Loreto Todd, The Language of Irish Literature (London: Macmillan 1989), 193pp.

Corkery, in Synge and Anglo-Irish Literature (1931): “literature written in English by Irishmen is now know among us as Anglo-Irish literature, while by Irish literature we mean the literature written in the Irish language and that alone … &c.” (1947 ed., p.1).

A list of Irish and Anglo-Irish writers, ‘Chronological selection of Irish Writers’, pp.5-9. It includes Wlliam Robert L Fanu as humorist and storyteller.

In 1603 Sir John Davies could announce ‘an universal and absolute conquest of all the Irishrie’. [11] Alspach (1959, p.7) quotes Davies’s A Discovery of the State of Ireland (1613): ‘the English, both Lords and Free-holders, became degenerate and meer Irish in their language, in their apparell, in their armes and maner of fight … They did not only forget the English language and scorne the use thereof, but grew to bee ashamed of their very English Names, though they were noble and of great Antiquity; and tool Irish Surnames and Nickenames.’ [13-4]

Statutes of Kilkenny of 1366 insisted that the English language should be used throughout the country together with English-style names.

Yola was the old form of English spoken in Ireland in the sixteen century, which seemed so archaic to English visitors.

Ben Jonson’s Irish Masque (1616).

In 1646 Sir John Temple advised steps so that ‘there may be … such a wall of separation set up betwixt the Irish and the British, as it shall not be in their power to rise up (as now and in all former ages they have done). [16]

Toledo divides Englishes in Ireland into Ulster Scots [USc], Anglo-Irish [AI], and Hiberno-English [HE], and later distinguishes between Northern and Southern Hiberno-English [NHE & SHE], refering also to Received Pronounciation [RP], and GAE [General American English].

Hiberno-English: Among the grammatical characteristics of HE regarded as retentions from Irish here noted are the prefacing of questions with an unstressed word (and, well and sure); the avoidance of simple yes/no answers, and the use of reinforcers; Irish rhythms in phatic utterances; claques; a tendency to prefer nominal structures; the use of foregrounding; blended prepositions+pronouns; the use of non-standard ‘be’ forms to indicate aspectual distinctions; the use of ‘and + NP + Ving for concurrent events; use of a +Ving; the use of untransformed embedded questions, esp. after verbs of mental process; frequent references to God, the devil, and religious sentiments. [36-46]

Gaelic a ‘noun-centred’ language (Green, The Irish language, 1966, p.31).

George McCartney [sic] reported from Belfast in 1707: ‘.. thank God we are not under any great fears here, for … we have not among us above seven papists.’

‘.. it was at bottom the exclusively rural patterm of Gaelic culture which prevented the growrth of an indigenous formal drama. Such drama everywhere has been the product of communal living, has been a town art supported by fixed patronage. Now the Irish never founded a town. … The towns and cities of ireland are of Danish, Norman, or English descent.’ William Smith Clarke, The Early Irish Stage (1955)

Ernest A. Boyd, The Contemporary Drama of Ireland (1918), on Shaw and Wilde: ‘the work of irishmen whose spirit is as remote from their country as the scene in which their plays are laid.’ (p.4) [66]

AE Malone (1929): ‘a perfecton of dialogue which is quite distinctively Irish; and they have all the wit whcih is no less a distinguishing mark of the Irishman. They are all satirists, viewing English life with a somewhat disapproving smile … Comedies by English writers tend to be humorous and sentimental, while comedies by Irishmen tend to be witty and ironic.’ (pp.14-15). [66] FURTHER, on Wilde and Shaw: ‘there is nothing of Ireland in them but the pert dialogue and the ironic wit which is charcateristic of their countrymen at large.’ (p.15) [68].

Dion Boucicault’s Shaughraun (1874) changed the stereotype of the stage Irishman from feckless rogue to courageous and charming hero. [71]

‘.. the first use of Irish dialect, rich, abundant, and correct, for the purpose of creative art was in JM Synge’s Riders to the Sea and Lady Gregory’s Spreading of the News. (Yeats, in Plays in Prose and Verse, p.430.) [73]

Una Ellis Fermor attributes the power of Yeats’s language to its origin in the speech of Irish peasants, arguing that ‘the unconscious and spontaneous revelation of the living imagination’ was embodied in ‘the living speech of the people of Ireland in his own day’ (1964, p.62). [73]

Yerats knew that words had to be allied to ‘a powerful and passionate syntax’ (Essays and Introductions, pp.521-22). [74]

Brendan Behan: ‘When sam Beckett was in Trinity College listening to lectures, I was in the Queen’s Theatre, my uncle’s music hall. That is why my plays are music hall and his are university lectures.’ (Quoted in Maxwell, 1984, p.150) [76]

Exponents of Ulster Scot dialectic include St. John Ervine (Mixed Marriage), Sam Thompson, Over the Bridge (1960), Graham Reid (The Billy Plays, 1987), MacNamara (Thompson in Tír-na-n-Og)

Friel: … to understand anything about the history or present health of Irish drama, one must first acknowledge the peasant mind.’ (Times Lit. Suppl., 17 Mar 1972, p.305.) [81] Friel said, in interview, that he has taken English words and tried to ‘make them distinctive and unique to use’ (Magill, 1980, p.59) [83]. and note Francis Hardy in Friel’s Faith Healer, ‘I’d recite the names to myself just for the mesmerism, the sedation of the incantation.’

The last words in Sam Thomspon’s Over the Bridge (1970 ed.): ‘A man told me yesterday that when the mob went into action he walked away, and so did hundreds of so-called respectable workmates because they said it was none of their business. None of their business. Rabbie, that’s what they said. Then they walked away, and that’s what frightens me, they walked away.’ [83]

In 1788, Vallancey published ‘an Old Song’ from Wexford. In it we see a reduced form of Ich am (‘cham’) … &c. “We’ll gosp, c’hull be zeid; mot thee fartoo, and fade;/He deight ouse var gabble; tell ee zin go t’glade./Cham a stouk, an a donel; wou’ll leigh out ee dey,/Th’valler w’speen here, th’lass ee chourch-hey. (Printed in Alspach, 1959, p.43.) [96]

Samuel Thompson (1766-1816), anthologised in Montague, ed. (1974, p.170): ‘Fowk tell how though, sae far frae daft,/When wind-faan fruit be scatted saft,/Will row thysel wi cunning craft/An bear awa/Upon thy back, what fares thee aft/A day or twa.’ [97]

Antrim James Orr (1770-1816): ‘He weaved himsel’ an’ keepet twa three gaun,/What prais’d him ay for hale weel-handled yarn;/His thrifty wife an’ wise wee lasses span,/While warps and queels employ’d anither barn;/Some stript ilk morn an’ thresh’d, the time to earn/To scamper wi’ the houn’s frae hill to hill’. (Quoted in Akenside & Crawford, 1977, p.17).

Time rins awa’ an’ less us a’/I say, young men, make haste,/For if you don, she’ll say “she won’t”,/Whut joys ye’ll nivir taste.’ (Lynn, 1991, p.16). [97]

Note also Ulster Scot verse in GF Savage-Armstrong, Bllads of Down [anth.] 1901, p.59.

Gavan Duffy Ballad Poetry of Ireland (1845) gives ‘Lillibullero’

An early translator of Keating was Dermod O’Connor, whose first folio ed. appeared in 1723. ‘The Institutes of Bryen Boroimhe/so wholesome for the support of Virtue,/Were kept with so much Reverence and Regard,/That a young lady of consummate Beauty,/Adorn’d with Jewels and a Ring of gold;/Travelled alone on Foot from North to South/and no attempt was made upon her Honour,/Or to divest her of the Cloaths she wore’ (Alspach, 1959, p.93). [100]

Charlotte Brooke: ‘I care not for thee, senseless clerk!/Nor all they psalming throng/Whose stupid souls, unwisely dark,/Reject the light of song’ (Reliques, 1789, p.37) [100]. Also ‘Now old,—the streams of life congeal’d/Bereft of all my joys!/No sword this withered hand can wield,/No spear my arm employs’.

Theophilus O’Flanagan (1762-1814) uses alliteration in translating Deirdre’s lament on leaving Scotland for Ulster:’Sweet is the cuckoo’s note on bending bough/On the cliff over the vale of the two Roes.’ (Transactions of the Gaelic Society, 1806, p.51.) [101]

Ferguson’s Congal uses what Lucy calls ‘the word cataracts of medieval Irish’:’the deep-clear-watered, foamy crested, terribly-resounding,/Lofty leaping, prone descending, ocean-calf-abounding,/Fishy fruitful, salmon-teeming, many coloured, sunny beaming,/Heady-eddied, horrid thund’ring, ocean-progeny-engend’ring,/Billow-raging, battle-waging, merman-haunted, poet-vaunted,/Royal, patrimonial, old torrent of Eas-Roe.’ (Congal, 1872).

RUIN: In Moore’s “Believe me if all those endearing young charms”. ‘Believe me if all those endearing young charms/Which I gaze on so fondly today,/Were to change by to-morrow, and fleet in my arms,/Like fairy-gofts fading away,/Thou would stillbe ador’d, as this moment thou art,/Let thy loveliness fade as it will/An around the dear ruin each wish of my heart/Would entwine itself verdantly still.’ (ed. Godley, 1915, p.189).

RUIN: Thomas Davis, ‘Tone’s Grave’: ‘My heart overflowed, and I clasped his old hand,/And I blessed him, and blessed every one of his band;/”Sweet, sweet ‘tis to find that such faith can remain/To the cause and the man so long vanquished and slain.’/In Bodenstown churchyard there is a green grave,And freely around it let winter winds rave -/Far better they suit him—the ruin and the gloom—/till Ireland, a nation, can build him a tomb.’ (The ‘98 Song Book, n.d., p.12).

Other modern ballads are ‘The Dying Rebel’ [‘dear Cork city’], and ‘Boolavogue [‘brave Father Murphy’]. ‘God grant you glory, Father Murphy,/and open heaven to all your men;/The cause that called you may call tomorrow/In another fight for the Green again.’

The word slogan from Ir. ‘sluagh ghairm’, the cry of the army host’.

Louis MacNeice, ‘This year, last years, one time, ever,/Different, indifferent, careless, kind,/Ireland, England, New England, Greece, -/The plumstones blossom in my mind.’ (ed. Dodds, 1966, p.312.)

Seamus Deane has called The Wild Irish Girl (1806), ‘a novel deficient in everything a novel should have, except success.’ (1986, pp.97-98. [128]

WG Lyttle, Betsy Gray: or Hearts of Down: A Tale of Ninety-Eight (1888); a prolific writer, keenly interested in the representation of dialect. Toledo quotes a passage illustrating the use of Ulster Scots and Standard English for two roles, that of Mat, the lower-class character, and George Gray, the educated character, though both of Scots origin. At the close of the passage, however, Gray uses HE foregrounding, ‘It’s joking you are, Mat,’ he exclaimed. [134]

AA Kelly, Mary Lavin, 1980.

Frances Molloy, No Mate for the Magpie (Virago 1985), uses Derry dialect. See Toledo, App. [151-2]

AN Jeffares, Parameters of Irish Literature in English (1986).

A Wild-Goose Chase, from Lobster Salad (Duckworth 1922), by Co. Down banker Leslie Montgomery (‘Lynn Doyle’, is quoted and analysed, in Toledo, App. [149f].

culchie [in Molloy, op. cit.] = ignorant person from the back of beyond. The word prob. comes from Gaelic ‘coillteach’, a wooded area. [153]

Yeats once criticised the people in Colum’s plays, saying that they ‘were not the true folk. They are the peasant as he is being transformed by modern life. … [It is the speech of the people] who think in English, and … shows the influence of the newspaper and the national schools. (Explorations, Macmillan 1962, p.183) [168]

According to de Blacam, ‘English Morality palys were acted—and transcirbed—in dublin, early in [the fifteenth] century. Some writers see in the Corpus Christi pageants, which were acted at this time by the Guilds of Dublin and Kilkenny, the beginning of drama. (First Book of Irish Literature, Kennikat facs. 1970 p.94).

Address on Allingham by Prf. Byers, to Belfast Natural History and Phil. Society, 1 Dec 1903: ‘No writer had a greater sympathy with, and appreciation of, the fairy world of fancy and myth than the Ulster poet Allingham.’ [172]

fada and séimhiú

Joyce bibl: MCJ Hodgart, James Joyce: A Student’s Guide (R&KP 1978); B O’Hehir and JM Dillon, A classical Lexicon for Finnegans Wake (Berkeley 1977); R Wall, ed., An Anglo-Irish Dialect Glossary for Joyce’s Work (Gerrard’s Cross 1986).

[ back ]
 
[ top ]