The Celtic legends and their use in the modern Celtic plays and poetry
The recovery and opening of the Irish legends is undoubtedly the most important phase of the Irish literary movement. The legends contain the very essence of the Irish genius. These stories of "old, unhappy, far-off things" are the foundation upon which the modern workmen have built much of their work. As we shall see later, the spirit of the legends agrees perfectly with the spirit of the age which is prompting the revolt against materialism in literature. So this revival of interest in Ireland's heroic age is proving of inestimable value not only to those writers who are trying to strengthen Ireland's nationality, but also to those others who are seeking in a less direct way to make for Ireland a reputable place among the literatures of the world. Deeming, then, the opening of the legends the most important phase of the Irish Literary Revival, we shall make it our purpose first, to examine the three main cycles of legend with a view toward determining their essential characteristics and spirit; second, to examine the use of the legends in the plays and poetry of five of the leading writers of the movement, noting their agreement with or departure from the spirit of the legends; and third, to deduce from the legends and from the plays and poetry under consideration as definite a statement as possible of the Celtic spirit and its value in modern literature.