The Celtic Twilight Paperback – 29 Mar 1990
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"This text corresponds to the second (1902) expanded edition of the Celtic Twilight. This is one of the best-known collections of Yeats' prose; in it he explores the longstanding connection between the people of Ireland and the inhabitants of the land of Fairy. Yeats, who had profound mystic and visionary beliefs, writes with conviction of the reality of Fairies, both in his own experience, and in the everyday life of the Irish. This relatively short work serves as a way for readers to discover Yeats' powerful wordcraft and get an overview of celtic Fairy lore." (Quote from sacred-texts.com)
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Not being an expert on Celtic Myth, I'll attempt to convey a few modest gleanings from Yeats' modern poetry about Celtic Myth. And may I hasten to add, Yeats' two trees are quite unrelated to Tolkien's two trees of Valinor, 'Laurelin' and 'Telperion', though it was these that spurred my curiosity I needed a larger context to fathom Yeats' own vision of Two Trees.
Perhaps a workable synthesis may be to suggest an alignment of Germanic and Celtic roots in 'Two Trees' mythology. While the Celtic variant dwells upon the seasonal symbolism to focus upon issues of dying and rebirth, the Germanic/Norse/Anglo mythology envisions a World-Tree of the Cosmos, Ygg-drasill, from whence springs every form of life, or every environ of living beings. The concept is pervasive throughout genealogy, probing ones roots. And the theoretical origin of species, where a tree is a common symbolic graph depicting the transitional roots of trans-species DNA mutation.
Yeats' poetic vision describes the Celtic philosophical view point of spirit life within, inter-twined with spirits of the Cosmos. And by contrast, creation is not seen as dormant during the sleep of the creator. The seasonal sleep of Winter is as an ancient reflection from a mirror, viewing an age of the Cosmos where God rested, inattentive. Where there were once younger beings, stewards in effect, responsible to administer the cycle of life: and death -- is not all it seems.
Through narrative and poetic verse the author summons a vision of the cultural impact lingering on, from these traditional ghosts and faeries. It's not a religious tome, though some categorize the material as occult. It serves as a racial memory of times before the medieval church seized upon the New Testament Hades (presiding territory of the brother of Zeus), and re-named it after the Anglo 'Hella', Loki's daughter (presiding over Nifelheim -- realm of the dead.)
Most of Yeats's early poems can be linked to a vignette from "The Celtic Twilight," while recurring motifs from his later writings--beauty, passionate old age, ghosts--take on a deeper resonance after reading these lighter pieces. Yeats walks a fine line between believing in the faeries that so many of the peasants he talks to can see, and regarding them simply as "dramatizations of our moods," an example of the tragic Celtic taste for unreachable beauty that he wanted to capture in his poems. Yeats walked that line in one form or another his whole life, and I understood the poems much better after reading these sketches--for that alone, this book's worth a read.