Bardic Poetry Database

This catalogue is very much a ‘work in progress’, both as regards its contents and its search facilities, which are designed to make fields originally entered on an AppleWorks 6.00 database available to all web readers. The information contained in the database lists as separate fields under the FIRST LINE of the Irish text of each poem its subject CLASS (eulogy, elegy, love poem etc) the Christian NAMES and SurNAMES of the patron (where applicable) and the poet (if recorded), the PERIOD of its composition (by thirds of a century), the AREA associated with the patron, or in the case of religious or other abstract poems, with the author (by Irish province, including Meath/the midlands as a separate area, Scotland and a general category of Elsewhere for poems addressed outside Ireland). As the evidence for identification varies in quality, a field labelled CERTAINTY rates the confidence of identification of patron and date from 1 to 5, where 5 represents a possibility only.

Two fields were reserved for any APOLOGUES the poems might contain, their classification (Ruaraíocht, Fiannaíocht etc.) being based on that of Liam P. Ó Caithnia, Apalóga na bhfilí 1200–1650 (Dublin 1984), although the total of apologue subjects identified is greater, as unpublished as well as published poems were surveyed. Ten fields were set aside for MOTIFS or recurring themes, grouped under subject-headings such as Kingship, War, Religion, Learning etc. and numbered sequentially, so that certain ranges of numbers include all listed motifs under that broad subject heading. The numbers attached to every verbal description of a field value were originally necessitated by the earlier database systems, but have been retained as particularly valuable to search for NAMES with varying spelling, or MOTIFS or APOLOGUES that are basically the same but have subtle variations of phrasing or emphasis. Similarly the numbers attached to the 5 earliest noted manuscript sources for each poem are arranged in a rough chronological sequence, with a 9 prefixed to avoid confusion with manuscript shelf numbers so that for example a manuscript with the computer code reference 9100 is dated about 1600 A.D. and that with the code 9200 belongs to the period about 1700 A.D.

Thus searches can be conducted in three basic ways.

  1. If the enquirer knows they are looking for a particular first line, this can be entered in the First Line field, bearing in mind that although most first lines have been standardised to a Dioghluim Dána spelling, there may be inconsistencies. This will call up, not as yet the text of the poem, but the identification of patron, period, apologues, motifs publication details and five earliest manuscripts etc.

  2. If the enquirer is a historian, looking for poems addressed to a particular individual, entering that person's Christian name, surname and approximate period should bring up the required poems, if any. Where more than one individual has a similar name in a similar time period, the death-date of the patron should be found beside his surname in the full display when first lines resulting from the search are clicked.

  3. If the enquirer is looking for poems containing a particular apologue, theme or motif, for example, entering into the list of apologues or motifs will enable them to select the desired subject matter, and a search will call up first lines of all poems that contain it. Clicking on individual first lines will yield the full display.

In the web version of this database, the original number codes do not appear in the ‘Search page’ but are still lodged within the system. As a result when the full display of the details of a particular poem have been obtained by clicking on its first line, the inquirer can call up all poems containing a similar value within a particular field by clicking on the example in front of them. For instance, if the poem in question is addressed to a Mac Carthaigh patron, clicking on this surname should bring up all poems addressed to members of this family, even if the surname has been inconsistently entered in various cases as MagCarthaigh, MacCarthaigh or Mac Carthaigh. Similarly, clicking on a motif or apologue displayed in the description of one poem should bring up a list of all poems containing that motif or apologue. Another important aid to successful searching is adverted to as a hint on the top of the ‘Search page’. This is the use of a short word or phrase followed immediately by an asterisk*. It is advisable to use this asterisk wherever possible, after the surname of a poet or patron, for example, but also after a single key word in the ‘apologue’ or ‘motif’ field — for example Aithirne* or music* — depending on the nature of the information sought.

The corpus of poems from which this database is compiled is not completely comprehensive, since the original list was made in 1977–80 under the supervision of Prof. Brian Ó Cuív on the basis of the main catalogues of Irish manuscripts then extant, supplemented by the page-proofs of the Catalogue of Irish Manuscripts in Cambridge University by Pádraig de Brún and Máire Herbert, Fraser's MS notes on the Bodleian Library MSS, Plummer's typescript notes on the Brussels MSS and card indices filled in by DIAS for a number of N.L.I. MSS not officially catalogued, at the time with accessions numbers from c. 300 to 500 (at the time the NLI printed catalogue by N. Ní Shéaghdha had reached volume iii). In addition the contents of the Nugent MS (NLI G 995) and the Stoneyhurst MS A/ii/20(i) and (ii) were handlisted from microfilms.

The original cut-off point prescribed by Prof. Ó Cuív was to be the date of the collection in the Book of O'Conor Don at 1631 A.D., and this was largely maintained in relation to anonymous and undateable syllabic poems found in later manuscripts, but exceptions were made in favour of later seventeenth-century poems by named authors who were members of the traditional bardic families up to 1690 A.D., and in favour of Geoffrey Keating, an exception that proved valuable, as syllabic poems attributed to Geoffrey Keating in very late paper manuscripts often appeared as anonymous bardic compositions in earlier copies. Collections of late paper manuscripts in Cork, Belfast, Aberystwyth and Harvard, where a printed catalogue was available, were only cursorily searched for texts of poems not found elsewhere, or for poems contained in the earliest dated MSS in those collections.

Editors of poems will be aware that the date of a manuscript is by no means a decisive criterion as to the purity of the text it contains. Where all five ‘earliest manuscript’ slots are filled on the computerised database, there may be many more extant copies listed in the catalogues of equal or even greater value. Where there are only four or less ‘earliest manuscripts’ noted this may be a more helpful indication, but one should recollect the subsequent publication of Ó Cuív's Catalogue of Irish Manuscripts in Oxford, the later volumes of the NLI catalogue, collections that have no published catalogue as yet, and so forth. Poems from the later seventeenth century are particularly likely to have an inconsistent manuscript record, as the policy in relation to their inclusion changed over time.

Bibliographical abbreviations

(inconsistencies cross-referenced)

AD, Aithd.D — Aithd. Dana — see McKenna, Aithd. D.

Anal.HibAnalecta Hibernica, including the reports of the Irish Manuscripts Commission (Dublin, Irish Manuscripts Commission, periodical)

AOD — See McKenna AOD

Archiv. HibArchivium Hibernicum (periodical)

Bergin IBP — Osborn Bergin ed. Irish Bardic Poetry rev. D. Greene & F. Kelly, Dublin 1970

Bk Dean = The Book of the Dean of Lismore an early 16th cent. collection of bardic verse in phonetic English script, selections from which have been edited by M’Lauchlan, Watson and Quiggin

Bk Fenagh — W. M. Hennessy & D. H. Kelly eds, The Book of Fenagh London 1875 Rolls Series, repr. Irish MSS Comm. Dublin 1939

Bk Magauran — see McKenna, Bk Magauran

Bk O’Hara — See McKenna, Bk O’Hara

BM Cat. Ir. MSS — S. H. O’Grady & R. Flower, Catalogue of Irish MSS in the British Museum (al. the British Library) 3 vols

Carney, Poems on O Reillys, Carney Poems O R, Carney, POR — James Carney ed. Poems on the O’Reillys Dublin Inst. For Adv. Stud. 1950

Carney PB — James Carney ed. Poems on the Butlers Dubl. Inst. for Adv. Stud. 1945)

CelticaCeltica Journal of the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, School of Celtic Studies

DDe, Dan De — see McKenna, Dan De

DDU — see O Muirgheasa

D na mBr , D na mBr. Mionur — Cuthbert Mag Craith ed. Dán na mBráthar Mionúr 2 vols, Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, 1967, 1980

DMU Duanaire Mheig Uidhir, Duan. Mag Uidhir (sic) — see Greene

DiD — Laimbheartach MacCionaith (Lambert McKenna) ed. Dioghluim Dána Dublin 1938, repr. 1969 etc.

ÉigseÉigse, a journal of Irish Studies, National University of Ireland

ERMB — Tomas Ó Raghallaigh ed. Duanta Eoghain Ruaidh Mhic an Bhaird: The Bardic Poems of Eoghan Ruadh Mac an Bhaird (Galway 1930)

EriuÉriu, Royal Irish Academy, journal of Celtic Studies

Essays pr. to Wm Ridgeway — E. C. Quiggin, ed. Essays and Studies presented to William Ridgeway (Cambridge 1913)

Feilsgribhinn TornaEssays & studies presented to Prof Tadhg O Donnchadha, UCC

Greene, Duanaire Mheig Uidhir — D. Greene ed. Duanaire Mheig Uidhir Dublin Inst. for Advanced Studies 1972

IBP — see Bergin IBP

Iom — see McKenna Iom

Ir. MonthlyThe Irish Monthly (periodical)

Ir. SwordThe Irish Sword, journal of the Military History Society of Ireland

Irisl. Muighe N, Irisl. Mhuighe Nuadhad — Irisleabhar Mhuighe Nuadhad, journal of St Patrick’s College Maynooth

JRSAIJournal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland

Knott Ir. Syll. Poetry — Eleanor Knott, Irish Syllabic Poetry, an Introduction

Knott, TD — Eleanor Knott, A bhfuil aguinn dar chum Tadhg Dall O hUiginn: The bardic poems of Tadhg Dall O hUiginn (2 vols, Irish Texts Society London 1922, 1926)

LB — LBranach — Sean MacAirt ed. Leabhar Branach Dubl. Inst. of Adv. Stud. 1944

L. Cl. A. B — LCAB — Tadhg O Donnchadha (Torna) ed. Leabhar Cloinne Aodha Buidhe Dublin, Irish MSS Comm. 1931)

McKenna, AD — McKenna Aithd. Dana — Lambert McKenna ed., Aithdioghluim Dana: an anthology of Irish bardic poetry Irish Texts Soc. 2 vols 1939, 1940

McKenna, AOD — Lambert McKenna ed. Danta do chum Aonghus Fionn O Dalaigh: The religious poems of Aonghus Fionn O Dalaigh Dublin and London 1919

McKenna, Bk O’Hara — McKenna BOH — Lambert McKenna ed. The Book of O’Hara Dubl. Inst. for Adv. Stud. 1951

McKenna, Bk Magauran = Lambert McKenna ed. The Book of Magauran Dublin Inst. for Adv. Stud. 1947

McKenna DDe — Lambert McKenna ed. Dan Dé Dublin (1922)

McKenna,Iom = Lambert McKenna ed. Iomarbhaigh na bhFileadh The Contention of the Bards Irish Texts Soc. 2 vols 1920

McKenna, Pilib Bocht — McKenna, PB O hUiginn — McKenna, Poems of PBOH = Lambert McKenna ed. Pilib Bocht O hUiginn Dublin 1931

M’Lauchlan, Bk Dean = T. M’Lauchlan, The Dean of Lismore’s Book, Edinburgh 1862

C. Ni Dhomhnaill, Duanair = Cait Ni Dhomhnaill, Duanaireacht

Nuadhuanaire = Nuadhuanaire (poems for the Leaving Certificate course in Irish) 3 vols ed. B. O Buachalla, P. de Brun et al.

O Muirgheasa, DDU = Enri O Muirgheasa, ed. Danta Diadha Uladh (Dublin 1936)

O’Rahilly, DG = T. Rathile ed. Danta Grádha Cork 1925 2nd ed 1926 repr. 1968 etc.

O’Rahilly MD = T. F. O’Rahilly ed. Measgra Dánta: Miscellaneous Irish poems 2 vols Cork 1927, reprinted 1960 etc.

O’Sullivan & O Riain, Poems = Anne O’Sullivan and Padraig O Riain, Poems on Marcher lords Irish Texts Society London 1987

Quiggin, Bk Dean, Quiggin, Lism = E. C. Quiggin, Poems from the Book of the Dean of Lismore, Cambridge 1937 (diplomatic text)

Rel. Celt. = J Cameron ed. Reliquiae Celticae 2 vols Edinburgh

Studies = Studies, a quarterly publication of the Jesuit order in Ireland

Seanch. Ardmh = Seanchas Ardmhacha, journal of the Armagh diocesan historical society

Stud. Hib = Studia Hibernica, journal of St Patrick’s College Drumcondra

TD — see Knott, TD

Teagasg Criosdaidhe i nDan = Giolla Brighde O hEoghusa Teagasg Criosdaidhe, early printed prose work with metrical preface Teagasg Criosdaidhe i nDan reproduced in Dan na mBrathar Mionur ed. C. Mag Craith

Timthiridh Chroide Naomtha, Timth.ChroidheN.I = Timthiridh Chroidhe Naomtha Iosa, pious monthly journal containing editions with translations of some of the religious poems in DiD

Walsh, Gleanings = Paul Walsh, Gleanings from Irish Manuscripts

Walsh, Beatha Aodha Ruaidh = Beatha Aodha Ruaidh Ui Dhomhnaill, the Life of Aodh Ruadh O Domhnaill by Lughaidh O Cleirigh 2 vols, Irish Texts Society 1948, 1957

Watson,SV = William J Watson, Scottish Verse from the Book of the Dean of Lismore Scottish Gaelic Texts Society, Edinburgh 1937

Williams, Poems GBMcC, Williams, Poems GBM = N. J. A. Williams, The Poems of Giolla Brighde Mac Con Midhe, Irish Texts Society Dublin 1981

Corrections and amplifications to the information contained in this database would be most welcome and should be sent to