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Tales of the Enchanted Islands of the Atlantic

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Author Topic: Tales of the Enchanted Islands of the Atlantic  (Read 4318 times)
Lisa Wolfe
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« Reply #120 on: January 27, 2009, 11:49:27 pm »

XI. MAELDUIN
This narrative is taken partly from Nutt's "Voyage of Bram" (I. 162) and partly from Joyce's "Ancient Celtic Romances." The latter, however, allows Maelduin sixty comrades instead of seventeen, which is Nutt's version. There are copies of the original narrative in the Erse language at the British Museum, and in the library of Trinity College, Dublin. The voyage, which may have had some reality at its foundation, is supposed to have taken place about the year 700 A.D. It belongs to the class known as Imrama, or sea-expeditions. Another of these is the voyage of St. Brandan, and another is that of "the sons of O’Corra." A poetical translation of this last has been made by T. D. Sullivan of Dublin, and published

p. 238

in his volume of poems. (Joyce, p. xiii.) All these voyages illustrated the wider and wider space assigned on the Atlantic ocean to the enchanted islands until they were finally identified, in some cases, with the continent which Columbus found.

XII. ST. BRANDAN
THE legend of St. Brandan, which was very well known in the Middle Ages, was probably first written in Latin prose near the end of the eleventh century, and is preserved in manuscript in many English libraries. An English metrical version, written probably about the beginning of the fourteenth century, is printed under the editorship of Thomas Wright in the publications of the Percy Society, London, 1844 (XIV.), and it is followed in the same volume by an English prose version of 1527. A partial narrative in Latin prose, with an English version, may be found in W. J. Rees's "Lives of the Cambro-British Saints" (Llandovery, 1853), pp. 251, 575. The account of Brandan in the Acta Sanctorum of the Bollandists may be found under May 16, the work being arranged under saints' days. This account excludes the more legendary elements. The best sketch of the supposed island appears in the Nouvelles Annales des Voyages for 1845 (p. 293), by D’Avezac. Professor O’Curry places the date of the alleged voyage or voyages at about the year 560 ("Lectures on the Manuscript Materials for Irish History," p. 289). Good accounts of the life in the great monasteries of Brandan's period may be found in Digby's "Mores Catholici" or "Ages of Faith"; in Montalembert's "Monks of the West" (translation); in Villemarqué's "La Legende Celtique et la Poésie des Cloistres en Irlande, en Cambrie et en Bretagne" (Paris,

p. 239

[paragraph continues] 1864). The poem on St. Brandan, stanzas from which are quoted in the text, is by Denis Florence McCarthy, and may be found in the Dublin University Magazine (XXXI. p. 89); and there is another poem on the subject--a very foolish burlesque--in the same magazine (LXXXIX. p. 471). Matthew Arnold's poem with the same title appeared in Fraser's Magazine (LXII. p. 133), and may be found in the author's collected works in the form quoted below.

The legends of St. Brandan, it will be observed, resemble so much the tales of Sindbad the Sailor and others in the "Arabian Nights"--which have also the island-whale, the singing birds, and other features--that it is impossible to doubt that some features of tradition were held in common with the Arabs of Spain.

In later years (the twelfth century), a geographer named Honoré d’Autun declared, in his "Image of the World," that there was in the ocean a certain island agreeable and fertile beyond all others, now unknown to men, once discovered by chance and then lost again, and that this island was the one which Brandan had visited. In several early maps, before the time of Columbus, the Madeira Islands appear as "The Fortunate Islands of St. Brandan," and on the famous globe of Martin Behaim, made in the very year when Columbus sailed, there is a large island much farther west than Madeira, and near the equator, with an inscription saying that in the year 565, St. Brandan arrived at this island and saw many wondrous things, returning to his own land afterwards. Columbus heard this island mentioned at Ferro, where men declared that they had seen it in the distance. Later, the chart of Ortelius, in the sixteenth century, carried it to the neighborhood of Ireland;

p. 240

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