Tag Archives: medieval Irish literature

November and December in Maynooth …

This busy semester finally came to an end on Friday, so it seems timely to report on some of the many things which have happened over the past few months. First and foremost, we were devastated by the loss of our dear colleague, John Bradley, an eminent archaeologist, an inspiring teacher, and a witty, kind and convivial friend. His obituary in the Irish Times captures some of his many qualities: he will be sorely missed.

On a happier note, we were pleased to welcome several eminent speakers to Maynooth to address our Early Irish and Celtic Studies research seminar. Professor Liam Breatnach (Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies) came in November to speak to us on ‘Fingen mac Flainn’s Poem to the Fir Arddae: an Early Medieval Irish Threat of Satire’. In this stimulating and extremely learned paper, Professor Breatnach began by outlining the process by which ‘satire’ (that is, the highly-regulated process by which someone could be the subject of a shaming, anti-praise poem) functioned in early medieval Ireland. Fingen’s poem to the Fir Arddae represents a threat of satire, which was one of the stages by which a person was warned that they risked being the subject of a full satire if they did not satisfactorily resolve the dispute in question. However, the poem discussed by Professor Breatnach was even more complex and interesting than simply adverting to the threat of a future satire, since it was also a self-conscious literary discourse on the advantages and disadvantages of satire: a personification of Sense appears, in allegorical fashion, in the poem and engages in debate with the poet, suggesting the disadvantages which could result from making a powerful person the subject of satire. Professor Breatnach suggested a very precise date and place of composition for the poem and revealed what could be known of the circumstances of its composition.

In December we were fortunate to have another very eminent speaker, namely Professor Aidan O’Sullivan from the School of Archaeology, University College Dublin. Professor O’Sullivan gave us a rich, wide-ranging and fascinating overview of recent archaeological excavations arising from EMAP, or the ‘Early Medieval Archaeology Project’, of which he is the Principal Investigator. The extent to which new archaeological data have necessitated dramatic revision of long-held theories about early medieval Irish social structures, burial practices, economic development and trading patterns is astonishing. It is inspiring to see such a vast amount of new data bringing new insights and fresh interpretations to the field of medieval Irish studies. Professor O’Sullivan’s co-authored volume on Early Medieval Ireland AD 400 – 1100: The Evidence from Archaeological Excavations was published this year by the Royal Irish Academy and makes available to a wider audience much of this exciting new information.


In other news, we’ve been busy with research, conference presentations, and publications this semester. I was in Cork in early December for the launch of The End and Beyond: Medieval Irish Eschatology, edited by John Carey, Caitríona Ó Dochartaigh and Emma Nic Carthaigh, 2 vols, (Aberystwyth: Celtic Studies Publications, 2014). This important publication arises from the De finibus project which was based at University College Cork, 2009 – 2012. My own small contribution to the volume was an English translation of the medieval Latin treatise De tribus habitaculis animae (‘Concerning the Three Dwelling-Places of the Soul’) which was edited by Aubrey Gwynn in 1955. Back in Maynooth, many of us were pleased to attend the launch of The Medieval Manuscripts at Maynooth: Explorations in the Unknown, by Peter Lucas and Angela Lucas (Dublin: Four Courts, 2014). This is the first descriptive catalogue of the medieval manuscripts held in the Russell Library at Maynooth and represents a major contribution to scholarship. In other news, many congratulations to my friend Dr James Palmer (University of St Andrews), whose new book on The Apocalypse in the Early Middle Ages (Cambridge University Press, 2014) is at the top of my Christmas reading list.


It has been a roller coaster of a semester, with many highs and lows but, on behalf of everyone in the Maynooth University Department of Early Irish, I wish you a very happy Christmas and all the best for the New Year. We’re already looking forward to an exciting second semester in 2015.


Book launch: Authorities and Adaptations

Authorities and Adaptations: the Reworking and Transmission of Textual Sources in Medieval Ireland, edited by Elizabeth Boyle and Deborah Hayden was launched on Friday 26th September at the School of Celtic Studies, Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies.

launch books

Photo by Kevin Fox at Oracle Pictures, image copyright DIAS

The launch took place after a stimulating and successful one-day conference on the Irish grammatical and metrical tradition, organised by Dr Gordon Ó Riain, who is the Bergin Fellow in the School of Celtic Studies at DIAS. Many of the speakers and conference attendees stayed for the launch, and we were also joined by distinguished visitors including Professor Luke Drury, Senior Professor of Cosmic Physics at DIAS and former President of the Royal Irish Academy, and Professor Werner Nahm, Senior Professor of Theoretical Physics at DIAS. Postgraduates and academics from Maynooth University were also among the guests.

lizzie and deborah

The editors of Authorities and Adaptations (photo by Kevin Fox at Oracle Pictures, image copyright DIAS)

We were honoured that Professor Fergus Kelly, internationally-renowned expert on medieval Irish law, and recently retired as Senior Professor in the School of Celtic Studies at DIAS, had agreed to launch the volume, which he did with a warm and witty speech. Fabulous food and drink was served, and a great time was had by all. We are hugely grateful to Eibhlín Nic Dhonncha, administrator of the School of Celtic Studies, for organising such a wonderful evening. Thank you to everyone who came.

lizzie ruairi

Lizzie Boyle with Professor Ruairí Ó hUiginn, Professor of Modern Irish at Maynooth University, and author of a chapter on ‘Adapting Myth and Making History’ in Authorities and Adaptations (photo by Kevin Fox at Oracle Pictures, image copyright DIAS)

deborah ronan

Authorities and Adaptations editor Dr Deborah Hayden (DIAS) with her fiancé Ronan Cunningham (image copyright Kevin Fox at Oracle Pictures)

lizzie fergus

Authorities and Adaptations editor Lizzie Boyle with Professor Fergus Kelly (photo by Kevin Fox at Oracle Pictures, image copyright DIAS)

lizzie suzie michael

Distinguished guests included Dr Michael Dunne, head of the Maynooth University Department of Philosophy and Dr Susan Gottloeber, also of the Department of Philosophy at Maynooth (photo by Kevin Fox at Oracle Pictures, image copyright DIAS)


Professor Ailbhe Ó Corráin, Professor of Irish at the University of Ulster, and Dr Art Hughes, Reader in Irish also at the University of Ulster (photo by Kevin Fox at Oracle Pictures, image copyright DIAS)

Modern Writers and Medieval Literature – workshop report

Yesterday, a diverse group of writers and scholars gathered in Maynooth for an afternoon workshop on ‘Modern Writers and Medieval Literature’. We enjoyed a series of wonderfully thought-provoking presentations from four speakers: first, Dr Debbie Potts of the ‘Modern Poets on Viking Poetry’ project introduced us to the concept of kennings – literary circumlocutions found in Old Norse and Anglo-Saxon poetry, such as ‘horse of the sea’ (i.e. a ship) or ‘battle moon’ (i.e. a shield) – and to the corpus of skaldic poetry. She then shared examples of some of the poems which have been composed by contemporary poets in response to selections of Old Norse poetry. We were particularly moved by the powerful filmpoem Sonatorrek (Loss of Sons) by Alastair Cook and John Glenday, inspired by the tenth-century poet Egill Skallagrímsson. Debbie’s paper raised interesting questions, subsequently developed by other speakers, about the creative ways in which modern authors can engage with – and be inspired by – medieval literature without archaising or sliding into nostalgic sentimentality. The poems which Debbie shared with us were fresh and bold compositions in which the medieval forms and tropes were a springboard for the creation of something entirely new.


Our second speaker, the Welsh novelist and poet Chris Meredith, began by evoking the idea of being in an aeroplane, looking down at the clouds beneath you, and in the occasional break between the clouds getting a fleeting glimpse of the earth below – a fragment of a river here, a fragment of a forest there. Chris suggested that reading medieval chronicles is a very similar experience – we get snatches of a fragmentary landscape, but we cannot see the whole. He argued that the novelist has the freedom to imagine the landscape in its entirety, and in this way his novel Griffri offers a fully-conceived picture of twelfth-century Wales fashioned from terse annal-entries in the medieval Welsh chronicle Brut y Tywysogion. Chris also spoke of the illumination he had found in medieval Welsh poetry, and read a stunning list-poem, influenced by a late medieval Welsh elegy for a poet’s infant son, which Chris had written for his then-unborn child.

Next, Pádraig Ó Cíobháin spoke passionately about his engagement with Irish literary tradition as a writer who gives a twenty-first century voice to medieval Irish sagas. With epic range, Pádraig brought Ovid, Italo Calvino, and Umberto Eco into dialogue with the Saga of Fergus mac Léti, catching ideas with intricate nets of wordplay and allusion. Pádraig offered the perspective of a native speaker of Irish, who writes as Gaeilge on medieval Irish literary themes, and his was a perspective that was dynamic and outward-looking, throwing off misconceptions about the constraints of writing in Irish, and articulating truths in ways both direct and indirect.

Where Pádraig dives headlong into the world of medieval Irish saga, our final speaker, Trevor Byrne, has engaged with medieval Irish heroic literature in more tangential and oblique ways. He spoke to us about his novel, Ghosts and Lightning, in which the central theme of grief, and dealing with loss, is expressed through a narrative strand involving Cú Chulainn: Trevor read the moving conclusion of his novel, when the main character, Denny, goes in search of the stone pillar to which Cú Chulainn in his death-tale is said to have lashed himself, thereby evoking ideas of memory and loss, death and memorialisation. In the second half of his paper he read from his novella set in Dublin during the Black Death, and spoke of the inspiration he had drawn from Boccaccio’s Decameron and from the chronicle written by Friar John Glyn in Ireland as a witness to the devastating pandemic.


In the face of such rich fare, the discussion was inevitably wide-ranging, but particular themes which the speakers and audience explored during the discussion were the relationship between academic research and creative writing, the need – or lack of need – for historical accuracy (it was generally agreed that ‘truth’ and ‘accuracy’ are not synonymous, the latter being infinitely less important than the former in works of fiction), and the use of modern idiom, dialect, and a contemporary register in works of historical fiction. The afternoon was extraordinarily stimulating, and vibrant debate continued over a wine reception and dinner.

I would like to thank the School of Celtic Studies at NUI Maynooth for their generous financial support of this event. I am enormously grateful to An tOllamh Ruairí Ó hUiginn, Professor David Stifter, and Mairéad Uí Fhlatharta for practical help and their enthusiasm for this endeavour. And I would like to thank Debbie, Chris, Pádraig and Trevor for responding so magnificently to the invitation to address the theme, and for providing us all with so much satisfying food for thought.

Modern Writers on Medieval Literature

On Friday 7th March, the School of Celtic Studies at NUI Maynooth will be hosting an informal workshop on the theme of ‘Modern Writers and Medieval Literature’. Award-winning writers and poets, writing in English, Irish, and Welsh, will discuss the significance of medieval Irish, Welsh and Old Norse literature as a source of inspiration and influence for modern creative writing. The speakers are: Welsh novelist and poet Chris Meredith; Irish novelists Trevor Byrne (who writes in English) and Pádraig Ó Cíobháin (who writes in Irish); and Dr Debbie Potts, from the ‘Modern Poets on Viking Poetry‘ project, a cultural translation project based at the University of Cambridge and funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (UK). There is no registration fee for this event, but places are strictly limited and therefore booking is essential: to reserve a place, please contact me via email. There is further information, including a conference poster, on our website.


The Four Trees of the Cross

Both Kuno Meyer (in ZCP 8, p. 107) and Whitley Stokes (in Goidelica, p. 66) published editions of a short medieval Irish poem on the ‘four trees’ – cedar, cypress, pine and birch – which were thought to have gone into the making of the cross on which Christ was crucified. The poem is preserved in the lower margin of p. 5 of Trinity College Dublin MS H. 3. 18. But when I compared the manuscript to the editions by Meyer and Stokes, I realised that both had made (different) errors in their reading of the manuscript, so I offer here a fresh reading of the poem, along with an English translation. Italics denote expansion of abbreviations and * denotes the punctum delens over the preceding letter.


Ceithre fedha – fath gin gheis –

i croich mic Dé dia f*egmais:

cedir, cupris is gíus gann,

bethe ban i mbúi insgribenn.


Cedir in cos feibh adcuas,

gíus in crann boi etarbhuas,

a tenga ba cuipris cain,

ba bethe clar a titail.



Byzantine reliquary of the True Cross, c. 800 (image from Wikimedia commons)


Four trees – a subject without prohibition –

in the cross of the son of God if we examine it:

cedar, cypress and slender pine,

white birch in which was the writing.


Cedar the shaft as has been told,

pine the arm that was aloft,

its tongue was smooth cypress,

birch was the board of its title.

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.’

The king who never smiled

This week, I have been reading the following short text with third year undergraduates in NUI Maynooth. I am not aware of any modern English translation of the text, so I thought it might be useful to make my own translation available here, along with a semi-diplomatic edition. There are many points of interest in this brief narrative, not least the fact that it is an Irish reworking of the ‘sword of Damocles’ anecdote. The language appears to be early Middle Irish (perhaps tenth or early eleventh century?).

N.B. The text is from the diplomatic edition (R. I. Best, et al., ed., Lebor na Nuachongbála, formerly the Book of Leinster, 6 vols (Dublin, 1954-83), V, lines 36278-36319). I have added capitalisation, punctuation and paragraph breaks to indicate my interpretation of the text. Expansion of abbreviations by Best, et al., is marked in italics; my own expansions or alterations are in square brackets. * is used to indicate the punctum delens over the preceding letter.


(Richard Westall, Sword of Damocles (1812), Ackland Museum, Chapel Hill, image from Wikimedia Commons)


Ri irissech ro boí do Grecaib. Mór a thabartche 7 a dearc. Ond úair gabais flaithemnas nochon f*acces gen gáre fora beolu. Cia dobertais airfite in domain chuice. Epscop na f*arrad iss é ro boí i farrad a athar i flaithemnas. Doberedside im[murgu] affain*g n*dergóir cacha dige no ibed dond epscop. Nocho tabrad im[murgu] in gilla, acht cecha tabrad remi 7 iarum.

‘Maith’, or in t-epscop, ‘in*gnad imradimse formo menmain. Atusa .uii. m*bliadna it chomaitecht 7 ni erbart frit béus.’

‘Raidsiu’, or in rí, ‘is cet duit.’

‘Ni handsa. Ro buí remutsu sund t’athair féin. Fer amra. Ropo maith frimsa. Rop é a mathius frim conna ibed dig co tardad affain*g n*dergóir cecha hoendige dam. Tussu im[murgu] cidit maith from riam 7 iaram, noco tabrai dam a n-irdaltasin. 7 ni accim arbad messu do f*laithemnasu oldás flathius t’athar acht másu f*err cid etir do f*laithseo. Cid nossaira latsu iarum fo bíth is fír flatha con*geib na toirthe?’

‘Atbérsa fritsu ón. Is é mo dóchus[-s]a de. Rochuala niconro atlaigestar m’athairse a chuit riam acht ór dobered ara anmain. Messe im[murgu] dobérsa mo chobais o gabusa flaithemnas nicon esbiusa dig ríam nach atlaigind. Is suachnid di[diu] is ferr la Dia atlugud oldá ór. Sech dogensa in n-atlugud, rot biasu dano ind affain*g cacha dige no íbsa.’

‘Maith’, or in t-epscop, ‘7 anaill forácbusa cen rád fritso.’

‘Maith’, or in rí.

‘Is duit’, ar in clerech, ‘is lia cach coemna 7 cach airfitiud forsin talmain. Is in*gnad lenni nad accamar gen gári fordu déta ríam’.

‘Ní beraso dano din chursa’, or se.

‘Maith’, or in clerech.

Fecht and di[diu] ro buiseom .i. in rí fora dergud. A da maccóem fora bélaib. ‘Maith tra a datiucán’, or na maicc. ‘Is in*gnad lenni amal atá do s*ercso linni 7 ar sercni latso .i. naro thibisiu rinni riam. Dogenamni tra tromdacht fritso’, con-erbara la tabairt da lám imma bragit.

‘Maith’, or se. Tic cách issa tech. ‘Maith’, or in rí, ‘tabar slabrad forna gilla ucut.’

‘Cid so?’, or cách.

‘Niba adas a cóemna ros baiseom anallana. Ragait im[murgu] bás innossa. Tucthar crocha dóib.’

‘Is drochscél’, or cách, ‘na rrigdomnai 7 na maccáem do marbad.’

‘Bertar immach’, or in rí. Bertair. ‘Inba for crochad dogentar no far claidbed dogentar a gillu?’

‘Is ferr lind ar claidbed’, ol seat.

‘Gaibid claidbiu dóib’. Ro gabtha dá chlaideb uasa cind. ‘Na tabraidsi builli dóib co n-erborsa frib’, or se. ‘Maith a gillu in maith far menma lib innossa?’

‘Ni maith’, or in gillai.

‘Cid na tibid innossa?’

‘Ní accor lend’, or na gillai.

‘Is andsu a gillu in claideb fil uasmo chindsa: claideb Ríg na ndúile dia dáil im mullach anúas día ndernur uabur no esba. Ní tharddaidsi formsa iarum 7 ni rabaid oca chungid. Tailcid na gillu suas ni sirsan dóib a llott.’

Conid airesin di[diu] napo chóir do neoch uabur na hespa do denam, ar atá in claideb cétna os chind cach oen.


There once was a devout king of the Greeks. Great his bounty and his charity. From the time he assumed kingship there was not seen a smile of laughter on his mouth, even if the entertainers of the world were brought to him. The bishop who was with him, it was he who had been with his father in kingship.[1] The latter used to give to the bishop, moreover, a penny of red gold for every drink which he used to drink. The boy [i.e. the present king], however, used to give only what he gave otherwise.[2]

‘Well’, said the bishop. ‘It is a wondrous thing that I am pondering in my mind. I am for seven years in your company and I haven’t said it to you yet.’

‘Speak’, said the king. ‘You have permission.’

‘Alright then. Your own father was here before you. A wonderful man. He was good to me. Such was his goodness towards me that he used not to drink a drink without giving to me a penny of red gold for every drink. You, however, although you are good to me otherwise,[3] you do not give to me the equivalent of that. And I do not see that your kingship is worse than the kingship of your father; if anything, your kingship may be better. What exempts them [i.e. the pennies] in your opinion, since it is the sovereign’s truth which upholds the fruits?’

‘I’ll tell you that. This is my belief concerning it. I have heard that my father did not ever give thanks for his food, but it was gold that he used to give for his soul. I, however, will give my conscience [i.e. I swear] that since I assumed kingship I have not ever drunk a drink that I did not give thanks for. It is evident, then, that thanksgiving is preferable to God than gold. Not only will I perform thanksgiving but you also will have the penny for every drink I will drink.’

‘Well’, said the bishop, ‘and [there’s] another thing I haven’t mentioned to you.’[4]

‘Well?’, said the king.

‘It is you’, said the cleric, ‘who has more luxury and more entertainment than anyone else on earth.[5] We think it strange that we have not seen a smile of laughter on your face[6] ever.’

‘You won’t this time either’, he said.

‘Fine’, said the cleric.

One time, then, he, i.e. the king, was on his bed, his two dear boys[7] before him. ‘Well then, daddy,’[8] said the boys. ‘We think it strange, since we have love for you and you have love for us, that you have never smiled at us. We are going to persecute you until you tell us’, grabbing him by the neck.

‘Fine’, he said. Everyone comes in to the house. ‘Well’, said the king, ‘let a chain be put on those lads.’

‘What’s this?’, said everyone.

‘Not fitting was the pleasure that they had so far. They will die now. Let gallows be brought to them.’

‘It is a bad story’, said everyone, ‘killing the royal heirs and the dear boys.’

‘Let them be brought out’, said the king. They are brought out. ‘Will it be your hanging that will be done, or your being put to the sword that will be done, oh boys?’

‘We prefer to be put to the sword’, they said.

‘Take swords to them’. Two swords were brought above their heads. ‘Do not give a blow to them until I tell you’, he said. ‘Well, lads, is your mental state good now in your opinion?’

‘It is not good’, said the boys.

‘Why are you not smiling now?’

‘We don’t want to’, said the boys.

‘More difficult, oh boys, is the sword which is above my head, that is, the sword of the King of Creation, to be sent down into the crown of my head if I commit pride or wantonness. You are not to put it on me afterwards and you’re not to be seeking it.[9] Let the boys up: it would be unfortunate to destroy them.’

So that it is for that reason, then, that it is not proper for anyone to engage in pride or wantonness because the same sword is above everyone.

[1] i.e. when the father was king.

[2] literally: ‘what he gave before and after’, i.e. not the payment for drink, but all the other payments which the previous king used to give.

[3] again, literally ‘before and after’.

[4] literally: ‘which I have left without saying to you’.

[5] literally: ‘it is to you that every luxury and entertainment is most numerous on the earth’.

[6] literally: ‘on your teeth’.

[7] maccóem – ‘dear boys’, ‘young nobles’, ‘foster-sons’, ‘courtiers’ – see Proinsias Mac Cana, ‘Irish maccóem, Welsh makwyf’, Ériu 42 (1991), 27-36.

[8] Term of endearment, but can also be used by a foster-son to his foster-father, or by a student to his teacher.

[9] i.e. don’t provoke me into committing either of those sins.