Singing the Past: Turkic and Medieval Heroic Poetry

By Karl Reichl | Go to book overview

CHAPTER THREE

In Search of the Heroic Lay

Epic and romance go hand in hand in Irish literature, for the two great cycles of heroic tales express sometimes one mood, sometimes the other.... The classification into cycles is modern. The native tradition classified the stories by types, and we have two old lists of sagas so arranged. The types there recognized are Destructions, Cattle-Raids, Courtships, Battles, Cave Stories, Voyages, Tragedies, Adventures, Banquets, Sieges, Plunderings, Elopements, Eruptions, Visions, Love Stories, Hostings, and Invasions. A story was just a story, whether the matter was legend or history, and the boundary between these two was of less interest in medieval times than it is today. 1.

What Miles Dillon notes about medieval Irish genre distinctions could also be said of other traditions: the concerns of modern theory are not necessarily those found in native reflections on genre. Dastan, as we have seen, is underdifferentiated in many Turkic traditions, comprising oral narratives (in verse or a mixture of verse and prose) of both a heroic and a romantic nature. The most celebrated Old Irish heroic tale, the Táin Bó Cuailnge, belongs according to native taxonomy, as its title (The Cattle-Raid of Cooley) indicates, to the “genre” of cattle raid or táin. It is the story of the attack of the Connacht army on Ulster in order to gain the famous bull of Cooley, Donn Cuailnge, and of Cú Chulainn's heroic defense of Ulster. 2. Old Irish táin, literally “the driving-away, ” is the verbal noun from t-agid “to drive away, ” which in turn is a compound verb derived from agid “to drive, ” a verb related to Latin agō or Greek ágō “to lead.” There is a very close Kazakh parallel to Old Irish táin, both linguistically and cultur-

____________________
1.
Dillon 1948, 1. Compare also the discussion of genre categories in the Irish tradition in Dunn 1989, 19-33.
2.
Dillon 1948, 3-13.

-73-

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Singing the Past: Turkic and Medieval Heroic Poetry
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Singing the Past - Turkic and Medieval Heroic Poetry *
  • Contents v
  • Foreword vii
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Note on Transcription, Pronunciation, and Translations xiii
  • Introduction 1
  • Chapter One - Turkic Bards and Oral Epics 12
  • Chapter Two - Variations on Epic and History 44
  • Chapter Three - In Search of the Heroic Lay 73
  • Chapter Four - Heroic Epic and Tribal Roots 101
  • Chapter Five - Heroic Past and Poetic Presence 135
  • Conclusion 165
  • Appendix One - The Text of Täwke-Batïr 181
  • Appendix Two - The Text of Ormanbet-Biy 189
  • Works Cited 195
  • Index 217
  • Myth and Poetics *
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