Monday, February 28, 2011



As 1847, Black 47, spread to the unsuspecting God trusting Irish, over the plethera of Gaelic creation during the penal era with its unrhythmic ,unsyllabled and unpoetic shanachies, the Great Hunger came like a dark cloud from Heaven itself and rested its blight on the blackened field and the dark mud hut cottiers of the native population already blotted out as indiginous people, by law and government.

The garoulous, viril , large bodied and exuberant were brought to heel in the submission to death itself, and the nation as divided by the Anglo law and goverment, blotted out in fact as well as on paper.

The Gael was still using the native tongue, flowing wit and boisterous song when calamity changed the land utterly with the death of famine and fever of over 1 million gaels and the desperate emigration conducted by both native and landlord to rid the land of the starving helpless millions of skeletal rag bags still visable on the land.
The country had drifted for 300 years towards extinction as it still drifts today.

The old ballad makers and shanachies, the folk poets and bards of the penal era ceased to be and the county lay denuded after its national Wake until the Gaelic revival of 1893.

During that post famine era only one lone pen was pressed to paper and that being the Archbishop of Tuam, John Mc Hale.
He had succeeded Florence Conry in this post and conducted a firey battle against the educational system emposed by Anglo rule designed to end the Gaelic culture.
It was a solitay battle like that of Cuculain while the men of Ulster suffered from meisce and could not rise to fight.

Although the Archbishop was out of touch with native folk culture and tradition,he did translate some of Homers works, much of the old Hebrew Testament, Thomas Moores songs, an Irish Catechism and prayer books.

His attitude however, did influence the prose writer cannon Peter O Leary a student at Maynooth College Semenary.

Cannon O Leary gave a lecture on literature there to some visiting Bishops and among them was prelate O Hale who commended his discussion of Greece, Rome, France,Spain, Germany and England but critized him for not one world out of his mouth on the literature of Ireland, to which the 'Lion of the Fold' wakened O Leary to the ancient and noble literature of Ireland.

One of the penal days preservers of some of this ancient noble Irish lore was O Conor of Belanagare who had some substanctance, was a fine scholar and collected a large Gaelic library with scribes to transcribe it.

Later in the late 1775-80s, Joseph Walker published a 'Historical Memior of the Irish Bards'.
In 1786 and in 1789 Charlotte Brooke, the first woman mentioned in any Irish literature, published 'Reliques of Irish Poetry' with verse and song.

By 1813 James Hardimans' History of Galway' was published and Irish Minstrelrys' containing bardic and popular poetry.
This published as a magazine and brought Modern Irish Literature to the general public right down to the Padraic Pearce consumption of it.

Hardiman, after some convincing that these Irish materials had merit, enjoyned Thomas Turlog to translate them to English.

He also engaged John O Donovan of Kilkenny as a scribe who copied Peter O Connells Irish Dictionary ,a work never published.

O Donovan later edited and transcribed the 4 Masters;
Brehon Law;
The Topigraphical Poems of O Dugan & O Heerin ;
The Book of Rights;
The Martyrolgy of Donegal

as he worked for a living for the Ordnance Survey where he compiled records of 10 thousand Irish townlands.
He wrote an Irish grammar all with very little money at hand.

He had married a daughter of Eugene O Curry m Own Mor O Curry of Clare.
This man was an old world scholar and musician.
O Curry worked at the Royal Irish Academy and Trinity College where he collected ancient codices and illistrations and he later delivered lectures on the MSs on Nature and Early Irish History :the Manner and Customs of the Ancient Irish ,delivered at Catholic University before his death in 1862.

These lectures revolutionized the writing of Irish history.
He had worked to translate the Book of Ballymote.

These 2 men ODonovan and OCurry reestablished the ancient scholarship of Erinn after its 200 years of oblivian.

These giants of devotion were augmented by George Petrie's archeological services and Edward Buntings records of Irish music.

The Young Ireland movement then taking hold, set out to create an English writing inclusive of the Irish past.

Walsh, Tom Davis and Mangan sought to not only tranlate to English the Old Irish past but to salvage the Gaelic language.

The Anglo Irish fell silent after the Young Ireland school ceased after the famine and their, defeat until in the 1890s James Standish O Grady and the ideal of the Young Irelanders were taken up anew.

OGrady wrote his 'Bardic History' and 'Silva Gadelica' which material he recovered from the British museum.

In this day societys were formed to carry on the revivalist work. Gaelic Society in 1808
Archeological Society in 1840
The Celtic Society

All these prefamine societys attracted the support of the Anglo Irish nobility and landed gentry.
They sponsored and patronized as did the old Irish princes.

In 1854 the Ossianic Society began publication of the Fenian lays.
O Grady was a worker for this Society but most of his works were not published until 1926.
His exact catalogue of the Irish MSS in the British Museum was completed by Robin Flower.
The compete index of Gaelic was now possessed.

In 1876 the Society for the Preservation of the Irish language published the 3 Sorowful stories* and in 1879 the Gaelic Journal magazine was published by the Geaelic Union in the living language[Late Modern Irish].

By 1893 the Gaelic League was formed, publishing hundreds of popular volumes which sought to place the past as the forrunner to the present.
Such men as Pearce,Dr Hyde ,Provost of Trinity College, mac Neill, lovers of the Ossian lays and Gaelic songs, created a new pride in Irish heritage.
It collected tales of the Red Branch Knights of Armagh, the Fenain tales of 2 Ad., songs and folk tales from all the tribal lands of Ireland.

The Irish Text Society founded in 1900, published each year, a book in Irish and English.
Such volumes as Keatings History,
Fions Poem Book, the Dunaire Finn, Contention of the Bards ,the Lays of Aed Ruad O Domnaill.

On the continent, it was determined the Celtic tongue to be part of the Indo-European family and there Arbois de Jubainville wrote of the Tuatha de Danann.

Windisch of Germany published an Old Irish Grammer and a middle Irish vocabulary for students that they might read these works from the 1200s.

A dictionary collaboration of his with Whitley Stokes of Dublin, the grandson of the old Whitley Stokes who tranlated the Lives of the Saints, an invaluable work.
These and other including Dunn in America worked to bring the vestages of the forgotten civilization in Irelnd to light.

Thurneysens work of the early Sagas;
Kuno Meyer, the German scholar, was at home in all celtic lore and was equaly happy camped out with Welsh gypsies.
Kuno worked diligently with nature poems and the Fenian Cycle and wrote a line of Irsh meterics and a list of 1000 Irish poets.
At this Rennissance list, literature and learning was saved from oblivian.

The work of Cannon Peter O Leary,of Cork who wrote the Irish as he heard it, the venacular speech.
The old literary sentance was abandond and the new sentance was simple and breif.
o Leary not only tamed the old Irish syllabic metric sentance, he taught the Geailteach to write what it spoke,

He created an exaustive record of Colloquial Irish as it was spoken writing a novel called 'Seadna' on the rural Class and
of the midle Irish aisling poet 'Mac Conglines Vision'.
He wrote gospels and an' Imitation of Christ'.

Padraic o Conaire ,a shanachie of Connact, is ranked as one of the best short story writers of contemporay Europe.
O Conaire possessed a skill of defining the human character, whether priest or peasant or personalities of characters.
His most poignant work is of mother and lover of a fallen youth killed in the ongoing stife of Ireland.

In Donegal, Tir Conaill produced many Renessance writers such as Seumas O Grianna the composer of 'Caisleaan Oir' of the Dengal hardships and Micheal Ruad.

In Leinster and the Pale, Padraig Pearce is cited with his vital 268 page 'Gaelic Works' that is prophetic.
In 'Letters That Went Astray' he portrays the era of Home rule in 1911 with such phrases as:
'I Siocain go Saoirse'
[No peace without freedom].

Pearce the schoolmaster also wote some Gaelic short stories.
He was not a great craftman of the 'Caine de Doine' but he did reflect the passion of the Irish people.

He held ideals but expresed them with cynasism.
Born into the Anglo Life, Gaelic his second language, he held the idylls of the kings as his bachground and a familiarity with fenain ranns and gaelic literature that lead him to envison a new state ,free of English domination.

The era was one mainly of prose not poetry and the story that of the contryside not the urban cosmopolitan society.
That left till a later time to such exiles a as James Joyce in his Ulysses.

As the day of the Easter Rising approached the Irish Universitys encourged Gaeltacht to read in the late modern Irish scrip,t the old classics, thus to produce in the new 20th Century a school possessing the Gaelic past and the Gaelic tongue and a new learning.

And so Ireland with its saints and scholars, heros and kings, poets bards, and invaders passed into the 20th century.

* The three sorowful tales o storytelling are:
Fate of The children of Tuireann of the de Danann vs Fomore
Fate of the Children of Lir, of the jelousy of a woman
Fate of the Children of Uisnech of the Red Branch

all 3 tales edited to one volume by Sean O Ceallaigh

Judi Donnelly
copyright 24 Febraury 2011

sourse: Irish Literature Surveyed, Aod Balcam, Barnes/Noble Books, NY NY, 1929
Ulysses, By James Joyce,The Modern Library Edition, Random House Inc. 1914-1961 by Lucia and George Joyce

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