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Sharp justly censures as "clumsily We next examine the whimsical constructed, self-contradictory, and Neo-Celtic endeavours to claim all sometimes grotesquely impossible.” that is best and rarest in English Yet this “Ossian' is informed by literature as due to the Celtic “the antique spirit," which "gives element. A grotesque example it enduring life, charm, and all the was lately presented by Mr George spell of cosmic imagination.” Mr Moore, by whom Swift, the most Sharp also commits himself to the English of men, was applauded sentiment that "no single work in for “Celtic” qualities. Sir Walter our literature has had so wide- Scott and Mr Louis Stevenson reaching, so potent, and so endur- were denominated Scottish Celts, ing an influence.” But, among his and Fielding was criticised in a curious errata, he hedges bis state- style which demonstrated Mr ment thus, “no single work of Moore's ignorance of Fielding's its kind." There is no other work works. " of its kind " in English (except Mr Sharp is more cautious than Ireland's Shakespearian forgeries, Mr Moore, in his 'Lyra Celtica,' or Chatterton's sham Old English); which is, in every way, a curious in Bulgarian we believe that M. production,-a first specimen, as Verkovitch supplied an example. we learn, of an 'Anthologia Celtica,'
Leaving Mr Sharp and Mr a future rival, perhaps, of the Arnold on one side, Wordsworth Greek Anthology. We begin with and Islay on the other, to settle Amergin and Taliesin, and come the question of the literary value down to unpublished minor young of Ossian'"as she is wrote” by poets. It is as if we ranged, in James Macpherson, we may surely Greek, from Orpheus and Museus, say that Mr Sharp is not very through Marcus Argentarius and lucid or logical in his introduction. Paulus Silentiarius, to the last Yet nowhere are logic and lucidity Romaic bard in an Athenian more necessary than in an attempt newspaper's Poet's Corner. to make the public understand To the poems we shall return what Macpherson's 'Ossian' really after examining the editor's ideas. is. And we may add that the Like ourselves, Mr Sharp goes influence of Macpherson’s ‘Ossian,' back to Mr Arnold's Lectures of turgid and windy as it is, cannot 1867. Mr Sharp, innocently, seems be of value to young Neo-Celtic to think that Islay's ‘Popular writers, whether they “have the Tales of the West Highlands' were good Gaelic ” or no Gaelic at all. unpublished when Mr Arnold Mr Hector Maclean, quoted by lectured, yet he calls Mr Arnold Islay, says
vagueness and ob- "superficial.” He goes on to scurity abound everywhere, meet the objectors who say that such lines prove to be nonsense Shakespeare, Milton, Coleridge, when closely examined,” whereas, Keats, and Shelley are English, in the genuine traditional Gaelic Byron, Burns, and Sir Walter, ballads, Mr Maclean finds “no Scotch, “not distinctively Anglovagueness, no mistiness, no ob- Celtic.” Byron's mother was scurity.” Now, the essence of Gordon of Gight; he did not Macpherson's "Ossian' is vague- reckon himself a Scot, exactly. ness, mistiness, obscurity. To However, Mr Sharp talks of his imitate this, as some Neo-Celts
“ Celtic blood.” He might as well do, is not to Celticise, but to Mac- talk of Oliver Cromwell's Celtic phersonise.
blood, Mrs Cromwell mère being VOL. CLXI.- -NO. DCCCCLXXVI.
a Stuart. Shakespeare's Celtic the Celtic strain in him ?” The
“ Fleas are not lobsters, damn their
souls,” friends? If so, why not go back to the beginning, and have a Fin- as the poet says, and Algonquins nish Renascence at once? It is are not Celts. just as cheap as a Celtic Rena- “They went forth to the war, scence, and about as plausible. As but they always fell,” says Mr to Burns, we presume that the James Macpherson. The Celts, Celtophiles believe in the fables in this argument, always fall. of his Celtic descent from Camp- They admit, what is wholly unbell of Burnhouse (Burnus, Burnes, deniable, that certain poetic qualiBurns). “Scott, as it happens, was ties are not peculiar to the Celtic of the ancient stock” (Celtic ?) peoples. Then when they find, or and not “the typical Lowlander fancy, these qualities in the work he is so often designated.” Mr of men without a traceable drop Sharp may consult the quarterings of Celtic blood in their veins, they on the roof of the hall at Abbots- make the qualities, common to ford. Scotts, Rutherfords, Swin- many literatures, a presumption tons, and Haliburtons speak for in favour of the presence of Celtic themselves. Sir Walter could only blood. In the same way
"second rake up a Campbell great-grand-sight” is averred to be a Celtic mother, and wore the dark- -green gift. You might as well call Campbell tartan, when George IV. epilepsy a Celtic gift. Every clad his broad German acres in savage
the Maori, the Red the tartan of the Stuarts. Let Indian, the Zulu — is as full of Mr Sharp claim Celtic genius for second sight as any man of Moithe House of Hanover! As for dart. What is called “ Celtic" in Mr Stevenson, “who that has poetry or in superstition is really studied his genius can question early human, and may become re
crudescent anywhere, for good or wulf.' Of course there are better for evil. Listen to a song of the passages in these old Welsh writers; New IIebrides," and you in dreams we find love of nature, pensive behold the Hebrides," the Old melancholy, “old unhappy far-off Hebrides, so exactly identical is things,” but not so very much to the wailing cadence in Gaelic and brag of: there is less of Tennyson in New Hebridean minstrelsy. than of Tupper. Comparative science dispels the The modern pieces are chiefly Celtic illusion that anything what- later than Mr Arnold's lectures. ever is peculiarly Celtic, or de The young generation is Celtic pendent on Celtic race and blood. enough, but that proves nothing. It
Turn we now to the poetry of has read Mr Arnold, and Mr Sharp, the 'Lyra Celtica,' old or new. and M. Renan, and Mr Grant The translations in verse, like all Allen, and it says, “Go to, let us translations in verse, may be be Celtic !” The Celticism is selfneglected. Take Taliesin's "Song conscious, voulu, of malice preto the Wind,” “the most famous pense. For the real thing, in poem of the most famous Cymric modern poetry, we must go to bard”:
the peasant songs of Ireland, Volkslieder, published by
by Dr “ Great are its evaporations.
Hyde. They are charming, as On land and on sea
charming as Italian, Spanish It is indispensable.
Gipsy, or Romaic Volkslieder, and in a very similar way.
It it frequently
is not that a number of these Proceeding from the heat of the sun, young Neo-Celtic poets lack lyriAnd the coldness of the moon.
cal merits. Miss Fiona Macleod, The moon is less beneficial,
Mr Yeats, Mrs Robertson MatheInasmuch as her heat is less."
son, Miss Nora Hopper, and sevYet Mr Arnold denies science, and eral others, write very pleasing, commonplace, to Celts! Taliesin delicate, winning poems. But offers the popular science of his poems just as pleasing are properiod.
duced by our non-Celtic minstrels. In the Odes of the Months, by The only marked peculiarities of Aneurin, we meet our good old these so-called Celts are consciousTupper, of whom no Celt makes ly produced on the lines of Welsh his vaunt:
and Irish minstrelsy. Mr Quiller
Couch's delightful piece, "The “Prudence is the best guide for man.”
Splendid Spur,” is Caroline, a de“ Easy is society where there is affec- liberate following, and an admirtion."
able one, of such verse as Shirley's “ He that will neither work nor pray
“The glories of our birth and Is not worthy to have bread.”
state.” Mr Couch was not think
ing of being Celtic; but most of Quite so; but it needed no Celt these young poets are thinking of to tell us this, or that bogs are it, and are imitating certain featcomparatively firm in dry weather. ures of Celtic poetry, just as, in the Aneurin's floreat (as Mr Sharp last century, they would have imcalls it) was about 500 A.D. He itated Pope. Again, in her novel, had been got at by Christians, and "Green Fire,' Miss Macleod “Macthe result is absolutely the same phersonises": the windy, wailing, as in the Teutonic case of Beo- indistinct, and, oddly, Lyttonian romance, is pertinaciously bent “But though 't has left me bare indeed, on being “Ossianic.” Now vague,
And blawn my bonnet off my head, obscure mistiness is not Celtic, There's something hid in Highland brae,
It hasna blawn my sword away !” but the foible of James Macpherson, as we have heard Mr Hector Or take, of King James III., in Maclean declare.
1714Really Celtic, as a critic not without the necessary Celtic drop No laws had broke, no blood had spilt ;
“He knew no harm, he knew no guilt, of blood ventures to think, are Mr If rogues his father did betray, Yeats’s Tales in prose, and, above What's that to him that's far away?" all, Mr Neil Munro's stories in 'The
Or take Hogg Lost Pibroch.' In these we meet genius, as obvious and undeniable “ Now turn the blue bonnet, wha can, as that of Mr Kipling, if less popu
wha can !" lar in appeal. Accidentally or con- Orsciously, Mr Munro's powers are
“ To daunton me, and me sae young, directed to old Highland life, and
And guid King James's eldest son ! ” he does what genius alone can do
- he makes it live again, and For spirit take these, and “Donald makes our imaginations share its Macgilavray,” by Hogg. For life; his knowledge being copious, pathos take a verse worthy of original, at first hand. That any
Burnshuman life was ever like that paint- “I once had bairns, who now have nane, ed, with too rich a palette, by Miss I bred them toiling sairly ; Macleod in "Green Fire,' we re
And I would bear them a' again, spectfully and hopefully take leave And lose them a', for Charlie !" to doubt. C'est de
“ The sun rises bright in France,
And fair sets he ; spect their often respectable tal
But he has tint the blithe blink he had ents, will try to be natural, to be
In my ain countree.” themselves; and will avoid imitation of Taliesin, Aneurin, Irish These are certainly by no means peasants, and Rob Don. To these inferior in pathos and spirit, while, enthusiasts we would also recom- as a matter of art, they are more mend a study of the Jacobite terse, more concerned with what poetry. Honestly, which songs is essential, than the contemporary are best — John Roy Stuart's, Gaelic songs of the Rising. Let William Ross's, Alastair Macdon- the Neo-Celts compare them, if nell's, Rob Don's (rich as some of they know Gaelic, and then decide these are in bloodthirstiness for between the merits of Highlands its own sake), or the Jacobite and Lowlands. Those who know songs of the Lowland Scots ? Take, not Gaelic, and read the Gaelic for spirit, “The wind has blawn songs in English prose, of course my plaid away”—
miss the form. Plus the form,
1 The reader may refer to Mr Craigie's most instructive essay on Gaelic Historical Songs, in the 'Scottish Review,' October 1891 : “All Gaelic poetry depends far more on its form than its matter; the thought may be as trifling or trite as possible, but if there is harmony of sound, the Gael is satisfied." Artificial complications beyond those of the Chant Royal more and more beset Gaelic poetry, 1550-1750.
William Ross's Gaelic Elegy for was diverted by Christianity, and the Death of Charles Edward is, stunted by foreign conquest. Their save in a few verses, worthy of educated classes were Anglicised, him who sang
or Frenchified. They never en
joyed the chances of Greece, Rome, “Now all is done that man may do,
France, Italy, Germany, Spain, And all is done in vain."
and England. Their vernacular The spirit is that of Theocritus, – literature has been that of old but Ross was a schoolmaster, and bards, sennachies, peasants, mediemay, conceivably, have imitated val romancers, and ecclesiastics : it the old Sicilian laments. If the has never been that of a highly coincidence is accidental, he is still. instructed and reflective literary as Dorian as Celtic in some of his class. For what it is,-a literastanzas.
ture of a development arrested The spirit of these remarks will early,—it is rich, poetical, tender, be greatly misconstrued by any and imaginative. one who supposes that we wish to If the Neo-Celts are in earnest, decry Celtic literature and Celtic let them provide us with Celtic studies. Even in translations the texts and literal translations of
Mabinogion' and the half-mythi- Celtic literature, or do for Ireland, cal Irish romances (such as · Diar- Brittany, and Wales what Mr maid and Grainne') deserve to be Neil Munro has begun to do for widely read. The popular tales, the West Highlands. This is the Gaelic, Irish, or Breton, the popu- path; to make large claims of the lar
songs, the myths, many modern best things in English literature, Gaelic poems,
the old heroic ballads, or in French heroism, for “the are all full of interest and charm, Celtic element” is not the path. even to a merely English reader, Conscious modern imitation of who necessarily misses the form poetry which the imitators, as a of the originals, in which often rule, cannot read in the original lies their most conspicuous merit. languages, is not the path. These Celtic literature was the natural proceedings irritate the so-called expression of a
a poetical race, Saxon, provoke his ridicule, and arrested (as far as literature is keep alive bis prejudices. It is concerned) at certain rather early foolish to call Jeanne d'Arc or stages of development. There is Walter Scott “Celts”; foolish to no epic, no theatre; there is no say that a poet must have Celtic Celtic vernacular poetry of men on blood because, in fact, you like a high level of conscious civilisa- bis poetry. Let us repeat that tion and social organisation, like the relations of race to poetic or that of Periclean Greece, or of other mental qualities is a mystery Rome in the first century before - that verce cause, as of environour era, or of Elizabethan England. ment and historical circumstances, The Celtic - speaking peoples, as must be exbausted before we can such, never attained to these social claim this or that gift as a gift of and political conditions. They race. Races have too long been have not only no Homer; they mixed, and the history of race is have no Sophocles, no Theocritus, too profoundly obscure. When no Virgil or Lucretius, no Horace we bring race into literary critior Catullus ; no Shakespeare or cism, we dally with that unlovely Milton. Their development (if fluent enchantress, Popular Science, they had it in them to develop)