Sedulius Scotus

CommentaryQuotations

Life
?820-880 [var. Siadhal; Sedulius of Liège]; b. Kildare; made journey to declare Liège bearing news of victory over the Vikings at Scaith Necthain [poss. by Rhodri, son of Merfyn]; retained by Bishop Hartgar; copied numerous classical manuscripts incl. Horace; made an inter-lineated copy of Greek-Latin Gospels; also copied epistles of St. Paul and works by Priscian, St. Augustine and others; Irish language marginalia appear in the work of his scribes; wrote festive poetry in Latin; d. Liège. DIW.

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Works
Sedulius Scottus (Munich 1906); Helen Waddell, [trans.,] Medieval Latin Lyrics (1929; 1952); also cited in Frank O’Connor, The Backward Look (1967).

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Commentary
John Montague, ‘The Impact of International Modern Poetry on Irish Writing’ (1972), quotes verses by Sedulius Scottus on Bishop Hartgar's palace: ‘Your halls are gleaming with a light serene / and latest style in art adorns the scene / with beauteous forms to populate your home / And many merry colours in your dome. [...]’ - with remarks: ‘And then we have Sedulius Scottus, who was in charge of the cathedral school at Liege in the middle of the Ninth Century, together with four other “charioteers of the Lord, lights of the Irish race”. I am not competent to judge his position in Medieval Latin poetry, but what strikes one in the poem on his patron, Bishop Hartgar's palace - “Testri tecta nitent luce serona” - is the ease with which he moved against this international background. And why not, when the most original philosopher of the period was an Irishman, John Scotus Erigena, and a scholar-poet like Sedulius could establish himself, as Professor James Carney, his translator, says, as “a social personality, the friend of emperors and high ecclesiastics” [quote follows as above].’ (Montague, op. cit., in Irish Poets in English: The Thomas Davis Lectures on Anglo-Irish Poetry, ed. Sean Lucy, Cork: Mercier Press 1972, p.145.) See also under Quotations, infra.

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Quotations
Nunc Viridant Segetes” [in trans.]: ‘I am a writer, I, a musician, Orpheus the second / And the ox that treads out the corn, and your well-wisher I, / I am your champion armed with the weapons of wisdom and logic, / Muse, tell my lord bishop and father his servant is dry.’ (3rd verse of 3 given in John Montague, ed., The Faber Book of Irish Verse, 1974.) [Cont.]

Apologia Pro Vita Sua” [in trans.]: ‘I read and write, I teach or wonder what is truth / I call upon my God night and day. / I eat and freely drink, I make my rhymes, / And snoring sleep, or vigil keep and pray. / And very ’ware of all my shames I am; / O Mary, Christ, have mercy on your man.’ (p. 65; given in John Montague, ed., The Faber Book of Irish Verse, 1974.) See Montague's remarks in Commentary, supra.

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References
Seamus Deane, gen. ed., The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing (Derry: Field Day 1991), Vol. 1: may have arrived at court of Charles the Bald with news of Irish victory over Vikings; friendly with bishops of Cologne, Munster, and Metz; patronised by Bishop Hartgar at Liege; wrote eulogies for sons of Louis the Pious; commentaries on Donatus, Eutyches, and Priscian; commentaries on the Gospel of St Matthew, Eusebian Canons, and works of Jerome; made interlinear trans. of Greek text of St. Paul’s epistles, and copied Proverbia Grecorum. Edns, L. Traube, ed., Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Poetae Latini Aevi Carolini, III (1886); see also M. Lapidge and R. Sharpe, Bibl. of Medieval Latin from Celtic Sources (RIA 1985); P. Godman, Ed., Poetry of the Carolingian Renaissance (Lon. 1982).

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W. B. Stanford, Ireland and the Classical Tradition (IAP 1976; this ed. 1984), Bibl. (Sedulius), S. Hellmann, Sedulius Scottus (Munich 1906, and J. Carne[y], Old Ireland, ed. R. McNally (Dublin 1967), 228-50; for his influence on goliardic poetry, see B. I. Varcho, ‘Die Vorlaufer des Golias’, Speculum 3 (928) 523-79).

Helen Waddell trans. Sedulius Scotus, Life of St. Brigid (Constable [q.d.]). Note also her translations of his poetry in Medieval Latin Lyrics: ‘I read or write, I teach or wonder what is truth, / I call upon my God by night and day. / I eat and freely drink, I make my rhymes, / And snoring sleep, or vigil keep and pray. / And very ware of all my shames I am; / O Mary, Christ, have mercy on your man.’ (Quoted in P. J. Kavanagh, Voices in Ireland, 1994, p.262.)

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Nora Chadwick, The Celts (1971; Penguin Edn. 1991): ‘[Rhodri] is named in the Annals of Ulster as having slain Horm (Norse Gormr) the Danish chief, off the coast of Anglesey. This was an outstanding victory, which in all probability would reach the ears of Charles the Bald at his court in Liège where he was seriously threatened by the Danes encamped in strength on the River Seine. At his court was an Irishman, Sedulius Scotus, who about this time composed an ode on the victory over the Danes [‘Sunday Battle’, 876], which was almost certainly Rhodri’s.’ (p.97.). Note also that Rhodri died fighting the Saxons in the following year.

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Notes
A namesake, Sedulius (obiit. 785), described as Bishop of Dublin in Gorman’s Martyrology, viz, Marian Gorman of Donegal. d. 12 Feb. 785. (See George A Little, Dublin Before the Vikings, 1957, p.100.)

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