Sipping a cup of freshly brewed Guatemalan dark roast, Laetitia once again browsed the Emerald Victorian’s library, trying to decide where to go on the day’s tour. She never knew what she would find on the shelves, and on this day she was surprised to come across a leather-bound illustrated edition of the Song of Songs.
How the Song of Songs, (also called Song of Solomon, or Canticles) came to be part of the Hebrew Bible and later the Old Testament is a bit of a mystery since it is not an overtly religious text. Both Jewish and Christian scholars sometimes interpret it allegorically as representing God’s love for Israel or God’s love for the church, respectively, but phrases like “he shall lie all night twixt my breasts,” “the joints of thy thighs are like jewels,” “thy belly is like a heap of wheat,” and “thy two breasts are like two young roes that are twins” don’t seem to support that interpretation. Laetitia put the book back on the shelf and moved on to the task at hand.
After browsing several guidebooks and maps, she came across Killaloe and decided to go there. Irish King Brian Boru was born in Killaloe in the tenth century. He united divergent Irish factions against the Norsemen in Dublin and Limerick to first become ruler of Munster, and he later ruled throughout a greater portion of Ireland. Like most Irish rulers of his time, Brian Boru had a personal bard. His bard’s name was Mac Laig. In Brian Boru’s time, bards were highly educated poets steeped in oral history who kept the traditions of their clan and its leaders alive through their poems and songs. Later the term “bard” was applied more generally to famous poets. Thus, William Shakespeare is often known as “the bard of Avon” and Robert Burns “the bard of Ayrshire.”
Laetitia and her group visited St. Lua’s oratory, built in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, and St. Flannan’s Cathedral (now Church of Ireland), built in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. After an afternoon boat ride on Lough Derg, Laetitia dropped her group off at the bed and breakfast in Killaloe where they were staying. Then she went early to the pub where they were meeting later for dinner to have a Guinness and come up with a limerick for the day. She sat at the bar next to a young man that she judged to be just over 18, the legal drinking age in Ireland for one not accompanied by an adult. He told her he was a poet and was known to his friends as “The Bard of Killaloe.” He produced for her a sample of his work consisting of several love poems and asked her to comment. She demurred, saying that she wasn’t a poet and couldn’t judge his work. She smiled as she handed back the young man’s poems and thanked him for letting her read them. He had given her the limerick of the day.