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THE FIRST LAWCASE

According to Leabhar Gabhla, the second invasion of Ireland, after the Flood, was by Partholan, whose wife’s behaviour anticipates the freedom of the Brehon Laws.

Partholan went out one day
To tour his wide spread lands;
Leaving his wife and servant,
Both bound by his commands.

Long they waited in his house,
Until the lady, feeling desperate—
A state before unheard of—
Propositioned the pure servant.

Rightly he ignored her,
Stubborn against temptation,
Until she removed her clothes:
Strange work for a decent woman!

Then, so frail is humanity,
Topa rose, long limbed,
And joined the lovely Delgnat,
Lonely upon her couch.

Wise Partholan possessed
A vat of ale, cool and sweet,
From which none might drink
Save through a golden spigot.

Thirsty after their actions,
Topa and Delgnat, truth to tell,
Leaped from bed so urgently
Their mouths met on the barrel.

When Partholan returned
From wandering his wide fields
A surly black demon revealed
The stains on the golden tube.

‘Look, the track of the mouth
Of Topa, as low down as this,
And beside it, the smear left
By married Delgnat’s kiss!’

Whereupon his wife replied:
‘Surely the right to complain
Is mine, innocently left
To confront another man.

Honey with a woman, milk with a cat,
A sharp tool with a craftsman,
Goods with a child or spendthrift:
Never couple things like that.

The woman will eat the honey,
The cat lap the new milk,
While the child destroys the things
Not bestowed by the spendthrift.

The craftsman will use the tool,
Because one and one make two:
So never leave your belongings
Long unguarded, without you.

That is the first adultery
To be heard of in Ireland;
Likewise the first lawcase:
The right of his wife against Partholan.

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