The Old Foundations of Life

Malvine, Dying in the Arms of Fingal, by Anne-Louis Girodet de Roussy-Trioson.
Malvine, Dying in the Arms of Fingal, by Anne-Louis Girodet de Roussy-Trioson.

Gaelic-speaking Ireland, because its art has been made, not only by the artist choosing his material from wherever he has a mind to, but by adding a little to something which it has taken generations to invent, has always had a popular literature. We cannot say how much that literature has done for the vigour of the race, for we cannot count the hands its praise of kings and high-hearted queens made hot upon the sword-hilt, or the amorous eyes it made lustful for strength and beauty. We remember indeed that when the farming people and the labourers of the towns made their last attempt to cast out England by force of arms they named themselves after the companions of Finn. Even when Gaelic has gone, and the poetry with it, something of the habit remains in ways of speech and thought and ‘come-all-ye’s’ and political sayings; nor is it only among the poor that the old thought has been for strength or weakness. Surely these old stories, whether of Finn or Cuchulain, helped to sing the old Irish and the old Norman-Irish aristocracy to their end. They heard their hereditary poets and story-tellers, and they took to horse and died fighting against Elizabeth or against Cromwell; and when an English-speaking aristocracy had their place, it listened to no poetry indeed, but it felt about it in the popular mind an exacting and ancient tribunal, and began a play that had for spectators men and women that loved the high wasteful virtues. I do not think that their own mixed blood or the habit of their time need take all, or nearly all, credit or discredit for the impulse that made our modern gentlemen fight duels over pocket-handkerchiefs, and set out to play ball against the gates of Jerusalem for a wager, and scatter money before the public eye; and at last, after an epoch of such eloquence the world has hardly seen its like, lose their public spirit and their high heart and grow querulous and selfish as men do who have played life out not heartily but with noise and tumult. Had they understood the people and the game a little better, they might have created an aristocracy in an age that has lost the meaning of the word. When we read of the Fianna, or of Cuchulain, or of some great hero, we remember that the fine life is always a part played finely before fine spectators. There also we notice the hot cup and the cold cup of intoxication; and when the fine spectators have ended, surely the fine players grow weary, and aristocratic life is ended. When O’Connell covered with a dark glove the hand that had killed a man in the duelling field, he played his part; and when Alexander stayed his army marching to the conquest of the world that he might contemplate the beauty of a plane-tree, he played his part. When Osgar complained, as he lay dying, of the keening of the women and the old fighting men, he too played his part: ‘No man ever knew any heart in me,’ he said, ‘but a heart of twisted horn, and it covered with iron; but the howling of the dogs beside me,’ he said, ‘and the keening of the old fighting men and the crying of the women one after another, those are the things that are vexing me’.

If we would create a great community–and what other game is so worth the labour?–we must recreate the old foundations of life, not as they existed in that splendid misunderstanding of the eighteenth century, but as they must always exist when the finest minds and Ned the beggar and Sean the fool think about the same thing, although they may not think the same thought about it.

— W. B. Yeats’s Preface to Lady Gregory’s Gods and Fighting Men, 1904.

Geabairleog

John Tenniel's illustration to the poem Jabberwocky, first published in Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There (1871).
John Tenniel’s illustration to the poem Jabberwocky, first published in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There (1871).

Geabairleog

Briollaic a bhí ann; bhí na tóibhí sleo
ag gírleáil ’s ag gimleáil ar an taof.
B’an-chuama go deo na borragóibh
is bhí na rádaí miseacha ag braíomh.

Fainic an Gheabairleog, a mhic!
na gialla géara, greim na gcrúb!
Fainic an Gumailéan is teith
ó Bhandarsnap na bhfriúch!

Thóg sé bórpalchlaíomh ’na ghlac
is lorg i bhfad an manann-namhaid.
Faoin gcniogaidchrann a dhein sé reast
is mhachnaigh seal san áit.

Is é ’na sheasamh faoi ufmhidheamhain,
bhuifleáil an Gheabairleog an treo,
trín tulach-choill—ba lasta a súil—
is í ag plobaireacht insa ród.

’Aon ’dó, ’aon ’dó, trí fhéith, trí fheoil
do ghearr a bhórpalchlaíomh slis! sleais!
Thit an beithíoch marbh; do thóg sé a cheann,
is go frábhógach rith sé ar ais.

Ar mharaigh tú mar sin an Gheabairleog?
Gabh i leith chúm anall a mhic mo bhéibh!
Nach fraoibiúil an lá! Hurú! Hurá!
a dúirt sé le scliogar a scléip.

Briollaic a bhí ann; bhí na tóibhí sleo
ag gírleáil ’s ag gimleáil ar an taof.
B’an-chuama go deo na borragóibh
is bhí na rádaí miseacha ag braíomh.

— translated by Nicholas Williams.

The Three Marys of Great Reknown

The Three Marys at the Tomb (1396) by Lorenzo Monaco; illumination on vellum; 46 x 48 cm, Musée du Louvre, Paris.
The Three Marys at the Tomb (1396) by Lorenzo Monaco; illumination on vellum; 46 x 48 cm, Musée du Louvre, Paris.

Respóndens autem Angelus, dixit muliéribus: Nolíte timére: scio enim quod Iesum quǽritis, allelúia. Antiphon from Vespers during the Octave of Easter

And when the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalen, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome had bought spices, to come and anoint Jesus. So they came to the tomb very early on the day after the sabbath, at sunrise. And they began to question among themselves, Who is to roll the stone away for us from the door of the tomb? Then they looked up, and saw that the stone, great as it was, had been rolled away already. And they went into the tomb, and saw there, on the right, a young man seated, wearing a white robe; and they were dismayed. But he said to them, No need to be dismayed; you have come to look for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified; he has risen again, he is not here. Here is the place where they laid him. Go and tell Peter and the rest of his disciples that he is going before you into Galilee. There you shall have sight of him, as he promised you.

— St. Mark xvi. 1-7.

A Pheadair, a Aspail,
An bhfaca tú mo ghrá geal?
Óchón agus óchón-ó!
Chonaic mé ar ball é,
Gá chéasadh ag an ngarda.
Óchón agus óchón-ó!
Peter, Apostle,
Have you seen my bright love?
Alas, and alas-o!
I saw not long ago
Surrounded by his enemies.
Alas, and alas-o!
Cé hé an fear breá sin
Ar Chrann na Páise?
Óchón agus óchón-ó!
An é n-aithníonn tú do Mhac,
A Mháthrín?
Óchón agus óchón-ó!
Who is that good man
Upon the Passion Tree?
Alas, and alas-o!
It is your son, Mother,
Don’t you recognise me?
Alas, and alas-o!
An é sin an Maicín
A hoileadh in ucht Mháire?
Óchón agus óchón-ó!
An é sin an Maicín
A rugadh insan stábla?
Óchón agus óchón-ó!
Is that the wee son
That was nourished at Mary’s breast?
Alas, and alas-o!
Is that the son
That was born to me in the stable?
Alas, and alas-o!
An é sin an Maicín
A d’iompair mé trí ráithe?
Óchón agus óchón-ó!
A Mhicín mhúirneach,
Tá do bhéal ‘s do shróinín gearrtha,
Óchón agus óchón-ó!
Is that the son
I carried for three quarters?
Alas, and alas-o!
Darling little son,
Your mouth and your nose are cut,
Alas, and alas-o!
Cuireadh tairní maola
trína chosa ‘s trína lámha,
Óchón agus óchón-ó!
Cuireadh an tsleá
Trína bhrollach álainn.
Óchón agus óchón-ó!
Óchón agus óchón-ó!
Blunt nails were pushed through
His feet and his hands.
Alas, and alas-o!
And a spear pierced
Through his beautiful chest.
Alas, and alas-o!
Alas, and alas-o!

— Caoineadh na dTrí Muire (Lament of the Three Marys)

Mac Dathó Was His Name

Facsimile of a portion of page 113b of the Book of Leinster, published by the Royal Irish Academy House, 1880 (Dublin). This portion begins with the fourth sentence of section 15 and ends with the first sentence of section 17.
Facsimile of a portion of page 113b of the Book of Leinster, published by the Royal Irish Academy House, 1880 (Dublin). This portion begins with the fourth sentence of section 15 and ends with the first sentence of section 17.

There was a famous king of Leinster. Mac Dathó was his name. He had a hound; the hound defended the whole of Leinster. The hound’s name was Ailbe, and Ireland was full of its fame. Messengers came from Ailill and Medb asking for the hound. Moreover at the same time there came also messengers from Conchobar Mac Nessa to ask for the same hound. They were all made welcome and brought to him in the hall. That is one of the six halls that were in Ireland at that time, the others being the hall of Da Derga in the territory of Cualu, and the hall of Forgall Manach, and the hall of Mac Dareo in Brefne, and the hall of Da Choca in the west of Meath, and the hall of Blai the landowner in Ulster. There were seven doors in that hall, and seven passages through it, and seven hearths in it, and seven cauldrons, and an ox and a salted pig in each cauldron. Every man who came along the passage used to thrust the flesh-fork into a cauldron, and whatever he brought out at the first catch was his portion. If he did not obtain anything at the first attempt he did not have another.

* * *

Boí rí amra for Laignib, .i. Mac Dathó a ainm. Bui cú oca. No-ditned in cu Lagniu uile. Ailbe ainm in chon, et lán hEriu dia aurdarcus. Tancas o Ailill ocus o Meidb do chungid in chon. I n-oen uair dano tancatar ocus techta Conchobair mic Nessa do chungid in chon chetna. Ro-ferad failte friu uile, et ructha chuci-sium isin mh-bruidin. Is í sein in t-shessed bruiden ro-boi i n-hErind in tan sin: .i. bruden Daderga i crích Cualand, et bruden Fhorgaill Manaich, et bruden Mic Dareo i m-Brefni et bruden Dachoca i n-iarthor Mide et bruden Blai briuga i n-Ultaib. Secht nh-doruis isin bruidin ocus VII sligeda tréthi, et VII tellaige inti, et VII core, ocus dam ocus tinne in cach coire. In fer do-theiged iarsin t-shligi, do-bered in n-ael isin coire, et na tabrad don chét-gabail, issed no-ithed. Mani thucad ní don chét-tadall, ni bered a n-aill.

— Scél Mucci Mic Dathó (Story of Mac Dathó’s Pig), Section I,
N. Kershaw Chadwick, An Early Irish Reader, Cambridge University Press.

The South Cross at Mainistir Bhuithe

Muiredach’s High Cross is a high cross from the X or possibly IX century, located at the ruined monastic site of Monasterboice (Mainistir Bhuithe), County Louth, Ireland.
East face of Muiredach’s High Cross.
West face of Muiredach’s High Cross.

Muiredach’s High Cross is one of three surviving high crosses located at Monasterboice (Gaeilge: Mainistir Bhuithe, “Buithe’s monastery”). The monastic site is said to be founded in the 6th century, by St. Buithe. It is most famous for its 9th and 10th century high crosses—most notably Muiredach’s High Cross. These crosses are all made of sandstone and are referred to as the NorthWest, and South Crosses. It is not certain whether they stand in their original locations. The South Cross is commonly known as Muiredach’s cross because of an inscription on the bottom of the west-face. The inscription reads ÓR DO MUIREDACH LAS NDERNAD IN CHROS, which translates from Gaeilge as “a prayer for Muiredach who had this cross made”. It is thought that this Muiredach is likely Muiredach mac Domhnall (died 923), who was one of the monastery’s most celebrated abbots; he was also the abbot-elect of Armagh and also the steward of the southern Uí Néill. There is, however, another abbot named Muiredach who died in 844. Another possibility is that Muiredach may refer to Muiredach mac Cathail (died 867); a king whose territory included the site of the monastery.

The cross measures about 19 feet (5.8 m) high; including the base, which measures 2 feet 3 inches (0.69 m). The cross is made of sandstone which is yellow in colour. The main shaft of the cross is carved from a single block of sandstone; the base and the capstone on the top are carved from separate stones. The base is the shape of a truncated pyramid of four sides. It measures 2 feet 2 inches (0.66 m) high and 4 feet 9 inches (1.45 m) at the bottom; it tapers to 3 feet 8 inches (1.12 m) by 3 feet 4 inches (1.02 m) at the top. The main shaft is rectangular, measuring 6 feet 6 inches (1.98 m) high; 2 feet 2 inches (0.66 m) by 1 foot 8 inches (0.51 m) at the bottom. tapering to 2 feet 4 inches (0.71 m) by 1 foot 7 inches (0.48 m) at the top. The topmost stone, or capstone, is carved in the shape of a house, with a sloping roof; and has a crescent-shaped finial at each end. It is thought that such house-shaped capstones may represent reliquaries, which, like the Monymusk Reliquary, typically took this form in Celtic Christianity.

Every piece of the cross is divided into panels which are decorated with carvings. The carvings are remarkably well preserved; however, they certainly would have originally had much finer detail. Even so, certain details about clothing, weapons, and other things, can still be clearly made out. Biblical themes dominate the carved panels; though there are pieces which feature certain geometric shapes and interlace ornaments.

XXth century Irish archaeologist Robert Alexander Stewart Macalister noted that there are 124 figures sculpted upon the panels of the cross—119 of which shown in some form of costume. The cross is not unlike other works of Insular art where the artist has represented people in contemporary costume. All, except one, of the figures is depicted bare-headed. The lone figure with headgear is Goliath, who wears a conical helmet. Generally the hair is worn clipped in a straight line over the forehead, though in some cases it is shown to be distinctly curly. Many of the figures have no facial hair, though several of them wear very long moustaches, with heavy ends which hang down to the level of the chin. There are very few beards represented; those shown with beards are Adam, Cain, Moses and Saul. Macalister considered that the artist excelled in the geometric and abstract patterns which appear on the cross. On the ring surrounding the head of the cross, there are 17 different patterns. Macalister stated that Celtic geometric patterns fall into three categories: spiralinterlace, and key-patterns.

Our Ladye of Tryme

Updated 10 October 2012, 18:53.

This post concerns a devotion to Our Lady that I suspect very, very few people are even aware. Hopefully this information will prove of interest to devotees and scholars of the Blessed Virgin. Interesting also is the record of vandalism against holy images by the Protestant Reformers as recorded in a native Irish annal for the year 1538.

Ath-Truim is today a vacant titular see.

* * *

Trim Castle built by Hugh de Lacy.

The very miraculous image of Mary which was in the town of Ath-Truim, in which all the people of Erinn believed for a long time previously, which healed the blind, and deaf and lame, and every other ailment, was burnt by Saxons; and the Bachall-Isa, which was in the town of Ath-Cliath, working numerous prodigies and miracles in Erinn from the time of Saint Patrick to that date, and which had been in Christ’s own hand, was burned by Saxons in like manner; and not alone this, but there was not in Erinn a holy cross, or a figure of Mary, or an illustrious image, over which their power reached, that was not burned. And furthermore, there was not an Order of the seven Orders in their power that they did not destroy. And the pope, and the church abroad and at home, were excommunicating the Saxons on account thereof; but they had neither respect nor regard for that, et cetera. (And I am not certain that it is not in the last year above the burning of those relics should be).

— Annals of Loch Cé, LC1538.6.

* * *

Newtown Abbey, Trim, County Meath.

“My bounden dutie unto your honerable Lordschip premysid. Theise shal be to advertise you, for that I endeavor my selff and also cause others of my clergie, to preache the Gospell of Christe and to set forthe the Kinge’s causes, there goeth a common brewte amonges the Yrish men that I intende to ploke down Our Lady of Tryme with other places of pilgramages, as the Holy Crosse and souch like, which in deade I never attempted, although my conscience wolde right well serve me to oppresse souche ydolles.” So runs the dispatch, dated June 20, 1538, from Browne, the first Anglican Archbishop of Dublin, to Henry the Eighth’s “vicar-general,” Thomas Cromwell.

“Our Ladye of Tryme” was a famous shrine of the Mother of God preserved in the abbey church of the Canons Regular at Trim, in Meath. Its story is but a brief chapter from the long and well-known history of the devotion of the Irish people to the Blessed Virgin, and the vandalism of the self-styled Reformers in our land.

The interesting town of Trim is situated pleasantly by the Boyne; in the olden time it was the seat of a bishopric, and possessed one of those puzzles to antiquarians, a Greek church; th[r]ough the Middles Ages parliaments and important gatherings were held in it. Its extensive remains of King John’s castle, its many ruined churches and frairies, still attest its former greatness. But perhaps more famous still was it for “its image of Mary” (dealb Muire, as it was called in Irish), that brought to the abbey of the Canons Regular pilgrims far and wide. I regret not to have been able to find the origin of the devotion, but will give such references as are made to it by our native annalists and in the State papers.

The first reference to it I find in the “Annals of the Four Masters,” where we read that “in the age of Christ 1397 Hugh MacMahon recovered his sight by fasting in honour of the Holy Cross at Raphoe, and of the image of Mary at Ath-Truim.” In Irish Our Lady is nearly always spoken of as Mary (Muire) — “Mary”; so St Patrick and the other saints are called “Patrick,” etc. Our Irish equivalent for “Good Morning” is, Dia agus Muire dhuit — “God and Mary be with thee”; and the frequent response is Dia agus Muire agus Padraig dhuit, — “God and Mary and Patrick be with thee.” It is sad to think that, unless great efforts be made by us to preserve our tongue, this beautiful greeting, with its invocation of Heaven[‘]s blessing, and its familiar tutoiement for stranger or neighbour, will soon be a thing of the past. But that must not be.

In 1412 again it is recorded that “the image of Our Lady at Ath Truim wrought many miracles.” Later on, in 1444, “a great miracle was wrought by the image of Mary at Trim — namely, it restored sight to a blind man, speech to a dumb man, the use of his feet to a cripple, and stretched out the hand of a person to whose side it had been fastened.

In 1472 a parliament was held at Naas (12 Edw., IV.) granted to the abbot and convent of the house of Our Blessed Lady of Trim and their successors two watermills in Trim, with their weirs, fisheries, etc.; trees in the park of Trim, and services of the villeins of the manor for the ordinary establishing, repairing, and continuance of a perpetual wax light from day to day and night to night burning before the image of our Blessed Lady in the pavement pedestal of Our Lady in the church of the said house; and for the support of four other wax tapers continually burning before the same at the Mass of the Holy Mary, at the anthem of Our Lady, to the honour of God and our said Lady, for the good estate of our sovereign lord and Cecilia his mother, and of his children, and for the souls of their progenitors and ancestors.

Trim was on the outmost borders of the English Pale; outside its walls the native clans held sway. To kill an Irishman beyond the Pale was no crime in English law, but a special act was passed by Parliament to allow the “rebel” to come and pay his homage without fear of death at Our Lady’s shrine at Trim. I have searched in vain for any description of a pilgrimage to it, but we can well imagine how on Mary’s festal days the saffron-gowned clansmen, the armoured invader, and the burgesses from Dublin and Drogheda thronged through the Sheep-gate or the Water-gate, hurrying to the blissful shrine. Then, too, would the Dominican from the Assumption, and the Franciscan for St Bonaventure’s; the Canon of St Victor, of Newton, and the cowled friar, leave their convents to join their brethren at St Mary’s in hymning the Virgin’s praise.

The Month of Mary. Our Lady of Trim.
By Pierce Laurence Mary Nolan B.A., in the Ave Maria.
New Zealand Tablet, Rōrahi XXI, Putanga 3, 18 Haratua 1894, Page 4.
(transcribed by Christian Clay Columba Campbell).

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