Amra Choluim Chille, Dallán’s Elegy for Columba

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This remarkable poem was composed soon after St Colm Cille's death in 597 on the island of Iona off the Scottish coast. It is the earliest datable work in Gaelic literature, and, linguistically, one of the most problematic. Professor P L Henry, one of a handful of experts on archaic Irish, has undertaken the formidable task of preparing a new edition of the Amra, the first since 1899. He has added an illuminating Foreword and translated the poem into English and modern Irish. A version in modern Scottish Gaelic has been provided by the distinguished poet Aonghas MacNeacail.

In 1965 the artist Brian Ferran won the Douglas Hyde Gold Medal at the Oireachtas with a painting on Colm Cille, a recurring theme in his work. He has responded to the Amra with a series of stunning paintings, beautifully complemented by the calligraphy of the Scottish artist Donald Murray.

Professor P L Henry, D. Phil., D. Litt., M.R.I.A., was born in Kilkenny of Roscommon parents. He studied in Dublin, Zurich, Lausanne and in Reykjavik. After lecturing in Celtic in Queens University Belfast, he was appointed Professor of Old and Medieval English in University College Galway, where he remained until his retirement. Among his publications are An Anglo-Irish Dialect of North Roscommon (1959), The Early English and Celtic Lyric (1966), Saoithiúlacht na Sean-Ghaeilge (1978), and Dánta Ban, Poems of Irish Women, early & modern (1990).

P.L. Henry

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