Saturday, 19 May 2018

Ard Hessly

I dreamt I was at a conference of Celtic scholars at a mysterious town a little to  the west of Galway City. It was fine weather and this afternoon's session was outdoors. Now, evening was drawing in and we were moving indoors. I said to someone, "This is where I met my wife  many years ago at a Gaeltacht Department seminar" (not actually true, for I met her in Brussels when on secondment from the Gaeltacht Department to the EEC).  I pointed to a man who looked like an older version of John Bacchus, a detective sergeant in the series "Inspector George Gently," (which I had been watching before bedtime) and said, "He was very eloquent and persuasive then," which is hardly true of the John Bacchus character, but I was indicating this unknown person who had been at the old conference.

Somebody on my left, as we moved along, said, "Will ye sing Ard Eas Laoi (pronounce: "Ard Ass Lee," meaning "High-place of the Waterfall of the River Lee) by Seathrún Céitinn (aka Geoffrey Keating)?" I never heard of the song. He recited a verse. It was in a fairly ancient version of Irish and I did not follow the words very well. Then a long-time learned acquaintance of mine,  who happened to be in front of us, turned and sang this translation, in a soft hoarse voice:
"Welcome, men, to Ard Hessly,
Whose priests, fathers Coyle and Shaw,
Will lift your faith to a frenzy,
And all for the glory of God."
I happened to be carrying somebody's guitar, and, I picked out the tune on the guitar, (although I actually don't play guitar). The guitar and singing blended nicely, and my acquaintance sang a few more verses. The song was, more or less, to the air of "Only our rivers run free," though I was not aware of that, just treating it as an air I was hearing for the first time.

It turned out that the  song was an invective against enthusiastic priests who raised a rabble army in Cromwell's time and led them, unskilled, poorly-equipped and badly-led, into battle, to be slaughtered by Cromwell's veteran army.

Now, fathers Coyle and Shaw were probably not the names of the priest of those days. Father Coyle is a former schoolmate of mine, who became a missionary and served in the Philipines. Shaw is the name of the actor who plays Inspector George Gently in the TV series, two names that were in my mind, only slightly below the level of consciousness, at the time. Irrelevant to the theme of the song, I changed them to "Fathers Kiely and Claud" in my verse-blog, to fit in better with the rhythm and rhyme, but a day later, took the names out altogether.

There is often more to a dream than meets the eye, for dreams are full of symbols and metaphors and refer to matters unconscious to the dreamer. I would guess a few meanings:
  • The mysterious town to the west of Galway, is my life before marriage, and the conference an expression of that life;
  • An unknown person who was eloquent and persuasive, refers to the enthusiasms of youth;
  • Ard Eas Laoi is a random name concocted by the subconscious to refer to a scenic place high in the mountains;
  • Seatrún Céitinn (in English, Geoffrey Keating) was an Irish priest, poet, patriot and historian, of Old English stock, who wrote a history of Ireland in the Irish language, based on tradition, modified by the Bible, and died during the Cromwellian war). He never wrote this poem, but my subconscious took his name to give it an ancient source.
  • The names produced in the dream are opportunistically drawn from my memory.
  • Bacchus and Shaw occur in the dream to remind me that recent TV material is relevant to the message; so
  • Ard Hessly is probably a metaphor for a place in recent news where, I suppose, people have been stirred up by eloquent and persuasive leaders and passionate men of the cloth to confront a deadly army with home-made weapons: the Gaza Strip, where, in recent days, protesters were fired upon by the Israeli army with multiple deaths. 




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