The Last Bards

Fiona J. Stafford

in The Last of the Race

Published in print June 1994 | ISBN: 9780198112228
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191670718 | DOI:
The Last Bards

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This chapter discusses the mythic power of the last bards, focusing on works such as James Macpherson's translations of ‘Ossian’ (1760–3); Thomas Gray's ‘The Bard’ (1757); and Oliver Goldsmith's ‘The History of Carolan, the Last Irish Bard’ (1760). The myth is said to have worked both to free the modern world from the past and to recover some of the already-lost genius. Gray and Macpherson turned away from neo-classicism's constricting rules and created a new kind of literature by experimenting with ancient forms. Their new emphasis on wild scenery and their use of simple imagery and irregular verse paved the way to the Romantic movement. Goldsmith's emphasis on the bard's social relevance suggests that the death of Carolan, claimed as the last and the greatest bard, also marked the death of a poetic tradition and the life that had survived for centuries without alteration.

Keywords: last bards; Carolan; poetic tradition; Bard; Ossian; History of Carolan; Irish Bard

Chapter.  12992 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)

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