Bruce's Reviews > The Midnight Court

The Midnight Court by Ciaran Carson
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it was amazing

This witty, rollicking, and ribald poem was written in 1780 by Brian Merriman, a resident of County Clare, Ireland. Little is known about the poet. The poem is a variant of the aisling, a literary genre in which a poet typically wanders into the wild and meets a fairy woman identified with Ireland who predicts the return of the rightful Irish king. In this poem, however, the fairy is ugly and threatening, dragging the author off to a court where the issue of Irish under-population is being tried before Aoibheall, the Queen of Heavens. First, a young Irish woman bemoans the refusal of Irish men to procreate. Then an old man accuses the young woman of being a slut. The woman berates him and calls for penalties against those men ignoring the yearnings of woman, even calling upon the Catholic clergy to wed or at least cease withholding themselves from women. The verdict is that all men over 21 years old who are unmarried shall be punished. The narrator, who is 30 and unwed, is turned over to the women for his punishment but awakens from his nightmare at the last minute.

This rather bald plot description is entirely inadequate to convey the cleverness and roistering wit of the poetry. Carson’s translation is delightful, the rhyme and meter he chooses are charming (the meter approximating the nursery rhyme, “To market to market to buy a fat pig”), and his ability to capture the spirit of this most humorous poem spot on. The entire poem can be read in little more than an hour, an hour most pleasantly spent.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
September 30, 2010 – Shelved
September 30, 2010 – Finished Reading

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