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The Irish Myths and Yeats’s Poetry

Se-Soon Lee

Abstract

Ireland abounds in narrative stories, including mythologies, sagas, legends andfolktales, handed down through many generations from the ancient pagan period. InIreland, especially in the western country Sligo where W. B. Yeats spent the betterpart of his early days, one cannot go far without hearing the mystic stories ofpagan gods, nymphs and ghosts. The Irish are very proud of their unique andtraditional Celtic culture and they still believe that the supernatural beings haunteverywhere and intervene in their human affairs.
Yeats was educated in England and greatly influenced by many English writersand poets. Yeats, however, born with Celtic spirit and encouraged by the patriotJohn O’Leary, determined to be a national poet. Therefore, he began to write hisearly romantic narratives and dramatic verses based on the ancient Irish myths andlegends, following the two brilliant predecessors Samuel Ferguson and WilliamAllingham. Besides, what is more important than anything else, he usually put hisown life and his unrequited love for Maud Gonne by modifying their themes andsymbols into the ancient stories. Thus he succeeded in creating utterly new mythsmuch familiar not only to the Irish today but also to the modern people abroad.Hence he was a renowned myth-maker and -modifier of the age.

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