THE term "Irish Poetry" as used in this book means poetry in the English language written by an Irishman or Anglo-Irishman and inspired by Ireland or its people. From the English invasion of 1167 to the eighteenth century, the poetry that would fit such a definition is of slight quantity. This paucity is in great part accounted for by the fact that the English invaders and settlers of Ireland sought not only to conquer the country but also to force an alien tongue upon the inhabitants, something that the Irish stoutly resisted for almost six hundred years. The great mass of the natives continued to use their beloved Gaelic and to follow Gaelic tradition. They knew and recited the songs of their own poets and retold in their own language the exploits of Cuchulin and Finn, of Deirdre and Grania:--songs and stories hidden from the English by the barrier of language. And in the numerous instances in which the two races did mix and become one, it was most often the Englishman who turned Irishman and whose children spoke Gaelic from the cradle. That we may have sufficient background for a study of Irish poetry in these early centuries and understand fully the main reason for the slight quantity of that poetry, we shall glance at the history of the English invasion and the subsequent struggle of the two languages for supremacy.
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Publication information: Book title: Irish Poetry, from the English Invasion to 1798. Edition: 2nd. Contributors: Rusell K. Alspach - Author. Publisher: University of Pennsylvania Press. Place of publication: Philadelphia. Publication year: 1959. Page number: 3.
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