The following papers were given at the School’s annual Tionól, 17-18 November, 2006.
The long, late version of ‘Agallamh na Seanórach‘ contains a curious episode in which Oscar kills a character named Dolbh Scóinne, from Dún Scóine in Scotland, with the latter’s own poisoned knife. The explicit purpose of this episode as it stands is to supply the history behind the place-names Dún Gaoithe, Druim Díthlann and Finn-loch. This paper will suggest that Dún Scóine refers to Scone in Perthshire and that a potentially more interesting etymological legend deriving this name from ‘scian‘ (knife) underlies the material. A number of references to Scone in medieval and early modern Gaelic-language sources will be discussed and some other medieval Gaelic etymologies for place-names in Scotland will be mentioned.
In this paper, the earliest phase of the manuscript transmission of Amrae Choluimb Chille will be examined. In particular, the problem of the date of the archetype, and the relationship between the three twelfth-century manuscripts preserving the elegy (Liber Hymnorum, Lebor na hUidre, Rawlinson B 502), will be discussed. A stemma will be suggested for these manuscripts, on the basis of evidence extracted both from the Amrae ‘proper’ and from the copious scholia which accompany the text.
The manuscript RIA 23 O 48 (476), known as the Liber Flavus Fergusiorum (LFF), has been described in detail by E. J. Gwynn in PRIA 26C (1906), pp 15-41 and by Kathleen Mulchrone in the Catalogue of Irish manuscripts in the RIA, pp 1254-73. In this paper attention will be focused on matters relating to the composition of LFF which have been largely overlooked in previous descriptions. Gwynn and Mulchrone had different views on the number of hands involved in the writing of LFF. This matter will also be addressed.
The etymology of the name of Ireland has not been thoroughly clarified. The competing proposals remain those of Pedersen, Ériu < Celtic *Īweryon- < PIE *piHuerion- and Pokorny, Ériu < Celtic *Eiweryon- < PIE *epi-uerion-. The former has the apparent advantages of accounting for the Welsh form Iwerddon and ancient attestations, e.g. Ptolemy Iouernías (gen.sg.), but it remains unclarified how Pedersen’s form can be derived regularly next to the clear reflex of PIE *piHuerion- in Old Irish íriu ‘earth’. Pokorny’s formal etymology has the advantage of accounting regularly for Ériu, but seems to leave Welsh Iwerddon hanging (as well as the ancient attestations).
I do not recall attention having been drawn to the variation in medieval Welsh between the forms Iwerdon and Ywerdon. This variation goes beyond mere orthography, since Ywerdon also occurs in manuscripts which otherwise do not regularly use for inherited /i/. This variation is significant in that an inherited Ywerdon would after all be derivable from Pokorny’s Celtic *Eiweryon-. It is also to be noted that there is an appellative element (y)werddon in Welsh toponymy, though the interpretation of this has not to date been embedded in the context of discussion of the name of Ireland.
This paper investigates all this data and argues that Welsh inherited two forms that were subsequently, but at an early period, formally crossed, i.e. appellative iwerddon = Old Irish íriu < Celtic *īweryon- < PIE *piHuerion- and the name of Ireland Ywerddon = Old Irish Ériu < Celtic *Eiweryon- < PIE *epi-uerion- (such crossing may also be visible in the ancient attestations). Pokorny’s etymology is thus incidentally formally upheld, though his semantic analysis can be improved. A more recent etymology of the name of Ireland by Theo Vennemann will be mentioned but not dwelt upon.
It has often been noted that a particular feature of saints’ cults in Celtic regions is the dominance of the medieval and often modern landscape by local, often relatively obscure, cults. The picture is complicated by the undoubted invention, conflation, and disappearance of saints over time. Cults of these local saints which occur in more than one Celtic region, then, present particular problems of identification. One aspect of this distribution, often commented on as a minor curiosity, is that named as ‘recurrent adjacency’ in 1986 by Oliver Padel. This is when two saints with adjacent dedications turn up in a different Celtic region also adjacent. The most noticeable nexus of such clustered dedications is that of Cornwall and Brittany, which are thought to share a large number of cults for particular historical reasons. Given the fact that dedications are no longer thought to be self-explanatory and ubiquitously original primary data (as for example E.G. Bowen viewed them), but rather subject to a number of pressures and alterations over time, a reconsideration of the ‘recurrent adjacency’ phenomenon is in order. While some paired dedications can be seen as the result of medieval re-interpretations of cults, this is not true of all examples, and those suggesting genuine and early associations of saints, associations that travel with the cults of these saints, are an important supplement to our developing picture of local, singular, and obscure Celtic saints.
The evidence for the permissibility of this sort of rhyme in dán díreach will be reviewed.
At last year’s Tionól I spoke about the development of the word suairc ‘pleasant’, ‘cheerful’, ‘agreeable’ and its abstract noun suairceas in the seventeenth century. This development is based on the socio-cultural value attached to suairc initially as an attribute of individual attractiveness and conviviality which then becomes a meta-poetic term used by poets in defence of the social and aesthetic value of their craft. In this talk, I want to continue the discussion into the eighteenth century and an important part of this will be a close reading of an aisling by Aodhgán Ó Rathaille. Leerssen (1996) has described the aisling as ‘a field between the poles of literature and politics, a political form of literary inspiration and the literary expression of a political ideal’ and argues that it is in this genre in particular that ‘the nascent national ideal becomes inextricably linked to the medium of poetry as its natural form of expression’. In the light of these views, I will take a close look especially at the role that is played by the suairc/duairc semantic and pragmatic contrast in establishing what Ó Buachalla (1996) has described as the didactic, seditious imagery (‘íomhára theagascach cheannairceach’) of the aisling in expressing the national ideal at a time when Irish-speaking society had no such medium available in the official ‘public sphere’. In addition, I will draw on recent (and fairly recent) studies in the field of linguistic anthropology on the role of practice, performance and indexicality in linking language to the formation of socio-cultural and political identities.
Míadshlechtae is an Old-Irish law-text which addresses the subject of status in early Irish society. The text deals in turn with the secular grades, the grades of Latin scholars, poets and ecclesiastics. This talk focuses on those portions of the text that deal with the poets and ecclesiastics respectively. The content and structure of these sections are analysed. In addition, the relationship between Míadshlechtae and a number of other Irish and Latin texts is considered.
Recent years have seen a renewed interest in the debate surrounding classical influences in Ireland’s heroic literature. The present paper aims to examine the criteria according to which one may distinguish an intentional allusion to a classical source from mere coincidence. The argument centers on features in the biography of Cú Chulainn which point to the imitation of Statius’s Achilleid. Incidents in the biography of Cú Chulainn which echo that of Achilles suggest that the author of the Táin had the Achilleid as a model. This impression is significantly strengthened upon consideration of the scholastic apparatus which accompanied the Achilleid in medieval manuscripts, including glosses and paraphrases, which have been almost entirely ignored by modern readers. This apparatus reveals significant details of how medieval students grappled with Statius’s diction and imagery, and what they found of interest. In these medieval notes we find material which, I argue, confirms our impression that a literary Cú Chulainn was fashioned in imitation of Achilles, as fruit of the author’s engagement with the learned medieval tradition of Achilles, both text and commentary.
Many claims have been made for the extent of Greek known in early medieval Ireland, much of it resting on slight evidence or inferred vicariously from the achievements of Irishmen active abroad. O’Mulconry’s glossary (published by Stokes in Archiv für celtische Lexicographie, vol 1) is an Irish etymologicon dated by Mac Neill to before the mid-8th century. It contains almost 200 citations of Greek words, by far the largest such corpus to originate in Irish schools. The spellings at first seem quite corrupt; however, on closer examination clear patterns emerge. This paper will consider the orthography of Greek words in the glossary in the contexts of the transmission of Greek in contemporary Latin manuscripts, the pronunciation of the language by native speakers and systems of Insular orthography. It will discuss what can be inferred about the pronuncation of Greek in Ireland and the extent to which the language was, in Zimmer’s words, ‘a living speech’.
This paper addresses the question of the identity of the speaker and the author of the well-known poem beginning ‘Aithbe damsa bés mora‘, bringing forward some new information and offering a solution to perceived problems in its interpretation.
In Meyer’s discussion of the various stages of Irish glossary making, he describes the final stage as involving the alphabetisation of the lemmata under the letters of the alphabet. ‘From this’, he states, ‘to the strictly alphabetical arrangement of such glossaries as O’Clery’s is but one step’ (Archiv für celtische Lexicographie 3 (1907) 140).
This paper will discuss the ordering systems employed in the major glossaries of medieval Irish and argue that the development from initial letter alphabetisation to absolute alphabetisation was not a simple and straightforward process, as implied by Meyer. The evidence contained in the major glossaries indicates that absolute alphabetisation was not achieved in the indigenous Irish context, but only impacted on Ireland during the seventeenth century, in the form of O’Clery’s Sanasán, which significantly is the product of Renaissance print culture and the Louvain experience. Evidence from Old-English glossaries will also be presented in order to establish the relative sophistication of the ordering systems used in Irish glossaries and to also establish if the Irish were unusual in not developing, or at least employing, absolute alphabetisation in an indigenous context.
The evidence of non-alphabetic ordering structures, such as thematic ordering, has not been hitherto explored by scholars and evidence from the Dáil Laithne glossary and the Lecan Glossary will also be presented in order to further explore the possible use of this ordering structure.
Mícheál Coimín, a protestant and prosperous landowner, lived in west Clare during the eighteenth century. A cultured man, he wrote Gaelic prose and poetry in his leisure hours. In this talk his poetry will be examined for the insight it provides into the social, cultural and political allegiances of the period. Attention will also be focused on religious affiliation and how important a resource a well disposed Protestant could be in a Catholic community in a period when the penal laws were at their harshest.
Déanann léamh Uí Chorcora ar an bhfocal ‘scoil’ i línte deireanacha an dáin seo urú ar a bunmhianach meafarach agus ar thraidisiún na díomuaine laistiar dó. Más féidir ‘scoil’ anseo a léamh mar ‘scola mortis’, ámh, soláthraíonn seo comhthéacs Eorpach, iarThriontach don chaoine seo, mar mhalairt ar an ngnáthléamh dúchasach
I dtraidisiún na Gaeilge (agus na Ceiltise) is iomaí sin ainm a thugtar ar an ainmhí ‘fox‘, ach is sionnach an ceann is coitianta. Go bhfios domsa níl aon tsanasaíocht shásúil ar an bhfocal. Sa léacht seo déanfar plé ar na tagairtí is luaithe den fhocal i dtraidisiún na Gaeilge agus cuirfear sanasaíocht nua don fhocal chun cinn.
Two complete versions of the proverb collection known as Madwaith Hen Gyrys o Iâl are preserved in The Red Book of Hergest (c. 1400). These incorporate material from three main sources:
- Legal maxims (either cited in the Welsh Law Codes or interpreted by reference to these tracts)
- Sententious citations from older verse (Hengerdd)
- Proverbs which are international in currency
This paper will attempt to contextualize a selection of proverbs from each of these groups by reference to ‘living’ examples in Welsh literary and legal texts. When no such examples are extant, French and Anglo-Norman texts are brought to bear in order to illustrate the meaning of the proverbs.
On 1 July 2006 a three-year project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council began in Cambridge to edit the three big early Irish glossaries, Cormac’s Glossary, Dúil Dromma Cetta and O’Mulconry’s Glossary. In conjunction with that, an Early Irish Glossaries Database was launched, a searchable on-line database of the headwords in these glossaries. The aim of this paper will be to introduce both the Project and the Database, and in that context to discuss the small glossary fragment preserved in TCD MS 1317 (H.2.15), pp. 43-4 (letters F-G only), which seems closely related to O’Mulconry’s Glossary but which contains fewer and shorter entries in comparison with the full version of that glossary.
On a research trip through Switzerland earlier this year, I discovered a previously unknown Irish computistical textbook from the late seventh or early eighth century in the Benedictine monastery of Einsiedeln. Before this discovery, only two Irish computistical textbooks were known (namely the Munich Computus and De ratione conputandi), so that this find contributes greatly to the knowledge of Irish computistical studies in the pre-Bedan period. Moreover, this newly discovered text contains unique Old Irish terminology. The purpose of my paper is to introduce this new text by summarizing its contents, discussing its provenance and date of composition, analyzing its computistical context, and presenting the Old Irish terminology found therein.