Irish Poetry, from the English Invasion to 1798

By Rusell K. Alspach | Go to book overview
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The Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries

DURING these centuries the volume of extant Irish poetry increases somewhat. Besides miscellaneous verse, that includes the pieces in the Hanmer collection and in the Book of Howth, there is the work of Richard Stanihurst, the first Irish poet of whom we have any definite knowledge.

The miscellaneous verse begins with two poems on Waterford, printed by Croker in his Popular Songs of Ireland. The manuscript volume out of which Croker dug the poems "appears," he says, "to be the collection of some laborious antiquary about the latter end of the reign of Elizabeth."76 That manuscript volume is known now as the "Hanmer Papers" and is printed in the Addenda of the State Papers, Ireland, 1601-1603. The collector of these papers, Meredith Hanmer, D.D. ( 1543- 1604), a Shropshire Englishman, best known for his Chronicle of Ireland that was published by Sir James Ware in 1633, spent the years from 1591 to his death in 1604 in Ireland.77 The time he had left from his duties in the church--and it must have been considerable--he seems to have devoted to research into the antiquities of Ireland,78 and his papers have in them much of interest besides the two poems noticed by Croker.

The earlier of the two poems, " The Mayor of Waterford's Letter," written in or a little after the year 1487, concerns the attempt of the Earl of Kildare and the Anglo-Irish lords to have Lambert Simnel crowned Edward VI of Ireland and England. On May 24, 1487, Simnel was actually crowned in St. Mary's

Croker, op. cit., p. 293.
He wrote to Burghley March 23, 1593-94 ( State Papers, Ireland, V, 229) about the unsettled state, in Ireland and Tirone's power, ending, "I beinge sett a worke to collect the antiquities of this land and to registre them unto the posteritie, doe come to the knowledge and view of these things."


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