- May 25, 2020
Thank you Zozimus, that's brilliant.
But I'm really after those verses in the OP video. Are they there in your link? I can't find them.
I'm really interested in how in the language and structure of these type of epic "Homeric" recitals there is this technique of composition, basically a vast storehouse of formulaic phrases ("swiftfooted Achilles"...) and even entire formulaic lines ("the Lord sends the food, the devil sends the cook"... etc.) to ensure the recall of the epic recital.
The way they're metrically correct and positionally predictable. Like the way a musician remembers and recalls a chord or a melodic line. It's all metric and versified speech, and there's melody too, as you can hear in Sean's voice in the OP. I am really interested in what I think I hear in that particular video.
The link you gave about memorising is great. But I remember when I was a young boy I met this ancient wrinkled woman while visiting relatives in Connemara, and she told me while walking along the road about how the "old places", like Newgrange and Knowth were actually for remembering old stories using the stars. Basically you map "topics" on stars and clusters of stars and when you want to remember you watch the unfolding of the constellations to get the sequence, there is a kind of cross-mapping of epic stories onto the stars, and that is how the remembering is done in the old way.
The other thing that fascinates me about Irish is the expression of the relation of things. How people and everything in the world relate to each other, and to spirit. I seem to discern a movement of spirit in the old way of speaking, and of course there is no word in Irish for "to have" and so on.
It seems to me that it is the English language that underlies all these materialistic relations we have these days, this idea of cash payment being the most important relation of human beings, the philosophy that it is always right to put labour, land and other natural resources on the open market where they can be bought and sold for payment etc.
Whereas what of reciprocity, exchange and redistribution, the sharing out of labour, the family and community unit etc? I think there is a much stronger philosophical basis for it in the Irish language, well as long as we don't turn it into something near English, which is what the current tendency seems to be, I'm sorry to see.
This is absolutely fasinating. It reminds me of the beginning of this extraordinary essay on Aogán Ó Rathaille by Michael Lillis:
As a schoolboy, nearly fifty years ago, I spent a magical month in Dún Chaoin in the portentously (if somewhat ungrammatically) named Teach a’ Phrinceiss. The Princess’s father had been Padraig O Catháin, the last King of the Great Blasket Island. His daughter Cáit, when I knew her in 1962, was an elderly widow living alone with her cat in a two-room house fifty yards from the local church. I was her only paying guest that summer. She quietly radiated kindness and (for a seventeen-year-old Dubliner) the enthralling dignity of her acknowledged princely status. She was a fund of lore, and not only about the Blaskets; she knew the folktales, poetry and song of all West Kerry. The locals revered her but feared her a little: she had the gentle clarity of penetration into the motivation of both young and old of a Miss Marple of Uíbh Rathach. She was believed to have supernatural powers; the sunlit morning I left her house to walk the mountain path, Mám Clasach, to catch a bus from Dingle to Dublin, she told me, with sadness but without a hint of ostentation, that she had sensed that a particular woman who lived on the other side of the peninsula had died unexpectedly during the night. I learned when I arrived in Ventry that she was right. When you were a schoolboy and when by chance you encountered a much older woman or man who glowed with that intelligence, geniality and authentic goodness, you half-consciously expected that life would, as you were only then beginning to explore its richness, throw up many similar people of great or even greater worth. In fact I never met anyone like her.
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The importance of what we've lost so quickly breaks my heart. Our nation had one task: to preserve, defend, cultivate and develop this culture, yet instead it turned treasonously against itself. Because that which belongs to the past belongs to the future too if it's still living cultural matricide is infanticide too. Róisín Dubh has life in her yet though. If not we are nothing.
Tá mo chroi-se réabtha 'na mhíle céad cuid,
Agus balsam féin nach bhfóireann mo phian,
Nuair a chluinim an Ghaelig uilig dá tréigbheáil,
Agus caismirt Bhéarla i mbeol gach aoin.