Saturday, October 14, 2006

The Hill of Howth

Kenneth Hurlstone Jackson’s A Celtic Miscellany (originally published fifty-five years ago) contains a whole section on Nature, something the early Celtic writers treated with particular freshness. There are poems on the changing seasons, on rivers, mountains and woodlands, on snow and mist and stars. A few of them describe specific landscapes, like the Hill of Howth, ‘the peak that is the loveliest throughout the land of Ireland.’ The anonymous fourteenth century author of this piece describes the hill in terms that now seem like oxymoron: a ‘vine-grown pleasant warlike peak’ and ‘the hill full of swordsmen, full of wild garlic and trees, the many-coloured peak, full of beasts, wooded.’ It is as if the beauty of this ‘bright peak above the sea of gulls’ can only be enhanced by the part it played in the battles of Irish legend, as the place where ‘Finn and the Fianna used to be.’

No comments: