Obrázky na stránke
PDF
ePub

MACWARD--O'DUGAN.

31

[ocr errors]

This is no sentimentalism, no unreal woe, assumed for effect; it is the drops wrung from a crushed and broken heart, an utterly sad and hopeless grief. The power is sustained throughout—the power to grieve and the power to glorify. "Ichabod' is the text-an appropriate one, when it is remembered that in the flight of Tyrconnell he was accompanied by nearly all who were noble and illustrious in Ireland, of Irish birth and descent. There are other poems extant in the native language, by Owen Ward, but none can approach in melancholy magnificence this ‘Lament for Tyrowen and Tyrconnell.' When the poet died, or where, is unknown, is even unconjectured. His history is smothered up in gloom; but this one work, the elegiac wail, will preserve his name, illustrious as a faithful servant and a true poet.

O'DUGAN.

MAURICE O'DUGAN, or Dugan, is remembered because he wrote ‘The Coolin,' setting the words to an air “the finest in the whole circle of Irish music,' which, like almost all the Irish melodies, dates from such a remote period that the composer is unknown ; and which is familiar to everyone in this nineteenth century. O’Dugan, it is asserted, upon what evidence we know not, was descended, like Ward, from a race of hereditary bards (there was a John O'Dugan, chief bard of The O'Kelly in Connaught, who wrote a topograpical poem, and died about 1370); but of himself and his other writings nothing is known except that they were and are not. He appears to have lived near historic Benburb, sometime about 1640, but where and whence he came, and when and whither he departed, are in the blackest darkness. In this respect he is not worse than many of his fellows, than many greater than he. But his love-song, “The Coolin,' has rescued his name from the gloom, and should preserve it.

DUFFET.

THOMAS DUFFET was a writer of burlesques and of songs. Of his half-dozen dramatic burlesques, it is acknowledged that they were favourably received and somewhat successful in his own day, though no one except readers of extinct literature know or care about them now. He burlesqued Dryden and Shadwell, and others of minor note-presumption which was attended with general denunciation. "Mr. Duffet,' say his biographers, stood more indebted to the great names of those authors whose works he attempted to burlesque and ridicule, than to any merit of his own. But the originals, like the burlesques, are little thought of now; and a Renaissance, when Dryden and Settle and Shadwell will as dramatists be too great and high to be burlesqued, has yet to dawn. Whatever his abilities and powers of ridicule may have been, his talent for song-writing will at all times be acknowledged. Come all you pale Lovers,' and 'Since Colia's my Foe,' are excellent in their way, and, like all he wrote, bear evidence of the influence of the English literature of the time, and are without the distinguishing spirit of Celtic poetry. Of his birth or death nothing is known. All that is recorded of him is that he was an Irishman who originally owned a milliner's shop in the New Exchange, London, and subsequently devoted his talents to literature. Possibly he was a Duffy in his native land, who in London Anglicised his name and forgot his country, as others have done. He is generally supposed

DUFFET-O'NAGHTEN.

33

to have lived about 1650–1700, but his biographers were so zealous to extinguish him for his daring in ridiculing the then literary gods, that they refused to honour him with a record of his birth or parentage.

O'NAGHTEN.

JOHN O'NAGHTEN, or O'Neachtan, holds, according to Hardiman in his "Irish Minstrelsy,” “the same rank in Irish literature that Young, the author of “Night Thoughts,” occupies in English. With equal genius and learning the Irish bard's compositions are more equal (sic) and correct, and his style less diffuse, than those of the favoured English author.' Hardiman had more materials for forming a judgment than we have, for he had in his possession a copious treatise in Irish, by the bard, on geography, "extending to nearly five hundred closelywritten pages, and containing many interesting particulars; and also O'Naghten's Collection of Curious Annals of Ireland, from A.D. 1167 to the beginning of the seventeenth century. But from the remains of O'Naghten's works now accessible to the English reader—from his ‘Maggy Laidir' and his ‘Lament on Queen Mary' (D'Este), we think a more complimentary judgment might, without injustice, be passed on the poet Of his 'Maggy Laidir,' Hardiman says:

*This inimitable description of an Irish feast was written in the seventeenth century by John O'Neachtan, and is now printed from a transcript made in the year 1706 :::: In point of composition, "Maggy Laidir” is superior to “O’Rorke's Feast,” so humorously translated by Dean Swift. Here the chairman only speaks through

His first toast is old Ireland, under the name of "Maggy Laidir”; then the beauteous daughters of Erin ; the ancient families of the four provinces, Leinster, Munster, Ulster, and Connaught ; the clergy who have been always dear to the Irish ; and finally he wishes disappointment to the foes, and success to the friends of the

[ocr errors]

out.

country. After these libations he becomes a little gay, and must have music. He calls on the harpers to strike up. Finally a quarrel, more Thracian, ensues, which our elevated chairman, in the true Irish style of commanding peace, orders to be quelled by knocking down the combatants; and he concludes by alluding to his noble ancestry and kindred to enforce his claim to respect and obedience. The air, as well as the words of “Maggy Laidir," though long naturalised in North Britain, is Irish. . The name signifies, in the original, strong or powerful Maggy, and by it was meant Ireland, also designated by our bards under the names of Granua Weale, Roisin Dubh, Sheelah na Guira, etc. By an easy change the adjective “laidir,” strong, was converted into Lauder, the patronymic of a Scotch family, and the air was employed to celebrate a famous courtesan of Crail.'

As usual, of the personal history of the bard, next to nothing has been ascertained. He lived in the later part of the seventeenth century, and was a native of Meath. These two facts exhaust his biography. He was an industrious collector and compiler, and is supposed to have

died young.

CAROLAN.

The name of Turlough O'Carolan, 'the last of the Irish bards,' stands out pre-eminent in the annals of Irish song as that of a man the record of whose life is worth reading; as a composer whose music is fresh, vigorous, and appropriate to to-day; and as a songster whose lovepoems and drinking-songs command as great a pleasure and satisfaction now as they did nearly two centuries ago, when, a blind itinerant harper, he roamed from place to place, delighting and enthralling the high and low, the rich and poor, with his own songs, sung to his own music, played by himself on his Irish harp. Pathetic and humorous, sad and facetious, melancholy and rollickinga Celtic genius-he sang himself through a long life, enjoying the friendship, hospitality, and protection of the great; and drank himself out of it, having practised what

[blocks in formation]

he preached, and manifested, in word and deed, a faithful love for the native and national drink.

Carolan, though his father was a cottier and his mother the daughter of a peasant, was descended from an ancient family of Meath, in which county there is a place still called Carolan's Town, a partial evidence that the family was once of some importance—were at all events of a better class than peasantry. He was born, according to some biographers, at Nobber, in the county Westmeath; but the better opinion is that his birthplace was the village of Baile-nusah, since Anglicised to Newtown, in the same county. He was born about the year 1670, and, as a lad, attended the school at Cruisetown, in county Longford; when and where he formed the acquaintance of Miss Bridget Cruise, and fell in love with her after the manner of a boy. Bridget Cruise, and his love and remembrance of her, ran through his harp-strings all his life. When sixteen or eighteen years of age, he lost his sight through an attack of small-pox, and remained utterly blind. “My eyes,' said he, on his affliction, ‘are transplanted to my ears.' About the same time his father moved to Carrick-on-Shannon, and possibly entered into the service of the MacDermott Roe, because we find that Madame MacDermott, attracted by the lad's intelligence, undertook Turlough's education, procured his instruction in English as well as Irish, and had him taught the harp. The old music of his country set his genius in a flame, and suddenly, in his twenty-second year, he resolved to become a harper.' 'He became,' says Hardiman, 'a minstrel through accident, and continued it more through choice than necessity. During his tutelage at Alderford, MacDermott Roe's residence, he developed into an accomplished harpist; his playing and singing were the

« PredošláPokračovať »