SPRING AND AUTUMN
SPRING AND AUTUMN
IN IRELAND , .,.
WILLIAM BLACKWOOD AND SONS
EDINBURGH AND LONDON
All Rights reserved
THE BRAVE AND GIFTED
I TENDER THIS VOLUME.
SAINT PATRICK'S DAY,
THIS volume is reproduced from two papers
that appeared in ' Blackwood's Magazine ' in
the years 1894, 1895. It has been thought
that their republication, expressive as they are
of the love and admiration the author has long
felt for Ireland, and which now animates all
hearts, may be deemed not inappropriate at the
SPEING AND AUTUMN IN BELAND,
" THIS damnable country ! " Such was the de-
scription given of Ireland, now many generations
ago, by an English statesman to his superiors
in London concerning the land he had been
sent to administer ; and the same phrase, or
the same sentiment in different words, has been
re-echoed many a time since, by politicians and
non - politicians on each side of the Channel,
respecting the island " lying a-loose," as Cam-
pion the historian in the reign of Elizabeth has
it, " on the west ocean." This damnable
country ! Far be it from me to add the very
smallest stone to the colossal cairn of contro-
versy that has been raised over the Irish
2 SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND.
Question. I went to Ireland for the first time
in the spring of 1894, and I returned from it
with the feeling that it is anything rather
than damnable. Indeed I sometimes find myself
almost wishing that the intervening seasons
would pass, that it might again be May, and
I might anew be gathering thrift amid the
landward - flying foam of Loop Head, listening
to the missel-thrushes shrilling in the gardens
of Tourin or the woods of Dromana, watching
the smiles arid tears of fair fitful Killarney,
losing myself in the gorse - covered clefts of
matchless Glengariff, or dazzled and almost
blinded by the boundless bluebell woods of
Abbey Leix. I do not willingly allow that
Ireland is lovelier still than England, but it
is. One has said with ^Eneas, perhaps too
often, when Spring came round, Italiam petimus.
Yet are not Bantry Bay and Clon-Mac-Nois as
beautiful, and as hallowed by the past, even
as the Gulf of Spezia and the cyclopean walls
of Sora? But then I went to Ireland, not in
the pursuit of angry polemics, to which I would
add nothing new, but in search of natural beauty
SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND.
and human kindness. Nowhere have I ever met
with more of either.
First impressions are a sort of premonitory ex-
perience ; and, as the sun sank lower in a cloud-
less sky over a surgeless sea, I could not gaze
on the tender sinuosities of the Wicklow Moun-
tains, or turn to the Hill of Howth, Ireland's
Eye, and the more distant Lambay Island, with-
out a sense of rising gladness that I was at
last to set foot on a land that greets one with
so fair and feminine a face.
The most indulgent imagination could hardly
cast a halo over the unloveliness of Dublin ; and
not even the most gracious and agreeable hos-
pitality could make regret prevail over antici-
pation as I turned my face westward. But the
gorse, the pastures, and the streams of Kildare
would have made one forget the most attractive
of cities, though I was well aware I was passing
through perhaps the least beautiful part of Ire-
land. A couple of mornings later I was driving
on an outside car, balanced on the other side
by a congenial companion, towards Athlone,
where we were to take train for the coast of
4 SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND.
Clare. The driver assured us that he could
easily traverse the distance in an hour and
twenty minutes, so I gave him an hour and
forty. I had quite forgotten, in the exhilar-
ation of a new experience, that absolute accuracy
is not a Celtic gift, and that time is computed
long or short, according as it is thought you
wish it to be the one or the other. Moreover,
the Irish mile is a fine source of confusion when
distances are computed. In one county a mile
means a statute mile, in another it means an
Irish mile; and though you may recollect that
it takes fourteen of the first to make eleven of
the second, it does not at all follow that your
local conductor will do so. My companion, who
knew something of the road, suddenly asked me
from under her umbrella for it was raining in
the most approved Irish manner what time it
was, and, on getting her answer, she rejoined
we had still three miles to cover and only
eighteen minutes to do it in. The wish to
oblige, and native hopefulness of temperament,
made the driver exclaim, " Oh, we'll do it ! "
and straightway he imparted to his horse an
SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND. 5
alertness of which I had not thought it cap-
able. Watch in hand, I saw us trot through
the streets of Athlone at a rattling pace, and
we had both made up our minds that the train
was caught. But, again, that curious vagueness
of mind and happy-go-lucky indiscipline of char-
acter came into play ; and, though we really
were just in time, he drove past the entrance to
the station, and did not discover his mistake
till too late. It then turned out that he had
never been to Athlone before, and had not the
faintest notion where the station was. I have
observed that most travellers in such circum-
stances fume, fret, and objurgate. We laughed
consumedly, though we were well aware that
Athlone is scarcely a place in which to spend
several hours pleasantly, and that now, instead
of arriving at Kilkee at half -past three, we
could not get there till after nine. Perhaps
our good-humour was due in some measure to
the fact that, some three miles away, was a
house where we knew we could consume the
inevitable interval agreeably enough ; and we
were soon making for it. But Irish hospitality
8 SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND.
does not understand the mere "looking -in -on-
us" which satisfies so many English people;
and we were bidden, indeed irresistibly com-
manded, to pass the night with the hosts we
had thus surprised. We were amply repaid,
in more ways than one, for our equanimity ;
for the next day was as fine as the previous
one had been morose, and so we started on.
our wanderings in search of striking scenery,
in sunshine instead of in storm.
I am told Kilkee is " a fashionable watering-
place." Happily watering - places and fashion
mean something different on the west coast of
Ireland from what they signify on the south
coast of Britain, or one need scarcely have bent
one's steps towards Kilkee even in order to see
Loop Head and the Cliffs of Moher. Even at
the height of its season, for I suppose it has one,
Kilkee must be what those who resort to East-
bourne or Bournemouth would call a very dull
little place. You can get out of any part of it
in two or three minutes, to find yourself on the
undenizened cliffs that form the westernmost
barrier between this Realm and the Atlantic.
SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND. 7
If there were any strangers in the place in the
early days of May save ourselves, I did not
observe them. We were the sole occupants of
a large, old - fashioned, and quite comfortable
enough inn, which the local taste for high-
sounding words would probably wish one to call
a hotel. It takes its name from Moore's Bay
on which it stands. You observe by various
little indications that the standard of comfort,
convenience, and refinement is lower by a few
inches than in England ; but why should it not
be ? I pity the people who travel through the
world with their own weights and measures,
their own hard - and - fast rule of how things
should look and how they should be done. If
you have to sit with the door open because,
should you not do so, the smoke and dust of
the turf fire would be blown all over the house,
is that such a hardship to folks who have got
nothing to do but to be pleasant and enjoy
themselves ? If the green Atlantic water, the
blackly towering cliffs, the vast expanse of rising
and rolling emerald down, the soft insinuat-
ing air, and the sense of freedom and "away-
8 SPUING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND.
ness," do not compensate you for the lack of
hot water in your sleeping chamber and for a
certain friendly irregularity in the service, go not
to Clare or Galway, but follow your own trite
footsteps to Brighton, Nice, or Cannes. We
for our part thought Kilkee, its lean chickens,
its imperfect soda - bread, and its lack of vege-
tables save the national potato, absolutely de-
lightful. How the winds must blow and bellow
sometimes, and the waves rear and plunge and
toss their iron-grey manes along and over that
crenelated coast ! The word " over" is no figure
of speech, for there are times when the foam is
flung, by waves indignant at the first check
they have met with for two thousand miles,
high over the foreheads of the loftiest crags
and far inland on to the stunted grass of the
grey-green downs. There is a peculiar pleasure
in watching how gentle the strong can be, how
strong the gentle; and when we got to Kilkee
there seemed at first almost a caressing touch
in the dimpling green water, as though it had
the soothing stroke of a soft and velvety hand.
But as we pushed on to the bolder bluffs and
SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND.
towards the open sea, even on that compara-
tively windless May sundown, the waves, when
challenged or interfered with, waxed black and
angry, swirled round and round in great sinuous
troughs and coils, and then rushed and raced
with imperative fury through the jagged chan-
nels made for them by the millions of domineer-
ing breakers that had for centuries preceded
them, and forced a way somehow, somewhere,
through the granite barriers. We stood hushed
by the splendour and sonorous terror of it, and,
like Xenophon's Ten Thousand, I cried out at
length, " SdXao-cra ! aXacrcra!" as though I had
never seen the Sea before. Neither Yorkshire
nor Devonshire cliffs can show anything com-
parable in stern beauty and magnificence with
the west coast of Ireland. Their billows are
baby billows, mere cradles rather, swaying and
swinging for a child's or a lover's lullaby, when
paragoned with these monsters of the real deep,
these booming behemoths, never fixed nor cryst-
allised, and therefore never extinct, charging
squadrons of ocean-horses, coming on ten thou-
sand strong, glittering and gleaming in all the
10 SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND.
panoply of serried onset, and then broken and
lost in the foam and spume of their own champ-
ing and churning. Turn the headland, which
mayhap now fronts leeward, and all those war-
like waves seem like dolphins at peace and play.
Their very backs subside, and you see nothing
but indescribably green water, green of a green
you have never seen before, pearly, pellucid,
the mirror, not of eternity, but of whatever
tender mood of the moment. Look round ! look
wide I look far ! your eye will meet nothing but
the lonely and uncompromising gaze of Nature.
This it is that gives one the sense of " away-
ness " of which I spoke. Is it not the duke in
" Measure for Measure" who says
" For I have ever loved the life removed " 1
Here indeed he might have got it, far more
effectually than in any cloister that was ever
reared. England nowhere now gives one quite
this sensation. Should you get beyond the
smoke of the locomotive, you will with difficulty
evade the shadow of the tourist. But even by
this all - penetrating person some of the most
SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND. 11
beautiful parts of Ireland are forgotten and
A road that for the most part follows the
wavering coast - line was made from Kilkee to
Loop Head in the dark days of the still remem-
bered Famine, and the driver of our car told me
he had helped to make it. He was communica-
tive enough in answer to questions put to him ;
but in his case, as in many another later on, I
observed little of that loquacious gaiety, and
still less of the spontaneous humour, which we
are educated to expect from Irish companion-
ship. Of course, my experience was limited and
imperfect ; but I found myself once remarking,
no doubt with a touch of extravagance, that it
must be a very dull Englishman who finds Irish
people particularly lively. Doubtless they are
more amiable in the social sense ; but I cannot
put aside the impression that sadness is the
deepest note in the Irish character. They re-
mind one of what Madame de Stael said of her-
self, "Je suis triste, mais gai" Under provoca-
tion or stimulus they become both loquacious
and merry ; nor need the provocation be very
12 SPEING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND.
forcible. But they readily fall back again into
the minor key, and much of their wit springs
from their sensibility to the tearfulness of things.
" You can talk them into anything," said one of
themselves to me ; and I think it is still more
true that they can talk themselves into any-
thing, for the moment at least. They are sad,
but not serious. Indeed their want of what an
Englishman means by seriousness is very notice-
able ; and they shift "from grave to gay, from
lively to severe," with astonishing mobility. It
is the profound sadness of their character which
makes them so sociable, since in companionship,
and most of all in voluble talk, they for a time
escape from it. A person of high seriousness
requires no one to help him to be gravely
cheerful, and his spirits are never depressed by
solitude. It is in society, rather than in soli-
tude, that he is conscious of being, or at least
of seeming, morose. The gaiety of a sad person
is always demonstrative, exuberant, almost
noisy; for he wants others to see how tremen-
dously happy he has suddenly become. Once
removed from "wine and women, mirth and
SPBING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND. 13
laughter," he relapses into the passive gloom
natural to one who is conscious of a mystery
which is too congenial to him for him to want
to solve it. The Irishman sees into his native
mist, but not through it. He is best under-
stood when you watch him abiding within the
influence of brown, barren bog, of unapproach-
able peaks, and of the wail of homeless waves.
Though otherwise but little akin to the island
of the lotos-eaters, Ireland is withal a land where
it seems always afternoon. In their normal
movements the Irish are much quieter than the
English. I am speaking, of course, of peasants,
not of politicians, nor yet of folk huddled so
closely together in streets that they irritate each
other all day long. The very children in Ire-
land do not shout as English children do. Both
young and old stand, or sit, or gaze, well content
to do so : the being alive, I might almost say,
the waiting for life to come to an end, seeming
to be occupation enough for them. Ebullitions
and explosions of gaiety, of course, they have ;
and these are so volcanic that they perforce
attract much attention. But I think people
14 SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND.
fail to observe that, like to volcanoes generally,
their normal condition is one of quietude. They
have irregular impulses, but they have no settled
purpose. How can they have, in a world they
do not profess nor care to understand?
" Their soul proud Science never taught to stray
Far as the solar walk or Milky Way."
They know their own cabin, their own patch
of "lazy" potatoes, their own boat and fishing-
nets, their eternal dependence on the forces of
Nature, their eternal feud with people who
they think do nothing for them, yet claim a
share in the fruit of their labours, the imper-
fectly understood theories of a pastor who,
perhaps, is himself imperfectly instructed in
the dogmas he affirms, and that there is some-
thing called Ireland whose lot they believe is,
and has immemorially been, as hard as their
own. Truth to tell, in ordinary moments, and
when some one does not come and " talk them
into " indignation, they bear its supposed wrongs
very patiently, just as they patiently bear their
own. When not stimulated by professional
agitators they ask little, they expect little,
SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND. 15
from life. They are not indociles pauperism
pati. Indeed poverty seems natural, and even
congenial, to them. Life is not to them, as
to Englishmen or Scotsmen, a business to con-
duct, to extend, to render profitable. It is a
dream, a little bit of passing consciousness on
a rather hard pillow, the hard part of it being
the occasional necessity for work, which spoils
the tenderness and continuity of the dream.
A little way before you get to Loop Head,
there is a series of seaward - j utting rocks of
low elevation, which have been christened The
Bridges, for the waves have burrowed under
them, so that they stand arched in mid - air.
At the extreme point we saw a young fellow
in knee - breeches, blue woollen stockings, short
jacket, and Mercury hat, the only human
thing visible, save ourselves, whether seaward
or landward, gazing apparently at the waves.
" I wonder what he comes here for," said my
" Ask him," I said, and she did so.
" I've coom to see the toombling," he said.
The "toombling" was the plunging and shat-
16 SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND.
tering of the breakers, and looking at them
was occupation enough for this letterless lad.
A potential poet, some one perhaps will say ?
But no. A poet, to be of much account, must
understand, must find or put a meaning into,
inanimate things ; and this boy, typical of his
race, was asking no questions, much less find-
ing harmonious answers to them. He was only
gazing at the "toombling" he could not con-
trol, any more than he and his can control
the wilful seasons, the fiat that brought them
here, that will take them away, and that deals
so austerely with them in the interval.
Such, at least, was the explanation I offered
of his being there, and the cause of it. Per-
haps we found reason, in some degree, to
modify our conclusion a few minutes later ;
for, seeking to return to the point where we
had left our car, we passed through a gap in
a loose stone -wall, and saw sitting under it,
just to the right of us, a bare-headed, bare-
legged peasant girl of, I daresay, some eighteen
years of age, just as unoccupied as the young-
ster we had left pondering at the waves, but
SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND. 17
looking by no means so unhappy. On her
" The bloom of young desire, and purple light of love,"
and her eyes seemed to sparkle with amorous
mischief. Possibly she was the cause of his
having gone, in vexation of spirit, to look on
the " toombling," and so make himself yet
more miserable, like many another tantalised
swain before him, by communicating his ephem-
eral sorrow to the permanent indifference of
Within three miles of Loop Head, we were
told, no flower will grow save the pink sea-
thrift ; and I can well believe it. It is a sort
of Hinterland to the ocean, within whose in-
fluence it lies ; and, though the sea has not
actually annexed it, it permits no law save
that of its own blusterous barrenness to rule
there. The Coastguard Station represents the
indomitable audacity and imperious usurpation
of man ; but at Loop Head, though he can
build walls, and take and record observations,
he can do no more. He can grow nothing
18 SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND.
for his own sustenance ; and on many a wild
winter night, if he ventures out-of-doors, he
has to crawl on hands and knees under the
protection of the walls of the small herbless
enclosure, lest he should be blown and battered
against the barriers of his own raising. From
the lighthouse one gets a commanding view of
the estuary of the Shannon. Looking south-
ward, one descries, if dimly, Kerry Head,
Brandon Mount, and the hills of Dingle pro-
montory, with the summits of Macgillicuddy's
Reeks darkly behind them. Northward lie the
mountains of Connemara, and the islands of
Aran well out to sea. A little way below the
Coastguard Station, there is what you may
call either a little island or a huge rock, separ-
ated from the mainland by a narrow but ter-
rific chasm. An enterprising engineer thought
a few years ago he would like to throw a
bridge across it, and he persevered in his task
for about half the distance. He then wearied
either of the labour or the cost, and the in-
tended communication thus stops short mid-
way over the profound black gap and the
SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND. 19
tormented waters. Last year, however, a der-
rick was pushed across, and a small party
landed for the day, leaving behind them a
couple of goats. One we could still descry
calmly grazing, but the other had either died
or been blown out to sea. On the dark nar-
row ledge on each side of the rocky chasm,
all the way down innumerable puffins were
congregated, as restless in their flight, and as
melancholy in their cry, as the waters over
which they skim, or into which they fitfully
dive and awhile disappear.
It takes some time to get beyond the im-
pression of such a scene, even though one may
have left it, visually, behind ; and I could still
hear those pairing sea - birds, and still see the
sweeping, swirling coils of strandless water
running in and out of the black honeycombed
abysses, until the bay and village of Carriga-
holt, and the hamlets of Cross and Kilbaha,
obliterated the reminiscence by stimulating the
senses to receive fresh sights and sounds. I
was greatly surprised at finding so many
National Schools in so wild and poorly popu-
20 SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND.
lated a district as that between Loop Head
and Kilkee; and I noticed that, almost in
every instance, an older, meaner, and thatched
building had been superseded by a new, larger,
and more commodious one of stone and slate.
In the afternoon of the following day we
crossed the Shannon from Kilrush to Tarbert,
and had occasion to note how a river, nobler
and more inviting in its proportions than any
English stream, be it Thames, or Severn, or
Mersey, showed neither sail nor funnel, and is
practically neglected by the commerce of the
world. The modern rhetorician, primed with
statistics, and animated by conventional convic-
tions, might doubtless produce, and, for any-
thing I know of, may frequently have produced,
a striking effect on the platform by dwell-
ing on this conspicuous fact, and out of it
manufacturing another Irish grievance. But I
think I can perceive that, in presence of the
many painful phenomena and perplexing problems
that owe their origin to high - pressure enter-
prise and material development, it is gradually
becoming pardonable to hint that Civilisation,
SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND. 21
as properly understood, is not necessarily iden-
tical with huge cities, countless factories, and
interminable goods - trains. I am aware that
the English ideal of life is, or has been till
quite recently, that every man, woman, and
child should get as much work out of himself
as he possibly can, and should in turn get as
much out of the machines that he produces.
In a word, according to this view, existence
was given us in order that we may be per-
petually active, and by our activity go on in-
creasing what is called the wealth of the world.
Of course, as it is only fair to add, there
underlies this theory the further doctrine or be-
lief that, by the operation thus described, Man
will best expand his intellect and most surely
improve his morals.
An examination of the soundness of this view,
to be of any value, would require no little time
and demand no little space ; and this is not the
moment for it, in any case. But one cannot
travel in Ireland without perceiving that this
so-many-horse-power and perpetual-catching-of-
trains theory of life is not one that is accepted
22 SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND.
by the Irish people ; and I do not think it
ever will be. Their religion, their traditions,
their chief occupations, their temperament, all
of which I suppose are closely allied, are opposed
to it. The saying, " Take it aisy, and, if you
can't take it aisy, take it as aisy as you can,"
doubtless represents their theory of life ; and,
for my part, if it were a question either of dia-
lectics or of morals, I would sooner have to
defend that view of existence than the so-many-
horse-power one. Far from a wise man getting
all he can out of himself in one direction, he
will, it seems to me, rigidly and carefully ab-
stain from doing so in the interests of that
catholic and harmonious development which re-
quires that he should get a little out of himself
in every direction. One would not like to assert
that the bulk of the Irish people are " harmoni-
ously developed." But neither, if one may be
permitted to say so, are the English or the
Scotch people; and as, in reality, all three
probably err by lob -sided activity or lob -sided
inactivity, it still remains to be seen whether
too much perpetual-catching-of- trains or too much
SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND. 23
taking-it-aisy is, on the whole, the wiser course,
and the less insane interpretation of the pur-
port and uses of life. I fear one is not an im-
partial judge ; for, when one continually hears
the Irish upbraided with sitting on gates or walls
and doing nothing, one remembers that some of
us in England likewise sit on gates and walls
and do nothing, and are greatly addicted to that
pastime. But whether taking-it-aisy, or for ever
trying to beat the record, be the best use to
make of life, certain it is that the English,
speaking generally, hold the one theory, and the
Irish, speaking generally, hold the other, and
manifest little or no intention of abandoning
it. Unfortunately, Englishmen are not satisfied
with being allowed to hold their own view of
life. We cannot help trying to force it on the
acceptance of other people ; and, if they prove
recalcitrant, we at once regard them as inferior,
because they are different from ourselves. Our
religion, our manners, our morals, our way of
conducting business, our pace, our goal, are ours,
and therefore must be the best. No doubt it
is this masterful narrowness that makes us an
24 SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND.
imperial and a conquering race. But should we
not do well to interpret parcere subjectis as in-
cluding some consideration for the conceptions
of life and duty entertained by the peoples we
have annexed ? Failing to do so, we find our-
selves baffled, all the same. There is a feminine
power of passive resistance in the Celtic race
which all our masculine Saxon imperiousness has
not overcome. The Virgilian curis acuens mor-
talia cor da applies but imperfectly to the major-
ity of the Irish people, who quietly refuse to
be prodded and sharpened into exertion beyond
a certain point, let heaven send them what
cares and difficulties it may. No doubt, an agri-
cultural people always take life more easily
than a manufacturing people. One cannot well
live habitually in the presence and within the
influence of Nature without imbibing and finally
imitating something of her deliberation and serene
patience. Man may increase the pace of his
machine-made wheels and pistons, but he cannot
compel or induce Nature to go any faster.
Neither, beyond a certain point which is soon
reached, can he force her to be more wealth-
SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND. 25
producing, as the most recent results of high
farming plainly show. The bulk of the Irish
people are bred and wedded to the soil, the
air, the seasons, the weather, mist, hail, sun-
shine, and snow ; and familiarity and co-opera-
tion with these help to deepen that pious
Christian fatalism which is innate in their tem-
perament. Therefore they work in moderation,
and with long rests between whiles, rest,
perhaps, not absolutely needed by the physical
frame, but akin to that passiveness which Words-
worth somewhere calls wise. Compare an ordi-
nary English or Scotch with an ordinary Irish
railway station, and the contrast is most strik-
ing. In the latter there is a total absence of
fuss, bustle, expedition, and of a desire to get
the trains off as summarily as possible. Even
the railway porters are of opinion that there
is plenty of time between this and the Day
of Judgment in which to get life's rather un-
important business done, after a fashion.
After leaving Kilkee, I was so anxious to get
to Killarney, and to get there quickly, in order
that we might enjoy the sharp and sudden con-
26 SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND.
trast between the barren grandeur of Clare and
the leafy loveliness of Kerry, that, had it not
been for the foregoing reflections, prompted by
the splendid but sailless Shannon, I might per-
haps have been impatient at the railway dispen-
sation which forbade us to get farther that night
than Tralee. But abiding by the true traveller's
" Levius fit patientia
Quidquid corrigere est nefas,"
I am sure Horace learned that little bit of
wisdom, not in Rome, but at his Sabine farm,
we congratulated ourselves on the easy-goingness
which permitted us to have tea and a couple of
hours at Listowel, to saunter towards sundown
by the banks of the salmon-haunted Feale, and
to gaze at what is left upon its banks of the last
stronghold that held out against Elizabeth in
the Desmond insurrection.
Spring never arrayed herself in beauty more
captivatingly childlike than on the mid -May
morning when we arrived at Killarney. She
had been weeping, half in play, half for petu-
lance ; but now she had put all her tears away,
SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND. 27
or had glorified what was left of them with radi-
ating sunshine. Was it April ? Was it May ?
Was it June ? It seemed all three. But indeed
every month keeps reminiscences of the one that
precedes and cherishes anticipations of the one
that is to follow it.
" Fresh emeralds jewelled the bare brown mould,
And the blond sallow tasseled herself with gold ;
The hive of the broom brimmed with honeyed dew,
And springtime swarmed in the gorse anew."
There is no such gorse in wealthy Britain as en-
riches the vernal season in Ireland. I had come
to that conclusion from what I had seen in
King's County, in West Meath, and in Clare
itself; but they in turn seemed poor in this
opulent flower compared with the golden growth
all about Mahony's Point and many another
open space near Killarney Lake. Yet, at the
same time, here was
" June blushing under her hawthorn veil."
For Ireland is the land of the white as well as
of the black thorn. But indeed of what wild
flower that grows, of what green tree that
28 SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND.
burgeons, of what shrub that blossoms, are not
the shores and woods and lanes and meadows of
Killarney the home ? Such varied and vigorous
vegetation I have seen no otherwhere ; and
when one has said that, one has gone far to-
wards awarding the prize for natural beauty.
But vegetation, at once robust and graceful, is
but the fringe and decoration of the loveliness
of that enchanting district. The tender grace
of wood and water is set in a framework of hills,
now stern, now ineffably gentle, now dimpling with
smiles, now frowning and rugged with impending
storm, now muffled and mysterious with mist,
only to gaze out on you again with clear and
candid sunshine. Here the trout leaps, there
the eagle soars, and, there beyond, the wild deer
dash through the arbutus coverts, through which
they have come to the margin of the lake to
drink, and, scared by your footstep or your oar,
are away back to crosiered bracken or heather-
covered moorland. But the first, the final, the
deepest and most enduring impression of Killar-
ney is that of beauty unspeakably tender, which
puts on at times a garb of grandeur and a look
SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND. 29
of awe only in order to heighten, by passing
contrast, the sense of soft insinuating loveliness.
How the missel-thrushes sing, as well they may !
How the streams and runnels gurgle and leap
and laugh ! For the sound of journeying water
is never out of your ears, the feeling of the moist,
the fresh, the vernal, never out of your heart.
My companion agreed with me that there is
nothing in England or Scotland as beautiful as
Killarney, meaning by Killarney its lakes, its
streams, its hills, its vegetation ; and, if moun-
tain, wood, and water, harmoniously blent, con-
stitute the most perfect and adequate loveliness
that Nature presents, it surely must be owned
that it has, all the world over, no superior. I
suppose there is a time when tourists pass
through Killarney. Happily it had not com-
menced when we were there. But I gathered
that they come for but a brief season ; and a
well-known resident and landowner, to whom
we were indebted for much that added to the
inevitable enjoyment of our visit, told me that
he had in vain tried to provide himself with a
few neighbours, by maintaining and even fur-
30 SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND.
nishing some most attractive and charmingly
placed dwellings on his estate. It is so far away,
so remote from London. And then it is Ireland.
To portray scenery by language is not possible,
often as the feat has been attempted in our time.
The utmost one can do is to convey an impres-
sion of beauty, grandeur, or picturesqueness ; and
one would but use familiar epithets and adjectives
to but little purpose, were one to attempt to
depict in words what one saw on Long Island,
at Muckross Abbey, at Tore Waterfall, in the
Lower Lake, the Upper Lake, the Long Range,
or what one gazed out on at Glena Cottage,
where we found tea and Irish slim -cakes pro-
vided for us in a sitting-room silently eloquent
of the taste and refinement of its absent mistress.
Equally futile would it be to try to describe the
eight hours' drive from Killarney to Glengarriff
by Kenmare Bay. I can only say to everybody,
"Do not die without taking it." As for Glen-
garriff, I scarcely know how any one who goes
there ever leaves it. For my part, I have been
there ever since. It is a haven of absolute beauty
and perfect rest.
SPUING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND. 31
I came to the conclusion at last that the reason
why, though Ireland is more beautiful still than
Britain, it is less travelled in and less talked
about, is that it has never produced a great poet,
a great painter, or even a great novelist, I mean
one who has sung or depicted the beauties of
Ireland so as to excite general enthusiasm about
them. Carent vate sacro. The crowd have not
been bewitched into going to Ireland ; and in-
deed, if they went, the crowd would never dis-
cover loveliness for themselves, or at least never
apprehend its relation to other loveliness. I hope
I shall not give offence to a race I greatly ad-
mire, if I say that Irishmen do not seem to love
Ireland as Englishmen love England, or Scotch-
men Scotland. If Tom Moore had only loved
Ireland as a poet should love his native land,
he might have brought its extraordinary charm
home to the world, and made its beauty univer-
sally known. I am sure the Vale of Cashmere
is not lovelier than Innisfallen and all that sur-
rounds it ; but, for want of intimate affection,
he wrote of both in precisely the same strain
and style, insensible to local colour, local form,
32 SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND.
local character, and in each case satisfying him-
self and asking us to be satisfied with vague
dulcet adjectives and melodious generalities. But
in truth I doubt whether the Irish are a poetical
people, in the higher sense. They have plenty
of fancy, but little or no imagination ; and it is
imagination that gives to thought, feeling, and
sentiment about a country a local habitation
and a name. The Irish are too inaccurate to
produce poetry of the impressive and influencing
sort. The groundwork of the highest imagina-
tion is close attention to and clear apprehension
of the fact, which imagination may then, if it
chooses, glorify and transfigure as it will. To
the typical Irishman of whom I am speaking,
the fact, the precise fact, seems unimportant.
He never looks at it, he never grasps it ; there-
fore he exaggerates or curtails, the statement he
makes to you, and indeed the one he makes to
himself, being either in excess or in diminution
of the reality. I am aware that, according to
the habitual conception of many persons, perhaps
of most, exaggeration and imagination are one
and the same thing, or at any rate closely akin.
SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND. 33
There could not be a greater error. Not
only are they not akin, they are utterly alien
to each other. Fancy exaggerates or invents.
Imagination perceives and transfigures.
Equally common is the belief, more especially
in days when pessimism is a creed with some
and a fashion with others, that poetry and sad-
ness are not only closely but inseparably related ;
and, up to a certain point, and within a certain
range of poetry, but necessarily a lower and a
narrower one, that is true. Much beautiful
lyrical and elegiac verse do we owe to sadness ;
but it is unequal to the task of inspiring and
sustaining the loftier flights of the poetic im-
agination. The Athenians were not sad. The
Germans are not sad. The English are not sad.
They are serious, which is a totally different
thing; and, as I have ventured to assert, the
Irish character, though sad, is noticeably want-
ing in seriousness. Be it observed too, in pass-
ing, that serious people are accurate of course,
as far as human infirmity will permit. But, as
regards poetry and sadness, did not Euripides
long ago say, in " The Suppliants," that it is well
34 SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND.
the poet should produce songs with joy ; and did
he not ask how, if the poet have it not, he can
communicate delight to others? The joy here
spoken of is not a violent nor a spasmodic joy,
which is own brother to sadness, but a serene and
temperate joy, such as Tennyson had in his mind
when he wrote concerning the poet :
" He saw through life and death, through good and ill,
He saw through his own soul."
I was again struck by the superiority of Irish
scenery to its reputation, when, passing round
from west to south, I found myself on the Black-
water. What Englishman has not seen Warwick
Castle, and to whom are its romantic position
and imposing aspect not household talk ? How
many Englishmen have seen, or even heard
of, Lismore ? To my surprise and shame, I sud-
denly discovered that Lismore concerning which,
I will be bound to say, most persons, if interro-
gated, would vaguely reply, "Lismore ? Lismore ?
It belongs to the Duke of Devonshire, does it
not ? " is more beautiful than Warwick, and
almost as picturesque. It was my good fortune
to spend several days in a charming and hospit-
SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND. 35
able house, whose spacious grounds slope gradu-
ally down to the Blackwater, where that noble
stream is a quarter of a mile broad ; passing
on one side the ruined Castle of Tourin, and on
the other the woods of Dromana, through which
one galloped, as only Irish horses will gallop,
over rough and uneven ground, for the better
part of two hours, without coming to the end
of them. What strikes one in Ireland is the
abundance of everything, the "lots to spare,"
what Irish people call " lashins." Flower-garden,
kitchen-garden, pleasure-garden alike, are invari-
ably much larger in Ireland in proportion to the
size of the domain than in England. An Irish
acre is about the very least anybody apparently
has ever troubled himself to enclose for vegetables
and fruit ; and frequently this handsome allow-
ance is exceeded where, from the domestic con-
ditions, you would have thought it considerably
in excess of the needs of the family. This super-
fluous and prodigal assignment of space frequently
leads to a good deal of untidiness ; but Irish
people seem to prefer waste places and neglected
corners to prim parsimoniousness. But it must
36 SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND.
not be supposed that all establishments in Ireland
are untidy and uncared-for. I saw several gar-
dens, not only near Dublin, like Lady Ardilaun's
beautiful one of St Ann's at Clontarf, but in the
most remote and rustic parts of Ireland, that
would hold their own against the best-kept ones
in England. In the grounds of the house on the
Blackwater to which I have alluded, I found the
most effective spring-garden I ever saw, the Irish
climate being peculiarly favourable to spring and
early summer gardening, where man seconds with
any pains the bounty and geniality of Nature.
One must go to the most favoured spots in the
south of Devonshire to meet, in England, with
such flowering-shrubs, such rhododendrons, such
out-door azaleas as abound all over the west, the
south, and even the east of Ireland. At the
same time, with Irish gardens and gardening,
as with most other Irish things, " taking-it-aisy "
is the general law. The result is far from being
disastrous, where neglect and unkemptness have
not been carried too far. Many a fair and pre-
cious flower is coddled and cultivated out of
existence in these trim and orderly days ; and I
SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND. 3*7
shrewdly suspect that the greater part of the
old-fashioned herbaceous plants which have re-
cently come into favour with all of us, and which
had died out in most parts of England, have
been brought back from Irish gardens, where
they have always flourished undisturbed and
unsuperseded. I can say for myself that I am
indebted to the sister island for several new,
otherwise old, herbaceous flowers ; for, as we
all know, Irish people are never happier than
when they are giving what they have got.
One wishes that this love of flowers, which
educated folk in Ireland exhibit in so marked a
manner, was felt by its peasantry. Could their
whitewashed cottages but have little gardens in
front of them, instead of what they call " the
street," which consists of a dunghill-tenanted bit
of roughly-paved, and not always paved, ground
that abuts on the road ; could they be got to
plant creepers against their walls, to cherish a
climbing rose, to embower their porches in honey-
suckle, Ireland would, as if by enchantment, be
an utterly transformed country to travel in. But
just as its people, in many respects so gifted,
38 SPUING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND.
have little imagination, so have they little feel-
ing for beauty. After leaving the country of the
Blackwater, I found a warm welcome in Queen's
County from one who is indeed a Lady Bountiful,
and well known as such, and who is doing her
utmost to get the peasantry to understand the
charm and refining influence of flowers, just as
she has employed almost every known device
for adding to the grace and dignity, as well as to
the material comfort, of their lives. If she suc-
ceeds, as I fervently hope she may, she will indeed
have been a benefactress to the people among
whom she lives, and who, I could perceive, are
not insensible to her large, catholic, and unosten-
tatious interest in them. I had always imagined
that Kent has no superior as a habitat for wild-
flowers. But all that I know at home of floral
woodland beauty fades into insignificance when
compared with the miles on miles of bluebells,
under secular timber of every kind, through
which she led me on the evening of my arrival.
At last I saw Fairy Land, not with the mind's
eye, but with the bodily vision ; and not for days
did the colour of that seemingly endless tract of
SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND. 39
wildwood hyacinths fade from the retina. Here
again was another, and perhaps the most sur-
prising, instance of the lavishness, the abundance
of everything in Ireland, of which I have spoken,
and the complete ignorance on the part of English-
men of what Ireland has to show in the way of
natural and cultivated beauty, which they are
supposed, not unjustly, to love so dearly.
No country is beautiful throughout, but I
cannot agree with the opinion I have heard ex-
pressed so frequently that the centre of Ireland
is ugly. For my part, I have yet to see an ugly
country where it still remains country ; and I
cannot understand how any rural tract can be
otherwise than enchanting to the eye that has
ample colour in the foreground and the middle
distance, and boasts a mountain horizon. Alike
in Queen's County, in King's County, and in
Westmeath, the Slieve Bloom Mountains are
rarely out of sight ; and I observed more than
once, in the Kght and shade of their ample folds,
effects of colour such as I had hitherto seen only
in Italy. I spent a delightful morning, wander-
ing tracklessly and aimlessly over a portion of
40 SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND.
the Bog of Allen, which strongly reminded me
of the wetter portions of the Yorkshire moor-
lands familiar to my childhood. But, apart alto-
gether from the glamour of association, I saw in
its colour and its character, in its heather, its
bog-cotton, its bilberry leaves and blossoms, an
effective and unusual contrast to the golden
gorse, to the patches of green oats, to accidental
clumps of timber, and to the irregular barrier of
purple hill -land in the immaterial distance. It
was pleasant to pay a visit to a property in that
part of Ireland, the owner of which was, for
thirty years of his manhood, engaged in admin-
istering the affairs of many millions of her
Majesty's subjects in India, and who, now that
in the course of nature he has come into his
inheritance, spends his days, his pension, and his
savings in improving the old home and de-
veloping his estate, instead of hanging about
London Clubs and trying to extract diversion
from the hackneyed amusements of society.
Will those who come after him do the same?
Let us hope so ; for what Ireland most wants is
the presence, the love, and the encouragement
SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND. 41
of its own children. I found the majority of
landowners with whom I talked in favour of the
compulsory sale and purchase of holdings ; and
when I asked if they did not think this would
finally deplete Ireland of its rural gentry, which
would be a culminating curse to it, they one and
all expressed the opinion that it would have no
such effect, since the expropriated landlords would
retain the house, the demesne, and what we call
in England the home farm, and would live on
excellent terms with the farmers and the peas-
antry, once the burning question of the tenure
of land was extinguished.
It has frequently been said to me, when extol-
ling the extraordinary beauty and natural charm
of Ireland, " But what a climate ! It rains in-
cessantly." This assertion is one of the exag-
gerations incidental to ignorance or to very partial
knowledge. Most persons of one's acquaintance
who live habitually in London abuse the English
climate, which, I humbly venture to assert, is
the best climate in the world. The climate is
good, though the weather may sometimes be
bad ; just as in Italy and kindred countries, the
42 SRRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND.
weather is generally good, but the climate is
usually the reverse of pleasant, being almost
either excessively hot or excessively cold, or,
thanks to conflict between sun and wind, both
one and the other at the same time. One cannot
well conceive of an agreeable climate without a
certain amount of rain. Londoners, who do not
like to have their hats injured or their boots
soiled, and to whom the beauty of Nature, as
not being within sight, is a matter of complete
indifference, consider the weather good when the
pavements are clean and the sky cloudless. But
that is a characteristically narrow view of the
matter. It may be that Ireland has too much
of a good thing in respect of rain. But there is
a quality of mercy in Irish showers, which are,
for the most part, of the soft sort sent by
southerly or westerly breezes. We had abun-
dant sunshine at Killarney ; but I remember
greatly enjoying a tramp in the rain one wet
morning up to Aghadoe and Fossa. I cannot
understand why people abuse rain as they do.
It is one of the most beautiful, as well as one of
the most precious, of Nature's gifts. Watch it
SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND. 43
beginning to fall on the silvery water, making
delicate fretwork of the dinted surface, which,
as it falls faster, becomes a sheet of dancing
diamonds. Then the watery spears slacken, and
gradually cease to descend, and the lake resumes
its silvery serenity as though nothing had hap-
pened. I say it rained that morning, and on
into the early part of the afternoon ; and what a
goodly sight were the young children, the girls
especially, making haste homeward from school,
with bare legs and bare heads, save that some of
the girls cowled the latter with their picturesque
shawls, lest they should be caught in another
shower ! It might have rained all day, for any-
thing I cared, after the comfort I had gleaned
from the stockingless legs and unbonneted heads
that went withal with comely garments and well-
washed faces ; and I came to the conclusion that
Irish rain is warm as an Irish welcome, and soft
as an Irish smile. But by three o'clock in
Ireland the children leave school, I observed, at
that early hour the clouds melted into thin
air; and what Killarney then was for hour on
hour, till the gloaming deepened into starlight,
44 SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND.
I shall never forget, but should vainly attempt to
No eulogy of the attractions of Ireland would
be complete that did not bear grateful testi-
mony to the hospitality of its people, the
example of which seems to be imitated even
by those who go to dwell there only for a
time. On first arriving at Dublin, anxious as
I was to push on into the interior, I could
not well reject the graceful welcome that kept
me a willing prisoner for several days in a
comely home, surrounded by a beautiful garden
and exquisite grounds, not far from the Vice-
regal Lodge; and, on reaching the Capital
again on my way homeward, it was difficult
to get away from the hearty hospitality of the
brilliant soldier, himself an Irishman, who had
just published the first instalment of that im-
portant biography on which he had for years
been working, amid a thousand distractions of
public duty, private friendship, and social inter-
course, with characteristic tenacity; and the
popularity of which, added to the distinction
its author has won as an active and successful
SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND. 45
soldier, justifies one in enrolling him among
those quibus deorum munere datum est the
original, it will be remembered, only says aut
-facere scribenda, et scribere legenda.
My parting exhortation, therefore, naturally
is " Go to Ireland, and go often." It is a
delightful country to travel in. Doubtless the
Irish have their faults ; I suppose we all have.
Ireland never had, like England, like most of
Scotland, like France, like Germany, like Spain,
the advantage of Roman civilisation and Roman
discipline, by which their inhabitants are still
influenced far more than they dream of. Ireland,
no doubt, is a little undisciplined ; for it has
remained tribal and provincial, with the defects
as with the virtues of a tribal and clannish race.
But the only way to enjoy either a country
or a people is to take it as it is, and not, when
you travel, to carry your own imprimatur about
with you. There is no true understanding with-
out sympathy and love, and Ireland has not been
loved enough by Englishmen, or by Irishmen
either. The direst offence, however, against the
duty they owe to each other would be to sever
46 SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND.
or to weaken the tie that subsists between them ;
and I cannot help thinking it might be insen-
sibly but effectually strengthened, and rendered
more acceptable to both, if Englishmen would
but make themselves more familiar with the
charm of Irish scenery and Irish character.
I have said the Irish seem to be somewhat
deficient in a sense of beauty. Yet I noticed
one gesture, one attitude, as common as the
gorse itself, the gracefulness of which would be
observed if one met with it even in Italy or
Greece. As you drive along the rudest parts
of Ireland, there will come to the open door-
way of a ling-thatched hut a woman, bare-
headed, bare-footed, very quiet and patient of
mien, and she will raise her hand, and with it
shade her eyes, while she gazes on you as you
pass. Then she will return to the gloom of
her narrow home. When I think of Ireland,
now that I have visited it, I seem to see a
solitary figure, that emerges at moments from
a settled twilight of its own, to gaze, but
with shaded eyes, at the excessive glare and
questionable march of English progress.
SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND. 47
WHEN, after making acquaintance with Ireland
in the Spring of 1894, I ventured to express my
admiration of its scenery, its climate, and its
people, and confessed to a keen desire to revisit
them as soon as might be, some of my English
friends said to me, " Leave well alone. Doubt-
less your experience was an exceptionally favour-
able one. You went in May, when the whole
world is beautiful. Perhaps you had an agree-
able travelling companion, and were hospitably
entertained in various parts of the island. Pos-
sibly you had some fine weather. But remem-
ber the fate of the Hebrew Leader, who struck
the rock twice, and was excluded from the
Promised Land. What you saw was new to
you ; and conceivably you took with you a
temperament uncritically alert to fresh impres-
48 SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND.
sions. You have had the good fortune which
happens to few in later life, to foster a new
illusion. Take care to keep it. If you go to
Ireland a second time, it will vanish."
Nevertheless, I went to Ireland a second time ;
and, if the conviction that its mountains, lakes,
rivers, bays, fiords, are unsurpassed in pictur-
esqueness and fascination ; that its climate has
all the charm of vernal caprice, for Spring
never quite leaves Ireland ; that its people,
when approached in a spirit of sympathetic
inquiry, and not in the temper of the drill-
sergeant, are singularly engaging ; and that its
ways, though in many respects not our ways,
repose on a theory of life, a conception of Here
and Hereafter, not to be brushed aside by a
fine air of material superiority, if this con-
viction was an illusion, it is an illusion that
was not weakened, but confirmed, by a second
experience. The first visit I paid to Ireland
was in Spring. The second was in late Summer
and early Autumn. On the former occasion,
I was for the most part in the south and
south - west. On the latter, I was mostly in
SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND. 49
the north - west. But the effect produced was
the same in both instances, and I was as much
delighted with Connemara as with Killarney,
with Achill almost as much as with unequalled
The London and North-Western, that primus
inter pares of the best English railways, enables
one to go to Ireland either by day or by night ;
and having travelled by day on my first visit,
on the second I tried the less agreeable method.
As I stood on the platform of the Euston Station,
I almost felt as if I were already in Ireland ; for
there was everything to remind one that Ireland
is the poor relation of the British Family. The
trains to Holyhead are most commodious, and
the service, though it might be expedited some-
what, is reasonably good. But, to the left of
the platform stood the Irish Mail, and on the
right the Mail to Scotland. What a contrast !
Of course, the Mail to Scotland was to start the
first. Scotland has precedence, as though it
will always be soon enough to get to Ireland.
The Scotch Mail consisted of every conceivable
kind of railway carriage, each a model of sump-
50 SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND.
tuous, almost ostentatious, comfort ; and the
occupants gave like indications of opulent ease.
Footmen, valets, and ladies' -maids moved to and
fro with dignified obsequiousness, instructing
porters solicitous to please as to the disposal
of gun - cases, fishing - rods, and dressing - bags.
Pointers, retrievers, and lapdogs were the object
of the most sedulous attention ; and the young
men of Messrs Smith & Co.'s bookstall carried
none but the smartest editions and the sixpenny
Society papers to the carriage windows. A quiet
signal ; and with equal quietness the glittering
train glided away. We were not to start for
another ten minutes. But, simultaneously with
the departure of our plutocratic kin, the book-
stall was closed. I suppose it was not worth
while to keep it open for humble folk who were
only going to Ireland. There are so many Irish
grievances already, I hope no one will think I
am inventing another. If there were no dogs
in our train, no gun-cases, and only here and
there a fishing-rod, with whom lies the fault ?
From dogs to guns, from guns to valets, from
valets to ladies' -maids and footmen, from valets
SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND. 51
and ladies' - maids to their masters and mis-
tresses, the transition is natural, logical, and
necessary. But, below the dog again, are the
grouse and the black-cock ; and the fishing-rod
reposes on a plentiful substratum of trout and
salmon. Your Scotchman preserves, or suffers
preserving. Your Irishman poaches ; and, being
himself perhaps still a little ferns naturae, he
looks askance at your keepers, your watchers,
and your beaters. And so our train was a
humble one. The poor relation refuses to
amend his poverty on the conditions offered
him by his richer kin. Perhaps he is right.
But it would hardly be fair to manufacture a
grievance out of the consequences of his inde-
On any other steamboat service with which I
am acquainted, should you wish to have a private
cabin it is not always to be had ; and, if you are
allotted it, it is rarely very spacious, and you
invariably pay for it. On the Irish steamers
between Holyhead and Kingstown, if you take
the ordinary precaution of writing to Dublin in
good time, you are sure of a private cabin, both
52 SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND.
large and commodious, and no charge is made
for it, though you will do well, of course, not to
forget the steward. I look on the arrangement
as a foretaste of that Irish hospitality that has
passed into a proverb. By a blunder of my own,
my heavier luggage had been labelled at Euston
only as far as Westland Row, though I was going
on to Kingsbridge, and indeed farther, without
breaking my journey. But, on explaining my
mistake to the luggage-porter on board the boat,
describing the things, and telling him they all
bore a label with name and address written on
them, he begged me not to give them another
thought, for he would find and re-label them in
the course of the transit, and I might count on
their being at Kingsbridge Station. The civility
and attention shown to travellers by the servants
of English railway companies could not be sur-
passed. But, while they seem to be performing
a duty, though performing it most cheerfully, in
Ireland a similar service appears as if it were an
act of personal politeness. Fine manners are
surely some test of civilisation ; and, if that be
so, Ireland is not altogether barbarous, while we
SPUING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND. 53
ourselves, as a community, cannot boast to be,
in every respect, supremely civilised. At the
Kingsbridge Station I breakfasted as well as I
should have done in any railway refreshment-
room in England ; and again I noticed a personal
desire that I should have everything I wanted ;
being treated as a living creature with individ-
ual tastes and peculiarities, not merely as one of
a number of insignificant travelling units. But
then, in order to receive this agreeable deference
and discrimination, I suppose you must yourself
manifest something of it, and exhibit some inter-
est in those who are good enough to find you
interesting because you are a human being.
But the Irish are so casual and inaccurate.
Perhaps they are. I wanted a ticket to Bally-
cumber. The ticket -clerk asked me if Bally-
hooley would do for me. Naturally, I said it
would not ; which evoked the exclamation, " It's
Prospect you're going to." Which it was, only
the ticket was stamped to Prospect and the
station itself is inscribed Ballycumber. I re-
member that, at Westport, on asking why
the train did not start, seeing that it was a
54 SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND.
quarter of an hour after the time named for its
doing so, the answer I received was, " The
engine's gone cold," doubtless during a warm
conversation between the driver and some of his
friends ; and a lady who was in the same com-
partment with me, and overheard the remark,
told me that on the previous day a station-
master had said to the driver of a locomotive as
he steamed in and drew up at the platform,
" Where's your train ? " The man had come
without it. I suppose these casualties cause
inconvenience sometimes, but they contribute
diversion to irresponsible travel. Moreover, one
sometimes reaps advantage from a free-and-easy
system of locomotion. When going from Gal-
way to Recess by the new light railway, I
wanted at Oughterard to look at the river, but
feared I should not be able to do so in the time
allowed for our halt. " Sure, well wait for you,"
said a porter ; and they did. In Ireland people
like waiting. What they do object to is being
hurried. They dislike " tedious haste."
Perhaps the fact that this light railway from
Galway to Clifden was then but newly made,
SPUING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND. 55
and scarcely yet in working order, rendered this
obliging act of civility more feasible. What
constitutes a light railway I do not know, for
the one I speak of, though consisting of only a
single line of rails, apparently resembled all other
railways, save in so far as its stations and the
buildings connected with them are exceptionally
good. The gratitude expressed by the inhabit-
ants of the district for the boon secured to them
by Mr Balfour is very striking. They declare,
and are never tired of declaring, that " he's the
only man who ever did anything for this coun-
try " ; and they wanted to know if there was
any chance of his coming there again, for
" would he not have a fine reception ? " and
when it was explained to them that his brother
was now Chief Secretary, they hoped he was
" the same sort of gentleman." During the next
fortnight I had to hear the changes frequently
rung on this theme ; so that when I got farther
into the land, I could not help thinking what is
known as " Joyce's Country " might not inappro-
priately henceforth be called " Arthur's Country."
The admiration of Ireland I had expressed
56 SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND.
when I first visited it had brought me char-
acteristic offers of gratuitous hospitality from
the landlords of certain inns in Conneinara. But
my steps were not quite in their direction, and
my first halt in that part of the world was at
Recess, a first-rate headquarter for any one who
wants to combine fishing with beautiful scenery.
The Irish Tourists' Association and the Irish
railway companies, acting together, will in due
course endow the most picturesque parts of
Ireland with the conventional model hotel, and
I have no doubt they are wise in their gener-
ation in doing so. I have observed that many
people, in travelling, are anxious, above all
things, to meet with a reproduction, as far as
possible, of the circumstances and conditions
they left at home. That seems odd, since I
should have thought absolute novelty was the
chief charm of travel. Moreover, the best
hotel is necessarily but a bad imitation of
domestic comfort ; whereas a good or even an
indifferent inn atones for inferiority of accom-
modation by freshness of sensation. There is
no necessity for dogmatism in this matter ; and
SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND. 57
I do not doubt that the hotels of Parknasilla,
Kenmare, Waterville, Derrynane, &c., recently
established, will both attract and satisfy numbers
of visitors to the exquisite scenery of Kerry.
In Galway, and in parts of Donegal, similar
accommodation for tourists will be provided.
Only I should like to say a word in favour
of the Inn, as against the Hotel, at least in
the more primitive localities. It has always
seemed to me there is the same difference
between an inn and a hotel that there is
between hospitality and entertaining. One is
at home in an inn ; one is not at home, one
is on sufferance, in a hotel. It may not be
easy to hit the exact distinction between the
two ; but I should think the proprietor ought,
like Phaethon, to take the middle course, and
that most people would rather, when among
the mountains or by the ocean - cliffs, stay or
abide at a rather primitive inn than at a
strictly modern hotel.
Yet perhaps it is dangerous to offer advice
of this kind ; for I perceive an indignant tourist
writes to the ' Times ' because the milk for
58 SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND.
his tea was brought to him in Ireland in a
cup instead of in the orthodox ewer, and he
accordingly counsels holiday-makers to avoid that
country ! Fancy missing magnificent scenery for
such a reason ! I do not think he can have trav-
elled much in Italy, to say nothing of Greece.
The inn at Recess, which I believe has now
been replaced by a more pretentious one, was
then primitive in its service, but otherwise not
open to criticism save of the fastidious and carp-
ing sort. You must not look for division of
labour in Ireland. It is everybody's business
to answer your bell, supposing there to be
one, to clean your boots, or to bring your
hot water, and therefore it will sometimes
happen that it is nobody's business. But you
will never be wrong in asking anybody to do
anything for you, and in time it will be done ;
and I can never understand why people who
seem, in the course of the day, to have so
much time on their hands, should be in such
a hurry to have their needs of the moment
responded to. If honest joints properly cooked,
plain puddings, stewed fruit, good bread, good
SPKING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND. 59
butter, good bacon, eggs without stint, and
tea made with boiling water, do not satisfy
people's appetite, they had better not go for
change of air and scene to the Twelve Pins.
The water for their tub, of a morning, will be
brought them in instalments ; but it will be
brought. If you desire anything more dainty
than I have named, you need not fear to in-
vade the kitchen and take counsel with Miss
Mullarkey. For in Ireland, as in Italy, the
kitchen seems open to anybody, and you meet
people there who have nothing on earth to do
with the establishment. I suppose they bring
news or gossip, have a fowl or a fish to sell,
are the sixteenth -cousin -removed of the great
grandmother of the landlady, or perhaps they
too want a little change of air and scene.
The English idea expressed by the words, " No
entrance here except on business," is unknown
in Ireland. Everybody has business that has
anything to say ; and everybody has something
to say. The English, being a self-satisfied, self-
sufficient, and quietly contented race, and not
in the least terrified by the Universe, whose
60 SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND.
laws they have bitted and bridled and made
to drudge for them, are sufficiently happy in
remaining silent. They do not require the
society of their kind, save for the purpose of
helping to lift a load or overcoming vis inerticB
somewhere. But the Celt, the Irish Celt at
least, when left to himself and the resources
of his own nature, is oppressed and appalled
by the vast unsympathising silence of things,
and falls into lethargic melancholy. He wants
to talk, in order to break the dumb spell of
the surrounding mystery, to forget that he is
a lonely segregated unit in a world of infinite
indifference, and to intoxicate himself for a
time with the idea that he is part of a goodly
company, a protected member of the great human
tribe. Moreover, it is part of his politeness, of
his urbanity, to talk ; and the taciturnity of
the Saxon seems to him inhuman.
The fisherman can hardly do better than make
Recess his headquarters, for he has, within driv-
ing distance, Lough Orid, Lough Inagh, Lough
Derryclare, Lough Ballynahinch, and the rivers
that connect them, at the disposal of his rod.
SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND. 61
On this subject I speak rather as a novice than
as an expert, and express the opinion of others,
gathered on the spot, rather than my own.
But I received the impression, both from per-
sonal experience and from surer sources of in-
formation, that the fishing is, for the most
part, not so good as you would expect it to
be, either from the look of the water or from
the price you have to pay for the privilege
of enjoying it. A day's salmon -fishing costs
fifteen shillings, independently of what you give
the boatmen ; though, for a second rod in the
same boat, you are charged but seven-and-six-
pence. The charge for trout-fishing on the same
conditions is seven -and -sixpence and two- and -
sixpence. No charge is made for the boat, but
you have to pay the boatmen. As a rule, you
have to drive some distance to reach your
" stand," and thus a further addition is made
to the expenses of the day. I think it right
to say all this, lest any one should imagine
he will get sport for nothing. No doubt, there
are loughs, and I daresay streams, that are
free. But they are less accessible, and there-
62 SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND.
fore entail either a considerable amount of pedes-
trianism, or still larger outlay on conveyance.
I believe the enthusiastic fisherman will fish
the air rather than not fish at all, and considers
no distance too great, if he can only cast suc-
cessfully at the end of it. His motto is, "Nulla
dies sine lined" let no day pass without casting
a line somewhere.
To the profane outsider, like myself, fishing
is valued less for the contents of the creel at
the end of the day than for the lake and
mountain, light and shade, sunshine and storm,
river-song, wind-melody, and cloud-architecture,
that are the circumambient accidents of the
so-called gentle craft. I fished, for a long day,
on Lough Grid, and for a short one, on Lough
Inagh, both days of ideal summer weather,
by which I mean windless days, warmed and
enlivened by sunshine, of which you are not too
conscious, since tempered by a few stationary
clouds that lay their grey shadows softly on
the green hillside. Every now and then there
was a rise from a sea- trout, more frequently a
bite from a brown one ; and then, for some
SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND. 63
minutes, the serenity of Nature was forgotten
for the excitement of wearing out arid captur-
ing a pertinacious adversary. The boatmen,
who themselves are of course expert fishermen,
and who spend the dead months in watching
their spawning -beds in lake and river, mani-
fested the liveliest interest in each fresh catch,
the primitive man never losing his zest for
simple pleasures. Thus for him life never palls,
so long as there is a fin in the wave or a
feather in the air. Yet these companions were
very tolerant of one's long fits of absence from
the matter in hand, of one's purposeless listen-
ing to the lapping of the water on the lake-
boulders, to one's lending an attentive ear to
the rustle of the ripening river-reeds, to one's
empty- visaged gazing at the silvery veil that
ever and anon came athwart the face of the
purple mountain -side. On the quietest days
there is nearly always some little wind on a
large-sized lake ; and, while I craved for no more,
they kindly regretted there was not more curl
and a darker colour on the water, so that the
basket might be better filled. But the days
64 SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND.
were not always of that tranquil, transparent
complexion. I must allow that it sometimes
rains in Ireland, but Irish rain is not quite
like other rain. It is, as a rule, softer than
rain elsewhere ; and, if the truth must be told,
I like rain, so long as one has not to say,
" For the rain it raineth every day." Irish
weather is not so much capricious as coquettish.
It likes to plague you, if but to prepare you
to enjoy the more its sunny, melting mood.
It will weep and wail all night ; and lo ! the
next morning Ireland is one sweet smile, and
seems to say, "Is it raining I was yesterday ?
Ah then ! I'll rain no more." And the runnels
leap and laugh, and the pastures and very stone
walls glisten ; the larks carol on their celestial
journey ; there is a pungent, healthy smell of
drying peat ; the mountains are all dimpled
with the joy of life and sunshine ; the lake
lies perfectly still, content to reflect the over-
hanging face of heaven ; and just won't your
Honour buy the stoutest pair of home-made
hose from a barefooted, bareheaded daughter of
dethroned kings, with eyes like dewdrops, and
SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND. 65
a voice that would charm the coin out of the
most churlish purse. If, on such mornings as
these, you do not lose your heart to Ireland,
it must be made of stern, unimpressionable stuff
It takes some time, in ordinary weather, to
fish driftingly from one end of Lough Inagh to
another ; but, when you have done so, the
boatmen bend to their oars, row you back
again, and you reel out a long line on the
chance of your crossing the path of a greedy
gullet. Then, as skill has nothing whatever to
do with the result, you can surrender yourself
without compunction to the contemplation of
that Nature which some people, with an odd
vocabulary of their own, call inanimate. I
should have thought they were the more in-
animate of the two. Look ! the mountains
blush and blanch with deep abiding pulsations
of their own. Listen ! the pebbles, fingered
by the fringe of the miniature billow your keel
has created, give forth Orphic music, whisper-
ing intimations from the under-world and the
over -world, as twilight noiselessly draws its
66 SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND.
curtain of mist around the sleepy hills, and
one bright star looks out of heaven to see if it
be night. Dewy and damp ! damp and dewy !
Homeward now on the outside car that has
been patiently waiting for you. The very even-
ing for four-year-old mountain mutton, a just
quantity of the " craytur," and endless stories
of how this salmon was landed and how that
trout broke away ! How Horace would have
enjoyed it ! As it is, we must make shift
without him, save by apt citation, at which
my travelling companion, notwithstanding thirty
years of administration in India, was a good
deal quicker than at hooking a seven-pounder.
The drive from Recess to Leenane lies along
the shores of Lough Inagh and the banks of the
river Erriff, a fretted framework of mountains,
in which the Twelve Pins form the most notice-
able feature, accompanying you nearly all the
way. Why do not English artists take their
easels, their sketch-books, and their umbrella-
tents, to Ireland ? I have heard some of them
complain that, though English scenery may be
very "nice," and amply supply subject-matter
SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND. 67
for the poet, it is too unpicturesque for the
painter, who must therefore perforce cross the
Alps in search of what he needs. Then let the
picturesque - hunting artist go to Ireland, to
Galway, to Mayo, to Donegal, to Sligo, and he
will find endless variety of form and attitude
in the lofty and irregular hills. If he be in
search of colour, I think he ought to make
Ireland his home. The writer is fairly familiar
with Italy ; and Greece and the ^Egean are
not unknown to him. He once passed a month
at Perugia gazing at the lights and shadows in
heaven and on earth, on the mountains, in the
sky, on the plain, which the great Umbrian
painters have tried to reproduce in the back-
ground of their altar-pieces. But the colouring
on mountain crag, mountain slope, and mountain
gully, on lake-shore and lake-island, on wood
and plain and bog, in Ireland, in intermittent
hours of sunshine, would have shown even
Raphael something more, and imbuec( the land-
scape in Perugirio's frescoes with yet more
tenderness. It is as though all the rainbow
hues of Nature, that fail to find in the uni-
68 SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND.
form sea and sky of the wide Atlantic a fitting
and sufficiently sensitive canvas, discharged their
iridescent loveliness on the mountain- brows of
Connemara and the ocean - fronts of Achill.
There Nature works her own colours on her
own palette with her own dew, the moisture
of the atmosphere renders the task so easy.
Often, no doubt, she seems dissatisfied with
her work, blurs all the picture with mist, or
even, as it were, effaces it altogether with
discontented hand. But that is only in order
to perfect her conception on the morrow ; and,
meanwhile, he must have a very exclusive and
intolerant vision who cannot gaze on the white
veil hanging against that purple mountain with-
out wishing that it would lift.
Go where you will, too, the music of rambling
water is never out of your ears ; and the tawny
crests of the turf-fed runnels are bounding along,
hither and thither, untamed streams that rejoice
in the pathless indiscipline of their going. I
am told the Irish are not a water-loving people,
either for inward or outward application. Per-
haps they think meanly of water, because there
SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND. 69
is so much of it. It falls upon their thatch ;
it beats against their windows ; it drips from
their turf ; it flows past their door ; it splashes
over their bare feet ; it slashes and scourges
their bellowing granite coasts ; it has been
known to fall for more than forty days and
forty nights, yet no one dreams of building
himself an ark. Hercules cleansed the stables
of Augeas in a single day by turning the
rivers Alpheus and Peneus through their stalls.
But Augeas had but three thousand oxen, and
nothing is said of pigs ; and the stalls had
been left uricleaned for only thirty years. How
many head of cattle Ireland has, I suppose we
should know by looking at ' Thorn's Directory.'
But, though it must be nearer three thousand
than thirty years since Ireland was subjected
to a good swilling and scrubbing, it is not,
like Elis, comparatively waterless ; and it has
a thousand streams as copious as Peneus and
Alpheus. Let us not, however, expect the
Hibernian Hercules, should he arise, to make
Ireland clean in a day. Still, could not the
operation be taken in hand? The days when
70 SPUING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND.
dirt was synonymous with devotion have passed
away with the Hermits of the Desert ; and
Roman Cardinals and Monsignori are pictures
and patterns of the cleanliness which is next
to godliness. I trust I shall not give offence
to those who, from their sacred functions, are
entitled to every one's respect, if I venture to
ask if it be not a little surprising to see men
who are engaged in the service of the House
of God, and to whom the care of the very
Altar is committed, going about unshaven and
uncomely, and setting their flocks an example
of what they should surely be enjoined to
avoid, as far as their condition and occupation
will permit ? Could not a privately commu-
nicated Pastoral correct this unseemly spec-
tacle, and sow the seeds of perhaps the most
needed reform in Ireland ? Indeed, only two
things are wanted to make Ireland the most
attractive country in the world : a love of
cleanliness, and a love of flowers. It is dis-
tressing to see cottage after cottage, from one
end of the island to the other, without a
creeper against its walls, without a flower in
SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND. 71
its precincts. I made this observation to an
intelligent Irish commercial traveller in the
coffee - room of the hotel at Westport, where I
had to make an hour and a half's halt ; and
he ingeniously pleaded that any indication of
prosperity on the part of a tenant, which a
cared - for garden enclosure would be, would
only lead to an advance of rent on the part
of the landlord. I pointed out that, even if
this could once have happened, it cannot occur
now, and has been rendered impossible for
several years past. I suppose he did not like
to allow that love of beauty, and the artistic
sense generally, are not noticeably Irish quali-
ties. Nor can it accurately be pleaded that
the struggle for bare existence carried on by
Irish peasants is so severe that they have no
leisure to consider even the less costly refine-
ments of life. Their methods of cultivation
unfortunately leave only too many unoccupied
hours on their hands, and they have far more
time than an English or Scotch labourer to
devote to the refining recreation of gardening.
Another apologist for the flowerlessness of Irish
72 SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND.
peasant dwellings explained to me, trium-
phantly as he thought, that it would be worse
than useless to attempt to grow creepers
against the walls, for the cow, the pig, the
donkey, and even the ducks, would make short
work of them. But what are the donkey and
the pig doing there ? Why is not a little
space enclosed, in front of the house, into
which cows and ducks enter not ? Think of
the labour and the cost of material. What
cost, what labour? Heaven has placed the
materials for stone walls all over Ireland, and
they are quickly run up where oats or potatoes
have to be protected against invasion. How
readily the typical Irish cottage, or hut if you
will, lends itself to the courteous company of
flowers, any one may judge who has happened
to come across a smiling exception to the surly
rule of midden-heaps and duck-ponds. Driving
one day from Moate to Bally cumber, I sud-
denly called to the driver, " Stop ! stop ! "
There was a hut of the ordinary pattern,
with rough whitewashed walls, and a roof of
yellow thatch. But crimson roses and golden
SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND. 73
nasturtiums were clambering up its face, and
marigolds, ten -week stocks, and pansies, were
in full blow in the midst of a carefully mown
piece of turf enclosed by an unmortared wall.
Who does not know the sensation of suddenly
coming across some humble rustic home, that
makes one exclaim, " Here could I live, here
die ! " I had that sensation on gazing on this
comely dwelling. Who lived there ? I asked.
A retired pensioner, I was told. There it is !
Its owner had been drilled and disciplined.
He had been taught order and seemliness, and
from these the advance to some sense and love
of the beautiful is easy, natural, and almost
certain. As it is, the only flowers one sees
near Irish cottages are wild - flowers ; and, at
the time of year in which I saw them, they
were almost wholly ragwort and purple loose-
strife. These are everywhere, in the potato
drills, in the cabbage furrows, among the oats
and the barley, under the walls, on the walls,
and on the slope of many a roof. They have
a certain accidental beauty of their own, but
they are wild - flowers in the wrong place, and
74 SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND.
therefore fail wholly to please. Still, dirt and
desolation are less offensive in the open coun-
try than in narrow, confining streets. I shrink
from dwelling on what these are in some urban
parts of Ireland, and prefer to remember that
its inhabitants would probably say, like Valen-
tine in " Two Gentlemen of Verona "
" These shadowy, desert, unfrequented woods,
We better brook than nourishing populous towns."
Wild -flowers are plentiful in Ireland, but they
are less various than in Britain, by reason, I
presume, of a more uniform geological surface
formation. But for garden flowers Ireland
would seem to be made, both its soil and its
climate singularly favouring their growth ; and
once again, in August, as before in May, I
had more than one occasion of admiring, and
almost of envying, the terraces and the flower-
borders of cultivated and refined Irish homes.
Every lady in Ireland seems to be an expert
in the art of making and tending a garden
its cultivation there not being remitted, as too
frequently happens in England, to the hired
SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND. 75
service of men who regard orchids and pine-
apples as the crowning triumphs of horticul-
ture. In Ireland, to admire is to receive ; and
I believe I might have brought away with me
all the herbaceous plants I saw, could I have
carried them on my back. Efforts are being
made here and there to imbue the peasantry
with a love of flowers ; but I did not observe
many indications of success. A sense of beauty
is a plant of slow growth in rudimentary
Once in the country through which I kept
driving, you cannot go wrong, if you are in
quest of beautiful scenery. You may drive be-
tween Lissoughter and Derryclare, by the valley
of Lough Inagh, to Kylemore, or between the
Twelve Pins and the Maam Mountains, with the
Atlantic in front of you, or to Letter frack, and
round to Killery Bay. But indeed the excur-
sions that may be made are endless in number ;
and cars are always at hand. If I am asked,
does my liking for Ireland extend to outside cars,
I cannot say that it does. Irish people will tell
you, if you talk of its unfriendliness, that it is
76 SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND.
" Cupid's own conveyance " ! But as the God of
Love is not always the driver, and the Graces are
not invariably one's companions, one has the
choice of being unsociable if there happen to be
two of you, by sitting one on each side of the car,
or of being uncomfortable by both of you occupy-
ing the same seat. When luggage likewise has
to be carried, the space left for the traveller
becomes yet more limited ; and, in a good pro-
longed downpour, it requires some ingenuity to
protect yourself against a wetting. It is to be
done, however, as I proved, one afternoon, when
we drove to Kylemore, and it rained in that
dogged universal manner that leads you to feel
it is going to rain henceforward evermore. But I
had faith in the fascinating caprice of Irish
weather, and won my companion over to my
proposal that, the rain notwithstanding, we
should not return to Leenane, then our head-
quarters, by the same road we had already
traversed, but follow a new if longer one by
Letterfrack, Sal Ruck Pass, and Lough Fee.
For a while I feared to be reproached for my
obstinate ambition, for one could see no farther
SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND. 77
than the whalebone of one's umbrella ; and I
gladly accepted the suggestion that, while our
horse had his mouth washed out with oatmeal-
and-water, and the driver refreshed himself with
something more potent, we should enter a good-
sized cottage, and cheer ourselves at the turf fire
we should be sure to find. There it was, sure
enough, with the caldron of potatoes steaming
over it, a shock - headed young boy curled up
asleep on a bench close by it, and the mother and
two pretty shy young daughters going about the
household work. It was not their business to
give us anything ; but they boiled water, and
gave us tea, and offered us far more than we
wanted from their larder. Resuming our journey,
we soon caught the sound of the sea leftward, and
followed for miles the corroded and indented
cliffs that confront the full shock of the Atlantic.
The rain softened to intermittent showers, and
then these gathered themselves up and retired
into the deeper hills, and the sun came out anew,
and over little lake after little lake ran the wind,
gleaming and glittering. At the head of Killery
Bay, which is ten miles in length, and which,
78 SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND.
when the tide is not running in, looks rather a
wandering and widening river than an arm of the
sea, are the hamlet of Leenane and Mr M'Keown's
hotel, than which no English inn could be
managed in a more business-like manner. Not
having notified him beforehand of our coming, I
had to put up with a bedroom of somewhat
narrow dimensions ; but I was speedily reconciled
to it by the characteristically optimistic observa-
tion of the chambermaid, " Sure, you'll be nearer
to your things." Even in parts where the tourist
is now beginning to penetrate, the native humours
of the land still linger. One morning, while at
Leenane, I went fishing for two or three hours in
the river Monterone, which, if given its full quota
of syllables, sounds as though one were in Italy ;
and, curiously enough, Delphi is hard by. On
returning from the expedition, I asked the waiter
what I should give the youngster who had accom-
panied me. " Eighteenpence " was his answer.
" Give him two shillings," I said. He returned
directly, saying, " Please, sir, it's half-a-crown."
I daresay some people would attribute this odd
trait to an extortionate spirit. I interpret it
SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND. 79
quite differently. The Irish temperament dislikes
accuracy, and at the same time wishes to please.
He imagined he would please me by naming the
smaller sum, and then that he would please the
boy by naming the larger one, though he might
just as well have done this at first. But he and
his kin prefer a roundabout road to a straight one.
It is more entertaining, and fills up more time.
Do not the roads in Ireland travel circuitously, in
order to go round the bog-land, and the minds of
its people journey in much the same fashion. I
have sometimes thought they look on inaccuracy
as a form of politeness, and would regard it as
English rudeness and dogmatism to pin you down
at once to a precise fact. When, a few days
later, on going from Achill Sound to Dugort, I
asked the boy who was driving me what age he
was, he answered, " Fifteen or sixteen " ; cour-
teously leaving me a latitude of choice. I
remember, too, that when, at Recess, I wanted,
for my own arbitrary preference, to alter an
arrangement in regard to the fishing that had
been made for us overnight, and was feeling my
way as to whether I was face to face with a law
80 SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND.
of the Medes and Persians, receiving the answer,
" Sure, you must be pleased," first. That seems
to me to be the sentiment that animates every
one in Ireland. Is it not conceivable that we
impregnate the air of the places where we live
with our own characteristics, our virtues, defects,
and foibles ? That would explain why Irish
scenery and the Irish atmosphere feel so kindly.
They are inhabited by an amiable people.
Grouse - shooting, that used not to begin in
Ireland till the 20th of August, now commences,
as in England and Scotland, on the 12th ; and so,
at Westport, I lost my travelling companion, and
went on to Achill alone. The day, a goodly
portion of which had been spent in driving
leisurely from Leenane to Westport, had been
one of exquisite beauty ; but, as I drew nearer,
towards sundown, to the island of which I had
heard so much, a melancholy mist began to
suffuse, without hiding, sea, shore, and mountain-
ranges. Diminutive island after diminutive
island bulged out of the ocean like green
amphibious megalosauri, half embedded in the
sand and mud, half indolently inhaling the
SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND. 81
moisture of the air. Stone walls, white huts,
and potato-patches, illumined by the ubiquitous
yellow ragwort, looked drearier than ever in the
gloom of the dripping gloaming ; and, gazing out
on the formless and pastureless expanse of in-
extricably blended mountain and main, one felt
that here at last was Ultima Thule, the very end
and desolate boundary of things.
At Achill Sound one quits the railway, and
approaches the island across the iron bridge
which spans the narrow creek that here separates
Achill from the mainland another of the boons
conferred on this part of Ireland during Mr
Balfour's Chief Secretaryship. I was bound for
Dugort, some nine miles distant, to the north of
the island, and was vigorously competed for by
the driver of a long car belonging to Mr Sheridan
of the " Slievemore Hotel," and by a young boy,
the same who declared himself to be fifteen or
sixteen, with an outside car belonging to Mr
Sheridan, a brother of the former, of the " Sea
View Hotel " ; and, as the youngster offered to
take me and my luggage for the same fare I
should have paid on the long car, I closed with
82 SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND.
his offer, and away we went. He was driving
a mare only three years old ; but by dint of
incessant " Git an, out o' that ! " he managed to
get her over the ground, though I should think
the nine miles were made twelve by the ser-
pentine nature of her progress. How it rained !
But I got to Dugort with a dry skin an hour
before the long car, whose passengers, I after-
wards heard, had been less fortunate. The Celt
always prefers the more sonorous word, and
therefore the two little inns at Dugort are
Hotels. But at the one where I descended I
met with an inn-warm welcome, and discovered
the next morning that various kindly little offices
had been performed for me, on my arrival, by
a comely looking girl who had no call to see
to my wants, since she was the nurse - maid of
some guests who had arrived the day previ-
ously, but to whom it seemed perfectly natural,
at my request, to lend a hand to my better
comfort. On my apologising for my mistake,
she only said, "Sure, I'd only be too pleased
to do anything for you." She afterwards told
me she came from Ballina, pronounced Ballina,
SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND. 83
which I had at one time hoped to see in the
course of my visit, for, as she said, and indeed
I had already heard, it is charmingly placed on
the river Moy, three miles above Killala Bay,
and affords first-rate fishing. The last thing I
heard at Dugort, when I drove away, was from
this obliging handmaiden, as, dandling in her
arms the youngest of her charges, she made
the morning musical with the speeding words,
"Come to Ballina!"
There was a broken pane, provisionally mended
with brown paper, in my bedroom, and the rain
slashed it all night long without, however, pene-
trating farther. But the room was spacious,
the bed perfectly clean, perhaps the floor was
not equally so, and, by sunrise, the storm had
blown and beaten itself out, and day broke
and broadened with the clearness and bright-
ness of Irish eyes. I have never had better
fare, of the simple sort, than at Dugort ; and
London epicures now know no such mutton as
was served me both there, at Achill Sound, and
at Westport. Mrs Sheridan was in Dublin, in-
valided for the moment ; and the cooking was
84 SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND.
done by her daughter, a girl in her sixteenth
year, and everything she did, she did carefully
and to perfection. So much for my experience
of the alleged happy-go-lucky slovenliness of
Irish inns, in one of the most primitive parts
of the country. Nor was I less agreeably sur-
prised by the aspect of its inhabitants and its
fields. It is true that everybody said the crops
were the best known for fifteen years ; but the
present condition of the people is necessarily
the result of many bygone seasons, and I saw
no traces of destitution during my brief sojourn
on the island. It is only twenty miles in its
widest part ; and I both drove and walked over
much of it. The morning after my arrival I
went to Keem Bay, and met hundreds of men,
women, and children on their way to Mass.
The chapels are not in the villages, but at
some solitary spot equidistant from a certain
number of these, and at a convenient distance
from them all. All the people I met were well
dressed ; some were on horseback, a man and
his wife or daughter riding pillion -fashion, and
some being conveyed on private cars. I talked
SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND. 85
with an old fellow who had been, he said,
twenty-seven years with Captain Boycott, when
the latter lived in Achill ; and he still chuckled
over his recollections of the actions for trespass,
"many's the law I've seen," was his way of
putting it, at the Westport Assizes, and over
the manner in which he got the better of the
great lawyers when giving his evidence. He
bore spontaneous testimony to the material im-
provement that has taken place in the condition
of the people in his time ; and, like many an-
other of his class that I talked with in the
course of my visit, whose testimony, however,
would be more valuable but for their racial
wish to be agreeable to the person they happen
to be with, he averred that people no longer
want Home Rule, one woman called it " that
dirty thing, Home Rule," and that until lately
they had " not quite understood it." " What
'ud we do without England ? " he said. " Sure
the English I've seen are as good as the Irish
and better." He had been called on to pay
half-a-crown " cess," in consequence of the shock-
ing and yet remembered outrage in the island ;
86 SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND.
which he recognised as perfectly just, but felt
to be a most unwelcome tax. Every now and
then there waxed and waned a silvery shower,
from which we took efficient shelter under some
overhanging rock along the mountainous coast
foot - track : and then the ocean laughed into
dimples again, running up to suddenly seen
creeks and bays of yellow sand, and weltering
more austerely round remoter islands, Innisturk,
Innisboffin, Ben Mullet, and many a nameless
ait and promontory. Well could I believe that
somewhere among them, though now by en-
chantment rendered invisible to the eye of man,
is the beautiful island, flowing with milk and
honey, where Saint Brendan and his companions
dwelt happily for seven years, and which will
yet again some day surge above the waves.
A more perfect place of holiday resort than
Dugort it would not be possible to imagine.
There are firm yellow sands, where children
may make their mimic dykes and fortresses ;
mountains of moderate height, Slieve Crooghaun
2500 feet, Slievemore of only 2200, for the young
and vigorous to ascend ; easy hill foot-tracks for
SPUING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND. 87
the weaker brethren ; fishing either in smooth or
in rolling water for those who love the indolent
rocking or the rough rise and fall of the sea ;
precipitous and fretted cliffs carved with the
likeness of some time-eaten Gothic fane by the
architectonic ocean ; rides, drives, and walks,
amid the finest scenery of the kingdom. " I
think she prefers Brighton," said a stranger to
me of his companion ; and, if one prefers
Brighton, one knows where to go. But if
Nature, now majestically serene, now fierce and
passionate, be more to you than bicyclettes and
German bands, you can nowhere be better than
at Achill, and starting from London you can
be there in less than twenty-four hours. If you
elect to sleep in Dublin, two easy journeys in full
daylight will take you there. On the morning
of the day I with reluctance quitted it, I went
out with my landlord and two fishermen to
the caves of the Seals, letting out, as we glided
silently over the water, a long line baited only
with a hook and a feather, and ever and again
dragging in a pollock. It was with difficulty
I could persuade myself I was not in the
88 SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND.
Nowhere else have I seen atmosphere,
sea, promontories, and islands, so like the natural
framework of the Odyssey, and I could almost
hear the musical words
ri Zetyvpov, Kekdbovr eVt o'lvojra TTOVTOV.
" There's a seal ! " I exclaimed, but was quickly
corrected by one of the rowers. " No, that's a
muck-morrough," a word that was new to me,
but which meant a porpoise, muck in Celtic
signifying a pig. Thereupon one remembered
that " running amock " means charging like a
wild -boar, after a Hindostanee word for that
animal ; and one pondered on the kinship of
language in the two far - apart extremities of
Britain's imposing Empire. A moment later we
saw seal upon seal, surging, diving, and dis-
porting in the water ; while puffins, grebes, and
the larger and smaller gull revelled in their
unchallenged dominion of shimmering sea and
It is easier to write of a country when you
are moving from inn to inn, than when you are
SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND. 89
the guest of private hospitality. But one of
the charms of Ireland is the heartiness of the
welcome extended to one, not only by relatives
and friends, but by others to whom, before one's
visit, you were almost a stranger. I hope we
are not inhospitable in England ; but our hospi-
tality is, as a rule, and perhaps by virtue of
the very conditions under which we conduct
our lives, measured and formal. From " Satur-
day to Monday," or from " Friday to Monday,"
has become an English country - house institu-
tion. There are no days in the week for com-
ing or going in Irish country - houses. Their
denizens are most eager to welcome the arriving,
most loth to speed the parting, guest. Indeed
I should be disposed to say, " Do not go to an
Irish country - house if you are likely to be in
any hurry to leave it " ; and you will never be
made to feel that you have stayed too long.
In Ireland, to have is to give, and hospitality
there consists in making you free, not only of
all that your hosts possess, but of their time,
their thoughts, their interests. You are made,
in no conventional sense, thoroughly at home
90 SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND.
by people who have all the refinement, all the
travelled experience, and perhaps something
more than all the intelligence, of English folk.
Their interests seem somewhat more elevated
and less personal. I was driven to such reflec-
tions, when visiting on the Blackwater, and in
Queen's County. They were forced on me
afresh, when staying near Lough Mask and
Lough Corrib. What is so pleasing is to find
persons who, not long ago, experienced cruel
and ungrateful treatment from a peasantry in-
flamed against them by malevolent agitators,
and who now find their incomes materially re-
duced by English legislation, expressing them-
selves in no harsh language concerning either,
and cherishing towards the former the most
intelligent indulgence and the tenderest sym-
pathy. 1 was glad, too, to find landowners,
while prepared for legislative proposals that will
probably leave them the owners only of house
and demesne, harbouring no intention, in that
event, of ceasing to live in Ireland for the greater
part of the year. Any economic or agrarian
legislation that deprived Ireland of the soften-
SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND. 91
ing and civilising influence exerted by such
persons would be to inflict on it the direst of
injuries. It is difficult enough already to induce
any save those who are rich enough to use the
island as an occasional happy hunting-ground,
or those who are too poor to shift their tent
at all, to give it the benefit of their presence and
their expenditure. When I speak to my friends
of the natural charm of Ireland, I am reminded
of the difficulties that there attend the educa-
tion of children, of the necessity of sending boys
to English schools and English universities, and
of the expense and inconvenience of despatch-
ing them backward and forward at vacation and
term time. This is one of the considerations,
for there are others, that must, I fear, continue
to deter cultivated persons of moderate means
from living in Ireland, notwithstanding the many
attractions it presents. But, for the holiday-
maker and the tourist, Ireland is already almost
an ideal country, and will be absolutely such
when the various new hotels, now in process of
construction, are open.
No one need wish, and certainly I do not, that
92 SPUING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND.
Ireland should be made a feeble and ineffectual
copy of Great Britain. Opposuit Natura. It
is, and always must remain, an agricultural
country. I do not know that it requires altera-
tion in more than one or two respects. I have
already pleaded for cottage-gardens, and a more
copious use of water. One would like to see
Separatist agitation disappear, and it is at this
moment beginning to subside, for lack both of
audiences and of subject-matter. It is for Eng-
lish statesmen to see that the latter vanishes
altogether. No one can read the history of the
economic relations of Great Britain with Ireland
during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries,
without feeling, if he has any sense of justice,
that reparation is due to Ireland for the mon-
strous commercial fetters in which it was then
for so long a period bound ; and any assistance
wisely and discriminately given to Ireland for
the purpose of stimulating material ameliora-
tion will be neither a bribe nor a dole, but the
restoration of something owing. Nor can it be
other than a reproach to British statesmanship
that there should not exist a reasonably friendly
SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND. 93
understanding between the Imperial Govern-
ment and the priesthood of an eminently Con-
servative Church. An incident was related to
me, while I was in Ireland, by a connection of
my own who was out with his battery of Horse
Artillery during the Manoeuvres held by Lord
Wolseley in Queen's County as Commander- in-
Chief in Ireland, on the eve of his leaving it
for a yet higher post. He had lost a pair of
valuable field - glasses, on which was no name,
having, in the course of the day's exercises,
stupidly left them on the top of a wall. " Go
and ask the priest," some one said to him, " and
you will probably get them back." He followed
the advice, and was at once told that Widow
So-and-so had found them, and would give them
to him on personal application. She had taken
them to the priest, who, I suppose, had told
her she must hand them to the owner, if he
could be found, and that in default of such dis-
covery she might keep them. What sagacious
statesman, indeed what man of sense, would
quarrel more than he could help with so valu-
able an intermediary ?
94 SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND.
Irish ideas are not always the same as English
ideas. But, in so far as they do not conflict with
the moral law, or with the fundamental Consti-
tution of the Realm, they surely are deserving of
consideration in Ireland. On the excuse being
offered for a tailor who had made a badly fitting
suit of clothes, that the customer in question was
a very curiously built man, the answer came
swift and sharp, " Sure, he should have followed
him wheriver he wint." Irish ideas may seem
to some of us curious, for Englishmen have rather
the habit of regarding all ideas other than their
own as curious. But, since we have to fit Ireland
with what is necessary for it, is not that a reason
why we should take extra pains in the perform-
ance of the duty ?
I had to leave on the very eve of the great
Dublin Horse Show. But I saw a Horse Show
at a little place called Moate, that once gave
a night's shelter to Cromwell, at which I was
greatly impressed not only by the lepping,
Anglice, jumping, but by the quality of the
animals, the horsemanship of the riders, and the
extraordinary interest and enthusiasm displayed
SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND. 95
by the company, which consisted for the most
part of gossoons, sitting in their hundreds on
a stone wall that girt the enclosure, and giving
forth a Celtic yell as the horses shirked, cleared,
or missed their jump. There was one handsome
and likely-looking mare that, no doubt from want
of due preparation for this particular kind of trial,
was among those who elected the first course.
Her name was Dairymaid ; and I overheard the
observation behind me, " Dairymaid, is it ? Ah,
well ! she'd better go home and make bootter.
She's no good here." In Ireland, every one can
ride, and every horse can go. What a Reserve
of Light Cavalry Ireland might furnish us, and,
I trust, some day not far off will, when all Irish-
men know and recognise what is for their peace.
In England young colts at grass are nearly always
out in smooth pastures. In Ireland they are
among rocks, and stones, and broken and sloping
ground, and thus acquire a better use of their
legs betimes. Possibly the lime in the subsoil
is good for their bones ; and assuredly the soft
moist climate is all in their favour. Irish horses
have better tempers, and therefore better man-
96 SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND.
ners, than English horses, in consequence no
doubt of the gentler and more patient treatment
they receive. But as one who knows them well
reminds me, " When they are bad-tempered, they
are the '
In an old-world garden in Westmeath, tended
by wise and contented old-world folk, I was
admiring an Osmunda regalis that seemed to
me of amazing dimensions, and was told of the
Irish Princess who once escaped her pursuers
by hiding under one of these graceful ferns.
Is she not crouching there still, half fearing to
come forth ? And will she not now leave her
emerald lurking - place, and accept the warm-
hearted embrace that is offered her by the
worthiest Monarch that ever graced and sancti-
fied a Throne?
SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND. 97
FOR those, and, I fancy, the Irish people for the
most part are among them, who, being endowed
with the lyrical temperament, find in prose an
imperfect medium for the expression of their
deeper feelings, I append the following poem,
written at Dugort, in the Island of Achill, in
the autumn of 1895.
98 SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND.
" WHAT ails you, Sister Erin, that your face
Is, like your mountains, still bedewed with
As though some ancient sorrow or disgrace,
Some unforgettable wrong from far-off years,
Done to your name or wreaked upon your race,
Broods in your heart and shadows all your
So that no change of Season, nor the voice
Of hopeful Time, who bids the sad rejoice,
Can lift your gloom, but you, to kind unkind,
Keep moaning with the wave, and wailing with
" Come, let us sit upon this cliff, we twain,
Whence we may gaze across your soft green
SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND. 99
Girt by the strong immeasurable main,
That, see ! looks up, and sweetens to a smile ;
And you shall talk to me of all your pain,
Through deep blue eyes and dark unbraided
Hooded by wimple that your own hands weaved
When you and Winter last together grieved,
While far beneath our feet the fast foam presses
Round bluff, and creek, and bay, and seabird-
Then, half withholding, yielding half, her gaze,
She smoothed her kirtle under her, and clasped
Her hands about her knees, as one who prays,
Watching the clambering billows as they
At slippery rocks where wild -goats may not
Then fell back foiled, shivered to spray and
And I could see the warm blood of her race
Crimson beneath her weather-beaten face :
100 SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND.
As though her heart would break, her voice
In accents harsh with hate, and brimmed with
sobs, she spoke.
" They came across the sea with greed of spoil,
And drove me hither and thither from fen to
Reaving and burning, till the blackened soil
Waxed bitter- barren as the brine they clomb,
Sterile to seed and thankless unto toil.
Harried and hunted, fleeing through the land,
I hid among the caves, the woods, the hills,
Where the mist curdles and the blind gust
Suckling my hate and sharpening my brand,
My heart against their heart, my hand against
" And ever as I fled, they ever pursued.
They drove away my cattle and my flocks,
SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND. 101
And left me, me a Mother ! to claw for food
'Mong ocean-boulders and the brackish rocks
Where sea-hogs wallow and gorged cormorants
Unroofed my hut, set the sere thatch aflame,
Scattered my hearth-fire to the wintry air,
Made what was bare before stretch yet more
I waxing wilder more they strove to tame,
To force and guile alike implacably the same.
" They would not suffer me to weep or pray :
Upon the altar of my Saints they trod ;
They banned my Faith, they took my Heaven
And tried to rob me of my very God !
And, when I begged them leave me where I lay,
And get them hence, still, still they would not
They reft the spindle from my famished
My kith and kin they drove to other lands,
102 SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND.
Widowed and orphaned me ! And now you
Why all my face is wet, and all my voice is
woe ! "
I crept a little nearer, and I laid
My hand on hers, and fondled it with mine ;
And, " Listen, dear Sister Erin," soft I said,
" Not to the moaning of the salt-sea brine,
Nor to the melancholy crooning made
By thoughts attuned to Sorrow's ancient song
But to the music of a mellower day.
Forgive ! Forget ! lest harsher lips should say,
Like your turf fire, your rancour smoulders
And let Oblivion strew Time's ashes o'er this
" The robber bands that filled the Isle with
Were long since clamped and prisoned in their
SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND. 103
The flesh hath dried and shrivelled from their
Their wild war - standards rotted from their
Their name is nought. 'Tis thus that Time
For all the griefs man fastens on his kind.
The days were dire : his passions swift and fell :
His very Heaven was but a sterner Hell.
His love was thraldom, hatred black and blind,
As headstrong as the wave, as wayward as the
" Nor did alone you suffer. You too dealt
Full many a stroke, too fierce to be subdued
Till you had made the fangs of vengeance felt.
Mercy and truce you spurned, and fed the
Of Celt with Saxon, Saxon against Celt,
Till lust enforced whatever law forbade.
Nay ! do not linger on that painful dream,
But turn and smile ! as when a silvery gleam
104 SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND.
Dimples your loughs that whilom seemed so
And runs along the wave, and glistens and is
" We own our fault the greater, so we now
For balance of that wrong would make amends.
Lift the low wimple from your clouded brow,
Give me your gaze, and say that we are friends ;
And be your mountains witness of that vow,
Your dewy dingles white with blossoming
Your tawny torrents tumbling to the sea :
For You are far the fairest of the Three,
And we can never, never let you go,
Long as your warm heart beats, long as your
bright eyes glow.
" The Triune Flag, none now save Tyrants
That with Imperial peace protects the world,
SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND. 105
Hath by the sinewy sons you bore and bred
Round the wide globe been carried and un-
Where danger greatest, they it was who led,
And stormed death rather than be backward
Now, gaze no more across the western main,
Whose barren furrows hope still ploughs in
Turn Eastward, where, through clouds by sun-
England holds out her hand, and craves to be
" Live your own life, but ever at our side !
Have your own Heaven, but blend your prayer
with ours !
Hemain your own fair self, to bridegroom bride,
Veiled in your mist and diamonded with
We twain love-linked whom nothing can divide !
Look up ! From Slievemore's brow to Dingle's
106 SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND.
From Inagh's lake to Innisfallen's Isle
And GarrifFs glen, the land is one green smile !
The dolphins gambol and the laverocks soar :
Lift up your heart and live, enthralled to grief no
more ! "
DUGORT, ACHILL ISLAND,
PRINTED BY WILLIAM BLACKWOOD AND SONS.
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are, as in the case of its predecessor, in the highest degree poetic ; and the grace,
and wit, and wisdom of its prose narrative and colloquies are diversified by
lyrics of singular sweetness and charm These idyllic colloquies under an
Italian sky form a rich and effective setting for the lyrical jewels with which
they are studded Gems of verse."
ST JAMES'S GAZETTE. "From the poetical 'Invocation' addressed
to the Queen with which the book begins, to the lyric ' Good-night ' with
which it ends, the volume is charming. We have here all Mr Austin's suavity
of diction and delicacy of sentiment, the artistic pleasure in the beautiful, the
true poet's delight in Italy, which, taken together, make a piece of prose
which, in its way, is as near perfect as may be."
WESTMINSTER REVIEW." A most exquisite book. We prefer it
even to The Garden that I Love. Some of the lyrics may bear comparison
with the best lyrical productions of Wordsworth, Tennyson, or Browning."
MACMILLAN AND CO., LIMITED, LONDON
Fourth Edition. Crown %vo. y. 6d.
A SELECTION FROM THE LYRICAL
POEMS OF ALFRED AUSTIN
EDITED, WITH A PREFACE
BY WILLIAM WATSON
EXTRACT FROM THE PREFACE
"A nobly filial love of Country, and a tenderly passionate love
of the country these appear to me the two dominant notes of this
volume. The phrases themselves stand for things widely different,
but it seems fated that the things themselves should be found
present together or together absent. ... Our literature prior to
Lord Tennyson contains no such full utterance of this dual passion,
this enthusiasm of nationality underlying an intimate and affec-
tionate knowledge of every bird that makes an English summer
melodious, and every flower that sweetens English air; and it
seems to me that if the question be asked, 'Who among the poets
of a later generation can be said to share with Lord Tennyson the
quality of being in this double sense English through and through?'
any competent person trying to answer the question honestly will
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" Mr Alfred Austin would seem to love England none the less,
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a wide surface to impressions. In The Human Tragedy he has
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spirit of the land
' Where Milan's spires go up to heaven like prayer,'
EXTRACT FROM THE PREFACE
' Where once-proud Genoa sits beside the sea.'
But that very poem, full of Italian feeling and aglow with Italian
colour as it is, opens with a chant of English springtime which
is assuredly hard to match outside its author's own vernal verse.
As pictures to hang up in one's mental gallery side by side with
the exquisite 'spring' of The Human Tragedy, perhaps one would
choose the autumn landscapes in Lovers Widowhood^ though some
of these are harder to detach without loss or injury from their
setting, being not so much examples of deliberate description as
of that rarer art by which a poem is saturated with autumnal
sentiment till the lines seem to rustle with fallen foliage, and
their melody to come muffled through an indolent September
" Mr Alfred Austin may in a special sense be styled the laureate
of the English seasons, for he seems equally happy whether he
be championing our northern April against the onslaught of a
critic who had fallen foul of that best-abused of months in an
evening journal, or colouring his verse with the gravely gorgeous
pigments of the time when nature seems sunk in reverie, and
leaf by leaf the pageant of verdure crumbles down, or painting
for us (etching would perhaps be the better word) the likeness
of earth in that interval of apparent quiescence or suspended
life, when her pinched and haggard features have put on an
ascetic severity, and she seems to be doing penance alike for
her summer revelries and the extravagant pomps of autumn,
' in the sculptured woodland's leafless aisles
The robin chants the vespers of the year.'
Thus it is that he seems among modern poets especially and
saliently English, in the sense in which most of our best singers,
from Chaucer onwards, have been English ; a sense implying
neither insularity nor prejudice nor any resistance of foreign
impressions, but an out-of-door breeziness and freedom such as
bring with them an almost physical consciousness of enlarge-
ment and space."
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