Friday, August 30, 2013

Remembering Seamus Heaney

Three candles that illumine every darkness: truth, nature, knowledge. —Old Irish triad

"Once in a lifetime the longed for tidal wave of justice can rise up, and hope and history rhyme."
                  —Seamus Heaney

I first met Seamus in the early 1980s. I heard him read on KPFA FM—I never could get decent radio signal in Forestville—and I turned it on, only to hear his sonorous voice.

I hopped into my truck (code name: Blue Lazarus) and drove on down to SF (or was it Berkeley?) but the only seat left in the house was right in the front row—and so I sat in it, next to a woman. She patted the seat next to her—said sit. It was still warm.

We got to chatting, she said she was an Irish schoolteacher. I gave her a CPITS poetry book from my CAC poetry residency in Santa Rosa. And so the penny eventually dropped, it was Mairi, his wife. I was sitting in Seamus's recently vacated seat, it was the hot seat. Not many can claim their seat was warmed by the heat of Seamus' bum.

Thus began a friendship that spanned decades—he once sent me a letter from Adams House, Harvard—praising my voice, my long line. Gawd only know what I sent him. A letter I treasured. It gave me hope during a time when no one would publish my work. Too long, too personal, too difficult.

Our paths crossed on myriad occasions. I ran into Seamus again at the Avenali Lecture Berkekey—he always remembered me. Always chatted—sometimes in Irish, as he signed my latest collection of books.

Then I got to spend some time with Seamus at Poetry International encampment during the Summer Solstice in Rotterdam. I told him my grandmother was a Heaney, he laughed, called me coozin, giving me a big smacker. We sang Irish songs, lifted our glasses high.

Most memorable moment: we were stuck in an elevator between floors, a gaggle of poets from around the world—mostly African poets. Seamus  proclaimed that his whiskey flask had sprung a leak, and so we all drank tots from the lid and when it was done, we sang songs and proclaimed ourselves a collective noun. I said: a Genius of Poets. He repeated: almost on the same breath: a Genius of Poets. And so we were, and me, the only woman.

I read that Ted Hughes's Lupercal, spurred Heaney on to write poetry. "Suddenly, the matter of contemporary poetry was the material of my own life." Heaney once said to Sameer Rahim, that "The gift of writing is to be self-forgetful, to get a surge of inner life or inner supply or unexpected sense of empowerment, to be afloat, to be out of yourself.” I am reminded of what Seamus said in an interview, "Each poet is alone with his or her chances at the end as much as at the beginning." – 1996 interview w/ Seamus Heaney

In August of 2006, Heaney suffered a stroke, he said that left him "babyish" and "on the brink." An interesting place to find oneself in poetry. When he was fitted with a heart monitor, Heaney joked, "Blessed are the pacemakers..."

At the end of November, after the memorial readings were done, I dreamt Seamus came to visit, I was sitting on his knee as he reminisced about life. When I grabbed my camera, to take a photo of him, it was full of sand. In this way, I knew he was truly gone. 

Irish President Michael D. Higgins said: " many rights organisations will want to thank him for all the solidarity he gave to the struggles within the republic of conscience." Seamus lived like his poetry, upstanding, forthright, and generous. He was everyman's hero. It was a great honor to spend time with him in Berkeley, San Francisco, at the Marin Civic Center, and Poetry International in Rotterdam—and a few places in between. Seamus was always generous with his time, and always kind.

I didn't know those of us who went to see Famous Seamus every chance we got, were dubbed "Heaneyboppers" but I don't regret one moment of it. He was my lodestone, my candle of truth, my bearla—my government of the tongue.

After a fall outside a Dublin restaurant, Seamus entered hospital. The newspapers reported that while waiting for a medical procedure, he texted a last message to his wife, Mairi. Noli timere, “Do not be afraid,” minutes before he died. His famous last words, not quite written in stone, but close enough.

May he rest in poetry. Go ndéana Dia fáilte roimh Shéamus, ní bheidh a leithéid ann arís.

What may have been Seamus Heaney's final poem, "In a Field," a "heartbreakingly prescient" reflection on the first world war, has been published for the first time by the Guardian.

Seamus Heaney's last-known poem:

In a Field

And there I was in the middle of a field,
The furrows once called "scores' still with their gloss,
The tractor with its hoisted plough just gone
Snarling at an unexpected speed
Out on the road. Last of the jobs,
The windings had been ploughed, furrows turned
Three ply or four round each of the four sides
Of the breathing land, to mark it off
And out. Within that boundary now
Step the fleshy earth and follow
The long healed footprints of one who arrived
From nowhere, unfamiliar and de-mobbed,
In buttoned khaki and buffed army boots,
Bruising the turned-up acres of our back field
To stumble from the windings' magic ring
And take me by a hand to lead me back
Through the same old gate into the yard
Where everyone has suddenly appeared,
All standing waiting.

Conor Howard of Anna Livia Books made this hand-letter-set broadside and gave it to me. 

I don't recall going to the reading, but I have program & broadside.

"I ask a blessing by Sweeney's grave. His memory flutters in ny breast. His soul roosts in the tree of love. His body sinks in its clay nest."
               —Seamus Heaney

Review of Sweeney Astray, Time, 1984 (ending MIA)

I wasn't always good at getting my poetry books signed when I bought them, so more often than not, they were signed years later. Usually used, from Moe's Books, on Telegraph. Not quite first editiions. But close. As I didn't have the money to buy them new.

At the Marin reading, I introduced Neil O'Neil to Seamus, and they hit it off like a house afire, as Neil's family originally hailed from Omagh. Seamus signed a copy of my book to Neil. The deal was that Neil was to replace my copy. Never happened.

"When asked how it felt having his name added to the Irish Nobel pantheon featuring William Butler Yeats, George Bernard Shaw and Samuel Beckett, Heaney responded: "It's like being a little foothill at the bottom of a mountain range. You hope you just live up to it. It's extraordinary."  TV News

Edward McGuire, 'Portrait of Seamus Heaney', 1974, Oil on canvas.
Commissioned by the Ulster Museum
I also brought my Irish History book that has a color print of a painting of a young raw-boned Seamus. He got a real kick out of signing that painting, and later, a classmate borrowed the book and never returned it. I mourn that loss. Somewhere out there, there is a signed copy of the Oxford irish History book, probably worth a bomb on eBay— if you find it, it's mine. I want it back.

Seamus was quite surprised to see this book .


Some clippings from my archives.

Heaney was a Harvard professor 1981-97 & 
Poet in Residence 1988-2006.

A review of The Spirit Level by Richard Tilinghast
 July 21, 1996  (what paper?)

Note bene: I scanned all these book covers from my collection after I heard the news he's died, but I could never bear to post them until now Feb. 15, 2015. Only now, am I able to separate myself from the grief. And give wing to these bits of prose penned in his honor. I participated in two memorial readings for Seamus, with Bob Hass and others at UC Berkeley (Nov 5?, and another memorial reading for the Irish Historical Society in San Francisco, at the Mechanic's Institute on November 19, 2013.

The UC Berkeley reading on October 1st, was held in the hall of the Maude Fife Room as thieves had come in the night to steal copper wire from the underground electrical vaults, and the furnaces were stuck on maximum, roaring like a crematorium, so we had to set up in the hall, with the windows open. We were like rowers on Beowulf's ship, rowers six deep across, oaring his words into the indigo sky.

Seamus Heaney Tribute 2013 The Maude Fife Room temperature was 110°—due to the electrical eruption this AM at UC Berkeley, a real Dante's Inferno. So we held a tribute to Seamus Heaney in the hallway at Wheeler Hall, UC Berkeley—t'was like a longship cathedral of poetry. Perhaps it was the feast Hall, Herorot. Beowulf was invoked in both languages. Dante too. It was a real poetry roast. Heaney would've like that. Ta to Bob Hass & Christopher Miller for an abfab event. My camera battery died soon into the event so there are only a few photos, and none of the after party.
Irish Vice Council Kevin Byrne and Neil O'Neill
Dr. Robert Tracy (& my scarf).

Robert Hass

Seamus Heaney—the Berkeley Days Memorial Reading  Irish Literary and Historical Society of San Francisco. A reading I helped Tony Bucher organize; with Irish Consul Phillip Grant, VC Kevin Byrne, Berkeley professors Robert Tracy and Robert Hass, former US Poet Laureate. It was a full house and then some—with people sitting in the hall. What a great night. Most memorable line: Bob Hass said Seamus Heaney was fascinated by two things: Beat poetry & Esalen "You have to understand, that in Ireland, sex is in its infancy." He only went to Esalen once. Once was enough.

Phillip Grant, Irish Consul

I meant to rescan some of these images as the scanner kept helpfully cropping the images and there was nothing I could do to stop it. It's especially noticeable on the broadside. I finally had to reinstall the software, but by then I couldn't bring myself to revisit the images. So I'm posting them as is. Heaney memorabilia.I was feverishly promoting a memorial reading for Seamus in San Francisco, some of these quotes, I'm sorry to say, are orphans. Though I tried to document all my sources with weblinks, some are behind paywalls, especially the Irish TImes, and so I can't verify them.
Ireland's Nobel Laureate and revered poet, Seamus Heaney's works such as 'Death of a Naturalist' were admired all over the world but he continued to live in Ireland right up to his death. He has left behind a great legacy in Irish literature – RIP (Photo - Irish Times)


Seamus Heaney published 12 collections of poetry, several volumes of prose, plays, and translations, as well as spoken word CDs: 

Eleven Poems (1965)
Death of a Naturalist (1966)

Door into the Dark (1969)
Wintering Out (1972) 
North (1975)
Stations (1975)
Field Work (1979)
Selected Poems 1965-1975 (1980) Death of a Naturalist / Door Into the Dark / Wintering Out / North 
Preoccupations: Selected Prose 1968–1978 (1980)
Station Island (1984)
The Government of the Tongue (1988)
New Selected Poems 1966–1987 (1990)
Seeing Things (1991) 
The Cure at Troy: A Version of Sophocles' 'Philoctetes' (1991)
The Spirit Level (1996)
Opened Ground: Selected Poems, 1966-1996 
Beowulf (translation, 1999)
Electric Light (2001)
The Poet & The Piper album with piper Liam O'Flynn (2003)
Burial at Thebes: A Version of Sophocles' Antigone (2004)
The Testament of Cresseid & Seven Fables (2004)
District and Circle (2006)
Seamus Heaney Collected Poems 15 disc album RTE (2008)
Human Chain (2010)

After I painstakingly compiled the above list, old school style, I found

1966: Death of a Naturalist, Faber & Faber
1969: Door into the Dark, Faber & Faber
1972: Wintering Out, Faber & Faber
1975: Stations, Ulsterman
1975: North, Faber & Faber
1979: Field Work, Faber & Faber
1984: Station Island, Faber & Faber
1987: The Haw Lantern, Faber & Faber
1991: Seeing Things, Faber & Faber
1996: The Spirit Level, Faber & Faber
2001: Electric Light, Faber & Faber
2006: District and Circle, Faber & Faber
2010: Human Chain, Faber & Faber
1983: Sweeney Astray: A version from the Irish, Field Day
1992: Sweeney's Flight (with Rachel Giese, photographer), Faber & Faber
1993: The Midnight Verdict: Translations from the Irish of Brian Merriman and from the Metamorphoses of Ovid, Gallery Press
1995: Laments, a cycle of Polish Renaissance elegies by Jan Kochanowski, translated with Stanisław Barańczak, Faber & Faber
1999: Beowulf, Faber & Faber
1999: Diary of One Who Vanished, a song cycle by Leoš Janáček of poems by Ozef Kalda, Faber & Faber
2002: Hallaig, Sorley MacLean Trust
2002: Arion, a poem by Alexander Pushkin, translated from the Russian, with a note by Olga Carlisle, Arion Press
2004: The Testament of Cresseid, Enitharmon Press
2004: Columcille The Scribe, The Royal Irish Academy
2009: The Testament of Cresseid & Seven Fables, Faber & Faber

Lectures & prose, see Preoccupations: Selected Prose 1968–1978 (1980), The Government of the Tongue (1988), Salmugundi U of WI (1988), also Dennis O'Driscoll's book Stepping Stones: Interviews with Seamus Heaney (2008.)

Songs of the Scribe (2011) album features old and new translations by Ní Uallacháin, Ciaran Carson and Seamus Heaney, Helen Davies on harp. Songs of the Scribe was inspired by the manuscripts of St. Gallen. The MS was carried to safety from Viking attack by St. Gall from Bangor, County Down.

My favorite 9th c. Old Irish cat poem, "Pangur Bán"

 "In order that human beings bring about the most radiant conditions for themselves to inhabit, it is essential that the vision of reality which poetry offers should be transformative, more than just a printout of the given circumstances of its time and place. The poet who would be most the poet has to attempt an act of writing that outstrips the conditions even as it observes them.

—from "Joy Or Night: Last Things in the Poetry of W. B. Yeats and Philip Larkin", W. D. Thomas Memorial Lecture delivered by Seamus Heaney at University College of Swansea on 18 January 1993.

 Seamus Heaney reading his own work—released by RTÉ to mark his 70th birthday, 13 April 2009, This Wiki page lists titles of all his recorded poems at bottom. 

The Poet & The Piper album by Seamus Heaney and piper Liam O'Flynn, with instrumental tracks and spoken poetry, was recorded in 2003. 


BBC News - Poet Seamus Heaney dies aged 74

Irish Poet Seamus Heaney Dies - The Two-Way - NPR

Nobel Prize winning poet Heaney dies - UTV Live News

Obituary- Heaney ‘the most important Irish poet since Yeats’ - Book News | Literature & Books Reviews & Headlines |The Irish Time - Fri, Aug 30, 2013  (now archived, paywall)

Poet Seamus Heaney dies -

Requiem for Seamus Heaney - Telegraph Sameer Rahim

Postscript- Seamus Heaney (1939-2013) - The New Yorker

Seamus Heaney, Irish Poet of Soil and Strife, Dies at 74 -

Why Seamus Heaney’s last words weren’t the last laugh - Telegraph

Seamus Heaney celebrated by fellow poets - Telegraph   Simon Armitage, Carol Ann Duffy, Edna O’Brien, Paul Muldoon, Tom Paulin, Christopher Reid, Bernard O’Donoghue and Michael Longley... The Chieftans brought in the craic with bodhran, uillean pipes and fiddle

Poets and writers pay tribute to Seamus Heaney | MobyLives

Seamus Heaney- the Berkeley Days A poetry reading to commemorate Seamus Heaney and his days at UC Berkeley  November 19, 2013. (this was one of the events I helped organize in at the Mechanic's Institute in San Francisco. with Berkeley Professors Robert Tracy and former US Poet Laureate Robert Hass. I wrote: Wow, it was a full house and then some—with people sitting in the hall. What a great night. I'll post photos soon. Most memorable line: Bob Hass said Seamus Heaney was fascinated by two things: Beat poetry & Esalen "You have to understand, that in Ireland, sex is in its infancy." He only went to Esalen once. Once was enough.

Remembering a surprise visit from Seamus Heaney Poetry Foundation @PoetryFound

Seamus Heaney- A life of rhyme | Books | The Observer

Seamus Heaney (RIP) Reads "Death of a Naturalist" and His Nobel Lecture on the Power of Poetry | Brain Pickings

Postscript The Poetry Center at Smith College

Seamus Heaney —Wiki  Bill Clinton, former President of the United States, said: "Both his stunning work and his life were a gift to the world. His mind, heart, and his uniquely Irish gift for language made him our finest poet of the rhythms of ordinary lives and a powerful voice for peace...His wonderful work, like that of his fellow Irish Nobel Prize winners Shaw, Yeats, and Beckett, will be a lasting gift for all the world.

Seamus Heaney "Digging" - YouTube

11 Videos Of Seamus Heaney Reading His Poems Aloud

Seamus Heaney- his 10 best poems - Telegraph Death of a Naturalist, Requiem for the Croppies, Two Lorries, Mossbawn: Two Poems in Dedication, 1. Sunlight, 1. The Seed Cutters, The Tollund Man in Springtime, North, September 1969, Beowulf: A New Verse Translation

A Kite for Aibhín-

The Poet Crowned  


A Genius of Poets

Notes on Iona Hostel Poems

Anim Chara

Poetry International

posted/rev 2/16/2015

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Sheep Islands: What about the sheep? Notes on the Voyage of St. Brendan

Saint Brendan & the whale—from a 15th-c. German manuscript. Wiki

There is an Irish oral tradition that the Irish settled in the Faroes, during the pre-Viking era, and the descriptions in the Voyage of St. Brendan, of "insulae" (islands) sounds remarkably similar to the Faroe Islands. There was a persistent belief that islands to the west of Great Britain existed as early as 330 BC.  One fanciful name for those northern islands was Thule, which was "a six days' sail north of Britain, and near the frozen sea."

My Bantry grandmother told me that Irish monks brought sheep to the Faroes, and the toponym, though Nordic, means sheep islands. And sheep islands do figure heavily into the Brendan tales. There are several stories from the Navigatio of St. Bréanainn of Clonfert.

Some say Brendan (c. 484 – 577), was born to Finnlug (Fair Lugh) and Cara of the Altraige tribeof the Ciarraige Luachra, the people of Ciar, who gave their name to County Kerry, on Fenit Island, near Tralee. I don't know if Tralee and Bantry both claim Brendan as he's also Bantry's patron saint. Galway, too clams Brendan. All have one thing in common—they are seaport towns. 

We do know Brendan was a real Irish sailor. His name in Irish: Broen-finn, or 'fair-drop', Naomh (St) Breandán. In Icelandic, it keeps the Latin, Brandanus. 

Brendan was baptized by an ex-druid, Saint Erc of Slane (and Cornwall, aka St Erth), and schooled by Saint Ita, "the Brigid of Munster", or "foster-mother of saints" who had some major goddess qualities.

After sailing around the Irish, and the Hebridean islands, he set sail into the void from Kerry.

Brendan built a currach—a leather boat. The boat frame was woven from hazel and willow wattles, he covered the naomhóg the "little holy one", with cowhides tanned in oak-bark and softened/waterproofed with bog butter. He added a mast and a white linen sail. And he was set to go—with either 14 or 16 of his bestie apostles. It must've been one very crowded, smelly vessel.

The gold Broighter boat is a model of an Iron Age Irish boat from 100 BC, replete with 18 golden oars, rowlocks, benches, a paddle rudder for steering, boathook, a yardarm, tools, and a mast for a sail. “There is also good evidence that they [the Celts] had sails: there is a model boat from Ireland that dates from about 100 BC that has a mast, which could be a model for Celtic boats more generally,” Jennings said. “There is not so much evidence of sails in Norway until as late as 700 AD. It is therefore more likely that these early Faroese settlers came from the British Isles.” —Andrew Jennings, Nordic Historian The Norse word for a ship lung is from the Irish word long." —Medieval Review

Broighter boat,1.Boat hook 2.Mast yard 3.Steering oar 4.Small grappling iron 5.Forked implements 6.Square ended oars 7.Oars. —Wiki

The boat, a votive offering in the La Tene style, was found by two ploughmen near Loch Foyle in 1896; compare it to the 15th c. German drawing at the top of this page.

The Broighter boat Wiki

The Brendan immram Voyage tale was transcribed from Irish into Latin in 800 AD.) Old Irish Immrama (from iomramh-voyage), or voyager stories, depict a hero's sea journey to the Otherworld, (with a Christian overlay); they date to ca. the 3rd c. AD.

The Otherworld is always to the West. Tír na-nÓg (Land of the Ever-young) was another mythical island to the west. Reason enough to set sail—because they were there. In his legendary quest, St. Brendan was seeking the Isle of the Blessed (Saint Brendan's phantom Island), which may have been the Faroe islands.

Half-way to Iceland, the Faroes are the first stepping stone across the North Atlantic. 

St. Brendan described the largest of the Faroe Isles island as the Island of Sheep (Streymoy?) A bay in the southern part of Streymoy, is called Brandansvik (St. Brendan's Bay). His "bird paradise" might be the island of Mykines. There are several Faroe places named after the Irish monks (papar) including remote caves. —Faroe Islands Review History
The Faroes were part of a trade network with Dublin as a hub, and many Irish women made their way there as wives or slaves. DNA analysis shows that 84% of Faroese females are of Irish or Scottish descent. —Faroe Islands Review History
(NB: contrary to modern belief, Irish monks were NOT celebate.)

Northern European settlements in the Faroes have been archaeologically dated to ca. 400 AD. Some 500 years later, the Vikings arrived in the Faroes, enroute to Iceland, and it looks like they may not have destroyed all evidence of Irish settlement in the Faroes. There is malted barley grain carbon-dated older than the Viking era—Barley is not indigenous to the Faroes—and old field systems that didn’t fit into later settlements.

There are also placenames of two Faroe settlements are Irish saints' names (Patrick & Brigit), survive—albeit with a Norse spelling. There might be other embedded Irish words. The Norse who settled in the Faroes were probably Norse-Irish from Dublin, not Norse from Scandinavia.

Medieval chronicler Ari Thorgilsson said Ingólfr was the first Nordic settler in Iceland, but mentioned that "Papar" – i.e. Irish monks and hermits – had been in the country before the Norsemen. He wrote that they left because they did not want to live amongst the newly arrived pagans. Ingólfr Arnarson —Wiki

According to the Færeyjar Saga, an Icelandic Christian conversion story, one Faroe islander was "Tróndur í Gøtu, a descendant of Scandinavian chiefs who settled in Dublin, Ireland." And "Icelanders' own records record that 400 original settlers "with mostly Celtic nicknames" were living in Iceland previous to Norse colonization. (Clements). The significance of that statement is that European settlers were in Iceland and the Faroes long before Norse discovery.

In the 2nd half of the 8th century, Irish monk-geographer, Dicuil in "De menura orbis terrae" wrote of "heremitae ex nostra Scotia" ("hermits from our land of Ireland") living in the Faroes. (Scotia referred to Ireland, not Scotland!)  They lived on the northerly islands of Britain for a hundred years until the arrival of Norse pirates. An Irish nickname of Faroe islanders, Na Scigirí, possibly refers to the Eyja-Skeggjar (land of bearded men).

  Dicuil’s geographical book describes islands that aren't mentioned in any other writing of the time:
Many other islands lie in the northerly British Ocean. One reaches them from the northerly islands of Britain, by sailing directly for two days and two nights with a full sail in a favourable wind the whole time … Most of these islands are small, they are separated by narrow channels, and for nearly a hundred years hermits lived there, coming from our land, Ireland, by boat.
Archaeologists now believe Dicui was referring to the Faroes. Faroe or Føroyar means sheep in Norse. When the Norse arrived, there were already sheep there. So, who brought the sheep? The puffins?

Immrama are different than echtrae or "adventure" stories. The hero's faith is challenged—often with a multitude of pagan motifs. In this case, with herds of black sheep and white sheep on a disappearing island shrouded in fog.

THE VOYAGE OF BRENDAN SYNOPSIS (Chapters are relative depending on version,There are over 100 manuscripts of the Brendan story, not counting translations.)

In chapter 8 or 9 of the Navigatio, Brendan's sailors discovered an island of sheep, ate some lamb, and stayed on for Holy Week (before Easter). NB—the Irish celebrated Eater as late as mid-May. Let's just say there was a major difference of opinion with Rome as to when Easter was on the calendar. (In The Voyage of Mael Duin, monks also visited an island of sheep.

The following year, (chapter 14) they returned to the islands of Sheep, Jasconius, and the Paradise of Birds. (So we know there were at least three islands, and lots of birds and whales.) A bird said they had to repeat their journey seven years before they were holy enough to reach the Island of Paradise. They discovered a "coagulated" sea (icebergs?), sea monsters, more whales and fish, an island of grapes, magic (lethe?) water, griffins, seals, otters, an island of angry blacksmiths throwing hot slag at them, and more volcanoes. 

In chapter 28, they returned to the island of Sheep, Jasconius, and the Paradise of Birds, before finding the Promised Land of Saints. They returned home, where St. Brendan died. -Wiki synopsis.

Some excerpts:

Perambulantes autem illam insulam invenerunt diverses turmas ovium unius coloris id est albi ita ut non possent ultra videre terram prae multitudine ovium.  
On the island we found flocks of white sheep—we could not see the land, for the multitudes of sheep. (They sacrificed an ewe lamb. Loaded up the boat with mutton.) 
Sanctus Brendanus illum quomodo potuissent oves esse tam magnae sicut ibi visae sunt. Erant enim majores quam boves. Cui ille dixit: «Nemo colligit lac de ovibus in hac insula nec hiemps distringit illas sed in pascuis semper commorantur die noctuque
Brendan said the sheep were larger than cattle. "No one collects milk from sheep in this island or winter pastures the, they live in accordance with day and night. (So the sheep are feral, and the sailors drink sheep's milk.) They set sail.
Erat autem illa insula petrosa sine ulla herba. Silva rara erat ibi et in litore illius nihil de arena fuit.  
The island, however, was rocky, without grass. The forest was rare and there was no sand on the shore.      —from Navigatio Sancti Brendani Abbatis 

So what about them sheep? Small N. European short-tailed sheep, related to Icelandic sheep, not inclined to hang out in herds. Hardy. No birds of a feather flock together philosophy for them.

On medieval maps, Brendan's fabled misty Isle appeared in various locations (including west of the Canaries—the Azores?). And on Christopher Columbus's maps—most notable is Martin Behaim's Erdapfel of 1492—known as La isla de San Borondón or isla de Samborombó. Borondón and Samborombó is St. Brendan in Spanish.

A reoccuring theme of the immrama is that you can't go home again—ever...certainly never to return the same person as when you left. Sort of like going on the Camino. Enlightenment was always sought and invoked on far distant shores. Apparently sheep were somehow involved. Brendan's Feast Day is May 16. A good day to eat sheep.

NB—This was an orphan strand I removed from a longer rant I posted in October: 
English evolved from Scandinavian?
Ya never know when a wayward idea will blossom into a post.

Sheesh, this morning I went to edit one small typo on my St. Brendan blog post, and it's midnight...I'm just barely coming up for air. 
Extensively revised 9/18/2014, the day the Scots voted no to independence...


Vita Brendani Latin, ca. 10th -12th c.
Betha Brenainn Middle Irish, Book of Lismore 11th -12th c.
Navigatio Sancti Brendani Abbatis Augsburg,(pdf from ISTOR), ca. 8th - 9th c.

There are over 100 original manuscripts of the Brendan story, not counting translations, in Europe.

There were originally seven Irish immrama, of which only three survived. 
The Voyage of Bran is considered a a hybrid blend of and immram and an echtrae. 
See also the Latin Navigatio Sancti Brendani Abbatis or the Voyage of St. Brendan the Abbot.

Diculi Liber de Mensura orbis terrae

Vikings didn’t find Faroes first (they were 500 years late)

Medieval Review Ó Muirithe, Diarmaid. From the Viking Word-Hoard: A Dictionary of Scandinavian Words in the Languages of Britain and Ireland. Dublin.

Some of my other posts in a similar vein:
Olaf the Peacock's Irish Mother
The blog that led to my utter revision of this blog, to whit, I didn't save a first draft AGH!

Exerts from Olaf the Peacock's Irish Mother Not too sure how I'll massage this in, or I might leave it as stray matter. Errata. As in Literrata.
The Vikings settled in the Faroe Islands before they went to Iceland, ca. 800 AD. Then, 60 years later, Iceland was supposedly "discovered" by the Norse. That's the equivalent of three generations in the Faroes before the Norse shoved off to Iceland. Plenty of time to hear about those Celtic settlements in Iceland. During the settlement of Iceland, the Faroes, the half-way mark, was the only provision stop for grain, meat and water.

The Faroe Islands, a remote North Atlantic archipelago, stepping stones half-way between Scotland Norway and Iceland, were inhabited 500 years before the Vikings arrived. Archaeologists taking "scientific samples for environmental archaeological analysis from the medieval Viking settlement,“ did not expect to find evidence of a previous culture.

Archaeologists Mike Church and Símun V. Arge said: “We uncovered some burnt peat ash containing barley grains under the Viking longhouse. It was not until we had it dated that we realized what we had found.” Barley is not indigenous to the Faroes, and there were "old field systems that didn’t seem to tie into later settlements." Church concluded, “There is evidence of Irish hermits sailing into the North Atlantic islands in a passage by an Irish Monk called Dicuil in 825AD.”
Many other islands lie in the northerly British Ocean. One reaches them from the northerly islands of Britain, by sailing directly for two days and two nights with a full sail in a favourable wind the whole time … Most of these islands are small, they are separated by narrow channels, and for nearly a hundred years hermits lived there, coming from our land, Ireland, by boat.