Monday, May 4, 2015

Aoibhinn beatha an scoláire - Sweet is the scholar's life!

The Scholar's Life (Beatha an Scoláire) is a seventeenth century Irish poem that describes the life of leisure and privilege enjoyed by the scholars of Ireland. I'm not sure where exactly this particular Irish scholar was studying, but it sounds very relaxed! Apparently in seventeenth century Ireland, school days were indeed the best days of your life! Here is Thomas Kinsella's translation.

Sweet is the scholar's life
busy about his studies;
the sweetest lot in Ireland
as all of you know well

No king or prince to rule him
nor lord however mighty;
no rent to the chapter house
no drudging, no dawn-rising

Dawn-rising or shepherding
never required of him;
no need to take his turn
as watchman in the night

He spends a while at chess
and a while with the pleasant harp;
and a further while wooing
and winning lovely women

His horse-team hale and hearty
at the first coming of Spring;
the harrow for his team
is a fistful of pens.

Seán Ó Tuama and Thomas Kinsella, eds. Duanaire, 1600-1900: Poems of the Dispossessed (Dublin: Foras na Gaelige, 1981), 16-17.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil: Early Irish Speculations

The incident of Adam and Eve eating the forbidden fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil has long fascinated readers of the Bible. 

Many scholars in late antiquity and the early Middle Ages speculated concerning exactly what kind of fruit Adam and Eve ate. 

An interesting seventh century Irish theological work entitled "The Odering of Nature" (De Ordine Creaturarum) proposed that Adam and Eve had eaten from a fig-tree.

“It is not at all clear from what species of tree Adam ate, but it is clear that immediately after sinning he covered his nakedness with the leaf of a fig tree (Gen. 3.7), the only tree Jesus cursed when he was in the flesh – not long before he accepted death on account of the fault of Adam. The tree immediately withered when he said: “henceforth no fruit will ever come from you” (Matt. 21.19), that is, it could no longer harm men as it had done before. For Christ gathered in that tree, that is, in the fig tree, the curse of the sin of Adam which infected the whole earth until he cleansed it with the drops of his own blood. For the Lord would have known for sure whether the first man received his guilt from this tree or from another.” (DOC X.13-14).