We stand on the shoulders of giants

Bernard of Chartres used to say that we are like dwarfs on the shoulders of giants, so that we can see more than they, and things at a greater distance, not by virtue of any sharpness of sight on our part, or any physical distinction, but because we are carried high and raised up by their giant size. (John of Salisbury)

Bear with me. I’m finding this daily discipline difficult. But it’s just an experiment – ends 31st of October.  It’s been a strange sort of day and this post will match its mood. Having finished yesterday’s letter, I ended up searching for Donagh McDonagh’s poem ‘A Warning to Conquerors’. It was a favourite of mine as a teenager and I wondered whether I would still like it – particularly as I’m now living in Northern Ireland.  I did – but maybe not as much. I also found a translation of the Líadan & Cuirithir poem by him and went on a hunt for more information about those 9th Century poets as I hadn’t heard of them; and then ended up at a University College Cork site which I remembered friends working on when it started up – at least fifteen years ago, if not more. Having gotten there, though, I couldn’t make understand the original(?) Líadan poem as it is in 9th Century Irish; I found a tract about St Declan of Ardmore which was wonderful to read so resplendent was it in miracles and wonder. No mention at all of the Pattern – although I’m squirrelling away both references to his black bell (which brought about many miracles); and the Líadan and Cuirithir dilemna of the heart versus art.

All day, I’ve been thinking about a poem I wrote last Christmas that needs to be edited – it doesn’t have any reference to a literary or cultural past. But there are things that I want to write about where Declan’s Black Bell or Líadan’s dilemna will give me a point of departure, or a framework – and it feels good to make that connection.

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