Seeing the natural world: Comhbhá an Dúlra (The sympathy of Nature)

Máire Ní Annracháin

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Comhbhá an dúlra is the name given to the idea that Nature acts in sympathy with rightful rulers. It is one of the most enduring tropes of Gaelic literature from earliest times. If the correct ruler was in place and acted justly, Nature was deemed to flourish and the weather would conspire to support him. If he died, suffered mishap or misbehaved, Nature would be held to wither and even the weather would deteriorate. Modern poets, whose work is examined in this paper, have taken up the trope of comhbhá an dúlra in intriguing and fruitful ways. Their work often display a high degree of irony as they reflect on non-traditional forms of relationship between humans and the natural world. In doing so they demonstrate the malleability and acuity of the modern Gaelic poetic tradition, which now challenges the supremacy of humans, sometimes in an ecocritical spirit, while reconfiguring some of the most deeply rooted Gaelic images.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalProceedings of the Royal Irish Academy
Early online date29 Sept 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 29 Sept 2020


  • Nature, sympathy, fertility, paradise, hostility binary
  • 26ref2021


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