Osborn J[oseph] Bergin

Life
1872-1950 [O. J. Bergin; Ó hAimhirgín]; b. 25 Nov., Cork; ed. Queen’s College Cork [now UCC]; joined the Gaelic League; university lecturer in Celtic, 1897; studied at School of Irish Learning, Dublin, 1904; contributed to first vol. of Ériu (1904); studied in Berlin under Zimmer through generosity of A. S. Green; also under Rudolf Thurneysen, Freiburg, 1905-06; professor at the School of Irish Learning following death of Strachan, 1907; Prof. of Old Irish, UCD, 1908; addressed National Literary Society on ‘Bardic Poetry’, in celebrated lecture of 15 April 1912;

trans. Hans Christian Anderson into Irish, 1912; ed. Irish Grammatical Tracts, being a supplement to Ériu (1916-29); gen. editor of RIA Dictionary of the Irish Language; Directorship of the School of Celtic Studies, 1940; resigned, 1941; ed., Stories from Keating (1909), annotated selection from Foras Feasa ar Eirinn; ed. with R. I. Best, Book of the Dun Cow (1929) Maidin i mBéarra agus Dánta Eile (1918), the title poem being set to the “Londonderry Air”; d. 6 Oct. Dublin; translations posthumously collected as Irish Bardic Poetry (1970). DIW DIB DIH OCIL

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Works

Scholarly Works

  • Contribution To the History of the Palatalisation in Old Irish [Freiburg im Breisgau: Inaugural-Dissertation] (1906);
  • “A Story of Flann mac Lonáin”, Anecdota from Irish Manuscripts, I (1907);
  • Irish Spelling: A Lecture Delivered under the Title ‘Is Irish to be Strangled?’ as the Inaugural Address of the Society for the Simplification of the Spelling of Irish on the 15th of November, 1910 (Dublin: Browne & Nolan 1911), 39pp.;
  • ‘Bardic Poetry’ in Journal of the Ivernian Society, V (1913), and Do., rep. in Bergin, ed., Irish Bardic Poetry, ed. David Greene, et el. ( DIAS 1970); also as Bardic Poetry: A Lecture Delivered before the National Literary Society, Dublin, April 15th, 1912 [American Committee for Irish Studies. Reprints in Irish Studies, No. 3, Sl] (1968);
  • ed., Pairlement Chloinne Tomáis, in Gadelica, 1 (1912-13);
  • Index of contents of Book of the O’Conor Don, in Ériu, VIII (1915-16);
  • Irish Grammatical Tracts (Dublin: School of Irish Learning 1915-1955), 293pp.;
  • with Shan Ó Cuiv, ed., The Irish Verb Simplified (Dublin: Educational Company of Ireland 1916), 24pp.;
  • with R. I. Best, ed., ‘Tochmarc Etaíne’, Ériu, XII (1934-38);
  • The Native Irish Grammarian [Proceedings of the British Academy, Vol. 24] (London: Humphrey Milford 1938), q.pp. [COPA|C offprint];
  • David Greene & Fergus Kelly, [ed. Bergin,] Irish Bardic Poetry: Texts And Translations, Together with an Introductory Lecture [by Bergin, viz., ‘Bardic Poetry’, 1913], with foreword by D. A. Binchy (Dublin: DIAS 1970), xi, 320pp., 1 pl. & port.
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Scholarly Editions
  • with R. I. Best, Kuno Meyer & J. G. O’Keeffe, ed., Anecdota from Irish Manuscripts, 5 vols. (Halle a. S.: M. Niemeyer [&c.] 1907-1913);
  • ed., Sgealaigheacht Cheitinn: Stories from Keating’s History of Ireland (Dublin: School of Irish Learning 1909; rep. Dublin: RIA/Hodges, Figgis 1925, 1930), xxxiv, 122pp. [with notes and vocab.];
  • ed. Aesop a Tháinig go hEirinn: Aesop’s Fables in Irish [trans. by Peadar Ó Laoghaire/Peter O’Leary] (Dublin: Irish Book Co. 1911), 61pp.;
  • ed., Irish Grammatical Tracts, [supplement to] Ériu (1916-29);
  • ed., Maidin i mBéarra agus Dánta Eile (1918);
  • ed., with R. I. Best, Lebor na hUidre: The Book of the Dun Cow (1929), and Do. [new edn.] (Dublin RIA/ Galway: O’Gorman 1970), xliv, 341pp., 2pp. pls. & facs.;
  • ed. & rev. John Strachan, Old Irish Paradigms And Selections From The Old-Irish Glosses: With Notes and Vocabulary [3rd rev. edn.] (Dublin: RIA/Hodges, Figgis 1929), x, 183pp., and Do. [4th edn.] (Dublin: RIA/Hodges, Figgis 1949), and Do. [rep.] (RIA 1995), viii, 216pp.;
  • ed., Geoffrey Keating, Tri bior-ghaoithe an bhais: [The Three Shafts of Death] [2nd rev. edn.] (Dublin: RIA/Hodges, Figgis 1931);
  • ed. & rev. John Strachan, Stories from the Tain [3rd edn.] (Dublin: RIA 1944), vi, 108pp.;
  • with R. I. Best and M. A. O’Brien, ed., The Book Of Leinster [Lebar na Nuachongbal], 6 vols. (Dublin: DIAS 1954-83), ills.
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Miscellaneous
  • with Carl Marstrander, ed., Miscellany Presented to Kuno Meyer by Some of his Friends and Pupils on the Occasion of his Appointment to the Chair of Celtic Philology in the University of Berlin (Halle a. S.: M. Niemeyer 1912), iv,1.,486,[2]pp., front. port., ills. [facs.], folded pl.;
  • Preface to Shan O Cuiv, The Sounds Of Irish, with preface by Bergin (Dublin: Browne & Nolan 1921), 79pp.;
  • Preface to L. M’Kenna, ed. [with trans., notes], Ó Dalaigh & Aonghus Fionn, Danta do chum Aonghus Fionn O Dalaigh, with preface by Bergin (Dublin: Maunsel 1919), xvi, 86pp.
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Translations
  • “A Story of Flann mac Lonáin”, Anecdota from Irish Manuscripts, I (1907);
  • with D. A. Binchy, Rudolf Thurneysen, A Grammar of Old Irish [rev. & enl. edn.] (Dublin: DIAS 1946), xxi, 688pp.;
  • with D. A. Binchy, Rudolf Thurneysen, Old Irish Reader: With A Supplement To A Grammar Of Old Irish (Dublin: The DIAS 1949), x, 139 pp.

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Criticism
Daniel A. Binchy, Osborn Bergin (Dublin: University College 1970), 21pp.; Dáithí Ó Corráin, ‘Early Ireland: Directions and Re-directions’, Bullán, Vol. 1, No. 2 (Autumn 1994), pp.1-15 [infra].

See also Declan Kiberd, ‘Writers in Quarantine?: The Case for Irish Studies’, Crane Bag, Vol. 3, No. 1 (1979), pp.9-21 [infra]; rep. in Crane Bag Book of Irish Studies (Dublin: Blackwater Press 1982), pp.341-53.

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Commentary
Dáithí Ó Corráin, ‘Early Ireland: Directions and Re-directions’, in Bullán, Vol. 1, No. 2 (Autumn 1994), pp.1-15, gives an account of the theory of an oral literary tradition invoking Bergin’s account of Bardic poetry.

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Declan Kiberd (‘Writers in Quarantine’, 1979), remarks that Bergin was involved in a clash with Austin Clarke over the love poem Léuch Féin, an obairse, a Aodh, and offers this description of him: ‘Bergin was the ultimate scholar-pedant, a man whose favourite hobby was to walk down the streets of his Dublin suburb, scouring the novels of Agatha Christie for errors of grammar or spelling. On at least one famous occasion, a surprised neighbour spotted Bergin diligently pencilling in corrections to a particularly tattered novel, impervious to the fact that rain was pouring hard all around him. In a reply to Bergin’s testy remarks, Clarke remarked with some bitterness in The Irish Times in January 1941 that “Dr. Bergin’s letter shows why there is scarcely any literary criticism of Gaelic Poetry. When a timid Literary man (like myself) dares to approach this preserve, grumbling grammarians and thin textualists try to scare him away with ogreish frowns and fee-faw-fummery. But this is pantomime month, so let us climb the beanstalk and see whether there is a giant up there or only a scholar on stilts.”’ (Kiberd, ‘Writers in Quarantine?: The Case for Irish Studies’, Crane Bag, Vol. 3, No. 1, 1979, pp.9-21; rep. in Crane Bag Book of Irish Studies, Dublin: Blackwater Press 1982, pp.341-53; p.348.)

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Quotations
Letter to Daniel Corkery (granting permission to use translations): ‘By all means put the poems in whatever way seems to suit the context. [...]. I have sometimes shuddered to think what you would have said if you had seen the first draft full of blanks and queries. But we must put down something; [T. F.] O’Rahilly encourages me by saying that if I don’t see the point of a line no one else will; but though one may thus escape the critics, it does not follow that one does justice to the poet.’ (5 August 1924, quoted in Patrick Walsh, UUC, PhD Diss. 1993.)

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References
University of Ulster (Morris Collection) holds Anecdota from Irish MSS (1907-13); Miscellany presented to Kuno Meyer (1912); The Native Irish Grammarian (1938).

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Notes
Frank O’Connor, My Father’s Son (1968), recalls that Bergin came to hate Joseph O’Neill and his wife [Mary Devenport O’Neill], his former friend and colleague in Germany (q.p.). Also cites his ‘famous’ lecture on Bardic Poetry and his article ‘Unpublished Irish Poems’, in Studies [q.d.].

Maidin I mBéarra”, a song by Bergin composed to the ‘[London]Derry Air’, 1918, is employed in Dún na mBan Tí Thine (1994) by Éilis Ní Dhuibhne.

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