Hi Tuar Ceatha,
You're welcome. I'm not familiar with Leahy's translation but I think in the case of glas he's mistaken or interpreting too literally in modern usage of glas as green, which is out of context with the object to which it refers; and indeed the text itself in LU (Lebor na hUidre) doesn't mention anything even about "green edges" * or "whetted" - at least not the piece I identified as being most likely to correspond to your quoted lines - but if I'm mistaken in my correspondence then maybe there's evidence for it elsewhere, however I spent a good 4 hours on the text earlier today after reading your mail and I went through most of it and I didn't find a quote to match exactly Leahy'd translation. If I missed something I'd be happy to be corrected.
[*re: edges - there is mention of 'edge' (rim) of a shield (I think referencing CúChulainn's sheild in the paragraph quoting "co m-bil fhindruinni" - "with a rim of whitebronze") in a preceding paragraph, but not in the lines referring to the knives which they women hold].
If you want to post the lines before and after the "green knives ..whetted.." bit of Leahy's /Matthews' translation so we are sure about which piece of text he's translating, feel free. If I can see more info then I can check if it's indeed the piece I cited and translated in my post above.
I think you made a very good thesis as to a possible interpretation of what a 'green knife' could mean if indeed that was meant. As you suggest idiomatically 'green' could indicate newness, freshness or an actual colour green - like that of weathered copper; but I think the translation to green is 'faulty' in the first instance as it's a more modern translation of glas as green, rather than one inkeeping with how glas
is used in earlier language where it's context dependent; such that 'grey' or something more akin to the hue of the metal should have been used. It's not so much my take on it but a general convention where glas in older material has an ambigious quality of colour ranging between blue-grey-green or even 'pale' in some circumstances, the translation of which depends on what is being referred to in the text.
The best rule of thumb when referencing glas is:
(i) For things that are growing - trees, plants etc, translate as green. eg. Glas nenta (nettle green); glascholl (green hazel) etc.
(ii) For the sea and eyecolour, glas refers to a range of blue-green or grey. eg. "itir glas muir ocus tír" (Ref. Imram Brain - the voygage of Bran i.25. section 53 'between the blue sea and the land'), "rosc glas" (Ref Táin Bó Cúailnge.l.206)
(iii) For metal, it's usually used in the sense of grey and the shining lustre of metal
eg. 'do chainnlig na nglas gae" ref. Ériu iv 2 (The lustre of the grey spear); glas-ghall "grey foreigners" (refers to the vikings with metal armour Ériu i.88.35), taitneam..na glaslúirech (the shining of the grey breastplate armour) - citations in DIL compact edition section 95 Glas.; and the line to which we refer: co scenaib glasgéraib ina n-deslámaib 'with sharp grey knives in their right hands" (if looking up these words in the Old Irish dictionary you have to bring them back to nominative case as they are all in a series of dative Old Irish inflections ie. nominative scían, glas, gér, lám - the -ib/aib endings are dative plurals)
(iv) For woad, 'Glaisen' it refers to a blue-grey colour and likewise to the eye-tattoos mentioned in various texts and seen in illuminated manuscripts where there are pictures of monks/saints/pilgrims wearing the eye-tattoo.'Glas ar na roscaib'.
(v) For complexions and animal colour, it's usually used in the sense of grey skin, pallor, wan eg. Baile Suibne 11.23 "glas mo ghruad" (my grey/wan cheeks), glas-chullach and graig gabor nglas (both referring to a grey stallion, the latter earlier in text of Serglige Con Culaind, in or around lines 610-630...in the section describing Cú Culainn I think)
(vi) Also in religious context it is used in the sense of a type of martyrdom "Glasmatre" "green martyrdom" which is between the states of bloody martyrdom (Dercmartre) and white martyrdom (bánmatre) which entails fasting and prayers if memory serves - green being the giving up of earthly desires and will, or such (from the Cambrai Homily, circa 7th C AD).
I understand very well what you mean about lack of source info in many translations in books today. For reference the following are really useful:CELT project website http://www.ucc.ie/celt
- for accurate transcriptions of many ancient Irish tales in Old or Middle Irish.
If you go to the "Captured" tab, you see all the manuscripts and books entered to date
If you select "published" you can see whether there are both original Irish language and English translations of texts and view as HTML or alternative.ISOS (Irish Script on Screen)
Manuscript archive for several collections (if you're not familiar with this I think I posted a link to it and instructions elsewhere in this forum), but basically you just enter it, select from the collections listed and choose the manuscript you wish to see, then scroll through the folios. There are no translations, it's a viewing archive only but a wonderful means of getting access to manuscripts that are in private collections or library archives, not on general display.
I use the Thesaurus Palaeohibernicus (Stokes and Strachan, 1901 and supplement in 1903 0r 1910 I think) if I want to cross-reference Irish/Latin information that appears in canonical texts, etc.
I use Dictionary of the Irish Language (DIL) of which there is an eDIL but I can't always get it to work, to cross-check words. Source info for a given quote is usually provided in there but translations are not always provided so to make use of the DIL you really need to have a grounding in Old Irish in order to know the variant forms of words, cases or make a guess at underlying verbs where not obvious. I'm very much a learner that way myself.
Hopefully the above is useful to you. It's nice to correspond with someone interested in these texts! they are fascinating and worthy on so many levels aren't they? for the beauty of the tales and language, the intricacy of expression and the technicality of the language too, but most of all I think, for the window they give into early Irish society and that which can corroborate classical accounts of celtic society in Gaul and Britain. Fascinating stuff!
le dea ghuí,