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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

On bards and beautiful words

Poetry has long been dear to my heart. If you've been reading Small-leaved Shamrock, you also know how much pride I take in my Irish heritage. It was with great joy that I received a gift a few years back from my mother (thanks, Mom) of a book of Irish poetry spanning 1,000 years.

Yes, you read that right. 1000 Years of Irish Poetry: The Gaelic and Anglo Irish Poets from Pagan Times to the Present edited by Kathleen Hoagland is a compilation of the best poetic works by Irish poets over a period of history longer than you can imagine could fit in one book. Beginning with the ancient poetic songs from pre-Christian Ireland and progressing through the centuries to the modern Irish poets of more recent times, this book is a treasure for lovers of Irish poetry and Ireland in general.

There are so many treasures in this book, from the familiar The Wearin' of the Green (from the section on Anonymous Street Ballads) to Thomas D'Arcy McGee's 19th-century poem The Celtic Cross (within Anglo-Irish poetry). The table of contents itself is a historical timeline of sorts, beginning with ancient poetry written pre-7th-century and moving through the medieval period all the way to modern times. Included are moving poetic tributes to the culture and people of Ireland, poetic laments of hardships and suffering, and of course, an assortment of humorous Irish ballads.

As stated on the book's cover, "1000 Years of Irish Poetry presents for the first time a panorama of Irish poetry as a literature, showing the many faces of the Irish poetic genius; lyrics, elegies, songs, street ballads, satires, patriotic hymns, dramatic epics, natural and contemplative poetry, odes and sonnets, and older unusual Gaelic forms of verse, which influenced the bardic poets of ancient and medieval Europe."

I can't imagine this book not being in my collection. Now, to find the time to be true to my Irish heritage and write more of my own poetic utterances...

For more on Irish poetry, try Out of What Began: A History of Irish Poetry in English by Gregory A. Schirmer.

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