Brooke & Wolleston: A Treasury Of Irish Poetry In The English Tongue

Pdf ed. Brooke, Stopford A. & Rolleston, T. W., A Treasury Of Irish Poetry In The English, London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1915
Size: 101.8M bytesModified: 16 June 2011, 11:19

A Treasury Of Irish Poetry In The English Tongue by Stopford A. Brooke and T. W. Rolleston first published 1900 is collection of Irish verse written in the English language since the 18th century. Among the poets featured include Thomas Moore, Thomas Davis, Sir Charles Gavan Duffy, Charles J. Kickham, James Clarence Mangan, Sir Samuel Ferguson, George Sigerson, Douglas Hyde and W. B. Yeats.

Poetry was always an important feature of Irish culture. In pagan Celtic times the mythology of the gods and exploits of kings, chieftains, warriors, hunters and heroes were recorded in epic poems recited by bards. This was the origin of the Ulster and Munster cycles which included the legends of Cuchulainn, Finn Mac Cumhaill and Oisin. With the coming of Christianity, Irish monasteries became important centres of learning and culture. Celtic and Christian traditions became intermixed. 'The land of Irish saints and scholars' preserved Western culture following the collapse of the Roman Empire .

Following the Norman invasion of the 12th century came centuries of British plantations and repeated Gaelic Irish rebellions as Gaelic Irish culture declined. Following the Cromwellian and Williamite wars of the 17th century, an English speaking Protestant Ascendancy was dominant culturally, socially, economically and politically. The Gaelic Irish could only advance unless they adopted the English language, Anglican Protestantism and British customs.

In the 18th century and 19th century Irish nationalist poets began writing in English but preserving the metre and stylisms of Gaelic Irish poetry. Anglo-Irish Protestant poets wrote within the English cultural tradition while Irish nationalist poets sought to retain a uniquely Irish tradition.

Irish political ballads and rebel songs expressed the anger and sense of injustice felt by the Catholic majority. These became highly popular following repeated republican conspiracies by groups such as the Young Irelanders and the Fenians. The trauma of the Irish Potato Famine of 1840s which saw approximately a million die of starvation and a million more emigrating also inspired poets to express the sorrow, misery and fatalism of the Irish people. Nostalgic poems dreamed of a lost golden age or of the ‘Old Country’ left behind for a better life in the New World .

In the 1880s the success of the Land League and Charles Stuart Parnell's Irish Parliamentary Party in securing the rights of Irish tenant farmers spurred a Gaelic cultural revival. Anglo-Irish Protestants and Irish Catholics alike reinvented the myths and legends of the Celtic past and collected Irish folklore to produce internationally renowned works in English. They did so as a form of literary rebellion against the dominance of imperial British culture and to assert an independent Irish identity to the world.

The success of the Gaelic revival played an important part in winning the battle for hearts and minds internationally for the cause of Irish Home Rule in the early 20th century. A new generation of young Irish nationalists inspired by the heroes of Gaelic mythology fought in the 1916 Easter Rising, the Irish War of Independence and the Irish Civil War.

T. W. Rolleston (1857-1920) was born in Shinrone, Co. Offaly and was the son of a judge. He studied at Trinity College before becoming a writer and literary figure involved in Douglas Hyde’s Gaelic League. His contemporaries included W. B. Yeats. He was also a member of the Rymer's Club, London where he mixed with many British and international literary figures. He also wrote works on Irish, British and European mythology.

Stopford A. Brooke (1832-1916) born in Letterkenny, Co. Donegal, was a clergyman and writer. He was ordained by the Church of England in 1857 and during his career was chaplain to Queen Victoria . However he eventually ejected Anglican dogma and became an Unitarian minister in Bloomsbury, London before his chapel was pulled down in 1894. He is interest in literature led to a career as a writer and critic and he wrote widely on poetry and theology. His son, also named Stopford (1859-1938) and also an Unitarian clergyman served as a Liberal MP in the British House of Commons from 1906-1910.

previousPrevious - Poetry
Next - MacDonagh: The Poetical Works of Thomas MacDonaghnext