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(Ach-a-Mhuilin) Achavuilin, the field of the mill. The cairn
was found lately here by trying with a stick simply, so as to
find the place where the deep peat was interrupted; a stone
was laid bare on digging, and a small stone kist, with a cairn
over it. It was rude, almost as rude as the baby's cairn
spoken of, and although larger, was not above four feet
across ; the inside of the kist was square, and not above two
feet in diameter. No proof of burning was seen, and no
appearance of the place having been opened ; but well burnt
bones are white, and are soluble to some extent. Nothing
was found within, and it is perhaps less difficult to account
for total disappearance in this case on account of the acid
of the peat which would probably dissolve burnt bones.
Still we can suppose the place to have been opened
and carefully closed again. This, however, must be said
that people mistake when they suppose that charcoal cannot
disappear. It can disappear in two ways, either by being
washed away in fine powder when there is very open
drainage, or by being oxidised when there is a current



A WALK ABOUT KEILLS AND BARCALDINE. 187

of air. It is not possible to let oxygen enter into charcoal
and to bring it all out as oxygen; it becomes carbonic acid.
This would occur in peat when wet, so far as I know, but
unquestionably this cairn was built before the moss grew.
The depth is of little consequence, as it will be shown else-
where that peat in some situations grows rapidly.

Cameron. Here at least is an ancient burial, of the time,
perhaps, when stone circles were made. We can say no more ;
we must now walk home by the only road to Keills, and as
the water is smooth, and the tide, although coming in, is not
direct in our teeth, we shall row back to Dunolly and Oban.
As we go you can look at the shores on our right and the
tower on the highest part, where we may some day have
a view of sea and land for a good hundred miles I daresay.
And now we have a rest in the boat and go in fresh, and
even the rowers, finding the tide with them at Dunolly, run in
with ease and speed. It is an unsafe spot at times, and the
current is hard to stem.



i88



CHAPTER XVI.

BARDIC SATIRE.

MARGAET. In the story of the sons of Uisnach a bard is
mentioned as being important at Conor's court. Will you
tell us what a bard is, and what he is known to do or to
say ?

O 1 Kccfe. This is not a place to give you a history of bards
even if I could, and I shall not attempt it, but I may tell you
some things about them and give you a specimen of their
doings. It is part of our plan to picture to ourselves the
life to which the sons of Uisnach were accustomed. The
word Bard was early known. We find it alluded to in Greek
and Roman writers, but I do not think it is claimed by any
nation not of the Celtic race. It seems quite true that great
chiefs kept a bard or bards to sing their praises, and to tell
the famous deeds of their forefathers, also to tell anything
interesting which they might know, so that they were closely
connected with, and sometimes the same as the story-tellers.
We have a not very flattering drawing of a bard in the Scoti-
chronicon. Mr. Skene gives a facsimile of it in his little
volume on the coronation chair. The bard is reciting the



BARDIC SATIRE.



189



pedigree of Alexander the Third at his coronation at Scone in
1249. He is called by Fordun a certain Scotch mountaineer,
and the drawing gives him a very scanty plaid as the only
covering, besides shoes and stockings. But by this time the
singers had probably lost their early high position.

The bards were united in some fashion, and, to some extent,
acted in union. Some, of course, rose, by individual character,
higher than others, and their power was high accordingly.
They are said to have been taught by the Druids, and the
functions of the two sometimes became mixed. I dare say
you will laugh when I mention Druids, but it is easy to laugh
at the absent, and you may laugh also when I tell you that a
bard may rise to be an ollav, and that an ollav was a learned
man, sometimes, if not always, a judge. Ollamh Foladh, for
example, was a judge in Ireland 600 years before Christ. If
you doubt this, you may read what Mr. Conwell has to say
of it, and I leave you to settle it with him.

Bards were very numerous before St. Columba's time, and
during his time they were becoming very troublesome and
overbearing. The habit, if not the gift, of singing was heredi-
tary, and as the bards did not run the same danger of being
killed as the fighting men, they increased. They were
expected to praise the great and the great were expected to
feed them and make them presents. A song demanded a
present, and the bard could ask whatever he wished. This
right was extended so far as to be intolerable. I suppose the
exaggerations are poetical, but the chiefs were afraid to refuse,
because a song against them, or a satire, was attended with
serious consequences. Satire kills men amongst us, some-
times with long tortures, whilst unfeeling critics, we know,



190 LOCH ETIVE AND THE SONS OF UISNACH.

sometimes wreak their vengeance by writing unfairly, but it
caused death, much more certainly in Ireland, and a bargain
was made with heaven that the false satirist should die. Were
it not for this kings would have ceased to have power. One
poor king, that was the sport of a bard of a coarse nature, is
mentioned as an extreme case, I suppose. A bard asked
the king, who was already blind of one eye, to give him the
other. The king did so ; and the bard, to show still more his
dignity, put it under his feet as a gift not worth having.
Such, you see, was the power of an Irish bard, and I dare say

it was the same in Alba.



Loudoun. Would you not call this the result of the same
spirit that invented the flight of saints ; it is a rush to the
very extremity of an idea : in this case it is the extremity of
power that we can imagine any man to have over another.

O* Kcefe. It may be so. When the bards became insolent,
the kings and saints of Ireland took the matter in hand, and
there exists a curious story relating to their disputes. It is
called, " Imtheacht na Tromdhaimhe," the Proceedings of
the Great Bardic Association. I don't know the language
critically enough, but I confess the latter word sounds very
much as if taken from Troubadour. However I must tell you
of this remarkable satire on the satirists themselves, and the
no less famous results which came from it. You will see
that in early days in Ireland we also had a literary associa-
tion that went from place to place, and feasted as much as
your associations do now, and had equal power. Its tran-
sactions have been translated by Prof. Connellan, and
published by the Ossianic Society in Dublin. I cannot tell
you every word, but will try to give you a good idea of it. It



BARDIC SATIRE. ! 9 I

has also a connection of a peculiar kind with the sons of
Uisnach, as I shall show. The Uisnach episode happened
long before the time ascribed to the subject of the satire,
but the great forgotten poem was partly the consequence
of the Uisnach tragedy.

THE PROCEEDINGS OF THE BARDIC ASSOCIATION, OR A
SATIRE ON THE SATIRISTS.

Hugh the fair, son of Duach the dark, was the King of
Oirgiall, 1 and he had a shield called Dnv-gilla, which
made every one opposed to it weak and cowardly. And
there was a King of Brefney, 2 who very much coveted
the famous shield. At the same time there was
the chief Professor of the Bards living with the latter king,
and he agreed to obtain the shield from Hugh by means
of his satires. Eohy, or Dalian, was living at Brefney with
a great band of his bards, and " the quarter that he liked
best w r as Brefney, for numerous were its flocks and cattle-
herds."

The king flattered Dalian, and also reminded him of
favours : " Thou hast great honour and privilege from me."
"That is not to be wondered at," said Dalian, "for great is
my honour in Alban, in Saxonland, in Britain, and in
France, because I hold the chief professorship of all these
countries."

Dalian was a proud man, but he condescended to go
and extort the shield by the power of satire from Hugh,
after being promised a great reward.

1 Antrim and Down.

* Cavan, Leitrim, and part of Meath and Sligo.



192 LOCH ETIVE AND THE SONS OF UISNACH.

Sheena. One would think that with such a shield he
would become a monarch himself.

O'Kcefe. True, but he went to the Dun of the King of
Oirgiall with a following of three times nine professors, and
the king met him on the lawn, and gave him three kisses.
The other professors were welcomed in like manner. Dalian
entered, but said that he would not stay until he knew his
success, and he then requested the shield. The king said,
" That is not the request of a truly learned man." Dalian
said, " I have brought a poem for you

" A hero of fortune art thou, O Hugh,
Thou daring, determined foe,
Thy goodness as the great ocean,
Thou canst not be subdued.
Thou canst not be impeded,
O Hugh, son of Duach the dark.
Good and great is his substance,
Without censure and without reproach.
Thou sun after leaving its stars
Which is awful to me ;
Thou white chess board.
We will return, O hero."

" That is a good poem," said the king, " if only we could
understand it." Then Dalian says that the man who
makes a poem ought to explain. This he does, and the
king says that he will give money and cattle for it.

Then Dalian repeats another poem still fuller of praise
and ends

" A surprising and beautiful shield
Will be given to me by Hugh for praise."

The king says he will give gold, silver, jewels, and substance



BARDIC SATIRE.



193



for it. Dalian tries again, and the king promises gold,
silver, and a hundred of each flock for it, but not the shield.
" I will satirize you," said Dalian. Then the king reminds
him that when St. Columba and other saints made peace
with the bards and kings, it was agreed that three blotches
of reproach should fall on the bards if a satire was not true.
But Dalian said that it would not save him, and he uttered
his satire

" O Hugh, son of Duach the dark,
Thou pool not permanent,
Thou pet of the mild cuckoos,
Thou quick charterer of the blackbird.

Thou sour green berry,
Swarms will suck the herbs,
Thou green crop like fine clothes,
A candlestick without light.

Thou cold wooden boat,

Thou bark that wilt give dissatisfaction,

Thou disgusting black chafer,

Thou art most disgusting, O Hugh."

The king said he did not know if this was better or worse,
so Dalian had again to explain. You can suppose the
explanation of this ribaldry. It is curious to learn that a
"pet of a cuckoo" is the worst pet in a house, "because
he ceases to sing, except a little, and will as soon do so in
winter as at any other time."

The king dismissed him and said, " The might of God

and the saints pursue you if you have satirized me

i

wrongfully."

When Dalian went away, he said he never felt so well,
although he had satirized the king wrongfully, and his



194



LOCH ET1VE AND THE SONS OF UISNACH.



attending bards could not believe it. But he said that when
he came he had .the sight of only one eye, and now he
could see with both. But he was not sure, after all, if it
were good, because Columba had told him that something
wonderful would happen to him before his death, and he
went home and died in three days.

Such was the power of falsehood in old times. No need
for actions for slander. We have no saints now to make
such compacts with the powers of heaven and earth.

This event was a severe but just rebuke to bards, who were
greedy and false, and it was felt by the whole association.
After this Seanchan (pronounced Shenchan) delivered the
funeral oration over Dalian. This reminds one of admission
speeches in the French Academy. Seanchan's duty was to guide
the bards, so he decided to go to some king who had never been
annoyed by bards, " never been satirized, or reproached about
gold, &c.," and he chose Guaire, King of Connaught. The
proposal was received with great respect, and Guaire built
a house for the company ; it had eight sides to it and a door
between each two, and lavatories for the men and for the
women. Seanchan humbly said that he did not wish to bring
too many. He took only " three times fifty professors, three
times fifty students, thrice fifty hounds, thrice fifty male
attendants, thrice fifty female relatives, and thrice nine of each
class of artificers," and Guaire went to meet them, and said, "My
regards to you. My regards to you, nobles and humbles! I
have great welcome for you all, both professors and poets,
both scientific men and students, both sons and women, both
hounds and servants ; you are too numerous for a separate
welcome, although there are not too many of you. My



BARDIC SATIRE. 195

respects to you on all sides ! " A welcome full of good
feelings.

Guaire told them to ask anything they wanted. It was no
easy matter to give each a separate bed, and meals apart, and
it happened that every night some one had some fantastic
wish, so that the "activity of all Ireland" was scarcely enough
to satisfy them. The wish must be gratified within twenty-
four hours.

The first extraordinary wish was on the first night. It
occurred to Muireann, the foster-mother of the learned men ;
she began by uttering a loud moan. Seanchan said, " What is
the matter with you, chieftainess." " A desire has seized me,
and unless it be procured I will not live." "What is that wish?"
" A bowl of the ale of Tormentil, with the marrow of the
ankle-bone of a wild hog ; a pet cuckoo on an ivy tree
between the two Christmases (Christmas Day and Twelfth
Day) ; and on the back a full load of a girdle of lard of
an exceeding white boar, and to be mounted on a steed with
a red mane, and its four legs exceeding white ; a garment
of the spider's web around me, and humming a tune as I go
to Durlus."

Both Seanchan and Guaire thought that this was not one
wish, but a number of strange and bad wishes, and Guaire
was in despair, and thought of running off to his enemies
at once, that they might kill him, and so free him from the
blame of inhospitality. Poor fellow! he must have kept
people running about at a violent rate, feeding so many
capricious people. There is a road at Durlus, still called
the road of dishes, 1 it so astonished the residents. Poor
1 Bothur-na-Mias.



196 LOCH ETIVE AND THE SONS OF UISNACH.

Guaire prayed all night in great misery. Although we
remember that this is a satire, and we cannot imagine
anybody much troubled about these whims, we cannot help
giving some pity to Guaire walking out early, and contriving
methods to please his strange guests. When doing so some
one saluted him ; this man was called Marvan ; he was the
chief prophet of heaven and earth, and lived as a swine-herd
in woods and desert places ; he was Guaire's nephew also,
elsewhere called his brother, and took care of his pigs.

Pigs were very early connected with lofty ideas in Ireland,
as we may find both in history and romance.

Marvan soon got over the difficulty which was too
much for the king; he even had a pet cuckoo, which
would coo in the lady's presence on an ivy tree. He had
also a garment of spider's web, and of many colours ;
but when he heard of the yellow lard of a pure white
boar, Marvan was angry " My malediction on the person who
desired that. Sure it is I who have the boar, and it is a
hardship to kill him, for he is to me a herdsman, a physician,
and a musician." " How does he perform all that?" said the
king. " In this way : when I leave the swine at night, and the
skin is torn off my feet by the briars of Glen-a-Scail, he
comes to me and rubs his tongue over my feet, and though
I should have all the surgeons and healing ointment in the
world, his tongue would cure me soonest ; in that manner
he is physician to me. He is herd to me, for when the swine
wander through Glen-a-Scail, and I am wearied, I give him
a blow with my foot and he goes after the swine. There are
nine passes into Glen-a-Scail, and there is no danger of any
hog of them being carried off by a thief, vagrant, or wolf of



BARDIC SATIRE. 19;

the forest. He is musician to me, for when I am anxious to
sleep, I give him a stroke with my foot, and he lies on his
back and sings me a humming tune, and his music is more
grateful to me than that of a sweet-toned harp in the hands
of an accomplished minstrel."

Poor Marvan could not kill the white boar; some one must
do it for him, but he promised to call on the great bardic
association some day and have his revenge. Little did the
lady think of this when she went with a full load on her back,
humming a tune on the way to Durlus.

Seanchan, next evening, heard a heavy moan from his own
daughter "What ails thee, what is thy wish?" "That I might
have the full of my skirt of my mantle of large black berries
(this being January, you must know), and that when I abide
in Durlus, the people may be all sick." Seanchan said that
Guaire was their consoler and comforter, but she said she was
like the nettle, and wished evil to no one so much as to her
benefactor.

A new grief to Guaire ; but his friend Marvan had always
a wonderful story to account for his power of obtaining these
strange things, and even the sickness he managed by praying
that they might be all ill, and then all well again immediately.
He was a saint, and his prayer brought all this to pass.

The next groaning came from Bridget, Seanchan's wife.
" Unless it be obtained I will die," she said as they all
did. " Say the wish." " To get my fill of the fat of a
water-ouzle, and again my fill of a red-eared and purely
white cow without a liver, but having tallow instead of
a liver ; and my fill of red strawberries and purple berries
and drink of the honey of the woodbine." We must suppose



198 LOCH ETIVE AND THE SONS OF UISNACH.

here another wonderful discovery of all this by Marvan.
Hitherto all the groanings were amongst the ladies, and
Seanchan had a good deal to bear, but now his time came,
and he groaned in the usual way ; his heart desired ale made
from one grain of corn, and enough for the whole bardic
association and the nobles of Connaught feasting together.
Guaire was now at his wits' end, but the wonderful swine-
herd had actually this ready, for he had found a grain of corn
under his foot as he returned from sowing, planted it, and
kept its produce for planting, year after year, for eleven years,
so that now he could make plenty of ale from it for all.

The great bardic association and the nobles feasted on
this ale for three days and three nights, but when Seanchan
saw so much food eaten, his heart softened towards the king,
and he was ashamed of causing so much expense, so he said
he would eat nothing until the nobles were sent away, and
accordingly they were sent away to please him. Now we
must attend to Seanchan, who became pettish after all at
this great feast, and would not even now eat for other three
days, even although the nobles went away. The king was
sorry for him and sent a favourite servant with a goose
on a long white hazel spit to tempt him. But Seanchan
said, " Why have you been sent with it ?" " As a person
of mild manners and cleanliness selected by Guaire to
bring you your food." But Seanchan was cross and dainty,
and said, " We believe he could not find anywhere a more
uncomely person than yourself. I knew your grandfather,
and he was chip-nailed, and I shall not take food out of

your hands."

The king then sent a young lady his foster-child and a



BARDIC SATIRE.



199



favourite, who brought salmon roe and flour to bake in
Seanchan's presence, but he said, " I am sure there is not a
young girl in the place more unseemly than yourself. I saw
your grandmother sitting on a rock pointing the way for
lepers. How could I take food from your hands ? "

The king was roused, and for the first time spoke in anger.
He must have been patient to stand it so long.

He hoped that Seanchan would kiss a leper before he
died, which, on the whole, was a gentle kind of revenge.

After another day and night Seanchan was obliged to yield
a little, and inclined to eat some of the leavings that his wife
wished to send, but the servant said that the mice had taken
them.

Seanchan was very angry at the mice, and said he would
satirize them, and when he had done this nine mice died in
his presence. Then he began to think he had done wrong,
and he ought to satirize the cats for not killing the mice, and
he satirized the cats. The chief of the cats felt the power in
his cave, and said that he would be revenged, and the cat's
daughter hoped that Seanchan would be brought hither, that
they might all have their revenge. The chief was called
Irusan. He was not to be put down by satire ; he was
" blunt-snouted, rapacious, panting, smooth, and sharp-clawed,
split-nosed, sharp and rough toothed, nimble, powerful, angry,
vindictive, quick, purring, glare-eyed." He took Seanchan on
his back and ran off with him, and the poor bard would have
been scratched by the whole family, but when they came
to Clonmacnois, they passed a forge where St. Kieran was
forging iron. The saint saw the plight of the chief bard, and
in a moment threw a red hot bar of iron at the cat so well



200 LOCH ETIVE AND THE SONS OF UISNACH.

and violently that it not only hit, but went through to the
other side. One would have expected Seanchan to thank
the saint, but he only cursed the hand that killed the cat,
wishing rather that he himself had been killed in order that
the great bardic association might have an excuse for
satirizing Guaire the king. He went back sullen and replied
to no salutes.

That is very hard on the bards, and the object is to show
that no amount of kindness could prevent them from becom-
ing very selfish, unreasonable, and exacting.

I think it very pleasant satire, some of it very witty, all
very cutting, despite its wonderful exaggeration.

But hear Marvan's revenge on the association.

Marvan, the wonderful swine-herd, had gone into the woods,
chiefly for his devotions. He was a prophet and a poet.
He had so much work that it is not easy to see what time he
had for the religious exercises of a hermit. But it turns out
that Marvan kept a prime house for general hospitality in
Glen-a-Scail. This sounds somewhat modern, but we are
told that such houses were kept by the government for the
learned and for travellers, and the sick and indigent ; even
then, however, we cannot help being reminded of the great
amount of ale that this prophet happened to have in
his possession, and probably the writer is having a thrust at
the people who presided over these establishments, and who
were called Biadhtach-s.

This looks like the origin of the story of St. Patrick's keep-
ing a shop, as the comic song has it.

Marvan now made his great visit of revenge. He went to
the great bardic association, and seeing one of the ladies, the



BARDIC SATIRE. 2OI

daughter of Seanchan, Meave Veitigh, at the fountain,
he asked where the mansion was. Meave answered,
" You must be a wandering seafarer that knows not the
palace, its stories and music" " Herding swine is my
business. I am told that every one obtains what music he
wishes in the palace." " Not," said Meave, " unless he is
connected with the arts and sciences." " I am connected
with the arts," said Marvan, " through the grandmother of my
servant's wife who was descended from poets." I abridge
the speeches.

Marvan entered, and when asked what art he desired, he
said, " I desire no better than as much cronan as I like." The
performers came and wished to prepare the regular cronan,
but Marvan insisted on the bass cronan because it was
difficult, and he hoped they would " break their heads, feet,
and necks," and be sooner exhausted. Cronan is a simple
kind of singing. We have the word crooning.

When they stopped Marvan said, " Prepare for me as much
cronan as I desire," insisting on the promise. Again they
began, and when they stopped Marvan again insisted, but this
was too much for the singers, and some one came to relieve
them by a change of performance. A professor from Lein-
ster came and endeavoured to puzzle him, but Marvan
answered and humiliated him, and then insisted on more
cronan.

Another learned professor from Thomond came, but Mar-
van showed him that he was ignorant, and again asked for
cronan. Having puzzled every one, or made them ashamed
of their presumption, he called for cronan three times and


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