BARD: The Odyssey of the Irish by Morgan Llywelyn

BARD: The Odyssey of the Irish

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The fourth-century B.C. Gaelic migration from Iberia to Ierne (Ireland)--with somewhat less mystic mumbling than Llywelyn's previous Celtic sagas but, again, lots of earnestness and anachronism. (A grim druid identifies his office to a Phoenician: ""I represent the trees."") The featured druid here is the bard Amergin--who did indeed exist and whose poetry survives. Although he knows that ""druids are separated from the rest of the tribe by the very nature of their profession,"" Amergin is unusually restless in an Iberian clanhold, with an ache not satisifed by sex or even the demands of his harp ""Clarsah""; he feels he should not be in this time or place somehow. Meanwhile, it has in fact become moving time for the clan: aging chief Milesion, who has taught his many sons to fight one another and yet hold together, now dies; and his warrior son Éremón, on a raid, has captured more cattle than the land can hold. So--where can the clan of Mil go for living space? Well, Amergin now remembers the vision of an old bard, combining it with the tales of Phoenician trader Age-Nor and a dream that had stirred him: the land of Ierne, the green island with the green wind, ""beyond the Ninth Wave."" And the Gaels therefore learn to build ships, eventually arriving in the green land after a voyage of fear and exhilaration and danger. On Ierne, however, the people of the goddess Danu--the ""Túatha Dá Dannan""--are ""odd and slippery"" small folk who fear the conquering Gaets. . . with good reason. While excited Amergin yearns for the mystical Dannan woman Shinnan, Éremón wipes out villages of other natives (""forgotten people from forgotten ages"") and slaughters the gentle, civil Dannans. (They disappear, dead bodies and all. . .or do they?) And in a final appearance before Éremón, Amergin leaves the decimated warrior-clan with a warning that he will ""sire poets to sing of life rather than death."" The soapy dialogue carpets the ancient halls with linoleum instead of glory--but readers with a weakness for Llywelyn's brand of breathy antiquity will find this the most intriguing of her warrior/mystic/romance concoctions.

Pub Date: Oct. 10th, 1984
ISBN: 0812585151
Publisher: Houghton 'Mifflin