IRISH IDEAS

By William O'Brien

Page 48

THE INFLUENCE OF THE IRISH LANGUAGE

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is dying a natural death? Why trouble with vain voices from the past a nation which has its Parliament to win, its swamps to drain, its woollens to weave, and its fecund soil, longing to yield up a threefold increase of herds and yellow harvests?' To all of which I answer--First, that in the matter of languages, as in the matter of nationalities, side by side with the tendency to find a common bond of intercourse between races of men in those broad human concerns which make of all the world one country, there is a still more marked tendency in our time to cherish those distinguishing characteristics of blood, of language, and tradition, which constitute the individuality and stimulate the genius of nationalities, and which are to nations what domestic life is to individuals. A thousand people now-a-days have a smattering of more than one language for the one who could speak two languages a century ago. In the second place, while I should be the last to subtract any portion of the energies of the young men of Ireland from the conquest of a National Parliament, or from those great tasks of material and social regeneration which will come in its train, lost were the nation which should forget that the sacred passion of Nationality--which is the driving force and vital breath of all our struggles, the spell which makes hope enchanting, the consecration which lifts us above the paltry contentions of the hour, and makes even suffering and failure sweet--has its origin deep in the recesses of the past, among the old associations of which the Gaelic language is the very living voice and soul; and I cannot think that a society of young Corkmen who aspire to be the commissioned soldiers of Irish Nationality, will deem an hour altogether wasted in tracing a few of the particulars in which the Gaelic spirit has entered into the national ...continue reading »

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