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Gods and Fighting Men   By: (1852-1932)

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First Page:

GODS AND FIGHTING MEN:

THE STORY OF THE TUATHA DE DANAAN AND OF THE FIANNA OF IRELAND,

ARRANGED AND PUT INTO ENGLISH BY LADY GREGORY.

WITH A PREFACE BY W.B. YEATS

1905

DEDICATION TO THE MEMBERS OF THE IRISH LITERARY SOCIETY OF NEW YORK

My Friends, those I know and those I do not know, I am glad in the year of the birth of your Society to have this book to offer you.

It has given great courage to many workers here working to build up broken walls to know you have such friendly thoughts of them in your minds. A few of you have already come to see us, and we begin to hope that one day the steamers across the Atlantic will not go out full, but come back full, until some of you find your real home is here, and say as some of us say, like Finn to the woman of enchantments

[Illustration: Irish Gaelic]

"We would not give up our own country Ireland if we were to get the whole world as an estate, and the Country of the Young along with it."

AUGUSTA GREGORY.

PREFACE

I

A few months ago I was on the bare Hill of Allen, "wide Almhuin of Leinster," where Finn and the Fianna lived, according to the stories, although there are no earthen mounds there like those that mark the sites of old buildings on so many hills. A hot sun beat down upon flowering gorse and flowerless heather; and on every side except the east, where there were green trees and distant hills, one saw a level horizon and brown boglands with a few green places and here and there the glitter of water. One could imagine that had it been twilight and not early afternoon, and had there been vapours drifting and frothing where there were now but shadows of clouds, it would have set stirring in one, as few places even in Ireland can, a thought that is peculiar to Celtic romance, as I think, a thought of a mystery coming not as with Gothic nations out of the pressure of darkness, but out of great spaces and windy light. The hill of Teamhair, or Tara, as it is now called, with its green mounds and its partly wooded sides, and its more gradual slope set among fat grazing lands, with great trees in the hedgerows, had brought before one imaginations, not of heroes who were in their youth for hundreds of years, or of women who came to them in the likeness of hunted fawns, but of kings that lived brief and politic lives, and of the five white roads that carried their armies to the lesser kingdoms of Ireland, or brought to the great fair that had given Teamhair its sovereignty, all that sought justice or pleasure or had goods to barter.

II

It is certain that we must not confuse these kings, as did the mediƦval chroniclers, with those half divine kings of Almhuin. The chroniclers, perhaps because they loved tradition too well to cast out utterly much that they dreaded as Christians, and perhaps because popular imagination had begun the mixture, have mixed one with another ingeniously, making Finn the head of a kind of Militia under Cormac MacArt, who is supposed to have reigned at Teamhair in the second century, and making Grania, who travels to enchanted houses under the cloak of Angus, god of Love, and keeps her troubling beauty longer than did Helen hers, Cormac's daughter, and giving the stories of the Fianna, although the impossible has thrust its proud finger into them all, a curious air of precise history. It is only when one separates the stories from that mediƦval pedantry, as in this book, that one recognises one of the oldest worlds that man has imagined, an older world certainly than one finds in the stories of Cuchulain, who lived, according to the chroniclers, about the time of the birth of Christ. They are far better known, and one may be certain of the antiquity of incidents that are known in one form or another to every Gaelic speaking countryman in Ireland or in the Highlands of Scotland. Sometimes a labourer digging near to a cromlech, or Bed of Diarmuid and Crania as it is called, will tell one a tradition that seems older and more barbaric than any description of their adventures or of themselves in written text or story that has taken form in the mouths of professed story tellers... Continue reading book >>




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