Friday, 11 November 2016

The prophecy of the ard-druid from 'The Coming of Cuculain' by Standish O'Grady - read by Anthony Murphy

Standish O'Grady was the son of a protestant clergyman who ironically became part of what has become known as the 'Gaelic Revival' literary movement. Despite his belief that Ireland was better off as part of the United Kingdom, O'Grady's writings as a scholar of Gaelic mythology, Irish history and his works of fiction, inspired those who thought otherwise.

'The Coming of Cuculain' is a historical novel, based around the story of Sétanta/Cúchulainn that we might be familiar with from the manuscripts, but obviously heavily embellished as a work of fiction. Nonetheless, it is very enjoyable. It was published by The Talbot Press in 1894. It features an introduction by A.E. (George William Russell), one of the leading figures of the Gaelic Revival.

In the video, I am reading from Chapter 1, The Red Branch, where the ard-druid, Cathvah, makes a prophecy concerning the coming of the wonder child. It is dramatic and poetic, and biblical in tone. Many mythologies around the world contain narratives concerning the prophesised coming of some sort of hero or warrior or saviour. In this case, the subject of the prophecy is Sétanta, the boy who will eventually kill the hound of Culainn to become the warrior Cúchulainn, who leads the Ulster warriors against Medb's Connacht army.

"Yea, he is coming. He draweth nigh.
Verily it is he whom I behold—
The predicted one—the child of many prophecies—
Chief flower of the Branch that is over all—
The mainstay of Emain Macha—the battle-prop of the Ultonians—
The torch of the valour and chivalry of the North—
The star that is to shine for ever upon the forehead of the Gael.
It is he who slumbers upon Slieve Fuad—
The child who is like a star—
Like a star upon Slieve Fuad.
There is a light around him never kindled at the hearth of Lu,
The Grey of Macha keeps watch and ward for him,
And the whole mountain is filled with the Tuatha de Danan."

'The Coming of Cuculain' read by Anthony Murphy.

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