Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Official Poetry: Ireland.

This is a section of the praise poem by arch ollamh and Ard Ollamh Eireann Gofraidh Fionn Ó Dálaigh, (Godfrey Finn O'Daly) when in service of the Earls of Desmond, composed in honour of Maurice Fitz Maurice Fitzgerald (Muiris Óg) second Earl of Desmond, and addressed to Edward III, at whose court the heir of Maurice, his son Maurice Óg was spending time learning the ways of an English aristocrat serving his king in Ireland.

Edwardian Old Irish expert and the poem's translator - Osborn Bergin - has dated the poem to between 1356 when the first earl - Maurice Fitz Thomas Fitzgerald - died and Maurice Óg succeeded him; and 1358, when the second earl Maurice Óg drowned crossing the Irish sea.

Maurice Jr. was succeeded by his younger brother, Gearóid Iarla, Gerald Fitzgerald Desmond the Poet earl, who had a bit more luck in the hot seat, spending forty years in Limerick before snuffing out in 1398. Gerald's most famous poem is "Mairg adeir olc ris na mnáibh" ("Speak not ill of womenkind"). Legend has it he was a shapeshifter and got hitched in a diabolical union with the Tuatha Dé Danann and Munster earth goddess, Áine.

A throwback to the iron age practice, when the Kings of Munster married the sod itself. What truth there is in this, we can only speculate, but certainly he was the first of the Hiberno-Norman aristocracy to become a fully qualified Gaelic literary Filí poet.

Indeed The Fitzgeralds of Desmond "Deas Mhumhain" - South Munster - were the immigrants who went most native with most gusto, and whom the phrase Hiberniores Hibernis ipsis - "more Irish than the Irish themselves" - sprung up around. Though this 350 year old dynasty rent apart in the Desmond Rebellions which kicked off the Tudor holocaust.


Áine was a granddaughter of Manannán mac Lir, the pyschopomp sea god and son of Lir, the oldest deity in Irish myth and ruler of the waves himself. And behind Lir therefore, a void of knowing. But we know the myth that sprung up around Gerald is that he sleeps beneath the horse shoe shaped Lough Gur, at the foot of Knockadoon Hill in county Limerick, and that one day he will return on a silver shod steed, to "save Ireland."

And as my name is Desmond, i can dream it is me who has returned, the reincarnation of Gerald. Indeed Dermot Desmond would be the perfect patron for one such as I, his personal family bard for a modest retainer, a Caribbean hideaway perhaps, and a simple castle in which to entertain my fellow social-media board citizens, for a modest contribution of mental awareness and spiritual support for the Save Tara campaign perhaps..

And water features prominently with this family, as his own son and successor John Fitzgerald, the fourth earl, lasted only a year before drowning, according to the rolls, in Bel-atha-an-droiched, a place google gives no return for. A 2000 year language, lost, yet the poetic knowledge, there still, on the pages time forgot, in black and white for all and any who are interested and have the thirst and focus to take it on.

Gofraidh Fionn Ó Dálaigh, died in 1387 and he too knew the weight of tragedy, losing his own son, and writing a poem expressing his grief in bereavement for his child, which appears in the seminal introductory lecture forwarding the book from which this text is taken. Irish Bardic Poetry: Texts And Translations, first published 1970 and with 66 poems residing between the pages.

The section below is is the middle section, in which Ó Dálaigh likens Maurice to Lugh, the Tuatha Dé Danann god who was the son of Tuatha Dé Dannan father Cian and Formorian mother Ethniu (Enya), daughter of Balor a pirate-raider whose stronghold was Tory island off the coast of Donegal, who kept her locked in a tower after a druidic prophecy that he would die at the hands of his grandson.

Needless to say a long tale of his birth involving shenanigans with a stolen cow and Cian disguised and helped by the female druid Birog, dressed as a women, tricked his way in to the tower and got jiggy with Enya, who had seen no man except the one in her dreams, who was Cian, naturally, this being a completely mythical tale.

And when she gave birth, to triplets, Balor ordered they be slung in the sea, but Lugh was saved by Birog and given to Manannan mac Lir, who passed him on to be reared by his foster mother Tailtiu, final queen of the Fir Bolg, a Connacht based outfit of gods and goddesses. And when it was time for him to become the star, as written in his "dán", another name for Art and poetry, which carried a much deeper connotational valency, with a meaning of "fate"; Lugh went to Tara, where he is turned away as the door is closed for the night and cannot be opened till daylight.

The doorkeeper says he can't come in, as they have "a man of your art" in there, and so Lugh reels off a list of what he can do, the various arts and skill-crafts he has. Still no dice, until he asks, if any of the Tuatha De Dannan flock inside the walls of Tara, possess all the arts he has claimed to have, and with that, jumps over the walls, thus negating the need for the door to be opened.

Basically, he was not going to be turned away, as he was the best and knew it. It was his "Dán" his poetry/fate, written in the stars, same as Balor's dán/poetry fate, that he die at the hand of his grandson. And it was Hubris that got Balor done, coz he stole the cow from Cian in the first place, the reason he was on Tory island dressed as a women in the first place. So if Balor had not been so greedy and covetous, he would not have written his own fate in this way.

And this tale The Coming Of Lugh To Tara, is precised down by Ó Dálaigh and we see in the line

"The like of Maurice, who exalted bards, was Lugh Longhand"

The stock trick, of likening the subject of the praise to the gods. This particular Earl was not noted for anything so deserving of such extravagant praise, but that was by the by. The job of the poet in Gaelic culture was a universe away from what the job of a poet is today, as they were linked to the druids and had been around for 2000 years by the time the Tudor monarchy pro-actively rent the island and all life on it apart.

Cromwell of course being the antichrist figure. The man who believed he was some kind of messianic instrument - as his insane scribblings demonstrate - and thus a policy of total scorched earth and famine - Cromwell believed - should and was visited upon the Irish, as the will of what terrible God his poor deluded brain conjured during his lunacy, commanding him to slaughter these gaelic sinners, speaking a language he did not understand and wished to, only destroy.

But this was still 250 years away, and Ó Dálaigh was a cut above the average arch Ollamh, one of the top three to have ever practiced in the whole 1200 years.


It was no marvel that he did good, so excellent
was his training. No marvel men envied his fortune

so great was his gaiety. A merry tale will be found
with the skillful youth; so tall and bright, elegant

and white-footed; this leader of the fair host who
excelled in understanding, comeliness and success.

Who - in short - won all the varied excellences
with the excellence of his sweetness of voice.

His prize for valour, his prize for wisdom, for beauty
or generosity, were not granted to any heir of his age.

Strength in luck, luck with success, a modest heart,
understanding to keep him, curling tresses he had

gotten. When he was injured, the sod that
chanced to be under his white foot, certified it to be

the handsome brown haired prince. The planets

declared it to his curling hair.


The like of Maurice, who exalted bards, was Lugh
Longhand; equally great in knowledge was this

valiant compeer equal in sway. At the age of
Maurice, the earl's son, he delivered Banbha,

when he, the mighty tree of Bladhma, defeated
the race of the Formorians. At Eamhain in the east,

Lugh the darling of Tara beheld Tara - Rampart
of Té - when he reached it after searching the whole

earth. Lugh, champion of our choice, finds the door
closed: he goes to the smooth even-surfaced wall;

he strikes the knocker. "Where have you come from"
The doorkeeper said

"O young red-cheeked man; tall, smooth, strong
and bright?"

Answered Lugh, who sought nor shirked no fight
"I am a poet from Eamhain, of the Apple trees,

of swans and yew trees."

"It is not lawful for you" said the doorkeeper,
"to come to our good house. There is a man

of your art in our stronghold, bright and ruddy one.
The House of Miodhchuairt belongs at this time

to the sons of Ethliu; we must tell of the qualities
of the fair curved house. One of the qualities of the

House of Miodhchuairt, whose borders are smooth,
is that two of one craft are not admitted, fair

and furious one. So many are the arts
of the Tuatha Dé Dannan, bestowers of cloaks,

that you must bring to them an art they do not know."

"Among my arts - conceal it not to the company
beyond the gate - is leaping on a bubble without

breaking it. Go recount that. Snámh ós éttreóir,
arrying a vat on the ridges of the elbows;

these two arts are in my power; go declare it. Ask
whether there is one of the vigorous throng

that can outrun any steed on the fair soft green,
we promise a race. What i recount is here as an

extra beyond them, and in their own arts, none
is so expert as I: I speak not in anger."

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