The Comic Irishman by Maureen Waters

By Maureen Waters

Booklet via Waters, Maureen

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The Irish were placed in a paradoxical position. They were a people with a highly cultivated pleasure in the spoken word, which is reflected both in the oral tradition and in the nature of the language itself. According to the poet and critic Seán Lucy, there is a close interrelationship between Irish speech and the flexed stud line, the so-called amhrán rhythm of Irish music and poetry. The language of the native speaker is "musically organized" and is "highly and subtly accented," the "musical phrases" being made up of a number of well-defined stresses linked by well-controlled "runs" of unaccented syllables.

4 Despite the high value placed on the art of language, many of the people had come to regard Irish as an inferior instrument, but their efforts to speak English resulted in the brogue, which was grounds for further humiliation. During the nineteenth century two additional factors contributed Page 4 to the decline in the number of Irish speakers. The first of these was the Great Famine, which decimated the rural population between 1847 and 1851. " The children in some district wore sticks, suspended from their necks, on which notches were carved to indicate any lapse into Irish, for which punishment was duly meted out.

She satirizes the countryman's love of talk, his tendency to lose himself entirely in the play of imagination. The dialect of Cloon is marked by Gaelic rhythms and inflections and is intended to be amusing because of its variation from English; however, it is also rich in wit and imagery and unexpected associations. Cloon is a fairly static community, and comedy is generated by the effort of its people to create drama out of the nonevents of their lives. The force of public opinion and established custom functions as a monolithic backdrop against which the smallest ripple of deviant behavior is exposed to scrutiny.

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