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Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 4, 1893.djvu/375

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Celtic Myth and Saga.

been redacted at a considerably later date. But the MSS. of this later version, although of comparatively recent date, "exhibit many archaic inflexions, old vocables, and MiddleIrish survivals" which, in the editor's opinion, "seem to show that this version represents one coeval with that found in the Book of Leinster."

We thus have two texts substantially dating back to the 12th century, and neither of which, in its present form, can have been redacted before the 11th century, as is proved both by the texture of the language and the occurrence of personal and geographical names unknown in Ireland much before that time. But one of these texts, that preserved by the later MSS., must, substantially, be considerably younger than the other, as facts to be adduced presently amply prove. What follows? That the Book of Leinster version, although in language, and occasionally in geographical and historical nomenclature, a product of the 11th–12th centuries, belongs, so far as the matter is concerned, to a far earlier period.

What then are the differences between the two versions which warrant their assignment to different periods of national development? In the younger version the heroes wear coats of mail, "stout wonderful foreign armour"; "foreign cavalry" form a part of the forces; the war chariots, though mentioned, play no part. In the Book of Leinster version, on the contrary, the chariot is still the material unit of the army; the hero is practically armourless, and covers himself solely with shield and sword. In fact, the one version pictures the fighting of pre-Viking (i.e., pre-800 A.D.), the other that of post-Viking Ireland.

Thus we see how, when the stress of the Viking incursions had died away, the storytellers and scribes who gathered up the tales of olden time went to work. In some cases—e.g., the Book of Leinster version of our tale—they contented themselves with putting the old saga into language of the day and embellishing it with foreign names, in others they translated the material conditions as