SONS OF GREAT LEARNIN’.

Courtesy of LH reader Trevor, here‘s a ditty by Flann O’Brien (remembered here and elsewhere) which will delight anyone who’s ever studied Old Irish; it begins:

My song is concernin’
Three sons of great learnin’
Binchy and Bergin and Best.
They worked out that riddle
Old Irish and Middle,
Binchy and Bergin and Best.
They studied far higher
Than ould Kuno Meyer
And fanned up the glimmer
Bequeathed by Zimmer,
Binchy and Bergin and Best.

My favorite couplet: “They rose in their nightshift/ To write for the Zeitschrift.”

Comments

  1. That. Is. Awesome.

  2. Kuno Meyer´s Wikipedia entry appears puzzling to me. It says that “In 1912 a volume of Miscellany was presented to him by pupils and friends in honor of his election to the chair of Celtic at the University of Berlin”, but subsequently implies that he continued to live in Ireland. I have a hard time believing that distance learning was the academic norm then…

  3. John Emerson says:

    The internets fail to tell me whether Osborn Joseph Bergin was any relations of Thomas G. Bergin who studied Provencal literature. My guess is no.

  4. John Emerson says:

    Thomas G: born 1905, Yale affiliated.
    Osborn Joseph: 1873-1950. University College of Dublin affiliated.
    Who was the horrible Saxon Celticist that Stephen D’s circle sponged off of? A real person?

  5. John Emerson says:

    He forgot Rudolf Thurneysen.
    These are the saddest of possible words:
    “Tinker to Evers to Chance.”
    Trio of bear cubs, and fleeter than birds,
    Tinker and Evers and Chance.
    Ruthlessly pricking our gonfalon bubble,
    Making a Giant hit into a double –
    Words that are heavy with nothing but trouble:
    “Tinker to Evers to Chance.”

  6. Joerg: Thanks for pointing that out; I fixed the Meyer entry and created one for the School of Irish Learning while I was at it. Somebody should create John Strachan (Celticist) and R. I. Best, but at the moment it’s not going to be me.
    John: Both the surprising omission of Thurneysen and the parallel with the F.P.A. verse (could O’Brien possibly have known it?) occurred to me as well.

  7. John Emerson says:

    We can only suspect that O’Brien belonged to an anti-Thurneyson cabal.

  8. Brian Hillcoat says:

    John: If you mean the character called Haines, he’s apparently based on Samuel Chevenix Trench, who, despite his name, was a real person. His family was (is?) very big in the English Establishment, particularly in educational matters.

  9. John Emerson says:

    Wow
    Also:
    Haines U 4; FW 416.1 Based on Samuel Chevenix Trench. Joyce presented him as unqualifiedly English but his father – an important influence in the initiation of the OED – was bishop of Dublin and Ellmann speaks of the Trenches as an old Anglo-Irish family. Joyce establishes (page 16) that Haines’ father was in trade, not an ecclesiastic or a scholar.

  10. John Emerson says:

    Wow
    Also:
    Haines U 4; FW 416.1 Based on Samuel Chevenix Trench. Joyce presented him as unqualifiedly English but his father – an important influence in the initiation of the OED – was bishop of Dublin and Ellmann speaks of the Trenches as an old Anglo-Irish family. Joyce establishes (page 16) that Haines’ father was in trade, not an ecclesiastic or a scholar.

  11. Crown, A. J.P. says:

    Anthony Chenevix-Trench, a nineteen-sixties Headmaster of Eton, was exposed by his former charge (at Shrewsbury School), the journalist Paul Foot, writing in Private Eye:
    ‘He would offer his culprit an alternative: four strokes with the cane, which hurt; or six with the strap, with trousers down, which didn’t. Sensible boys always chose the strap, despite the humiliation, and Trench, quite unable to control his glee, led the way to an upstairs room, which he locked, before hauling down the miscreant’s trousers, lying him face down on a couch and lashing out with a belt.’
    According to Wiki,
    Foot received hundreds of congratulatory letters from the child abuser’s old pupils, many of whom were now prominent in British life…Eventually, his fondness for beating boys and his drinking became so embarrassing that he was forced to resign from Eton.
    He then became Headmaster of Fettes, Tony Blair’s old school in Scotland, probably the year Blair quit.

  12. The things I learn from this blog!

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