Merriman, Brian

(1757-1805)
   The Irish poet whose lasting reputation rests upon one poem. He was born in County Clare, the son of a journeyman stonemason and small farmer. It is probable that he was educated at one of the Hedge Schools: illegal schools run by Catholics during the time of the Irish Penal laws (forbidding Catholic teaching and legally binding until Catholic Emancipation in 1829). For some twenty years he was a schoolteacher and was also resident tutor to the families of the local gentry. A plaque honoring his memory was erected in Feakle churchyard, County Clare, and an obituary appeared in The General Advertiser and Limerick Gazette of the 27 July 1905. In 1780 he wrote his poem-in the form of a vision or aislingof 1,026 lines, entitled Cuirt an mheadhoin oidhche (The Midnight Court), divided into five parts: Prologue, The Young Woman, The Old Man, The Young Woman Again, and The Judgment and Resolution. The principal themes are the plight of young women who lack husbands, clerical celibacy, free love, and the misery of a young woman married to a withered old man. Cumann Merriman (Merriman Society) was founded in 1967 to promote the poet's work. They run an annual Merriman Summer School in Clare each August.
   Sources: Clare People: Brian Merriman (http://www.clarelibrary.ie/eolas/coclare/people/merriman.htm). Dictionary of National Biography. Electronic Edition 1.1. Oxford University Press, 1997. Hedge School Home Page (http://hedgeschool.homestead.com/). Irish Penal Laws (http://www.law.umn.edu/irishlaw/). Irishclans-The Penal Laws (http://www.irishclans.com/articles/penallaws.html). The Book of Irish Verse: An Anthology of Irish Poetry from the Sixth Century to the Present. John Montague, ed. Macmillan, 1974. The Columbia Granger's Index to Poetry. 11th ed. The Columbia Granger's World of Poetry, Columbia University Press, 2005 (http://www.columbiagrangers.org). The Cumann Merriman Website (http://www.merriman.ie/). The Midnight Court by Brian Merriman (http://www.showhouse.com/prologue.html). Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia).

British and Irish poets. A biographical dictionary. . 2015.

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