valued most for peculiar and original qualities. A man who can only
common-place, and act according to routine, has little weight. To
and do what your own soul from its depths orders you, are credentials
greatness which all men understand and acknowledge. Such a man's dictum
more influence than the reasoning of an imitative or common-place man.
his circle with confidence. He is self-possessed, firm, accurate, and
Such men are the pioneers of civilization, and the rulers of the human
nations be judged thus? Is not a full indulgence of its natural
essential to a people's greatness? Force the manners, dress, language,
constitution of Russia, or Italy, or Norway, or America, and you instantly stunt and distort the
of either people.
which grows up with a people, is conformed to their organs, descriptive
their climate, constitution, and manners, mingled inseparably with
history and their soil, fitted beyond any other language to express
prevalent thoughts in the most natural and efficient way.
language on such a people is to send their history adrift among the
translation—'tis to tear their identity from all places—'tis to
arbitrary signs for picturesque and suggestive names—'tis to cut off
of feeling, and separate the people from their forefathers by a deep
to corrupt their very organs, and abridge their power of expression.
language of a
nation's youth is the only easy and full speech for its manhood and for
age. And when the language of its cradle goes, itself craves a tomb.
a Russian for the rippling language of Italy or India? How could a Greek distort his organs and
his soul to
speak Dutch upon the sides of the Hymettus, or the beach of Salamis, or on the waste where once was Sparta? And is it befitting the fiery,
to abandon his beautiful tongue, docile and spirited as an Arab, "sweet
music, strong as the wave"—is it befitting in him to abandon this wild
liquid speech for the mongrel of a hundred breeds called English,
powerful though it be, creaks and bangs about the Celt who tries to use
lately met a
glorious thought in the Triads of Mochmed, printed in one
Welsh codes by the Record Commission. There are three things
there is no country—common language, common judicature, and co-tillage
without these a country cannot support itself in peace and social
language of its own is only half a nation. A nation should guard its
more than its territories—'tis a surer barrier, and more important
than fortress or river.
it has ever been thought so.
had dared to propose the adoption of Persian or Egyptian in Greece—how had Pericles thundered at the
barbarian? How had
Cato scourged from the forum him who would have given the Attic or
speech to men of Rome? How proudly and how nobly Germany stopped ‘the incipient creeping’ progress
And no sooner had she succeeded than her genius, which had tossed in a
trance, sprung up fresh and triumphant.
quelled Italy, or Xerxes subdued Greece for a time long enough to impose new
had been the literature which gives a pedigree to human genius? Even
recovered had been sickly and insecure without the language with which
hunted in the woods, worshipped at the fruit-strewn altar, debated on
council-hill, and shouted in the battle-charge.
song of the Frisians, which describes— ‘Language linked to liberty.’
native tongue, and learn that of an alien, is the worst badge of
the chain on the soul. To have lost entirely the national language is
the fetter has worn through. So long as the Saxon held to his German
could hope to resume his land from the Norman; now, if he is to be free
locally governed, he must build himself a new home. There is hope for Scotland—strong hope for Wales—sure hope for Hungary. The speech of the alien is not universal
in the one;
is gallantly held at bay in the other; is nearly expelled from the
corrupting—'tis for us, three-fourths of whom are of Celtic blood, to
medley of Teutonic dialects. If we add the Celtic Scots, who came back
from the thirteenth to the seventeenth centuries, and the Celtic Welsh,
colonised many parts of the Wexford and other Leinster counties, to the Celts who never left Ireland, probably five-sixths, or more, of us are
business have we with the Norman-Sassenagh?
these proportions because of the number of English names in Ireland. With a politic cruelty, the English of
passed an Act (3 Edw. IV, chap. 3), compelling every Irishman within
jurisdiction, to go like to one Englishman in apparel, and shaving
beard above the mouth,
[...]and shall take to him an English sirname of one town, as Sutton,
Trym, Skryne, Corke, Kinsale; or colour, White, Blacke, Browne, or art
science, as Smith, or Carpenter; or office, as Cook, Butler; and that
his issue shall use this name, under pain of forfeiting his goods
parliament before the Reformation, so did another after the
Reformation. By the
28th Henry VIII, c. 15, the dress and language of the Irish were
as barbarous by the minions of that ruffian king, and were utterly
and abolished under many penalties and incapacities. These laws are
force; but whether the Archaeological Society, including Peel1 and
will be prosecuted, seems doubtful.
'tis to be feared, an adoption of English names, during some periods,
fashion, fear, or meanness. Some of our best Irish names, too, have
mangled as to require some scholarship to identify them. For these and
more reasons, the members of the Celtic race here are immensely greater
all; for even the Saxon and Norman colonists, notwithstanding these
melted down into the Irish, and adopted all their ways and language.
centuries upon centuries Irish was spoken by men of all bloods in Ireland, and English was unknown, save to a few
nobles of the Pale. 'Tis only within a very late period that the
the people learned English.
asked, how can the language be restored now?
this partly by saying that, through the labours of the Archaeological
lesser societies, it is being revived rapidly.
this question of the possibility of reviving it more at length some
us believe that it is natural or honourable for the Irish to speak the
of the alien, the invader, the Sassenagh tyrant, and to abandon the
our kings and heroes. What! give up the tongue of Ollamh Fodhla and
the tongue of M'Carthy, and the O'Nials, the tongue of Sarsfield's,
Mathew's, and O'Connell's boyhood, for that of Strafford and Poynings, Sussex, Kirk, and Cromwell!
‘brighter days shall surely come’, and the green flag shall wave on our
and the sweet old language be heard once more in college, mart, and
the effort to save it as the national language fail, by the attempt we
rescue its old literature, and hand down to our descendants proofs that
a language as fit for love, and war, and business, and pleasure, as the
ever knew, and that we had not the spirit and nationality to preserve
Irish he would have sowed its seed by the side of that nationality
planted, and the close of the last century would have seen the one as
flourishing as the other. Had Ireland used Irish in 1782, would it not have
impeded England's re-conquest of us? But 'tis not yet too
be alarmed, we are not going to ask you to call your wife machree, or
child mavourneen instead of ‘my heart’ and ‘my dear’, as you do or
ought to do
now. We do not want you to learn names for those implements of
trade, those articles of furniture and dress, those relations of love,
life, and religion, other than you in infancy lisped.
mixed speech called English was laid with sweetmeats on your child's
English is the best speech of manhood. And yet, rather, in that case
unfortunate. The hills, and lakes, and rivers, and forts and castles,
churches and parishes, the baronies and counties around you, have all
which describe the nature of the scenery or ground, the name of
chief, or priest, or the leading fact in the history of the place. To
are names hard to pronounce, and without meaning.
well for you to know them. That knowlege would be a topography, and a
and romance, walking by your side, and helping your discourse. Meath
flatness, Clonmel the abundant riches of its valleys, Fermanagh is the
the Lakes, Tyrone the country of Owen, Kilkenny the Church of St.
Dunmore the great fort, Athenry the Ford of the Kings, Dunleary the
O'Leary; and the Phoenix Park, instead of taking its name from a fable,
recognises as christener the "sweet water" which yet springs near the
our airs and songs are Irish, and we every day are as puzzled and
wrong about them as the man who, when asked for the air, I am asleep,
waken me, called it "Tommy M'Cullagh made boots for me."
history and poetry are written in Irish, and shall we, who learn
Latin, and Greek, to read Dante, Livy, and Homer in the original—shall
content with ignorance or a translation of Irish?
before, with a detail which we cannot now repeat, three-fourths of the
are of Celtic descent, notwithstanding the English names imposed on so
them by Act of Parliament, policy, fashion and meanness, and the Irish,
most pure of the Celtic dialects, must be fitted for their voice and
to speak, most sweet to sing, most strong to rouse, most suited to the
of the people, even as Greek best suits the men descended from the
of Marathon—the men who inherit Athenian mouths, ears, and musical
who breathe the air, and dwell on the slopes of the Hymettus. It were
to expect the Irishman to be in full native health in India as to look
full development of all his powers in oratory, music, and history, when
tongue which leaves his fathers nameless, gives his fathers' deeds in
translated fragments, strains his organs, and cramps his musical
said, 'tis too late to revive Irish, it has no modern literature,
science is as nameless in Irish as Irish localities, airs, &c., are
English, and after all 'tis impossible to succeed.
plausible, but 'tis very shallow. As to Irish not having a modern
we say, so much the better, if the present or coming generation have
to set about creating one. If they go to the work with strong passions,
will build a literature fast and firm enough; they will be greater, and
parents of higher excellence, than if they studied and repeated instead
originating songs, histories and essays. The old Irish literature is
give impulse, and character, and costume to a new literature.
scientific words in Irish is undeniable, and doubtless we should adopt
existing names into our language. The Germans have done the same thing,
one calls German mongrel on that account. Most of these names are
extravagant; and are almost all derived from Greek or Latin and cut as
a figure in French and English as they would in Irish. Once Irish was
recognised as a language to be learned as much as French or Italian,
dictionaries would fill up, and our vocabularies ramify, to suit all
of life and conversation.
are ingenious refinements, however, rarely thought of till after the
great objection has been answered.
objection to attempting the revival of Irish is, that it could not
made to introduce Irish, either through the national schools or the
law, into the eastern side of the island, it would certainly fail, and
reaction might extinguish it altogether. But no one contemplates this
save as a
dream of what may happen a hundred years hence. It is quite another
say, as we do, that the Irish language should be cherished, taught, and
esteemed, and that it can be preserved and gradually extended.
that the people of the upper classes should have their children taught
language which explains our names of persons or places, our older
our music, and which is spoken in the majority of our counties, rather
Italian, German, or French. It would be more useful in life, more
to the taste and genius of young people, and a more flexible
an Irish man or woman to speak, sing, and write Irish than French.
middle classes think it a sign of vulgarity to speak Irish—the children
everywhere taught English and English alone in schools—and, what is
are urged by rewards and punishments to speak it at home, for English
language of their masters. Now, we think the example and the exertions
upper classes would be sufficient to set the opposite and better
preferring Irish; and, even as a matter of taste, we think them bound
to do so.
And we ask it of the pride, the patriotism, and the hearts of our
shopkeepers, will they try to drive out of their children's minds the
language of almost every great man we had, from Brian Boru to
they meanly sacrifice the language which names their hills, and towns,
music, to the tongue of the stranger?
people west of a line drawn from Derry to Waterford speak Irish habitually, and in some of the
tracts east of that line it is still common. Simply requiring the
the National Schools in these Irish-speaking districts to know Irish,
supplying them with Irish translations of the school books, would guard
language where it now exists, and prevent it from being swept away by
English tongue, as the red Americans have been by the English race from
New York to New Orleans.
example of the
upper classes would extend and develop a modern Irish literature, and
hearty support they have given to the Archaeological Society makes us
they will have sense and spirit to do so.
establishment of a newspaper partly or wholly Irish would be the most
sure way of serving the language. The Irish-speaking man would find, in
native tongue, the political news and general information he has now to
English; and the English-speaking man, having Irish frequently before
him in so
attractive a form, would be tempted to learn its characters, and
in many languages are now to be found everywhere but here. In South
many of these papers are Spanish and English, or French; in North
French and English; in Northern Italy, German and Italian; in Denmark
Holland, German is used in addition to the native tongue; in Alsace and
Switzerland, French and German; in Poland, German, French, and
Turkey, French and Turkish; in Hungary, Magyar, Sclavonic, and German;
little Canton of Grison uses three languages in its press. With the
of Hungary, the secondary language is in all cases, spoken by fewer
than the Irish-speaking people of Ireland, and while they everywhere
and use one language as a medium of commerce, they cherish the other as
vehicle of history, the wings of song, the soil of their genius, and a
guard of nationality.