Friday, 3 February 2023
Thursday, 2 February 2023
2 February 1922: The publication of Ulysses by James Joyce on this day in Paris, France. Considered one of the greatest novels of the 20th century it had a huge influence on the genre of the writing of fiction and broke new ground in how to describe the human condition in prose. Hailed as a masterpiece by fellow novelists it quickly fell foul of authorities who saw it as vile and disgusting and without literary merit.
Indeed it had already to legal difficulties in the USA where extracts had appeared in the Little Review a publication that specialised in Avant Garde type of articles and had featured some chapters from the forthcoming book that led to the owners being prosecuted in the Courts of New York.
The most important outcome of the case was that it rendered publication of Ulysses in the United States impossible for the foreseeable future. In Britain the authorities did not go to the trouble of having a court case; they simply suppressed the book on the ruling of the director of public prosecutions. Five hundred copies were burnt at the port of Folkestone in January 1923. And the British literary magazine The Egoist had found it impossible to print any more than a few short extracts before its printers refused to undertake any more of the work.
However all was not lost and in the more libertarian atmosphere of Paris an American lady Sylvia Beach, who had recently opened an English-language bookshop -Shakespeare and Company - undertook to publish Ulysses. It was here on 2 February 1922 on James Joyce’s 40th birthday that it first saw the light of day in a limited print run of 1,000 copies at the very expensive price of three guineas or 150 francs which put it out of the price range of the average reader.
Nevertheless out of this very shaky start the novel grew in reputation as more literary types heard of it and then read it themselves. The story centred around the perambulations & thoughts and emotions of the books’ central character Leopold Bloom and his alter ego Stephen Dedalus, both of them reflections of James Joyce in middle age and as a younger man.
Today the Novel is world famous and has made Dublin a mecca for those who love and are fascinated by the book set in the City on the 16th June 1904
Wednesday, 1 February 2023
1 February 523/25: The Feast Day of Saint Brigid/ Naomh Bhríde aka Féile Brígíd on this day. Or as the Irish Annals are fond of stating ‘according to some’.
1 February 525 AD: Saint Brighit, virgin, Abbess of Cill Dara, died. It was to her Cill Dara was first granted, and by her it was founded. Brighit was she who never turned her mind or attention from the Lord for the space of one hour, but was constantly meditating and thinking of him in her heart and mind, as is evident in her own Life, and in the Life of St. Brenainn, Bishop of Cluain Fearta. She spent her time diligently serving the Lord, performing wonders and miracles, healing every disease and every malady, as her Life relates, until she resigned her spirit to heaven, the first day of the month of February; and her body was interred at Dun, in the same tomb with Patrick, with honour and veneration.
Annals of the Four Masters
Though according to another account the key dates in her Life were as follows:
Birth of St. Brigid, on a Wednesday, the 8th of the February moon; on a Sunday –
Wednesday, the 18th, she received the veil, with eight virgins; Wednesday, the 28th, she rested.
Chronicon Scotorum 539 AD
Whatever the true story of Brigid’s Life we are capable of putting together the outlines of her story. She was born to a mother called Brocca, a Christian from Britain who was not married to but subservient to Dubhthach, a Gaelic Chieftain and the father of Brigid. Her place of birth was at Faughart in what is now north Co Louth. Whether Brocca was merely an attractive slave girl or a trophy mistress taken on a raid is an open question but its possible that Brigid did not know her father very well while a child and was more or less raised by her Mother. Her name Brigid was taken from that of a Celtic Goddess and this considered Deity was apparently worshipped in her Father’s Household. This female deity was the goddess of fire, whose manifestations were song, craftsmanship, and poetry, which the Irish considered the flame of knowledge.
As she grew to womanhood she showed signs of piety and generosity to those less fortunate than herself. While the date is not quite certain she was perhaps took the veil in around 468 AD and was received into Holy Orders by Saint Mel. If this be true she might have already have been a devotee of Brigid and as the daughter of a powerful man who was won over to Christianity she would have been a important convert to the Church.
She is believed to have founded her first convent in Clara, County Offaly, other ones followed after her fame grew. But it was to be in Kildare that her major foundation would emerge. Her father seems to have had his base around here and have used his local influence to secure her a good site, perhaps on the locus of an earlier Shrine to Goddess herself. Around 470 she founded Kildare Abbey, a double monastery, for nuns and monks, on the plains of Cill-Dara, "the church of the oak", her cell being made under a large oak tree.
As Abbess of this sacred place she wielded considerable power. Known as the ‘Mary of the Gael’ and the ‘Fiery Arrow’ she became famous for her great spiritual powers over men and women and the animals that she encountered. She was also reputed to have powerful gifts of divination and the ability to impose herself on the powers of Nature. Perhaps in a throwback to her earlier devotion she maintained a Sacred Flame at her abbey of Kildare that was never allowed to go out.
We are not quite sure of the exact year of Brigit's settlement here; but it probably occurred about 485, when she was thirty years of age. Hard by the church she also built a dwelling for herself and her community. We are told in the Irish Life of St. Brigit that this first house was built of wood like the houses of the people in general; and the little church under the oak was probably of wood also, like most churches of the time. As the number of applicants for admission continued to increase, both church and dwelling had to be enlarged from time to time; and the wood was replaced by stone and mortar. Such was the respect in which the good abbess was held, that visitors came from all parts of the country to see her and ask her advice and blessing: and many of them settled down in the place, so that a town gradually grew up near the convent, which was the beginning of the town of Kildare.
From ‘The Wonders of Ireland’ by P. W. Joyce, 1911
But eventually St Brigid went the way of all flesh and on her death her mortal remains were buried beside the High Alter of her beloved Church in Kildare. Years later when the Viking Raids moved inwards her remains were dug up and moved to Downpatrick and eventually interred along with those of Saints Patrick and Columba (Columcille). Alas we now know not their exact place of burial but it is believed they may be buried underneath or adjacent to Downpatrick Cathedral.
In Down, three saints one grave do fill,
Patrick, Brigid and Columcille
After her death the 1st February became known in Ireland as Féile Brígíd and it replaced the old Celtic Festival of Imbolc that celebrated the beginnings of Springtime. For nearly 1,500 years the eve of her day was marked throughout the Country but especially in Leinster with the St Brigid’s Cross, a reworking of the more traditional one and possibly based on an even more ancient design.
Numerous ‘Lives’ were written about her of which we know the following:
The first of them is contained in a hymn in very ancient Irish, written by St. Broegan Claen, abbot of Rosturk, in Ossory, on “The Titles and Miracles of the Saint.”
The second Life is by Cogitosus. It is in Latin prose. Most probably he was a monk of the monastery of Kildare that was under the rule of St. Brigid in ancient times, for he describes, in great detail, the architecture, ornaments, and arrangements of the church.
The third Life is by St. Ultan, of Ardbraccan, in Meath, the same who induced St. Breogan to write the metrical Life already mentioned.
The 4th Life is by Anmchad, Latinized Animosus: it is in Latin metre. Who this Anmchad was — whether he was Bishop of Kildare and died in 980, or another — we have not sufficient grounds for saying with anything like certainty. The work seems to be that of one well acquainted with Kildare and its surroundings, and is more detailed than the others already mentioned.
The 5th Life is the work of Laurence of Durham, a Benedictine monk, who lived about the year 1100.
Lastly, there is the Life by St. Caelan, a monk of Iniscealtra, in the Shannon, near Scariff. It is in Latin hexameters. It was discovered by an Irish Benedictine in the library of the mother-house of the Order, at Monte Cassino. The author lived in the first half of the eighth century.
Saint Brigid of Kildare By the Rev. Denis Murphy S.J.
Tuesday, 31 January 2023
Monday, 30 January 2023
Sunday, 29 January 2023
29 January circa 598AD: Feast day of Saint Dallán Forgaill. Saint Dallán's given name was Eochaid, his father was Colla, and his mother was Forgall. His nickname, Dallán ("little blind one"), was earned after he lost his sight, reputedly as a result of studying intensively. He was born in Maigen near what is now Ballyconnel Co Cavan circa 530AD.
He is famous for writing poetry in particular Amhra Coluim Cille - a poem in praise of St Columba and considered one of the most important poems we have from the early medieval Gaelic world. The "Amhra Coluim Cille" became a popular text for students in Irish monasteries. He also said to have wrote Rop Tú Mo Baile /Be Thou My Vision; it opens with the lines:
Rop tú mo baile, a Choimdiu cride
[Be thou my vision O Lord]
This has been set to music in modern times and is a prayer that belongs to a type known as a lorica - a prayer for protection.
Saint Dallán was killed while visiting his colleague Saint Conall Cael at his monastery on Inis keel/Inis Caoil [above] off the coast of Donegal when pirates raided the island. Dallán was reportedly beheaded. He was buried on Iniskeel, his friend Conall Cael was later laid to rest in the same grave. Today the island has no inhabitants.
Dallán was recognised as the Chief Ollam of Ireland - the Bard with the most status in the Country really and was also a noted Latin Scholar.
The following works are attributed to Dallán, although some may be later works by other poets who credited Dallán with authorship in order to make their poems more famous.
1. Amra Conall Coel
2. Dubgilla dub-airm n-aisse
3. Fo réir Coluim cén ad-fías
4. Conn cet cathach a righi
5. Rop tú mo baile
Saturday, 28 January 2023