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Symposium: Dánta Grádha

To celebrate the passing of one hundred years since the publication of the first edition of Dánta Grádha edited by Tomás Ó Rathile, a symposium on the dánta grá, the courtly love poetry of Early Modern Ireland and Scotland, will be held in the School of Celtic Studies, Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies on 17 September 2016.

Dánta Grádha poster


Tickets are €25 each, with a reduced rate of €15 for students. You may pay for tickets in advance here.


9.00-9.20 Registration

9.25-10.00 Síle Ní Mhurchú, ‘The love poems of Domhnall Mac Carthaigh’
10.00-10.35 Mícheál Hoyne, ‘Gofraidh (mac Briain) Mac an Bhaird’
10.35-11.10 Deirdre Nic Mhathúna, ‘Dánta grá agus cairdis Phiarais Feiritéar’

11.10-11.40 Coffee

11.40-12.05 Mícheál Mac Craith, ‘“Manufacturing the evidence”: the legacy of Robin Flower’
12.05-12.40 Ruairí Ó hUiginn, ‘Na dánta grádha: some literary and historical aspects’

12.40-2.00 Lunch

2.00-2.35 Máirín Ní Dhonnchadha, ‘Discourses of male love before the dánta grádha
2.35-3.10 Neil Buttimer, ‘Emotion in Dánta Grádha
3.10-3.45 Dafydd Johnston, ‘Metaphors of love in the poetry of Dafydd ap Gwilym’

3.45-4.10 Coffee

4.10-4.45 Damian McManus, ‘Poems to women in the Book of Fermoy’
4.45-5.20 Mícheál B. Ó Mainnín, ‘Court and coterie: dánta grádha in the Book of the Dean of Lismore’


Neil Buttimer, UCC

Emotion in Dánta Grádha

Commentary by Flower, Ó Tuama, and Mac Craith, for instance, highlights external influence on content and form in compositions from T. F. O’Rahilly’s famous anthology. While worthwhile, such scholarship may overshadow issues like the extent to which the collection’s texts are embedded in their own cultural world. This talk highlights one particular aspect of the works’ links with the Gaelic environment where they were produced, as part of a series of enquiries into the same general topic (see Buttimer, “Transactional imagery in Irish ‘Courtly Love’ poetry”, lecture to 28th Irish Conference of Medievalists, University College, Dublin, 2 July 2014). Sentiments like dejection, envy, not to mention love itself, found through the O’Rahilly volume, and how they resonate with testimony from other contemporary Irish and Scottish sources, are examined. The wider social context in which those feelings occur is reviewed, as well as their implications. Further discussion considers whether descriptors like “light” (éatrom) used to characterise the material capture this strand of Gaelic versification adequately. What contribution evidence from Dánta Grádha can make to research on the emotions in late medieval life is also assessed.

Mícheál Hoyne, DIAS

Gofraidh (mac Briain) Mac an Bhaird: courtly love and panegyric poetry

Most dánta grádha are anonymous compositions. One of the few poets to whom a poem is ascribed is Gofraidh mac Briain Mheic an Bhaird, a bardic poet who flourished in the early seventeenth century. In addition to the courtly love poem attributed to him, there is a large corpus of praise poetry and a handful of religious poems ascribed to the same poet. This paper will address questions central to our interpretation of dánta grádha through an analysis of the poetry of Gofraidh mac Briain. Were dánta grádha composed for patrons in the same way that praise poems were, or were they occasional compositions for the poet’s own amusement? How clearly defined is the distinction between dánta grádha and courtly love poetry? How much was courtly love poetry in Irish influenced by the panegyric tradition, and what was the influence of courtly love poetry on the praise poetry of the same period?

Dafydd Johnston, University of Wales Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies, Aberystwyth

Metaphors of love in the poetry of Dafydd ap Gwilym

This paper will consider some of the metaphors used by the fourteenth-century Welsh poet Dafydd ap Gwilym to convey the physical and mental experience of love, focusing in particular on a group of poems containing extended metaphors such as ‘Serch fel Ysgyfarnog’ (Love like a Hare, DG.net poem 75), ‘Y Mab Maeth’ (The Foster-son, DG.net poem 77) and ‘Hwsmonaeth Cariad’ (The Husbandry of Love, DG.net poem 109). Themes to be explored include the body (both male and female) as landscape, love as a violently invasive force, and the potential of metaphor for ambiguity and duality. Consideration will be given to parallels and possible models both in earlier Welsh tradition and in continental courtly love literature.

Mícheál Mac Craith, Collegio S. Isidoro, Roma

“Manufacturing the evidence”: the legacy of Robin Flower

Robin Flower can be credited with introducing the term amour courtois into Irish language literary criticism in 1916, a term that first came to prominence in 1883 when Gaston Paris used it in his analysis of the relationship between Lancelot and Guinièvre in Chrétien de Troye’s romance, Le Chevalier de la Charrette. Flower thus brought Irish poetry into the mainstream of European tradition twenty years before C. S. Lewis made his omniscient and contentious statement: everyone has heard of courtly love, and everyone knows that it appears quite suddenly at the end of the eleventh century in Languedoc … love of a highly specialized sort whose characteristics may be enumerated as Humility, Courtesy, Adultery and Religion the Allegory of Love (1936, 2).

Flower’s approach led him into a neat solution of the nativist versus non-nativist debate in medieval Irish literature when he described Gaelic courtly love-poetry as a confluence of the French world of the matter and the Irish world of the manner. His arguments in favour of the French world of the matter, however, led him into some blind alleys and contradictory assertions that literary critics have been trying to resolve ever since.

Damian McManus, TCD

Poems to women in the Book of Fermoy

This is the third instalment in an investigation of the celebration of women in Bardic poetry, and focuses on poems addressed to women. The poems chosen for examination are all in the Book of Fermoy and are a suitable source for a study of the relationship between poet and female patron.

Deirdre Nic Mhathúna, Coláiste Phádraig, Ollscoil Chathair Bhaile Átha Cliath

Dánta grá agus cairdis Phiarais Feiritéar

Is cuid lárnach de chorpas Phiarais Feiritéar (c.1600-c.1652) na dánta grá agus cairdis a chum sé. Sa pháipéar seo, déanfar iniúchadh ar ábhar agus ar fhriotal na ndánta sin agus tagrófar don tslí a bhfuil cuid de thréithe na ndánta grá le sonrú ar na marbhnaí a chum sé chomh maith. Cé nár leag an Rathileach dán ar bith ar Phiaras Feiritéar sa chéad eagrán de Dánta Grádha a d’eisigh sé (1916), leag sé dán amháin air sa dara heagrán (1926) agus tugadh le fios go bhféadfadh gurbh é a chum dán eile sa chnuasach céanna. I measc dhánta eile an Fheiritéaraigh, tá dhá dhán a chum sé dá chairde fir – ‘Ní maith uaigneas don annsa’ a chum sé do Risdeard Husae agus ‘Ionmhain th’aiseag, a Eóghain’ a chum sé d’Eóin Ó Callanáin. Is suntasach a nua-aoisí agus a thaibhsíonn gnéithe áirithe den dara dán acu seo – an tuairim gur ‘fearr duine ná daoine’ agus an bealach a moltar Ó Callanáin as a intleacht: ‘Fairsing th’eólas, a ghairtmheic/ ó Airtic go hAntairtic’, mar shampla. Maireann dán a chum an fear céanna don Fheiritéarach. Déanfar scagadh ar na tréithe a mholtar sa mhalartú fileata seo agus ar an bhfriotal a úsáidtear chun na críche sin agus féachfar le comparáid a dhéanamh idir iad agus dánta molta eile i gcorpas an Fheiritéaraigh. Déanfar anailís ar chosúlachtaí idir na dánta seo agus saothar fhilí cavalier an Bhéarla agus bainfear leas comparáideach as torthaí taighde Ailbhe Uí Chorráin ar dhánta cairdis le Giolla Brighde Ó hEódhasa (The Light of The Universe, Oslo 2014) agus iad á gcur i gcomhthéacs intleachtúil na linne.

Máirín Ní Dhonnchadha, NUIG

Discourses of male love before the dánta grádha

Expressions of love and affection by men for men are copiously represented in medieval Irish tradition, far more so than expressions of love by men (or women) for women. While this paper focusses on the discourse of grádh, muirn, cumann (etc.) as expressed by men for men, in a range of literary forms from the pre-modern period, it also seeks to clarify whether this is continuous with the discourse employed by men in expressing love and affection for women, and what implications this may have for gender and identity in Ireland in the period up to the seventeenth century. It will conclude with a brief critique of the ‘conceit by which [the poet] represents himself as the lover or wife of the chief whom he is praising’ (James Carney, The Irish Bardic Poet, 37).

Síle Ní Mhurchú, UCC

The love poems of Domhnall Mac Carthaigh

In this paper, I will take an in-depth look at the two dánta grádha, numbers 30 and 44, that are attributed to Domhnall Mac Carthaigh, earl of Clanna Carthaigh (d 1596). I will discuss the manuscript copies of the poems, the literary milieu in which Mac Carthaigh operated and the influence of his teacher, Aonghus Fionn Ó Dálaigh, on his poetic output. I will also examine the structure of the poems and their aesthetic features – what visions of love do they offer and how are these visions constructed?

Ruairí Ó hUiginn, NUIM

Na Dánta Grádha: some literary and historical aspects

The volume of love poems edited by Tomás Ó Rathile under the title Dánta Grádha (1925) contains over 100 compositions, the majority of which are not attributed to any authors. They deal with a variety of themes associated with love and are not infrequently composed in a light-hearted spirit. In this paper I wish to examine some of these poems, focusing on certain stylistic features and looking at their historical background.

Mícheál B. Ó Mainnín, QUB

Court and Coterie: Dánta Grádha in the Book of the Dean of Lismore

This paper seeks to examine aspects of the dánta grádha contained in the Book of the Dean of Lismore (BDL), compiled in Scotland in the period between 1512 and 1542. Questions relating to authorship, attribution and poetic voice are of particular interest; the collection has a playful and intimate quality which manifests itself in the coterie verse to which poets of various backgrounds (both professional and amateur) have contributed. The amateurs include churchmen and aristocrats, the latter seeming to embrace both men and women. Key figures include Sir Duncan Campbell of Glenorchy and his cousin, Colin, first Earl of Argyll; this is particularly interesting from a Scottish perspective because of the involvement of the Campbells at the highest levels in the Scottish court. As well as poems of Perthshire and Argyllshire provenance, the corpus includes poems from Ireland, a number of which are ascribed to Gearóid, the Earl of Kildare. The pan-Gaelic dimension and the potential influence of the Earl on the poetic output of the Lord of Glenorchy is another fascinating aspect of the collection.