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Poetry


Gaelic poetry is voluminous. Exclusive of the Ossianic poetry which has been referred to already, there is a long catalogue of modern poetical works of various merit. Fragments exist of poems written early in the 17th century, such as those prefixed to the edition of Calvin’s Catechism, printed in 1631. One of these, Faosid Eoin Steuart Tighearn na Happen,"The Confessions of John Stewart, laird of Appin," savours more of the Church of Rome than of the Protestant faith. To this century belongs also the poetry of John Macdonell, usually called Eoin Lom, and said to have been poet-laureate to Charles II for Scotland. Other pieces exist of the same period, but little would seem to have been handed down to us of the poetry of this century.

We have fragments belonging to the early part of the 18th century in the introduction to "Lhuyd’s ArchŠologia". These are of much interest to the Gaelic student. In 1751 appeared the first edition of Songs by Alexander Macdonald, usually called Mac Mhaighistir Alasdair. These songs are admirable specimens of Gaelic versification, giving the highest idea of the author’s poetical powers. Many editions of them have appeared, and they are very popular in the Highlands. Macintyre’s poems appeared in 1768. Macdonald and he stand at the very top of the list of Gaelic poets. They are both distinguished by the power and the smoothness of their compositions. Macdonald’s highest gifts are represented in his Biorluinn Chloinn Raonuill, "Clan Ranald’s Galley," and Macintyre’s in his Beinn Dobhrain, "Ben Douran."

Later than Macintyre, Ronald M’Donald, commonly called Raonull Dubh, or Black Ranald, published an excellent collection of Gaelic songs. This Ranald was son to Alexander already referred to, and was a schoolmaster in the island of Eigg. His collection is largely made up of his father’s compositions, but there are songs of his own and of several other composers included. Many of the songs of this period are Jacobite, and indicate intense disloyalty to the Hanoverian royal family.

Gillies’ Collection in 1786 is an admirable one, containing many of the genuine Ossianic fragments. This collection is of real value to the Gaelic scholar, although it is now difficult to be had.

In addition to these, and at a later period, we have Turner’s Collection and Stewart’s Collection, both of them containing many excellent compositions. We have, later still, M’Kenzie’s Beauties of Gaelic Poetry, and we have, besides these. separate volumes of various sizes; by the admirable religious bard, Dugald Buchanan; by Rob donn, the Reay bard; William Ross, the Gairloch bard; and many others, who would form a long catalogue. As might be supposed, the pieces included in these collections are of various merit, but there is much really good poetry worthy of the country which, while it gave to Gaelic poetry such a name as Ossian, gave to the poetry of England the names of Thomas Campbell and Lord Macaulay.

 

 


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