A SPECIMEN OF LITERARY IRISH OF THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY.
Ar dTeanga Dhúṫċais.
[Teabóid Gallduḃ, Sagart Éireannaċ, 1639]
Fr. Theobald Stapleton.—Preface to his Catechism.
[ 243 ]
OUR NATIVE LANGUAGE.
[ 242 ]Ní ḟuil náisiún ar feaḋ an doṁain naċ onóraċ leis ḃeiṫ ceanaṁail ar a ṫeangain féin, agus a leuġaḋ agus a sgríoḃaḋ. Tugadar na Róṁánaiġ an oiread sin do ċion agus d’uaisle do’ n teangain Laidne, bioḋ go raḃadar go ro-eólgasaċ ’san teangain nGreugaiġ, do ḃí go ceanaṁail ’san am san—tar a ċeann sin, níor ḃ’ḟiú leó teaċtairí na leitreaċa na nGreugaċ do ḟreagra aċt ’san teangain Laidne; agus fós, tar éis na nGreugaċ do ḃeiṫ fúṫa agus fá n-a smaċt, do leigidís orrra féin naċ tuigidís an teanga Ghreugaċ, bioḋ go dtuigidís í go ro-ṁaiṫ. Óir ní ’san Róiṁ aṁáin do ḃí so, aċt ar feaḋ na hAisia go hiomlán, agus fós i n-iomlán na Gréige; agus sin, ċum móír-ċion do ḃeiṫ ar an teangain Laidne. Fós, dá ḋearḃaḋ sin, (mar do sgríoḃ Diónisius Cassius,) is ro-ġeur do smaċtuiġ an tImpire Claudius [ 243 ]senator Róṁánaċ tré gan Laidean do laḃairt, bioḋ gur ṫaiṫniġ leis an Impire fearsaiḋe, sean-ráiḋte, agus sean-ḟocail Ghreugaċa.
[ 243 ]There is no nation throughout the world that does not think it honourable to esteem its own language, and to read it and write it. The Romans gave so much esteem and honour to the Latin language, although they were well learned in the Greek language, which was in esteem at that time—nevertheless they did not think it fitting to answer the envoys or letters of the Greeks but in the Latin language; and moreover, after the Greeks were [brought] under them and under their rule, they (the Romans) pretended that they did not understand the Greek language, though they understood it very well. For it is not only in Rome that this [language] was [spoken], but throughout Asia [Minor] entirely, and also over the whole of Greece; and this in order that there might be great respect for the Latin language. Moreover, to verify this, as Dion Cassius has written, the Emperor Claudius punished very severely a Roman senator for not speaking Latin, although the Emperor delighted in Greek verses, sayings and proverbs.
[ 243 ]Ins na haimsearaċaiḃ so, mar an gceudna, na hambasadúirí, .i. teaċtairí na ríġṫe, ní laḃraid a ngnóiṫe aċt i dteangain nádúrṫa a ríoġ fein; tar a éis sin, is le fear teangan doḃeirid re, ṫuigsint a n-intinn. Is ró-ṁilleánaċ do ḃí Cicero ar an druing do ḃíoḋ taitneaṁaċ ar an dteangain Ghreugaiġ, agus ar ṫeangṫaiḃ coṁaiġṫeaċa eile, agus do ṫarcaisniġ a dteanga nádúrṫa féin Laidne, ag ráḋ: “Ní féidir liom gan a ḃeiṫ i n-a iongnaḋ ró-ṁór orm, níḋ ċoṁ neaṁ-ġnáṫaċ sin agus atá i n-aġaiḋ an uile reusúin .i. gan cion do ḃeiṫ ag gaċ neaċ ar a ṫeangain ndúṫċais nádúrṫa féin.”
[ 243 ]In these times, likewise, the ambassadors, i.e., the messengers of the kings, do not speak their business but in the natural language of their own king; after this they make their meaning understood through an interpreter. Cicero was very censorious towards those who took pleasure in the Greek language and in other foreign languages, and who despised their own natural language (of) Latin, saying:—“I cannot help wondering very much at a thing so extraordinary that it is against all reason, i.e., that every one should not esteem his own native natural language.”
[ 243 ]Ar an aḋḃar sin, is cóir agus is iomċuḃaiḋ ḋúinn-ne, na hÉireannaiġ, ḃeiṫ ceanaṁail gráḋaċ onóraċ ar ar dteanain ndúṫċais nádúrṫa féin, an Ghaeḋealg, noċ atá ċoṁ folaiġṫeaċ, ċoṁ múċta sin, naċ mór ná deaċaiḋ sí as cuiṁne na ndaoine: a ṁilleán so—is féidir a ċur ar an aois ealaḋan noċ is uġdair do’ n teangain, do ċuir í fá ḟór-ḋorċaċt agus cruas focal, dá sgríoḃaḋ i moḋaiḃ agus i ḃfoclaiḃ diaṁara dorċa do-ṫuigseant ; agus ní ḟuilid saor mórán d’ár ndaoiniḃ uaisle, doḃeir a dteanga ḋúṫċais nádúrṫa (noċ atá foirtill fuiriṫe onóraċ foġlamṫa geur-ċúiseaċ innti féin) i dtarcaisne agus i neaṁ-ċion, agus ċaiṫeas a n-aimsir ag saoṫruġaḋ agus ag foġlaim teanṫa coṁaiġṫeaċ eile.
[ 243 ]For this reason, it is right and fitting for us, the Irish, to be full of esteem, love and honour for our own native natural language, the Gaelic, which is so much in the background, so stamped out, that it has almost gone out of the people’s memory: the blame of this may be laid on the learned, who are the authors of the language, who have buried it under obscurity and difficulty of vocabulary, writing it in mysterious, obscure and idioms and words; and many of our gentry are not free [from blame] who regard their native natural language, which is forcible, ready, dignified, cultured, and exact in itself, with contempt and with disregard, and who spend their time labouring and learning other foreign tongues.
Teanga, here declined—gen. -an, dat. -ain. Better gen. -aḋ, dat. -aiḋ.
Re = le: re ’ṫuigsint = re a ṫuigsint towards its understanding = to be understood.
Ná deaċaiḋ, Old and Munster form = naċ ndeaċaiḋ. Teangṫa, nom. pl. form for gen. pl. teangad. In like manner teaċtairí na ríġṫe for na ríoġ. This tendency (to use one form throughout all plural cases) is very strong in modern colloquial Irish, as fataiḋe, potatoes; glanaḋ na ḃfataiḋe, weeding the potatoes; baint ḟataiḋe, digging potatoes; cliaḃ fataiḋe, a hamper of potatoes, &c.
- “That it is not honourable with it;” a more classical form would be le naċ onóraċ, “with whom it is not honourable.” Bheiṫ ceanaṁail ar, lit. “to be esteemful on.” See, also, third paragraph, line two.
- Lit. “And its reading and its writing.” Note that a is not the “sign” of the infinitive, as some modern grammarians state. A before an infinitive can only mean “his,” “her,” “its,” “their,” as feuċad le n-a ḋeunaṁ. “I shall look to its doing, I shall try to do it.” When we meet such phrases as luċ a ṁarḃaḋ, “to kill a mouse,” the a is merely a corruption of do. The same corruption is found in many other phrases, as ’tá peann a ḋiṫ orm for do ḋiṫ, “there is a pen of want on me; I want a pen,” Dul a ċodlaḋ for dul do ċodlaḋ, “going to sleep,” a réir mar adeir Brian for do réir, “according to what B says,” dul a ḃaile for dul do ḃaile or do’n ḃaile, “going home.”
- Laidne, “of Latin,” pronounced lainne, gen. of Laidean.
- Note the use of the adverb go ceanaṁail after the verb atáim, where in English an adjective would be used.
- The writer departs here from the construction that he had in mind in beginning the sentence.
- Lit. “It was not worthy with them.”
- Lit. “After the Greeks to be under them.” Note na nGreugaċ are in the genitive governed by tar éis, not in the accusative before the infin. do ḃeiṫ. This is the usage of all good writers. the words
- Do leigidís, tuigidís, the imperfect or habitual past “they used to pretend,” &c.
- Lit. “It is very severely that the Emperor C. punished," &c. When a word is to be emphasized, like ro-ġeur here, it is commonly brought to the front of the sentence with is before it. Compare below, “it is very censorious that C. was.”
- Lit. “Through without Latin to speak.” It is commonly laid down that all prepositions take the dative case in modern Irish. The accusative, however, seems to be used after gan—“cloċ gan láṁa uirre, a stone without hands on it.” Three Shafts.
- Lit. they “pleased [with] the emperor.”
- The nominative here does not precede its verb in the Irish. It can never do so but in the case of a relative pronoun. Ambasadúirí is the suspended nominative (nominativus pendens), and the sentence would be literally rendered “the ambassadors . . . . . . . . . .—they do not speak.”
- “This” is often used in English, where sin = “that” is used in Irish.
- “It is with a man of language (cp. note 9), that they give to its understanding their mind.”
- Lit. “On the party who used to be pleasureful on," &c.
- Lit. “It is not possible with me without its being in its very great wonder on me.”
- Lit. “As is.”
- The correct term in Irish for the Irish language is an Ghaeḋealg, genitive na Ghaeḋilge (=eilge), dative do’n Ghaeḋilg (=eilg.) The forms most in use are in Connaught, Gaeḋilge in all cases; in Munster, Gaeḋilig, gen. Gaeḋilge, or more commonly Gaoluing, or Gaoluin, gen. Gaoluinge or Gaoluine. From this corrupt form is again formed Gaolantóir = Gaeḋilgeoir, “a speaker of Irish.”
- Noċ as a relative = “who” does not occur once in Trí Bior-ġaoiṫe an Bháis, nor is it used in the spoken language, so far as I am aware. The word is simply neoċ old dative of neċ = neaċ, “one, anyone.” The successive stages by which it attained the meaning “who” are easily traced; but in the relative sense it does not seem to have ever been anything but a book-word, and it may perhaps be regarded now as obsolete.
- Lit. “So obscure, so quenched, that it is not much that it has not gone,” &c.
- Lit. “The reproach of this—it is possible to put it on the folk of science who are authors to the tongue;” a ċur = “its putting.”
- Lit. “Words.”
- Lit. “Who give their native, &c., into contempt and into disregard.”
- Coṁaiġṫeaċ = coṁ -aġaiḋ -eaċ, face to face; a country facing or bordering on another, being regarded as “foreign.” Coiṁṫiġeaċ is another form of the word, or perhaps a different word with the same meaning, in which the root is tiġ, teaċ, “a house,” the idea being “next door,” “neighbouring,” which applied to a country of course means “foreign.” Another word for “foreign” is coigcríċeaċ, that is, “coterminous,” countries having the same boundary (críoċ) being “foreign” to each Other. In Middle Irish, comaigṫeċ means “a neighbour.”
Every word of the last paragraph of this extract, written two and a-half centuries ago, may well be taken to heart at the present day.