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Torlogh O'Carolan

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( Irish, Toirdhealbhach O Cearbhalláin ).

Usually spoken of as the "last of the Irish bards", born in the County Meath, Ireland, in 1670; died at Ballyfarnon, 1737. He early became blind from an attack of small-pox. Descended from an ancient family, he achieved renown as a harper. His advent marks the passing of the old Gaelic distinction between the bard and the harper. Celebrated as poet, composer, and harper, he composed probably over two hundred poems, many of them of a lively, Pindaric nature, and mostly addressed to his patrons or fair ladies belonging to the old county families, where he loved to visit and where he was always a welcome guest. His poems are full of curious turns and twists of metre to suit his airs, to which they are admirably wed, and very few are in regular stanzas. There are a few exceptions, as his celebrated "Ode to Whiskey", one of the finest Bacchanalian songs in any language, and his more famous but immeasurably inferior "Receipt for Drinking". His harp is preserved in the hall of the O'Conor Don at Clonalis, Roscommon. Hardiman printed twenty-four of his poems in his "Irish Minstrelsy", and the present writer has collected about twelve more, which seem to be all that survive of his literary output. Moore used many of his "planxties" for his "Melodies", as in "The Young May Moon", "O Banquet Not", "Oh, the Sigh Entrancing". No complete and accurate collection of his airs has been made, though many of them were introduced into ballad operas. The following note in Irish in the writing of his friend and patron Charles O'Conor occurs in one of the Stowe manuscripts : "Saturday the XXV day of March, 1738, Toirrdealbhach O Cerbhalláin, the intellectual sage and prime musician of all Ireland died today, in the 68th year of his age. The mercy of God may his soul find, for he was a moral and a pious man."


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