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Thursday, February 23, 2017

Translating Corpre's Satire on Bres

This is a shorter piece from the Cath Maige Tuired, but it's one of my favorites. In it the half-Fomorian, half-Tuatha Dé Danann Eochaid Bres has been named king after Nuada lost his arm in the battle with the Fir Bolg, and Bres is proving to be a poor king. As the text says 'ar nibtar beoluide a scenai uatha. Cid menic notistais niptar cormaide a n-anaulai' [because their knives were not greasy. However frequent they visited they did not smell of ale], or in other words he was a bad host. This lack of proper hospitality, coupled with his allowing his father's people to heavily tax the Tuatha Dé, is what eventually causes the Tuatha Dé Danann to rise up against him. His treatment of the poet Corpre which I translate below illustrates exactly how poor of host he was:

Tanic an file fecht ann for oighidhecht do tichc Brese, edhoen Corpre mac Etoine, file Tuaithe Dei. Ranic a tech mbic cumang ndub ndorchai sech ni raibe tene nó indel no derghaud ann. Tucthae teorai bargenui becai do, atéi turui, for meis muhic. Atracht iarum arnauharach, ocus nir' bo pudech. Oc techt tar an les do as ind itbert:
"Cen colt for crib cerníne;
cen gert ferbba fora n-assa athirni;
cen adba fir fo druba disorchi;
cen díl dámi resi, rob sen Brisse ‘Ni fil amain tra Bresi", ol se.

 Ba fir on dano. Ni boi acht meth foairi-sim ond uair-sin. Conad si sin cétnae hoer doronadh a n-Erinn.
- Cath Maige Tuired, Gray text 1983

The poet went on a journey to seek lodging at the house of Bres, to wit Corpre mac Etoine, poet of the Tuatha Dé. He arrived at a house, small, constricted, black, dark moreover without a fire or equipment or bed there. An envoy brought three small cakes, indeed they were dry, on a small sad dish. He rose thereafter on the morrow, and he was not thankful.
He went then around the courtyard out of there saying: 
"Without food quickly on dishes
without produce of cows on which calves grow up
without a man's dwelling place under abiding nightfall
without satisfying of storytelling guests,
let this be Bres
There is nothing moreover thus in Bres," he said.
 It came to pass truly as well. Nothing but decay was on him from that hour there. That was the first satire that came to pass in Ireland.

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