The Celtic Literature Collective

Crith Gablach: On Status
c. 700 AD
H 3.18 p 7a7

If thou be a king thou shouldst know
the prerogative of a ruler,
reflection according to rank,
contentions of hostings,
sticks quarrels in an alehouse
contracts made in drunkenness;
valuations of lands,
measurement by poles;
augmentations of a penalty,
larceny of tree-fruit; [10]
the great substance of land-law:
marking out fresh boundaries,
planting of stakes,
the law as to points of stakes,
partition among coheirs,
summoning of neighbours,
stone pillars of contest
fighters who fasten title.
From a king;
the extent of protection; [20]
right of the fine up to the sixth man
in movables and land.
Valid is every neighbor-law
that is contracted by pledges
and secured by fines consisting of sacks.
Greater or smaller
is the value of penalties.
The penalty for breaching a boundary fence:
from a bull-calf to a heifer-calf,
from that to a yearling beast, [30]
up to five seoit it extends.
What are the most oppressive cases of tree-cutting
for which fools are mulcted?
The hospitallers of the forest,
the ivied hazel.
A danger from which there is no escape
is the penalty for felling the sacred tree.
Thou shalt not cut a sacred tree
and escape with the fines for the seven noble trees
on account of the fine of three cows [40]
that is fixed for cutting its stem.
There are others, seven
atoned for in seoit due for undergrowth.
Let me venture for [the benefit] of the immature
to state the immune things of the forest:
a single cauldron's cooking-wood that is cut,
a handful of ripe nuts
to which one stretches not his hand in satiety.
Freest of it all
is the right of removal. [50]
The penalty for the oak,
the penalty for lobbing its larger limbs
with its life-sustaining mast;
the stem-cutting of the yew;
the same penalty for cutting the holly tree.
Most oppressive of it all
is the penalty of the seven commoners of the forest
for each of which there is a cow as payment:
the stem cutting of the birch,
the peril of the alder, [60]
the undermining of the willow.
Declare restitution for them.
the maiming of the whitethorn
and of the blackthorn;
it restitution extends to the undergrowth of the wood,
the undergrowth of fern,
of bog-myrtle, of reeds,
save that these are free to lords.
Stealthy penetration, stealthy intrusion,
driving to and fro, [70]
looking on idly, tethering
squatting, burning,
blocking tracks;
overleaping by birds,
deer and pet animals,
overleaping by dogs,
trespass by bees;
dire in thirds are payable in penalties
which the preliminary pledge comprehends;
driving forward, traversing, [80]
sudden breeches across the road,
stampeding across holdings.
similarly over strands.
Measurement of the fore-end
with a cast by a stripling,
supervising the observance of land law,
marking out fresh boundaries,
final responsibility for trespass.
Let fines be forthcoming
on the fifth day after the offenses [90]
according to the law of neighbours.
What single ox shares liability with the drove?
What overleaping by a single piglet shares liability with the herds?
What are the drivings carried out negligently
for which final responsibility is not enforced?
What are the concealed drivings forward?
On which grazing-expense does not fall?
What are the unauthorized stalkings
which deserve immunity?
What are the larcenies from houses [100]
which do not entail a penalty?

Binchy, D.A. "An Early Legal Poem." Celtica vol. IX. Dublin: The Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies. 1971. pp.152-168

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