This comparative study examines the treatment of named vernacular poets from the Gaelic and Anglo-Saxon worlds in the subsequent literary cultural histories of their traditions. Both societies developed sophisticated bilingual intellectual cultures. After a brief survey of historical poets and anonymous secular texts from both vernacular literatures, this essay examines two accounts that involve vernacular poets from Latin texts written by clerics. Muirchú maccu Machtheni wrote Vita Sancti Patricii (ca. 690) and briefly mentioned the presence of the poets Dubthach maccu Lugair and Fiacc Finn Sléibte at the pagan court of Lóegaire mac Néill in Tara in the fifth century. Bede devoted a full chapter of his Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum (ca. 731) to the poet Cædmon at the monastery of Whitby sometime in the second half of the seventh century. The presence of these three vernacular poets in the works of two clerics suggests their perceived potential contributions to the Church. But their treatment in later cultural history differs markedly between the self-referential Gaelic world and more reticent Anglo-Saxons. In the Gaelic tradition Dubthach and Fiacc are recorded in law tracts, hagiography, martyrologies, genealogies, prose narratives, and poems. In the Anglo-Saxon tradition Cædmon does not exist outside of Bede’s account. It is suggested that the legally recognized social rank, formal training, and professional status of poets in Gaelic society helps explain the discrepancy in subsequent cultural acknowledgement.


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 33-61
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.