The Pearl of the Kingdom, by Ailbhe Ó Corráin
The Pearl of the Kingdom: a study of A fhir léghtha an leabhráin bhig by Giolla Brighde Ó hEódhasa
Ailbhe Ó Corráin
The Institute for Comparative Research in Human Culture/Novus Press, Oslo
Originally given as a lecture to mark the 400th anniversary of the poem A Fhir Léghtha an Leabhráin Bhig, by Giolla Brighde Ó hEódhasa, this publication in English about a “little gem of a poem” in Irish gives the reader a wee jewel of a book in return. Ó Corráin, professor of Irish at the University of Ulster in Derry, takes these eight stanzas and brings the reader back to a Europe at war over religion.
Written by Ó hEódhasa as a prologue to his catechism An Teagasc Críosdaidhe (Christian Teaching, 1611) – “the first Counter-Reformation book to be printed in Irish” – the poem was his attempt “to engage with fundamental issues of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation”. The poem in Irish, with translation, is published along with Ó Corráin’s masterful commentary, which guides the reader along theology and history.
It is not a long book, but it deals with big themes. There is something wonderful in reading an original text in Irish from centuries ago that touches on issues that still concern us.