Irish Poetry, from the English Invasion to 1798

By Rusell K. Alspach | Go to book overview

I
Introduction

THAT new influence was the matter of Irish legend and literature, almost completely secreted in the Gaelic language from the non-Gaelic-speaking Irish until the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Let us repeat what has been said above: "The great mass of the natives . . . knew and recited the songs of their own poets and retold in their own language the exploits of Cuchulinand Finn, of Deirdre and Grania:--songs and stories hidden from the English by the barrier of language."1 Not until these songs and stories were put into English did the Anglo-Irish and the English-speaking Irish become familiar with them. Too much emphasis cannot be placed on this point, for it was the gradual widening and deepening of the stream of that knowledge that brought about in large part the work of W. B. Yeats and his fellow-writers at the turn of this century.

Very little attention has been paid to these men: the chroniclers, historians, and translators who put this native material into English during the late sixteenth, the seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries. They have been mentioned, if at all, chiefly as curiosities; no attempt has been made to investigate and trace the way in which their work brought a slow but steadily increasing knowledge of, and interest in, things Irish; nor has any one pointed out how the line of descent runs from the earliest chroniclers down to Standish James O'Grady and his History of Ireland ( 1878-80), so often regarded as the spark that kindled the flame of the modern literary revival in Ireland.2 What

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1
P. 3.
2
Ernest Boyd calls him "The Father of the Revival." See Boyd's Ireland's Literary Renaissance, pp. 26-54. Yeats, Autobiographies, p. 272, speaks of him: "In his unfinished History of Ireland he had made the old Irish heroes, Fion, and Oisin, and Cuchullan, alive again. . . . Lady Gregory has told the same tales . . . but O'Grady was the first, and we had read him in our 'teens."

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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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