A voluntary exile, at the age of forty-two, from his native island, Columba embarked with his twelve companions in one of those great barks of osier covered with hide which the Celtic nations employed for their navigation. He landed upon a desert island situated on the north of the opening of that series of gulfs and lakes which, extending from the southwest to the northeast, cuts the Caledonian peninsula in two, and which at that period separated the still heathen Picts from the district occupied by the Irish Scots, who were partially Christianized. This isle, which he has made immortal, took from him the name of I-Colm-Kill (the island of Columb-Kill), but is better known under that of Iona.

Nothing could be more sullen and sad than the aspect of this celebrated isle, where not a single tree has been able to resist either the blighting wind or the destroying hand of man. Only three miles in length by two in breadth, flat and low, bordered by gray rocks which scarcely rise above the level of the sea, and overshadowed by the high and sombre peaks of the great island of Mull, it has not even the wild beauty which is conferred upon the neighboring isles and shores by their basalt cliffs, which are often of prodigious height - or which belongs to the hills, often green and rounded at the summit, whose perpendicular sides are beaten incessantly by those Atlantic waves, which bury themselves in resounding caverns hollowed by the everlasting labors of the tumultous sea. Upon the narrow surface of the island white stretches of sand alternate with scanty pastures, a few poor crops, and the turf-moors where the inhabitants find their fuel. Poor as the culture is, it seems everywhere resisted and disputed by the gneiss rocks, which continually crop out, and in some places form an almost inextricable labyrinth. The only attraction possessed by this sombre dwelling-place is the view of the sea, and of the mountains of Mull and the other islands, to the number of twenty or thirty, which

may be distinguished from the top of the northern hill of lona. Among these is Staffa,, celebrated for the grotto of Fingal, which has been known only for about a century, and which, in the time of Columba, moaned and murmured in its solitary and unknown majesty, in the midst of that Hebridean archipelago which is at present haunted by so many curious admirers of the Highland shores and ruined feudal castles, which the great bard of our century has enshrined in the glory of his verse.*

The bay where Columba landed is still called the bay of the osier bark, Porť a Churraich; and a long mound is pointed out to strangers as representing the exact size of his boat, which was sixty feet long. The emigrant did not remain in this bay, which is situated in the middle of the isle; he went higher up, and, to find a little shelter from the great sea-winds, chose for his habitation the eastern shore, opposite the large island of Mull, which is separated from Iona only by a narrow channel of a mile in breadth, and whose highest tains, situated more to the east, approach and almost identify themselves with the mountain-tops of Morven, which are continually veiled with clouds. It was there that the emigrants built their huts of branches, for the island was not then, as now, destitute of wood. When Columba had made up his mind to construct for himself and his people a settled establishment, the buildings of the new-born monastery were of the greatest simplicity. As in all Celtic constructions, walls of withes or branches, supported upon long wooden props, formed the principal element in their architecture. Climbing plants, especially ivy, interlacing itself in the interstices of the branches, at once ornamented and consolidated the modest shelter of the missionaries. The Irish built scarecly any churches of stone, and retained, up to the twelfth century, as St. Bernard testifies, the habit of building their churches of wood. But it was not for some years after their first establishment that the monks of Iona permitted themselves the luxury of a wooden church; and when they did so, great oaks, such as the sterile and wind-beaten soil of their islet could not produce, had to be brought for its construction from the neighboring shore. Thus the monastic capital of Scotland, and the centre of Christian civilization in the north of Great Britain, came into being thirteen centuries ago.


Scott, in the Lord of the Isles.

Far from having any prevision of the glory of Iona, his soul was still swayed by a sentiment which never abandoned him — regret for his lost country. All his life he retained for Ireland the passionate tenderness of an exile, a love which displayed itself in the songs which have been preserved to us, and which date perhaps from the first moments of his exile. It is possible that their authenticity is not altogether beyond dispute; and that, like the poetic lamentations given forth by Fortunatus in the name of St. Radegund, they were composed by his disciples and contemporaries. But they have been too long repeated as his, and depict too well what must have passed in his heart to permit us to neglect them.

. . In one of his elegies he laments that he can no longer sail on the lakes and bays of his native island, nor hear the song of the swans with his friend Comgall. He laments above all to have been driven from Erin by his own fault, and because of the blood shed in his battles. He envies his friend Cormac, who can go back to his dear monastery at Durrow, and hear the wind sigh among the oaks, and the song of the blackbird and cuckoo.

But it was not only in these elegies, repeated and retouched by Irish bards and monks, but at each instant of his life, in season and out of season, that his love and passionate longing for his native country burst forth in words and in musings; the narrative of his most trustworthy biographers are full of it. The most severe penance which he could imagine for the guiltiest sinners who came to confess to him was to impose upon them the same fate which he had voluntarily inflicted upon himself — never to set foot again upon Irish soil. But when, instead of forbidding to sinners all access to that beloved isle, he had to smother his envy of those who


had the right and happiness to go there at their pleasure, he dared scarcely trust himself to name its name; and when speaking to his guests, or to the monks who were to return to Ireland, he could only say to them, “You will return to the country that you love.” The Monks of the West.

[ocr errors]


DAT, a French philosopher; born near Bor

deaux, January 18, 1689; died at Paris, February 10, 1755. He was noted during his youth for diligent studies in literature, philosophy, and jurisprudence. At the age of twenty he wrote a treatise maintaining that the paganism of the ancient philosophers did not merit eternal damnation. At twenty-five he was admitted to the Parliament of Bordeaux, of which he became president two years after, succeeding his uncle. He performed his magisterial duties with diligence, though devoting himself assiduously to literary studies. In 1721 he published the Lettres Persanes, purporting to have been written by a Persian traveling in France, the aim being to assail the then prevalent principles predominating in Church and State. In 1726 he resigned his magisterial position, and soon after began to travel in Europe for the purpose of collecting materials for an elaborate work on politics and jurisprudence. The first result of these extended studies was considerations sur les causes de la Grandeur et de la Décadence des Romains (1734). His great work, De l'Esprit des Lois, published in 1748, was the result of the labor of twenty years. Twentytwo editions of it were issued in eighteen months, and it was speedily translated into most European languages. Among his minor works are Dialogue de Sylla et d'Eucrate; the Temple de Guide, a romance of classical antiquity; and an Essai sur le Gout, written for the Encyclopédie. The best edition of his complete Works is that of Lequieu (8 vols., 1827).


In an

I. Of a Republic. It is natural for a Republic to have only a small territory; otherwise it cannot long subsist. In an extensive Republic there are

men of large fortunes, and, consequently, of less moderation. There are trusts too considerable to be placed in any single subject; he has interests of his own.

He soon begins to think that he may be happy and glorious by oppressing his fellow-citizens, and that he may raise himself to grandeur on the ruins of his country. extensive Republic the public good is sacrificed to a thousand private views; it is subordinate to exceptions, and depends on accidents. In a small one the interest of the public is more obvious, better understood, and more within the reach of every citizen; abuses have less extent, and, of course, are less protected.

The long continuance of the Republic of Sparta was owing to her having continued in the same extent of territory after all her wars. It was the spirit of the Greek Republics to be as contented with their territories as with their laws. Athens was first fired with ambition, and gave it to Lacedæmon; but it was an ambition rather of commanding a free people than of governing slaves; rather of directing than of breaking the union. All was lost upon the starting up of a monarchy – a government whose spirit is more turned to increase of dominion.

II. Of a Monarchy. — A monarchial state ought to be of moderate extent. Were it small, it would form itself into a Republic; were it very large, the nobility possessed of great estates, far from the eyes of the prince, with a private court of their own, and secure, moreover, from

« ElőzőTovább »