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The Celtic Twilight: Faerie and Folklore by…
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The Celtic Twilight: Faerie and Folklore (1893)

by W. B. Yeats

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Available to read legally and free on Project Gutenberg: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/10459
  EMaree | Feb 11, 2014 |
In his youth, Yeats was a member of the Golden Dawn, an occult society; he wrote this book during that time, and it's widely seen as a manifesto about his belief in faeries and magic and such. And it is that - but it's not what you think. When he says
"Let us go forth, the tellers of tales, and seize whatever prey the heart long for, and have no fear. Everything exists, everything is true, and the earth is only a little dust under our feet." (p. 4)he's saying that he believes in magic, yes, but his definition of "belief" is subtler than people give him credit for. He's talking about the power of myth in building culture and identity, and his book, broadly a collection of Irish folklore gathered from bars and washerwomen, will be about the impact of myth on the Irish character.
"You - you will make no terms with the spirits of fire and earth and air and water. You have made the Darkness your enemy. We - we exchange civilities with the world beyond." (p. 93)And that difference - that the Irish consider themselves allied with the faeries and imps that inhabit their land - does say something important about the Irish. Compare that statement to the array of superstitions cataloged in Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, where anything and everything is a bad omen. And remember how Americans have historically felt about witches. We have a different, more fearful attitude toward the unknown. The quote above isn't about faeries; it's about the Irish.

A warning note: as he got older, Yeats grew out of his Golden Dawn days. By the time he reprinted Celtic Twilight (and two other short works) in Mythologies, he was embarrassed by some of his more imaginative points, and he ended up editing all the fun out of it. Mythologies will still do as a collection of Irish folklore, but it's not as weird and beautiful as it originally was. Here's my review of Mythologies, which doesn't really say anything you didn't just read. ( )
  AlCracka | Apr 2, 2013 |
In THE CELTIC TWILIGHT Yeats, the spiritual mystic and poet, is in ascendance over the Nobel prize winning playwright. He gathers a delightful assortment of old Irish Folktales dealing with the Faerie, and the world beyond the veil of understanding. The stories are told with a casual acceptance of the existence of spiritual truths beyond our rational knowledge, tinged with embarrassment at that acceptance.

Underpinning the beautiful, lyrical writing, lies the melancholy of a gentle race, a mystical race, whose ancient wisdom has become lost as the world progresses scientifically and intellectually:

"…that decadence we call progress … they are surely there, the divine people, for only we who have neither simplicity nor wisdom have denied them, and the simple of all times and the wise men of ancient times have seen them and even spoken to them."

The significance of these tales, apparently told to the poet by simple, country folk, is almost cautionary. Scattered throughout the stories are hints at Yeats' despair for humanity, for the spiritual centre that is struggling to hold in an evolving world becoming ever more sceptical of the presence of the Divine and materialistic in their ambitions:

"… all who sought after beautiful and wonderful things with too avid a thirst, lost peace and form and became shapeless and common"

This shift away from the "Golden Age," the age where the Divine presence permeated life on all levels, is not beneficial:

"… still the kindly and perfect world existed, but [lies] buried like a mass of roses under many spadefuls of earth"

"They are getting tired of the world. It is killed they want to be" (the second, amended, edition of this book was published in 1902 – the end of the Anglo Boer War, a dozen years before the Great War and only a generation away from the horrors of World War II)

For all his lamentations about a more kindly world than his contemporary world of the early 20th century (or ours in the 21st century for that matter!), Yeats never completely gives up either his belief in a mystical world which rational understanding can never quite explain, nor the hope that the connection between man and the Divine can be regained.

The text is not always easy to read due to the archaic prose style (single paragraphs flow over more than one page with no break) and there were numerous typographical errors in this particular e-Edition (Digireads.com July 1, 2004.)

Despite this mild challenge, though, the overall effect was of holding an intimate conversation with a master storyteller. I could feel the damp Irish night air; I could smell the peat fire burning; I could hear the soft lyrical tones of a man whispering his understanding of things beyond my ordinary knowledge…and I swear, at times, I heard the tinkling laugh of a Faery, there, just beyond my sight. ( )
  JudyCroome | Aug 27, 2012 |
Too rambly and full of Celtic angst for me. Stopped on p. 6. ( )
  aulsmith | Jun 19, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0486436578, Paperback)

Rooted in myth, occult mysteries, and belief in magic, these stories are populated by a lively cast of sorcerers, fairies, ghosts, and nature spirits. The great Irish poet heard these enchanting, mystical tales from Irish peasants, and the stories' anthropologic significance is matched by their timeless entertainment value.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:58:59 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Rooted in myth, occult mysteries, and belief in magic, these stories are populated by a lively cast of sorcerers, fairies, ghosts, and nature spirits. The great Irish poet heard these enchanting, mystical tales from Irish peasants, and the stories' anthropologic significance is matched by their timeless entertainment value.… (more)

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