Poetry, Harping, and Brigid

It’s Imbolc, or Brigid, the first day of Spring on the Celtic calendar.  Crocuses are in flower in the garden, and the sun visited for the entire day.

Crocuses in bloom on Imbolc, 2011.

In honor of Brigid, patroness of smithcraft, poetry and healing, and in observance of the 6th annual Brigid poetry festival by some people I know, let’s listen to Giolla Brighde Mac Con Midhe, a late 13th century Irish poet who rails against the limitations set on poetry in medieval Ireland:

Had lays not preserved their deeds,/though they were noble men,/a cloak would long since have fallen/on Niall, Cormac and Conn.

The line of kings of Cashel and Cruachan,/The house of Three Hostels’ scions,/Tuathal of Tara and Dath Í:/Poets are the roots of those pedigrees.

Were there no poetry sung/To sweet-strung harp or timpan,/none would know of noble passed,/nor his repute nor manly prowess.

(The Celtic Poets, pp. 341-2, trans. Patrick K. Ford)

The concept of “manly prowess” raises modern eyebrows, but let’s remember the antiquity of this piece, and its intended argument.

On Imbolc 2011, I feel very wealthy indeed.  Today I spent some time reading Seamus Heaney’s new volume of poems, Human Chain, and enjoyed my warm house filled with shelves of good books.  My ancient cat is snuggled up next to me, probably in the last few months of her long twenty years of life, but still enjoying simple pleasures like a pool of warm sunlight on the rug in the late afternoon.  Just yesterday, I received a morning email from David Kortier, whom I commissioned over a year ago to build a replica Trinity College harp for me.  He sent photos of its progress, along with photos of a friend’s beautiful Sirr harp.  That was a thrill!

In spite of chronic shyness about my playing, I decided to post a not-a-video music clip on YouTube.  The music is Duncan MacRae of Kintail’s Lament, a piobaireachd that Ann Heymann introduced in a pibroch workshop at Scoil na gCláirseach in Kilkenny in the summer of 2009.  This past fall I played some variations of it at a fundraiser concert, with fairly good results.

Happy Brigid to you.  I hope that it is filled with poetry, inspiration, and music.

–Sue


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