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The Victorian Age, Part Two
> Thomas Osborne Davis
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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes
Volume XIV. The Victorian Age, Part Two.
§ 18. Thomas Osborne Davis.
We may here revert to the group of Irish writers who made national Irish politics the vehicle for their literary propaganda and, wise in their generation, thus secured a far wider hearing than Petrie and Otway gained by means of their three magazines. Thomas Osborne Davis, the son of parents of strictly unionist principles, and with but little Irish blood in his veins, went, as a protestant, to Trinity college, Dublin, but then began to show his independence of mind. He did not lay himself out for college distinction, which he could easily have gained, but read omnivorously, won influence with his fellowstudents and, ultimately, became president of the Historical society, the leading university debating-club. Called to the bar, he began to practise in the revision courts and to dabble in political journalism. This latter work attracted the attention of Charles Gavan Duffy, the brilliant young editor of a Belfast national journal, and a Roman catholic. The two men became friends, and a walk taken by them and John Blake Dillon in Phoenix park led to the establishment of
from which sprang what was soon known as The Young Ireland Movement, and which, as Duffy afterwards wrote, profoundly influenced the mind of his own generation and made a permanent change in the opinion of the nation.
At first, Davis, who was joint editor of
with Duffy, was opposed to the introduction of verse into this journal. Afterwards, however, he recognised how readily his countrymen would respond to this kind of appeal; and, in the third and sixth numbers of the paper, respectively, there appeared two of his finest political lyrics
Lament for Owne Roe ONeill.
Thereafter, he wrote much verse in
little of it, however, deserving the name of poetry. Nor was this surprising. He had not time to polish his lines; besides, he wrote for the enlightement and regeneration of the people, and his verse, therefore, tended to become didactic. Yet, in his few leisure hours, when he could carefully think out and finish a poem, or when he was under the inspiration of an ardent personal patriotism, he was a true poetas in his
Boatman of Kinsale, O the Marriage, the Marriage
and his historical ballad
The Sack of Baltimore.
But Davis will further be remembered by his essays. Gavan Duffy, also, broke into spirited, unaffected verse in
Lay Sermon, The Irish Chief, Innishowen
The Patriots Bride.
But there were two other constant contributors to
who excelled both him and Davis in poetic craftDenis Florence MacCarthy and Thomas DArcy McGee. One of Maccarthys finest poems is in honour of the clan MacCaura, of which he came, and his lyrics
The Pillar Towers of Ireland
Waiting for the May
have become popularthe first, deservedly so; the latter, in spite of its somewhat sickly cast of thought. His translations of Calderons dramas are accepted as standard works of the kind; while his
Shelleys Early Life from original sources
is interesting as showing what that poets efforts were for the amelioration of the government of Ireland.
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