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The High Deeds of Finn and other Bardic Romances of Ancient Ireland   By: (1857-1920)

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THE HIGH DEEDS OF FINN

AND OTHER BARDIC ROMANCES OF ANCIENT IRELAND

by

T. W. ROLLESTON

With an Introduction by Stopford A. Brooke, M.A. LL.D.

And with Sixteen Illustrations by Stephen Reid

New York Thomas Y. Crowell & Company Publishers

AR CRAOIBH CONNARTHA NA GAEDHILGE I NGLEANN FHAIDHLE BRONNAIM AN LEABHAR SEO: BEANNACHT AGUS BUAIDH LIBHSE GO DEO

Preface

The romantic tales here retold for the English reader belong neither to the category of folk lore nor of myth, although most of them contain elements of both. They belong, like the tales of Cuchulain, which have been similarly presented by Miss Hull,[1] to the bardic literature of ancient Ireland, a literature written with an artistic purpose by men who possessed in the highest degree the native culture of their land and time. The aim with which these men wrote is also that which has been adopted by their present interpreter. I have not tried, in this volume, to offer to the scholar materials for the study of Celtic myth or folk lore. My aim, however I may have fulfilled it, has been artistic, not scientific. I have tried, while carefully preserving the main outline of each story, to treat it exactly as the ancient bard treated his own material, or as Tennyson treated the stories of the MORT D'ARTHUR, that is to say, to present it as a fresh work of poetic imagination. In some cases, as in the story of the Children of Lir, or that of mac Datho's Boar, or the enchanting tale of King Iubdan and King Fergus, I have done little more than retell the bardic legend with merely a little compression; but in others a certain amount of reshaping has seemed desirable. The object in all cases has been the same, to bring out as clearly as possible for modern readers the beauty and interest which are either manifest or implicit in the Gaelic original.

[1] CUCHULAIN, THE HOUND OF ULSTER. By Eleanor Hull.

For stories which are only found in MSS. written in the older forms of the language, I have been largely indebted to the translations published by various scholars. Chief among these (so far as the present work is concerned) must be named Mr Standish Hayes O'Grady whose wonderful treasure house of Gaelic legend, SILVA GADELICA, can never be mentioned by the student of these matters without an expression of admiration and of gratitude; Mr A.H. Leahy, author of HEROIC ROMANCES OF IRELAND; Dr Whitly Stokes, Professor Kuno Meyer, and M. d'Arbois de Jubainville, whose invaluable CYCLE MYTHOLOGIQUE IRLANDAIS has been much in my hands, both in the original and in the excellent English translation of Mr R.I. Best. Particulars of the source of each story will be found in the Notes on the Sources at the end of this volume. In the same place will also be found a pronouncing index of proper names. I have endeavoured, in the text, to avoid or to modify any names which in their original form would baffle the English reader, but there remain some on the pronunciation of which he may be glad to have a little light.

The two most conspicuous figures in ancient Irish legend are Cuchulain, who lived if he has any historical reality in the reign of Conor mac Nessa immediately before the Christian era, and Finn son of Cumhal, who appears in literature as the captain of a kind of military order devoted to the service of the High King of Ireland during the third century A.D. Miss Hull's volume has been named after Cuchulain, and it is appropriate that mine should bear the name of Finn, as it is mainly devoted to his period; though, as will be seen, several stories belonging to other cycles of legend, which did not fall within the scope of Miss Hull's work, have been included here.[2] All the tales have been arranged roughly in chronological order. This does not mean according to the date of their composition, which in most cases is quite indiscoverable, and still less, according to the dates of the MSS. in which they are contained. The order is given by the position, in real or mythical history, of the events they deal with... Continue reading book >>




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