Glossary Home Movements

Celtic Revival

The Celtic Revival was a revival in general interest in Celtic history, literature, and languages, in the late-nineteenth century.

The Celtic Revival crossed numerous disciplines. This includes anthropology and art history. It is often cited alongside the Irish Literary Revival. It includes a variety of movements and draws on the works of Gaelic literature, Celtic art, and Welsh-language literature. 

Celtic Revival definition and examples


Celtic Revival Definition

The Celtic Revival occurred during the late-nineteenth century and the early twentieth century.

It was a resurgence in the general interest, in the world of art, history, literature, and more, in Celtic history, mythology, and traditions. Generally, scholars consider the moment a reaction to industrialism and modernism

Writers who were inspired by the Celtic Revival include William Butler Yeats, A.E. Russel, and Edward Plunkett. These writers revitalized the public’s interest in Irish poetry and the broader elements of Irish literature. 

Examples of Celtic Revival Literature 

Unity by Æ (George William Russell) 

George William Russel wrote under the pseudonym Æ. His work is often associated with the Celtic Revival and Irish Literary Revival. His first book of poems, Homeward: Songs by the Way, was in 1894. He met James Joyce and William Butler Yeats as he became better known within the Irish movements. 

Here are the first two stanzas of one of ‘Unity:.’ 

One thing in all things have I seen:

One thought has haunted earth and air:

Clangour and silence both have been

Its palace chambers. Everywhere

I saw the mystic vision flow

And live in men and woods and streams,

Until I could no longer know

The dream of life from my own dreams.

Here, readers can find similarities to William Butler Yeats and other artists, the Celtic Revival. As a reaction against modernism and industrialism, this Celtic Revival poem demonstrates an interest in the natural world, myth, and legend

The Coat by William Butler Yeats 

‘A Coat’ is an interesting well-loved Yeats poem that describes the poet’s writing practice through the metaphor of an embroidered coat. Readers who enjoy Yeats’ poetry should take the time to read this piece. It provides insight into how the poet considered his own work. 

 It begins with the speaker describing how everything he has completed as a writer has come together as a coat. It’s covered in “old mythologies” and allusions to how his works have been misunderstood and misappropriated. Here are a few lines: 

I made my song a coat

Covered with embroideries

Out of old mythologies

From heel to throat;

But the fools caught it,

Wore it in the world’s eyes

As though they’d wrought it.

In the final three lines, the speaker, the poet, passes his song off. He lets go of the anger he alluded to before and declares that there’s more “enterprise / In walking naked” than trying to wear an original coat. 

Easter, 1916 by William Butler Yeats 

This well-known poem is a reflection on events surrounding the Easter Rising that began in Dublin on April 24th, 1916. A small number of labor leaders and political revolutionaries occupied government buildings and factories, proclaiming a new independent Irish Republic. Here are a few lines from the poem: 

I have met them at close of day

Coming with vivid faces

From counter or desk among grey

Eighteenth-century houses.

I have passed with a nod of the head

Or polite meaningless words,

Or have lingered awhile and said

Polite meaningless words,

And thought before I had done

Of a mocking tale or a gibe

To please a companion

Around the fire at the club,

After the Rising, the leaders were executed by firing squad. William Butler Yeats wrote about their deaths, along with other elements of the Rising, throughout his career. 

Explore more W.B. Yeats poems

FAQs 

Why is the Irish Literary Revival important?

The Revival was important because it produced some of the most important Irish literature of either century. It was notable for its resurgence in interest in Gaelic history and folklore. Irish Nationalism was incredibly important during this time period. 

Who was the major writer of the Irish Literary Revival? 

The most important writer, by far, of this movement in Irish literature was William Butler Yeats. Some of his best-known poems include ‘The Second Coming,’ ‘The Lake Isle of Innisfree,’ and ‘Easter, 1916.’ He influenced other writers and artists of the movement as well. 

When did the Celtic Revival start?

The Celtic Revival lasted from the late-nineteenth century and the early twentieth century. It was inspired by traditional Celtic literature, arts, and history. Mythology was also a major influence. 

What is the Celtic Revival in English literature?

The Celtic Revival is a renewed interest in Celtic literature, art, history, mythology, and more.

 

Related Literary Terms

  • Graveyard Poets: also known as the Churchyard Poets were a group of writers in England during the 18th century.
  • Lake Poets: a group of English poets who lived and wrote in the Lake District during the nineteenth century.
  • Metaphysical Poetry: marked by the use of elaborate figurative languages, original conceits, paradoxes, and philosophical topics. 
  • Augustan Age: a period during the first half of the 18th century in England. Poets during this period created verse inspired by authors like Virgil and Ovid.
  • Cavalier Poets: a group of writers from the 17th century in England.
  • Georgian Poetry: a poetic movement in England that lasted from 1910 to 1936 during the reign of George V. 


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