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By Christine Gallant (auth.)

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Sample text

A good familiarity with Scott’s Minstrelsy would have been sufficient. 17 These beliefs that he notes are widespread motifs in folk-literature; and the motifs as a whole have been exhaustively catalogued by the twentieth-century folklorist Stith Thompson. The essays accompanying the ballads in Minstrelsy are full of local anecdotes, detailed in their accounts and thorough in their coverage of the faery-faith. The many folk-beliefs recorded there glimmer all the way through Keats’s poetry, early to late.

Fiona Stafford’s analysis of Macpherson’s true worth as advocate for his vanishing Gaelic culture is particularly valuable. She considers that in a fundamental way Macpherson’s creation of Ossian’s voice was not truly fraudulent, for it expressed the experience of the contemporary Highlander. As she reminds us, Macpherson was a Highland clansman during the period of the ‘Forty-Five and its grim aftermath. Ossian’s 36 Keats and Romantic Celticism constant lamenting for a distant heroic past was that of the Highlander who saw the traditional clan culture inexorably destroyed: “Blind, and tearful, and forlorn I now walk with little men.

44 This meant, of course, that all postdiluvial history had occurred within about 4000 years. It was not until the mid-nineteenth century that this was questioned, when evidence to the contrary began accumulating with a large-scale excavation of British barrows and an ensuing mass of archaeological evidence. Keats’s fascination with “Kent’s Cave at Babbicun” was that of the antiquarian. Central to eighteenth-century Celticism was the Breton ethnological scholar and Abbé, Paul-Yves Pezron. His intent was to restore the continental Celts, in particular the Bretons, to their rightful place in Mosaic history; and his widely influential treatise L’antiquité de la nation et de la langue des Celtes, autrement appellez Gaulois glorified the ancient Gauls and Celts as direct descendents of Gomer, son of Japheth.

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