« PreviousContinue »
shaped into expression; their fine sensibility, which imparts to even the lightest emotion a touch of earnestness and truth; their vivid imaginations, which can be fired into enthusiasm at will, and soothed even in suffering by the flowers of fancy; and their liveliness of nature, which causes the spring of feeling, however deep, to climb at last into the upper air and the sunlight of expression all make of them the ideal people for quick comprehension and equally quick response.
Within the last half century, since the Celtic tongue has dropped into comparative disuse, and English forms of speech have been taken to translate the traditions and poetry of the earlier Irish bards to the world, a new interest in these treasures of imagery and emotional expression has been developed at home and abroad. Since the first volumes of Ballads and Songs were edited nearly fifty years ago by Charles Gavan Duffy and Denis Florence MacCarthy, a steadily increasing number of collections, based on every principle of selection, has been sown broadcast among the people. In the one which is herewith offered, no rule more special than the birthright of the different authors to Irish nationality has been followed. Even this is violated in one or two instances wherein relationship instead of nativity connects the subject with Ireland, as in the case of Mrs. Norton. The object has rather been to gather within the convenient limits of a single volume a worthy collection of gleanings from Irish authors, representing different periods of time and dealing with subjects of national interest. In most cases, the space allotted to any one name has depended upon the value of the name itself as an exponent of literary worth, or a contribution to the better understanding of the times and circumstances which inspired its productions. Here again in a few instances notably in that of Samuel Loverthe simple fidelity of the writer to national traits and customs has won for him an extra share of attention.
The Classics of the Land the translations of Mangan, the Ballads and Lyrics of Callanan, Davis, Griffin, Ferguson, MacCarthy and Duffy, the Poems of Goldsmith, the Melodies of Moore, the Satire of Swift, the Songs of Allingham, and the work of a host of less famous authors, whose place in the beautiful mosaic of Irish poetry has been of less importance only because death too soon checked the skilful hands which were accomplishing such exquisite workmanship— are very fully represented. So too are the productions of the younger men, brilliant but less known, who made up the memorable staff of The Nation, or who have achieved reputation in other fields like John Keegan Casey, Richard Dalton Williams, Kickham, and Joyce. To ensure some illustration of other celebrated
men, a few prose selections have been made from the pen pictures of Lever, Russell, Sheridan, and Meagher; from the fervid oratory of Edmund Burke, and the stirring eloquence of his namesake, Father Tom. The right of woman to a high place among the nation's array of talent has been demonstrated among others by Mrs. Hall, Lady Dufferin, "Speranza," "Brigid," Mrs. Forrester, Frances Browne, and Rosa Mulholland. No regular order has been followed in compilation: variety and contrast have charms of their own as well as the most studied arrangement. It is hoped that altogether the collection will be found of interest not only to the simple lover of the songs of his land by whomsoever sung or whatsoever inspired, but also to the more careful student of characteristic Irish talent, who desires to trace the peculiar genius of the race through all the differences of expression with which varying creeds, education, and position may have restricted or developed it.
BOSTON, October, 1886.
MARY ELIZABETH BLAKE.