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The Bards of Ireland
In Distant Homage ©
With detours, diversions, digressions, and the odd aside

It had long been my hope to bring together in one place as much as could be identified of the poetry written, chanted, and sung over the centuries by one family of fili (poets) who were members of the class now commonly referred to as the bards of Ireland. I use the past tense because time will not permit its realisation. What follows constitutes a mere sliver of the material that may be found in various collections gathered by scholars, collections hitherto available in books and manuscripts, and only to those with the time to search them out and the means to acquire copies. Now, thanks to the Internet, the modern successor to Gutenberg, much of the surviving works, in Irish and/or translation, can be summoned up at the press of a computer button, and accessed from anywhere on earth, indeed from outer space. The imagination runs riot when the possibilities are considered. By exercise of restraint I shall not dwell on them.

The family, more properly clan, to whom I pay distant homage is that of Macaward, variously given as Macward, Mac an Bháird, and in translation, Ward. The Irish literally means Son of the Bard, and because the B was aspirated and could be pronounced as V, and also W, the English translation over time became Ward. Worse things happened to other proper names. I shall not dwell on them either.

Also, over time, the Irish name Bard came to be applied to the whole body of fili, so that bard and poet became synonymous, and the latter term dropped from common usage.

Why, then, attempt, however meagre the result, to encompass the works of the Mac an Bháirds within a finger tap? Simple. My name in Irish is Seán Mac an Bháird, in English literally John son of the Bard; in short John Ward. I owe it to my forebears. In making this statement I hasten to add that I do not claim direct descent from any one of the bards. Generically I am of them, linguistically I have a tenuous relationship, but overriding all there is pride in the manner in which they helped preserve the history and contributed to the literature of Ireland. Their individual life stories are for others to chronicle.

It may be that this web page traverses ground well ploughed, sown and harvested, and should any wish to fill in lacunae, of which I am sure there are many, their guidance would be most welcome. It may also happen that the work herein may encourage new generations of scholars to trace treasures as yet unrevealed, inspire further study of the sources, and use new resources available to them. Beir beannacht ar an obair.


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