Acallam na Senórach

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Acallam na Senórach (Modern Irish: Agallamh na Seanórach, translated to English as The Colloquy of the Ancients, Tales of the Elders, etc.[1][page needed][2][page needed]) is an important prosimetric Middle Irish narrative dating to the last quarter of the 12th century. It is the most important text of the Fenian Cycle and at about 8,000 lines is the longest surviving work of original medieval Irish literature. It contains many Fenian narratives framed by a story in which the fianna warriors Oisín and Caílte mac Rónáin have survived long enough to relate the tales to Saint Patrick.

Contents[edit]

Set several hundred years after the death of Fionn mac Cumhaill, the frame story follows two aged Irish heroes as they travel Ireland with a newly arrived Saint Patrick.[3] The pagans are Caílte mac Rónáin, Fionn's nephew, and Oisín, Fionn's son, both members of the famous warrior band the Fianna.[3] For most of the narrative Caílte is the more important informant of the two, regaling Patrick with tales of Fionn and his men and explaining place names they encounter in the manner of another Irish work, the Dinsenchas.

The stories reiterate the greatness of Fionn and his departed age of heroes, often focusing on the rivalry between Fionn's family and that of his enemy Goll mac Morna, which threatened the stability of the island. Other stories record the Fianna's relationship with the Otherworld and the Tuatha Dé Danann, while those involving Patrick often stress the importance of integrating the values and culture of pre-Christian Ireland with the new ways of the Church. Some of the individual tales may predate their inclusion in Acallam na Senórach, though the authors adapted them with an eye towards narrative unity.

Acallam na Senórach survives in four late manuscripts. Three are from the 15th century: MS Laud 610[3] and MS Rawlinson B487 from the Bodelian Library,[citation needed] and the Book of Lismore.[3] The fourth is a copy of MS A IV, Killiney, which dates to the 16th century. Several modern editions exist; the first complete English translation was that of Ann Dooley and Harry Roe, published by Oxford University in 1999.

Adaptations[edit]

Composer Tarik O'Regan has adapted the narrative into a one hour musical setting for solo guitar and chorus, performed under the title Acallam na Senórach.[4] The work was premiered on 23 November 2010 in Dublin by the National Chamber Choir of Ireland and Stewart French (guitar) under the direction of Paul Hillier.[5]

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