Guest from Overseas. Nikolaj Roerich. 1901

Early Irish Poem dating from 850 AD

Bitter is the wind tonight

It tosses the ocean’s white hair

Tonight I fear not the fierce warriors of Norway 

Coursing on the Irish sea

 

This anonymous poem is written in the margins of an Early Irish manuscript that now resides in the monastery of St. Gall in Switzerland. Most likely dating from around 850 AD, the text may have been complied in a northern Irish monastery such as Nendrum or Bangor (both in Co. Down).

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In a just a few, short words it conveys the sense of dread that was permeating through Irish monastic communities in the 9th century AD. During this period Viking raids were an every present danger and the Irish Annal’s record numerous attacks on monasteries. In such a climate of fear and uncertainty, it is not difficult to understand why a monk would wish for stormy seas and a respite from ship borne assaults.

‘Is acher ingáith innocht .

fufuasna faircggae findḟolt

ni ágor réimm mora minn 

dondláechraid lainn oua lothlind’

The original Irish text of the poem.

Sources 

St. Gallen, Stiftsbibliothek, Cod. Sang. 904: Prisciani grammatica (http://www.e-codices.unifr.ch/en/list/one/csg/0904)

From Irish Archeology’s Blog: http://irisharchaeology.ie/2015/01/tonight-i-fear-not-the-vikings-an-early-irish-poem/

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2 thoughts on “Early Irish Poem dating from 850 AD

  1. I read this poem the other day, isn’t it wonderful how he captured in so few words the atmosphere of the time? Wonder if he got in trouble for doodling on the manuscript he was supposed to be working on lol!

  2. The scribes / monks working on the Book of Kells often doodled when bored ….:hence the humourous little animals in the sides….

    “After a day’s work was done, the young scribes often penned short notes, prayers or poems in tiny script in the margins. One later scribe finished copying out a text, describing it as: “…very long, very verbose, and very tedious for the scribe.”

    (from http://www.irishcultureandcustoms.com/AEmblem/BooKells.html )

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