Poets, patrons and homosexuality in medieval Ireland

In recent years, Irish society has undergone profound changes, including the legalization of gay marriage and the decriminalization of homosexuality. It may come as a surprise to hear that in late-medieval / early modern Ireland a cult of male homosexuality / bisexuality apparently was not only dominant but was generally tolerated among the higher regions of Gaelic society, especially the literati, but also including indigenous kings and tribal chiefs. . The proof of such tolerance is mainly found in the Gaelic Irish poetry of medieval and early modern date. However, scholars seem to ignore, defeat or deny this for whatever reason.

The cult seems rooted in the idea that the poet's relationship with his royal or predominant pattern equals a marriage, the two share the same bed. The following English translations of the original Irish can be quoted. A poet tells his patron that it is not an act of adultery against his wife to "stay with me and my kind," while another who has fallen out of favor seeks reconciliation: "Let us no longer refrain from On a bench, O are honest. "A 14th-century poet calls on his patron to" give your red lips to me, give a fiery kiss. "The same states:" To him [the poet] is due loving favor, the primest [sic] generosity, priority in council, counsel of the king, sharing his bed. . . "Part of the language used is even extravagant, according to Brian Ó Gnímh's elegy about the pointed head of Alasdair Mac Donald (1586):" I love the still unbleached red mouth / head of silky skin. . ./. . . smooth sensitive cheek. . . fine soft abundant curly locks /. . . looking green eyes. . ./. . . perfect tresses ".

However, we have been warned by Prof Pádraig Breatnach that "the guise of" husband "could be adopted by a poet at one time for several patrons." "The full assumption of a female role & & nbsp; # 39; by the poet happens in terms of a well-established literary & vigilance & # 39; and & # 39; and we must be on our guard to draw hasty conclusions about his psychology … & # 39; A parallel research Prof. Katherine Simms draws attention to the contemporary "traditional role of the poet as, in a sense, the husband or lover of his pattern." However, "the bard has no intention. . . of implying a homosexual relationship with his patron. . . Sharing bed was a common feature of esteem and trust in this society, especially suited between a king and his poet. "Both bases based their observations largely on the earlier work of Prof James Carney.

Lyrical conceit

However, it seems unrealistic to see that the references cited above relate only to poetic self-esteem or convention. From a psychological point of view, it seems unlikely that a heterosexual man, even of a poetic caste, would have had the ability or inclination to assume the role of homosexual lover, or was able to support it. The probability is that those expressing homoerotic sentiments were naturally so inclined. If eventually something tickles, wobbles, has feet with webbed feet and has some water, it seems reasonable to conclude that it is a duck. Presumably the role of the king or headman should be seen in the same light. At the very least, he must have been an accomplice – perhaps a demonstration of the power exercised by poets in Irish Irish society.

It seems unlikely that a heterosexual man, even of poetic caste, would have the ability or inclination to assume the role of homosexual lover, or was able to support it

The homoerotic sentiment apparently survived well into the 17th century under the Gaelic Irish literatures. We know, for example, that the Kerry poet Piaras Feiritéar (1600-1653), one of the greatest Irish poets of his time, composed both homo-erotic and heterosexual verses. Evidence of the syndrome can be found in the case of a follower of Domhnall Cam Ó Súilleabháin Béara, hero of resistance against the troops of Elizabeth 1 in the early 17th century. The man in question, John Anias, was captured by the English and executed. On the day preceding his death, given on November 8, 1602, he sent a letter to Mac Muiris Chiarraí (Fitzmaurice Kerry) Baron of Lixnaw, signed: "Your loving roommate sometimes …" While, as noted earlier, sharing beds was considered a privilege enjoyed by prominent followers as well as poets of kings and chiefs, the denial by commentators is that the only homosexual connotations did not convince. In the case just cited, one can not help but wonder what a loving (unlike a loving) roommate was.

Spiritual bailiff

You wonder what the domestic regulations are that made such practices necessary. Presumably all royal or chief rulers kept a chaplain from the place of residence, who could not be aware of the riots – obviously unlawful according to church law – that took place within his spiritual bailiwick at night. He would at least have known about the relevant verses of the poets. Although it is deceiving to think that both priest and poet, so to speak, have actively played football for a place on the most prestigious pallet in the household, it seems clear that the Catholic clergy must have been willing to tolerate the practices involved. Given recent revelations concerning the sexual offenses of some of the latter in our time, nothing should perhaps surprise us.

You can not help but wonder how the lady of the ruler, royal or above all, fit into such a system of things. Even in an age that preceded the rise of feminist manners, her natural instinct would undoubtedly have hated what would appear to her her rightful place, appropriated by male invaders, poetic or otherwise. Contemporaries were probably accustomed to a solid turnover, so to speak, from sexual partners, both men and women. Undoubtedly, on occasion, the lady gained private access to her lord's bed – confirming the sexual power (if not the versatility) of the latter, as befits a great warrior. In such a society, however, the status of women, even of decent background, must have been relatively low.

One can not but wonder how the lady of the ruler, royal or mainly, fit into such a system of things

Unfortunately, we are not in a position to compare Gaelic Irish manners in the foregoing and contrast them with those who could have the upper hand in other parts of continental Europe during the same period. We know that William Rufus, son of the Norman Duke William, the conqueror of England in 1066, was most likely homosexual. In contrast to Gaelic Irish attitudes, it seems that contemporary Anglo-Saxon chronicles refer in this context to his activities with "restraint and horror". The 17th-century Scottish king James V1, who became James 1 of England, was apparently also predominantly homosexual, although what we have left (if any) of his inclinations on English or Scottish archives is unknown to us. In any case, it seems that the subject deserves more erudite, informed and broad research than the inadequate and superficial ones presented here.

& # 39; Confidential companion & # 39;

On the peninsula Beara in the beginning of the 18th century we encounter, which may be an echo of the attitudes of the former bardic and other literary exponents of the syndrome. This is particularly evident in a powerful and moving marbhna composed by Domhnall Ó Conaill of Iveragh for Murtaí Óg Ó Súilleabháin of Eyeries, Castletownbere, Co Cork – a captain according to tradition in Lord Clare & # 39; s regiment of the Irish Brigade – who was surprised and killed in his house by a detachment of the Cork town garrison in May 1754. Ó Conaill (described as Murtaí's servant and "confidential companion") was captured and later hanged in Cork. In anticipation of the performance he composed his great marbhna. Elements of what homo-erotic sentiment may be that appears in an early English translation of this, were apparently detected by the nineteenth-century English historian James Anthony Froude and later, in 1969, by the Oxford don and man of letters, AL Rowse , homosexual yourself. The elements in question are derived from the Irish of the original composition of Ó Conaill.

In Ireland, homoerotic sentiment survived far below the Gallic literary until well into the 17th century

In Ireland, as already shown, homoerotic sentiment survived among the Gallic literati until well into the 17th century. At some point undetermined – but perhaps around the middle of the 18th century – such a feeling apparently disappears. Thereafter, the Gaelic Irish reference to homosexuality (where it occurs at all) is generally pejorative. It has remained so until recently, which has seen not only the introduction of already mentioned social and legal reforms, but the election of a youthful, openly homosexual taoiseach of genuine courage and an enlightened vision. Among others who may be noticed in the same context is Jerry Buttimer, the first openly gay Fine Gael TD; the corkscrew, Donal Óg Cusack; and in particular David Norrris – fearless fighter for "gay rights" at a time when prejudices, often common, still ruled supreme. In his struggle he received the unwavering support and leadership of a prominent and heroic lawyer from the majority community, Garrett Sheehan, later judge of the court of appeal.

Note: for sources of the above mentioned materials, including the original Irish versions, see Gerard J Lyne & # 39; s Murtaí Óg Ó Súilleabháin: a Life contextualized (Dublin, Geography Publications, 2017) esp. pp. 280-87

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