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‘Fireside Tales, but the greater part of what Mr. Standish O'Grady has, with a success equal to his patience, edited from medieval and modern manuscripts, in his “Silva Gadelica.’ And a most instructive commentary on these will be found in the ‘Tales of the Western Highlands, which for over thirty years have delighted the antiquarian no less than the reader in search of amusement. The problem always is, how to recover that lost Celtic world, the strains of whose music floating on the breeze have breathed, as we say, a fresh soul into modern literature. That we light upon our materials in the “Book of the Dun Cow,' written a good seven hundred years ago, or in myths dressed out as fairy tales, and still extant among the fastdwindling population of Roscommon or Donegal, can make no difference, provided we distinguish between the true prehistoric elements and the medium through which they have come down to Our OWn time. Thanks to Mr. O'Grady's efforts, extending over forty years, a treasury of Celtic literature has been laid open to the public which would otherwise pass by the “Book of Lismore’ and the “Book of Ballymote,’ not disdainfully but in pure ignorance. The student, while taking heed of Kuno Meyer's ‘marginalia, will make the Irish text his own; and the general reader may do worse than turn over these clear and fascinating pages, as full of stories as they can hold, and far more likely to yield him a fresh delight than most of the novels which he innocently takes to be as new as their name. It is a pity he cannot be taught that old books are often the newest. Such, in part, is the moral at which we are aiming all through these reflections. For, while the Celtic literature, specimens of which may now be studied with comparative ease, leads us back to the childhood of mankind, it vies with Homer and the immortal Greeks in the simple dignity with which it invests common things, in the liveliness of its battle-pictures, the flow of its rhetoric, the touches of human feeling, and the naïve and hearty credence which it gives to the supernatural. But the author of “Silva Gadelica” is aware that he can take nothing for granted, not even the most elementary acquaintance on the part of his readers with the language or antiquities of Ireland. He begins, therefore, by quoting Campion and Stanihurst in the reign of Elizabeth, who inform us that Irish chronicles are ‘full fraught of lewde examples, idle tales, and genealogies’; and that the natives being ‘greedie of praise,' and “fearesull of dishonour,” “to this end esteem their poets who write Irish learnedlie, and pen their sonnets heroicall, for which they are bountifully rewarded; if not, they send out libels in dispraise.' dispraise.' Moreover, Stanihurst goes on to say, ‘The tongue’ —meaning thereby Celtic— is sharp and sententious, offereth great occasions to quicke apothegmes and proper allusions: wherefore their common jesters, bards, and rhymers are said to delight passingly them that conceive the grace and propriety of the tongue.’ This witness any one who has looked into the best Irish verse, or narrative prose, even of a century ago, will confirm; while the more ancient writing abounds in keen sayings as well as brief and picturesque descriptions. Neither ‘did the strangeness of the phrase and the featness of the pronunciation,’ on which Stanihurst remarks, hinder the “old English' from learning the language. So soon as they had grown ‘conversant with the savage sort of that people,’ says the same writer mournfully, they “became degenerat, and, as though they had tasted of Ceres'" poisoned cup, are quite altered.’ Even in the year 1600, and, indeed, long afterwards—to quote Professor Froude—“the Irish who had been conquered in the field revenged their defeat on the minds and hearts of their conquerors; and in yielding, yielded only to fling over their new masters the subtle spell of the Celtic disposition.’ The 'peculiar imaginative grace,’ the ‘careless atmosphere of humour, sometimes gay, sometimes melancholy, always attractive,'—who does not recognize the affinities between such a temperament and the modern literature of which we have pointed out the source in Ossian and Chateaubriando “Harpers, rhymers, Irish chroniclers, bards, and ishallyn (ballad singers) commonly go with praises to gentlemen in the English Pale, praising in rhymes, otherwise called “danes,” their extortions, robberies, and abuses as valiantness; which rejoiceth them in their evil doings, and procures a talent of Irish disposition and conversation in them.’ So wrote Cowley to Thomas Cromwell. And Spenser, who tells us in his “View of the Present State of Ireland” that he had “caused diverse of them ’—the Irish poems -‘to be translated unto me that I might understand them,” is sain to acknowledge that ‘surely they savoured of sweete witt and good invention, but skilled not of the goodly ornaments of Poetrye; yet were they sprinckled with some pretty flowers of their own natural device, which gave good grace and comeliness unto them, the which it is greate pittye to see soe abused.’ These reports from enemies should have weight with all to whom what Spenser denominates “the very Brittish,” or Aboriginal tongue of these islands, is a sealed book. It may objected that a historical description going back only to the date of Elizabeth, cannot vouch for the manners and customs of a thousand years earlier. But, as Mr. O'Grady replies, down to the beginning of the seventeenth century, no violent change had come over the Irish way of living. At any period during these centuries the natives were, as Campion describes them, ‘religious, franke, amorous, irefull, suffering of paines infinite, very glorious,'—that is to say, like the French, a little boastful, ‘many sorcerers, excellent horsemen, delighted with warres, great almsgivers, passing in hospitalitie.” They were “adventurous, intractable, kinde-hearted, secret in displeasure.’ And from the very twilight of fable, there had existed “in the house of a great man a tale-teller who bringeth his lord on sleep with tales vain and frivolous, whereunto the number give sooth and credence.’ Here is our folk-lore flourishing amain. As we so often read in Dr. Hyde's pages, “they spent that night, wherever it might be within the four seas of Erinn, “one-third of it telling Fenian stories, one-third telling tales, and one-third in the mild enjoyment of slumber and true sleep until morning.' This distinction between heroic recitals concerned with Finn Mac Cumhall and his militia, on the one hand, and mere tales, on the other, will help us to understand how the bardic poems are related to simple folk-lore, a point which has been variously decided. It was the duty of the bards to compose verses which, if we may quote Spenser again, were “taken up with a generall applause, and usually songe at all feastes and meetinges.’ Their ‘duans, or rhapsodies, followed the most stringent rules of assonance and metre; and, as they were always sung to music, their intrinsic value need not have been great. But the Fenian tales also were interspersed with quatrains, the subject of which, and its handling, depended much more closely upon tradition than these rhymes made in honour of living chieftains. It was a kind of poetry dealing with the heroic or mythical past, which had come down, not only in manuscripts, some of which are still extant, but in the sagas, if we may so term them,--such as “The Pursuit of Diarmuid and Grainme,” or ‘The Fate of the Children of Tuireann,’ that all good story-tellers knew by heart, and from the details of which they might not depart. “Natio est omnium Gallorum admodum dedita religionibus,’ observes Caesar in his too brief account of the peoples over whom his greatest triumphs were won; and Bossuet would have echoed the sentence, which is still verified in all the Celtic groups, though Paris and the enlightened municipalities of the South and East of France no longer venerate the bishops who, as it has been rightly held, made the old French kingdom as bees bees make their hives, or birds their nests. Bretons, Welsh, or Irish, they have kept alight the religious enthusiasm which has hitherto always implied some governing institution like that of the Druids—not simply holding an imperial sceptre and decreeing laws, but appealing to the spirit in man, conversant with powers unseen, never hostile to poetry or learning, and, in its palmy days, the guardian of all wisdom. From the earliest, it would appear that in Ireland, as in Gaul, there was an Academy of the arts and sciences—not as yet furnished with arm-chairs, but stringent in its rules of admission, and ready to maintain its privileges even against the High King who sat on Tara's hill, and whose weapons fell powerless before the Druid's magic. For the long mythical story of Erinn is little else than a record of battles, round which has been flung an enchanted cloud. Such is the unfailing characteristic by which its annals are contrasted with the like legendary time among the Greeks,

* So quoted by Mr. O'Grady. to


nay, and, in spite of their Etruscans and their augurs, among

the Romans too. From Welsh mythology the Druids have vanished, leaving Prince Merlin Emrhys to announce through the glass walls of his magic prison how mighty they were of old, when they interpreted the will of the gods, watched the omens, and told the meaning of dreams and visions to the common lay folk. But, as we are reminded by Professor Rhys, in Ireland the Gael's attitude towards Druidism, when he became a Christian, did not at all resemble that of the haughty Sicamber who burnt what he adored, as soon as he began to adore what he had burnt. In their new clergy from beyond the Ocean, the tribes of Erinn recognized an order of Druids, or wonder-workers, against whom the spells of heathenism could not prevail. To the reign of the Pagan Druids succeeded the reign of the Saints, – those picturesque figures, armed with might for blessing and banning, whose names abound in Celtic regions, though little regarded in the great Church martyrologies. With the Druids they did incessant battle, nor were the weapons on either side altogether different. The opposing chiefs “gave back prodigy for prodigy, like Aaron and the magicians of Egypt. As we read the life of St. Kieran of Saighir, or St. Molasius of Devenish, or that most quaint and graphic ‘Colloquy of the Ancients, in which St. Patrick himself holds converse with the Fenian hero, Caoilte Mac Ronan, we are ever meeting tokens and proofs of the power to transform things animate and imamimate, which the missionaries claimed even as the Druids before them had claimed it, a power, belief in which has by no means died away, any more than the veneration of holy wells,


or of the white thorn and the rowan tree, or the secret fear of falling under the displeasure of the ‘good people, if their haunts and green mounds are not held sacred, all of which are prehistoric feelings. The ‘De druidhechta, or god of Druidism, is still mighty where Finvarra keeps his court in the West, and where Donn, the prince of the Munster fairies, presides over the music and the revelry that from time to time may be heard about Cnoc Firinne, the Hill of Truth, within which his palace lies hidden from the eyes of men. These, we must bear in mind, are not a poet's fancies— airy nothings to which genius, in its fine frenzy, has given a local habitation and a name. They live no longer in the faith of reason, the philosophic Schiller may declare; but the faith which was primitive man's reason, wherever it survives, has not ceased to look for its divinities under the most ancient forms. Still and always it clings to the gods of its infancy—

‘That had their haunts in dale, or piny mountain,
Or forest by slow stream, or pebbly spring,
Or chasms and watery depths.”

Hardly a generation has passed, since Kennedy gathered at the fireside in Wexford cabins, stories of which the keynote was always a transforming power, dominion over the qualities that lie sleeping in stones and trees, in fire, air and water, and a sympathy founded on sameness of essence between man and the world of beasts. In a word, the belief that we call Animism, whose counterpart is magic, black or white, still coloured the imaginations, if it did not shape the conduct, of men and women descended from the first Norman settlers in Ireland, and that in a district where English had been spoken for hundreds of years. As we travel South and West,-going down into the strata of a population which, though called Celtic, is assuredly in some degree not Aryan at all, but, as Professor Rhys terms it, Ivernian,—we find traces of the animistic creed still more numerous. In very secluded parts, and in the islands, it lives under Christian forms slightly disguised. But we may rely upon it, that fifty years since, the four and a half millions who spoke Irish as their mother-tongue, held the primeval doctrines of Druidism with at least as real an apprehension, and as firm a faith, as had the Athenians, for whom Aristophanes wrote, in their own mythology. They may have laughed at

their gods, but they worshipped them in the same breath. Yet there was a difference, not as regards the ‘sooth and credence’ which in both cases men yielded to tradition, but in the rank assigned to these divinities. In Ireland, from the date of

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