Tuesday, 12 December 2017

The Scholars of Clonard: A poem of Sedulius Scottus

Below is the translation of a poem on the Scholars of Clonard attributed to the prolific ninth-century Irish poet, Sedulius Scottus. Sedulius made his career abroad in the courts of continental Europe, but like all good Irishmen, he never forgot where he came from. In this poem he pays tribute to the tradition of learning established at the monastic school of Clonard and to three of its scholars in particular - Vinnau/Finnian the sixth-century founder, Ailerán the Wise, a seventh-century scholar and Fergus, a scholar of the ninth century who also features in some of the author's other poems.

Look on the marble columns surpassing the stars,
which the sand of the saint-bearing land supports here
happy, famous Ailerán, Vinnau, Fergus,
shining lights made by gift-carrying God.
O He sent a great present of Scotia [i.e.Ireland],
rich relics which Pictonia [i.e. Poitiers] wishes to be its own,
whence comes Titan and where night established the stars
and where midday is hot with blazing hours
[i.e. the east and the west and the south].

David Howlett, ed. and trans., The Celtic Latin Tradition of Biblical Style (Dublin, 1995), 129.

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