Page:Journal of American Folklore vol. 12.djvu/164

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page needs to be proofread.

i 5 2 Journal of American Folk-Lore.

eclecticism can hardly be called scientific, but it does not really impair the value of the book in hand. Moreover, the reader is warned by the use of brackets whenever the editor takes any liberties with the text of her trans- lators.

Considering the purpose of the volume, the literary form of the transla- tions is more important than their absolute accuracy, and the style, it must be said, is somewhat irregular. The reader now and then gets the im- pression that the versions, most of them pretty literal and originally in- tended to accompany an Irish text in some learned journal, have not received the careful revision they ought to have had before they were given to the public as samples of Irish literature. One or two instances of unfortunate phraseology may be quoted. In the " Siege of Howth " (p. 90) we read : " A battle was fought straightway. Heavy in sooth was the attack that they delivered. Bloody the mutual uplifting" Surely a puzzling phrase to the English reader ! Two pages farther on we are told that "the women of Ulster divided themselves into three" a statement which is fortunately made clearer by the context.

The summary of the "Tain Bo Cuailgne " is contributed by Mr. Standish Hayes O'Grady, whose vivacious style as a translator is familiar to all read- ers of his " Silva Gadelica." Here, again, he shows much skill in adapting the English language to Irish idioms, though his rendering is occasionally over-ingenious, and therefore inappropriate. The reader may be excused for pausing in some wonder at sentences like the following from the de- scription of Setanta's fight with the watch-dog of Culann : " The child was without all reasonable means of defence ; the dog's throat therefore down, as he charged open-jawed, with great force he threw his ball, which mor- tally punished the creature's inwards. Cuchullin seized him by the hind legs, and against a rock at hand banged him to such purpose that in dis- integrated gobbets he strewed all the ground." Is there such grotesque- ness in the original Irish in the manuscript from which Mr. O'Grady is translating?

Miss Hull's introduction furnishes a suitable preface to the texts. This also is popular in purpose and method. In the first part the editor gives some account of the age of Irish literature, and the circumstances of its production and preservation. The latter half of the introduction discusses the mythological significance of the tales. Cuchullin is explained as a solar hero, and the battle of the great bulls in the " Tain Bo Cuailgne " is interpreted as being symbolical of the struggle between summer and winter, between darkness and light. The argument with regard to Cuchullin is derived chiefly from Professor Rhys's " Hibbert Lectures," and the remarks about the symbolism of the bulls are based partly on the " Mytho- logie Zoologique " of De Gubernatis. In both instances the mycologists may be right in their main contention, but the application of a mythologi- cal explanation to the details of a story is always venturesome, and in a chapter addressed to the general reader such theories cannot be too cau- tiously stated. The trained student, of course, does not need any such warning.

�� �