THE LITERATURE OF THE PICTS
‘No scrap of Pictish literature ever existed.’ Such was the ill-founded decision of an accepted Scottish historian. Yet in the Irish Nennius reference is made to the Books of the Picts, ‘ As it is written in the Books of the Cruitneach. ‘ It was an audacious deliverance to make to a generation which had seen the literary treasures of Europe greatly enriched by the manuscripts from the libraries of the famous Celtic monasteries founded, one at Bobbio in Lombardy by S. Columbanus, (bom A.D. 543. His first instructor was S. Sinell, who had been a pupil of Finnian of Clonard, who was educated in Britain. S. Sinell’s cell was on Cluain Innis, Loch Erne) the other at St. Gall in Switzerland by S. Gall.(bom A.D.545. In an old MS. from the St. Gall library his father’s name is given as ‘Kethernac Mac Unnchun.’ His own name means Stranger. ‘Kethem’ was the name of one of the early Pictish heroes. Dr. Reeves states that he was of the race of Ir, progenitor of one branch of the Irish Picts. Ir was a sovereign of Ireland). Both founders were Pictish scholars educated by S.Comgall the Great at Bangor in Ulster, the chief centre of learning among the Irish Picts. Both were born in the ancient territories of the northern Irish Picts in the north of Leinster, S. Gall in the north of Louth on the Ulster border; and S. Columbanus, also on the border-land, in the district lying between Louth and southern Loch Erne. S. Columbanus surveyed the locality about Lake Constance within the two years of his wanderings after his banishment from Luxeuil, A.D.610; and there he left S. Gall to settle. S. Columbanus then made his way into Lombardy, and in A.D.612 he settled at Bobbio in the Apennines.
The catalogues of the libraries of Bobbio and St. Gall have been published. (The Catalogue of Bobbio, by Muratori and Peyron. For St. Gall see Ferdinand Keller’s Bilder und Schriftszüge in den Irischen Manuskripten.The tenth-century catalogue used by the students at Bobbio has been reproduced; and the catalogue of St. Gall, compiled there for the convenience of readers in the ninth century, is still accessible. In the ninth century St. Gall possessed five hundred and thirty-three volumes; and in the tenth century Bobbio contained seven hundred. From the Bobbio collection came the Antiphonary of Bangor. It contains prayers, canticles, hymns, especially an alphabetical Hymn in honour of S. Comgall, the founder of Bangor, and rules as to the order of prayer. The MS. is now in the Ambrosian Library at Milan. It was edited in 1893 by Dr. Warren. It is a purely Pictish ‘Liber Officialis’; and it enables us to have an idea of the service which S. Moluag introduced from Bangor among the Picts of Alba, and to realize that the same order of worship was followed in Alba that was followed at Bangor, and at its daughter-houses at Luxeuil, Bobbio, and St. Gall. Bobbio naturally possessed the manuscript of the Gospels which, as we know from his Life, S. Columbanus carried with him wherever he went. It bore the inscription ‘Ut traditum fuit illud erat idem liber quem Beatus Columbanus Abbas in pera secum ferre consuevat”.
In the University library at Turin are fragments of a Commentary on S. Mark’s Gospel with notes in Celtic. In the Ambrosian Library at Milan is a complete Commentary on the Psalms, also with Celtic notes. Both works belonged to Bobbio; and both are ascribed to S. Columbanus. The latter is regarded as the ‘Commentary on the Psalter catalogued in the tenth century as part of the Bobbio collection. To this library founded in a Pictish monastery we owe the only surviving Canon of the New Testament, the famous Muratorian Fragment. Among its manuscripts, as fragments in the Imperial Library at Vienna indicate, confirming the old catalogue, were most of the Apostolic Epistles, texts of Aristotle, Demosthenes, Cicero, Virgil, Horace, Juvenal, Martial, and many other Greek and Latin authors. These texts were copiously annotated, often in Celtic. The library of St. Gall was more than once pillaged by scholars who entered it as borrowers and left it thieves. A certain Poggio of Florence, who was interested in the works of Cicero arrived at St. Gall in 1416 with two confederates, and on his departure to Constance took with him two cart-loads of priceless manuscripts which included texts of Cicero, Quintilian, Lucretius, Priscian, the unfinished Argonautica of C. V. Flaccus, and other writings. These manuscripts were taken to Italy ultimately. An ‘Oecumenical’ Council receives
much blame for these thefts.
To this library of a monastery founded by a Pictish scholar came secretaries from the most Catholic Council of Constance (A.D. I414-I418) to borrow books which would reinforce any inspiration or knowledge that this despised Synod presumed to possess. One sign of knowledge in the borrowers was that they knew something of the value of the manuscripts; because they never returned them. It is not out of harmony with other acts of this Council that the members apparently sought authority for their doings in the works of pagan orators and poets while they left excellent copies of the Gospels and Epistles unconsulted.Europe owes to St. Gall the Dresden Codex Boernerianus which has S. Paul’s Epistles in Greek; various Fragments of the Gospels; a palmpsest of Virgil; a thirteenth-century Nibelungenlied; and certain books with unread glosses in Celtic, together with the ‘iron-bound book’ ascribed to S. Gall himself There was also at St. Gall what from old descriptions appears to have been another copy of the Antiphonary of Bangor (From a reference by Notker Balbulus). Of the thirty volumes written in Celtic script, which were in the library of St. Gall in the ninth century, according to the surviving catalogue of that period, only one volume remained twenty-five years ago.
Continental scholars are generally very wary in referring to the Celtic glosses in the manuscripts that belonged to Bobbio and St. Gall. They are usually satisfied to call the language ‘Celtic’; but some British writers have boldly pronounced it “Goidelic”; although they candidly admit that it is often difficult to interpret, except through known Brittonic words and orthography. Gaidhealic scholars doubtless wandered to the Continent of Europe as well as Picts, especially after the Vikings began their ravages; but the organized missions from Bangor and the communities of the Britons in the sixth century, which founded Luxeuil, Bobbio, St. Gall, and other Celtic monasteries in the European uplands, were led and staffed by men who were born Picts, or Britons, educated at Pictish or British monasteries, who spoke a Pictish or Brittonic dialect of Celtic when they did not speak Latin or Greek. Many writers have followed the Gaidheals in assuming that the continental designation ‘ Scot ‘ signified a Gaidhealic Celt; but from early times on the Continent ‘Scot’ was applied to a native of ‘Scotia,’ that is Ireland, without consideration as to whether he belonged to the Pictish or Gaidhealic branch of the Celts.
Among others, Columbanus was called a Scot on the Continent, and he spoke of himself as a native of ‘Scotia,’ i.e. Ireland. No scholar has yet applied himself seriously to the Continental Celtic writings for the purpose of separating what is Pictish or British dialect from what is Gaidhealic dialect. In like manner no scholar has yet attacked the Celtic manuscripts of Britain and Ireland for the purpose of separating the literature which originated among the Picts of Alba or Ireland from the literature which originated among the Gaidheals. After the deluge of Viking barbarism had subsided in the Pictish territories of Alba and Ireland, the Gaidheals gradually served themselves heirs to Pictish lands and heritages; and, when they had secured control of education, served themselves heirs to Pictish literature. The memory of Pictish scholars like Cainnech and Columbanus was revived; but in a Gaidhealic atmosphere. S. Comgall, the greatest Pictish Abbot, was represented as a protege of S. Columba the Gaidheal. The motive for the Gaidhealic usurpation of all Celtic greatness that had preceded the rise of the Gaidheals was at first political, and was also designed in view of the Pictish properties. The romanized Church of the Gaidheals, too, saw and seized its own opportunity of forwarding its own claims to primacy, and to the property of the old Celtic Church. It exalted the Gaidhealic claims into a system, and applied it everywhere without scruple. In Ireland the old Pictish territory of Armagh was represented as having been Gaidhealic from all time.
When the inventions of the Irish Churchmen were exhausted Latin Churchmen were brought from England to rewrite the Lives of the old Celtic Churchmen, in the professed interests of elegant Latin and orthodoxy; but, really, to ground the claims of the new Church.The saints of the ancient Pictish Church are put into the background to show up the figure of an unhistorical S. Patrick. Although the Gaidheals and their king Laeghaire were hostile to the historical S. Patrick and the king died an ‘obstinate pagan’; the S. Patrick of fable is represented as rising into power through the favour of the Gaidheals of the race of Niall who in course of time became the patrons and protectors of Armagh, the seat of the primacy. The ‘obstinate pagan,’ Laeghaire, is also passed through history as S.Patrick’s convert.Joceline of Furness and others. Joceline re-wrote the Life of Kentigern from a Celtic original. At the request of Thomas of Armagh, John de Courcy, and others, he re-wrote the Life of S. Patrick. He gave both Lives abundance of Roman colouring. John de Courcy had a political purpose in getting the Life of Patrick garbled ; just as the purpose of Thomas was ecclesiastical. Again, the historical S.Bridget, who belonged to the Pictish district of Louth, is transformed into the slave of a Gaidhealic bard, and exalted to later ages as the ‘Mary of the Gaidheal.’ Other pre-Gaidhealic saints and heroes are treated in similar fashion. Many fragments of history, poems, and stories now presented to the world as Gaidhealic literature can be detected by internal as well as external evidence as having been altered from their original form. They are merely Gaidhealic versions, bearing traces of the Gaidhealic editor, of works composed where Pictish was the dialect of Celtic in general use. In various Gaidhealic vocabularies, many words marked ‘early Irish’ and ‘old Irish’ are word-forms current among the Picts.
As an example of a Gaidhealic version of a work originally written in a different dialect of Celtic there survives the lorica called Feth-Fiadha, ‘Cry of the Deer,’ S. Patrick’s well-known Celtic hymn. There are various editions; but one often figures as a specimen of ‘Gaidhealic literature.’ The matter may be little changed from the original; but the form is certainly much changed. The author, S. Patrick, was a Briton, his dialect was Brittonic, his historical work was performed in the territories of the northern and southern Irish Picts where his Britonic dialect would be understood. The pagan Gaidheals were, as we have seen, hostile to him, and did not allow him to do more than touch the fringes of their clan settlements. Once, he visited their king after the Gaidheals had begun to wedge themselves in between the Picts of the north and south in Ireland. He and his disciples, who were Britons and Picts, approached, chanting this hymn. In the strange dialect it was so unintelligible to the Gaidheals, that it sounded with no more meaning than the ‘Cry of the Deer’ on the hill-slope, so they expressed it, and thus the lorica received its popular name.
Another work frequently represented as a ‘ Gaelic composition ‘ is the metrical memoir of S.Patrick known as the ‘Hymn, ‘ascribed to S. Fiacor Flag of Sleibhte in Leinster. The work is partly Celtic and partly Latin with extensive Scholia. If S. Fiac really composed the work, and if the surviving manuscript is ‘Gaelic,’ then it is really a version; because S. Fiac lived and laboured in Leinster among the Manapian Picts and the Brigantes who were Britons. It is safe to assumethathewroteforhisown clerics and people in their own dialect of Celtic, and not for their enemies the Gaidheals, who had little interest in Patrick while he lived, and only took up his name many long years after S. Fiac’s time, when the romanized Gaidheals were seeking to centre the primacy in Armagh ; and when they required a saintly founder who could more easily be set up as in communion with Rome, and as of ‘ Catholic’ ways than any of the Pictish or Gaidhealic Saints. The Picts of Leinster (where S. Fiac laboured) had even more reason to keep clear of the Gaidheals than the Picts of Ulster; because the Picts of the north-east sought only to keep their lands against the covetous Gaidheals, when at the end of long intervals they came out for an increase of territory ; but the Picts of Leinster required to contend with the yearly fever of blood-lust which seized the Gaidhealic Nialls of the Midlands, who tried to wedge them apart from their kin in the north-east under the excuse of collecting the notorious Boromhe.The Gaidheals wished the Picts to bribe them with this payment to let them alone, but the Picts steadily refused. It was not hymns about Patrick that the Gaidheals took from Leinster in S. Fiac’s time, or long after, but tribute, when they were able to collect it.
The authenticity of S. Fiac’s ‘Hymn’ has been doubted becauseof the reference in it to the desolation of Tara, the old capital. That reference, on the contrary, might be a sign of genuineness; because, in the eyes of a Pict, Tara was desolated when the Gaidheals took it and hoisted their flag there early in the fifth century, long before it was cursed, and made desolate after the death of King Diarmait, the Gaidheal, A.D.565. The correct criticism of the Fiac manuscript is, that if S. Fiac was the author of the hymn, the manuscript is a Gaidhealic version of a Pictish work which was written by a Pict for Picts in the Pictish dialect of Celtic. Once more, therefore, we may have an item of Pictish literature ; but it has come to us through a Gaidhealic editor, like many another Pictish work, Joceline of Furness and others. Joceline re-wrote the Life of Kentigern from a Celtic original. At the request of Thomas of Armagh, John de Courcy, and others, he re-wrote the Life of S. Patrick. He gave both Lives abundance of Roman colouring. John de Courcy had a political purpose in getting the Life of Patrick garbled ; just as the purpose of Thomas was ecclesiastical. It is asked why Pictish compositions have come down to us through Gaidhealic hands. The answer is, that the turn of historical events towards the close of the first millennium gave the Gaidheals the hegemony of the Celts in Ireland and Scotland, and the control of education and literature.
The Viking invasions laid the Pictish colleges of Ireland and Scotland in ashes. Pictish libraries were burned.or their contents were scattered and mostly lost. The scholars who escaped massacre fled to the Continent, some of them to the Pictish communities already securely established there. At a few places in Pictland of Alba (Scotland), units of the scattered forces of the Pictish Church managed to survive; but they represented remnants doomed to ultimate decay. Their controlling and supplying monasteries, both in Ireland and in their own land, were ‘burned,’ as the Annalists put it. Bangor, the mother of Churches, was left desolate. When the Church was, in course of time, revived there, and at other centres, it was a new Church, Gaidhealic not Pictish, Roman not Celtic.
The Vikings paralysed Pictish power, and shattered Pictish organization in Church and State. The Picts fell a comparatively easy prey to the Vikings; because, while they fought the Vikings on their front, they were assailed in the rear by Gaidheals; and both in I reland and in Scotland the Gaidheals never relaxed thejr pressure on their possible lines of retreat from the easily accessible and much devastated East Coasts of both countries. As the Viking deluge subsided, it became plain that the Gaidheals would possess the future. They had been able to keep their government, their organization, and some elements of culture; because their lines of retreat to inaccessible mountains and quiet islands had remained open. The Gaidheals possessed also either power or opportunity of absorbing the Vikings which was not given to the Pict. In Shetland, Orkney, and Caithness, the Viking absorbed the Pict, putting it broadly; but in the Southern Hebrides and in North-western Ireland the Gaidheal absorbed the Viking.
The resurrection of Celtic power from the grave of Viking barbarism was a Gaidhealic resurrection. Everywhere in the Celtic territories of Great Britain, except among the remnant of Britons penned up in Wales, Gaidhealic lords or Gaidhealic ecclesiastics began to dominate. The Picts gradually ceased to exist as a separate people and became merged among the other Celts. They lost most of their ancestral lands in Alba, sometimes by force under the excuse of exacting tribute for the sovereign, sometimes by the high hand of the Gaidhealic provincial rulers, sometimes by intermarriage with Gaidheals. After a.d. 842, in Alba, their clan-organizations, their system of monarchy, their Church organization, and their central monastic communities began to disappear or to change by degrees as each new Gaidhealic king stepped to the throne.
In A.D.851 the Gaidhealic clerics forsook lona, which like the Pictish monasteries had been repeatedly desolated by Vikings, and tried to centre themselves at Dunkeld within the borders of the old Pictish kingdom. Each succeeding half-century sees their tentacles seizing the ancient Pictish Church-centres one by one. First it is Abernethy, then St. Andrews, by and by Brechin, and later Deer. Mortlach was left to itself, but new centres were fixed at Birnay and Aberdeen. The Gaidhealic propaganda was persistent but slow, in spite of special missions conducted at refractory Pictish centres like Dornoch by such men as S. Dubthac, a much-lauded saint of the Gaidheals.who came from the Gaidhealicized Church of Armagh to establish a mission at Tain in Ross about the beginning of the eleventh century. Before the Gaidheals had completed the control of the religious and educational centres of Pictland, the Roman Church, under political influence, threatened to undo much of their work by sending into the Highlands Norman or Anglo-Saxon prelates. This policy reanimated the few scattered details of the ancient Pictish Church that survived in odd places;but the Roman Churchmen soon saw their error, and took up the Gaidheals anew, sending to the Highlands, as far as possible, only those who could speak what they called ‘Irish.’
The result of these carefully calculated efforts was that if the Picts did not consent to be Gaidhealicized, they were left outside education and power, and tended to become hewers of wood and drawers of water to the Gaidhealic and, later, to the Saxon incomers. The Gaidheals thus controlled education and the care of the literature of past and present. This Gaidhealic control of power and education, which continued slowly to extend from a.d. 842 onwards, is the reason why what remained of Pictish literature after the Vikings, has come down to us through Gaidhealic editors. They were the most unscrupulous editors that, perhaps, the world has known. Everything was altered in favour of their own interests and their own race. There is one document, one of the Fragments of the Pictish Chronicle and typical of many, where ‘ Scoti ‘ is substituted for ‘ Picti.’ The Gaidheals were overweeningly vain, and loved to exalt the age and exploits of their race to the Anglo-Saxons, who had emerged from barbarism before their eyes. It helped their political and ecclesiastical claims too. For this reason they represented themselves as older than the Picts or Britons, or any other Celts. They did not hesitate to garble versions of the Pictish Chronicle in their own favour, apart from the corruptions due to Gaidhealic orthography. They traced the origin of the Gaidheals to the Greeks, the Hebrews, and the Egyptians, and repudiated a half-hearted romancer who was content to start the race from the Trojans.
Although two Picts and a scholar of the Britons had educated and trained S. Columba, the greatest ecclesiastic of the Gaidheals, the Gaidhealic writers regularly refer to the Picts as ‘ravenous,’ ‘savage,’ or ‘barbarous,’ descriptions hailed by many historical writers down to Mr. Andrew Lang. Although the
Gaidhealic writers annex S. Patrick in face of the historical truth that their forefathers spurned him they have verylittle to sayabout S. Ninian, whose community at Candida Casa sent out many of the most successful missionaries to Ireland. If the world depended on Gaidhealic writers, men would believe that the Picts, S.Comgall the Great and S. Cainnech, had been humble followers and dependents of S. Columba the Gaidheal. With similar historical recklessness the historical S.Servanus in a version of the fabulized Life, with all its extravagances, printed by Skene, Chronicles of Picts and Scots, p. 412,is lifted away from his true period and associated with S. Adamnan, a romanized Gaidheal.
That there was a Pictish literature in Alba (Scotland) before the Vikings is beyond doubt. The evidence is too strong even for cynical historical writers. That some of this literature survives to the present time in Gaidhealic versions which wait the critical analyses of some competent Celtic scholar is apparent. The. Pictish Chronicle at least had a Pictish original. The confusing efforts of the Gaidhealic copyists to render Pictish proper names is evidence of that, apart from other
One of our oldest native Latin hymns is the work of a Pictish author. It was written by Mugent,the Ab, a successor of S. Ninian in the presidency of the Brito-Pictish monastery at Candida Casa (Whithorn). In passing, let us not forget that Latin was a living tongue to the early Picts, S. Ninian’s flock heard the Roman legions drilled in the Imperial tongue; traded with them in the regimental market in Latin; actually, as we know from remains, helped the Roman colonists to erect headstones on their family graves, graven with Latin inscriptions; and when the Imperial armies were retreating, said ‘Good-bye’ to them in their own Latin speech, colder than Celtic. It was, therefore, not merely ecclesiastical fashion that moved Mugent to write his dignified prayer in the Latin, so restraining to the deeply-moved Celt. Mugent’s prayer is usually called Mugent’ s Hymn, sometimes it is referred to by the opening words, ‘Parce, Domine, parce populo Tuo quern redimisti.’ It is a remarkable devotional appeal. It dates from the first years of the sixth century. Incidentally we learn from the ancient scholiast’s preface to the ‘Parce, Domine,’ concerning the schools which at this early period were at Candida Casa for young men and women, other than those who intended the Church. Two of these pupils are named, Talmag, a Pict, and Drusticc, daughter of Drust, sovereign of Pictland of Alba died A.D.510) . The schools for laity and clerics imply a literature: and Drusticc indicates that there was a Library at Candida Casa; because, as a bribe to gain a certain end, she offers to one of the masters, S. Finbar, ‘all the books which Mugent has.’
This is S. Finbar of Maghbile and Dornoch who continued S. Ninian’s mission-work in what is now Ayrshire, and theEast and North of Scotland. We know from his Life that he was a lover of manuscripts and very jealous of thosewhich he possessed. He made his own manuscript copy of the Gospels, the Psalter, and other parts of Holy Scripture. The Scholiast in the Kalendar of Angus states that he brought the first complete manuscript of the Gospel’ over to Ireland, when he returned from Pictland. The Kalendar of Cashel goes further and states that he brought the manuscript of the Mosaic Law and the complete Gospel into Ireland. The uniqueness, in Ireland, of S. Finbar’s Gospel is confirmed by the account of how it was stolen for a time by strategy in order that S. Fintan might have a copy of it. S. Columba, while a pupil of S. Finbar, also secretly copied this same Gospel or Psalter with disastrous consequences; because a royal demand that he should give up the copy to S. Fiiibar helped to bring on the sanguinary battle of Cul Dreimhne. The early Gaidheals called this version ‘S. Martin’s Gospel,’ indicating clearly that S. Ninian had brought the manuscript from S. Martin’s community at Tours to Candida Casa, and that through S. Finbar it came into use in Ireland. TheGaidhealic fabulists of a later period invented a story that Columcille went to Tours, opened S. Martin’s grave, and took from it tlie actual manuscript which S. Martin used.
The mention of the School at Candida Casa brings to mind the Schools founded, later, in the sixth century and after, throughout Pictland of Alba (Scotland) by missionaries from the Britons; and also by S. Moluag and other Picts from Ireland. The names of these schools remain attached to the sites until the present time. Wherever in Scotland the names ‘Bangor,’ ‘Banchory,’ or ‘Banagher’ survive, we have the locality of one of the schools that was attached to a community of Pictish or British Clerics. It is safe to assume that these schools were not conducted without the aid of native literature. One feature of the Bangors was that the Psalms were learned and sung with artistic care.
Another Pictish manuscript which long survived in Ireland was the famous ‘Glas Cainic written by S. Cainnech of Achadh-Bo and St. Andrews. It was, apparently,a manuscript of the Gospels with expositions. S.Cainnech’s powers as an expositor were so widely admitted that even S.Columba’s admiration was freely given to him.The Picts had their bards as well as the other Celts. One of their widely known compositions was the Brito-Pictish historical romance, Llallogan. Llallogan ‘ was his pet name. He is Myrdinn, otherwise ‘ Merlinus Caledonicus.’ The characters are historical, but they are brought together without regard to their correct places intime. Vortigern,the leader of the Brito-Pictish confederation, Llallogan the bard,S. Kentigern the Briton and missionary to the Picts, all appear together. Historically, Llallogan was the twin-brother of Gwendydd and kinsman of Urien Rheged of the Strathclyde Britons. His life was a weird one. He went mad after he had gazed on the horrible slaughter of the Brito-Pictish hosts at the close of a battle which had been instigated by his own perfervid verses. Demented he fled to the wilds, lived in the recesses of the woods like a wild beast among wild beasts, and fed on the roots and herbs of the forests. It happened on a day when S. Kentigern was in his retreat in the woods near Glasgow that he encountered this wild creature. After hearing the madman’s story of his life the Saint gave him his blessing, and the outcast came to himself, and was re-admitted to Christian fellowship.
Joceline in the twelfth century was acquainted with some version of this story, because he refers to Llallogan as ‘homo fatuus,’ who was kept by the Kingof the Britons. Walter Bower had also a version of this romance before him in the fifteenth century, and he quotes the main part of the story, Incidentally he indicates that the acquisitive Gaidhealic editor hadnot disappeared in his time; because not only is the British name Gaidhealicized to ‘Lailocen,’ but he candidly avows that some people regarded the bard as a ‘wonderful prophet of the Scots’ (Gaidheals). How little of the Gaidheal was about Llallogan can be seen from the Avellanau in the verses ascribed to him, where his friends and the localities named are British and Pictish.
Ah me Gwendydd shuns me, loves me not!
The chiefs of Rhydderch hate me.
After Gwenddolen no princes honour me
Although at Ard’eryd I wore the golden torques.
Long used to solitude, no demons fright me now;
Not at the dragon presence do I quake
Of the lord Gwenddolen, and all his clan
Who have sown death within the woods of Celyddon.
Gwenddolen ap Ceidian, who, along with Saxon allies and S. Columba’s friend, King Aedhan ‘the False, “fought against Rhydderch the Briton” and were defeated at Ard’eryd, c. 573.
A fragment of another purely Pictish poem has come down to us through Gaidhealic hands. It is known by the opening lines:
‘Iniu feras Bruide cath
Imforba a shenathar’
(To-day Bruide fights in battle *
For the land of his ancestor).
* The Battle of Dunnichen (‘Nechtansmere’), 20th May A.D. 686.
This poem was written in Pictland of Alba, A.D. 686, by Riaghuil, titular Abbot of Bangor in Ulster. Riaghuil had fled for safety to Pictland of Alba; because the Gaidheals of the race of Niall had invaded the kingdoms of the Irish Picts. The Gaidheals burned Dungal the Pictish King, Suibhne, thePictish lord of Kianachta,Glengiven, and captured the great border-fortress of Dun Ceithern. They then wasted the Pictish kingdoms with fire and sword. Apparently the clerics of Bangor and the other religious houses of S. Comgall took flight for a time to the daughter-churches of Bangor in Pictland of Alba. Riaghuil was hospitably received by Brude Mac Bilé, the Sovereign of Pictland of Alba (Scotland). He repaid Brude by becoming his laureate and intercessor, and in this surviving fragment champions him in verse against Egfrid the Anglian invader.
This is not a history of Pictish literature. That subject still awaits the competent Celtic scholar who can divest himself of Gaidhealic and Anglo-Saxon prejudices. Enough has been written to show that the PictishChurchmen did not minister to a people without a literature; and also to show hat the Picts did not derive their love and practice of literature from the Gaidheals. On the contrary it is apparent that the Gaidheals were taught and schooled by Britons and Picts. S. Columba, the greatest of the Gaidheals, was instructed by Pictish and British masters.