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of its domestic relations, for its simple homely legends, for its ancient clannish fidelities, for its old sweet melodies, for its faith-full pious deeds. The melancholy spirit found food in the contemplation of its ruined abbeys and churches, consecrated by the pious memories of countless ages, yet transformed by the ravages of Time and the brutal profanity of war into dreary howling Golgothas. This love of country is a chief trait of Irish songs. Love itself-human love for the Kathleens and Brideens, the 'colleens' and 'Gal machrees,' frequently humorous, always tender and true-is the foremost characteristic, as it should be, amongst a people of whom Grattan said, 'Their genius is affection.' The jovial rollicking qualities of the race are displayed in drinking and feast songs; and then the Irish poetry, properly socalled, of the period we have chosen, is exhausted. No epics with a trace of the fire of Homer, of the grandeur of Dante, of the majesty of Milton, are to be found; no descriptive poems like 'Childe Harold;' no satires like the Dunciad. The Irish poets were song-writers, and were poets of the human passions. That all might appreciate they sung in songs that all could learn, to the old melodies that all could sing, and had sung from their childhood. Cynicism, satire, and sarcasm are almost entirely absent. These are complex arts, and the Irish song-writers had mastered only the elementary arts of simplicity and fidelity to nature. Thus the songs go straight to the heart, in a homely fashion, with a kindly tenderness.
Their stock subject was poor, oppressed Erin, so loveable, withal her robes of sorrow and mourning; to her they never forgot to manifest and declare their fidelity, as they do to her dark-eyed maidens and her brave sons. The love of country is not of the heroic and warlike, but
of the pathetic and sentimental type; and therefore the songs are chiefly marked by a melancholy repining retrospectiveness, which hugs past glories and cherishes the renown and remembrance of past greatness and happiness. The future is not a subject for song so much as the past; and when the poet does project himself into the future, he but lights it up with a faint and faltering ray of hope. As Fate had brought Erin down from her high estate, and caused her to sit in the dust, discrowned amongst the nations, begirt in sackcloth, so in Fate was reposed the hope and trust of regeneration, and of a return to the bright happiness of the old legendary life. The independent energy and aggressive boldness essential to a patriotism of action had been crushed out of the Irish soul by harassing, cruel oppression, and the feelings that should have culminated in action found vent in dispiriting but sweet lamentations. Perhaps the 'melancholy ocean' was the causa causans of this sinking under oppression; but the people sunk, broken-spirited. There are no heroic songs with the warlike ring of arms to awaken, as in old days, the sons of the oppressed to deeds of prowess; and if there were, they would have been sung in vain. A Davis in later years, and no Celtic Irish poet, awoke the martial lyre from its long sleep.
The love of country is with the song-writers like a human endearment, an affection that is for ever casting 'longing, lingering looks behind' into the past days when their kings were conquerors, and Malachi wore the collar of gold that he won from the proud invader. The patriotism may be a poor patriotism, but from its very helplessness and fidelity it deserves more than mere esteem or praise. Patriotism was proscribed, but love was left to them; and so the rebellious hopings and dark
THE IRISH BARDS AND SONG-WRITERS.
complainings are woven round the name of a loved one. Thus we have the personification of Ireland under the name of a woman, and the inculcation of nationality under the guise of a love-song,-a frequent device of the song-writers. The singers will idealise and magnify the glory of the past, and ruminate and realise it in its exaggeration, and sit down in the dust and weep. The dark and doleful side is always upturned, as in hard truth it well may be. What Davis said of the music applies to the patriotic songs also-' they are too full of tears.' The regrets are admittedly futile, the longings admittedly vain; and although bitter, almost savage, hatred of the devastator Saxon is unforgotten, it still is impotent. It is but clanking the iron that has entered into the soul; it is but furious fuming against the irresistible and irremediable. There is no sharpening of spears and brightening of swords; no incitement to a grand tempest-rush to freedom or death. The anger is confined to lamentations and imprecations. The spirit may be willing, but the flesh is weak. Yet it is to be observed that there is no inculcation of treachery; no counselling to conspire in deceit. Broken and wounded, helpless and inert, they in their songs raged and sighed, dreamed dreams 'that did not wait for sleep.' The Celtic race, as far as Ireland was concerned, was now in hard reality 'one of the beaten nations of the earth.' This patriotism, such as it is, was and is the paramount sentiment in the Irish breast. It dominates over the religious sentiment. Thus it is with Emmet, Fitzgerald, Tone, Grattan, Smith O'Brien, Butt, Mr. Parnell, and others; though they belonged to an alien and hated creed, nevertheless the masses rose with almost one accord to flock to their standard, because upon it was inscribed, vaguely but
THE IRISH BARDS AND SONG-WRITERS.
comprehensively, the one word 'Ireland.' This word was at once a confession of doctrine and an appeal, to which even religion itself was subordinate. The people did not pause to consider who it was assumed the patriotic apostleship: the stripling or the veteran, the wise or wild, the novice or the adept, the Celt or the settler-of the old faith or the alien creed-it was immaterial. They were fain to follow anyone who, qualified or unqualified, proclaimed himself a leader, and stood forth with a project, practicable or impracticable, to clothe with some reality the intangible and cloudlike sentiment which was ever supreme within them. This sentimental fidelity is the ruling characteristic of the Celtic Irish.
The love-songs and songs of the affections were during this period what they ever were in Irish literature, full of simplicity, tenderness, and elegance, full of the true language of the true heart. Even in bardic times these were frequently of unusual excellence. The turgid bombast and preposterous exaggeration of the odes and warsongs were absent from the love-songs. Then, as in later times, these were marked by a peculiar, tender melancholy, a genuine pathos, a suppressed humour, that we seek in vain in the love-songs of other nations. In them virtue is extolled, as valour is extolled in the war-songs; the poets deal with the human passions which were their everyday observations; they wrote of true feelings which many should experience and all could comprehend; and their excellence lies in the fact that truth and nature were the well-springs of their muse. There is no striving after effect, no adherence to fashion-codes, no hypocrisies. There is no mawkish sentimentality. All is of the heart, hearty, and of the home, homely. They are the best
portion of the country's literature. They are the charm. of Irish poetry. They 'dwell in reality,' and thus, according to Mr. Carlyle, contain the essence of permanence. There is nothing foreign or impossible in them, nothing untrue to nature or humanity. The 'boys' are the same, and the 'colleens' the same in the nineteenth century as they were in the seventeenth. Those songs written a few centuries ago are as fresh and as real as those written today. They are full of goodness and beauty, are bright and abiding. The ineffable tenderness, the gentle reproachings, or the irresistible coaxings; the utter freedom from immodesty or indecorum; the familiar but respectful sentiment; the sympathetic melodies-these and the eternal qualities of truth and reality will preserve them to literature and humanity as long as the sun and moon endure.
The convivial songs differ from others of a similar description, in that though they are wholly in praise of the bowl, not for any sentimentality, but because it affords the very material delight of getting drunk, they are never coarse or indecent. If it be true that the songs of a people are the truest indication and surest test of the nature and disposition of the people, the songs of Ireland will demonstrate that the Irish were a convivial race, with hearts always susceptible to the tender passion, and minds ever full of a love of country and hatred of the invader. But the conviviality is never half-hearted—no sentiment of depression or disappointment can attach to the bottle. The festal songs are full of enjoyment of the present, and-undisturbed by care or thought of the morrowthey insist on joviality. Reckless, hilarious profusion is enforced-no stint, no half measures, no approach to temperance is tolerated. But the drink is indulged in,