Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh as Archetypal Poet in Irish Folk Tradition
Department of Literature and Modern Languages
Proceedings of the Harvard Celtic Colloquium
In this paper I shall examine the way in which Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh figures as an archetypal poet, namely one who gains poetic inspiration via magical or supernatural means. This tradition is based at least partly on a poem ascribed to Ó Dálaigh, found in several 18th- and 19th-century Munster manuscripts, which involves a dialogue between himself and a woman whom he is trying to seduce.1 In the first quatrain, the poet, who is ostensibly talking about his fishing rod, boasts to the woman that his "instrument" (gléis) has long been skilful, using a word which can also mean penis." The woman, taking up the sexual meaning, replies that he should not boast about its strength, since it is only the leavings of women." When she asks him what he thinks he can do, he answers that he would make a bargain to sleep with her. At the dawn they could decide which of them was the " master horseman." The woman agrees to the bargain but adds that, if his "instrument" fails after his boasting about it, when the morning comes she will give him permission to leave. He becomes ashamed, turning his eyes aside, and says that his "strength" is weak. He asks where she is staying, and she replies, "in a high, bare fortress, without anyone or anything to protect me, but the enclosure of the birds and the venomous wolves beside me." Realizing that he has failed to seduce her, he addresses a ceangal, or envoy, to her at the end of which he states: "Keep yourself from me woman: I shall not marry any woman."
Doan, J. E. (1981). Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh as Archetypal Poet in Irish Folk Tradition. Proceedings of the Harvard Celtic Colloquium, 1 (1981), 95-123. Retrieved from https://nsuworks.nova.edu/shss_facarticles/474