How did medieval bards get their poems?



The Bards were a subgroup of the Druids, the poets and musicians of the Celts. Their task was to record and disseminate contemporary history, recite the hymns and prayers during the rituals and write heroic songs. They had to be able to recite poems off the cuff on any subject, using an abundance of allusions and symbols.

Poems and songs

The bards seem particularly fond of composing riddle poems. As for musical instruments, they mastered harps, drums, pipes and bronze trumpets (lurs and carnyces). But bards were also feared, for as masters of the word they had great power in their people. So they used to write so-called satires (mocking poems), which could do harm to those against whom they were directed.

Like a bard dethroned the king

King Bress of Ireland, a man of little regal way of life, made the crucial mistake of giving the bard Coirpre extremely shabby hospitality. He was housed in a narrow, cold room, had to wait a long time for food, and was only given a few dry cakes; he got nothing to drink. Corpry wrote angrily:

"Without a meal that would be served quickly, without cow's milk with which the calf can grow, without a comfortable dwelling for a man who has to dwell in gloomy light, without the means to afford the company of a bard, that's how Bres should live from now on . "

The mocking poem (Glám dícenn) spread at lightning speed and ultimately led to the stingy king's dethronement. It has been proven that the power of the word could do harm: defamation, humiliation and insults were just a few of the varieties. The well-traveled and learned bards therefore had an influence on the mood of the people that should not be underestimated. But just like harm, they could also do good with their words: deeds of fame were spread, chants about bravery, loyalty and courage could make a person a hero - and in later times even raise them to a god.

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  • Helmut Birkhan: Celts. Attempt at a complete representation of their culture.