« PreviousContinue »
venerable ruin the poor people attach so much sanctity, that to this day they covet a grave beneath its shadow: and very numerous were the mounds, with their grey headstones, or plain wooden crucifixes, alike almost hidden beneath the luxuriance of the grass and wild flowers. The stem of a very aged tree was near, with a few boughs still shooting forth, and some rich specimens of the hawthorn and mountain ash, with other thicket plants, gave a peculiar character to the wild secluded scene. Of the ruin, only a small angle remained, but heaps of stones lay scattered on the unequal ground; and the whole was closed in by lofty trees on every side. There we lingered long, examining the various attempts at fortifying every grave with something in the form of the cross, and lamenting over the abuse, alike of that sacred symbol and of the ardent minds so cruelly fettered by superstitious bigotry. We spoke of early times, of Ireland's former blessedness, her subsequent degradation, and the dawning of a hope too often overcast with clouds of doubt and despondency respecting the future. Again reverting to the high antiquity of her monumental relics, I fell into a strain calculated to quicken the nationality of my young companions, which in truth needed no stimulus; and suddenly recollecting one special immunity
enjoyed by the green isle, I exclaimed, “Oh, Robert, Ireland is the only country where at this sultry season one may plunge into such grass, in the midst of ruins, and fear no bite from venomous reptiles.' And in illustration of the fact, I stepped forthwith into the thickest part of the vegetation ; but I was presently reminded of John Gilpin's experience,
• Ah, luckless speech and bootless boast,
For which he paid full dear.'
for as I vauntingly proceeded, I found that the high grass, reaching to my knees, though it harboured neither toad nor snake, concealed some very large slippery stones, on one of which I unwittingly trod, and slid down with my foot doubled under me. The sprain was so severe as to render my return to the house rather difficult, and after a most lovely drive back to Enniscorthy, I found myself unable to stand without assistance; and what was worse, unable to rise from my bed in the night, to take a view at that solemn hour of Vinegar-hill from the glebe-house which stands, as I have said, on the ascent of that memorable ground. Imagination however was busy, and never did my spirit yearn with more affectionate longings for the ingathering of the lost sheep of Erin to the safe and happy fold, than while resting in the spot that bears so fearful a testimony to the blood-guiltiness in which their alienation from the faith of the gospel has involved them.
I am about to leave Wexford, probably no more to revisit it; and the consciousness that one stage of my journey is completed, induces a natural anxiety to review the short period now passed, with a reference to the great object of my visit. I am confirmed in the persuasion that poverty, even in the extent to which it exists here, is not the cause of that turbulence which we deplore ; at the same time, I cannot doubt that it furnishes the most potent auxiliary to the movers of sedition, insomuch that an extensive amelioration of the people's condition is indispensable, as an ingredient in any plan that can rationally be formed for their improvement. Individual conversions may and will take place, where God is pleased to bless the means used for enlightening the mind; but wherever the heart is not spiritually renewed, and this we cannot look for on a general scale, we have that to contend with which will bid defiance to our efforts, so long as the native race are left to grovel in such depths of poverty, while those whom they are taught to regard as hostile intruders into their country live in comparative affluence, eating the fat of the land. At a period of the world like this, when in every place evil men and seducers wax worse and worse, there will not be wanting a party actively engaged in stirring up discontent among the lower classes, whose success will be commensurate with the miseries of those to whom they address themselves. Education, or as some are content to call it, useful knowledge, imparted without any reference to religious principle, will aggravate the evil. The nearer the poor man approximates to his rich neighbour in mental acquirements, the more intolerably galling will be the degradation of his bodily wretchedness. I repeat, this misery is not the origin of outrage, for the fact is notorious that persons in the enjoyment of competence are the prime movers in such transactions, but the destitution of the lowest order keeps them constantly prepared to act as powerful instruments in their hands. We are on the eve of a general election, the events of which, passing before my view, will
prove whether or no the priests exert their influence as of old, in exciting a political ferment among their flocks ; or whether the erroneous concessions made have produced that healing effect so largely promised by them. Hitherto, I have seen nothing to hold out so cheering a prospect for the government and the people.
Dublin, July. It was with feelings unusually depressed that I' bade farewell to my hospitable friends in the south, to proceed hither unaccompanied by my lively young Irish companion, who, from the moment of our quitting my English home to that of my entering the Dublin stage at Enniscorthy, had seemed to consider me his guest, and performed all the offices of hospitality in a truly national spirit. The continued effect of my sprain seconded the warm entreaties of our kind entertainers to rest a while longer under their roof, and inclination was eloquent on the same side; but I had promised to meet an old friend in Dublin, to arrange the future line of a route, that is to terminate in Donegal; and with a heavy heart I quitted them all. You know this trip was relinquished, after long anticipation, and excuses forwarded to the
many kind friends who had engaged me to visit them. Circumstances led me to resume my original de