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REVIEWS AND NOTES
STUDIES IN MODERN IRISH. Part I. By the Rev. Gerald O'Nolan,
M.A., B.D., Professor of Irish, St. Patrick's College, Maynooth.
A Serious defect in most of our Irish grammars is that they appear to have been compiled in accordance with the writers' ideas and whims as to what Irish should be, rather than based on the best specimens of the language as employed by the best writers. A grammar of Modern Irish constructed from the writings of our many recent authors, and representing the language of the best speakers, is one of the things the Irish movement has so far failed to give us. Since the inception of the Gaelic League a continuous stream of Irish prose and verse has been coming from the press, a number of dialects have been scientifically
a examined, and a considerable body of folk-lore of various kinds has been
a made available for study. The time would seem ripe when at last we might have a standard grammar of our own language.
It is pleasing to find that a beginning has been made. The Rev. Father O'Nolan, in the work before us, contributes a number of important essays carried through on the right method. He bases his studies on reliable material, cites his authorities, and quotes abundant examples in proof of the rules he elaborates. The opening chapter fills almost fifty pages and deals with the uses of the verb is. The difficulties of this verb constitute a great stumbling-block for all beginners of Irish. Father O'Nolan's treatment of the syntax of is is the most valuable that has yet been made. He has made the subject especially his own. O'Malley contributed an important treatise to Eriu some years ago, but its scope and plan render it of service to students of early Irish rather than to the more numerous class who are anxious to speak and write Irish with grace and ease.
Atkinson based a short study on Keating's Three Shafts of Death, but no writer has hitherto faced the subject in the same thorough fashion as Father O'Nolan. He reduces the uses of this verb to two main classes, the one found in identification, and the other in classification sentences. Both classes are then subdivided into a number of types, and adequate illustration of each type is supplied from Father O'Leary's works and from some other sources.
With the material used, Father O'Nolan certainly reduces to order the contradictory statements of previous grammarians. The main thesis of the chapter is that the verb is is always followed immediately by the predicate, either in material or pronominal form. Thus, adopting the formula, V=verb, P= predicate, p=pronoun standing for predicate
and S = subject; if V is expressed, it must always be followed imme
: diately by either P or p. This reduces the uses of is to uniformity, and is in opposition to the teaching of all previous grammarians who maintain that
is is followed in some cases by the subject, and in others by the predicate. Difference of opinion as to which of two expressions is predicate and which is subject will frequently arise in the absence of contexts, and this absence probably accounts for the diversity of statements found in our grammars. There are a number of small points in the chapter which will not find general acceptance. In regard to the muchdisputed Is mise an bás (page 36), it might be argued that at an earlier stage of the language, is mise would be represented by am, combining the subject and copula, and consequently mise would appear to be subject. Again, the translation of the Words of Consecration objected to on page 39 is found in a homily in the Leabhar Breac, and therefore, is at least as old as the fourteenth century.
The second chapter deals with prolepsis of the pronouns and of other words and is closely connected with the first, for p in the formula above is really a case of prolepsis. Next follows a very exhaustive and lucid account of the relative particles, a, 'n-a, go, etc., in use in Munster Irish. On pages 112-3 there is mention of the very peculiar use of oo before a verbal noun in relative clauses. No satisfactory treatment of this usage has ever been given, and it is a pity that Father O'Nolan dismisses it so briefly, all the more so, as the type of construction which is preferred to it in Munster is not found in Connacht or Ulster at all. There are chapters on the verbal noun, partitive de, noun phrases (sometimes called indivisible phrases), prepositional phrases, ellipsis, and a large body of very enlightening discussions on various points of grammar brought together under the heading Miscellaneous. There is at the end a list of
‘' words which have undergone a change of meaning, forming perhaps the most interesting section of the volume. The remainder deals in the main with etymologies. In this department views are liable to continued revision, but the great majority of the derivations given by Father O'Nolan may be accepted as among those established for all time. There are places, however, where the author might have referred to more recent theories in regard to certain words, e.g., pages 242, 245, 264, 268, 269. The word féidir, now meaning 'possible,' was explained by Strachan as connected with the verb féadaim, but Thurneysen has recently stated that réidir is the earliest form of the word, and is related to réidpeac, a word meaning powerful.' Pedersen's doctrine that Indo-Germanic p sometimes gave initial h in Old Irish is not universally accepted. Marstrander has proved conclusively, I believe, that the preposition cum, docum, is a weakened form of the substantive toiċim. osagan and words of similar formation are certainly cases of the use of two diminutive suffixes, and further the Britannic og need not be brought in here, for Meyer has shown that there are frequent cases of short-vowel suffixes ending in 5 found alone ; see the second of his papers, Zur Keltischen Wortkunde, page 1149. The same writer, if I remember rightly, has argued that the ending in Catal, Tuscal, etc., is allied to the root
ual, found in Irish flait, etc., the doubling of the 1 arising sometimes under MacNeill's rule. In these and similar matters, as has been said, opinions may vary, but the great bulk of the section devoted to derivation may be taken as the accepted teaching of present-day philologists.
Father O'Nolan is to be congratulated on producing a really serviceable handbook for fairly advanced students, and the concluding Part II will be eagerly awaited. He has broken new ground, and has conducted his investigation with a fine sense of the niceties of Irish speech. The book is provided with a number of well-chosen exercises, and we may, perhaps, repeat here the wish of other reviewers, that the author will provide teachers with a Key, either in separate form or with the concluding portion of his work.
Dánta do įum dongus Fionn ó dálaig.
Edited with Translation, Notes, etc., by Rev. L. McKenna, S.J., M.A. With Preface by 0. J. Bergin, D.Litt. Dublin and London: Maunsel & Co., Ltd. 1919.
MATTHEW ARNOLN, among others, has noticed the light magic touch with which the Celts handled Nature in their poetry. And though, in recent times, a certain artificial apeing after the Celtic 'note' by lesser poets has brought this quality of Celticism into disrepute, the 'note is itself none the less real and true, because of these somewhat bizarre attempts to reproduce it. The very best efforts of the Muse in England, not excepting even the genius of Shakespeare, owe their highest ornament to this infusion of the Celtic spirit into the Germanic basis of the average Englishman. In one department, however—that of religious poetryEngland has signally failed to catch this Celtic exaltation. Hymns in English are for the most part very sorry stuff, and, but for the religious influences embodied in them, could hardly be tolerated at all by anyone possessed of the most rudimentary germ of the literary instinct. It is scarcely too much to say that, with one or two notable exceptions, not a line of English liturgical poetry rises above the commonplace. They all bear the unmistakable stamp of the stodgy Germanic Gemeinheit. Of Irish religious poetry the Revival has hitherto given us but little. The appearance, therefore, of this present volume will be a revelation and a treasure to lovers of Irish literature. Of the fifty-five poems which it contains, about fifty are on religious subjects, and though all are written in syllabic metres, requiring elaborate technique, the language rarely seems to be unnatural, or the writer to be cramped by the rigorous laws that governed this style of composition. The fact seems to be that the training in the Bardic Schools was so minute and systematic that conformity to these laws became second nature to the poet. To the modern mind, unused as it is to such close trammels of versification, the cameolike perfection of these effusions seems nothing short of marvellous. It is to be hoped that familiarity with the poetry of Aonghus will do much to popularise among our Irish students—and budding poets-these difficult but highly harmonious metres,
But perfection of technique is not the only merit of these poems. They breathe a deep and sincere religious sentiment, and form pleasant reading beside the somewhat tiresome enumerations of the spéribean's perfections, so common in the airling. The poet revels in thoughts and figures that almost take our breath away, so untutored are we moderns in the inner ways of Celtic religious thought. While many of Aonghus' epithets and images are borrowed from the common stock of medieval Latin religious poetry, some (as the learned Editor remarks) are peculiar to Irish, and some perhaps to Aonghus himself. That intimate communing with Nature, and peculiarly happy knack of using her as the handmaid of Poetry, to which we referred in the beginning as specially characteristic of the Celt, is seen in many of O'Daly's compositions. Mary, e.g., is “Gran na Maigdean” (xii), “ easga an einig ós mnáib” (xiv), “éarga as šlovne ná an grion" (xxii), “ré nomlám ár n-óğact,” “réalta iúil
" an ainiúil ” (XXV). Or, again, she is—"eolac re duine ndall (vi),
craob eoluis na n-uile n-óğ” (xii), “teagoas óir puirt papriais". (xxv),
Guanán cláir nime" (XXV), tonn 10tháiš čopičairće (xi), tobar glár an toige tuar”, (xii), “caor Buava an earla jinn” (xii), tonn pobapta” (xii), “tuile gan tráis" (xv)“ craob coraro do'n réim piogia," "Craob réió d'á Broġair ór-čna," 'Géag naointa abla ópia ” (xxv). These are only a few of the contributions which Nature is made to lay at the feet of Mary. Almost every poem of O'Daly is rich in such vivid imagery, and though repetitions are inevitable in such a large body of religious poetry, they do not cloy the palate, because there is always something fresh and breezy in each new presentment. A remarkable feature of the Mary-poems is the stress which the poet lays on the personal physical beauty of the Virgin. But amidst it all he seems to feel a genuine love and admiration for the Mother-Maid, and to make the reader feel that all these charms serve but to' half reveal, and half conceal, the soul within.' These poems in particular give us a very vivid picture of the place which the Blessed Virgin occupied in the popular mind in Ireland at the end of the sixteenth century. The poem entitled , Mary and the Earl,' reminds us forcibly of the germ of Canon O'Leary's “Séadna." Keating's poem “Fásobréagac an saoğal so" is a replica in aṁpán of O'Daly's Dán Direac—“Léig dod'baois a bean on rgatáin.'
While the language of these poems is in the main early Modern, the student interested in such matters will notice many peculiarities unfamiliar to the language of to-day. Such are-ti with verbal force, in go dtí (11,15)
) dá dti (19,42), sul dtí (35); aspiration after the present and future relative forms of the copula (passim); 1 Broile, in which thou art (17); anmain, dat. of anam (17); bus, the future relative form of the copula, molar vuit-se bus nuaó nóis (20); Mičeál opća is é bus tréan (22); the negative noća (23); eclipsis after accusative singular, e.g., ar cóir ndé (24), an tan do čife an gcrois ndeirg (41); puil pe cabair gcuideacta (30); the old neuter plural in cóig choróe (24); the S-subjunctive in dá róisinn (24); ionad (30); dá with the present subjective dá n-agila (38), dá dtí (19, 42).
To ecclesiastical students especially this book will be a God-send. The insipidity of English hymns will stand out vividly after a taste of the beauties of these gems of Celtic art. Father McKenna has earned the gratitude of all students of Irish literature by placing in their hands such a rich treasure-house of the native language, poetry and piety. We heartily congratulate him on this solid pioneer work in the realm of Bardic poetry. We trust we shall not be considered hyper-critical in adding that the translations here and there are inadequate, and sometimes little more than a free paraphrase. A careful analysis of the language and syntax,
a and a fuller account of the metres employed, would have greatly enhanced the value of the book, from the student's point of view.
BOOKS, ETC., RECEIVED
In an Indian Abbey : Some Straight Talking on Theology. By Joseph Rickaby, S.J. London: Burns & Oates.
Some Ethical Questions of Peace and War. By Rev. Walter McDonald, D.D. London: Burns & Oates.
The Immaculate Conception. By Thomas Harper, S.J. London : Burns & Oates.