per amica silentia lunae

or, across the ferny brae with the evil voodoo celt

Previous Entry Share Next Entry
scela muicce Meic Datho in sin.

It's done, by the gods.

For the last couple of years, I've been working on translating an Old Irish saga called "The Tale of Mac Datho's Pig". Now, I'm not claiming any great scholarly triumph here- I was working from a textbook that was using the saga as a method of teaching Old Irish; several good translations exist in other books, too. But I did it, start to finish, and I'm happy with the result.

Why did I take so long? I wrote it all longhand into a blank book. For each chapter, this involved copying in the original text and glossary. The first few chapters had a phonetic transcription and their translation of the text, and the later chapters had Old Irish "glosses"*; I copied in all of these, as well. Then I copied in the same sections from a different translation that I had on hand (this could be a bit confusing, as it was either from a different text, or the translator took some liberty with his material).

Then the fun really began. Using the chapter glossary and the more extensive one in the back of the book, I made a stab at a "literal" translation. This could be quite tedious- Old Irish is a very weird language. To start with, it's verb-subject-object; </i>all</i> types of words, not just verbs, change form due to a number of rules- this includes proper names, amongst other things... The changes in form are often so irregular that the result bears no resemblance to the root word whatsoever. Oh, yeah, and it didn't help that the book was not exactly a beginner-level text; there was a host of grammatical and linguistic terminology that I just didn't grok.

That being done, I wrote a more readable translation. I tried to stick fairly close to the meaning of the text as I saw it, with most if not all of the variations being a matter of style rather than sense. There were a couple of bits of verse in there that I was a bit freer with; I don't pretend to have a good grasp of Old Irish verse forms, and a lot of them don't work well in English, so I kind of updated things. I'm pretty pleased with the result, though I think it needs to be put together as a whole and given another edit. A short poem summarizing the chapter (no guarantee on quality) finished the written part of the chapter.

Then came the decorations. I wanted to make an illuminated manuscript, you see... Nothing as elaborate as the real thing, but I filled up blank spaces, and did one more elaborate illustration per chapter. I'm not any great shakes at drawing or painting, so most of this was done with an ever-increasing number of Celtic rubber stamps, and several different sets of Celtic stencils. But I also used some of my own hand-carved stamps, and carved a bunch of new ones for the project. I needed a lot of space to do this, and that's not something we have a lot of at the Sorcerer's Cottage. So most of this happened at Oak Hollow, our little cabin in the woods.

Of course, the overriding explanations for its tardiness are familiar ones: I'm a vast slacker, and I have little or no free time.

I said that it was done, but it's really not, of course. I want to do the aforementioned edit on my translation; I'm going to type it into Word and mess with it there. Then I want to copy it back into the book, with elaborate drop capitals at the beginnings of sections, and a bit more rubber-stamp decoration. And, since I'll have the text in electronic format, I might as well put together a chapbook of it, using scanned-in versions of my hand-carved stamps as illustrations. But this phase is done, and I'm mighty pleased with myself, thank you.

* Irish monks were widely regarded as the most scholarly in the early medieval world, and fanned out over northern Europe to bring their learning to the monasteries there. Much of what we know of Old Irish exists in the form of "glosses" written by these monks as they copied manuscripts- marginal notes of explanation or commentary that can be found in volumes from many continental sources.

  • 1
Well done, my dear... I look forward to seeing this work of yours! It sounds beautiful... with more improvements to come.


Bravo! Nicely done. :-)

This sounds like an amazing project, and a wonderful accomplishment! Congratulations!

Cool! Can't wait to see it!

Congrats! I well know the joy of doing a really good translation job.

I hope you'll show us the book when you get it finished to your satisfaction - it sounds really cool.

Kudos! Oh, how gratifying to be done! Have done it before, but not in, like, a hard language like that!

Theory:  evcelt is Wacko.

Status:  Proven.

You've just given me the image of Wacko Warner reading Old Irish to the audience in an Animaniacs sketch of some sort.

Not so far-fetched, really, but entertaining nonetheless. :-)

Wow! That's so cool.I'd like to take a number in the waiting list to admire it.

Well I would worship you but I'm not sure I'm worthy. Damn dood that's awesome! What a wonderful accomplishment.

  • 1

Log in