their date, and the chief, in some cases the only, evidence for the date of composition is furnished by the language. In our reconstruction we have been guided by the evidence of date supplied by the language, and particularly by the evidence of the rhymes, which often give valuable indications how far certain sounds had fallen together at the time of the composition of the poems. We are well aware of the uncertainty of the process, and that in this matter opinions will be sure to differ. But even an imperfect reconstruction seemed preferable to a mere recording of the readings of the manuscripts.
Both T and F contain Irish prefaces which, except in Colmán’s Hymn, are practically identical, and a number of glosses and scholia. In part these are common to both manuscripts, so that they must have been copied from a common source; in part they are peculiar to one manuscript or the other. In particular the margins of F are filled with long Irish notes, which are unfortunately in part very hard to decipher and in part altogether illegible. For the sake of completeness these notes have been printed below, though they are of little real value for the interpretation of the text. The notes on the language are for the most part either superfluous or erroneous, and the various stories narrated to illustrate the text, particularly in Broccán’s Hymn, may represent forms of the legends long subsequent to the composition of the poems.
With regard to the date of the manuscripts, that of T has been disputed. We have seen that T and F contain common scholia, which must have been derived from a common older source. Now the language of these common scholia shews that they cannot be earlier, in part at least, than the eleventh century. Hence T cannot be dated earlier than the end of the eleventh century or the beginning of the twelfth. As to F, for the same reasons it can hardly be put earlier than the end of the eleventh century or the beginning of the twelfth, and it may be somewhat later than T.
I. Colmán’s Hymn.
This hymn is traditionally assigned to Colmán, lector of Cork, and it is said to have been composed by way of defence against the plague which devastated Ireland in the middle of the seventh century. The indications in the hymn itself point to the early part of the ninth century. A superior limit may be found in the mention of Joseph, the husband of Mary, who seems not to be commemorated in Irish liturgies before about 800 a.d. An inferior limit may be found in the treatment of final vowels. As the rhyme shews, there is yet e.g. no confusion between final ‑ae and final ‑a, a confusion well established for the middle of the ninth century by the St Gall glosses
- Cf. Bernard and Atkinson, The Irish Liber Hymnorum II. xxxv. sq.
- Cf. Ann. Ul. 664, 667, and note to Fél. Óeng. Sep. 4 (p. cxlii.).