O'Neill - Irish Minstrels and Musicians, Volume 1, Issue 1, Page 10

O'Neill - Irish Minstrels and Musicians, Volume 1, Issue 1, Page 10
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periodical Publisher
Regan Printing House, Chicago, 1913
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periodical Title
O'Neill - Irish Minstrels and Musicians
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i8 Irish Minstrels and IViusiciansBards and the Bardic OrdersIn this aristocracy of intellect ranking next to royalty there were four princi-pal orders, the first or highest being that of the Poets0l /ctmhajn Re Dan orEu id/ic (Filea). They versified the maxims ot religion, recited the martial odes toinspire a sentiment of military ardor, celebrated the valor of their chief or prince,and sang his personal praises. As entertainers at the festive board they modulatedtheir voices to the sweet sounds of the harp, an instrument which Conran saysevery member of the bardc order cotild touch with a master hand.The FilidJie who were also heralds accompanied their chiefs in war, andmarched at the head of their armies in the field of battle arrayed in their distinc-tive robes, surrounded by the Oirfidigh or instrumental musicians.As DArcy McGee says:Our race was mighty once when at the headWise men like steadfast torches burned and led;\Vhen Ollamhs lore and royal Cormacs spellGuided the Gad all things with them went well.They watched the progress of the combat for the purpose of describing thefeats of arms in future epics. Theirs was also the duty of composing birthdayodes as well as lamentations for the deadthe caoines which continued to lieheard in the wilder and more primitive parts of Ireland until comparatively recenttimes.The second order were designated RrcithcainJjajn (Brehons) or legislativebards who promulgated and recited the laws in a kind of monotonous chant seatedon an eminence in the open air. The Tirehons acted also in the double capacityof judges and legislators; (lispensing justice as vell aS assisting in framing thelaws.The Sean achaidhe or third order were antiquaries, historians, and genealogists. They recorded remarkable events, and preserved the genealogies of theirpatrons in a kind of unpoetical stanza like the French and English heralds of themiddle ages. Having in mind the duties and accomplishments of the genealogists,Dean Swift said: Barbarous and ignorant as we were in former centuries, therewas more effectual care taken by our ancestors to preserve the memory of timesand persons, than we find in this age of learning and politeness as we are pleased tocall it.Entirely distinct was the fourth orderthe Oirfidigh, or performers on the(lifferent kinds of musical instruments, each class being appropriately namedfrom the instruments they professedly played. The head or director of this orderwas named 0/lain/i Re Ceol, or Musical Doctor.In a poem describing the (Itities of his order Dubthach, a hard who lived inthe days of St. Patrick, says: The learned poets and antiquaries shall lie readyto direct the kings and nobles according to the laws, preserve the records of thenation, and the genealogy of the families, and instruct youth in the arts andsciences.It is from such of their chronicles as escaped the destructive fury of theinvading Danes and Normans, that historians derive most of what passes forancient Irish history, However much we may be inclined to rely on such notedauthorities as \Valker, Bunting. and others, we must allow that modern criticalstudy of ancient records and manuscripts appear to justify a growing belief thatthe significance attached to the term Bard was much too general in its application.From the Ancient Lazes of Ireland we learn that the profession of poet was of the9highest rank and comprised seven grades or orders the highest that of Professoror Bard being attainable only after seven to twelve years study at a native Irishcollege.Of one of the latter named Brae, who usurped the Sovereignty, but wholacked a proper conception of kingly hospitality, the chronicler says: Tlieknives of his people were not greased at his table, nor did their breath smell ofale at his banquet. Neither poets, nor their bards, nor their satirists, nor their harpers, nor their pipers, nor their trumpeters, etc.. were ever seen engaged inamusing them at court.Many extracts from ancient writings could lie submitted in support of theopinion that the term Bard should he understood in a much more restricted sense.Entirely at variance with our accepted estimate of their exalted rank is the state-ment in the fourth volume of the Ancient Lazes of Ireland A Bard now is onewithout lawful learning. hut his own intellect. This (lehnition is by no meansinappropriate to a class of ambitious l) nS who may be considered their linealsuccessors. Men of limited education but possessing much native ability, keen ofwit, and fluent in flowers of fancy, Ireland bred at all times in abundance. Some-times in honor but more often in derision, they have been hailed as Bards andtreated with varying consideration.Robert Bruce Armstrong, author of The Irish and the Hiqhland Harps, saysas a result of his research, that the profession of poet and musician were quitedistinct. The term Bard is of infrequent mention in Irish MSS, and when it isused by English and AngloIrish writers of the sixteenth century, it is solely withtegard to poets, rimers, or reciters. The term Bard does not appear ever to havebeen used to indicate a harper or musician, tinless the person so designated wasalso a minor poet or rirner.The same may be said of Scotland, for Martin, the historian says, each chief-tain retained a physician, orator, poet, hard, musician, etc., so that neither in Ire-land nor Scotland were the designations poets, bards and harpers, interchangeableterms. In Hardinian s Irish Jhinstrelsv the authors mention of Bards has refer-ence to poets. Neither are Bards noteworthy in the Annals of the Four Masters,while events concerning poets. harpers, minstrels, and musicians, were recordedwith prominence and frequency.The heads of the professions comprised under the general term of Bardwere called Ollamhs. They as well as their wives enjoyedl special privileges.Bards and musicians had portions of land assigned! them for their maintenance.The high honors and! emoluments attendant on their art, must naturally haveproduced eminence in many of its numerous professors.Giraldus Camhrensis ( Gerald the \Velshman ), who scarcely allows the Irishany other good quality, confesses their ascendancy in music. I can only praisetheir excellence in imisic, lie says, in which they are skilled incomparably beyondany other nation I have seen.The Ollanihs of music, or those raised! to the highest order of musicians ofancient Erin, were obliged! by the rules of the order to lie perfectly acComplishedl inthe performance of three peculiar classes of music, namely: the Suantraighesoothing. or sleepproducing music; the Goltraighedolorous, grief producing, orlamentation music ; andi the Geantraighejoy, merriment and laughterproducingmusic.This development, and specialization of music it must lie understoodi, was ofvery ancient origin.From Prof. OCurrvs Manners and Customs of the Ancient Irish, ve learn
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O'Neill, Capt. Francis
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O'Neill - Irish Minstrels and Musicians

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