Relic Lays : a study of the development of Late Middle Gaelic Fianaigheacht
Flahive, Joseph James Fitzgerald
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The subject of this thesis is an analysis of a group of Fenian lays which are concerned with specific reliquia of the Fenians explained to St. Patrick, for which reason they are named 'relic lays' in this study. The most significant of these lays are 'Laoidh an Chorr-bholga', 'Laoidh Sceith Finn,' 'Laoidh Sfthil Chaoilti,' 'Laoidh Cloidhimh Oscair,' and 'Laoidh Colga Chaoilti' from Duanaire Finn ; and the tradition of Bratacha na Feine. It is significant that these texts all shew both signs of learned rather than popular composition and of greater linguistic antiquity than most other lays. The greatest body of these lays is to be found in Duanaire Finn. This study has been approached in two parts. The first part is an analysis of the development of fianaigheacht and the finding of the place of these texts within the Fenian corpus and also the wider literary tradition. The second part consists of new editions of the texts. The first part begins with an history of the fianaigheacht and scholarship of it. The scholarship is crucial to the interpretation of the texts. Duanaire Finn (and perhaps RIA 24 P 5) are manuscripts with antiquarian tendencies influenced by the type of history promoted in Tridentine ideology as evidenced by Keating, the Four Masters (as collectors of ancient texts and as writers), and other authors of the period of the Stripping of the Altars. The nineteenth century saw the importation of the seventeenth-century views into scholarship by O'Curry and others; the scholarly approaches to fianaigheacht have tended until recently to uphold or attack ideological concepts of history and not to focus on the contents of the literature. The study then progresses to analysis of the texts themselves. The analysis begins with an investigation of the language and the metre of the lays named above. The dates given to them by Prof. Murphy are reanalysed with reference to Dr. John Carey's evaluation of Murphy's method. Second, the group of lays is then evaluated as a sub-genre, comparing it to other literature, including the treatment of relics of the saints in Gaelic literature, texts relating to Fintan, The Irish Ordeals, 'Siaburcharpat Con Culainn,' earlier learned verse, and the later bardic tradition. The third part of the analysis is a discussion of the learned references in the poems. The approach to the analysis is a discussion of the symbolism of the objects around which the poems are centred and also of the learned references scattered throughout the texts, whether they be lists of Fenian lore, other native traditions, Christian learning, or Classical allusions. It is the conclusion of this section that these Jays date from the middle of the twelfth to the middle of the thirteenth centuries and arise in a learned context, probably in the reformed monastic communities of the northeast of Ireland. The second part of this thesis contains new editions of the texts described in the first part. These are preceded by introductory materials on the manuscripts in which they are found and a stemma of the five copies in two recensions of 'Laoidh Sithil Chaoilti.' All texts are presented as unaltered transcripts, as normalised texts, and in English translation. The texts edited from Duanaire Finn are 'Laoidh an Chorr-bholga,' 'Laoidh Sceith Finn,' 'Laoidh Sfthil Chaoilti,' 'Laoidh Cloidhimh Oscair,' and 'Laoidh Colga Chaoilti.' A new edition of the recension of 'Laoidh Sfthil Chaoilti' based on RIA manuscript 24 P 5 is also attempted with reference the later MSS of that textual tradition, which, it is argued, stand independent of 24 P 5. These manuscripts are Maynooth Renehan 69, RIA 24 M 2 and 23 L 34. A translation of the prose tale of that lay found in the unique Agallamh in 24 P 5 is provided for comparison. Each edition is followed by a commentary on its linguistic forms and a philological summary. The section concludes with indices nominum et locorum not only listing all persons and places in the texts, but also providing such information as is known about them from other texts or from interpretation of the names themselves.