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WHAT DO THE IRISH READ?

IRISHMEN who return to their country after a few years' absence cannot fail to see, as one of the most noticeable changes, an extension of popular literature; a great increase in the number of readers, not, however, in the upper or middle classes, but in the lower classes that is, lower as far as the possession of pounds, shillings, and pence is concerned. In a recent article in the London Reader, some statements were quoted from the Reports of the United States Bureau of Education, showing the comparative statistics of education in some of the principal countries in the world, wherein Ireland heads the list, the United States comes second, Germany third, then Switzerland, then England, France, &c. Whether those statistics be correct or not, and whether or not the inference of the Editor of the London Reader be adopted, that Ireland is the least ignorant country in the world, there is no doubt that the reading public in Ireland is comparatively large. Nor can there be any doubt that the increase of readers is mainly in the class who, with an extension of the franchise, will get a voting power they do not now possess. That being so, it may be worth while inquiring, What do they read? Looking at a few rough notes-rougb, and very imperfect indeed—a sort of answer to that question, though by no means a complete answer, may be given.

Last year a trout-fisher who was wandering on the banks of the Clashmore, a few miles above its junction with the Blackwater, turned into a cottage from a shower of rain and found an old woman listening to a girl reading some verses.

It's Mr. T. D. Sullivan's Green Leaves, sir,' said the daughter, in reply to a question ; 'my brother bought it three weeks ago in Youghal for a shilling.'

And what part do you like best?'

• Well then, sir, I was just repeating about the Lord and the Moon, the Lord who said we might as well ask for the moon as ask for Repeal. My mother has a great fancy for it; it makes her laugh.'

As the book was being looked through, the girl added, “There are other songs I prefer myself, though.'

Here are some lines from the old woman's favourite, being Mr.

6

Sullivan's rejoinder to what was said by an eminent member of the
Cabinet, and, possibly, a future premier :-

So we might as well ask for the moon, my lord ;
You think we would get it as soon, my lord;

But there you are wrong,

And we'll teach you ere long
How to sing to a different tune, my lord.

And now, if you speeched yourself hoarse, my lord,
We tell you your laws and your force, my lord,

Are no way like those

That, everyone knows,
Retain the sweet moon in its course, my

lord.

You oft put your back to the wall, my lord,
And said that the bearens should fall, my lord,

Ere Ireland should get

What she sought for, and yet
We carried our point after all, my lord.
And then when our freedom is won, my lord,
Your land will be second to none, my lord,

In giving applause

To our glory-crowned cause,

And in shouting, 'Old Ireland, well done!' my lord. The visitor hinted to the daughter of the house that she probably preferred the verses further on, relating to an approaching marriage. No indeed, sir,' she replied, 'there are poems about exiles I rather read.' And she added, "Not altogether of our own times either: “ Saint Columba in Exile” and “ O'Neill in Rome,” I like them very much.'

In what professes to be a translation of a Gaelic poem by St. Columba, these lines occur :

But yet with such a love as mine
For Erin and her noble race,
What wonder if my heart will pine
And still fly back o'er leagues of brine
To seek that happy place ?
But far from Derry, far from Kells,
And fair Raphoe, my steps must be;
The psalms from Durrow's quiet dells,
The tones of Arran's holy bells
Will sound no more for me.

In the poem describing the exiled chief of three hundred years ago, the visitor read these verses :

On every side the sweet bells ring,
And faithful people bend in pray'r ;
Sweet hymns, that angel choirs might sing,
And loud hosannas fill the air.
His place is with the princely crowd,
Amidst the noblest and the best;

His large white head is lowly bowed;
His hands are clasped before his breast.
But, oh! for Ireland, far away-
For Ireland, dear, with all her ills-
For mass in fair Tyrone, to-day,
Amid the circling Irish hills !
He sits, abstracted, by the board;
Old scenes are pictured in his brain-
Benburb! Armagh ! the Yellow Ford !
He fights and wins them o'er again.
Again he sees fierce Bagnal fall;
Sees craven Essex basely yield;
Meets armoured Segrave, gaunt and tall,
And leaves him lifeless on the field.
But, oh! for Ireland—there once more
To rouse the true men of the land,
And proudly bear from shore to shore
The banner of the blood-red hand.

To a question about the battle of the Yellow Ford, she said she would not like to answer, till she read a book called The Story of 6 Ireland written by the same gentleman, Mr. Sullivan' [but in that she was mistaken, it was by his brother], which the priest of the parish was going to lend them.

And the priest himself, which of the Green Leaves does he fancy?'

'I don't rightly know,' she replied, ' but, from something my brother said, I think Father John turned down that page,' and she pointed to this :

Of two wicked brothers I'll sing you a song :
All day and all night they're at mischief and wrong:
They are pickpockets, robbers, and murderers as well,
And the names of the pair are XX and LL.

If you make their acquaintance, full soon you will lack
A loaf on your board and a shirt to your back;
Your home will grow bare as a felon's dark cell,
For that's always the work of XX and LL.

Then, young men and old men, take heed what I say,
With your wives and your daughters keep out of their way;
For as sure as the Evil One rules down in hell,
His captains on earth are XX and LL.

In the window sill, next to some well-thumbed prayer-books, was what looked like the second volume of Mr. Sullivan's Green Leaves, the Poems of Richard Dalton Williams. The remainder of the rather limited stock of literature consisted of O'Connell's Cork Almanack, a Dublin weekly publication called The Shamrock, some not very fresh copies of the Cork Weelly Herald and a supplement of The Examiner, a newspaper also printed in Cork. The Shamrock, price one penny, contained half a dozen stories, one being "To Hell or Connaught,' an Irish historical romance translated from the French of T. Alphonse Karr, as well as some Irish songs and sketches.

Two days after the Clashmore excursion another experience of popular literary taste was gained, on calling at the residence of the priest of a parish nearer to Cork. The priest was not at home, and the servant-half acolyte and half errand-boy, not more than sixteen years of age--who was in charge of the house, was sitting on the doorstep absorbed in the columns of United Ireland.

“You are reading one of Mr. Healy's or Mr. Sexton's speeches, I suppose?

No, sir,' said the boy, 'I skip the speeches; stories and poetry are what I fancy most.'

' And is this tale, Dark Rosaleen, a Romance of Irish Latter Life, very interesting ?

“Yes, sir, very

• Do you know who wrote the verse quoted at the head of the chapter :

Over dews, over sands,

Will I fly for your weal ?
He smiled and said, 'I do well, sir; Clarence Mangan, of course :
I know his Dark Rosaleen by heart.'

Do you remember the first verse ? '
Without a moment's hesitation he repeated these lines :

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O my Dark Rosaleen,

Do not sigh, do not weep!
The priests are on the ocean green,

They march along the deep.
There's wine from the royal Pope

Upon the ocean green;
And Spanish ale shall give you hope,

My Dark Rosaleen!

My own Rosaleen !
Shall glad your heart, shall give you hope,
Shall give you health, and help, and hope,

My Dark Rosaleen.

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In those days,' said the boy, “the Pope sent assistance to Ireland.” There was a pause, and then he added, “I like the two last verses :

I could scale the blue air,

I could plough the high hills,
Oh, I could kneel all night in prayer,

To heal your many ills !
And one

beamy smile from you Would float like light between My toils and me, my own, my true,

My Dark Rosaleen !

My fond Rosaleen ! Would give me life and soul anew, A second life, a soul anew,

My Dark Rosaleen!

0! the Erne shall run red

With redundance of blood,
The earth shall rock beneath our tread,

And flames wrap hill and wood,
And gun peal, and slogan cry,

Wake many a glen serene,
Ere you shall fade, ere you shall die,

My Dark Rosaleen!

My own Rosaleen!
The judgment hour must first be nigh,
Ere you can fade, ere you can die,

My dark Rosaleen!
Do you remember any other of Mangan's poems ?'

· Yes, sir, that's a fine poem where John MacDonnell sees in a dream the guardian spirit of Erin,

With features beyond the poet's pen,

The sweetest, saddest features.

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The Lamentation of MacLiag for Kincora :

They are gone, those heroes of royal birth

Who plundered no churches and broke no trust.

When I see the ruined abbeys and castles I whisper that lamentation to myself,' said the boy. “But there is something more grand still,' he continued, “in “A Vision of Connaught in the Thirteenth Century.”

*You have a copy of Mangan's poems, of course ? ' he was asked.

‘No sir, I picked up these few bits from the Irish Penny Readings and MacCarthy's Book of Irish Ballads, not the historian, but Denis Florence. As I know you're a friend of his Reverence, sir, I can get you a peep at the Book of Ballads; but,” he added, pausing, “I suppose you know it well. He stepped into the parlour and returned with one of Duffy's "Irish Library,' which he held open, repeating :

'Twas then the time,
We were in the days
Of Cáhal Mor of the Wine-red Hand.

This is the first verse of the Vision that the young boy had referred

to:

I walked entranced

Through a land of morn;
The sun, with wondrous excess of light,

Shone down and glanced

Over seas of corn,
And lustrous gardens a-left and right.

Even in the clime

Of resplendent Spain
Beams no such sun upon such a land;

But it was the time,

'Twas in the reign Of Cábal Mór of the Wine-red Hand.

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