Greetings, Poetry Lovers - Happy Almost-St. Patrick's Day! I've fallen prey to Celtic whispers again, and though returning to Ireland and The British Isles is not on the near horizon, I've been adding to my collection of books about Celtic ornament and medieval calligraphy and such, and dipping into bits of lore.
I've been away form Ancestry.com for FAR too long, and hope to jump back in later this Spring. But in addition to the major English/Welsh/Northwestern Europe lines in my family tree, and the more than a third of me that is Scottish, there is this intriguing branch of the family tree thanks to my mother's grandmother, Sarah O'Neal (born in 1861). I spent a fair bit of time tracing these O'Neals before our family Scotland/Ireland trip in 2018, and there are definitely some characters in that line of folks.
I need to go back and double-check, but after some late-night sleuthings back then, it sure looked my family went right on back to a certain Sir Hugh O'Neall who was born at Shane's Castle in Antrim (Northern Ireland) in 1698 and eventually jumped ship in the Delaware Bay.
My meanders then led me to that line of the family going all the way back to - hold onto your shamrocks – a certain "Niall of the Nine Hostages" – (Niall Noígíallach), an ancient High King of Tara from 379 to 405 A.D.. Whether he existed in more than legend is not completely known, but some Trinity College genetic researchers determined that his DNA can actually be found in three million or so men alive today around the world. (The common Irish surname "O'Neill" - "Ui Neill" in Gaelic - means 'descendant son of Niall.')
**Holiday Note: Niall of the Nine Hostages is said to be responsible for the capture and enslavement of a 16-year-old boy from Wales named Succat (along with his sisters). This young man grew up to become Patrick, patron saint of Ireland.**
So for Poetry Friday, here's part of a dirge singing this ancient king's praises, translated by Kuno Meyer in
Selections from Ancient Irish Poetry, published by Constable & Company Ltd. in London in 1911:
A DIRGE FOR KING NIALL OF THE NINE HOSTAGES (+ a.d. 405)
Tuirn son of Torna
When we used to go to the gathering with Echu's  son,
Yellow as a bright primrose was the hair upon the head of Cairenn's  son.
Well hast thou spoken, dear son. A bondmaid should be given thee
For the sake of the hair which thou hast likened to the colour of the crown of the primrose.
Eyelashes black, delicate, equal in beauty, and dark eyebrows—
The crown of the woad, a bright hyacinth, that was the colour of his pupils.
Tuirn son of Torna
The colour of his cheeks at all seasons, even and symmetrical:
The fox-glove, the blood of a calf—a feast without a flaw! the crown of the forest in May.
His white teeth, his red lips that never reproved in anger—
His shape like a fiery blaze overtopping the warriors of Erin.
Like the moon, like the sun, like a fiery beacon was the splendour of Niall:
Like a dragon-ship from the wave without a flaw was Niall, Echu's son.
You can find the rest at Gutenberg here.
(And did Torna really say that Tuirn should be given a 'bondmaid' because of a clever simile about Niall's hair?! Did I read that right? :0! I do quite like that dragon-ship line, though!)
You can find out much more about King Niall with an online search, such as these thoughts by Claire Santry, sharing her genealogical adventures at her website, Irish Geneology Toolkit.
~In the studio, Celtic adventures continue... I've been going a bit crazy making jewelry and other items with reproductions from gorgeous 19th-Century printed plates/manuscripts that I have, featuring ancient Celtic ornaments and designs. Much more to come!~
If St. Paddy's Day has you in a celebratory mood, then you'll enjoy all the birthday doings over at My Juicy Little Universe, where Heidi is kindly hosting this week. Happy Birthday, Heidi!