Friday, July 17, 2015

Three of Amergin's four poems explained.

In the mythological history of Ireland, Amergin, from Amhairghin - which Ireland's most prolific Irish language poet, Gabriel Rosenstock, in his book, Beginner's Irish, defines as: 'born of song' - is the druid poet of the seventh and final otherworldly race of people that took possession of the island. The Milesians, or Sons of Mil Espaine. He is the last of the otherworldly poets of ancient myth and considered the founding poet of the modern day Gaels.

The annals accord to Amergin's voice, 172 lines of poetry, spread over four texts.

His most well known of these lines is a twenty line riddling poem and 7C text written in the drudic form of 'rosc', Song of Amergin/Duan Amhairghine.

It is considered to be the oldest and first poem written in Ireland, and the one Amergin text of the four that Irish poets know of and give themselves license to sound lala about when responding to.

Aul Plumdoon Paul Muldoon himself spends an entire Oxford Poetry Professor lecture allusively punning on it in a speculative experimental discourse, that, if any of us had written and published on social media, it would, perhaps, as recently happened to me, have garnered what Amergin calls in a different, and longest of the four texts: 'the abundance of goading one receives when they take up the prosperity of bardcraft.'

The coming of the Milesians is dated in the the early 17C Annals of the Four Masters, as 1286/7 BC.

And in 1700 BC, in Seathrún Céitinn/Geoffrey Keating's: Foras Feasa ar Éirinn/Foundation of Knowledge on Ireland; more usually translated History of Ireland.

Whilst the 17C Galway noble Ruaidhrí Ó Flaithbheartaigh/Roderic O'Flaherty, in his own history of Ireland, puts the date at 1000 BC.

In the pseudohistorical High Kings list of Ireland, believed to be a construct of the eighth century AD; the first Milesian king comes after eight Fir Bolg, and seven Tuatha De Danann high kings.


As already stated, the annals accord to this mythical figure, Amergin, 172 lines of poetry spread over four texts.

Three of the texts (poems 7, 8 & 9 at the link) are virtually impenetrable riddling poems of the most metrically ancient 'rosc' variety. Old alliterative druidic blessing and battle-magic spells written in the most archaic 3-/5C Goidelic text, originating in the very first Irish letters, Ogham. A singularly interesting two to three hundred year reality that represents the transition period from oral druidry to literate bardic Old Irish letters of the 5C.

In the Medieval prose narratives these are the most metrically ancient alliterative verses, that are set apart from the prose, punctuating it as direct speech from the mythological poets' mouths. And signifying by the verse that what is being spoken is the most profoundly antique and eloquent words, that come out from the mouths of the numerous poet-characters, as spontaneously spoken poems - at the most significant parts of the tales they appear in.

Of which we have one hundred and ninety-eight remaining primary tales, of the 250 prim-scéla 'primary tales' we know where the number taught, and learned by rote and heart, and that made up a very large part of the Gaelic poet's education, on the seven step, twelve to fourteen year, bardic filidh poet-training curriculum.

When metrical poems are recorded directly from the mouths of the character, they are usually serving the purpose of changing the narrative entirely by means of spoken magic.

However, the fourth of Amergin's four pieces, appears in the Trinity College Dublin manuscript 1337 (formerly H 3.18); and though it is untitled, it is the most important, by far, imo, of the four texts traditionally attributed to the founding poet of the Gaels. And it is a very different, far less densely riddled poetic text.

That the student poet at grade one, foclo, was, I suspect, introduced to during their first Halloween to May Day semester, in the poet-training schools, that taught the art and trade of fíliocht / poetry - in one form or another (fíliocht originated in druidry, then evolved into literate bardic, before filidh 'poets' practice) - for twelve hundred years; to forty generations of poets.

The untitled text (link to Eryn Rowan Laurie's most recent scholarly translation.), that has no title, I suspect, because it didn't need one, as everyone knew it; is a mixture of short alliterative-lines of rosc, and longer lines of hybrid prose-poetry. It spells out in black and white the earliest verbal druidic ars poetica. The purest bardic voice on record, telling the reader exactly what poetry is, and how it works in a person, 'body and soul'.

It is an extremely fascinating document that very few readers, and even less poets, are aware exists. Because it was only first translated in 1979, by the late (2011) Professor Emeritus, N.U.I. Galway, Patrick L. Henry.

Who birthed it into English as the subject of a specialist scholarly article in Studia Celtica #14/15, 1979/1980, pp. 114-128, 'The Cauldron of Poesy'.

The second translation was by co-editor of the annual Royal Irish Academy journal Ériu, and Ireland's preeminent Old Irish expert on Early Irish law texts, poets, poetry and metrics; School of Celtic Studies, Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, Professor Liam Breathnach.'The Cauldron of Poesy,' Ériu #32, 1981, pp. 45-93.

In my opinion this ancient rosc and prose-poem text is a/the holy grail of (Irish) poetry. Clearly detailing the most brilliantly simple yet also most authentic and most ancient poetic we have with which to understand what it is we are doing in letters. That only a handful of people have ever read.


Amergin's first (and his most famous) poem, Song of Amergin, is commonly accepted as the earliest Irish poem ever written, in the 6/7C AD.

It is twenty lines, that in the tale it appears in, The Coming of the Miliseans, Amergin spontaneously recites as he steps off - with his eight brothers and a large group of warriors - one of the thirty-six Milesian ships that arrived and set anchor in Kerry, at the mouth of the Kenmare river, around Beltaine/The first of May.

We're told, in an eleventh century Clonmacnoise annal, Chronicon Scotorum: 'On Thursday, the Kalends of May, on the l7th of the Moon'; 'the Year of the World 3500'.

There to face-off with the Tuatha De Danann, for killing their uncle, Ith, whose death at the hands of the De Danann occured after he'd spied the island with Mil his brother, from the Bregon tower in Northern Spain, and had gone to the island on a reconnaissance mission with a handful of relatives and retainers. Ith's enthusiasm for what he found on the island concerned the De Danann as a threat to their own possession of it and so they killed him rather then let him leave and possibly come back with an invasion force.

The Tuatha De Danann had been in possession of the island for three hundred years, after seizing it themselves in the two Battles of Moytura/Magh Tuireadh, 'plain of pillars'. Keating dating their arrival to 1477 BC, and the Four Masters dating it 1897 BC.

The First battle of Moytura was in Cong, Mayo, when they defeated the Fir Bolg, and the Second Battle of Moytura was by Lough Arrow, in Sligo, when the Formorians were vanquished.


The act of speaking this ancient alliterative riddling poem, Song of Amergin, that there's is no agreed set translated text of (tho there are numerous translated versions by various Celticists and poets) is traditionally interpreted as 'born of song', Amergin himself, as he steps ashore, claiming and taking possession of the island for this seventh and final mythological race.

That forty generations of poets traced their own existence to and wrote of for 1200 years in their own literate vernacular language.

And immediately after Amergin speaks aloud his most famous Song, our mythical druid then spontaneously recites the second of the texts attributed to him.

A short eleven line poem-blessing titled, Bríocht Baile Fharraige/Bounty of the Ocean (poem number nine at the link.).

After this blessing poem the eight Milisean brothers and their forces wade ashore. Where they briefly skirmish with Tuatha De Danann forces in the Slieve Mish mountains as they make their way to Tara.

At which point in the narrative they parlay with the De Danann chiefs, and with Amergin the mediator-poet negotiating between the two sides a battle plan is agreed by both the mythological races. The events at which become the next part in the tale, The Coming of the Milesians.

It is agreed that the Milesians will return from the middle of the island to their ships, and set sail over nine waves out. Then, if they can make it back ashore, the island is there's to fight the Tuatha De Danann for the possession of. 

However, a trick up their sleeves, the De Danann druids magically speak some roscanna (rosc pl.) to conjure up a storm that sinks five of the Milisean ships; that triggers the third of Amergin's texts, a twenty-one alliteratively lined rosc poem titled, Invocation of Ireland (Professor Eoin MacNeill's 1922 translation), that is spoken as the druidic counter-spell spontaneously recited by Amergin onboard one of the surviving three ships the storm does not sink. And that beats the magic of the De Danann druids and quells the storm.

The three surviving brothers; Amergin, Eber and Eremon, make it ashore and then take the island when they beat the Tuatha in battle three days later, in the Battle of Tailtin, modern day Teltown between Navan and Kells in Meath.

After which Amergin, in his mediator-poet-judge-druid role, divides the island between his two surviving brothers, Eremon taking the North and Eber the South.

There's a dedicatory poem written by Padraic Colum, which prefaces one of his editorial masterworks, Anthology of Irish Verse (1922), that recounts this incident.

To George Sigerson, Poet and Scholar

Two men of art, they say, were with the sons   
Of Milé,—a poet and a harp player,   
When Milé, having taken Ireland, left   
The land to his sons’ rule; the poet was   
Cir, and fair Cendfind was the harp player.          

The sons of Milé for the kingship fought—   
(Blithely, with merry sounds, the old poem says)   
Eber and Eremon, the sons of Milé   
And when division of the land was made   
They drew a lot for the two men of art.           

With Eber who had won the Northern half   
The Harper Cendfind went, and with Eremon   
The Northerner, Cir the poet stayed;   
And so, the old Book of the Conquests says,   
The South has music and the North has lore.           

To you who are both of the North and South,   
To you who have the music and the lore,   
To you in whom Cir and Cendfind are met,   
To you I bring the tale of poetry   
Left by the sons of Eber and of Eremon.           

  A leabhráin, gabh amach fá’n saoghal,   
  Is do gach n-aon dá mbuaileann leat   
  Aithris cruinn go maireann Gaedhil,   
  T’réis cleasa claon nan Gall ar fad.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Mel Bradley poem, The God of my World.

Originally a comment on Derry poet Mel Bradley's facebook.

Lovely poem there, Mel.

There was an interesting article in 2008 by a New York rabbi and Torah bible scholar, Mark Sameth, who spent 20 years study on the appearance of the Tetragrammaton in the Torah. The Hebrew theonym יהוה, commonly transliterated into Latin letters as YHWH, most commonly pronounced as Yahweh and Jehovah. Strict conservative Jewish traditionalists 'avoid reading it as יהוה exactly as it is spelled, either aloud or to themselves in silence, nor do they read aloud transliterated English forms such as Jehovah or Yahweh.

Instead the word and pronunciation is replaced with a different term, whether used to address or to refer to the God of Israel. Commonly substituted Hebrew forms are: hakadosh baruch hu “The Blessed Holy One” or Adonai “The Lord” or Hashem “The Name”. Such terms are believed to equally refer to the same as One as יהוה or Jehovah, in much the same way that the English terms “God”, “LORD” or the “Creator” are used to refer to the God of Israel.' (wiki)

There is no agreement on the etymological root of the Tetragrammaton, tho there's a school of thought that it comes from a triconsonantal root היה (h-y-h), a verb meaning "to be", "exist", "become", or "come to pass".

Sameth's own conclusion of his twenty year textual investigation appears in an article in the summer 2008 issue of the CCAR Journal, published by the Central Conference of American Rabbis, an association of Reform rabbis: "Who is He? He is She: The Secret Four-Letter Name of God"

He theorises that a basic druidic ogham trick is behind cracking this literate mystery, because when the Tetragrammaton is read in reverse and the four letters are flipped, the sounds become, he says, the Hebrew words for "he" and "she." So, God, is not He, Lord, etc, but He/She.

When I read Sameth's conclusion of a life long study into God, i independently had come to the same conclusion, by a different route of study. I'd been four years post-graduate, independently studying the voluminous mass of textual material that made up the bardic filidh poet-training curriculum; all in Irish, and relying on English translations, that only since the turn of the 21C it's been possible to access, all virtually. The source material i was reading, all in Irish manuscript; was pointing to the exact same thing. That God is a gender-neutral spirit, and within us all as our disembodied mind and intelligence, that in everyone, regardless of our gender, is the wholly spiritual s/he Sameth theorises he found in the Torah.

That is hidden and visible only to initiates with knowledge of a druidic trick taught to forty generations of poets in Ireland, as the very founding concept of their trade. And that they were introduced to as a newly arrived grade/level one trainee-poet, foclo (word-weaving beginner) - starting their first Samhain to Beltaine semester in the singing schools of yore. With a further six grades to go on the twelve to fourteen years of study ahead of them, before they graduated, at the seventh and final ollamh grade, and took their place as a Doctor of Poetry in the Gaelic literary tradition. (5-17C).

Robert Graves also concluded after a lifetime of deep study of Myth, and writing hundreds of books, that what he calls the 'unimprovable original' Stone Age poetic was gender-neutral. And it was only with the Greek Iron Age Appollonian falsifying of the previous more Maternal s/he religion, that all the 'God is solely male' nonsense took hold, and really made its mark with the spread of the Roman empire. Because it was grafted and forced onto the stable and peaceable s/he religion, that was a couple of thousand years old when the Mediterranean Levant civilisations began seven centuries of mass implosion and collapse, after the Minoan eruption of the island of Thera, (now called Santorini) around 1500 BC. The new deathly man-cult spread by the new Iron technology, that represented a scientific quantum leap at the time.

The new Man is God religion was spread in much the same way the deluded murderous morons of Daesh are doing now. 'Bow down and devote every waking second of your life to what our He god commands you do in life, that is the one God, or it is His will you be horrifically tortured and murdered as a non-believer, by His earthly good guys' engaged in all the genocide and proselytizing about this wholly bullshit Male God and Creator. All for the purpose of legitimizing as being divinely approved of, their acts of pedophilia, mass-murder, rape, torture and terror that is the Male death cult. What Graves calls intellectual homosexuality. The elevation and worshiping of a solely Male deity as Creator of the real world and all us men and women in it. Yeah, right.

Desmond Swords 

Saturday, July 11, 2015

The Cuchulainary Music of Gamblers' Bodies

Learned a poem that will carry its own weight
through the use of its quatrains and stanzas,

on its own feet speak and stand in spoken song;
upon a stave of the Creator's making stage

a strophe of inventively voiced syllables that speak
the contract from lip to ear, in a mouth binding

oaths that pledge this demi-realm of spirit,
slate green sea, by the music of what happens

in its own paradise & mind-blue mystery,
to the oneness that and this, that and this, that

& this, that literate on the pages of our memory is.

An absent anarchic body of light, blind presence,
attentive ear, the eye of tradition and lore

one must listen to and learn the fundamental
tenets of before claiming in canto, section

and rann, movements from cosmic to singular
and back again 'be the branches of genealogy

off-spring are born from, extending to summon
the living'
, in the same line of spoken psalm

carry weight by sound alone; and be not bold,

slapdash, timorous, or touchy, brought not
to ruin by low drunken tricks; but the law-abiding

hand-of-mind form, imbhas forosnai, spontaneous
manifestation of knowledge in a poem carrying

its own weight; created slant, spun & set airborne
by the power of prayerful wings; alone within

and without us - 'taken from the mysteries
of the elemental abyss.'

Desmond Swords


The inspirational source text for this was Miriam Gamble's poem, Bodies, that I saw on the Guardian Poem of the Week Series where I was centred in spontaneous writing during years six to twelve of one's practice founded on the poetic of 'speculative discourse'.

A critically self-reflective poetic picked up during my first three years of writing and studies (2001-4), doing what before the name-change was an Edge Hill joint Writing Studies BA, founded and created by Robert Sheppard at Edge Hill's Linguistically Innovative Poetry School in one's home town of Ormskirk, SW Lancashire, England.  

Cuchulainary is an adjective coined by All Ireland Slam Champion 2013/4, Dublin Coolock poet, John Cummins.