Sydney Owenson, The Wild Irish Girl: A National Tale (1806)

Volume II
Letters IX-XXIII

Chapter Index


LETTER IX

TO J.D. ESQ. M.P.

I have already given two lessons to my pupil, in an art in which, with all due deference to the judgment of her quondam tutor, she was never destined to excel.

Not, however, that she is deficient in talent — very far from it; but it is too progressive, too tame a pursuit for the vivacity of her genius. It is not sufficiently connected with those lively and vehement emotions of the soul she is so calculated to feel and to awaken. She was created for a musician — there she is borne away by the magic of the art in which she excels, and the natural enthusiasm of her impassioned character: she can sigh, she can weep, she can smile, over her harp. The sensibility of her soul trembles in her song, and the expression of her rapt countenance harmonizes with her voice. But at her drawing-desk, her features lose their animated character — the smile of rapture ceases to play, and the glance of inspiration to beam. And with the transient extinction of those feelings from which each touching charm is derived, fades that all-pervading interest, that energy of admiration which she usually excites.

Notwithstanding, however, the pencil is never out of her hand; her harp lies silent, and her drawing-book is scarcely ever closed. Yet she limits my attendance to the first hour after breakfast, and then I generally lose sight of her the whole day, until we all meet en-famille in the evening. Her improvement is rapid — her father delighted, and she quite fascinated by the novelty of her avocation; the priest congratulates me, and I alone am dissatisfied.

But, from the natural impatience and volatility of her character (both very obvious), this, thank heaven! will soon be over. Besides, even in the hour of tuition, from which I promised myself so much, I do not enjoy her society — the priest always devotes that time to reading out to her; and this too at her own request:— not that I think her innocent and unsuspicious nature cherishes the least reserve at her being left tête-à-tête with her less venerable preceptor; but that her ever active mind requires incessant exercise; and in fact, while I am hanging over her in uncontrouled emotion, she is drawing as if her livelihood depended on the exertions of her pencil, or commenting on the subject of the priest’s perusal, with as much ease as judgment; while she minds me no more than if I was a well-organized piece of mechanism, but whose motions her pencil was to be guided.

What if, with all her mind, all her genius, this creature had no heart! And what were it to me, though she had?

* * * * *

The Prince fancies his domestic government to be purely patriarchal, and that he is at once the ‘Law and the Prophet’ to his family; never suspecting that he is all the time governed by a girl of nineteen, whose soul, notwithstanding the playful softness of her manner, contains a latent ambition, which sometimes breathing in the grandeur of her sentiments, and sometimes sparkling in the haughtiness of her eye, seems to say, ‘I was born for empire!’

It is evident that the tone of her mind is naturally stronger than her father’s, though to a common observer, he would appear a man of nervous and masculine understanding; but the difference between them is this — his energies are the energies of the passions — hers of the mind!

Like most other Princes, mine is governed much by favouritism; and it is evident that I already rank high on the list of partiality.

I perceive, however, that much of her predilection in my favour, arises from the coincidence of my present curiosity and taste with his favourite pursuits and national prejudices. Newly awakened (perhaps by mere force of novelty) to a lively interest for every thing that concerns a country I once thought so little worthy of consideration; in short, convinced by the analogy of existing habits, with recorded customs, of the truth of those circumstances so generally ranked in the apocryphal tales of the history of this vilified country; I have determined to resort to the witness of time, the light of truth, and the corroboration of living testimony, in the study of a country which I am beginning to think, would afford to the mind of philosophy a rich subject of analysis, and to the powers of poetic fancy a splendid series of romantic detail.

‘Sir William Temple,’ says Dr Johnson, ‘complains that Ireland is less known than any other country, as to its ancient state, because the natives have little leisure, and less encouragement for inquiry; and that a stranger, not knowing its language, has no ability.’

This impediment, however, shall not stand in the way of one stranger, who is willing to offer up his national prejudices at the Altar of Truth, and expiate the crime of an unfounded but habitual antipathy, by an impartial examination, and an unbiased inquiry. In short, I have actually began to study the Irish language; and though I recollect to have read the opinion of Temple, ‘that the Celtic dialect used by the native Irish is the purest and most original language that yet remains;’ yet I never suspected that a language spoken par routine, and chiefly by the lower classes of society, could be acquired upon principle, until the other day, when I observed in the Prince’s truly national library some philological works, which were shewn me by Father John, who has offered to be my preceptor in this wreck of ancient dialect, and who assures me he will render me master of it in a short time — provided I study con amore.

‘And I will assist you,’ said Glorvina.

‘We will all assist him,’ said the Prince.

‘Then I shall study con amore! indeed,’ returned I.

Behold me then, buried amidst the monuments of past ages! — deep in the study of the language, history, and antiquities of this ancient nation — talking of the invasion of Henry II as a recent circumstance — of the Phoenician migration hither from Spain, as though my grandfather had been delegated by Firbalgs to receive the Milesians on their landing — and of those transactions passed through

‘The dark posterns of time long elapsed,’

as though their existence was but freshly registered in the annals of recollection.

In short, infected by my antiquarian conversation with the Prince, and having fallen in with some of those monkish histories which, on the strength of Druidical tradition, trace a series of wise and learned Irish monarchs before the Flood, I am beginning to have as much faith in antediluvian records as Dr Parsons himself, who accuses Adam of authorship, or Thomas Banguis, who almost gives facsimiles of the hand-writing of Noah’s progenitors.

Seriously, however, I enter on my new studies with avidity, and read from the morning’s first dawn till the usual hour of breakfast, which is become to me as much the banquet of the heart, as the Roman supper was to the Augustan wits ‘the feast of reason and the flow of soul,’ — for it is the only meal at which Glorvina presides.

Two hours each day does the kind priest devote to my philological pursuits, while Glorvina, who is frequently present on these occasions, makes me repeat some short poem or song after her, that I may catch the pronunciation (which is almost unattainable), then translates them into English, which I word for word write down. Here then is a specimen of Irish poetry, which is almost always the effusion of some blind itinerant bard, or some rustic minstrel, into whose breast the genius of his country has breathed inspiration, as he patiently drove the plough, or laboriously worked in the bog. [1]

CATHBEIN NOLAN

I

‘My love, when she floats on the mountain’s brow, is like the dewy cloud of the summer’s loveliest evening. Her forehead is as a pearl; her spiral locks are of gold; and I grieve that I cannot banish her from my memory.

II

‘When she enters the forest like the bounding doe, dispersing the dew with her airy steps, her mantle on her arm, the axe in hand, to cut the branches of flame; I know not which is the most noble — the King of the Saxons [2], or Cathbein Nolan.’

This little song is of so ancient a date, that Glorvina assures me, neither the name of the composer (for the melody is exquisitely beautiful) nor the poet, have escaped the oblivion of time. But if we may judge of the rank of the poet by that of his mistress, it must have been of a very humble degree; for it is evident that the fair Cathbein, whose form is compared, in splendour, to that of the Saxon Monarch, is represented as cutting wood for the fire.

The following songs, however, are by the most celebrated of all the modern Irish bards, Turloch Carolan [3], and the airs to which he has composed them, possess the arioso elegance of Italian music, untied to the heart-felt pathos of Irish melody.

I

‘I must sing of the youthful plant of gentlest mien — Fanny, the beautiful and warm- soul’d — the maid of the amber-twisted ringlets; the air-lifted and light-footed virgin — the elegant pearl and heart’s treasure of Erin; then waste not the fleeting hour — let us enjoy it in drinking to the health of Fanny, the daughter of David.

II

‘It is the maid of the magic lock I sing, the fair swan of the shore — for whose love a multitude expires: Fanny, the beautiful, whose tresses are like the evening sun-beam; whose voice is like the black-bird’s morning song: O, may I never leave the world until dancing in the air (this expression in the Irish is beyond the power of translation) at her wedding, I shall send away the hours in drinking to Fanny, the daughter of David.’ [4]

GRACY NUGENT

I

‘I delight to talk of thee! Blossom of fairness! Gracy, the most frolic of the young and lovely — who from the fairest of the province bore away the palm of excellence — happy is he who is near her, for morning nor evening grief, nor fatigue, cannot come near him: her mien is like the mildness of a beautiful dawn; and her tresses flow in twisted folds — she is the daughter of the branches. — Her neck has the whiteness of alabaster — the softness of the cygnet’s bosom is hers; and the glow of the summer’s sun-beam is on her countenance. Oh! blessed is he who shall obtain thee, fair daughter of the blossoms — maid of the spiry locks!

II

‘Sweet is the word of her lip, and sparkling the beam of her blue rolling eye; and close round her neck cling the golden tresses of her head; and her teeth are arranged in beautiful order. — I say to the maid of youthful mildness, thy voice is sweeter than the song of the birds; every grace, every charm play round thee; and though my soul delights to sing thy praise, yet I must quit the theme — to drink with a sincere heart to thy health, Gracy of the soft waving ringlets.’ [5]

Does not this poetical effusion awakened by the charms of the fair Gracy, recall to your memory the description of Helen by Theocritus, in his beautiful epithalamium on her marriage? —

‘She is like the rising of the golden morning, when the night departeth, and when the winter is over and gone — she resembleth the cypress in the garden, the horse in the chariot of Thessaly.’

While the invocation to the enjoyment of convivial pleasure which breathes over the termination of every verse, glows with the festive spirit of the Tean bard.

When I remarked the coincidence of style which existed between the early Greek writers and the bards of Erin, Glorvina replied, with a smile,

‘In drawing this analogy, you think, perhaps, to flatter my national vanity; but the truth is, we trace the spirit of Milesian poetry to a higher source than the spring of Grecian genius; for many figures in Irish song are of oriental origin; and the bards who ennobled the train of our Milesian founders, and who awakened the soul of song here, seem, in common with the Greek poets, “to have kindled their poetic fires at those unextinguished lamps which burn within the tomb of oriental genius.” Let me, however, assure you, that no adequate version of an Irish poem can be given; for the peculiar construction of the Irish language, the felicity of its epithets, and force of its expressions, bid defiance to all translation.’

‘But while your days and nights are thus devoted to Milesian literature,’ you will say, ‘what becomes of Blackstone and Coke?’

Faith, e’en what may for me — the mind, the mind, like the heart, is not to be forced in its pursuits; and, I believe, in an intellectual as in a physical sense, there are certain antipathies which reason may condemn, but cannot vanquish. Coke is to me a dose of ipecacuhana; and my present studies, like those poignant incentives which stimulate the appetite without causing repletion. It is in vain to force me to a profession, against which my taste, my habits, my very nature, revolts; and if my father persists in his determination, why, as a dernier resort, I must turn historiographer to the Prince of Inismore.

* * * * *

Like the spirit of Milton, I feel myself, in this new world, ‘vital in every part:’

‘All heart I live, all head, all eye, all ear,
All intellect, all sense.’

LETTER X

TO J.D. ESQ. M.P.

The more I know of this singular girl, the more the happy discordia concors of her character awakens my curiosity and surprize. I never beheld such an union of intelligence and simplicity, infantine playfulness and profound reflexion, as her character exhibits. Sometimes when I think I am trifling with a child, I find I am conversing with a philosopher; and sometimes in the midst of the most serious and interesting conversation, some impulse of the moment seizes on her imagination, and a vein of frolic humour and playful sarcasm is indulged at the expence of my most sagacious arguments or philosophic gravity. Her reserve (unknown to herself) is gradually giving way to the most bewitching familiarity.

When the priest is engaged, I am suffered to tread with her the ‘pathless grass,’ climb the mountain’s steep, or ramble along the seabeat coast, sometimes followed by her nurse, and sometimes by a favourite little dog only.

Of nothing which concerns her country is she ignorant; and when a more interesting, a more soul-felt conversation, cannot be obtained, I love to draw her into a little national chit-chat.

Yesterday, as we were walking along the base of that mountain from which I first beheld her dear residence (and sure I may say with Petrarch, ‘Benedetto sia il giorno e’l Mese e’lanno’), several groups of peasants (mostly females) passed us, with their usual courteous salutations, and apparently dressed in their holiday garbs.

‘Poor souls!’ said Glorvina — ‘this is a day of jubilee to them, for a great annual fair is held in the neighbourhoods.’

‘But from whence,’ said I, ‘do they draw the brightness of those tints which adorn their coarse garments; those gowns and ribbons, that rival the gay colouring of that heath hedge; those bright blue and scarlet mantles? Are they, too, vestiges of ancient modes and ancient taste?’

‘Certainly they are,’ she replied, ‘and the colours which the Irish were celebrated for wearing and dying a thousand years back, are now most prevalent. In short, the ancient Irish, like the Israelites, were so attached to this many-coloured costume, that it became the mark by which the different classes of the people were distinguished. Kings were limited to seven colours in their roal robes; and six were allowed the bards. What an idea does this give of the reverence paid to superior talent in other times by our forefathers! But that bright yellow you now behold so universally worn, has been in all ages their favourite hue. Spenser think this customs came from the East; and Lord Bacon accounts for the propensity of the Irish to it, by supposing it contributes to longevity.’

‘But where,’ said I, ‘ do these poor people procure so expensive an article as saffron, to gratify their prevailing taste?’ [6]

‘I have heard Father John say,’ she returned, ‘that saffron, as an article of importation, could never have been at any time cheap enough for general use. And I believe formerly, as now, they communicated this bright yellow tinge with indigenous plants, with which this country abounds.

‘See,’ she added, springing lightly forward, and culling a plant which grew from the mountain’s side — ‘see this little blossom, which they call here, “yellow lady’s bed- straw,” and which you, as a botanist, will better recognize as the Galicens borum; it communicates a beautiful yellow; as does the Lichen juniperinus, or “cypress moss,” which you brought me yesterday; and I think the resida Luteola, or “yellow weed,” surpasses them all. [7]

‘In short, the botanical treasures of our country, though I dare say little known, are inexhaustible.

‘Nay,’ she continued, observing, I believe, the admiration that sparkled in my eyes, ‘give me no credit, I beseech you, for this local information, for there is not a peasant girl in the neighbourhood, but will tell you more on the subject.’

While she was thus dispensing knowledge with the most unaffected simplicity of look and manner, a group of boys advanced towards us, with a car laden with stones, and fastened to the back of an unfortunate dog, which they were endeavouring to train to this new species of canine avocation, by such unmerciful treatment as must have procured the wretched animal a speedy release from all his sufferings.

Glorvina no sooner perceived this, than she flew to the dog, and while the boys looked all amaze, effected his liberation, and by her caresses endeavoured to soothe him into forgetfulness of his late sufferings; then turning to the ringleader, she said:

‘Dermot, I have so often heard you praised for your humanity to animals, that I can scarcely believe it possible that you have been accessory to the sufferings of this useful and affectionate animal; he is just as serviceable to society in his way, as you are in your’s, and you are just as well able to drag a loaded cart as he is to draw that little car. Come now, I am not so heavy as the load you have destined him to bear, and you are much stronger than your dog, and now you shall draw me home to the castle; and then give me your opinion on the subject.’

In one moment his companions, laughing vociferously at the idea, had the stones flung out of the little vehicle, and fastened its harness on the broad shoulders of the half- pouting, half-smiling Dermot; and the next moment this little agile sylph was seated in the car.

Away went Dermot, dragged on by the rest of the boys, while Glorvina, delighted as a child, with her new mode of conveyance, laughed with all her heart, and kissed her hand to me as she flew along; while I, trembling for her safety, endeavoured to keep pace with her triumphal chariot, till her wearied, breathless Phaeton, unable to run any further with his lovely, laughing burthen, begged a respite.

‘How!’ said she, ‘weary of this amusement, and yet you have not at every step been cruelly lashed, like your poor dog.’

The panting Dermot hug his head, and said in Irish, ‘the like should not happen again.’

‘It is enough,’ said Glorvina, in the same language — ‘we are all liable to commit a fault, but let us never forget it is in our power to correct it. And now go to the castle, where you shall have a good dinner, in return for the good and pleasant exercise you have procured me.’

The boys were as happy as kings. Dermot was unyoked, and the poor dog, wagging his tail in token of his felicity, accompanied the gratified group to the castle.

When Glorvina had translated to me the subject of her short dialogue with Dermot, she added, laughing,

‘Oh! how I should like to be dragged about this way for two or three hours every day: never do I enter into any little folly of this kind, that I do not sigh for those sweet hours of my childhood when I could play the fool with impunity.’

‘Play the fool!’ said I — ‘and do you call this playing the fool? — this dispensation of humanity, — this culture of benevolence in the youthful mind, these lessons of truth and goodness, so sweetly, simply given.’

‘Nay,’ she returned, ‘you always seem inclined to flatter me into approbation of myself! but the truth is, I was glad to seize on the opportunity of lecturing that urchin Dermot, who, though I praised his humanity, is the very beadle to all the unfortunate animals in the neighbourhood. But I have often had occasion to remark, that by giving a virtue to those neglected children, which they do not possess, I have awakened their emulation to attain it.’

‘To say that you are an angel,’ said I, ‘is to say a very commonplace thing, which every man says to the woman he either does, or affects to admire; and yet’ —

‘Nay,’ — interrupted she, laying her hand on my arm, and looking up full in my face with that arch glance I have so often caught revelling in her eloquent eye — ‘I am not emulous of a place in the angelic choir; canonization is more consonant to my papistical ambition; then let me be your saint — your tutelar saint, and’ —

‘And let me,’ interrupted I, impassionately — ‘let me, like the members of the Greek church, adore my saint, not by prostration, but by a kiss;’ — and, for the first time in my life, I pressed my lips to the beautiful hand which still rested on my arm, and from which I first drew a glove that has not since left my bosom, nor been redemanded by its charming owner.

This little freedom (which, to another, would have appeared nothing), was received with a degree of blushing confusion, that assured me it was the first of the kind ever offered; even the fair hand blushed its sense of my boldness, and enhanced the pleasure of the theft by the difficulty it promised of again obtaining a similar favour.

By Heaven there is an infection in the sensitive delicacy of this creature, which even my hardened confidence cannot resist!

No prieux Chevalier, on being permitted to kiss the tip of his liege lady’s finger, after a seven years’ siege, could feel more pleasantly embarrassed than I did, as we walked on in silence, until we were happily relieved by the presence of the old garrulous nurse, who came out in search of her young lady — for, like the princesses in the Greek tragedies, my Princess seldom appears without the attendance of this faithful representative of fond maternity.

For the rest of the walk she talked mostly to the nurse in Irish, and at the castle-gate we parted — she to attend a patient, and I to retire to my own apartment, to ruminate on my morning’s ramble with this fascinating lusus naturæ.

Adieu!

H.M.

LETTER XI

TO J.D. ESQ. M.P.

The drawing which I made of the castle is finished — the Prince is charmed with it, and Glorvina insisted on copying it. This was as I expected — as I wished; and I took care to finish it so minutely, that her patience (of which she has no great store), should soon be exhausted in the imitation, and I should have something more of her attention that she generally affords me at the drawing-desk.

Yesterday, in the absence of the priest, I read to her as she drew. After a thousand little symptoms of impatience and weariness — ‘here,’ said she, yawning — ‘here is a straight line I can make nothing of — do you know, Mr Mortimer, I never could draw a perpendicular line in my life. See now my pencil will go into a curve or an angle; so you must guide my hand, or I shall draw it all zig-zag.’

(I ‘guide her hand to draw a straight line!’)

‘Nay then,’ said I, with the ostentatious gravity of a pedagogue master, ‘I may as well do the drawing myself.’

‘Well then,’ said she playfully, ‘do it yourself.’

Away she flew to her harp; while I, half lamenting, half triumphing, in my forbearance, took her pencil and her seat. I perceived, however, that she had not even drawn a single line of the picture, and yet her paper was not a mere carte-blanche — for close to the margin was written in a fairy hand, ‘Henry Mortimer, April 2d, 10 o’clock,’ — the very day and hour of my entrance into the castle; and in several places, the half-defaced features of a face evidently a copy of my own, were still visible.

If any thing could have rendered this little circumstance more deliciously gratifying to my heart, it was, that I had been just reading to her the anecdote of ‘the Maid of Corinth.’

I raised my eyes from the paper to her with a look that must have spoken my feelings; but she, unconscious of my observation, began a favourite air of her favourite Carolan’s, and supposed me to be busy at the perpendicular line.

Wrapt in her charming avocation, she seemed borne away by the magic of her own numbers, and thus inspired and inspiring as she appeared, faithful, as the picture it formed was interesting, I took her likeness. Conceive for a moment a form full of character, and full of grace, bending over an instrument singularly picturesque — a profusion of auburn hair fastened up to the top of the finest formed head I ever beheld, with a golden bodkin — an armlet of curious workmanship glittering above a finely turned elbow, and the loose sleeves of a flowing robe drawn up unusually high, to prevent this drapery from sweeping the chords of the instrument. The expression of the divinely touching countenance breathed all the fervour of genius under the influence of inspiration, and the contours of the face, from the peculiar uplifted position of the head, were precisely such, as lends to painting the happiest line of feature, and shade of colouring. Before I had near finished the lovely picture, her song ceased; and turning towards me, who sat opposite her, she blushed to observe how intensely my eyes were fixed on her.

‘I am admiring,’ said I, carelessly, ‘the singular elegance of your costume: it is indeed to me a never-failing source of wonder and admiration.’

‘I am not sorry,’ she replied, ‘to avail myself of my father’s prejudices in favour of our ancient national costume, which, with the exception of the drapery being made of modern materials (on the antique model), is absolutely drawn from the wardrobes of my great grandames. This armlet, I have heard my father say, is near four hundred years old, and many of the ornaments and jewels you have seen me wear, are of a date no less ancient.’

‘But how,’ said I, while she continued to tune her harp, and I to play the pencil, ‘how comes it that in so remote a period, we find the riches of Peru and Golconda contributing their splendour to the magnificence of Irish dress?’

‘O!’ she replied, smiling, ‘we too had our Peru and Golconda in the bosom of our country — for it was once thought rich not only in gold and silver mines, but abounded in pearls, [8] amethysts, and other precious stones: even a few years back, Father John saw some fine pearl taken out of the river Ban; [9] and Mr O’Halloran, the celebrated Irish historian, declares that within his memory, amethysts of immense value were found in Ireland. [10]

‘I remember reading in the life of St Bridget, that the King of Leinster presented to her father, a sword set with precious stones, which the pious saint, more charitable than honest, devoutly stole, and sold for the benefit of the poor; but it should seem that the sources of our national treasures are now shut up, like the gold mines of La Valais, for the public weal, I suppose; for we now hear not of amethysts found, pearls discovered, or gold mines worked; and it is to the caskets of my female ancestors that I stand indebted that my dress or hair is not fastened or adorned like those of my humbler countrywomen, with a wooden bodkin.’

‘That, indeed,’ said I, ‘is a species of ornament I have observed very prevalent with your fair paysannes; and of whatever materials it is made, when employed in such an happy service as I now behold it, has an air of simple useful elegance, which in my opinion constitutes the great art of female dress.’

‘It is at least,’ replied she, ‘the most ancient ornament we know here — for we are told that the celebrated palace of Emania, [11] erected previous to the Christian era, was sketched by the famous Irish Empress Macha, with her bodkin.

‘I remember a passage from a curious and ancient romance in the Irish language, that fastened wonderfully upon my imagination when I read it to my father in my childhood, and which gives to the bodkin a very early origin:– it ran thus, and is called the “Interview between Fionn M’Cumhal and Cannan.”

‘”Cannan, when he said this, was seated at table; on his right hand was seated his wife, and upon his left his beautiful daughter, so exceedingly fair, that the snow driven by the winter storms surpassed not her in fairness, and her cheeks wore the blood of a young calf; her hair hung in curling ringlets, and her teeth were like pearl — a spacious veil hung from her lovely head down her delicate form, and the veil was fastened by a golden bodkin.”

‘The bodkin, you know, is also an ancient Greek ornament, and mentioned by Vulcan, as among the trinkets her was obliged to forge.’ [12]

By the time she had finished this curious quotation in favour of the antiquity of her dress, her harp was tuned, and she began another exquisite old Irish air, called the ‘Dream of the Young Man,’ which she accompanied rather by a plaintive murmur, than with her voice’s full melodious powers. It is thus this creature winds round the heart, while she enlightens the mind, and entrances the senses.

I had finished the sketch in the meantime, and just beneath the figure, and above her flattering inscription of my name, I wrote with my pencil,

‘’Twas thus Apelles bask’d in beauty’s blaze,
Nor felt the danger of the stedfast gaze;’

while she, a few minutes after, with that restlessness that seemed to govern all her actions to-day, arose, put her harp aside, and approached me with

‘Well, Mr Mortimer, you are very indulgent to my insufferable indolence — let me see what you have done for me,’ and looking over my shoulder, she beheld not the ruins of her castle, but a striking likeness of her blooming self; and bending her head close to the paper, read the lines, and that name honoured by the inscription of her own fair hand.

For the world I would not have looked her full in the face; but from beneath my downcast eye I stole a transient glance: the colour did not rush to her cheek (as it usually does under the influence of any powerful emotion), but rather deserted its beautiful standard, and she stood with her eyes riveted on the picture, as though she dreaded by their removal she should encounter those of the artist.

After about three minutes endurance of this mutual confusion, (could you believe me such a blockhead!) — the priest, to our great relief, entered the room.

Glorvina ran and shook hands with him, as though she had not seen him for an age, and flew out of the room; while I, effacing the quotation, but not the honoured inscription, asked Father John’s opinion of my effort at portrait painting. He acknowledged it was a most striking resemblance, and added,

‘Now you will indeed give a coup de grace to the partiality of the Prince in your favour, and you will rank so much the higher in his estimation, in proportion as his daughter is dearer to him than his ruins.’

Thus encouraged, I devoted the rest of the day to copying out this sketch; and I have finished the picture in that light tinting, so effective in these kind of characteristic drawings. That beautifully pensive expression which touches the countenance of Glorvina, when breathing her native strains, I have most happily caught; and her costume, attitude, and harp, form as happy a combination of traits, as a single portrait perhaps ever presented.

When it was shewn to the Prince, he gazed on it in silence, till tears obscured his glance; then laying it down, he embraced me, but said nothing. Had he detailed the merits and demerits of the picture in all the technical farrago of cognoscenti phrase, his comments would not have been half so eloquent as this simple action, and the silence which accompanied it.

Adieu!

H.M.


Notes

1. Miss Brooks, in her elegant version of the works of some of the Irish bards, says, ‘’Tis scarcely possible that any language can be more adapted to lyric poetry than the Irish; so great is the smoothness and harmony of its numbers: it is also possessed of a refined delicacy, a descriptive power, and an exquisite tender simplicity of expression: two or three little artless words, or perhaps a single epithet, will sometimes covey such an image of sentiment or suffering, to the mind, that one lays down the book to look at the picture.’

2.The King of England is still called by the common Irish, Riagh Sasseanach.

3. He was born in the village of Nobber, county Westmeath, in 1670, and died in 1739. He never regretted the loss of sight, but used gayly to say, ‘my eyes are only transplanted into my ears.’ Of his poetry, the reader may form some judgment from these examples: of his music, it has been said by O’Connor, the celebrated historian (who knew him intimately), ‘so happy, so elevated was he in some of his compositions, that he excited the wonder, and obtained the approbation, of a great master who never saw him, I mean Geminiani.’ And his execution on the harp was rapid and impressive — far beyond that of all the professional competitors of the age in which he lived. The charms of women, the pleasures of conviviality, and the power of poesy and music, were at once his theme and inspiration; and his life was an illustration of his theory: for until its last ardour was chilled by death, he loved, drank, and sung. He was the welcome guest of every house, from the peasant to the prince; but, in the true wandering spirit of his profession, he never stayed to exhaust that welcome. He lived and died poor. While in the fervor of composition, he was constantly heard to pass sentence on his own effusions, as they arose from his harp, or breathed on his lips; blaming and praising with equal vehemence, the unsuccessful effort and felicitous attempt.]

4. She was daughter to David Power, Esq. of the county of Galway, and mother to the late Lord Cloncarty. The epithet bestowed on her, of swan of the shore, arose from her father’s mansion being situated on the edge of Lough Leah, or the grey lake, of which many curious legends are told. When Carolan, alone, and in the act of composing the music and words of the above song, hung over his harp, wrapt in the golden visions of his art, the theme of his effusions suddenly entered the room where he sat, and, by the noise which the rustling of her silks made, disturbed the poetic reveries of the bard, who, enraged at the interruption, which probably put to flight some happy inspiration of genius, flung at the unknown intruder a large sapling stick which he always carried with him. Miss Power, however, fortunately escaped the frenzied intention of the passionate minstrel, which, had it been realized, would have turned his panegyric trains to elegies of woe. This anecdote the Author had from her father, who had the honour of hearing it from the lips of the lady herself, and who, though at that period in an advanced era of life, retained strong traces of that exquisite beauty for which she was so justly celebrated in the strains of her native bard.

5. She was the daughter of John Nugent, Esp. of Cast Nugent, Culambre, at whose hospitable mansion the bard was frequently entertained. In the summer of 1791, the Author conversed with an old peasant in Westmeath, who had frequently listened to the tones of Carolan’s harp in his boyish days.

6. ‘A Portuguese physician attempts to account for their use of this yellow dye, by alledging that it was worn as a vermifuge. He should first demonstrate that all the people were infected with worms.’ — Dr Patterson’s Observations on the Climate of Ireland.

7. Purple, blue and green dyes, were introduces by Tighumas the Great, in the year of the world 2815. The Irish also possessed the art of dyeing a fine scarlet; so early as the day of St Bennia, a disciple of St Patrick, scarlet clothes and robes highly embroidered, are mentioned in the book of Glandelogh.]

8. ‘It should seem,’ says Mr Walker, in his ingenious and elegant essay on Ancient Irish Dress — ‘that Ireland teemed with gold and silver, for as well as in the laws recited, we find an act ordained 35th Henry VIII that merchant strangers should pay 40 pence custom for every pound of silver they carried out of Ireland; and Lord Stafford, in one of his letters from Dublin, to his royal master, says, “with this I land you an ingot of silver of 300 oz.”’]

9. Pearls abounded, and still are found in this country; and were in such repute in the 11th Century, that a present of them was sent to the famous Bishop Anselm, by a Bishop of Limerick.]

10. The Author is indebted to — Knox, Esq., barister at law, Dublin, for the sight of some beautiful amethysts, which belonged to his female ancestors, and which many of the lapidaries of London, after a diligent search, found it impossible to match.]

11.The resident palace of the Kings of Ulster, of which Colgan speaks as ‘dolens splendorem.’]

12. See Iliad, 13, 17.


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