Literature in Irish - The Post Classical Period


The Early Modern period came rapidly to an end following the overthrow of the Gaelic order in the seventeenth century. The transition is marked in prose by compilations intended to conserve the record of Gaelic civilization, such as the great synthesis Annála Ríoghachta Éireann ‘annals of the kingdom of Ireland’ written in 1632-36 under the supervision of Mícheál Ó Cléirigh (1575-1645), or Séathrún Céitinn’s narrative history Foras Feasa ar Éirinn ‘foundation of knowledge about Ireland’, completed around 1634. Séathrún Céitinn (1570-1645) was deprecated as an amateur by professional historians of the native tradition, but he was a master of prose and his work remained extremely popular until recent times.

As for verse, the transition was marked by an abrupt decline in patronage for poets and by the replacement of the classical syllable-count metres by stress-count metres called amhrán. The amhrán metres make their appearance fully fledged, in various elaborate patterns and frequently in conjunction with an arcane style. They can hardly, therefore, represent the development of a more simple medium to suit a less sophisticated audience, as has sometimes been suggested, and their provenance is still a matter of controversy. The most prominent poets of the period were Séathrún Céitinn, Pádraigín Haicéad (1600-54), a Dominican priest who was much involved in the politics of his day, and Dáibhí Ó Bruadair (1625-98), who strove in vain to maintain the traditional status of the professional poet and wrote bitterly about the transformation of Irish society. Aogán Ó Rathaille (1670-1728), regarded as one of the greatest poets in the Irish canon, was one of the last to receive some patronage for his work, but it scarcely amounted to more than charity. Indeed his unfortunate benefactors, whatever their attitude to his compositions may have been, were hardly in a position to provide him with the estates and fees which the professional poets of the Early Modern period would have received without question.


Free Ireland Newsletter First Name:

privacy: your details are never ever shared

by Michael Green
(C) Copyright - The Information about Ireland Site, 1998-2016
P.O. Box 9142, Blackrock, County Dublin, Ireland
Tel: ++ 353 1 2893860
(Office Hours: 9am to 6pm GMT = 4am to 1pm EST
Feel free to contact us by going here
or by telephone or postal mail as shown above.
Drop us a line - we will reply!