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Hail Brigit!

10 Mar

Sit thou safely enthroned, triumphant Brigit, upon the side of Liffey1 far as the strand of the ebbing sea!

Thou art the sovereign lady with banded hosts2 that presides over the Children of Catháir the Great.

God’s counsel at every time concerning Virgin Erin is greater than can be told: though glittering Liffey is thine today, it has been the land of others in their turn.

When from its side I gaze upon the fair Curragh…., the lot that has fallen to every king causes awe at each wreck

Logaire was king as far as the sea, – Ailill Áne, a mighty fate: the Curragh with its glitter remains – none of the kings remains that lived thereon.

Perfect Labraid Longsech lives no more, having trodden under foot his fair thirty years: since in Dinn Rig – `twas a wonted abode – he dealt doom to Cobthach the Slender.

Lore’s grandson, Oengus of Róiriu, seized the rule of Erin,….sway; Maistiu of the freckled neck, son of Mug Airt, through princes across their graves.

Fair-famed Alenn! Delightful knowledge! Many a prince is under its girth: it is greater than can be fathomed when Crimthan the Victorious was seen in its bosom.

The shout of triumph heard there after each victory around a shock of swords, a mettlesome mass; the strength of its warrior-bands against the dark blue battle-array; the sound of its horns above hundreds of heads.

The tuneful ring of its even-colored bent anvils, the sound of songs heard there from the tongues of bards; the ardour of its men at the glorious contest; the beauty of its women at the stately gathering.

Drinking of mead there in every home-stead; its noble steeds, many tribes; the jingle of chains unto kings of men under blades of five-edged bloody spears.

The sweet strains heard there at every hour, its wine-barque upon the purple flood; its shower of silver of great splendor; its torques of gold from the lands of the Gaul.

Far as the sea of Britain the high renown of each king has sped like a meteor: delightful Alenn with its might has made sport of every law.

Bresal Bree was king over Elg,3 Fiachra Fobree with a fierce band of warriors; Fergus of the Sea, Finn son of Roth they loved to dwell in lofty Alenn.

Worship of auguries is not worth listening to, nor of spells and auspices that betoken death; all is vain when it is probed, since Alenn is a deserted doom.

Bright is the smile that smiles on you from the plain…of Core’s land; of each generation which it reared in turn Liffey of Lore has made ashes.

The Currah of Liffey to the brink of the main, the Curragh of Sétna, a land of peace as far as the sea, – many is the king whom the Curragh of Carbre Nia-fer has overthrown.

Catháir the Great – he was the choicest of shapes – ruled Erin of many hues: though you cry upon him at his rath, his prowess of many weapons has vanished.

Fiachna of Fomuin, glorious Bresal ruled the sea with showers of spears: thirty great kings to the edge of the sea seized land around Tara of Bregia.

The Peaks of Iuchna, delightful place, around which many graves have settled behold in lofty Allen the abode of Tadg, son of Nuada Necht!

The apparel of Feradach – a goodly diadem – around whom crested bands would move; his blue-speckled helmet, his shining mantle, – many a king he overthrew.

Dunlang of Fornochta, he was generous, a prince who routed battles against the sons of Niall: though one were to tell the tale to all, this is not the world that was once.

Illann with his tribe launched thirty battles against every king, Enna’s grandson, a rock against terror, it was not a host without a king’s rule.

Ailill was a king that would bestow favour, against whom a fierce blood-dark battle-host would rise: Cormac, Carbre, Colman the Great, Brandub, a barque in which were hosts.

Faelan the Fair was a track of princeship, Fianamail with….; Braiin, son of Conall with many deeds, he was the wave over every cliff.

Oh Brigit whose land I behold, on which each one in turn has moved about, thy fame has outshone the fame of the king – thou art over them all.

Thou hast everlasting rule with the king apart from the land wherein is thy cemetery. Grand-child of Bresal son of Dian, sit thou safely enthroned, triumphant Brigit!

Kuno Meyer, Hail Brigit! An Old Irish Poem on the Hill of Alenn, 1912, pp13-19.

Notes

1 I.e. The plain of the Liffey, which included the town of Kildare.

2 I.e. The monks and nuns of Kildare.

3 A poetic name for Ireland.

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2 Comments

Posted by on March 10, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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2 responses to “Hail Brigit!

  1. greycatsidhe

    March 11, 2012 at 2:34 am

    So does this suggest that The Liffey was possibly sacred to Brighid?

     
  2. Seren

    March 14, 2012 at 9:58 am

    Not necessarily. The song comes from a period when there was a huge rivalry between Kildare and Armagh. They both used their saints (Brigit and Patrick respectively) to promote their own political interests, in a “my saint’s better than yours!” kind of way, and in the process they would co-opt anything into their own framework that came handy. The Liffey does run through Kildare, and as a major river it’s no wonder it gets a mention in association with Brigit because it’s an important waterway and source of food etc. Rivers are also often important geographical boundaries, so it’s a convenient way of fixing her to a place. On the one hand, Brigit might genuinely have been associated with it, but on the other, it could just be a shorthand being used to fix her location in the song.

     

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