The Scribe in the Woods: An Early Irish Poem

Forest glade
Forest glade by Fiona in Eden (source)

This beautiful early Irish poem describes the joy of a scribe working in a forest surrounded by bird song and nature. It is found in the margins of a ninth century Irish treatise on Latin grammar, which now resides in the monastery of St. Gall in Switzerland.

‘Over me green branches hang

A blackbird leads the loud song

Above my pen-lined booklet

I hear a fluting bird-throng


The cuckoo pipes a clear call

Its dun cloak hid in deep dell:

Praise to God for his goodness

That in woodland I write well’

(translated by Maire Mac Neill)


The original poem text
The original poem text (source)


The original Irish text can be read below (source)

Dom-farcai fidbaide fál 
fom-chain loíd luin, lúad nád cél; 
h-úas mo lebrán, ind línech, 
fom-chain trírech inna n-én.

Fomm-chain coí menn, medair mass, 
hi m-brot glass de dingnaib doss. 
Debrath! nom-Choimmdiu-coíma: 
caín-scríbaimm fo roída ross.


5 thoughts on “The Scribe in the Woods: An Early Irish Poem

  1. Thanks for sharing such a beautiful poem and for such a scholarly translation, a work of art in itself! It brings home to us all the amazing depth of learning that was in Ireland at that time and which then went overseas. Its a pity that we know very little about the scribes and their ways of producing wonderful masterpieces, Liam

  2. Thanks for this evocative poem I’ve always felt an affinity for the woodlands the sound of the breeze in the tree top is so soothing and the environment peaceful

  3. Great to read this. To Liam in answere to his comment. There is a huge repository of early Christian writings pereserved in the Uni of St Gall Switzerland. Also Mary Mc Aleese’ program on RTE 1 on Colum Banus is excellent.

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