Sgeul an Fhile – The Poet’s Tale

A short one here for ye and it has our first bit of verse. I’ve transcribed it from here. As usual I have left it unchanged, so any errors in the original remain. Translation and vocabulary below.

Sgeul an Fhile

Do ghaibh file isteach go tig feirmeóra sa droch-shaoghal agus d’iarr sé ar bhean a’tighe, a bhí ag crúdh na mbó sa macha iostas na hoidhche uirthi: “Tabharfad agus fáilte” ar sise, “ach dein rann.” “Seo,” ar seisean: “Chím dhá chruach dúbha den mhóin; Dhá chapall córach, dhá choin, dhá phreachán níos duibhe nán gual, Dhá mnaoí, Dhá bhuaraig agus dhá bhoin.”

The Poet’s Tale

A poet went into a farmer’s house during the Famine and he asked of the woman of the house, who was milking the cows in the cattle-field, for lodgings for the night: “I will give you lodgings and welcome” said she, “but compose a verse.” “Here,” said he: “I see two black piles of turf; two shapely horses, two hounds, two crows blacker than the coal, two women, two spancels and two cows.”


I have made no attempt to maintain the verse in the translation, as it is purely illustrative.

This piece contains several examples of the dual number. Traditionally, Irish had not only a singular and a plural, but also a “dual”, for two things. The form of the dual is identical to the dative singular.
dhá bhuaraig – 2 spancels. Nominative singular is “buarach”. The expected dual would be “bhuaraigh”, but the spelling used represents the pronunciation.
dhá choin – 2 hounds. The nominative singular is “cú”.
dhá mnaoí (mnaoi) – 2 women. Nom. sing. is “bean”. I would expect lenition here (mhnaoí). The use of “dhá” with nouns describing people is less common than “beirt”, but certainly acceptable.
dhá bhoin – 2 cows.
preachán – crow. This should be préachán, I believe.


As usual (dial.) represents dialectical spelling and (pre.) signifies pre-spelling reform spellings.
buarach – spancel
chím (feicim) – I see. The old independent form is still used in Cork. The dependent form is “ficim”. The unlenited “cím” is used as the independent form in Waterford and Kerry. (dial.)
córach – shapely, pleasant
cruach – pile
droch-shaoghal (drochshaol) – The Great Famine (lit. “The Bad Life”) (pre.)
gual – coal
iostas na hoidhche (na hoiché) – lodgings for the night (pre.)
macha – cattle-field
rann – verse, stanza

Comments and corrections are welcome!

I make use of this source with thanks to Dú, under the conditions of the CC BY-NC 4.0 licence.