Irish Poetry, from the English Invasion to 1798

By Rusell K. Alspach | Go to book overview

6
Some Early Translators of Gaelic Poetry

THE last two decades of the eighteenth century are marked by an ever-increasing interest in Gaelic literature and Irish antiquities on the part of the English-speaking Irish. There are a number of landmarks. In 1782 a young man named Charles Henry Wilson published a volume of translations from the Gaelic; in 1785 the Royal Irish Academy was started; in 1786 Joseph Cooper Walker's Historical Memoirs of the Irish Bards appeared; in 1789 the retiring and modest Charlotte Brooke finally published her Reliques of Irish Poetry; and in 1793 James Hely published his translation of Roderic O'Flaherty Ogygia, written in Latin in 1685. In addition, Theophilus O'Flanagan was doing the preliminary work that was to result in the publication of the Transactions of the Gaelic Society of Dublin in 1808. Finally, during these years the redoubtable Charles Vallancey was working with the Gaelic language and Irish antiquities and editing the Collectanea de Rebus Hibernicis ( 1770-1804). Since a consideration of these books and people involves in a number of cases translations of Gaelic poetry into English, and since such translation has not so far loomed very large in our discussion of the matter of Ireland, a rounding up of what references have been made will prove helpful.

These are not many, for only a few writers from the sixteenth to the late eighteenth century did any considerable work in this field. We have noticed145 that Edmund Spenser had a few translations made for him, as he tells us in his View of the Present State of Ireland; that a translation of a Gaelic poem is in the Hanmer papers;146 that Swift did a semi-translation in "The

____________________
145
P. 68.
146
Pp. 27-28.

-103-

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