Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Cork. Colman mac Lenine and a Company of Poets

Early Celtic Poets

These Europe Road Ways travel sites have morphed beyond accounts of unscripted road trips; to a framework for ideas, resources found afterwards.  In that vein: the filing cabinet now includes Old Irish, and other poetry, most Celtic, but even that term contains many roots.
First millenium literature:

Browse an old book, Nora Chadwick's The Celts, that some found plodding, but I loved the poetry section in particular. Use an old term:  enthralled. First published in 1971, it reappared in 1997 with a new introduction, and further editions came later. See http://www.librarything.com/work/97951
Time to get off our modern superiority horse, and go back to pre-10th Century:  imagine a solitary scholar-writer (he is with his little book, about "science"? and his cat), but the idiom is too English ("derring-do"?) to be quite real in translation; need to find the original, what language, what transliteration. Would it be the Old Irish, Gaelic, see http://www.dias.ie/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=4746&Itemid=16&lang=en
 Fair use quotation of three poems, pages 260-61:
I.  First, the poet, the work at the book (no religious reference in the poem, so it does not appear to be a contemplative at work), and the cat, Pangur.  This predates by over a thousand years, and expresses better, the idea that solitude produces creativity for many of us, far more than the current darling, Groupthink, see Opinion in the New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/15/opinion/sunday/the-rise-of-the-new-groupthink.html?scp=1&sq=groupthink&st=cse

Our Solitary says it this way --

I love to rest -- better than any fame --
With close study at my little  book;
White Pangur does not envy me;
He loves his childish play.
When in our house we two are all alone --
A tale without tedium!
We have -- sport never ending!
Something to exercise our wit.
At times by feats of derring-do
A mouse sticks in his net,
While into my net there drops
A difficult problem of hard meaning.
He points his full shining eye
Against the fence of the wall;
I point my clear though feeble eye
Against the keenness of science.
He rejoices with quick leaps
When in his sharp claws sticks a mouse.
I too rejoice when I have grasped
A problem difficult and dearly loved.
Although we are thus at all times,
Neither hinders the other,
Each of us pleased with his own art
Amuses himself alone.
He is a master of the work
Which every day he does;
While I am at my own work
To bring difficulty to clearness.
II. Fast forward into the 10th Century, a bemoaning of the nature of free thought when the religion required focus only what was told it: But who is the author?  We are not told. Is it not known?

This was apparently written when Alfred the Great, 845-901, was just finishing up against the Danes, who did not consider themselves quite finished.  This elegance and precision came just a century after the adventures of Cu Chulainn, he the more primitive idol of derring-do of the time, were being recorded.
  • Watch thought itself chastised  (To be countered by the Dear Reader's silent cheer for the  underdog,
    • O, admirable thought, never succomb.... 
    • Even to those determined to force-tame thee in the false name of ideology
    • Retain instead thine ebullient spontaneity
    • So that divine Autonomy may overcome the pricks of shame-filled mold-mould Groupthink.
  • A path that is not right?  Who says? 
  • What is it to fash
  • Why see other ways as threat, competition in powers not understood, and so to be downed, deemed wanton and to be cast under red-slippered feet, the fate early set for the Other, see http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/13/opinion/for-priests-wives-a-word-of-caution.html?scp=1&sq=wives%20catholic%20clergy&st=cse
Here, I would prefer to be the thought, than the disciplined grinch of requirement-- 
"Shame to my thoughts, how they stray from me,
I fear great danger from it on the day of eternal doom.
During the psalms they wander on a path that is not right;
They fash, they fret, they misbehave before the eyes of great God.
Through eager crowds, through companies of wanton women,
Through woods, through cities -- swifter they are than the wind.
Now through paths of loveliness, anon of riotous shame.
Without ferry, or ever missing a step, they go across every sea:
Swiftly they leap in one bound from earth to heaven,
They run a race with folly anear and afar:
After a course of giddiness they return to their home.
Though one should try to bind them or put shackles on their feet,
They are neither constant nor mindful to take a spell of rest.
Neither sword-edge nor crack of whip will keep them down strongly:
As slippery as an eel's tail they glide out of my grasp ...."
Not to beat a dead mare, but it sounds as though the poet-male is looking with longing and even envy at the freedom of the free-wheeling idea as - even Woman: woman the object of such frenetic measures to pin and control.  See the NYT Op-Ed above.  Characterize her as institutional western religion's bane, as she is when she is not subject to sword-edge or crack of whip, but instead, glides out of grasp, led by wits, choice and heart; and accountable only to those wits, choices, and heart.  Wax and wane....  the law of the universe, denied by those who want to sit atop their manufactured pyramid.
III.  The "catch" on the sword. 

This is a pastime bit, perhaps intended only as a diversion; but its author is known for poesy -- Colman mac Lenine, 522-600 AD, The Royal Bard of Munster, see http://www.foscc.com/StColman.html.  Now Sainted by the institutionizers.

It is not accurate to call this little rhyme-repeat as a true catch, however, as that construction signifies a round sung in sequential parts, with a hidden (even bawdy) message as the singers go 'round, with increasing enthusiasm probably, and various words get juxtaposed, see Catch form at  http://web.cn.edu/kwheeler/lit_terms_C.html; but in the sense of catchy here, it suffices.

Ordinary life appears in this little poem: a bit on a sword, but again some later Englishisms of the translator do not seem authentic.  The use of "catch" in the poem itself does look correct in its reference, even if not as a description of this poem form itself.  He writes of "catches roared" as well they would be, could be, given the play on words resulting from the "catch"; compared to a sweet song.  Need to see the original: 

"As clowns to kings, as pennies to a pound,
As kitchen wenches to princesses crowned,
As kings to thee, to sweet songs catches roared,
As dips to candles, all swords to my sword."

This little snippet is brilliant simplicity.  It author was highly literary. See bio at St. Colman site. He is referenced by other great poets of the day, including one Cormac mac Cuilennain, or Cormac ua Cuilennain, 836-908 AD, identified as king-bishop of Cashel. That position combined the ruler with the religious role, see http://generation13.net/Kintyremull/pages/Saggart2.html. Cormac is author of a fine glossary, linguistic dictionary, see http://www.focloir.ie/lexi/.

Colman mac Lenine is also mentioned by the identified "chief poetic family of Ireland" -- the O'Dalys.