A form of Old Irish poetry, the roscad is notable for being highly mannered, complex in structure, short in meter and length, and as a consequence extremely difficult to translate. Like all Irish metrics of real antiquity, it lacks rhyme. The most obvious feature of the roscad is perhaps that it is a dimeter; that is, that it has two verse feet per line, which may be contrasted with the typical* English poem's five. However, even a cursory glance (at, for instance, the example below) will show that there is a lot of assonance and alliteration &c. going on in those few words. One pattern which is of particular note is the inter-line alliteration between the last word of each line and the first word of the next: this is otherwise unheard of in ancient poetry, to my knowledge, and as such, a strong characteristic of the roscad form. There is a proper scholarly term for the phenomenon, but my book of Old Irish verse might as well be on the Moon for all I can reach it at the moment, so you will have to make do with logorrhea in its place.

In the manuscripts, the occurrence of roscad in a story is usually preceded by a marginal notation of .R., often accompanied by Dixit [character]:, for which reason the mode was also formerly known as rétoiric, a long-standing misinterpretation of the marginalium based on its perceived content. The word roscad itself means »utterance« or »pronouncement«; it was also applied to the aphorisms by means of which the Brehon Law was transmitted. It carries connotations of figurativity, and as such, is probably applied to the verse because of its strongly similar and metonymic content.

The finest example that I know is this mutual salute between Conall Cernach and Cet mac Mágach in the Scéla Mucce Meic Dathó *:

  »In fír, a Cheit«, ol Conall,
»tusso do rainn na-mmuicce?«
  »Is it true, Cet«, said Conall,
»that you're carving the pig?«
  Is and as-bert Cet:   To this Cet replied:
Fochen Conall,
cride licce,
londbruth loga,
luchair ega,
guss flann ferge
fo chích curad,
créchtaig cathbúadaig:
At comsa mac Findchoíme frim.
  Hail Conall,
heart of stone,
ferocious fire,
gleam of ice,
strength of red rage
in hero's chest,
wounder, war-victor:
I see Findchoem's son before me.
  Et dixit Conall:   And Conall said:
Fochen Cet,
Cet mac Mágach,
magen curad,
cride n-ega,
ethre n-ela,
err trén tressa,
trethan ágach,
caín tarb tnúthach:
Cet mac Mágach.
  Hail Cet,
Cet mac Mágach,
home of a hero,
heart of ice,
storm raging,
fine fierce bull:
Cet mac Mágach.

Note that this translation is firstly my own, and secondly, woefully inadequate in about five different ways, notably by going for some sort of literality and metric fidelity instead of preserving the alliteration. (Combining these things would be a Herculean task.)

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