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N IBEMND 












SPRING AND AUTUMN 
IN IRELAND 




SPRING AND AUTUMN 
IN IRELAND , .,. 



BY 



ALFRED AUSTIN 



POET-LAUREATE 




WILLIAM BLACKWOOD AND SONS 

EDINBURGH AND LONDON 

MDCCCC 



All Rights reserved 



Jfl 

M5 



TO 
THE BRAVE AND GIFTED 

IRISH PEOPLE 
I TENDER THIS VOLUME. 



SAINT PATRICK'S DAY, 
1900. 



PEEFATOEY NOTE. 



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 
present moment. 



SPEING AND AUTUMN IN BELAND, 



I. 



" 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 
spared. 

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 
companion. 

" 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 
face was 

" 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 
Nature. 

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 

B 



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 

motto, 

" 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 

c 



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 
describe. 

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 



II. 



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 
Glengarriff. 

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- 

D 



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- 
pendence. 

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 
indeed. 

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 

E 



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 
bosoms. 

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 

F 



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 



icfJievov ovpov 
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 
spacious air. 

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 



III. 



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. 



G 



98 SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND. 



TO IRELAND. 

i. 

" WHAT ails you, Sister Erin, that your face 
Is, like your mountains, still bedewed with 

tears ? 

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 

mind; 

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 
the wind. 

II. 

" Come, let us sit upon this cliff, we twain, 
Whence we may gaze across your soft green 
Isle, 



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 

tresses 

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- 

sung-to nesses." 



in. 

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 

grasped 
At slippery rocks where wild -goats may not 

graze, 
Then fell back foiled, shivered to spray and 

smoke. 

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 

would choke, 

In accents harsh with hate, and brimmed with 
sobs, she spoke. 

IV. 

" They came across the sea with greed of spoil, 
And drove me hither and thither from fen to 

foam, 

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 

shrills, 

Suckling my hate and sharpening my brand, 
My heart against their heart, my hand against 

their hand. 

v. 

" 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 

brood ; 

Unroofed my hut, set the sere thatch aflame, 
Scattered my hearth-fire to the wintry air, 
Made what was bare before stretch yet more 

bare, 

I waxing wilder more they strove to tame, 
To force and guile alike implacably the same. 

VI. 

" 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 

away, 

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 

go. 
They reft the spindle from my famished 

hands, 
My kith and kin they drove to other lands, 



102 SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND. 

Widowed and orphaned me ! And now you 

know 
Why all my face is wet, and all my voice is 

woe ! " 

VII. 

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 

long, 

And let Oblivion strew Time's ashes o'er this 
wrong. 

VIII. 

" The robber bands that filled the Isle with 

groans 
Were long since clamped and prisoned in their 

graves : 



SPRING AND AUTUMN IN IRELAND. 103 

The flesh hath dried and shrivelled from their 

bones, 
Their wild war - standards rotted from their 

staves ; 
Their name is nought. 'Tis thus that Time 

atones 

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 

wind. 



IX. 

" 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 

feud 

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 

sad, 

And runs along the wave, and glistens and is 
glad! 

x. 

" 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 

sloe, 

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. 



XI. 

" The Triune Flag, none now save Tyrants 

dread, 
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- 
furled. 

Where danger greatest, they it was who led, 
And stormed death rather than be backward 

driven. 

Now, gaze no more across the western main, 
Whose barren furrows hope still ploughs in 

vain. 

Turn Eastward, where, through clouds by sun- 
rise riven, 

England holds out her hand, and craves to be 
forgiven. 

XII. 

" 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 

showers, 

We twain love-linked whom nothing can divide ! 
Look up ! From Slievemore's brow to Dingle's 

shore, 



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, 

August 1895. 



PRINTED BY WILLIAM BLACKWOOD AND SONS. 



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POET LAUREATE 
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 

and 

' 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 
haze. 

" 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, 
when 

' 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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