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The Vision of Laisrén (Author: Unknown)


The Vision of Laisrén

In our forthcoming edition of various inedited versions of Tundale's Vision,1 Dr. Friedel and I have purposely refrained from giving an account of early Irish visionary literature, and from touching the question of its relation to the Continental literature which culminated in Dante's poem. Nor do I propose to do so here. The time for such investigations has hardly arrived, since every search among Irish MSS. may bring new and important materials to light.

The Old Irish Vision of Hell, of which I now submit text and translation to the reader, has not hitherto been noticed,2 and it is edited here for the first time. It is found in the well-known Bodleian codex Rawlinson B. 512, fo. 44a1-44b2. Like so much of early Irish literature, it is only a fragment, containing no more than the introduction and the beginning of what was undoubtedly a complete description of Hell and Heaven. The MS. dates from the fifteenth century, but from the language I am inclined to assign the original from which our copy is derived to the Old-Irish period, to the early tenth or the latter half of the ninth century.3


Laisrén is the name of several Irish saints. The most celebrated among them was the abbot of Lethglenn, now Leighlin, co. Carlow, who died in A.D. 638, and it is not unreasonable, in the absence of any further particulars, to assume that he is the hero of our Vision. The monastery of Clúain mentioned in the introduction may be either Clonmacnois or Cloyne. Clúain Cháin in Connaught may be Clonkeen, near Athenry.