[Here begins the second version of the Auraicept in the BB, this is Ferchertnes book]



Incipit to Ferchertnes book. The place of this book, Emain Macha. In the time of Conchobar MacNessa. The person to it, Ferchertne, the poet. Reason for making it, to bring weak and rude folk to science.

Seven things according to which Gaelic is measured, letter and verse-foot, declension and accent, syllable and gender, and inflection.

[inflexion is described at length in the pages I did not yet commented].


******my comments stop at this place. Here is, however, a summary of the description of these seven things*****

****Summary begins

These seven features define seven sciences.

1. Fid, letter, that is to say the vowels, diphtongs and consonants, excepted h since it is not at all a consonant, car ce nest pas du tout une consonne, ut est: h non est litera sed nota aspirationis (h is not a letter but the mark of aspiration).


2. Then deach, metrical foot. As we say that an alexandrine line is made of six or twelve feet, deach is the organisation of the poetic line in feet.


3. Reim, course. From a grammar point of view, they are the declensions that give the case declining from the nominative. From a poetry point of view, they are alliterations, that is the repetition of a sound within a line of poetry. The Auraicept provides the following thorough example in Irish:

Coluim caid cumachtach 7rl (Columba, pious, powerful, etc.)



4. Now as to forbaid,  this is the accent over vowels, indicating if the are short or long. This concept applies as well to the words that can be short or long.


5. Alt from the word altus, i.e., noble,  is what is nurtured in the mind. It applies more to poetry than to prose. We could say that it is the spirit and breath of poetry.


6. Now indsce, gender. In prose, this is what we call gender, i. e. masculine, feminine and neuter. In poetrey, this is what it is what enable us to recognise the deach of the poetry.


7. Now etargaire, inflection, shows the gender and is rendered by the voices inflections. Putting things in a particular ordering is also etargaire. It has to point at a particular person.

**** Summary ends.


What is measure with regard to fid, Ogham letter ? Not hard. That thou mayest know their number and their singleness, their size and their smallness, their power and their want of power, their strength and their weakness. This is their number: five Ogmic groups, i.e., five men for each group, and one up to five for each of them, that their signs may be distinguished. These are their signs: right of stem, left of stem,


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athwart of stem, through stem, about stem. Thus is a tree climbed, to wit, treading on the root of the tree first with thy right hand first and thy left hand after. Then with the stem, and against it, and through it, and about it. These are their various vowels and diphthongs, ut est:


Query, why are those called woods, vowels? Not hard. Because they are measured by them and sewed with them [original Irish: fobith (because) domiter (they are juged) friu (against) 7 (and) co (that) n-uaigiter (they are sewed) condaib (when inserted in the word)], ut dicitur, la [original text: luis ailme], ba [original text: beithi ailme]. How are they, as vowels, measured with the consonants ? Not hard. Every two consonants for a vowel in rhyme, every two corresponding letters in rhyme: that is rhyme, therefore, that it should be the same vowel that stands in the corresponding words, and that the number of consonants that may stand in them should be the same, ut est, bas and las: bras and gras: ceand and leand: dorn and corn: dond and cond [The gaelic rhyme is more complex than its modern version. For instance, using English words to do Gaelic rhymes, eat does not rhyme with meat nor does not with plot because the vowels are in between a different number of consonants. Inversely, meat rhymes with peat and not rhymes with pot. The exact meaning of condaib is thus: the vowel is inserted in between the same number of consonants.]


[Here is a hard section I keep in order to the text as little as possible. Honestly, their full understanding asks some knowledge on the way Old Irish was pronounced.]


What is measure with respect to fid, Ogham letter? To wit, that thou mayest know their number and their singleness, i.e., their number in five groups and their singleness in one group; their size and their smallness, i.e., their size in five strokes and their smallness in single strokes. What is the difference between their power and their strength? Their power first: when they utter voice alone, that is, a, o, or u: Their strength, however, when a prime position brings them into a syllable, such as bais, lais. What is the difference between their want of power and their weakness? Not hard. Want of power when the vowels are under nullifying, as for example fi[o]nd. True indeed, for the last letters that stand in these double sounds are not understood, through their being pronounced at once: weakness, however, when they stand in combinations


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equivalent to the diphthongs, and in the Ogham diphthongs such as fer and ben.


[End of the hard section. Begins the description of the way Ogam are written.]


Five letters for each group: and there is one up to five for each of them, that is, one stroke up to five strokes, ut est, b one only, n five of them: or again another kind ? Not hard. Want of power first: when they stand under nullity, ut quoniam quidem [so that it nevertheless entails ( !)] with the Latinist, or when three vowels stand in one syllable with the Gael, as Briain, of Brian, gliaid, a fight, feoil, flesh, beoir, beer with the Gael. Weakness, however, when they are consonised, ut seruus, uulgus [= ut servus, vulgus] with the Latinist, ut iarum, therefore, cian, far, ceir, wax, uull (ubull), apple, and aball, appletree, with the Gael.

Full power, too, is in them, both vowels and consonants, with the exception of h [uath]. So that they are distinguished through their signs, i.e., through their appearance, to wit, clearly do their conditions differ. These are their signs: Right of stem, that is, b to right of the ridge, that is the b group [The text says deasdruim and deas in droma. Calder translates druim and drom by two different words while dromm and druimm are synonymous. They mean 1. back (of a body), 2. back (position), 3. ridge, 4. in turn. Calders choice of ridge for drom seems to me the best. On the contrary, take into account that, in the next few sentences, when Calder says stem you should understand ridge]: Left of stem [The Irish actually says: North of the raising sun, thus left supposes that if North is upward, say, then the ridge is towards East.], to wit, to the left side of the stem, which is the h group: Athwart of stem [The Irish word is lesdruim. Les or leas, is either a non related substantive [[it means hips, thighs or buttocks]], or a form of la, with, meaning with it. A word for word translation is with the ridge], to wit, athwart is from thee, and against is to thee, or half athwart the stem, which is the m group: Through stem, that is the a group: About stem, that is on this side and on that, the diphthongs group. It is thus it is climbed, to wit, it is even thus it is graduated in the Ogham as it is graduated in the tree [as if your were climbing a tree], to wit, thy right hand first, that is, group b: and, thy left hand after, that is, group h: and after that it is athwart [I recall the Irish text says with and I find it to have a meaning easier to understand] and against, group m, to wit, athwart is from thee [= you help the tree], and against is towards thee [= the tree helps you]. Through, however, is group a: over, however, and about is the diphthong group. Thus are distinguished the vowels, the diphthongs, and the consonants. Why are those called vowels? Not hard. Because the consonants are measured against them,



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and the words are fairly woven out of them, ut est l a, b a, to wit, la, ba. That is the artificial possessive without rhyme save rhyme of vowels only. Not hard [2nd Ans.]. As a principal vowel only is required to refer it to seven, so the consonants that exist are required, every two consonants for a vowel, ut dicitur:

[Irish original]

Marcach atchonnac anne,

Etach uaime co ndath cro,

A dath is gilithear geis,

Uan tuinni dath a da o


[Calders translation]

A rider I saw yesterday,

Round him a cloak with hue of blood,

White as a swan his colour is,

Foam of wave his two ears hue.

[My understanding: A rider I saw yesterday. The rider is a vowel riding on the sentence. Round him a cloak with hue of blood means that the word around the vowel is full of life and in good health. White as a swan his colour is means that the rider, i. e., the vowel is the bone structure of the word, thus white as bones. Foam of wave his two ears hue means that the vowel is in between two consonants as said by the above text. The consonants have no proper strength, they are a kind of foam around the vowel which is the deep structure of the word.]


Two things are found there: identity combined with difference, as bas and las, and it is according to the correspondence of trisyllabic poetry, for the principal vowel that stands in them is the same, and it is an identical final consonant. Different, however, is the initial consonant, to wit, 1 [and b]. How are the consonants about the vowels measured? Not hard. Each two consonants of them are about the vowel. That is the proper proportion, to wit, that is perfect rhyme, ut est, bas, las. That is the unity with identity, and the unity without identity: and it is according to poetic correspondence, for the principal vowel that stands in them is the same, and there is an equal number of consonants; and that is the proper arrangement of trisyllabic poetry.

Now in the alphabet there is required origin from one, and its invention from two, its placing by three, its confirmation with four, and its binding together with five, its amplifying from six, its division from seven, its rule with eight, its demonstration in nine, its establishment in ten. The one is above, to wit, Fenius Farsaidh; the two, Mac Etheoir with him; the third Mac Aingin; the fourth Cae; the fifth Amirgen son of Naende son of Nenual;


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the sixth Ferchertne; the seventh his pupil; the eighth Ceandfaelad; the ninth his pupil; the tenth its establishment in one, to wit, the Trefocal.