James Hardiman [coll. & ed.], Irish Minstrelsy, or the Bardic Remains of Ireland, with English Poetical Translations, 2 vols. (London: Joseph Robins 1831).

[The notes can be accessed from the text (below) and vice-,versa.

Irish Minstrelsy, or Bardic Remains (London 1831), Vol. I: Notes pp.[343]-435; Errata, p.[436]; facsimile rep. edn. IUP 1971, with a preface by Máire Mac an tSaoi. (See bibliographical details of both vols. under Hardiman, supra.)

Editorial note (Ricorso)
Page-numbers are given in roman numerals (as in the original) and set in square brackets after the contents of each page - whereas the original and the IUP facs. edn. set those numerals in the header of each page. This practice is followed throughout Ricorso since most modern publishers set page-numbers in the footer of the page.
Footnotes in the original are indicated by asterisks and similar signs (e.g., *, †, &c.). These are given here as arabic numerals in square brackets and linked to the corresponding footnotes in the attaching “Footnotes” document by means of hypertext - back and forth.
The two parts of the Introduction thus distinguished - text and notes - have been separate for reasons of length, convenience in editing, and - finally - because several of the notes constitute a virtually distinct document. ((In this they resemble the arguments conducted in the notes suffixed to each part of the anthology - which will be copied in this context later on.)
The Introduction has been taken from the facsimile reprint edition of the Irish University Press (1971) with as much fidelity as possible. In place of the Gaelic fonts used there, however, a regular type-face is used here. The modern “h” for aspirated consonants to be met with here was adopted by Hardiman himself.
Typographical and bibliographical eccentricities of the original have been largely retained. In place of his Gaelic fonts, however, extended Gaelic quotations have been set out in italics. Digitisation of Vols. I & 2 - both Songs and Notes - will proceed as quickly as possible. A “standardised” version of the text may be produced at a later time.

Volume I [title-page]: Irish Minstrelsy / or / Bardic Remains of Ireland; / with / English Poetical Translations / collected and edited, / With Notes and Illustrations, / by JAMES HARDIMAN, M.R.I.A. / “Bíonn grádh agam ar dhantaigh is ar cheoltaigh”/ “I will give thee a book—it containeth the Songs of the bards of Erin, of the bards of the days that are gone.” John Philpot Curran. / Vol. I / Conond: Joseph Robins, Bride Street, Bridge Street. 1831. To the Right Honorable / Thomas Spring Rice,/ Representative in Parliament for the City of / Limerick, / A Steady Friend to the Best Interests of Ireland, / This Work, / Undertaken with a View to Preserve and Illustrate / A Portion of Ancient Irish Literature, / Is resepctfully inscribed / by his obedient servant, / James Hardiman. / Dublin, September 1st, 1831.

Vol I - Contents: Introduction [i]; Memoir of Carolan [xli]; Memoir of Thomas Furlong [lxix]. Part 1—Remains of Carolan. Failte do Chearbhallan/Welcome to Carolan [5]; Máire Magúidhir/Mary Maguire [9]; Fanní Biadhtach/Fanny Betagh [13]; Brighitt Crús/Bridget Cruise [15]; Leighios gach galar an t-uiséidhe/Whiskey is the potion [19]; Plaingstígh an Stafardaich, no Ol-re Chearbhailláin/Planxty Stafford, or Carolan’s Receipt [23]; Eadhart O’Corcráin/Edward O’Corcoran [27]; Seón Hart/ Doctor harte [29]; Inghín ui Mhórdha, no seabhac Bheal-áith-seannaigh/O’More’s Fair Daugher, or the Hawk of Ballyshannon [33]; Feidhlim ua Néill/Phelim O’Neill [39]; Plaingstídhe Péaton/Planxty Peyton [43]; Madam Crofton/Madam Crofton [45]; Marghairiad n-I Chorcráin/Peggy Corcoran [49]; Seón Iónes/ John Jones [53]; Graesi Nuisiun/Gracey Nugent [57]; Máible shéimh n-í Cheallaigh/Mild Mabel Kelly [61]; Cupán ui Eaghra/The Cup of O’Hara [65]; Marghairiad Brán/Peggy Browne [67]; Seoirse Brabron/George Brabazon [71]; Séamus Pluincéatt/James Plunkett [83]; Nabsídh Cooper/ Nancy Cooper [87]; Márbhna air bhás a mhna/Carolan’s Monody on the Death of his Wife [91]; Uaill-chúmhaidh os cionn uaigh mheic Aib/Lament for Mc. Cabe [95]; Márbhna Chearbhalláin/Elegy on Carolan [97]; Rainn/Epigrams, 11—113—117—118 -124-132. Addenda: A h-uiséighe chróidhe na n-anmann/Why Liqour of Life [141]; ’S í mo chreach! bean cheannaighe na féile/Ode to drunkenness [147]; Magaídh Láidir/Maggy Laidir [155]; Oid do’n t-saoi Coindealbhán/Ode to a Minstrel [180]; Bloghad/A Fragment* [185]; Rann/ Epigram [189]; Ol-dán/Bacchanalian* [192]; Móta ghráinne óig/Moatagrenoge [194]; Casadh an t-súgain/Twisting of the Rope* [195]. Part II—Sentimental Song: Bríghdín Pádruic/Bridget Fergus [205]; Eibhlín a rúin/Eileen a Roon [211]; Páistín fionn/Paisteen Fion [217]; Síle bheag n-I Choindealbháin/Little Celia Connellan [221]; Stuarín na m-bachall m-bréagh, réidh/The Lass of fair flowing tresses [225]; Tignearna Mhaígheó/Lord Mayo [229]; Dróignean donn/The Brown Thorn [235]; Caisiol Múmhan/Cashel of Munster, or the “Clar Bog Deal” [239]; Máire Chuisle/Molly a Store [243]; Caitilín Tírrall/Catherine Tyrrell [247]; An Chúil-fhionn/The Coolin [251]; Róisín dubh/Roisin Dubh [255]; Uileacán dubh O/Uileacan Dubh O! [259]; Cean Dubh Díleas/Cean Dubh Deelish [263]; Eibhlín a rún/Old Eileen a Roon [265]; Eadhmonn an Chnoic/Emon a Knock [269]; Ann fa m-baile so/In this clam sheltered villa [275]; Béile n-I Chiarabháin/Eleanor O’Kirwan [279]; Fiadhaídhe Bhéara/The Hunter of Bearhaven [283]; Tá faigheada agus enead/Wounded by Cupid’s dart [287]; Déirdre dheagh-ghnúiseach/Blooming Deirdre [291]; Máire rún/Mary a Roon [297]; Nóra an chúil ómraich/Honor of the Amber Locks [301]; Aisling an óig-fhír/The Young man’s Dream [305]; A ghrádh agus a rúin dhil/Mary of Meelick [311]; Beul-áth-shamhnais/Ballyhaunis* [326]; Blogadh/A Fragment* [330]; A n Spéic Seóigheach/The Humours of Joyce Country* [331]; Cormac óg/Young Cormac [333]; Bínsín lachna/The Bunch of Rushes [334]; Condae Mhaígheó/County Mayo* [337]; A Bloghad/Fragment* [341]; Oid/An Ode* [343]; Eóchaill/Youghal Harbour [348]; Muirnín na gruaige béine/My fair-haired Darling [354]; Bloghadh/ A Fragment [365]. [Ftn.: Those thus marked * are not translated.]


 After ages of neglect and decay, the ancient literature of Ireland seems destined to emerge from obscurity. Those memorials which have hitherto lain so long unexplored, now appear to awaken the attention of the learned and the curiosity of the public; and thus, the literary remains of a people once so distinguished in the annals of learning, may be rescued from the oblivion to which they have been so undeservedly consigned. That the ancient Irish possessed ample stores in their native language, capable of captivating the fancy, enlarging [i] the understanding, and improving the heart, is well known to those acquainted with the mouldering membranes which have survived to our times. The historical importance of our annals has been acknowledged by the most learned men of Europe for the last three centuries. They are written in the language of the first inhabitants of Europe; and, with a simplicity of detail which truth only can confer, they record the primæval state of this island, the origin of its early inhabitants, their history, religion, and laws, and the arts known amongst them for several generations. Former writers have brought discredit on our history by injudiciously blending with it the fictions of romance; and succeeding authors, unable or unwilling to separate the truth from the fable, became contented copyists, and thus encreased the evil which they pretended to remedy. Eager for temporary applause, which they mistook for permanent fame, they forced on the world their crude essays, which were remarkable only for distortion of fact and boldness of conjecture. The original documents, which would have guided them to truth, were wholly neglected, or but partially explored. Hence, the imperfect state of our early history, and the erroneous opinions entertained of it by many, even of the learned, at the present day. The difficulty of procuring the documents alluded to, and the still greater difficulty of deciphering them when procured, may be alleged as an excuse [ii] for the indolence, or ignorance, of which our countrymen have reason to complain in the generality of their historical writers. But this is a plea that cannot be admitted. Those chroniclers of error ought to have rendered themselves competent, or have remained for ever silent. What is true of the past will apply equally to the future. Until the difficulties alluded to shall be overcome, all attempts to illustrate, with certainty or authority, the earlier parts of our history must prove abortive. Having judged it necessary to make the few foregoing observations on the most important use to be made of those neglected muniments, it now remains to ascertain what information they afford on the subject at present under consideration-the ancient poetry of Ireland.

That this country, from an early period, was famous for the cultivation of the kindred arts of poetry and music, stands universally admitted. The works of the prejudiced Cambrensis, and the annals of Wales and Scotland, might be adduced in evidence of the fact; but we require not the aid of foreign proof, our domestic records supply abundant information on the subject. Although most of the records of the days of paganism were destroyed by the zeal of the first Christian Missionaries, and much of what then escaped, with many of later times, met with a similar fate from the barbarity of the Danes, and the destructive policy of the English, [iii] yet sufficient remains to enable us to trace those arts to a remote period in Ireland. The early settlers, afterwards distinguished by the name of Milesians, derived their origin from that part of the earth, where poetry and music appear coeval with the formation of society. Accordingly we find the poet and musician numbered in the train of these celebrated invaders. The bards AMERGIN, the son of their leader, and LUGAD, the son of ITH, are particularly named. The latter is called, in old writings, “The first poet of Ireland”, Ced Laid h-Er., and there still remain, after a lapse of nearly three thousand years, fragments of these ancient bards, some of which will be found included in the following pages, with proofs of their authenticity [1]. After these, but anterior to the Christian era. flourished ROYNE FILE, or the poetic, [iv] and FERCEIRTNE, a bard and herald; some of whose remains will also be found with the foregoing. LUGAIL and CONGAL lived about the birth of Our Redeemer, and many of their verses, particularly those of the latter, are still extant [2]. The subjects and language of these insular poems afford internal evidence of an antiquity transcending that of any literary monument in the modern languages of Europe.

In that remote period the cultivation of music kept pace with the progress of poetry. The Dinn Seanchas [3] compiled by AMERGIN MAC AMALGAID, A. D. 544, relates that in the time of GEIDE, monarch of Ireland, A.M. 3143, “the people deemed each others voices sweeter than the warblings of a melodious harp, such peace and concord reigned among them, that no music could delight them more than the sound of each others voice: Temur (Tarah) [v] was so called from its celebrity for melody, above the palaces of the world. Tea, or Te, signifying melody or sweet music, and mur, a wall. Te-mur, the wall of music [4]”. In the same ancient tract, music is again alluded to, in the relation of a youthful dream or vision Of CAHIREMORE, monarch of Ireland, which, amongst other things, describes, “a delightful hill, surpassing all others in height, whereon stood hosts; and there grew a most beautiful and stately tree, like gold, whose variegated and luxuriant foliage, when moved by the wind, yielded the most melodious music ever heard, and on it grew delicious fruit, pleasing to every one’s taste.” [5] The royal druid Bree, thus interpreted the dream: “You are the tree who shall rise high to the sovereignty, over all the nation; the wind blowing on the leaves, and producing harmony, is the sweetness of your words in giving laws and ordinances to the people; and the fruit you saw, are the many blessings that shall come on your subjects in your reign.” The first of these extracts contains the earliest allusion to the harp [6] which I have met [vii] with, though it is frequently mentioned in Irish poems ascribed to Columba., and others of the sixth century [7] It is considered needless to multiply extracts. to shew the early knowledge and progress of music in Ireland. Proved to have existed as far back as the most ancient annals extend., its origin, like that of our round towers, must be sought for in the East [8].

The music of Ireland is better known to the world, at the present day, than its poetry. In the sweetest [x] strains of natural feeling, the former found its ready way to every heart, and became endenizened in every clime, while the latter, wrapped in an ancient and expressive but proscribed and insulated language, has been generally neglected, particularly since the spread of the English tongue amongst us, and the downfall of the Milesians. Men there were, no doubt, who, knowing and valuing its beauties, have protected and cherished it amidst every vicissitude, as a precious depository of the genius of former times. But these generations have passed away. The few who inherit their spirit are gradually disappearing, and thus Irish poetry, with all its charms, may be left to linger awhile, and then sink into oblivion, unless rescued by the timely interposition of those who still retain some respect for the ancient honour of their country.

The nature and value of this venerable deposit now remain for investigation. Some ancient bards anterior to the Christian era, have been already noticed. Thence, to a recent period, a numerous host of the principal “sons of song”, whose names may appear uncouth to our modern ears, will pass, [xi] in tedious, perhaps, but necessary review, before the reader. These men’s works are stamped with genius and learning, and are preserved in various records of the highest authority. In the second century CIOTHRUADH, the bard, addressed a poem to the monarch CON, which is preserved in the book of Munster [9]. FINGIN, in the same reign, produced a poem, on the approaches to Tarah, preserved in the Dinn Seanchas— Lecan, f.239. Some fragments of LUACHNA, another bard of that period, and of FERGUS FIONNBELL, or the “Sweet-voiced”, who lived in the third century, are found in the same record. The bard OISIN is here omitted, for although there appear some poems ascribed to him in many old manuscripts, yet strong doubts are entertained of their authenticity. In the fourth and fifth centuries flourished the nervous and poetic TORNA, one of whose poems is given in the following collection; and DUBTHACH, the son of LUGAR, a bard who embraced the Christian faith in the time of St. Patrick. Two curious poems of the latter, on the privileges and duties of his order, and of the royal rights and duties of the King of Tarah, as monarch of Ireland, are preserved in the Leabhar na Cceart [10]. A hymn [xi] to the Redeemer, by Dubthach, after his conversion [11], is found in the Felire Anguis, a poetical calendar, compiled about the end of the eighth century, and preserved in the Leabhar Breac, or “Speckled Book”, a valuable miscellany, now in the library of the Royal Irish Academy. The foregoing are the most noted Pagan bards, whose poems and rhapsodies have descended to our times. The names and works of others have been handed down; and there can be no doubt but that more will be brought to light when the Irish MSS. scattered throughout these islands, and on the continent of Europe, as before alluded to, shall be recovered.

The introduction of Christianity gave a new and more exalted direction to the powers of poetry. [xii] Among the numerous bards, who dedicated their talents to the praises of the Deity, during the three succeeding centuries, the most distinguished are, FEICH, the bishop, whose poem, first published by the learned Colgan, is in the hands of every Irish scholar; AMERGIN, author of the Dinn Seanchas ; the famous COLUMCILLE; DALLAN and SEANCHAN, some of whose minor poems are contained in this collection; CINFAELA, the learned, who revised the Uraicepht, or “Primer of the Bards”, preserved in the book of Ballimote, and in the library of Trinity College, Dublin; the celebrated ADAMNAN; and ANGUS, the pious author of the Felire, or Hierology in verse, already mentioned. Most of these poems afford internal evidence that their construction is founded on the traditional rythmical songs of the Pagan bards. Their metre and their jingle are national. They follow a long established practice well known to the bards of former times [12]. After [xiii] the death of ANGUS, about the year 800, the incursions of the Danes, for a time, silenced the Muses, yet some famous bards flourished between that period and the arrival of the English. In 884, died, according to the annals of the Four Masters, MAOLMURA (MILES) of Fathan, described, in the Book of Invasions, as “a skilful and truly learned poet”, whose works are distinguished for loftiness of thought, and strength of expression. Three valuable historical poems, by Maolmura, are preserved in the Books of Invasions and Lecan. Contemporary with him was FLANN, the son of LONAN, a graceful and elegant writer, who is called, in the annals of the Four Masters, the “Virgil of Ireland.” Within the next century, we find the bards CORMACAN and KENETH O’HARTIGAN, whose valuable poems, particularly those of the latter, are inserted in the Book of Invasions, and the Dinn Seanchas; MAC GIOLLA CAOIMH, a sweet poet, one of whose elegies will be found in this collection; and the learned EOCHY O’FLOINN, who died in 984, and whose invaluable historical poems are preserved in the Books of Lecan, Ballimote, and Invasions. About the beginning of the eleventh century lived MAC LIAG, (Secretary and Biographer of the patriotic Monarch BRIAN, killed at [xiv] Clontarf, A. D. 1014,) whose pathetic poems, on the death of his royal master, are given in the present collection. The originals of these, and other pieces by this bard, are contained in the Leabhar Oiris. The learned historical poems of CUAN O’LOCHAN, FLAN of Bute, and GIOLLA KEVIN, (who flourished in this century,) preserved in the records so often mentioned, shew that the general gloom of ignorance, which at that time overspread the rest of Europe, had not reached this island. The poems of the latter bard have been published by Doctor O’Conor, in his Rerum Hibernicarum Scriptores, vol. I, with translations and notes, of great value to the Irish historian. In the early part of the twelfth century flourished UMULCONRY, the annalist and poet, who sung of the aboriginal tribes of Ireland in sweetly flowing verse, preserved in the Book of Lecan; the learned O’CASSIDY, abbot of Ardbracken in Meath, whose well known historical poem, “Sacred Erin! Island of Saints”, is printed in the work above alluded to; and O’DUN, chief bard to the Prince of Leinster, who died in 1160, and whose historical poems are preserved in the valuable volumes of Lecan, Ballimote, and other ancient MSS. - Such were the principal bards of Ireland down to the Anglo-Norman invasion. Not imaginary personages, like many, called into fabulous existence by the zeal of some neighbouring nations, in asserting claims to early civilization and literature, but men long celebrated [xv] in the annals of their country, and whose works, still extant, are pointed out with as much perspicuity as the limits of these pages would allow. The nature and character of these works are deserving of peculiar attention. They do not possess any of the wild barbarous fervor of the Scandinavian Scalds; nor yet the effeminate softness of the professors of the “gay science”, the Troubadours and lady-bards of the period to which we are now arrived. The simplicity of expression, and dignity of thought, which characterize the Greek and Roman writers of the purest period, pervade the productions of our bards: and, at the present day, they are particularly valuable for the important aids which they furnish, towards elucidating the ancient state of this early peopled and interesting island [13].

For two centuries after the invasion of Henry II. the voice of the muse was but feebly heard in Ireland. The genius of the nation withered at the approach of slavery. The bards were few, but among them were some of considerable eminence. The pious and highly gifted DONOGH O’DALY, abbot of Boyle, in Roscommon, was called the Ovid of Ireland, from the sweetness of his verse. He died in 1244, leaving several excellent poems, chiefly on divine subjects, [xvii] which, even to the present day, are familiarly repeated by the people in various parts of the country. CONWAY, a bard of the O’Donnells of Tyrconnell, about the same time, poured forth some noble effusions to celebrate the heroic actions of that powerful sept. One of the most distinguished writers of this period was JOHN O’DUGAN, (chief poet of O’Kelly, Prince of Imania, in Conaught,) who died in the year 1372, and whose name and works are still remembered and repeated by the people. His topographical poem, describing the principal Irish families of Conaught, Meath, and Ulster, at the time of the English invasion, is particularly valuable. Not a line of these bards has ever been printed. The limits here prescribed preclude the possibility of particularizing the poets of the two succeeding centuries. If they evinced less talent, let it be remembered that they were more oppressed than their predecessors [14]. They fell with their country; and like the captive Israelites, hung their untuned harps on the willows. Well might they exclaim, with the royal psalmist:

Now while our harpes were hanged soe,
The men, whose captives then we lay,
Did on our griefs insulting goe,
And more to grieve us thus did say:
You that of musique make such show,
Come sing us now a Sion lay;
O no, we have nor voice nor hand,
For such a song, in such a land.

But the spirit of patriotism at length aroused the bards from their slumbers, and during the cruel [xix] reign of Elizabeth, many men of genius started up throughout Ireland, who devoted their talents to the vindication of their suffering country. Of these, the most considerable were MAOLIN OGE MAC BRODIN, the most eminent poet of his time; O’GNIVE of Claneboy, who distinguished himself by several compositions to excite the natives against the English, and whose spirited poem on the “Downfall of the Gael” is included in this collection; TEIGE DALL OHIGGIN, brother to Maolmuire, archbishop of Tuam, whose genius was of a superior order, and whose poems are amongst the best in our language; O’MULCONRY, whose fine poem, in the Phoenician dialect of the Irish, addressed to the chieftain O’ROURKE of Briefny, is contained in this work; and the learned and philosophic MAc DAIRE of Thomond, and his gifted contemporary O’CLERY of Donegal, whose talents shine so conspicuously, as opposite leaders, in the Iomarba, or “Contention of the Bards”, about the year 1600. (See vol. ii. p.345). Here I close the series of ancient bards, having arrived at the period which may now be considered as dividing our ancient and modern history. The estimation in which they were at all times held by their countrymen, may be learned from an English writer of the reign of Elizabeth, the accomplished Sir Philip Sydney, who, in his defence of poesy, tells us that “In Ireland their poets are held in devout reverence.” A love of poetry has always distinguished our countrymen. No people have ever been more ready, according to the.injunction of the sacred pensman, to honour such as by their skill found out musical tunes and published verses in writing: and if patriotism, genius, and learning, are entitled to regard amongst mankind, no men were ever more deserving of national honour than the ancient bards of Ireland [15].

It now remains to consider their successors to recent times; and here it may be necessary to observe, that the only poets mentioned throughout this work, are such as wrote solely in their native language. An enumeration of the principal of these, for [xxi] the two last centuries, is given in the margin [16]; and poems of many of them will be found in this collection. It [xxii] has been so long fashionable to decry that persecuted body, that the writer regrets it has not fallen to others [xxiii] more competent to vindicate them against the ignorance and prejudice by which they have been assailed, particularly during the last century. But their defence, [xxiv] even in the humblest hands, must prove triumphant. What was their crime?—for, shame to humanity, in Ireland it was deemed a crime!—to love their country. What brought down on them the vengeance of the persecutor? their invincible attachment to the ancient faith, and to the ancient, though fallen, families of the land. If these be crimes, then were they guilty; if not, it is time to make reparation to the memory of these injured men, whose learning and genius would have been cherished and honoured, and held in “devout reverence” in any country under heaven except their own. Richly did they possess those brilliant qualities of mind, the exercise of which, in later and comparatively better days, have placed their more fortunate, though not more talented, countrymen Curran, Sheridan, O’Leary, and others, in the foremost ranks of mankind. But the bards were “mere Irish.” They thought and spoke and wrote in Irish. They were, invariably, Catholics, patriots, and jacobites. Even their broad Celtic surnames they disdained to submit to the polish of Saxon refinement. Hence they have been erroneously considered, and by many of the educated of their country are still considered, as rude rural rhymsters, without any claim either to talents or learning [17]. So it was [xxv] with the prince of Latin poets, when he first visited Rome. His countrymen could not discern the noble genius which lay hid under his rustic garb.

[…] rideri possit, eo quod
Rusticius tonso, toga defluit, et male laxus
In pede calecus hæret
. […]
[…] at ingenium ingens
Inculto latet hoc sub corpore
. […]

But, lest the charge of national partiality may be alleged against the character here given, let us hear the description of a writer, who cannot lie under that imputation. Doctor Parsons, an Englishman, author of a curious antiquarian treatise, entitled the “Remains [xxvi] of Japhet”, tells us, in that work, that about the middle of the last century he “spent several years of his life in Ireland, and there attained to a tolerable knowledge of the very ancient tongue of that country.” Speaking of the bards, he says, “They repeat their poems in a stile that, for its beauty and fine sentiments, has often struck me with amazement; for I have been many times obliged, by many of these natural bards, with the repetition of as sublime poems upon love, heroism, hospitality, battles, &c., as can be produced in any language. Homer and Virgil have laid the ground of their noble tissue upon the basis of historical facts, and the Irish poets of our times write in the very same strain. It is the genius of the people, and their language is susceptible of it, more naturally than any other extant. There are numbers of them capable of composing extemporaneous eulogiums and poems of considerable length upon any subject, surprisingly elegant, and full of fine sentiments.” Doctor Parsons, moreover, states that he was personally acquainted with the bards whom he has thus described, and whose names are already given in the margin. Speaking of these men, even James Macpherson, in his Dissertation on the poems of Ossian, says, “Their love sonnets, and their elegies on the death of persons worthy or renowned, abound with simplicity, and a wild harmony of numbers. The beauty of these species depends so much on a certain curiosa felicitas of [xxvii] expression in the original, that they must appear much to disadvantage in another language.” Lord Byron and Sir Walter Scott have recorded their opinions of Irish poetry in terms which may enable us to conjecture what these distinguished men would have thought, could they have tasted the beauties of our bards in their original compositions. Many of the love sonnets and elegies alluded to by Macpherson will be found in the present collection, with some notices of their authors, whose names are thus brought to the remembrance of their countrymen, under a hope that this humble effort to awaken national attention towards these neglected sons of genius and their works, may be pursued by others better qualified to do justice to their memory.

For the course of education prescribed for the bards, in ancient and modern times, the reader is referred to the works in the margin [18]. The language invariably used in their compositions, was [xxxviii] that of the country. To it they were attached for many reasons, independent of nationality. The most learned men of Europe, since the revival of letters, have been loud in its praise. Usher has ranked it among the first for richness and elegance, and Leibnitz and Lluyd have left on record their opinions of its value. The latter observes, that “The Irish have preserved their letters and orthography beyond all their neighbouring nations.” The ancient language was very different from that spoken at the present day. It was divided into several dialects, of which the Bearla Feine, or Phœnician, was in highest estimation, and without a knowledge of that dialect it is impossible to understand the early poets. The introduction of Christianity, and Latin, had not that effect on this primordial language, which might be supposed. For a long period after, it suffered no material alteration. At length, in the sixteenth century, our learned men began to turn their thoughts to the subject; and if they had not been impeded by the jealous interference of the English, it is probable that it would have undergone a change similar to that of most of the other dialects of Europe. How far that circumstance is now to be regretted, by one who contemplates the present, and probable future political amalgamation of the interests of these islands, it may be difficult to determine. From the days of Henry VIII. the English rulers were bent upon the total annihilation of our national language, [xxix] but time has shewn the folly of the undertaking. The late Bishop Heber, in his life of Bedel, has stigmatized it as “narrow and illiberal policy, which, though it has in part succeeded, has left a division in the national heart, far worse than that of the tongue.” Most grants of lands from the crown, in the reigns of Henry and his successors to Charles I., contained special provisoes, for the disuse of the native, and the encouragement of the English tongue[.] But all these efforts would have proved abortive, were it not for the fatal disasters of the seventeenth century. Immediately before the civil war of 1641, a momentary gleam of hope lightened over this devoted language. The learned antiquaries of Donegal associated to collect and publish the remains of our ancient literature; but their patriotic intentions were unhappily frustrated by the succeeding troubles, and the language which had withstood the shock of so many ages, at length sunk in the general wreck. Thenceforth it was banished from the castle of the chieftain, to the cottage of his vassal, and, from having been the cherished and cultivated medium of intercourse between the nobles and gentry of the land, it became gradually limited to the use of the uneducated poor. [19] No wonder, then, that it should have been considered harsh and unpolished when thus spoken, but it was as unjust to estimate our [xxxi] language by such a standard, as it would be to judge of the English by the jargon of Yorkshire. The measure of its vicissitudes was not yet, however, full. In the last century, the inquisitors of the Irish parliament denounced it as the dialect of that phantom of their political frenzy, popery. According to a favorite mode of native reasoning, it was resolved to reduce the poor Catholics to a state of mental darkness, in order to convert them into enlightened protestants. A thick cloud of ignorance soon overspread the land; and the language of [xxii] millions ceased to be a medium of written communication. To these circumstances, perhaps, may be attributed its preservation from the written corruptions which pervade the present Gaelic of Scotland. The bards of modern times were the principal scribes in Irish [20]. In it they were educated; to its orthography and grammatical structure they carefully attended; and in this last stage of its eventful history, it appears in their writings in a degree of purity, which, considering the disadvantages under which they laboured, is truly remarkable.

In our poems and songs, but particularly in those exquisite old tales and romances, which for originality of invention, and elegance of expression, vie with the Eastern stories that have so long delighted Europe, the beauties of our language are fully displayed. In lyrical composition, which fornis so large a portion of the present collection, its superiority even over the Italian, has been repeatedly asserted. On this point, a late favorite melodist says, “I have in another place observed, that the Irish was superior even to the Italian, in lyrical composition [xxxiv]. I know a contrary opinion is held by many, but by very few capable of judging as to both languages.” [21] Voltaire has observed, that a people may have a music and poetry, pleasing only to themselves, and yet both good. But Irish music has been admired wherever its melting strains have been heard. Handel, and the first-rate composers of Italy, have been loud in its praise. If it be permitted to argue, as Sir William Jones did on the language and music of Persia, that the natural and affecting melodies of that people, must have a language remarkable for its softness, and the strong accentuation of words, and for the tenderness of the songs written in it, it would follow, that the original songs, so long associated with the Irish melodies, would prove equally pleasing, if more generally known. Many of them are contained in the present volumes. and they will be found replete with the simplicity and natural feeling which will ever posses power over the human heart. Should these sweet original lyrics, therefore, attract the attention of future melodists, and be introduced on the stage, a circumstance, not at all unlikely, they may, when accompanied with their native melodies, and sung by our “sweet singers”, prove no mean rivals to the dearly purchased warblings of Italy.

The metrical structure of ancient Irish poetry, must be considered with reference to its musical accompaniments [22]. The voice of the bard retrenched, or supplied, the quantity of long or short syllables, in order to adapt them to the sound or melody. This license required many rules to restrain it. Hence the hundred kinds of verse mentioned by Ferceirtne in the Uraicepht or “primer of the bards;” and the declaration of O’Molloy in his prosody, that the rules of Irish verse were “the most difficult under the sun.” [23] The latter writer describes “a popular kind of poetry, much used in his time, called Abhran ” or “sweet verse.” This he censures, as a deviation from the ancient rules; but it seems to have been devised as a middle course, between the strictness of the regular metre, and the license too generally taken by the voice of the bard. Some of our most admired lyrical compositions are in this measure. The Octava Rima, or eight line stanza of Italy, was borrowed from the Spaniards, who had it themselves from the Troubadours and Italians, perhaps not earlier than the end of the fifteenth century, and in it have been composed some of our finest songs.

The borrowed term “Minstrelsy” is used in the title of this collection, only because it is familiar to the public ear, for others more appropriate might be found in our language [24]. Aware of the influence of popular song on public morals, no verses, of even a doubtful tendency, have been admitted into the following pages; if some rigid moralist may not perhaps deem the Chansons de boire of our favourite bard CAROLAN exceptionable. It will be observed, that in the Irish originals all contractions are rejected, “pro faciliori captu, et modo legendi addiscendique hanc linguam.”— O’Molloy. With the same view the letter h is invariably inserted in place of its usual representative the aspirate point. Against this it may be urged that that letter was not anciently written; and, moreover, that its insertion may create a difficulty in the way of the mere Irish reader’s acquiring its true pronunciation in English. It is not, however, an innovation, for the first objection is proved groundless by various old manuscripts; and even supposing the latter entitled to consideration, [xxxvii] it was deemed more important to facilitate the reading of the originals.

With respect to the origin and progress of the present publication, a few words may be necessary for the satisfaction of the reader. It has long been a subject of regret, with the writer, that the remains of our national bards, of those men who, according to James Macpherson, “have displayed a genius worthy of any age or nation”, should be consigned to obscurity at home, while a neighbouring nation derived so much literary fame from a few of those remains, boldly claimed and published as its own. Several societies formed among ourselves, for the purpose of preserving our ancient literature, having successively failed, the task seemed abandoned to individual exertion. This consideration induced the writer to devote his few leisure moments to the collection of some of those neglected remnants of genius, with a hope that, at a future period, they might be rescued from the oblivion to which they were daily hastening. To this undertaking he adhered with a perseverance proportioned to his idea of its importance; and the first fruits of his humble labours are now respectfully presented to his countrymen.

A few valued and learned friends—the REVEREND MARTIN LOFTUS, late Professor of Irish in the College of Maynooth; the REVEREND DANIEL O’SULLIVAN of Bandon, who has enriched his native language with an inimitable translation of the “Imitation of Christ”; [xxxviii] and the late lamented JAMES SCURRY, author of valuable Remarks on Irish Dictionaries, Grammars, &c. in the Transactions of the Royal Irish Academy, favoured the writer, by kindly perusing most of his selections: and every care has been taken to insure that accuracy, which, without presumption, may be claimed for the following originals. Their preservation being his sole object, his intention at first extended only to their publication, with a few explanatory notes. He afterwards considered how far literal English translations would be an improvement of his plan. But the widely different idioms of both languages; the difficulty, or rather impossibility, of preserving the spirit of the bards; and the consequent injury to their works and memory, proved decisive against such a process. From a quarter, not previously contemplated, he was, at length, enabled to overcome the difficulty, and to present his literal essayings in the more appropriate garb of verse. Some literary friends of acknowledged poetical abilities, to whom he communicated his project, generously undertook the task. To the late THOMAS FURLONG, whose name, as a poet, is already familiar to his countrymen; HENRY GRATTAN CURRAN, Esq., a youth richly endowed with the genius of his distinguished father; the talented friend of his country, the REVEREND WILLIAM HAMILTON DRUMMOND, D.D.; JOHN D’ALTON, Esq., author of the dlistinguished prize Essay on the History of [xxxix] Ireland, printed in the Transactions of the Royal Irish Academy; and EDWARD LAWSON, Esq., whose talents and learning are well known; to these gentlemen the writer has to record his grateful acknowledgments, for the zeal with which they co-operated to render this collection worthy of public acceptance. In justice, however, to his respected friends, he must acquit them of any participation in the prose parts of the undertaking. For these, which were mostly written before the late conciliatory acts, and which, if now to be done, might, perhaps, remain for ever so, the writer alone has to entreat indulgence. In conclusion, he has only to add, that as his sole object was the preservation of even so much of the neglected poetry of his native land, he has presented the entire to the worthy publisher, Mr. ROBINS; and sincerely hopes it may not prove an unproductive gift to a man, whose liberal press and generous exertions in our national cause, at a late momentous crisis, deserve well of the people of Ireland.


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