Medieval Irish poetry bibliography & links!

Red, blue, yellow & black knotwork.

Irish poetry and literature

O. Bergin, Irish Bardic Poetry (Dublin, 1972). I finally got it! However, I seem to have been somewhat misled...this is not the _Big Book o' All Medieval Irish Poetry_, or even _Everything You Need to Know_. It's a collection of all Bergin's translations (with originals), along with a lecture called "Irish Bardic Poetry". Since the lecture included all sorts of nifty information only alluded to in other books and articles (including a looong quote from Clanricarde's memoirs, all about the filidh, composition methods, and their schools), I must certainly recommend it. And you can get it, as well as other medieval Irish poetry, from, a nice suburban Dublin bookshop with a very useful online presence. Credit cards take care of the exchange between Irish pounds and other currencies -- but you might want to check the exchange rate before you make any really large purchases.... However, there is an incredibly huge need for a _Big Book_. I would really like to be able to read several poets' known bodies of work (or large chunks thereof) all at once. This doesn't seem to be possible at the moment -- but maybe someday?

James Carney, Medieval Irish Lyrics (Berkeley, 1967). I love this one. It has the original on one side and the translation on the other, and it covers everything from the earliest stuff known to the end of period. The only problem is that it does this in about 25 poems. It should have been longer. Check your public library, or go to; they have a softcover reprint that also includes his study of Eochaidh Ó hEoghusa, The Irish Bardic Poet and His Patron.

The next four books are reviewed by Arthur Dillon. My thanks, sir.

David Greene & Frank O'Connor, A Golden Treasury of Irish Poetry A.D. 600 to 1200, London, 1967. Contains 54 varied poems in Irish with close but graceful English translations. The translations read as poetry in their own right.

Gerard Murphy, Early Irish Lyrics Eighth to Twelfth Centuries, Oxford, 1962. Contains 58 varied poems in Irish with English translations, scholastic notes and a 63 page glossary of many of the more difficult Irish words in the poems.

Eleanor Knott & Gerard Murphy, Early Irish Literature, New York City, 1966. About a third of the book is devoted to a discussion of bardic, "fili" and court poetry by Eleanor Knott, with many illustrations in Irish accompanied by English translations. The rest of the book is Gerard Murphy's discussion of the Irish sagas, myths romances and Ossianic lore. The 17 page introduction by James Carney contains a scattering of Irish poems with his English translations.

Ruth P. M. Lehmann, Early Irish Verse, Austin, 1982. This is an unusual, and I think excellent, exposition of old Irish verse forms. The book presents 101 well assorted early Irish poems in English translations, two translations for each poem. One is a close literal translation and the second is a looser translation that closely replicates in English the meter, rhyme, alliteration, assonance and consonance of the original Irish. The book does a remarkable job of giving a non-Irish speaker a feeling of what the poetry really was in those old Irish poems. The only disappointment (to me) of the book is that the original Irish is given for less than half of the poems (42 if I counted correctly), but the book does cite sources for the rest of the poems and many of them can be found in one or another of the various poetry collections by Carney, Murphy or Greene & O'Connor, or in the on-line Curia texts.

James Travis, Early Celtic Versecraft: Origins, Development, Diffusion (Ithaca, 1973). I can't say anything bad about this, except that it was written for an audience that knows much more than I do. The poem excerpts are very interesting, and the author teaches how to find their rhythms, which is eminently useful. One of the major sources for this page.

Kenneth Jackson, A Celtic Miscellany (New York, 1971). Penguin pb. This is probably the easiest to find, as it's still being sold by Penguin. Unfortunately, everything's translated into English. But it's a great way to get people interested, and after you find the originals, you can use it as a reading help.

Jeffrey Gantz, Early Irish Myths and Sagas (New York, 1981). Penguin pb. Also totally in translation but easy to get ahold of.

Eleanor Hull, A Textbook of Irish Literature.
Robin Flower, The Irish Tradition (Oxford, 1947).
Myles Dillon, Early Irish Literature (Chicago, 1948).
These are all nice if you can find them. I like the Dillon best (it has a lot of examples with meters marked, etc), and Dayton Public Library had it, so yours might too.

Robin Skelton, Samhain: And Other Poems in Irish Metres from the Eighth to the Sixteenth Centuries. says the publisher ran out. I found the book in the library, though, and it's pretty tasty. Basically, the guy proves that you can too write Irish meters in English; you just have to work at it a bit....

Lambert McKenna S.J. Bardic Syntactical Tracts. Period tracts by period poet/grammarians, from 1200-1600. Only 10 pounds from Read Ireland.

F 5.11: Críth gablach. ed. D. A. Binchy, 1941 (repr. 1979). xx + 109 pp. (vol. XI) £6.00. ISBN 1 85500 002 4. With an important explanatory glossary of legal terms. I want to read this one.

F 4.2: Uraicecht na ríar: the poetic grades in early Irish law ed. Liam Breatnach, 1987. xii + 189 pp. (vol. II) £16.00 ISBN 0 901282 89 8 With English translation. I want to read this one, too.

E 1.4: The linguistic training of the mediaeval Irish poet by Brian Ó Cuív. 1973 (repr. 1983). 27 pp. pbk £2.00. ISBN 0 901282 69 3 Statutory Public Lecture, delivered 13 March 1969; reprinted from Celtica 10 (1973) 114–40

Alan Bliss. Spoken English in Ireland, 1600-1740. This sounds like a great resource for SCA and RenFair people trying to simulate a period Irish accent.

An Fear Dána By Alan Titley. "This novel won the Oireactas prize in 1993. It is based on the life of the medieval poet, Muireadhach Albanach Ó Dálaigh, in Ireland, Scotland and on the Crusades, in a first person narrative as the poet looks back on his life.142pp, pap. $10.95.", says The Irish Bookshop. This book is written in Irish. Sounds interesting, and I do intend to buy this one. Hey, I've been meaning to learn to read modern Irish in plain old prose....

On-line sources

CELT: Irish Electronic Texts No less than an attempt to put all important Irish primary texts (including Latin, Norman French, and Middle English ones, not to mention 20th century poets and important speeches) into HTML form. The successor to the CURIA Project, and a very nice resource for the world. Unfortunately, there are no translations, but there are extensive notes. I will probably be doing some translations from this sucker soon, if only out of unbearable curiosity as to what the ones I don't know are about.
Bardic Poetry and Early and Middle Irish Poetry have lots of texts. Also check out Irish Language Texts for other good stuff, including an English translation of part of The Annals of the Four Masters!

The Albanic Duan, a poem listing the Scottish kings, from the time of Malcolm III. Contains both original and English translation.

A poem on Diarmaid's death in both the Dean of Lismore's spelling and today's, with an English translation, is included in an article on the Book of the Dean of Lismore.

"Mithich domh triall gu tigh Pharais" is included in an article on Muireadhach Albanach O Dalaigh.

"Inmain tir in tir ud thoir". Deirdre laments having to leave Scotland. Original with English translation.

The Story of Mac Dathó's Pig: Both the original and translation, including the poems. An excellent site.

The Voyage of Bran: The original, translation and criticism. Another great site. Good poems in it, of course.

"Pangur Bán" in Old Irish and in an original Irish translation.

An Anthology of Celtic Verse at Rivendell, collected/selected by Leigh Denault. Some interesting stuff.

"Dáibhí Ó Bruadair: the metamorphosis of a poet" by Jeff Inglis. A paper on an Irish poet who lived during the transition from "court poetry" to "poetry of experience". This paper is no longer available on the Web, but you can e-mail the author for a copy.

Irish Forms Packet, compiled by Lord Conchobar of Kamrun, mundanely known as Russell Gilman-Hunt, largely from a book by Lewis Turco. He also has a couple of poems. (Btw, if anyone else out there is trying to write poetry based on Irish forms, please let me know.)

Electric Scotland has articles on Gaelic literature, including Scottish Manuscripts of the 15th century, The Albanic Duan, The Book of Deer, and The Dean of Lismore's Book.

Early Music of Ireland with MIDI files! Go there and listen -- this stuff is good!

Gaeilge ar an Ghréasán This site is in Gaeilge (Scottish Gaelic), but just go down the list until you find the section marked "Sean Ghaeilge". Lots of useful information. Btw, 'Sean-Ghaeilge' is Old Irish and 'Mean-Ghaeilge' is Middle Irish.

Dalriada Celtic Heritage Trust used to be a pretty lame site; it's much better now. The history essays are the best; some of the folklore pages have some authorial flights of fancy, so read with a grain of salt.

Clannada na Gadelica Tribal Resource Directory Page: Their collection of texts is admirable, and their search for scholarly articles to put up is equally so. Many of these are mirrors of CELT.

Pangur Bán: Two Translations from Old Irish. Webbed by Seamus Cooney as a comparison of original and translations, fyi his literature students.

Anúna is an Irish choral group that does medieval songs (many in Hiberno-Latin), Gaelic folksongs from the 1800's, Thomas Moore, and modern compositions, too. If you saw the Riverdance special on PBS, you've seen their work. Their website includes texts and translations of some of their songs.

Filiocht na h-Èireann Has two poems from the 1700s (abhrán meters) on it. He was supposed to add more, but Real Life has apparently intruded.

The Irish Poetry Page The most useful place on the Web for modern Irish poetry and links.

Nua Dán "New Poetry" is a homepage for 4 Irish poets who are exploring poetry, hypertext, and Ireland yesterday and today.

The Confession of St. Patrick, translated from Latin.

Every Celtic Thing on the Web, an indispensable reference.

Celtic clothing, textiles and links. Good stuff.

Irish Poetry at the Universal Poetry and Literature Links in Brazil. Interesting links. (Thanks for linking to me!)

The Online Reference Book for Medieval Studies, which includes the Medieval Sourcebook. An extremely useful site with all kinds of medieval primary texts. The fact this site links to mine, and I got my semi-Irish clip art there, doesn't bias me a bit.... :)

Arts Page at the Shire of Falcon's Keep, Northshield, The Middle Kingdom. Thanks!

Poets, Poetry, Poetry Resources, and Poetry Links, with a list of links longer than the name! Extremely useful. Just keep scrolling down!

A nice indexing site of texts and educational material available on the Web.


Peritia: I've never gotten a chance to read this journal, but the on-line abstracts are verrry interesting.

Celtica (Dublin, 1946-- ) The University of Dayton only had 4 years worth, but what was there was good. There seem to be at least 1 or 2 poems in each issue, along with articles on Celtic linguistics, literature, and folklore.

Eriu is also supposed to be good, and I see lots of interesting bits from it in footnotes and bibs.

Old Irish and Middle Irish

Rudolf Thurneysen, A Grammar of Old Irish. This is kind of a pain, because it is the kind of turn-of-the-century book that gives pronunciation in terms of Classical Greek and Latin. But there is a revised & expanded edition from 1946; I haven't seen it but it should work better.

E. G. Quin, Old-Irish Workbook (Dublin, 1975).

R. Lehmann and W. P. Lehmann, An Introduction to Old Irish (New York, 1975). This is a book and tape(?) which is out there somewhere. I haven't seen them myself.

Antony Green. Old Irish Verbs & Vocabulary. This is a 1995 paperback from Cascadilla Press. The web page at Cascadilla includes samples of the book. It looks very useful and seems cheap at $15. Life is good!

Rudolf Thurneyson. Old Irish Reader.

E.G. Quin. Dictionary of the Irish Language - Old & Middle Irish

Dictionary of the Irish Language: Compact Edition (Dublin, 1983). Consolidates the fascicles of the Dictionary of the Irish Language and Contributions to a Dictionary of the Irish Language. I would like to thank the University of Dayton for putting this work in Special Collections, where no one with an 8-5 M-F job can see the sucker. :) When I get a chance to take off a half-day, a lot of those little spaces in my translation will disappear. But that may be a while. Anyway, this book is compact because it prints 4 pages of the regular edition on each page. Bring your magnifying glass; the print is extremely small.

Neil MacAlpine and John Mackenzie, Gaelic-English and English Gaelic Dictionary (Glasgow, 1975). Formerly MacAlpine's Pronouncing Gaelic Dictionary. Dayton Public Library has this. Very useful.

On-line dictionaries and language helps

Celtic language dictionaries; links to Irish and Gaelic dictionaries as well as Manx, Breton, and Welsh. Or, if you don't know where to look, check A Web of On-line Dictionaries. More languages than you can shake a stick at.

Irish-LCTL lists colleges that teach Irish.

The well-known scholar Kim McCone's homepage has, among other things, a sample chapter about "Prehistoric, Old and Middle Irish" from _Progress in Irish Studies_. This gives a rundown of the history of scholarly thinking about the language, particularly what's new. Very helpful, especially since I've slogged through a lot of older texts. He also has a sample chapter "The Phonology and Orthography of the Attested Celtic Languages" (Celtic as in the Celts from Greek and Roman times) from _Towards a Relative Chronology of Ancient and Medieval Celtic Sound Change_. Interesting stuff again (at least for me!). Finally, he put up the introduction to one of his papers; it discusses the old question -- how much of Irish motifs and customs is from the ancient Celts, and how much from Christian/Roman/European culture? There is a lot of good stuff in these sample chapters, and he deserves our thanks for putting it up on the Web. I hope other scholars will follow his example.

Modern Irish Spelling and Pronunciation. It's not as hard as it looks, really. And it's a more regular system than English (well, is there a language that's less?). :) Another service of Focal an Lae.

Interactive Irish on the Web for those who've been asking for sound samples! These are .ra files now.

Bruidhinn ar Cánan, an online course in Gaelic (the Scottish kind, not the Irish kind). Includes sound samples, for those who've been asking.

Leasain na Gaidhlig, another on-line course.

Basic Gaelic for Parents. Good phrases for everyday use; of interest to more than just parents. Includes some .au files.

Gaelic languages is a page with information about the closely related languages of Irish, Gaelic, and Manx. Very useful. Focal an Lae(Word of the Day)'s timeline of the history of the Irish language, with an example of the changes one word has gone through.

MacBain's Dictionary: Very useful etymological dictionary of modern Irish and Gaeilge (Scottish Gaelic).

MacFarlane's Gaelic Dictionary

Every Ogham Thing on the Web, an index of information about the alphabet used for writing tomb inscriptions in the early early Middle Ages.

Learning Gaelic with the Irish Chieftain! Interesting selection of terms, mostly medieval.

Gaelic place name elements

Irish folklore and mythology

A. Rees and B. Rees, Celtic Heritage: Ancient Tradition in Ireland and Wales (London, 1961). This is so good. If you have any friends who think they know a lot about Celtic stuff, have 'em read this.

Mac Cana, Proinsias, Celtic Mythology (London, 1970). I still haven't figured out why the mythology series this is part of is in the kids section of Dayton Public. This is very good, and I recommend the Japanese mythology book too. (Great pictures!)

Dáithi O hOgáin, Myth, Legend, & Romance: An Encyclopedia of the Irish Folk Tradition (New York, 1991). This has a lot of legends about famous filidh in it, as well as geographical legends, legends of famous people, etc. Great for understanding what a poem is talking about, incredibly comprehensive *and* extremely readable.

Brian O'Rourke. Blas Meala: A Sip from the Honeypot; and Pale Rainbow. Two fabulous collections of Gaelic songs from the 1800's, along with singable translations. Highly, highly recommended; I'd own 'em if I had brought more checks with me the day I found them.

On-line Folklore & Mythology

The Voyage of Bran criticism: The McNutt article has some interesting folklore material.

Clan, tuath, Mc, Mac and O. An etymological and historical discussion.

The O'Brien Clan of North America includes information about the inauguration of Ui Bhriain kings at Magh Adhair.

History of the Niagh Nasc, an essay on Irish knighthood by the O'Carthy Mór.

Irish family history of the old nobility.

Tales of Wonder: Keep scrolling down until you hit the Scottish tales. This site is a very good one, and I hope the sheer dedication involved in typing or scanning all these stories in will save the webmistress from getting in trouble over all those copyright violations....

The Book of Three Dragons, a classic and impossible to find retelling of the Mabinogion.

Rivendell's Celtic History Page: This has some good unusual stuff (weekdays and so forth).

Oisin in Tir na nOg, an original play by Eric Ferguson. Check it out. Forbhais Droma Dámhghaire The Siege of Knocklong Ed. and trans. by Seán Ó Duinn Originally part of The Book of Lismore, this Irish epic (which could be called the Tain of Munster) is a marvellous story of magic and fantasy, political influence and vengence, with a wealth of place-names and interesting behaviours. The story concerns the march of the high king, Cormac Mac Airt, his druids and his army, from Tara to Munster for the purpose of forcing Fiacha, king of Munster to pay taxes. Dual language, parallel text.111pp. pap . $14.95

Translations of "The Song of Dermot and the Earl"

Keep an eye out for these; I'd love to read the poem.

Goddard Henry Orpen, The song of Dermot and the Earl: an Old French poem from the Carew manuscript no. 596 in the archiepiscopal library at Lambeth Palace (Oxford: Clarendon Press 1892). Diplomatic edition with a preface, introduction, chronological table, two genealogical tables (of Mac Murchada and the descendants of Nesta), a facsimile of folio 7ra (i.e. page 13) of the manuscript, a literal translation, an apparatus, copious historical notes (254-- 321), a heavily annotated coloured map of Meath and Leinster, and index locorum, an index nominum, and a glossary (339--355). Two extracts from Orpen's edition (lines 266--95, 346--69) are reprinted with Orpen's translation in Seamus Deane (ed), The Field Day anthology of Irish writing i (Derry 1991) 149--50.

Denis J. Conlon, The song of Dermot and Earl Richard Fitzgilbert: Le chansun de Dermot e li quens Ricard fiz Gilbert, Studien und Dokumente zur Geschichte der romanischen Literaturen, herausgegeben von Hans-Joachim Lope, volume 24 (Frankfurt/Main: Peter Lang 1992). Edition with an introduction, bibliography, chronological table, literal translation, brief notes (223--31), index locorum, index nominum, and glossary (243-- 54).

Bibliographies On-Line

Charles D. Wright, Old Irish and Early Christian Ireland: A Basic Bibliography.Extremely useful.

The CURIA's Thesaurus files have been incorporated into a new project: CELT. Among the goodies here are the Norman "Song of Dermot and the Earl", in which Strongbow wins the hand of a princess and half the kingdom; and "Apraid a Óolchu Elga", which seems to be a mnemonic or teaching poem. (But that's just IMO.)

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