despair that has been felt by every new peasant generation, as one leader after another has been struck down :

We thought you would not die, we were sure you would not go
And leave us in our utmost need to Cromwell's cruel blow.
Sheep without a shepherd, when the snow shuts out the sky.
Oh, why did you leave us, Owen ? Why did you die ?

Soft as woman's was your voice, O'Neil, bright was your eye.
Oh, why did you leave us, Owen, why did you die ?
Your troubles are all over, you're at rest with God on high ;
But we're slaves and we're orphans, Owen. Why did you die?


Few of our ballads can take rank with those of Davis at his best, but there are some of them, those written by the felons themselves, that stand outside criticism, sweat-drops of the worker, blood-drops of the fighter shed as he passed along the hard highway. As some old lines say :

And he was also in the war,

He who this ilyme did write;
Till evening fought he with the sword,

And sang the song at night.

Such are those of Doheny, who was hunted over bogs and mountains for many weeks in '48, after Smith O'Brien's rising, in which he had taken part. He has told of these wanderings in his book, On a Felon's Track,' and also in one of his ballads, written while on his keeping' on the Kerry mountains, and addressed to Ireland, 'Acushla gal machree:'

I've given thee my youth and prime

Ard manhool's waning years,
I've blest thee in the sunniest time

And shed for thee my tears ;
And, mother, though thou'st cast away

The child who'd die for thee,
My fondest wish is still to pray

For Cushla gal machree.

I've tracked for thee the mountain sides

And slept within the brake,
More lonely than the swan that glides

On Lua's fairy lake;
The rich have spurned me from their door

Because I'd set thee free,
Yet do I love thee more and more

Acushla gal machrec !

Another felon ballad writer was Kickham, from whose · Rory of the Hill' I have already quoted. His · Patrick Sheehan,' well known in country places, is still an obstacle in the path of the recruiting sergeant :

Bereft of home, and kith and kin,

With plenty all around,
I starved within my cabin

And slept upon the ground;
But cruel as my lot was

I ne'er did hardship know
Till I joined the English army

Far away from Aherlow.
• Rouse up there,' says the Corporal,

• You lazy Hirish hound-
Why, don't you hear, you sleeping dog,

The call “ to arms" sound ?'
Alas ! I had been dreaming

Of days long, long ago :
I woke before Sebastopol

And not in Aherlow.

Then, Irish youths, dear countrymen,

Take heed of what I say,
For if you join the English ranks

You'll surely rue the day.
And whenever you are tempted

A soldiering to go,
Remember poor blind Sheehan

Of the glen of Aherlow.


To the spiritual mind the spiritual truth underlying each development of Christianity is always manifest. But there is a significant contrast in the outward form in which religion appears to the peasant of England and the peasant of Ireland. In England (I quote again from the 'Jail Journal '), is there not our venerable Church, our beautiful liturgy? There is a department for all that, with the excellent Archbishop of Canterbury at the head of it. To the English peasant the well-furnished village church, the pulpit cushion, the gilt-edged Bible, the cosy rectory, represent respectability, comfort, peace, a settled life. In Ireland the peasant has always before his eyes, on his own cottage walls or in his whitewashed chapel, the cross, the spear, the crown of thorns, that tell of what once seemed earthly failure, that tell that He to whom he kneels was led to a felon's death.

In England the poet of to-day must, if he will gain a hearing, write of the visible and material things that appeal to a people who have made “The Roast Beef of Old England'a fetish, and whose characteristic song is :

We don't want to fight, but by Jingo if we do,

We've got the ships, we've got the men, we've got the money too. In Ireland he is in touch with a people whose thoughts have long been dwelling on an idea ; whose heroes have been the failures, the men'who went out to battle and who always fell,' who went out to a battle that was already lost-men who, whatever may have been their mistakes or faults, had an aim quite apart from personal greed or gain.

Some of us are inclined to reproach our younger poets with a departure from the old tradition because they no longer write patriotic and memorial ballads. But in singing of the dim wisdoms old and deep that God gives unto man in sleep,' they have not departed from it, they have only travelled a little further on the road that leads from things seen to things unseen. And a poet is not to be shaped and trained like a yew tree and set in a hedgerow, to guard even the most hallowed ashes. He must be left to his own growth, like the tree that clings to its own hillside, that sends down its roots to find hidden waters, that sends out its branches to the winds and to the stars.


[ocr errors][merged small]

I HAVE been a good deal distressed lately. by the reverses of my friend John Bull, who is one of the leading tradesmen in this town. Everybody knows his establishment. It does a very large business indeed : you can get practically everything there-coals, Lee-Metford rifles, chocolate, biscuits, steam-engines, Australian mutton, home and colonial produce of every kind, in short. My old friend is tremendously proud of his shop, which, as he says, he has made what it is by strict honesty (and really for an enterprising tradesman he is fairly honest) and attention to business principles. He has put a deal of capital into it, and spares no expense in advertising; in fact, he keeps a regular department for poetry, which is written on the premises and circulated among customers and others, and explains in the most beautiful language that the house in Britannia Road is the place to go to for everything. John, who prides himself on his literary taste, considers this to be the finest poetry ever written; and Mrs. Bull reads it out to him in the evening before he has his regular snooze after supper.

Everything was going on swimmingly until this unfortunate Hooligan trouble began. I must explain to you that Mr. Bull owns a great deal more property than the actual premises where he transacts business. Somehow or other; in course of time he has become the proprietor of bits and scraps all over the town and suburbs—tenements, waste lands, eligible building sites, warehouses, and what not the whole making up what, if it was put together, would be a very considerable estate. How it all came into John Bull's hands, nobody knows properly; indeed, I don't think he does himself. Some of it was bought, and bought pretty dear too. Some of it was left to him. A good deal of it heone doesn't like using the word, but still-well, in fact, took ; but, mind you, he always took everything for its good, and for the ultimate benefit of society, not for any selfish reasons ; so that to call Mr. Bull a pirate, as Dubois does who keeps the toyshop over the way, is manifestly absurd. Anyhow, it is a very fine property, and would be bigger still if Jonathan C., a cousin

of the family, hadn't taken off a good slice which used to belong to John.

As I was saying, this property is a very large straggling affair, most of it a long way off from the shop. Its owner finds it very hard to look after every part; all the more so, because this town has no regular police, and is therefore continually troubled by gangs of roughs, who go about breaking windows and even heads, and doing damage generally. They are always giving a great deal of trouble to the Bull people; and what makes it worse is that very often they are actually tenants on the property, who ought to know better. One of these Hooligan crowds lately made a dead set against poor John; it was all the harder because to my personal knowledge he had shown himself most kind and forgiving to various members of this particular gang; and once before, when they came and broke his windows, he refused to prosecute, and simply gave them five shillings to drink Mrs. Bull's health and not do it again. That is the kind of man he is, sometimes. In spite of this indulgent and charitable treatment, they came the other day and made a raid into an outlying corner of his property and did all sorts of damage; and not content with this, they actually squatted there on land which was no more theirs than it is mine (I am thankful to say), where they insulted and even assaulted innocent passers-by, and levied blackmail on John Bull's adjacent tenants, and, in short, became the terror of the neighbourhood and a disgrace to civilisation. And when Mr. Bull's watchman (I told you there is no regular police force, and everybody has to look after himself), when Thomas Atkins, I say, came with orders to turn them out, they told him to go-I really hardly like to say where—and absolutely refused to stir; quite the contrary; they hid themselves behind rubbish-heaps and hoardings and such like, and threw things at Thomas; and when he tried to catch them, they ran away and hid behind more hoardings, so that when you thought they were in one place they were always somewhere else, and the poor watchman got so knocked about with stones and brickbats that the next morning, when he came round to the shop to report progress, he had a black eye, and a cut head, and a torn coat, and a nasty bruise on one of his legs. Mrs. Bull had to patch up his coat and give him some arnica and vaseline.

Poor Mr. Atkins ! He is a most respectable man, and an excellent watchman, as was his father before him. It is a tra

« ElőzőTovább »