Douglas Hyde: Quotations

Poetry Prose


Amhráin Grádh Chúige Connacht/Love Songs of Connacht (1893)

Irish version (orig.)

Mo bhrón ar an bhfarraige
Is é tá mór,
Is é gabháil idir mé
'S mo mhíle stór.

Fagadh san mbaile mé
Déanamh bróin,
Gan aon tsúil tar sáile liom
Choíche ná go deo.

Mo léan nach bhfuil mise
'Gus mo mhúirnín bán
I gCúige Laighean
Ná i gContae an Chláir.

Mo bhrón nach bhfuil mise
’Gus mo mhíle grá
Ar bord loinge
Triall go Meiriceá.

Leaba luachra
Bhí fúm aréir,
Agus chaith mé amach é
Le teas an lae.

Tháinig mo ghrá-sa
Le mo thaobh
Gualainn ar ghualainn
Agus béal ar bhéal.

Hyde’s translation  

My grief on the sea,
  How the waves of it roll!
For they heave between me
  And the love of my soul!

Abandon’d, forsaken,
  To grief and to care,
Will the sea ever waken
  Relief from despair?

My grief and my trouble!
  Would he and I were,
In the province of Leinster,
  Or County of Clare!

Were I and my darling—
  O heart-bitter wound!—
On board of the ship
  For America bound.

On a green bed of rushes
  All last night I lay,
And I flung it abroad
  With the heat of the day.

And my Love came behind me,
  He came from the South;
His breast to my bosom,
  His mouth to my mouth.
Rep. in Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. The Oxford Book of English Verse 1250-1900 (1919) - No. 858.

[ Lady Gregory, Poets and Dreamers: Studies & Translations from the Irish (1903) supplies extensive quotations from Hyde’s original poems and translations, as well as from his plays (some in mixed media). - . ]
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Ringleted Youth of My Love [A Oganaich an Chuil Cheanghaillte]”: ‘Ringleted youth of my love, / With thy locks bound loosely behind thee, / You passed by the road above, / But you never came in to find me; / Where were the harm for you, / If you came for a little to see me, / Your kiss is a wakening dew / Were I ever so ill or so dreamy. // If I had a golden store, / I would make a nice little boreen / To lead straight up to his door / The door of the house of my storeen; / Hoping to God not to miss / The sound of his footfells in it, / I have waited so long for his kiss / That for days I have not slept a minute. // I thought, O my love! You were so / As the moon is, or sun on a fountain / And I thought after that you were snow, / The cold snow on top of the mountains; / And I thought after that, you were more / Like God’s lamp shining to find me; / Or the bright star of knowledge before / And the star of knowledge behind me. // You promised me high heeled shoes, / And satin and silk my storeen, / And to follow me never to lose, / Though the ocean were round us roaring; / Like a bush in a gap in a wall, I am now left lonely without thee, / And this house I grow dead of, is all / That I have around or about me.’ (Love Songs of Connacht, IUP rep. edn. [I985], p.41; quoted in Joseph Lynch, MA Dip, UU 2003.)

Literal translation [Ringleted Youth]: ‘And I thought my storeen that you were the sun and the moon, and I thought after that, that you were snow on the mountain,, and I thought after that that you were a lamp from God, or that you were the star of knowledge going before me and after me.’ (Love Songs of Connacht [Abhráin Grádh Chúige Chonnacht], 1893, IUP facs. rep. edn. 1968, p.43; quoted in Robert Welch, ed., W. B. Yeats: Irish Folklore, Legends and Myth, Penguin 1993, [Afterword], p.128.)

My Grief on the Sea [Mó Bhrón ar an bhfarraige]”: ‘My grief on the sea / How the waves of it roll / For they heave between me / And the love of my soul. // Abandoned, Forsaken, / To grief and to care / Will the sea ever waken / Relief from Despair. // My grief and my trouble, / Would he and I were / In the province of Leinster / Or the county of Clare. // Were I and my darling / Oh, heart bitter wound / On board of the ship / For America bound / On a green bed of rushes / All last night I lay, / And I flung it abroad, / With the heat of the day. / And my love came behind me / He came from the South; / His breast to my bosom, / His mouth to my mouth.’

Literal translation [as footnote]: ‘My grief on the sea. It is it that is big. It is it that is going between me And my thousand treasures. I was left at home making grief, Without any hope of (going) over sea with me, For ever or aye. My grief that I am not, And my white mourneen, In the province of Leinster or the county of Clare. My sorrow I am not, and my thousand loves On board of a ship voyaging to America: A bed of rushes was under me last night And I threw it out with the heat of the day. My love came to my side, Shoulder to shoulder And mouth on mouth.’ (Love Songs of Connacht, IAP rep. edn. [1985], p.10; quoted in Joseph Lynch, MA Dip, UU 2003.) [See page images - as attached.]

Lament of a young woman”: ‘My heart is as black as a sloe, or as a black coal that would be burnt in a forge, as the sole of a shoe [92] upon white halls, and there is great melancholy over my laugh. My heart is bruised, broken, like ice upon the top of water, as it were a cluster of nuts after their breaking, or a young maiden after her marrying. My love is of the colour of the raspberry on a fine sunny day, of the colour of the darkest heath berries of the mountain; and often has there been a black head upon a bright body. Time it is for me to leave this town. The stone is sharp in it, and the mould is cold; it is in it I got a voice [blame] without riches ad heavy word from the band who backbite. I denounce love; woe is she who gave it to the son of yon woman, who never understood it. My heart in the middle, sure he has left it black, and I do not see him on the street or in any place.’ (Quoted in W. B. Yeats, ‘Old Gaelic Love Songs’, in Bookman, 1893 [review of Douglas Hyde, Love Songs of Connacht], rep. in Robert Welch, ed., W. B. Yeats: Irish Folklore, Legends and Myth, Penguin 1993, pp.92-93.)

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Poetry Prose
The Irish heart: ‘I believe it is our Gaelic past which is really at the bottom of the Irish heart. Do what the Irish race may do, it cannot wholly divest itself from the mantle of its past.’ (Q. source.)

Saving the language: ‘My aim was to save the Irish language from death - it was dying then as fast as ever it could died - and that ambition did not lend itself to English writing except for propaganda purposes ...’ (The Dublin Magazine, vol. 13, 1938, p.29.) [Quoted in Dominic Daly, The Young Douglas Hyde, 1974, p.xvii]

On the Necessity for the De-Anglicisation of Ireland” (1892): ‘I have no hesitation at all in saying that every Irish-feeling Irishman who hates the reproach of West-Britonism, should set himself to encourage the efforts, which are being made to keep alive our once great national tongue.... we must strive to cultivate everything that is most racial, most smacking of the soil, most Gaelic, most Irish, because ... this island is and will ever remain Gaelic to the core ...’ (Necessity, &c., 1892, para. 14; as infra; for full-text version go to RICORSO Library, “Irish Literary Classics” - via index or direct.)

On translation:

‘It is not very easy to make a good translation from Irish into English, for there are no two Aryan languages more opposed to each other in spirit and idiom.’ (Preface to Beside the Fire, 1890; quoted in Dominic Daly, The Young Douglas Hyde, IUP 1974, p.107.

On Irish folktales:
‘Of all the traces that man in his earliest period has left behind him[,] there is nothing except a few drilled stones or flint arrowheads that approaches the antiquity of these tales.’ (Ibid. [q.p.]; quoted in Charles Welsh, “Irish Fairy and Folk Tales” [ed. essay], in Irish Literature, gen. ed. Justin MacCarthy, Vol. III, (Philadelphia: John Morris & Company 1904), p.xvii.)
Future hopes:
‘The best we can hope for the future is that as the new language of the peasantry [...] begins to fit better with the organs and mind of those who use it, the beautiful and pure lyrics of such masters as Moore, Mangan, Davis, and Griffin, as well as the songs from that golden repertoire the Spirit of the Nation, and other collections of a similar character, may gradually spirit up with it, as it were, a natural growth in the hearts of the young generation, and quietly supersede the semi-barbarous productions which are as yet only too prevalent in the homes and round the hearths of the Irish nation.’ (“Some Words about Unpublished Literature”, in The Gael, 7 Jan 1888; quoted in Daly, op. cit., p.112.)
Line of descent:
‘The Gaelic League grew up and became the spiritual father of Sinn Féin and Sinn Féin’s progeny were the Volunteers who forced the English to make the Treaty. The Dáil is the child of the Volunteers, and thus it descends directly from the Gaelic League, whose traditions it inherits.’ (In Manchester Guardian, 1923; rep. in John Devoy, Gaelic America (11 Aug. 1923; quoted in Gareth W. Dunleavy, Douglas Hyde, Bucknell UP [AUP] 1974, p.30; also given at Douglas Hyde Page of UCD Archive - online; accessed 15.01.2013.) [See remarks under Gareth Dunleavy, infra.]

Dublin University Review (Oct. 1885) - letter in response to Justin Huntly McCarthy’s contribution on “Irish Language and Literature” in the previous issue:
The sympathetic letter [sic] of Mr Justin Huntly [sic] McCarthy on the subject of the Irish language and literature, in the August number of this Review gives encouragement to draw attention to another and humbler field of our literature which few have thought worthy of being laboured in, but which nevertheless is generally interesting, and always instructive enough to repay any trouble spent upon it. This field consists of the songs and folklore of our peasantry as preserved in the Gaedheilg tongue, which form a kind of literature in themselves, none the less real for never having been committed to writing, and which owing to the inexorable connection between thought and language, will last exactly as long as the tongue of Oisin lasts, and will die when it dies. After gleaning for several summers in central Connacht, round the haunts of Turlough O Carolan, the last of the Irish bards, and collecting such scraps of old songs, ballads, proverbs, and stories as chance threw his way, the writer thought that to contemplate the result from a literary point of view might possibly be of interest to some of those (he thinks, an increasing class) who take an interest in this oldest surviving branch of Aryan languages, which a hundred years ago was spoken throughout the length and breadth of our country, even up to the walls of Dublin.
As to the verses themselves, they are generally full of simplicity and naiveté, and as such they form the most extreme contrast to the poems of the regular bards, which are refined and polished away to a ruinous extreme, making, in too many instances, the sense subservient to the sound; for the regular versifiers have too often preferred a luscious sweetness and a delicious softness in numbers and rhythm to sound sense and striking thoughts. The poems by the Munster bards printed by O’Daly, in two volumes, and the two large volumes of Hardiman (unfortunately long out of print), afford the student a very good idea of what Irish poetry is really like; but most pieces contained in these publications are drawn from manuscripts, and few from the mouths of the peasantry.
But of all the verses in which the peasantry delight, the love songs are by far the best. Many of them are genuinely pathetic, and speak the very excess of passion in nearly all its phases - generally its most despairing ones. A few verses are jotted down here, nearly at random, from these unknown and unpublished songs, and the wish to preserve what a score or so of years will find disappeared off the face of the earth must serve as an excuse for reproducing the ipsissima verba, for slowly but surely those who know them are disappearing; those who sung them are passing away; and soon, very soon, the place that knew them shall know them no more. Here is a song in which a lover, having opened all his mind to his mistress for the first time, and apparently meeting with a favourable answer, becomes suddenly enraptured with the beauty of everything around him, and exclaims twice -

“Oh, the kine they are lowing, / And the calves are at play, / And you, white pulse of my bosom, / You have had my secret today. / In another poem the lover seems to have been less successful, for he cries in agony // Oh, my heart is breaking slowly, breaking in the midst of me. / As the roots on some wild mountain give beneath the lonely tree.”

[...] Another song sings the beauty of some “Girl of the Nine Gold Tresses”, of whom her admirer cries with more than Celtic hyperbole that there existed not

“In the valley of starlight / Such splendour of beauty / There shines light for a hundred from each gold hair.”

Here is another verse from a lovely song, the “Drinawn Donn”, in which a peasant girl regrets having set her affections on an object too high for her. In the original it is very affecting -

“He is foolish, he who attempts the first high wall he sees, / When a low wall stands beside him he could vault across at ease; / The rowan-tree clusters be bitter, though stately the tree and tall, Oh, the low-bush berries beside it are sweeter after all.”

Tears actually stood in the eyes of the old woman from whom this was taken down as she sang the words [...]

Every separate locality has its own favourite traditions, songs, and stories, often descending to us from the dim twilight of antiquity; and whoever will take the pains to examine them will find them remarkable for a generosity of sentiment and an absence of vulgarity, which have done much to leave their impress upon the character of our nation. But, alas, all these traditions are so inextricably bound up with the tongue in which they are preserved, that as our language wanes and dies, the golden legends of the far-off centuries fade and pass away. No one sees their influence upon culture; no one sees their educational power; no one puts out a hand to arrest them ere they depart for ever.


[Rep. in Dominic Daly, The Young Douglas Hyde, 1974, pp.60-62. ]

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Plea for the Irish Language”, in Dublin University Review (July 1886) - responding to an editorial query in that journal as to what it was Dr. Hyde wanted for Irish: ‘I cannot avoid saying a few words in deprecation of the editorial censure, and explaining why it is I do not share the wish to see my language dead and decently buried - to ‘leave it to the universities’, as they call it. We know what that means. We have seen our very numerous, very ancient and very interesting MSS. handed over to the safe keeping of the colleges already. There they lie in their companies: ‘No one wakes them, they are keeping / Royal state and semblance still’ - and mildew on their pages, the dust upon their covers, in the utmost repose and dignity, where we are requested to leave them, ‘to the universities’, - where their placid rest may bc disturbed only once or twice in a generation.’

[cont. ...]

 Now if we allow our living language to die out, it is almost a certainty that we condemn our literary records to remain in obscurity. All our great scholars, nearly all those who have done anything for the elucidation of our MSS., O’Connor of Ballingar, O’Donovan, O’Curry, Petrie, Hennessy, all these spoke the language naturally from their cradle, and had it not been so they would never have been able to accomplish the work they did, a work which first made it possible for a Jubainville or a Windisch to prosecute their Celtic studies with any success. [For further on Windisch, see under Eugene O’Curry - infra.]

 There is no use in arguing the advantage of making Irish the language of our newspapers and clubs, because that is and ever shall be an impossibility; but for several reasons we wish to arrest the language in its downward path, and if we cannot spread it (as I do not believe we very much can), we will at least prevent it from dying out and make sure that those who speak it now, will also transmit it unmodified to their descendants.

 To be told that the language which I spoke from my cradle, the language my father and grandfather and all my ancestors in an unbroken line leading up into the remote twilight of antiquity have spoken, the language which has entwined itself with every fibre of my being, helped to mould my habits of conduct and forms of thought, to be calmly told by an Irish Journal that the sooner I give up this language the better, that the sooner I ‘leave it to the universities’ the better, that we will improve our English speaking by giving up our Irish, to be told this by a representative Irish Journal is naturally and justly painful.

 Englishmen have very noble and excellent qualities which I should like to see imitated here, but I should not like to imitate them in everything. I like our own habits and character better, they are more consonant to my nature; I like our own turn of thought, our own characteristics, and above all I like our own language and do not wish to see the effacing hand of cosmopolitanism prevail against it. [...] When they lose the language they lose also the traditional unwritten literature which, inculcating and eulogising what is courteous, high-minded, and noble, supplied continuously an incentive to the practice of those qualities.

[...] If by ceasing to speak Irish our peasantry could learn to appreciate Shakespeare and Milton, to study Wordsworth or Tennyson, then I would certainly say adieu to it. But this is not the case. They lay aside a language which for all ordinary purposes of every day life is much more forcible than any with which I am acquainted, and they replace it by another which they learn badly and speak with an atrocious accent, interlarding it with barbarisms and vulgarity.

 The language of the western Gael is the language best suited to his surroundings. It corresponds best to his topography, his nomenclature and his organs of speech, and the use of it guarantees the remembrance of his own weird and beautiful traditions. Around the blazing bog fire of a winter’s night Dermod O’Duibhne of the love spot, Finn with his coat of hairy skin, Conan the Thersites of the Fenians, the old blinded giant Esheen (Ossian), the speckled bull with the moveable horn, the enchanted cat of Rathcroghan, and all the other wild and poetic offspring of the bardic imagination pass in review before us. Every hill, every lios, every crag and gnarled tree and lonely valley has its own strange and graceful legend attached to it, the product of the Hibernian Celt in its truest and purest type, not to be improved upon by change, and of infinite worth in moulding the race type, of immeasurable value in forming its character. [...]

There Dermod of the love spot is unknown, Finn MacCool is barely remembered as ‘ a giant’, Ossian is never heard of, the ancient memories have ceased to cling to the various objects of nature; the halo of romance, the exquisite and dreamy film which hangs over the Mayo mountains has been blown away by the brutal blast of the most realistic materialism, and people when they gather into one another’s houses in the evening for a cailee [ceilidhe] can talk of nothing but the latest scandal or the price Tim Rooney got for his calf, or the calving of Paddy Sweeney’s cow.

 I do not believe in resuscitating a great national language by twopenny-halfpenny bounties. If the Irish people are resolved to let the national language die, by all means let them; I believe the instinct of a nation is always juster than that of an individual. But this at least no one can deny, that hitherto the Irish nation has had no choice in the matter. What between the Anglo-Irish gentry who came upon us in a flood after the confiscations of 1648, and again after 169I, whose great object it was to stamp out both the language and institutions of the nation, with their bards and shanachies and ollamhs and professors; what with the brutalised sensual unsympathetic gentry of the last century, the racing, blasting drunkard squireens who usurped the places of the O’Connors, the O’Briens, the O’Donnells, the O’Cahans, and the MacCarthys, our old and truly cultured national nobility who cherished hereditary poets and historians; what with the purblind cringing pedagogues of the present century whose habit it was to beat and threaten their pupils for talking Irish; what with the high-handed action of the authorities who with a cool contempt of existing circumstances surely unequalled in an European country continued to appoint English-speaking magistrates, petty session clerks and local officials among a people to whom they cannot make themselves intelligible; what with the hostility of the Board of Education who do not recognise the language of those baronies where no English is spoken even to the extent of publishing school books in it; what with all this and our long slavery as a nation, we assert that the Irish language has had no chance of showing its capabilities, or those who speak it of taking their own part and making their voice heard.

 Our emancipation as a nation is at hand, a few short years will surely see the dreams of centuries fulfilled, and then it will be the duty - can anyone deny it? - of our rulers to see that our language is treated as the language of any other country of Europe would be treated in like circumstances; to see that those who learn no other language shall be taught to read the one they do know, and that as much encouragement be given to it by the Government as is given to English.

In conclusion we may say this, that while our social and commercial relations make it a necessity for every man woman and child in this kingdom to learn English sooner or later, reverence for our past history, regard for the memory of our ancestors, our national honour, and the fear of becoming materialised and losing our best and highest characteristics call upon us imperatively to assist the Irish speaking population at the present crisis and to establish for all time a bilingual population in those parts of Ireland where Irish is now spoken, from whom all those who in the distant future may wish to investigate the history or the antiquities of our nation, may draw as from a fountain that vernacular knowledge which for such purpose is indispensably necessary.


—Given in Dominic Daly, The Young Douglas Hyde, 1974, pp.64-68.

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The Necessity for the de-Anglicisation of Ireland’, address delivered before the Irish National Literary Society in Dublin, 25 November 1892 (1892) - Selection from various sources: ‘If we take a bird’s eye view of our island today, and compare it with what it used to be, we must be struck by the extraordinary fact that the nation which once was, as every one admits, one of the most classically learned and cultured nations in Europe, is now one of the least so; ... the least studious and most un-literary, and how the present art products of one of the quickest, most sensitive, and most artistic races on earth are now only distinguished for their hideousness’; ‘... failure ... brought about by the race diverging during this century from the right path. / ... in Anglicising ourselves wholesale ... continues to hate the English, and at the same time continues to imitate them; continues to clamour for recognition as a distinct nationality, and at the same time throws away with both hands what would make it so.... / ... It is the curious certainty that come what may Ireland will continue to resist English rule, even though it should be for their good, which prevents many of our nation from becoming unionists on the spot ... It is just because there appears no earthly chance of their becoming good members of Empire that I argue that they should not remain in the anomalous position they are in, but since they absolutely refuse to become the one thing, that they become the other; cultivate what they have rejected, and build up an Irish nation on Irish lines / ... the Irish race at present in an anomalous position, imitating England and yet apparently hating it.’; ‘... In two points only was the continuity of the Irishism of Ireland damaged. First, in the north-east of Ulster, where the Gaelic race was expelled and the land planted with aliens, whom our dear mother Erin, assimiliative as she is, has hitherto found it difficult to absorb, and in the ownership of the land, eight-ninths of which belongs to people many of whom always lived, or live, abroad, and not half of whom Ireland can be said to have assimilated.’ [Cont.]

‘We can, however, insist, and we shall insist if Home Rule be carried, that the Irish language, which so many foreign scholars of the first calibre find so worthy of study, shall be placed on a par with - or even above - Greek, Latin and modern languages, in all examinations held under the Irish Government. We can also insist, and we shall insist, that in those baronies where the children speak Irish, Irish shall be taught, and that Irish-speaking schoolmasters, petty sessions clerks, and even magistrates be appointed in Irish-speaking districts. If all this were done, it should not be very difficult with the aid of the foremost foreign scholars, to bring about a tone of thought which would make it disgraceful for an educated Irishman - especially the old Celtic race, MacDermotts, O’Conors, O’Sullivans, MacCarthy’s, O’Neills - to be ignorant of their own language - would make it at least as disgraceful as for an educated Jew to be quite ignorant of Hebrew.’ ... / ‘I have now mentioned a few of the principal points on which it would be desirable for us to move, with a view to de-Anglicising ourselves; but perhaps the principle point of all I have taken for granted. That is the necessity for encouraging the use of Anglo-Irish literature instead of English books, especially instead of English periodicals. We must set our face sternly against penny dreadfuls, shilling shockers, and still more the garbage of vulgar English weeklies like Bow Bells and the Police Intelligence.’ (p.159). ‘Every house should have a copy of Moore and Davis.’ Also, ‘We ought to be content as an integral part of the United Kingdom because we have lost the notes of nationality, our language and customs. It has always been very curious to me how Irish sentiment sticks in this halfway house - how it continues apparently to hate English, and at the same time continues to imitate them; how it continues to clamour for recognition as a distinct nationality and at the same time throws away with both hands what would make it so ... We find ourselves despoiled of the bricks of nationality. The old bricks that lasted eight hundred years are destroyed.’ (Quoted in Joseph Lee, The Modernisation of Ireland, 1973; see also in A. C. Partridge, Land & Society in Anglo-Irish Literature, 1984, p.131; Chris Corr, ‘English Literary Culture and Irish Literary Revival’, PhD Thesis, UUC 1995; and Declan Kiberd, Inventing Ireland, 1995, pp.140-41.) [Cont.]

‘[T]he half unconscious feeling that the race which a one time held possession of more than half Europe, which established itself in Greece, and burned infant Rome, is now - almost extirpated and absorbed elsewhere - making its last stand for independence in this island of Ireland; and do what they may the race of today cannot wholly divest itself [cf. supra] from the mantle of its own past. Through early Irish literature, for instance, can we best form some conception of what that race really was, which, after overthrowing and trampling on the primitive peoples of half Europe, was itself forced in turn to yield its speeches, manners, and independence to the victorious eagles of Rome. We alone of the nations of Western Europe escaped the claws of those birds of prey; we alone developed ourselvs naturally upon our own lines outside of the free from all Roman influence; we alone were thus able to produce an early art and literature, our antiquities can best throw light upon the pre-Romanised inhabitants of half Europe ... The dim consciousness of this is one of those things which are at the back of Irish national sentiment, and our business whether we be Unionists or nationalists, should be to make this dim consciousness an active and potent feeling.’ (‘Necessity ... [&c.]’, printed in C. G. Duffy, Revival of Irish Literature, p.124-26; cited by Norman Vance, ‘Irish Literary Traditions and the Act of Union’, in Cyril J. Byrne and Margaret Harry, eds., Talamh an Eisc: Canadian and Irish Essays [Irish Studies, St. Mary’s College] Halifax Canada: Nimbus Publ. Co. 1986), pp.29-47; p.51.) [Cont.]

‘In conclusion [...] I appeal to every one whatever his politics - for this is no political matter - to do his best to help the Irish race to develop in future upon Irish lines, even at the risk of encouraging national aspirations, because upon Irishlines alone can the Irish race once more become what it was of yore - one of the most original, artistic, literary, and charming peoples of Europe.’ (Quoted in Dominic Daly, The Young Douglas Hyde, IUP 1974, p.158.) [See full text in Library, “Irish Classics”, via index - or direct.]

On Irish music: ‘Our music, too, has become Anglicised to an alarming extent. Not only has the national instrument, the harp ... become extinct, but even the Irish pipes are threatened with the same fate. In the place of the pipers and fiddlers, who even twenty years ago, were comparatively common, we are now in many places menaced by the German band and the barrel organ. ... For the present, then, I must be content with hoping that the revival of our Irish music must go hand in hand with the revival of Irish ideas and Celtic modes of thought which our Society is seeking to bring about, and that people may be brought to love the purity of Siabhail, Siabhail or the fun of Moddereen Ruadh in preference to “Get Your Hair Cut”, or “Over the Garden Wall”, or, even if it is not asking too much, of “Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay”.’ (Quoted in Martin Dowling, ‘“Thought-Tormented Music”: Joyce and the Music of the Irish Revival’, in James Joyce Quarterly, 45, 3/4 [Biographical Joyce] Spring-Summer 2008, pp.437-58; p.438.)

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Literary History of Ireland from the Earliest Times to the Present Day (1899), “Introduction”: ‘The present volume has been styled - in order to make it a companion book to other of Mr Unwin’s publications - a Literary History of Ireland, but a Literary History of Irish Ireland would be a more correct title for I have abstained altogether from any analysis or even mention of the works of anglicised Irishmen of the last two centuries. Their books, as those of Farquhar, of Swift, of Goldsmith, of Burke, find, and have always found, their true and natural place in every history of English literature that has been written, whether by Englishmen themselves or by foreigners. [ix; 1967 edn.; but cf. do., cited as p.xxxiii in Gerry Smyth, Decolonialism and Criticism, 1997.] In studying the literature itself, both that of the past and that of the present, one of the things which has most forcibly struck me is the marked absence of the purely personal note, the absence of great predominating names, or of great predominating works; while just as striking is the almost universal diffusion of a traditional literary taste and a love of literature in the abstract among all classes of the native Irish. [ix.] O’CURRY, O’Longan, and O’Beirne Crowe catalogued something more than half the manuscripts in the Royal Irish Academy, and the catalogue of contents filled thirteen volumes containing 3,448 pages. [xi.] Hyde quotes PETRIE’s memories of being asked by one Dr Brinkley, TCD and President of the Academy, on addressing the RIA, if he meant to say that there was the slightest evidence of acquaintance with the arts of civilised life before the arrival of the English. [xii.] Hyde goes on: ‘As to the civilisation of the early Irish upon which Petrie insisted, there is no longer room for the very shadow of a doubt.’ [xiii.] Expresses thanks in particular to Fr. Edmund Hogan, SJ for numerous memoranda towards the last chapter [xvi.] (For extracts on Anglo-Irish writers, see infra.)

Leabhar Sgeulaigheachta (1889): ‘I do not think there is much to add to what I have said here, except to observe that it is a national duty - I had almost said a moral one - for all those who speak Irish to speak it to their children also, and to take care that the growing generation shall know it as well as themselves: and in general, that it is the duty of all Irish-speakers to use their own language amongst themselves, and on all possible occasions, except where it will not run. For, if we allow one of the finest and richest languages in Europe, which, fifty years ago, was spoken by nearly four million Irishmen, to die out without a struggle, it will be an everlasting disgrace and a blighting stigma upon our nationality.’ ([pp.215-18]; quoted in Brian Ó Cuív, ‘Irish Literature and Language, 1845-1921’, in William Vaughan, ed., A New History of Ireland, Vol. VI: 1870-1921, OUP 1996, p.401.)

Beside the Fire (1890): ‘The inaction of the parliamentarians, though perhaps dimly intelligible, appears, to me at least, both short-sighted and contradictory, for they are attempting to create a nationality with one hand and with the other destroying, or allowing to be destroyed, the very that that would best differentiate and define their nationality. It is a making of bricks without straw. But the non-parliamentarian nationalists, in Ireland at least, appear to be thoroughly in harmony with them on this point.’ (Beside the fire, London 1890, p.xlv, n.; quoted in Brian Ó Cuív, ‘Irish Literature and Language, 1845-1921’, in William Vaughan, ed., A New History of Ireland, Vol. VI: 1870-1921, OUP 1996, p.401.)

Love Songs of Connacht (1893): ‘The life of the Gael is so pitiable, so dark and sad and sorrowful, and they are so broken, bruised, and beaten down in their own land and country that their talents ad ingenuity find no place for themselves, and no way to let themselves out but in excessive, foolish mirth or in keening and lamentation. We shall see in these poems that follow, more grief and trouble, more melanchology and contrition of heart, than of gaiety and hope. But despite that, it is probably the same men, or the same class of men, who composed the poem which follow and the songs which we have read. We shall not pRove that, and we shall not try to prove it, but where is the person who knows the Gaeldom of Erin and will say against (or contradict) us in this? they were men who composed many of the songs in the last chapter, but it is women who made many of the love-songs, and melodious and sorrowful they made them’ (Quoted in W. B. Yeats in ‘Old Gaelic Songs’ [review of Love Songs of Connacht], Bookman, October 1893; rep. in Robert Welch, ed., W. B. Yeats: Irish Folklore, Legends and Myth, Penguin 1993, pp.91-94; p.91-92.)

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Early Irish Literature”, [ed. essay], in Irish Literature, gen. ed. Justin McCarthy, Vol. II (Philadelphia: John Morris & Company 1904): ‘The editors of Irish Literature [i.e., this anthology] have very wisely decided to represent in their volumes, so far as literal translations will allow them, the real autochthonous literature of Ireland as it existed both before any of the modern languages of Europe had made their appearance as literary vehicles, and since that time. The great and revivifying movement which is at present pulsing through Ireland, and creating, wherever it is felt, new hopes and a new spirit, has indeed rendered it impossible to produce a work upon Irish literature in which, as has happened too often before, the real Irish element was calmly ignored, and the scope of Irish literature narrowed to the productions of English-Irish writers, who after all were, for the most part, too often only imitations of Englishmen. / For the literature of Ireland does not begin with Ware or with Swift, with Molyneux or with Sheridan. Hundreds of years before the English language had risen out of a conglomeration of Anglo-Saxon and Norman-French, hundreds of years before the langue d’oïl and the langue d’oc struggled for mastery upon the plains of France, hundreds of years before the language of the Nibelungen Lied had risen upon the ruins of Gothic, Ireland swarmed with bards, scholars, poets, saga-tellers, and saga-writers; while “the countless hosts of the illuminated books of the men of Erin” (as Angus the Culdee had called them more than two centuries before the birth of William the Conqueror) filled the island from shore to shore; and Erin, at that time civilizer and Christianizer of the western world, was universally known as the “Island of Saints and Scholars.” (p.7.) [Cont.]

‘There are two points about the native literature of Ireland which entirely differentiate it from the rest of the vernacular literatures of Europe, Greek excepted. The first of these is the extraordinarily early period at which it took its rise, and the enormous length of time during which it flourished. The other is the absolute originality of this literature, which was self-evolved, which was utterly unaffected by classic models, and in the syntax of which [vii] scarcely a trace is to be found of those Latinisms upon which are really founded and built up so many other modern languages. It is only right, accordingly, that a word of warning should at the outset be addressed to the reader of these volumes, and that he be reminded, when reading, of how necessary it is to place the occasional pieces culled from this antique literature in their proper perspective. In other words, he should be invited to approach them with a certain historic sense of the early date at which they were written, and of the strange and self-developed people that produced them, so different from the rest of Europe in their manners, thoughts, feelings, civilization, and, beyond all, in their mode of expression. Ireland’s wonderfully copious and extraordinarily early literature is, without doubt, her greatest glory; but its very wildness of flavor and strange extravagance of manners are likely sometimes to render it of only moderate interest to the ordinary reader of English more to him I imagine than to readers of other languages although it can never fail to be piquant and delightful to the literacy connoisseur, who is sure to be captivated by its unique originality. There are a sufficient number of pieces included in these volumes for the reader to sample their flavor for himself, but to do so to the full he must, as I have said, remember that many of them were composed and written before the English language, through the medium of which he now reads them, had been heard of. He must also remember that it is universally acknowledged that the extracts from Ireland’s heroic past portray pictures of a far older and more primitive civilization than any that either the Slavs, the Teutons, or the Latin-speaking races have preserved, pictures of an age more primitive in point of social development though it is later in point of time than even those depicted in the lays of Homer.’ (pp.7-8.) [Cont.]

‘There has seldom been a literature pursued with greater malignity and a prey to greater misfortune than that of Ireland. The Norsemen, who first made their appearance toward the close of the eighth century, made it a point to “drown” the Irish books, since fire was a less certain agent than water in the destruction of the parchment volumes. When the worst storms of the Norse invasions, which had lasted for over two hundred years, had come to an end, on [viii] the 23d of April, 1014, by the crushing defeat of Clontarf, “the countless hosts of the illuminated books of the men of Erin” had almost disappeared, and the literati of Ireland, under the great Brian, began laboriously to gather together their fragments and to rewrite them. It is from this period that the most important still existing Irish MSS. date, and these contain largely a re-editing in the language of the twelfth century of things originally composed in old Irish, many of which were first written centuries and centuries before. [...]’ (Cont.)

‘[...] The romantic, as opposed to the realistic, dominates Irish utterance from first to last. Allied to this we find an ex uberance of minute description and a love of adjectival thunder, which last, by the way, is a trait that has not wholly departed even to this day from among Irishmen even those who have lost their language. Its love of rhetoric, its peculiar mode of hyperbole, and its copiousness of synonyms lend to early Irish literature a charm and a flavor that are wanting to early German, Anglo-Saxon, and Norman-French. On the other hand, Irish writers, despite their weakness for a multitude of alliterative adjectives, go fairly straight to the point. Their sentences are not obscure or involved, and there is very little of mysticism or cloudiness about them. “Ce qui n’est pas clair n’est pas français,” say the French, and the same with much truth may be said about the Irish. They begin their sentences with the verb instead of ending with it, as do the Germans. Some witty linguist once remarked that had the Irish through some philological catastrophe been forced to speak in German half the race would have died through heart disease within a couple of generations. This is perhaps poking an undue fun at the rapidity and vigor of the out-pourings of an Irishman’s mouth, but it is not without an element of truth in it, all the same. The ancient Gael did not avoid similes, but he did not make an excessive use of them. In this respect the Welsh books are more demonstrative and less chastened than the Irish.’

‘Both offer [xiii] a curious contrast to the Anglo-Saxon. In the whole seven thousand lines of Beowulf we meet with scarcely one simile. Yet in spite of their exuberant number of expletives and other peculiarities, the early Irish were masters of story-telling, and pursue their sagas to the end, without over-redundancy or chasing of side issues, so that each presents a fairly perfect unity of its own. In this way their best poetry often reminds us of the marvelous drawings in their illuminated manuscripts, which, despite the thousand-fold involutions and twistings of their lines and knots and other ornaments, never fail, when looked at from a distance, to present a perfect unity of figure. The naiveté of Irish similes is also striking, and they are usually introduced in a natural manner of their own, completely different from the severe and self-possessed similes of the Latin and Greek epics. There is more of quaintness, more of originality, and, if I may say so, more of humanity about them. Thus in describing the appearance of Cuchulain, the romancist exclaims in admiration of his white teeth, “it seemed as though it were a shower of pearls that were flung into his head.” When his steeds have the reins flung loose upon their necks their career is “like a hawk’s swooping from a cliff on a day of hard wind.” The watchman who beholds Froech and his suite flashing past him in crimson and gold relates it to the listeners, and adds, “from the perfumed breeze that floated over them it is the same with me as if my head were over a vat of wine.” When Lughaidh (Lewy) is pursued by Conall Cearnach, his servant looking behind him sees the pursuing chariot and tells his master that a warrior is on his track : “you would believe,” said the servant, “that all the crows of Ireland were flying above him, and flakes of snow are whitening the plain before him.” “Those birds you see,” said Lewy, “are the earthclods thrown up by the hooves of the Dewy-Red, Conall’s steed, and those flakes of snow are the foam from his nostrils.”’ [‘The Death of Cuchulain’, Cuchulain of Muirthemne, by Lady Gregory, Volume IV]. / We also find in early Irish literature a disinclination to indulge in anything like generalization or metaphysical abstractions [...]’ (pp.xiii-xiv.)

[For full text of Hyde’s article, see under RICORSO Library, “Classics of Irish Criticism”, via index or as attached.]

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Sundry remarks

On the Gaelic League
Hyde as quoted in The Home Rule Bill: Memoranda on Amendments [Union Defence League] (London 1912) - “The Irish Language” [sect.]:
The following declarations of policy by the President of the League, Dr. Douglas Hyde, are indicative of the aims of the League.

Speaking at Londonderry in reply to an address from the United Irish League Executive he said that the United Irish League and tlie Gaelic League were working for the same end, though by different means. Their’s was a movement of politics; the Gaelic League’s was of intellect. (Irish Independent, January 16, 1912.)

Again at Castlerea Feis on August 4, 1912 -

“They (the Gaelic League) were working to-day on the very same principles that they started upon, and its principles were first of all that Ireland was in itself a Nation and it will never become an inferior third-rate make-believe second-hand English province or anything else.” (Roscommon Messenger, August 10, 1912.)

He is also reported in the Freeman’s Journal, of October 3, 1911, to have said:

“We ask henceforth the teaching of Irish by Irish teachers and through the medium of Irish, and that every schoolmaster or schoolmistress who cannot teach the three R’s in Irish be either exchanged at once or generously pensioned.”

See a longer extract - in this frame or in new window.

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A Way of His Own: ‘Bíonn a shlighe féin ag gach file / Agus a chaint féin ag gach bard / Ní lia tír ná gnás / A’s ní ceann ná céard [A way of his own has every poet / And every bard his own way finds; / So many lands, so many habits / so many heads, so many minds.’] (Hyde, quoted as epigraph to Brian Coffey’s edition of The Poems of Denis Devlin, 1964.)

Anglo-Irish literature: ‘Nothing less than a miracle could give us at once Gaelic writers and Gaelic readers; and we must read something if we are to remain reasonable beings. This Anglo-Irish literature, which certainly mirrors the life of Ireland that is presently ours provides us with the necessary material. It is not perfection of Irish thought ... but it is a saving salt that will secure the heart of the country from complete decay. (Cited in F. S. Lyons, Ireland Since the Famine, 1971, p.225).

On folklore: ‘Folklore can only find a fitting garment in the language that comes from the mouths of those whose minds are so primitive that they retain with pleasure those tales which the more sophisticated invariably forget. For this reason folklore is presented in an uncertain and unsuitable medium, whenever the contents of the stories are divorced from their original expressing in language.’ (Quoted in Dominic Daly, Douglas Hyde, 1974, p.106-07; quoted in Aine Mellon, “The Modernisation of the Folktale” , UG Diss, UUC, 2000.)

On Irish place-names: ‘On the whole, our place names have been treated with about the same respect as if they were the names of a savage tribe which had never before been reduced to writing, and with about the same intelligence and contempt as vulgar English squatters treat the topographical nomenclature of the Red Indians.’ (“Necessity, &c.”; quoted in Dominic Daly, The Young Douglas Hyde, Shannon: IUP 1974, 220, n.)

The making of the Nation: ‘A nation cannot be made by Act of Parliament; no, not even by a Treaty. A nation is made from inside itself; it is made first of all by its language, if it has one; by its music, songs, games, and customs.... So, while not forgetting what is best in what other countries have to offer us, we desire to especially emphasise what we have derived from our Gaelic ancestors - from one of the oldest civilisations in Europe, the heritage of the Os and the Macs who still make up the bulk of the country.’ (Douglas Hyde, at opening to RN2, 1926; quoted in Maurice Gorham, Forty Years of Irish Broadcasting, Talbot, 1967, p.24; cited in Luke Gibbons, in Transformations in Irish Culture, Field Day / Cork UP 1996, ‘From Megalith to Megastore; Broadcasting and Irish Culture’ pp.70ff.; pp.71.)

The Gaelic past: ‘The moment Ireland broke with her Gaelic past, she fell away hoplessly from all intellectual and artistic effort. She lost her musical instruments, she lost her music, she lost her games, she lost her language and popular literature and with her language she lost her intellectuality.’ (Cited in Nuala C. Johnson, ‘Making Space: Gaeltacht Policy and the Politics of Identity’, in Brian Graham, ed., Geography Bibliography, In Search of Ireland: A Cultural Geography of Ireland, Routledge 1997, 174-91, p.179; quoting from T. Ó hAilín, Irish Revival Movements’, in S. Ó Tuama, ed., The Gaelic League Idea, Mercier 1972, p.96.)

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