Page:Historical characteristics of the Celtic race.djvu/11

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of Western Europe, having been pushed in the pressure of the ages into remote fastnesses and picturesque, but shadowy, glens overlooking the western main. Brittany, Ireland, Wales, and our Western Highlands stand out as the fortresses of the Gael, the bluffs and promontories to which the Celtic speech has now retired. But although the Celtic-speaking population is thus squeezed into a corner, the Celtic element in Europe is of much wider extension, and is not limited to the Celtic-speaking area. Much of Scotland, for example, is really Celtic in the substratum, even where the Gaelic tongue has vanished; and it is not possible to understand Scottish history without a knowledge how much of the Celtic fire comes out in and underlies the perfervidum ingenium Scotorum. So with the great and potential nation of France, we are entitled to claim it also as of Celtic stem, the French tongue being mainly a fusion of Latin and Celtic speech. We shall equally fail to comprehend the history of France, if we do not recognise in its great movements, the generous, though often wild, pulsations of the Celtic fire.

The rival Teutonic or Saxon element can claim, no doubt, to possess its own virtues and energies; and no one would deny that the world has been the better through these energies, has profited through the more solid, though, perhaps, less brilliant or electric qualities of the German. There is this, however, to be said of the literary achievements of the Saxons, that they had to be wakened up from abroad, and the flame had to be communicated from without, whether the spark came through the Welsh and Norman[1] chivalry, through Classical Renaissance, or through French wit; and only then, when so touched by some external impulse, their genius flashed out in Chaucer, in Shakspere, in Pope, in Goethe, and so became magnetised. The Celtic genius, on the other hand, may claim to be itself magnetic, not dependent on vivification from without, and this I take it is one main reason why we may affirm that the qualities of the Celt are of a different type from those of the Saxon, that they bear another image and superscription, a special mint mark of their own among the mental endowments of the nations of the earth.

In endeavouring to appreciate more precisely what these special endowments are, let us take a glance of inquiry as to the countries

  1. A large proportion of the Norman army of the Conqueror was from the Celtic Brittany.