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The Encounter of Liadain and Cuirithir

Patrizia de Bernardo Stempel, Caren Esser, and Jonathan Slocum

This page contains a text in Old Irish with a modern English translation. This particular text and its translation are extracted from a lesson in the Early Indo-European Online series, where one may find detailed information about this text (see the Table of Contents page for Old Irish Online in EIEOL), and general information about the Old Irish language and its speakers' culture.

Comrac Liadaine ocus Cuirithir 'The Encounter of Liadain and Cuirithir'

Comrac Liadaine ocus Cuirithir Líadain ben do Chorco Duibne .i. banéces. Luid sí for cúairt hi crích Connacht. Cuirithir mac Doborchon, éces side dno. Do Chonnachtaib dó. Dogníther ón cuirm dísi le Cuirithir. "Cid ná dénaimni óentaid, a Líadain?" ol Cuirithir. "Ropud án ar mac ar ndís". "Ní dénaimni ón", ol sise, "ar ná loiti mo chúairt immum. Día tís ar mo chend dorísi dom thig, doregsae lat." ...

Foit in oidchi sin. ...

Rucad som íarum do chill aili. Is and asbert som:

"Di chíanaib
ó roscarus fri Líadain,
sithithir cech lá fri mí,
sithithir mí fri blíadain." ...

Luid sium didu co mboí hi Cill Letrech i tír na nDésse inna ailithri. Doluid sí for a íarairsom ocus dixit:

"Cen áinius
in chaingen dorigenus:
an rocharus rocráidius. ...

Mé Líadain,
rocharussa Cuirithir:
is fírithir adfiadar.

Gair bása
hi coimthecht mo Chuirithir:
frissom ba maith mo gnássa.

Céol caille
fomchanad la Cuirithir
la fogur fairce flainne.

ní cráidfed frim Chuirithir
do dálaib cacha ndénainn.

Ní chela!
ba hésom mo chrideṡerc,
cía nocharainn cách chenae.

Deilm ndegae
rotethainn mo chridesae,
rofess nícon bíad cenae."


Liadain, a woman of Corkaguiney, that is, a poetess; she went on a tour into the territory of the inhabitants of Connacht. Cuirithir son of Doborchu, a poet himself as well; (it was) to the inhabitants of Connacht that he belonged. This is made, an ale-feast for her by Cuirithir. "Why do we not make a union, o Liadain?" said Cuirithir. "Brilliant would be our son whom you would beget." "Let us not do so", said she, "so that my tour is not spoiled for me. If you might come for me again, to my house, I shall come with you." [...]
They sleep together that very night. [...]
He was brought then to another monastery. It is there that he said:
"Of late,
since I have parted from Liadain,
each day (is) as long as a month,
a month as long as a year." [...]
He went, therefore, until he was in Cell Letrech, in the land of the Deisi, on his pilgrimage. She went on his search and said:
"Without pleasure
(is) the bargain which I have made:
what I have loved, I have vexed. [...]
"I (am) Liadain,
I who have loved Cuirithir:
it is true exactly as it is told.
A short time (only)
I was in the company of my Cuirithir:
my intercourse with him was good.
The music of the woods
would sing to me (when) with Cuirithir,
together with the voice of the purple sea.
I would have thought
that there would not result torment to my Cuirithir
from all the encounters which I might have arranged.
I may not conceal (it)!
It was him indeed (who was) my heart's love,
even if I might have loved everybody else besides.
The roaring of the blaze
has shattered my heart:
it is certain that it might not exist without him."
(N.B. Ruth Lehmann's rendering, which follows, is intended to convey the poetical devices employed by the Irish author but not the literal content of the verses; also, our selection includes verses not included by her selection and excludes, with [...], verses included by her "Nachdichtung" because these are, in the primary lesson author's opinion, later Christian additions to the original pagan text.)
No pleasure
in deed done to loving-one;
tormenting without measure.
What madness
not to give him happiness,
though fear of God feed sadness.
No ruin,
his affair desirable
through pain heaven pursuing.
Cause slender
through me troubled Cuirithir,
though I was gentle, tender.
I'm Liadan;
it is I loved Cuirithir;
truly, though said by heathen.
Brief hour
together with Cuirithir;
our closeness then a dower.
Woods singing
to me beside Cuirithir
with somber sea-sounds dinning.
I wonder
it would trouble Cuirithir,
any deal made asunder.
No hiding:
he was my heart's true lover,
though I loved all beside him.
Flames flowing
burst my heart, now desperate, dead without him - this knowing. No.

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