A Prague poem on purgation? Five languages in a seventeenth century Irish manuscript

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Ó Donnchú, Ken
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Ulster University on behalf of Societas Celto-Slavica
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The history of the Irish Franciscans in continental Europe has been the subject of much scholarly investigation, which has focused mainly on the renowned Louvain college. Although the Irish Franciscans in Prague were less prolific than their Louvain compatriots, the Prague house, active for over 150 years, nevertheless produced many works, ranging from original theological treatises to copies of grammatical and historical texts, both in Latin and in the vernacular. This paper will examine a text from UCD Franciscan Collection MS A 32 f.5, a single paper folio which preserves the only known example of the Czech language in a Gaelic manuscript. The content of that folio sheds light on the relationships between the continental houses, and highlights the more quotidian and less-vaunted aspects of the lives and work of these exiled Irish men of God. The poem in question, entitled ‘Freagra ar et cætera Philip’ (An Answer to Philip’s Et Cætera, FCP hereafter), centres on the ‘evacuation’ difficulties of one Philip Ó Conaill, the hardship this has caused those in his company, and the advice given to Philip on how to cure his ailment. In literary terms, FCP exemplifies the strong interest of the Irish literati at all stages in so-called Rabelaisian humour, and burlesque literature. While the poem itself is unlikely to be added to the canon of Irish literature, nevertheless a number of aspects of its contents are intriguing, and invite investigation and restrained speculation as to the context of its production.
Freagra ar et cætera Philip , Prague , Irish Franciscans
Ó Donnchú, K. (2021) 'A Prague poem on purgation? Five languages in a seventeenth century Irish manuscript', Studia Celto-Slavica, 12, pp. 43-62. doi: 10.54586/MWKY8087
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© 2021, the Author. Published in Studia Celto-Slavica 12.