Mar 17: The stereotypes of the Irish

It's too tempting today. Most days I try to take the reading seriously, on its own terms, and keep the jokes in proportion, but to be given "The Poetry of the Celtic Races" -- well, it's hard to stop oneself. Here, let's get started:

"Poor Ireland, with her ancient mythology, with her Purgatory of St. Patrick, and her fantastic travels of St. Brandan, was not destined to find grace in the eyes of English puritanism."

Oh, here's another one, from earlier in the piece (which was written by Ernest Renan in the 19th century when it was very progressive and P.C. to talk about the characteristics of the "races" -- the fact that today the very opposite is what's progressive is what's making it hard for me to stop with the jokes):
Other legends related that when St. Patrick drove the goblins out of Ireland, he was greatly tormented in this place for forty days by legions of black birds people.
See what I did there? Because the Irish were supposed to be famously racist. Another passage that gives rise to a stereotypical joke is:
... With the consent of the abbot of the neighbouring monastery, they descended into the shaft, they passed through the torments of Hell and Purgatory, and then each told of what he had seen. Some did not emerge again; those who did laughed no more, and were henceforth unable to join in any gaiety.
Those were the ones who went to teach in Catholic schools. Again, I apologize to all Irish or part-Irish (such as myself), but if "30 Rock" and "The Simpsons" can't resist, how can I, who don't even have Standards and Practices? (Deadspin, too.) Somehow Irish-bashing has become an acceptable comedy meme. Renan, for his part, is "an equal opportunity offender":
Among the features by which the Celtic races most impressed the Romans were the precision of their ideas upon the future life, their inclination to suicide, and the loans and contracts which they signed with the other world in view. The more frivolous peoples of the South saw with awe in this assurance the fact of a mysterious race, having an understanding of the future and the secret of death.
Yes, if there's one adjective that leaps to mind when you think about the Romans, it's "frivolity."

I do have some sympathy towards Renan at the end of this piece, when he speaks up for the crazy Irish and their wacky tales which leave us cool, rational, 19th-century people shaking our heads as we head for our phrenologist appointment:
Which is worth more, the imaginative instinct of man, or the narrow orthodoxy that pretends to remain rational, when speaking of things divine? For my own part, I prefer the frank mythology, with all its vagaries, to a theology so paltry, so vulgar, and so colourless, that it would be wronging God to believe that, after having made the visible world so beautiful he should have made the invisible world so prosaically reasonable.
This guy agrees:
"The decided leaning of the Celtic race towards the ideal, its sadness, its fidelity, its good faith, caused it to be regarded by its neighbours as dull, foolish, and superstitious. They could not understand its delicacy and refined manner of feeling. They mistook for awkwardness the embarrassment experienced by sincere and open natures in the presence of more artificial natures."

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