Monday, March 21, 2016

The Three Requirements of a Poet

When I was first in Ireland, 2004-10 was spent banging my head on all the mythology, and the site of the stone idol of Crom Cruach got mentioned in an unfinished/abandoned poem on the final O'Neill Mór, and second earl, Hugh O'Neill, Earl of Tyrone.

Magh Slécht, the 'plain of prostrations', is in Cavan. Named after the act of lying prostrate in front of the stone idol of Crom Cruach, and where there was human sacrifice going on until Patrick put a stop to it.

his tribe in tatters on a Plain of Prostrations
facing the presence of the Lord, he surrendered

in one short celestial act of ineffable burlesque
tragic slap-stick on a stone floor, where he found

his island wholly ghost, mimed his submission
at history’s pointed tip.

Patrick is also reputed in various texts to have condemned the spontaneous druidic compositional practice of Imbas forosnai, 'inspired illumination', and one of its two sub-strands, Tenm láida, 'illumination of song'. In Whitley Stokes translation of the Life, Patrick declares 'that no one who shall do that shall belong to heaven or earth, for it is a denial of baptism.'

Two of the three highest compositional poetic forms similar to the Frostean notion of a poem 'beginning in delight and ending in wisdom'. Not knowing what is going to happen on the page until - at its best - the poem is spontaneously written; and with the author merely a stenographer of the spirit in letters and Ogma's plaything.

The other sub-strand "Dichetal do chennaib, extempore incantation, however, that was left, in right of art, for it is science that causes it, and no offering to devils is necessary, but a declaration from the ends of his bones at once."

All three were introduced in a technical capacity to the Filidh poets on the eighth year of their twelve year poet-training curriculum, that in the English translation of Rudolf Thurneysen's German translation of an 8C monastic classic, “Mittelirische Verslehren.” In Irische Texte, are cited by Joseph Nagy, in his 1986 Overview of Orality in Medieval Irish Narrative, as "the “wisdom-tokens” of the Fili:

... that is, the elements of language, the clethchor choem (“fair palisade,” a type of poem and/or meter), the reicne roscadach (“poetic rhapsody,” another metrical genre), and laíde (a third type); that is, the teinm laída (“chewing of the pith”), imbas forosnai (“great wisdom that enlightens”), and díchetal do chennaib na tuaithe (“incantation from heads of the tribe”)".

John Carey makes an absorbing case for Patrick not having banned the apical practice of Imbas Forosnai and its Tenm láida sub-strand, in a (by Irish poetry standards) recent Ériu article, The Three Things Required of a Poet, vol. 48 (1997), pp. 41-58, that in Irish poetry are traditionally cited as being Imbas forosnai, tenm láida, and
dichetal do chennaib.

Citing Pádraig Breatnach's 'discussion of Macgnímartha Find as whole', and using as theoretical footings the original wording in the 8C Uraicecht Becc, 'Small Primer' legal tract defining the many strictly divided grades of social class and the associated lóg n-enech - honour-price - of each grade of person in the civil law - literally 'face-price' - the price damages were calculated in suits when you 'lost face' in the legal process; Carey builds a compelling case that the Patrician banning of the highest form of druidic practice and one of its sub-strands, were a later interpolation by early Medieval clerics seeking to make everything pious, holy and sacred. The David Ickes of their day.

Which I would agree with; should a discussion on the pointless and all but forgotten pages, places and purposes of the earliest native poetic order of these brilliant British and Oiwish oyls ootbwake or awise, ye 'unna.

And one of the joys of writing to learn is the unexpected results, finding new contributions in the discussion. The Nemed, Uraicecht Becc and early Irish Governance, Sydney University 2013. Julianna Grigg.

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