IRISH IDEAS

By William O'Brien

Page 47

THE INFLUENCE OF THE IRISH LANGUAGE [1]

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I am well aware of the difficulty of interesting an audience of young Irishmen in the praises or fortunes of the Irish language. It was not without considerable trepidation I chose a topic so time-stricken for my address to a Society whose work lies in the living present, and whose pathway is strown with the promise of a golden future. There will rise to impatient lips the demand, 'Do you seriously propose to make it a test of Irish Nationality that men shall discard the language of Shakespeare and Burke, of Milton and Newman, for the language of the cabins along a strip of rock-bound Atlantic coast?' Nor will it be enough to answer--'I should as soon propose to the world-spread Irish race to surrender their hard-won inheritance on the great English-speaking continents and coop themselves up among the moors and rocks of Connaught.' 'Then where is the use,' will be the triumphant demand of the practical politician, 'in an age whose tendency it is to substitute one universal language for all the languages of Babel--where is the use of attempting to arrest the fate of a dialect which is shorn of all modern graces, and stunted of its natural growth since the Middle Ages, and which, but for the outcries of a knot of musty enthusiasts, ...continue reading »


[1] Lecture delivered May 13, 1892, before the Cork National Society, of which the speaker is President.

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