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The Celtic Twilight: Faerie and Folklore

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  1,922 ratings  ·  89 reviews
Best known for his poetry, William Butler Yeats (1865–1939) was also a dedicated exponent of Irish folklore. Yeats took a particular interest in the tales' mythic and magical roots. The Celtic Twilight ventures into the eerie and puckish world of fairies, ghosts, and spirits. "This handful of dreams," as the author referred to it, first appeared in 1893, and its title refe ...more
Paperback, 128 pages
Published September 7th 2011 by Dover Publications (first published January 1st 1893)
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4.07  · 
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 ·  1,922 ratings  ·  89 reviews

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Jan 19, 2015 rated it liked it
William Butler Yeats.

When I read this name I think of lyric Irish poetry, a Nobel prize ... and Guinness.

Yeats was also a discerning student of Irish fantasy. The emerald isle is, to many, synonymous with legends of faeries and folk tales of the unseen world. In 1893 Yeats published Celtic Twilight, a collection of essays, sketches, and anecdotes all with imagery and language reminiscent of Ireland’s connections to a mystical past.

“Folk art is, indeed, the oldest of the aristocracies of thought
Bill  Kerwin
Jun 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing

The Celtic Twilight (1902) is a book of encounters. The encounters Yeats writes of are the meetings between the Irish people and the faeries, but equally interesting are those other encounters: the meetings between the young Protestant poet and the Catholic Irish who tell him their ancient stories so that he can write them down in this book.

Although Yeats’ poetry—even the early, overly precious stuff—is always filled with beauties to admire, his prose can sometimes be pedantic and rather dry. In
Leo .
Dec 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
As a child I was fascinated by words. The etymology of words. The tones. How some words look similar. How some words sound similar. How words...spell. Faerie and Pharoe.

I have also over many years had an interest in different cultures and their similarities. Particularly the Celtic and Egyptian cultures. I have been to Egypt and as a resident of the UK have visited many Celtic sites. Over many years I have wondered about the similarities between these two cultures. Chariots. Pyramids. Mysticism
In his youth Yeats was a member of the Golden Dawn, an occult society; he wrote this book during that time, and it's widely seen as a manifesto about his belief in faeries and magic and such. And it is that - but it's not what you think. When he says
"Let us go forth, the tellers of tales, and seize whatever prey the heart long for, and have no fear. Everything exists, everything is true, and the earth is only a little dust under our feet." (p. 4)
he's saying that he believes in magic, yes, but hi
This is Yeats's collection of stories and lore surrounding Celtic fairies, ghosts and spirits. It's available at (audio) and at Sacred Texts.

Most of the chapters are pretty short. My favorites are "The Hosting of the Sidhe" (the poem that opens the book), "A Teller of Tales" (Yeats's description of Paddy Flynn, the storyteller who provided him with many of these tales), "The Untiring Ones" (concerning humans who were enchanted by the fairies) "The Man and His Boots" (a funny story a
Sep 01, 2009 rated it it was amazing
A definite must-read for anyone interested in fairy tales, especially the Irish sort, as I've never found anything better. Yeats, of course, should be read for his own sake, anyway, and if you want more Yeats, go for MYTHOLOGIES, the version that includes both the Celtic Twilight and Yeats' own retellings, in prose, of Irish epic stories, as well as his own original tales. There's another Yeats collection of traditional tales--Irish Folk and Fairy Stories--that also includes the Celtic Twilight, ...more
Mar 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was a slow start but this is the faery that I love! Here they are bit good or wholesome, Yeats writes them for the mischievous, ethereal, haunting, fearful, spiteful and vengeful beings that they are!
Being the first work of Yeats I've ever read, I was unsure as to what I was getting into but I might just read more of his work. Took a bit for me to wrap my head towards the writing style as I've been reading a lot of modern fiction thus the slow speed but I also think that it had to do with Y
Oct 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Yeats believed in faeries. My hero! These are the tricksy meddlesome faeries of Irish myth and legend, and his book chronicles real life documentation of faery happenings and occurences from Irish locals. Yeats was fascinated by the power of myth and how it impacts on everyday life. We have here tales of ghosts, faery pigs in the forest, enchanted glades, changelings, the strange creatures of the hedgerows. What is fascinating is that these are both fabulous tales and a record of popular beliefs ...more
This has such an evocative title, I've wanted to read it for decades. I'd expected it to be a lyrical celebration of the folkloric traditions of Ireland, and those parts of it that were that, I found the best. For the rest, it was a collection of brief outlines of fairly typical folkloric tales, interspersed with some slightly longer stories, some of which were interesting. A slightly disappointing read, but still worthwhile. 3.5/5🌟
Apr 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: folklore, ireland
This is a delightful collection of old Irish folklore, mostly deriving from the area around Ben Bulben and County Sligo. Speaking of the existence of faerie, William Butler Yeats writes:
I say to myself, when I am well out of that thicket of argument, that they are surely there, the divine people, for only we who have neither simplicity nor wisdom have denied them, and the simple of all times and the wise men of ancient times have seen them and even spoken to them. They live out their passionate
Jan 13, 2014 marked it as to-read
Shelves: research-faeries
Available to read legally and free on Project Gutenberg:
Nov 18, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy


I have desired, like every artist, to create a little world out of the beautiful, pleasant, and significant things of this marred and clumsy world, and to show in a vision something of the face of Ireland to any of my own people who would look where I bid them. I have therefore written down accurately and candidly much that I have heard and seen, and, except by way of commentary, nothing that I have merely imagined. I have, however, been at no pains to separate my own beliefs from those
Nov 16, 2017 rated it liked it
Reading a book greater than (or close to) a century in age typically requires a shift in my reading attitude and patience level. I often find myself re-reading a sentence a few times to fully parse it (I'm looking at you Walden) only to realize the author made a joke and it's actually quite amusing. The Celtic Twilight is no exception. And it can be read in a couple different ways. 1. As a modern day non-believer inclined to say "What is this nonsense and who believes in this crap?" 2. In a univ ...more
Derek Davis
Jan 01, 2011 rated it really liked it
Maybe it really deserves a full five stars, but it could use a little more tightening and underlying coherence -- even if it is one man's idiosyncratic collection of local stories on the faerie people of Ireland. Forget that , though. Yeats' mind walking the ridge between reason and acceptance of the marvelous-unlikely is a wonder to read. He pinpoints the population's strangely accepting outlook on the "other" people of the countryside, who live just beyond visibility and seem to turn up, more ...more
Mar 22, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
this is mostly Yeats chatting with the folk from which he would later collect tales;
there's some 'once it was hazy and i saw—' but i'd argue this is non-fiction as it primarily details Yeats' travels
there's definitely a classist overtone; WBY doesn't hide his belief in his cultural/economic superiority
would rec to those interested in collection & preservation of cultures, amateur /professional anthropologists, sociologists, archivists, the generally-inquisitive, et al.
Steven Gao
Oct 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Really don't have many words on it, but it is THE book that I read and instantly fell in love with Ireland. It possesses the power to calm down a palpitating heart. Beautifully written.
Haines Eason
Feb 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
So true and so rare a book for its being so very much itself—it has few peers and is hard to explain. “Fairy tales and legends of the Irish country folk captured at the turn of the 1900s” isn’t even close to an accurate summary. Yeats puts you at the hearth and at the feet of so many invisible peasant spinners of tales from a forgotten Ireland—these vignettes are so pure you will be warmed by their coals many winters’ nights hence.
Maan Kawas
Nov 22, 2018 rated it liked it
L. Shosty
May 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A beautiful look at a people's relationship with its myths and folklore, as rendered to us by a poet of unparalleled ability.
Zachary Taylor
Mar 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: irish-literature
If ever there was a modern folk-testament other than Lady Gregory’s Visions and Beliefs in the West of Ireland to the Neoplatonist and pantheistic cosmology of John Scottus Eriugena, in which natura incorporates both the divine and physical realms, Yeats’s The Celtic Twilight is a likely candidate. In Yeats’s tales, the divine manifests itself in a variety of ways, which include the appearance of faeries and phenomenological encounters with otherworldly realms such as purgatory and hell. I was p ...more
Judy Croome
Aug 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: spiritual seekers, mystics,
In THE CELTIC TWILIGHT Yeats, the spiritual mystic and poet, is in ascendance over the Nobel prize winning playwright. He gathers a delightful assortment of old Irish Folktales dealing with the Faerie, and the world beyond the veil of understanding. The stories are told with a casual acceptance of the existence of spiritual truths beyond our rational knowledge, tinged with embarrassment at that acceptance.

Underpinning the beautiful, lyrical writing, lies the melancholy of a gentle race, a mysti
Alex Andrasik
Dec 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
Dead brothers springing to life from a witch's green stone; towering Celtic queens visiting the kitchens of humble goodwives; blind singers accessing the height of human expression. This is the timbre of the Irish folktales collected here by the celebrated poet W.B. Yeats.

This book was not what I expected it to be, but that didn't turn out to be a problem. Less poetic history of the decline of Celtic civilization and more rambling fireside reminiscence of all the folklore Yeats picked up while g
Aug 25, 2012 rated it liked it
A must read for those who are interested in Irish folklore!

And a quote from the end:
In a society that has cast out imaginative tradition, only a few
people--three or four thousand out of millions--favoured by their own
characters and by happy circumstance, and only then after much labour,
have understanding of imaginative things, and yet "the imagination is
the man himself." The churches in the Middle Age won all the arts into
their service because men understood that when imagination is
Regina Andreassen
Dec 04, 2017 rated it it was ok
I enjoyed the first pages of this book but as I continued reading I lost interest. This isn't a well organised book, neither it is a collection of stories. The prose is sometimes beautiful but most of this book feels disjointed and, in my opinion, this work has little -if any- literary value. As some other readers have commented, some chapters just feel like notes taken by the author, rather than smartly narrated tales or folk stories. I don't think this book has a well-defined genre, instead th ...more
Feb 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: folktales
Celtic Twilight is a meandering collection of tales and anecdotes, many of them dealing with ghosts and faerie folk, but a few of them just odd human interactions that tickled Yeats' imagination. With one or two exceptions, these are not folk tales in the usual sense; they are not narratives with characters, so much as spare accounts of some Irish individuals' encounters with the supernatural. If you are seeking complete stories, as I initially was, you will be disappointed.

However, the the col
Apr 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
In a small fashion, Yeats acted for Ireland as the Brothers Grimm did for Germany. Some of the tales Yeats collected are bound in this book, along with some footnotes containing Yeats' observations and similar material.

I highly recommend this book for anyone looking into Irish Faerie beliefs, whether religious or not. There is also a fair amount of cultural information, and quite a few sections on ghosts. Because the book is meant to revolve around Faeries, I felt this detracted from the overal
Aug 03, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
You can have your cones and interpenetrating gyres; for me, the unguarded, soppy Romanticism of The Celtic Twilight, based on the diaries the young Yeats kept as he tromped through Irish village life, is the best guide to the obsessions and occult yearnings that animate his poetry, early & late. The anecdotes and rambling asides capture the poet in his native habitat, head in the clouds and feet in the bog of an Ireland that never quite was, but that he needed to shake off the bluff rational ...more
Anna Bosman
Oct 13, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was beautiful, especially after reading Yeats' autobiography. He was the kind of man whose life goal lay in chasing faeries, and this particular man happened to be damn good at it. The sidhe saddened him by beauty and stole the joy of ordinary things from him, but where would we get the extraordinary from if there was no-one to reach out for the unreachable? A pure example of first-grade sehnsucht, as old as the roots of the world, ever-insatiable, other-worldly. Weird that it is precisely th ...more
Aug 03, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
You can have your cones and interpenetrating gyres; for me, the unguarded, soppy Romanticism of The Celtic Twilight, based on the diaries the young Yeats kept as he tromped through Irish village life, is the best guide to the obsessions and occult yearnings that animate his poetry, early & late. The anecdotes and rambling asides capture the poet in his native habitat, head in the clouds and feet in the bog of an Ireland that never quite was, but that he needed to shake off the bluff rational ...more
Alexandra Paiva
Sep 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
"I have desired, like every artist, to create a little world out of the beautiful, pleasant, and significant things of this marred and clumsy world, and to show in a vision something of the face of Ireland to any of my own people who would look where I bid them"

Being a devoted fan of Yeats as a poet, this not-so-small collection of folk tales was the cherry on top of my hibernophile cake. I had big expectations towards it and this tome delivered wonderfully.

Since then i have also acquired Mytho
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2017 Reading Chal...: Celtic Twilight 1 33 Jan 03, 2015 06:41PM  

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William Butler Yeats (pronounced /ˈjeɪts/) was an Irish poet and dramatist, and one of the foremost figures of 20th century literature. A pillar of both the Irish and British literary establishments, in his later years Yeats served as an Irish Senator for two terms. He was a driving force behind the Irish Literary Revival, and along with Lady Gregory and Edward Martyn founded the Abbey Theatre, se ...more
“We can make our minds so like still water that beings gather about us that they may see, it may be, their own images, and so live for a moment with a clearer, perhaps even with a fiercer life because of our quiet.” 124 likes
“One loses, as one grows older, something of the lightness of one's dreams; one begins to take life up in both hands, and to care more for the fruit than the flower, and that is no great loss perhaps.” 60 likes
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