Ná luig, ná luig...

Ná luig, ná luig
fót fora taí:
gairit bía fair,
fota bía faí.

(not * swear * not * swear/
sod * on which * you are/
short * you will be * on it/
long * you will be * under it)

Do not swear, do not swear
by the sod on which you stand;
a short time you’ll be on it,
a long time you’ll be under it.

This is the first stanza, edited by James Carney in “Medieval Irish Lyrics”, of a five stanza poem on the vanity and brevity of earthly life. This first stanza also stands alone as a marginal note, written in red, in the manuscript Laud Misc. 610, fol. 116 v. Charles Plummer, in “On the Colophons and Marginalia of Irish Scribes” in Proceedings of the British Academy XII, 1926, gives the first line as “Na ling, na ling” and translates it as “Trample not, trample not”, but close inspection of the page in question shows that Plummer’s reading is clearly mistaken.

Topics: Verse Maxims & Wise Counsel Religious