Gerry Loose: From 'The Great Book of the Woods' (with a note on its sources)

the primer


let profit be gno

let bora be strength

let the duality of the conjugal be ter

let rfoph be veneration

let piety be brops

rihph be cheerfulness

let gal be a kingdom

let religion be fkal

let clitps be nobility

let dignity be mymos

let fann be recognition

let honour be ulio

let gabpal be compliance

blaqth be sunlight

rain be merc

let pal be day & night

let peace be gatrb

biun be water & fire

let longevity be spax




the present time is put for all times

a deed wonderful unlawful

he confounded them

he confused them

when one would say to another

fetch me a stone

it was a stick he’d bring




on that account

the select language

the additional language

the language parted related 

in the Great Book of Woods




what is the language parted

in the Great Book of the Woods?

this: óig & máir

this: náir & náir mas

other is amuis & gairg

& grin

what is the verb?

it is this: shining 

coming & showing  

there is science in place

it comes out of the letters

into words




fall, shine, show, come

out of that primary nature into words

out of these letters into words

they speak the thing

the foundation of the voice

the ways of the voices

the letter is a road

a voice path

they make the voice in place




the wood vowels

that nourish while in mind

that sing at giving

that sue for reward

that judge greatness or smallness

that sit after payment

the material for words

is cut out of them

the sides of oaks




half the voice is thrown out

the stammering voice

the half voice place

the half voice way

not because they would be

speechless altogether

the mutes

before them & after them

before them & after them




he the man

she the woman

it the heaven


along the way

along the path

which is trodden

let it come

let it go

he is the heavens

she is the stone

it is the head

her nose or her eye

his tooth or his mouth

words of a language

we do not know

we do not think sweet

we do not use them

she is the steed

a bark of butter

a sieve of corn




what is comparison of sense without sound?

what is comparison of sound without sense?

comparison of sense and sound together

that is the proper comparison

there is good and nothing to surpass

its measure to suit the ear

its adjustment to breathing

a wood of science

a mark of aspiration

letter to letter




the space of time


two syllables

is its meaning

is a letter a species?

in the wood of the forest

is a letter a genus?




according to sound

which goes

which comes

the fragment

of cut off air

diminution of time

the tongue of silence

double sounds

knowledge of thing perishes

unless the name is known

power & want of power

full power & half power

written & not counted

stone turning music

they step




poison of a serpent

they blow the fire

meal of corn

heaven round earth

the staves of words

interloping syllables

plain of deer

copses of wood

duck along a pool

swift and dense flax seed




ear-lobe compression

family-like-every-second-one-of them





a thing is not an origin for itself


choral song silent in its law

the music that is

small music that is humming

loud music trumpeting

its mournful cry

thunder or a tree

when it is a whistle

shriller harder

greater music when a harp

silent its music

when sweetest it is silent




the limbs of science are named

not mixed speech

it praises from the front

it is sent 

it is hastened

staves of words

a staff out of a word

staves in reasonable speech

in the mouths 

halting from word to word




the interloping syllable

its flinging of a man

if a man suffer on land

the man allows suffering on him

he goes afterwards

to bathe himself in the water

he lets himself down the bank

into the water

tot says the wave under him

the sound which waves make

the heavy voice the man utters

dropping himself on the water




the name has happened

to the sound

the haft of speech

from which no speech grows 

but speech of death

the spear point

what is haft 

which is after blade

the after blade 

which is haft

and the haft

which is before blade

haft is the spear

haft itself will come

after blade

everything final

haft which is after blade

the haft is the haft 

which is before blade




it is the head

it is artificial to say it

while it is on the man

it is natural to say it

after striking the head off him




the couple of the gore

redness and crimson

leg and foot 

the couple of supporting

eyelashes & eyebrow

root & breadth

skin & sinew

activity & surface

one for warding upon

one for good warding

cap on knee

lips in strength & loudness

flesh & blood

which is in the flesh

top bone & jaw bones

knuckles & hair

a man’s limbs

are made of science




on, under, through, in

past the heavens

its interloping syllable

heaven about earth

cloud & bow of heaven

for every sort of speech

that is produced 

on human lips


[NOTE (by Gerry Loose): The Primer is loosely drawn from the Auraicept na n-Eces, a seventh century CE Old Irish tract known as the Scholars’ Primer or Handbook of the Learned. 


It deals with Irish grammar and vernacular, claimed within that book to be descended from speech before the Tower of Babel and more comprehensive than Hebrew, Latin or Greek. The earliest written version we have is from the twelfth century CE, with many additions to the early text.


It also contains the texts of the ogham tracts from the Book of Ballymote, the Yellow Book of Lecan and the text of the Trefhocul from the Book of Leinster. Ogham was a system of more-or-less secret writing developed by poets and used, among other ways, on monolithic stone inscriptions, somewhat runic in appearance.


Its thrust is a comparison between grammar and the natural world, including human endeavour, which is at the heart of ogham inscriptions. 


My versions are taken in this instance only from that part of the book preceding the ogham tracts, which have been the subjects of my interest and peripatetic study for more than forty years.


It forms the preface to my continuing work on ogham: The Great Book of the Woods. “Ogham is climbed as a tree is climbed.” (Damian McManus)]