The Story of English

3 Jun

The gift of eloquence or the “the Blarney”, is widely believed to be an Irish quality, one that is much prized and every year thousands of tourists come to Cork “to kiss the Blarney stone” Today “Blarney means finding the right speech in a an extraordinary situation, when you don’t have a word prepared.

The Gaelic tradition is Ireland’s well of inspiration
W.B. Yeats whose work was steeped in it, once wrote:

I have no speech but symbol, the pagan speech I made
Amid the dreams of youth

The “pagan speech” was the language of Old Ireland. Later the victim of English invasion and oppression, this remote Celtic society exhibited great confidence in the eighth and ninth centuries, raiding and settling the neighboring shores of Scotland, Cornwall and Wales, the parts of old Britain not conquered by the Anglo-Saxons. (according to legend, St Patrick who introduced Christianity into Ireland was himself an escaped Welsh slave.) In the tenth century, the golden age of Irish saints and scholars, the culture of the island achieved a glorious perfection, a misty landmark at which later generations would gaze nostalgically.

Robert McCrum, William Cran, Robert MacNeil  The Story of English  (Elisabeth sifton Books Viking (c) 1986) p164-165


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