« PreviousContinue »
HE three islands known as the Arran | These solemn structures lining the road
Islands stretch like a natural break- between the two villages of the island, the water across the entrance of Galway Bay. sea on one side, the stony hills on the othThe largest, Inishmore, is nine miles long er, seemed a novel and impressive way of and one and a half broad.
Inishman recalling the dead to those who passed in and Inishere, of which I shall speak here- their daily traffic. The inscriptions upon after, are respectively three, and two and some of them were so late as the middle a half miles long. A legend in the an- of the present century, and from the halfnals of Ireland states that Galway Bay obliterated stones of others, mocking all was once a fresh-water lake known as record, I could not learn when or for Lough Lurgan, one of the three principal whom they were erected. lakes of Ireland, and was converted into As I proceeded I saw before me the a bay by the Atlantic breaking over and lonely figure of a man, barefooted and uniting with its waters. Appearances go meanly clad. His hands were crossed far to warrant such a belief, though I will behind his back, and he held a farthing not enter into the geological history of it, candle. I accosted him with a remark lest I should get beyond my depth, but upon the beauty of the island. He turnwill content myself with referring my ed his wolfish eyes upon me, and replied, readers to those geologists who have with bitter scorn, * It is a very hard islfound in Ireland so inviting a field of re- and.” search. Where verdure clothes these "You are well acquainted with it, I rugged rocks it is perpetual, and so rich presume?" that the finest cattle in the kingdom are “None better. I was born here, and grown here.
There is no spot in Europe my forefathers before me. I have outwhich for its size is richer in antiquities lived every one of my family, and have than this. More than one thousand been striving all my life to get away from years ago it earned the name of the Isle of here." the Saints, because holy men came hither His tattered garb and wasted body in quest of that retirement and learned were emblematic of the place, and befitcompanionship which were deemed so ting the progeny of this land of ruins. conducive to sanctity. In a walk of nine Killeany, which I soon reached, is a miles one meets with the ruins of some large and well-built village. It was once fourteen churches, dating from about of great note for the piety and learning this period or earlier, along with the ruins of its founders. Hither came pious men of monasteries and hermitages, which from all parts of Europe to practice the show us how these men were content to austerities of a religious life; and the live. There are, besides, round towers ruins which we see on every side tell us, and fortresses which date earlier than any too, that these men brought with them a authentic historical record, and exhibit to taste refined by the arts. In those times the imagination these islands, now so Killeany was a village of wise men and desolate, filled with inhabitants active in sainted Tom Tiddlers, who retired to this war and peace. I believe they were in solitude to prove that they were better the time of the Druids favorite residences, than the world they had abandoned. and perhaps one of the latest strongholds Thus it acquired a renown which won it of these people; at least the traveller and the name of the “Abode of the Saints." historian will find many reasons for such The inhabitants seem to have inherited belief.
nothing from the founders who made it There are but two roads on the island, so famous, except, perhaps, to imitate their and being so little embarrassed in my rigid austerity of life, which, while it was choice, I took the first to the left, which chosen by the latter as a proof of piety, is leads to the once celebrated village of Kil- enforced on these poor people by cruel leany, and passed for a mile along the poverty. I have not seen in any part of edge of the sea, the road being mostly Ireland people more poorly clad and so upon a floor of rock. On either side were pinched by hunger; even the children nude monumental structures, erected, as I have wan, old faces, like hunchbacks. learned, in the memory of those who lay They possess no land, and depend entireburied in a cemetery some two miles off. I ly upon fishing. During the winter sea
THE ORATORY OF ST. BENAN.
son the sea is so rough that it is impossible for them to venture out. Their principal food is fish dried upon the rocks. When one remembers that Christianity was introduced here by St. Endeus, or Eaney, so early as the sixth century, it seems impossible that they should have degenerated into such stupid barbarity.
The great church of St. Endeus was demolished by the soldiers of Cromwell to repair the fortified castle of Ardkyne, of which there is a ruin close to the
On the highest point of the eastern end of the island is the oratory of St. Benan, a unique specimen of the early Irish church. Near by, sunk in the rock, are the re- | my guide into St. Benan himself, taking mains of the hermitage. This church, or his morning airing beside these gabled oratory, is very small and unadorned-just walls looking out over the sea. such a structure as befitted the bunuble- illusion, which bore so great an impress ness of the worshippers who lived in so of reality, was dispelled by the whiffs of inaccessible a region. It is useless to se- smoke from a modern clay pipe in the cure a guide in this country, for there mouth of my portly guide. is always some one living near the re- Near by is a residence of the sixth cenmarkable places who seems to consider tury, which about two years ago was that his duty is to offer his services, or brought to light from a mass of earth and rather, I should say, to accompany you, stones. It is built of small and undresswithout any other preliminary than a ed stones, without mortar, and is divided careful scrutiny of your appearance, and into numerous small compartments, barea simple salutation. An old woman of ly large enough for a single person. the village, who appeared to have been There were little entryways not more able to buy some potatoes or other mat- than a foot in width, leading to the reter of generous diet, had trudged up the moter rooms, destined, I presume, for the hill to the church. One charm of these more meagre monks. There are probably dreary old places is the power of calling twelve or fifteen rooms in this building; up vague reveries and pictures of the the floors and ceilings are all made of the past, clothing realities with the illusions same flinty and rugged stones. What of the imagination. It needed but a was evidently the main entrance had slight exertion of the fancy to transform somewhat an imposing appearance, being
reached by four steps, at whose base there was built a little kennel, which, if it was not for a dog, was made by some monk more austere than the rest ; he had, however, chosen a southern exposure for his penance.
As I gave a parting glance at the sea, I saw a bank of clouds melting into it in the distance. It looked like land, but in that
A DWELLING-HOLSE OF THE SIXTH CENTURY.
CHURCH OF THE FOUR COMELY SAINTS.
family rarely owns more than one animal, and they shear off as much wool at a time as they deem necessary for a pair of stockings; so the poor beasts are forced to go all day long in what would in civilized countries be called a strictly evening toilet. While our bare necks and shoulders, however, warm nobody, it is satisfactory to think that theirs are warming the lean legs of their owners.
Any one who has a fondness for shopping could, I think, be radically cured by a sojourn on these islands, as the nearest shops are at Galway, twenty-nine miles distant, and the only means of getting · there is by a small yacht that goes once a week, weather permitting. One journey on board of it, along with pigs, fish, peasants, sundry oil cans, and musty boxes, with the prospect of tossing about for ten or twelve hours, will suffice for a long while. The luxuries of the table at the hotel are confined to mutton, boiled and fried, with
the usual colossal platter of potatoes, vadirection the nearest land was America. ried only by bacon and cabbage. I saw I remembered then that from these cliffs a few chickens sheltering themselves unthe famous Hy Brazil was said to have der the walls, and observing me with an been seen.
Arran is still believed by the unfriendly eye, as if they saw in a stranpeasantry to be the nearest land to the far- ger a Moloch who would reduce their famed O'Brazil, or Hy Brazil, the blessed number. Prompted probably by this idea, paradise of the pagan Irish. Mr. Hardi- I asked for one for my dinner, but regretman derives the name Hy Brassil, or Bra- ted having taken him from his companzil, from bras, fiction; aoi, island; and ile, ions, with whom he had lived so long; great-i. e., "the great fictitious island.' for he seemed to have been brought here The old bards and popular tradition de- by the early Christians, or, perhaps, had scribe it as a country of perpetual sun- escaped at a remote date from some pagan shine, abounding in rivers, forests, mount- sacrifice. ains, and lakes. Castles and palaces arise It was December, yet the sun was bright on every side, and as far as the eye can and the air soft and balmy, when I started reach it is covered with groves, bowers, for Dun Ængus, a fortress pronounced by and silent glades; its fields are ever green, Dr. Petrie to be the most magnificent barwith sleek cattle grazing upon them; its baric monument now extant in Europe. groves filled with myriads of birds. It is The sun was so warm that I discarded my only seen occasionally, owing to the long wrappings as the car jogged toward Kilenchantment, which will, they say, now murrey. I am fond of loitering, and soon be dissolved. The inhabitants are stopped to see the church of the Four ever young, taking no heed of time, and Comely Saints, because the name attractlead lives of perfect happiness. In many ed me. There was, however, so much respects it resembles the Tirna-n'oge, the mud on the road to this blessed chapel pagan Irish elysium.
that I would have been disgusted with On our way to the village I saw some the Four Comely Saints ere I arrived at odd-looking sheep nipping the grass from their sanctuary, had I not considered that between the rocks. They had an absurd the mud and slush might have been an appearance of being in full dress, with accumulation of the eleven hundred years bare necks and shoulders, which prompt- that lay between them and me. ed me to ask the reason of such an un- not tell how many stone walls I scaled, seemly out-door toilet. I learned that or through what grimy depths I waded, they were originally as well clad as oth- to reach the little ruin, which was coverers of their species; but in this region a led with weeds and tangled vines. There
is an east window and altar-place in ex- so sure and near. I spoke to him, strivcellent preservation, and, near by, a niche, ing in my pity to appear unconscious of the carving of the base of which was as perceiving his misery. Without answerfresh as if made yesterday; but all above ing, he rose abruptly and left the cabin. was filled by the clustering ivy, which The looks of concern and inquietude in strove, I thought, to fill the cavity left the faces about me told me of some unusuvacant by the absent saint. Although al sorrow, which the mother, leaving her the chapel is small, it is of beautiful pro- spinning-wheel, explained to me in a low portion, and the four saints seem to have voice. She told me that the young man, left their comeliness as a perpetual heir- her eldest son, poor Owney, as she called loom to these walls.
him, had until a month before been the When I arrived at Kilmurrey, one of most healthy and cheerful member of the those storms which come from the Atlan- family; ready and prompt at work, and tic, and in an instant envelop these isl the life of the household, when a letter ands in a cloud of wind-driven mist, made came from America to a neighboring famme seek refuge in a cabin. It was a ily inclosing money to pay the passage crowded, busy peasant's home, and as I thither of their eldest daughter. It apsat by the fire-the warmest seat being peared that the young man had long engiven me with the invariable hospitality tertained a secret passion for this girl, and of these people-I found abundant mate when he heard that he probably would rial for observation and reflection. What never see her again, he declared his love to ever cleanliness was possible in a family her, and besought her to remain. So far of eight occupying one huge room along from being unmindful of his affection, with two pigs was carefully maintained; she avowed her willingness to marry him at least, the mother and children were at once, if he would accompany her to neatly and comfortably attired, the hearth America immediately afterward. This was well swept, and the pigs were confined to impossible; his own family were unable the limits assigned them. An old woman to assist him, and the few people who poswas carding wool, a little child rocking sess money on the island would not lend the cradle, and the mother spinning at a it without security. The practical damsel large wheel. The chickens, also driven saw on the other side of the Atlantic evin by the rain, one by one hopped up a ery prospect of improving her material ladder to their roosts among the rafters, condition, and doubted not that husbands from which they watched over their ruf- as plentiful there as elsewhere: fled feathers the busy family and the blaz- while, if she remained, she knew the drudging hearth with so much approval and ery and hopeless slavery that were the lot
atisfaction that I am sure, if chickens be of all around her would be hers also. susceptible to emotion, these were very Therefore she told her suitor if he could tender ones indeed. A dog sneaked in, not accompany her she would not listen and seeing a stranger, went out into the to his suit. When the young man found rain again. The dogs, which are not uu- his upbraidings useless, he gave way to merous on the island, are of the most mis- despair, and had not worked or spoken erable and condemned aspect, and seem to since his cruel sentence had been profeel their ignoble ancestry, as they inva- nounced. Every day he grew thinner riably jumped over a wall or ran into and more wan, and he did not partake of some obscurity on the approach of a stran- sufficient food to support life. All the soger.
While drying my dripping gar- licitude and tenderness of his mother had ments, I saw for the first time, seated in a not succeeded in arousing within him his corner, as if to screen himself from obser- former self, and with tears running down vation, the figure of a young man clad in her cheeks she told me she thought he white flannel, the costume of the island. had lost his reason forever. His face was thin and sad, and of the same Some weeks previously the school-mascolor as the garments he wore, and he ter had written for them to a priest, a disgazed at the fire with such a dejected and tant relative of the family, who lived in hopeless expression as led me to infer that Connemara; but they had received no rehe was the fated victim of some terrible ply, and she supposed he had neither help disease-consumption, perhaps-and was nor counsel to give. I pondered for a long feebly waiting through the long hours of while, as I sat by the fire, upon what the day and night the death he knew to be often proves to be the unfortunate sin
were to start immediately afterward upon their long voyage. As I left, the damsel, whose month's delay to prepare her outfit had given such a fortunate respite to her lover, thrust her head in the door, and called upon Owney to be sure and wear the blue stockings she had knitted him to the chapel on the morrow; and then, with her little retroussé nose turned up to the sky, ran blushing away.
But to continue my narrative. When the mist had blown over, I left the cabin, and began a difficult ascent to Dun Ængus, which crowned the cliffs overlooking the sea on the opposite side of the island. My guide was a youth of about nine years, whose attire consisted of a red petticoat, and at least a shirt collar, which was ostentatiously displayed over his bodice, an Irish cap resembling the top of a mushroom, blue stockings, and sandals, called pampootees, made of untanned cowhide,
universally worn by the incerity of men, and I could not refrain | habitants of these islands. Instead of the from deploring the no less frequent levity treacherous bogs, which my foot-padding of my own sex. In passing through the in Ireland had familiarized me with, I had village a week afterward I stopped to say now rocks and stones of every dimension good-day to these kind people, when I and ruggedness to contend with. I may found the house a scene of bustle and con- here mention that in the Arran Isles there fusion. My erewhile love-sick swain was, are no bogs, therefore no turf; and as trees when I entered, making himself a pair of are unknown, all fuel is brought, at conpampootees; and as he bade me good-day siderable expense, from Connemara. My over a dangerously starched collar, his guide danced with such agility and reckface glowed with health and energy. The lessness from stone to stone that I was not now cheerful and happy mother informed only much concerned lest his thin legs me that since my last visit they had re- should break beneath him, but was also ceived a letter from the priest in Conne- a good deal out of breath and out of pamara, inclosing his blessing for her son, tience in my efforts to keep pace with him. and the money to pay his passage to In response to my repeated injunctions, America. She had been very busy knit- however, he restrained himself so much ting him stockings, and making him a fine as to run around me like a dog, instead of white flannel suit to be married in, and running ahead of me like a hare. Motion which thereafter he would not again wear seemed to be a necessity of his existence, till his arrival at New York, so that he for I verily believe he did not remain a would make a decent appearance in the second in one spot. When I asked him a New World, as became the relative of a question as he bounded at my right, he priest. He was to be married to the ob- answered me from the left, and it took ject of his choice the next day, and they some little circumspection to adapt my
MY GUIDE AT FORT ÆNGUS.