From the Invasion to 1400
SINCE the English lords and their retainers were occupied for a number of years after the invasion in keeping their domains subdued; and since, when a measure of quiet had been brought about, their language largely gave way to Gaelic, we must look elsewhere for poetry in English, at least in the first part of this period.
One of the laws of the Kilkenny Statutes directed that only Englishmen were to be admitted to benefices, abbeys, and cathedrals. This law was a reaffirmation of one passed by the Kilkenny parliament of 1310, which said that no merus hibernicus (mere Irishman) could be a member of a religious order in that part of the country under English lordship. Because a law of this type, unlike one against the use of the Gaelic language, could be administered with comparative ease, it was probably for the most part obeyed; and as monasteries and abbeys meant in the main quiet and leisure, it follows that we should look for the earliest Irish poetry to come from a religious house.
Such, indeed, seems to be the case. In the monastery that the Franciscans, or Grey Friars, founded at Kildare sometime between 1260 and 1277,20 a manuscript of prose and verse in English, French, and Latin was written in the early fourteenth century. The manuscript has survived and is known today as number 913 of the Harley collection in the British Museum. It is described by Wanley, in the Bibliothecae Harleianae, as "A parchment Book in 12mo, written partly in English, and partly in Latin by divers hands." Although much of the material in the manuscript was probably only copied in the Kildare abbey, some of it was undoubtedly composed there.____________________