Article

Recovering Ancient Ireland

Matthew Campbell

in The Oxford Handbook of Modern Irish Poetry

Published in print October 2012 | ISBN: 9780199561247
Published online January 2013 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199561247.013.0001

Series: Oxford Handbooks of Literature

 Recovering Ancient Ireland

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In his first published book, The Wanderings of Oisin, W. B. Yeats may have asked readers in 1889 to make at least two connections on reading the poem and coming across the declaration of the death of the Fenians. First, he may have asked that he be seen finally to reclaim the Ossianic for Irish literature. Second, he may have wanted readers to recognise the returning Fenian John O'Leary in the figure of Oisin, imprisoned and exiled by the British but returned to Ireland peacefully to inspire a cultural revival among a younger generation of Irish writers. The Wanderings of Oisin may be seen as a re-recovery or retelling of contested historical matter, rather than a primary recovery of an ancient Ireland. If the populist sentiments of the homesick cling too much to the idea of ‘Old Ireland’, then the notion of ‘Ancient Ireland’ has served longest for Irish poets such as Trevor Joyce, Seamus Heaney, Thomas Kinsella, and Ciaran Carson. Indeed, Irish poetry continues to reflect differing versions of ancient golden ages, saints and scholars, or the erstwhile Ossianic.

Keywords: Irish poetry; ancient Ireland; poets; W. B. Yeats; Wanderings of Oisin; Ossianic; Fenians

Article.  7551 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Literary Studies (20th Century onwards) ; Literary Studies (Poetry and Poets)

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