Corpus of Electronic Texts Edition
Aisling Tundail (Author: [unknown])


Aisling Tundail, or the Irish version of the Vision of Tundale, here edited for the first time, has come down to us in one manuscript only, which is found in H. 3. 18, a well-known codex in the library of Trinity College, Dublin. This codex, in quarto, written partly on vellum and partly on paper, is made up of a large number of separate MSS. of different age and origin, and of a great variety of contents. They are bound up in two volumes, and it is on pp. 771–809 of the second voluume that the paper MS. containing our text is found. It is a copy made by a careful scribe early in the 17th century, probably from the original itself. This I conclude from the fortunate circumstance that the scribe also copied the colophon which was subjoined to the original version. From this we learn that the Irish version was made in the second decade of the 16th century by Muirghes mac Paidin í Maoilchonaire or Maurice O'Mulconry. Of him the


Four Masters say under A.D. 1543, the year of his death: Muirghes, the son of Paidin O'Mulconry, a man learned in history and poetry, a man of wealth and affluence, an excellent scribe, by whom many books had been transcribed, and by whom poems and lays had been composed, and who had kept schools studying and learning, many of which he had always kept in his own house, died, after having gained the victory over the Devil and the world.’’

(AFM 1543.12)

He belonged to a well-known Connaught family, which during the 15th and 16th centuries gave many poets, historians, scribes and ecclesiastics to Ireland, as a glance at the Index Nominum in O'Donovan's edition of the Four Masters will show. He was the author of the so-called Leabhar Fidhnacha or Book of Fenagh, which in 1516 he transcribed in narrative form from a collection of old poems relating to the rents, tributes, privileges and immunities of the Abbacy of Fenagh in the county of Leitrim. From this work no less than from his translation of the Vision it appears that he was a man well versed in the older language and literature of his country.

Though written at a period of the language which must be reckoned as Early Modern Irish, the Vision abounds in forms and vocables which belong to a much older stage of Gaelic. Indeed, there can be no doubt that the translator endeavoured to impart a strong archaic flavour to his rendering. Among much of the kind that might be mentioned I will only point out a few characteristic instances. He still uses the comparative of equality (equative), as cáilithir (8,1), métithir (8,1; 9,1), duibithir (13,5; 14,2). In the verb such forms as the reduplicated future démtais (9,4), the s-subjunctives dichis-si (3,4), co fiasmais (11,4), coinnista (8,3), ná caemsoth (8,5), caoemsadh (14,1) occur. Again, this archaic tendency is equally apparent in his choice of vocabulary,


as when he uses words like dæ ‘hand’, asendoth ‘at last’, cudnodh ‘to hasten’, ban-chechroir ‘amatrix’, áedh ‘fire’. Among such ancient vocables the modern loan-words from English, such as bensi ‘benches’, damsa ‘dance’, fallsa ‘false’, prisún ‘prison’, prinnsa ‘prince’, serbhís ‘service’, sgiúrsadh ‘scourging’ look very strange. The glossary which I have thought it desirable to append to my edition will give a good idea of this curious mixture of old and new materials.

The Latin original from which O'Mulconry translated seems to have been almost identical with the text printed by Wagner. The only difference worth mentioning is to be found in the headings of the various chapters, which are throughout given in Latin. The translation, which often abridges considerably, is on the whole both accurate and spirited. Yet it is not free from mistakes. The most ludicrous among them is the rendering of episcopum, ipsius predicti Malachiae fratrem uterinum by epscop ... Uterinus a ainm (26,2). Of omissions I note that of the introductory chapter on Ireland, and—a very characteristic one—that of the names of Fergus and Conall (7,2).

The scribe employed a curious mixture of Middle-Irish spelling with the ordinary orthography of the 17th century, familiar to the Irish student from the works of Keating and the Four Masters. To this I have faithfully adhered, but not to his division of words, which is sometimes based on pronunciation and sometimes arbitrary, nor to his punctuation.

In conclusion I should like to say a word as to the name of the hero of the Vision. I take it that the Irish name which Marcus latinised into Tnugdalus was Tnúthgal or Tnúdgal, a name which occurs in the Four Masters, A.D. 771 and in the Book of Leinster, pp. 323b, 324a 19; gen. Tnúthgaile, ib. 320d, 320e. The metathesis of the two medial spirants is quite common in Irish, where lub-gort is made into lugbort,


bidba into bibda, dethbir into debthir (BB. 316a 37), cráibdech into cráidbech, etc. That O'Mulconry should have adopted the late and corrupt form Tundal into his version shows that the story of the Munster knight Tnúthgal never obtained any currency in Ireland, and emphasizes the fact that of all countries Ireland, the original home of the Vision, was the last to translate the work of brother Marcus into the vernacular.

June 1901
K. M.