The Mind as a Warehouse
A fairly recent work by James Charles Roy, "The Road Wet, The Wind Close--Celtic
Ireland", published by Gill and MacMillan, Dufours Editions, 1986, is an
erudite commentary on pre-Christian and early Christian Ireland. Dealing with
druids and poets, at p. 64 Roy writes:
"The professional classes of Celtic society, in particular the druids
and vates (the fili) relied completely on the mind as a warehouse for tradition,
lore, genealogy and law.'They consider it improper to entrust these studies
to writing,' Caesar observed, and instead 'commit to memory vast amounts of
poetry.' The mode of learning and delivery was the drone or chant. Harmony
and rhyme were relatively unimportant, form and content were everything."
On a purely personal note, it is interesting to note that Roy ends his book,
not with a translation from an Irish poet but with a translation from the Japanese
Long rain of May,
The whole world is
A single sheet of paper
Under the clouds.
This brings to memory "Six Symbolist Plays of Yeats", a copy of which
was given to me as a gift from my very good friend, Lorcan Ó hUiginn.
These plays were featured at the Celtic Symposium in Toronto, Canada, July 5-12,
1978, with the encouragement of Professor Robert O'Driscoll. The book's author,
Stephen M. Gill, Ottawa, Canada, in his introduction wrote that Yeats's "dramatic
pieces modelled on the Noh technique are deceptively simple...."
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