Twenty-six items from Special Collections (O)

Exhibit 'O': Medieval Irish. (Anonymous, 'The Deer's Cry,' eighth century)

Bibliography: My copy-text for the English translation of the poem was Selections from Ancient Irish Poetry, ed./trans. by Kuno Meyer, 2nd edition (Constable and Co., Ltd., 1913). The poem appears on pages 25–27. ¶ Copy-text for the original poem in 8th-century Irish was Thesaurus Palaeohibernicus: A Collection of Old-Irish Glosses, Scholia, Prose, and Verse, Vol. II, edited by Whitley Stokes and John Strachan (Cambridge, 1903). The poem appears on pages 354–358.

Comment: The poem below is encountered in quite a few anthologies. In fact, I have a book here, a "Treasury of Irish Religious Verse" for which The Deer's Cry serves as the main title (ed. Patrick Murray, Four Courts Press, 1986). A note in the front matter (it's on the same page as the ISBN and the "British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data") reads, in full:

   a note on the title
Legend has it that when the High King learned that Patrick was approaching his residence in Tara, he resolved to ambush him and kill him. He and his bodyguard hid close to the woodland path along which Patrick and his colleagues would pass. But as the saint and his followers approached, the King and his men saw only a herd of deer and let them pass by unharmed.
   The word 'cry' can also have the sense of 'prayer'.

¶ The poem is presented as having been translated from the eighth-century Irish by Kuno Meyer, but that is misleading. Vide Meyer's note in his Selections from Ancient Irish Poetry:

P. 25. 'The Deer's Cry.'—For the text and translation see Stokes and Strachan, Thesaurus Palaeohibernicus (University Press, Cambridge), vol. ii. p. 354. I have adopted the translation there given except in some details. The hymn in the form in which it has come down to us cannot be earlier than the eighth century.

¶ Thus, Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes quite rightly attribute the translation to "Whitley Stokes, John Strachan and Kuno Meyer" in their anthology The School Bag, Faber & Faber, 1997. Collation with the Stokes and Strachan version in the Thesaurus Palaeohibernicus shows that Meyer's editorial adjustments are indeed few and small. Probably the most important of these is the simple removal of all parenthetical question marks following words where Stokes and Strachan thought their translation merely tentative.
   Meyer prints only part of the prose preface to the poem, where the piece is attributed to Saint Patrick and where the deer legend is articulated. Here, in full, is what Meyer quotes:

Patrick sang this hymn when the ambuscades were laid against him by King Loeguire (Leary) that he might not go to Tara to sow the faith. Then it seemed to those lying in ambush that he and his monks were wild deer with a fawn, even Benen, following them. And its name is 'Deer's Cry.'

¶ Anyone curious about this "deer" business (after all, there is nothing in the poem about changing into deer) can have a look at the abovementioned Thesaurus (title page pictured above), where the preface is given in full, in both English and Irish. It is only slightly more satisfactory. I'll quote the translation:

Patrick made this hymn. It was made in the time of Loegaire son of Niall. The cause of its composition, however, was to protect him and his monks against deadly enemies that lay in wait for the clerics. And this is a corslet of faith for the protection of body and soul against devils and men and vices. When anyone shall repeat it every day with diligent intentness on God, devils shall not dare to face him, it shall be a protection to him against every poison and envy, it shall be a defense to him against sudden death, it shall be a corslet to his soul after his death. Patrick sang this when the ambuscades were laid against his coming by Loegaire, that he might not go to Tara to sow the faith. And then it appeared before those lying in ambush that they (Patrick and his monks) were wild deer with a fawn (Benén) following them. And its name is 'Deer's Cry.'

¶ Again, what follows here at Jacket2 is the poem as it appears in Selections from Ancient Irish Poetry; then the original, quoted out of Stokes and Strachan (and laboriously retyped by me... for no reason... as I could have just got it off the internet...); and then, as another Appendix, for anybody who can understand it, one further comment on the poem from the "Description of the MSS" part of Strokes and Strachan. This latter points out grammatical curiosities. (1903 scholarly hieroglyphics have been preserved intact.)

The Deer's Cry

I arise to-day
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness
Of the Creator of Creation.

I arise to-day
Through the strength of Christ's birth with His baptism,
Through the strength of His crucifixion with His burial,
Through the strength of His resurrection and His ascension,
Through the strength of His descent for the judgement of Doom.

I arise to-day
Through the strength of the love of Cherubim,
In obedience of angels,
In the service of archangels,
In hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In prayers of patriarchs,
In predictions of prophets,
In preachings of apostles,
In faiths of confessors,
In innocence of holy virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.

I arise to-day
Through the strength of heaven:
Light of sun,
Radiance of moon,
Splendour of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of wind,
Depth of sea,
Stability of earth,
Firmness of rock.

I arise to-day
Through God's strength to pilot me:
God's might to uphold me,
God's wisdom to guide me,
God's eye to look before me,
God's ear to hear me,
God's word to speak for me,
God's hand to guard me,
God's way to lie before me,
God's shield to protect me,
God's host to save me
From snares of devils,
From temptations of vices,
From every one who shall wish me ill,
Afar and anear,
Alone and in multitude.

I summon to-day all these powers between me and those evils,
Against every cruel merciless power that may oppose my body and soul,
Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of pagandom,
Against false laws of heretics,
Against craft of idolatry,
Against spells of women and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that corrupts man's body and soul.

Christ to shield me to-day
Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding,
So that there may come to me abundance of reward,
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise.
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every one who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

I arise to-day
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness
Of the Creator of Creation.

Appendix: The original.

Patrick's Hymn

Atomriug indiu
                niurt trén togairm trindóit
                cretim treodatad
                fóisitin oendatad
                in dúleman dail.
Atomriug indiu
                niurt gene Crist cona bathius
                niurt a chrochtho cona adnacul
                niurt a essérgi cona fresgabáil
                niurt a thóiniuda fri brithemnas mbrátho.
Atomriug indiu
                niurt gráid Hiruphin
                i nerlattaid aingel
                i frestul na narchaingel
                hi frescisin esséirgi ar chenn fochraicce
                i nernnaigthib hūasalathrach
                i tairchetlaib fáthe
                hi praiceptaib apstal
                i nhiresaib fóismedach
                i nenccai nóebingen
                i ngnímaib fer fírien.
Atomriug indiu
                niurt nime
                soilse gne
                etrochtae ésci
                áne thened
                déne lóchet
                lúathe gáithe
                fudomnae maro
                tairismige t[h]alman
                cobsaide ailech.
Atomriug ingiu
                niurt Dé               dom    lúamairecht
                cumachtae Dé dom     chumgabāil
                cīall Dé                domm imthús
                roscc Dé            dom    rēimcise
                clūas Dé               dom    étsecht
                brīathar Dé         dom    erlabrai
                lám Dé                 dom    imdegail
                intech Dé            dom     rēmthechtas
                scīath Dé             dom     imditin
                sochraite Dé       domm anacul
                          ar intledaib demnae
                          ar aslagib dūalche
                          ar irnechtaib aicnid
                          ar cech duine mídúthrastar dam
                                   i ceín 7 i nocus
                                   i núathud 7 hi sochaidi.
Tocuiriur etrum indiu inna huli nert so
         fri cech nert namnas nétrocar fristái dom churp ocus domm anmain
         fri tinchetla sāibfáthe
         fri dubrechtu gentliuchtae
         fri sáibrechtu heretecdae
         fri himchellacht nidlachtae
         fri brichtu ban 7 gobann 7 druad
         fri cech fiss arachuiliu corp 7 anmain duini.
         Crīst domm imdegail indiu
                    ar neim ar loscud
                    ar bádud ar guin
              condomthair ilar fochraice
          Crīst lim, Crīst reum Crīst im degaid
          Crīst indium Crīst íssum Crīst úasum
          Crīst dessum Crīst tūathum
          Crīst illius Crīst isius Crīst inerus
          Crīst i cridiu cech duini rodomscrútadar
          Crīst i ngin cech óin rodomlabrathar
          Crīst hi cech rusc nomdercædar
          Crīst hi cech clūais rodomchloathar.
Atomriug indiu
                niurt trén togairm tríndóit
                cretim treodatad
                fóisitin óendatad
                in dúleman dail

                Domini est salus. Domini est salus. Christi est salus.
                Salus tua, Domine, sit semper nobiscum. Amen.


Appendix 2: Good luck . . . 

VII. Patrick's Hymn

This hymn, or rather incantation, said to have rendered S. Patrick and his monks invisible as such, is not in metre, but in a sort of rhythmical prose. It bears upon it marks of antiquity, such as the prayer to be delivered from the spells of women, smiths and druids or wizards. The date of its composition cannot be determined. An inferior limit is fixed by the mention of the work in Lib. Ardm. fo. 16a 1, canticum eius (sc. Patricii) scotticum semper canere; and the Milan glossator may possibly refer to it when he writes cluasa Dœ diar n-eitsecht (Ml. 24a 18). The title, fáeth fiada, is a mis-spelling of fóid (Cymr. gwaedd) fiada, and this is still further corrupted in the feth fia of the Book of Ballymote, 345b 26, where wizards are said to make feth fia ('magical invisibility') or prophesy (druid .i. doniat in feth fiain aisdinecht). The verbal forms of the hymn are interesting: atomriug from ad-dom-riug 'me extello, assurgo,' as Ascoli (Gloss. pal. hib. cxcv.) for the first time rightly rendered this word: mí-dúthrastar the deponential s-conj. of mídúthraccur: arachuiliu, where the final u has not been explained. So in the declension: niurt the instrumental sg. of the neuer o-stem nert: cretim the same case of the fem. ā-stem cretem; and foísitin the same case of a stem in n. The hymn has been edited by Geo. Petrie (Antiquities of Tara Hill), by W.S. (Goidelica, p.150), by Crowe (Journal of the Kilkenny Archaeological Association), and, lastly, by Bernard and Atkinson (the Irish Liber Hymnorum i. 133–135).