The Tain: Translated from the Irish Epic Tain Bo Cuailnge 1st Edition
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About the Author
Thomas Kinsella is a poet and translator. Among his publications are Blood and Family and From Centre City.
- Publisher : Oxford University Press; 1st edition (November 21, 2002)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 320 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0192803735
- ISBN-13 : 978-0192803733
- Item Weight : 8.4 ounces
- Dimensions : 7.88 x 5.02 x 0.81 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #144,179 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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As to translating the poetry from Old Irish into English, Kinsella hilariously warned readers that because he hadn't a clue what the original poetry meant, his "aim has been to produce passages of verse which more or less match the original for length, ambiguity and obscurity," and stressed that the poems he attempted to write instead of the originals "are highly speculative and may reproduce little if anything of the original effect."
Also, be aware that Kinsella failed to transfer the séimhiú from the original Irish manuscripts. Séimhiús are vital to the correct pronunciation of words, and should be included in modern translations as the letter 'h'. Thus he incorrectly rendered Queen Medbh (pronounced 'Maeve') as 'Medb' (pronounced 'Mabe'). I have an Irish-language version of the Tain and was able to compare Kinsella's translation with the original, and found many little errors in this way. Perhaps this is why he couldn't make head nor tail of the poetry.
Despite my complaints, however, I would never be able to translate the documents as well as Kinsella did -- not even close. I found this to be a delightful account of the events and people surrounding the Cattle Raid of Cooley (an Tain Bo Cuailnge). Kinsella combined scattered tales and edited out the boring repetitions, and replaced pronouns with nouns for clarity. It was a difficult and tedious job, and I'm glad Kinsella took it on.
The story/concept itself seemed simple enough and even faintly familiar to anyone who’s ever read a great deal of mythology (Greek or otherwise).
The central theme of the story revolved around the heroic exploits of a revered demi-god (in other words; an adept/initiate of the supersensible world), one Cú Chulainn; and his fabulous quest for adventure (knowledge/initiation).
BTW: This myth is not only similar to the one of Hercules/Heracles, the biblical Samson and so on. But equally resonates (between the lines) in the latter Arthurian and Grail legends of the Middle Ages. And to some degree, even Cervantes’ own 17th century masterpiece; Don Quixote de la Mancha, could be added to the mix.
But the most important thing to remember here, and this applies to all of the related stories/traditions, in their own way; they were ingeniously and covertly alluding to the spiritual initiation of the human being and in learning to decipher the supersensible forces behind nature and the physical world, plain and simple.
Now, my own reason for wanting to educate myself about this all-significant tale of ancient Irish folkloric history was harmless enough. I have always suspected that there was a missing link or connection of this myth to the one of Hercules and as I have already made clear; other similar allegorical stories/mysteries of the ancient past.
Now, what these oral traditions/histories (which were eventually transcribed and written down and recorded for posterity) have in common with one another, along with the civilizations from whence they originated; was their original place of origin—Atlantis.
Yes, you read that right!
It is my firm belief that the aboriginal people of Ireland (as well as the peoples of the British Isles) were the direct descendants of Atlantis and are therefore one of the oldest civilizations in the world.
I say this with a sense of conviction (albeit, a very intuitive one at that) because their very own history/mythology can attest to that very premise (that they are descended from a divine race).
Yes, I know and am aware that lots of other ancient peoples/cultures had made similar claims of divine origin. But then, that’s wherein lies the connection.
The belief of divine origin goes way back to antediluvian times. This divine/cosmic origin is based on the fact that all human beings had intimate knowledge of the spirit and of the forces behind nature. The Druids were no
exception to this heliocentric and supersensible cosmology of the world and were reputed to have had a mastery of understanding in the use of said forces.
At one time, this information/hypothesis in relation to Atlantis was even explored by scholars, however, it never took serious hold for obvious reasons. Since it would have contradicted just about everything that had been accepted as factual by the scholars and specialists of external history. One would have only learned about it from the so-called mystical societies of the early 20th century such as Anthroposophy (Rudolf Steiner), for instance.
It should also be noted that the bull (which was really a representation for the Age of Taurus, circa 3,000 B.C.), was also a sacred symbol to the ancient Persians (the Mithras bull), Chaldeans, Egyptians (the Apis bull), the Minoans and the Greeks, the Romans, and just about every other culture/society of Asia Minor and the Eastern Mediterranean.
My only wish is that someone should now try to translate and explain the hidden mystical meaning of this highly ancient and fragmented work. In any case, this will be a very difficult task and endeavor.
And I’m sure that even Thomas Kinsella probably had an inkling or idea of what was just covered. Although, it was
beyond his field of expertise.
And yet, we will be forever indebted to Thomas Kinsella for making The Táin Bó Cuailnge accessible to all. I encourage the interested reader/seeker to acquaint themselves with this heavily fragmented yet very important chronicle of a supersensible world history that has been entirely lost/neglected by present-day humankind.
Thomas Kinsella’s version first appeared in 1969 by the Dolmen Press. This edition first issued in 1970 by the Oxford University Press. Reissued in 2002.
Love and Peace,
I find myself trusting the translations, but at times the poet in me wonders if the original scribe got it right. Of course, that's the record that has survived, sometimes literally in fragments.
If the Celtic oral tradition of Ireland is new to you, the names of people and places can be troublesome. The stories serve in part to document genealogy, one of the functions of oral history. I find myself wishing for a comprehensive key to the names, both for relationships and for pronunciation. That does not take away from the story, which is truly epic.
The motivations of characters are sometimes plain, sometimes inferred, and at times remarkably obscure. In that respect it is a fine springboard for a modern thinker.
Top reviews from other countries
If you are a fan of Irish mythology, or just Gaelic culture in general, then this book is well worth your time.