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Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 4, 1893.djvu/377

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369
Celtic Myth and Saga.

been maintained, has influenced both Latin and Scandinavian versification. But rosc would seem to be the protoplasm out of which the very complex Irish metres developed, and its persistence in texts so comparatively modern as the 11th–12th century would show either that the complex metres are younger than is generally supposed, or throws back the date of the rose poems to a very early period, proving, moreover, that there must have been a written or a very strong oral tradition to allow of their preservation.

Mr. Coffey's admirable monograph upon the great group of funereal tumuli and inscribed stones at New Grange forms, though only incidentally, one of the most important contributions ever made from the archæological side to the study of Irish legend and romance. It would be important merely for the fact that it prints and translates a number of 10th-11th century texts relating to these monuments. But it does far more than this. Mr. Coffey's archæological inquiry defines with as much precision as is likely to be obtained the nature and date of these monuments, and thus furnishes a series of fixed points by which we can estimate the nature of the traditions he prints from mediaeval Irish sources. Mr. Coffey, on purely archæological grounds, is inclined to date the New Grange tumulus "approximately about the first century (A.D.)", the Dowth tumulus being possibly somewhat earlier. Now the passages quoted by Mr. Coffey from texts which cannot be later than the early loth century show that the antiquaries of the time had a tradition that the burialplace at Brugh was used by the kings of Ireland from the days of Crimthann Niadh-nar to that of Loeghaire, son of Niall, with the exception of three kings, Art mac Conn, Cormac mac Art, and Niall of the Nine Hostages. Elaborate stories are told to account for the absence of the first two of these monarchs from the customary burialplace of their race, the purport of which is to connect them with Christianity, and thus, implicitly, to insist upon the