Celtic Twilight, The (1893; revised 1902) By Beauchesne, Nicholas
The Celtic Twilight is a collection of folk tales gathered by William Butler Yeats during his interviews with members of the rural working class in western Ireland. These tales feature larger-than-life Irish personalities, Celtic mythological figures, eerie landscapes, strange beasts, theurgic cults, haunted houses, ghosts, and faeries (or the Sidhe). The Celtic Twilight has since become an important document of Irish national culture. Tim Wenzell has observed that ‘from an existence almost entirely devoid of the material [of a written history], it becomes necessary for the poor people of Ireland to defer to their imaginations’ to fashion one. As surely as the rural people of Ireland continued to imagine and invent a cultural history, so too did Yeats. The Celtic Twilight can be seen as a Yeatsian ‘antithetical’ cultural history, an invented history relying as much upon creative vision as it does upon established facts or academic rigour. As Kathleen Raine explains in her introduction to the 1981 Smythe release of The Celtic Twilight, ‘the imagination of the people transmutes fact into legend; and that legend, recorded in The Celtic Twilight just as Yeats heard it, he raised to a greater grandeur in The Tower’. Indeed, the invention of legend and myth, whether Celtic or personal, fascinated Yeats right up to the end of his life.