From 1700 to 1798
ALONG with the swift increase in the number of English-speaking Irish during the eighteenth century came a corresponding increase in the number of poets writing in English. Unfortunately, the improvement was only in numbers; with exceptions like Charlotte Brooke Reliques of Irish Poetry in 1789, treated in Part II,144 and the ballad and national poetry of `98,145 the Irish poetry of the eighteenth century has perhaps even less distinction than the poetry from the invasion to 1700. Although a great many of the poets can be called Irish poets, since their work directly concerned Ireland or its people, they were for the most part utterly unoriginal in form or diction, aping slavishly the English poets.
An examinatiof Croker Popular Songs of Ireland, that is devoted chiefly to eighteenth-century verse, furnishes proof of this statement. A few examples will help. Croker reprints as one of the best-known poems of its time "Molly Asthore," by George Ogle ( 1742-1814),146 three lines of which are a fair sample:
As down by Banna's banks I strayed, one evening in May, The little birds with blythest notes made vocal every spray; They sung their little notes of love, they sung them o'er and o'er. . . .147
And here is a stanza of a poem called "A new Ballad on the Hot Wells at Mallow," printed originally in The Ulster Miscellany ( 1753):____________________