A word is more enduring than worldy wealth.
Note: This proverb is to be expected of a culture that has the oldest continuous literary tradition in Western Europe. The ancient Celtic culture held the Seanchaí (story-teller) in highest esteem. The word ‘seanchaí’ literally means ‘custodian of tradition.’ In the dark ages of Europe, Irish monks’ love of the word preserved the great works of the ancient world, including writings of the Greeks, Romans, Hebrews, and Arabs.
The Irish tradition of valuing words above wealth is well known in the English speaking world. For example, James Joyce has two books in the top ten of the Modern Libary’s 100 Best Twentieth Century English Novels; #1. Ulysses, and #3. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Joyce had a third book make the top 100, #77. Finnegans Wake. Joyce was born in Rathgar in 1882 and died virtually penniless in Zurich in 1941. Joyce is but one of a galaxy of Irish stars in the English literary universe.
But there is another universe of Irish writers for whom this seanfhocal is most apt, those who choose to write for the smaller body of contemporary Irish language readers. Some wrote in both the English and Irish languages, like Brendan Behan, Mícheál Mac Liamóir, Brian Nualláin (nee Myles na gCopaleen) and Liam Ó Flaherty. Others chose to write exclusively in the language of their heritage, like Seosamh Mac Grianna, Máirtin Ó Cadhain, Pádraic Ó Conaire, Séamus Ó Grianna, and Muiris Ó Súilleabháin. And these are just some of the novelists. Tá ár mbuíochas is mo tuillte acu!