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Created: by Thomas Davis (1840s)
Beatrix Färber (ed.)
Beatrix Färber (ed.)
Laura Harmon (ed.)
Audrey Murphy (ed.)
We lately strove to induce our wealthier countrymen to explore Ireland before they left her shores in search of the beautiful and curious. We bid the economist search our towns and farms, our decayed manufactures, and improving tillage. Waving our shillelagh, we shouted the cragsman to Glenmalure and Carn Tual, and Achill and Slieve League. Manuscript in hand, we pointed the antiquary to the hundred abbeys of North Munster, the castles of the Pale, the palaces and sepulchres of Dunalin, Aileach, Rath Croghan, and Loughcrew, and we whispered to our countrywomen that the sun rose grandly on Adragool, that the moon was soft on Lough Erne (The Rural Venice), and that the Nore and Blackwater ran by castled crags like their sweet voices over old songs.
But there are some who had not waited for our call, but had dutifully grown up amid the sights and sounds of Ireland, and knew the yellow fields of Tipperary, and the crash of Moher's wave, and the basalt barriers of Antrim, and the moan or frown of Wexford over the graves of '98, and there are others not yet sufficiently educated to prize home excellence. To such, then, and to all our brethren and sisters going abroad, we have to say a friendly word.
We shall presume them to have visited London, Woolwich, the factories of Lancashire and Warwick, and to have seen the Cumberland lakes,
p.208and therefore to have seen all worth seeing in England, and that they are bound for somewhere else. For a pedestrian not rich there is Walesthe soft vales of the far North and South Clwyd, and the Wye and Llanrwst, and the central mountain groups of Snowdon, and still finer of Cader Idris. But if he go there we pray him not to return without having heard and, so far as he could, noted down a few airs from the harp and cruit, collected specimens of the plants and minerals of Wales for the museum (existing or to be) of his native town, studied the statistics of their great iron works or their little home-weaving; nor, if he has had the sense and spirit to take a Welsh and an Irish vocabulary, without some observations on the disputed analogy of the two languages, and how far it exists in general terms, as it certainly does in names of places. By the way, we warn him that he will know little of the peasantry, and come home in the dark about Rebecca, unless he can speak Welsh. The Welsh have been truer to their language than we were to ours; their clergy ministered in it; their people refused their tongues to the Saxon as if 'twere poison; and even their nobles, though tempted by England, welcomed the bard who lamented the defeat of Rhuddlan, and gloried in the frequent triumphs of Glendower.
But let us rather classify pursuits than countries.
We want the Irish who go abroad to bring something back besides the weary tale of the Louvre and Munich, and the cliffs of the Rhine, and the soft airs of Italy. We have heard of a patriot adventurer who carried a handful of his native soil through the world. We want our friends to carry a purpose for Ireland in their
p.209hearts, to study other lands wisely, and to bring back all knowledge for the sustenance and decoration of their dear home.
How pleasantly and profitably for the traveller this can be done. There is no taste but may be interested, no capacity but can be matched, no country but can be made tributary to our own. The historian, the linguist, the farmer, the economist, the musician, the statesman, and the man of science can equally augment their pleasure and make it minister to Ireland.
Is a man curious upon our language? He can (not unread in Neilson1, nor unaccompanied by O'Reilly's Dictionary) trace how far the Celtic words mixed in the classical French, or in the patois of Bretagne or Gascony, coincide with the Irish; he can search in the mountains of North Spain, whether in proper names or country words there be any analogy to the Gaelic of the opposite coast of Ireland.
The proper names are the most permanent, and if there be any truth in Sir William Betham's2 theories, the names of many a hill and stream in Tuscany, North Africa, and Syria ought to be traceable to an Irish root. Nor need this language-search be limited to the south. Beginning at the Isle of Man, up by Cumberland (the kingdom of Strathclyde), through Scotland, Denmark, Norway, to Ireland, the constant intercourse in trade and war with Ireland, and in many instances the early occupation by a Celtic race, must have left indelible marks in the local names, if not the
p.210traditions, of the country. To the tourist in France we particularly recommend a close study of the History of the Gauls, by Amadeus Thierry.
The student of our ecclesiastical history, whether he hold with Dr. Smiles that the Irish Church was independent, or with Dr. Miley, that it paid allegiance to Rome, may delight in following the tracks of the Irish saints, from Iona of the Culdees to Luxieu and Boia (founded by Columbanus), and St. Gall, founded by an Irishman of that name. Rumold can be heard of in Mechlin, Albhuin in Saxony, Kilian in Bavaria, Fursey in Peronne, and in far Tarentum the traveller will find more than one trace of the reformer of that citythe Irishman, St. Cathaldus. We cannot suppose that any man will stray from Stackallen, or Maynooth at least, without keeping this purpose in mind, nor would it misbecome a divine from that Trinity College of which Ussher was a first fellow.
Our military history could also receive much illustration from Irish travellers going with some previous knowledge and studying the traditions and ground, and using the libraries in the neighbourhood of those places where Irishmen fought. Not to go back to the Irish who (if we believe O'Halloran) stormed the Roman Capital as the allies of Brennus of Gaul, nor insisting upon too minute a search for that Alpine valley where, says MacGeoghegan, they still have a tradition of Dathy's death by lightning, there are plenty of places worth investigating in connection with Irish military history. In Scotland, for example, 'twere worth while tracking the march of Alaster MacDomhnall and his 1,500 Antrim men from their first landing at Ardnamurchan through
p.211Tippermuir, Aberdeen, Fivy, Inverlochy, and Aulderne, to Kilsythvictories, won by Irish soldiers and chiefs, given to them by tradition, as even Scott admits, though he tries to displace its value for Montrose's sake, and given to them by the highest contemporary authoritiessuch as the Ormond papers.
Then there is the Irish Brigade. From Almanza to Fontenoy, from Ramillies to Cremona, we have the names of their achievements, but the register of them is in the libraries and war offices and private papers of France, and Spain, and Austria, and Savoy. A set of visits to Irish battle-fields abroad, illustrated from the manuscripts of Paris, Vienna, and Madrid, would be a welcomer book than the reiterated assurances that the Rhone was rapid, the Alps high, and Florence rich in sculpture, wherewith we have been dinned.
We have no lives of our most illustrious Irish generals in foreign servicesMarshal Brown, the Lacys, Montgomery of Donegal, the rival of Washington; and yet the materials must exist in the offices and libraries of Austria, Russia, and America.
Talking of libraries, there is one labour in particular we wish our countrymen to undertake. The constant emigration of the princes, nobles, and ecclesiastics of Ireland, from the Reformation downwards, scattered through the Continent many of our choicest collections. The manuscripts from these have been dispersed by gift and sale among hundreds of foreign libraries. The Escurial, Vienna, Rome, Paris, and Copenhagen are said to be particularly rich in them, and it cannot be doubted that in every considerable library (religious, official, or private) on the Continent some
p.212MSS. valuable to Ireland would be found. In many cases these could be purchased, in some copied, in all listed. The last is the most practical and essential labour. It would check and guide our inquiries now, and would prepare for the better day, when we can negotiate the restoration of our old muniments from the governments of Europe.
A study of the monuments and museums throughout France, Spain, Italy, and Scandinavia, in reference to the forts, tombs, altars, and weapons of ancient Ireland, would make a summer pleasant and profitable.
But we would not limit men to the study of the past.
Our agriculture is defective, and our tenures are abominable. It were well worth the attention of the travelling members of the Irish Agricultural Society to bring home accurate written accounts of the tenures of land, the breeds of cattle, draining, rotation, crops, manures, and farm-houses, from Belgium or Norway, Tuscany or Prussia.
Our mineral resources and water-power are unused. A collection of models or drawings, or descriptions of the mining, quarrying, and hydraulic works of Germany, England, or France, might be found most useful for the Irish capitalist who made it, and for his country which so needs instruction. Besides, even though many of these things be described already, yet how much more vivid and practical were the knowledge to be got from observation.
Our fine or useful arts are rude or decayed, and our industrial and general education very inferior. The schools and galleries, museums and educational systems of Germany deserve the closest
p.213examination with reference to the knowledge and taste required in Ireland, and the means of giving them. One second-rate book of such observations, with special reference to Ireland, were worth many greater performances unapplied to the means and need of our country.
Ireland wants all these things. Before this generation dies, it must have made Ireland's rivers navigable, and its hundred harbours secure with beacon and pier, and thronged with seamen educated in naval schools, and familiar with every rig and every ocean. Arigna must be pierced with shafts, and Bonmahon flaming with smelting-houses. Our bogs must have become turf-factories, where fuel will be husbanded, and prepared for the smelting-house. Our coal must move a thousand engines, our rivers ten thousand wheels.
Our young artisans must be familiar with the arts of design and the natural sciences connected with their trade; and so of our farmers; and both should, beside, have that general information which refines and expands the mindsthat knowledge of Irish history and statistics that makes it national, and those accomplishments and sports which make leisure profitable and home joyous.
Our cities must be stately with sculpture, pictures, and buildings, and our fields glorious with peaceful abundance.
But this is an Utopia! Is it? No; but the practicable object of those who know our resources! To seek it is the solemn, unavoidable duty of every Irishman. Whether, then, oh reader, you spend this or any coming season abroad or at home, do not forget for a day how much should be done for Ireland.