Thanks to Dennis King for this reference to Mac Réamoinn; I'm off to
find it after peeling myself away from the screen.
I agree that a thoughtful literary assessment (if that
characterizes the proposal in a fair way) of Old and Middle Irish
literature is truly desirable. I know that there are a select few essays
that begin the task, but it would be good for many of us to think
through these literary issues, moving beyond the romanticism and
primitivism that, not altogether unhappily, have colored such
discussions in days of yore..
I tend to think primarily about the "lyric" simply because early
Irish verse seems to compare so favorably with lyric from other parts of
the world. Note the selection of Irish lyrics in Lyrics of the Middle
Ages: An Anthology by James J. Wilhelm (NY & London: Garland, 1990),
where Joseph Eska translates 10 early Irish poems (including Pangur
Ban), pp. 267-270. As small as the corpus might be at the earliest
periods, it clearly leaves us with a number of perfect pieces--again,
remember that Sappho's deserved reputation hangs on only one complete
poem, and a handful of fragments (as well as some rather good publicity
from later Greeks!). Ireland is not alone in leaving small nuggets that
indicate rich deposits at some historical moment.
I'll see about putting together a bibliography of "literary" studies
of Irish lyric--the scraps are scattered about the hard disk here but
worth putting in one place.
Dennis King wrote:
> Back in 1982, Seán Mac Réamoinn edited a collection of essays
> which he entitled _The Pleasures of Gaelic Poetry_. In it
> eleven littérateurs, most of them poets in their own right,
> write about their personal response to the work of other, mostly
> earlier, Irish (and one Scottish) poets. An example is Michael
> Hartnett's essay "Wrestling with Ó Bruadair".
> I wonder if anyone ever put together, or thought of putting
> together, a similar collection of reactions to, or musings on,
> some of the landmarks of Old and Middle Irish, both poetry and
> Dennis King