Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Carmina Gadelica

The Carmina Gadelica is a collection of prayers, hymns, charms, incantations, blessings, runes, and other literary-folkloric poems and songs collected and translated by amateur folklorist Alexander Carmichael (1832–1912) in the Gaelic-speaking regions of Scotland between 1855 and 1910. The work was originally published in six volumes, with extensive footnotes containing further details as well as additional tales and folklore. Carmichael edited the first two volumes, published in 1900; volumes III and IV were edited by James Carmichael Watson (Alexander Carmichael's grandson) and published in 1940 and 1941; two final volumes, edited by Angus Matheson, were published in 1954 and 1971. A one-volume, English-language edition was published in 1992.

Initially highly praised as a monumental achievement in Scottish folklore, the Carmina Gadelica subsequently has received some criticism for Carmichael's interpretation and presentation of the material. Criticism has ranged from the opinion that Carmichael was excessive in his editing of the source material, to the accusation that some of his sources were fabricated. Some of his translations tend to sacrifice accuracy for a type of Victorian, anachronistic style which was popular at the time of the works' first publication. In other cases it is clear, from comparing his notes to the finished product, that in some cases he may have invented additional lines and verses and incorporated them into the poems he had recorded, without acknowledging these changes.

These criticisms acknowledged, the Carmina is still seen as essential to Scottish folklore studies. It is used as a source by respected folklorists such as F. Marian McNeill as well as contemporary students of Gaelic language and folklore.

No comments:

The Rams Horn

The Rams Horn on Facebook