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Early Bardic Literature, Ireland. by O'Grady

Who had invented for themselves the Faed Fia


In

the Annals of the Four Masters, at the date 1499 B.C., we read these words:--

"THE FLEET OF THE SONS OF MILITH CAME TO IRELAND TO TAKE IT FROM THE TUATHA DE DANAN," i.e., the gods of the ethnic Irish.

Without pausing to enquire into the reasonableness of the date, it will suffice now to state that at this point the bardic history of Ireland cleaves asunder into two great divisions--the mythological or divine on the one hand, and the historical or heroic-historical on the other. The first is an enchanted land--the world of the Tuatha De Danan--the country of the gods. There we see Mananan with his mountain-sundering sword, the Fray-garta; there Lu Lamfada, the deliverer, pondering over his mysteries; there Bove Derg and his fatal [Note: Every feast to which he came ended in blood. He was present at the death of Conairey Mor, Chap. xxxiii., Vol. I.] swine-herd, Lir and his ill-starred children, Mac Manar and his harp shedding death from its stricken wires, Angus Og, the beautiful, and he who was called the mighty father, Eochaidht [Note: Ay-o-chee, written Yeoha in Vol. I.] Mac Elathan, a land populous with those who had partaken of the feast of Goibneen, and whom, therefore, weapons could not slay, who had eaten [Note: In early Greek literature the province of history has been already separated from that of poetry. The ancient bardic lore and primaeval traditions were refined to suit the new and sensitive poetic

taste. No commentator has been able to explain the nature of ambrosia. In the genuine bardic times, no such vague euphuism would have been tolerated as that of Homer on this subject. The nature of Olympian ambrosia would have been told in language as clear as that in which Homer describes the preparation of that Pramnian bowl for which Nestor and Machaon waited while Hecamede was grating over it the goat's milk cheese, or that in which the Irish bards described the ambrosia of the Tuatha De Danan, which, indeed, was no more poetic and awe-inspiring than plain bacon prepared by Mananan from his herd of enchanted pigs, living invisible like himself in the plains of Tir-na-n-Og, the land of the ever-young. On the other hand, there is a vagueness about the Feed Fia which would seem to indicate the growth of a more awe-stricken mood in describing things supernatural. The Faed Fia of the Greek gods has been refined by Homer into "much darkness," which, from an artistic point of view, one can hardly help imagining that Homer nodded as he wrote.] at the the table of Mananan, and would never grow old, who had invented for themselves the Faed Fia, and might not be seen of the gross eyes of men; there steeds like Anvarr crossing the wet sea like a firm plain; there ships whose rudder was the will, and whose sails and oars the wish, of those they bore [Note: Cf. The barks of the Phoenicians in the Odyssey.]; there hounds like that one of Ioroway, and spears like fiery flying serpents. These are the Tuatha De Danan [Note: A mystery still hangs over this three-formed name. The full expression, Tuatha De Danan, is that generally employed, less frequently Tuatha De, and sometimes, but not often, Tuatha. Tuatha also means people. In mediaeval times the name lost its sublime meaning, and came to mean merely "fairy," no greater significance, indeed, attaching to the invisible people of the island after Christianity had destroyed their godhood.], fairy princes, Tuatha; gods, De; of Dana, Danan, otherwise Ana and the Moreega, or great queen; mater [Note: Cormac's Glossary] deorum Hibernensium--"well she used to cherish [Note: Scholiast noting same Glossary.] the gods." Limitless, this divine population, dwelling in all the seas and estuaries, river and lakes, mountains and fairy dells, in that enchanted Erin which was theirs.


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