Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Island of Hy Brasil

The Island of Hy Brasil

Ireland lay on the edge of the known world until Columbus proved otherwise in 1493. The mysterious Atlantic was explored by sailors such as St. Brendan(†577). It is possible that he even went as far as America. In the Hiberno Latin Navigatio Sancti Brendani abbatis, written between the 8th and 10th century there is an account of a sea expedition to the north which took several years . The account proved to be a Medieval bestseller and was translated into sixteen langauges. In 1976 English explorer Tim Severin sailed from Kerry to Newfoundland in a replica currach, proving that such a journey would have been possible. By undertaking such a journey Tim Severin manged to plausibly expalin some of the more unusal hapenings.
The Island of Smiths for example where the smith throws fire at the monks as they try to land could have been Iceland as the monks bore witness to a volcano errupting.
One of the islands associated with Brendan was Hy Brasil. The island of Hy Brasil was a mythical island believed to be located in Galway Bay. Some people maintain that it was another name for Tír na nÓg or the Land of Eternal Youth. From 1325 it even began to appear on several maps, most notably a Catalan map from 1480 which makes reference to "Illa de Brasil", The island was regarded as a sort of paradise; circular in shape and enshrouded in mist. It only appeared for one day every seven years. St. Brendan is said to have visited the island and described it as the Promised Land. It is believed to be called after Bresal, a druid of the fir bolg. It has also been suggested that the country of Brazil was named after this myserious isle. It still appeared on maps until1865 and was also referred to as Bresal’s Rock. The last reported sighting of this mysterious island was in 1872. It still continues to inspire authors, most notably Peter Treymayne in his book of short stories, Aisling and Other Tales of Terror. In the poem below by Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill the reader may get an idea of the emotions the island serves.

An Bhreasaíl

Cloisim tú
Ag glaoch orm
San oíche

Ar rá liom teacht
Go dtí do oileán

Fuaimníonnn do ghuth
Mar thoirneach
Thar an mbóchna.

Is mórthaibhseach
Do ghlór
Agus is naofa-

‘Tair chugam, tair
chugam éinne
atá traochta

Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill


I hear you call
Out to me
In the night

Asking me to come
To the isle
Of Enchantement.

Your voice sounds
Like thunder
O’er the foam.

And worshipful
Is its boom-

‘Come to me,
come o me, all
who are tired.’

Translated by Paul Muldoon

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