Poets



===Ranks[1]

  1. Ollamh - the highest class of poet, or the chief poet.
  2. Fili - the next level of poet. Usually educated at a poet school and raised in a family of poets. Honor price tied to whom the fili worked for. To reach the level of fili, a poet would have spent around 21-27 years in preparation.
  3. Bard - lower ranking poet than a fili. Honor price was 1/2 that of a fili. Typically without formal training bards were without formal training but considered 'natural' poets.
  4. Cáinte - an illegal satirist. Those who practiced this committed a major offense since their existence was a threat to the entire poets class.

Women could also be poets, and were known as banfili.




Roles in the Tuath


A poet was the only profession that could reach the same honor price as kings.[2] This inflated status is a result of the highly respected influence of their satires or praise of poetry. A deserved satire can lower the honor price of the satire's subject. A praising poem about a person can spread his fame while a searing satire can spread his humiliation. This made the poets very powerful in Medieval Ireland. The poets were also paid to write poems of praise - and this could bring them much wealth.

Other practices which were required qualifications to be a fili:[3]

Imbas forosna - "encompassing knowledge which illuminates," this refers to an ability to have a prediction of the future through prophecy.
Teinm láeda - "breaking of marrow," this likely references a ritual of prophecy through reading the bone marrow of a sacrificed animal.
Díchetal di chennaib - "chanting from the heads," this probably indicates a type of free-spoken prophecy.

Poets were one of the few classes of people who had rights that transcended their tuath. They wrote on commission, charging a fee for their services.[4]

Poets were the people who memorized the stories passed down through oral tradition. They would have tailored their stories to the particular audience they entertained. The class of poets would have been responsible for the versions of Irish literature that have been recovered from Medieval Ireland. For more information on poets, and on the role of epic poetry specifically, see

Below is a page from a recovered manuscript called The Poems of Blathmac[5]
irish.jpg


Poets in Literature


The Taín
At the very beginning, Medb meets a woman poet who gives a prophecy about death and destruction in Medb's upcoming journey. This account of a poet in Irish literature confirms that they had roles as prophets and were expected to have foresight into the future. This also confirms the ability of women to hold the position of a poet - as banfili.[6]

Some other examples of Medieval Irish poetry can be found here.
  1. ^

    =

    Handy, Amber, "Nemed Class," lecture, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN, September 21, 2010.
  2. ^ Handy, Amber, "Nemed Class," lecture, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN, September 21, 2010.
  3. ^ Handy, Amber, "Nemed Class," lecture, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN, September 21, 2010.
  4. ^ Handy, Amber, "Nemed Class," lecture, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN, September 21, 2010.
  5. ^ Found at http://www.isos.dias.ie/ in the National Library of Ireland section
  6. ^ Ciaran Carson, "The Taín" 12-17