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GEORGE W. RUSSELL (“ A. E.”).
Of that remarkable group of Irish writers who have done so much in Ireland in the past fifteen years to create an imaginative literature Irish in spirit and national in its very heart-beat and fiber, two men stand forth as the chief lyric poets writing in the English tongue. One of these is W. B. Yeats, and the other his friend and associate, who writes under the name “A. E.”
"A. E.” is the pen name of the poet-dreamer Mr. George W. Russell. He was born in Lurgan, County Armagh, in 1867, and was largely self-educated. For some time he was an art student in Dublin, and he is an artist of rare imagination as well as one of the most gifted of living Irish poets. He has drunk deep of the learning of the East, of the Vedas and the Upanishads, and has been a devoted student of Plato and of the mystical philosophers. Among more modern writers he has, like his friend W. B. Yeats, been an admirer and student of the works of the mystic William Blake and also of Emerson, Thoreau, and Walt Whitman. But his deepest study and best inspirations are the great epics and legends that make up the bardic history of Ireland. The wonderful deeds of Finn and Cuchulain and Ossian and Oscar and other Irish heroes have absorbed his thoughts and been a revelation to him of the real spirit of Ireland, the typical heroes of his race. For him Ireland, because she has been the mother of such heroes and because he feels as he wanders up and down her haunted hills and enchanting valleys that Tir-na-n'Ogue, the country of immortal youth, is still very near, peopled with the spirits of these mighty dead yet to him ever living ones, and also by forms young and beautiful with a shining and undying beauty-because of his belief in these things, Ireland is a holy land for him and the story of Ireland is the sacred book of his race-the book from which he has drawn his highest inspiration.
His first volume of poems was 'Homeward Songs by the Way' (1894), a priceless little volume of pure lyric joy, reissued with ad. ditional poems in the United States (1896) and republished several times since. His second volume of lyrics, “The Earth Breath and Other Poems,' appeared in 1897, and his third and latest volume, * The Divine Vision and Other Poems,' in January, 1904. A selection from all his lyrics, Nuts of Knowledge,' was published in October, 1903, at the Dun Emer Press, Dundrum, Dublin, and is in form and spirit one of the most beautiful books that ever came out of Ireland.
Not only is he a fine lyric poet, but he is the author of a few of the noblest essays written in Ireland in recent years. He contributed two short essays of great subtlety and imaginative insight
Literary Ideals in Ireland' and Nationality and Cosmopolitanism in Literature'-to a small volume of essays published in Dublin in 1899, which also contained essays by W. B. Yeats, “ John Eglin