Monday, March 31, 2014


This is an excerpt from Yeats that I think really encapsulates why he was such a force in the push for Celtic appreciation, in art, language, sport and culture. This stanza [here is all of it] from "The Wanderings of Oisin" [the final name sometimes spelled Usheen] has a seductive otherworldliness, where you want to know what's going to happen next.

Both of these excerpts are a little like the tone of Keat's "Eve of St Agnes" and many of the creepy moments in C.S. Lewis's The Magician's Nephew. It also has the same dangerous mystery of certain parts of Beowulf, in Heaney's translation.


Book II


We rode between
The seaweed-covered pillars, and the green
And surging phosphorus alone gave light
On our dark pathway, till a countless flight
Of moonlit steps glimmered; and left and right
Dark statues glimmered over the pale tide
Upon dark thrones. [...] 

And I gazed on the bell-branch, sleep's forebear, far sung by the Sennachies.
I saw how those slumberers, grown weary, there camping in grasses deep,
282Of wars with the wide world and pacing the shores of the wandering seas,
Laid hands on the bell-branch and swayed it, and fed of unhuman sleep. [...]

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