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Scél Baili Binnbérlaig (Author: Unknown)


In his Appendix to his Lectures on the MS. Materials of Ancient Irish History, pp. 472–475, O'Curry has published and translated the story of Baile Binnbérlach from H. 3. 18, p. 47. The same text is found in the British Museum MS Harl. 5280, fo. 48a; with this difference that for many ordinary Irish words (gnáthfhocla) of H.3. 18, Latin, Hebrew, and archaic Irish words have been substituted. We have here, in fact, an instructive example of that delight in obscure modes of diction, which Irish poetry so often shows in its use of kennings,1 extinct forms of language, antiquated native, and


lastly even foreign words. We know that a regular training in the use of such expressions formed part of the curriculum of the aspiring fili, and I think that it was these various modes of expression that were comprehended under the name of bérla na filed "the language or dialect of the poets", which the young fili, then called anroth, was required to master in the sixth year of his apprenticeship. See Thurneysen, Irische Texte, vol. III, I, p. 38. An amusing example of the use of such language occurs in Cormac's Glossary, s.v. lethech.

While in a literary point of view the use of the incongruous elements, misplaced fragments of learning, only serves to mar a pretty tale, it supplies the modern student with some valuable linguistic material. For this reason I have thought it worth while to publish the following text. I add a translation and a glossary of the old and rare words.