A beautifully told story with colorful characters out of epic tradition, a tight and complex plot, and solid pacing. -- Booklist, starred review of On the Razor's Edge

Great writing, vivid scenarios, and thoughtful commentary ... the stories will linger after the last page is turned. -- Publisher's Weekly, on Captive Dreams

Monday, June 1, 2015

Transgressive Poetry

Grania Uaile (Grace O'Malley)

One night as oppressed with soft slumbers I lay,
And dreamed of Old Erin oft thought of by day,
With the long, wasting wars between Saxon and Gael,
Up rose the bright vision of fair Grania Uaile.

Old Erin's green mantle around her was flung,
Adown her fair shoulders the rich tresses hung,
Her eyes like the sun of the young morning shone,
Whilst her harp sent forth strains of the days that are gone.

Of Erin's fair daughters a circle was seen,
Each one with her distaff surrounding the Queen,
Whose sweet vocal chorus was heard to prolong
The soul stirring anthems of harp and of song.

To Erin what shame and lasting disgrace
That her sons should be crushed by a vile foreign race,
Who have banished her priests and polluted her fanes,
And turned to a desert her beautiful plains!

-- John McHale, archbishop of Tuam

As sung by the rather political Wolfe Tones:

Note: the real Grace O'Malley cut her hair off because long hair
could get tangled in the rigging of the ship.
A three hour epic Grainne Uaile was supposed to have been released in April. It's supposed to be spelled Grainne Mhaol (graŋyeh wail) but that would only confuse English speakers. The movie folks said of their film:

"It was very important for us to show the character of a strong woman in this movie. To move away from the typical stereotypes we have seen in recent years..."
However, it seems to TOF that women acting masculine is the main stereotype of recent years. It is saved somewhat in this case by the historical facts of Grace O'Malley, the "Pirate Queen," who while actually one of the 1% did make a living by extorting tolls and taxes from ships passing her many castles in exchange for safe passage.


  1. I found a copy in the youtubes:

    1. Thanks! I searched and never found it!

  2. Grainne Mhaol was also mentioned in a better-known classic, oro se do bheath abhaile:

    This one by Mary Black. The lyrics (plus translation!) are under 'show more'.

  3. I'm curious about your note on her long hair. Recently on a tour of a working replica of a 16th century Spanish ship (I don't remember the technical term, galleon or what have you) the live-aboard crew/ tour guides who seemed quite knowledgeable told us the original sailors kept long hair -- it was one of two chances of being saved should they fall off the poop. Apparently most seamen couldn't swim.

    1. Supposedly it was what her father told her when she said she wanted to be on the ships when he went out to collect "taxes." So she went off and cut her hair off, which is supposedly how she got the nickname Mhaoil, which means "bald."

      Who knows how true to life these stories are?

    2. If it really happened, she may've been calling his bluff.

      And whether or not you can swim may not help you much, falling off a ship. Most modern fishermen can swim, "falling overboard" is still the second leading cause of death for their occupation (and the life-vest—which helps much more than swimming does—hadn't been invented in the 16th century).

  4. Here's a summary of the contemporary culture's view on women and femininity:

    "See, I will draw her so as to make her male so that she also may become a living spirit like you males. For every woman who has become male will enter the Kingdom of heaven."

    Christi pax.

    1. Gospel of Thomas?

      Or a line that shows up in more than one Gnostic gospel.

      And you're entirely correct.


      The only thing worse on that website is the scholarly(!) commentary
      Christi pax.


Whoa, What's This?