“Pangur Ban” a 9th Century anonymous poem, translated by Robin Flower
Three hundred years before this anonymous poem was written, monasteries sprung up around Ireland. Clonard, Clonmacnois, and Clonfert, the most famous monasteries, became important centers of learning where Irish men and foreigners trained to be artists, thinkers, educators, and scribes. The monks were the first to research and write the history of Ireland. They also used their skills and talents to celebrate God in poetry and song. Before the advent of the printing press, monks created illuminated manuscripts, based on the scriptures, all drawn and written by hand. These sacred manuscripts required advanced literacy and artistry, many of them taking years to complete. The most famous surviving manuscripts are The Book of Kells, The Book of Durrow, and The Book of Armagh. Some of the greatest metal workers, sculptors, and bookbinders of the period worked at the Irish monasteries.
Here is an example of another poem from 8th-9th c. Ireland
A hedge of trees surrounds me.
A blackbird’s lay sings to me.
Above my lined booklet
The trilling birds chant to me.
In a grey mantle from the top of bushes
The cuckoo sings.
Verily – may the Lord shield me! –
Well do I write under the greenwood.
Translated by Kuno Meyer
During these European Dark Ages, the Irish monks traveled through Ireland, England, and Europe, spreading Christianity, sharing their knowledge, teaching people to read and write, and “turning darkness into light.” Ireland became known as the land of Saints and Scholars.
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Sarah M. Fredericks (c) 2015
Carpe Librum📚Seize the Book…and let the page-turning begin!