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This being the true and strange glory of Ireland, it is impossible
to hear without impatience of the attempt so constantly made
among her modern sympathizers to talk about Celts and Celticism.
Who were the Celts? I defy anybody to say. Who are the Irish?
I defy any one to be indifferent, or to pretend not to know.
Mr. W. B. Yeats, the great Irish genius who has appeared in our time,
shows his own admirable penetration in discarding altogether the argument
from a Celtic race. But he does not wholly escape, and his followers
hardly ever escape, the general objection to the Celtic argument.
The tendency of that argument is to represent the Irish or the Celts
as a strange and separate race, as a tribe of eccentrics in
the modern world immersed in dim legends and fruitless dreams.
Its tendency is to exhibit the Irish as odd, because they see
the fairies. Its trend is to make the Irish seem weird and wild
because they sing old songs and join in strange dances.
But this is quite an error; indeed, it is the opposite of the truth.
It is the English who are odd because they do not see the fairies.
It is the inhabitants of Kensington who are weird and wild
because they do not sing old songs and join in strange dances.
In all this the Irish are not in the least strange and separate,
are not in the least Celtic, as the word is commonly and popularly used.
In all this the Irish are simply an ordinary sensible nation,
living the life of any other ordinary and sensible nation
which has not been either sodden with smoke or oppressed by
money-lenders, or otherwise corrupted with wealth and science.
There is nothing Celtic about having legends. It is merely human.
The Germans, who are (I suppose) Teutonic, have hundreds of legends,
wherever it happens that the Germans are human. There is nothing
Celtic about loving poetry; the English loved poetry more, perhaps,
than any other people before they came under the shadow of the
chimney-pot and the shadow of the chimney-pot hat. It is not Ireland
which is mad and mystic; it is Manchester which is mad and mystic,
which is incredible, which is a wild exception among human things.
Ireland has no need to play the silly game of the science of races;
Ireland has no need to pretend to be a tribe of visionaries apart.
In the matter of visions, Ireland is more than a nation, it is
a model nation.