« ZurückWeiter »
have consequently been, ever since, looked upon as English; the native Irish being, to this day, a very different people. Every one has heard of the English pale."
Ritson, however, probably after this passage was written (1783), may have read the complaint, that the Anglo-Irish settlers degenerated and became mere Irish; in fact, that they were "more Irish than the Irish themselves;" for, in 1789, he appears to have visited Dublin," chiefly," to use his own words, "with a view to pick up songs, either single or collected, the native production of the country; but I met," he adds, "with little or nothing except disappointment. And yet I have good reason to think that some such collections must either exist or have existed."
That Irish songs may be found in abundance, there can be no doubt, although Ritson's inquiries after them were unsuccessful; but the question which he has raised is; In what particulars they differ from English songs, being composed in the same language, and by English settlers or their descendants? That there is, however, a distinct feeling and character,that there is a certain humour, a quaint manner of expression, an exquisite simplicity, and
that there are other peculiarities, which leave no difficulty in discriminating between even the English imitation and the genuine lyric of Ireland, I think, will readily be conceded after the perusal of this volume. These traits of Anglo-Irish song may be accounted for in various ways; among others, as copies after, or translations from, the national language.
Spenser," the prince of poets," distinctly replies to the inquiry, Whether the Irish bards "have any art in their compositions, or be they any thing witty or well-savoured as poems should be?"
Yea, truly, I have caused divers of them to be translated unto me, that I might understand them; and surely they savoured of sweet wit and good invention, but skilled not of the goodly ornaments of poetry; yet were they sprinkled with some pretty flowers of their natural device, which gave good grace and comeliness unto them."
My intention was to submit to the English reader a series of songs, which would have told the history of Ireland from the battle of the Boyne to the present time, in a novel, impartial, and, according to my view, interesting and instructive form. From the genuine
contemporary evidences of popular feeling, I am satisfied that many curious and some important deductions might have been derived. For what has been said of French songs, applies perfectly to those of Ireland. "The Frenchman" (and so does the Irishman)" sings his conquests, his prosperity, his defeats, even his miseries and misfortunes. Conquering or conquered, in plenty or want, happy or unhappy, sorrowful or gay, he always sings; and one would say that the song is his natural expression. In fine, in all situations in which we would speak of the French" (or the Irish), "we might always ask, as the late King of Sardinia did, Well! how goes the little song?""
The chronological series which I had originally proposed (notwithstanding the utmost compression), would have extended to three or four volumes; a work which, for a mere collection of Irish songs, alarmed my publisher. In compliance, therefore, with his wishes, rather than in accordance with my own opinion as to the interest likely to attach to the undertaking, I now submit to the public a selection, not of the historical, but of the popular songs of Ireland.
Several of these songs, although they have
been extensively sung, are now printed for the first time; and all the songs in the present volume will be found, not mere English imitations of Irish peculiarities, as in most former collections, but the real productions of Ireland: not whimsical caricatures, but genuine specimens of national feelings, prejudices, poetry, and humour. An attempt has also been made to assign to these fugitive lyrics their proper parentage; and slight biographical notices of Dr. Brenan, Mr. Callanan, Mr. W. P. Carey, Mr. Andrew Cherry, Mr. Lysaght, Mr. Millikin, the Right Hon. George Ogle, Mr. Patrick O'Kelly, and other writers of popular songs, occur in the introductions prefixed. In these introductions, my view is to explain distinctly to the English reader various circumstances of local and temporary interest, evidences of originality that cannot be doubted.
The features I have mentioned, give the present collection of Irish popular songs a distinct character from any hitherto published.
With regard to the principles which have guided me in the selection, I may state that my object was to steer a middle course between the lower class of vulgar ballad and
the exquisite compositions of Moore and Lover. The former gentleman, indeed, has been thus humorously assailed for the want of Irish feeling and character which has been charged against his national work:-" It has often struck me with astonishment, that the people of Ireland should have so tamely submitted to Mr. Thomas Moore's audacity in prefixing the title of Irish to his Melodies.' That the tunes are Irish, I admit; but as for the songs, they in general have as much to do with Ireland, as with Nova Scotia. What an Irish affair, for example, Go where Glory waits thee!' &c. Might not it have been sung by a cheesemonger's daughter of High Holborn, when her master's apprentice was going, in a fit of valour, to list himself in the Third Buffs, or by any other amatory person, as well as a Hibernian Virgin? And if so, where is the Irishism of the thing at all? Again,
'When in death I shall calm recline,
O bear my heart to my mistress dear;
Tell her it lived upon fiddlesticks! pretty food for an Irishman's heart for the ladies.' Not a man of us, from Carnsore Point to Bloody Foreland, would give a penny a pound for