On Terms Bardic

Heather Rose Jones hrjones at uclink.berkeley.edu
Mon Sep 4 08:33:42 PDT 1995

On Sun, 3 Sep 1995, ERIN NHAMINERVA wrote:

>    The term "Bard", according to P.W. Joyce (A Social History Of Ancient 
> Ireland) means "poet", but is not a designation of degree.
(and more details besides)

What is important to remember is that there were several cultures, and a 
long span of time, in which some variant of the word "bard" was used for 
a societal function. As misleading as it is to use "bard" generally for 
"performing artists", it is nearly as misleading to say narrowly, "A bard 
is X" or "A bard is Y" on the basis of one culture at one particular 
point in time. Irish usage was different from Welsh usage was different 
from Gaulish usage (to name the three general cultures for which we have 
the best surviving evidence) and a 6th century Welsh bard is different 
from a 13th century Welsh bard is different from a 15th century Welsh 
bard. Not _enormously_ different, in any of these cases, but different 
enough that we need to avoid speaking as if there were one single 
definition of "bard" holding true throughout history. (If I failed to 
specify the precise context of my previous remarks, it was because I was 
speaking through my persona's point of view, and she may be forgiven a 
slightly more provincial attitude.)

Heather Rose Jones

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