This conclusion, to which a study of the literature invites us, falls in exactly with that arrived at from purely archaeological sources. Professor Ridgeway of Cambridge University, working on archaeological lines, expresses himself as follows: “From this survey of the material remains of the la Tern period found actually in Ireland, and from the striking correspondence between this culture and that depicted in the Tain Bo Cualnge, and from the circumstance that the race who are represented in the epic as possessing this form of culture resemble in their physique the tall, fair-haired, grey-eyed Celts of Britain and the continent, we are justified in inferring (1) that there was an invasion (or invasions) of such peoples from Gaul in the centuries immediately before Christ, as is ascribed by the Irish traditions, and (2) that the poems themselves originally took shape when the la Tene culture was still flourishing in Ireland. But as this could hardly have continued much later than A.D. 100, we may place the first shaping of the poems not much later than that date and possibly a century earlier.”
This conclusion would make the earliest putting together of the Irish epics almost contemporaneous with Augustus Caesar.
So much for the history and growth of Irish letters.
Brash: Ogam inscribed Monuments of the Gaedhil (1879); MacAlister: Studies in Irish Epigraphy, vol. 1 (1897), vol. 2 (1902), vol. 3 (1907); Rhys: in Proceedings of the Scottish Society of Antiquaries (Edinburgh, 1892); Ridgeway: Date of the First Shaping of the Cuchulain Saga (1905), in Proceedings of the British Academy, vol. II; Joyce: Social History of Ancient Ireland, vol. I, Chap. 2; Preface to fac-simile edition of the Book of Ballymote.
By PROFESSOR GEORGES DOTTIN.
[Note.—This chapter was written in French by M. Dottin, who is a distinguished professor and dean at the University of Renacs, France. The translation into English has been made by the Editors.]
By the year 1200 of the Christian era, a time at which the other national literatures of Europe were scarcely beginning to develop, Ireland possessed, and had possessed for several centuries, a Gaelic poetry, which was either the creation of the soul of the people or else was the work of the courtly bards. This poetry was at first expressed in rhythmical verses, each containing a fixed number of accented syllables and hemistichs separated by a pause:
Crist lim, | Crist
reum, | Crist in degaid
Crist indium | Crist issum | Crist uasum
| Crist dessum | Crist uasum
This versification, one of the elements of which was the repetition of words or sounds at regular intervals, was transformed about the eighth century into a more learned system. Thenceforward alliteration, assonance, rhyme, and a fixed number of syllables constituted the characteristics of Irish verse: