Is minic a chealg briathra míne cailín críonna.

Is minic a chealg briathra míne cailín críonna.

Many a prudent girl was led astray with honeyed words.

Note: The translation given above of this week’s proverb may have been been influenced by the English poet, Elinor Hoyt Wylie. She wrote a poem in 1923 called Pretty Words with a more subtle warning;

Honeyed words like bees,
Gilded and sticky, with a little sting.

The above translation was given in Ó Dónaill’s Foclóir Gaeilge – Béarla. It appears to have softened the tone. The verb ‘cealg’ means ‘deceive’ while ‘led astray’ is more of a euphemism. Ironically, ‘cealg’ also means ‘sting,’ as when an insect bites. Is this the reason the translator in Ó Dónaill led the reader astray with a loose translation?

Honey is not actually mentioned in this proverb. Poetic license was apparently taken translating ‘míne.’ It does not mean honeyed. Maybe, the translator used it as a metphor for the genitive form of the noun ‘gentleness.’ Or perhaps it was a word play on the other meaning of ‘caelg.’ “Words of gentleness stung many a prudent girl.”

The given translation is in the passive voice which does not exist in Modern Irish. Maybe, the translator preserved an Old Irish form, which had a passive voice. Maybe, he used the passive voice to accentuate the woman as a victim. In any case, a more literal translation would be in the active voice. “Words of gentleness deceived many a prudent girl.”

Is í an dias is troime is ísle a chromas a cheann.

Is í an dias is troime is ísle a chromas a cheann.

The heaviest ear of grain bends its head the lowest.

Note: The ancient Greeks wrote something similar to this week’s proverb in the Apocrypha, “The greater thou art, the more humble thyself.” Perhaps, the metaphor is a recognition that the greater one’s knowledge becomes, the more one realises how ignorant one is. The more one strives for perfection, the more apparent becomes the futility of such a pursuit. For most of us,

“Buaic na baoise a deir Cóheilit, buaic na baoise! Níl in aon ní ach baois! … Ritheann na haibhneacha go léir isteach san fharraige ach ní líontar í choíche; mar sin féin coinníonn na haibhneacha orthu ag déanamh ar a gceann cúrsa go brách.” (“Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, Vanity of vanities! All things are vanity! … All rivers go to the sea, yet never does the sea become full. To the place where they go, the rivers keep on going.” )

Cóheilit 1:2,7 (Ecclesiastes 1:2,7)

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