Tag Archives: Kuno Meyer

David and Solomon

Another week, and another text which – as far as I’m aware – hasn’t previously been translated into English. ‘David und Salomon’ was edited from the Yellow Book of Lecan by Kuno Meyer (‘Mitteilungen aus irischen Handschriften’, Zeitschrift für celtische Philologie 13 (1920), p. 179) without a translation. I give Meyer’s text here, along with my own translation. The text preserves many Old Irish forms, and it dates from the tenth century or perhaps even earlier (notwithstanding some minor orthographical modernisation by the late-fourteenth-century scribe). Related thematically to ‘The King Who Never Smiled’, this time, rather than a sword, it is a hand – ready to push a false-judging king into the earth – which represents the threat of divine judgement. Here Solomon, the son of David, learns a lesson from his father: given Solomon’s reputation in later life for wise judgement, the lesson seems well-learnt.


King Solomon, eighteenth-century Russian icon (image from Wikimedia Commons)


Nabīd Dauīd fut in *samlāi oc breith na hēnbrethi .i. cōica brethemon ic a imrādud i tosaich, conid īar sin do-beread-som forcend fuirri. ‘Cid so, a Dauīd,’ ar Solum, ‘a dolma nombii? Dia mbad mise nobeth isint suidhiu brethemon, nobēraind cēt mbreth chaidchi.’

‘Maith, a maccāim’, ar Dauīd arnabārach fri Solam, ‘tair-siu colēic isan suidhi sea 7 ber na bretha lūatha ūd do chāch!’

‘Rodbīa-su ōn’, or Solam. Gaibid co hāit na breithi. ‘Bat faitech tra nombē!’ ar Dauīd. ‘Dēcha ūasad!’ Rodēchai īarom sūas 7 robāi sīst inna thast. ‘Is mall atāi’, or Dauīd. ‘Atā sochaidi isin tich diand adl(a)ic bretha.’

‘Nathō, a maccāin’, or sē, ‘ni rucaim.’

‘Cid so?’ ar Dauīd.

‘Nī hansa’, ar sē. ‘A trī mēir in Dūileamain, is amlaid atāt ōs mo mullach 7 a derno for mo chind dom dingi triasin talam im erchomair dia rucar gūbreith.’

‘Robo maith lim’ ar Dauīd ‘an cētbreth do breith duit.’

‘Nithō’, ol sē Solam, ‘tair-seo isin suidiu.’

Is aire sin didiu nad cōir dona breithemnaib acht fīr da rād, dāig na boise bīs for a cind .i. bos in Choimdead bis ann. FINIT.


David used to be for the length of a summer’s day engaged in adjudicating a single case, that is, fifty judges deliberating it, so that it was after that that he used to finalise it. ‘Why is this, oh David’, said Solomon, ‘that you are so slow? If it were me who were in the judge’s seat, I would have passed one hundred judgements by nightfall.’

‘Well, oh dear boy,’ said David to Solomon the next morning, ‘come for a while into this seat and give those swift judgements to everyone!’

‘You will have that’, said Solomon. He goes to the place of the judging. ‘You should be careful then!’[1] said David. ‘Look above you!’ He looked up then and he was silent for a while.[2]

‘It is slow that you are’, said David. ‘There is a crowd in the house to whom judgement is desirable’.

‘No, o little lad’,[3] he said. ‘I cannot judge.’

‘Why is this?’, said David.

‘Not difficult, he said. ‘The three fingers of the Creator, it is they that are above the crown of my head, and his palm upon my head ready to push me into the earth, if I may have made a false judgement.’

‘I would like’, said David, ‘you to give the first judgement’.[4]

‘No’, said he, Solomon, ‘you come into the seat’.

It is for that reason, then, it is only fitting for the judges to utter truth, because of the palm which is over their heads, that is, the palm of the Lord which is there. Finit.

[1] Literally: ‘let it be careful then that you may be’.

[2] Literally: ‘he was for a while in his silence’.

[3] A term of endearment, literally ‘little lad’, but can also be used by a junior to a senior, e.g. by a daughter to her father: see DIL, s.v. mac(c)án.

[4] Literally: ‘It would be good in my opinion … the first judgement for judging by you.’