Is geal leis an bhfiach dubh a ghearrcach féin

Is geal leis an bhfiach dubh a ghearrcach féin

The raven thinks its own nestling fair.

Note: This week’s seanfhocal is a generalization of the English proverb, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” (Margaret Wolfe Hungerford, Molly Bawn, 1878.) Perhaps, closer to the mark is the aphorism, “A mother’s pride, a father’s joy.” (Sir Walter Scott, Rokeby, 1813, canto III, st. 15.) Nature blinds the parent to any imperfections of its offspring. This is a lesson every teacher learns early in a career.

For a demonstration of this phenomenon, visit any sporting event organized for children and watch the parents. Parents have been known to assault other parents at such games over wrongs perceived upon their progeny. One youth league even requires the parents to sign a parental code of conduct before they will admit a child to the program.

Note also: An ancient Druid idiom is embedded in this week’s seanfhocal. Druids worshipped the sun. Nothing could be more pleasing to Druids then to have the sun shine on them. Therefore, to express pleasure with something, it is customary in the Irish language to say that it is bright with you, i.e., like the sun, it shines on you. For example, this week’s proverb literally says, “Its own nestling is bright with the raven.”

Consider other examples. Is geal an scéal liom é. (It is glad news to me. Literally: The story, it [is] bright with me.) Ní geal leat é. (You don’t like him. Literally: He is not bright with you.) Is geal leis a bhfeiceann sé. (He likes what he sees. Literally: What he sees is bright with him.) Note the pattern, “Is geal le …” (Is bright with …)

The same pattern is also used with the Irish verb for shine, taitin. With the preposition ‘le’ (with), taitin is used to express pleasure. Thaitin do theach liom. (I liked your house. Literally: Your house shined on me.) Taitníonn sé leis na daoine. (The people are fond of him. Literally: He shines on the people.) Another way of expressing pleasure is to use the verbal noun of taitin, teatneamh. Níl sé i mo thaitneamh. (I don’t like it. Literally: It is not in my shining [or brightness].) Finally, one of the many ways to say, “I love you.” in Irish is “Mo thaitneamh thú.” (Literally: My brightness [is] for you.)

Folaíonn grá gráin

Folaíonn grá gráin

Love veils ugliness.

Note: The ancient Romans often depicted Cupid, their god of love, as blindfolded because love was thought to be blind. The more common image of Cupid as a winged boy shooting arrows was actually taken from earlier Greek images of Eros, their god of love. But the Greeks also knew that love was blind. Eros was thought to randomly fire his arrows into the hearts of lovers. So no one could explain where their heart led them.

I have heard of reasons manifold
Why love must needs be blind,
But this the best of all I hold —
His eyes are in his mind.
     Coleridge, Reason for Love’s Blindness, 1828.

Some pundits have noted that love is blind but marrage restores sight.