Text: “Filidh Éireann go haointeach”

This gathering of the professional poets (filidh) is recorded as having occurred at Christmas in 1351 at the house of William O’Kelly, which may have been in Galey on Loch Ree. The beginning of the poem highlights the expense of maintaining such a large set of self-indulgent guests as a means of praising O’Kelly’s generosity and ability to provide for them. The conceit of the poet is that his magnanimity will empty out the halls of other chieftains and make them jealous.

The following text was translated by Michael Newton from the edition of Knott, “Filidh Éireann.” Note the rendering of original Irish names into English, particularly “Uilliam Ó Ceallaigh” translated as “William O’Kelly.”

§ 1. The poets of Ireland go to one house tonight; it will not be miserly! What poet has not been saved from sorrow by the man of the house into which they come?

§ 2. If it seems to be desired for all the poets of Ireland to be together in one band: How will we be happy like that? We have been dissatisfied at times.

§ 3. They would be onerous even if small in number; the “people of art” are more and more numerous; our invitation is thus troublesome as it is a demanding company to invite.

§ 4. The greater part of the men of Ireland are opposed to us, although it is ignorance: pleasant is the time which is at hand, considering that everyone else is unfriendly towards our art.

§ 5. It is strange news that William – the chief of Emain’s plain, a man who never composed a stanza – issues the summons of the bardic college as though he were a judge of the schools.

§ 6. William O’Kelly of slender form is above the kings of Ireland; his generosity eclipses their fame; there is a gathering summoned to him.

§ 7. Because of the summons we have received, I think that the poets of the Ó Néill will not remain with them during this Christmastide.

§ 8. Given the number (of poets) that will go to his royal fort during this coming Christmastide, there will be not a man of art (left) at the feasts of the lively folk of Munster.

§ 9. The men of art descended from Blod are sending word over about Christmas; from the number of those from the bardic school coming into his house, every other place will be deserted.

§ 10. William receives even greater blame since it has never been a custom with this generous people, the Clan Carthy, to be without poets at the approach of such a festival.

§ 11. Throughout this day in Leinster, or in Meath of the gentle rivers, no note of music will be heard but the voice of the sweet bird from the trees.

§ 12. Being with him, beyond all trouble, is most appropriate for the craftsmen; at his banquets throughout the day, it will be a feast of a lifetime for the poets.

§ 13. The poet-companies of pleasant-meadowed Fódla [Ireland], and those of Scotland – a distant journey – will be acquainted with one another after arriving in William’s lofty castle.

§ 14. The seven ranks who shape the genuine poetry will come here; the seven true ranks of poets, their entrance (into the house) is an omen of expenditure (of gifts).

§ 15. Many are coming to the son of Duncan from the north, no fewer from the south: an assembly of scholars; a billeting from west and east, a company seeking cattle.

§ 16. There will be judges who make legal decisions; there will be “druids” and good poets; the authors of Ireland, those who compose the battle-rolls, will be in his dwelling.

§ 17. The musicians of Ireland – vast the flock – every sort of craftsman, the flood of companies, side by side: the entire gathering is going to one house.

§ 18. In preparation for those who will come to the house – it is right to boast of it – a castle fit for apple-treed Emain has been built according to the desire of the lord of the house.

§ 19. There are sleeping quarters for the company, made of woven branches on the bright surface of the pleasant hills.

§ 20. The poets of Irish soil are prepared to seek O’Kelly: a mighty company is approaching his house, an avenue of peaked hostels await them.

§ 21. Close to that – pleasant is the appearance – a separate street has been set aside by William for the musicians so that they may be ready to perform before him.

§ 22. The historians of lovely Ireland form a gathering of a mighty host: the company is in the town; Where is the street of the historians?

§ 23. The fair-coloured, generous-hearted host have another spacious avenue of white houses for the bardic companies and the jugglers.

§ 24. That is paltry, considering the number of pleasant streets the people of the warrior of Ervallagh possess around O’Kelly’s castle.

§ 25. They are arranged so that there are ample paths between them; similar to letters that have been lined up in a crowded, (?) avenue.

§ 26. Two rows of smooth, conical roofed houses are on either side of each thread of bare, smooth, straight, firm road.

§ 27. The ridge of the bright-furrowed field is a plain crowded with houses; behind the crowded plain is a fortified residence, resembling a capital letter.

§ 28. The fortified residence of fair Gaille’s chieftain is a capital letter of lovely stone; the fortified residence is strengthened by the lake which lies behind the stone.

§ 29. It is visible from far away, the star-stone above the waters of Loch na nÉigeas [“The Lake of the Scholars”], though the fortified residence is lovelier on the inside, its outer smoothness is like vellum.

§ 30. The castle on the bank of the lake is the sign of a mighty chieftain; the scion of Bregia is to be praised on account of the castle; bright is its stone, ruddy is its timber.

§ 31. The woodwork and the lime-washed stone are perfectly joined together; there are no large gaps between them; the work is a triumph of art.

§ 32. No other timber has been crafted as beautifully as this woodwork; lime has not covered the face of a castle as beautiful as this great stone.

§ 33. The spacious court of the “spark” of Cúala is (made of) the (finest) choice of stone and timber; the beams of his arched court are (made of) tightly-joined, unspliced oak.

§ 34. There is artistry of the smithy on the shining woodwork; on the smooth part of each brown oaken beam carpenters carve animal figures.

§ 35. On the smooth side of the warm dwelling – it magnifies its beauty – the trace of a narrow, pointed, slender, fresh, narrow pen.

§ 36. This high tower in front of us is similar to the Tower of Breoghan, from which the best of spears were thrown, from which Ireland was perceived from Spain.

§ 37. (The tower) from which the great offspring of Míl of Spain won the land with sharp spear points – a favourable enterprise – so that they became people of Ireland.

§ 38. From which Fódla [Ireland] of the jagged trees – after the combat of the “branches” (warriors) from Síodh Breagh destroyed the Tuatha Dé Danann – is in the possession of the offspring of the Sons of Míl since their death.

§ 39. They went from Greece to fair Spain, from Spain to Ireland; (this is) the journey of the mighty offspring of Míl, the troop of the “old” (time-proven), finely-wrought weapons.

§ 40. Éber and Eremon were the two most powerful of the gathering; O’Kelly is of the blood of their lineage (just as) every hound resembles its breed.

§ 41. The grandson of Conchobar of Glandore is not merely an Irishman; William, with his curly, ringletted, spreading locks of hair, is also Greek and Spanish.

§ 42. Woe to him with whom the chief is angry, even if it takes a long time for his anger to be aroused; it is difficult to reduce the displeasure of Maine’s descendant; his wrath is all the greater from its rarity.

§ 43. The extent of the (people of the) Uí Maine is held by Duibh Easa’s son of the bold weapon; from Grian to old Cora in the east is in the possession of the man of the undulating, curly locks.

§ 44. His country lacks nothing; he has both smooth [domesticated] and rugged [land]; I perceive in the possession of the chieftain of Lí some of every kind of land around him.

§ 45. Athenry, broad Athlone, Áth Liag – the three magnificent fords are the least trouble (to add to?) the bodies of water of the king of Ráth Sleachta.

§ 46. Loch Derg – a cause of pride – Loch Lee of the green-sided marshes, these blue bays on which the sun shines brightly are the “pillars” of William’s land.

§ 47. Maonmagh, the territory of the Sons of Morna, was subject to the generous heroic one; his share would come to the chief of Codba even if the Children of Morna remained.

§ 48. That plain had long gone out of their patrimony until William grew up; Maonmagh had expectant interest in the member of (the tribe of) Uí Maine after being occupied by foreigners.

§ 49. Since the Vikings [i.e., foreigners] were banished from there by the son of Duncan of Dun Maigue, the Uí Maine occupy the smooth face of Maonmagh, under the sway of the king of Ruide.

§ 50. He will divide the plain amongst the Uí Maine, since his people have earned it; the descendants of noble Maine are not angry as a result of the distribution of Maonmagh amongst the Uí Maine.

§ 51. Although many offerings and tributes come to his joyous countenance – which is like a blazing ember – there are even more poet bands coming to Clan Kelly to get cattle from William (as gifts).

§ 52. William, the white-toothed son of Duncan son of Conchobar Chobhartaigh; their judgment in his house is not rewarded, a house in which I will find poets.

About Michael Newton

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