Medieval Irish Poetry Analysis

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In Medieval Ireland the poet played a pivotal role in society, many sources have illustrated the high status held by the poet in society and the multi-dimensional nature of his role. In Medieval Ireland status and a person’s honour price was of upmost importance and this could often either be controlled by the poet. The poet held the power to heighten one’s social standing through the creation of praise poetry, or he could destroy one’s honour through the use of satire. As a result, the poet in Medieval society could hold a range of different places in society, culminating with holding the same societal status as a king of a túath . In order to complete a detailed analysis of the role and status of a poet in Medieval Irish society, this essay…show more content…
Alongside the ability to praise, this was an essential tool for the poet as it allowed him to carry out one of his main societal functions. In Medieval Ireland honour was at the centre of society as ones honour determined the social standing. The main role of the poet is expressed through the word fílí. It is argued that this word contains two elements, the first fí meaning ‘venom’ or ‘poison’ and the second lí meaning ‘praise’, in essence representing one of the main roles of the medieval poet in Ireland. Public praise and satire were hugely important as they determined an individual’s moral status, as well as their societal standing. The connection between honour and status is illustrated by the Irish word ‘enech’ or face. The measure of ones status was known as their lóg n-enech or ‘the price of his face’ or in essence their honour price . Essentially the medieval poet had the ability to determine ones status in society and held the ability to control an individual’s life right down to the amount of compensation they would receive in the event of physical injury or unlawful use of satire against them . In a society in which lineage and status held such importance in the qualifiers for land and power, it was the role of the poet to assert one’s lineage and power. The poet held huge importance in society and his words were his greatest tool. Many came to fear the words of the poet with some individuals claiming that the words of the poet held not only the power to curse but to mortally wound anyone whom they were written for . If compensated to do so the poet could write a piece of satire portraying an individual as cruel and inhospitable in order to diminish their status in society or they could praise an individual in return for a reward of cattle or other riches which could even be used to overthrow any previous satires written about an individual . This was not merely a
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