mirrorshard: A photograph of the sea off Mull, with the word "Hiraeth" (Hiraeth)
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At 5am last night, I finally gave up on chasing through odd translations of dodgy early-modern Irish history, and went to bed. Nevertheless, I'm going to share the reason for it and the results with you anyway.

While writing this post (last in the Tigana re-read series) I had to look up the Hen Ogledd, which led me through the usual odd byways to the history of Ireland and the Partholonians. A phrase in the Wikipedia entry caught my eye -
But Delgnat was unrepentant and insisted that Partholón himself was to blame, as leaving them alone together was like leaving honey before a woman, milk before a cat, edged tools before a craftsman or meat before a child and expecting them not to take advantage. This is recorded as the first adultery and the first jealousy in Ireland. The island they lived on was named Inis Saimera after Saimer, Dalgnat's dog.
On one level - oh, sweet misogyny, how we have missed you. OH WAIT. On the other, though - edged tools before a craftsman, as an example of paramount temptation? That rocks. So I went looking for the original source. WP attributes the episode to "A poem in the Lebor Gabála Érenn, expanded on by Céitinn". (That's Seathrún Céitinn - to summarize, he's a Jacobite priest living in seventeenth century Ireland, and he wrote his Foras Feasa ar Éirinn (History of Ireland, roughly translated) in 1634 while hiding in a cave from British soldiers. And it's bloody good, too.)

It turns out there are four translations of Céitinn's work (he's known to the Sais as Geoffrey Keating, because we couldn't pronounce his real name. Honestly, it's a miracle he didn't end up being called Bob) and they're all available online. The earliest is by Dermod O'Conner, in 1723.
Partholanus, enraged at this baseness, began to expostulate with [Dealgnait], and upbraided her for her immodesty and breach of faith ; but she returned him this answer : “What could you otherwise expect? If you are so served, you must thank yourself ; for set honey by a young girl, or sweet milk by a child, or meat by a cat, or edged tools by a carpenter, or a poor weak woman with a brisk young fellow in private, and, on my word, they will not be long asunder.” Upon this occasion the poet had these lines:

A girl, with honey by her placed,
Smells to the pot, and longs to taste ;
A child sweet milk will cry to eat ;
A cat will ne'er refuse her meat ;
A workman eagerly desires
To use the tool his art requires ;
So man and woman when alone,
And the dull thing, a husband gone
Will toy and trifle, till they prove
The most endearing sweets of love.
Which is, er... very 1723. The next one is from 1857, by an Irish-American named O'Mahony.
When Partholan had rebuked her for this evil deed, the lady, instead of striving to appease him, insisted that her angry lord deserved more blame himself for this disgraceful act than she did. “Think you, Partholan,” said she, “that one may leave honey near a woman, or sweet milk near a child, or food near a generous man, or fleshmeat near a cat, or tools and instruments near a mechanic, or man and woman in a desert place, and that they will each keep clear of the other?” Here follow the words of the lay that records the fact:

“Choice honey near a woman leave; leave sweet milk near a boy;
To generous heart leave food in trust; trust flesh meat to a cat;
Shut up the cunning artisan in shop with store of tools;
Or leave a young pair all alone, and deem you run no risks.”
O'Mahony's got a lovely flowing prose style for most of it, but it's obvious he's aiming more for that than for textual accuracy, as we'll see next. In the 1890s, an Irish scholar named Patrick Weston Joyce did a new translation, as close to a word-for-word literal translation as he could.
and when Partholón reproached her, it is not an apology she made, but she said that [it was] more just the blame of that ill-deed to be on himself than on herself; and she said these words : - “O Partholón,” says she, “do you think that it is a possibility a woman and honey be near one another, new-milk and a child, food and a generous [man], flesh and a cat, tools or implements and a workman, without their interfering with one another : ” and she speaks the verse :-

Honey with a woman, new-milk with a child
Food with a generous [person], flesh with a cat,
A workman and his tools together,
One with the other, it is great danger.
I've transcribed the Gaelic for the italicised part above - if anyone wants to take a look at the original and possibly correct my transcription, please do! "A Phartalón, an ri, an raolir sur an eidir bean asur mil do bheith a s-comhsar da cheile, leamhnacht asur leanbh, biadh asur fial, feoil asur cat, arm no oirnir asur raor san chumurs ar a cheile dhoibh"

The relevant line in the quatrain runs, saor aroigh, asur faodhor, and Joyce adds a footnote saying that faodhor is "often used to denote edged instruments of any kind, whether workmen's tools or warriors' arms.” The linguist I had handy last night disagrees, and says "tools. Definitely tools." Saor translates as a wright or a carpenter - I'd suspect that it's more likely to be woodworker, artificer-in-wood. It almost certainly comes from the OHG stream, which has word variants meaning "cutting implement" - saw, seax, &c. Aroigh looks like a formation from aros, "house", which is interesting - presumably that's the source of O'Mahony's arabesques about shutting them up in a shop, and I suspect that the gentleman in question was referring to Daedalus-type myths there.

The last translation is by Comyn & Dineen, in 1898, and they acknowledge quite a debt to Joyce - indeed, Joyce acknowledges Comyn's help reading the proofs of his work.
and when Partholón accused her, it is not an apology she made, but said it was fitter the blame of that ill-deed to be on himself than on her: and she said these words: ‘O Partholón,’ says she, ‘do you think that it is possible a woman and honey to be near one another, new milk and a child, food and a generous person, flesh meat and a cat, weapons or implements and a workman, or a man and woman in private, without their meddling with each other’: and she repeats the verse:—
1.Honey with a woman, new milk with a child,
Food with the generous, flesh with a cat,
A workman in a house, and edge tools,
One with the other, it is great risk.
The verse in all four versions is one Céitinn pulled in straight from the Lebor Gabála Érenn - MacAlister's translation has
Honey with a woman, milk with a cat,
food with one generous, meat with a child,
a wright within and an edge[d tool]
one before one, 'tis a great risk.'
So I'm forced to conclude that the phraseology I found originally is an editor's rephrasing - in fact, looking at the revision history, it's two rephrasings by the same editor. In June 2005 she put this in :-
Dealgnaid had had an affair with her attendant, Todhga, and when challenged was unrepentant, saying, "is it possible for a woman to be near honey, or a child next to new milk, or a cat smell fresh meat, or a workman see sharp tools, or a man and woman be close in private, without meddling the one with the other?"
and then a month later changed it to this :-
But Delgnat was unrepentant and insisted that Partholón himself was to blame, as leaving them alone together was like leaving honey before a woman, milk before a cat, edged tools before a craftsman or meat before a child and expecting them not to take advantage.
I suppose that falls under summarization rather than quotation, and from looking at a different source - the second version swaps the cat and the child, following MacAlister. My considered opinion was either that MacAlister FAILED there, or more likely that he and Céitinn were working from different manuscripts. Céitinn, on account of being 400 years closer to the source than MacAlister, naturally had access to different, and probably more, manuscripts. I suspect that one of the scribes responsible for copying out that portion of the Book of Leinster (or whichever it was that MacAlister was using - my feeling is that Céitinn's reading makes more sense) had a brain fart and thought "cat - milk - Friday afternoon - ah feckit".

Date: 2009-09-14 03:01 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mirabehn.livejournal.com
This post is made of too much awesome for words. :-)

Date: 2009-09-14 09:04 pm (UTC)
owlfish: (Default)
From: [personal profile] owlfish
I really enjoyed this, thank you.

Date: 2009-09-14 09:06 pm (UTC)

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