Thursday, February 24, 2011



With the passage of the Penal laws the proud and ancient nation was reduced to a state worse than servitude.

The law simply eliminated a catholic Irish person from existance.

The entire native noble class was exiled and in hiding and the old aristocracy, once patrons of the arts, were reduced to laborers, wood cutters and water bearers.

This era of deprivation not only of state and religion but any means of making a living or any educaation subumed the culture to a hidden Ireland.

This 18th century abuse was captured in 5 volumes by Lecky in his 'History of Ireland '.
All the exterior life of 1700 Ireland but not a word of the interior life of the Gael.
The entire order of this century was carried on in English commerce, admininsration of law and services entirely English controlled.

Anglo Ireland was indiffent to the old native traditions and the natives did not speak or understand the English tongue.

The Irish were outlawed yet carried on their literary tradition without library or printing press or any encouragement from their harsh and unfeeling masters.

The Irish reduced from statehood and exising in the worst physical conditions, in windowless mud huts, beset with famine and desease, continued somehow to preserve their cherished poetry.
Scribes when they could obtain paper or parchament, copying the Fenian tales and bardic poetry and recording the traditions and geneologys of the fallen houses.

The Cuirt na hEigce held often in sheds and barns held the Barrantas where assembled seeming laborers and petty farmers could recindle the life and heros of history.
The participants erecting their poetic compositions before High Sherrifs--Judges.
The language and its purity were guarded, the vocabulary preserved an a pooling of remembered Gaelic lore.

At this period the political oppressive conditions degraded the Classical grammer forms and dialectic slang began to prevail.

The provincial communications were distroyed and even county by county had no intercouse between the literate in their clanns.
All were separate.
Thomond from Desmond, Munster from Ulster, Connacht from NW Donegal and very little writing recorded.

A local folk poetry developed.

Where the Cuirt poets were scholars and had the literary tradition and carried on the Bardic art, the folk poems were purely from local inspiration.

It was a period when the Irish gentlemen, the knights and names of princes served well in continetal armys and battlefields.
Serving in France ,Spain, Poland Austria.

They dreamt of the restoration of Irish soverienty and the old monastic abbeys..
The Aislingi poems, visions, were sung giving a mystical ideal, a dream the Tam.
The vision was held in broken Gaeldom in a common dream.

It was the time of Swift but in Dublin their existed some 26 noted Gaelic poets and scribes around 1728.

Teig O Naughton and his father Sean of county Rosscommon and Meath.
Sean gained his bride Winifred Nangel with his sweet song.

"I'd go to the woods with you golden haired maiden'

He wrote the elegy for Mary d Este ,James 2 widow ,and the drinking song 'Maggie Lauder',a toast to the old familys.

The Gael had humor with is own attempt to speak broken English.

Teig however exibited the ever present Irish sense of practical and compiled an Irish/English dictionary.

Carolan meanwhile roamed the bothars of Connacht and achieved acceptance amongh the new Anglo lords for his song and verse.

He became blind from smallpox at an early age but because of it he learned the Harp.
His father of the Meath nobility had been stripped of all his possessions, lands, titles ,food ,substance et:al by the conquering English and had escaped to county Leitrim.

MacDermott Roe of Alderford Rosscomman adopted the boy and it was here Carolan made his best songs and retured to die.

When he was 22 Mrs Mac Dermott provided him with a horse and attendant and he began his travels from house to house.

Carolan does not dwell on the sorrows of Erinn but he played 'planxties', happy dance tunes for the Anglo houses.
His portrait was painted in county Clare by a Dutch artist in 1720. Commissioned by his host a prodistant dean at Limerick.

He was at Tempo with Maguire when he knew he was in deaths throes in 1737, and hence journeyed home to Alderford,playign along the way his 'Farewell to Music'.

When he died vast crowds assembled fora 4 day Wake and 10 harpers played.
He is buried in Kilroanan churchyard.

Cormac Common also of the west, born in county Mayo [magh Eo] in 1703 traveled the country as Shanashie[Sianatie] of Ossainic lays.

Richard Barrett of Erris and Michale macSweeney of Conemara were also western poets of this distant west.

Barret was a United Irishman and was arrested and spent months in Castlebar jail.
He is buried at Cross Abbey.
He composed such works as

'Preab son Ol'
send round the drink
'Eoghan Coir'.

In Connacht Gael and Gall often shared a boisterous and decadent life. Often gathered at the wiskey house.

Later in the century ,the West produced Anthony Raftery of Killmag around 1784.
Again he was blinded by smallpox , became a musician and played the fiddle.
He had no education and was folk poet playing usually among the poor and cottiers.

His 'Seanchas un Sgeiche' reveals the old storys of the conflict between
The FirBuilg and the Dannan,
First battle of Mag Tuirean of early BC memory.
The Melisian invasion Middle BC memory,
The Fainna,
The apostle Padraig,
The Norse invasion,
The Turgesius drowning,
Brian Borus victory
The English conquest,
The Reforamtion,
The Wars of O Neill and Sarsfield.

In essence the entire synoptic history of Ireland from earliest times revealing its oral tansmission amongh this illiterate and down trodden people.

He wrote of hospitality and the love of a flowering young woman.

And in these verseS Connact and the west Irish sunk into the its empty pockets in gloom as Connacnt and northwest Ulster lapsed into illeteracy and folk songs.

The scibes of east Ulster and Louth never stopped copying manuscripts.
These printed in Belfast[Beal Feirste]
as late as late 19th century 1875 taking the old into the Gaelic Revival when it materialized in that era 1875-1900.

Dundalk held a Bardic festival in 1827 and Bardic competions were held in O Meath in the 1840s.

Seumas mac Cuarta [Courtney], born in O Meath or Louth in 1747 carried on the Gaelic tradition.
Carolan visited him and his friend Patrick mac Alindon of the Fews and many verses were composed to honor their famous western Bard.

Mac Cuarta too was blind and hence wrote a poem to a song birds,
'Hail to the bird Sweetest in the branches
Well for those who can see it as well as hear it.'

Mac Alindon is more a scholar .
He keeps a school at Cnoc Chein Mhic Chaintre at Dundalk for reading and writing Irish .
Mac Alindon was a trained mind and a mellifious voice and chose history as topic of his verse.

Peter or Doirnin born in Louth in 1704, a Jacobite and assocate of An Beirneach Mor a rapparee at Sleibe Fuand, made a verse of the landing of Prince Charles Stuart at Scotland, which verse landed him in Armagh jail where he died.
Betrayed by a jelous woman.

O Doirin wrote on the ancient divisions and colonizations of Ireland.
He was a school master at Louth and Armagh.
'On the run' for teachign the Irish language writing of it in a cave of his hiding:
' O Sweet Irish tongue
Was no crime once to speak you in Fodla'.

ODoirin was eulogized by Art mac Coy [Cooey] and made a poem called, 'Uirchill a Chreagain' known as the national anthem of south Ulster.
The Graveyard of Creegan of the Gails.

Art mac Coy was no lover of the Stuart kings but put his hope in the O Neill.
His asiling poem o Chreagain where he declines to go with a maiden to the faery liss than to be in unhappy Ireland, but he would not leave his comrades under the arrows of Clann Bhfuilaigh [Wully] the William ites.

MacCoy was the son of a small farmer in county Armgah living as a gardeners laborer.
His hope for freedom and independence are slung way with the young death of Art O Neill.
When Art macCoy died Dr James Wood, a chemist made a lay for him.
Drugist Wood was an ardent collector of MSs and held a bardic contest in 1827.

In Cavan, a mysterious Parson Brady became a prodestant but satarized his colleagues and his new creed.

Cathal Buide Gunn traveled all over the north and tales of his vagaries abounded.
His lurid and turbulent life ended when a stange woman brough him a priest in his last hour.

Cathal wrote the famous Yellow Bittern to which he likened himself .
He also a wandering, lonely, yellow haired obscure child of Amergin.
The hungry oblivian overtook all.

Many religious prose works and sermons arose from the north.
such as those of Dr James O Gallagher, Bishop Raphoe 1727-1737.
Written while the Bishop was 'on the run' from penal oppression at Lough Erne.
He composed in the Cainte na n daoine, speech of the people.

In Mumna[Munster] Eogan O Rahilly [Reilly] from Kilarney of a respectable farm family under the mac Carthys,
whom they had been under since before the death of Jesus Christ.
He was poet and a singer.
He was of the people but as the penal age unfolded his lightness turned to despare and anger.

He recreates 'Caislean an Tochair' and the splended MCCarthy stonghold
He eulogies oCallaghan.

The homes full of amber light of the courts and laden tables. Warriors at chess, feasts and scholars.
The cry of the chase and the sound of the Bugle on the misty hills full of foxes, red bucks ,hares, water hens ,pheasants.

o Rahilly makes a poem on a gift of a pair of shoes- that great lacking enblim of Irelands empoverished native race-and how these particular shoes had been worn by gods and made victory for heros.

As the new Gall road by on the road, the horseless Gael must take to the ditch and gather his homepspun from the splashing mud .

In such circumstance ORahilly wrote 'Gile na Gile'
'Brighness of Brighness I met upon the way'.

He wrote of this sorrow and loss on his death bed and rests in the slender coffin at Mucross Abbey with the MacCarthys.

Sean Claraich mac Donnell of Rath Luirc, a stong farmer, educated for the priesthood. A Jacobite, follower of the White Cockade, a white ribbon worn by a woman in the hair.

Sean vision is his poem on Irelands faery stongholds:
and more..

Willam o Heffernnan of Tipperarys Shroen Hill, a blind poet wrote,

who ever she be.

Sean o Toomey of Croom whose wife kept a tavern was a homely, big hearted fellow; Eloquent but uneducated.
Andrew MacGrath the Jolly Pedlar, a school master was his great friend.
They ,the two of them, sang the delights of the tavern.
Regected by both prodestant and catholic churchs in
'Margaire Sugach'
he hopes Heaven will not close its doors on him.

He wrote a'Farewell to the Maguires' in 1746 as he had been banished by priest for an irregularity.

His song leaves us the coshna of the berrys, the poems and the hosts, and farewell to his comrades and guiless friends.
To the fair woman and the one that has caused his banishment and made him the gossip of every town.

Clare also produced scholars and poets in Andrew and Hugh McCui rtin well learned fine poets.
Andrew, in reduced circumstances addressed an ode to
Donn of the Sandhills
asking the long dead mythological prince for his aid.
He predicts a 1745 victory if he were not trapped by death .
However he died in 1738.

His brother Hugh went to France under the Treadty of Limerick and was a royal tutor for 7 years.
In 1713 he was living in Dublin and part of the O Naughton literary circle.

At this time he wrote,

'A brief Discourse on Vindication of the Antiquites of Ireland',
in which he corrected Sir Richard Coxs errors.
Cox revenged himself by securing the poet a year in prison at Newgate prison. One of His Majestys more notorious correctional institutions.

While there he compiled an Irish grammer published at Louvain.

In 1732 he collaborated with Conor Begley to publish an English/Irish dictionary published in Paris.

Hugh was with Lord Clares regiment at Flanders.
He had contpmpt for the new native upstarts who profited from Irelands decay.
He represented a new class of Gael who spoke English and aspired to be the Gaelic gentry.
He was buried in his native Kilmacreey, Clare.

Many other poets and bards passed through the penal times.
Some of them hard drinking anglo prodestants.

In addition to these ,the folklore was kept alive by the cottage fire by the Shanachy seanchas oral versions of literature.

The seanchas was the cell on which Irish culture was built and the channel through which the past informed the future.

Deep subjects came into play as well.
The faery tales were told under wonder tales
there was a king long ago
100 tales to follow.

The simple life of the booley, the dairy in the hills, the summer pasture, the princes ventures on the misty moors.

The ancient bardic tales and songs were shared to all classes and a highly trained poet reciting before princes came down by shanachie generation after generation to the shanachie of the chimeny corners.
Circulating oral traditons.

Some of these are collected in
'Londubhan Chairi' by Reverend P Walsh.

Dr T O Rahillys
'Miselanious Irish Proverbs' and his two books of Rann and Burduin
'The Danfocail'
'The Burdui nBheaga.

In later centuries after the Rising of 1916 and the settling in of the Republic cause, a folklore department was created in the new Irish government and collections made of much ofthe folklore in the countyside.
This was a particularly active project of de Valera after his election in 1932 and continuing during the Emergency years of World war 2.

copyright Februay 19 ,2011

sourse: Gaelic Literature Surveyed, Aodh de Blacam, Barnes Noble Books NY NY, 1929

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