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By Margaret Kelleher

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40 The change-over from one language to another happened so fast in many areas during the nineteenth century that people continued to think in Irish while using English words. One consequence was a radical restructuring of English grammar and syntax along Gaelic lines. ’ These effects seemed poetic to an ear trained on standard English locutions. George Moore even went so far as to claim that if you translated Irish word-for-word into English, the results were always poetry. There was undoubtedly an element of psychological compensation in all this.

In similar style, the court presided over by fairy-women in Brian Merriman’s poem seems another parody of the hated parliamentary processes which had brought such misery to Ireland. The poem was also, however, a return to the old sovereignty myths, as well as a radical prophecy of a future when women might be fully empowered. Texts like these had a palpable influence on the insurgent leaders of Ireland in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The setting-up of a revolutionary D´ail in 1919, with its own republican courts within the overall British structure, may have been suggested by readings of Merriman’s poem, or of texts like it.

Rathaille – lie behind These lines – and others from the Gaelic poet Aog´an O Yeats’s reworking of the theme in ‘The Curse of Cromwell’. There the poet makes a telling comparison between boorish bailiffs who dogged the Gaelic writer in the eighteenth century and the philistine councillors who curbed the artist in the Free State of the 1930s: The lovers and the dancers are all beaten into the clay And the tall men and the swordsmen and the horsemen, where are they? 21 Overground codes: Anglo-Irish anxieties On the planter’s side, too, there was much scope for metaphor and innuendo.

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