Session 92: Ystafell 8
Early medieval Irish

Chair: Daniel Watson

The ‘Old Irish Treatise on the Psalter’: towards a new edition

Alderik Blom
Philipps-Universität Marburg

The so-called ‘Old Irish Treatise on the Psalter’, commonly dated to the early ninth century, comprises a fragment of the first-known commentary on the Psalms in the Irish vernacular. It is known from two manuscripts, dated respectively to the fifteenth and sixteenth century. The sole edition to date, that of Kuno Meyer, presents a balanced text that standardises and translates the manuscript texts, and adds a minimum of commentary. However, since its publication much work has been done on Hiberno-Latin exegesis, and a new edition would have to integrate more recent scholarship as well as include a much more extensive commentary on the sources used in the text. In addition, there are linguistic inconsistencies in Meyer’s revised text. Frequently, divergent, non-standard or later forms are either edited or left unchanged at various points in the text. For a new edition a stricter methodology would be an asset, involving either a clearer and more rigorous standardisation of the minor inconsistencies, or instead fewer revisions with further commentary. This paper will present and discuss several text-critical and linguistic issues arising from a proposed new edition of the text.

The Auraicept na nÉces and Carolingian alphabet compendia

Nicolai Egjar Engesland
Universitetet i Oslo

The grammatical treatise Auraicept na nÉces is preserved in manuscripts that date from the late fourteenth century onwards. Anders Ahlqvist dated the oldest core of the text to the late seventh or early eight century. The Auraicept represents an attempt at appropriating Latinate grammatical concepts to the vernacular language and is the earliest preserved text from the medieval West to do so. It has hence been seen as a vernacular reflex of Hiberno-Latin grammatical writing, and is highly innovative as such.

The Auraicept contains a section on the three sacred alphabets, Latin, Greek and Hebrew, to which it adds the local vernacular alphabet. This section of the text is not included in the standard edition, but provides a point of departure for placing the text against a plausible cultural backdrop. The mytho-grammatical profile of the Auraicept might not be easily explained by comparison with Hiberno-Latin grammatical texts. While it could be seen as the result of myth being channeled into the text through glossing or through merger between originally separate compositions, this paper will look at possible parallels in grammatical compendia and treatises on alphabets such as we have preserved from monastic milieux on the Continent.

Prosper of Aquitaine and the Irish annalists (again)

Daniel Frederick Melia
University of California, Berkeley

Apparently, working on St. Patrick undermines one’s sense of logic. Aside from more extreme claims, such as that he was a Breton, even the soberest of commentators tend to go off the rails. In his pathbreaking 1968 methodological essay, 'St. Patrick and his Biographers, Ancient and Modern,' Daniel Binchy argued that we cannot rely on anything at all we find in the annals or in Muirchu and Tirechan as representing any direct evidence of anything relating to St. Patrick. Having judged that nothing in the Irish Annals of the seventh century can be trusted, he then goes on to use the clustering of death dates of Patrick’s alleged disciples in the early 520s as evidence for the 491 death date for Patrick. Recently, Daniel McCarthy in his pathbreaking work on the Annals has bolstered the case for the existence of locally produced fifth-century annalistic material, but he, too, embarks on a complicated and entirely speculative chain of events to explain why some annalists purposely recorded confusing dates connected with Patrick’s life.

Wading back into this morass, I will re-examine the content and rhetoric of Patrick’s own writings and the status of the famous “Palladius” entry of AD 431 in Prosper’s Chronicle with an eye to detaching our knowledge of Patrick from the story concocted by the seventh-century annalists and exorcising the ghost of 432 that still haunts our views of the historical Patrick.