The early literature has survived in Middle and Late Middle Irish manuscripts that are, for the most part, miscellaneous collections of prose and verse in which legend, history, bardic and lyric poetry, and medical, legal, and religious writings of several periods are all preserved side by side. The chief works are the Book of the Dun Cow (before 1106), the Book of Leinster (before 1160), and the Yellow Book of Lecan, the Great Book of Lecan, the Lebor Brecc, and the Book of Lismore (late 14th or early 15th cent.). The first three are especially important because they contain the heroic sagas. The oldest writings are poems from the 6th cent.; Dallán Forgaill is the most famous of the filid or official poets. There are also some fine anonymous nature poems from the 8th cent.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.