Compton, Todd M. 2006. Victim of the Muses: Poet as Scapegoat, Warrior and Hero in Greco-Roman and Indo-European Myth and History. Hellenic Studies Series 11. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies. http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:hul.ebook:CHS_Compton.Victim_of_the_Muses.2006.
Chapter 17. Kissing the Leper: The Excluded Poet in Irish Myth
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.  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). 
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.  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. 
Poet as Prophet
Poet as Warrior
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.  This is one of the primary themes of Dumézil’s investigations into the warrior function in Indo-European traditions.  The poet, especially the satirist who uses words as weapons, is equally dangerous and valued.
The Poetic Agōn
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.  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’.  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.  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!”  Glám of glám dícind means ‘attack, gibe’, “the basic idea being to nab or nip—an action of fangs or fingers.”  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’.”  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.”  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.”  The most common word of laughter in early Irish literature, tibid, “combines the sense of ‘laughter’ with that of ‘striking’ or ‘shoving’.” 
The Poisonous Poet