on Priscian. The language of the hymn strongly resembles that of the Félire Óengusso, which belongs to about 800 a.d. The most striking departure from Old-Irish usage is the use of anacht (l. 22) for the relative anachte. As the repetition of the initial words after l. 45 shews, the hymn falls into two parts. The conclusion, certainly a later addition, contains an invocation of Irish saints, one of whom, Adamnán, died in 704. According to the glossator of F, Dérmait ua Tigernan, bishop of Armagh in 848, added ll. 47–54, and Mugron, abbot of Iona from 964 to 980, added ll. 51, 52.
As to the substance of the poem, M. Henri Gaidoz (Revue celtique V. 94–103) points out that it falls into three divisions: 1. the original work (ll. 1–37), 2. a first addition (ll. 38–48), and 3. a second addition (ll. 49–56); and shews that the prototype of the first (ll. 1–37) is in the Roman breviary, where it is entitled: Commendatio animae quando infirmus est in extremis.
II. Fiacc’s Hymn.
This hymn is traditionally ascribed to Fiacc bishop of Sletty, whose consecration by S. Patrick is recorded in the Book of Armagh (infra p. 241). But it must have been composed after the desolation of Tara (a.d. 561), which is mentioned in vv. 20 and 44. For the real date of its composition the language of the poem furnishes the surest criterion. A superior limit is given by the fact that mm and mb have fallen together (imini: timmi ll. 31, 32); as to nd and nn there is unfortunately no evidence, but the change of mb to mm and nd to nn belong to the same period of the language. Roughly these changes may be assigned to the close of the eighth century; for the Félire Óengusso they are established by the rhyme. An inferior limit is given by the treatment of final vowels: ‑a, ‑ae and ‑ai are still kept apart, also ‑e and ‑i. This points to a date at the latest not much later than 800. The Middle-Irishisms which have crept in in the course of transmission can be removed without detriment to the metre.
Zimmer and Atkinson find extensive interpolation in the hymn. But, as so sharpsighted an observer as Thurneysen has remarked, the language of the verses supposed to be interpolated differs in no way from that of the verses admitted to be genuine. Nor, with one exception to be spoken of below, is
- Cf. Windisch, Irische Texte i. 10 sq.; Zimmer, Keltische Studien ii. 162 sq.; Thurneysen, Rev. Celt. vi. 326 sq.; Bernard and Atkinson II. xl. sq., 175 sq.
- Confusion of ae and a must be assumed if bebae l. 6 is to rhyme with feba l. 7, but the rhyme here is not obligatory. In l. 45 adcobra seems to rhyme with lobrai, but adcobrai may be restored, cf. adrannai, Fél. Óeng. Sep. 6.
- Zimmer, Keltische Kirche 217 (= p. 40 of Miss Meyer’s translation), assigns the poem to the tenth century. But the language is decisive against this.
- Thus dosfuc l. 36 may be replaced by donuc, dosfiusced l. 34 by dosniusced (if the verse be not an interpolation), ismalle v. 66 by immalle. For dodfetis in place of dafetis, which the metre would equally allow, analogies may be found in later Old-Irish, cf. Celt. Zeitschr. iv. 67.