The High Deeds of Finn and other Bardic Romances of Ancient Ireland
Many years have passed by since, delivering the Inaugural Lecture of the Irish Literary Society in London, I advocated as one of its chief aims the recasting into modern form and in literary English of the old Irish legends, preserving the atmosphere of the original tales as much as possible, but clearing them from repetitions, redundant expressions, idioms interesting in Irish but repellent in English, and, above all, from absurdities, such as the sensational fancy of the later editors and bards added to the simplicities of the original tales. Long before I spoke of this, it had been done by P.W. Joyce in his OLD CELTIC ROMANCES, and by Standish O'Grady for the whole story of Cuchulain, but in this case with so large an imitation of the Homeric manner that the Celtic spirit of the story was in danger of being lost. This was the fault I had to find with that inspiring book, but it was a fault which had its own attraction. Since then, a number of writers have translated into literary English a host of the Irish tales, and have done this with a just reverence for their originals. Being, in nearly every case, Irish themselves, they have tried, with varying success, to make their readers realize the wild scenery of Ireland, her vital union with the sea and the great ocean to the West, those changing dramatic skies, that mystic weather, the wizard woods and streams which form the constant background of these stories; nor have they failed to allure their listeners to breathe the spiritual air of Ireland, to feel its pathetic, heroic, imaginative thrill. They have largely succeeded in their effort. The Irish bardic tales have now become a part of English literature and belong not only to grown up persons interested in early poetry, in mythology and folk-customs, but to the children of Ireland and England. Our new imaginative stories are now told in nurseries, listened to at evening when the children assemble in the fire-light to hear tales from their parents, and eagerly read by boys at school. A fresh world of story-telling has been opened to the imagination of the young.
- Library of Alexandria, March 2015
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