The Works of Fiona Macleod, Vol. IV

Notes to First Edition

Unity does not lie in the emotional life of expression which we call Art, which discerns it; it does not lie in nature, but in the Soul of man.--F. M.

 

THE DIVINE ADVENTURE

When "The Divine Adventure" appeared in the Fortnightly Review in November and December last, I received many comments and letters. From these I infer that my present readers will also be of two sections, those who understand at once why, in this symbolical presentment, I ignore the allegorical method and those who, accustomed to the artificial method of allegory, would rather see this "story of a soul" told in that method, without actuality, or as an ordinary essay stript of narrative.

But each can have only his own way of travelling towards a desired goal. I chose my way, because in no other, as it seemed to me, could I convey what I wanted to convey. Is it so great an effort of the imagination to conceive of the Mind and Soul actual as the Body is actual? And is there any tragic issue so momentous, among all the tragic issues of life, as the problem of the Spirit, the Mind--the Will as I call it; that problem as to whether it has to share the assured destiny of the Body, or the desired and possible destiny of the Soul? There is no spiritual tragedy so poignant as this uncertainty of the Will, the Spirit, what we call the thinking part of us, before the occult word of the Soul, inhabiting here but as an impatient exile, and the inevitable end of that Body to which it is so intimately allied, with which are its immediate, and in a sense its most vital interests, and in whose mortality it would seem to have a dreadful share.

The symbolist, unlike the allegorist, cannot disregard the actual, the reality as it seems: he must, indeed, be supremely heedful of this reality as it seems. The symbolist or the mystic (properly they are one) abhors the vague, what is called the "mystical": he is supremely a realist, but his realism is of the spirit- -and the imagination, and not of externals, or rather not of these merely, for there, too, he will not disregard actuality, but make it his base, as the lark touches the solid earth before it rises where it can see both Earth and Heaven and sing a song that partakes of each and belongs to both. "In the kingdom of the imagination the ideal must ever be faithful to the general laws of nature," wrote one of the wisest of mystics. Art is pellucid mystery, and the only spiritually logical interpretation of life; and her inevitable language is Symbol--by which (whether in colour, or form, or sound, or word, or however the symbol be translated) a spiritual image illumines a reality that the material fact narrows or obscures.

For the rest, "The Divine Adventure" is an effort to solve, or obtain light upon, the profoundest human problem. It is by looking inward that we shall find the way outward. The gods-and what we mean by the gods--the gods seeking God have ever penetrated the soul by two roads, that of nature and that of art. Edward Calvert put it supremely well when he said "I go inward to God: outward to the gods." It was Calvert also who wrote:--
"To charm the truthfulness of eternal law into a guise which it has not had before, and clothe the invention with expression, this is the magic with which the poet would lead the listener into a world of his own, and make him sit down in the charmed circle of his own gods."

Page 96. The Flire na Naomh Nerennach (so spelt, more phonetically than correctly) is an invaluable early "Chronicle of Irish Saints." Uladh--or Ulla--is the Gaelic for Ulster, though the ancient boundaries were not the same as those of th modern province and at periods Uladh stood for all North Ireland. Tara in the south was first the capital of a kingdom, and later the federal capital. Thus, at the beginning of the Christian era, Concobar mac Nessa was both King of the Ultonians (the clans of Uladh) and Ard-Righ or Higb-King of Ireland, a nominal suzerainty.
The name of Mochaoi's abbacy, n'Aondruim, was in time anglicised to Antrim.
The characteristic Gaelic passage quoted in English at p. 98 is not from the Flire na Naomh Nerennack, but from a Hebridean source: excerpted from one of the many treasures-trove rescued from extant or recently extant Gaelic lore by Mr. Alexander Carmichael, all soon to be published (the outcome of a long life of unselfish devotion) under the title Or agus Ob, though we may be sure that there will be little "dross" and much gold."

Page 101. The allusion is to the story or sketch called " The Book of the Opal" in The Dominion of Dreams: a sketch true in essentials, but having at its close an arbitrary interpolation of external symbolism which I now regret as superfluous. I have since realised that the only living and convincing symbol is that which is conceived of-- the spirit and not imagined by the mind. My friend's life, and end, were strange enough--and significant enough--without the effort to bring home to other minds by an arbitrary formula, what should have been implicit.

Page102. I have again and again, directly or indirectly, since my first book Pharais to the repeated record in this book, alluded to Seumas Macleod; and as I have shown in "Barabal," here, and in the dedication to this book, it is to the old islander and to my Hebridean nurse, Barabal, that I owe more than to any. other early influences. For those who do not understand the character of the Island-Gael, or do not realise that all Scotland is not Presbyterian, it may be as well to add that many of the islesmen are of the Catholic faith (broadly, the Southern Hebrides are wholly Catholic), and that therefore the brooding imagination of an old islander-who spoke Gaelic only- -and had never visited the mainland--might the more readily dwell upon Mary the Mother: Mary of the Lamb, Mary the Shepherdess, as she is lovingly called. I do not, for private reasons, name the island where he lived: but I have written of him, or of what he said, nothing but what was so, or was thus said. He had suffered much, and was lonely: but was, I think, the happiest, and, I am sure, the wisest human being I have known. What I cannot now recall is whether his belief in Mary's Advent was based on an old prophecy, or upon a faith of his own dreams and visions, coloured by the visions and dreams of a like mind and longing: perhaps, and likeliest, upon both. I was not more than seven years old when that happened of which I have written on p. 102, and so recall with surety only that which I saw and heard.
I am glad to know that another is hardly less indebted to old Seumas Macleod. I am not permitted to mention his name, but a friend and kinsman allows me to tell this: that when he was, about sixteen he was on the remote island where Seumas lived, and on the morrow of his visit came at sunrise upon the old man, standing looking seaward with his bonnet removed from his long white locks; and upon his speaking to Seumas (when he saw he was not "at his prayers" was answered, in Gaelic of course, "Every morning like this I take off my hat to the beauty of the world."
The untaught islander who could say this had learned an ancient wisdom, of more account than wise books, than many philosophies.
Let me tell one other story of him, which I have meant often to tell, but have as often forgotten. He had gone once to the Long Island, with three fishermen, in their herring-coble. The fish had been sold, and the boat had sailed southward to a Lews haven where Seumas had a relative. The younger men had " hanselled " their good bargain overwell, and were laughing and talking freely, as they walked up the white road from the haven. Something was said that displeased Seumas greatly, and he might have spoken swiftly in reproof; but just then a little naked child ran laughing from a cottage, chased by his smiling mother. Seumas caught up the child, who was but an infant, and set him in their midst, and then kneeled and said the few words of a Hebridean hymn beginning:--

"Even as a little child
  Most holy, pure. . ."

No more was said, but the young men understood; and he who long afterward told me of this episode added that though he had often since acted weakly and spoken foolishly, he had never, since that day, uttered foul words. Another like characteristic anecdote of Seumas (as the skipper who made his men cease mocking a "fool") I have told in the tale called "The Amadan" in the The Dominion of Dreams.
I could write much of this revered friend so shrewd and genial and worldly-wise, for all his lonely life; so blithe in spirit and swiftly humorous; himself a poet and remembering countless songs and tales of old; strong and daring, on occasion; good with the pipes, as with the nets; seldom angered, but then with a fierce anger, barbaric in its vehemence; a loyal clansman; in all things, good and not so good, a Gael of the Isles.
But since I have not done so, not gathered into one place, I add this note.

Page 113. The kingdom of the Suderer (i.e. Southern Isles) was the Norse name for the realm of the Hebrides and Inner Hebrides when the Isles, were under Scandinavian dominion.

Page 118.  The ignorance or supineness which characterises so many English writers on Celtic history is to be found even among Highland and Irish clerics and others who have not taken the trouble to study or even become acquainted with their own ancient literature, but fallen into the foolish and discreditable conventionalism which maintains that before Columban or in pre-Christian days the Celtic race consisted of wholly uncivilised and broken tribes, rival only in savagery.
How little true that is; as wide of truth as the statements that the far influences of Iona ceased with the death of Columba. Not only was the island for two centuries thereafter (in the words of an eminent historian) "the nursery of bishops, the centre of education, the asylum of religious knowledge, the place of union, the capital and necropolis of the Celtic race," but the spiritual colonies of Iona had everywhere leavened western Europe. Charlemagne knew and reverenced "this little people of Iona," who from a remote island in the wild seas beyond the almost as remote countries of Scotland and England had spread the Gospel everywhere. Not only were many monasteries founded by monks from Iona in the narrower France of that day, but also in Lorraine, Alsatia, in Switzerland, and in the German states; in distant Bavaria even, no fewer than sixteen were thus founded. In the very year the Danes made their first descent on the doomed island, a monk of Iona was Bishop of Tarento in Italy. In a word, in that day, Iona was the brightest gem in the spiritual crown of Rome.

Page 128. The "little-known namesake of my own" alluded to is Fiona, or Fionaghal Macleod, known (in common with her more famous sister Mary) by the appellation Nighean Alasdair Ruadh, "Daughter of Alasdair the Red," was born circa 1575.

Page 130.  Columba, whose house-name was Crimthan, "Wolf"--surviving in our ScotoGaelic MacCrimmon--who was of royal Irish blood and, through his mother of royal Scottish (Pictish) blood also, came to Iona in A.D 563, when he was in his forty-second year. At that date, St. Augustine, "the English Columba," had not yet landed in Kent--that more famous event occurring thirty-four years later. In this year of 563, the East had not yet awakened to its wonderful dream that today has in number more dreamers than the Cross of Christ; for it was not till six years later, when Columba was on a perilous mission, of conversion among the Picts, that Mahomet was born. In 563, when Colum landed on Iona, the young Italian priest who was afterwards to be called the Architect of the Church and to become famous as Pope Gregory the Great, was dreaming his ambitious dreams; and farther East, in Constantinople, then the capital of the Western World, the great Roman Emperor Justinian was laying the foundation of modern law.
With the advent of Charlemagne, two hundred years later, "the old world" passed. When the ninth century opened, the great Gregory's dearest hopes were in the dust where his bones lay; Justinian's metropolis was fallen from her pride; and, on Iona, the heathen Danes drank to Odin.

Page 136. The Mor-Rign. This euphemerised Celtic queen is called by many names: even those resembling that just given vary much--Morrig, Mor Reega, Morrigan, Morgane, Mur-ree (Mor Ree), etc. The old word Mor-Rigan means "the great queen." She is the mother of the Gaelic Gods, as Bona Dea of the Romans. "Anu is her name," says an ancient writer. Anu suckled the elder gods. Her name survives in Tuatha-De-Danann, in Dnu, Ana, and perhaps in that mysterious Scoto-Gaelic name, Teampull Anait---the temple of Anait---whom some writers collate with an ancient Asiatic goddess, Anait (see p. 171).  It has been suggested that the Celts gave Bona Dea to the Romans, for these considered her Hyperborean. A less likely derivation of the popular "Morrig" is that Mor Reega is Mor Reagh (wealth). Keating, it may be added, speaks of Monagan, Badha, and Macha as the three chief goddesses of the Divine Race of Ana (the Tuatha De Danann). Students of Celtic mythology and legend, and of the Tin-b-Cuailgne in particular, will remember that her white bull "Find-Bennach" was "antagonist" to the famous brown bull of Cuailgne. The Mor Rigan has been identified with Cybele--as the Goddess of Prosperity: but only speculatively. Another name of the Mother of all Gods is Aine (Anu?).   Prof. Rhys says Ri or Roi was the Mother of the gods of the non-Celtic races. It is suggestive that Ana is a Phoenician word: that people had a (virgin?) goddess named Ana-Perema.

Page 156. Finn--OisIn--Oscur--Gaul--Diarmid--Cuchullin. These names as they stand exhibit: the uncertainty of Gaelic name-spelling. In the case of the first named there is constant variation. The oldest writing is Find (also Fend), or Fin.  Some Gaelic writers prefer, in modern use, Fionn. Through a misapprehension, Macpherson popularised the name in Scotland as Fingal, and the Fin and Fianna (for they are not the same, as commonly supposed, the former being the Clan or People of Finn, and the latter a kind of militia raised for the defence of Uladh), as the Fingalians.  Some Irish critics have been severe upon Macpherson's "impossible nomenclature"; but Fingal is not "impossible," though it is certainly not old Gaelic for Finn---for the word can quite well stand for Fair Stranger, and might well have been a name given to a Norse (or for that matter a Gaelic) champion.
Fin MacCumhal (Fin MacCooal or MacCool) is now commonly rendered as Finn, or Fionn. The latter is good Gaelic and the finer word, but the other is older. Fionn obtains more in Gaelic Scotland. Fingal and the Fingalians are modern, and due solely to the great vogue given by Macpherson--though many writers and even Gaelic speakers have adopted them.
Fionn's famous son, again, is almost universally (outside Gaelic Scotland and Ireland) known as Ossian, because of Macpherson's spelling of the name. Neither the Highland nor Irish Gaels pronounce it so--but Oshshen, and the like--best represented by the Gaelic Oisin or Oisein. Personally I prefer Oisin to any other spelling; but perhaps it would be best if the word were uniformly spelt in the manner in which it is universally familiar. Obviously, too, "Ossianic" is the only suitable use of the name in adjective form. Oscur is probably merely a Gaelic spelling of the Norse Oscar; though I recollect a student of ancient Gaelic names telling me that the name was Gaelic and only resembled the familiar Scandinavian word. Gaul is commonly so spelt; but Goll is probably more correct. Diarmid has many variations, from Diarmuid to Dermid; but Diarmid is the best English equivalent both in sound and correctness.
It is still a moot point as to whether in narration, Gaelic names should be given as they are, or be anglicised--or Gaelic exclamations to phrases in their original spelling, or more phonetically to an English ear. I think it should depend on circumstances, and within the writer's tact. I have myself been taken to task again and again, by critics eager with the eagerness of little knowledge, for partial anglicisation of names and presumed mistakes in Gaelic spelling, when, surely, the intention was obvious that a compromise was being attempted. Let me give an example. How would the English reader like a story of, say, a Donald Macintyre and a Grace Maclean and an Ivor Mackay if these names were given in their Gaelic form, as Domnhuil Mac-an-t-Saoir and Giorsal nic Illeathain and Imhir Mac Aodh--or even if simple names, like, say, Meave and Malvina, were given as Medb or Malmhin?
It is a pity there is not one recognised way of spelling the legendary name of Setanta, the chief hero of the Gaelic chivalry. Probably the best rendering is Cuchulain. The old form is Cuculaind. But colloquially the same in Gaelic is called Coohoolin or Coohullun; and so Cuculaind would mislead the ordinary reader. The Scottish version is generally Cuchullin--the ch soft: a more correct rendering of the Macphersonian Cuthullin, a misnomer responsible no doubt for the common mistake that the Coolin (Cuthullin) mountains in Skye have any connection with the great Gaelic hero (see p. 155).  Setanta, a prince of Uladh, was taught for a time in the art of weaponry by one Culain or Culaind, and after a certain famous act of prowess became known as The Hound of Culain--Cu being a hound, whence Cuculain, or with the sign of the genitive, Cuchulain. Every variation of the name, and all the legends of the Cuchullin cycle, will be found in Miss Eleanor Hull's excellent redaction, published by Mr. Nutt. The interested reader should see also the classical work of O'Curry: the vivid and romantic chronicle of Mr. Standish Grady; and the fascinating and scholarly edition of The Feast of Bricrin, recently published as the second volume of the Irish Texts Society, by Dr. George Henderson, the most scholarly of Highland specialists.

Page 162 seq.   No one has collected so much material on the subject of St. Michael as Mr. Alexander Carmichael has done. Some of his lore, in sheiling-hymns and fishing-hymns, he has already made widely known, directly and indirectly: but in his forthcoming Or agus Ob, already alluded to, there will be found a long and invaluable section devoted to St. Micheil, as also, I understand, one of like length and interest on St. Bride or Briget, the most beloved of Hebridean saints, and herself probably a Christian successor of a much more ancient Brighde, a Celtic deity, it is said, of Song and Beauty.

Page 181. Be'al. I do not think there is any evidence to prove that the Be'al or Bl often spelt Baal--whose name and worship survive to this day in Bealltainn (Beltane), May-day--of Gaelic mythology, is identical with the Phoenician god Baal, though probably of a like significance. The Gaelic name, which may be anglicised into Be'al; signifies "Source of All."
I am inclined to believe that the Be'al or Bl of the Gaels has his analogue in the Gaulish mythology in Hesus (also Esua, Aesus,and Heus) a mysterious (supreme?) god of ancient Gaul, surviving still in Armorican legend. If so, Hesus or Aesus may be identical with the "lost" Gaelic god Aesar or Aes, Aesar means "fire-kindler," whence the Creator. (In this connection I would ask if Aed, an ancient Gaelic god of fire, also of death, be identical with (as averred) a still more ancient Greek name of Fire, or God of Fire==Aed?). Be'al, the Source of All, may take us back to the Phoenician Baal: but the Gaelic Aes and the Gaulish Acsus (Hesus) take us, with the Scandinavian Aesir, further still to the Persian Aser, the Hindoo Aeswar, the Egyptian Asi (the Sun-bull), and the Etruscan Aesar. The Bhagavat-Gita says of Aeswar that he resides in every mortal."

Pages 199-203. This section, slightly adapted, is from an unpublished book, in gradual preparation, entitled The Chronicles of the Sdhe.

Page 225.  The Culdees. Though I have alluded in the text to the probable meaning of a word that has perplexed many people, I add this note as I have just come upon another theoretical statement about the Culdees as though they were an oriental race or sect. The writer evidently thinks they arethe same as Chaldocans, and builds a startlingly unscientific theory on that assumption. In all probability the word is simply Cille-D, i.e., [the man of the] Cell of God--Cille being Cell, a Church--and so a Cille-D man would be "man of God," a monk, a cleric. A much more puzzling problem obtains in the apparent traces of Buddha worship in the Hebrides. It may or may not be of much account that the author of Lewisiana "admits reluctantly" that "we must accept the possibility of a Buddhist race passing north of Ireland." I have not seen Lewisiana for some years, and cannot recall on what grounds the authorarrives at this conclusion. But from my notes on the subject I see that M. Coquebert-Montbret, in the Soc. des Anliquaires de France, argues at great length that the Asiatic Buddhist missionaries who penetrated to Western Europe, reached Ireland and Scotland. He asks if the ancient Gaelic Deity named Budd or Budwas be not Buddh (Buddha). Another French antiquary avers that the Druids were "an order of Eastern priests adoring Buddwas." Some light on the problem is thrown by the fact, that the Gaulo-Celtic in St. Germain is an ancient Celtic museum "god"--the fourth in kind that has been found--with its legs crossed after the manner of the Indian Buddha. It is more interesting still to note that in the Hebrides spirits are sometimes called Boduchas or Buddachs, and that the same word is (or used to be) applied to heads of families, as the Master.

Pages 242, 248.  These two sections, rearranged, and in part rewritten, are excerpted from what I wrote in Iona, some five years ago, for a preface to The Sin-Eater.

Page 256.   In its original form this was written about a book of great interest and beauty, The Shadow of Arvor: Legendary Romances of Brittany. Translated and retold by Edith Wingate Rinder.
Arvor (or Armor) is one of the bardic equivalents of Armorica, as Brittany is called in many old tales. The name means the Sea-Washed Land, Vor or Mor being Breton for "sea," as in the famous region Morbihan the Little Sea. Neither the Bretons for their Cymric kindred, however, call Brittany Arvor, or the Latinised Armorica. Arvor is the poetic name of a portion of Basse Bretagne only. Bretons call Brittany Breiz, and their language Brezoned, and themselves Breiziaded (singular Breiziad)--as they keep to the French differentiation of Bretagne and Grande Bretagne in Bro-Zaos, the Saxon-Land, as they speak of France (beyond Brittany.), as Bro-chall, the Land of Gaul. In Gaelic I think Brittany is always spoken of as Breatunn-Beag, Little Britain. The Welsh call the country, its people, and language, Llydaw, Llydawiaid, Llydawaeg.

F. M.


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