Just as Andrew Carpenter's 1998 anthology Verse in English from Eighteenth-Century Ireland changed our perception of eighteenth-century Irish writing in English, the present work challenges the general assumption that little or no verse was written in Tudor or Stuart Ireland. As this exciting and original collection of verse in English from sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Ireland shows, hundreds of poets were active in Ireland at the time. The poems of a few of them - particularly Edmund Spenser and the young Jonathan Swift - are well-known today: but almost everything else in this anthology - taken from manuscripts or from the original printings - appears here for the first time for three hundred years. The poets who wrote these verses, otherwise unknown men and women from the worlds of the Old English and native Irish, or visitors or settlers newly arrived from England, emerge from the pages of this book as sardonic observers of the dangerous times in which they lived, and as writers of originality, freshness and, sometimes - surprisingly - wit.
Among many memorable and moving poems in this extraordinary book are love songs, laments, death-bed repentances, accounts of military life in Ireland, ballads marking natural calamities, dedicatory poems, elegies, political lampoons, theological speculations, coarse poems, gentle poems, angry poems, mad poems. There are verses from well-bred coteries in Dublin Castle and verses scratched on gateposts; there are hymns and curses, echoes and allegories, prayers and squibs. The book proves triumphantly that, from the beginning of the Tudor period until the Battle of the Boyne, much of Ireland was alive with the sound of verse in English. Verse in English from Tudor and Stuart Ireland is a major contribution to Irish cultural history, which introduces to the modern reader a wonderful range of original and previously unknown Irish poetic voices.