hilst photographing driftwood on the beach at Carrowniskey, I met a farmer who had come to cut up my piece of trawler for firewood. In answer to his question I told him I was illustrating a story about a young woman whose lover—who she is about to marry—is drowned, along with all the guests for the wedding, and that, brokenhearted, she too dies. "That sounds like a good Irish tale," said he with a slightly embarrassed laugh.

 have not chosen these tales to be safe, lightweight entertainment, though some are closer to the pretty, nursery stories with which we are all familiar than others. I have chosen them because they touch on the primeval fears and fascinations that, even now, flood up from within us to fill the darkness outside. Who has not, at some point in his life, been aware—with a crawling sensation in the small of the back—of the Pooka about to leap on him from behind? Who has not dreamt— like Oisin—of a land where all is beauty and pleasure without pain, only to force himself, with a grim sense of adult responsibility, to acknowledge prosaic reality?

his is not a work of scholarship and thus does not have to be representative of the broad sweep of Irish stories. It is the personal choice of a lifelong city-dweller, all too conscious that, in an entirely man-made environment, our sense of the awe and mystery of life has given way to a sort of neurotic narcissism.

ational empiricism—our modern deity—has sought to replace ignorance and superstition with a kind of knowledge, but at the same time it has stripped away much of the wonder from the world and has replaced it with multiple, fractured images of ourselves.