Irish Literature

Irish Literature

Irish literature, Irish literature refers to literature in the Irish language. (Irish literature written in English is to be seen as part of English literature.)

Archaic (400–600) and early (600–1200) epochs

From the archaic epoch there are only a few hundred inscriptions in Ogham script. In early Ireland, despite political particularism, there was already a literary language without dialect differences. The aes dána (class of artists and scholars) occupied a privileged position in hierarchical society. The Filid (learned poets, first “seers”, partly successors of the Druids, Fili) orally preserved the tradition (Senchas) of the families and the tribes and wrote songs of praise and lamentation for their patrons and vilings against their enemies. The oldest datable works in Irish literature are Dallán Forgaill’s (* about 540, † 596) “Amra Choluimb Chille” (lament for the dead of St. Columban) and Colmán Moccu Beognaes († 611) prose work »Apgitir crábaid« (Alphabet of Piety).

The main works of early Irish literature are the sagas. Although only survived in manuscripts from the 12th and 13th centuries, they retain a language form that is centuries older and represent a pagan world that has not yet been touched by Christianity. The oldest manuscripts are “Lebor na h-uidre” (Book of the Dark Cow, around 1100) and the Book of Leinster (around 1150). The form of the heroic saga is the prose epic with insertions in bound or metric form.

While the heroic sagas in old Irish literature were organized according to themes (e.g. adventure, sieges, looting, courtship, kidnappings, banquets), today they are classified according to cycles. 1) Ulster cycle: Its main characters are the youthful hero Cú Chulainn, King Conchobor of Ulster and his hereditary enemies. The central narrative is »The Cow Robbery of Cooley« (Taín Bó Cuailnge). This cycle also includes, inter alia, the story of the tragic lover Deirdre with the Tristan and Isolde motif. The Ulster cycle shows particularly archaic elements, e.g. B. the fight with chariots, the head of the enemy as a trophy and the supernatural work of taboos (Gessa). 2) Mythological cycle: It depicts the battle of a legendary race of supernatural beings, the Tuatha Dé Danann and their king Dagdá, with a race of demons, the Fomorians. These include the stories “Tochmarc Étaíne” (The courtship for Étaín) and “Cath Maige Tuired” (The battle of Mag Tuired). 3) Royal cycle (also historical cycle): In it legends and stories are grouped around a historical or prehistoric king, e.g. B. “Cath Almain” (The Battle of All), “Buile Suibhne” (Suibhne’s madness). 4) Finn cycle (Finn): In his written fixation he belongs to the middle epoch of Irish literature; numerous versions of these myths were passed down orally up to the 19th century and form the most comprehensive folklore collection in the world.

The poetry of the early epoch has only survived in fragments. Particularly noteworthy is the mostly anonymous, sensitive nature poetry. In addition to the poems of the Filid, there were religious poems, e.g. B. “Félire” (calendar of saints, around 800) by Oengus Céile Dé, “Saltair na rann” (stanza psaltery, 10th century) and historical poems, e. B. “Fianna bátar i nEmain” (The warriors who were in Emain) by Cináed Ua Artacáin († 975). The oldest poems are written in a kind of rhythmic alliterative prose. End rhymes and syllable-counting meters appeared in the 8th century, influencing hymns written in Latin.

Furthermore, religious (especially saints’ lives and visions) and scientific prose emerged: medical and legal treatises such as “Senchas már” (Great Old Code), grammatical treatises with well-developed grammatical terminology, “Sanas Cormaic” (Cormac’s glossary), the “Dindshenchas”, a kind of national topography in which the names of well-known places are separated by one History or legend are interpreted, the “Lebor gabála” (Book of Conquests), which contains a speculative description of pre-Christian history of Ireland, as well as various genealogies and annals. Aphoristic literature was also widespread. Another genre was the “Immrama”, fantastic travel descriptions in verse and prose from the 8th or 9th century, including especially “Immram Brain maic Febail” (Seafaring Brans, son of Febal).

Middle Era (1200–1650)

The Anglo-Norman invasion (1171/72) marked the beginning of the end of Ireland’s political and cultural independence. A number of small principalities took the place of kingship.

With the kingship, the office of the filid died out. The poetry was now the responsibility of the bards originally subordinate to the filid. These were in the service of princes, on whose behalf they wrote songs of praise and songs of mockery (directed against their enemies). A special feature of Irish bard poetry is the extraordinarily complicated metric technique (Dán direach). Outstanding bards were Tadhg Dall Ó hUiginn (* 1550, † 1591) and several members of the Ó Dálaigh family, especially Muireadhach Albanach Ó Dálaigh (1st half of the 13th century). The Norman influence was immediately noticeable in the “Dánta grádha”, elegant love poems in the succession of the Provencal “amour courtois”.

Most of the prose literature of this period belongs to the Finn cycle, the fourth great Irish saga cycle. His fairytale-like fabrics interspersed with folkloric elements were passed down orally for centuries before they were written down. In addition to prose, the form of the ballad soon appeared, with verse forms that were considerably simplified compared to the bardic poetry. These ballads are seen as the beginning of popular Irish literature. The main work of the Finn cycle is the story “Acallam na senórach” (The conversation of the ancients; end of the 12th century). This cycle also includes the stories about Diarmaid and Gráinne.

Late era (1650-1850)

This section of Irish literature is marked by the suppression of the Irish language by the English. Expropriation and expulsion of the local nobility led to the extinction of the bard class. The previously standardized literary language was broken down into dialects. The English banned the printing of Irish-language books, and Irish literature only circulated in manuscripts, which prevented it from being widely circulated.

The most important lyric poet of this era was Dáibhidh Ó Bruadair (* around 1625, † 1698), who was partly still in the tradition of bard poetry. Instead of professional bard poetry, in the 17th and 18th centuries, Century, especially in the province of Munster (southern Ireland), one of farmers, artisans, teachers and others. worn folk poetry. Popular ballad verses (Amhráin) replaced the strict meters of bard poetry. The most important works of Munster poetry are the verses Aodhagán Ó Rathailles (* around 1670, † 1729), the aisling (vision poem) “Cúirt an mhéan-oíche” (Midnight Court) by Brian Merriman (* around 1749, † 1805) and “Caoineadh Airt Uí «(mortuary lament for Art O’Leary), mostly his widow Attributed to Eibhlín Dubh Ní Chonaill (* around 1743, † around 1800).

The prose works of the 17th century include historical and archeological collections of high historical value: “Annála rioghachta Éireann” (Annals of the Four Masters) by Mícheál Ó Cléirigh (* around 1575, † around 1643) and “Foras feasa ar Éirinn” (History Ireland) by Seathrún Céitinn (G. Keating).

Under pressure from the English (continued printing ban for Irish books) and the effects of the “Great Famine” (1845–49), all literary activity ceased in the course of the 19th century. On the other hand, the macaronic folk ballads, in which Irish and English were mixed up, were a makeshift and at the same time an expression of the increasing contact between the languages.

Modern era

With the establishment of the Gaelic League by D.  Hyde in 1893, a renewal of the Irish language and culture began. See politicsezine for Dublin of Ireland.

The Gaeltacht (area with Irish as a mother tongue) offered rich narrative material, but no literature in the narrower sense. Only Peter O’Leary (* 1839, † 1920; Cork-Irish), P. Pearse and Pádraic Ó Conaire (* 1882, † 1928; Connemara-Irish) combined the Gaeltacht heritage with a certain literary education.

The Irish Literary Theater, founded in 1899 by W. B. Yeats and Lady Gregory, performed the first Irish drama, Casadh an t-súgáin by Hyde, in 1901, which Lady Gregory translated into English as “The twisting of the rope”.

Although the Irish theater (with centers in Dublin and Galway as well as in the Gaeltacht of Donegal and Connemara) has produced a considerable number of authors and dramas since then, prose stands in the foreground with the short story as the dominant manifestation. Tomás Ó Criomhthain (* 1856, † 1937), Peig Sayers and Muiris O’Súileabháin (* 1904, † 1950) appeared with autobiographies, the brothers Séamus Ó Grianna (* 1889, † 1969) and Seosamh Mac Grianna (* 1901) with novels , † 1990).

A new phase began after 1939 with the work of the poet Máirtín Ó Direáin (* 1910, † 1988), who described the beauty and integrity of the native Aran Islands and at the same time criticized contemporary Irish society. and with M. Ó Cadhain, who became known through short stories and the satirical novel »Cré na cille« (1949; »Friedhofserde«). Among the poets of this time are Seán Ó Ríordáin (* 1917, † 1977), who v. a. turned to moral problems, and the poet Máire Mhac to tSaoí (* 1922)emerged, whose style denotes epigrammatic brevity and solidarity with tradition. Dónall Mac Amhlaigh (* 1926, † 1989) and Breandán Ó hEithir (* 1930, † 1990) became known as authors of satirical prose. A number of writers created works in Irish and English, including L. O’Flaherty, M. MacLiammóir, F. O’Brien, and B. Behan.

The latest poetry is characterized in form and subject by a strong opening to the outside world. Especially the group around the magazine “Innti” – including Gabriel Rosenstock (* 1949) and Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill (* 1952)  - but also Cathal Ó Searcaigh (* 1956) and the Belfast performance poet Gearóid Mac Lochlainn each deal with Asian spirituality, Feminism and folklore motifs, homosexuality or the experience of political conflicts. The newer prose authors include Alan Titley (* 1947), Liam Mac Coil (* 1948) and Micheál Ó Congghaile (* 1962).

Irish Literature

Comments are closed.