Journal of the Irish Folk Song Society, Volume 1, Issue 6, Page 6

Journal of the Irish Folk Song Society, Volume 1, Issue 6, Page 6
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Irish Folk Song Society
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Journal of the Irish Folk Song Society
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89Irish Song collectors have, as a general rule, most unfortunately worked in twoseparate sections. Musicians have gone about collecting and publishing Irish airswhich, as in the case of the vast Petrie collection alluded to by Mr. Russell, havebeen divorced from the treasury of Gaelic lyrical poetry to which they were originallywedded. With the exception of dance music and certain harp and bagpipe tunes, allthe airs in this and other collections of course belonged to songs. The words takendown by Eugene OCurry have been apparently separated from the musicaf collection.As against this we have collections of Irish Poetry, like Dr. Douglas Hydes Love-songs of Connaeht and the earlier Hardimans Minstrelsy, without any record of themusic.To popularise Irish Song-airs given to the world without words it was foundnecessary to invoke the aid of poets writing in the English language.Beginning with Thomas Moore, whose source of earliest lyrical inspiration wasfound in Buntings first volume, we have had a numerous school of Anglo TrishPoets, who must be classed as pro-eminently Song-writers. The names of SamuelLover and Lady Dufferin will occur to everyone, and most of the Young Irelanderslike Thomas Davis inclined to write stirring national ballad poetry to well-knownairs. In our own time Francis Fahy, P. J. McCall, and William Rooney followedthis method. Rooney did so on the lines of Davis; McCall resembles Robert Burnsin using fragments of folk-ballad as a nucleus for his lyrics. Fahy in his earlydays was Dreolin, making poems for the sweet music of Ireland that rang in hismemory. In the Songs of Four Nations he is represented by a fine translation ofCatlin ni Houlihaun, and so shows himself a poet with a knowledge of music and anacquaintance with Gaelic, a rare combination among our literary men. But alas! ithas come about that his enthusiasm for Gaelic has apparently silenced him as anAnglo-Irish Song-writer. Dr. Todhunter, a member of our own committee, has cap-tured the poignant feeling of Irish traditional laments in Aghadoe and Niel Duv;and Seosarnh MacCathmaoil was known to the public first as writer of wordsfor a collection of the Songs of TJladh. Dr. Sigerson faithfully reproducing theGaelic metres has given poems suitable for singing, even if he was not alwaythinking of the music as he wrote.Mangan and Ferguson and, in our own day, W. B. Yeats and Katherine Tynanmay be mentioned as poets who have not subordinated their poems to musicbut have rather made music with words.But pro-eminent amongst poets drinking inspiration from the sources ofancient Irish song music we must place Mr. Alfred Perceval Graves. In a volumeof his poetry recently published, Dr. Douglas Hyde compares his style to that ofSamuel Lover. The comparison holds good of the humorous and love songs andpeasant songs generally. There are, however, others which must be placed on a farhigher level, and in literary style and subject matter must be classed with the workof Aubrey de Vera and of Samuel Ferguson. Amongst such poems are numberedThe Return from Fingal, The Battle Hymn, Awake, Fianna! and the nobleLament for Owen Roe ONeill; whilst such love-songs e.s The Little RedLark, and When she answered me her voice was low, stand alone, and whensung to the exquisite airs which inspired them can challenge comparison withthe music of Schubert wedded to the poetry of Heino.It is with fear and trembling that I venture to differ on another point withDr. Hyde, who tries to prove that the Gaelic language revival has imnieiiselyinfluenced Mr. Graves for the better. I would take it that there baa been asecret conspiracy in this business and that the author, anxious and willing toyield homage to the Gaelic Leagues illustrious President, wrote and acknowledgedhimself a loyal - subject and devoted follower, and called on An Craoibhinn tobear witness that though he was too busy (not too old) to learn Irish, he hadyet been directly influenced in style and thought by the spirit of Gaslicismabroad in the land. Dr. Hyde, finding some lyrics obviously modelled on thelove-songs of Connacht, and others influenced by Dr. Sigersons bardic specimens,hastened to acknowledge that Graves had been considerably Gaelicised as a resultof the language revival. But the truth is, in spite Of these friendly delusions,that the author of the Songs of Old Ireland had found inspiration from afountain head of Gaelic inspiration several years before Douglas Hyde waselected to chieftainship of his warlike elan.The wordless music in the Petrie collection wailed and clamoured for, a poetinterpreter, and so we got, though in the English tongue, a series of songs thatbore witness to the ancient glories of Gaeldom. A. P. Graves, far from being a
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Journal of the Irish Folk Song Society, Volume 1, Issue 6

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