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ART. IV. --JOIN HOGAN.
Many a time as we sit in the stillness and security of our chimney corner, and turn over the pages of a ponderous volume of universal history, or the hot-pressed leaves of some periodic Review-a less pretentious, but perhaps even more comprehensive world-picture-we pause and ponder, straying far from the mere narrative to touch the very limits of dream-land; and suffering imagination to clothe itself in the garb and spirit, as we fancy, of some earlier time, we are filled with the greatness and glory of what is gone, and in the ecstacy of our vision cry out—"Well, it must have been a grand thing to be alive in those days!"
The marvellous culture of heathen Greece, when poetry, art, and beanty, formed the ritual of its worship, the very daily bread of its existence, and the intellect, free for once of all moral and observant restraint, could do and dare all that living intelligence might dream of; the magnificence of Roman dominion, when the first Cæsars sat enthroned in the Capitol, and the resources, the manifold tribute of all known kingdoms, flowed in the wake of victorious legions to the feet of the world's mistress; the enthusiastic passion of mediæval ages, when Charleinagne defied Teutonic godsor the Hermit Peter led the wayward hordes which a new enthusiasm stirred from the ease of a growing security, and hurried out to the fabulous Last in search of adventure, renown, or the martyr's penalty and palm ; the alınost wild exultation which thrilled through men when a new world, a very universe as it seemed, was conquered for the nations by the faith and perseverance of one poor mariner; the Te Deums which echoed through delivered Europe when Sobieski overthrew the Moslem, and Don John of Austria won Lepanto :—the memory, in one word, of scenes and events so momentous, and so full of wonder, and the r effect in the drama, as it is well called, of the world's history, so attract and enchain us, that
Looking before and after, we sigh for what is not,” and with somewhat of a querulous outburst regret that our own days have fallen in so poor a time. We are wrong, utterly. "Imagination misleads us. If we had lived in those desired times, even with our present boasted culture, and eager thirst for what is great, nay, with the power of appreciation we arrogate, no such fancied result of moral and intellectual exultation would have been our portion. Just as hundreds of years ago our ancestors whose fortune we so envy, being as it were
" to the manner born," accepted with equanimity enough the “course of events,” and regarded as quite accountable occurrences all the pageants, which in the mid distance sweep by with so thrilling a magnificence: so would it have likewise been with us too, if somewhat closer to the foot-lights we caught a glimpse of the side scenes, and gained a too familiar acquaintance with the science of stage effect.
“ The past will always win
We saw not, when we moved therein." To the thinking mind, no doubt, there is mystery and rignificance enough in every event, be its importance hidden or revealed at the moment; and no form of real greatness need escape the ken of the seeing eye. But oftentimes leisure, as we say, fails, or the faculty is altogether wanting for such wide and deep observance. Besides, it is an article of our own belief that after all, the hour of a country's most apparent prosperity, of what is supposed to be its highest upward progress, is not the moment when the moral life of its people has reached its climax; is not the moment when either the race is fullest of innate strength, or the individual best capable of receiving those marked influences, which result in the production of works which bear the stamp of genius, while preparing him to receive the impress of what is highest in the character of God-like human nature. Ultimate perfection, it now needs no prophet to tell us, is not to be expected in individuals or in nations; and long continuance in any circumstance of well-being is not to be counted on. And it does so happen, as if by some strange instinct, that in periods to all appearance of the greatest national success, there is a universal hurry, as if men sought to seize with avidity the good that is at hand; there is a predominant rapacity as if for immediate and unlimited possession ; there is a haste in all things; and from the abundance of resources the very expansiveness of individual
power is contracted, so that men who in less affluent times might have been born to the inheritance of genius, become dwarfed, and are mere talented users of the ready appliances of advanced civilization. Any smart journeyman can design for us a goodly house, rain-proof and storm-proof, in which we can live comfortably with our family and dependents. Considerable knowledge is necessary to do so much ; we question not how it has been acquired; we profit by it largely. But who shall venture to say, that there was not a quality far more akin to genius in the brain of the old Grecian, who planned and invented a way of making his little but impervious to bad weather, and lifted the roof of it on genuine Doric pillars ? A clever schoolboy can repeat problems in astronomy, and solve them too, never doubting; and can map out the orbits of stars and systems, and explain laws, and inake calculations, in a manner astounding indeed if one but think of it. Yet who will sit down by the young urchin, well crammed though he be, and fancy himself in the presence of a great intelligence ? Rather, if he want good company, and need communion with the highest intellect, he will go back a few centuries, and grapple with the thought of a Kepler or a Galileo, who in his day was certain of far less than our precocious schoolboy ; or he will travel back over weary thousands of years, until he find himself with the Chaldean Shepherds who named the Constellations.
We hold it, therefore, a more fortunate and a better thing to stand in the dawning of a great hope, watching the growth of some vital principle; so that we feel, in every movement of the world about us, the stir of strong, fresh life, and catch, ever and anon, a glimpse of coming brightness, through the long shadows and partial obscurity of a morning slowly creeping into day. Now, all is hope and prophecy. Later, the meridian glory may overshine the world; but the next change must then be a gathering darkness. What if it really be the goodliest fate to live in such a dawning of new life? What if we but open our eyes, and find that, by kind Providence, our own lot of life is cast even in so precious a moment?
A certain benevolent individual, wishing well, no doubt, to Ireland, said, once upon a time, that the best thing that could happen would be a complete submersion of the island
for a few hours. To give the gentleman his dne, when he set about wishing he did not stop at a tritie. Future commentators may dispute about the vocation of that prophet; it may be questioned whether he was not an accessary before the fact; we care not. Ireland has but risen from a very sea of tribulation. All that she has suffered for generations of oppression, opprobious tyranny, degrading thraldom, and fiendish persecution, need not now be dwelt on.
Friends she had in the days of her deepest sorrow; advocates in he momentof herlowest degradation; defenders in her sorest need ; worthy sons, not a few, to lead the forloin hope of her nationality. But martyrs they were as much as heroes ; martyrs, alas! too often, “by the pang without the palm.” Their labours have not yet borne the rich harvest of such a seed. There was not one, we fancy, of all those noble souls who, in his dying hour, could find any greater consolation than that which the recollection of a weary, heroic life could give; not one of all those conld say that his work was accomplished, and all that gained for which he lived and worked, in such vicissitude of trial and circumstance.
To go but a short time back, Grattan fought hand to hand with systematised injustice, until there was no longer ground to stand on. The senator and the patriot sadly enough followed the remnant of an Irish Legislature, and witnessed its annihilation in the proud and unscrupulous majority of an Imperial Parliament. The fight was overthe tieli with the oppressor. Curran confronted corruption
. in the Senate, and the very demons of hate and injustice in the courts of law. Government, Acts of Parliament, unrighteous custom, dominant sectarianism, were all against him. He shook the Commons with the thunders of his denunciations, and made the unjust judge writhe upon the bench, and grow pale in the gaze of his victims. But to what good ? Evil has had its way. The dispirited, worn out advocate lingered a few years, and died; still bereft of his great hope, in the company of strangers. Emmet and Fitzgerald are names of blood and tears : non ragionam di lor. O'Connell went through a life of labour, turmoil, pressing care, which would have broken the heart of a giant; and died at last, having conquered much, but not all; weary enough, we dare say, and sore, too, with the
Brutus stab of his own disciples. Then came famnine, pestilence, the reign of terror and of death. No longer patriotie fury of Conciliation Hall, or the shouts of millions on the hill sides of Tara; but instead, the death moan of stricken households, the hurrying of despair and disease, and a nameless desolation to the swarming lazars of the poorhouse. The noyades and massacres of a French Revolution destroyed the population of cities; the snows of a Russian campaign buried alive whole legions; earthquakes and plagues have desolated states. The victims of these are counted by thousands. By millions we reckon the multitudes whoin the accursed misgovernment of a party left to die on the highways, and in the ditches of Ireland, while there were ships in England's harbours, and stores in her granaries, which would have fed three kingdoms. There was no Joseph in Egypt in those days.
A very night of sorrow darkened the land, and silence has reigned ever since. Those that wish to have it so, assert that there is now no patriotic feeling, no nationality in the country; that politics, and all that sort of thing, are at an end ; that the people are minding their business, and will soon get comfortable, well fed, content. “You have no Dan O'Connell,” say they, “ to agitate for you; no one makes fine speeches about you now; your patriotism is dead; you are quelled utterly!"
But is it all over indeed, the blood and sweat of all these valiant men gone for nought? We say no; most assuredly, no. It is not the silence of despair that wraps the land, but the silence of the seed time, before the hurrying feet of the reapers, and the joyous gathering of the larvest, make a welcome inroad on the stillness. Yes, it is eren so.
The seed is scattered; the husbandmen are gone; there is no more talking. The people are left to themselves, and toGod.
But is there nothing doing? Nothing! Pause a moment, and you may feel the grass grow under your feet, so instinct with life is the very ground you tread on.
No agitation on the surface certainly ; no possing show, but beneath a great, dumb, ever-growing power, which shall soon be a nationality the world may wonder at.
When we speak here of the people of Ireland, we mean not the few native-born hundreds who talk and write, make inoney and spend it; not the select circle whom people