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* Dr. Hyde says, “the old Irish were so greatly addicted to chess, that amongst them the possession of goocl estates has been often decided by it; and,” adds he, “ there are some estates, at this very time, the property whereof still depends upon the issue of a game at chess. For example, the heirs of two certain noble Irish families, whom we could name (to say nothing of others), hold their lands upon this tenure, viz. that one of them shall encounter the other at chess in this manner; that which ever of them conquered, should seize and possess the estate of the other. Therefore,” says the doctor, “I am told they manage the affair prudently among themselves : once a year they meet, by appointment, to play at chess; one of them makes a move, and the other says, I will consider how to answer you next year. This being done, a public notary commits to writing the situation of the game, by which method a game that neither has won has been, and will be, continued for some hundred of years.' -Vallancey's Irish Grammar, Essay on the Celtic Language,
Or sylvan sports, that well beseem
The martial and the brave;
His manly limbs to lave.
But, when the rage of battle bled !
Then-then his might appear’d, And o'er red heaps of hostile dead
His conquering standard rear’d!
Where was thy God on that sad day,
When on Ierne's wave
Their beauteous prize to save ?
From Lochlin's king of ships, his bride,
His lovely queen they bore, Through whom unnumber'd warriors die,
And bathed in blood our shore.
Or on that day when Tailk's proud might
Invaded Erin's coast,
And where thy empty boast ?
While round the bravest Fenii bled,
No help did he bestow; 'Twas Osgur's arm avenged the deed,
And gave the glorious blow!
Where was thy God when Magnus came?
Magnus the brave and great;
Whose threat'ning voice was fate!
Fierce Anninir's wide wasting son,
Allean of dreadful fame,
And wrapt her walls in flame.
The deathful hero fell,
Could ev'ry force repel!
In ev'ry mouth his fame we meet,
Well known, and well believed ;-
feat Thy cloudy king achieved.
The somewhat sarcastic insinuation with which these fine stanzas conclude has the effect of throwing the saint completely off his guard, and he bursts into a strain of invective which does not present us with a very favourable idea of his progress in Christian charity. In fact, he tells the aged poet in plain terms, that he is a bald and senseless fool, and that as long as God shall rule in heaven, his race shall endure unremitting torment.
66 It must be owned," says the fair translator, “this railing is rather of the coarsest; but our poet seems more
partial to his heroes than to his saints, or he would hardly have put this language into the mouth of the good bishop.” We can scarcely, however, regret this want of equanimity on the part of St. Patrick, since it introduces the following wild but beautifully characteristic expostulation from the lips of his companion, who, shocked, as he well might be, by the anathema we have just recorded, exclaims
If God then rules, why is the chief
Of Comhals gen'rous race
From justice or from grace ?
When, were thy God himself confined,
My king of mild renown
And give him back his crown.
For never did his generous breast
Reject the feeling glow;
Or slight the captive's woe.
His ransom loosed the prisoner's chains,
And broke the dire decree;
He fought to set them free!
O Patrick ! were I senseless grown,
Thy holy clerks should bleed,
O'er the avenging deed !
Nor books nor crosiers should be found,
Nor ever more a bell
Where prayers and zealots dwell.
Nothing can more admirably paint the character of Fingal, such as we have been accustomed to see it delineated in the Ossian of Macpherson, than the second, third, and fourth stanzas of this affecting appeal. Whether the noble picture which it contains of mercy and magnanimity touched the heart of the too zealous bishop, or the allusion in its close to the power which the bard and chieftain still possessed alarmed his fears, it is not easy to ascertain; but that a sudden revolution took place, if not in the sentiments, yet in the language of the saint, is evident from the tenor of his reply:
O Oisin, of the royal race !
The actions of thy sire,
I, with the world, admire.