Excerpt from The Humour of Ireland: Selected, With Introduction, Biographical Index and Notes
That the Irish people have a wide reputation for wit and humour is a fact which will not be disputed. Irish humour is no recent growth, as may be seen by the folk-lore, the proverbs, and the other traditional matter of the country. It is one of Ireland's ancient characteristics, as some of its untranslated early literature would conclusively prove. The curious twelfth-century story of "The Vision of McConglinne" is a sample of this early Celtic humour. As the melancholy side of older Celtic literature has been more often emphasised and referred to, it is usually thought that the most striking features of that literature is its sadness. The proverbs, some of which are very ancient, are characteristic enough to show that the early Irish were of a naturally joyous turn, as a primitive people should be, for sadness generally comes with civilisation and knowledge; and the fragments of folk-lore that have so far been rescued impress us with the idea that its originators were homely, cheerful, and mirthful. The proverbs are so numerous and excellent that a good collection of them would be very valuable - yet to judge by Ray's large volume, devoted to those of many nations, Ireland lacks wise sayings of this kind. He only quotes seven, some of which are wretched local phrases, and not Irish at all. The early humour of the Irish Celts is amusing in conception and in expression, and, when it is soured into satire, frequently of marvellous power and efficacy.
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