19 October 2014

Living on nuts and berries

 
[On the testimony of the poems] the variety of the plants and animals found in the countryside and eaten by the early Irish...is quite astonishing to a twentieth-century town-dweller, to whom "living on berries and nuts" seems such an improbable kind of existence. [Poem] No. V mentions apples, yew-berries, rowan-berries, sloes, whortleberries, crowberries, strawberries, haws, hazel-nuts, mast, acorns, pignuts, water-cress, herbs, wild marjoram, onions, leeks, eggs, honey, salmon, trout, water, milk and beer. No. XVI speaks of deer, swine, mast, hazel-nuts, blaeberries, blackberries, sloes, trout. No. XV has cress, brooklime, mast, trout, fish, wild swine, stags, fawns. In no. XIX are blaeberries, blackberries, apples, sloes, strawberries, acorns, nuts, pig fat, porpoise steak, birds, venison, badger fat, fawns, salmon, fish. No. XVII mentions blackberries, haws, hazel-nuts, bramble shoots, "smooth shoots", garlic, cress, meadhbhán, dilisk, birds, martens, woodcocks, otters, salmon, eels, fish. Suibhne Geilt gives his "nightly sustenance" as blaeberries, apples, berries, blackberries, raspberries, haws, cress, watercress, brooklime, saxifrage, seaweed, herbs, sorrel, wood-sorrel, garlic, wild onions and acorns ... The diet is then one of flesh of animals and birds, fruit, berries, nuts, herbs, shoots, and waterplants, eggs, honey and fish, an impressive and intriguing menu.
from Studies in Early Celtic Nature Poetry by Kenneth Jackson (1935), quoted by Andrew Ray in Some Landscapes

Image: Douglas Griffin

No comments:

Post a comment