nobilitas; mymos, dignitas; fann, hoc est recognitio; ulio, hoc est honor; gabpal, hoc est obsequium; blaqth, hoc est lux solis; merc hoc est pluuia; pal, dies et nox; gatrb, hoc est pax; biun, hoc est aqua et ignis; spax, longeuitas.

With the exception of y and z, which may have been added from another source, the explanation following hoc est, id est, is in each case identical with that given in Aur. 4211–4223.

Perhaps more important than all is the following:
De h autem hoc dicendum est, quod semper inspirat, nunc ad fortitudinem, nunc ad motationem tantum. Nam cum semiuocalem praecesserit f, solum sonum pariter motabunt ut hfascon et faciunt f pro hf, si uero mutam c uel t uel p, suum sonum non amittit ut hcorda, htronus, hpalanx, Maro, p. 10, 9–14.

This passage throws light on Aur. 432, 1264–1279. Bogad there means aspiration (and apparently on finals) ut cloch,  p.xlv both. It has also another meaning, fortitudo, influenced by Ogham usage, where B + H = P, thus supplying the P which is non-existent in pure Gaelic. Semigud, again, means lenition and apparently on initials, but on this point the examples are inconclusive (cf. beith mo hsuidhe CZ 10. 266). Here the aspirating H precedes the consonant it aspirates, and thus Maro and the Auraicept are at one.

The warrantable conclusions to be drawn from the facts are few but very important. Bigerro sermone clefabo (Maro 8, 13) “in the speech of Bigorre,” which Zimmer presses to show that Maro was a native of that district, though in the tenth century he is called Tolosanus, proves merely that Maro was more or less conversant with Baskish. He was acquainted with viro athensi, a man belonging to the town of Ate south of Limoges (Maro 141, 28). He mentions a Sibylla Carginiensis, belonging to the town of Carca, in the Department of the Iberian Bastitani (p. 48, 25), and he knew a great number of Irishmen. Except perhaps in the passage last quoted in which h ad fortitudinem may be compared with b cum aspiratione pro p ponitur (432, 2879), no connection is traceable between him and Ferchertne fili, whose work belongs to a much earlier period than the Trefhocul. The influence of Maro's book on Irish grammar is confined to the Trefhocul, the last stage of the growth of prosody. The Auraicept proper, of which Ferchertne fili was one of the authors, or one under whose name ancient material was incorporated, shows no trace of Maro's influence.

Interesting questions arise in the text itself, some of which need only be mentioned, e.g.:—

The so-called mutes l, n, r, pronounced el, en, er in Latin, le, ne, in Gaelic (490, 511, 2981).

The frequent absence of aspiration, or aspiration by omission, of f and s,
ni aimser fota 1576, ae aiges (408,9).


The confusion owing to the distance of the gloss from its text; e.g., 1515 is glossed at 1637, 1533–5 at 1675, 1577 at 1686, 1579 at 1687, 1591 at 1692, 1609–14 at 1695.

The tendency of words and phrases like alt co fesear (827, 1686), and fogni (1336, 1871) to become technical terms.

The French pronunciation of Latin, sirqundimus (4125), sircuim (4132), sircumplex (4784), siicuitas (2531), resulting in important changes in Gaelic, isinn Asia (2571) for isind Achaidh (251).

The rhymes, some apparently without sense (806), some without metre (1546), and some in metre but obscured by glosses (253, 4360, 5932).

The etymological reconstructions:—
co-fid for cubaid (1512),
ciallabair for ceileabar (1594),
fegait for fichit (4735), for fégait, sedhait (4737), segait (4739),
co, hógfégad for cóic (1637),
ré huamma for réim (1638),
so-fis for seis (479),
ae gnithi for aicned (501),
suad for uad (495),
conod miait (508) for conid muiti (495),
dorrae for trá (573), smitai, smit ai (= aue) for smita (4649).

The constant modernising of the text:—
ceithri gne (872), ceitheora gnee (3747),
moosom for moam (658),
lugusom for lugam (659),
cinntechsom, cinntichu son (1258) for cinntechem (4368).

Syllable, the ultimate element of everything in Gaelic except gender (1457). Number, case, person, degree, tense, mood, are indicated by syllables, whereas there is no  p.xlvii distinction of gender indicated in spelling; and mod, tod, traeth, secundum, quosdam is aurlond (1496) or leading word that indicates gender.

The ascription of the same poem to Colum Cille (938), and to Cormac (1596, 3867, 5351).

The repetition of the same passages 1487, 1502; cf. 2616, 2622, shows that the present text is made up from at least two versions which sometimes contained the same material in different order. Hence no doubt comes the disjointed character of many passages.

The following terms, however, are of importance in order to understand the text:—

The word inrocomraircnigsiomairne gives the key to the plan of inflection called filltigthi, prepositional cases (1515). These eight syllables are held to form one word. According to our present grammatical methods the basis or unity is the compound word of five syllables comroircnigsemmar. It is preceded by a relative pronoun an- and by an enclitic or pre-verb -ro-, and it is followed by an emphasising pronominal suffix -ni. But the native Irish grammarians regarded all these syllables as parts of one word, and the scribes wrote the whole as one word. In their opinion proclitics were not separate words, but rather filltigthi, inflections, of the accented word. Accordingly, they wrote frissinfer as one word, an inflected form of fer, and gave it a distinct technical name. This also explains how is fer (1529) comes into the scheme. Is was an unstressed proclitic, and as such was treated as part of the word following. They did not observe that is fer, a thúarascbáil, had already been dealt with under the head of fer, a ainmniugud; nor did they recognise identity of case and inflection in the words which they wrote
lafer, frissinfer; fofiur, iarfiur (1525).


Classification of prepositions, or any explanation of infixed pronouns (653) was thus rendered unnecessary.

Another flexion is réim, which later means oblique case (786). Of this flexion there are three kinds outward, inward, and both combined: outward ut est, fer. There is no flexion in the word as it stands in the nom., but there may be flexion in the context, e.g., in the accus., lasin (bf)fer; fir is an inward flexion of fer; and in fer is capable of both, e.g., dond fiur.

Taebreim prosta -i- fadéin (795) is the side-flexion, i.e., the external flexion of mé, tú, etc.

Tréfhocul rhymes with glé-accur (2179), and hence has ē and ̇f (f dot). It means “three words” (2018), “and the knowledge of its secret,” i.e., probably how it came to be so named, “is very hard,” considering that “already thirty-six words have been found comprised under its species in Irish” (2021). Tréfhocul came to mean a collection of precepts for the correction of incorrect versification. For each of the twelve technical faults (anocht), there were two correctives, each having its technical name, one belonging to the class called sciath, the other to that called gnúis. Thus the whole system of correct versification would have been comprised under a set of mnemonics, each mnemonic consisting of three heads, the name of the fault and the name of its two correctives—in short, it was a three-word scheme, and accurately named Tréfhocul. The original scheme of two correctives for each error is commended (2010–3), and still adhered to in rudrach (2047), and in uathad fri hilar (2057). But later refinements led to overlapping in the application of the correctives. Hence we find in the poem that a particular fault may be corrected or avoided by having recourse to more than one device of each class, sciath or gnúis.

We read that the 24 helps are increased to 47 (2126). The first list (2035–2071) totals 48, not 47; the second list  p.xlix (2083–2118) totals 51; the third list (2131–2176) totals 48. The discrepancies may be purely scribal, and due to a misreading of the Roman numerals, e.g., iii. read as iv., ii. as v., a constant source of error.

What is the difference between the two kinds of corrective? It will be found that all those called scéith, except lugugud, the addition of a diminutive suffix, are purely artificial distortions of the words; whereas those called gnúisi, except cenṅfochrus túis, airichill, dechned, and dichned, are in accordance with strict grammatical usage e.g., the use metri causa of sȯfer instead of fer (sóerugud); dȯfer instead of fer (dóerugud); the addition of two proclitic syllables (lorga fuach), or of one syllable (dialt n-etarléme); the use of issé, issi, issed (urlonn insce), where they might be omitted, e.g.
issí ind ala gnúis dég dil,
urlonn insci ria hairim
(where issí completes the number of syllables required but might be dispensed with, if the number were complete without it); the use of singular for plural (óen), e.g.
creid uaim féin, is fíor mo rann,
“my quatrain,” meaning (all the quatrains of) “my poem”; the use of plural for singular (lán), e.g.
meni fhuilet (2198) = meni fuil.

There must be some distinction of ideas in the two terms. The gnúisi are or were originally the natural devices, and the scéith the artificial devices for avoiding metrical faults, and perhaps the words were adopted on that principle, gnúis being the natural part of the man on the outlook to ward off an enemy, sciath the artificial implement for the same purpose.

A similar touch of imagination emerges in regarding  p.l head and heart as being supports of man, the male being (1808, 4994), and the further refinements of lánomna and their gene, mated pairs and their progeny. In the original notion doubtless the distinction was based on gender, but that fact was forgotten, and among the examples are lánomna deime (4999), mated couples (mas. and fem. in grammar), belonging to dem (a thing which is neuter in nature). This usage is even extended to quantity, which is still more remote from the original idea of gender.

The same tendency to personification appears in the suggested distinction among forcomét, frecomét, and degcomét (1818); forcomét, defensive armour, as kneecap on knee; frecomét, armament of offence, as knuckles; and degcomét, that which protects by supplying life and vigour.


Ogham alphabet was not of Irish origin (388, 2771).

‘“Vielleicht,” says Zimmer, “schon dem 2. Jahrhundert n. Chr. ist der Verkehr des keltisch-römischen Westgalliens mit seiner alten Kolonie, dem keltischen Irland, die Einführung des Ogamalphabets in Irland und die Sitte, dem Dahingeschiedenen aufrechtstehende Steinpfeiler zu errichten, zuzuschreiben”’ ((SPA., 8th Dec. 1910, p. 1096)).

According to MacNeill (p. 335) the origin of the Ogham alphabet must be placed after the Roman conquest of Gaul, because prior thereto the Western Celts of the continent used the Greek alphabet, and Ogham is based on the Latin alphabet.

In our knowledge of written Gaelic, Ogham inscription bounds the horizon, and the identity in value of the Ogham symbols with later MS. tradition is clear, with a few exceptions.

B Group.

Oghamists are agreed that F, the third letter of the group, must be read as V in inscriptions.


H Group.

In the Kilkenny Arch. Journal, July 1874, p. 231, Mr G. M. Atkinson suggested that this group is named after the first five Gaelic numerals, haon, do, tri, ceathar, cuig. This suggestion, without touching on the origin of H, is open to the objection that óen in O.I. is used only in composition with a substantive; but in the meantime it furnishes a useful mnemonic, and, as it stands, it indicates a possible connection between this group and numerosa, No. IV. of the duodecim latinitates of Maro, p. 89,9.

The difficulty is with regard to H, the first letter of the group. According to Maro H has two powers, ad motationem and ad fortitudinem, distinctions which correspond to the values in the text: (1) H non est litera sed nota aspirationis (767), and (2) B cum aspiratione pro p ponitur (433).

There is no demonstrated instance of H occurring in any of the Ogham inscriptions, and the sign may have originally been devised to represent a consonant value which became rare or obsolete before the time of the extant inscriptions; and the first value of H was attracted to, and became identified with, the symbol when the letter became familiar through Latin sources.

An endeavour is here made to establish the second or Ogham value of H from the following considerations.

A stop sibilant existed in Gaelic (cf. Pedersen, Gr. §51), corresponding to Gaulish Ð, which is sometimes written S, e.g., Lat. i-uuenc-us, Ir. ó-ac, Cym. ieu-anc; also without c, Ir. óa, Cym. ieu. The sibilant representing i appears also in Ir. as s-ó, s-óu, s-ó-om. That this sound is represented by Ogham H is rendered probable by the occurrence of the form ihuinnéis, Lat. juvenes, Ériu, viii. 5.

But this sibilant sound is also written d, e.g., Tadg = Tasg-os, and probably r, e.g., do-bidc = -dibirc (cf. Brér  p.lii Garad for Brég Garad g .s. of Brí Garad). This value following B would give the Ogham B + H = P.

Again the three Ogham accents are represented in the text by the letters d, s, n, (4800). At lines 430, 2877, however, are found the three supplementa written h, s, n, except that at line 2878 for s = forsail is written the Latin sign of length (T has a sign that may be meant for s), and a particular sign is substituted for n. This leaves a probability that here H has the same value as D.

Teora fuillti ind Uraicepto (430, 2877) seem to be the three supplementa (cf. Origg. i. 3, 6), not of the Ogham but of the Auraicept, that is, they are additions made to the Ogham orthographic system by the grammarians of the MS. tradition. If this limitation be correct, examples of supplementa need hardly be looked for in the ancient Oghams. No opinion on this point is obtainable from modern Oghamists; for the word forbaid is hardly known, and Oghamists have hitherto ignored it. The word, however, occurs with definitions and examples in the Book of Ferchertne (810, 3633) one of the oldest parts of the text, and some of its provisions are exemplified, e.g., n (of cenn) is not doubled in Ogham (439) e.g. QENVENDANI, Πεννο-ουινδοσ (Pedersen, Gr. §357). On the other hand a large number of inscriptions contain double letters. While some of these, dd and s, may perhaps be accents as indicated in the Auraicept, others like cc (1358, 1825) and ll (4788) obviously are not. Rhys Pedersen (Gr. § 4), and others incline to think them signs of lenition.

M Group.

The fact that the third symbol has the effect of two letters ng proves nothing as to that combination (4925).

In Ogham inscriptions the letters, if they belong to different syllables, are written separately, Studies in Irish Epigraphy i. 49.


The fourth symbol is said to represent sr or str, and the examples Stru 247, 2562, Streulae 5690, Strannan 5795, seem sufficient to establish that sound. The other examples point to a rare or obsolete sound like English z, e.g., stmólach 5695, sréghuindeacht 5801, súst 5727, srorca 5700.

No authenticated instance of this symbol has been found in inscriptions.

A Group.

The simple vowels have the same order and value as in Latin.

In epigraphy no distinction of long and short vowels has hitherto been observed.

Ea or Diphthong Group

The first and the last symbols ea and ae are interchanged.

The doubling of each letter in the explanatory script (1143) shows that the symbols stand for long vowels as well as diphthongs. Examples are given of ē and ō (2873), of ē and e (1285).

The symbol for ī (1369) is also used for p (Irish Epigraphy ii. 83; cf. MacNeill, p. 335, 6) and for medial y.

The symbol for ae (1365,70) is also used for x, which is regarded as a double c.

Prof. MacAlister (Irish Epigraphy ii. 144–8) has called attention to an excellent example—perhaps two—of Nathair im Ceann (5821). Owing to his axiom that the Oghams were not Cryptograms (Irish Epigraphy i. 66), he is unwilling to allow that the B and H groups were consciously interchanged (ii. 26, 140). But this interchange is contemplated (Aur. p. 306, 42), and since the study of the Oghams was elementary work prescribed for junior students, the wonder is perhaps that so many of the epigraphs are in regular Ogham. 1

Unknown author

Auraicept na n-Éces

Edited by George Calder

The Scholar's Primer


1. The Scholar's Primer


Incipit Primer of the Poets, that is, eraicept, beginning of lessons, for every beginning is er.

To what is this a beginning? Not hard. To the selection that was selected in Gaelic since this is the beginning which was invented by Fenius after the coming of the school with the languages from abroad, every obscure sound that existed in every speech and in every language was put into Gaelic so that for this reason it is more comprehensive than any language. Er then is every beginning, for this was the beginning with the poets, that every obscure sound should come in the beginning, to wit, the Beithe Luis of the Ogham on account of obscurity. Query, what is the reason why select language should be said of Gaelic? Not hard. Because it was selected from every language; and for every obscure sound of every language a place was found in Gaelic owing to its comprehensiveness beyond every speech. Query, then, did not Gaelic exist before it was selected? It did indeed, for the seventy-two languages are not found other wise. Query, in what land was Gaedel born? Not hard. In Egypt. And what particular place? Not hard. In the plain of Ucca in the South-Western division of Egypt. Who of the school went to it thither? Not hard. Gaedel son of Ether, son of Toe, son of Baracham, a Scythian Greek. Query, how much did he bring of it? Not hard. The whole of it except what poets added by way of obscuration after it had reached Fenius.


Query, what language of the seventy-two was published by Fenius first? Not hard. The Irish Language {} for it is he whom he preferred of his school, and whom he had reared from his youth, and it is he that was the youngest of the school, and on account of its comprehensiveness beyond every speech, and it was the first language that was brought from the Tower. Fenius had Hebrew, Greek, and Latin before he came from Scythia, and he had no need to establish them at the Tower, wherefore on that account it was published first. Query, was there not among the many languages something nobler to take precedence of Gaelic? Not hard. No indeed, on account of its aptness, lightness, smoothness, and comprehensive ness. Wherefore is it more comprehensive than any speech? Not hard. Because it was the first speech that was brought from the Tower, it was of such extent that it was more comprehensive than any speech so that it was the one to be published at first. What are the place, time, person, and cause of Gaelic? Not hard. Its place, the Tower of Nimrod, for there it was invented at first. Its time the time of building the Tower by Adam's children. Its person Sachab son of Rochemhurcos and Gaedel son of Ether, son of Toe, son of Baracham, a Scythian Greek. What is its cause? Not hard. The building of Nimrod's Tower. Others say the cause was that Gaedel went into the land in which he was born so that he was the first that wrote it on tablets and stones in the particular place which is named Calcanensis. There Gaedel wrote Gaelic. Wherefore is worldly speech said of Gaelic, since it is not referred to by the learned sages? Not hard. On account of what it relates of worldly questions and cases both of laity and clergy. Wherefore is it said that he who reads Gaelic is rude before God? Not to it is reference  p.7 made here at all, but to the whole of philosophy, both grammar, dialectic, and metrics; as the poet said:

  1. Learning and philosophy are vain,
    Reading, grammar and gloss,
    Diligent literature and metrics,
    Small their avail in heaven above.
Query, is Gaelic not philosophy? Not hard. (No) indeed save that which minor authors towards the end of the world make as a means for distinguishing them selves beyond the former authors: or this is what are worldly speech and vain philosophy, viz., the heresy and the unbelief which any one has shown against the truth, divine and human, and that is the meaning of “rude before God.”

What are the place, time, person, and cause of writing the Primer? Not one place have the four books, as the poet says: What is first is last what is last is first, to wit, what is first according to book order was invented last; to wit, the book of Cennfaeladh, son of Oilill. As regards place, time, person, and cause of writing that book of Cennfaeladh: its place Derry Luran, its time the time of Domnall, son of Aed, son of Ainmire. Its person Cennfaeladh son of Oilill; cause of writing it, that his brain of oblivion was dashed out of Cennfaeladh's head in the battle of Moira. Four glorious events of that battle: Rout of Conghal in his lie before Domnall in his truth; and Suibne in madness, but it is owing to the quantity of poems he had made; the Scotsman bearing the Irish man along with him over sea without being noticed, Dubh Diadh was his name; and his brain of oblivion being dashed out of Cennfaeladh's head, owing to the extent of poetry, words, and reading that he amassed.

Now the authors of the Gael say: Why did he say that the authors who were before him “say”? since  p.9 it is Cennfaeladh that invented this book, viz., the Prologue of the Primer. And the authors of the Gael, that was Fenius Farsaidh, and Iar of the many languages, son of Nema. Not hard [2nd Ans.]. Owing to the nobility of the time he said it, that is, the present time, for he puts the present time for all times: ut dixit: Praesens tempus pro omnibus temporibus ponitur, i.e., the present time is put for all times. How is that? since he says of the one word in which are two syllables, that they are not spoken at one time, ut dicitur, lego, I read, quando dicis le- futurum est -go [quando dicis -go] praeteritum est le- i.e., when you say the first syllable, the last syllable is future to you, and [when you say the last] the first syllable is preterite to you. That is natural as the Latin ist said: Tempus non dividitur sed opera nostra dividuntur, i.e., it is not time that is divided there but our actions. This however, is not a reference to the authors who lived at the same time with himself which Cennfaeladh gave when he said “the authors of the Gael say.” Why has he placed a first here? Because it is the eldest among letters and the noblest among vowels.

“That this is the reason for the Irish Language” (that is Fenius speech); “a deed wonderful, unlawful,” that is, an unusual deed, unusual for its infrequency, unlawful for its pride, an attempt on heaven in their fleshly bodies without permission of God.

“Which happened there, i.e., the building of Nimrod's Tower.” Now that Nimrod was champion of all Adam's seed in his time, Nimrod, son of Cush, son of Ham, son of Noah. There was not then any king over the world till the time of Nin, son of Bel, but only counsellors and chiefs were in existence up till that time. Seventy-two counsellors accordingly were in the  p.11 world at the time in which the Tower was made. Now one of the 72 was Nimrod. A mighty man was he and a man famous in hunting, to wit, for stags; and in coursing, to wit, for hares; and in trappings, to wit, wild pigs; and in snarings, to wit, for birds. So that thus multitudes of men were following him so that he was more numerous, to wit, in armies and so that he was thus more powerful than a counsellor. So that it was he who united those 72 counsellors to one counsel to make the Tower with the grandson of his father's brother, to wit, with the great grandson of his grandfather's brother, to wit, with Peleg son of Ragau, son of Arphaxad, son of Shem, son of Noah. And he was one of the 72 counsellors, too, up to that time. And they say therefore that Peleg was the one counsellor and the same parent of them all. A question here is, the names of the 72 counsellors by whom the Tower was made, only that writings do not enumerate but the names of the 17 men who were most illustrious among them, to wit, Peleg, Nimrod, Eber, Latinus, Rabiath Scot, Nabgodon, Assur, Ibath, Longbardus, Bodbus, Brittus, Germanus, Garath, Scithius, Gotius, Bardanius, and Sardain. But at any rate after the flood the first king according to nature was Nimrod. That was the first king according to art, the Peleg aforesaid. According to authority, however, it was Nin son of Bel, son of Plosc, son of Pluliris, son of Agomolis, son of Fronosis, son of Gitlis, son of Tiras, son of Assur, son of Shem, son of Noah. He obtains, then, that thing. Nimrod said that it was his name that should be on that work for ever. Adrodamas, i.e., that thing also was granted him. Three things, then, on account of which the building of that Tower was accomplished by Adam's children, to wit, for dread of the flood again, and that  p.13 they should go to heaven in their bodies from the earth, and to render their names illustrious after them, so that on that account said the King of heaven to the people of heaven (316): “Venite ut videamus et confundamus linguas eorum,” that is, come that we may see and confound those men's speech. Now great was the power of Adam's seed and their strength at that time in making the Tower, that they might know thus whether the power of heaven's King was over them, He confounded them, that is, He confused them. When one of them would say to another “fetch me a stone” it was a stick he would bring, to wit, the slabs on which the mortar was mixed and the mallets by which it was mixed, these are the sticks and stones which they were talking about. Now poets came from Scythia a little time after these doings to seek to learn the many languages at the Tower since they thought i.e. they supposed i.e. they expected, of a place from which were dispersed and in which had been invented the many languages by Adam's children that they would remain there in per fection. They went therefore to the plain of Shinar unto the Tower, that is, the plain of Ucna or the plain of Doraimh in the North West of the plain of Shinar, a special name of the point on which is the Tower. The poets numbered seventy-five, that is, one for each language, and the three sages, to wit, a sage for each of the three principal languages, Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. Seventy-four languages, which is every one of these languages, that was what was dispersed there.

Fenius Farsaidh was the name of their chief, and he was a sage in the principal languages even before he came from the North out of Scythia. The reason why superiority is claimed on behalf of these three languages is owing to the amount of compositions that were made out of them,  p.15 and owing to the mingling wherewith they mingled with every language, or again it was owing to the superscription that was written out of the three of them upon the board of the Cross. Since Fenius did not get a perfection of the languages at the Tower, he dispersed his school and his disciples abroad throughout the cities and territories of the earth on every side to learn the languages, and Fenius supported them with both food and clothing whilst they were so learning, to wit, seven languages [l. years], and Fenius stayed at the Tower and dwelt till his school came unto him from every direction, and he kept instructing the many races of the world at the Tower during that space of time. Hence he said in the body of the book that Fenius himself remained there at the Tower and there he dwelt. Other authors say that of the children of Ionan son of Japheth son of Noah from whom the Greeks originated and from whom Fenius sprung, there were none at the building of the Tower.

That is natural for Jonan had no children at all, or Japheth had not that son himself, ut Hieronyinus dixit. Query, What is Fenius genealogy? Not hard. Farsaidh, then, son of Baath, son of Magog, son of Japheth, son of Noah. Or Fenius Farsaidh, son of Eogan, son of White-knee (Glunfind), son of White-hand (Laimfind), son of Ether, son of Agnoman, son of Toe, son of Bonb, son of Semh, son of Mar, son of Ethecht, son of Aurtecht, son of Abodh, son of Aoi, son of Ara, son of Iara, son of Sru, son of Esru, son of Boath, son of Riafath, son of Gomer, son of Japheth, son of Noah, etc. And besides Fenius is a Scythian, and up to him are carried Scythians and Goths according to their genealogies. And they were all the seed of Noah. The Hebrew language is the tongue that was in the world before any building of the Tower, and it is it too that will be after doomsday, and  p.17 some say that it was it which the people of heaven had Now after the disciples came to Fenius from learning, and after showing their journeys, to wit, their wanderings, and their works, to wit, their studies, then they asked the sage, to wit, Fenius to select for them out of the many languages, a language that no one else should have but which might belong to them alone. Wherefore on that account for them was invented the Select Language with its superadditions, the Language of the Irish, and the Additional Language, and the Language Parted among the principal letters as he has related in the Great Book of Woods, and the Language of the Poets whereby each one of them converses with another, and the Common Language which serves for every one from many races. Gaedel, son of Ether, son of Toe, son of Baracham, a Greek, was one of the two sages in Fenius company, so that from him was named Gaelic, to wit, ealg means noble, to wit, Gaedel ennobled it. Gaedeal Glas also, son of Agnon or Aingin, son of Fenius father's elder brother; and he too was a sage, even he. It is he that claimed this language for Gaedel, son of Ether; wherefore Gaedealg is from Gaedel, son of Ether. And Gaedil from Gaedel, son of Agnon or Aingin. Now the Language of the Irish was invented here, and the Additional Language, and Language Parted among the trees, and the Language of the Poets is the fourth, and the Common Language that serves everyone, the fifth. Now Fenius Farsaidh son of Eugenius, and Iar son of Nema, and Gaedel son of Ether are the three sages who selected these languages, and they were invented in the city of Eotenam, or Athena.

Query, what are the names of the 72 races from which the many languages were learnt? Not hard. Bithynians, Scythians, Scots, Germans, Medes, Sicilians,  p.19 Hyrcanians, Goths, Pontians, Morini, Lyonese, Cyprians, Gauls, Pamphylians, Lydians, óig, Cycladians, Cretans, Corsicans, Sardinians, Sicilians, Rhetians, Rheginians, Rhodians, Romans, máir, Massilians, Moors, Macedonians, Morcain, náir, náir mais, Narbonians, Noricans, Nubians, brais, Bithynians, Britons, Boeotians, Magogians, Armenians, amuis, gairg, Galatians, Aquitanians, Athenians, Thessalians, aird, Alanians, Albanians, Hyrcanians, Italians, Spaniards, Goths, Getae (?), grinn, Saracens, Franks, Frisians, Langobards, Lacedemonians, Elisaeans (?), Thracians, Trojans, Dardanians, Dalmatians, Dacians, Ethiopians, Egyptians, Brahmans, and Indians. Those then are the names of the 72 races whose were the 72 languages. Now one man for each of these languages, that was the complement of the school, and three sages, and each one of them was sent to his own language, and unto their common district unto that learning went not every one of the same race but every one of the same language, as for example, Cai Cainbrethach, Fenius' foster-son, one of the 72 disciples of the school. He was a Hebrew by extraction, and it was to Egyptians he was sent because his parents had lived there, and there he was brought up and reared from his youth, so that hence he says in the body of the book: Every one of the same speech went there, but not every one of the same race, unto his own district. Now seven years were the pupils on the course, and they were three years in displaying their studies after coming home, so that they were ten [years] accordingly, wherefore it is of this he says below in the body of the book: At the end of ten years after their dispersion from the Tower in every direction this language was selected for them. Now there were 25 persons that were the noblest of  p.21 them. These are the names of them after whom are named the Ogham vowels and consonants. Here are their names: Babel, Lot, Pharaoh, Saliath, Nebuchadnezzar, Herod, David, Talamon, Cae, Kaliap, Muiriath, Gotli, Gomers, Stru, Ruben, Achab, Oise, Urith, Essu, Iachim, Ethrocius, Uimelicus, Iudonius, Affrim, Ordines.

These are the names of the 25 persons, the noblest that were in Fenius school. Others again say that that is the alphabet which was invented in Achaidh, and at the Causeway of the Great Estuary that Amergen, son of Mil, invented, the Beithe Luis of the Ogham.

What letter, what character, what sound is that with which no word is ended? dinin disail, or f. And what sharp sound is found with which no strong word is begun? ng. The five principal vowels of the Ogham however, it was from the five persons who were noblest of them that they were named, a, o, u, e, i. Others again say that seven principal vowels are there, and that it is from the seven persons that were noblest there that they are named, and the two vowels that were added to those five vowels are ea, oi.

Query, what are the definite numbers of Nimrod's Tower? Not hard. Eight of them, to wit, 72 counsellors, 72 pupils, 72 races of men, 72 languages, the languages in his school, 72 peoples whose were those languages, and the races, 72 artificers to work at it, 72 building materials including lime, bitumen, earth, and cement in equal layers, 72 paces in width, as he said:

  1. The number of the chosen Tower
    Of Nimrod, it was a shelter to men,
    Four and seventy paces,
    Five paces, and five thousand.
  2. Two and seventy counsellors,
    They took companies on an expedition,
    Two and seventy languages
    God gave to confound them.
  3.  p.23
  4. Two and seventy free races
    Of the men, it was hard;
    Two and seventy pupils,
    Fenius sends them to learn.
  5. Two and seventy free peoples
    He subdivided, men of the earth;
    Two and seventy chief artificers
    For the skilful working of the materials.
  6. Two and seventy building materials,
    In equal quantity, he used,
    Including lime and pitch
    And earth and cement.
  7. Seventeen cubits certified,
    Near heaven upwards with a roaring wind,
    And two and seventy paces
    In breadth to reckon it.

Others say, however, that only nine materials were in the Tower, to wit, clay and water, wool and blood, wood and lime, acacias, flax thread, and bitumen, “de quibus dicitur”:—

  1. Clay, water, wool, and blood,
    Wood, lime, and flax thread of a full twist,
    Acacias, bitumen with virtue,
    The nine materials of Nimrod's Tower.
to wit, noun, pronoun, verb, adverb, participle, conjunction, preposition, and interjection are their names: Nomen, pronomen, verbum, adverbium, participium, conjunctio, interjectio, to wit:
  • 1 person singular … sum … atáim
  • 2 person singular … es … atá tú
  • 3 person singular … est … atá sé
  • 1 person plural … sumus … atámaid
  • 2 person plural … estis … atá sibse
  • 3 person plural … sunt … atáit
Sum, es, est, its singular.
Sumus, estis, sunt its plural.
 p.25 There are two divisions in the Latin Alphabet, to wit, vowels and consonants. There are, atait, to wit, sunt, its Latin equivalent, to wit, its very general origin: totus, its particular origin, to wit, a proof there, to wit, a reference to the whole of the alphabet he gives here. What part of speech is the word sunt? For there are eight parts of speech, to wit, nomen, pronomen, uerbum, aduerbium, participium, coniunctio, prepositio, interiectio. Those are their names with the Latinist; noun and verb, pronoun and adverb, participle and preposition, conjunction and interjection with the Gael. It is certain in truth that the word sunt is a verb; and if so, what part of the verb? for there are in fact three of them in the singular, to wit, sum, es, est; and three of them in the plural, to wit, sumus, estis, sunt, to wit:—
  • 1 person singular … … sum
  • 2 person singular … … es
  • 3 person singular … … est
  • 1 person plural … … sumus
  • 2 person plural … … estis
  • 3 person plural … … sunt

Attaat, i.e., there is science in place, i.e., there is science of law in the chief poet's place is its meaning: or attaat, that is, there is science out of thee, quoth the disciple to the master.

Its meaning further, attaat, who fall, shine, show, come. Its use, that is, of ataat, in the nature of the vowel and the consonant. They fall into letters, i.e., they are converted out of that primary nature into letters. They shine, i.e., out of these letters into words. They show to the learned out of them, to wit, their meanings and their characters, i.e., the forms of the letters. They come out of those words into texts, and series of proverb, commentary, and poetic composition.


Two divisions, i.e., two true arrangements, or two true other things, or two true folds, or two intensive goings, or two intensive divisions, or two supreme folds, or two goings on them, or two divisions on them, or two distributions on them. These are the three or and the three er and the three fir of the Primer. What are the two, three, four, and five folds of the Primer? Not hard. Full tone and diphthong, the two folds of the vowels: semivowels, mutes, and aspirates are the three folds of the consonants, to wit: when there are four of them, however, two folds of the vowels and two of the consonants, i.e., semivowels and mutes, for h is a mute. When there are five of them, however, that is, two folds of the vowels and three of the consonants.

On the alphabet, i.e., for an “author's selection,” or for “selecting of words,” i.e., of vocables: or on the “selection at Tower”: or from the word abecedarium, i.e., the beginning: or it is that which “ripens” their speech for every one: or alphabet, that is, placing a b: or it is “that which ripens” in Gaelic, incipit in Latin, apix in Greek, a be ce de dybum in Hebrew.

Latinda, that is, they speak the thing, i.e., the words: or Laitinda, i.e., from Laitindacht, i.e., a latitudine, i.e., from the extent of the speech: or from Latinus, son of Faunus.

Edón, that is, “it” its one explanation: or it is the one [.i.] of the learned man.

Gutta (vowel), i.e., voice foundation, i.e., foundation of the voice is that: or voice sent, in respect that voices are sent through them: or voice ways, in respect that they are ways of voices, ut Priscianus dixit: Dicitur autem litera vel quasi legitera quod legendi iter praebeat, that is, the letter is as a road for reading inasmuch as it prepares a way for the reading: or a  p.29 voice place, i.e., they make a voice in place: or they vocalise, i.e., in respect that voice comes through them alone, ut Donatus dixit: Vocales sunt quae per se proferuntur et per se syllabam faciunt, i.e., the vowels are those that are pronounced by themselves and alone form a syllable.

Consonants, i.e., beautiful sounds, i.e., bright sounds: or consonants from the word consonantes, sounding together, i.e., they sound along with vowels: or consonants, i.e., delicate their sounds, i.e., scantily sounding owing to the smallness of its sound by itself. Why did he say vowel and consonants, since vowel is singular and consonants plural? Not hard. Vowels and consonants is proper there. Why did he say a vowel is a voice foundation, or a vowel is a voice which they utter, for the voice is no foundation to itself, and it does not find a voice through itself. Why did he say a consonant is sounding along with, since the consonant does not sound with itself or with its vowel? Query, what is the comparison of the unallowable of the first part of the Primer? Not hard. Fors, chance, knowledge of it is better, that is unallowable, for ignorance is not good. Why did he say a vowel, i.e., a voice path, for it itself is not a path?

What are peculiar, proper, common, and improper of the word vowel? Not hard. Peculiar to it, voice path, since it finds voice by itself. Proper to it, they express a voice, for it expresses itself. Common to it, i.e., voice foundation, for it is a foundation in the words. Improper to it, however, is voice foundation, when it is not a foundation in itself. Why did he say alphabet was a selecting at Tower? for the alphabets were not begun, as Fenius said, who was a sage in the three principal tongues even before he came from the North,  p.31 and there are no sages without alphabets. In Achaia, then, were invented the alphabets of the world. The first doichned and the first dichned of the Primer here, to wit: Its first doichned is for, that is, ar is the word: Its first dichned, again, i.e. epe, cutting of author, i.e. tepe is the word itself.

There are, then, two divisions in the Beithe Luis Nin of the Ogham, i.e., vowels and consonants. Dano ·i· da n-ui, two of them, that is, da n-ui, two questions are there. N-ae is question, that is, the question on the Beithe Luis Nin of the Ogham, that is, ind oguamma of the perfect alliteration, or on the undying literary knowledge of the Ogham. As to fedha, wood vowels, moreover, two kinds are reckoned of them, to wit, artificial tree and natural tree. Artificial tree, i.e., the tree of the Ogham; and natural tree, the tree of the forest. As regards artificial wood, moreover, they are regarded as having two sorts of origin. Fidh, wood, then, is from the word funo [φωνeacgrω], I sound, or from the word fundamentum, i.e., foundation, and that derivation, to wit, fundamentum, is common to artificial and natural wood. Now, as to fid, wood, good law is its meaning, both artificial and natural. Foundation, however, is its use, both artificial and natural. It is strange what makes the artificial wood have the two derivations, and the natural wood one, to wit, funo, and fundamentum. Not hard. Funo in respect of sound, and fundamentum in respect of foundation; and common to artificial and to natural wood is foundation.

Fid, wood, that is, fedh ae, extent of them, since five forms of ae are in existence, ae that nourishes, ae that sings, ae that sues, ae that judges, and ae that sits. Nowae that nourishes, i.e., while it is on the mind, and ae that sings at giving it, and ae that sues while  p.33 asking the reward for it, and ae that considers about its greatness or its smallness, and ae that sits after being paid his reward.

Taebomnai, consonants, that is, taebuaim n-ai, side seam of them; or to the sides of the oaks they are, that is, to the sides of the chieftain wood they are; or taebomnai, i.e., cutting of material, from the fact that material for the words is cut out of them. Why did he say taeb uaim n-ui, that is, side harmony of poetry for there is no poetry without the consonants? Why is it said of the sides of the oaks, i.e., the vowels, for it is not at the sides they are, but before or behind them in the words that the consonants are? Cutting of material, however, that is the peculiar meaning of that expression. There is a correspondence to a word which he gave in the Latin alphabet when he said: There are two divisions in the Latin alphabet. It was a correspondence to nature, however, which he gave when he said: There are two divisions in the Beithe Luis of the Ogham.

When is the Beithe Luis one?

Not hard. The whole of it. When is it two things? Vowels and consonants. When is it three things? Vowels, diphthongs, and consonants. When is it four things? The three groups of the consonants and the ten principal vowels. When is it five things? Vowels, diphthongs, and the three groups of the consonants. When is it six things? The three composite letters of the Ogham ng, sr, qu. When is it seven things? The three additions to the Primer, h, forsail, and arnin.

H first. It increases b till it acquires the force of p, as the Latinist said: b cum aspiratione pro p ponitur, i.e., b with aspiration is put for p, so that h increases it, for p is the aspiration of the Gael. Forsail is the second  p.35 addition. It adds a vowel power to the sound to make it long, as srōn, slōg, etc. Arnin is the third addition. Where two consonants are required, arnin takes the force of one of them, e.g. ceann, etc.; for there is no doubling [of letters] in Ogham. Three composite letters of the Ogham exist, qu, ng, and sr. Where c stands before u, it is queirt that is to be written there, e.g. cuileand, etc. Where n stands before g, it is gedul that is to be written there, ut est, uingi, an ounce, cuing, a yoke, cingit, they step, etc. Where s stands before d, it is straiph that is to be written there, such is st in stial, the belt, etc.

There are two divisions in the consonants according to the Latinist, to wit, semivowels and mutes. The semivowels first, their parent vowels before them. The mutes, however, have their parent vowels following them.

Two divisions, then, to wit, two true separations in the common consonants according to the Latinist to wit, according to the letter guide, or the reading guide, or the broad marker that is, semivowels and mutes; semivowels, that is, half the voice is thrown out in order to sound them; or stammering voice; or half-voice place; or half-voice way; or half-voice foundation: and it is not because it would be half a voice exactly that would stand in them, but that they do not reach a full tone; “unde Priscianus dixit: Quicquid in duas partes dividitur, altera pars dicitur semis,” i.e., whatever thing it be that is divided into two parts, one of the parts is said to be a half “ut Priscianus dixit: Semideos et semiviros appellamus non qui dimidiam partem habent deorum vel virorum sed qui pleni dii vel viri non sunt,” i.e., though they are thus called half-men and half-gods, it is not because the gods might be half-men, or half-men gods, but that they are not complete. Similarly the semivowels are not full sounds, “ut Donatus dixit: Semivocales sunt quae per se  p.37 quidem proferuntur sea per se syllabam non faciunt,” i.e., the semivowels are those that are pronounced by themselves. “Quicquid asperum dicitur anditus expellit,” i.e., the hearing rejects whatever thing is spoken roughly.

Mutes, i.e., bad foundations, or feeble ones, or sonorous, i.e., little spent is its sound; or weighty, or the greater the vowels when they are along with them; or from the word mutus, i.e., speechless, and not because they would be speechless altogether, for their sounds are in them even when they are small, “ut Priscianus dixit: Informis dicitur mulier non quae caret forma sed quae male est formata,” i.e., a woman is called unshapely not because she is devoid of shape, but only because she has an ill shape. Thus, therefore, the mutes are not soundless but a scanty sound is in them tantum. Whence they are called mutae, i.e., foundationless, “ut Donatus dixit: Mutae sunt quae nec per se proferuntur nec per se syllabam faciunt,” i.e., the mutes are these letters which do not make a syllable by themselves, and are not pronounced by themselves, etc. The semivowels first, i.e. the first science for learning i.e. according to good knowledge; or the first knowledge; or the first hit upon the mention. Their parent vowels before them. The mutes on the other hand have their parent vowels after them, i.e., in the proper vowels. Their parent vowels, i.e., those whence is their deliverance or their origin, i.e., their vowels. Why did he say the parent vowels are after them, if beginning be parents, since it is not usual that the beginning is last? That certainly is not his intention here, that parent vowels should be the beginning at all, but that science will be perceived in his mind, i.e., the law of voice which is at the beginning of the semivowels should remain with it to the last, and the consonantal law that is in them to the last should be uttered forth first.


The Gael did not think that appropriate that the nature of them both should be to have their vowel before them and after them, for this he thought appropriate that it should be the beginning of them that should remain firm with him and that their closing vowel should be put away, so that the Ogham Beithe Luis Nin were all mutes save vowels only, to wit, that was not appropriate, to wit, that was not indeed a cause of finding; or that was not indeed a sage's finding; or that was not an easy choice; or that was not a choice, however, in the opinion of the Gael; or there was not a course with respect to a vowel, to wit, with the wise satirist, to wit, with the man who had the wise course; that it should be nature; or that it might be a matter to be done to them both, i.e., to the semivowels and to the mutes, their vowels before them and after them, i.e., before them and after them, before them in the case of semivowels and after them in the case of mutes: but there is a doubt with me there still, and this was in truth a sage's finding with him so that it was the course which he followed in his mind, i.e., the vowel which exists in the semivowels should remain firm with him to the last, and as their last word should be put the sage's knowledge, to wit, the consonants should be put first so that it may not be a misplace of speech of the undying knowledge of the Ogham: save vowels only, per anastrophen is the name for that, to wit, a quickness of the turning, as e.g. l, so that there it becomes le, and n becomes ne. Why should he prefer them to be all mutes to their being semivowels and mutes, as they were with the Latinist? Not hard. In order to follow the Greeks, for there are no semivowels with them, and Fenius was a Greek; or again it is on account of the nobility of the order of the Greeks, “ut dicitur: Omne uile priusponitur, omne bonum postponitur”  p.41 i.e., every mean thing is placed first, every distinguished thing to conclude.

Now as to genders, how many are there with the Irish? (that is, gooseberry (i) way). Not hard. Three of them, i.e., masculine, feminine, and neuter gender with the Gael, to wit, masculine, feminine, and neuter with the Latinist. Query, what is the difference among them? Not hard. Their three leading words of gender differ, to wit, hic, haec, hoc; i.e., he, she, it; he, the man; she, the woman; it, the heaven.

Query, when is there harmony between the gender and the element to describe them? Not hard. When its proper gender by nature is applicable to it. There is no harmony, however, between them when one gender may be applied for another, i.e., masc. for fem., or fem. for masc., or neuter for either of them. Now masc. may be used for fem. when a female child is called he, ut dixit poeta:

  1. If I were a female child,
    I should love every young student;
    A man that is not discovered till he is heard of,
    Perfect sense for a while to you, O people.

Also fem. may be used for masc. when the horse is called she:

  1. The gabur is she, when it is a horse,
    The gabur is he, if it be bleating,
    The heron is she, though clearly it reveals itself,
    The titmouse is he, though a female bird.

Also neuter gender may be used for masc. or fem. gender when it is said “it is his head,” no matter whether that one is a man's head, or a woman's, ut dicitur:

  1. A woman's head that has destroyed my work,
    It has gained ground, no dear sound,
    It is a head that which is the most horrible
    Of any that is on a neck beneath heaven.


Also fem. gender may be used for neuter gender when a stone is called she, ut dicitur:

  1. The flagstone is he, a feast that has flamed,
    According to the threads of sages is the history;
    A block is it, according to nature, a rock,
    A stone is she according to artificiality.
  2. The red flame is “he,” a prayer of colours,
    Against which will not prevail battle or shower;
    A head is “it” of fairest form,
    A place whereon with a glow the world distills.
  3. The likeness of her form, without concealment,
    Of Elba, daughter of Idad,
    To a bright sun's fire on a field
    Thereto I liken her beauteous shape.

If it be according to the proper use of the elements, however, there is no term of masc. or fern, gender save for what generates or for what is generated from; and neuter were else the nature of the whole. On the one hand neuter gender is derived from masc. and fem.; on the other, masc. and fem. are derived from neuter, as it is in the verses 2, and these are the derived neuters and the neuter couples and their pairs.

Speech that is scientia, knowledge, from a Latin root. Word-wisdom, its use. Speech-way, its meaning, i.e., a narration along the way, along the path: conar, that which is trodden: tra, that is, let it come unto us, or let it go from us, that is, the saying; or tra, i.e., the three of them, i.e., the three genders, masc., fem., and neuter gender. Masculine gender is, however, added gender, or true gender, or goodman gender, or male gender, or manly gender, or better than the woman gender, or man gender only that it is. Feminine gender, again, i.e., woman gender, i.e., it were true, or lasting gender, or female gender,  p.45 or bona scientia, to wit, good knowledge, or inferior to the gender of the man that the woman's gender is. Neuter gender, again, that is, dark gender or darkness gender or dark gender on her, or the dem is from the word demo, i.e., digbaim, I deprive: or unliving gender, i.e. gender inanimate, i.e., it is not a gender that applies to quick.

When is it erlonn, leading word? Well, it is erlonn when it refers to another thing, ut est, he is the man, etc. There is then a comparison between the fem. and the masc. there: or it is a comparison when it differentiates from any one else, with his father's name especially. Speech, when it is said it is he only, with no other along with him, “ut Priscianus dixit: Oratio est ordinatio congrua dictionum perfectamque sententiam demonstrans”, i.e., speech is an appropriate order of the words that shows the perfect sense. Erlonn is the same between two erlonn that are not the same, to wit, fri se or fri sed; for is sed is not erlonn, it is an anteposition.

Natural masc. speech, “he” is the man: artificial masculine speech, “he” is the heavens. Natural feminine speech, “she” is the woman: artificial feminine speech, “she” is the stone. Natural neuter speech, “it” is the heaven: artificial neuter speech, “it” is the head. There is beautiful nature and ugly nature. Beautiful nature first: It is her nose or her eye—the woman's. Ugly nature on the other hand: It is his tooth or his mouth—the woman's; and quality of voice causes that, that is, nothing but want of use, as are the words of a language which we do not know, i.e., we do not think them sweet because we do not use them. Masculine, feminine, and neuter with the Latinist, that is, mas, a male, and cul, keeping: or com-fis-col knowledge, lust, i.e., major ejus scientia, et major ejus quam feminae luxuria; or it is from the word masculinus, i.e., masculine.  p.47 Next feminine, to wit, fem-der, to wit, feme in Greek, uirgo in Latin: ainder every intact one. Femdeir, then, is a pure virgin; or femen quasi femer, i.e., a femore, i.e., femur, thigh, for it is then she is a woman quum femori ejus serviatur; or femen, i.e., a root of fighting, or contentiousness, unde femina dicitur de, a sheltered one, or tender skinned one; or it is from the words femenina, femina, i.e., womanly, or of womanly form, or womanly activities, or womanly deeds. Neuter, that is, I do not know what gender, since it is not she or he; or neuter from the word neutrum, neither one nor other, i.e., nec hoc nec illud, id est, nec masculinum nec femininum. Cesc, query, is from the word sciscor, I enquire. What is the difference among them? Not hard. Their three leading words of gender distinguish them, i.e., their three antedenotations, i.e., denotations before them, i.e., before the genders, i.e., he, she, it: but these leading words stand at the commencement to indicate the antedenotation of the words following them and masculine, feminine, and neuter gender is understood through them.

There is distinction, then, among the three genders. Query, when is there agreement (i.e., when is there a philosopher's one invention) between the gender, and the element for telling them? Not hard. When its proper gender is found upon it. But of all that generates and is generated from, there are two generations, a natural and an artificial generation. A natural generation of birth, to wit, son and daughter out of woman: an artificial generation, i.e., grass, out of the earth, as the Primer says: “Great is the uselessness of the earth unless it bring forth progeny.” There are four subdivisions of artificiality, to wit, Difference of Part, Cause of Euphony, Amplifying Speech, and Brevity of Terminology. Difference of Part, ut est, “he” is this female child, that is, the  p.49 name arises from the part of virginity which is there in the girl: Cause of Euphony, ut est, she is the gabair, steed, and it is a name for a white horse, that is, goar, that is, solus in the Feinechus, or in the Welsh, so that the poet put b to it for the sake of euphony: Amplifying of Speech, ut est, it is her head, and the two expressions are the more lengthy: Brevity of Terminology, ut est, a bark of butter, and a sieve of corn; for it were tedious to say a bark round about butter, and a sieve round about corn. For these are two modes of speaking that exist, the natural mode and the artificial.

Now there are seven inflections, to wit, the comparative degree of the Latinist is named inflection by the poet. Inflection of meaning in a person, inflection of meaning of a person, inflection of person in active, inflection of person in passive. Inflection of distinction in distinguishing, to wit, positive, comparative, and superlative with the Latinist: foundation, aggravation, belaudation with the poet: good, better, and best with the Gael; inflection of greatness in increasing, inflection of diminution in diminishing. Inflection of meaning in a person first: unnse, here is the man; unnsi, here is the woman; onnar, here is the thing: inflection of meaning of a person: I myself, thou thyself, he himself, we ourselves, ye yourselves, they themselves. Inflection of person in active: I did, thou didst, he did, we did, ye did, they did. Inflection of person in passive: I am loved, thou art loved, he is loved, we are loved, ye are loved, they are loved. Inflection of distinction in distinguishing, that is, good, better, best (i.e., with the common Gael in contradistinction to the poet: it is foundation, however, with him). Inflection of increase in increasing: great, greater, greatest. Inflection of diminution in diminishing: small, less, and least.


Seven inflections, that is, it is to be sought out whence it is in his knowledge; or it is to be sought out whence he is in ignorance. Inflection, i.e., it stands in the unlawful, to wit, in the seventh part of the heptad is the whole comparison, ut est: Pars pro tota et tota pro parte, the part for the whole and the whole for the part. Etargaire, i.e., it is to be separated into three, and etargaire, i.e. gáir is voice, i.e., interpretation of the voice is there; or interdecision, i.e., after the deciding of his knowledge between them.

The comparison of the Latinist is inflection with the poet: filidh, poet, that is, generous seeking, or generous sitting: or fi, that which satirises, and li that which praises: or fili from the word philosophus, philosopher, owing to the duty of the poet to be a philosopher. Why is not comparison a triad with the Latinist, as inflection is a triad with the Gael, to wit, quantity, quality, and meaning? Well, with the Latinist it is two things, quantity and quality only, to wit, good and bad, that is the quality: great and less, that is the quantity. With the Gael, however, this is its quality, to wit, good and bad together. This is its quantity, to wit, great and small: and with him the small is great in comparison with that which is less. The poet's inchosc, signification, however, is with the Latinist not comparison at all, but pronomen et verbum.

What makes him say that comparative degree with the Latinist is named inflection by the poet, seeing there are but three degrees of comparison with the Latinist, and the poet has seven inflections? It is not indeed to equate them does he do so now, but that which is inflection with the poet is comparison with the Latinist, i.e., inflection of distinction in distinguishing. Not every inflection is comparison, but every comparison is inflection. Why is positive with him a comparison? Not hard.  p.53 Because it is that which is the foundation, and there is distinction for it, ut dicitur, a number is opposed to a unit, ut est: Unus non est numerus sed fundamentum numeri, i.e., one is not a number, but it is a basis of number, and as the Gael has alt, joint, and it is not a metrical foot itself, though it is numbered with feet, and that through artificiality, to wit, the natural alt stands for positive.

Why is it not the name of comparative that they apply to all comparison? Not hard. Positive first: Now it does not surpass anything. The superlative, again, is not surpassed. The comparative, however, surpasses, is surpassed by something, so that it is for that reason comparison is an inclusive name.

What is comparison of sense without sound, and comparison of sound without sense, and comparison of sound and sense together? Comparison of sense without sound, ut est: bonus, melior, optimus. Comparison of sound without sense, ut est: bonus, bonior, bonimus; which it might be according to sound, though it does not exist according to sense. Comparison of sound and sense together, ut est: magnus, maior, maximus, that is the proper comparison. Yet there is good, and nothing to surpass it, ut est, Deus.

What is the difference between se, it is he, and uinse, here he is? Uindse first: the denotation of a particular person is there, ut dicitur: here he is, this man in particular, with his name, ut dixit poeta:

  1. Here comes to thee the dear little fellow,
    Son of a dear little black-bird [Mac Lonáin].
    Have thou every good prepared for him,
    Dear little Cellach.

[Se] is a denotation of gender, however, as he is the man; and it is not known who in particular, but it is a man  p.55 tantum. What makes the irlond, leading word, become insci, gender, and etargaire, inflection? When it is indsci, gender, it stands as denoting gender, but of which it is one; and they say “he is the man” when it is erlond, leading word, there. It is inflection there when it is said unse, there he is. A denotation of gender such as is the inflection of meaning in a person, i.e., it is in the person itself wherein is its meaning, so that it is known thereby as denoting first, second, and third person, wherein are all the inflections.

Why did he not deem it sufficient to say “I” in inflection denoting person? Not hard. Inflection is a differentiating of the person through its own defining of itself, to wit, in the first person singular it was not enough to say “I,” so he says “I myself”; for it is more definite, and distinct from every person to say “I myself,” ut dicitur: imponendo egomet, since it is I myself and not another person when it is said egomet. Quicquid iteratur ut firmus fiat, i.e., it will so be that everything which is reiterated is confirmed. There is found also the comparative without a positive, ut est: Dulcius est mare Ponticum quam cetera maria, i.e., sweeter is the sea of Pontus than all the seas, and that is an improper comparison. An improper comparison, too, is the first part of the Primer, to wit, fors, chance, i.e., better its knowledge. That is not proper; for ignorance is not good.

Finit primus liber.


Incipit to Ferchertne's book.

The place of this book, Emain Macha. In the time of Conchobar MacNessa. The person to it, Ferchertne, the poet. Reason for making it, to bring weak and rude folk to science.

Seven things according to which Gaelic is measured, letter and verse-foot, declension and accent, syllable and gender, and inflection.


Seachta, heptad, i.e., septem its root according to the Latinist. Seven sciences is the meaning of it, i.e., a heptad of sciences are measured there. Its use, to wit, its number, that is, seven prime metres of the poetic art; or incitements of bard poetry; or seven metrical feet of the poetic art apart from monosyllable, for the heptad is not therein: on that account it was left out. Common, proper, and peculiar are asked for the word heptad: Common to it is each number of seven. Proper to it are its seven simples. Peculiar to it is the first number of seven to which it might be applied, to wit, the seven days of the week. Improper, its application to a number other than seven. Measure, i.e., mensura is its root according to the Latinist. Measure, its meaning. Tomus, measure, its use, i.e., to, tongue, and meas, estimate on 3 itself, i.e., an estimate which is made by tongue. Is measure a species or a genus? It is a genus certainly. Query, what are its species? Not hard. Measure of poetry, of bard poetry, and of prose. What is peculiar, proper, common, and improper in measure? Not hard. Peculiar to poetry, that is, its being referred to its seven kinds. Proper to bard poetry, i.e., its measure to suit the ear, and proper adjustment of breathing. Common, however, to prose from a monosyllable onward.

Improper thereto, however, for alt, juncture, does not exist there. Septas, seven times for a heptad from this time forward.

Fid, letter, that is fundamentum its Latin root. Under law, its meaning: foundation, or wood of science its use. Peculiar, proper, common, and improper to vowels, i.e., peculiar to principal vowels, proper to diphthongs. Common, however, to consonants except h. Improper to it, however; for it is not a consonant at all, ut est: h non est litera sed nota aspirationis, h is not a letter but it is a  p.59 mark of aspiration. Tinfedh, aspiration, i.e., a vanishing of letters, i.e., annihilation of a letter to apply to all these. That is peculiar, proper, and common to them.

Then deach, metrical foot, or because it is synonymous, prosody foot, from a Latin root. 4 Good word or double word, then, its meaning: from them is linked its use, however. when it is a series. What are peculiar, proper, common, and improper in the metrical feet? Peculiar to them to apply their own names to them, such as dialt, monosyllable. Proper to them, to apply monosyllable to each of them, for it is a monosyllable that each one of them adds to another. Common to them is to apply feet to each of them. Improper to monosyllable, however, is to apply to it [the name of] one of the other seven metrical feet, for no juncture is contained in it.

Reim, course, that is, time of composition of ae, sciences, is its meaning when it is poetry: time of alliterations, when it is bard poetry, that is, it is not composition of a legitimate measure. Reim, then, that is, raid-uaim, speech-stitching when it is prose. Reim, then, its use; diall, declension, or tuiseal, case, its root: or reim from the word robamus, i.e., its root is a compound. Peculiar to reim, alliteration, of letter by letter in poetry: proper to a side [or end] reim through the quatrain of poetry and bard poetry. Common, however, to declension of sound without sense and to declension of sound and sense together: proper to prose: improper, however, to declension of sound only, for they are not inflected.

What caused him to deem it insufficient to say “I” only, and to say “I myself,” ut supra?

Four species in prose, however, out of reim, declension to wit, declension of sound such as fer. Thence it is declined. Declension of sense such as Patraic. Its declension of sound is not found, for there is one form for its  p.61 nominative and its genitive: declension of sound and sense as Fland, Flaind. Side declension in prose, that is, “I myself,” for everything that is not full declension is side declension. Three things after which reim, declension is called: Declension out of, ut est, fer, for it is out of it that declension is declined. Declension into, ut est, fir, for into it is it declined. Declension out of and into together, ut est, in fer, i.e., its nominative and its accusative are there together. As to reim, too, its use is céim, pace:

  1. Bellat mother of envenomed Nél
    Of the children of full-fettered Latinus
    Died on the bright day of the sun,
    Spouse of Fenius Farsaidh.
to wit, alliteration from letter to letter, ut est:
  1. Sian sleibi sirlata serind
    Senshaili senim snechta snac
    Slisiu slice samad saball
    Snaithe snithe saland sacc.

Now as to forbaid, i.e., accentus with the Latinist, from the root of the word formarius, i.e., many-faced: “it is upon” (to wit, on the word) either on a long or on a short. Accent, either “it vivifies,” or “it perfects” its meaning. It vivifies when it is forsail, that is, s is upon it; or forsail, that is, it is adding to, because it establishes the word as a long. Forbaidh, then, “perfects” when it is dinin disail, that is after n comes not s but d; or dinin disail, to wit, from that unadding, i.e., not adding. Forbaidh, then, to wit, “thereon it is,” when it is ernin, that is, it gives n, or on it is n. Forbaid then, i.e., “on wood,” is its use; peculiar to forsail: proper to ernin, its being on a long or on a short.

Common to dinin disail, or to all the accents to say forbaid, accent, of them. Inappropriate, however, for any accent of them to go in place of another, i.e., for the two  p.63 accents of the vowels, and for the one accent of the consonants, i.e., the accent of the singular [on the plural] and the accent of plural on the singular, or the accent of a long upon a short: or inappropriate not to write its form.

Alt from the word altus, i.e., noble, its root according to the Latinist: alt, then, from that which is nurtured in his mind is its meaning. Alt co feser, however, is its use, i.e., that thou mayest know what alt, limb, of poetry applies to seven, that is the nath, the anair, the anamain, the láidh, the sétrad, the sainemain. As to alt an anma, joint of the name, in prose, the space of time that is between the two syllables is its meaning: alt co feser its use. What are peculiar, proper, common, and inappropriate of alt? Not hard. Peculiar, that is, to metre of alt, limb, of poetry: proper, however, to alt of bard poetry, that is, to metre. Common, inappropriate to the words of prose, that is, common to each word in which there are alta, intervals; inappropriate, however, to a monosyllable, for no alt, joint, exists there.

Now indsce, gender, that is, scientia, from a Latin root: in deschae, the right way, is its meaning: word-wisdom its use: or, indsce, that thou mayest know the definite metre, i.e., that thou mayest know whether “she” or “he” is the metre that applies to seven, as for example the nath is “he,” the láid is “she.” Indsce, gender, of the prose name, that is masculine, feminine, and neuter. What are peculiar, proper, common, and inappropriate of indsce, gender? Peculiar to natural kindly gender: proper to natural unkindly gender: common, inappropriate to artificial gender, i.e., common owing to its being used, inappropriate, however, owing to its inappropriateness.

Now etargaire, inflection, from the word intergradimus,  p.65 i.e., dominating: interpreting of voice is its meaning: a distinguishing is its use. What are peculiar, proper, common, and inappropriate of etargaire? Peculiar to etargaire of distinguishing in distinction, for it corresponds to comparison. Proper, however, to etargaire of meaning in a person, since it is the denoting of a particular person. Common and inappropriate, however, to all the etargaire, that is, common to the ordinal numbers: inappropriate, however, to any of them that do not correspond to comparison.

Query, is fidh, wood, a species or a genus? It is a genus certainly; and if it be a genus, what are its species? Not hard. Artificial wood and natural wood, to wit, artificial wood is the Ogham letter; natural wood, however, is wood of the forest. And as to wood, letter, of the Ogham, is it a species or a genus? It is a genus necessarily, for it has species, to wit, principal wood, vowels; cross wood, diphthongs; and side-woods, consonants. That is the genus generic and specific, i.e., wood. Query, is deach, verse-foot, a species or a genus? It is a genus certainly, for it has species, to wit, the seven verse-feet of poetry. That is the specific genus which the eight sorts of each of the two species of poetry have got. Query, is réim, run, a species or a genus? A genus, i.e., it has two species, to wit, poetry and bard poetry, i.e. réim, alliteration of letter by letter, and taebreim, side alliteration of letter by letter, ut est:

  1. Columba, pious, powerful, etc.

Taebreim, side alliteration, however, ut est:

  1. Fland, thou art the pilot of pleasant valour
    Unto gentle Mullaghmast;
    Art pure, art wise, rough is thy point,
    Thou art a hero, Fland.


Four species in prose arise out of reim, flexion, reim of sound without sense, and reim of sound and sense, and prose taebreim, side flexion, and reim of sound only. Reim of sound without sense first: fer fir: reim of sound and sense, Flann Flainn: reim of sound tantum, Patraic Patraic: and prose taebreim, side flexion, I myself. Three species by which reim is called, reim in, reim out of, reim in and out of together; reim out of, ut est, fer, man: reim in, ut est, fir, of a man, in the declining: reim in and out of, in fer, the man, i.e., into which goes and out of which comes its full inflection in respect of singular sounds and of plural sounds. Reim in and out of together, that is, in, with respect to sounds singular and plural together: in, as regards meaning: or reim in, Patraic, for there is not in, according to meaning: reim in and out of together, Flann, Flainn, for it is in, according to meaning and it is out of, according to sound.

That is the genus, generic and specific which was formed here on the seven flexions, etc. Query, is ind forbaid, the accent, a species or a genus? A genus, for it has three species. That is the genus in which were found the three species of Gaelic. Query, is int alt a species or a genus? It is a genus certainly, for three species underlie it, to wit, artificial alt, natural alt, and alt co . The alt co feser has five species and five genera. Query, is indsce, gender, a species or a genus? It is clear that it is a genus and it has the three genders. It is a different genus that differentiates the world. Query, is etargaire, inflection, a genus or a species? A genus certainly, for its species are innumerable. It is the genus that differentiates among all things.

Query, what is esse, essence, of the seven by which Gaelic is measured? Not hard. Esse, essence, feda, of letter, first: that is the fragment of cut off air  p.69 which the vowel takes in composing a word, unde poeta dixit:

  1. Esse feda, essence of a vowel, it is to be studied,
    Better for you to have the knowledge of it,
    The fragment cut off of air
    Which it possesses in composing a word.

What is esse of verse-foot? Not hard. The whole or one of the individual self-sustaining sounds which are reckoned from one to eight syllables, both included. What is esse reime, essence of flection? Not hard. The inflected, voiced, articulate change which obtains from the nom. sing, to the abl. pl. What is esse of accent? Not hard. The increase or diminution of time which an accent marks in co-extension with a sound.

What is esse alta, essence of interval? Not hard. The tongue silence which rests on the poet in passing from one letter to another if it be alt saorda, or from one syllable to another if it be alt aicenta. What is esse of gender? Not hard. The just and perfect essential which is seen in the three kinds. What is esse etargaire? Not hard. The consideration of size, smallness, quality, denotation, difference, variety or distinction which God hath fashioned among created things.

What is measure with respect to heptad? Not hard. To bring under notice the leading vowel that is in the verse, and the leading consonants, and that the vowels that stand in the caesura rhyme of the verse may be known, and that the same vowel may stand in the corresponding part of the endings, and that the number of consonants about them may be the same, and that it may be known which of the eight verse-feet enters into the metre, and that it may be known whether it is side alliteration, or alliteration of letter by letter, and that  p.71 it may be known what accent stands upon a word of the corresponding sort, and which it is of the seven alta of trisyllabic poetry, i.e., of poetry. Insce, gender, i.e., that thou mayest know whether the metre is he or she. Etargaire, i.e., that thou mayest know what is the species of poetry as regards measure with respect to seven. And when dithyramb or metrical rhythm was present 5, how was it measured? for there is not couplet rhyme or caesura rhyme in it. Not hard. By a word completing a breath which was indicated by the fifth word, for five words are adjudged to be a breath of the poet. What is a heptad of the octave of the Auraicept? Not hard. When it is eight syllables in bricht that are present there are seven alta, intervals. What is the word containing one, two, and three syllables? It is named from one-third: and not more peculiar to it is the one-third from which it is named than are the two-thirds from which iarcomarc is named.

What are the two consonants that take 6 the force of a vowel? To wit c and r after a, ut est, Coluim Cille cecinit:

  1. Whether it will be firm, whether it will be yielding,
    Whether it will be warlike with numbers of deeds,
    O Christ! wilt thou keep with us
    When it will come to fare on a sea of ships?

What is measure with regard to fid, Ogham letter? Not hard. That thou mayest know their number and their singleness, their size and their smallness, their power and their want of power, their strength and their weakness. This is their number: five Ogmic groups, i.e., five men for each group, and one up to five for each of them, that their signs may be distinguished. These are their signs: right of stem, left of stem,  p.73 athwart of stem, through stem, about stem. Thus is a tree climbed, to wit, treading on the root of the tree first with thy right hand first and thy left hand after. Then with the stem, and against it, and through it, and about it. These are their various vowels and diphthongs, ut est: ut est: {illu72.1}

Query, why are those called woods, vowels? Not hard. Because they are measured by them and sewed with them, ut dicitur, la, ba. How are they, as vowels, measured with the consonants? Not hard. Every two consonants for a vowel in rhyme, every two corresponding letters in rhyme: that is rhyme, therefore, that it should be the same vowel that stands in the corresponding words, and that the number of consonants that may stand in them should be the same, ut est, bas and las: bras and gras: ceand and leand: dorn and corn: dond and cond.

What is measure with respect to fid, Ogham letter? To wit, that thou mayest know their number and their singleness, i.e., their number in five groups and their singleness in one group; their size and their smallness, i.e., their size in five strokes and their smallness in single strokes. What is the difference between their power and their strength? Their power first: when they utter voice alone, that is, a, o, or u: Their strength, however, when a prime position brings them into a syllable, such as bais, lais. What is the difference between their want of power and their weakness? Not hard. Want of power when the vowels are under nullifying, as for example fi[o]nd. True indeed, for the last letters that stand in these double sounds are not understood, through their being pronounced at once: weakness, however, when they stand in combinations  p.75 equivalent to the diphthongs, and in the Ogham diphthongs such as fer and ben.

Five letters for each group: and there is one up to five for each of them, that is, one stroke up to five strokes, ut est, b one only, n five of them: or again another kind? Not hard. Want of power first: when they stand under nullity, ut quoniam quidem with the Latinist, or when three vowels stand in one syllable with the Gael, as Briain, of Brian, gliaid, a fight, feoil, flesh, beoir, beer with the Gael. Weakness, however, when they are consonised, ut seruus, uulgus with the Latinist, ut iarum, therefore, cian, far, ceir, wax, uull (ubull), apple, and aball, appletree, with the Gael.

Full power, too, is in them, both vowels and consonants, with the exception of h. So that they are distinguished through their signs, i.e., through their appearance, to wit, clearly do their conditions differ. These are their signs: Right of stem, that is, b to right of the ridge, that is the b group: Left of stem, to wit, to the left side of the stem, which is the h group: Athwart of stem, to wit, athwart is from thee, and against is to thee, or half athwart the stem, which is the m group: Through stem, that is the a group: About stem, that is on this side and on that, the diphthongs group. It is thus it is climbed, to wit, it is even thus it is graduated in the Ogham as it is graduated in the tree, to wit, thy right hand first, that is, group b: and, thy left hand after, that is, group h: and after that it is athwart and against, group m, to wit, athwart is from thee, and against is towards thee. Through, however, is group a: over, however, and about is the diphthong group. Thus are distinguished the vowels, the diphthongs, and the consonants. Why are those called vowels? Not hard. Because the consonants are measured against them,  p.77 and the words are fairly woven out of them, ut est l a, b a, to wit, la, ba. That is the artificial possessive without rhyme save rhyme of vowels only. Not hard [2nd Ans.]. As a principal vowel only is required to refer it to seven, so the consonants that exist are required, every two consonants for a vowel, ut dicitur:

  1. A rider I saw yesterday,
    Round him a cloak with hue of blood,
    White as a swan his colour is,
    Foam of wave his two ears' hue.

Two things are found there: identity combined with difference, as bas and las, and it is according to the correspondence of trisyllabic poetry, for the principal vowel that stands in them is the same, and it is an identical final consonant. Different, however, is the initial consonant, to wit, l [and b]. How are the consonants about the vowels measured? Not hard. Each two consonants of them are about the vowel. That is the proper proportion, to wit, that is perfect rhyme, ut est, bas, las. That is the unity with identity, and the unity without identity: and it is according to poetic correspondence, for the principal vowel that stands in them is the same, and there is an equal number of consonants; and that is the proper arrangement of trisyllabic poetry.

Now in the alphabet there is required origin from one, and its invention from two, its placing by three, its confirmation with four, and its binding together with five, its amplifying from six, its division from seven, its rule with eight, its demonstration in nine, its establishment in ten. The one is above, to wit, Fenius Farsaidh; the two, Mac Etheoir with him; the third Mac Aingin; the fourth Cae; the fifth Amirgen son of Naende son of Nenual; the  p.79 sixth Ferchertne; the seventh his pupil; the eighth Ceandfaelad; the ninth his pupil; the tenth its establishment in one, to wit, the Trefocal.

This is the beginning of the Primer according to Amairgen Whiteknee. Place of this book, Tochur Inbir Moir in the territory of Hy Enechglais Cualann: And its period the period of the sons of Milesius: the person of it Amairgen Whiteknee, son of Milesius. The reason for making it that the sons of Milesius demanded it of him as is after us.

Who invented this speech, and in what place was it invented, and at what time was it invented? Not hard. Fenius Farsaidh invented it at the Tower of Nimrod at the end of ten years after the dispersion in every direction from the Tower, and it was every one speaking the same language that went there unto its territory and not every one of the same stock, as e.g., Cai Cainbreathach, pupil of Fenius Farsaidh, one of the 72 scholars of the school. He was a Hebrew by origin and he was sent to Egypt. And there Fenius himself remained, at the Tower, and there he dwelt so that there the school asked of him to select for them a select language out of the many languages which they had brought with them from abroad so that that speech might not be in the possession of anyone else but of themselves alone, or of anyone who should learn it with them again. Then was selected their language out of the many languages, and it was attributed to one man of them so that it is his name which is upon this language. That man was Gaedel, son of Angen, so that Gaedil, Gaels, is derived from him, from Gaedel son of Angen son of Whiteknee son of Whitehand son of Greek Agnumon. Now Gaedel son of Aimergen is the same as Gaedel son of Ether, to wit, his father bore  p.81 two names, Aingen and Ether. It was there accordingly that this language was regulated. What was best accordingly of every language and what was widest and finest was selected for Gaelic; and for every sound for which no characters were found in all the other alphabets, characters were by them found for these in the Beithe Luis Nin of the Ogham, ut est: {illu80.1}.

Therefore its vowels were placed apart and its consonants also apart, so that every one of them stands apart from the other. Semivowels do not exist, as they do not exist with the Greeks, but only the mutes. For every element, for which there was no name in the other languages, names were found in Gaelic, ut est, grus, curds; cloch, stone; and linn, pool.

  1. I beheld the lis
    Past which would come a stream,
    In which its curds were many
    Though milk was not abundant.

What was best, widest, and finest of every language was put by them into Gaelic, to wit, what was easier and pleasanter to say, to wit, they thought having vowels and mutes in it easier and pleasanter than semi-vowels, mutes, and vowels as the Latinist has.

Better in reason with them, to wit, five of them for a long and five of them for a short, and five of them for soft sounds and five for a hard, and five for a full sound and five for a diphthong than the one five underlying all of them as it is with the Latinist, and this is what the Latinist says: His five vowels all take that effect, ut est: Latinae vacates omnes et produci et corripi possunt, that is, all the Latin vowels are such that they can be lengthened or shortened. Broader in letters, to wit, for there is nothing  p.83 the Latinist has to correspond with that: broader in respect of meanings, words, and letters, to wit, broader in letters {illu82.1}. The Latinist has nothing to correspond with it: broader in words, to wit, grus, curds; cloch, stone; lind, pool, the Latinist has nothing to correspond with those; curd, that is a cheese: galmula with the Latinist, curds with the Gael: to correspond with the Latinist's galmarium is the Gael's cheese: galmalam with the Latinist, gruthrach with the Gael: “stirabout” with the Gael, there is nothing answering to that with the Latinist: lapis with the Latinist, stone with the Gael: petra with the Latinist, rock with the Gael: scopulus with the Latinist, sharp pebble with the Gael. Cloch, onn, and ailcne, however, these are kinds of stones to which the Latinist has nothing corresponding: aqua with the Latinist, water with the Gael; amnis with the Latinist, river with the Gael; piscina with the Latinist, fish-pool with the Gael; to the Gael's pool, however, the Latinist has nothing corresponding. Hence then, the Gael is wider in words and letters than the Latinist. What the Latinist says is that though Gaelic is wider in words and letters, it is not wider in meanings; for though the Gael has many names in denoting the things, the relative meaning emerges out of the paucity of words which the Latinist does have. That is not true, as the Latinist himself says: “Nisi scieris nomen, cognitio rerum periit”, i.e., the knowledge of the things perishes, unless the name is known.

This is the beginning of this book according to Fenius, and according to Iar mac Nema, and Gael son of Ether. These are its persons; and this is its period, to wit, when all the children of Israel came out of Egypt. In Dacia it was invented, though others say it was in the plain of Shinar. The reason for writing it, because it  p.85 was by the great school requested of Fenius, Iar, and Gaedel son of Ether that it should be selected for them as their Primer after it had been given by Moses and learned with him by Cae Cainbreathach; so that after that the alphabets were invented on one table, as he says: What are the alphabets, etc. Aur is every beginning: also aicce-acht, lesson, is icht aicce, child nurture, i.e., a deed, for it is in nurture that the disciple is with his fosterer: or aiccept that is acceptus, that is, of acceptance, to wit, unto thee of something that thou hast not: na nd-egeas, of the sages, of the men without doubt, to wit, the poets.

Six principal chiefs by whom the Tower was made, to wit, Eber Mac Saile, Grecus Mac Gomer whence are the Greeks, and Latinus son of Faunus whence are the Latins, Riabad Scot son of Gomer, Nimrod son of Cush, and Fenius Farsaidh. Fifty-two years from the dispersion of the Tower till the reign of Nin son of Bel with his reign of fifty-two. Seven hundred and seventy-four years from the reign of Nin son of Bel to the end of the reign of Tothmes king of the world in whose time Troy was at length sacked. Seven years old was the daughter of Latinus son of Faunus: so that there are nine hundred and forty-three years from the dispersion of the Tower till Æneas married Lavinia, and Latinus himself made his covenant with him. From that it is evident that the people of this Primer do not advance accurately, that Latinus was one of the seven chief rulers of the Tower.

Query, what are the alphabets of the three principal languages, both name and character? Not hard indeed. The alphabet of the Hebrews first, that is, Aleph Hebraeorum.


Aleph of the Hebrews, Alpha of the Greeks and A of the Latins.


Now Fenius Farsaidh is the same man that discovered these four alphabets, to wit, the Hebrew, Greek, and Latin alphabets, and the Beithe Luis Nin of the Ogham, and it is for this reason the last, to wit, the Beithe is more exact because it was discovered last. There were in the school twenty-five that were noblest among them, and these are their names, which are upon the Beithe Luis Nin both vowels and consonants:
And there were seven that were most noble among these, from whom the seven principal vowels of the Ogham have been named, so for that reason they have been placed apart:
Others say that ten principal vowels stand in it and these are their names:
And these are the three that increase those to the above seven, to wit, {illu88.4}, so on that account their vowels and consonants have been set apart, and these are their names which are thus upon them.

Others, however, say that it is not from men at all that the Ogham vowels are named in Gaelic but from trees, though some of these trees are not known to-day. For there are four classes of trees, to wit, chieftain trees, peasant trees, herb trees, and shrub trees; and it is from these four that the Ogham vowels are named. Chieftain trees, quidem, to wit, oak, hazel, holly, apple, ash, yew, fir. Peasant trees, to wit, alder, willow, birch, elm, white-thorn, aspen, mountain-ash. The shrub trees here, to wit,  p.91 black-thorn, elder, spindle-tree, test-tree, honeysuckle, bird-cherry, white-hazel. Herb trees, to wit, furze, heather, broom, bog-myrtle, lecla, to wit, rushes, etc. Now beithe has been named from the birch owing to its resemblance to the trunk of the birch, ut dicitur:
Of withered trunk fairhaired the birch,
and therefore on the birch was written the first Ogham inscription that was brought into Ireland, to wit, seven birches were brought to Lugh son of Ethleann, to wit, thy wife will be taken from thee nisi eam custodieris, to wit, unless thou watch her. It is on that account b is still written at the beginning of the Ogham alphabet. Then as to luis, it is named from a tree, to wit, from mountain-ash, i.e., because luis is the name of mountain-ash in old Gaelic, ut dicitur: Delight of eye is mountain-ash, i.e., rowan, owing to the beauty of its berries. Fern, alder, again, is named from a tree, ut dicitur: The van of the Warrior-bands, that is, alder, for thereof are the shields. Sail, willow, again, is named from a tree, ut dicitur: The colour of a lifeless one, i.e., it has no colour, i.e., owing to the resemblance of its hue to a dead person. Nin too is named from a tree, viz., ash, ut dicitur: A check on peace is nin, viz., ash, for of it are made the spear-shafts by which the peace is broken: or, A check on peace is uindis. Nin, that is a maw of a weaver's beam which is made of ash, that is, in time of peace weavers beams are raised. Huath, again, is named from a tree, viz., white-thorn, ut dicitur: A meet of hounds is huath, viz. white-thorn; or because it is formidable owing to its thorns. Duir, oak, again, is named from a tree, ut dicitur: Higher than bushes is an oak. Tinne, again, is named from a tree, i.e., holly, a third of a wheel is holly, that is, because holly is one of the three timbers of the chariot-wheel. Coll, again, is named  p.93 from a tree, ut dicitur: Fair wood, that is, hazel, i.e., every one is eating of its nuts. Queirt, again, is named from a tree, i.e., an apple tree, ut dicitur: Shelter of a boiscill, that is, a wild hind is queirt, i.e., an apple tree. Muin, again, that is, a vine-tree, ut dicitur: Highest of beauty is muin, that is, because it grows aloft, that is, a vine-tree. Gort, again, that is, ivy:—
“Greener than pastures is ivy.”
Ngetal, again, that is, broom or fern, ut dicitur: A physician's strength is broom, to wit, broom or fern. Straiph, again, that is, black-thorn, ut dicitur: The hedge of a stream is sraibh, that is, black-thorn. Ruis, again, that is, elder, ut dicitur: The redness of shame is ruis, i.e., elder. Ailm, again, i.e., a fir tree, to wit, a pine tree. Onn, that is, furze. Ur, that is, heath. Edhadh, that is, ed uath, horrible grief, to wit, test-tree or aspen. Ido, that is, yew. Ebhadh, that is, aspen. Oir, that is, spindle-tree, or ivy. Uilleand, that is, honeysuckle. Iphin, that is gooseberry, or thorn, etc.

Now all these are wood names such as are found in the Ogham Books of Woods, and are not derived from men, ut alii dicunt.

Query, how many are their powers? Not hard. Full power is in them all both vowels and consonants, with the exception of h, that is, that h might be truly sunk, that is, as their nature may be, whether it be great or small. It is so set down in the Book of Ollams, to wit, four divisions that are seen on vowels, viz., power and want of power, full power and half-power. Full power in vowels, power in diphthongs, want of power in mutes, and half-power in semivowels. Others say that three divisions are proper there, viz., full power in vowels, power in diphthongs, and want of power in mutes; for no semivowel exists with the Gael. Query, what is long in vowels and diphthongs, and  p.95 short in consonants? that is short by position, for the law of Ogham diphthongs is half-time on consonants always.

Query, how many verse-feet are there? Not hard. Eight of them: dialt, one syllable; recomrac, two syllables; iarcomrac, three; felis, four; cloenre, five; luibenchossach, six; claidemnas, seven; and bricht, eight syllables. One principal vowel in dialt, two of them in recomrac, three of them in iarcomrac, four of them in feles, five of them in cloenre, six of them in luibenchossach, seven of them in claidemnas, eight of them in bricht, besides consonants. Query, how far does a syllable extend to in greatest and least? To wit, a syllable with a meaning, five letters are in it, which is the greatest: it reaches an inferior limit at one letter, and that a word, ut est, a, o, i, viz. such as á, that is, a mountain height. Such are Á (Ard) Cuis, and Á (Ard) Cartaind, in Sleeve Luachra, to wit, names of particular mountains, ut dixit Mac Da Cerda:

  1. A stag bells between two heights,
    A piercing wind tosses us,
    Proud is the stalker (?)
    Before thirty long-shanked deer.
and o, on a head, to wit, an ear; and (I) Colum Cille's Island. Then it reaches a superior limit up to five letters, ut est, bracht, fat; tracht, strand; drucht, dew; scalp, gap. H is written and is not counted among the letters in the last words, but it is a mark of aspiration. As to every syllable, therefore, that does not add to another, each of them is the equivalent of a word. Verse-feet up to eight of them are in bricht. And that is the superior and inferior limit of all Gaelic from dialt, one, to bricht, eight, syllables, both included, to wit, that there may be power  p.97 to every syllable, after they are gathered into verse-feet. It is bricht in which are eight syllables. Dialt, syllable, is the foundation of all Gaelic except mod, toth, and traeth. Alta, joints, of science are measured with a man's joints as they are measured with every speech. Query, how are they measured with every speech? Not hard. That each syllable may correspond to another, ut est, down, up, east, west, south, north; that one dissyllable may correspond to another, for the like vowels and the like verse-feet of them rhyme.

Five certain numbers of the Tower, to wit, 72 peoples, and 72 counsellors with them, 72 languages divided among them, and 72 pupils that came with Fenius to learn those languages, and 72 paces was the height of the Tower.

Query, what is the difference between indell, yoking, and tindell, unyoking? Not hard. Indell the question, and tindell the solution.

Seven chief leaders by whom the Tower was made, to wit, Eber son of Saile; Grecus son of Gomer, a quo Graeci; Latinus son of Faunus, a quo Latini; Riabath Scot, a quo Scotti; Nimrod son of Cush, son of Ham, son of Noah; and Peleg son of Ragau, son of Arphaxad, son of Shem.

Query, what are the different significations between definite, more definite, and most definite? Not hard. Definite is the Greek alphabet, for it is more exact than the Hebrew alphabet. More definite, however, the Latin alphabet than the Greek alphabet. More definite than the Latin alphabet is this, to wit, the Beithe Luis Nin of the Ogham for it was invented last.

What single word comprehends the four divisions of the Primer without regard to difference of measure, termination, letter, word, or form? Not hard. The  p.99 word alphabet, for it comprehends the Hebrew, Greek, and Latin alphabets.

H causes three things, to wit, bogad, lenition of final (?), sémigud, lenition of initial (?), and airdíbdud, extinction. Bogad first: it falls on consonants and follows them, viz.: p, c, and t, ut cloch, stone; both, booth. According to the Latinist, aspiration is usual after every consonant in Gaelic. Sémigud, lenition of initial, however, falls upon the consonants in general and precedes them, that is, on five consonants, b, c, d, t, g. Bogadh of b first, viz. sop and lop, such as Pátraig. It is h that softens the b that stands in it, for p does not exist in Gaelic. Sémigudh, such as a Phátraig, h is there, which is softer than the other example. Bogad of c, viz. clach, stone, and ach, alas! of d, viz. sódh, turning, and odh, music: of t, viz. táth, dissolution, and áth, ford: of g, viz. magh, plain, and agh, cow. Sémigud of b, however, a bhen, his wife, a bhán, its blank space, a bhe binn, O sweet woman: of c also, viz. o chiunn, since, do chein, from afar, o chianaibh, just now, o chetoir, immediately: of d, viz. dhamsa, to me, dhuitsiu, to thee: of t, viz. a thír, his land, a thuaigh, [to] his axe: of g, viz. a ghrádh, his love, and a ógha, his virgins.

Airdíbdud, extinction, however, comes upon two consonants (i.e., consonants become like vowels), that is, the letters s and f, that is, extinction is on them, that is, their being deleted altogether, such as the extinction of s, to wit, a shál, his heel; a shúil, his eye. Extinction of f, to wit, a fhind, his hair; a fhir, O man; ind fheda, of the letter.

This is different from the rhymes {illu98.1} euad, and edadh of the beginning of a word (give examples) that in uinge, cingit, and cuing there is need for two Latin letters to write the consonants n, g. There is no need but of {illu98.2} only for these two letters in Gaelic,  p.101 ut est, {illu100.1} i.e., uingi, ounce, {illu100.2} i.e., cuing, yoke, {illu100.3} i.e., cingit, they step. Now sounds are not the same with which each one of these does not rhyme {illu100.4} ut est, seeit, they blow the fire, is written by {illu100.5}. Seit, a road, by writing {illu100.6}. Neim, poison of a serpent, is written by {illu100.7}. Min, that is, small ī, is there. Min, meal of corn, i.e., {illu100.8}. Nemh, heaven round earth: neamh, with reference to water {illu100.9} is there. For there are three things for which diphthongs were introduced at all into the Ogham alphabet, viz. to correspond to a diphthong as is said in the nemed judgments, that is, except Ogham diphthongs in which there are two sounds of the vowels; and also to differentiate sounds upon the Ogham vowels, for it is a softness of sound that exists in the Ogham diphthongs, ut est, neamh, heaven, {illu100.10} ea is there: naemh, saint, {illu100.11} ae is there, nem, poison, {illu100.12} i is there.

These are the five species of the Selected Language, viz.:—Language of the Irish, Commentaries of the Poets, Parted Language, Obscure Language of the Poets through which each of them addresses his fellow, and iarmbérla such as: Cuic, a secret. Et ballorb, to wit, he has a member for completing poetry; or it is the name for a cano. Et muirne, spears, to wit, ill-will, or of ill will. There is another kind of iarmbérla, to wit, therefore, now, there are, indeed, moreover, even, after, on, query, pray, how many, what are, not hard, etc. Another kind also, on the (men), under, out of, through, past them. These are the staves of words with the poet. Another kind too, to wit, he that, indeed, unto, through, over, to, from, under, on. That is an interloping syllable with the  p.103 poet. Unaccented Language, then, down to this point. It is for this reason that Unaccented Language, iarmbérla, is said of it, to wit, on account of its hardness like iron, iarunn, if it is possible to analyse it; or iarmbérla, that is, the speech which Iar Mac Nema discovered last, and it is not possible to analyse it.

And Language Parted among the principal vowels, that is, language through which there is distinction of the principal vowels in the individual word through analysing their meaning, ut est, for example ros, that is, roi oiss, plain of deer, quando (when) it is rois caelli, copses of wood, and rass, duck meat, along a pool when it is ross of water, duck weed, rofhos, great rest, if it be on stagnant water, or roidh ass, ... out of it if it be on a stream, and ro ás when it is ros lín, flax seed, i.e., on account of the swiftness and density wherewith it grows. And the Bérla Fortchide, Obscure Language, fortchide, that is, the great darkness or obscurity of poetry, as said the poet in the school of Fenius: Etaill aro ni anfemde, to wit, i, island; Etall, that is, noble; and aro, that is, rowing; to wit, we shall not cease from rowing till we reach the noble Island, that is Ireland, or Spain; or it is definitely Spain, as is found in the Conversation of the Two Sages. Brimon smetrach. This is the Language of the Poets that is, the last kind here, to wit, bri, word; mon, feat; and smit, ear, and forrach, that is, stretching; or, bri, word, and mon, feat, and smetrach, that is, ear-lobe compression, that is, that they might injure some one. A brotherly 7 trick is that which the poets used to do in satirising, viz., to take the lobe of his ear in his hand, that is, as no bone exists there, the individual whom the poet satirises could have no honour-price.

The fifth kind is the Usual Language which serves for every one; for others say of the Bérla Féine that it is the  p.105 Commentaries of the Poets, and that it is not a separate language at all.

What is short and long in them, etc.? Not hard. In such as neamh, heaven, it is a diphthong that stands there. In nem, poison, however, it is the principal vowel that stands there, and the principal vowel that stands there is harder and the diphthong is softer, to wit, neam; or, again, it is short by nature and long by position in vowels, and short by position in diphthongs and long by nature; or, again, the Ogham vowels that stand there are the same as the vowels. The Ogham diphthongs are, in fact, the same as the diphthongs. As to the diphthong that stands in them, therefore, such as bean, bein would be made of it were it not a diphthong. Thus are the Ogham diphthongs. How is that, since ebad is the diphthong of the name when fer is spoken? That instance is not contrary to the diphthong. That is a short, and there is not upon it save a time and a half only at the most. There are two times, however, on the long vowel. That the foregoing diphthong was short therefore must be perceived. Besides, too, the vowel is able to adjust itself to long and short in them as the Latinist said: A circumflex is on the long syllables such as do, I give; si, if; and in the same way they say an acute accent is upon the short syllables, ut est, pax, a kiss. Thus the Gael puts forsail on a long, such as srón, nose, slóg, host, etc.; and ernin which compresses a final such as leacc, stone, ceand, head, etc. Therefore, although e is short in the word fer, it is not according to the Greeks that it is a diphthong. What causes the contrary of that, and the five Ogham vowels, and the seven Ogham vowels, and the ten Ogham vowels, according to another version? Not hard. The five Ogham vowels first: answering to the five vowels he gave the seven Ogham vowels, however.  p.107 Moreover the ten Ogham vowels, that is, iphin, which stands for a diphthong: emancoll is doubled then, so that there are thus ten of them. Pin, moreover, stands for p, and emancoll for x, so that there are seven of them thus. This is according to the Auraicept of Munster.

Some say there is another kind, ebad and oir that stand for simple long vowels. Uilleann, moreover, stands for y, and for u when it is medial. Iphin stands for i medially, or it is the proper symbol there for p. Emancoll, again, stands for x, that is, to allow of Greek or Latin words being introduced into Gaelic, and on that account it is called Emancoll, twin c, for c is one of the two consonants that stand in x, and therefore c is said to be doubled there, and not s; for in x, c is earlier than s.

It is demanded, too, in the Beithe Luis Nin: What is the vowel that takes the force of a consonant, and the vowel that takes the effect of two consonants, and the vowel that takes the effect of a word, and the vowel that does not take the effect of a consonant, vowel, or word. It is the vowel that takes effect of a consonant, quidem, to wit, a vowel after another, and a vowel that usually stands on the primary vowel of its word, or along with a diphthong in one syllable, ut est, beoir, beer; feoil, flesh; Briain, of Brian, etc.; or a vowel that becomes consonised, to wit, u. A vowel that takes the effect of two consonants, to wit, one vowel that answers the measure of two consonants, ut dicitur: Every two consonants for a vowel. A vowel that takes the effect of a word, that is, a vowel that speaks alone. A vowel that does not take the effect of a consonant, vowel, or word, viz., u of nullity, ut dicitur: Nec vocales nec consonantes habentur, that is, which are not vowels and which are not consonants, or a vowel which stands after another, ut diximus, as we have said.

There is asked for, too, in the Beithe Luis Nin a  p.109 consonant that takes the effect of a vowel, and a consonant that takes the effect of a consonant and a vowel. And a consonant that takes the effect of two vowels or of two consonants. And two consonants that take the effect of a vowel. And a consonant that takes the effect of five vowels and six consonants. And a consonant that takes the effect of three vowels and four consonants. And a consonant that takes the effect of a word. And a consonant that does not take the effect of a consonant, vowel, or word. The consonant that takes the effect of two vowels or two consonants is ng. This is the consonant that takes the effect of a vowel, to wit, q. It takes the effect of a consonant and a vowel, to wit, c, and u of nullity. And a consonant that takes the effect of a vowel, to wit, every two consonants for a vowel in a measure.

A consonant that takes the effect of five vowels and six consonants, that is d in the place of dinin disail. No wonder, when it takes the effect of the five vowels and the six consonants, though it takes the effect of two vowels and two consonants. A consonant that takes the effect of three vowels and four consonants, to wit, s in place of forsail. A consonant that takes the effect of a word, that is, a consonant that sustains the effect of an accent. A consonant that does not take the effect of a consonant, vowel or word, that is, a consonant along with which h constantly appears.

Query, how many verse-feet are there? Not hard. The foot with the Latinist: the verse-foot with the poet, ut Donatus dixit: “Pes est syllabarum et temporum certa dimuneratio”, the foot is a definite counting of the syllables and the times. The Gael also has a sure counting of syllables, feet, and times from dialt, one, to bricht, eight syllables: each verse-foot of them from one to another is a perfect syllable in Gaelic, so that thus there  p.111 are eight in bricht, so that that is a definite counting from one syllable to eight of them. Dialt, a syllable, that is, di, to deny that any alt, joint, exists there. Recomrac, dissyllable, that is re, the course in which the two syllables meet about the alt. Iarcomrac, trisyllable, i.e., afterwards they meet, i.e., after each last, i.e., a meeting of the three syllables with the two previous syllables. Feleas, tetrasyllable, that is, bad profit of the hand; or he, the poet, is satisfied whichever of them he will give, for it is even. Claenre, pentasyllable (that is, uneven its termination), for with respect to its course two of them are on one half and three on the other. Luibenchossach, hexasyllable, that is, the foot with its digits, the five toes; the foot being the sixth. Claidemnas, heptasyllable, that is, sword-manus, to wit, manus, hand, and the sword of the hand is the shoulder-blade: and it is the seventh syllable. Bricht, octosyllable, i.e., bri ocht, i.e., eight words are there, or bricht because eight syllables are shown there. Query, what is the difference between dialt, syllable, and a dheach, its verse-foot? Not hard. When the syllable is an Ogham diphthong, there is alt between (the vowels of the) diphthong in that case. But when it is a consonant and a primary vowel, there is alt between the consonant and the vowel. When, however, it is a single vowel such as a, o, there is alt between two times. One vowel in dialt, two of them in recomarc, etc., that is, a primary vowel, or a diphthong. It is on that account the triphthong is not contained in one syllable.

Eight syllables are in the biggest word in Gaelic, ut est, fiannamailcecheterdarai, Fiann-like-every-Second-one- 8of-them, and anrocomraircnicsiumaime, all-the-mistakes-which-we-have-committed, etc.

Thirteen syllables, however, are in the biggest word in Latin, ut est ab his honorificabilitudinitatibus.


This is a cardinal number, to wit, three or four. These are the ordinal numbers, however, primus et secundus et tertius, to wit, the names of their number in prose; and their ordinal names, moreover, according to nature.

That is their difference, an imperfect number, such as three or five; for they are not multiplied from factors. A perfect number, such as six, contains one of it six times, two three times, three twice. A perfect number is that, for it properly consists of factors. A quite perfect number, ut est, twelve, to wit, one is its twelfth, two its sixth, three its fourth, four its third, six exactly its half, thus, as for example in twelve, to wit, one, two, and three, these are six; and four after that, these make ten; and six after that are thus sixteen. So that that is a number which is greater than its factors through telling its halves. Every factor is a part, but not every part is a factor, etc.

Query, how far does dialt, syllable, extend in greatest and least? Not hard. A syllable with a meaning, that is, five letters are in it, which is its superior limit: one letter, however, which is its inferior limit, to wit, denoting perfect sense, such as o, ear, or i, island. Therefore dialt, syllable, is the origin of all Gaelic save mod, tod, and trod. What is the reason why it is not an origin for those? Not hard. Because each of them is a dialt, syllable, and a thing is not an origin for itself, or again dialt is the origin of all Gaelic save mod, tod, and troth. But I much prefer there certainly that they are not an origin of Gaelic but that it is an origin of meaning. What is the gender to which it is an origin? Not hard, to wit, mod is everything male, viz.: every male member and every male condition; and todh is everything female, to wit, every female member and every female condition; and troth is every thing neuter, to wit, which  p.115 are neither one nor other, viz., every impersonal condition: or again they are not dialta, syllables, at all, and mod, tod, and traeth are not therefore an origin of Gaelic but they are origins of gender, ut dicitur, but there are for all that other Gaelic matters to which they are an origin, such as mod, to wit, greater its distance upwards; or mod, that is, mo, greater, is od, i.e., od, music when it is masculine, i.e., greater the music. It is greater than the music which is less, as, for example, aidbsi, choral song, in Drum Ceat, that is, tood: or to od, tae a ed, silent its law when it is feminine; or tod, that is, to od, that is, tod (is) the music, that is, the small music, that is, humming, or a little crooning in comparison with the great, i.e., the music which is greater. Traeth, that is, weak its extent or its music in comparison with masculine and feminine: or traeth from the fact that the loud kinds of music, trumpeting or horn-blowing, overpower the low kinds. Another genus 9 or mod, that is, greater its distance up when it is thunder, or when it is a tree. Tod, that is, tae, silent its law when it is a foetus, and it is … another sound which is more silent than the other. traeth, i.e., they overwhelm, which overwhelms when it is a whistle; because it is shriller and harder than the other thing it is traet (tre fet). Others say that they might be names of instruments of music. What is their proof? Not hard. Greater its music when it is a harp. Tod, that is, tai a od, silent its music: when it is sweetest, it is more silent and lower than the other. Traeth, that is, it overwhelms the other two when it is a trumpet, because higher is its mournful cry. On that account it is traeth to them. Or again mod and tod and traeth, to wit, those are names of masculine, feminine, and neuter members, as the Latinist says: Nomen membri viri vel nomen membri mulieris vel nomen membri neutri; and those are Greek words although it is in Latin that  p.117 an example of them occurs, and they are not syllables, for they are not derived from anything, and nothing is derived out of them save that there might be formed mod, upon mod; tod, upon tod; and traeth, upon traeth. Secundum quosdam, it is a distinction of speech: “He, she, it,” according to the sons of Milesius: Uindius, uindsi, ondar, according to the Fir Bolg: mod, tod, traeth, according to the Tuatha De Danann. This is, then, the short of it: this is the origin of all Gaelic, to wit, dialt, syllable, that is, from recomrac, two, to bricht, eight syllables; and it is not the origin of an individual syllable as, for example, mod, tod, and traeth; and after every dialt, syllable, they have been set down here, and it is on that account they have been mentioned beyond every dialt, syllable, for attention was directed to them that they are dissyllabic: for their condaill is found, to wit, their fair division ut diximus. Or again mod, tod, and traeth are the names of the masculine, feminine, and neuter members as the Latinist has said: Nomen membri uirilis et nomen membri muliebris et nomen membri neutri, and those are Greek words though it is in Latin that an example of them occurs: and it is on this account that they are not dialta, syllables, for they are not derived from anything, and nothing is derived from them unless there might be formed mod for mod, tod fri tod and traeth fri traeth. Alta uad, joints of science, are measured, to wit, the metres of the airchetal, trisyllabic poetry, are measured with the joints of men as they are measured with any part of speech.

How are they measured with any part of speech? To wit, that every dialt, syllable, may correspond to another such as down, up, for that is its rhyme when it is the same in vowel, and the word made to correspond is the same in vowel, and the ending is the same in verse-feet.


There are twenty-five prepositional flections in declension, as is exemplified here below:—

Fir its nominative. […] Fir its possessive.
I fiur its locative. […] Ar fear its defensive.
Co fer its advancive. […] In fer its accusative.
A fir its vocative. […] Hi fer its ingressive.
Sech fer its neglective. […] Oc fir its depositive.
O fhir its ablative. […] For fer its invocative.
Fri fer its desidative. […] In fir its parentative.
Fo fiur its fundative. […] Do fiurits dative.
De fhiur its privative. […] Iar fiur its progenitive.
La fer its comitative. […] Im fer its circumdative.
Ar fiur its ascensive. […] Dar fer trespassive.
Frisin fer its augmentative. […] Tre fer its trajective.
Is fer its descriptive. […] Ri fiur its adversative. 10

Also their plural may be:

Fir its nominative. […] Na fir its descriptive.
Ac feraib its depositive.[…] Na fer its possessive.
Dona feraib its dative.[…] sic in sequentibus.

Now as to fear, ebad, ea is the Ogham vowel of the noun which is pronounced fer; e its vowel; dialt, syllable, its verse-foot, to wit, one constituent sound without alt, division, at all. Two constituents are in io or iphin, its Ogham vowel, in its declension or in its possessive, when it is pronounced fir, to wit, because the two are there in its declension, io; e.g. fir, iphin, is there, e.g. do fir, io; e.g. a fir, iphin; e.g. o fhir. It is on that account that he does not reckon ebhadh, ea, as a declension, though it might be present in some cases such as co fer, etc. For there is but declension of meaning only in every position where there remains the Ogham vowel which stands in the nominative. In the inflections it is io or iphin that stands in them in every place where the nominative does not remain, so that on that account io or iphin is declared  p.121 its Ogham vowel in its declension or in its possessive, etc.

Dinin disail, its accent, to wit, accentus with the Latinist; for these are the three accents which exist, to wit, arnin, dinin disail, and forsail, to wit, arnin compresses a final: forsail on a long is borne: dinin disail on a short takes (effect).

E.g. arnin, ut est, glonn, deed, donn, dun, crann, tree, glenn, glen: forsail, ut est, srōn, nose, slōg, host, mōr, great: dinin disail, ut est, fer, cor, ler, tor, and all short words whatsoever. When the Ogham inscription is written there are written these accents above them to make clear long and short or to express tension, for they would not be understood otherwise: because as the Latinist puts an acute on the short syllables, ut est, pax, etc., and a circumflex on the long syllables, ut est, rés, so the Gael puts dinin disail on the short, ut est, fer; and forsail on the long, e.g. lāmh, hand; and as there is a grave in every single dictum of many words with an acute or a circumflex, that is to say arnin is along with dinin disail or along with forsail in one word, ut, ceann, head, and srōn nose. Airnin, therefore, it purchases n: or air nin, that is, upon it is n, for it is n that is written to mark that accent. Nin is a name common to all letters either vowels or consonants. Forsail, too, means sail upon it, for it is s that is written to denote that accent, for it is upon a long that forsail rests, and there is a lengthening of the time by it upon the s: or forsail, that is, it magnifies the word till it becomes long: or forsail, that is, furail, overflow, beyond the short. Dinin disail, that is, di, for negation therein, inasmuch as it is neither n nor s that is written but d to denote that accent, i.e., because it is a diminution of the time that d denotes, as it is an addition that s adds: or dinin disail, de sin from that, i.e., unadding, that is, non-addition. Others say the reason why d is written for dinin disail is that d stands at the  p.123 beginning of dinin disail, and the reason why n is written for nin is that n stands at the end in it, and the reason why s is written for forsail is that s stands in the middle of it; vel ut alii dicunt, ail, that is, time excess past the short. Dine, that is, dinin, that is, not a letter, that is, it is not an Ogham vowel but it is an accent. Dishail, that is, not a long time or di[sh]ail, that is, non-addition or non-overflowing.

Alt co fesear that thou mayest know what alt huad, limb of science, it is of the seven alta, to wit, anamain, nath, eamain, láid, setrud, soinemain, dían with their duans. From that onward, it is from verse-feet that alta na huad, the limbs of science, are named, that it might not be mixed speech. Nath, i.e., it praises from the front. Anamain, i.e., án somain, glorious profit. Láed, i.e., it is sent or hastened 11: or leóaid, it wounds when it is satire: or from the word laus, praise. Sedradh, i.e., path of saying; or surety on a valuable. Sainemain, i.e., special its treasures with respect to the foregoing measure. Dían, two satires: or dian, huge and splendid; or ni áin, something of splendour. From that onward, i.e., from the seven principal metres forth it is from verse-feet, it is something of the verse-feet that thou wilt find and it is from them they have their name at the close of every part of their duan, and recomarc of their forduan, and iarcomarc of bard poetry, that it may not be mixed diction, that it may not be prose like the measure of the Daerbards.

Lorga fuach, staves of words, i.e., a staff out of a word, i.e., as there are staves in the hands of a man on barren places as he goes from place to place that he might not fall prostrate, even so are these here the staves that are in the reasonable speech (?) or in the mouths of the poets halting from word to word. Lorga fuach, staves of words, therefore, that is the interposition of two syllables between the two  p.125 alliterations, as Cormac the bard cecinit: Im ba seasach im ba seang, etc., i.e., im ba is the lorga fuach.

A dialt n-eterleme, its interloping syllable, is one syllable between the two alliterations ut est:—

  1. To what side for ever after a course of crosses
    Shall I beat my narrow fleet?
    Shall it be east or shall it be west for a short while,
    Shall it be north, or shall it be south?
Cia between lond and leth is the dialt n-, the interloping syllable; and lorga fuach, staves of words, and dialt n-etarleme occur in the middle of the stanza, viz., in ba, and ba.

Fer tot, its telgud noe, its flinging of a man, for nae is man, ut est, if a man suffer on land, i.e. the man allows suffering on him, he goes afterwards to bathe himself in the water, he lets himself down the bank into the water, tot saith the wave under him, i.e., tot was the name of that sound which the wave makes: tott; tott, then, is its onomatopoetic name, or mixed name from sound, ut est, the bu of cows, the go of geese: or the heavy voice the man utters dropping himself on the water. From the sounds of birth have been named go go in sound, or bu bó, i.e., tot: or again, the man takes his garment about him from some one else. What he then says is fertom (i.e. give ye to me, i.e.) it serves me, feartot it serves thee, quoth thy companion to thee, that is a passive verb, feartot quoth his companion to him, this is an active verb.

Now urland, haft, is the name for a spear-bed, to wit, the black horn that is round the spear, it is that on which the spear rests, even as gender rests on these three, he, she, it: or on these ten urlaind, to wit, he, two, trí three, cethir four men. That is, these are urlanda, prefixes,  p.127 of masculine gender, to wit, is é, it is he, the man, two men, trí three men, cethri four men: or urlond indsci is a sign of declension, masc., fem., and neuter. Masc. and fem. urland are, however, the same from that onward. Therefore they are not mentioned beyond four.

she, two, teora three, cetheora four women, are feminine urlanna, leading words, there. Is í, it is she, the woman, two women, teora three women, ceitheora four women. It é and it iat, they are, however, are common urlanna both fem. and masc. Is ed, it is, how ever, is neuter urlann, ut dicitur, it is his head. With masculine urland, again, neuter coincides in plural urlanda, to wit, two heavens, ut dicitur, two men, etc. Or urlann indsci, that is, masc., fem., and neuter gender. Thus far the body of the Primer.

Twenty-five prepositional flexions in declension, that is, five for full consideration of the poets in flexion while composing the ai, poem; and twenty artificial species besides. And the twenty artificial kinds, what is characteristic of them? Do they each of them conform to their own proper form? They do necessarily, for they are inflected forms. This is their number, three of them in the singular, three of them in the plural, so that thus there are six of them. As to the twenty artificial prose sorts, it is certain that this is their characteristic that there are twelve of them in the form of nominative and accusative, one of them in the form of genitive and vocative, seven of them in the form of dative and ablative: or eleven of them in the form of nominative and accusative, and three of them in the form of genitive and vocative, and three of them in the form of dative and ablative, i.e., three flexions in the singular fer, fir, ic fiur; three of them in the plural na fer, na fir, na firu. As to the twelve flexions of them that pass into the  p.129 form of nominative and accusative, these are their names here:

ar fer its defensive. […] co fer its advancive.
i fer its ingressive. […] seach fer its neglective.
for fer its invocative. […] fri fer its desidative.
la fer its comitative. […] im fer its circumdative.
dar fer its trespassive. […] frisin fer its augmentative.
tri fer its perforative. […] is fer its descriptive.

ut dixit poeta:
  1. Twelve flexions are these
    Which methinks are not quite deceiving,
    They pass into the letter form
    Of nominative and accusative.
The seven flexions, however, that pass into the form of dative and ablative are:—

i fiur its locative. […] oc fiur its depositive.
fo fiur its fundative. […] do fiur its privative.
iar fiur its progenitive. […] ar fiur its ascensive.
ria fiur its precessive.

ut dixit poeta:
  1. These are the seven flexions
    Which are not kinds to be destroyed,
    They pass into pure forms
    Of dative and ablative.
One flexion, however, goes into the form of vocative and genitive, ut dixit poeta:
  1. In fhir its parentative to all time
    For possessive, for vocative,
    And to them alone there comes not
    Save it be the one form from the score.
These are the score of artificial forms with their characteristics, etc.


Now as to fer, man, ebadh, ea, is its Ogham vowel; io or iphin in its declension, or in its possessive, etc., to wit, idad, i, is in its possessive and vocative. It is iphin, io, however, in its dative and ablative. Ebad, ea, however, in its nominative and accusative.

What is proper of fedha in fedaibh, of fedha i fidh, and fidh i fedaib? Proper of fedha i fedhaibh, a vowel among vowels, first, to wit, a before the four vowels; for it is the first expression of all living and the last sigh of all deceased. Dilis fed i fidh, proper of vowels in a vowel, that is, proper is the Ogham diphthong whatever be the fid, vowel, in which it is written. Dilis fidh in fedhaibh, proper is a vowel among vowels, to wit, such is the Ogham diphthong which has two vowels, to wit, what is proper there is the first vowel, for the last is not reckoned.

Alt co fesear, i.e., that it may be known whether it is a metre of the seven primary combinations of poetry as regards measure. From that onward it is by verse-feet that alta, limbs of science, are expressed that it might not be mixed speech, that is, from that onward in the good words, that is, by good words the metres of airchetal are expressed that it could not be the mixed speech such as the Daerbaird use.

Lorga fuach, staves of words, that is, láirce lórchaine, full comely legs, to wit.disyllabic interpositions that stand before the (alliterating) words, saving them from two kinds, to wit, rogair, overshortness, and claenre or perversion of sense.

Fertot a telgud noe, its man-throwing. And bu bó and go géd, names these which through science the poets have invented according to their sound. Fertot, that is, a man has fallen there; and , cow, from the word boo or buo [βοάω], I sound, that is, it would be from the géim, roar; and géd, goose, would be from the goose-voice which  p.133 it utters, as the Latinist has said: Nomen de sono factum est, i.e., the name has happened to the sound, ut est, connall, stubble, stip, that is its sound as it burns. Thence stipula has come to be the name for it with the Latinist.

Then as to aurlond, haft, or insce, speech, it is a name for the spear-bed. What is the artificial erlonn, haft, which is found to be nature? Not hard. The spear-haft. What is the aurlonn indsci, haft of speech, from which groweth no speech, but speech of death? The spear-point. What is the aurlonn, haft, which is iar lonn, after blade, the after-blade which is haft, and the haft which is remlonn, before blade, to wit, urlonn, haft, that is, the spear, to wit, haft itself that will come after blade, for iar is everything final; so that that is the urlonn, haft, which is after blade, and the urlonn, haft, is the haft which is remlonn, before blade, to wit, when the airiall reaches ground. What are urlonn, urlainn, urlainni in urlond? Urlonn, that is, urlonn, haft, leading word, mas., fem., and neut.: urlainni, the wife of the man: urlunna, the two in urlond, i.e., in heaven or in hell.

The urlunna, indices of gender, mas. and fem., plural are as follows: (mas.) sé: dá, trí, cethri: (fem.) sí: dí, teora, cetheora. From that onward the genders of number are the same. It is there is found an error of the plural neuter, to wit, its not having urlanna plural but in the singular tantum. What is artificial speech which is found with nature? Not hard. “It” is the head, for it is artificial to say “it” while it is on the man. It is natural, however, to apply “it” to it after striking cenn off him.

What single disyllabic word in the declensions will take the place, to wit, the effect of the four parts of declensions? The word perforative, for it includes the words perforative,  p.135 locative, ingressive, and advancive; for the perforative will not exist without the locative, and the locative will not exist without the ingressive, the ingressive will not exist without the advancive, so that it is perforative which holds from end to end. What bricht is it in which stand eight Ogham letters according to the poet wherein the one letter will contain the force of half of it? ut est, sliachta, and that is a virtual half, not an exact half, to wit, it alone is against the seven letters. In what place of the Primer stands the artificial possessive without rhyme save rhyme of vowels only, ut est, la ba? That is, the possession which a has over the l and over b.

In what place is found a couple of consonants without a breath through them? Not hard. Where n stands before g, with no vowel between them, ut est, uinge, ounce. In what place is found the augmenting Ogham vowel after the completion of the eight syllables in the word bricht? Not hard. Where a diphthong will stand in the eighth syllable, one of the vowel is an augmenting vowel.

There are eight syllables in the biggest word in Gaelic, ut est, fiannamailechardaai. Thirteen syllables, however, form the biggest word in Latin, ut est, tenerificabilitudinitatibus.

What consonant will take the force of a vowel, word and consonant? Not hard. Q. What consonant will not take the force of vowel, word or consonant? Not hard. H.

What is the peculiar origin of the word aipgitir, alphabet? Not hard. A be ce, dibon, i.e., copulatio literarum per se, to wit, there exists in the alphabet a collection of letters with their relationship.

And as to letter itself, what is the origin from which it is? Not hard. From legitera, to wit, a name for  p.137 a certain animal lair that dwells on the seashore [in litore] named Molossus, and whosoever sees the lair of that animal, to him is revealed knowledge without study. Therefore as it is a way for revealing wisdom and knowledge for anyone to see that lair, so the knowledge and sight of letters is a way for revealing knowledge to him, so that on that account the name littera from the name of the lair of the animal aforesaid is applied to letter in every place where it occurs. Or littera is from litura, rubbing, i.e., from the smearing, i.e., from the rubbing which the ancients used to apply to the waxen tablets, for thereon they (the letters) were first written by them. Or litera, i.e., path of reading, i.e., way of reading.

Of the origins of the declensions here below.

The beginning of letters, verse-feet, declensions, accents, intervals, genders, and comparisons as they were established by poets of the same school in which they dwelt, and by Fenius Farsaidh after the selection of Gaelic out of the 72 languages. Hence it was attributed to Goedel son of Angen, for it was he that desired the selection of Gaelic, to wit, the one language that was more beautiful and excellent than any language, so that for this reason it used to serve, and therefore it was attributed, so that hence Gaelic and the Gael are named. Nel, or Nin, son of Fenius it was who married Scota, daughter of Pharaoh, so that it is from her name they are called Scots.

Fer its nominative sing. […] Fir its nominative plur.
Fir its possessive sing. […] Na fer its possessive plur.
Do fer12 its dative sing. […] Do feraibh its dative plur.
In fer its accusative sing. […] Inna firu its accusative plur.
A fhir its vocative sing. […] A fhiru its vocative plur.
O fir its ablative sing. […] O feraibh its ablative plur.
Og fir its depositive sing. […] Oc feraib its depositive plur.
 p.139 Co fer its advancive sing. […] Co feraib (or co firu) its advancive plur.
Sech fer its neglective sing. […] Sech feraib (or sech firu) its neglective plur.
Tre fer its perforative sing. […] Tre feraib (or tre firu) its perforative plur.
I fer its ingressive sing. […] I firu (or a feraib) its ingressive plur.
I fir its locative sing. […] I firu (or a feraib) its locative plur.
For fer its attestive sing. […] For firu (or for feraib) its attestive plur.
Fo fhir its fundative sing. […] Fo fhiru (or fo fheraib) its fundative plur.
Tar fer its trespassive sing. […] Tar firu (or tar feraib) its trespassive plur.
Ar fir its ascensive sing. […] Ar firu (or ar feraib) its ascensive plur.
Fri fer its desidative sing. […] Fri firu (or fri feraib) its desidative plur.
Feron its hyperbole. […] Fer its hardening.
Feer its retarding. […] Refer its inversion.
Ser change of initial. […] Fel its change of final.
Ferfer its reduplication, is not found. […] Firine its diminutive.
Sofer its ennobling. […] Dofer its enslaving.
Fera its exaltation, is not found. […] Feraib its humiliation.
And, on, neath, through, in, past the men, its staves of words.
Fefrier its internal division.
From, out of, in, to, through, across, past a man, its interloping syllable.
Fertot its man-throwing. […] Fe its theft of a hard.
Its theft of a long is not found, or feir is its theft of a long.
Ferr its doubling a final.[…] Fe its losing a final.
Ise, etc., he, she, it, its prefix of gender.

Head, heart constituting the man's two neuter selected attributes. 13 Eye and tooth the couple of the head. Membrane and gore the couple of the heart. (The  p.141 couple of the udder, that is, milk and streamlet: 14 the couple of the gore, that is, redness and crimson.) Leg and foot the couple of supporting. A pair 15, too, of the correlated 16 neuter, that is, eyelashes and eyebrow, i.e., abhrochtur, upper eyebrow (or imcainead, treating superciliously) couple or pair 17 of the eyes. Root and breadth, the couple or pair of the teeth. Skin and sinew the couple or pair of the shins. Activity and surface the couple, i.e., pair of the feet. In another respect 18, too, these are the pairs of the correlated neuter, its accents, for there are three kinds 19 that are in existence, one for warding upon, one for good warding, and one for warding against. Gein forcométa, for warding upon, first, ut est, ailnme for glún, cap on knee, similarly, for on it from above stands the spear of the true forsail, and it is there with at once it is produced out of thy lips in length and in loudness. Dinin disail are in use as, for example, fuil blood, which is along with feóil flesh, and blood which is in the flesh. It is thus that dinin disail permeates the word from beginning to end without arresting it, without stretching it. Arnin such as cnāim mullaich top bone, leicni jaw-bones, cnuicc knuckles, and find hair, and those that do not originate with man at first, for under the likeness of a man's limbs are limbs of science made. Now the arnin does not at once appear with the word on which it falls so that it is at the end that it compresses the word.

Masculine declension thus far.

Incipit feminine declension. Woman.
of a woman. […] from a woman. […] through a woman. […]
of the women. […] from women. […] through women. […]
to a woman. […] with a woman. […] in a woman. […]
to women. […] with women. […] in women. […]
the woman. […] unto a woman. […] on a woman. […]
the women. […] unto women. […] on women. […]
O woman. […] past a woman. […] over a woman. […]
O women. […] past women. […] over women. […]
 p.143 benōn its hyperbole. […] mna its full.
ben its hardening. […] its reduplication, to wit,benben is not found.
been its retarding.
neb its inversion. […] Though some say that there is not any lān in its reduplication.
befrien its internal division.
ben its internal unity.
ben its full. […] benīne its diminutive.
soben its ennobling.
doben its enslaving; its exaltation is not found (or in the singular, that is, benna). Mna in the plural its exaltation. Its humiliation, to wit, benaib is not found. On, under, through, in, past the women, its lorga fuach: from, to, past, on, in, 'tis woman, its interloping syllable. Bentot its man-throwing. Be its theft of a hard. Its airichill fuit does not exist, or airicil (i.e., fuit) is not found. Bel its change of final. Benn its doubling a final. Be its losing a final. Pap and knee their selected neuter, fair bearing, and sridit the passage of milk from the breast, their couple; taste and sweetness, their pair. Cap and hollow of knee, the couple of the knee. Bone and flesh their pair. Or these are their pair, their accents, as we have said.

Feminine declension thus far.

Incipit neuter declension here below.

Nem heaven. Nemon its hyperbole. Nime its hardening. Neem its retarding.

of the heaven. […] at heaven. […] through heaven. […] on heaven.
to heaven. […] at heavens. […] through heavens. […] on heavens.
to heavens. […] unto heaven. […] into heaven. […] over heaven.
the heaven. […] unto heavens. […] into heavens. […] over heavens.
the heavens. […] past heaven. […] in heaven. […] under heaven.
from heaven. […] past heavens. […] in heavens. […] under heavens.
from heavens.

Nefriem its internal division. Nem its unity. Nem its full. Its diminutive is not found, nor its reduplication. Its  p.145 ennobling does not exist, nor its enslaving, nor its exaltation. Nimib is its humiliation. On, under, through, in, past the heavens, its staves of words: from, to, in, unto, out of, under, on, of, past the heavens, its interloping syllable. Its man-throwing may not serve. Ne its theft of a hard, ut est, nem of the water, or poison of a serpent, ut est, nem im thalmain heaven about earth. There is no airichill (i.e., fuit). Nel its change of final, nemm its doubling of final, ne its losing a final. Ised, etc., he, she, it, its prefix of gender. Its selected neuter is not found, for it is itself neuter gender. Cloud and bow of heaven its neuter couple: colour and height their pair, or it is their accents that are their pair.

Neuter declension thus far.

Its nominative fer. Its possessive fir. Its dative do fhiur. Its accusative in fer. Its vocative a fhir. Its ablative o fhiur. Its depositive oc fiur. Its advancive co fear. Its neglective sech fear. Its perforative tre fer. Its ingressive hi fir. Its locative hi fhir. Its attestive for fer. Its fundative fo fhiur. Its trespassive tar fear. Its ascensive ar fiur. Its defensive ar fer. Its interrogative cia fer. Its circumdative im fear. Its privative di fiur.

Now others add three to these, its privative den fir; its descriptive in fer; and its parentative in fir: but its privative is the same as its ablative; its descriptive is the same as its accusative; and its parentative is the same as its possessive.

Incipitto the divisions of analysis is this below.

There are two views of analysis, that is, analysis according to the meaning it denotes and analysis according to the method which it uses. There are four divisions of it, to wit, size, quality, denotation, and accent. Analysis according  p.147 to the quality which it signifies: There are eight subordinate parts in it, and four primary parts of the eight subordinate parts. These are included under the four primary parts, so that thus there are eight primary parts, besides conjunction, derivatives, and compounds, to wit, conjunction of sense and species, perceptions of body, soul, substance, number, and accent. That is the accent in which they have all been reckoned. That is the size, that the size or smallness which is in the word might be known. That is the quality, that it might be known whether it is a quality of evil or good that underlies the word. That is the denotation, that it might be known of what innsce it is, whether gender or part of speech. If it be a part of speech, what is the difference between part and speech. If it be gender, what is the gender? masculine, feminine, or neuter gender? If it be feminine gender, to wit, female gender, ut est, nutrix, nurse, with the Latinist, the whole female species that passes over human lips, that genus belongs to nutrix, for nutrix is nurse to them all. If it be masculine gender, that is, male gender, ut est, pater, father, with the Latinist, the whole species of masculine, feminine, and neuter that passes over human lips, it is pater that is father to them all, that is, Almighty God, Father of all the elements. If it be neuter gender, that is, lifeless gender, ut est, caelum, heaven, with the Latinist, the whole neuter species that passes over human lips is named from nem, heaven. Quality is the first, second, third, fourth, and fifth declensions, and rann, verse, and res, tale(?), and rece. Res is the first division. Rece is the subdivision. In that subdivision there are four parts, to wit, seven numbers, seven accents, and seven aspects, its aspects according to sense, species, voice, verb  p.149 and language. It is for conjunction of the voice, and that word, and language that the divisions of analysis grow.



This is Trefocul as the bards and the patreni (?) have devised it, to wit, trefocul, without a heap of bones, without cramping of diction, without plagiarism, without sameness, without banishing ornament, without one of the dallbach, without one of the ellach, save a single ellach, without disgrace, without pause, without rhyming accident, without unrhyming accident, without their 20 word which poets call frisuithi without regular repetition of diction 21, without narrative on another subject, without blasphemy, without detraction, without a word that exceeds derision, without metre (ae) on non-metre (an-ae), without wrongly placing single syllables to answer as a trisyllabic word in the use of bard measure, so that there be not the four-rhyming quatrain which bards compose, so that there be no violation of law upon the words if it be a measure that is kept up, as he said: Trefocul poets plead.

Or Trefocul is without wrongness, without too many rhymes, without an over-long, without an over-short, without want of emphasis, without over-emphasis, without an absent to a present, without a singular to a plural, without false gender, without false alliteration, without false rhyme, without error, to wit, those are the twelve faults of composition.

To guard against these are 24 kinds, to wit, corraib there: its hyperbole, its hardening, its retarding, its reduplication, its inversion, its singleness, its full, its diminutive, its ennobling, its enslaving, its exaltation, its humiliation, its losing a final, its doubling a final, its internal division, its change of initial or final, its theft of long, its theft of hard, its man-throwing, its prefix of gender, its mod speech, its neuter couples, its selected neuters, their pairs, with colour and properties,  p.151 with measure as regards letter, verse-foot, run, and accent, interval, gender, and comparison for every sort of speech that is produced on human lips; for it is from syllable that dissyllable is estimated, from dissyllable that trisyllable is estimated, from trisyllable in turn quadrisyllable, from quadrisyllable pentasyllable is estimated, from pentasyllable hexasyllable is estimated, from hexasyllable heptasyllable is estimated, from heptasyllable octosyllable is estimated: for the limbs of science are equal to the limbs of man, for there are 365 limbs of man, 365 measures of poetry, 365 days in the year, and 365 herbs through the earth, so that the protection 22 of the Trefocul encompasses them, de quibus dicitur:
Trefocul poets plead.

  1. Trefocul which poets plead
    To defend their lawlessness,
    Is no more than a burden of a children's part
    From something, I reckon, which they understand.
  2. Shields and pure countenances
    Ward off many blemishes
    As perfect Adna has devised them,
    It is no profit not to turn them.
  3. Twelve “errors,” it is clear to you,
    The poets must know them;
    Etain has found no profit of them,
    She has woven the beauty of poetry.
  4. Twelve shields and twelve countenances
    She has appointed to guard oneself against them,
    The blemishes without a weak bare rhyme,
    They succour them with double their number.
  5. The countenances of defence which I shall mention,
    “Hardening” and “singular” that are not unsharp,
    Right “ennobling,” “enslaving,”
    The “staves of words” for true measurement.
  6.  p.153
  7. “Interloping syllable” entire,
    “Theft of a long” it is true,
    “Theft of a hard,” it is not wrong,
    “Change of initial” for its visitation.
  8. “Apocope of initial,” “doubling of initial” in front,
    Mod speech” with its modes,
    It is a twelfth dear countenance,
    “Prefix of gender” for reckoning it.
  9. The shields of defence throughout the world
    Are “hyperbole” and “retarding,”
    Ancient poets have found out those
    Two “metatheses” and “internal division.”
  10. Its “full” is not full without foundation,
    Its “reduplication,” its “diminutive,”
    A memory to each noble old bard
    Its “exaltation,” its “humiliation.”
  11. I reckon “man-throwing,” with venom,
    And “change of final,”
    “Apocope of final,” it is troublesome,
    “Doubling of a final” of a good word.
  12. Those are the twelve shields,
    The learned are in the habit of observing them,
    And the twelve countenances which have been granted,
    The four and twenty divisions.
  13. The poets that do not know this,
    No back to essay poetry is on them.
    How can they conceal their wrongs?
    How can they ward off “errors”?
  14. Is it one countenance or one lofty shield
    Which saves from each blemish full rough,
    Or the twain that are thrown around every blemish?
    Not thence, from considering it, will harm arise.
  15.  p.155
  16. Whoever he be that sings with his understanding,
    Through his intellect rough and dangerous,
    It is difficult and it is troublesome
    To take account of the Trefocul.
  17. Trefocul the three words
    A knowledge of its secret is very hard,
    Thirty-six up to this point
    Are found through its species of Gaelic.
  18. Twelve “errors” of them,
    It is no rhyme without their common metrics,
    No friends to me, O men, are they
    Who separate rewards from praise.
  19. A wrong of them I tell at the outset,
    I am skilled respecting it:
    It is not one wrong but it is three wrongs,
    From which every noble lay is not nobly fair.
  20. Of “wrong of body” everyone has heard,
    In my verses it will not be very usual,
    Besides every difficulty therefrom,
    A “wrong of rhyme,” a “wrong of sense.”
  21. “Wrong of body” is not a wrong without doubt,
    It is ten injuries that it injures works,
    They levy a debt of praise outside,
    Two purple shields over against it.
  22. The “wrong of rhyme,” fitting are
    Two countenances against the clear defect,
    And two shields behind them,
    Not mean is their full protection.
  23. Two shields, two countenances of the cheek,
    It is that which protects “a wrong in meaning”;
    “A text of sense,” without sin,
    Is a species of protection.
  24.  p.157
  25. Two kinds which defend “too many rhymes,”
    So that the work be not clearly blundering,
    Three shields, three countenances, without noise
    Defend the excessive “overlong.”
  26. Five shields, three countenances, without anguish,
    It is that which defends against “overshort”;
    One countenance that wards off from you “want of emphasis,”
    And one countenance that wards off “over-emphasis.”
  27. One countenance for defence, lest it cost us a heifer (?),
    Which defends “an absent to a present”;
    A shield also and a pure countenance
    Defend “a singular” for “a plural.”
  28. Nine shields of defence, with difficulty,
    Defend all “false rhyme”;
    Though he does not speak with his good taste,
    Seeing that one countenance defends it.
  29. The three countenances, cheek by cheek,
    Well do they defend “false alliteration”;
    And two shields, ye do not think it deceitful,
    Defend hideous “false alliteration.”
  30. “False gender,” it is not a reckless tease 23,
    Which one guarding countenance defends;
    Two shields defend “error”
    Lest it should be too bare and too grey.
  31. “Error” a common harmonious name
    Has clung to every complete blunder;
    The “error” is not a name without ambiguity,
    Though it is great blemish to which it is peculiar.
  32. “Error” if it be a name for every blemish,
    Why shall it cleave to a single blemish?
    Since it is not one blemish, without fault,
    That is naked sided in Trefocul.
  33.  p.159
  34. Shields and countenances it finds for them
    As they heal every unbeautiful thing;
    From us, it is not a sudden silence,
    “Hyperbole” wards off two faults truly.
  35. One remedy has “hardening,” without sin,
    And one remedy has “retarding”;
    It is not a kind of mad act it meditates,
    Six good protections has “metathesis.”
  36. Known to my mind, without reproach,
    Six helps in their “internal division,”
    Against one blemish which its “singleness” defends
    And its “full” full gracefully.
  37. “Reduplication” wards off from us, with colour,
    The three blemishes full well;
    Defends, not ill is the work,
    Against two blemishes its “diminutive.”
  38. Against two blemishes defend, without decay,
    “Ennobling” and “enslaving”:
    Against two veritable blemishes defend indeed
    Its “exaltation” and “humiliation.”
  39. “Staves of words” protect here below
    Against two blemishes full plainly:
    A great “interloping syllable”
    With us remedies two “errors.”
  40. Its “man-throwing,” beauteous its taste,
    It is against two “errors” that it heals;
    “Theft of long” it is the better of it,
    It does not ward off from us save two things.
  41. Its “theft of hard,” without doubt,
    Has saved us from two difficulties,
    It wards it off, without winding up of yarn.
    As it sees it, “change of initial and final.”
  42.  p.161
  43. “Losing a final” wards off three blunders,
    Of our disobedient “errors,”
    By “doubling a final,” without heavy sorrow, too,
    The same equal number is assisted.
  44. Mod speech,” it is not an evil mode,
    Does not protect but one blemish;
    “Prefix of gender,” harmonious name,
    Does not protect save one blunder.
  45. These are countenances and shields,
    To sages they are not unsharp;
    Not well goes to stretch verses
    Any poet that does not carry them out.
  46. To pay the two score, without reproach,
    Which are found of damages on blunders,
    Worshippings to the King Who gave them,
    Seven and forty helps.
  47. The poets that came over
    Along with the Tuath De Danann,
    There was many an Ollave with them
    Making holes in the Trefocul.
  48. Two shields which defend “wrong of body,”
    From me in this verse it is greatly to be believed,
    “Metathesis” of sharp-edged words
    And “metathesis” of syllables.
  49. Its “theft of a long,” it is constant,
    That there may not be its “change of a final”;
    “Hardening,” “retarding,” of measure
    Defend the “wrong of rhyme.”
  50. Against the “wrong of sense” defend
    “Staves of words,” “a well-leaping syllable,”
    And “perfected sense,” without sin,
    Is a species of defending them.
  51. Every verse has been destroyed utterly
    With respect to “excess of rhymes” in verses,
    “Excess of rhyme” would not abide
    Despite “exaltation,” “humiliation.”
  52. The two “internal divisions,” as was heard,
    The two “thefts” here below,
    The “losings of finals” God gave them,
    Beyond these “over long” will not reach.
  53. “Hyperbole,” “reduplication,” without blemish,
    “Man-throwing,” and “diminutive,”
    They make rare each “over short” before you
    “Staves of syllables,” “doubling of finals.”
  54. “Ennobling” of the world's men
    Against “want of emphasis,” it is a good help,
    “Enslaving” every man of them
    Helps them all against “over emphasis.”
  55. “Unity” defends against “plural” in the poems,
    Against “singleness” its “full” defends,
    “An absent to a present” verily,
    Mod speech” for its great defence.
  56. Against “false rhyme” defend, oh man!
    “Hyperbole,” “two metatheses,”
    “Man-throwing,” ornamental the work,
    “Internal division” of letters, “diminutive.”
    “Theft of hard,” O happy one!
    Its “losing of final,” and “doubling of final.”
  57. Two “metatheses,” right “reduplication”
    Help unlawful “false alliteration,”
    And these help it here below
    “Doubling,” “losing,” “change of final.”
  58. “False gender” is taken account of there,
    Quickly aurland “prefix” defends it.
    Against “error” to some extent protect
    “Reduplication,” “exaltation,” “humiliation.”
  59.  p.165
  60. Destruction of flexion is every bad flexion,
    For it there is no name but “error”;
    I have no clear desire that it should be pilfered
    Out of the Trefocul which they plead.

  61. Trefocul.

Of the Laws for closing Poems here below.

  1. Consider the closings of your poems,
    Ye people of the lawful art.
    Query, it is not a question of concealing
    Whether firmly ye have closed them.
  2. Unless every compact poem is closed,
    What fault is in the Trefocul?
    For it is that which has put them away of old,
    Many faults of poetry.
  3. Each man of the poets,
    Unless his vigorous poem be closed,
    What fine for it is due from him,
    From the man who makes the full pleasant lay?
  4. What is the name of each close of these
    Which the bards name to their brethren?
    Let each one listen, let him hear the knowledge,
    Unless he would remain in his ignorance.
  5. The comindsma to Dondchadh (Duncan) is “Do,”
    The ascnam, “Dond” on each fair day,
    The saigid (is) this, it is the famous version,
    Dondchadh the Ollave name.
  6. Ascnam (approach) after full approach is a pleasant mode,
    Dondchadh through whom the world boils,”
    Uaim do rind (alliteration at end) “Duncan of the many hosts,”
    “Through whom boils the fiery world.”
  7. Whether the same close is due
    Let it be found out by the poets,
    For the body of the duan in their poem,
    And for the complete conclusion.
  8.  p.167
  9. “Full approach,” “approach,” “alliteration at end”
    Close bodies of poems, it is plain to us;
    Every concluding word, it is a pure glory,
    Repetition of first syllable is due to their close.
  10. Ye poets of the world, West and East,
    Both in Ireland and in Scotland,
    They deserve no lucky treasures
    For every poem that will not be properly closed.
  11. If any one ask the law
    What is the number of a company of the true poets
    On a journey of entertainment, upon the road of a circuit,
    For customary needs, for feasts:
  12. Twenty-four verily
    For a journey of entertainment of a royal Ollave,
    Eight for a circuit, without anguish,
    Twelve men for customary needs.
  13. Ten for prepared feasts
    Are due to him, the choice of learned people,
    For glorious contests are these,
    The Ollave's four companies.
  14. Twelve men will fall (?) to a poet of the second order,
    Five men for their customary needs,
    Six for a circuit, scholars of renown,
    Eight verily for feasts.
  15. Give to a poet of the third order for his song
    Eight, noble his great company,
    Six for feasts of knowledge,
    Five for a circuit, four for customary needs.
  16. Six to a poet of the fourth degree, hide it not,
    For every journey of entertainment provide ye,
    Four for feasts of knowledge,
    Three for a circuit, two for customary needs.
  17.  p.169
  18. Four to a poet of the fifth degree, a band which is best,
    And three for feasts of poets,
    Two for a circuit, to be adjudged to the poet,
    And for his needs one alone.
  19. Three for a journey of hospitality on which he goes,
    A chosen company for a poet of the sixth degree,
    Two for feasts, with cleverness,
    One for a circuit, one for quite customary needs.
  20. Thou shalt not exceed two after that,
    The two companies to poets of the seventh degree,
    One for a circuit, one for a feast provide thou,
    One for his needs: if any one ask.

  21. If any one ask the law what.

Finit. Amen, finit, Solomon O'Droma nomine scripsit.
L. Muircheartach Riabhach O'Cuindlis wrote this for his faithful fosterer MacFirbis, and for his blessing besides.



What are the place, time, person, and cause of the invention of the Ogham? Not hard. Its place Hibernia insula quam nos Scoti habitamus. In the time of Bres son of Elatha king of Ireland it was invented. Its person Ogma son of Elatha son of Delbaeth brother to Bres, for Bres, Ogma and Delbaeth are the three sons of Elatha son of Delbaeth there. Now Ogma, a man well skilled in speech and in poetry, invented the Ogham. The cause of its invention, as a proof of his ingenuity, and that this speech should belong to the learned apart, to the exclusion of rustics and herdsmen. Whence the Ogham got its name according to sound and matter, who are the father and the mother of the Ogham, what is the first name that was written by Ogham, in what letter it was written, the reason why it was written, by whom it was written, and why b precedes every letter, hic uoluuntur omnia.

Ogham from Ogma suo inventore primo in respect to its sound, quidem; according to matter, however, ogum is og-uaim perfect alliteration, which the poets applied to poetry by means of it, for by letters Gaelic is measured by the poets; the father of Ogham is Ogma, the mother of Ogham is the hand or knife of Ogma.

This moreover is the first thing that was written by Ogham, {illu272.1}, i.e. (the birch) b was written, and to convey a warning to Lug son of Ethliu it was written respecting his wife lest she should be carried away from him into faeryland, to wit, seven b's in one switch of birch: Thy wife will be seven times carried away from thee into faeryland or into another country, unless birch guard  p.275 her. On that account, moreover, b, birch, takes precedence, for it is in birch that Ogham was first written.

How many divisions of Ogham are there, and what are they? Not hard. Four: b five, h five, m five, a five, besides diphthongs.

How many groups of Ogham? Not hard. Three, viz., eight chieftain trees, eight peasant trees, and eight shrub trees. Eight chieftain trees first:—alder, oak, hazel, vine, ivy, sloe, furze, heath. Eight peasant trees, viz., birch, quicken tree, willow, ash, whitethorn, whin, apple tree. As to their letters all other shrubs are peasant trees.

Quot sunt genera of the Ogham? Not hard. CL, et figuras eorum et potestates secundum ordinem nuntiabimus. I shall speak primum of the woods of the trees whence names have been put for the Ogham letters, secundum alios et alios nominantur. Query, well then, whence are the Ogham vowels and consonants named? Not hard. Secundum alios quidem, it is from the school of Fenius Farsaidh, to wit, the school of poetry which Fenius sent throughout the world to learn the languages. There were five and twenty that were noblest of them so that it is their names that were put for the Bethe Luis Nin of the Ogham, both vowels and consonants; and there were four who were the noblest of these again, so that it is their names that were given to the seven principal vowels:—
and they added other three to them so that from these are named the other three diphthongs, wherefore {illu274.2} are classified apart. Secundum alios it is from the trees of the forest that names were given to the Ogham letters metaphorically. Moreover beithe, b, is from the birch of the forest for the first letter on the path of the Ogham alphabet. Luis, l, that is, elm in the forests.  p.277 Fern, f, that is, alder in the forest. Sail, s, of the Ogham, that is, willow, again, in the forest Nin, n, of the Ogham, to wit, maw of spear, or nettles in the woods. Uath, h, of the Ogham, that is, test-tree or whitethorn, on account of its thorniness. Dur, d, of the Ogham is oak, again, in the forest. Tinne, t, of the Ogham, to wit, holly or elderberry in the forest. Coll, c, of the Ogham, to wit, hazel in the forest. Quert, q, of the Ogham is holly in the forest, or quicken tree, or aspen. Muin, vine, m, to wit, mead from it. Gort, cornfield, g, to wit, fir. Getal, ng, to wit, broom. Straif, str, willowbrake in the forest. Onn, o, to wit, furze or ash. Ur, u, to wit, thorn. Edad, e, to wit, yew. Ida, i, to wit, service tree. Ebad, ea, to wit, elecampane. Oir, oi, to wit, spindle tree. Uilleann, ui, to wit, ivy. Pin, io, of the Ogham, pine, again, in the forest. Hence are named caera pinne, gooseberries; ifin, again secundum alios is the name of that letter. Emancoll, witch hazel, ae, again, to wit, c doubled according to fact or according to form, to wit, c across c in its form.

Word Ogham of Morann Mac Main here. Feocus foltchain, faded trunk and fair hair, that is for birch, b, in the Word Ogham, because names which Morann gave of himself to the Ogham letters, these are they which take the effect of letters in the Word Ogham. Feocus foltchain for b, for these are two aspects of the birch, and it was hence put for the Ogham letter which has taken a name from it.

Lí súla, delight of eye, that is luis, quicken tree, l, to wit, the flame.

Airinach Fian, i.e., shield of warrior-bands, i.e., shield for fern, f, with him owing to their redness in the same respect: or because the alder, the material of the shield  p.279 was from fernae given to the Ogham letter which has taken a name from it. Airenach Fian, i.e., shield, that is fern, f, with him.

Lí n-aimbí, hue of the lifeless, i.e., hue of one dead, to wit, am for denial, so that he is not living but is dead. Lí n-aimbí, again, to wit, that is sail, willow, s with him, and hence it was put for the Ogham letter.

Cosdad sida, checking of peace, that is nin, ash, n: it is the maw of a weaver's beam as applied to wood: a sign of peace is that. A checking of peace with him is that from the ash of the weaver's beam.

Conal cuan, pack of wolves, to wit, that is uath, thorn, h, for a terror to any one is a pack of wolves. Conal cuan said of the Ogham h, owing to the affinity of the name, for they are a thorn, in the same way.

Ardam dossaibh, highest of bushes, that is dur, oak, d, with respect to its wood in the forest.

Trian, t, another thing the meaning of that to-day.

Cainiu fedaib, fairest of trees, that is hazel, c, owing to its beauty in woods.

Clithar mbaiscaill, shelter of a hind, i.e., a fold: to wit, boscell, lunatic, that is bas-ceall, death sense, it is then his sense comes to him when he goes to his death. Clithar boiscell, again, that is an apple tree: or boscell, that is, hinds, to wit, they are light. Clithar boiscell, again, i.e., lunatics or hinds: quert, an apple tree, q, with reference to its letter.

Tresim fedma, strongest of effort, that is muin, vine, m, with him, i.e., owing to identity of name with muin, back of man or ox, for it is they that are the strongest in existence as regards effort.

Millsiu feraib, sweeter than grasses, that is gort, ivy, g, with him owing to the identity of the name with the cornfield. When it is in the blade, sweeter than any grass is that grass, to wit, the cornfield. Hence for that letter in Ogham  p.281 owing to the complete identity of the name between them.

Luth legha, a physician's strength, that is broom, ng, to wit, because it is strength with the physicians, and there is an affinity between cath, panacea (?), and getal, broom.

Tresim ruamna, strongest of red, to wit, that is str with him in Ogham. Straif, sloe, according to fact; for in the sloe red for dyeing the things is stronger, for it is it that makes the pale silver become azure, making it genuine (?) silver. It is it which is boiled through the urine into the white gold so as to make it red. Tresim ruamna is the sloe according to fact. Hence it was put in the letter named str, owing to identity of name between them, i.e., straif is the name of each of them.

Tinnem ruccae, intensest of blushes, that is ruis, elderberry, r, to wit, from the reddening or shame according to fact, for by r it is written, and it is a reddening that grows in a man's face through the juice of the herb being rubbed under it. Tindi ruccae, an ingot of a blush, again, said of the ruis, elderberry, from shame or from reddening, for it is by r that it is itself written.

Ardam iachtadh, loudest of groanings, that is wondering, to wit, that is ailm, fir, a, with him; for it is ailm or a a man says while groaning in disease, or wondering, that is, marvelling at whatever circumstance.

Congnamaid echraide, helper of horses, to wit, the onnaid24 of the chariot, i.e, the wheels, to wit, that is onn, furze, with him, for it is by onn, o, that the wheels of the chariot are written. Aliter, comguinidech, equally wounding, i.e. whin. Hence it was put for that letter which is named onn, o, owing to identity between them, for onn is a name for each of them; and it is from whin that the name onn was put for the Ogham letter secundum alios.


Etiud midach, robe of physicians, to wit, cath, panacea (?). Hence it was put for getal, broom, ng.

Uaraib adbaib, in cold dwellings, to wit, that is ur, fresh, with him, for from uir, the mould of the earth is the name uaraib adbaib. Hence it was put for the letter named ur, heath, in Ogham, owing to identity of name between them, to wit, each of them is ur, and it is written by u.

Ergnaid fid, distinguished wood, to wit, that is aspen with him, for ergnaid fid is a name for the trembling tree. Hence it was put for the Ogham letter named edad, aspen, for hence was edad, e, put for it.

Siniu fedaib, oldest of woods, to wit, that is idad, yew, with him; for siniu fedaib is a name for service-tree. Hence it was given to that letter in Ogham named idad, yew, i, for hence the name idad was put for it; for idad, yew, is a name for ibur, service-tree.

Snamchain feda, most buoyant of wood, to wit, that is ebad, aspen, with him, for fair swimming is wood: to wit, that is a name for the great raven. Hence it was put for the letter named the Ogham ebad, for é is a name for salmon, and it is written by ea like the alphabet of the fauna: i.e., by stag (deer), eo by eonasc (ousel).

Sruitem aicdi, most venerable of structures, i.e., oir, oi, spindle tree, according to fact. Hence it was put for the letter owing to the identity of the name that is between them, to wit, oir is the name of each of them.

Tutmur fid uilleann, juicy wood is woodbine, that is woodbine with him, for it is a name for honeysuckle. Hence it was put for the Ogham named woodbine, ui; for hence was woodbine put for it, for it is a name for honeysuckle.

Millsem feda, sweetest of wood, that is gooseberry with him, for a name for the tree called pin is milsem feda. Gooseberries are hence named. Hence it was put for the letter named pin, for hence pin, or ifin, io, was put for it.


Luad saethaig, expression of a weary one, i.e., ach, ah! uch, alas! that is emancoll, ae, with him, for emancoll is taken for ach, though it may be taken for something else, Finit Word-Ogham of Morann.

Alphabet of word-oghams of Mac ind Óic here below. Glaisium cnis, most silvery of skin, to wit, that is the birch of the Ogham from birch of the forest, for hence birch, b, was put for it; sic in reliquis sequentibus. Cara ceathra, friend of cattle, to wit, elm. Cara, to wit, dear to the cattle is the elm for its bloom and for down. Hence it was put for the Ogham luis, quicken tree, l, for hence was quicken tree, l, put for it.

Comet lachta, guarding of milk, to wit, that is the Ogham alder, f, from alder of the forests, for it is it that guards the milk, for of it are made the vessels containing the milk.

Luth bech, activity of bees, to wit, that is willow, s, for its bloom and for its catkin. Hence it is put for the cognate Ogham letter.

Bag ban, fight of women, to wit, ash, n, of weaver's beam, i.e., maw of weaver's beam. Hence for its cognate letter.

Banadh gnuisi, blanching of face, to wit, fear, huath, h, for blanched is a man's face when he is encompassed with fear or terror. Hence for the Ogham letter owing to identity of name between the same two, to wit, huath stands for each of them.

Gres sair, carpenter's work, to wit, oak, d. Hence it was put for its cognate Ogham letter.

Smir guaili, fires of coal, to wit, that is holly. Hence for its cognate Ogham letter, i.e., tinne, t, secundum alios; for tindi is a name for holly, ut alii dicunt.


Cara bloisc, friend of cracking, to wit, coll, hazel, c. Hence for its cognate Ogham letter.

Brigh an duine, force of the man, to wit, queirt, q, apple tree. Hence for its cognate letter.

Arusc n-airlig, condition of slaughter, to wit, a man's back, m. Hence for its synonymous letter.

Med nercc, to wit, ivy, g. Hence for its synonymous letter.

Morad run, increasing of secrets, to wit, sloe, str. Hence it was put for its synonymous letter.

Ruanma dreach, redness of faces, to wit, sap of the rose which causes the redness of the faces, so that blushing is in them. Ruanma dreach, again, said of the Ogham ruis, elder, r, from the blush or from the reddening, for it is by elder, r, it is itself written.

Tosach fregra, beginning of an answer, to wit, that is ailm, a; for the first expression of every human being after his birth is a.

Fethim saire, smoothest of work, or fedem, to wit, onn, stone, o.

Silad clann, growing of plants, that is ur, heath, u with him, for it is uir, the soil of the earth, that causes the growing of the plants that are put into it. Growing of plants, again, said of the soil of the earth, is said of the Ogham letter which has taken the same name with it, to wit, each of them is ur.

Comainm carat, synonym for a friend, to wit, aspen, e, in the forest. Hence for its synonymous Ogham letter.

Crinem feda, most withered of wood, or sword, to wit, service tree, e. Hence for the Ogham letter, which has taken a name other than it, to wit, idad, yew.

Cosc lobair, corrective of a sick man, to wit, woodbine for the Ogham letter, which has taken a name other than it, to wit, ebad, aspen, ea.


Lí crotha, beauty of form, to wit, heath. Hence for its synonymous letter, to wit, the Ogham oi.

Cubat n-oll, great equal-length, to wit, woodbine, i.e., honeysuckle. Hence for the Ogham letter which it has taken from it, to wit, woodbine, ui.

Amram blais, most wonderful of taste, to wit, pin or ifin, gooseberry. Hence for the letter that has taken its name from it, to wit, pin or iphin, io.

1. This is Sow Ogham.

This is group B prius. White b, grey l, black f, amber s, blue n.

Group H. Accompanying litter of a white (i.e. milch-) sow h, grey d, black t, amber c, blue q.

Group M. Litter of a white sow m, grey g, black ng, amber str, blue r.

Group A. Pig-in-pen of a white sow a, grey o, black u, amber e, blue i. Diphthong group here: Hog-in-pen of a white sow ea, grey oi, black ui, amber io, blue ae.

2. River-pool Ogham.

This is Group B prius, to wit, Barrow b, Lower Shannon l, Foyle f, Shannon s, Nith n.

Group H. h Othain (Fahan) h, Dergderg d, Teith t, Catt c, Cusrat q.

Group M. Muinten m, Gaval g, Graney ng, Sruthair str, Rye r.

Group A, to wit, Aru a, Eobul, Uissen, Erbus, Indiurnn.

3. Fortress Ogham, to wit,

Group B. Bruden, Liffey, Femen, Seolae, Nephin.

Group H. h-Ocha, Dinn Ríg, Tara, Cera, Corann.

Group M. Meath, Gabur, nGarman, Streulae, Roigne.

Group A. Æ(Cualand), Odba, Usney, Navan, Islay.


4. Bird Ogham, to wit,

Group B. besan pheasant (?), lachu duck, faelinn gull, seg hawk, naescu snipe.

Group H. hadaig night raven (?), droen wren, truith starling, querc hen.

Group M, i.e., mintan titmouse, géis swan, ngéigh goose, stmólach thrush, rócnat small rook (?).

Group A. aidhircleóg lapwing, odoroscrach scrat (?), uiseóg lark, ela swan, illait eaglet (?).

5. Colour Ogham.

Group B, i.e., bán white, liath grey, flann red, sodath fine-coloured, necht clear.

Group H, i.e., huath terrible, dub black, temen dark grey, cron brown, quiar mouse-coloured.

Group M, i.e., mbracht variegated, gorm blue, nglas green, sorcha bright, ruadh red.

Group A. alad piebald, odhar dun, usgdha resinous, erc red, irfind very white.

6. Church Ogham.

Group B, i.e., Bangor, Liath, Ferns, Saigear, Noendruim.

Group H, h-Irard (Cluain), Durrow, Terryglass, Clonmacnois, Kildare.

Group M, i.e., Mugna, Shrule, Rahen, etc.

Group A, i.e., Armagh, etc.

7. Man (Human Being) Ogham, to wit,

Man or hero for group B, one man, two, three, four, five men.

Minna nobles (or women) or clerics for group H, i.e., a woman, two, three, four, five women.

Youth for group M, one youth, two, three, four, five youths.


Boy or lad for group A, one boy, two, three, four, five boys, to wit, one boy for a, two for o, three for u, sic in reliquis.

Woman Ogham: heroines for group B after the same procedure (or method), to wit, one for b, two for l, thus all down.

Nuns for group H similiter.

Maidens for group M similiter.

Girls for group A similiter, to wit, one for a, two for u.

8. Agricultural Ogham.

Group B here, i.e., biail axe, loman rope, fidba hedge-bill, srathar pack-saddle, nasc ring.

Group H, i.e., huartan {}, dabach cask, tal adze, carr waggon, cual faggot.

Group M machad {}, gat withe, ngend wedge, sust flail, rusc basket.

Group A, i.e., arathar plough, ord hammer, usca heather-brush, epit billhook, indeoin anvil.

9. King Ogham, to wit,

Bran, Labraidh, etc, and so all, to wit, to take for the name, the name of the king that begins with the letter.

10. Water Ogham, to wit,

Rivulet for group B, to wit, one rivulet for b, five for n.

Weir for group H, one weir, two, three, four, five weirs.

River for group M, one river, two, three, four, five rivers.

Well for group A, one well, two, three, four, five wells.

11. Dog Ogham, to wit,

Watch-dog for group B, one watch-dog, two, three, four, five watch-dogs.

Greyhound for group H, one greyhound, two, three, four, five greyhounds.


Herd's dog for group M, one herd's dog, two, three, four, five herds' dogs.

Lapdog for group A, one lapdog, two, three, four, five lapdogs.

12. Ox Ogham, to wit,

Bull for group B, one bull, two, three, four, five bulls.

Ox for group H, one ox, two, three, four, five oxen.

Bullock for group M, one bullock, two, three, four, five bullocks.

Steer for group A, one steer, two, three, four, five steers.

13. Cow Ogham, to wit,

Milch cow for group B, one milch cow, two, three, four, five milch cows.

Stripper for group H, one stripper, two, three, four, five strippers.

Three-year-old heifer for group M, one three-year-old, two, three, four, five three-year-old heifers.

Yearling heifer for group A, etc.

14. Blind man Ogham, to wit,

the man's name is divided, to wit,
Group B. to the right side.
Group H. to the left side.
Group M. to the right side.
Group A. to the left side.

15. Lame Ogham, to wit,

they are the same, viz., a division of the name.

16. Boy Ogham, to wit,

pregnant women Ogham, that is, the name of the woman is divided there unless she bear a child previously. if, however, she bear a child, it is the child's name  p.297 that is divided there; and if there be a letter over, it is a boy. If it be an even number, it would be a daughter that will be born of that pregnancy.

17. Foot Ogham, to wit,

the fingers of the hand about the shinbone for the letters and to put them on the right of the shinbone for group B. To the left for group H. Athwart the shinbone for group M. Straight across for group A, viz., one finger for the first letter of the groups, two for the second letter, till it would reach five for the fifth letter of whichever group it be.

18. Nose Ogham, to wit,

the fingers of the hands about the nose, viz., similiter to right and left, athwart, across.

19. Palm of hand Ogham, to wit,

manus aliam percutit lignorum.

20. Saint Ogham, to wit,

the name of the Saint with which it will commence is taken for the letter, viz.,
Brenainn, Laisren, Finnen, Sincheall, Neasan.
H-Adamnan, Donnan, Tighearnach, Cronan, Ciaran.
Manchan, George, nGeminus, Strannan, Ruadhan.
Aed, Oena, Ultan, Ernen, Ita.

21. Art Ogham.

Livelihood, pilotage, poetry, handicraft, notary work.
Trisyllabic poetry, wizardry, turning, harping, fluting.
Soldiering, smithwork, modelling, deer-stalking, dispensing.
Sovereignty, harvesting, brasswork, fowling, fishing, or yew wood work.

22. Food Ogham, to wit,

Bread, sweet milk, sic usque in finem.


23. Herb Ogham, to wit,

to take the name of whatever herb it be for the letter with which it will commence, ut est, braisech, kale, for b, etc.

24. Head in Bush, to wit,

consisting of a letter at the beginning of the word, i.e., as far as the name of it (the letter) resembles the beginning of whatever word it be, to write that letter at the beginning of the name for its own name; and to write the end of the name according to the proper letters. And persisting Ogham is another name for this Ogham, ut est, {illu298.1} i.e, cert-le, ball of thread.

25. Head under Bush, again:

The opposite of the foregoing Ogham, to wit, consisting of a letter at the end of the name, to write the beginning of it according to its proper letters, ut est,
{illu298.2}, i.e., Mael R, to wit, Ruis.

26. Serpent about Head, to wit,

to write the first letter of the name in the middle of the stem, and to write the name straight thence to the end of the stem; and to write it backwards to the beginning of the stem, so that it is the same thing that stands at the beginning and at the end of the stem, i.e., it is the end of the word which stands on each of them, ut est in hac figura, Ceallach, indifferent to read it up or down; and it is from the middle of it that the name is read, for there stands the first letter of the name, ut est  300 beta 29.

Document details

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File description

Title statement

Title (uniform): The Scholar's Primer

Title (extended): [from the Book of Ballymote]

Title (original, Irish): Auraicept na n-Éces

Editor: George Calder

Responsibility statement

translated by: George Calder

donated by: Mary Jones and the Celtic Literature Collective

Electronic edition prepared by: Beatrix Färber

Funded by: University College, Cork, School of History

Edition statement

1. First draft, revised and corrected.

Extent: 45930 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: 2011

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

CELT document ID: T502003

Availability: The basis of this electronic edition was donated to CELT by Mary Jones of the Celtic Literature Collective which we gratefully acknowledge.The printed edition is now in the free domain.

Source description

Manuscript sources of the Old Irish text

  1. Dublin, Trinity College Library, 1432 olim E. 3. 3, ff. 3–16; 15th to early 16th century; scribe Diarmaid Ó Dubhagáin; patron Uilliam Ó Loingsigh.
  2. Dublin, RIA, 1225 olim D ii 1 alias Book of Uí Mhaine, ff. 139–143; 14th century. (much of it was written c. 1393–4); 157 folios; scribes Ádhamh Cuisin and Faolán Mac an Ghabhann na Scéal (ob. 1423) and eight others; patron Muircheartach Ó Ceallaigh (ob. 1407), bishop of Clonfert (r. 1378–94) and subsequently archbishop of Tuam (r. 1394–1407). Known as Leabhar Uí Dhubhagáin in the seventeenth century.
  3. Dublin, RIA, 536 olim 23 P 12 alias Book of Ballymote; 14th century (AD 1383x–1397). 251 folios; scribes Solamh Ó Droma, Robertus Mac Síthigh, and Maghnus Ó Duibhgeannáin (ob. 1452); patron Tomaltach Mac Donnchaidh (ob. 1397), lord of Tír Oilealla, in whose family it remained until 1522, when it was sold to Aodh Óg Ó Domhnaill, lord of Tír Chonaill. Owned by archbishop James Ussher in the seventeeth century. Later in the Library of Trinity College Dublin from which it was borrowed in 1719, never to be returned. Presented to the Royal Irish Academy in 1785. Digital images of the manuscript can be viewed on the ISOS Project of the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (http://www.isos.dias.ie/).
  4. Edinburgh, NLS, Advocates, 72.2.1 olim Gaelic I, ff. 19–29; (c. 1425).
  5. Dublin, RIA, 535 olim 23 P 2 alias Book of Lecan, ff. 151–161; 14th to 15th century. (1397–1418 or a little later); 311 folios; scribes Giolla Íosa Mac Fir Bhisigh and his students, Ádhamh Ó Cuirnín and Muircheartach Riabhach Ó Cuindlis; and Tomás Cam Mac Fir Bhisigh (only son of Giolla Íosa). In 1612 the MS was in the possession of Henry Perse, secretary to the lord deputy, Sir Arthur Chichester. It then passed to archbishop James Ussher and was in his library in England when he died there in 1656. It was returned to Ireland by Oliver Cromwell with Ussher's other books and some time before 1665 it was deposited in the Library of Trinity College Dublin, where it remained until the Jacobite War. Reported missing in 1702, it was certainly in France by 1703. It passed to the Irish College Paris and in 1787, at the instance of Colonel Charles Vallancey, it was presented to the Royal Irish Academy.
  6. London, British Library, Egerton 88, ff. 63–76; 16th century; (ad 1564–70); scribes Domhnall (mac Aodha) Ó Duibh Dhá Bhoireann (working for himself), Maghnus Ó Duibh Dhá Bhoireann and others.
  7. Dublin, Trinity College Library, 1363 olim H. 4. 22, pp. 167–98; 15th to 16th century.
  8. Dublin, Trinity College Library, 1318 olim H. 2. 16 alias Yellow Book of Lecan, 504–49; 1397–1418 or a little later.

Digital images of the text

  • The book is available in pdf. format on http://www.archive.org. The copy available there was used to check the scanned text. It originates from the library of D. A. Binchy. Where legible, his corrections have been added in footnotes, but often they were not.


  1. James Henthorn Todd (ed. & trans.) Can a mbunadas na ̇nGaedel, in: idem (ed.) Leabhar breathnach annso sis: the Irish version of the Historia Britonum by Nennius (Dublin 1848) 220–287.
  2. Eugene O'Curry, Lectures on the manuscript materials of ancient Irish history (New York 1861).
  3. Richard Rolt Brash, The ogam inscribed monuments of the Gaedhil in the British Islands (London 1879).
  4. Rudolf Thurneysen, 'Du langage secret dit ogham', Revue Celtique 7 (1886), 369–74; repr. in idem, Gesammelte Schriften, i–iii, ed. Patrizia de Bernardo Stempel & Rolf Ködderitzsch (Tübingen 1991), ii 100–5.
  5. Samuel Ferguson, Ogham inscriptions in Ireland, Wales, and Scotland, Rhind Lectures on Archaeology [...] 1884, ed. Mary C. Ferguson (Edinburgh 1887).
  6. Iohannes Huemer (ed), Virgilius Maro Grammaticus (Leipzig 1886).
  7. Kuno Meyer, Songs of summer and winter (London 1903).
  8. R. A. S. Macalister, Studies in Irish epigraphy, 3 vols. (London 1897–1907).
  9. Patrick Weston Joyce, A Social History of Ancient Ireland, 2 vols (New York, London, and Bombay: Longmans, Green, & Company, 1903).
  10. John [=Eoin] MacNeill, 'Notes on the distribution, history, grammar and import of the Irish ogham inscriptions', Proc Roy Ir Acad (C), 27 (1908–9), 329–70.
  11. Heinrich Zimmer, in: Sitzungsberichte der Königl.-Preussischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, phil.-hist. Klasse, December 1910, p. 1049.
  12. John [=Eoin] MacNeill, 'Early Irish population groups: their nomenclature, classification and chronology', ibid., 29 (1911–2), 59–114.
  13. Wallace Martin Lindsay (ed), Isidori Hispalensis Episcopi Etymologiarum sive Originum Libri, xx. (Oxford, 1911). [Available online as PDF on www.archive.org.]
  14. Kuno Meyer, Über die älteste irische Dichtung, Sitzungsberichte der königl-preuss. Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1913.
  15. Holger Pedersen, Vergleichende Grammatik der keltischen Sprachen, 2 volumes, (Göttingen 1909–1913).
  16. Kuno Meyer, 'Über die Anordnung des Ogamalphabets', Sitzungsberichte der Königl.-Preussischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, phil.-hist. Klasse, 1917, 376–78.
  17. Eoin MacNeill, A pioneer of nations, Studies (Dublin) 11 (1922) 13–28, 435–46.
  18. Charles Plummer, 'On the meaning of ogam stones', Revue Celtique 40 (1923), 387–390.
  19. Joseph Vendryes, 'Sur les noms des lettres de l'alphabet irlandais', Revue Celtique 44 (1927) 317–19.
  20. Rudolf Thurneysen, Auraicept na n-Éces, Zeitschrift für Celtische Philologie 17 (1928) 277–303.
  21. F. C. Diack, 'The origins of the ogam alphabet', Scottish Gaelic Studies 3 (1929–31), 86–91.
  22. Eoin MacNeill, 'Archaisms in the ogham inscriptions', Proc Roy Ir Acad (C) 39 (1931) 33–53.
  23. Osborn J. Bergin, 'On the Kilbonane ogams', Ériu 11 (1932) 107–11.
  24. Rudolf Thurneysen, Allerlei Nachträge, Zeitschrift für Celtische Philologie 19 (1933) 125–33: 128–9.
  25. H. Arntz, 'Das Ogom', Beiträge zur Geschichte der deutschen Sprache & Literatur 59 (1935) 321–413.
  26. Rudolf Thurneysen, 'Zum Ogom', Beiträge zur Geschichte der deutschen Sprache & Literatur 61 (1937) 188–208; repr. in idem, Gesammelte Schriften, i–iii, ed. Patrizia de Bernardo Stempel & Rolf Ködderitzsch (Tübingen 1991) ii 292–312.
  27. W. Keller, 'Die Entstehung des Ogom', Beiträge zur Geschichte der deutschen Sprache & Literatur 62 (1938) 121–32.
  28. Osborn J. Bergin, The native Irish grammarian, Proc Br Acad 24 (1939), 205–35 [Rhŷs Lecture].
  29. J. Vendryes, 'L'écriture ogamique et ses origines', Études Celtiques, 4/1 (1941) 83–116; repr. in idem, Choix d'études linguistiques et celtiques (Paris 1952) 247–76.
  30. L. J. D. Richardson, 'The word ogham', Hermathena, 62 (1943) 96–105.
  31. A. G. van Hamel, Primitieve Ierse taalstudie, Medeelingen d. k. Nederlandsche Akad Wetenschappen, aft letterkunde, n.r., dl. 9, nr 9 (1946), 295–339.
  32. Proinsias Mac Cana, The three languages and the three laws, Studia Celtica, 5 (1970), 62–78.
  33. Jack Fellman, The first mediaeval grammar of a European vernacular, Linguistics, 206 (1978), 55–6.
  34. Edgar M. Slotkin, Medieval Irish scribes and fixed texts, Éigse, 7 (1978–9), 437–50.
  35. Anders Ahlqvist, Les débuts de l'étude du langage en Irlande?, in: Konrad Koerner (ed.), Amsterdam studies in the theory and history of linguistic science, iii, Studies in the History of Linguistics, 20 (Amsterdam 1980), 35–43.
  36. Louis Holtz, Donat et la tradition de l'enseignment grammatical: études sur l'Ars Donati et sa diffusion (IVe–IXe siècle) et édition critique (Paris 1981).
  37. Anders Ahlqvist, Det medeltida Irlands språkvetenskap, in Even Hovdhaugen (ed.), The Nordic languages and modern linguistics: proceedings of the fourth international conference of Nordic and general linguistics in Oslo 1980 (Oslo, 1981) 202–11.
  38. Liam Breatnach, The caldron of poesy, Ériu 32 (1981) 45–93.
  39. Anders Ahlqvist, The Early Irish Linguist (Helsinki 1983).
  40. Liam Breatnach, Addenda and corrigenda to the 'Caldron of poesy' (Ériu xxxii 45–93), Ériu 35 (1984) 189–91.
  41. Anders Ahlqvist, Téarmaíocht ghramadaí na Gaeilge, Studia Hibernica 24 (1984–88), 89–96.
  42. Anders Ahlqvist, The study of language in early Ireland, Neuphilol Mitt 85 (1985) 246–57.
  43. Diego Poli, La metafora di Babele e le partitiones nella teoria grammaticale irlandese dell' Auricept na n-Éces, in Diego Poli (ed.), Episteme: in ricordo di Giorgio Raimondo Cardona, Quaderni Linguistici e Filologici, 4 (Macerata 1986–9) 179–97.
  44. Anders Ahlqvist, An Irish text on the letters of the alphabet, in A. M. Simon-Vandenbergen (ed.), Studies in honour of René Derolez (Ghent 1987), 3–16.
  45. Anders Ahlqvist, Latin grammar and native learning, in: Donnchadh Ó Corráin, Liam Breatnach & Kim McCone (eds.), Sages, saints and storytellers: Celtic Studies in honour of Professor James Carney (Maynooth 1989) 1–6.
  46. Damian MacManus, A Guide to Ogam (Maynooth 1991).
  47. Andrew Garrett, 'On the prosodic phonology of ogam Irish', Ériu 50 (1991), 139–160.
  48. V. P. Kalyguine, Quelques aspects mythologiques de la tradition grammaticale vieil-irlandaise, Études Celtiques 29 (1992) 241–8.
  49. Erich Poppe, Natural and artificial gender in Auraicept na n-Éces, Studia Hibernica 29 (1995–7), 195–203.
  50. Erich Poppe, Die mittelalterliche irische Abhandlung Auraicept na nÉces und ihr geistesgeschichtlicher Standort, in K. D. Dutz & H.-J. Niederehe (eds.), Theorie und Rekonstruktion (Münster 1996), 55–74.
  51. Erich Poppe, 'Latinate Terminology in Auraicept na nÉces', in: History of Linguistics 1996, vol. 1: Traditions in Linguistics Worldwide. Eds. David Cram, Andrew Linn, Elke Nowak. (Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins. 1999, 191–201).
  52. Rijcklof Hofmann, 'The Irish tradition of Priscian', in: Mario de Nonno, Paolo de Paolis & Louis Holtz (eds.), Manuscripts and tradition of grammatical texts from antiquity to the renaissance, 2 vols, (Cassino 2000), i 257–83: 278–85.
  53. Erich Poppe, 'The Latin quotations in Auraicept na nÉces: microtexts and their transmission', in: Próinséas Ní Chatháin & Michael Richter (eds.), Ireland and Europe in the early middle ages: texts and transmission (Dublin 2002), 296–312.
  54. Pierre-Yves Lambert, 'Les Differentiae dans la littérature irlandaise ancienne', in: Pierre Lardet (ed.), La tradition vive: mélanges d'histoire des textes en l'honneur de Louis Holtz, Bibliologia: Elementa ad librorum studia pertinentia, 20 (Paris & Turnhout 2003) 107–18: 116–8.
  55. Johan Corthals, 'Stimme, Atem und Dichtung: aus einem altirischen Lehrbuch für Dichterschüler (Uraicept na mac sésa)', in Helmut Birkhan (ed.), Kelteneinfälle an der Donau: Akten des vierten Symposiums deutschsprachiger Keltologinnen und Keltologen, Linz-Donau, 17–21. Juli 2005 (Vienna 2007) 124–47.
  56. Roisin McLaughlin, 'Fénius Farsaid and the Alphabets', Ériu 59 (2009) 1–24.
  57. Richard M. A. Marshall, Studies on the 'Ars Grammatici Sergi{li}i' Journal of Medieval Latin 20 (2010) 167–231 [with an edition, a discussion of writing, and references to the 'Auraicept'].
  58. Deborah Hayden, 'Poetic Law and the Medieval Irish Linguist: Contextualizing the Vices and Virtues of Verse Composition in Auraicept na nÉces', Language and History 54:1 (May 2011) 1–34.

The edition used in the digital edition

Calder, George, ed. (1917). Auraicept na n-éces: the scholars’ primer: being the texts of the Ogham tract from the Book of Ballymote and the Yellow book of Lecan, and the text of the Trefhocul from the Book of Leinster, ed. from eight manuscripts, with introduction, translation of the Ballymote text, notes, and indices by George Calder‍. 1st ed. lvi + 374 pp. Preface, Contents xi, MSS Transcribed or Collated xiii, Authorities Referred to or Quoted xv, Introduction xix–lvi, 1. Text with [facing] Translation 2–169; Text Untranslated 171–257; Trefhocul with Examples 258–269; De Duilib Feda 270–271; Ogam. Prologue and Examples, with [facing] Translation 272–299; Photographs of Ogham Alphabets, with Transcript of the Interlinear Explanations and Translation thereof 300–313; Glossarial Index 315–361; Index of Places, Tribes, and Nations 362–367; Index of Persons 368–374. Edinburgh, 31 George IV Bridge: John Grant.

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

  title 	 = {Auraicept na n-éces: the scholars' primer: being the texts of the Ogham tract from the Book of Ballymote and the Yellow book of Lecan, and the text of the Trefhocul from the Book of Leinster, ed. from eight manuscripts, with introduction, translation of the Ballymote text, notes, and indices by George Calder},
  editor 	 = {George Calder},
  edition 	 = {1},
  note 	 = {lvi + 374 pp. Preface, Contents xi, MSS Transcribed or Collated xiii, Authorities Referred to or Quoted xv, Introduction xix–lvi, 1. Text with [facing] Translation 2–169; Text Untranslated 171–257; Trefhocul with Examples 258–269; De Duilib Feda 270–271; Ogam. Prologue and Examples, with [facing] Translation 272–299; Photographs of Ogham Alphabets, with Transcript of the Interlinear Explanations and Translation thereof 300–313; Glossarial Index 315–361; Index of Places, Tribes, and Nations 362–367; Index of Persons 368–374.},
  publisher 	 = {John Grant },
  address 	 = {Edinburgh, 31 George IV Bridge},
  date 	 = {1917}


Encoding description

Project description: CELT: Corpus of Electronic Texts

Sampling declarations

The present text represents the editor's introduction (xix–liii), the translation on odd pages 3–169; and odd pages 273–299 of the volume. Pp 258–271 with Trefhocul and Duilib Feda have not been captured. [The Trefhocul is reproduced in the Book of Leinster, vol. 1, file G800011A on CELT.] All notes, indexes, and line-drawings representing Ogam characters and images have been omitted in this edition. (Please see PDF version for these.) Missing text supplied by the editor is tagged sup. Bold face appearing in Calder's edition has not been been reproduced; readers wishing to view it are asked to refer to the PDF version.

Editorial declarations

Correction: Text has been checked and proofread twice at CELT. The section on Ogham has been proofed once. All corrections and supplied text are tagged. Text in Irish and Latin is marked as such.

Normalization: The electronic text represents the edited text. Poems have been encoded as embedded texts.

Hyphenation: Soft hyphens are silently removed. When a hyphenated word (hard or soft) crosses a page-break, a line-break, or a milestone, this break is marked after the completion of the hyphenated word. 'Orphaned' line-breaks may ocasionally arise from this practice.

Segmentation: div0=the didactic tract; div1=the section; stanzas are marked lg.

Interpretation: Names of persons (given names), and places are not tagged. Terms for cultural and social roles 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: Created by George Calder. 1916–1917

Language usage

  • Front matter, introduction and translation are in English. (en)
  • Many Old Irish words and phrases occur. (ga)
  • Quotations in German occur in the introduction. (de)
  • Some words in the introduction are in Welsh. (cy)
  • Some formulaic words are in Latin. (la)
  • Some letters and words are in Hebrew. (iw)
  • Some words are in Ancient Greek. (gr)

Keywords: didactic; grammar; prose; medieval; scholarship; ogam; translation

Revision description

(Most recent first)

  1. 2019-06-05: Changes made to div0 type. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  2. 2011-12-06: Encoding finished; file parsed. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  3. 2011-11-29: Translation of Ogham (p. 273–299) scanned; proofed and encoded. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  4. 2011-11: Header constructed; Introduction (xxxiv to liii) added to file; donated file converted to ASCI and encoded. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  5. 2011-07-28: Translation of text (available on her website) donated. (donation Mary Jones)

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G502003: Auraicept na n-Éces (in Irish)

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  1. The remainder of the introduction on p. liv–lvi contains a concordance between the two families of texts and has been omitted. The reader is referred to the PDF version available ion the Internet. 🢀

  2. ['Verses' changed to 'inflexion' on margin in hardcopy, and 'cf. 1759f = 4961ff.'] 🢀

  3. ['On' corrected to 'for' by Binchy.] 🢀

  4. [Text from 'or' to 'root' struck out by Binchy, nearly illegible comment written in margin:"[reckon] is its Latin basis 3573".] 🢀

  5. ['Metrical rhythm' struck out by Binchy, illegible correction written in margin.] 🢀

  6. ['take' changed to 'have' by Binchy.] 🢀

  7. ['brotherly' struck out by Binchy and illegible correction added in margin.] 🢀

  8. ['Fiann-like-every-Second-one-' struck out by Binchy and illegible correction added in margin.] 🢀

  9. ['Another genus' put in parentesis by Binchy and 'Alternatively' added in margin.] 🢀

  10. ['adversative' struck out by Binchy; 'previousness' (?) added in margin.] 🢀

  11. ['hastened' struck out by Binchy; 'moved' added in margin.] 🢀

  12. Irish text has 'Do fir.' 🢀

  13. ['constituting' and 'two' struck out by Binchy; 'a dhe' changed to 'adhe' in Irish text.] 🢀

  14. ['milk and streamlet' struck out by Binchy.] 🢀

  15. ['supporting. A pair' struck out by Binchy; 'The offspring' added.] 🢀

  16. ['correlated' struck out by Binchy; illegible word added on left margin.] 🢀

  17. ['pair' struck out by Binchy.] 🢀

  18. ['In another respect' underlined by Binchy; 'Alternatively' added.] 🢀

  19. ['kinds' struck out by Binchy.] 🢀

  20. ['their' struck out by Binchy; 'any (r. na)' added.] 🢀

  21. ['without regular repetition of diction' struck out by Binchy.] 🢀

  22. ['protection' struck out by Binchy.] 🢀

  23. tease? two letters missing in printed edition 🢀

  24. ['f' pencilled in in front of 'onnaid'.] 🢀


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