Poetry In Irish Language


Irish Language Poetry đź“ś: In this blog, we will discuss Irish language poetry’s history and its importance, whilst also citing some examples you should check out. Continue reading to learn more.


In poetry, people can express themselves. Poetry helps us understand one another and gives us the opportunity to show our love, subvert the underlying hate in this world and lead us away from the violence.


More importantly, poetry helps us appreciate the world and everything in it. Like a forest ranger saving a lost and stranded traveler, poetry guides us from our confusions and fears, clearing it all out so we can relate with each other better than before.


Almost every language has its own history of poetry, of course, including the Irish language. A duty to pass on poetry written in our mother tongue is something I want to do, so here we are today.



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Irish language poetry: earliest years


When did poetry in Ireland start?


Plenty of accounts have stated and accepted that Ireland’s oral and written storytelling traditions are one of, if not the most, earliest and authentic forms of communication in Europe.


Just like the plentiful Ogham inscriptions still erected to this day, Irish language poetry has withstood the test of time. According to The Wild Geese, this is because of two reasons:


  1. The country of Ireland resides in the Atlantic Ocean, far west – on the edge – of Europe. Thus, it is unscathed from the developments that has occurred in other places on the second-smallest continent. Ireland was hidden for relatively a long time – end of the last Ice Age up until the 4th century – enjoying plenty years of peace and quiet. It did not meet and experience Rome’s conquest years, going from country to country in this world and imposing their laws.
  2. Ireland has not yet developed writing prior to the 4th century. Of course, this meant that instead of writing it down to pass information, history and lore, master storytellers instead passed all of it down through the mouth. Even after Ireland developed its writing in the 4th century, and with monks and scribes in the monasteries writing all of it down, old traditions did not leave and plenty still use it up to this day. They though writing down your thoughts physically may cause you to lose the information after some time. So, passing information down orally was still preferred. In fact, this transpired when the Saxons and Vikings raided Ireland. In 686 and 789 AD, they lost a number of important writing due to the pillaging of the said conquerors.


More on traditions


We can find the first mention of Ireland’s storytelling tradition in one of the old annals called the “Book of Invasions”. The tradition began with a race of people called the Tuatha De Dannan. This race inhabited Ireland before well before the beginning of western civilisation. In addition, this race handed down Ireland generation after generation.


How does all of this correlate with Irish language poetry?


Well, we classify the Tuatha people into three: the tribe of Tuatha who were the nobility, the tribe of De, the priests and the tribe of Danann, the bards and storytellers.


We will, of course, focus more on the bards.


Irish language poetry: bards


A number of groups of poets existed back then: the Ollamh, the Filid and the Bard. But as mentioned above, we want to focus more on bards.


In the medieval times, bards in Ireland formed “a professional hereditary caste of highly trained, learned poets”. Additionally, they were also musicians that were trained  in the “Bardic Schools of Ireland”. Either a king, cheftain or nobleman employed them.


Their role? To, of course, create poems and songs to honour and glorify everything about the bard’s employer and the employer’s loved ones. They performed a number of official roles, of course, as appointed officials of the court of either kings or chieftains.


Although they are considered lesser than the Filids, they were still very talented and renowned performers and entertainers. History suggests that some were even highly praised as teachers.


Composition and memorisation


How do bards create their works of art?


Bards create Irish language poetry and more through the use of meter and rhyme. They use those two elements in memorising their words. Another excerpt from the Wild Geese states that:


“The Bard memorized and preserved the history and traditions of their clan and country, as well as the technical requirements of the various poetic forms, such as syllabic, assonance, half rhyme and alliteration. Both Filid and Bard would also be required to study, understand and be fully versed with the Ogham tree-alphabet when it arrived later on In Ireland. 


“The Bard would be familiar with the history of the royal family, his own clan members and the country and would compose eulogies. They were chroniclers and satirists whose job it was to praise their employers and curse anyone who dared to anger them. It was believed that a well-aimed poem, could cause blisters to break out on the face of its target, so sharp and direct were the words. It has been recorded that Bards had the power to settle arguments and even intervene in violent confrontations, and using their words, defuse the situation.”


Where to find examples of Irish language poetry


From there on out, Irish language poetry evolved even further through the centuries that passed.


Now, where can you find examples in the internet. I can name a few: Poetry Ireland, for example, has a reading archive for Irish language poetry. There, various recordings of Irish poets reading their own work are found.


Learn Irish through Fluentirish


Now that we have shared with you Irish language poetry, we want to discuss how we can help you in everything Irish-related.


ba mhaith linn plé leat freisin conas is féidir linn cabhrú leat i ngach rud a bhaineann leis an nGaeilge.


If you can understand simple Irish, you will want to improve. Fluentirish is here for you. Listen every day to get on with Irish.

Má tá tĂş ábalta Gaeilge shimplĂ­ a thuiscint – beidh tĂş ag iarraidh biseach a dhĂ©anamh. Tá Fluentirish anseo faoi do choinne. BĂ­ ag Ă©isteacht gach aon lá chun a bheith ag gabháil ar aghaidh i nGaeilge.

We provide informative blogs and helpful podcasts that can help in your quest to learn the Irish language.


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