Chapter 17. Kissing the Leper: The Excluded Poet in Irish Myth

In 1596, Edmund Spenser wrote,
There is amongst the Irish a certaine kind of people, called Bardes, which are to them insteed of Poets, whose profession is to set foorth the praises or dispraises of men in their poems or rymes, the which are had in so high regard and estimation amongst them, that none dare displease them for feare to runne into reproach thorough their offence, and to be made infamous in the mouthes of all men. For their verses are taken up with a generall applause, and usually sung at all feasts and meetings, by certaine other persons, whose proper function that is, who also receive for the same great rewards and reputation amongst them. [1]
Ireland has a rich dossier of the themes we have been considering so far; in fact, when parallels for Archilochus and the Lycambids are sought, the most striking comparanda have been found in Ireland, whose myth and folklore are full of powerful poets causing death, exile, and regal abdication through their satirical poetry, curses, and spells. [2] What has received less attention is the question of what happens to such powerful figures in Irish society. Again, the same social mechanisms seem to be in effect: the blame poet in Ireland often cannot be tolerated by society. Irish satirists are often imprisoned, killed, and exiled by political leaders and warriors; there seems to be a continual tension between king (or powerful political figure) and satirical poet, just as there is a mutually enriching bond between the king and poet who specializes in praise. In addition, important ancillary themes we have seen in the Aesop, Archilochus, and related traditions are in evidence here also: for instance, the poet as prophet; the poet as warrior; the poet as victim of inhospitality; and legislation directed against the satirist. If Ireland has a strong note of individuality that it infuses into these themes, it is the note of poetic malevolence. As has been noted earlier, the theme of the unsympathetic blame poet is also found in Greece (notably in the figure of Thersites). [3]
However, as has also been noted earlier, the moral standing of the poet is not absolute, but is often in the eye of the beholder. The documentary record for the malevolence of the Irish poet is a complex cultural and textual phenomenon, and one must at least try to arrive at a more ancient palimpsest of culture. John Rhys gives an example of tribal tension possibly causing animus against a famous poet, Aithirne from Ulster: the poet’s story, in which he is seen as a most malevolent and amoral satirist, “comes to us from the Book of Leinster, written by the scribes of the hereditary foes of Ulster.” [4]
But another, more widespread reason for the poet’s unsavory reputation in Ireland could be the tension between the druid (priest, with poetic aspects) and fili (poet, filid plural) and the Christian priest and monk. For example, St. Patrick forbids poetic and mantic practices. [5] Scribes would of course tend to be Christian or Christianized, but according to the Chadwicks, the druid, unlike the fili, could not coexist with Christianity at all. [6] Robin Flower writes, “In the lives of the saints the poets are usually represented in a somewhat unfavourable light. They are called “mimes and histrions” (mimi et histriones) or joungleurs (joculatores) and they constantly appear extorting gifts under the threat of a satire.” [7] However, as Flower notes, there may also have been some cooperation between the two groups, as St. Columba at one point saves the poets of Ireland from exile. [8] But this may merely symbolize the saint’s dominance over the weakened poets. The church could “co-opt” poets by becoming their patron. [9] Christian scribes apparently were especially disapproving of Irish poets who specialized in satire. [10]
In the same way, a tale that is “one long riotous attack on the poets and their ways,” the Proceedings of the Great Bardic Institution, has a saint save the chief poet Senchán, whose satire on the chief cat of Ireland, Irusan, has gone awry, and who is about to be killed by the violent beast. [11] The tale satirizes the satirist and points up his subservience to the Christian saint. Though the saints are not exempted from the power of the satirists, “in general, when the satirists confront the saints, their sorcery is forced to succumb to a higher power.” [12]
Interestingly, in an Irish document that is a miscellany about poets in Ireland, there is a tradition that views Aithirne in a sympathetic, moral light; the poet is the enforcer of moral law where the legal law cannot extend; [13] Aithirne the Importunate is quoted as prescribing “to poets a high standard of conduct.” [14] Such a hint of a possible earlier tradition of the moral blame poet in Ireland is tantalizing. [15] In legislation relating to Irish poetry, there is a sense of moral and immoral satire, [16] and some stories support the necessary morality of the blame poet. The poet Dallán satirizes a king with flagrant injustice, and though he leaves the palace exulting, three days later he is dead. [17] In the ceremony for the famous Irish satire genre, glám-dichenn, the poets (who have been denied proper payment for a poem) [18] pray that “if it were they that were in the wrong, the earth of the hill would swallow them up.” [19] This emphasis on the punishment of unlawful satire again is evidence for a strong tradition of moral blame. [20]
The moral issues of “justified” satire in Ireland are further complicated by legalistic interpretations of justification. The story of the poet Nede and the ruler Caier is a good example of the lengths the poet will go to find a “just” pretext for his satire. Through Caier’s wife, Nede learns that Caier has a knife that he has been forbidden by a geis (taboo) to part with. When Nede asks for the knife as a present and Caier is unable to give it, the king lays himself open to “just” satire through his apparent lack of generosity. This seems to be the moral casuistry of culture in which shame is a dominant component. [21]
Despite these ambiguities, the malevolent power of the Irish poets is most striking. Their lethal skill is exhaustively documented in Fred N. Robinson’s classic essay, “Satirists and Enchanters in Early Irish Literature.” [22] The poet Senchán kills ten mice through a satire; [23] a poetic curse ceremony provides that a stingy, oath-breaking regal patron will be swallowed up by the earth, along with his family and possessions. [24] Caier, after being dethroned by the satire of the poet Nede, flees from his kingdom, but dies of shame when the guilt-driven Nede seeks him out and he sees the poet face to face. [25] Though technically the poet’s satire only causes the king’s abdication, it effectively causes the shame that eventually kills him also. In much the same way, Aithirne and his sons, repulsed in their amatory advances by Luaine, the beautiful fiancée of King Conchobar, satirize her three times, leaving the customary blotches of Shame, Blemish, and Disgrace on her face, and she dies of shame. While there has probably never been a “pure” shame culture, clearly shame was a major component of this milieu, at least as reflected in such texts as these. [26]
Ferdiad, the friend of Cuchulainn, is threatened with death by satire, so prefers death in battle instead. [27] The woman Maistiu is satirized to death by a female satirist, Gris. [28] Another female satirist, Dub, finding out that she is married to a polygamist, kills her rival wife through a “sea-spell.” [29] The Welsh Dafydd ap Gwilym is a historical figure, nearly contemporary with Chaucer, who was reputed to have killed through satirical poetry. He wrote a satire on a rival poet, Rhys Meigen; when Rhys heard it read, he reportedly fell dead on the spot. [30] The druids had the same lethal power as the later poets: according to the Dindsenchas of Laigen, “the druids of Ireland nearly exterminated by their songs the tribe of the Gaileoin.” [31] There are two apparently historic instances from Ireland: the poet Hugh O’Higgins and his son kill through poetry an Englishman, John Stanley, in the fifteenth century. This is a just poetic execution: Stanley mercilessly persecuted churchmen, laymen, and scholars, driving them to homelessness and starvation. After being satirized, he lived only five weeks, then “died of the virulence of the lampoons.” [32] Egan O’Rahilly, in the eighteenth century, kills a man through poetry and barely survives a poetic attack himself. [33]
The poet’s destructive power was often less than lethal, but still dreaded. Irish poets traditionally disfigured their victims with three blisters on the face, variously named with allegorical words of shame and defilement. In the story of Nede and Caier, they are “Stain, Blemish, and Defect” (on, anim, and easbaidh) and are red, green, and white. [34] One poet melts his enemies through his reviling. [35] One proposed victim of satire, when he cannot remove a ring the satirist Aithirne has asked for, hacks off the finger to avoid the attack; [36] a king, the oneeyed Eochaid, plucks out his eye and gives it to Aithirne to avoid a similar attack. [37] Kings surrender their wives to the demands of the same satirist. [38] The blame of Irish poets can even attack nature, the productivity of the land: in the story of Niall, Echu, and Laidchenn, Laidchenn’s satires cause the trees and grains of Leinster to become barren; the poet Ferchertne causes a lake to rise or fall by praise or blame; the poet Forgoll threatens to curse waters to be barren of fish, woods to lack fruit, and plains to lack grain. [39] The poet can also attack the productivity of the land indirectly, by attacking the king, blemishing him. [40] But the poet can attack the king because he does not provide the required prosperity. [41]
As has been noted before, this kind of power will inevitably lead to friction with persons in high places, notably the king, and our central theme, the poet’s exile or death, results. On the other hand, sometimes the Irish satirist is so powerful that the obverse of our theme, the satire-induced exile of the king, results (as in the remarkable story of Nede and Caier). As in Greece, it is the poet’s ability to shame and exile his or her enemy (often the king or equivalent) that drives him or her into the persona of the pharmakos and practical exile. The agony of the poet-scapegoat is the obverse of the shame and agony he or she has caused (even if he or she has caused it with full justification). [42]
There were four different occasions when poets as a group were exiled from Ireland. In each case, a powerful protector (the first three times in Ulster) saved them from their fate. The first time (when they numbered twelve hundred), they were protected by King Conchobar of Ulster; the second time they (Eochaid, kingpoet, and his seven hundred) were protected by King Fiachna mac Baedan, and the third time they (including Eochaid, Dallán, and Senchán) were saved by King Maelcobha mac Deamain. King Aed mac Ainmiri tried once more to exile them at the assembly of Drumceat, but now they were protected by a Christian saint, Columba, who did, however, limit their numbers. [43] These stories are curious in that they involve the themes of tension between poet and king, and unity of poet and king at the same time (one king exiles; another king saves).
In the case of the dreaded satirist Aithirne the Importunate, a kind of preventative exile is practiced; the men of Leinster meet the poet on the borders of their land and offer him jewels and treasures so that he will stay away. (The poet subsequently levies a tax of women and cattle, and a war results.) [44]
Laws passed in Ireland often legislated against the poet [45] and sometimes they provided for his exile. A law passed in 1579 provided that a seneschal of O Byrnes county should “make proclamation that no idle person, vagabond or masterless man, bard, rymor, or other notorious malefactor, remain within the district on pain of whipping after eight days, and of death after twenty days.” [46] Here we have the exile theme combined with an evaluation of the poet as the worst, ranked with tramps and “notorious malefactors.” Similar evaluations are found in other Irish laws: “Thus satirists are classed among the men for whom no one may go surety; and woman-satirists, along with thieves, liars, and bush-strumpets, [47] are said to have no claim to an honor-price. Similarly, the son of a woman-satirist, like the son of a bondmaid, is declared to be ineligible to chieftaincy.” [48]
The implications of these and numerous other laws regulating satire are numerous. The blame poet will be punished for practicing his art, either by fine, loss of rights, corporal punishment (such as whipping), exile, imprisonment, or death. Sometimes the poet’s tongue was even cut out of his mouth. [49] Moreover, these laws were presumably produced either by powerful political leaders or by bodies of legislators representing their society. They imply the theme of selection and condemnation (of the poetic class) in a public meeting.
Leaving the theme of exile proper, we also find the theme of the violent killing of the poet to be common in Irish mythical tradition. In one case, satirists accuse a tribe, the Cenel Fhiachach, of being lowborn; in retaliation, the Cenel Fhiachach murder the poets. [50] Cuchulainn on three occasions was confronted by satirists; on all three occasions the poets died. In one case, the satirist Redg, king Ailill’s jester (cainte), is sent against Cuchulainn. He asks for the hero’s spear, and when he is refused, threatens to take away the hero’s honor through satire. Then Cuchulainn throws the spear through the back of Redg’s head, a seemingly cowardly act. “‘Now, that is a stunning gift,’ the satirist cried,” presumably immediately before he died. [51]
In another case, Riches, a female satirist, attacks Cuchulainn because he has killed her son. She assaults him by exposing herself, causing Cuchulainn to turn his head in shame, leaving him open to attack from her fosterling nearby. But Cuchulainn’s charioteer levels Riches by slinging a stone at her and breaking her back. This allows Cuchulainn to regain his self-possession and kill the fosterling. [52] In both these stories, the psychological advantage of the satirist is obliterated by the brute force of the warrior. Cuchulainn kills three more satirists, much as he killed Redg, before his death. [53] However, in the story of Cuchulainn’s death, in which three satirists demand his spear, and he “gives” it to them in the head, the “giving” of the spear eventually lays him open to a lethal return cast of the spear; the satirists, though they have died themselves, have helped cause his death.
Exactly parallel to these Cuchulainn stories is the story of Laidchenn’s death, for this satirist is killed by a “champion’s stone” hurled at him by Echu, when Laidchenn is melting the hero through satire. [54]
A classic poet–king conflict brings about the death of the poet Fafne. [55] Fafne’s sister is transformed into a fawn by enemies and then is killed by the king’s men. In retaliation, Fafne satirizes the king, blemishing him in the customary way. In return, Fafne is arrested and executed. This story is noteworthy not only for its paradigmatic clarity, [56] but for its sympathetic poet, who blemishes the king only because his sister has been murdered, and who then is killed for this just satire.
Divine vengeance overtakes three poets who threaten to satirize St. Laisren; they are swallowed up by the earth. [57] This kind of death is found also in the legendary scapegoat tales of Greece. [58]
The poet Gris’s destruction of Maistiu has been referred to above; Maistiu’s lover then killed the poet, breaking her head with a rock. [59] Dub, also referred to above, is another lethal female satirist who is killed violently in revenge for a murderous chant. [60]
Aithirne’s destruction of Luaine through satire has been referred to above. [61] The aftermath of this tragedy was the destruction of the poet and his family: King Conchobar and his Ulstermen trap the poet and his sons in their fortress, wall them in, kill the poet’s two daughters, and burn down the structure. Again, despite the power of the poet, the power of force prevails, though the story ends with a prophecy of woe for the murderers delivered by other poets.
Another extraordinary satirist, the blind Cridenbel (“whose mouth was out of his breast”), is also murdered. When he demands the best three portions of his host’s meals, and when his host, the Dagdae, begins to lose his health as a result, the Dagdae puts three golden coins in his food and gives these three bits to the insatiable lampooner, who dies of the golden dose. [62] Again, the story is set up so the unsympathetic poet receives his just deserts; but once again the poet is murdered—here in the house of his host, and by stealth. Though Cridenbel and Hesiod are far apart in character, they share this theme: the poet, perceived as criminal, is murdered by his host, by stealth, in a house where he should have received hospitality. [63]
A similar configuration of themes occurs in Vision of MacConglinne. [64] The scholar Aniér MacConglinne turns poet, and makes his first journey as a poet to receive a king’s hospitality in Munster (8). But on the way he stays in a guesthouse in Cork; it turns out to be dirty and verminous (10). The abbot in charge of it, Manchín, sends out meager ration of food, and MacConglinne, when he sees it, refuses the meal and sings bitter satirical quatrains about it. The servant boy memorizes the verses and repeats them to the abbot. Manchín is concerned that unless the wandering poet is punished, other little boys will sing the same verses (16). He subsequently accuses the poet of attacking the Church verbally (18). Accordingly, MacConglinne is stripped, scourged until his skin separates from his bones, immersed in the river Lee, and kept prisoner in the guesthouse in preparation for his crucifixion the next day. There is a curious trial, in which the abbot and monks accuse the poet unjustly (20). He in turns abuses them freely: “Ye curs and robbers and dunghounds, ye monks of Cork!”(22). [65] He is tied all night to a pillar-stone, but it is at this point, when he has been reduced to his lowest ebb of misery, that he receives a vision from an angel (30); he puts it into rhyme, recites it to Manchín, and the abbot reluctantly is forced to spare the poet’s life.
There are parallels to Aesop in this tale; the poet is inhospitably received, and satirizes his ungenerous hosts, who worry about the effect of the satire; so he is unjustly tried and sentenced to death. As an ironic reversal, the Christian monks sentence the poet to crucifixion. The archaic theme of the poet inhospitably received lies behind the Christian overlay.
The story in the Táin of the death of the jester, Tamun, “the Stump,” [66] has a king subject his “camp fool” to military murder; since the king dresses Tamun as himself, this murder has therapōn, ritual substitute resonances. [67] While Cuchulainn is holding off the Connacht army in his famous solitary defense of Ulster, King Ailill sends Tamun, made up to look like him and with a king’s crown on his head, to try to deceitfully distract the hero from his defense. But when Cuchulainn hears Tamun’s voice, he “knew by the man’s speech that he was the camp fool. He shot a slingstone from his hand and pierced the fool’s head and knocked out his brains.” [68]
Another fool, DoDera, dies as his master’s champion. Foreseeing defeat for his master, Lugaid Mac Con, he volunteers to go against Eogan “with your diadem on my head and wearing your battle-dress.” [69] “The jester was exactly like Mac Con in form and appearance.” [70] (Interestingly, the first mention of DoDera describes him as drúid, though this is probably simply an error for drúth). Eogan kills the fool after seeing through the disguise. This is a striking example, with a “fool” as the martial victim. [71] In Hittite ritual, there is emphasis on the ritual substitute victim’s dressing like the king, being anointed with regal oil, and being given the king’s crown. Then bad fortune is told to attack this substitute. [72]
The parallel with Achilles and Patroclus is obvious; [73] in both situations a man of high status, king or hero, sends a servant dressed as himself to face the greatest hero of the enemy’s forces, and the servant is killed. Here the therapōn explicitly moves in the sphere of the satirist, for a number of passages in Irish literature show that the satirist and the fool are closely associated, [74] though such an association would seem natural even without such evidence. [75] Also significant is the fact that the poet is substituted for a king.
The story of Nede and King Caier, referred to briefly above, also ends with the poet’s death. Nede, King Caier’s nephew and adopted son, at the urging of Caier’s wife, has caused the abdication and exile of the king through satire that is only technically justified, leaving the king’s face blemished. “Caier fled thence that none might see the disgrace, until he was in Dun Cermnai” (Atloi caieur as arnach nacedh nech fond aithis combæ in dun cermnai …). This is a classic case of the poet creating a regal pharmakos. Nede ascends the throne and marries the former king’s wife. But after a year, a remarkable thing happens. Nede feels guilt or pity for the exiled king: “Grievous unto him was Caier’s torment” (Ba haithrech lais cradh caier). Thus, even in archaic Irish myth, guilt seems to obtrude into a culture in which shame and dishonor are dominant motivating forces. Nede travels to the fort where Caier is receiving hospitality; he drives Caier’s chariot, and is accompanied by Caier’s wife and greyhound. When Caier sees them he inflicts another exile on himself: “Caier fled from them out of the house, till he was on the flagstone behind the fort.” After entering the fort, Nede evidently pursues Caier with his dogs, who track him to the flagstone, under which he is hiding. When Nede approaches, “Caier died for shame on seeing Nede. The rock flamed at Caier’s death, and a fragment of the rock flew up under Nede’s eye, and pierced into his head.” [76]
This story is remarkable for the humanizing of the previously ruthless poet. Driven by guilt and pity, he follows Caier into exile. There his own death complements the death of the king, which he unintentionally causes; paradoxically, the king seems to unintentionally cause Nede’s death also, though there is a supernatural force involved. Like Caier, Nede exiles himself and suffers death far from his home. It would be hard to imagine a more symbiotic relationship of persecutor and victim; both men end up as exiled pharmakoi, and each destroys the other. [77]
These legendary accounts of the persecution of poets are paralleled by some historical accounts. In 1572, the Earl of Thomond hanged three poets whom he found offensive, for which offense against the bards he was satirized himself. [78] During the reign of James I, a poet named Teige Dall O’Higgin had his tongue cut out, and his wife and child were murdered, by the O’Haras, the recipients of one of his lampoons, who had abused his hospitality. [79]
Thus, we see that, on the one hand, the poet is one of the most important members of Irish society, whose power rivals that of the king on occasion; but, on the other hand, as blame poet, he is often intolerable to the king and society, and must be expelled, exiled or killed (as the cases of Redg, Riches, Laidchenn, Fafne, Aithirne, Dub, and Gris show us). This aspect of the poet—his inability to fit into society, his marginality, his criminality—is expressed in the law discussed above, where the poet is grouped with tramps and the lowest criminals. Thus, in a description of a “DemonBanquet,” poets are ranked among the offscourings of society again: this is a banquet “forfeited” to a demon which is awarded to “sons of death and bad men, i.e. to lewd persons and satirists [caintib] and jesters [oblairaib], and buffoons, and mountebanks, and outlaws [merlechaib], and heathens, and harlots and bad people in general …” [80] It is the satirist, not the eulogist, who is ranked with the worst of society. A similar estimation is given another satirist, the avaricious Fland, “the first professional poet of Ireland.” The Yellow Book of Lecan describes three chief bards: “There were three learned poets of Connaught, Mac Liac and Mac Coise and Fland mac Lonain, that is, the son of God, the son of man and the son of the demon. Fland mac Lonain was called the son of the demon, for his covetousness and surliness; for he never entered a house without causing loss therein.” [81]
The association of poet with outlaw in Ireland has been well documented in Joseph Nagy’s The Wisdom of the Outlaw. [82] This theme is, of course, intimately related to the theme of poetic exile. In fact, the outlaw, fénnid, “is frequently an exile.” [83] He becomes an outlaw “when his rights have been violated … having lost his social status, the new fénnid can find a life and identity in the world of fellow fénnidi and fíana.” [84] The central figure of Nagy’s book, Finn, is both fili ‘poet’ and fénnid ‘outlaw’; both highly honored and an outcast at the same time. Another poet-outcast is the hermit Marbhán, also a swineherd, who wins a poetic knowledge contest with the assembled poets of Ireland, and sends them off on a quest for the Táin Bó Cúalnge. [85]
Also marginal is the physically disfigured person. We find a number of blind poets in Ireland, notably Cridenbel, [86] but also Lugaid, who divines the destruction of a naval expedition when he is brought the skull of the captain’s pet dog. [87] Dallán, who satirizes King Hugh unjustly, is also blind. [88] Amairgein, chief poet of King Conchobar, has a loathsome appearance. After going fourteen years without speaking, Amairgein is described as follows: “His belly grew then until it was the vast size of a big house … And the mucus ran out of his nose into his mouth. His skin was black … his face was pallid … His feet had crooked toes … Knobby, bony, scabby his back. And so he was not handsome.” [89] When Amairgein’s first statement is a subtle riddle, the chief poet Aithirne tries to kill him out of jealousy. When he fails, he is obliged to take the loathsome, but brilliant teenager in fosterage. [90] The loathsome, clever Amairgein reminds one of Aesop.
But most significant are two stories of leprous poets who act as champions for their poetic companions. First is St. Caillín, who joins, under the persona of a leper, the expedition of poets and musicians, led by Senchán, seeking for the tale of the Cattle Raid of Cúalnge. When the poets seek to land on the Isle of Man, they are refused harbor until they can finish a group of half-quatrains called out to them. Only Caillín is able to finish the verses, enabling the poets to complete their quest. Thus the lowest, the diseased, is also the best, and the means of the group’s salvation. [91] Earlier in the narrative Senchán is required to kiss the leper, a powerful expression of the ambiguous nature of the poetic vocation. [92]
A story with the same structure is told of a leprous boy in ragged clothes who accompanies Senchán on another quest.
gilldae écuisc [93] … Intan, cetamus, do[m]bered nech amer fora etan nothéged athoesc digur brén [tria chluasaib] foradichulaid … Ata lanech assidcid batar caib ahinchindi romebdatar trea chlocenn … duibithir écc [a drech:] luaithidir fiamuin [a fégad]; buidithir ór rinn a fiacla, glassidir bun cuilinn ambun … Dia tallta de inceirt bui imbi níbu decmaing di techt forimirghi a hoenur, manifuirmithe cloch fuirri, arimbud amíl.
A foul-faced gillie … when any one would put his finger on his forehead, a gush of putrid matter would come [through his ears] on his poll … It seemed to every one who looked at him that the layers of his brain had broken through his skull … blacker than death his face; swifter than a fox his glance; yellower than gold the points of his teeth; greener than holly their base … If the rag that was round him were stript off, it would not be hard for it to go on a flitting alone, unless a stone were put upon it, because of the abundance of its lice. [94]
The company, after some initial hesitation, accepts him in their group. When they reach their destination, a hag starts quatrains and demands that Senchán finish them. But only the diseased boy is able to meet the challenge. When the ollam and the boy return home, the latter turns into a handsome blonde hero in royal clothing, then vanishes. He was “the spirit of poetry.” Dubium itaque non est quod ille poematis erat spiritus, our text explains, slipping into Latin. [95] Thus this supernatural poet, the spirit of poetry itself, is diseased, leprous, the worst, then experiences an upward peripety, conquers an evil being in a poetic agōn, and becomes Senchán’s savior and a beautiful, royal youth; he encompasses polar opposites. These two stories are worthy of note for their depictions of benevolent, if revolting, poets—benign bards seem rare in Ireland. [96]
Thus Ireland has no paucity of exempla for our central themes: the exiled blame poet, the killing of the poet by king or society, the poet as worst. The poet is too dangerous, or powerful, morally just or unjust, or unclean, to be endured.

Poet as Prophet

Despite the Irish poet’s malevolent reputation, he nevertheless clearly had a sacral side. As in Greece, the Irish poet was to a great extent mantic. Nora Chadwick writes, of early Celtic literature, “Probably no other literature offers such a wealth of material for differentiating between various types of manticism, and various classes of mantic persons, such as the druid, fili, geilt, awenyddion … among the early Celtic peoples the inculcation of poetic inspiration and the entire mantic art were developed and elaborated to a degree for which we know no parallel.” [97]
Indeed, the chief difficulty in dealing with the Celtic poet is the profusion and complexity of data available on the subject. Simply unraveling the names of the different kinds of poets, prophets, and priests is a confusing task. [98] But for our present purposes, we need merely emphasize that the poet (fili, vates, bardos) developed from the seer, and inherited many of the mantic and hieratic functions of the druid. The most common name for poet, fili, derives from a root meaning ‘to see’. [99] Gerard Murphy writes that “filid [poets] and fátha [prophets] were originally the same.” [100]
Interestingly, to my knowledge, in Ireland there are no elaborate theophanic poetic consecration scenes comparable to those of Greece; however, we find a comparable theme in later Irish folklore, where the poet receives inspiration only after a first-hand experience with the fairies or old gods of Ireland. [101] The related theme of receiving inspiration through eating a supernatural food or drink is very common in Irish myth, however. Finn, for instance, receives wisdom by drinking at the otherworld well. [102] In one account, he drinks the liquor of inspiration. [103] In another account, Finn gets wisdom by eating the “Salmon of Wisdom,” at which time his name changes from Demne to Finn. In a kindred Welsh motif, Gwion Bach, an earlier incarnation of Taliesin, receives drops from a magical cauldron of inspiration and immediately foresees the future in its totality. [104]
In a parallel to Aeschylus, some Irish poets gain knowledge while sleeping. Often poets receive a concrete symbol of their poetic consecration after such experiences—Dermot O’Shea receives a book from a mermaid, for instance. This parallels the consecrations of Hesiod, Archilochus, and Marsyas. Another poet sleeps, then finds beside him a sword, bagpipes, and a book. [105] The unsacralized person does not become a poet.

Poet as Warrior

The mantic ecstasy that the poet experiences has led some scholars to associate the Irish poet with the warrior in his war fury. “The preoccupation of vates (and probably of filid) with inspiration … seems to connect them with the function of the warrior—débordant, berserk …” write the Rees brothers. [106] The medieval Irish court poet often went on campaigns with his chieftain. [107] As has been mentioned, the hero Finn is both fennid ‘warrior, hunter, outlaw’ and fili; his poetic mentor is named Cethern mac Fintain; Cethern probably derives from ce(i)thern ‘band of fighting men, warrior’. [108] This kind of dual identity is not uncommon in Ireland and other Celtic cultures, just as it was widespread in Greece (Archilochus, Alcaeus, Aeschylus, Tyrtaeus, and Socrates come quickly to mind). [109] The Irish warrior-poet Suibhne Geilt, cursed vagabond, madman, dweller in trees, is another example. [110] A number of the poets referred to above were also warriors; Cridenbel, for instance, [111] and Casmáel. [112]
The Irish goddess of war, Morrigan, appears to Cuchulainn in the persona of a satirist, riding in a chariot, clad in red, and with red eyebrows. A henchman drives a cow in front of her. “I am a female satirist” (Am banchainti-sea em) she tells Cuchulainn, after evading his questions for a time. [113] A description of an Ulster warriorsatirist, Dubthach Chafertongue, shows the paradoxical duality of the martial poet:
Ell n-áilgen issin dara hóil dó, cubur fola fordeirggi issind óil aile dó .i. frecra mín munterda in dara fecht 7 frecra andíaraid in fecht aile … Sleg mór míleta ra aird a gúaland … Cairi dubfhola da lind adúathmar aidchi remi … cu fobairthea cend na slegi sin issind lind nemi sin in tráth na thiced a grith slegi.
An expression of gentleness in one of his eyes; foam of crimson blood in the other eye; that is, at one time a gentle, friendly aspect, at another time a fierce expression … A large warrior-like spear to the height of his shoulder … A blood-black cauldron of horrid, noxious liquid before him … And the head of the spear was plunged in that poisonous liquid when its spear-ardor came. [114]
This description captures the essential ambiguity of both the warrior and the poet. The state depends upon the warrior’s talent for mayhem, yet it is endangered by it, and finds it difficult to control. A good example is the well-known story in which Cuchulainn, in the grip of battle fury, nearly turns on his own army. [115] This is one of the primary themes of Dumézil’s investigations into the warrior function in Indo-European traditions. [116] The poet, especially the satirist who uses words as weapons, is equally dangerous and valued.
The Welsh court poets, pencerdd and bardd teulu ‘bard of the troop or royal retinue’, were customarily warriors, [117] and the bardd teulu would sing paraenetic poetry to the army before it went to war. An elegy on the poet Bleddyn Fardd extols his prowess in battle: “The terror of warriors, in valor irresistible, ever leading, savage as a wolf was Bleddyn Fardd.” Like Archilochus, he was killed in battle: “Bearing death-dealing blades, in his blue-enamelled armor the lion was slain.” [118] A number of legendary Welsh and British poets were also warriors: Taliesin, and “Three Red-Speared Bards of the Island of Britain,” Tristfardd, Dygynnelw, and Afan Ferddig. [119]
Just as Greece has famous warrior-heroes who are secondarily poets (Achilles, Heracles), so Ireland has a dominant warrior such as Lugh, who, in his mastery of all arts, is also a poet. Lugh is first described as “A handsome, well-built warrior with a king’s diadem.” [120] Later he enables the Tuatha De to win the second battle of Moytura by slinging a stone at the giant evil eye of Balor and turning it against the Fomorian forces (Gray, #135). Yet in the first doorway interview with Lugh, he describes himself as a poet (file, #62), harper, sorcerer, and historian (#60, 63, 62). He is also a smith, a wright, a champion, a hero, a cupbearer, a brazier, and a leech (#56–68). [121]
Indeed, the power of poetry was so great in Irish myth that satirists were sometimes used, as poets, in war. In the Second Battle of Moytura, Carpre, in a battle muster, offers his services in battle: “I will make a glám dícinn against them, and I will satirize them and shame them so that through the spell of my art they will offer no resistance to warriors.” [122] Kings employed bands of satirists. [123] Mebd uses “druids and satirists and hard-attackers” (na drúith & na glámma & na crúadgressa) to force Ferdiad into battle. [124] Though this may seem to merely precipitate the combat, there is a fine line between the attack of satire and the attack of weapons. In the second battle of Moytura, Lugh uses a curious mixture of paraenesis and sorcery in battle: “Lug was urging the men of Ireland to fight the battle fiercely so they should not be in bondage any longer, because it was better for them to find death while protecting their fatherland than to be in bondage and under tribute as they had been. Then Lug chanted the spell which follows, going around the men of Ireland on one foot and with one eye closed.” [125]
Yet the two actions are more closely related if the spell is a satire. O’Davoran’s Glossary tells us that the satirical spell, the glám dícenn, is made on one foot, with one eye open. [126] The close association of the spell with the paraenesis shows their parallelism: through his command of reputation, shame and honor, the poet had almost a magical power.
The use of shame language on the battlefield recalls Tyrtaeus or Agamemnon in Greece. Agamemnon would exhort the courageous soldiers, but he would “reproach very bitterly,” “in words of anger” those who were avoiding the battle. [127] He cries out, “Argives, you arrow-fighters, have you no shame, you abuses?” (Ἀργεῖοι ἰόμωροι, ἐλεγχέες, οὔ νυ σέβεσθε;) and then uses an animal simile, comparing the skulkers to fawns. [128] The war goddess (scaldcrow) Badb mocks the boy Cuchulainn, after a setback on a battle field, as “a poor sort of warrior” (olc damnae laích), which inspires Cuchulainn to renewed effort. [129]

The Poetic Agōn

The poet as warrior is related to the theme of the poetic agōn as we have encountered it in the lives of Aesop, Homer, and Hesiod, at least to the extent that participants in the agōn are fighting against each other. (And we remember that losers in mythical riddle contests often lost their heads). The poetic agōn is also a persistent theme in lives of the Irish poets. We have already mentioned the diseased supernatural poet who saves Senchán twice through his prowess in a poetic quatrain contest. [130] One thinks of Aesop’s salvific nature and mastery of riddles. Aithirne the Importunate, consuming a pig and mead alone in miserly fashion, has it taken from him when a fellow poet recites a line of poetry and Aithirne cannot make a rhyme to it. [131] In the Proceedings of the Great Bardic Institution, the poet-hermit Marbhán defeats all of the burdensome poets in riddle contests, and forces them to go off on a quest for the Táin. [132] One Irish text, “Colloquy of the Two Sages,” has two prominent poets compete in a riddle contest for the office of chief poet of Ulster. [133] One is reminded of the two chief poets of Greece, Homer and Hesiod, meeting to decide ultimate precedence. [134]
Dáithí Ó hÓgáin notes that there are many examples of the poetic agōn in modern folklore, some involving riddles. [135] There is, of course, a continuum between poetry and riddle, and a range of enigmatic poetry and speech in the middle. [136] Huizinga notes the connection of ainos ‘tale, praise’, and ainigma ‘enigma, riddle’. [137] The poet must be the person of knowledge, often otherworldly knowledge, [138] which brings to mind the almost encyclopedic tone of Hesiod’s two extant poems. [139]
The archaic riddle contest is an Indo-European theme, strongly attested in India, Greece, and other Indo-European countries. “The function of … ritual riddle solving competitions is shown at its clearest in Vedic lore,” writes Huizinga, who collects examples of the theme of the riddle contest with death as the stake from India (Yājñavalkya), Greece (Mopsus and Calchas) and Germany (Odin and the giant Vafthrúdnir). [140]
A tale from modern folklore offers a complex network of important themes: the poetic agōn; satire as a defensive weapon; art as an aggressive response to aggression; the poet satirizing poet; the poet as possessed:
The nobleman-poet Séafra O’Donnchú was reputed to have given up composing, something which caused no small anxiety and disappointment to the rest of the poetic communion. [141] Aogán O’Rathaille solved the problem, for when he met Séafra one day he recited a satiric verse concerning Séafra himself and his family. Losing himself in a fit of frenzied anger, Séafra retaliated with an even more bitter satiric verse on Aogán. [142]
In the same way, Archilochus, the beautifully singing cicada, responded with bitter satire, the defensive satire of righteous indignation, when he was maliciously tortured; and Hipponax retaliated similarly when an artist lampooned him. This person-to-person artistic combat recalls the earlier combat of Irish poets explicitly in war, Cridenbel trading spells with enemy enchanters. [143] But the satirist is, as it were, always a warrior. The persistent use of terms implying aggressive blows or weapons to refer to satire is entirely in keeping with this aspect of the satirist’s vocation. In a text on the diction of poetry collected in Robinson we find a number of weapon terms, especially rindad ‘cutting’. [144] Ail, one of the three blemishes raised by satire, is the same as ail ‘stone’ “in the sense of a bump caused by a blow or metaphorically by a slur,” writes Howard Meroney. [145] A poem on satire reads, “It’s extempore bane that will stab in the face anybody it’s flung at! / Not long is the respite from slaughter with spears of injurious gibing!” [146] Glám of glám dícind means ‘attack, gibe’, “the basic idea being to nab or nip—an action of fangs or fingers.” [147] The poet Nede describes his profession as rind feola, “piercing flesh,” and a glossator adds, “faebur a aire hi feoil amail, ‘the edge of his satire like a point in flesh’.” [148] Thus the poet is a warrior wielding razor-sharp weaponry; but he is also a predator whose tooth and claw can be lethal. Poets’ tongues were widely thought of as “sharp” and “keen.” [149] A folk etymology for cáinte ‘satirist’ is from dog, “for the satirist has a dog’s head in barking, and alike is the profession they follow.” [150] The most common word of laughter in early Irish literature, tibid, “combines the sense of ‘laughter’ with that of ‘striking’ or ‘shoving’.” [151]

The Poisonous Poet

Another metaphor for destructive, lethal poetry is that of poison, and the image of poetry as poison is common in the Irish tradition. A folk etymology derives fili ‘poet’ from fi ‘poison’ (satire) and li ‘praise’. [152] The blemishes the poet produces on his victim’s face are referred to as “poisonous ulcers [cnuicc nemed].” [153] A poem on satire speaks of the “venom of verse.” [154] Weapon and poison imagery are combined in the poem’s phrase “shaft of poison” (gai fi). [155]
We have already met the ominous satirist-warrior Dubthach Chafertongue, almost schizophrenic in his division between gentleness and savagery. After the description of the poet, which includes the metaphor of a spear dipped in poison, Mebd exclaims, “By our conscience, the description is venomous!” Cu Roi answers: “Venomous is he whose description it is.” [156] As in Greece, the poet is the lethal gift, the dosis of poison; he causes wars and strife, [157] kills with blame, destroys honor, and is a revolting leper. Yet he also is sacred, [158] has priestly functions, [159] has martial functions, and is indispensable to the king. Watkins writes, “For the patron, the molad, clú, blad, ainm [praise], were a moral necessity … and the poet alone could celebrate this fame, and make known [noid] the name of his patron. A ‘king without poets’ was proverbial in Ireland for ‘nothing’.” But “The patron in his turn was obligated to maintain the poet munificently, often to the detriment of his own wealth.” [160]
And, as in the case of the vilelooking leper, the poet can act as a savior figure. [161] However repulsive the experience may be, one must still kiss the poetic leper.


[ back ] 1. View of the State of Ireland. 1810:119. He goes on to criticize the Irish poets for siding with the cause of the Irish against the English and fomenting rebellion.
[ back ] 2. See e.g. Hendrickson 1925; Ward 1973; cf. Rankin 1974. For general surveys of Irish satirists and satire, Robinson 1912; Elliott 1960:8–48; McCone 1989; O’Leary 1991; for Irish poets, Caerwyn Williams 1972; Bloomfield and Dunn 1989:30–54; Breatnach 1996:76–77 (for satire, p. 115 with commentary).
[ back ] 3. See above, chapter 16. He represents Greece’s major parallel to many unsympathetic Irish poets, though the Irish poets are more powerful and feared.
[ back ] 4. Rhys 1979:326. See e.g. “The Siege of Howth,” Stokes 1887.
[ back ] 5. Stokes 1893:156, cf. Elliott 1960:29; Chadwick 1934:99, 129.
[ back ] 6. Chadwick and Chadwick 1932 1:613.
[ back ] 7. Flower 1947:75.
[ back ] 8. Geoffrey Keating, History of Ireland, in Comyn and Dineen 1908 3:78ff.
[ back ] 9. Breatnach 1987:89.
[ back ] 10. McCone 1989:128.
[ back ] 11. See Connellan 1860:111–119, cf. Joynt 1931; Mercier 1962:219–221.
[ back ] 12. Robinson 1912:123–124, who collects further tales showing tension between saints and satirists.
[ back ] 13. For the Irish poet as upholder of the law, see Mac Airt 1958:140–141; 145–146; Murphy 1940:201n4; Caerwyn Williams 1972:118; Meid 1974; Robinson 1912:107–108. Cf. Catullus 12 and 42, in which Catullus uses the threat of satire as a weapon to get stolen goods returned. For poet as avenger of oath breaking, see above, chapter 3 (Archilochus), chapter 4 (Hipponax), chapter 9 (Alcaeus). See also below, this chapter, last note, the poet as protector of the community.
[ back ] 14. Gwynn 1940:3.
[ back ] 15. See also Ó hÓgáin 1979:54 (the poet must have a pure heart).
[ back ] 16. Robinson 1912:105.
[ back ] 17. Proceedings of the Great Bardic Institution, in Connellan 1860:31–33.
[ back ] 18. Cf. Simonides in chapter 7.
[ back ] 19. diamad iatson bad chintach ann talumh na tulchi dia slugadh. Translation from Book of Ballymote, in Stokes 1891:119–120; cf. Robinson 1912:109; O’Curry 1873 2:216–226.
[ back ] 20. See also O’Leary 1991:26 for the poets’ responsibility to “judge” warriors and “reprove” them if necessary. He notes that in the Welsh tradition, the emphasis is on the poet praising good warriors and kings, while in the Irish tradition, the emphasis is on poets blaming. Cf. O’Leary 1991:21n31, for praise “washing” away dishonor in Irish texts.
[ back ] 21. For the power of mockery, dishonor, and shame in Ireland, see O’Leary 1991 and below. But the end of this story (see below) increases its moral complexity, as it shows Nede suffering from guilt, and finally dying as a result of it. Robinson 1912:113. Cf. Elliott 1960:31n33. See chapter 2, summary paragraphs at end of chapter; Ward 1973; also cf. Ward 1982; Elliott 1960:67–77.
[ back ] 22. Robinson 1912.
[ back ] 23. Proceedings of the Great Bardic Institution, in Connellan 1860:79. It should always be borne in mind that this is a Christian source prejudiced against the pre-Christian poet; however, it clearly preserves archaic traditions. Cf. Robinson 1912:96.
[ back ] 24. Book of Ballymote, in Stokes 1891:119–120.
[ back ] 25. Cormac’s Glossary in the Yellow Book of Lecan, Codex B, in Stokes 1862:xxvi–xxx; xxxix–xl; also Meyer 1912:58–60, §698. A condensed translation available in Robinson 1912:113. For an introduction to Cormac, see Russell 1988.
[ back ] 26. “The Wooing of Luaine and Death of Athirne,” see Stokes 1903b; cf. Breatnach 1980; Robinson 1912:117–118. For the blotches, see below.
[ back ] 27. Táin BL 2609–2619; translation in Kinsella 1969:168. Discussion of this passage in Miller (2000:237) who regards it as an example of how the warror can be controlled by satire, and behind that, threat of public shaming (despite the “magical” element in Irish satire). The Táin Bó Cúalnge is found in three major manuscripts, LU, YBL, and BL. The Lebor na hUidre (LU), “Book of the Dun Cow,” dates from the twelfth century, and contains a flawed, mutilated, partial text. The Yellow Book of Lecan (YBL), dated to the late fourteenth century, also includes a partial, flawed text. However, the language of these manuscripts dates from the eighth century, and some of the verse is dated to the sixth century. This has been referred to as Recension I. These manuscripts are the basis of Kinsella 1969. Text and translation in O’Rahilly 1976. The Book of Leinster (BL), dated to twelfth century with language dated at the same time, has the complete Táin (Recension II). See O’Rahilly 1967, text with English translation. Cf. Windisch 1905; Kinsella 1969:ix–x; O’Rahilly 1967:xiv–xvi.
[ back ] 28. Rennes Dindsenchas, see Stokes 1894:334–336; cf. Robinson 1912:121; Cross et al. 1969:596–599.
[ back ] 29. Rennes Dindsenchas, in Stokes 1894:326 (Cross et al. 1969:598), whence the name Dublind, from Dub-lind (lind, ‘pool’), corrupted to Dublin. As Robinson notes, the boundaries between incantation and satire are often very difficult to define in this literature (1912:98–99 and passim). For the magical power of the word in archaic IndoEuropean culture, cf. the spell used by the brahmanic caste (Puhvel 1987:45), and also evidenced in the mythology of Varuṇa (1987:48–49), and associated gods (1987:54, 135). For a comparison of the Celtic poet and druid with the Indic brahman, see Dillon 1947:262, 259–264. See below, chapter 22 (Cicero), the enchanting power of the word in oratory.
[ back ] 30. See Loomis 1982:85–88, poem 21. This poem is a rich compendium of traditional invective themes: Rhys is compared to various animals; we have the emphasis on the belly (43, 59); the vomiting/animal topos (he is compared to a “a noisy pig when he vomited,” Banw chweidwrw ban chwydai, 46); he is a bad poet (31), and a cowardly warrior (54). This savage poem is a response to an obscenely insulting poem by Rhys, see p. 85. See also Stern 1910:25–26; Parry 1952:lxix–lxxii, also Carr 1973, for discussion of how the poet thought of himself as an outcast; and Bromwich 1967:12.
[ back ] 31. Robinson 1912:122; Stokes 1894:299. See also O’Leary 1991:24.
[ back ] 32. fuair bás do neiṁ na naor. Annals of the Kingdom of Ireland, by the Four Masters, see O’Donovan 1856 4:819; Elliott 1960:34. As O’Donovan notes, “An aoir is a poem in which the subject is not only lampooned, but imprecated and cursed.”
[ back ] 33. Dinneen 1900:xxxi. This passage was dropped from the second edition. Dineen gives no source. Cf. poem XXXVIII, a savage satire; here, as often, defensive, a reply to the attack of a rival poet. See also O’Donovan 1846:180n.
[ back ] 34. Cormac’s Glossary, in Stokes 1862:xxxviii. In the story of Aithirne, the malevolent satirist, and Luaine (see “The Wooing of Luaine,” Stokes 1903b:279, cf. Breatnach 1980), they are “Shame, Blemish and Disgrace,” (On 7 Ainim 7 Aithis) and are black, red, and white. In the story of Ferdiad in the Táin, they are “Shame, Blemish, and Disgrace,” ail 7 anim 7 athis, Táin BL 2624; in “The Bodleian Amra Choluimb Chille,” appendix, Stokes 1899:421–422, they are Shame, Blemish, and Defect, (On 7 Anim 7 Esbaid), and are referred to as “poisonous ulcers (cnuic nemi).” Their effect on the victim is that he or she is “recognizable” to every one. Cf. Fafne, in Stokes 1894:306–307; Robinson 1912:114. For the range of meaning applicable to these shame/defect words, see O’Leary 1991:23–25. In Theocritus 12.24, pseudea, ‘lies’ are ‘spots, pimples’ on the nose, cf. LSJ s.v.; scholia and Gow 1965 ad loc. Conversely, the poet who satirized unjustly was subject to the same blemishes, Stokes 1891–1894:421–422.
[ back ] 35. Laidchenn, in the story of Niall, Laidchenn and Echu, Meyer 1900; Robinson 1912:119; O’Curry 1873 2:70.
[ back ] 36. See O’Grady 1857:297, who discusses a panegyrical poem on the Clannt-Suibhne, or Mac Sweeny’s, by Red Owen Mac Ward (a famous Ulster poet hanged by the Earl of Thomond in 1672). The victim who loses his finger is one of the Mac Sweeny ancestors.
[ back ] 37. “The Siege of Howth,” Stokes 1887:49; cf. Elliott 1960:30; Ward 1973:134.
[ back ] 38. “The Siege of Howth,” Stokes 1887:49, 53; “A Story From which it is inferred that Mongán was Find mac Cumaill … ,” in Meyer and Nutt 1972 1:49.
[ back ] 39. For Laidchenn, see above; Ferchertne, see the Táin, in Windisch 1905 p. 789 (a late passage); Forgol, see “A Story From which it is inferred that Mongán was Find mac Cumaill … ,” in Meyer and Nutt 1972 1:49; Robinson 1912:119.
[ back ] 40. For the king as source of prosperity, see Odyssey xix 110; Ammianus Marcellinus 28.5.14; “The Birth of Cormac,” in O’Grady 1970 2:288–289; Caerwyn Williams 1972:129; Dillon 1946–1947:138–139; Maier 1989:16; Dumézil 1943:64; Bremmer 1980:74–75.
[ back ] 41. Dumézil 1943:230–240, discussing the avaricious Bres; The Second Battle of Moytura, Gray 1982:33–35. See also the poem by MacDaire to O’Brien, of the Elizabethan era, listing the destructive powers of the Irish poet—if he is attacked, O’Donovan 1846:21.
[ back ] 42. As Burnett notes, the poet can create a pharmakos, 1983:58, 97. Ironically, this power is what leads him to become a pharmakos. There are two patterns, in which the poet is just (Aesop) and unjust (Thersites).
[ back ] 43. See Keating, History of Ireland, in Comyn and Dineen 3:78–97. Cf. Flower 1947:3; Robinson 1912:124.
[ back ] 44. “The Siege of Howth” in Stokes 1887:53, 55. For the theme of the poet as cause of wars, see Robinson 1912:118–119, cf. above on Niall’s poet Laidchenn, who causes the strife that results in Niall’s death. The tree musician Fer Fí sows strife among a group of warriors, The Battle of Mag Mucrama in O’Daly 1975:40; Dillon 1946:163; O Daly 1962:81–86; J. Nagy 1985:281n35. Randolph notes: “It is also significant that the Morrigu in her function as a female satirist foments the CattleRaid of Cooley, since stirring up desired quarrels between powerful chieftains and tribes was a major occupation among the male satirists” (1942:81). See also Randolph 1941:190n21. Cf. Thersites’ function, “to make strife against kings,” see above; for the blame poet and the mythology of strife, see chapter 6 (Hesiod).
[ back ] 45. Robinson 1912:103–108.
[ back ] 46. Walsh 1933:186 (this was part of the English attempts to suppress Irish culture); cf. Caerwyn Williams 1972:133.
[ back ] 47. Cf. Robinson 1912:107n51; Elliott 1960:25; chapter 8 (Sappho). On Irish woman satirists, see Randolph 1942; Chadwick 1934:111–112, where mantic inspiration in the Cuchulainn Cycle is seen to be “the special métier of women.” An example would be the prophet-poet Fedelm in Táin BL 220–275, R1 29–112; Kinsella 1969:60–61. For an interpretation of the supernatural as feminine, see J. Nagy 1982–1983:58. The goddess Brig(it), who was a poet herself, was the special patron of poets, and was associated with wailing women, The Second Battle of Mag Tuired, Gray 1982:119. Curiously, she is associated with two antipoetic figures, Bres and the Dagda (of whom she is wife and daughter, respectively). See also on Morrigan, below, this chapter.
[ back ] 48. Robinson 1912:107; Ancient Laws of Ireland 1865–1901 5:456.
[ back ] 49. See Stokes 1894:297 (if poet = druid); Ó hÓgáin 1979:51.
[ back ] 50. O’Donovan 1846:180, citing Leabhar Breac fol. 35,b; O’Daly 1852:17n; Robinson 1912:108. Aesop also accused the Delphians of being lowborn, G 125, a standard topos, see Davies 1985:33.
[ back ] 51. Táin Bó Cúalnge, Kinsella 1969:126; Táin R1 1510–1520; the spear through the back of the head is found only in the Book of Leinster version, 1803–1815. Ocus ní tharnaic úad acht a rád: ‘Is sólom dún in sét sa.’ O’Rahilly translates: “Quickly did we get this treasure” (1967:188). Cf. Robinson 1912:120; Cross et al. 1969:335–337.
[ back ] 52. Mesca Ulad (Drunkenness of the Ulstermen) in Cross et al. 1969:237; cf. Randolph 1942:76–77; J. Nagy 1985:285.
[ back ] 53. See Cross et al. 1969:335–337; Elliott 1960:33.
[ back ] 54. For Laidchenn, see above.
[ back ] 55. Stokes 1894:306–308; Cross et al. 1969:597.
[ back ] 56. Cf. the story of poet Thorleif, who is also wronged by the king and then satirizes him, discussed in Ward 1973:136–137.
[ back ] 57. “Acta Sancti Lasriani,” in de Smedt and de Backer 1888:11, col. 796. Cf. Robinson 1912:124.
[ back ] 58. E.g. the story of Anchurus, who rides into a cleft in the ground opened up by Zeus Idaeus, pseudo-Callisthenes, FGH 124 F 56; Trophonius is also swallowed up by the earth, Pausanias 9.37.7.
[ back ] 59. See above; cf. Stokes 1894:334–336; Elliott 1960:33n36; Randolph 1942:78.
[ back ] 60. See above; cf. Stokes 1894:334–336; Cross et al. 1969:598; Randolph 1942:78; like Gris, she is killed by a hurled stone.
[ back ] 61. Cf. Stokes 1903b; Breatnach 1980.
[ back ] 62. Gray 1982:28–31; Stokes 1891:64–68, cf. McCone 1989, who suggests that a Christian overlay heightens Cridenbel’s villainy.
[ back ] 63. Cf. Androgeos and Aesop, in chs. 1 and 2 above.
[ back ] 64. Page numbers are from Meyer 1892; the story is also in Cross et al. 1969:551–587.
[ back ] 65. a matadu ocus a latrannu ocus a c[h]onu cacca .i. a muinter C[h]orccaige!
[ back ] 66. Perhaps a reference to a deformity.
[ back ] 67. See above, chapter 1 (on therapōn as ritual substitute); chapter 3 (Archilochus).
[ back ] 68. Ecmaic atgeóin-sium for erlabrai ind ḟir combo drúth. Srethis liic telma boí ina láim fair con sescaind ina c[h]end co tuc a inc[h]ind ass . Táin R1 1580ff., 2480ff.; Kinsella 1969:140–141, cf. 271; Táin BL 2461–2472. For the theme of champion as scapegoat, Táin R1 2495ff. = Kinsella 1969:164. Soon after, Cuchulainn asks for someone to meet him in battle; the Connachtmen reply, “No scapegoat [cimbid] is owed by my people” (Ní dlegar cimbid dom chenéol). O’Rahilly 1967:207. Cimbid (cimmid), means ‘victim, captive, someone to be killed, sacrifice’, used of Jesus in the Irish Bible, Vendryes 1987:C-100.
[ back ] 69. Lines 67–70: ocus do mind-su for mo chind 7 t’erred immum.
[ back ] 70. Lines 63–64: Comchosmail crotha 7 delba in drúth fri Mac Con.
[ back ] 71. The Battle of Mag Mucrama, see O Daly 1975:41–43. Cf. Stokes 1892; Dillon 1948:78–79; Carney 1959. I am indebted to Leslie Myrick for these references.
[ back ] 72. See Gurney 1977:56; Kümmel 1967:10–11. The prisoner is not killed, but is led back to his own city. The word for the ritual substitute here is tar-pa-al-li.
[ back ] 73. For Patroclus as therapōn, see above, chapter 1; G. Nagy 1979:292–295. For other parallels between the two epics, see Murphy 1966:117; Watkins 1976:271; Clader 1976:9n12; Melia 1979:255–261; Sergent 1998:126–127. Cuchulainn, like Achilles, chooses short life and glory over long life without it—Táin BL, 929ff.; Iliad XVIII 94–126, discussion in Miller 2000:129–132, 332. For the Hittite scapegoat, see Kümmel 1967, with plentiful bibliography, 19–21; 36; for tarpassa, van Brock 1959:117–146; Gurney 1977:52–58.
[ back ] 74. The list of undesirables quoted below lists jesters immediately after satirists; in the lives of the saints, the fili is referred to as joculator (see above); in the Second Battle of Moytura 36 (Gray 1982:33), Bres is condemned for not providing poets, bards, satirists, musicians, jugglers, or fools in his household. In Mercier 1962:113, the “‘touch of satire’ is attributed to the saintly fool Mac Dá Cherda.” Cf. O’Keefe 1911. The crosan is ‘juggler, buffoon, satirist’, Meyer 1906, under crosan; Todd 1848:182; Robinson 1912:104. Cf. another murdered fool (druth) in Stokes 1893:176, s.v. orc treith, (a talking head story; the poet is murdered after loyally telling Finn, his master, that Finn’s wife has been unfaithful to him); Chadwick 1934:118; also Redg, a satirist and jester (see above), another casualty of Cuchulainn’s battle prowess.
[ back ] 75. For a seriously satirical fool, cf. King Lear.
[ back ] 76. Translation by Stokes 1861:xxxvi–xl. consela caier uaidib astigh corraba forsind liic iar cúl in duine … Atbad caier ar fele la aicsin nede. Rosich 7 rolassai innail la ec caier 7 rosescaind blog dind ailig fo suil nede co ro imid ina cend.
[ back ] 77. It is almost as if Nede destroys himself. But, in the parameters of the story, Nede is not the original moving force for the crime. Just as Eve gives Adam the apple, here Caier’s wife has given Nede a silver apple for his love (see Robinson 1912:114n73), and led him to usurp the kingdom. Cf. the Oresteia myth, where a male seduces the queen and leads her to murder the king: D’Armes and Hulley 1946; Davies 1969. In addition to the dossier of murdered poets listed above, there is also Suibhne, who will be dealt with more fully in chapter 18; Oircbél/Cethern, in “The Boyhood Deeds of Finn,” translation in J. Nagy 1985:216, cf. 166, 171; Casmáel, in Gray 1982:119.
[ back ] 78. Annals of the Kingdom of Ireland, see O’Donovan 1856: 1572 AD, p. 1657.
[ back ] 79. O’Donovan 1846:180; O’Reilly 1820:clxx.
[ back ] 80. Ancient Laws of Ireland 1865–1901 III.24–25. do macaib bais ocus drochdainaib .i. do druthaib, ocus caintib, ocus oblairaib, ocus bruidiraib, ocus fuirseoraib, ocus merlechaib, ocus geintaib, ocus merdrechaib, ocus drochdainaib arcena …
[ back ] 81. Tri hollamain Chondacht .i. mac Liacc 7 mac Coisi 7 Fland mac Lonain .i. mac De 7 mac duine 7 mac deamain. Fland mac Lonain, mac deamain side ara geri 7 ara duilgi, uair ni deachaid a tig riam cen easba aire do denum and. Gwynn 1991 3:532. Cf. Flower 1947:68–69. We are told that Fland went to a hell, but a contradictory account places him in heaven, a nice encapsulation of the dual reputation of many satiric poets.
[ back ] 82. See especially chapter 1, “Finn, Poet and Outsider” (1985:17–40).
[ back ] 83. J. Nagy 1985:19.
[ back ] 84. J. Nagy 1985:20. For associations of Finn and the fénnid with the wolf, see pp. 44, 245n22. For the wolf and its symbolism in Ireland and Indo-European countries, see McCone 1986, 1987, 1985, and 1984; Reinhard and Hull 1936; Puhvel 1986; Przyluski 1940; Lincoln 1975a:98–105; Gershenson 1991. See above, chapter 9 (Alceaus).
[ back ] 85. Proceedings of the Great Bardic Institution, in Connellan 1860:103. For Marbán as poet, see Proceedings of the Great Bardic Institution 89; Colloquy of the Two Sages, in Stokes 1905:50; Elliott 1960:22; cf. J. Nagy 1985:29, 31 (the swineherd “is both exile and fili extraordinaire”), 32, 36. For the mantic status of the swineherd in Irish legend, see Ní Chatháin 1979:200–211.
[ back ] 86. See above; on blind poets, see above, chapter 16, on Thamyris, Demodocus and Tiresias; chapter 5 (Homer).
[ back ] 87. See Flower 1947:7.
[ back ] 88. Proceedings of the Great Bardic Institution, in Connellan 1860:31; cf. Randolph 1941:189; Thurneysen 1921:65. See also Ford 1990, who links the blindness to the poet’s mantic propensities and to mantic rites such as imbas forosnai, where the poet composes in the dark.
[ back ] 89. Ro ás a brú iarum combo méit adbul teig móir. … 7 a smucli asa ṡróin inna beolu. Ba dub a chroccend. … Ba glasbán a aged. … Batir laebladracha a thraigid. … ba mellach cnámach carrgarb a druim. Nibó cáemduine samlaid.
[ back ] 90. Translation from Ford 1990:28–30. See also Best et al. 1954–1983 2.435, lines 13565–13617; Amairgein means “born of amar ‘singing, lamentation, wailing’.”
[ back ] 91. Connellan 1860:111–119.
[ back ] 92. Connellan 1860:113. J. Nagy 1985:32, notes that the poet’s name, “Little Wood,” may refer to his eremitic, exiled way of life.
[ back ] 93. Literally, “a boy of appearance.” Variant texts have gillae ecuisc anindustae/ anindustai, “a boy of ill-conditioned appearance.” I am indebted to Randall Gordon for this insight.
[ back ] 94. Stokes 1893:181–185; cf. Ford 1990:32; Elliott 1960:22.
[ back ] 95. Stokes 1893:184. Senchán was named Senchán Torpéist after this péist ‘monster’ (183). Cf. Sanais Cormaic, in Meyer 1912 vol. 4 #1059; J. Nagy 1985:32; 239n39. Thomas Mann frequently equated poetic gifts with disease, cf. Hoffmann 1965; Politzer 1961.
[ back ] 96. On benign poets, see above, on the ambiguity of Irish poets.
[ back ] 97. Chadwick 1952:5–6; see also Ó hÓgáin 1979; cf. J. Nagy 1985:23–27; 137–138, 155–161, 234n4; also O’Rahilly 1946:318–340; Chadwick 1934.
[ back ] 98. See Caerwyn Williams 1972:101, 113; Chadwick and Chadwick 1932 1:606, 612–614; Rees and Rees 1967:141; Murphy 1940:200–207; Mac Airt 1958:139–152; J. Nagy 1985:237n26, with bibliography cited there; Breatnach 1987. For shamanic themes in Celtic poetics, see Closs 1968:298–299; J. Nagy 1985:25 and J. Nagy 1982–1983; Chadwick 1952:58; Ó hÓgáin 1979; Eliade 1964:179; Benesch 1961; Chadwick 1934:120–126; Kittredge 1916:177–187 (the latter two references deal with Irish mantic heads); Dodds on mantic heads in Ireland (1951:147); Harrison 1922:468; J. Nagy 1990. Curiously, Eliade simply ignores Ireland in his survey of shamanism in the Indo-European traditions; Closs gives it a scant couple of paragraphs. For shamanic themes in Greek legend, and for Orpheus’ mantic head, see above, chapter 16.
[ back ] 99. Cf. Welsh gwel ‘see’; Murphy 1940:200; Caerwyn Williams 1972:113; J. Nagy 1985:24. The word druí (druid) may come from a root meaning ‘to know’, Rees and Rees 1967:111; cf. Chadwick and Chadwick 1932: 1.611n1, also 606; Ní Chatháin 1979:210–211. The prophetess of the Bructeri is “Veleda,” Tacitus Histories 4.61.
[ back ] 100. Murphy 1940:200, who gives examples of filid who are referred to as fátha. The Welsh word for ‘poetry’ (later ‘mockery’, see Robinson 1912:102n24), gwawd, is related to the Irish fáith. See also Wagner (1970), whose main theories, however, are not convincing; Kershaw 2000:69, 77.
[ back ] 101. See Ó hÓgáin 1979:57.
[ back ] 102. O’Rahilly 1946:326–340.
[ back ] 103. O’Rahilly 1946:328.
[ back ] 104. O’Rahilly 1946:329, 331. See also Ó hÓgáin 1979:56–58 and 1985:229; Henry 1979–1980; Ní Chatháin 1979:210–211; J. Nagy 1985:291n83; 290n81; 279n30; and J. Nagy 1981–1982. For drinking of liquor in a poetic ritual, see ibid., 137. For the mantic ritual of composing in the dark, Ó hÓgáin 1985:230–231.
[ back ] 105. Ó hÓgáin 1985:229.
[ back ] 106. Rees and Rees 1967:141; J. Nagy 1985:293, with crossreferences: “The otherworldly ‘fire’ and power of martial valor parallels the otherworldly ‘fire’ and power of poetic inspiration.” Just as the mantis was consulted before battle in Greece, so in the Táin, a female prophet is consulted before battle, see above. On the poet’s mantic ecstasy, cf. Ó hÓgáin 1985:232.
[ back ] 107. Caerwyn Williams 1972:132n5.
[ back ] 108. J. Nagy 1985:164; text of “Boyhood Deeds of Finn,” 209–218, also in Cross et al. 1969:360–370.
[ back ] 109. See “Warriors and Poets in ThirteenthCentury Ireland,” chapter 2 in Murphy 1948.
[ back ] 110. See Cohen 1977. For Suibhne as warrior, see 118n21; for Suibhne as poet-shaman, see 116n12; Benesch 1961. Suibhne will be a chief character in chapter 18, below.
[ back ] 111. As a member of the Túatha Dé Danann, he prepares for a battle in the Second Battle of Moytura, and is one of the four Túatha Dé Danann chosen to fight Carmun and her sons, Gray 1982:120. He fights them with poetry, though: see Stokes 1894:311; Robinson 1912:122. Cf. chapter 19.
[ back ] 112. Gray 1982:119.
[ back ] 113. “The Cattle-Raid of Regamna,” text in Stokes and Windisch 1887:242–244. Gray 1982:129–130; Randolph 1942:79; cf. Gulermovich Epstein 1997; Hennessy 1870. One of the Morrigan’s functions is to “incite warriors to battle by performing poety,” Gulermovich Epstein (1997:120).
[ back ] 114. The Intoxication of the Ulstermen, in Cross et al. 1969:229–230. Irish text from Hennessy 1889:32–33. We may compare the well-known furor heroicus of Cuchulainn, in which we have similar emphasis on abnormal, dissimilar eyes, blood, and supernatural light (fiery particles burst around Chafertongue’s spear). See Táin, rec. 1:428–434; Henry 1982. For supernatural light as a symbol of poetic inspiration, see J. Nagy 1985:293. Cf. Miller 2000:219, 305, 287, who includes Dubtach in a section on the “red knight,” with red signifying “the destructively heated potentiality of the warrior.” See below, chapter 18, on Śiśupāla in battle.
[ back ] 115. Táin, Kinsella 1969:92, see discussions in McCone 1984:15, Sharpe 1979:82–87; J. Nagy 1984:27 and Lowe 2000.
[ back ] 116. See e.g. Dumézil 1970b:43, 63; cf. chapter 18 below.
[ back ] 117. Lloyd-Jones 1948:169–170.
[ back ] 118. blawt glyw glewyd diwahart / blaengar bleituar bletynt uart. y dan llafnawr lleith wotew / y dan llassar glas llas llew. Morris-Jones et al. 1971:177. Quoted in Lloyd-Jones 1948:169. The Irish poet DonnBo was also killed in battle, Battle of Allen, in Stokes 1903b:53 (#11); Chadwick 1934:123. See above, chapter 3; and below, chapter 18 (the poet Suibhne killed in battle of Mag Rath in a variant tradition).
[ back ] 119. Bromwich 1961:11. Morganwg and Probert 1977 #73; 40.
[ back ] 120. Gray 1982:39, #53. Ógláech cóem cruthach co n-imscigg ríog …
[ back ] 121. Cf. O’Rahilly 1946:326; Mac Airt 1958:140.
[ back ] 122. Gray 1982:#115. Degén-sai gláim ndícind dóuib, 7 nusóerub 7 nus-anfíalub cona gébat frie hócu trie bricht mo dána-sa.
[ back ] 123. “The Destruction of Dá Derga’s Hostel,” in Stokes 1901:294. Unfortunately, the text of this tale in Cross et al. 1969 is abridged. Cf. Robinson 1912:121.
[ back ] 124. See above; also Robinson 1912:120, 121.
[ back ] 125. Gray 1982:#129, cf. Gray’s notes and bibliography, p. 106. Boí Lug og nertad fer n-Érenn co roferdais go dícra an cath fo dégh ná beidis a ndoíri ní bod sírie. Ar ba ferr dúoib bás d’fhogáil oc díden a n-athardho indás beith fo doíri 7 fou cís amal rouhátar. Conid and rocan Lug an cétal-so síos, for lethcois 7 letsúil timchell fer n-Érenn.
[ back ] 126. Guyonvarćh 1964, 1965:441–446; 143–144, #82. See also de Vries 1958; Gray 1982:106. For further on Irish military paraenesis as a poetic theme, see Mac Airt 1944:143, Poem 35; Caerwyn Williams 1972:130, 95–96; Stokes 1903a:44–45 (Fergal’s army will not go into battle without the poet Dunnbo). Cf. Chadwick 1942:131. For the glám dícenn, see above.
[ back ] 127. Iliad IV 241, translation by Lattimore: τοὺς μάλα νεικείεσκε χολωτοῖσιν ἐπέεσσιν.
[ back ] 128. Cf. chapter 9, above, on Alcaeus.
[ back ] 129. Táin, Rec. 1, 500; Kinsella 1969:80. Cf. Hennessy 1870. See Jullian 1902:321, for the use of invective in battle among the Celtic tribes.
[ back ] 130. See above, on Caillín and Senchán.
[ back ] 131. Book of Leinster 117a–b, translated in Rhys 1979:332. Cf. Robinson 1912:116–117, with bibliography on verse-capping; Gummere 1901: 287–297, 396–405.
[ back ] 132. Connellan 1860:93.
[ back ] 133. “The Colloquy of Two Sages,” in Stokes 1905; cf. Ó hÓgáin 1979:46.
[ back ] 134. Cf. Taliesen’s besting of the court poets in the Tale of Gwion Bach and the Tale of Taliesin, in Ford 1977:171. On the need for deciding precedence in Irish society, where the exact hierarchical station is a matter of intense importance for one’s honor or shame, see O’Leary 1984; Gray 1982:94; Bromwich 1967:13–16.
[ back ] 135. Ó hÓgáin 1979:47, see also Ó hÓgáin 1985:224–228.
[ back ] 136. See Ó hÓgáin 1979:46–47; Dillon 1947:262; Lloyd-Jones 1948:173; Gonda 1950:57–61.
[ back ] 137. Huizinga 1955:110; cf. 122–123.
[ back ] 138. Ó hÓgáin 1979:46–47, Henry 1979–1980:117, 126; MacAirt 1958:152n1. For the knowledge of the satirist specifically, see Amairgein’s poem, quoted in Chadwick 1934:108; cf. Macalister and MacNeill 1916:262f.; Macalister 1938–1956 5:110–113; Rees and Rees 1967:98.
[ back ] 139. Furthermore, in archaic Vedic ritual, the riddles involved cosmogony or theogony. Huizinga 1955:106.
[ back ] 140. Huizinga, 1955:105, 108–110. See Davidson 1983; Kuiper 1960; Gaster 1981 2:495. Cf. chapter 6 (Hesiod); chapter 18, on Suibhne as agonic poet; chapter 2 (Aesop as riddle warrior).
[ back ] 141. Thus he is somewhat comparable to the Hollywood cliché of the gunfighter who has given up his former profession and is trying to live peaceably, often incognito.
[ back ] 142. Ó hÓgáin 1979:58; ó Duilearga 1961:107–108. Cf. Ó hÓgáin 1985:233 for a very similar story with different characters.
[ back ] 143. The comparison between poetic agōn and hand-to-hand combat is made by Caerwyn Williams 1972:91, with reference to Scandinavian flytings. See also Clover 1980.
[ back ] 144. Robinson 1912:103–106.
[ back ] 145. Meroney 1949–1950:207.
[ back ] 146. Meroney 1949–1950:99, 107 (#50). As reicne nguin, gaífi forgnúis cáich gus·mbrogad; / ní móranad ní[th]o co [n]gaíbh gláime gonadh!
[ back ] 147. Meroney 1949–1950:217.
[ back ] 148. Meroney 1949–1950:217. For other examples of satire as cutting weapon or defensive weapon (spear, point of spear or sword, shield), see O’Leary 1991:26n59.
[ back ] 149. Ó hÓgáin 1979:50.
[ back ] 150. ar iscend con forincáinte ocamastraig. 7 isinand dán fogníít. Cormac’s Glossary, in Stokes 1862; Robinson 1912:110.
[ back ] 151. O’Leary 1991:22, with a number of examples of satire and laughter words meaning an attack or blow.
[ back ] 152. Cormac’s Glossary, in Stokes 1862; cf. Meroney 1949–1950:118, 224; Robinson 1912:110. For further on the duality of praise and blame in Ireland, see Henry 1979–1980:122 (black and white poetry, satire vs. praise); Robinson 1912:102, 106. Diodorus Siculus (5.31.2) writes of Celtic bards that, “These men, singing with instruments similar to lyres, praise [humnousin] some, but they abuse [blasphēmousi] others” (εἰσὶ δὲ παρ’ αὐτοῖς καὶ ποιηταὶ μελῶν, οὓς βάρδους ὀνομάζουσιν. οὗτοι δὲ μετ’ ὀργάνων ταῖς λύραις ὁμοίων ᾄδοντες οὓς μὲν ὑμνοῦσιν, οὓς δὲ βλασφημοῦσι).
[ back ] 153. Meroney 1949–1950:222.
[ back ] 154. neim laidhe: Meroney 1949–1950:105 (#27), 107 (#58). Meroney compares the phrase neimtenga ‘poison-tongue’ (118); see also O’hO’gain 1979:51–52. An Old Irish fragment refers to “a bag of poison on the tongues of poets,” ibid. 52; Stokes and Meyer 1900 1:272, uath n[e]ime for tengthaib na filed. There is a poet named Bricriu Poisontongue (Nemthenga), see “Bricriu’s Feast,” Henderson 1899; Stokes 1905:13n1; Chadwick and Chadwick 1932 1:49.
[ back ] 155. Meroney 1949–1950:118 (#50). The brew that induces poetic inspiration in The Tale of Gwion Bach (Ford 1977:163) is potent poison except for the three poetic drops.
[ back ] 156. “Dar ar cubus is nemnech in tuarascbáil,” ar Medb. “Is nemnech cách ‘sa tuarascbáil,” ar Cú Ruí.
[ back ] 157. See especially Bricriu Poisontongue’s role in “Bricriu’s Feast,” Henderson 1899.
[ back ] 158. See on prophecy above; Robinson 1912:122–123, for the inviolability of the poet’s person; cf. the Indo-European poet as inviolate herald, Caerwyn Williams 1972:107. The cognate for Greek kērux (Dor. kārux) ‘herald’ is Vedic kārú ‘singer, poet’. See also Dillon 1973:4–5 (on royal staff); Meroney, 1949–1950:128 (poet’s wand); Hesiod Theogony 30–31 (cf. West’s notes), see above, chapter 6.
[ back ] 159. Cf. Mac Cana 1968:181 (the poet blesses the king at inauguration and receives his garment); Ní Chatháin 1979–1980:207; Dillon 1947:262 (the earliest fili corresponds to the Hindu brahman); Caerwyn Williams 1972:98–102; Thurneysen 1921:69–71; Maier 1989:26. For the poet’s role as sanctioner of law, see above, this chapter. See also below, chapter 19 (Odin’s poets are priests); and above, chapter 8 (Sappho).
[ back ] 160. Watkins 1976:271 and 1995. See also Caerwyn Williams 1972; Dillon 1973; and above on Sappho as praise poet, chapter 8.
[ back ] 161. See Ó hÓgáin 1985:236 for positive aspects of the poet in Irish traditions—poet as “protector of the community,” who banishes sickness, ghosts, curses rats, and is the enemy of landlords and oppressors. Ó hÓgáin remarks on “the moral basis of anger” in poets who satirize: “He stands fair and square within the circle of righteousness” (1985:246). Ó hÓgáin is chiefly working from later folklore, but see the discussion of moral Irish poets at the beginning of this chapter.