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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 poet Soin:

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 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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