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Liadain


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Possibly historical woman whose tragic love for the poet Cuirithir, as told in the 9th-century Comrac Liadaine ocus Chuirithir [The Meeting of Liadain and Cuirithir], is widely seen as an anticipation of the doomed love of Héloise and Abélard; like the later French story, the basis may be historical. Liadain, a well-born young woman of the Corcu Duibne in what is now Kerry, was travelling in north Connacht when she met a poet named Cuirithir mac Dobrchon [son of the otter], whom she invited to visit her on her return. Being ‘under spiritual direction’ of St Cuimíne Fota, Liadain was in effect a nun. Arriving in Kerry, Cuirithir asked the household fool Comgán to send word to Liadain. Making a pun on Cuirithir's patronymic, Comgán said that ‘the son of the beast that stays at night under pools’ had arrived. This was sufficient for Liadain, who rushed to greet her lover, but St Cuimíne forbade their cohabiting. When Liadain would not cease from pleading, the saint allowed them to spend one night together, but with a boy between them. Such a practice, called consortium, was a common ascetic exercise in early Ireland and elsewhere. On St Cuimíne's orders, Cuirithir became a monk and went on pilgrimage to the Déisi of what is now Waterford. On the report that Liadain was about to visit him, Cuirithir crossed the sea in a coracle, never to return. Still longing for him, Liadain came to the flagstone where Cuirithir used to pray and remained upon it until she died and was buried underneath.

See Liadin [sic] and Cuirithir: a Love Story, ed. Kuno Meyer (London, 1902);Gerard Murphy, Early Irish Lyrics (Oxford, 1962), 82–5, 208–11.The story also inspired Móirín a Cheavasa's poems Liadain and Curithir (Oxford, 1917).

Subjects: Religion.


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