Corpus of Electronic Texts Edition
Laurence Bloomfield in Ireland (Author: William Allingham)

chapter 5


  • The hamlet Ballytullagh, small and old,
    Lay negligently cluster' d in a fold
    Of Tullagh Hill, among the crags and moor;
    A windy dwelling-place, rough, lonesome, poor;
    5] So low and weather-stain' d the walls, the thatch
    So dusk of hue, or spread with mossy patch,
    A stranger journeying on the distant road
    Might hardly guess that human hearts abode
    In those wild fields, save when a smoky wreath
    10] Distinguish'd from huge rocks, above, beneath,
    Its huddled roofs. A lane goes up the hill,


    Cross'd, at one elbow, by a crystal rill,
    Between the stepping-stones gay tripping o'er
    In shallow brightness on its gravelly floor,
    15] From crags above, with falls and rocky urns,
    Through sward below, in deep deliberate turns,
    Where each fine evening brought the boys to play
    At football, or with camuns

    amuns, sticks bent at one end.

    drive away
    The whizzing nagg;

    nagg, wooden ball.

    a crooked lane and steep,
    20] Older than broad highways, you find it creep,
    Fenced in with stooping thorn-trees, bramble-brakes,
    Tall edge-stones, gleaming, gay as spotted snakes,
    With gold and silver lichen; till it bends
    Between two rock-based rough-built gable ends,
    25] To form the street, if one may call it street,
    Where ducks and pigs in filthy forum meet;
    A scrambling, careless, tatter' d place, no doubt;
    Each cottage rude within-doors as without;
    All rude and poor; some wretched,—black and bare
    30] And doleful as the cavern of Despair.

  • p.89

  • And yet, when crops were good, nor oatmeal high,
    A famine or a fever-time gone by,
    The touch of simple pleasures, even here,
    In rustic sight and sound the heart could cheer.
    35] With voice of breezes moving o'er the hills,
    Wild birds and four-foot creatures, falling rills,
    Mingled the hum of huswife's wheel, cock-crow,
    The whetted scythe, or cattle's evening low,
    Or laugh of children. Herding went the boy,
    40] The sturdy diggers wrought with spade and loy3,
    The tether' d she-goat browsed the rock's green ledge,
    The clothes were spread to dry on sloping hedge,
    The colleens did their broidery in the shade
    Of leafy bush, or gown-skirt overhead,
    45] Or wash'd and beetled4 by the shallow brook,
    Or sung their ballads round the chimney-nook
    To speed a winter night, when song and jest
    And dance and talk and social game are best:
    For daily life's material good enough


    50] Such, trivial incidents and homely stuff.
    Here also could those miracles befall
    Of wedding, new-born babe, and funeral;
    Here, every thought and mood and fancy rise
    From common earth, and soar to mystic skies.

  • 55]
  • This ancient Woman crown' d with snow-white hair,
    With burden of a hundred years to bear,—
    The marvels and enchanting hopes of youth,
    The toil of life, and disappointing truth,
    Delights and cares that wives and mothers know,
    60] The turns of wisdom, folly, joy, and woe,
    The gradual change of all things, year by year,
    While she to one Great Doorway still draws near,
    All good and ill from childhood to old-age,
    For her have moved on this poor narrow stage.
    65] A cottage built; farm shifting hands; big thorn
    By midnight tempest from its place uptorn;
    The Church's rites, the stations, and the priests;
    Wakes, dances, faction-fights, and wedding-feasts;


    Good honest neighbours; crafty wicked rogues;
    70] The wild youth limping back without his brogues;5
    The moneyed man returning from the West
    With beard and golden watch-chains on his breast;
    He that enlisted; she that went astray;
    Landlords and agents of a former day;
    75] The time of raging floods; the twelve weeks' frost;
    Dear summers, and how much their oatmeal cost;
    The Tullagh baby-daughters, baby-sons,
    Grown up, grown grey; a crowd of buried ones;
    These little bygones Oona would recall
    80] In deep-voiced Gaelic,—faltering now they fall,
    Or on her faint lips murmur unaware;
    And many a time she lifts her eyes in pray'r,
    And many an hour her placid spirit seems
    Content as infant smiling through its dreams,
    85] In solemn trance of body and of mind;
    As though, its business with the world resign'd,
    The soul, withdrawn into a central calm,


    Lay hush'd, in foretaste of immortal balm.
    —Secluded Ballytullagh, small, unknown,
    90] Had place and life and history of its own.
  • Great Pigot's wrath, which brought unnumber'd woes
    On Ballytullagh, Muse of mine disclose
    These upland people, paupers as they were,
    Retain'd almost an independent air,
    95] Drawn from old times, for clearly could they trace
    Long generations in the self-same place;
    Game-laws they scorn' d, and mearings on the moor,
    And all new-fangled things could ill endure;
    Landlord and agent were their natural foes;
    100] Old custom for their simple guide they chose;
    All Pigot's plans appear'd to them unjust;
    They murmur' d; and he only said, ‘You must!’
    So, when he took away their mountain-run,
    Enclosing half the heath for dog and gun,
    105] And half to feed a stranger's herds and flocks,
    A sturdy coarse disciple of John Knox,—


    Sheep were soon missing, cattle night by night
    Dock'd of their tails, hamstrung, or kill'd outright;
    The grazier too, at last, was waylaid, left
    110] Of breath and blood and all but life bereft;
    And every witness questioned in the case
    Mere falsehood swore, with calm unblushing face.
  • Pigot, and Pigot's bailiff, Paudheen Dhu,6
    Are still prepared for war, and like it too;
    115] Costs, fees, drop in, and profitable 'takes,'
    While every change the rental higher makes,
    Clears petty claims aside, a vexing swarm,
    And brings estates to new and better form.
    Herein Sir Ulick, for himself and ward,
    120] Was soon with Pigot's plans in full accord;
    One half this upland being Sir Ulick's ground,
    One half engirt by nephew Bloomfield's bound.
    A day was fix'd, arrears must then be paid;
    For more police a tax on all was laid,—


    125] New little barracks dropt in lonely spots
    Where moping constables bewail'd their lots,—
    For now the Ribbon-Snake was known to glide
    With secret venom round this country-side;
    Till Tullagh Hill became a place accurst,
    130] And Ballytullagh stood for blot the worst
    On Magisterial map. In two year's time
    The tranquil nook was grown a nest of crime,
    A den of were-wolves to a landlord's sight;—
    And Pigot only ask'd for legal right.

  • 135]
  • Rich neighbouring farmers, noway ill-disposed,
    Their cautious lips, if not their eyes, keep closed
    They dread revenge, they dread the public shame
    That clings and reeks around th' informer's name;
    For Ireland's long tradition, lingering yet,
    140] Hath in two scales the Law, the People set.
    Nay, Ribbonism keeps Landlordism in check:
    They blame, they fear, but will not break its neck;
    To them belongs no sense of commonweal,


    Authority as alien still they feel,
    145] Ruled, without partnership or wholesome pride,
    By Government that governs from outside.
    Their native Church, where peasant sons might rise,
    The rulers first despoil' d, and now despise.
    Trade, wealth, flow elsewhere, why they cannot guess,
    150] Save by constraint of ruling selfishness.
    In their own narrow bound, the constant fight
    For land goes on, with little ruth or right,
    So far as they can see; but every man
    Takes all advantage that he safely can.
    155] And so, as in the chamber of a mist
    Moving as they move, sadly they persist,
    And let the puzzling world be as it list.
  • Our Agent twice a year sent forth a show'r
    Of Notices to Quit, and kept his power
    160] Suspended in terrorem: now at length
    Shall these atrocious tenants feel his strength.


    On two or three a swift eviction falls,
    And then on Pigot Captain Starlight calls,
    High on the gatepost nailing up his card.
    165] But sturdy Pigot perseveres: 'twere hard
    If rampant ruffianism could overfrown
    All right and rule, and grossly beat them down!
    For desperate ill a desperate remedy.
    Some suffer guiltless, that must always be;
    170] Ev'n in fair war the necessary blow
    Sets distant hearts to weep; but here the foe
    From general sympathy his courage draws,
    In that alone lies ambush' d from the laws.
    A plain sharp lesson, read to all and each,
    175] Is here the true and only way to teach.
    Therefore let Ballytullagh's natives know,
    In due and legal form, that—out they go.
  • The priesthood, meanwhile, gave its usual aid,
    Fulfill'd its wonted rounds and duly pray'd,
    180] Condoled in general words, and censured crime,


    And watch' d with care the movements of the time.
    For this alone its mystic flag unfurl' d—
    The warfare of the Church against the World,
    Each minor human interest has a claim
    185] So far as mingling with the one great aim.
    Imagination to the Church must cling,
    A grand, accustom'd, venerable thing,
    Which dignifies the chief events of life,
    Securing Heav'n, avoiding vulgar strife;
    190] The more withdrawn from regions of dispute,
    The more within its bounds made absolute;
    The citadel impregnably maintain' d,
    So bit by bit may all the rest be gain'd.
    Priests' characters are various—priests are men;
    195] The system single to a bird's-eye ken;
    The method changing with the world's events,
    And still providing needful instruments,
    Which may, as men, do nothing, bad or good,
    And their own work have seldom understood.
    200] Blame if you must, but scorn not, over-bold,


    This Great Association, deep and old;
    With guidance for the wandering soul of man;
    Sure dogmas to believe, for those who can;
    One step, one blindfold step, and all goes right,
    205] Your weakness guarded by celestial might.
  • This wide Kilmoylan Parish own'd the care—
    Hills, plain, and town—of Father John Adair.
    And Father Austin was his curate now,
    A strong-built man of thirty, black of brow,
    210] A silent man, with heavy jaws and chin,
    Close-shaven, and a heavy soul within;
    You look, and guess him dangerous and deep,
    Full of dark plans that make your flesh to creep,
    A mine of mystic secrets; but alas!
    215] The narrow bounds he never may outpass
    Constrict him, and it eats his heart to know
    How short a way his seeming power can go.
    The tedious years will slowly wear him tame,
    Or else some channel for the smouldering flame


    220] Give altar, platform, journal, one more voice
    To bid the foolish, furious mob rejoice,
    But those above him, on sharp watch to stand,
    And gather up the reins with cautious hand.
  • Adair the priest is bland and dignified;
    225] The curate Austin sullen, sidelong-eyed;
    Both do their office punctually and well,
    And duly are revered; but, truth to tell,
    The people, when their crimes they plan and plot,
    Regard the blessed clergy scarce one jot.
    230] Some few, the leading scoundrels and the worst,
    Would laugh at Pio Nono if he curs' d;
    From under conscience many slip aside,
    Transgress, and somehow back to ‘duty’7glide;
    While others meeting form with form (no more
    235] Demanded), by interpretation's lore
    And casuistry to equal Dens's own
    Arrange what's best to be conceal'd and shown.


    From either side of that mysterious screen
    Of plain fir-boards, in every chapel seen,
    240] The usual whisper flows in much routine;
    It were not wise the suppliant soul to press
    Which now, being there, is yielding, more or less;
    The Mother keeps on terms, can watch and wait,
    Expecting full submission, soon or late,
    245] And overlooking much, if, on the whole,
    A man will not refuse to save his soul.
    Life's daily details, counted great or small,
    The Church absorbs and dominates them all,
    Takes her own silent course with conscious might,
    250] As earthly Judge Supreme of wrong and right,
    To rule at last, in great and trivial things,—
    The Servants' Servant grown to King of Kings.
  • Hot grew men's passions: golden harvest came
    And ended: hotter wax'd this evil flame,
    255] Turning all wholesome thoughts to dread and hate.
    Jack to his own fireside kept close of late,


    But Neal was not afraid to cross their hill
    To Ballytullagh, welcomed with good-will,
    When nightfall shadow'd mountain, moor, and glen,
    260] To chat the girls and argue with the men,
    Or study in the Firebrand, Dublin print,
    Seditious rhetoric and murderous hint.
    Best scholar there, with skill and force he redd,
    Explain'd, declaim'd, and on their flattery fed;
    265] Until at last, however unprepared,
    To lead an army would the Youth have dared.
  • One dismal Sunday morning, such a day
    As brings the message, ‘summer's past away,’
    Neal with a sigh awoke; nor when awake
    270] Could free his bosom from a nameless ache,
    The misery of his slumber; ill-content
    Into the damp and sunless air he went.
    The fowls, with stretching wings and eager screech,
    Run up in vain his bounty to beseech;
    275] He rests his arms upon a wall, to gaze


    Across the scene, not sad in other days,
    But now, all round, with dark and doleful hues
    A sombre sky the sluggish bog imbues;
    Black pit and pool, coarse tuft and quaking marsh:
    280] Stretch far away to mountains chill and harsh
    Under the lowering clouds; while, near at hand,
    The waters grey in trench and furrow stand.
    Beneath those mountains dim Lough Braccan lies,
    A stream wherefrom to join the river hies,
    285] Around their northern buttress bends a vale,
    Where ocean's breath is blown in every gale,
    And o'er the lake, far-seen from many a road,
    Is Bloomfield's long-untenanted abode.
    To Lisnamoy from Tullagh, either side,
    290] Rough hills descend, and mingle with the wide
    Grove-tufted, house-and-village-sprinkled plain;
    And far from north to south a roof of rain
    Hangs heavily this morning; dark and dead
    The dismal view, and deal's own heart like lead.

  • p.103

  • Call'd in to breakfast by a mother's care,
    His sister and himself for Mass prepare;
    But Mary is not well, and doubts the weather;
    She and her husband bide at home together.
    Tranquil, at Neal and Bridget's pausing feet
    300] (Yet there is discontentment's chosen seat)
    The little hamlet lies in sheltering bend,
    Whereto with quicker steps they now descend;
    The sister carrying in a jug her boon
    Of precious milk for sickly Rose Muldoon.

  • 305]
  • Inside the poorest hovel of the place,
    The seal of death was on a young girl's face,
    ‘Far through in the decline,’ beside whose bed
    Her haggard father sat with drooping head;
    A neighbour woman, taking turn as nurse,
    310] Upheld the sufferer when her cough grew worse.
    ‘God save you, kindly. How is she to-day?’
    Then Rosy's feeble voice was heard to say,
    ‘Is that you, Bridget darlin?’ White and thin


    Her fingers rested clammily within
    315] The other maiden's healthy palm; death-bright
    Her eyes met Bridget's, brimm'd with living light.
    Bare grimy walls, a roof with many a flaw,
    This corner strewn with turf, and that with straw,
    A borrow'd bedstead, two old stools, no more,
    320] To furnish round the damp uneven floor,
    Three plates, three broken cups, an iron pot,
    A batter' d black tin-porringer kept hot
    Beside the gaping hearth, enough to choke
    The unaccustom'd lungs with lazy smoke,—
    325] Such was the house: yet Rose with many a tear
    Implored ‘O not the Poorhouse, father dear!’
    Quick with her broidery needle once was she,
    The youngest and the busiest girl of three,
    And now her father's last companion left;
    330] Long sickness had his home of every comfort reft.
  • Most of these peasants, (portion out the blame
    Who can: on whom have such a rightful claim?)


    When all goes well, are one degree, no more,
    From want; grim Hunger, always at the door,
    335] With scarce a push comes in when aught goes wrong.
    —Why hold their land? Why marry? Why this throng
    Of naked children? Would you heap the rates
    By help beyond the loathsome Poorhouse gates?
    Why not take other work?—I tell you why:
    340] There is no work: they needs must beg, or fly,
    (O happy chance!) or else lie down and die.
  • Soon from each doorway issue comrades, drest,
    Both ‘boys and girls’ in humble Sunday best,
    345] And all together, laughing, down the lane
    They pick their steps, a smoother road to gain;
    The trailing cloud has falling drops at edge,
    But not enough to ask a sheltering hedge;
    Discourse curtails the league to Lisnamoy,
    And Bloomfield's doings many a tongue employ,
    350] Till near the Town they draw, and each cross-road
    Gives friendly increase to the moving crowd.

  • p.106

  • Old Father Flynn and his plain chapel walls
    Are both no more; from a great steeple calls
    A bell that dins the rival church to shame,
    355] And pseudo-gothic art asserts its claim
    For pence and wonder in the unfinish' d pile,
    A dull burlesque on mediaeval style,
    Stone nightmare, lumpish, set with eye and horn,
    Of architectural indigestion born.
    360] Roofless and ruin'd each old stately fane,
    Or if a living voice in some remain,
    The rich usurper's,—now on Irish skies
    These new-born proofs of ancient faith arise.
    Adair, the zealous, careful parish-priest,
    365] Is gentle, smooth, and mild to man and beast,
    With comely presence and colloquial skill,
    Of secret thoughts, and cool tenacious will;
    An Irish mitre is perhaps his hope;
    A proper man for cardinal or pope.
    370] Outside the Church, all teaching is a crime,
    All strength diabolism: he bides his time


    To gain at last the public purse for schools
    In strict accordancy with holy rules;
    The dark unlawful oath he blames no less
    375] Than Pigot; all must One Great Power confess.
    (What Power?—enough! each wandering thought suppress.)
    He likes not England's rule, nor will he curse;
    The Church's children's ofttimes please him worse;
    Dark oaths and alien bonds are things of sin;
    380] Yet agitation doth concession win;
    He favours loyalty of much that kind
    Which in a doubtful-temper'd dog you find,
    That fawns and growls, obeys and shows his teeth,—
    Servility with danger underneath;
    385] For so must selfish England understand
    That Ireland is not wholly in her hand,
    Yet want that old excuse to knit a frown,
    Cry ‘rebel!’ and with fury smite her down.
    Irish Republic?—Irish Kingdom?—none
    390] Could less desire such thing beneath the sun


    Than Father John Adair: your ship may roll,
    But will you run her straight on rock or shoal
    For mere impatience? Of all men that live,
    Such clerics are the most conservative;
    395] Perusing somewhat bitterly, no less,
    Their map and daily roll-call of distress,
    When scores around them, with the name of land,
    Staring on hungry wife and children stand,
    Unused by beggars' art to seek and shift,
    400] And dreading from their only hold to drift.
    To pay their clergy these are ill-prepared;
    The clergy's hard-won purse with them is often shared.
  • Between the Latin prayers the small quire sings;
    In silence deep a tinkling handbell rings;
    405] The little altar-boys in white array
    Kneel round the altar; heads, black, fair, and grey,
    Through all the crowded chapel, row on row,
    Bow trembling and expectant: and with slow
    And solemn gesture, mystic-robed, the Priest


    410] Lifting the body and the blood of CHRIST,
    Hath once again the miracle renew'd
    Of that old sacrifice on Holy Rood.
  • The Mass completed, all prepare to go;
    But hush! the Father will not have it so.
    415] He speaks; th' arrested crowd is turn'd to stone;
    Familiar, but commanding, is his tone;
    The subject, Ribbonism; and, word by word,
    His fervour kindles, and his strength is stirr'd,
    To caution, warn, implore, denounce, forbid.
    420] ‘Think not,’ says he, ‘that what you plan is hid:’
    ‘The spy, the stagg8, the traitor's at your heels!’
    The straining throng its interest now reveals
    By stirs and murmurs. ‘Picture, every one,’
    ‘Your husband, or your brother, or your son,’
    425] ‘March' d off to Carrick jail—’ here women's cries
    And och! och! och! through all the building rise.
    ‘Whisht! hold your tongues! attend to what I say!’


    ‘My children, shun the dark and dangerous way.’
    ‘Have any stray 'd? let these, while yet there's time,’
    430] ‘Withdraw. To swear a wicked oath's a crime;’
    ‘To keep it, worse. The Church, to whom is given’
    ‘All power to bind and loose in Earth and Heaven,’
    ‘Declares such oath is void, of no effect.’
    ‘And mark me well, you sinners that neglect’
    435] ‘This warning,—from God's altar I declare’
    You are not Catholics; you cannot share’
    ‘The Holy Sacraments; and he that dies’
    ‘In this condition’ sobs and groans and cries
    Ring through the chapel. On their homeward way,
    440] By reddening hedge, bare stubble, heather gay,
    To distant hamlet, or thatch'd cottage lone,
    Or through the street and byways of the town
    (Some to the ruin'd abbey first repair,
    Among its graves to breathe a special pray'r),


    445] The scatter' d congregation closely sift
    The reverend Father's lecture, and its drift.
    Here are the sage remarks of Bill M'Cann,
    Oracular and disputatious man,
    Who, while he stitch'd and hammer'd at a shoe,
    450] Would argue with the Pope, and ‘sack’9 him too:—
    ‘Some things a Parish Priest is bound to say.’
    ‘The clergy, mind you, have their game to play;’
    ‘And whilst they always take the people's part,’
    ‘Keep in with powers that be,—no aisy art.’
    455] ‘Adair himself, Sir, has in private said’
    ‘That England gives us nothing but from dread;’
    ‘And I myself heard Father Austin say,’
    ‘At Jack O'Reilly's door last market-day,’
    ‘Eject them all!—It's bad, and far too bad!’
    460] ‘No wonder if they drive our people mad!’
    And Curate Austin was at times too rash;
    He mourn'd the peasants' sufferings; and the lash
    Of Protestant contempt which made him sore,


    Impatiently, being young and proud, he bore.
    465] Perhaps he said it,—and perhaps said more
    In dingy room above the grocery shop,
    No senior's eye his rhetoric to stop,
    With Curate Michael of the neighbouring parish,
    (He sole familiar there, and he was rarish,
    470] Church keeping always, like a ship at sea,
    Its hands all busy), quaffing dreary tea.
    At least our Crispin Critic did not fail
    To clap the Curate in th' opposing scale;
    And though the elder folk and womankind
    475] Found this day's lecture greatly to their mind,
    Young men and politicians, not a few,
    Discussed the words, and freely blamed them too.
    Among the rest our Neal and Denis talk'd,
    Then both to Tullagh Hill with Bridget walk'd;
    480] A flask of holy water carrying she,
    And Neal two ounces of the best black tea,
    For Maureen. Though the miles were long and rough,
    They seem'd to Denis short and smooth enough,


    Nor cared he when the rain at nightfall flow'd
    485] And made a torrent of his downward road,
    A stout young cartman, whistling bold and gay,
    Well used to vanquish weather and the way.
    Priests, Ribbonmen, and Landlords,—what are these?
    At every turn a girl's bright face he sees;
    490] Rich—poor—the dead unmeaning phrases!—Love
    Is monarch, earthly kings how far above!

  • p.114