Thursday, June 28, 2007

Horror anyone?

Some ancient Irish verse is founded on horror. Warbands of sworn foe slaying one another, slaughtering left right and centre, in the cause of their honour. Composed when bronze and iron-age blinding practice was a routine method to eliminate kingly competitors.

But most of what i've read gives only the broad brush of it, none of the close up stuff. That is the job of the prose in early Irish literature, for - as Kuno Meyer wrote:

"There are no ancient Irish epics or ballads. So much was prose the natural vehicle of expression for Gaelic narrative...Irish tales and stories are interpsersed with lyrics put into the mouth of the principal heroes... "

The things one learnt from Kuno Meyer were a poetical stir of phantom and the whispy invisible guest, a gost aflame on the spiralling tread of a curlicue stair, hurl of breath, thwack of sliothar and if nowt else; that there, is.


A 1913 Kuno Meyer translation of a 9C poem from the early middle-irish period: Reicne Fothaid Chanainne: The Tryst After Death, creatively casting a mythical figure from 700 years before - Fothad: leader of a Connacta war-band - as a ghost meeting his lover the night after being slain by her husband, king of Munster, Alill, unhappy his betrothed had eloped with his foe.

Then we exchanged spears, I and Alill, Eoghan's
We both perished -- O the fierceness of those stout
We fell by each other - though it was senseless
it was the encounter of two heroes.

Do not await the terror of night upon the battle-
field among the slain warriors:
One should not hold converse with ghosts!
My five edged spear a murderous lance, whose
slaughters have been many;
A shield with five circles and a boss of bronze, by
which they used to swear binding oaths
There are a lot of good, original word-combo gems in amongst the hay of aul lingo, great influence to understand, as it leads to understanding Yeats, who is one of the few credible links between the quad of romantic-modernism-post-modernity and po-mo.

Ancient Irish Poetry: Kuno Meyer: 1913: Constable - London.

Some of Meyer's vast ouevre is Here

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