Thursday, December 16, 2010

Land of Song

I meant to post this earlier, while I was studying for my exams and coming up with all of these, but somehow I never found the motivation and the time simultaneously. Actually, that's true of a lot of things I've intended to post and never have.

Anyway, for your amusement, I present: Highlights* of Medieval Irish Legends (all from the Finn Cycle). Citations available on request, but I'm too lazy to include them up front in something this informal.

The winner for best euphemism for sex/possible sexual assault: "He took her, and she was in his company."

Finn is psychic**: "At the end of the day Finn came to the hut and found the headless body. 'This is a body without a head!' cried Finn."
You go, Finn. Great clairvoyant hero, indeed. Nothing gets past you.

Creative Writing 101: Descriptions are important. "[blah blah blah] on two hills equally high with one another. And there was a black gloomy deep dangerous horrible precipice between them." Got enough adjectives there?

From the next paragraph in the same tale: "'and although your accoutrements and your clothes and your garb are hideous, and your own appearance not the most beautiful, if you make the leap she will be with you and accept you.'"
Well. When you put it that way.

This one even confused the lecturer: "and he [Finn] was dead between the two rocks. Fishermen of the Boyne found him... Aichlech cut his [Finn's] head from him, and then the sons of Uirgriu killed him." Wait a second...***

Apparently adjective abuse was a common problem in medieval Ireland (this might be my favorite): "Then a fierce pitiless powerful manly vengeful virile battle was fought between them."

Unintended double entendres: always a win. "'Perhaps the men of Tara think that we have been long enough conversing here, maiden,' said Finn. 'If it be long enough,' said the maiden, 'since you made a start to the talking, it is up to you to wrap it up.'"
Hurr hurr hurr. Man, he's trying to be all suave and subtle and she just gets right down to business. (He takes it in stride, though—his next line leaves nothing to the imagination.)

This is the one that made me decide to do this little compilation in the first place: "'I will depart, son of O Duibhne,' said he, 'and I leave this advice with you, not to go into a tree of one trunk in fleeing from Fionn, and not to go into an underground cave which has only one entrance, and not to go into an island of the sea which has only one way leading to it,'" and the reader is thinking, Yes, yes, all sound advice to someone in hiding, "and he said, 'whatever place you shall cook your meal do not eat it there, and whatever place you shall eat do not lie there...'" uh-huh, uh-huh, that makes sense... "'and whatever place you shall lie do not rise there.'" Ok, ri—, wait what?!

This is followed shortly by sex euphemisms AND random double entendres in the same paragraph: "'Diarmaid,' said she, 'though your valour and your bravery be great in conflicts and in battle-places I think myself that that little drop of errant water is more daring than you are.'
'That is true, Graínne,' said Diarmaid, 'though I have been for a long time keeping myself from you through fear of Fionn I will not suffer myself to be reproached by you any longer; and it is hard to trust women,' he said. And it was then for the first time that Diarmaid ó Duibhne of the bright-tooth made a wife of Graínne, daughter of the king of Ireland... And Diarmaid rose early on the morrow and went to the Searbhan Lochlannach and made a bond of contract and agreement with him and got permission to hunt and to chase from him and never to touch his berries."

Also, sometimes when a lecturer says something particularly funny or witty, even if it's not really important, I write it down so I can laugh at it again when I read over my notes later. I ran across two of those from this class: "It's hard to find a point in this depressing little story..." (So we're reading it... why, again?) and "There may be a tradition in Irish literature for how you talk about sinister meals of fish in abandoned houses with severed heads." (I don't think you need the context for that one to see its ridiculousness.)

In the interest of not being a total dick (although possibly it's too late), here are a couple of things I picked out that I really liked in a serious way rather than a WTF way:

"'What is sweeter than mead?' said Finn. 'Trustworthy conversation,' said the maiden."

And Graínne speaking of Diarmaid (in a poem that's not connected to the Diarmaid and Graínne story quoted above; don't even get me started on what a bitch Graínne is there): "There is one on whom I should gladly gaze, for whom I would give the bright world, all of it, all of it, though it be an unequal bargain."

There are also some good statements made about life in the forest, close to nature, being infinitely better than life at court surrounded by fancy things, but I don't have any quotes at hand.

Conclusion: If I were a lit major, or I'd had the foresight to make an independent major in folklore and mythology, I would totally be planning to come back to Cork for a postgrad diploma from the Celtic Civ department.

* meaning: Unintentionally Hilarious Sentences
** No, really, that's actually an important theme.
*** If you're trying to figure out how many times this man has to die, as we were, here's a hint: Pronouns are ambiguous.

1 comment:

  1. "...and never touch his berries." I have rarely lol'd in the literal sense, but that was pretty damn close.

    Also my personal favourite margin notes:

    “The rest of Europe stopped playing bagpipes. They realized that it sounds like you’re strangling a cat.”

    “If you go into Waterstone’s there’s a whole shelf dedicated to the Celts, because Celts are sexy.”

    “Y’all gotta go to Youghal!”