Irish Poetry, from the English Invasion to 1798

By Rusell K. Alspach | Go to book overview

3
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.

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20
E. B. Fitzmaurice and A. G. Little, Materials for the History of the Franciscan Province of Ireland 1230-1450, pp. 44-45.

-12-

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Irish Poetry, from the English Invasion to 1798
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Contents xi
  • Part I - The Poetry 1
  • Introduction 3
  • 2 - Gaelic or English? 4
  • 3 - From the Invasion to 1400 12
  • 4 - The Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries 26
  • 5 - The Seventeenth Century: Fingal, Forth, and Bargy 37
  • 6 - From 1700 to 1798 49
  • Part II - The Matter of Ireland 57
  • I - Introduction 59
  • 2 - The Beginnings: Campion to Walsh 61
  • 3 - Molyneux, Swift, and Maccurtin 75
  • 4 - Keating and Dermod O'Connor 81
  • 5 - After Keating 95
  • 6 - Some Early Translators of Gaelic Poetry 103
  • 7 - Charlotte Brooke 110
  • 8 - To the Nineteenth Century 122
  • Bibliography 133
  • Index 141
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