The Festology of Aengus

From An Illustrated History of Ireland by Margaret Anne Cusack

« start... Chapter XI. ...continued

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At the time of the promulgation of this canon, Aengus was residing at his church of Disert Bethech, near the present town of Monasterevan, not far from where the Irish monarch had pitched his camp.

The poet visited Aengus, and showed him the canon before presenting it to the king. An intimacy was thus commenced, which must have proved one of singular pleasure to both parties. Aengus had just finished his "Festology," and showed it for the first time to his brother poet, who expressed the warmest approbation of the work.

This composition consists of three parts. The first part is a poem of five quatrains, invoking the grace and sanctification of Christ for the poet and his undertaking:—

"Sanctify, O Christ! my words:
O Lord of the seven heavens!
Grant me the gift of wisdom,
O Sovereign of the bright sun!

"O bright Sun, who dost illuminate
The heavens with all Thy holiness!
O King, who governest the angels!
O Lord of all the people!

"O Lord of the people!
O King, all righteous and good!
May I receive the full benefit
Of praising Thy royal hosts.

"Thy royal hosts I praise,
Because Thou art my sovereign;
I have disposed my mind
To be constantly beseeching Thee.

"I beseech a favour from Thee,
That I be purified from my sins,
Through the peaceful bright-shining flock,
The royal host whom I celebrate."

Then follows a metrical preface, consisting of eighty stanzas. These verses are in the same measure [8] as the invocation, Englished by modern Gaedhilic scholars as "chain-verse;" that is, an arrangement of metre by which the first words of every succeeding quatrain are identical with the last words of the preceding one.

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[8] Measure.—The subject of Irish poetical composition would demand a considerable space if thoroughly entertained. Zeuss has done admirable justice to the subject in his Grammatica Celtica, where he shows that the word rhyme [rimum ] is of Irish origin. The Very Rev. U. Burke has also devoted some pages to this interesting investigation, in his College Irish Grammar. He observes that the phonetic framework in which the poetry of a people is usually fashioned, differs in each of the great national families, even as their language and genius differ. He also shows that the earliest Latin ecclesiastical poets were Irish, and formed their hymns upon the rules of Irish versification; thus quite controverting the theory that rhyme was introduced by the Saracens in the ninth century.