תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

known in Ireland before the sixth century. For the introduction of what we call “architecture, the country is indebted to Christianity. The population of "Eblana" were unacquainted with our often costly and trouble-causing superfluities of boarded floors, glazed windows, paved ways, gas-lights, scavengering, sewerage, and policematters which we moderns are apt to reckon among the necessaries of life.

Let the reader, for a moment, in his conception sweep away the present“Dublin ;" then group, without much regard to order, a few hundred " cabins," some of them larger than the rest, along the upper part of the range fronting the Liffey, from Cork Hill to Bridge street; next, clothe the top and southern descent of the ridge with a hazel-wood, which he also

carry

round the eastern and western sides of the city,” and along between it and the river; finally, let him place a “hurdle-ford” where Whitworth Bridge now stands; and he will perhaps have as correct an idea of Ptolemy's “ Eblana” as a model by Brunetti could supply.

Three orders of royalty then existed in Ireland. The country had its unity, its divisions, and its subdivisions of sovereignty. It was parcelled out under a large number of toparchs, or petty chiefs, each of whom bore the title of “king,” as was the case in the early times of Palestine and its neighbor lands. Above these were five provincial monarchs, “kings” of a higher grade. One of the five reigned over all, as “ king of Ireland :" his palace was on the hill of Tarah, in Meath, where he triennially convened the states of his

may

realm, for enacting laws and other national business, and where he entertained his dignitaries with hospitality and magnificence worthy of his supremacy.

“Eblana” had its “king, one of the lowest order of royal personages.

The food of the common people of ancient Ireland is said to have been "very mean and slender-namely, milk, butter, and herbs: from whence," writes Ware, “the Epitome of Strabo calls the Irish herb-eaters.” The gentry and nobility lived in higher style. Had we entered a banqueting-hall of the Eblani on a great festival day, we might have found the company reclining on couches of grass or rushes, round a table furnished with griddle-baked bread, milkmeats, and varieties of fish and flesh, both boiled and roast. The cup, too, made of wood, or horn, or brass, filled with beer or mead—“whisky' was then unknown — was passed joyfully from guest to guest, while the metal-strung harp, obedient to the touch of skill and taste, sent forth stirring sounds, with which oft mingled those of the martial drum, accompanying the bard's recital of warm affection, of illustrious ancestry, and of heroic deeds.

Of trade and commerce Eblana had not much to boast: none of its people ranked as "merchant princes.” Its Liffey was not crowded with shipping which brought in the produce of other lands,

away the growth and manufacture of its own. The risk incurred in crossing the bar from the sea, except at certain times of the tide, together with the scanty demands for articles of

or bore

an

common.

a

which there was not a home supply, made the arrival of a foreign vessel

revent

as great as was the visit

of a European or American ship at Hawaii or Tahiti fifty years ago. The Eblani had pasturage for cattle and sheep. They were also engaged in agriculture, though of a somewhat humble order—the Irish plough being, centuries later, a small wooden instrument tied to the tail of an ox or a “hobby.” Fishing was

Their boats were of two kinds : one, a canoe formed out of the trunk of a tree, and called

Cotti,” of which a specimen is to be seen in the Royal Dublin Society's Museum. The other, called a

“Corragh,” consisted of a frame of wicker-work covered with hides, larger, longer, and otherwise more adapted for sea-work, but in materials and structure like the “corracles” still used on rivers in Wales and adjoining parts. It was in a “corragh” that Columba with his twelve companions went from Ireland to Iona, in the sixth century.

Learning and refinement among the Eblani can be judged of only from what is known of the Irish \ in general of those times, and even that informa

tion is scanty and precarious. The Ogham inscriptions are of a very high antiquity. We are told of schools at Tarah, where youths were trained for sacred and civic duties. The Irish warriors

sworn to be the protectors of the fair, and avengers of their wrongs; and to be polite in word and address to their greatest enemies." “A character without guile or deceit was esteemed the highest that could be given among the ancient

were

Irish, and the favorite panegyric of a bard to his
hero 'would be that he had a heart incapable of
guile.” The Irish were early acquainted with the
game of chess. Their harp and song, too, have
attained a world-wide fame. The former is be-
lieved to have been kept “sacredly unaltered”
from the ages we are speaking of down to com-
paratively modern date, when Drayton wrote:

". The Irish I admire,
And still cleave to that lyre

As our muse's mother,
And think, till I expire,

Apollo's such another."
Bacon pronounced, “No harp hath the sound so
melting and prolonged as the Irish harp;" and
Evelyn wrote: Such music before or since did
I never hear that instrument being neglected
for its extraordinary difficulty; but in my judg-
ment being far superior to the lute itself, or what-
ever speaks with strings.” Ancient Erin was the
home of poetic genius. Feargus, called “Fion-
bell, or the Sweet-voiced,” was one of its most
distinguished bards. An ode of his composition,
delivered extempore, is said to have succeeded in
blending in peace and friendship two chiefs,
“ Gaul the Son of Morni,” and “Finn of the
flowing locks,” who, with their respective follow-
ers, had met on a field of strife to contend for
spoils they had jointly won from a common foe.
The following lines, from a translation of his
“War Ode” to Osgar, the son of Ossian, at the
battle of Gaura, when leading on his troops against
Cairbre, the monarch of Ireland, towards the close

[ocr errors]

of the third century, present a thought truly sublime :

« Thine be the battle, thine the sway ! On, on to Cairbre hew thy conquering way, And let thy deathful arm dash safety from his side!

As the proud wave, on whose broad back

The storm its burden heaves,
Drives on the scattered wreck

Its ruin leaves ;
So let thy sweeping progress roll,

Fierce, resistless, rapid, strong-
Pour, like the billow of the flood, o’erwhelming might

along."

[ocr errors]

The Cromlechs in the neighborhood of Dublin --one near the Hill of Howth, another on the south of Killiney Hill, and another at Cabinteely, about a mile westward--show that Druidism was the religion of the Eblani, as it was of other parts of the country. In due form and solemnity their priests ministered at the altar within the circle of stones, presenting, on behalf of the congregation outside the sacred enclosure, sacrifices

and other homages to their Baalim, the sun, the • moon, and the host of heaven. Holocausts of

human beings were among the rites prescribed by that superstition. Fire was an object of worship, perhaps by tradition from the Shechinah. Mountains and trees, also, are said to have had divine honors paid to them. Groves of the oak were not wanting to aid devotion, and afford growth to the mistletoe. Then, as now, the faith of the people hung pieces of cloth on branches near a " holy well,” to imbibe from the presence

« הקודםהמשך »