Here is the first part of the text of Immram Brain, as edited by Séamus Mac Mathúna. The translation is based on that of Kuno Meyer, although where my translation differs significantly from his, I have included his translation in brackets.
I have also marked the scribe’s glosses with brackets, introduced with .i. in the text and i.e. in the translation. I think many of these glosses highlight the cross-referencing of Christian with non-Christian material, as we discussed in the episode.
Points of interest, such as the names for various Otherworld places, are marked in bold.
It was just a branch from an apple tree.
It lay there beside him on the ground, shining silver in the sea-washed sunlight.
Bran sat up, yawning. He stretched his arms, flexing his fingers.
What a dream that had been!
The music; sweet, unearthly. It had followed him as he walked alone on the sharp-grassed dunes. Yes, it was that strange and haunting music. It had always been behind him as he walked. He had been unable to see who was making those thrilling sounds, could not discover where it was coming from. It had entranced his senses, like an exotic perfume; made him dizzy, unsteady on his feet.
The air was bright, fresh; and he could hear the summer singing of birds above him. The dream was turning to mist in his head, yet fronds of its perfume still clung about his memory.
That music! It made the birdsong sound raucous and harsh.
Bran yawned again and stood up. What had he been doing lying down anyway? How had he come to fall asleep on the grass here? Hadn’t he been waiting for news? No time to sleep, surely?
A fresh wind blew and he shivered suddenly. His head cleared. It hadn’t been a dream. The music had been true, had been reality, sending him reeling into sleep.
Bran took a step forward and felt something move at his feet. There was an echo of music like distant bells, and a remembrance of subtle perfume. He looked down.
The apple branch from his dream was still there, lying on the ground. But it hadn’t been a dream.
Bran bent down and picked up the branch, turning it over in his hands. It had come from no tree in this world. The bark was silver, but so fine and finished that no smithcraft of his world could have honed it so. Bran gently probed the silver surface with his thumbnail. It yielded to his slow pressure, leaving the crescent of his nail marked on the curve of the twig. Curiously, he scratched at the dent. Flakes of silver bark fell to the ground. The wood was a soft dull silver beneath.
Carefully, he stroked one of the shining leaves. It flexed at his touch. He admired the veining patterning the spearhead shape, and allowed his finger to brush the edge serrations. Such making was beyond all craft of man.
And the blossoms! The branch had been taken from a tree in bloom. Gently, he pinched one of the blushing white flowers. It bruised beneath his fingers. Bran shook his head in disbelief. No crafter in silver, however talented, could have grafted living flowers onto metal.
Bran carefully shook the bright branch, wondering if the petals would fall. The haunting strains of the remembered music danced around him for a moment, and he felt the power of the perfume mazing his mind again, leaving him quiescent and wondering.
“It is a gift,” thought Bran to himself. “A great gift from the Otherworld.” He gently shook the branch again. This time, he thought he heard words sung to the rhythm of the silver leaf music…
“A branch of the apple-tree from Emain
I bring, like those one knows;
Twigs of white silver are on it,
Crystal brows with blossoms…”
Bran walked back to the fort, deep in thought. This gift from the Otherworld might be a two-edged sword. The Ever-Living Ones gave nothing without purpose. Such gifts heralded change, maybe even trouble.
Yet the silver branch he held in his hands was a wonder. It called to him, drew him towards its secrets. He knew that he could not cast it away.
Bran looked up and smiled, taking in the tang of the salt air on the breeze. There was a new spring to his stride. This was no dream.
He was ready, now, for the adventure that lay before him.
Welcome to Series 4, “Rowing Around Immráma”, where we will be exploring a tale-type which straddles land and sea, conscious and unconscious, Christian and non-Christian. In the first episode on these magical sea voyages, we follow Bran Mac Febul on his voyage to the Island of Women.
Join the Story Archaeologists as they dig the first of their somewhat watery trenches, and discover why Bran receives an offer he finds hard to refuse.
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Music: “Tam Lin” by Gian Castello
In “Fled Bricrenn 1: The Feasting Hall“, we discussed the so-called Ulster Women’s War of Words. This is where the partners of the three contending heroes take turns to boast of their own greatness as well as that of their men-folk.
Here is the second of these poetic weapons, here weilded by Lendabair, partner to Conall Cernach.
The text is taken from the Codex Vossianius version of Fled Bricrenn. You can read George Henderson’s translation (based on the Lebor na hUidre version) here. It is marked as Section 23 in both versions.
You can listen to Isolde reading the Old Irish and her translation here:
§23 Isbert Lendubair ingen Eogain maic Derthacht, ben Connaill Cernaig maic Aimergin:
Lendabair, daughter of Eogan the son of Derthacht, wife of Conall the Victorious, the son of Amergin:
“Roscad” – marks a passage of non-syllabic alliterative poetry
Ar is mesi cruth cell congraim
For I am a body of intelligent bearing
coblethar ceimb crut cain curcastai
My shapely step celebrated, graceful as reeds,
a tech medrach Medquartai righ ria mnaib Ulad.
From the kingly, intoxicating Mead-Circling Hall, before the women of Ulster.
Ar is mo celi coem Conull coscurach credmaír
For victorious, great-chested Conall is my beloved partner,
coblethar cem n-ard nadguidhe
[whose] high inspiring stride is celebrated [lit. “feasted”]
i nuchtai ergal errind ria cach.
Pre-eminent in bursting breasts before all.
Cain tinnta cucum co cernaib co cennaib
Cleanly cut for me with warriors, with heads / cheifs,
con rucai calcae cruaidii comraicthi Ulad.
bearing hard lances, acclaimed [by the] Ulaid.
Arsaidh cech nath
He guards every ford
conid dia tul targlai
which is why he is [called] “head-most of hostings”.
arslaith a natha
He cuts down their fords
arfich a ngresae
He defeats their assaults
commaich laeich ar a bi lecht líac
Shattering heroes who [now] underlie grave-stones
laimethar mac ain Aimirgin acollaim.
This splendid son of Amergin dares a declaration.
Ar is Connall ar lin a cern
For it is Conall, with his compliment of warriors,
cingius ria cech laech.
Who strides before every hero.
Qid na budsi an Lendobair-si
Why should not this Lendabair,
li sulaie caich
The delight of every eye,
[NOTE: “lí súla”, “delight / lustre of the eye”, is one of the so-called kennings of the Ogam letter Luis. It is a phrase often used in poetry.]
cichsid ria cech mnai a tech ricc?
Step before every woman into the kingly [?] house?