Corpus of Electronic Texts Edition

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Anbthine mór ar muig Lir

Author: [unknown]

File Description

Electronic edition compiled by Beatrix Färber

Funded by University College, Cork and
Professor Marianne McDonald via the CURIA Project.

2. Second draft.

Proof corrections by Beatrix Färber

Extent of text: 2863 words


CELT: Corpus of Electronic Texts: a project of University College, Cork
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Distributed by CELT online at University College, Cork, Ireland.
Text ID Number: G400071

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Available with prior consent of the CELT programme for purposes of academic research and teaching only.


    Manuscript sources
  1. Oxford, Bodleian Library, Laud Misc. 610, folio 9vb–10ra18 (the text is preserved only in this manuscript. For a description of the manuscript see R. I Best, Bodleian MS. Laud 610, Celtica 3 (1956) 339; Myles Dillon, Laud Misc. 610, Celtica 5 (1960) 64–76; 6 (1963) 135–55)).
  2. Extract from the metrical tracts.
  3. Extracts from the metrical tracts.
  1. George Petrie, Essay on the round towers of Ireland (Dublin 1845) 353–54 (prose only).
  2. Heinrich Zimmer, Keltische Beiträge III, Zeitschrift für deutsches Alterthum 35 (1891) 100 (prose only; and inaccurate).
  3. Kuno Meyer, Stories and songs from Irish manuscripts, IV (Song of the sea, ascribed to Ruman mac Colmáin), Otia Merseiana 2 (1900–01) 76–83 (first edition of poem; only reliable edition of the prose).
  4. David Greene, Frank O'Connor, A golden treasury of Irish poetry A.D. 600 to 1200 (London 1967; repr. Dingle 1990) section 29, 126–29 (poem only, under the title The Tempest; with silent, radical, even creative, emendation).
  1. George Petrie (cited above) 354–55 (prose only).
  2. Heinrich Zimmer, Keltische Beiträge III, Zeitschrift für deutsches Alterthum 35 (1891) 100 (prose only).
  3. Meyer (cited above) 78–83 (prose and verse).
  4. Alexander Bugge, Nordisk sprog og nordisk nationalitet i Irland, Aarboger Nord Oldkyndighed Hist 15 (1905) 294–95 (part translation, part paraphrase in Norwegian, based on Zimmer's German translation, and not accurate).
  5. Greene and O'Connor (cited above) 128–29 (a literary translation of a highly emended text).
    Sources, comment on the text, and secondary literature
  1. Alexander Bugge, Nordisk sprog og nordisk natonalitet i Irland, Aarboger Nord Oldkyndighed Hist 15 (1905) 294–97.
    The edition of the digital edition.
  1. Kuno Meyer, Song of the sea, ascribed to Ruman mac Colmáin: Stories and songs from Irish manuscripts 4 in Otia Merseiana, Ed. John Sampson. volume 2, London, Th. Wohlleben (1900–01) page 76–83


Project Description

CELT: Corpus of Electronic Texts

Sampling Declaration

The text is based on Meyer's edition; and his corrections have been retained. The Irish text of the poem is available in a separate file, G400071.

Editorial Declaration


Text has been checked, proof-read and parsed using NSGMLS.


The electronic text represents the edited text.


There are no quotations.


CELT practice.


div0=the whole text. Metrical lines and quatrains are marked and numbered.


A selection of names of persons and places are tagged. Terms for cultural and social roles are tagged.

Canonical References

This text uses the DIV1 element to represent the section.

Profile Description

Created: Translation by Kuno Meyer Date range: 1900–1901.

Use of language

Language: [EN] The translation is in English.
Language: [GA] Many words in the notes are in Irish.
Language: [LA] A few words are in Latin.

Revision History

Corpus of Electronic Texts Edition: G400071

Anbthine mór ar muig Lir: Author: [unknown]


Song of the Sea

Ascribed to Ruman mac Colmáin

In spite of the popularity which the poem here edited for the first time seems once to have enjoyed,1 it has reached us, so


far as I am aware, in a single copy only. This is to be found in fo. 9b 2–10a 1 of the well-known Bodleian Codex Laud 610, a manuscript written in the fifteenth century. It is there ascribed to the celebrated Ulster poet Ruman mac Colmáin, whom the Book of Leinster calls the Homer and Vergil of Ireland.2 But this attribution is erroneous. For, according to the Annals, Ruman died in A. D. 747,3 while on linguistic evidence no higher age can be claimed for our poem than the eleventh century. The Old Irish neuter muir, ‘sea’, is in the third stanza used as a feminine (gusan glasmuir ngarglethain), assonating with anair and torcabair), a use of which I have no instance earlier than that century. Other phenomena that point to the same or a later period are: the use of the preposition dar with the dative dar a hardimlib, 1), the occurrence of the third person singular of the present indicative in -enn and -ann fris' funenn grían 3. co mbenann 6), the form torcabair (3) instead of torcabar, and the use of rócht as a monosyllable (9) instead of roächt, which is the form in the Saltair na Rann (e.g. line 6446), while Flann Manistrech, like our poet, has dorócht (LL. 181a 44). The mention in the fifth stanza of the craini gréine4 or Tree of the Sun, i.e. the chenar or Oriental plane, shows that the author was acquainted with the legend of Alexander, which was not introduced into Ireland before the tenth century.

The manuscript copy of our poem is followed by a late (fourteenth century?) prose account of the circumstances under which Ruman is said to have composed it. This prose has twice been edited and translated, by Petrie in his Essay on the Round Towers of Ireland, p. 353, online at and by Zimmer in the Zeitschrift für


Dentsches Altertum, vol. 35, p. 100.5 As neither edition is free from mistakes, I reprint this prose in extenso and add a version of my own. It is curious to find both Petrie and Zimmer believing in the authenticity of this late, confused, and on the face of it spurious account, and trying to reconcile its statements with historical facts, — Petrie, by giving to Gaill the unusual meaning ‘Saxons’; Zimmer, by boldly inventing a second poet Ruman as having lived during the Viking age.

Unfortunately, several words in the first stanza of the poem are no longer legible in the MS. As to the metre in which it is composed, see Thurneysen, Irische Texte, iii, p. 158.



Rumunn, son of Colman, son of King Laegaire, of the race of Niall, royal poet of Ireland, 'tis he that made this song, and láid lúascach (see-saw song) is the name of the measure in which it was made. The reason, however, of his making it is this: — In a time of great famine he came on his pilgrimage to Rathen. The townspeople were the less pleased that he should come to the town, and they said to the master-wright, who was building the great oratory, that he should refuse admittance to the poet. So then the wright said to one of his people: ‘Go to meet Rumunn and tell him not to enter the town until he make a quatrain which shall contain the number of all the planks that are here for the building of the oratory.’ And then it was that he made this quatrain:


    1. 1] O My Lord: what shall I do
      2] About these great materials?
      3] When will these ten hundred planks
      4] Be a structure of compact beauty?
That was the very number of planks there, viz. one thousand planks; and after that he could not be refused, since God had revealed to him, through his poet's craft, the number of planks which the architect had.


Immediately afterwards he made a great poem for the Vikings of Dublin, and the Vikings said that they would not give him the price of his poem, whereupon he made the celebrated quatrain, when he said:


    1. 1] To refuse me,
      2] If anyone so wishes, let him do it!
      3] And after that I will carry off
      4] The honour of the man that has done so.
Upon this his own award was given him, and this is the award he made: a penny from every bad Viking, and two pence from every good Viking, so that there was not found among them a Viking who did not give him two pence, for none of them thought it right that he should be called a bad Viking. Then the Vikings told him to praise the sea, that they might know whether he possessed original poetry. Thereupon he praised the sea, he being drunk, and he said:
    1. 1] A great tempest on the plain of Ler.

However, he carried that wealth with him to Cell Belaig on the Plain of Constantine, for that church was one of the churches belonging to the Hui Suanaig, as well as the whole of the Plain of Constantine. For every plain and every land which Constantine had cleared belonged to Mochuta, and the plain is named after Constantine. At that time Cell Belaig had seven streets of Vikings in it, and [...]6 for its size. And Rumunn gave one-third of his wealth to it, and one-third to the school, and one-third he took with him to Rathen, where he died, and where he was buried in one grave with Hua Suanaig, on account of his great honour with God and men.

  1. 1] A great tempest upon the plain of Ler7
    2] bold across its high borders
    3] Wind has arisen8
    4] fierce winter has slain us,
    5] it has come across the sea

  2. p.81

  3. 6] The work of the plain — the great plain of Ler —
    7] has brought trouble upon our great host.
    8] Save something greater than all, no less,
    9] what is there more marvellous than
    10] the incomparable great story?9
  4. 11] When the wind sets from the east,
    12] the spirit of the wave is roused,
    13] So that it desires to go past us westward
    14] to the land where sets the sun
    15] To the rough and broad green sea.
  5. 16] When the wind sets from the north,
    17] it urges the dark10 fierce waves
    18] Towards the southern world,
    19] surging in strife against the white sky,
    20] Listening to the
    11 song.

  6. p.82

  7. 21] When the wind sets from the west
    22] across the salt sea of swift currents,
    23] It desires to go past us eastward
    24] to the sun-tree
    25] Into the broad long distant sea.
  8. 26] When the wind sets from the south
    27] across the land of Saxons of mighty shields,
    28] The wave strikes the Isle of Scit,13
    29] it has gone to the point of Caladnet14
    30] And pounds the grey-green mouth of the Shannon.
  9. 31] The ocean is in flood, the sea is full,
    32] delightful is the home of ships,
    33] The sandy wind has made whirls
    34] around the River-mouth of the Two Showers,15
    35] Swiftly the rudder cleaves the broad sea.16

  10. p.83

  11. 36] This is not cosy, a rough sleep ... ,
    37] with fierce triumph, with angry strife,
    38] The swan's colour17 covers
    39] the son of Mil18 with his people
    40] The tresses of Manannan's wife19 are tossed about.
  12. 41] The wave has tumbled with mighty force
    42] across each dark broad river-mouth.
    43] Wind has come, white winter has slain us,
    44] around Cantire, around the land of Alba20
    45] Sliab-Dremon21 pours forth a full stream.
  13. 46] Son of God the Father, with vast hosts,
    47] save me from the horror of fierce tempests!
    48] Righteous Lord of the Feast,22
    49] only save me from the horrid blast,23
    50] From Hell with high tempest!24