Session 112: Ystafell 4
Irish and Gaelic literature, between Early Modern and Modern

Chair: Patrick McCoy

The Early Modern Irish versions of Pseudo Turpin’s Historia Karoli Magni

Andrea Palandri
Scoil an Léinn Cheiltigh (DIAS)

This paper will discuss the textual relationship between the three Early Modern Irish translations of Historia Karoli Magni (HKM), all of which were made during the fifteenth century, and their relationship to the copies of HKM that survive from England, Wales and Ireland. After having discussed the principal textual differences between the surviving Irish translations of the text, this paper will focus on the version known as Gabháltais Shéarlais Mhóir, under which title the text was edited by Douglas Hyde in 1917 (ITS 19), who however was unaware of the existence of the other two independent translations of the text. This particular translation (hencforth GSM-1) is perhaps the most interesting of the three adaptations for the study of Irish prose during the late fifteenth century. The language of GSM-1 is in fact mostly current to the time in which it was written and contains few of the archaising features common to other fifteenth century prose texts (e.g., The Irish Marco Polo, Stair Ercuil or Lorgaireacht an tSoidhigh Naomhtha). Since GSM-1 survives in four fifteenth-century manuscripts, all written within the same half century and in different parts of the island, close examination of the textual divergences between copies of the text and a discussion of orthographical and morphological variants will allow this paper to consider whether dialect features are discernible in the text and, more broadly speaking, to reflect on the cultural and linguistic context that produced GSM-1.

The Loathly Lady and Bruidheann aspects of Laoi na Mná Móire

Duane Long
Ollscoil Uladh (Ulster)

The seventeenth-century Ossianic lay known as Laoi na Mná Móire (The Lay of the Big Woman) is the most widely attested lay in the oral tradition of twentieth-century Ireland. Versions have been recorded in Donegal, Cork, Kerry, Waterford, Mayo, Galway and Meath. It appears frequently in later manuscripts and has been published, in heavily edited form, in Leabhar na Laoitheadh and Laoithe na Féinne.

Laoi na Mná Móire is, in many aspects, a simple lay which applies a number of stock-Ossianic scenarios and portrays each member of the Fianna in terms of his most essential characteristic. The dominating motif, however, is that of the Loathly Lady (D732 in Stith Thompson's motif index), though there area number of variances from the motif’s traditional form.

This paper, by looking at manuscript versions and later oral developments, aims to discuss the portrayal of the large woman and her band of female warriors. Observations from the Bruidheann scenario will be incorporated in order to ask what we can read into the variances from the norm. It will be argued that the portrayal of the loathly lady creates a burlesque humour that would appeal to the Irish people of its period and ensure lasting popularity.

'Beatha Chríost': an Ulster poem on the life of Christ

Conal Mac Seáin
Coláiste San Aingeal, Sligeach (Sligo)

The corpus of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Irish-language religious poetry is teeming with poems that discuss a broad range of religious ideas and concepts. Many of these poems can offer an insight into the religious sensibilities of the era as well as furthering our understanding of how such poetic artefacts were disseminated in order to propagate the views of various faith denominations. This paper proposes to discuss one example of a lengthy religious poem which offers a detailed description of the life and death of Christ. The discussion will endeavour to place the poem in its cultural context as well as examining the various versions of the text that survived. It is hoped that this information will further our understanding of the interplay between the manuscript and the oral traditions during the nineteenth century.