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THE CELTIC PARADIGM IN MODERN IRISH WRITING
An Optional Course for the 1st year students in English
COURSE TUTOR: Dr. Ioana Mohor-Ivan
• • • • familiarizarea studentilor cu particularitatile istorico-culturale ale spatiului irlandez; evidentierea specificului celtic al traditiei literare irlandeze; depistarea traiectului temelor si motivelor literare celtice in literatura irlandeza moderna si contemporana; dezvoltarea deprinderilor cercetare individuala concretizata prin personalizarea informatiei teoretice si modelelor de analiza de text oferite in eseu.
Tipuri si modalitati de activitate didactica:
prelegere teoretica analiza de text discutie eseu.
• • •
• Beginnings in the Celtic world: Celtic society and culture. • Early Irish Literature. The Mythological Cycle. Mythological masks in W.B. Yeats’s early poems. • The Cycle of Ulster. Cuchulain and the Yeatsian theatre. The myth of Deirdre and Naoise in Brian Friel’s plays.
The Cycle of Munster. From Fion to Joyce’s Finnegans Wake. Oisin in
Yeats’s vs. Paul Vincent Carroll’s vision. • The King Cycle of tales. The Madness of Sweeney. The Sweeney figure in Irish literature, from Flann O’Brien to Seamus Heaney.
The Celtic Paradigm in Modern Irish Writing
Chapter 1 - Beginnings in the Celtic World
1.1. Celtic Tribes 1.2. Celtic Society 1.3. Celtic Religion 1.4. Celtic Literature
Long, long ago, beyond the misty space Of twice a thousand years, In Éirinn old there dwelt a mighty race, Taller than Roman spears. Like oaks and towers They had a giant grace, With feet as fleet as deers'... With winds and waves they made their settling-place. ("The Celts", by Thomas d'Arcy McGee)
1.1. Celtic Tribes:
The Celts are a grouping of Indo-European peoples recognized as speaking one or another dialect of a common Celtic language. Correspondingly, the classification of the Celtic peoples takes into consideration the linguistic factor: • Continental Celtic • • • • Insular Celtic – P-Celtic(Brythonic) • • • – • • • Welsh Cornish Breton Irish Gaelic Scottish Gaelic Manx Gaullish (unknown number of dialects) Celto-Iberian Lepontic
The Celtic Paradigm in Modern Irish Writing
in the north of Ireland. known as "Teamhair". In the course of the next centuries. in the east of Ireland. in the south of Ireland. Meath (Mide). a number of historical provinces came into being: a) b) c) d) e) Ulster (Ulaid). the residence of Ireland’s High Kings. was once the ancient seat of power in Ireland – 142 kings are said to have reigned here in prehistoric and historic times. in the west of Ireland. who spread through the whole island..Around 800 B. Leinster (Laigin). Ireland was settled by a Q-Celtic people. the Gaels. with Tara as its capital. In ancient Irish religion and mythology Tara was the sacred place of dwelling for the gods. Saint Patrick is said to have come to Tara to confront the ancient religion of the pagans at its most powerful site. Munster (Mumu). The Celtic Paradigm in Modern Irish Writing 4 . The Hill of Tara. in the middle. Connacht (Connachta).C.
• • The Celtic Paradigm in Modern Irish Writing 5 . birds etc.2.g. Tír-na-n-og). 1. Celtic Religion: The religion of the Celts exhibits the following characteristics: • Pantheism: the Celts believed in the consciousness of all things. while farming was relegated to the plebs. fílí. smiths. Celtic gods and goddesses belong to a particular tribe.3. seanchadh) Plebs: the body of freemen. which is based on kinship relations. led by a king (rí) Familiar: kinship groups form the basis of the tribe Hierarchical (Celtic society is divided into three main classes): – – • • Equites: warrior aristocracy Druides: the learned class (draoi. they could dwell within other creatures and objects (shape-changing) Polytheism: divine organisation mirrors that of the Celtic society. bulls. water.) Metempsychosis: the souls were immortal.1. Cattle-raising was regarded as a superior form of social activity. fish. leeches and small farmers – • Pastoral: the Celts had no towns in the modern understanding of the term. This explains their worship of trees. Celtic Society: The following attributes characteristic of the Celtic social organisation point to the Celts as being an archetypal Indo-European people: • Tribal: the greatest political unit is the tribe (tuath). they could migrate from the human world to the Otherworld (e. stones (Lía Fáil). breitheamb. their hill-forts were of primarily military significance. or the various animal cults (boars.
the tales are collected and incorporated into four main cycles. are transmitted by means of an oral tradition. This oral character of Irish literature is reflected in the division of the whole corpus of early Irish literary texts according to the tale-type to which they belong (as evidenced in their titles): • • Togla (destructions) Tána (cattle-raids) Tochmarca (wooings) Fessa (feasts) Aislinga (visions) Aitheda (elopments Serca (loves) Aided (violent deaths) Catha (battles) Immrama (voyages) Dinnseanchas (tales of place names) • • • • • • • • • After the arrival of Christianity and the adaptation of the Latin alphabet to the Irish language. which. namely: • • • • Mythological Ulster (The Red Branch) Finn (Fenian.4. The Celtic Paradigm in Modern Irish Writing 6 . Munster) King (historical) Task: Write a 4000-word essay on “Cultural Landmarks of the Celtic World”.1. until the coming of Christianity in the 5th century. Celtic Literature: The learned class of the Celtic society are the creators of the early Irish literary texts.
The Fate of the Children of Lir The Song of Amhergin 2.5.The Mythological cycle and its modern reworkings 2. The Celtic pantheon • Texts: The Tuatha Dé Danaan. The Sidh Mythological masks and the Sidh in W. 2.B.2. The mythic invasions 2.Chapter 2 . The Woman Turns Herself into a Fish Nuala Ni Dhomnaill.1. Yeats’s early poetry • Texts: The Stolen Child The Man Who Dreamed of Fairyland To Ireland in the Coming Times The Song of the Wandering Aengus 2.4. Swept Away The Celtic Paradigm in Modern Irish Writing 7 .3. Feminine revisions of the Sidh • Texts: Eavan Boland.
previous to the arrival of the Gaels.1. the main settlers of Ireland are: • • Cesair (granddaughter of Noah) and Fintan Mac Bochra. The Nemedians (followers of Nemed. who lived on Tory Island). but their power in Ireland only lasted for 37 years before the Tuatha Dé Danann arrived. • • • 2. in which their arrival is described: The Celtic Paradigm in Modern Irish Writing 8 . by a process of exclusion the mythological cycle includes only those stories that intend to provide a mythical history of the occupation of Ireland. and the few survivors fled to Greece. They were the first to invade Ireland at the time of the Flood. According to this manuscript. The Firbolgs (descendants of the Nemedians) returned to Ireland 230 years later.2. son of Sera. a descendant of Japheth) arrived from Spain 30 years after the extinction of the Partholonians from pestilence. misshapen giants. The Partholanians (named after their leader Partholan. whom they managed to defeat. The Celtic Pantheon The Tuatha Dé Danann is the tribe of the Irish gods who conquer and settle Ireland. Here follows an extract from Mary Heaney’s Over Nine Waves. Most of these texts are preserved in a 12th century manuscript known as Lebor Gabála Érenn (Book of Invasions of Ireland). They encountered the Fomorians (a race of ugly. They were attacked by the Fomorians. The Mythic Invasions Though all the tales included in the existing corpus of early Irish literary texts display a strong mythological component.2. who was the king of Greece) arrived 312 years after Cesair and her followers.
and their king. the Tuatha De Danaan took over the country and went with their treasures to Tara to establish themselves as masters of the island. Faber and Faber. Findias and Murias. From Gorias they brought Lugh’s spear. From Falias they brought Lia Fail. When they reached Ireland and landed on the western shore. prophesy and occult lore. These newcomers were the People of the Goddess Danu and their men of learning possessed great powers and were revered as if they were gods. (from Marie Heaney. the Stone of Destiny. No one could escape it once it was unsheathed. They brought it to Tara and it screamed when a rightful king of Ireland sat on it. From Findias they brought Nuada’s irresistible sword. and among them their king. Though they had defeated the Fir Bolgs. Over Nine Waves. a demon-like race who lived in the islands to which the Fir Bolgs had fled. 1994. they set fire to their boats so that there would be no turning back. But another struggle lay ahead. No one ever left it hungry. Nuada. namely magic. They fought a fierce battle on the Plain of Moytura. These were the Formorians. Gorias. Anyone who held it was invincible in battle. the four cities of the northern islands.THE TUATHA DE DANAAN LONG AGO the Tuatha De Danaan came to Ireland in a great fleet of ships to take the land from the Fir Bolgs who lived there. From Murias they brought the Dagda’s cauldron. Nuada was the king of the Tuatha De Danaan and he led them against the Fir Bolgs. In the end the Tuatha De Danaan overcame the Fir Bolgs and routed them until only a handful of them survived. Many of the Tuatha De Danaan died too. They had learnt their druidic skills in Falias. a hundred thousand in all. The invaders brought with them the four great treasures of their tribe. These survivors boarded their ships and set sail to the far-scattered islands around Ireland. When the Fir Bolgs had fled. The smoke from the burning boats darkened the sun and filled the land for three days. Thousands of the Fir Bolgs were killed.) The Celtic Paradigm in Modern Irish Writing 9 . Eochai Mac Erc. London. They were accomplished in the various arts of druidry. had his arm severed from his body in the fight. and the Fir Bolgs thought the Tuatha De Danaan had arrived in a magic mist. a more powerful enemy awaited them. the first one the Tuatha De Danaan fought in a pace of that name.
: ". . A figure of immense power. “Aislinge Oengusa” (The Vision of Aengus) recounts how Aengus. as patroness of smithcraft and martial arts. And. This story. were translated in English by Lady Augusta Gregory (1852-1932) in a collection of Irish myths entitled Gods and Fighting Men: The Celtic Paradigm in Modern Irish Writing 10 . married to the god Bile (or Belenos). who prompts a quest that will take years until he will find her shape-changed in a bird. Through the goddess Boann (whose spirit lives within the Boyne river and is goddess of poetic inspiration and powerful spiritual insight) the Dagda fathered Aengus (Oengus) Og.E. Manannán’s father. an eternal joy becoming love. while his name is commemorated in that of the Isle of Man. has the vision of a beautiful girl. was an Irish god who dwelt on the cliffs of Antrim. a sky-centred deity. The eternal joy becomes love when it has first merged itself in form and images of a divine beauty that dance before it and lure it from afar. Manannán MacLir is the god of the oceans.) Brigid is a Celtic three-fold goddess. and (3) Fire of the Forge. One story in the cycle (“The Story of the Children of Lir”) recounts the tribulations of his other four children who were transformed into swans by an evil step-mother. the Celtic god of youth and love. . he is often pictured as a rustic old man. . as patroness of healing and fertility. An energy or love or eternal desire has gone forth which seeks through a myriad forms of illusion for the infinite being it has left. and leading on to earthly passion and forgetfulness of its own divinity. The Dagda is the father of Ogma (the Irish god of eloquence). Stories of rebirth and the Otherworld are associated with him. lastly. a harp that plays by itself. a love changing into desire.The Tuatha Dé Danann are the tribe of the Goddess Dana (or Danu). as it lays hold of the earthly symbol of its desire it becomes on Earth that passion which is spiritual death . She is mother to the craftsmen. a cauldron that never gets exhausted. who lives in Tír-na-n-og (The Land of Eternal Youth) and is married to the beautiful goddess Fand. the “good God” in the Celtic sense of “good at anything”. It is Angus the Young. described in the following terms by the Irish poet A. the Tír nan Óg or World of Immortal Youth. a mother-goddess signifying fertility and plenty. The love is changed into desire as it is drawn deeper into nature. . clothed in garb. Her three aspects are (1) Fire of Inspiration as patroness of poetry. among others. (2) Fire of the Hearth.” One of the most beautiful lyrical tales in the cycle. This is the first manifested world. and endured cruel hardship for many centuries until restored to their human shape. and this desire builds up the Mid-world or World of the Waters. and possessing three magical objects: a gigantic club (with which he can both kill enemies and cure friends). The father to most of the gods of the tribe is the Dagda. whose name is translated as “The Pearl of Beauty”. and Brigid (or the "Fiery Arrow or Power". Lir. in a dream.
but we have our language.” said Fionnuala. and comely Conn. “It is a bad net I put over you. daughter of Oilell of Aran. “till the end of nine hundred years.” she said.” Bodb Dearg gave a great start when he heard that. to the house. and he got a reproach from Bodb Dearg for not bringing his children along with him. in the sight of the whole of the men of Ireland. O Aodh. “I would think worst of being a witch of the air. And with that he struck her with a Druid wand.” When Lir and his people heard that. and their reason. and he gave a very sharp reproach to Aoife. and she was turned into a witch of the air there and then. and he knew what Lir said was true. it was Aoife there beyond.” Then Lir went on to the palace of Bodb Dearg. and he took notice of the swans having the voice of living people. it is that is tormenting my heart. and that will not be. bringing Aoife. and he said: “This treachery will be worse for yourself in the end.” “Is there any way to put you into your own shapes again?” said Lir. “We are your own four children. and she is in it yet.” said Fionnuala. “Is there a mind with you. than to the children of Lir. your own foster-child and the sister of their mother. that put them in the shape of four swans on Loch Dairbhreach. I do not sleep though I am in my lying down. “to live with any person at all from this time. from the border of the harbour where you are. and will be in it to the end of life and time. And let you stop here tonight. O Fiachra of the beautiful arms. it is not ready I am to go away from you. and there was a welcome before him there. since you have your own sense and your memory yet?” “We have not the power. and their Irish.” said Bodb. “It is not I that would not bring my children along with me.” she said. “there is no way. “I will tell you that. that are after being destroyed by your wife and by the sister of our own mother. they gave out three great heavy shouts of grief and sorrow and crying. “to come to us on the land.” she said. and we have the power to sing sweet music. and she went away on the wind in that shape. and he asked them why was it they had that voice.” said Lir. “and we will be making music for you. and it is enough to satisfy the whole race of men to be listening to that music. “It is into that shape I will put you now. “My grief!” said Lir. The Celtic Paradigm in Modern Irish Writing 11 . I would never have followed that advice if I had known what it would bring upon me. “O Fionnuala. and they slept there quietly that night. And what shape would you yourself think worst of being in?” he said.The Fate of the Children of Lir Then Lir came to the edge of the lake. through the dint of her jealousy.” said Fionnuala. Aoife. And Lir rose up early on the morning of the morrow and he made this complaint: — “It is time to go from this place.” So Lir and his people stopped there listening to the music of the swans. Lir. “for all the men of the world could not help us till we have gone through our time. the Irish. To be parted from my dear children. and their voice. but they have their sense with them yet.
The God Lugh assumes the leadership of the tutha and leads them to victory after he himself kills Balor of the Evil Eye. It was said to have been introduced to Ireland by the god Lugh. The Milesians 12 The Celtic Paradigm in Modern Irish Writing . while he is also the Samildánach (“the many-gifted one”). it marked the beginning of the end of winter. Cattle were let out of winter quarters and driven between two fires in a ritual cleansing ceremony that may have had practical purposes too. associated with the festivals that marked the Celtic year: • Samhain: celebrated around 31 October. Banba and Fotla. and some of the living . such as that at the Hill of Tara in Ireland. the Shining One. This festival was celebrated with competitions of skill. Beltain. the most formidable of the fomori. Lughnasadh was a summer festival lasting for two weeks that fell around 31 July.3. moving between all the activities of society and be patron of each one.especially poets were able to enter the Otherworld through the doorways of the sidhe. The Morrígan ("terror" or "phantom queen") is the greatest of them. The Irish female deities usually indicate sexuality and fertility. while Macha (who is also goddess of the horses) is also included here. including horse-racing (perhaps this is why the festival was also linked to the goddess Macha) • • • 2. and so was sacred to this god. Other goddesses of war are the Badb (fury). it began the Celtic year. around 31 January. Women met to celebrate the return of the maiden aspect of the Goddess Brigid.“Cath Maige Tuired” (“The Battle of the Plain of Tuired”) is the best-known tale of the cycle. Dea (the hateful one) Nemain (frenzy). Some of these deities attracted singular worship. Lugh becomes thus a divine archetype of kingship. with powerful magical and warlike connotations. was a fire festival sacred to the god Belenos. and inspiring battle madness. There are five goddesses identified with war. It was a time for feasts and fairs and for the mating of animals. It was a time when the veil between this world and the Otherworld was thought to be so thin that the dead could return to warm themselves at the hearths of the living. being associated with war and death on the battlefield. sometime appearing in the form of a carrion crow. mastering all the arts and the crafts. Eire. dealing specifically with the climactic battle between the Tuatha and the Fomori. celebrated around 1 May. represented as three sisters. Another triad is formed by the goddesses identified with the sovranty and spirit of Ireland. Imbolc (or Oimelc) celebrated at lambing time.
It was Eriu who won the honour. Ireland became known as Erin or Erinn. Banba. The Tuatha Dé Danann became spirit people. did not leave Erin. I am a boar: ruthless and red. asked the Milesians to name Ireland after one of them. I am a breaker: threatening doom. Fodla and Eriu. The Celtic Paradigm in Modern Irish Writing 13 . The Tuatha Dé Danann. I am an infant: who but I Peeps from the unhewn dolmen arch? I am the womb: of every holt. Manannan (in other accounts.The last invaders of Ireland. but had then settled in Spain. I am a hawk: above the hill. Amergin (a warrior and a bard) was the leader of the invasion. whom many view as the forefathers of the Gaels. I am a tear: the Sun lets fall. I am a lure: from paradise. by Robert Graves) The three sister goddesses of the Dé Danann. His first words upon landing were the poem that is known today as the "Song of Amergin": The Song of Amergin I am a stag: of seven times. I am a thorn: beneath the nail I am a wonder: among flowers. but continued to live there. though defeated. I am a wind: on a deep lake. I am a flood: across a plain. the Dagda) placed a powerful spell of invisibility over the many parts of Ireland. who overthrew the power of the Celtic gods. I am a salmon: in a pool. the Milesians were the sons of Míl Espáine (Miled). magical palaces were hidden under the mound. According to the “Book of Invasions”. I am a wizard: who but I Sets the cool head aflame with smoke? I am a spear: that rears for blood. whose ancestors had originally come from Scythia. I am the blaze: on every hill I am the queen: of every hive I am the shield: for every head. I am a hill: where poets walk. were the Milesians. with their conquerors. I am the grave: of every hope. The places were called Sidh or Sidhe. I am a tide: that drags to death. or fairies. (Transl.
which in a highly artistic form gives expression to the spirit of a whole nation". which was associated with barrows. She had the function of keening like a mortal woman when a family member died. Yeats was appointed to the first Irish Senate Seanad Éireann in 1922 and re-appointed in 1925. aes sídhe (people of the Sídh) or fairy people. to bring mythical motifs and figures into their works as symbols and expressions of Irishness past and present. and are known to 'take' mortals with them on their journeys. This new habitat led to another name for the Danaan. – Collections: • The Wanderings of Oísin and Other Poems (1889) 14 The Celtic Paradigm in Modern Irish Writing . mounds. dramatist. With regard to his poetic output. as distinct from English culture. but turned into a committed Irish nationalist. They became spirit people. Yeats (1865-1939) was born to an Anglo-Irish Protestant family. this corresponds to three main phases: • The first phase is associated with the Irish Revival of the 1890s which brought about an upsurge of interest in Celtic myth and legend. Yeats’s Early Poems Poet. After the establishment of the Irish Free State. a mischievous spirit who led travellers astray. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1923 for what the Nobel Committee described as "his always inspired poetry.2. The World of the Sídhe After their being defeated by the Milesians. B. hills. mystic and public figure. Slua Sídhe: the fairy host who travel through the air at night.4. tumuli. which served as the stage for many new Irish writers and playwrights of the time. This allowed Yeats. inhabiting the sídhe (another name for the Otherworld).5. Leprechaun: a diminutive guardian of a hidden treasure (origin: Lughchromain – little stooping Lugh) Puca (Puck):a supernatural animal who took people for nightmarish rides. another great symbol of the literary revival. W. The Sidhe in W. Yeats was also co-founder of the Abbey Theatre. • • • 2. encouraging the creation of works written in the spirit of Irish culture. becoming thus the primary driving force behind the Irish Literary Revival – a movement which stimulated new appreciation of traditional Irish literature. as well as other writers. Some important figures emerging in Irish fairy lore are: • The Bean Sídhe (“woman of the hills”): a female fairy attached to a particular family. the Danaan were allotted spiritual Ireland. B.
the voyage: symbols of the spirit’s journey from life to death. The exile. – Collections: • • • • The Tower (1928) The Winding Star (1933) Parnell’s Funeral and Other Poems (1935) Last Poems and Two Plays (1939) It is the early poems that Yeats draws heavily on Irish myth. Metaphysical content. Yeats constructs his own system of opposites. which may be seen to inform his poetry: The Celtic Paradigm in Modern Irish Writing 15 . which inform Yeats’s theories of contraries and of the progression which can result from reconciling them. – Collections: • • • • The Green Helmet and Other Poems (1910) Responsibilities (1914) The Wilde Swans at Coole (1919) Michael Robartes and the Dancer (1921) • Yeats’s later poetry is less public and more personal.) Though dissimilar at a first glance. They are more public and concerned with the politics of the modern Irish state. On the basis of these. The poems are characterised by a mature lyricism. manifestation) as opposed to the ‘supernatural’ (that which is beyond manifestation). between sensuality and rationalism. between turbulence and calm. the quest.• • • • The Countess Kathleen and Other Legends and Lyrics (1892) The Wind Among the Reeds (1899) In the Seven Woods (1903) The poetry of Yeats’s mid-career is dominated by his commitment to Irish nationalism. Hence the poems employ a simpler and more accessible style. exploring contrasts between the physical and spiritual dimensions of life. employing mythological figures and mythic motifs alongside with theories drawn from occult writings (in which he was also interested. the two areas bear comparison in several aspects: • • • The ‘natural’ (world in time.
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand. O human child! To the waters and the wild With a faery. visions In “The Stolen Child” (a poem based on Irish legend) the faeries beguile a child (presumably in a dream) to come away with them. lakes.The Sídhe Spirit Imagination Eternal Immortal Id Water & air Night The natural world Matter Reason Ephemeral Mortal Ego Earth Day Though opposed. islands Twilight. The Stolen Child Where dips the rocky highland Of Sleuth Wood in the lake. hand in hand. Come away. Far off by furthest Rosses The Celtic Paradigm in Modern Irish Writing 16 . which are associated with states that may be labelled as “inbetween”: • • • Shores. There lies a leafy island Where flappy herons wake The drowsy water-rats. Full of berries And of reddest stolen cherries. dawn Dreams. points of contact may be established between the two realms. There we’ve hid our faery vats. Where the wave of moonlight glosses The dim grey sands with light.
That Time can never mar a lover’s vows Under that woven changeless roof of boughs: The singing shook him out of his new ease. Such points of contact between the two worlds allow for visionary states. While the world is full of troubles And is anxious in its sleep. But when a man poured fish into a pile. or spirit. His heart hung all upon a silken dress. For a world more full of weeping than he can understand. Mingling hands and mingling glances Till the moon has taken flight. hand in hand. But. . . It seemed they raised their little silver heads. the human child.We foot it all the night. The Man who Dreamed of Faeryland He stood among a crowd at Drumahair. Weaving olden dances. For he comes. And he had known at last some prudent years Before they heaped his grave under the hill. The solemn-eyed: He’ll hear no more the lowing Of the calves on the warm hillside Or the kettle on the hob Sing peace into his breast. hand in hand. Before earth took him to her stony care. The Celtic Paradigm in Modern Irish Writing 17 . For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand. this involves a great cost: the dreamers (like the one in “The Man Who Dreamed of Fairyland”) remain caught in-between the two. And sang what gold morning or evening sheds Upon a woven world-forgotten isle Where people love beside the ravelled seas. Come away. He wandered by the sands of Lissadell. To the waters and the wild With a faery.] Away with us he’s going. And he had known at last some tenderness. His mind ran all on money cares and fears. [. To and fro we leap And chase the frothy bubbles. usually. never allowed to find comfort in this life. able to produce artistic creation. O human child! To the waters and the wild With a faery. Or see the brown mice bob Round and round the oatmeal-chest. for their thoughts are constantly turned to the world of the imagination.
The Song of the Wandering Aengus I went out to the hazel wood. until God burn Nature with a kiss? The man has found no comfort in the grave. And might have known at last unhaunted sleep Under that cold and vapour-turbaned steep. And cut and peeled a hazel wand. who has a vision of the sidhe in the form of a beautiful girl. He slept under the hill of Lugnagall.unnecessary cruel voice Old silence bids its chosen race rejoice. exulting. the poet expresses the same predicament of the dreamer. I dropped the berry in a stream The Celtic Paradigm in Modern Irish Writing 18 . Because a fire was in my head. And hooked a berry to a thread.But while he passed before a plashy place. gentle race Under the golden or the silver skies. And moth-like stars were flickering out. A lug-worm with its grey and muddy mouth Sang that somewhere to north or west or south There dwelt a gay. He mused upon his mockers: without fail His sudden vengeance were a country tale. Whatever ravelled waters rise and fall Or stormy silver fret the gold of day. The tale drove his angry mood away. And midnight there enfold them like a fleece And lover there by lover be at peace. And when white moths were on the wing. That if a dancer stayed his hungry foot It seemed the sun and moon were in the fruit: And at that singing he was no more wise. reedy cry That God has laid His fingers on the sky. Adopting the mythological mask of the Irish god of love and youth. from those fingers. But one small knot-grass growing by the pool Sang where . a symbol of the perfection of the imaginative world. Why should those lovers that no lovers miss Dream. That. He mused beside the well of Scanavin. In “The Song of the Wandering Aengus” Yeats re-works “Aislinge Oengusa”. When earthly night had drunk his body in. Now that the earth had taken man and all: Did not the worms that spired about his bones Proclaim with that unwearied. glittering summer runs Upon the dancer by the dreamless wave.
Though I am old with wandering Through hollow lands and hilly lands.) – – Contemporary women poets (Eavan Boland. And walk among long dappled grass. Proof may be found in different areas. who employ women simply as symbols or motifs in their texts. The golden apples of the sun. And kiss her lips and take her hands. a heavy sower and a woman poet. the three worst curses that can befall a village are: to have a wet thatcher. Eire Folklore: Cailleach Beare (the Hag of Beare) Society: bean fíle (woman poet) through the medieval to modern periods women are gradually excluded from the social. 2. Eithne Strong.6. I will find out where she has gone. denying them their complexity. Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill. And pluck till time and times are done The silver apples of the moon. fertility and self-sufficiency which some connect to the Celtic ideals of womanhood. such as: – Proverbs and formulaic expressions (e. Mother Ireland Literary tradition (dominated by male poets. political and cultural spheres. Brigid.And caught a little silver trout.g. being relegated to the domestic sphere. And some one called me by my name: It had become a glimmering girl With apple blossom in her hair Who called me by my name and ran And faded through the brightening air. Medb McGuckian) are committed to the 3 “R”s of Irish feminist writing: – – to resist and revise reductive images and perceptions of women and to revive /re-posses energies related to creativity.) Religious constructs: the Virgin (Mother of God). When I had laid it on the floor I went to blow the fire aflame. 19 The Celtic Paradigm in Modern Irish Writing . Eillen Ni Chuilleanain. But something rustled on the floor. such as evidenced in – – – Myth: Dana. The Sidhe with Contemporary Women Poets If Irish ancestral culture allowed room for the exercise of an autonomous female creative potential.
In “Swept Away”. it is an instrument of imaginative depth and scope. She didn’t close the door. have a drink. washed the dishes. sexuality. of quick and hilarious banter and a welter of references both historical and mythological. I/m freezing. The Celtic Paradigm in Modern Irish Writing 20 . and culture. if you’re in a hurry. Pharoh's Daughter (1990). the fairy woman becomes the carrier of a powerful female energy. eat. Rogha Dánta/Selected Poems (1986. with only the mist to cover me. which has been tempered by the community for generations until it can pick up and sing out every hint of emotional modulation that can occur between people. She got up and started doing housework. Mind you. She made the beds. if I were in your house the way you’re in mine I’d go home right away. Sit up to the fire. he didn’t notice she wasn’t me. Writing in Irish her work draws upon themes of ancient Irish folklore and mythology.” Her collections include An Dealg Droighin (1981). Put the dirty clothes in the machine. 1990). and Feis (1991). able to subvert and transform the traditional representations of the feminine: SWEPT AWAY (FUADACH) The fairy woman marched right into my poem. But I’m in the fairy field in everlasting dark. She didn’t ask. 1988. combined with contemporary themes of femininity. When my husband came home for his tea. and of course you are. So she did. As she herself confesses: “Irish is a language of enormous elasticity and emotional sensitivity. Féar Suaithinseach (1984).Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill (1952-) is one of the most popular of contemporary Irish poets. but never mind: stay. I was too polite to throw her out so I decided to act all nice: Stay.
You didn’t have a thriving sense of the witness of the lived life of women poets. I’ll be coming. they are truths. hipless and I am The Celtic Paradigm in Modern Irish Writing 21 . As she herself has stated. Boland addresses broad issues of Irish national identity as well as the specific issues confronting women and mothers in a culture that has traditionally ignored their experiences. Outside History (1990). and all the time she’s going. Night Feed (1982). web. Object Lessons: The Life of the Woman and the Poet in Our Time (1995). labyrinth of associations … we ourselves are constructed by the construct … images are not ornaments. Boland engages directly with Yeats’s “The Song of the Wondering Aengus”. In “The Woman Turns herself Into A Fish”.And if he wants me back here’s what he must do: get a fine big ploughshare and butter it well. re-writing the mermaid image: The Woman Turns Herself into a Fish it’s done: I turn. All the time she’s going. and what you did have was a very compelling and at time oppressive relationship between Irish poetry and the national tradition.” The daughter of an Irish diplomat Eavan Boland (1944-) spent much of her youth living in London and New York City. “As an Irish woman poet I have very little precedent.” In Boland’s view “… we all [women] exist in a mesh. burn her and scorch her. Then go to the bed where that bitch is lying and let her have it! “Push it into her face. then make it red-hot in the fire. In a Time of Violence (1994). There were none in the 19th century or early part of the 20th century. I flab upward blub-lipped. She has also written a prose memoir. One of Ireland's few recognized women poets.” Her collections of poems include In Her Own Image (1980). I’ll be coming.
2. The Dreamer’s Mermaid or the Mermaid’s Dream? (The Song of the Wandering Aengus vs.B. Yeats and Nuala NiDhumnaill. a brightening. The World of the Sidhe with W. The Celtic Pantheon in its Indo-European Context. a pale swimmer sequin-skinned. 3.sexless shed of ecstasy. Yet ruddering and muscling in the sunless tons of new freedoms still I feel a chill pull. my greens still she moons in me. a light. The Woman Turns Herself Into a Fish) The Celtic Paradigm in Modern Irish Writing 22 . It’s what I set my heart on. a light and how in my loomy cold. pealing eggs screamlessly in seaweed. Task: Choose one of the following topics to develop into a 4000-word essay of the argumentative type: 1.
4. 3. Main Characters of the Cycle 3. At the Hawk’s Well (1916) 3.5.6. The Only Jealousy of Emer (1916) 3.4. The Death of Cuchulain 3. On Baile’s Strand (1904) 3.The Cuchulain cycle: 3. Celtic myth in the theatre of Yeats: 126.96.36.199.5. 3.2.4. De-constructing “heroism”: Nuala Ni Dhumnaill’s “Cuchulain I” The Celtic Paradigm in Modern Irish Writing 23 . The Green Helmet (1910) 3.5. The Ulster (Red Branch ) Cycle 3. Emáin Macha 3.5. Táin Bó Fraoch (The Cattle Raid of Fraoch) 188.8.131.52.1. Main Tales of the Cycle The Exile of the Sons of Uísneach Táin Bó Cuailnge (The Cattle Raid of Cooley) 3.1.5.Chapter 3 .184.108.40.206.The Ulster Cycle and the Celtic Hero 220.127.116.11.18.104.22.168.
so the name Emain Macha could mean the "Brooch of Macha". Macha was identified as the Irish goddess of fertility. The cycle centers on the greatest hero in Celtic myths. Emain Macha is the seat of power in Ulaid (Ulster).1. Emain Macha means "The Twins of Macha". and the La Tene Iron age civilisation of Gaul and Britain. She was portrayed as red goddess. uninfluenced by Greece or Rome. must have had a long oral existence before it received a literary shape. and a few traces of Christian colour. The Celtic Paradigm in Modern Irish Writing 24 . The Ulster (Red Branch ) Cycle The cycle of Ulster contains a group of heroic tales relating to the Ulaid and their military order known as the House of the Red Branch. Thomas Kinsella. at the hands of the monastic scribes. the boastfulness and courage of the warriors. in the “Introduction” to his translation of “The Cattle Raid of Cooley”. The Tain and certain descriptions of Gaulish society by Classical authors have many details in common: in warfare alone. 2. She reappeared in the Ulaid Cycle as wife of Crunnchu and was associated with the curse placed upon the men of Ulster. entitled the “Pangs of Ulster”. either because she was dressed in red or that she had red hair. Cú Chulainn (Cu Chulainn or Cuchulain). As to the background of the Tain the Ulster cycle was traditionally believed to refer to the time of Christ.3.’ 3. but some of the verse passages may be two centuries older and it is held by most Celtic scholars that the Ulster cycle. chariot-fighting and beheading. war and of horses. asserts the following: “The origins of the Tain are far more ancient than these manuscripts [8 th –century manuscripts in which it was preserved]. In this version. The language of the earliest form of the story is dated to the eighth century. The main part of the Ulaid Cycle is set during the reigns of Conchobar in Ulaid (Ulster) and Queen Medb in Connacht (Connaught). the individual weapons. This might seem to be supported by the similarity between the barbaric world of the stories. with the rest of early Irish literature. said to be its founder. such as asserted in one tale of the dinnseachas type. The Ulaid Cycle is supposed to be contemporary to Christ (1st century BC) since Conchobar's death coincides with the day of Christ’s crucifixion. being one of the aspects of Morrígan. The dun (hill-fort) was named after the Red Queen Macha. Macha had used her brooch to mark the boundary of her capital. situated near modern Armagh. the practices of cattle-raiding.
For nine generations any Ulsterman in those pangs had no more strength than a woman on the bed of labour. She settled down and began working at once. she gave birth alongside it. daughter of Sainrith mac Imbaith. Everyone in Ulster. in his best clothes and in great vigour. Soon a fair was held in Ulster. He was taken immediately before the king and the woman was sent for. Crunniuc mac Agnomain. the Twins of Macha. a son a nd a daughter. the king’s chariot was bought onto the field. she put everything in order without being asked. As she gave birth she creamed out that all who heard that scream would suffer from the same pangs for five days and four nights in their times of greatest difficulty. He lived in a lonely place in the mountains with all his sons. She said to the messenger: ‘It would be a heavy burden for me to go and free him now.’ Then she raced the chariot. ‘My wife is faster. and she was a fine woman in his eyes. His wife was dead. When night came. At the end of the days. This affliction ever afterward. or five nights and four days the pangs lasted. Then she slept with Crunniuc. the women.’ She went to the fair. went to the fair. boys and girs. men and women.THE PANGS OF ULSTER There was a very rich landlord in Ulster. The crowd said that nothing could beat those horses. and her pangs gripped her.’ he said. She bore twins. Once. and Cuchulainn. and the name of my offspring. His chariot and horses won. comes from this. She called out to the crowd: ‘A mother bore each one of you! Help me! Wait till my child is born.’ she said. ‘It would be as well not to grow too boastful or careless in anything you say. ‘My name. and nine generations after them. The fair was held. As the chariot reached the end of the field.’ she said. The Celtic Paradigm in Modern Irish Writing 25 . ‘He will die unless you come.’ the woman said to him. ‘A long lasting evil will come out of this on the whole of Ulster. I am full with child. ‘/that isn’t likely.’ ‘What is your name?’ the king asked. and there was never a lack of food or clothes or anything else under her care. he saw a woman coming toward him there. as though she were well used to the house. Five days and four nights. Only three classes of people were free from the pangs of Ulster: the young boys of Ulster.’ But she couldn’t move them. Crunniuc set out for the fair with the rest.’ ‘Burden?’ the messenger said. ‘Very well. as he was alone in the house. The name Emain Macha. She stayed with him for along while afterward. seized all the men of Ulster who were there that day.’ Crunniuc said. ‘will be given to this place. I am Macha.
but Fergus Mac Rioch was the best known and was seen as her most frequent lover.3. still a boy. Medb had many lovers. who fleed to Connacht to become his mortal enemy. Her father was Eochaid Feidlech. 1. Cuchulain was also grandson of the great druid Cathbad. 4. Main characters of the Cycle Conchobar MacNessa was the son of Ness. Cuchulain was called Sétanta at birth. In Connacht she had three different husbands. The Celtic Paradigm in Modern Irish Writing 26 . Conall Cernach and Cu Chulainn. His uncle. During his reign.3. Conchobar had many wives. Conchobar’s master-smith. is the most famous Irish romance. Apart from her Finnabair and several other daughters. Main tales of the cycle 3. such as The Pursuit of Diarmait and Grainne of the Fenian Cycle and the legend of Tristan. he killed a great hound belonging to Culann. Conchobar's father was Cathbad. 4. Fachtna was either the brother or halfbrother of Fergus Mac Roich. who later became Conchobar's adviser. This romance of a love triangle was to influence other tales. Medb had many children. after his stepfather. Medb represents the Sovereignity of Connacht. son of Uisnech. all of them with the name Maine. Medb (Maeve) had actually come from the province of Leinster. the ard-druid (high druid) of Ulster. he produced the greatest warriors of Ulster. Cú Chulainn (Cuchulain) is the greatest hero of the Ulster Cycle. His name was to change to Cú Chulainn ("Hound of Culann“) when. and with his teaching. The best known of her husbands was Ailill Mac Mata. including Medb (Maeve). who each became king of the province. In a more popular version. most of them by Ailill. she was at one time married to Conchobar Mac Nessa. who was the brother of Fergus Mac Roich. he called himself Cú Chulainn Mac Sualtam. Fergus served as captain of the Red Branch. As such. or Nessa and Fachtna Fáthach. king of Ulster. The Exile of the Sons of Uìsneach The tale of Deirdre and Naoísi. Like her three sisters. she also had seven sons. king of Tara. 3. Conchobar established a military order of elite warriors called the Red Branch. She left Conchobar and became Conchobar's chief enemy throughout the rest of her life. Ulster prospered. a giant and king of Ulster. Lugh Lamfada. Though Lugh was his father. Cuchulain was the son of Deichtine and the sun god.
” said she. “unless you take me with you.” said he. and as the feast came to an end. went out to restrain and warn him. inside close by: Naoisi the son of Usnach. when he had the sons of Uisnech put to death. “Fair is the heifer that goes past me. [Her name is to be Deirdre. But Conchobar ordered that she be spared and reared apart. a girl-child was born to the wife of Fedlimid. And they took service with the king of Scotland and built a The Celtic Paradigm in Modern Irish Writing 27 . Cormac. Conchobar pursued them with plots and treachery. for the excellence of their defence. “Here are two ears of shame and mockery. “There is not a king in Ireland that will not make us welcome.” said he.” “No! said he.” said she. They were as swift as hounds at the hunt. Though the whole province of the Ulaid should be around them in one place. to Ulster's traditional enemy – Connacht. and his cheek like the blood. soon she went out to him.” Naoisi sounded his cry. Then she said to Leborcham. the chronicler of King Conchobar. “and I would take a young bull like you. it was enough of peace and entertainment. his two brothers. and she saw a raven drinking the blood in the snow. For every man who heard it.” “I shall not be well. And sweet was the cry of the sons of Usnach.” That night they set out with 150 warriors and 150 women and 150 hounds. But his honour was challenged.” said he. “Heifers must grow big where there are no bulls. and Deirdre was with them. they would not overcome them. They used to kill deer by their speed. “until I see him. The child will grow to be a woman of wonderful beauty and will cause enmity and trouble and will depart out of the kingdom. and a druid prophesied about her future. A wise woman.” “I would choose between you. Every cow and every beast that would hear it used to give two-thirds excess of milk. “You have the bull of the province. and the Ulstermen sprang up as they heard it. as though to go past him. and that he himself would take her for his wife. hidden from men’s eyes.” said she. if the three of them stood back to back. THE EXILE OF THE SONS OF USNACH The Ulaid feasted one day in the house of Fedlimid. Leborcham. Once the girl’s foster-father was flaying a calf outside in the snow in winter to cook it for her. and did not recognise him. and his body like the snow. “Fair would be man upon whom those three colours should be: his hair like the raven.It also holds Conchobar responsible for the defection of Fergus and 3000 other warriors. So Deirdre was entrusted to foster-parents and was reared in a dwelling apart.” Once that same Naoisi was on the rampart of the fort sounding his cry. and the sons of Usnach. “the king of the Ulaid. and they fled to Scotland. including his own son. was the only other person allowed to see her.] The Ulaid proposed to kill the child at once and so avoid the curse.” said she.” “Grace and prosperity to you!” said leborcham. “He is not far from you. Good was their valour too. Many will die on account of her. Then she sprang toward him and caught his ears. “We shall go into another country. When Naoisi was there outside.
Amen.a great wrong . “You look like a sheep between two rams. Deirdre. . and for sixteen years the Ulaid had no peace. and women were killed. and she died. Finit. Finit.[. eyebrows black as a chafer.] And when Conchobar was comforting her she used to say: Conchobar. Soon I shall die. And Fergus and Cormac went to the court of Ailill and Maeve.) Main plot concerns the invasion of Ulster by the army of Connacht led by Medb who wants to capture the Brown Bull of Cooley. they came and did great deed: three hundred of the Ulaid were killed. One day the steward saw her and told the king of her beauty. you have taken from me. “and Eogan son of Dubhthach. Naoisi and his followers were killed. and what was most beloved.so that I shall not see him till I die. She was behind Eogan in the chariot. Táin Bó Cuailnge (The Cattle Raid of Cooley) Táin Bó Cuailnge is the best known and longest tale of the cycle (closest to an Old Irish epic. and the sons of Usnach had to flee and take refuge on an island in the sea. and Emain was burnt by Fergus. “Well. Conchobar. and the exile of Fergus and the Tragic Death of the sons of Usnach and of Deirdre. Summary by Myles Dillon 3. What was dearest to me under heaven. But Deirdre was for a year with Conchobar. so that it shattered her head. 4. 2. When Fergus and Cormac heard of this treachery.” said Conchobar. .” “you shall be a year with Eogan. red lips. and she never smiled or raised her head from her knee. The Celtic Paradigm in Modern Irish Writing 28 . Do not break my heart. I shall not love you. Grief is stronger than the sea.house around Deirdre so that they should not be killed on account of her. but when they came to Emain. Then Conchobar invited them back and sent Fergus as a surety. so that he demanded her for wife. “What do you hate most of what you see?” said Conchobar.” There was a big rock in front of her. Cuchulain (who is exempt from it) defeats Medb’s army single-handed. what are you doing? You have caused me sorrows and tears.” said Conchobar.” she said. As long as I live. . and Deirdre was brought to Conchobar. She thrust her head against the rock. He gave her to Eogan. They went next day to the assembly of Macha. “You. and her hands were bound behind her back. Two bright cheeks. She had prophesied that she would not see two husbands on earth together. pearly teeth bright with the noble colour of snow. As the Ulsterman are debilitated by the curse of Macha. between Eogan and me. if you could understand it. That is the exile of the Sons of Usnach.
and the prophetess then chanted a poem in which she foretold the deeds of Cuchulainn. and set out to carry off the precious bull. and he of his.” said Maeve. “but that you were an heiress and that your nearest neighbours were robbing and plundering you. for the expedition was a revenge for him. since she had no bull equal to that of Ailill.” “It is true. But he felt a pang of longing for Ulster and led the army astray northward and southward while he The Celtic Paradigm in Modern Irish Writing 29 . The messengers returned without the bull and reported the owner’s refusal. and she sent messengers to ask a loan of it for a year. “for my father.” Maeve summoned the armies of Connacht and Cormac son of Conchobar and Fergus son of Roech. I see red. If the reward was not enough. girl. save for a splendid bull. “There is no need to smooth over difficulties. promising a rich reward. weaving a fringe with a gold staff. Whitehorn. And so he marched in front. To the left of Ailill was the tent of Maeve and next to hers that of Findabair. “Why do you say so?” “Because. was high king of Ireland.” “That was not so. Before the expedition started. All her wealth seemed to Maeve not worth a penny.” And she went on to boast of her riches. and it appeared that Maeve had possessions equal to those of Ailill. On the first day the army advanced from Cruachan as far as Cuil Silinni. which had belonged to Maeve’s herd but had wandered into the herd of Ailill because it would not remain in a woman’s possession. and so it will be taken. he kills the White Bull of Connacht but dies of exhaustion after galloping back to Ulster with his rival on his back.Though the Brown Bull is captured and sent to Cruachain.. “that the wife of a good man is well off. Eochu Feidlech son of Finn. The tent of Fergus was next. Then she met a mysterious prophetess who rode on the shaft of a chariot. He had been King of Ulster for seven years and had gone into exile when the sons of Usnach were killed in violation of his guaranty and protection.” said Ailill. she would even grant the owner the enjoyment of her love.” said Maeve.] Fergus was appointed to guide the army.” said Ailill.” said Ailill. There follows a summary of this tale: TAIN BO CUAILNGE Once when their royal bed had been made ready for Ailill and Maeve they conversed as they lay on the pillows.” said Maeve. and she asked her to prophesy. and beside it was the tent of Cormac. [. who were in exile from Ulster at the time. She learned that there was one as good in the province of Ulster in the cantred of Cuailnge. He told her that she at least would return alive. “I see crimson upon them. but each time the answer was the same.” Four times Maeve appealed against this oracle. “you are better off today than the day I wed you. her daughter. she consulted her druid for a prophesy.” said the girl. Their treasures were brought before them. “It is a true saying. “I had not heard or known it.” “I was well off without you.. son of Conchobar. and the tents were pitched. “for I knew that it would not be given freely until it was taken by force. Ailill’s tent was on the right wing of the army. The woman answered.
The Connacht army reached Ard Cuillenn and saw the ogam. and killed the four as swiftly as they were killed. ‘is Cuchulainn. doom. But the Ulstermen had been stricken with a mysterious sickness which afflicted them in times of danger. .none like Cuchulainn.’ Fergus said.no point more sharp. and courted Emer. would be slain by Cuchulainn before morning. He came upon two Connaught warriors and beheaded them and their charioteers. for fire or gury. The army advanced and devastated the plains of Bregia and Muirthemne. and Cuchulainn went to meet them. for apparel. unless he made a hoop in the same way. and fixed it around a stone pillar. courage or blows in battle. and Cuchulainn told his father to go back and warn the Ulstermen to depart from the open plains into the woods and valleys. You’ll find no one there to measure him . more fine. and one eye. ‘In his fifth year he went to study the arts and the crafts of War with Scathach. or turmoil. wrote an ogam on it. He surprised Orlam son of Ailill and Maeve and killed him.’ On the next day the army moved eastward. for cleverness. no one of his own age one third as good.’ Fergus said. Any man who advanced farther that night. for voice or strength or sternness. no raven more flesh-ravenous. scheming or slaughter in the hunt. ‘ Fergus said. and they set out to oppose the enemy. and no one with the battlefeat ‘nine men on each point’ . and who came to the border with only his charioteer. the hardest of all. They arrived at Ard Cuillenn. There he cut off the fork of a tree with a single stroke and cast it into the earth from his chariot.sent warnings to the Ulstermen. no lion more ferocious. were exempt from the curse. horror or eloquence.’ ‘What sort of man. no fighter more fierce. ‘Yes. . It is he who struck the branch from its base with a single stroke. ] “The Man who did this deed. no hand more daft. He cut an oak sapling with a single stroke. one leg. no soldiers’ doom. Cuchulainn and his father. Then he departed to keep a tryst with a girl south of Tara. a fairy whom they had wronged. no gate of battle.’ Aillil said. for swiftness. He set their heads upon the branches of the tree-fork and turned their horses back toward the camp. alertness or wilderness. ‘You’ll find no harder warrior against you . so that two-thirds of the stem was buried in the earth. for stalking. At present he is in his seventeenth year. victory. the chariots bearing the headless bodies of the men. fame or form. Fergus interpreted it for them. for splendour. using one arm. ‘is this Hound of Ulster we hear tell of? How old is this remarkable person?’ ‘It is soon told.for youth or vigour. and. [.’ ‘Is he the hardest they have in Ulster?’ Maeve said. Ailill decided to turn aside into the forest for the night. In the morning Cuchulainn returned from his tryst and found the army at Turloch Caille Moire. north of Cnogba na Rig. the result of a curse laid upon them by Macha. more slashing. more swift. he made it into a hoop. no hinderer of hosts. Sualtam. In his eight year he took up the arms. no hard hammer. The Celtic Paradigm in Modern Irish Writing 30 . and the next day he killed three more with their charioteers. no barrier in battle.
if the army would advance only while the combat lasted and would halt when the warrior had been killed until another was found. but. Maeve plundered Dun Sobairche. for it is not easy to fight with him. Cuchulainn heard the scream of Conchobar’s magic shield where he lay prostrate from his wounds. At sunset he had The Celtic Paradigm in Modern Irish Writing 31 . Maeve sent a messenger to summon Cuchulainn to a parley with her and Fergus. They fought shield to shield. He rose up in heroic frenzy and seized no mere weapons but his war-chariot. and found Fergus opposed to him. while they were exchanging casts of their spears. . and for the next three days the army lay without pitching their tents and without feasting or music. but he would not himself declare it. and the Leinstermen and Munstermen followed them. Maeve called upon her own people to oppose him in equal combat. He turned back to protect his own territory and found Buide son of Ban Blai. but he would accept no conditions. They went on into Cuailnge and reached the river Glaiss Cruind. . At noon Cuchulainn came into the battle. The Conchobar himself went into the field. Fergus was able to tell that Cuchulainn would agree to single combat with a warrior each day. to wield against the enemy. that he would retreat before him. and Cuchulainn followed her. remembering that he was an Ulsterman. he turned his anger against the hills. when the sun was up. but it rose against them so that they could not cross. driving the Brown Bull of Cuailnge.and Fergus warned them to beware of Cuchulainn’s vengeance. the Ulstermen attacked. because it would be better to lose one man every day than a hundred every night. he led his company out of the fight. [. and Fergus struck three mighty blows upon the shield of Conchobar so that it screamed aloud. so that only Ailill and Maeve and their sons with nine battalions remained in the field. Three times the Men of Ireland broke through northward and each time they were driven back. . . Maeve decided to accept the proposal. The bull was accompanied by twenty-four of his cows. Cuchulainn challenged Buide and killed him. The messenger was sent again to ask for terms. and if one were owing I would not go against Cuchulainn. body and wheels. Fergus had promised. “Not I. and the men of Ireland [the Connaught army] came to meet them. “My people owe no victim. and Cuchulainn killed a hundred men each night. where the enemy had been advancing. with twenty-four followers. When Cuchulainn now came against him.] Meanwhile Maeve turned northward to Dun Sobairche. which they had found in Glenn na Samisce in Sliab Cuilinn. But. not I!” said each one from where he stood. if ever he and Cuchulainn should meet in the battle. There was one condition that he would accept. and then after six weeks the four provinces of Ireland with Ailill and Maeve and those who had captured the bull came into camp together.” That night a hundred warriors died of fright at the sound of Cuchulainn’s weapons. and three hills were shorn of their tops by his sword. the great bull was driven off.] In the morning. [. and he killed a hundred men. A hundred chariots were swept into the sea. and he refused all that were proposed. Cuchulainn followed hard upon them seeking battle. and that was the greatest grief and dismay and confusion that Cuchulainn suffered on that hosting.
B. and the second part of the tale recounts how both she and his cattle herds are kidnapped and carried off from Connacht.4.1. In these plays Yeats blends elements of Irish myth made available to him through the translations of the Taín. Cuchulain appears as the main hero in 5 plays written by William Butler Yeats from 1902 to 1938. has echoes in the anglo-saxon poem of Beowulf.22.214.171.124. In their chronological order. Yeats The Cuchulain cycle of plays 3. Meanwhile. in which Medb plots the death of Fraoch (a young Connach warrior who has fallen in love with Finnabair) forcing him fight a monster who dwells in a lake. .1. so that he at least should come there. his heart broke.2. with his personal symbolism that carries forward the oppositions between the real and the spirit world evolved in his poems. 3. . and he died. scattering fragments of the dead bull’s flesh from his horns on the way.5. and the Whitehorned Bull heard that and came to fight him. and he consented. Summary by Myles Dillon 3.defeated the last battalion. and Lady Augusta Gregory’s Cuchulain of Muirthemne (1902). On Baile’s Strand (1904) The Green Helmet (1910) At the Hawk’s Well (1916) of Emer (1916) 32 3. Its first part.] When the Brown Bull came to Cruachan. 3.3. and when night fell they could only listen to the great noise of the fight. whoever else might fail to come. They watched until night fell. and of his chariot there remained a few ribs of the body and a few spokes of the wheels. Then she appealed the Cuchulainn to spare her army until it should go westward past Ath Mor.1.5. After killing the monster. 3. the Cuchulain plays are: 3.4.5. The Only Jealousy The Celtic Paradigm in Modern Irish Writing . Celtic Myth in the Theatre of W. He galloped back to Ulster. and in the morning the Brown Bull was seen going past Cruachan with the Whitehorned Bull on his horns. All who had returned from the battle came to watch the bull-fight. Maeve had sent the Brown Bull of Cuailnge to Cruachan. he uttered three mighty bellows. and when he came to the border of Cuailnge.5. Táin Bó Fraoch (The Cattle Raid of Fraoch) Táin Bó Fraoch is the second most popular cattle raid tale in Old Irish literature. [.1. Fraoch marries Finnabair.3. The bulls travelled all over Ireland during the night.
Becoming her lover. Cuchulain. invites the warriors of Ireland to a feast. The Death of Cuchulain (1938) At the Hawk’s Well Sources: Macgnìmartha/boyhood deeds. urges him to join him. a giant or demon. The Green Helmet Source: Fledd Bricrenn (Bricriu’s Feast) Bricriu. Cuchulain decides to pursue the Hawk guardian of the well. but short.5. After learning that the The Celtic Paradigm in Modern Irish Writing 33 . Cuchulain swears loyalty to Conchobar and is forbidden by him to befriend an unknown young man sent by Aife. and in doing so he embraces his heroic destiny. He makes his choice immediately and asks the king to let him take up arms like a man. a famous warrior woman from the Land of Shadow (island of Skye). named Uath (Horror) appears and challenges them into a beheading game. he was to fight any man who impeded his path. Tochmarc Emire (the Courtship of Emer). where he maliciously exploits the contention that the choicest portion of meat is given to the greatest hero. Play: Reluctantly. Aife. though warned by Emer that the young man was possibly his son by Aife. Play: Cuchulain. Cuchulain overhears from Cathbad that the youth who take up arms that day would become the greatest warrior in Ireland. his duty to his king forced him fight and kill Connla. Finally Conchobar send Cuchulain against the boy. Conall Cernach and Laegaire Buadach claim the title in turn.3. but refused to give each warrior his name. narrated by Fergus in the Taín. his life would be most glorious. arrives at a Well. to be then proclaimed by Uath the greatest champion in Ireland. as a Young Man. Cuchulain placed a geis upon him: Connla was to never reveal his name to any man. An Old Man. and he either wounded or killed them. he begets Aife a son. There he encountered many warriors of the Red Branch. and. he has to fight Scathach’s sister. whom he finally manages to defeat.5. whose waters are said to give immortality.1. he set out for Emain Macha in search of his father. Play: Cuchulain makes a sacrificial gesture in offering himself to the Red Man from the sea (Manannan in disguise) to kill. a mischief-maker. who has spent 50 years waiting for the chance of drinking from its waters. Connla. While in Scotland. Cuchulain receives his training first under Fergus and then under Scathach. When Connla grew into a young man. Only Cuchulain accepts the challenge and beheads the giant. On Baile’s Strand Source: Aided Oenfhir Aife (Violent Death of Aife’s Son) Before the birth of his son. To decide which of these warriors is the greatest. for else his life will be spent in ceaseless warfare.
BLIND MAN: So he did. there’s the hen waiting inside for me. He will sit in this chair and put the oath upon him. and you put it into the big pot at the fire there.ah FOOL: Why do you say ‘Ah . A Blind Man and a Fool act as chorus. in a louder voice as he feels the back of it]. give a kiss. Let them go back to the sea. and when I’ve got it. and we’ll draw lots for the wish-bone. FOOL: How will he do that? The Celtic Paradigm in Modern Irish Writing 34 .’ that’s what they cry. ‘Give a kiss. and they come by in the wind. They have brought out this chair. “Where is the Fool? Why has he put a lock on the door?” Maybe they’ll hear the bubbling of the pot and come in and sit on the ground. It is that he’s coming for. And what a good cook you are! You take the fowl out of my hands after I have stolen it and plucked it. I’ll be praising you while you’re eating it. He is going to be Cuchulain’s master in earnest from this day out. for your good plans and for your good cooking. He is a great man. BLIND MAN: So he is. FOOL: He must be a great man to be Cuchulain’s master. let them go back to the sea. There’s nobody in the world like you. There are some that look for me. Cuchulain dies fighting the waves. Witches they are. done to the turn.1904) FOOL: What a clever man you are though you are blind! There’s nobody with two eyes in his head that is as clever as you are. P. so he did. But he ran too wild. Fool. FOOL [putting his arm round Blind Man’s neck]: Come now. ON BAILE’S STRAND (1901. Who but you could have though that the henwife sleeps every day a little at noon? I would never be able to steal anything if you didn’t tell me where to look for it. All the witches can come in now. FOOL: Cuchulain’s master! I thought Cuchulain could do anything he liked. BLIND MAN [feeling legs of big chair with his hand] Ah! [Then. That’s wide enough. and I wouldn’t like them not to find me. mistaken their foam for Conchobar’s crown. BLIND MAN [who is feeling about with his stick]: Done to the turn. Ah . and Conchubar is coming to-day to put an oath upon him that will stop his rambling and make him as biddable as a housedog and keep him always at his hand. framing the main action of the play. It is to-day the High King Conchubar is coming. Boann herself out of the river and Fand out of the deep sea. Wait a minute. But we won’t give them any of the fowl. I’ll have a leg and you’ll have a leg.youth he killed was his own son.ah’? BLIND MAN: I know the big chair. come. and they cry. O shouldn’t have closed the door. and I can go out and run races with the witches at the edge of the waves and get an appetite. He is over all the rest of the kings of Ireland. Blind Man. I wouldn’t have them beat at the door and say. Come.
I bid you take the oath. it might be done. I’ll take no oath. and he had refused to tell it. I heard the men who were running away say he had red hair. FOOL: You said it was done to a turn. The Celtic Paradigm in Modern Irish Writing 35 . I wish it was as big as a goose. When you were stealing the fowl. a great fight. Take a strong oath. that he was going to kill Cuchulain. BLIND MAN: Hush. I know who that young man is. Cuchulain. They were wounded and groaning. I was lying in a hole in the sand. but the legs might be red. BLIND MAN: There had been a fight. Tell me about the fight. that he had come from Aoife’s country. FOOL: That’s enough. and he had killed one. BLIND MAN: Hush! I haven’t told you all. FOOL: My teeth are growing long with the hunger. [The Blind Man has got into the chair]. till you hear. and others had run away.I will tell you a story with a fight in it.the kings have story-tellers while they are waiting for their dinner . the guardians of the shore had asked his name. I wish it was bigger. I want my dinner. A youg man had landed on the shore. believe me. BLIND MAN: Did I. and I heard three men coming with a shuffling sort of noise. BLIND MAN: I’ll tell you a story . now? Well. a tremendous great fight. But. The flesh might stick hard to the bones and not come away in the teeth. I tell you. and a ship and a queen’s son that has his mind set on killing somebody that you and I know. Fool. and what are your riches compared with mine? And what sons have you to pay your debts and to put a stone over you when you die? Take the oath.’ FOOL [crumpling himself up and whining]: I will not. Do as I tell you. Come on now to the fowl. it will be well done before you put your teeth in it. FOOL: Go on. and not done.BLIND MAN: You have no wits to understand such things. The wings might be white. What are your wits compared with mine. now. FOOL: Who is that? Who is he coming to kill? BLIND MAN: Wait. hush! It is not done yet. a story with a champion in it. He will sit up in this chair and he’ll say: ‘Take the oath.
How can we be at safety with this man That nobody can buy or bid or bind? We shall be at his mercy when you are gone. I’ll dance or hunt. As if it were yourself! CONCHUBAR: Most certainly. CUCHULAIN: Because I have killed men without your bidding And have rewarded others at my own leisure. swear obedience As if I were some cattle-raising king? Are my shins specked with the heat of the fire. CONCHUBAR: He came to land While you were somewhere out of sight and hearing. If time had not put water in your blood. Hunting or dancing with your wild companions. my son shall be High King. He burns the earth as if he were a fire. and I am to obey Whatever child you set upon the throne. Because a youngster out of Aoife’s country Has found the shore ill-guarded. CUCHULAIN: And I must be obedient in all things. sit at the council board Among the unshapely bodies of old men. wellnigh your bondsman. go where you please. You’d lay this oath upon me . that held you on the throne when all Had pulled you from it. You never would have thought it.’ CUCHULAIN: And so the tale Grows finer yet. But every day my children come and say: ‘This man is growing harder to endure. and the kings Out of the Garden in the East of the World. no whip. or quarrel or make love. And time can never touch him.and now you add another pebble to the heap.II. I’ll not be bound. Because of half a score of trifling thing. CONCHUBAR: I would leave A strong and settle country to my children. Give up my will to yours. I am High King. CUCHULAIN: He can be driven out. Come when you call. Cuchulain. And I must be your man. Or have my hands not skill but to make figures Upon the ashes with a stick? Am I So slack and idle and I need a whip Before I serve you? CONCHUBAR: No. Wherever and whenever I’ve a mind to. I whose mere name has kept this country safe. The hundred kings of Sorcha. and now . I that in early days have driven out Maeve of Cruachan and the northern pirates. The Celtic Paradigm in Modern Irish Writing 36 . Must I.
There again. he is standing still. No. Listen. It has gone over him. Well struck! Well struck! BLIND MAN: What is he doing now? FOOL: O! he is fighting the waves! BLIND MAN: He sees kind Conchubar’s crown on every one of them. There is a great wave going to break. They are all about the young man. CUCHULAIN: It’s well that we should speak out minds out plainly. They are all running. We should be the more truthful. come quickly! The ovens will be full. the waves have mastered him! BLIND MAN: Come here.. I do not like your children . There is a big wave. and being more Than men can be now that cloud’s lifted up.] IV. If put in balance with my children. and he is looking at it. FOOL: He is going up to King Conchubar. I say. but looking backwards towards the door]: What is it? BLIND MAN: There will be nobody in the houses. I cannot see him now. No marrow in their bones. [They go out]. Conchubar. BLIND MAN: Come here. We in our young days Have seen the heavens like a burning cloud Brooding upon the world. no. BLIND MAN: Come here! FOOL: The waves have mastered him. he has made the foam fly. BLIND MAN: You say they are running out of the houses? There will be nobody left in the houses. For when we die we shall be spoken of In many countries. FOOL: There. [. Are but a little king and weigh but light In anything that touches government. and will lie soft Where you and I lie hard. Fool! FOOL: There. he is down! He is up again. but he is holding up his sword as if he were going into a fight. And though your father came out of the sun. Come this way. He has killed kings and giants. [pause]. The Celtic Paradigm in Modern Irish Writing 37 . and the people are running out of the houses. he has struck at a big one! He has struck the crown off it. another big one! BLIN MAN: Where are the kings? What are the kings doing? FOOL: They are shouting and running down to the shore.they have no pith. Fool! Fool: The waves have mastered him. Ah! Now he is running down to the sea.. He is going out in the deep water.And you for all the wildness of your blood. We will put our hands into the ovens. FOOL [coming towards him. but the waves have mastered him.
The Only Jealousy Of Emer • Sources: Serglige con Chulainn (Cuchulain’s Illness) and Oenet Emire (The Jealousy of Emer) When cuchulain tries to kill two magical birds. he fastens himself to a pillar-stone. Eithne Inguba. he contends alone against the enemies of Ulster. he is told that Fand needs him to fight off three demons who besieged her palace. When a raven settles on his shoulder. ready to avenge upon him the death of Connla. Eithne seemingly wins him back to life and to herself. as ordained by Morrigan. and his enemies behead him. he promises to meet Fand again. so that he may die standing up. But it is not her. until . Pierced by a spear in the fighting. As in the Taín. who has attacked Ulster again. Play: Though in legend Cuchulain is said to die young. Fand leaves. He spends a year in a coma at Emain Macha. but all three are distraught until Manannan uses his magic cloak to cast a spell of oblivion upon them. He is wounded six times in battle. Cuchulain’s young mistress. Emer plans to kill Fand at the meeting-place. Aife appears and ties him to a stake. he is horsewhipped in a dream by two women of the sídh. so that Cuchulain leaves to fight against Medb’s army. in a further vision. it is taken as a sign he is dead. While Emer renounces Cuchulain in order to save him from Fand (who wants to take him to the Otherworld). here he has aged with the poet. but instead each woman offers to surrender her love. but the Blind Man (from On Baile’s Strand) who beheads the hero. • Play: Yeats exploits the dramatic potential of the love triangle. Cuchulain enters the Otherworld. The Celtic Paradigm in Modern Irish Writing 38 . and spends a month in Fand’s loving arms. defeats the demons. The Morrigan gets Eithne Inguba to falsify a message from Emer. The Death Of Cuchulain Source: Aided Chon Culainn (The Violent Death Of Cuchulain) Cuchulain meets his death on the plain of Mag Muirthemne. adding a new character. Cuchulain’s mode of dying becomes an indictment of the modern materialist society which no longer treasures heroes and artists alike. having been promised 12 pennies by a “big man”. When he returns to the surface.
6. W. Tain Bo Cualgne and the Celtic Framework. Yeats’s “Cuchulain plays” and Nuala NiDhumnaill’s Chuchulain I. Constructing and De-constructing Mythic Heroism: representations of Cuchulain in Tain Bo Cualgne . We also came my ladies. Grave hunter who’d satisfy no woman saying your father never went to a small seaside town like Ballybuion never made arms and instruments of war to give you so you could leap from the womb three minutes after the conception your hand full of spears holding five shields it is not we who injured you. out of wombs and the danger yet remains morning noon and evening that the ground will open and opened to us all will be Brufon na hAlmhaine Brú na Bóinne or Teach Da Deige with its seven doors and hot cauldrons. Task Choose from one of the following topics to develop into a 4000-word essay of the argumentative type: 1. 2.3. Don’t threat us again with your youth again small poor dark man Cú Chulainn. B. The Celtic Paradigm in Modern Irish Writing 39 . 1988 Small dark rigid man Cú Chulainn who still lacks a lump on your shoulder who spent your first nine months in a cave swimming in your mother’s fluid. De-Constructing Heroism: Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill Cú Chulainn I from Selected Poems.
B. 2.The Cycle of Munster (the Finn Cycle) 4.Chapter 4 . 4. from “Finnegan’s Wake” to Joyce’s “Finnegans Wake” The Celtic Paradigm in Modern Irish Writing 40 . Literary Treatments of Fenian Tales and Heroes 4. 3. “The Wanderings of Oisin” 4. 4.2. 1. Fenian Heroes and Tales 4. Oísin in the Land of Youth 4. 4. W. Finn Maccool. Ossianism 4. The Fionn Cycle (Fenian.4.3. Ossianic. Munster) 4.1. Yeats.
1. In folklore the injury is caused by Fionn’s burning his thumb on the Salmon of Knowledge from the Boyne. Most stories centre on the exploits of the mythical hero Fionn mac Cumhaill. and. Cumhall. endowed with traditional.4. he declares war on the Fianna. When Cormac’s son succeeds to the thrown. and. which also brings him the gift of poetry. In “The Pursuit of Diarmuid and Gráinne”. his son Oisín. had led. the most famous is the one with the goddess Sadb. in early Ireland. 4. The Fionn Cycle (Fenian. The Celtic Paradigm in Modern Irish Writing 41 . Fionn possesses a gift of special insight which he can summon by biting his finger. Thereafter he finds himself inspired with imbas (great knowledge). Munster) The Fionn Cycle contains a group of tales developed in Munster and Leinster and dating to the 3rd century A. the mother of Oísin. and other famous members of the fian (warrior-band) of Fionn. Bran and Sceolang. but eventually getting his bride back. Oscar (Fionn’s grandson) and many of the Fianna are killed. while his mother. Fionn appears as a vindictive and jealous older man. institutional attributes. As such. in his turn. are said to be his cousins (Muirne’s sister having been turned into an animal during her pregnancy. At the battle of Gabhra (Cath Gabhra). his druid teacher. and live an open-air nomadic life. his parentage combined warrior and visionary elements. Fionn was to some extent an outlaw. Another characteristic is its frequent celebration of the beauty of nature. diviner. This set of literary conventions reflects a feature of early Irish society in that such bands of warriors did live outside the structures of that society while retaining links with it. His famous hounds. Ossianic. the Tara fian.2.D. conduct raids. initially threatened by the youthful lover. According to one account of his origin. evoked in vivid language.) Among his romances. yet he was also a poet. and sage. therefore. fight. who came to him in the form of a deer. As well as being endowed with physical courage. said to be descending from the Danann. who hunt. Fenian Heroes and Tales Fionn mac Cumhaill is the leader of the Fianna under the High King Cormac mac Airt. His father. which he is cooking for Finnegas. his finger was injured when a fairy woman caught it in the door of the fairy-fort at Femun. Muirne (Muireann) was the daughter of the druid Tadg. collectively known as the Fianna.
The beauty of the countryside and the prospect of the chase revived their spirits a little as they followed the hounds through the woods. Her skin glowed white and pink and her mouth seemed as sweet as honeyed wine. Many of their companions had been killed at Gowra. Patrick doubted the old man’s word since Finn had been dead for longer than the span of any human life. Her long. rejuvenated by the familiar excitement of the chase. had seen his favourite grandson lying dead on the field. hills and woods resounded with their legends. hung down over the silk trapping of her horse. the last battle the Fianna fought. Oisin. Oscar. Her horse was saddled and shod with gold The Celtic Paradigm in Modern Irish Writing 42 . He said he was Oisin. Their story was written into the very landscape of Ireland. Saint Patrick came to Ireland bringing the Christian religion with him. Manannan’s daughter. among them the bravest warrior of the Fianna. their code of honour and their way of life. Around Lough Lene the woods were fresh and green and the early mists of a May morning were beginning to lift when Finn and his followers set out with their dogs to hunt. He had heard many stories about the adventures of the Fianna and he was interested in these old heroes whom the people spoke about as if they were gods. Suddenly a young hornless deer broke cover and bounded through the forest with the dogs in full cry at its heels. When Finn. She was so beautiful she seemed like a vision. rivers and valleys bore their names. She wore a crown and her hair hung in shining. where he spends 300 years until returning to Ireland. They were dispirited because they knew their day was over. One day a feeble. They had all fought many battles in their time. Oísin is lured away to Tir-na-nOg by Niamh. blind old man was brought to Patrick. They were stopped in their tracks by the sight of a lovely young woman galloping towards them on a supple. Her eyes were as clear and blue as the May sky above the forest and they sparkled like dew on the morning grass. he had turned his back to his troops and wept. OISIN IN THE LAND OF YOUTH (FROM THE FINN CYCLE) Hundreds of years after Finn and his companions had died. The Fianna followed them. Oisin’s own son. a favourite haunt of theirs in happier times. Only once before had the Fianna seen their leader cry and that was at the death of his staghound Bran. last of the Fianna. but this last battle had brought them total defeat and bitter losses. the son of Finn himself. nimble white horse. 4.Afterwards. dozens marked their graves. His body was weak and wasted but his spirit was strong. glinting with gold-embroidered stars. lustrous cloak. the baule-hardened old veteran.3. Finn and a handful of survivors went south to Lough Lene in Kerry. Oisin. So to convince the saint that his claim was true. golden loops down over her shoulders. After the battle of Gowra. Patrick preached the new doctrines to him but the old warrior scorned the newcomers and their rituals and in defiant response sand the praises of the Fianna. told his story.
as much as you could ever want. You will get a hundred of the most beautiful jewels you’ve ever seen and a hundred arrows. “Tell us your name and the name of your kingdom. why have you left a country like that and crossed the sea to come to us? Has your husband forsaken you or has some other tragedy brought you here?” “My husband didn’t leave me. Oisin!” Niamh whispered. a hundred swift bay horses. I will gladly marry you!” “Come away with me. “Who are you and where have you come from?” he asked. a hundred silk tunics. No one had seen a better animal. moon-struck and silent.” the girl replied. a crown that he has never given to anyone else. “You love one of my sons? Which of my sons do you love. In my country you will never die. “Oh. And me for your wife.” “Oh. more than you could imagine. “Oisin is the champion I’m talking about. Oisin. sorrowful shots. “why are The Celtic Paradigm in Modern Irish Writing 43 . But he recovered himself and went over to the princess and took her hand in his. You will get a hundred cows. So I decided to come and find him. The woman reined in her horse and came up to where Finn stood. my son. It is the most beautiful country under the sun. and it will protect you from every danger. Niamh.” she answered. Trees grow tall there and treed bend low with fruit. When Finn saw his son being borne away from him. strength and power. “I’ve travelled a great distance to find you. With Niamh cradled between his arms he took the reins in his hands and the horse started forwards. You will never fall ill or grow old there. A hundred young women will sing to you and a hundred of the bravest. you will get beauty. I could never refuse you anything you ask and I will gladly go with you to the Land of Youth!” Oisin cried and he jumped up on the horse behind her. and a hundred sheep with golden wool. the Land of Youth. a hundred calves. dazzled by the beautiful girl and when he heard her name him as the man she loved he trembled from head to toe. he let out three loud. As well as all of this. “Then tell us. “You are the most beautiful woman in the world and I would choose you above all others.” Finn started in surprise.and there was a silver wreath around his head. You will get gold and jewels. “for I’ve never had a husband. And a hundred swords. young warriors will obey your command. “Go slowly. Princess Niamh. plenty of wine. but I wouldn’t look at any of them because I loved your son. “Come back with me to the Land of Youth.” he cried out. and Finn found his voice. a hundred keen hunting dogs. Many men in my own country wanted to marry me. The King of the Ever Young will place a crown on your head. Oisin.” “I am called Niamh of the Golden Hair and my father is the king of Tir na n-Og.” replied Niamh. The land thaws with honey and wine. till we reach the shore!” Niamh said. In Tir na n-Og you will sit at feasts and games with plenty of music for you. Niamh? And tell me why your mind settled on him?” he asked.” Oisin had been silent all this time.” she said. “Reports of his handsome looks and sweet nature reached as far as the Land of Youth.
” “Niamh. “Dry your eyes.” Niamh replied. rode a young prince. she replied that they were insignificant compared to the inhabitants of the Land of Youth. The waves opened before Niamh and Oisin and dosed behind them as they passed. What country are we in now and who is the king?” “This is the Land of Virtue and that is the palace of Fomor. Ahead of them and visible from afar. The two women The Celtic Paradigm in Modern Irish Writing 44 . mounted on a white horse. Behind her. With a loud. A young fawn rushed past. the queen told the story of her captivity and as tears coursed down her cheeks she told them that until the giant was overcome she could never return home. You’re leaving me here heartbroken for I know we’ll never meet again!” Oisin stopped and embraced his father and said goodbye to all his friends. As they travelled across the sea. a white dog with scarlet ears racing after it. “The daughter of the king of the Land of Life is the queen. But a prisoner she remains for no one wants to fight the giant. She was abducted from her own country by Fomor and he keeps her a prisoner here. gave three shrill neighs and leapt forward. She brought them to a room where thy sat on golden chairs and ate and drank of the best.” Oisin said. When the feast was over. painted summerhouses and stately palaces.” Oisin told her. Oisin looked in awe at this handsome couple but when he asked Niamh who they were.” They turned the horse towards the white palace and when they arrived there they were welcomed by a woman almost as beautiful as Niamh herself. angry shout he challenged Oisin to fight. marble facade shone in the sun. He looked into the face of his prisoner and straight away he knew that she had told her story to the visitors. They passed cities. a giant. She has put a geis on him that he may not marry her until a champion has challenged him to single combat. “I’ll go to the fortress and try to overcome the giant and set the queen free. wonderful sight appeared to them on every side. Its delicate. whitewashed bawns and forts. plunging into the sea. even though your voice is music in my ears. courts and castles. as powerful as Fomor was. A beautiful young woman on a bay horse galloped by on the crests of the waves. With tears streaming down his face he took a last look at them as they stood on the shore. Then the white horse shook its mane. carrying a golden apple in her right hand. He was huge and ugly and he carried a load of deerskins on his back and an iron bar in his hand. He remembered his days together with them all in the excitement of the hunt and the heat of battle. a shining palace came into view.you leaving me? I will never see you again. “That’s the most beautiful palace I have ever see!” Oisin exclaimed.” At that moment Fomor approached the castle. I’m not afraid of him! Either I’ll kill him or I’ll fight till he kills me. handsome and richly dressed with a gold-bladed sword in his hand. Oisin overpowered him in the end and cut off his head. For three days and three nights they struggled and fought but. the story you’ve told me is sad. “I’ll challenge the giant. He saw Oisin and Niamh but did not acknowledge their presence. He saw the defeat and sorrow on his father’s face and the sadness of his friends.
Niamh and Oisin rode steadily through the tempest. Then they feasted till they were full and slept till dawn in the feather beds that were prepared for them. Then he turned towards the crowd and said. Set amid the smooth rich plains was a majestic fortress that shone like a prism in the sun. and they welcomed the couple to Tir na n-Og. The Celtic Paradigm in Modern Irish Writing 45 . Niamh of the Golden Hair. dressed in silk and heavy gold brocade. bathed in sunshine. and indeed they were sad to leave her. “You’re welcome to this happy country.” He turned to Oisin.gave three triumphant cheers when they saw the giant felled.” As Niamh spoke a hundred beautiful young women came to meet them. The festivities lasted for ten days and ten nights. Finn’s son. They mounted the white horse and he galloped away as boisterously as a March wind roaring across a mountain summit. Niamh and Oisin lived happily in the Land of Youth and had three children. spread out in all its splendour. “This is Oisin. Suddenly the sky darkened. They buried the giant and raised his flag over the grave and caned his name in ogham script in stone. you will receive. the wind rose and the sea was lit up by angry flashes of light. As Niamh and Oisin approached the fortress a troop of a hundred of the most famous champions came out to meet them. The morning sun awoke them and Niamh told Oisin they must continue on their journey to Tir na n-Og. they saw the most delightful country. “I told you the truth when I told you how beautiful it was. This is my queen and this is my daughter Niamh. looking up at the pillars of clouds blotting out the sun until the wind dropped and the storm died down. ahead of them. the king took Oisin by the hand and welcomed him. “Have we arrived at the Land of Youth?” “Indeed we have. he named her Plur na mBan. When they saw that Oisin was badly injured and too exhausted to walk unaided. The queen put ointments and herbs on his wounds and in a very short time Oisin had recovered his health and spirits. Niamh named the boys Finn and Oscar after Oisin’s father and son. A huge glittering crowd then approached with the king and queen at their head. Surrounding it were airy halls and summerhouses built with great artistry and inlaid with precious stones. Then. but she was free now to return home. When Oisin and Niamh met the royal party. Everything you ever dreamt of is waiting for you here. the Flower of Women. “This land is the most beautiful place I have ever see!” Oisin exclaimed. This is Tir na n_og. Oisin gave his daughter a name that suited her loving nature and her lovely face.” Niamh replied. the Golden-haired. Everything I promised you. Oisin! Here you will have a long and happy life and you will never grow old. The queen of the Land of Virtue was sad to see them go. so they said goodbye to her and that was the last they saw of her. I promise you that all I say is true for I am the king of Tir na n-Og. they took him gently between them and helped him back to the fortress. who crossed the sea to find you and bring you back here so that you could be together for ever. who is to be married to my beloved daughter.” Oisin thanked the king and queen and a wedding feast was prepared for Oisin and Niamh.
He drew in his horse and. “Oh. “Our white horse knows the way. He said goodbye to his children and as he stood by the white horse Niamh came up to him and kissed him.” she implored him. “listen to me well. you will find only a crowd of monks and holy men. “I can’t refuse you though I wish you had never asked. Oisin arrived in Ireland in high spirits. They addressed him courteously.Three hundred years went by. but they kept on staring at him. He went from one of Finn’s haunts to another but they were all deserted. so he asked Niamh and her father to allow his to return home. He travelled over the familiar terrain but saw no trace of any of his friends. “The stories about him say that there never was anyone to match him in character. but she gave Oisin a most solemn warning.” Then Niamh began to sob and wail in great distress. set out for Ireland. Oisin was heartbroken at the sight of that desolate place. Niamh!” he said.” Oisin tried to comfort his wife. “Don’t be distressed. chickweed and nettles. you will be lost for ever to the Land of Youth.” they told him. He scoured the countryside but there was no trace of his companions anywhere. astonished at his appearance and his great size. “I’m afraid that if you go you’ll never return. Oisin. The horse took him away from Tir na n_og as swiftly as it had brought Niamh and him there three hundred years before. Oisin!” she said. the headquarters of the Fianna in the plains of Leinster. Oisin. Instead he saw a crowd of men and women approaching from the west. Straight away he set out for Almu. the crowd stopped too. there was no trace of the strong. behaviour or build. He began to get homesick for Ireland and longed to see Finn and his friends. When Oisin told them he was looking for Finn MacCumhaill and asked of his whereabouts the people were even more surprised. You will not see Finn or the Fianna. He’ll bring me back safely!” So Niamh consented. The Celtic Paradigm in Modern Irish Writing 46 . There are so many stories that we could not even start to tell them to you!” When Oisin heard this a tide of weariness and sadness washed over him and he realized that Finn and his companions were dead. The king consented but Niamh was perturbed by his request. “and remember what I’m saying. If you dismount from the horse you will not be able to return to this happy country.” Oisin tried to console her but Niamh was inconsolable and pulled and clutched at her long hair in her distress. But when he got there. here is a last kiss for you! You will never come back to me or to the Land of Youth. as strong and powerful a champion as he had ever been. for the third time I warn you: do not set foot on the soil of Ireland or you can never come back to me again! Everything is changed there. though to Oisin they seemed as short as three. shining white fort. There was only a bare hill overgrown with ragwort.” Oisin mounted his horse and turning his back on the Land of Youth. I tell you again. “We’ve heard of Finn and the Fianna. if your foot as much as touches the ground. and set out at once to find the Fianna. “Oisin. at the sight of Oisin.
the warriors lamenting the abeyance of heroic conduct in Christian Ireland. 47 The Celtic Paradigm in Modern Irish Writing . Again the leader shouted desperately to Oisin. sank slowly to the ground. the Valley of the Thrushes. 4. and some stories present the meeting of Oísin and other survivors of the Fianna with St. The weight of the stone was so great that the men underneath could not support it and were being crushed by the load. Literary Treatments of Fenian Tales and Heroes The stories included in the Fionn Cycle as well as the Fenian heroes like Fionn. towering over the gathering. ready to help Ireland in times of need. Ossianism The Scott James MacPherson is among the first to have revived the figure of Oisin under the guise of Ossian. he lay at their feet. his skin sagged into wrinkles and folds and the sight left his clouded eyes. he saw three hundred or more people crowding the glen. OVER NINE WAVES. 4. 4. Collected in the Highlands of Scotland. but in folk tradition he is still alive (sleeping in a cave). the tall young warrior. “Come over here and help us! You are much stronger than we are!” Oisin came closer and saw that the men were trying to lift a vast marble flagstone. Faber and Faber. a bewildered blind old man. But the slab was so heavy and the exertion so great that the golden girth round the horse’s belly snapped and Oisin was pulled out of the saddle. Oisin stood upright for a moment. He leaned out of the saddle and.4. who had been stronger than all of them. 1. Patrick. through Glenasmole. His powerful body withered and shrank. an ancient Caledonian bard. When they saw Oisin approach on his horse one of them shouted out. (from Marie Heaney. Some were down already. “Come quickly and help us to lift the slab or all these men will be crushed to death!” Oisin looked down in disbelief at the crowd of men beneath him who were so puny and weak that they were unable to lift the flagstone. Then. He had to jump to the ground to save himself and the horse bolted the instant its rider’s feet touched the ground. as the horrified crowd watched. and Translated from the Gaelic or Erse Language (1760). he raised it with all his strength and flung it away and the men underneath it were freed. 1994) Accounts of Fionn’s death vary. taking the marble slab in his hands. The cycle has been Christianized.As he passed through Wicklow. whose poems he claimed to have discovered and then translated into English with the publication of: • Fragments of Ancient Poetry. Hopeless and helpless. Oisin and Oscar have inspired many generation of writers.
who dies in a fall from a ladder and is revived with a splash of whiskey at his wake. an Ancient Epic Poem. with the love of the liquor he was born. 4. spent hunting. 4. An’ to help him on with his work each day he’d a drop of the craythur ev’ry morn. an’ to rise in the world he carried a hod. Yeats reworked the tale of “Oisin in the Land of Youth” in his first long narrative poem entitled The Wanderings of Oísin (1889). the fairy daughter of the seagod Manannan. dance to your partner Welt the flure yer trotters shake The Celtic Paradigm in Modern Irish Writing 48 . W. 4. Goethe translated parts of it. held traditionally to have converted Ireland to Christianity.B. written in a highly innovative ‘dream language’ combining multilingual puns with the stream of consciousness developed in Ulysses. in Six Books (1762) Temora (1763) Ossianism had a massive cultural impact during the 18th and 19th centuries. Finn Maccool. 3. He had a tongue both rich and sweet. 2. from “Finnegan’s Wake” to Joyce’s “Finnegans Wake” Nevertheless. 4. Napoleon carried a copy into battle. dancing. B. the most famous literary treatment of Fionn himself is found in James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake (1939) Finnegans Wake is a modernist novel. Now Tim had a sort of a tipplin’ way. a drunken hodcarrier. Written in the form of a dialogue between the aged fenian hero and St. the Dream of Ossian was based on it. and one of Ingres' most romantic and moody paintings. Patrick. and feasting in the company of Niamh.• • Fingal. Chorus: Whack fol de dah. the poem relates Oisin’s threehundred years sojourn in the immortal islands of the Sidhe. “The Wanderings of Oisin” W. FINNEGAN’S WAKE Tim Finnegan liv’d in Walkin Street a gentleman Irish mighty odd. The title is taken from a popular ballad about Tim Finnegan. Yeats.
to which Joyce added a section called the ‘Ricorso’. Says. “you’re wrong. Bedad he revives. you’re going to be Mister Finnagain!’ Its structure is governed by Giambattista Vico’s division of human history into three ages (divine. Arrah. having passed away (‘Macool. and human). orra whyi deed ye diie?’). And a row and a ruction soon began. His head fell heavy which made him shake. Miss Biddy O’Brien began to cry. “Biddy.Wasn’t it the truth I told you. First they brought in tay and cake. It missed and falling on the bed. see how he rises. The pipes. Tim avourneen. And left her sprawling on the floor. heroic. And Mrs. With a gallon of whiskey at his feet. Then Micky Maloney raised his head. Finnegan called for lunch. When a noggin of whiskey flew at him. He fell from the ladder and broke his skull. Macool. tobacco. So they carried him home his corpse to wake. One morning Tim was rather full. They rolled him up in a nice clean sheet And laid him out upon the bed. “Such a neat clean corpse. why did you die?” “Ah. Lot’s of fun at Finnegan’s wake. Thanam o’n dhoul. I’m sure. and whiskey punch. And a barrel of porter at his head.” said Paddy McGee. And Timothy rising from the bed. do ye think I’m dead?” It further relates to Fionn mac Cumhaill who. His friends assembled at the wake. Shillelagh law did all engage. Oh. The Celtic Paradigm in Modern Irish Writing 49 . It also systematically reflects Giordano Bruno’s theory that everything in nature is realized through interaction with its opposite. “Whirl your liquor round like blazes.” But Biddy gave her a belt in the gob. did you ever see. emphasizing the Neapolitan philosopher’s cyclical conception. will inevitably return (‘Mister Finn. Then Biddy O’Connor took up the job. hould your gab.” says she. The liquor scattered over Tim. ‘Twas woman to woman and man to man. then the war did soon enrage.
It also connects to modern psychology, the novel enacting the processes of the sleeping mind in keeping with Joyce’s description of it as the dream of Fionn lying in death beside the Liffey. The main characters of the novel are: • • • • Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker (HCE) (Father) Ana Livia Plurabelle (ALP) (Mother) Shem the Penman and Shaun the Post (Sons) Issy (Daughter)
These are not so much members of a particular family, but representatives of a kinship system repeating itself afresh in all times and places. They appear under different personal and impersonal forms throughout the text, also serving as underlying symbols for male and female in a world of flux. The narrative line consists of a series of situations primarily relating to the sexual life of the Earwicker family. HCE perpetrates a sexual misdemeanour in the Phoenix Park, and becomes the victim of a scadalmongering. ALP defends him in a letter written by Shem and carried by Shaun. The boys endlessly contend for Issy’s favours. HCE grows old and impotent, is buried and revives. Aged ALP prepares to return as her daughter Issy to catch his eye again. In testimony of this cyclic conception, the novel starts in the middle of a sentence and ends with its beginning: Finnegans Wake (1939) riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs. Sir Tristram, violer d’amores, fr’over the short sea, had passencore rearrived from North Armorica on this side the scraggy isthmus of Europe minor to wielderfight his penisolate war, nor had topsawyer’s rocks by the stream Oconee exaggerated themselse to Laurens Country’s gorgios while they went doublin their mumper all the time, nor avoice from afire bellowsed mishe mishe to tauf-tauf thuartpeatrick, not yet, though vennissoon after, had a kidscad buttened a bland old isaac, not yet, though all’s fair in vanessy, were sosie sesters wroth with thone nathandjoe. Not a peck of pa’s malt had Jhem or Shen brewed by archlight and rory end to the regginbrow was to be seen ringsome on the aquaface. The fall (bababadalgharagharaghtakmminorronnkonnbronntonnerronntuonnthunntrovarrhhounawskawntoohoohoordenenthurnuk!) of a once wallstrait oldparr is related early in bed and later on life down through all christian minstrelsy. The great fall of the offwall entailed at such short notice the pftjschute of Finnegan, erse solid man, that the humptyhillhead of himself prumptly sends an unquiring one well to the
The Celtic Paradigm in Modern Irish Writing 50
west quest of his tumptytumtoes: and their upturnpikepoindandplace is at the knock out in the park where oranges have been laid to rust upon the green since devlinsfirst loved livvy. [. . .] A way a lone a last a loved a long the
Consider one of the following topics to develop into a full-length essay: 1. Celtic Connections: from the Finn to the Arthurian cycle of tales.
Irish Heroes in Joycean Metamorphosis: Fion MacCumhail, Tim Finnegan and Finnegans Wake
The Celtic Paradigm in Modern Irish Writing
Chapter 5 - The King (Historical) Cycle Of Tales
The “historical” (king) cycle: 5.1.1. BUILE SUIBHNE (The Madness of Sweeney)
5.2. Early Irish poetry 5.3. The “Suibhne” motif in Irish literature 5.3.1. Flann O’Brien (Brian O’Nolan)(1911-66): At Swim-Two Birds (1939) The Third Policeman (1940) The Poor Mouth (1941, 1961) The Hard Life (1961) The Dalkey Archive (1964) 5.3.2. Seamus Heaney (1919 - ): Death of a Naturalist (1966) Door Into the Dark (1969) Wintering Out (1972) North (1975) Field Work (1979) Sweeney Astray (1983) Station Island (1984) The Haw Lantern (1987) Seeing Things (1991)
The Celtic Paradigm in Modern Irish Writing
One day St. Suibne. He and his clerics sprinkled holy water on the armies. buries the madman in consecrated ground. having travelled much of Ireland. is drive mad by the sound of battle. wishing that he might fly through the air like the shaft of his spear and that he might die of a spar cast like the cleric whom he had slain.5. He then laid hands on the saint and was dragging him away. Finally. after Suibne is killed by one of the servants. Ronan went to Moira to make peace between Domnall and Congal Claen. where he spends may years naked or very sparsely clothed. as consequence of a curse imposed on him by a cleric named Rónán. but when they sprinkled in on Suibhne. bemoaning his fate. dynastic conflicts and battles. romance. leaving the cloak in her hands. The Celtic Paradigm in Modern Irish Writing 53 . Next day an otter from the lake restored the psalter to the saint unharmed. Though history is present in the background of all stories. but he rushed naked from the house. He takes to the wilderness. Moling welcomes him and. They deal with persons and events of the early historical period from the 6th to the 8th centuries. Suibhne departed with the messenger.1. and the shaft flew into the air. mythology and magic continue to play an important part. 5.1. and Suibhne heard the sound of his bell. Ronan was chanting the Office when Suibhne came up. The second spear broke against the saint’s bell. leaving Ronan sorrowful. Ronan was marking the boundaries of a church in that country. he set out in anger to expel the cleric.1. and celebrating nature in haunting lyrical verse. Then his people told him that the saint was establishing a church in his territory. wishing that he might wander naked through the world as he had come naked into his presence. but without success. BUILE SUIBHNE [THE MADNESS/FRENZY OF SWEENEY] Suibhne son of Colman was king of Dal nAraide. he slew one of the clerics with a spear and made a second cast at Ronan himself. he arrives at a small religious community. originally a vigorous ruler and a great warrior. Ronan cursed Suibhne. living in tree-tops. They are often concerned with kingship. and the king seized the psalter and threw it into the lake. when a messenger arrived from Congal Claen to summon him to the battle of Moira. The Historical (King) Cycle The Historical Cycle includes a group of early Irish tales composed between the 9th and 12th centuries. which recounts the tribulations of the Mad King Sweeney. where St. His wife Eorann sought to restrain him and caught the border of his cloak. Buile Suibne (Frenzy of Sweeney) The most famous tale in the cycle is “Buile Suibhne”. Ronan gave thanks to God and cursed the king.
Suibhne wandered throughout Ireland. Glenn Bolcain has four gaps to the wind and a lovely fragrant wood and clean-bordered wells and cool springs. Mo Ling and Mongan the herdsman is recorded in a poem of twenty-six quatrains. . Mo ling. for that valley is always a place of great delight to madmen. [. . Truly I am Suibhne the Madman. . There he was discovered by a kinsman. My face betrays it. The cook would thrust her foot into some cowdung and fill the hole with milk. . Domnall recognised him and lamented his misfortune. and then he returned to Glenn Bolcain.] The cress of the well of Druim Cirb is my meal at terce. who was a herdsman. [. . the armies on both sides raised three mighty shouts. alas! That I was not left to lie with Congal Claen. There Loingsechan came to seek him and found the footprints of Suibhne near the river where he came to eat watercress. for it was destined that his story should be written there and that he should receive a Christian burial. and he slew Suibhne with a spear as he lay drinking the milk one evening. I do not smile. And he uttered a lay: The man by the wall snores: I dare not sleep like that. grew jealous of this attention by his wife. It happened that the victorious army of Domnall had encamped there after the battle. . Before his death he confessed his sins and received the body of Christ and was anointed. where he perched on a tree near the church called Cill Riagain. . and. For seven years since that Tuesday at Moira I have not slept for a moment.] Green cress and a drink of clear water is my fare. But the cook’s husband. who had fled the field after the victory of Domnall. Mo Ling made him welcome and bade him return from his wanderings every evening so that his history might be written.Thereafter.] Though I live from hill to hill on the mountain above the valley of yews. in which Suibhne says: The Celtic Paradigm in Modern Irish Writing 54 . he would return at night. [. wherever he travelled during the day. Suibhne was terrified by the clamour. . [. Aongus the Fat. and Suibhne would lie down to drink. but Suibhne flew away like a bird and came to Tir Conaill. It was there that the madmen used to abide when their year of frenzy was over. His feet rarely touched the ground in his flight. [The conversation of Suibhne. and a sandy stream of clear water with green cress and long waving brooklime on its surface. when the battle was joined.] [. He slept one night in a hut and Suibhne came near and heard him snore. .]At last Suibhne came to the monastery of St. Suibhne fled again and was for a long time travelling through Ireland till he came to Glenn Bolcain. Aongus sought to persuade Suibhne to join him. Mo Ling bade his cook give supper to Suibhne. and at last he settled upon a yew tree far from the battle field. His weapons fell from his hands. . He was seized with trembling and fled in a frenzy like a bird of the air. This is not the fate of the man by the wall. For seven years.
Dear to me for the love of him is every place the holy madman frequented. sweeter to me the noble chant of the hounds of Glenn Bolcain. His memory grieves my heart. I would rather drink water from my hand taken from the well by stealth. O heart. Sweeter to me once than the voice of a lovely woman beside me was the voice of the mountain grouse at dawn. I pray to the chaste King of heaven over his grave and tomb. thy hand. . for Suibhne used to visit them. dear each well of clear water.] Dear to me each cool stream on which the green cress grew. Sweet to me was the conversation of Suibhne: long shall I remember it. and he was buried with honour by Mo Ling. [. and Mo Ling said: Here is the tomb of Suibhne. Though you like to drink your ale in taverns with honour. Summary by Miles Dillon The Celtic Paradigm in Modern Irish Writing 55 . Give me.] Then Suibhne swooned. Sweeter to me once was the cry of wolves than the voice of a cleric within bleating and whining. and Mo Ling took him by the hand. and Mo Ling and his cleric brought each a stone for his monument. and they went together to the door of the church.Sweeter to me once that the sound of a bell beside me was the song of a blackbird on the mountain and the belling of the stag in a storm. . And Suibhne leaned against the doorpost and gave a great sigh. Suibhne arose out of his swoon. and come from the tomb. arise and go with me. and his spirit went to heaven. If the King of the stars allows it. Though sweet to you yonder in the church the smooth words of your students.
. the note of the swan. from bright tip of yellow bill.2. was given to no people so early and so fully as to the Celt. which are characterised by Kuno Meyer. The Celtic Paradigm in Modern Irish Writing 56 . . shortly before summer’s end. THE SCRIBE IN THE WOODS Over me green branches A blackbird leads the loud Above my pen-lined booklet I hear a fluting bird-throng The cuckoo pipes a clear call Its dun cloak hid in deep dell: Praise to God for this That in woodland I write well. Indeed. the half-said thing to them is dearest. these poems occupy a unique position in the literature of the world. little musicians of the wood. . “ THE BLACKBIRD BY BELFAST LOCH The small bird hang lets a trill son. Early Irish Poetry The lyrical passages contained in the story and attributed to the mad King display similar characteristics with early Irish poems. . they avoid the obvious and the commonplace. Many hundreds of Gaelic and Welsh poems testify to this fact. in the following terms: “In nature poetry the Gaelic muse may vie with that of any other nation. but rather a succession of pictures and images which the poet. The voice of the wind against the branchy wood Upon the deep-blue sky: Falls of the river. It is a characteristic of these poems that in none of them do we get an elaborate or sustained description of any scene or scenery. . Like the Japanese. A huge old tree encompasses it . The music of the dark torrent . in its tiniest phenomena as in its grandest. Delicious music . A gentle chorus: Wild geese and ducks. in his Introduction to the Ancient Irish Poetry. To seek out and watch and love Nature. Swarms of bees and chafers.5. THE SHIELDING IN THE WOOD I have a shielding in the wood None knows it safe my God: An ash-tree on the higher side. the Celts were always quick to take an artistic hint. a hazel-bush beyond. calls up before us by light and skilful touches. like an impressionist. The shrill chord by Loch Lee of blackbird goodness from yellow tree. .
3. and. The ‘Suibhne’ Motif in Irish Literature Through the story of his wanderings – physical and mental – Suibhne became the principal Irish exponent of the legend of the Wild Man. He also wrote many satirical columns in the Irish Times under the name Myles na gCopaleen. Many of the motifs attached to him are associated with rites of passage and the transition from one state to another. culture. At Swim-Two Birds (1928) The novel is narrated by a college student who never goes to class.3. Brian O'Nolan (Brian Ó Núalláin) (1911 –1966) Brian O’Nolan is best known for his novels An Béal Bocht.1. past vs. The Celtic Paradigm in Modern Irish Writing 57 . Through its overt religious symbolism. dislike their narrative and convince Trellis’s child to write a novel about his novelist. while wearing a single suit of clothes). and Peggy. Instead. and At Swim-Two-Birds ends. Just at this point.present.1. At Swim-TwoBirds and The Third Policeman written under the nom de plume Flann O'Brien. in which the author is to be tortured to death. George Knowall. the college student passes his exams.1. This seduction results in the birth of a child. Dermot Trellis. he spends his time carousing with friends and smoking cigarettes (in bed. meanwhile. modernity. Another motif relates to the state of frenzy and the world of vision entailed by it (the frenzy unlocks the gifts of poetry ad seership. and figures of Irish legend like Finn MacCool and the mad King Sweeney. 5. Trellis falls in love with Sheila Lamont. The student begins to write a novel about an Irish novelist. and the Great Count O'Blather. The characters in the author’s proposed novel. who has a limited imagination and borrows characters from the existing pool of literary stereotypes: cowboys from American westerns. Other pseudonyms he used were: John James Doe.3. the story is historically rooted in the clash between pre-Christian and Christian customs and values. namely Antony and Sheila Lamont. John Furriskey. the individual and the state. Brother Barnabas. whose upbringing is controlled by the pookah. Along with these characters there is a more banal cast.5. tradition vs. notably Flan O’Brien in At-Swim-Two-Birds (1939) and Seamus Heaney in Sweeney Astray (1982) 5.) The Suibne story continues to inspire Irish writers. summons her to his room and seduces her. by extrapolation. a Good Fairy and a pookah. nature vs. Paul Shanahan.
its darkness. Witticisms were canvassed. affecting a pathos in my voice. Brinsley turned from the window and asked me for a cigarette. lighting one for each of us. The novel. he said. he said. could be despotic. you’re the queer bloody man. That was funny all right. There are two ways to make big money. he said. the novel was inferior to the play inasmuch as it lacked the outward accidents of illusion. What are you laughing at? I said. depending for their utility on a knowledge of the French language as spoken in medieval times. that was the pig’s whiskers. he said. yes. Did you read that stuff about Finn. The Celtic Paradigm in Modern Irish Writing 58 . giving chuckles out. My dim room rang with the iron of fine words and the names of great Russian masters were articulated with fastidious intonation. affording an insight as to its aesthetic. couched in the accent of the lower or working-classes. private. I said. Nature of chuckles: Quiet. however. its daemon. self-determination and a decent standard of living. I took out my ‘butt’ or half-spent cigarette and showed it in the hollow of my hand. contentment and better service. The God-big Finn. It was undemocratic to compel characters to be uniformly good or bad or poor or rich. frequently inducing the reader to be outwitted in a shabby fashion and caused to experience a real concern for the fortunes of illusory characters. Brinsley was at the window. I then tendered an explanation spontaneous and unsolicited concerning my own work. My talk had been forced. to write a book or to make a book. Psycho-analysis was mentioned . The play was consumed in wholesome fashion by large masses in places of public resort.great authors living and dead.with. This I found a pleasing eulogy. in the hands of un unscrupulous writer. He then brought from his own pocket a box of the twenty denomination. This would make for self-respect. its argument. the novel was selfadministered in private. It happened that this remark provoked between us a discussion on the subject of Literature . its sun-twinkle clearness. Under the cover of the bed-clothes I poked idly with a pencil at my navel. averted. I said. It would be incorrect to say that it would lead to chaos. its sorrow and its joy. a somewhat little touch. that stuff I gave you? Oh. That is all I have. Nature of explanation offered: It was stated that while the novel and the play were both pleasing intellectual exercises. and character of modern poetry. You and your book and your porter. it was explained that a satisfactory novel should be a self-evident sham to which the reader could regulate at will the degree of his credulity. By God. Each should be allowed a private life.from AT SWIM-TWO-BIRDS (1939) I withdrew my elbow and fell back again as if exhausted by my effort. In reply to an inquiry. the predilections of publishers and the importance of being at all times occupied with literary activities of a spare-time or recreative character.
said Brinsley. upstarts. . The Celtic Paradigm in Modern Irish Writing 59 . There was a curse . I would not have relapsed into madness. The story. thimbleriggers and persons of inferior education from understanding contemporary literature. said Sweeny. it is a piteous life! A filling of green-tufted fine cresses a drink of cold water from a clear rile Stumbling out of the withered tree-tops walking the furze . my cheek is green O Mighty God.usually said much better. Peerless Christ. The modern novel should be largely a work of reference. oratio recta and oratio obliqua. the snow being the worst of all the other snows he had endured since the feather grew on his body. I explained to him my literary intentions in considerable detail . Sweeny arrived at nightfall at the shore of the widespread Loch Ree his resting-place being the fork of the tree of Tiobradan for that night. said Lamont. The upshot is that your man becomes a bloody bird.now reading. what’s this about jumps? Hopping around. creating only when they failed to find a suitable existing puppet. That is all my bum. It is bad living without a house. now discoursing. [direct speech and indirect speech] [. ] After a prolonged travel and a searching in the skies. It snowed on his tree that night. Terrible is my plight this night the pure air has pierced my body. you know. said Furriskey. The entire corpus of existing literature should be regarded as a limbo from which discerning authors could draw their characters as required. running with the red stag through fields. . I see. If the evil hag had not invoked Christ against me that I should perform leaps for her amusement. said Lamont. and he was constrained to the recital of these following verses.a malediction . would obviate tiresome explanations and would effectively preclude mountebanks. Come here.it is truth wolves for company. A wealth of references to existing works would acquaint the reader instantaneously with the nature of each character. it is my due. lacerated feet.Characters should be interchangeable as between one book and another. Most authors spend their time saying what has been said before . is about this fellow Sweeny that argued the toss with the clergy and came off second-best at the wind-up. But taking precise typescript from beneath the book that was at my side. man-shunning. said learned Shanahan in a learned explanatory manner.put down in the book against him. Conclusion of explanation.
the wind on her naked front. PUNISHMENT (from North. The Celtic Paradigm in Modern Irish Writing 60 .3. for example. Heaney's work is deeply associated with the lessons of history. Hints of sectarian violence can be found in many of his poems. in a rural area thirty miles to the north-west of Belfast. even works that on the surface appear to deal with something else. 1975) I can feel the tug of the halter at the nape of her neck. Heaney evolved the “bog myth” to distance the sectarian killings in modern Ulster through their analogues of 2000 years ago. the body of a young Danish woman accused of adultery and sacrificed to the land in an ancient fertility ritual prompts him meditate on tribal revenge and justice. many of which seemed to have been ritually sacrificed to earth deities. Like the Troubles themselves.V. In “Punishment”.5.R. the county of his childhood. finding its modern counterpart in the shaved and tarred heads of young Irish women humiliated by the I. Glob’s “The Bog People” – which dealt with the discovery of well-preserved Iron Age bodies in the Danish bogs. sometimes even prehistory. Under the influence of P. for fraternizing with British soldiers.2. His main collections of poetry are: • • • • • • • • • • • Death of a Naturalist (1966) Door into the Dark (1969) Wintering Out (1972) North (1975) Field Work (1979) Sweeney Astray: A Version From the Irish (1983) Station Island (1984) The Haw Lantern (1987) Seeing Things (1991) The Midnight Verdict (1993) The Spirit Level (1996) Heaney's work is often set in rural Londonderry. Seamus Heaney (1939-) Heaney was born into a nationalist Irish Catholic family at Mossbawn.A.
The Celtic Paradigm in Modern Irish Writing 61 . your muscles’ webbing and all your numbered bones: I who have stood dumb when your betraying sisters. I can see her drowned body in the bog. intimate revenge. the weighing stone. I am the artful voyeur of your brain’s exposed and darkened combs. the stones of silence. My poor scapegoat. Little adulteress. before they punish you you were flaxen-haired. Under which at first she was a barked sapling that is dug up oak-bone. wept by the railings. who would connive in civilized outrage yet understand the exact and tribal. I know. the floating rods and boughs. her blindfold a soiled bandage. cauled in tar. and your tar-black face was beautiful. undernourished. I almost love you but would have cast. it shakes the frail rigging of her ribs.It blows her nipples to amber beads. her noose a ring to store the memories of love. brain-firkin: her shaved head like a stubble of black corn.
grown long-haired The Celtic Paradigm in Modern Irish Writing 62 . I am neither internee nor informer. An inner émigré. Those million tons of light Like a glimmer of haws and rose-hips. His gift like a slingstone Whirled for the desperate. birches Inheriting the last light. And I sometimes see a falling star. Imagining a hero On some muddy compound.Nevertheless. For what? For the ear? For the people? For what is said behind-backs? Rain comes down through the alders. who has given up history as a bad job: EXPOSURE It is December in Wicklow: Alders dripping. it also aestheticises it through Heaney’s art. his subsequent poems revel in the condition of “exile” as a necessary one for a poet who acknowledges the priority of his artistic vocation over the constraints of the political world. How did I end up like this? I often think of my friends’ Beautiful prismatic counselling And the anvil brains of some who hate me As I sit weighing and weighing My responsible tristia. Heaney decided that investing poetry with the burden of political meaning meant to frustrate its flight. the spent flukes of autumn. The ash tree cold to look at. its low conductive voices Mutter about let-downs and erosions And yet each drop recalls The diamond absolutes. In “Exposure” the speaker is an “inner émigré”. if the bog myth distances contemporary violence through an objective correlative. in the Republic. Husks. While he himself withdrew from the politically embittered North to Wicklow. If I could come on meteorite! Instead I walk through damp leaves. Being accused of having become an “anthropologist of ritual violence”. A comet that was lost Should be visible at sunset.
Taking protective colouring From bole and bark. have missed The once-in-a-lifetime portent. The comet’s pulsing rose. watercress supplies my bite and sup at terce.3.2. long exiled from those rushy hillsides. finding in the figure of the ancient king an analogue for himself as an artist who has chosen to flee from the constraints of the tribe in order to find release into imaginative freedom. And the manhunt is an expiation. Mad Sweeney is on the run and sleeps curled beneath a rag under the shadow of Slieve leaguelong cut off from the happy time when I lived apart. to go drenched in teems of rain and crouch under thunderstorms. feeling Every wind that blows. far from my home among the reeds. The Celtic Paradigm in Modern Irish Writing 63 . I give thanks to the King above whose harshness only proves His love which was outraged by my offence and shaped my new shape for my sins a shape that flutters from the ivy to shiver under a winter sky. a wood-kerne Escaped from the massacre.1. SWEENEY ASTRAY God of heaven! Why did I go battling out that famous Tuesday to end up changes into Mad Sweeney. Who. an honoured name. roosting alone up in the ivy? From the well of Drum Cirb. Sweeney Astray (1983) In 1983 Heaney undertook a full-scale translation of “Buile Suibhne” as “Sweeney Astray”. 5.And thoughtful. blowing up these sparks For their meagre heat. its juices that have greened my chin are Sweeney’s markings and birth-stain.
the man at the wall? I who once camped among mad friends in Bolcain.Though I still have life. “Mad King Sweeney” and the “Buile” Motif in Irish Literature 2. What does he know. Summering where herons stalk. My life is steady lamentation that the roof over my head has gone. In 1995 Seamus Heaney was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature. I would swoop places with Congal Claon. A sup of water. my pillow and heart’s ease my Eden thick with apple trees. “The Matter of Ireland” and Heaney’s Ars Poetica: Punishment vs. Exposure. The Celtic Paradigm in Modern Irish Writing 64 . that happy glen of winds and wind-borne echoes. stretched on his back among the slain. 3. It was sheer madness to imagine any life outside Glen BolcainGlen Bolcain. At-Swim-Two-Birds and Sweeney Astray: Two Versions of Buile Sweeney. climbing mountain slopes. the man at the wall.. Wintering out among wolf-packs. What does he know. that I go in rags. live miserable Beyond the dreams of the man at the wall. how Sweeney survived his downfall? Going stooped through the long grass. starved and mad. Plumed in twigs that green and fall. Watercress. haunting deep in the yew glen. Task Consider one of the following topics to develop into a full-length critical essay: 1. brought to this by the power of God.
W. 1994. ANTHOLOGY. (ed. Robert (ed. 4. Constable. 7. POETRY. 1996. 1996. Lagan Press. Mercier Press. T. Ioana REPRESENTATIONS OF IRISHNESS: CULTURE. 1998. EDP.) DICTIONARY MODERN IRISH OF CELTIC AN MYTHOLOGY.) THE COURSE OF IRISH HISTORY. 6. Welch. 1991. The Celtic Paradigm in Modern Irish Writing 65 . (ed. Crotty. 3. Patrick Peter. 1993. Oxford UP. Methuen.) THE OXFORD COMPANION TO IRISH LITERATURE. 2. 2004. Moody. Declan.Minimal Bibliography: 1. Mohor-Ivan. INVENTING IRELAND: The Literature of the Modern Nation. THEATRE AND BRIAN FRIEL’S REVISIONIST STAGE. 5. LANDMARKS OF IRISH DRAMA. Kiberd. Berresford-Ellis. Vintage.
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