Má fhágaimid Johann Kaspar Zeuss (22 Iúil 1806–10 Samhain 1856) as an áireamh, is dóigh gurb iad Zimmer, Kuno Meyer, agus Ernst Windisch an triúr Gearmánach ba cháiliúla i ndomhan an léinn Cheiltigh. Talmhaí ba ea athair Zimmer. Mhaígh Risteard de Hindeberg gur chaibléir ba ea é ach b’fhéidir nár dheisiú bróg a bhí i gceist aige ach obair gharbh éigin agus gur le holc a dúirt iardhalta Zimmer é. Ar 11 Nollaig 1851 a rugadh é in Castellaun i ndúiche na Réine. Tar éis oideachais i Kreuznach chaith sé tamaill in ollscoileanna Strasbourg, Tubingen agus Bheirlín.

Chaith sé cuid de shamhradh 1878 i mBaile Átha Cliath agus bhí fós ann 4 Deireadh Fómhair nuair a scríobh sé an litir seo chuig Diarmuid Mac Suibhne (féach cuntas air sa chuntas ar a mhac Pádraig Mac Suibhne (1875–1935), rúnaí Chumann Buanchoimeádta na Gaeilge: ‘Although it is the more ancient period of this language that occupies my attention, yet having determined in this summer just past to betake myself, for the advancement of my studies, directly to the place where the sources of the language of this period most abound, and to spend my holidays in discovering some of the treasures which lie buried in the libraries of Royal Irish Academy, Trinity College, and the Franciscan Convent. I doubted not for an instant that I should to a certain extent succeed in acquiring a knowledge of the spoken language by means of ten weeks’ intercourse with the people. I was, however, much disappointed. To my query, an labhran tú Gaoidhilg, I invariably received the answer, I don’t understand you. I spent two days endeavouring to find an Irishman who understood his mother tongue’ (i gcló in Irisleabhar na Gaedhilge, Iml III Uimhir 31 1889).

D’fhan sé i dteach Pháidín Mhic Dhonncha (‘Ollscoil na Gaeilge’) in Inis Meáin in 1880 ag foghlaim Gaeilge. Bhí Cogadh na Talún ar siúl. In Oileáin Árann: stair na nOileán anuas go dtí 1922, 1983 tagraíonn Antoine Powell dó: ‘I lar Mheán an Fhómhair thionóil an tAthair Ó Concheanainn agus an tAthair Domhnall Mac Lochlainn, an séiplíneach nua, cruinniú os comhair teach na cúirte i gCill Rónáin.... I measc na ndaoine a bhí i láthair an lá seo bhí Heinrich Zimmer.... Labhair sé leis an slua agus mhol sé dóibh seasamh le chéile chun a gcearta agus a gcuid talún a chosaint’. Ar 16 Meán Fómhair cuireadh tuairisc an chruinnithe chuig Galway Vindicator le cur i gcló 25 Meán Fómhair 1880: ‘Dr Zimmer, Professor in the Berlin University, came forward and having expressed his regret at not being able to express himself in the Irish language, said: I have travelled through a great part of Ireland but did not see any place where the soil was so poor as in the Aran islands.... I said when I landed in Inismaan that if any person had offered me these rocks and stones (and I did not see any other thing) for £300 I would refuse to buy it but ... I heard that sixty poor families living there pay £380 rent.... All the impressions I got here were owing to the many conversations I had with the people in the Irish language’.

Bhí sé ina bhall de chomhairle Aontacht na Gaeilge agus bhí litir uaidh i gcló in Irisleabhar na Gaedhilge chomh luath le Nollaig 1882. Bhí sé difriúil le scoláirí móra a linne féin sa mhéid gur léir dó gur chabhair í an Nua-Ghaeilge do scoláire na Sean-Ghaeilge. Dúirt sé sa litir sin de 4 Deireadh Fómhair 1878: ‘In the course of conversation with persons here, I find there is a notion that ancient Irish is totally different from modern Irish, and, therefore, scholars who devote themselves to the old Irish deem the modern unworthy of their consideration. I need not remark how erroneous is this notion. The more I studied the Irish language of the ancient MSS., the more indispensable I found a solid knowledge of the modern Irish’.

In 1881 ceapadh é ina ollamh le Sanscrait agus le focleolaíocht chomparáideach in Ollscoil Griefswald. Ba é Henrie-Marie D’Arbois de Jubainville a bhaist ‘Tíogar Griefswald’ air toisc a ghéire a d’ionsaíodh sé scoláirí eile ar nós Whitley Stokes. Bhí sé ar dhuine de na hollúna a chabhraigh le Dubhghlas de hÍde nuair a bhí sé ag tabhairt fianaise os comhair an Choimisiúin um Oideachas Meánach in 1899. Níor fhéad sé glacadh le tairiscint go mbeadh sé féin ina iniúchóir ar scrúdaithe Bhord an Oideachais Mheánaigh. Tá litir a scríobh sé chuig de hÍde i gcló in An Claidheamh Soluis 26 Bealtaine 1899. Deir sé ann: ‘For the Simple lessons you sent me and for the Ceithre Sgeulta I express to you best thanks. I was well acquainted with them both, since I possess and have read pretty nearly everything which has appeared in the Irish language—modern Irish included—during the last twenty five years’.

I 1901 bunaíodh cathaoir san fhocleolaíocht Cheilteach dó i mBerlin. Bhí sé ag an gComhdháil Phan-Cheilteach i mBaile Átha Cliath 23 Lúnasa 1901 agus dúirt Meyer ina thaobh: ‘I was particularly struck with his marvellous knowledge of the modern languages. Welsh especially he spoke with absolute fluency and correctness’.

Chaill sé a chnuasach breá leabhar i ndóiteán i 1903. Ghoill an tubaiste seo go géar air agus d’éirigh sé as obair go ceann cúpla bliain. Líon a chairde na bearnaí i dtreo go raibh leabharlann bhreá arís aige. Cheannaigh Coláiste na hOllscoile, Baile Átha Cliath, é ar £750. Chaith Eoin Mac Néill cúpla seachtain i bhfeighil an ghnó seo i mBerlin. Dúirt leabharlannaí an Choláiste, D. J. O’Donoghue: ‘In short, in this great collection are the materials in which generations of students will find sources of inspiration for their energies for all time’ (Irish Book Lover, Feabhra 1911). Agus ba é tuairim duine d’Uachtaráin an Choláiste, Michael Tierney (1894–1975): ‘The collection was almost unique in its value to the Irish scholar and has ever since been one of the college’s treasures. Its possession added much prestige to the new centre for Celtic Studies...’ (Eoin MacNeill: scholar and man of action, 1980).

Bhí ag teip ar shláinte Zimmer le tamall agus shíl sé féin go raibh galar doleigheasta air. Ba dhóigh le Kuno Meyer go raibh ualach róthrom oibre á iompar aige, go ndeachaigh sé thar fóir air féin ag cóipeáil cóidéacs in imeacht coicíse chun go mbeadh sé ag eagarthóir faoin am a bhí ceaptha. Thagair Joseph Vendryes do ‘La terrible maladie nerveuse’. Chuir sé lámh ina bhás féin 29 Iúil 1910. Bhí sé pósta ar Martha Hirt agus bhí beirt mhac acu. Chuaigh mac díobh le focleolaíocht ach rinne sé rud ar a mháthair nuair a d’impigh sí air gan spéis a chur sa Cheiltis.

Bhí Osborn Bergin agus Risteard de Hindeberg ag staidéar faoi Zimmer i nGreifswald agus scríobh an sagart corrmhéiniúil, ar chaith Zimmer go lách leis fadó, cuntas searbh beagchroíoch faoi in Irish Educational Review, Feabhra 1911, cuntas a bhí ina ábhar spairne idir é féin agus Meyer. Nuair a bhí de Hindeberg ag iarraidh ar léitheoirí an Irish World i Meiricea tacú le ciste na teanga d’iarr sé ar Zimmer treisiú lena argóintí ar son na hathbheochana. Rinne Zimmer sin agus tá a fhreagra i gcló in An Claidheamh Soluis 22 Aibreán 1899. B’fhéidir gurbh í drochshláinte de Hindeberg féin faoi deara a ghangaid mar dúirt sé Lá ‘le Déaglán 1899 san Ard Mhóir: ‘Do ghabhas ansin an bóthar ó thuaidh go bruach na mara soir sa Phrussia, áit ar léas go ceann bliana eile i bhfochair an duine sáruasail agus an dochtúir fial fáilteach Heinrich Zimmer’ (in An Claidheamh Soluis 19 Lúnasa 1899).

Scríobh E. C. Quiggin i dtaobh Zimmer: ‘But he never contented himself with the mere study of written documents. And he had an unrivalled acquaintance with the living dialects. As a young man he spent a considerable time on the Aran Islands and in other parts of the West of Ireland while in 1899 he employed his summer vacation in making himself proficient in speaking Welsh. Latterly he was profoundly interested in Welsh Non-Conformity and during his stay in the principality he delighted in teaching Sunday-school classes in Welsh’ (Athenaeum 13 Lúnasa 1910).

Tá clár a shaothair scríofa ag Timothy Lewis in Journal of the Welsh Bibliographical Society. Feabhra 1911. Is í an chuid dá shaothar is minice a luaitear: an t-ábhar a bhí aige in Keltische studien, ó 1881 amach: Glossae Hibernicae e codicibus Wirziburgensi, Carolisruhensibus aliis, 1881; Nennius vindicatus, 1893; Pilagius i Irland, 1901. In Sinn Féin 23 Samhain 1907 tá sleachta fada as a phaimfléad Marginal notes of a Keltist on the school strike in Poland (an t-aistriú a rinne an páipéar ar an teideal). Scríobh sé ann: ‘What the conditions were in the last quarter of the 19th century in the counties bordering the Atlantic, then mainly Irish, I have myself experienced in the autumn of 1878, 1880 and 1883 and in the spring of 1885. In the first three named years I have, so to speak, become acquainted with the whole Irish-speaking territory from Donegal along by the west coast to Waterford, remaining weeks and months in certain places.’ Faoin teideal ‘Aus dem Nachlass Heinrich Zimmers’ chuir Kuno Meyer eagar ar chuid dá pháipéir in Zeitschrift für celtische Philologie, IX 1912. Aiste chiclipéide a d’aistrigh A. Meyer is ea The Celtic church in Britain and Ireland, 1902. Aistriúchán le Jane Loring Edmands is ea The Irish element in medieval culture, 1891.

Diarmuid Breathnach

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