16th-century Irish Storyteller

from John Derricke's Images of Ireland, 1581

from John Derricke's Images of Ireland, 1581 (click on image to enlarge)

This satirical anti-Irish, anti-Catholic woodcut is frequently reproduced as a serious depiction of an Irish feast. The standing man labeled “B” is usually described as the poet, who is directing the reachaire/reciter/bard (D) in the performance of one of his poems, accompanied by a harper. But the caption clearly identifies “B” as “Fryer Smelfeast sneaking in … counterfetting Paull”.

Reproductions of this picture usually crop out the two men at the right mooning the storyteller. Their Latin dialogue, written vertically, says, “Aspice spectator sic me docuere parentes” and “Me quoque majores omnes virtute carentes.” That is, “This is how my parents taught me to behave as a spectator” and “All older people lacking in goodness taught me the same.”

In A Guide to Early Irish Law (1988), Fergus Kelly suggests that the men are braigeteóirí (professional farters).

About Richard Marsh

Bardic storyteller and author
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2 Responses to 16th-century Irish Storyteller

  1. Do you know how to get a hold of John Minahane, author of the “Christian Druids”?

    • You could try johnminahane@hotmail.com but that’s a few years old. John feels he has moved on from The Christian Druids, and I’m not sure he would be willing to engage in discussion on the topic. I have the impression that he feels he has said all he has to say on the subject in the book. He didn’t change anything for the most recent printing.

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