Iona - The earliest poetry of a Celtic monastery by Thomas Clancy, Gilbert Markus

By Thomas Clancy, Gilbert Markus

8 infrequent poems, written at Iona monastery among 563AD and the early eighth century, translated from the unique Latin and Gaelic and entirely annotated with literary commentary.

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Extra resources for Iona - The earliest poetry of a Celtic monastery

Example text

Strangest of all, perhaps, is the use of the noun iduma in stanza M. It is ultimately derived from the Hebrew yadayim, meaning 'hands', but how did Columba come to use this Hebrew word? There are rare instances of Irish monks of the time using Hebrew words but no evidence at all of even rudimentary Hebrew literacy. s The poet's use of foreign and exotic vocabulary may merely rcHect his delight in the exotic for its own sake. In the seventh century other Irish Latin writers began to indulge this whim to an extraordinary degree.

The laws which deprived a woman of the right to own or alienate property, which prohibited her giving evidence and placed her first under the authority of her father, then of her husband, and finally of her sons, were not calculated to promote her equal place in society. 139 Adomnan clearly sought to offer some protection to women through his law, and he shows the same concern in his Life of Columba, where the saint's actions offer a kind of manifesto for the social programme of his monastery: a cruel man spears a girl who has fled to Columba for protection, and is himself slain by the saint's prayer.

The psalter was enshrined, in the late eleventh century, in a silver casket which bears the names of the craftsman who made it, as well as of the north­ ern king Cathbarr U a Domnaill and Domnall mac Robartaig, sometime abbot of Kells, suggesting an ongoing relationship between Columba's royal kindred and his own monastic heirs. The Book ofDurrow is an illuminated manuscript containing a com­ plete though occasionally flawed Vulgate text of the four Gospels, and prefatory matter. 112 Most scholars believe it was made in the second half of the seventh century, 113 and suggest a place of origin in one of Columba's monasteries - quite possibly Iona - with opinions ranging from Ireland to Iona and N orthurnbria.

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