THE EPIC TALE OF THE FUGITIVE STAG IS A CELTIC ADVENTURE, A SHAMANIC QUEST … AND I HOPE, A SMALL CONTRIBUTION TO OUR NATIVE ‘TORCHES OF BEAUTY’ – WHOSE FLAME NOW BURNS, NOT ABOVE THE GLOOM OF THE GRAVE, BUT BRIGHTLY AT THE HEART OF THE ALCHEMICAL MYSTERY OF RE-BIRTH.
IN ‘THE DISCOVERY OF THE CELT’, Holbrook Jackson recognized Yeats as ‘the chief figure of the Celtic Renaissance … the fullest expression of the intellectual Celt – poet, mystic, and patriot – expressing himself in an imaginative propaganda which has affected the thoughts and won the appreciation of the English-speaking world.’ To convey the dominant mood of 1890s ‘Celticism’, however, Jackson placed at the head of his chapter a quotation from Fiona Macleod which reads in part:
“Through ages of slow westering, till now we face the sundown seas, we have learned in continual vicissitude that there are secret ways whereon armies cannot march. And this has been given to us, a more ardent longing, a more rapt passion in the things of outward beauty and in the things of spiritual beauty. Nor it seems to me is there any sadness, or only the serene sadness of a great day’s end, that, to others, we reveal in our best the genius of a race whose farewell is in a tragic lighting of torches of beauty around its grave.” Pushed to the fringes of Europe, the Celtic race has, nonetheless, produced artists, like Yeats and Fiona herself, whose torches of beauty light the ritual burial scene and preserve the Celtic flame.