Session 115: Ystafell 7
Women's poetry in Ireland, Scotland and Wales 1400–1800

Chair: Jane Cartwright

Grief and grievance in eighteenth-century Irish elegy

Wes Hamrick
University of Connecticut

One of the more common ways that women participated in eighteenth-century Irish-language poetic culture was in the form of elegies written on the death of a close relative. As a consequence, the Irish caoineadh ('keen') often focused, in part, on family relationships, lineage and the quotidian details of everyday life in the household.  However, as deeply rooted as these poems were in the local and the domestic, they just as often commented on national politics. Indeed, in some cases the poet’s commentary on the material aspects of domestic life served as indirect commentary on much broader issues concerning Catholic dispossession in post-Williamite Ireland. In poems such as Éibhlín Dubh Ní Chonaill’s 'Caoineadh Airt Uí Laoghaire' ('Keen for Art O’Leary') and Cáit de Búrca’s poem on her brother, Father Nicholas Sheehy, the caoineadh enabled Irish-language women poets to combine the national and domestic in one of the most potent political genres of the eighteenth century.

'Dan y niwl rwy’n dwyn y nych': elegy by Welsh women poets

Cathryn Charnell-White
Prifysgol Aberystwyth

Elegies form a statistically high percentage of women's Welsh-language poetry up to 1800, including mothers' laments for their children, and elegy for close relatives and public figures. In a nation whose Crown Loyalists are more numerous and visible than its political radicals, the Welsh elegies by women, unlike those by their counterparts in Ireland and Jacobite Scotland, are essentially local and domestic, and have no overtly political agenda beyond the 'bardic' function. This paper considers the national/bardic and domestic dynamics of Welsh women's elegy in the broader context of authorial voice and authority.