The Poem-book of the Gael/The Saltair na Rann/The Creation of the Universe

The Creation of the Universe (10th century)
by Oengus the Culdee, translated by Eleanor Hull

Published in the Saltair na Rann in the 10th century, denoting lineage to the Irish bishop Oengus the Culdee. Translation from 1912.

Oengus the Culdee557652The Creation of the Universe10th centuryEleanor Hull

MY own King, King of the pure heavens,
without pride, without contention,
who didst create the folded world,
my King ever - living, ever victorious.

King above the elements, surpassing the sun,
King above the ocean depths,
King in the South and North, in the West and East,
with whom no contention can be made.

King of the Mysteries, who wast and art,
before the elements, before the ages,
Kingfyet eternal, comely His aspect,
Kinggwithout beginning, without end.

King who created lustrous heaven,
who is not arrogant, not overweening,
and the earth, with its multitudinous delights,
strong, powerful, stable.

King who didst make the noble brightness,
and the darkness, with its gloom ;
the one, the perfect day,
the other, the very perfect night.

King who fashioned the vast deeps
out of the primary stuff of the elements,

the wondrous formless mass.

King who formed out of it each element,

who confirmed them without restriction, a lovely mystery,

both tempestuous and serene,

both animate and inanimate.

King who hewed, gloriously, with energy,

out of the very shapely primal stuff,

the heavy, round earth,

with foundations, . . . length and breadth. 1

King who shaped within no narrow limits

in the circle of the firmament

the globe, fashioned

like a goodly apple, truly round.

1 Comp. the parallel passage in Senchus m6r, Ancient Laws of
Ireland, vol. i. intro. p. 26,


King who formed after that with fixity
the fresh masses about the earth ;
the very smooth currents above the world
of the chill watery air.

King who didst sift the cold excellent water
on the earth-mass of the noble cliffs
into rills, with the reservoirs l of the streams,
according to their measures, with moderation.


King who ordained the eight winds
advancing without uncertainty, full of beauty,
the four prime winds He holds back,
the four fierce under-winds.

There are four other under-winds,

as learned authors say,

this should be the number, without any error,

of the winds, twelve winds.

King who fashioned the colours of the winds,
who fixed them in safe courses,
after their manner, in well-ordered disposition,
with the varieties of each manifold hue.

The white, the clear purple,

the blue, the very strong green,

the yellow, the red, sure the knowledge,

in their gentle meetings wrath did not seize them.

1 This is Dr. Whitley Stokes' reading. Dr. R. Thurneysen reads


The black, the grey, the speckled,
the dark and the deep brown,
the dun, darksome hues,
they are not light, easily controlled.

King who ordained them over every void,

the eight wild under-winds ;

who laid down without defect

the bounds of the four prime winds.

From the East, the smiling purple,

from the South, the pure white, wondrous,

from the North, the black blustering moaning wind,

from the West, the babbling dun breeze.

The red, and the yellow along with it,
both white and purple ;
the green, the blue, it is brave,
both dun and the pure white.

The grey, the dark brown, hateful their harshness,

both dun and deep black ;

the dark, the speckled easterly wind

both black and purple.

Rightly ordered their form,

their disposition was ordained ;

with wise adjustments, 1 openly,

according to their position and their fixed places.

1 It is not clear what the word gUs,gltssib, which occurs fre-
quently in the following passage, means. In mod. Irish, gUas, in
one meaning, is a means or instrument for doing a thing. The verb


The twelve winds,

Easterly and Westerly, Northerly and Southerly,
the King who adjusted them, He holds them back,
He fettered them with seven curbs.

King who bestowed them according to their posts,
around the world with many adjustments,
each two winds of them about a separate curb,
and one curb for the whole of them.

King who arranged them in habitual harmony,
according to their ways, without over-passing their

limits ;

at one time, peaceful was the space,
at another time, tempestuous.


King who didst make clear the measure of the slope 1

from the earth to the firmament,

estimating it, clear the amount,

along with the thickness of the earth-mass.

He set the course of the seven Stars 2
from the firmament to the earth,
Saturn, Jupiter, Mercury, Mars,
Sol, Venus, the very great moon.

lt to harness." It seems to have some such meaning
here. The winds were apparently harnessed, curbed, or fettered
two and two, the whole being held together in one fetter. In
another sense gldas means " harmony."
1 Or " track." 2 /. ft t h e Planets.


King who numbered, kingly the space,
from the earth to the moon ;
twenty-six miles with a hundred miles,
they measure them in full amount.

This is that cold air
circulating in its aerial series (?)
which is called , . . with certainty
the pleasant, delightful heaven.

The distance from the moon to the sun

King who measured clearly, with absolute certainty,

two hundred miles, great the sway,

with twelve and forty miles.

This is that upper ethereal region,
without breeze, without greatly moving air, 1
which is called, without incoherence,
the heaven of the wondrous ether.

Three times as much, the difference is not clear (?)

between the firmament and the sun,

He has given to calculators ; 2

my King star-mighty ! most true is this !

This is the perfect Olympus,

motionless, immovable,

(according to the opinion of the ancient sages)

which is called the Third Holy Heaven.

Twelve miles, bright boundary,
with ten times five hundred miles,
splendid the star-run course, separately
from the firmament to the earth.

The measure of the space
from the earth to the firmament,
it is the measure of the difference
from the firmament to heaven.

Twenty-four miles
with thirty hundred miles
is the distance to heaven,
besides the firmament.

The measure of the whole space
from the earth to the Kingly abode,
is equal to that from the rigid earth
down to the depths of hell.

King of each Sovereign lord, vehement, ardent,
who of His own force set going the firmament
as it seemed secure to Him over every space,
He shaped them from the formless mass.