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Feiritéar was a Norman-Irish lord of Baile an Fheirtéaraigh in Corca Dhuibhne. Although best known as a poet, it was his role as a leader of the nascent Catholic Irish community of Norman- and Gaelic-Irish origin which ultimately led to his execution in 1653.
Feiritéar was a harpist as well as a poet and known for his blend of laments, eulogies and satires of the Irish tradition with the love-lyrics of European influence. His best known work, Leig díot t’airm, a mhacoimh mná [Lay aside thy arms, maiden], is a poem about a beautiful woman. It is believed that he may have written poetry in English, but none of this has survived. Some critics have argued that his Irish poetry shows the influence of the English Elizabethans.
A leader during the Confederate Ireland wars, Feiritéar was wounded during an attack on Tralee Castle in 1641. His forces held the castle until the fall of Ross Castle in Killarney to the Cromwellians in June 1653. Granted safe passage by Cromwellian commander Brigadier Nelson, Feiritéar travelled to arrange surrender terms. However, he was seized at Castlemaine and hanged alongside others, including his brother-in-law the Dominican priest Tadhg Ó Muircheartaigh on Cnocán na gCaorach in Killarney on 15 October 1653.
Piaras Feiritéar remains something of a folk hero for the Irish-speaking people of Corca Dhuibhne, and particularly in his native Ard na Caithne where the ruins of his castle can still be seen, and his poetry lives on in the oral tradition. In 1934, Pádraig Ó Duinnín edited a book entitled Dánta Phiarais Feiritéir: maille le réamh-rádh agus nótaí which contained 23 of Piaras's surviving poems. In the book, Ó Duinnín devotes a chapter to the influence of Feiritéar's poetry and life on the folklore of the area. In 2001, the poet and writer Máire Mhac an tSaoi published an award-winning novel A Bhean Óg Ón... about the relationship between Piaras and Meg Russell, for whom he wrote much of his love poetry.
There is a memorial to Piaras Feiritéar in Muckross Abbey in Killarney, Co. Kerry, alongside three other Kerry poets from the Early Modern period. A monument of a 'spéirbhean' (beautiful woman, who symbolised Ireland) with the names of all four poets carved into it can be seen in Killarney town itself.
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