The Festology of Aengus

Margaret Anne Cusack
start of chapter | Chapter XI

Aengus composed his "Festology" in the reign of Hugh Oirdnidhe (the Legislator), who was Monarch of Ireland from the year 793 to the year 817. Hugh commenced his reign by attaching the province of Leinster, and then marched to the confines of Meath.

The Archbishop of Armagh and all his clergy were commanded to attend this expedition, for such had hitherto been the custom. The ecclesiastics, however, protested against the summons, and complained to the king of the injustice and inconsistency of demanding their presence on such occasions. Hugh referred the matter to Fothadh, his poet and adviser. The learning and piety of the bard were well known; and a decision favourable to the clergy was the result. This decision was given in a short poem of four quatrains, which is preserved in the preface to the "Martyrology" of Aengus. The following is a literal translation:—

"The Church of the living God,
Touch her not, nor waste;
Let her rights be reserved,
As best ever they were.

"Every true monk who is
Possessed of a pious conscience,
To the church to which it is due
Let him act as any servant.

"Every faithful servant from that out,
Who is not bound by vows of obedience,
Has liberty to join in the battles
Of Aedh (Hugh) the Great, son of Nial.

"This is the proper rule,
Certain it is not more, not less:
Let every one serve his lot,
Without defect, and without refusal."

This decision obtained the name of a canon, and henceforth its author was distinguished as Fothadh na Canoiné,or Fothadh of the Canons.