PQR: Poems, Quotes, Readings

Precepts of the Celtic Kings

(Chiefly from Kuno Meyer's version)

"O grandson of Conn, O Cormac," said Caibre, "What is best for a king?"

"Not hard to tell," said Cormac. "Best for him -- firmness without anger, patience without strife, affability without haughtiness, guarding of ancient lore, giving justice, truth, peace, giving many alms, honoring poets, worshipping the great God.

" ... Let him attend to the sick, benefit the strong, possess truth, chide falsehood, love righteousness, curb fear, crush criminals, judge truly, foster science, improve his soul, utter every truth. For it is through the truth of a ruler that God gives all.

"Let him restrain the great, slay evil-doers, exalt the good, consolidate peace, check unlawfulness, protect the just, confine the unjust.

"He should question the wise, follow ancient lore, fulfill the law, be honest with friends, be manly with foes, learn every art, know every language, hearken to elders, be deaf to the rabble.

"Let him be gentle,
let him be hard,
let him be loving,
let him be merciful,
let him be righteousness,
let him be patient,
let him be persevering,
let him hate falsehood,
let him love truth,
let him be forgetful of wrong,
let him be mindful of good,
let him be attended by a host in gatherings,
and by few in secret councils,
let his levies be lenient,
let his judgements and decisions be sharp and light. ...
For it is by these qualities, kings and lords are judged."

"O grandson of Conn, O Cormac," said Caibre. "What were your habits when you were a lad?"

"Not hard to tell," said Cormac.

"I was a listener in woods,
I was a gazer at stars,
I was unseeing among secrets,
I was silent in a wilderness,
I was conversational among many,
I was mild in the mead-hall,
I was fierce in the battlefield,
I was gentle in friendship,
I was a nurse to the sick,
I was weak toward the strengthless,
I was strong toward the powerful,

* * *

I was not arrogant though I was wise,
I was not a promiser though I was rich,
I was not boastful though I was skilled,
I would not speak ill of the absent,
I would not reproach, but I would praise,
I would not ask, but I would give -

For it is through these traits that the young become old and kingly warriors."

"O grandson of Conn, O Cormac," said Caibre, "what is good for me?"

"Not hard to tell," said Cormac, "If you listen to my teaching --

"Do not deride the old, though you are young;
Nor the poor, though you are wealthy;
Nor the lame, though you are swift;
Nor the blind, though you are given sight;
Nor the sick, though you are strong;
Nor the dull, though you are clever;
Nor the foolish, though you are wise.

* * *

Be not too wise, be not too foolish;
Be not too conceited, be not too diffident;
Be not too haughty, be not too humble;
Be not too talkative, be not too silent;
Be not too harsh, be not too feeble.
If you be too wise, they will expect too much of you;
If you be too foolish, you will be deceived;
If you be too conceited, you will be thought vexatious;
If you be too humble, you will be without honour;
If you be too talkative, you will not be heeded;
If you be too silent, you will not be regarded;
If you be too harsh, you will be broken;
If you be too feeble, you will be crushed."

MacManus, Seumas. The Story of the Irish Race: A Popular History of Ireland. pgs 50-51. Old Greenwich, Connecticut: Devin-Adair Company, (c) 1921, 1945, 1966. ISBN 0-517-06408-1


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