Gerald Griffin: Commentary & Quotations

Commentary Quotations


Thomas Davis
Justin McCarthy
W. B. Yeats
George Sigerson

Daniel Corkery
John Cronin
Patrick Sheeran
Anthony Cronin

P. J. Kavanagh
Seamus Deane
Claire Connolly

Daniel O’Connell’s account of the trial of John Scanlan, the model for Hardress Cregan, whom he defended against the charge of murdering Ellen Hanley in 1819 - under O’Connell, Quotations - as attached].
R. L. Sheils, Sketches of the Irish Bar (NY Kenedy 1855), “Trial of John Scanlan for Murder” [sect. in “An Irish Circuit”] - under Notes > supra.

Note: Richard D’Alton Williams [q.v.], Poems, ed. P. A. Sillard (Duffy 1894), incls. “Hardress Cregan to Eily O’Connor” and “Hardress Cregan to Anne Chute” (pp.245 & 246) - as attached.

For Ethel Mannin’s account of the inspiration of her book on Sylvester Mahony and Gerald Griffin, see Brief Voices: A Writer’s Story (1959), pp.88-90 - as quoted under Mannin, [q.v.] and here attached].

Thomas Davis: Davis wrote to D. O. Madden: ‘Have you ever tried dramatic writing? Do you know Taylor’s Philip Van Artevelde, and Griffin’s Gissipus? I think them the two best serious dramas written in English since Shakespeare’s time. A drama equal to either of them on an Irish subject would be useful and popular to an extent you can hardly suppose.’ (Quoted in Philip Edwards, Threshold of a Nation: A Study in English and Irish Drama, Cambridge UP 1983, p.194; see further under Davis, Commentary, supra - or go to direct.)

Justin McCarthy [gen. ed.,], introducing Irish Literature (Washington: CUA 1904), finds that Gerald Griffin’s The Collegians is ‘the real masterpiece of Irish Romance’ though spoiled by Boucicault’s successful drama (Vol. 1, p.xiii).p ]

W. B. Yeats, Introduction to Representative Irish Tales (1891): ‘In Gerald Griffin, the most finished storyteller among Irish novelists, and later on in Charles Kickham, I think I notice a new accent - not quite clear enough to be wholly distinct; the accent of people who have not the recklessness of the landowning class, nor the violent passions of the peasantry, nor the good frankness of either. The accent of those middle-class people who find Carleton rough and John Banim coarse, who when they write stories cloak all unpleasant matters, and moralise with ease, and have yet a sense of order and comeliness that may sometime give Ireland a new literature. Many things are at work to help them: the papers, read by the Irish at home and elsewhere, are in their hands. They are closer to the peasant than to the gentry, for they take all things Irish with conscience, with seriousness. Their main hindrances are a limited and diluted piety, a dread of nature and her abundance, a distrust of unsophisticated life. But for these, Griffin would never have turned aside from his art and left it for the monastery; nor would he have busied himself with anything so filmy and bloodless as the greater portion of his short stories. As it is, he has written a few perfect tales. The dozen pages or so I have selected seem to me charming, and there are many people who, repelled by the frieze-coated power of Carleton, think his really very fine Collegians the best Irish novel.’ (Representative Irish Tales, ed. Mary Helen Thuente, 1979 edn., p.31; see full text in RICORSO Library, “Irish Classics”, via index or direct.)

‘[...] Griffen [sic] most facile of all one feels is Irish on purpose rather than out the neccesity of his blood. He could have written like an English man had he chosen.’ (See Yeats’s letter on planning an anthology (i.e., Representative Irish Tales, 1891) addressed to Fr. Matthew Russell in Dec. 1889 - under Yeats, Quotations, infra.]

George Sigerson, biog. notice in A Treasury [... &c.] (1900): ‘It should be counted to him that he was the first to present several of our folk customs, tales, and ancient legends in English prose. In poetry his longer pieces fail in freshness, vigour, and local colour; they are conventional compositions, carefully worded, with pleasing imagery and pensive reflections. In his lyrics, where his native genius is free, he is at his best, impassioned (though never passionate), tender, delicate, yet strong with a certain dramatic grap of his subject. there is a curious prudence that is almost Edgeworthian in certain of his verses, which controls passion and may be due to the influence of a Quaker lady whose friend he was.’ (Quoted in Justin MacCarthy, gen. ed., Irish Literature, 1904; see under References, infra.)

Daniel Corkery, Synge and Anglo-Irish Literature [1931] (Cork: Mercier Press 1966): ‘The Collegians, by Gerald Griffin, is an example. In this we have an Englishman to whom the quaintness of the folk is exhibited with the accompanying stream of comment, exactly in the Colonial manner. This normal Englishman is really the symbol of the public for whom the book was written; and the writer of it, Gerald Griffin, may be taken as the type of the non-Ascendancy writer who under the stress of the literary moulds of his time wrote Colonial literature.’ (p.8.) ‘Gerald Griffin, may be taken as the type of the non-Ascendancy writer who under [8] the stress of the literary moulds of his time wrote Colonial literature.’ (Ibid., pp.8-9.) ‘Castle Rackrent lives by English suffrage, but Gerald Griffin’s The Collegians lives by Irish suffrage.’ (Ibid., p.10.) ‘Griffin and Prout, initiates of Irish consciousness, using Ascendancy moulds, went astray.’ (Ibid., p.26.)

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John Cronin, ‘Gerald Griffin, Dedalus Manqué’, in Studies [q. iss.] (1969): ‘This creature of extremes, starting from a hatred of sham, transgresses his social code, reacts violently to the resultant predicament and brings ruin upon himself. It is a fictional analogue of Griffin’s own predicament. Hardress’s social morality is as simple, as unsophisticated as Griffin’s artistic morality. They are both sensitive. Warm-hearted, full of “nature”, passionate and intense, they both have an oversimplified view of life and they both murder what they love. Hardress murders Eily, Griffin tries to destroy his work. Surely Griffin’s penetration of the ambiguities of the character of Hardress is made possible because of some war within himself between two sharply opposed views of life and art, views which might be described in Kyrtle Daly’s words as “simplicity” and “elegance”. (p.276; quoted in Patrick Sheeran, “The Novels of Liam O’Flaherty: A Study in Romantic Realism” [ Ph.D. Diss., UCG 1972, p.183; note also reference to Cronin, ’Gerald Griffin’s Commonplace Book - A’, in Éire-Ireland, IV, 3, 1969.)

Patrick Sheeran, “The Novels of Liam O’Flaherty: A Study in Romantic Realism”, Ph.D., UCG 1972): ‘In Gerald Griffin’s vivid melodrama The Collegians the conflict of the two worlds is given in rather different terms. Kyrie Daly, son of “a very respectable family in middle life”, argues with his friend Hardness Cregan on the value of social conventions, the whole world of manners and morals. For Daly, the usages of the “polite world” are all important, they keep anarchy at bay. Without custom and ceremony: “How soon the mighty vessel would become a wreck! How silent would be the rich man’s bouquet: low solitary the great man’s chambers! How few would bow before the throne. How lonely and how desolate would be the temples of religion!” (The Collegians or the Colleen Bawn: a Tale of Garryowen, Dublin 1847, p.105.) / Hardness is a follower of Rousseau. “Manners” for him imply hypocrisy and meanness. He will carry his beliefs on this point into the most intimate practice: “Plain human nature is enough for me. If I were to choose a companion for life, I should rather hope to cull the sweet fruit of conjugal happiness in the wild orchard of nature than from the bark-beds and hot-walls of society.” (Idem.) Hardness, as has frequently been remarked, is the Heathcliff of Anglo-Irish fiction. He is also a surrogate for his creator who writes of him and his surrogate with a force and power that he cannot muster in the service of Daly and his beliefs. [Quotes John Cronin, as supra.] Certainly his view of life, his conviction of “the essentially solitary nature of the human condition” (Cronin, ‘Gerald Griffin's Commonplace Book - A’, in Éire-Ireland, IV, 3, 1969, p.38) derived from his Irish Catholicism, crippled Griffin as a novelist and drove his narrow but intense power in the direction of Romance.’ (Sheeran, pp.182-83.)

Anthony Cronin, No Laughing Matter: The Life and Times of Flann O’Brien (London: Grafton 1989; rep. Paladin 1990), quotes the account of Myles na Gopaleen in Griffin’s The Collegians, described as having ‘a broad and sunny forehead, light and wavy hair, a blue cheerful eye, a nose that in Persia might have won him a throne, healthful cheeks, and a mouth that was full of character, and a well-knit and almost gigantic person’ with a ‘lofty and confident, though most unassuming, carriage’ (Collegians, Dublin 1963, p.82; Cronin p.127).

P. J. Kavanagh, Voices in Ireland (1994), gives an account of the real events on which The Collegians is based: ‘In 1819 the body of a young girl, her feet weighted with a rock, was washed up on the shores of the Shannon estuary. Her name was Ellen Hamley [Eily], sixteen years old, daughter of a small farmer, and already noted for her beauty - a colleen bawn ... she had gone through a form of marriage with the well-connected John Scanlon [Hardress], of Ballycahane Castle, nr. Croom, who fled when her body was found. He was eventually discovered hiding in a hay barn at his family house (a casual prodding bayonet caused him to cry out) and was arrested. Daniel O’Connell was hired to defend him at his trial in Limerick, and it was generally believed that no member of the gentry would be convicted for the murder of a peasant girl. However, he was found guilty and hanged at Limerick, as later was his boatman, Sullivan, who killed the girl on his master’s instructions, after drinking a bottle of whiskey.’ (pp.138-39.)

Seamus Deane, ‘Speaking of the Nation: The Collegians’, in Strange Country: Modernity and Nationhood in Irish Writing Since 1790 (Oxford 1977), pp.157-64: ‘If Castle Rackrent [by Maria Edgeworth] is set alongside Gerald Griffin’s The Collegians (1829), the effectiveness of the national character as an agency for the production of the country’s general history in the form of an exemplary, ostensibly ‘private’ or family, narrative is further vindicated. Griffin was ultimately upset that the villain of his novel, the half sir, Hardness Cregan, should be more memorable and more likeable than the stalwart Kyrie Daly, the young Catholic son of a middleman farmer who eventually marries Ann Chute, the daughter of a landed family and the heiress whose fortune will confer respectability and ease, as well as freedom from sectarian identification, on her spouse. Griffin was right to be so worried, although his ethical or moral anxiety is perhaps too limiting in its version of the problem. For the melodramatic form of his novel demands that the choice between good and evil be stark, and its ethical imperative - that control win out over excess - ensures that the history of past excess, embodied in Hardness, should be much more materially present to us than the yet to be written history of control ever could be. The good are pallid because they have, in the economy of this novel, no historical time; they are anachronistic, out of time, in a sense opposite to that which applies to the villains of the piece. [Quotes Peter Brooks, The Melodramatic Imagination: Balzac, Henry James, Melodrama, and the Mode of Excess, Yale UP 1976, 1984, pp.16-17.) ] (p.57; cont.]

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Seamus Deane, ‘Speaking of the Nation: The Collegians’, in Strange Country ... &c.] (1977) - cont.: ‘The Collegians, is, self-consciously, a national novel in the form of Romantic melodrama. Various people are identified as having the national characteristics of recklessness, vivacity, unsteadiness, lack of moral perception - excepting young Daly, who is the rational and noble emblem of the new type who is to inherit the Irish earth after Emancipation. The novel can indeed be read as an account of the newly emergent relationship between the national and the rational, with the rational understood to be that progressive condition that grows out of and surpasses the national. But this is not the revolutionary rationality of the system maker. Rather the reverse: it is the rationality of control, of reform, of modified, educated improvement. Kyrie is controlled by his rationality and is thereby equipped to control what would otherwise be his national fate - epitomized by his Trinity College friend Hardness Cregan, The young Catholic beauty, Eily O’Connor, the Colleen Bawn, is murdered by the young half sir Hardness (or at his instigation) after a secret marriage and his subsequent regret at a liaison that is both socially embarrassing and financially unwise - since only Ann Chute’s fortune will redeem his property. Hardness is a version of the Rackrents; and the other HCs in the novel (Hyland Creagh, Hepton Connolly) are cut from the sarne cloth-duellists, hard drinkers, ruinous spendthrifts, sportsmen, and, most important of all, anachronistic. “Mr Hepton Connolly was one individual of a species now happily extinct among Irish gentlemen. He just retained enough of a once flourishing patrimony to enable him to keep a hunter, a racer, and an insolent groom.”’ (p.58.) [See longer extract in RICORSO Library > “Critical Classics”, via index or direct.]

Claire Connolly, ‘Irish Romanticism, 1800-1839’, in Cambridge History of Irish Literature (Cambridge UP 2006), Vol. I [Chap. 10]: ‘[...] The 1820s is the decade in which ‘an Irish line of fiction begins to be defined’ in the British reviews, with Irishness now negatively understood as associated with an excessive political commitment. [Ferris, op. cit., 2002, pp.130-31.] This marks a move away from an earlier more positive climate, but did not stem the production of Irish titles. When Gerald Griffin (1803-40) came to publish his first fictions, the pressure of expectation and counter-expectation is clearly felt. The introduction to the first series of his Tales of the Munster Festivals (1826) features a conversation between an enthusiastic writer of national tales and a dour antiquarian who believes that a “ruined people stand in need of a more potent sedative than an old wife’s story”. Griffin makes the old man’s “sour”, cynicism part of his narrative frame, allowing the Tales to voice strong and self-conscious criticism of existing modes of national fiction even as they stake out new fictional territory: “You would, I suppose, have a typhus fever, or a scarcity of potatoes, remedied by a smart tale, while you would knock a general insurrection on the head, with a romance in three volumes.” (Tales of the Munster Festivals, 3 vols., London 1827, Vol. 1, pp.xviii, xvii)’ (p.420.) [Cont.]

Claire Connolly (‘Irish Romanticism, 1800-1839’, 2006 - further: ‘With the fictions of the Banim brothers and Gerald Griffin (1803-40), the adventure story moves into prominence in Irish fiction. Griffin left his native Limerick for London in 1823, following the emigration of his parents to America. Dejected at the rejection of his tragedy Aguire, and his failure to make his way in the theatre, Griffin turned to journalism. He wrote prose and poetical pieces for the London papers (under ‘five hundred different signatures’, as he puts it),33 and wrote and published his first tales before returning to Ireland in 1827. Tales of the Munster Festivals (1826-7) and Holland-Tide; Or, Munster Popular Tales (1827) are presented within a frame narrative that recalls The Canterbury Tales. An audience of Irish peasants gathered to celebrate a festival are made the narrative occasion for a set of linked tales that move Irish prose in English onto new ground: legends from myth and folklore are presented on their own terms, and, via the frame narrative, to their own audience. Griffin’s tales echo the Romantic supernaturalism of James Hogg in Scotland, combining as they do uncanny tales of resurrected corpses and ghostly limbs with a detailed account of political unease and social stratification in the southern part of Ireland. Munster in the 1820s was still recovering from the economic crisis created by the ending of the Napoleonic wars and the famines of 1817 and 1822; at the time of Griffin’s writing, the south of Ireland was generally considered the most lawless and troubled province. Griffin’s short life involved a return to his native Limerick, where he met and (unhappily) fell in love with Lydia Fisher, the married daughter of Mary Leadbeater; he subsequently joined the Christian Brothers and died in a monastery in Dublin.’ (p.423.) [Cont.]

Claire Connolly (‘Irish Romanticism, 1800-1839’, 2006 - cont: ‘Griffin’s The Collegians (1829) is perhaps the best representative of the new Catholic fiction: published in the year in which Catholic emancipation passed into law, it blends themes from Irish history with contemporary trial reportage and the new trend for society (or ‘silver-fork’) fiction. The Collegian depicts the densely textured social landscape of rural Ireland: landowners, strong farmers, Middlemen, smugglers, lawyers, boatmen and buckeens all jostle for space in a narrative that shows how conflicting codes of conduct create moral chaos and political turmoil. The novel has a murder at its centre - innocent Eily O’Connor falls victim to the lazy morals and attractive indolence of local Protestant [423] landowner Hardress Cregan - that puts a fatal twist on the Protestant/Catholic pairing familiar to readers of the national tale. The Collegians does end with a more honourable version of cross-cultural union, but the promise of the union of virtuous Catholic masculinity and chaste Protestant conscience exemplified by the alliance of Kyrle Daly and Anne Chute is far outweighed by the impact of the earlier seduction and murder. This ‘coarse’ [Lady Morgan’s term - see Memoirs ... &c., 1862, II, p.288] tendency towards melodrama and mayhem was what interested later readers of Griffin’s novels such as Dion Boucicault. Like The Davenals, a silver-fork novel published anonymously in the same year, The Collegians shows how the literary consequence of emancipation may include new demands on narratie form. The frame narratives adopted by both Griffin and the Banims (and later William Carleton) all seek to produce a range of authenticity effects that might be read in terms of the consequences of Catholic authorship for what had been a largely Protestant form. (p.423-24; for longer extracts, go to RICORSO Library, “Irish Critical Classics”, via index or direct.)

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The Collegians - online digital editions
Creighton University Google Books (Harvard UL)*
*The link supplies Vol. II commencing at Chapter XXV; see also Vol. I, online. (The second of these came to notice in response to a Google search for the phrase ‘sweating and pinking days’, which seems to be unique to this text.)
See also full text version of The Collegians: A Tale of Garryowen, 3 vols. (London: Saunders & Otley 1829) - in RICORSO Library, “Irish Literary Classics”, via index, direct.) [Cont.]

Prose Poetry


The Brown Man” (1827): ‘If one were disposed to be fancifully metaphysical upon the subject, it might not be amiss to compare credulity to a sort of mental prism, by which the great volume of the light of speculative superstition is refracted in a manner precisely similar to that of the material, every day sun, the great refractor thus showing only blue devils to the dwellers in the good city of London, orange and green devils to the inhabitants of the sister (or rather step-daughter), island, and so forward until the seven component hues are made out, through the other nations of the earth.’ (In The Works of Gerald Griffin, Vol. III, NY: Sadlier & Co. [1857], pp.292-8; p.292; quoted in Richard Haslam, ‘Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu and the Fantastic Semantics of Ghost-colonial Ireland’, in That Other World: The Supernatural and Fantastic in Irish Literature [Transactions of Princess Grace Irish Library Conference, Monaco, May-June 1998].

Further: ‘In a lonely cabin, in a lonely glen, on the shores of a lonely lough, in one of the most lonesome districts of west Munster, lived a lone woman named Guare. She had a beautiful girl, a daughter named Nora. Their cabin was the only one within three miles round them in every way. As to the mode of living, it was simple enough, for all they had was one little garden of white cabbage, and they had eaten that down to a few heads between them, a sorry prospect in a place where even a handful of prishoc weed was not to be had without sowing it.’ (Holland-Tide, p.298; quoted in Sinéad Sturgeon, ‘Seven Devils’: Gerald Griffin’s “The Brown Man” and the Making of Irish Gothic’, in The Irish Journal of Gothic and Horror Studies, 11, June 2012 - online; accessed 23.08.2015).

[Cont.:] ‘Looking down towards her shadow on the earth she started with horror to observe it move, although she herself was perfectly still. It waved its black arms, and motioned her back. What the feasters said, she understood not, but she seemed still fixed in the spot. She looked once more on her shadow; it raised one hand, and pointed the way to the lane; then slowly rising from the ground, and confronting her, it walked rapidly off in that direction.’ ( Holland-Tide, pp. 302-3; quoted in Sturgeon, op. cit. 2002, - online.)

[Cont.:] ‘My husband by the grave, and the horse ... Turn your head aside, mother, for your breath is very hot ... and the dog and they eating. —Ah you are not my mother!’ shrieked the miserable girl, as thethe Brown Man flung off his disguise and stood before her, grinning worse than a blacksmith’s face through a horse-collar. He just looked at her for a moment and then darted his long fingers into her bosom, from which the red blood spouted in so many streams. She was very soon out of all pain, and a merry supper the horse, the dog, and the Brown Man had that night, by all accounts.’ (Holland-Tide, London: Simpkin & Marshall, 1827, p.307; quoted in Jean Lozes, paper in That Other World: The Supernatural and the Fantastic in Irish Literature [Transactions of the Princess Grace Irish Library Conference, 1998]; also, at longer extent [as here] in Sinéad Sturgeon, op. cit., 2012 - online.)

[See further remarks from Sturgeon on the source of the phrase ‘the seven devils’ in the opening of “The Brown Man” under Sir John Temple, whose Irish Rebellion (1644) is deemed to be its source - as infra.]

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The Collegians (1829) - on the social history of the rentier class [middle-man]: ‘Such, in happier days than ours, was the life of a Munster farmer. Indeed, the word is ill adapted to convey to an English reader an idea of the class of persons whom it is intended to designate, for they were and are, in mind and education, far superior to the persons who occupy that rank in must other countries. Opprobrious as the term ‘middleman’ has been rendered in our own time, it is certain that the original formation of the sept was both natural and beneficial. When the country was deserted by its gentry, a general promotion of one grade took place amongst those who remained at home. The farmers became gentlemen, and the labourers became farmers, the former assuming, together with the station and influence, the quick and honourable spirit, the love of pleasure, and the feudal authority which distinguished their aristocratic archetypes - while the humbler classes looked up to them for advice and assistance, with the same feeling of respect and of dependance which they had once entertained for the actual proprietors of the soil. The covetousness of landlords themselves, in selling leases to the highest bidder, without any enquiry into his character or fortunes, first tended to throw imputations on this respectable and useful body of men, which in progress of time swelled into a popular outcry, and ended in an act of the legislature for their gradual extirpation. There are few now in that class as prosperous, many as intelligent and high-principled, as Mr. Daly.’ (Chap. 4, ending; Talbot Edn. [1918], p.40-41; see full text in RICORSO Library, “Irish Literary Classics”, via index, direct.) [Cont.]

The Collegians (1829) - cont.: ‘For this, or for some better reason, it was, that Kyrle Daly, though highly popular among his inferiors and dependants, had only a second place in their affection, compared with his friend Hardress. A generosity utterly reckless and unreasoning is a quality that in all seasons has wrought most powerfully upon the inclinations of the Irish peasantry, who are, themselves, more distinguished for quick and kindly feeling than for a just perception of moral excellence. Because, therefore, the flow of generosity in Hardress Cregan was never checked or governed by motives of prudence or of justice, while good sense and reason regulated that of Kyrle Daly, the estimation in which they were held was proportionably unequal. The latter was spoken of amongst the people as “a good master;” but Hardress was their darling. His unbounded profusion made them entertain for him that natural tenderness which we are apt to feel towards any object that seems to require protection. “His heart” they observed, “was in the right place.” “It would be well for him if he had some of Master Kyrle’s sense, poor fellow.” “Master Kyrle would buy and sell him at any fair in Munster.” /  It was only therefore amongst those who were thoroughly intimate with his character, that Kyrle Daly was fully understood and appreciated [...]’ (Chap. 6; Talbot Edn. [1918], p.59; see full text in RICORSO Library, “Irish Literary Classics”, via index, or direct.)

The Collegians (1829) - cont.: ‘There was a slight feeling of chagrin mingled with the happier emotions of the young husband as he prepared for slumber. Gifted, as he was, with a quick perception and keen feeling of the beautiful and worthy, the passion he had conceived for the gentle Eily had been as sudden as it was violent. The humility of her origin, at a period when pride of birth was more considered in matrimonial alliances than it is at present, might, it is true, have deterred him from contravening the wishes of his friends, if the impression made on his imagination had been less powerful; but his extreme youth, and the excelling beauty of his bride, were two circumstances that operated powerfully in tempting him to overlook all other counsels than those which love suggested. He thought, nevertheless, that he had acted towards Eily O’Connor with a generosity which approached a species of magnanimity, in preferring her before the whole world and its opinions; and perhaps, too, he entertained a little philosophical vanity in the conceit that he had thus evinced an independent reliance on his own mental resources, and shown a spirit superior to the ordinary prejudices of society. He felt therefore, a little chagrined at Eily’s apparent slowness in appreciating so noble an effort, for indeed she did him the justice to believe that it was a higher motive than the love of self-adulation which induced him to bestow upon her his hand and his affections. But the reader is yet only partially acquainted with the character of Hardress, and those early circumstances which fashioned it to its present state of irregular and imperfect virtue; we will, therefore, while that fiery heart lies quenched in slumber, employ those hours of inaction in a brief and comprehensive view of the natural qualities and acquirements of our hero.’ (Chap. 15; Talbot Edn. [1918], pp.142-43; see full text in RICORSO Library, “Irish Literary Classics”, via index, or direct.)

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The Collegians (1829) - cont. [Fighting Poll Naughten to Hardress]: ‘“You a gentleman! There isn’t a noggin o’ genteel blood in the veins o’ your whole seed, breed, an’ generation. You have a heart! you stingy bone-polishing, tawny faced, beggarly, mane-spirited mohawk, that hadn’t the spirit to choose between poverty an’ dignity! You a gentleman! The highest and the finest in the land was open to you, an’ you hadn’t the courage to stand up to your fortune. You a heart! Except a lady was to come an’ coort you of herself, sorrow chance she’d ever have o’ you or you of her. An’ signs on, see what a misthress you brought over us! I wondher you had the courage to spake to her itself. While others looked up, you looked down. I often seen a worm turn to a buttherfly, but I never heerd of a buttherfly turning to a worm in my life before. You a heart! I’ll lay a noggin, if the docthors open you when you die, they won’t find such a thing as a bean in your whole yellow carcass, only a could gizzard, like the turkies.” / Hardress turned pale with anger at this coarse, but bitter satire. “Do stop her mouth, my dear Hardress,” murmured Eily, whose total want of pride rendered her almost incapable of resentment. “Do silence her. That woman makes me afraid for my very life.”’ (Chap. 20.)

The Collegians (1829) - cont. [Danny Mann confesses to the magistrate Warner]: ‘“If I could not afford to avow it,” he said, “I had wit enough to hide it. I knew your laws, of old. It isn’t for nothing that we see the fathers of families, the pride and the strength of our villages, the young an’ the old, the guilty, and the innocent, snatched away from their own cabins, and shared off for transportation, an’ the gallows. It isn’t for nothing, our brothers, our cousins, an’ our friends are hanged before our doores from year to year. They teach us something of the law, we thank ’em. If I was trusting to my own confession I knew enough to say little of what brought me here. A counsellor would tell you, mister magistrate, that I’ll be believed the sooner in a coort, for daling as I done. But I have other witnesses. Eily O’Connor was Hardress Cregan’s wife. You start at that too. There’s the certificate of her marriage. I took it out of her bosom, after I ...”’ (Chap. 42; see full text in RICORSO Library, “Irish Literary Classics”, via index, or direct.)

Letter to his brother [Dr. Daniel Griffin]: ‘Isn’t it extraordinary how impossible it seems to write a perfect novel [...] one that should be read with deep interest and yet be perfect as a moral work. One would wish to draw a good moral from the tale and yet it seems impossible to keep people’s feelings in the way they ought to go in. Look at these two characters of Kyrle Daly and Hardress Cregan for example. Kyrle Daly, full of high principle, prudent, amiable and affectionate; not wanting in spirit, nor free from passion; but keeping his passions under control; thoughtful, kindhearted [xv] and charitable. A character in every way deserving of our esteem. Hardress Cregan, his mother’s proud pet, nursed in the very lap of passion, and ruined by indulgence - not without good feelings, but for ever abusing them, having a full sense of justice and honour, but shrinking like a craven from their dictates; following the pleasure headlong, and eventually led into crimes of the blackest dye, by total absence of all self-control. Take Kyrle Daly’s character in what way you will, it is infinitely preferable; yet I will venture to say, nine out of ten who read this book will prefer Hardress Cregan; just because he is a fellow of high mettle, with a dash of talent about him.’ (Quoted in Padraic Colum, Introduction to The Collegians, Duffy 1918, pp.xv-xvi; for full text, see RICORSO Library, “Irish Critical Classics”, infra.)

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Prose Poetry

The Nightwalker”: ‘O Satan, prince of darkness! / thou - / Wert thou in presence there / Thou couldst not wear a subtler brown ...’); by some ‘friendly power’ he persuades him to join a band of revolutionaries, by talk of ‘Erin’s injured plains, / Of England’s galling yoke’ that causes ‘a subtle fire’ to spread within his veins; they leave the cottage and join a group of rebels thus described: ‘Around a board, whose dingy plane / Was stained by long carouse, / Sat grim Rebellions horrid train, / With fierce, suspicious brows. / Crouch’d by the hearth, a wrinkled hag / The fading embers blew - / Old Vauria of the river crag - / The Hebe of the crew [...] / Here Starlight (name of terror!) quaff’d, / Unmix’d the liquid fire - / Here Blink-o’-dawn. with milder draught. / Inflamed his easy ire; / And Lard-the-back, and Death’s-head gaunt / And many a name whose echoes haunt / The village parson’s sleep. // Here’s Moonshine (name to outrage dear) / Told how at even close / He cropped the ’nighted proctor’s ear,. / And slit the gauger’s nose; / And how some hand, at dusk of dawn, / Had fired the bishop’s hay / And headless by the mountain bawn, / The base informer lay’; an attack upon a fortification follows, in which the tempter and the leader is seen to stand off while the men are massacred by a hundred soldiers with bayonets; the tempter is a traitor ‘who purchased with their reeking blood / The life his judges gave’; the poet moralises, ‘Oh! thus shall all who sow in guilt / Reap treason at the close. // Oh, you who bless these dawning skies / In yon receding vales, / Take warning from my parting sighs / And from those swelling sails! / To answer crime with crime is worse / Than tamely to endure; / And ev’n for black oppression’s curse / Dark treason is no cure’; and finally, ‘Farewell, ye cots, that sweetly smile ... Farewell, farewell, my own green isle! / I ne’er shall see thee more.’ [See remarks on Nightwalker in Notes, infra.]

Aileen Aroon”: ‘When, like the early rose, / Aileen aroon! / Beauty in childhood blows, / Aileen aroon! / When, like a diadem, / Buds blush around the stem, / Which is the fairest gem? / Aileen aroon! // Is it the laughing eye? Aileen aroon! / Is it the timid sigh? / Aileen aroon! / Is it the tender tone, / Soft as the stringed harp’s moan? / Oh, it is truth alone, / Aileen aroon! // When, like the rising day, / Aileen aroon! / Love sends his early ray, / Aileen aroon! / What makes his dawning glow / Changeless through joy or woe? / Only the constant know, / Aileen aroon! // I know a valley fair, / Aileen, aroon! / I knew a cottage there, / Aileen aroonl / Far in that valley’s shade / I knew a gentle maid, / Flower of the hazel glade, / Aileen aroon! // Who in the song so sweet, / Aileen aroon! / Who in the dance so sweet, / Aileen aroon! / Dear were her charms to me, / Dearer her laughter free, / Dearest her constancy, Aileen aroon! // Were she no longer true, / Aileen aroon! / What should her lover do? / Aileen aroon! / Fly with his broken chain / Far o’er the sounding main, / Never to love again, / Aileen aroon! // Youth must with time decay, / Aileen aroon! / Beauty must fade away, / Aileen aroon! / Castles are sacked in war, / Chieftains are scattered far, / Truth is a fixed star, / Aileen aroon!’

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Hy Brasil, the Isle of the Blest

On the ocean that hollows the rocks where ye dwell,
A shadowy land has appeared, as they tell;
Men thought it a region of sunshine and rest,
And they called it Hy-Brasail, the isle of the blest.
From year unto year on the ocean’s blue rim,
The beautiful spectre showed lovely and dim;
The golden clouds curtained the deep where it lay,
And it looked like an Eden, away, far away!

A peasant who heard of the wonderful tale,
In the breeze of the Orient loosened his sail;
From Ara, the holy, he turned to the west,
For though Ara was holy, Hy-Brasail was blest.
He heard not the voices that called from the shore -
He heard not the rising wind’s menacing roar;
Home, kindred, and safety, he left on that day,
And he sped to Hy-Brasail, away, far away!

Morn rose on the deep, and that shadowy isle,
O’er the faint rim of distance, reflected its smile;
Noon burned on the wave, and that shadowy shore
Seemed lovelily distant, and faint as before;
Lone evening came down on the wanderer’s track,
And to Ara again he looked timidly back;
Oh! far on the verge of the ocean it lay,
Yet the isle of the blest was away, far away!

Rash dreamer, return! O, ye winds of the main,
Bear him back to his own peaceful Ara again.
Rash fool! for a vision of fanciful bliss,
To barter thy calm life of labour and peace.
The warning of reason was spoken in vain;
He never revisited Ara again!
Night fell on the deep, amidst tempest and spray,
And he died on the waters, away, far away!

Rep. in W. B. Yeats, Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry (1888), p.212; quoted [in part] in Geraldo Cantarino, ‘An Island Called Brasil’, in History Ireland, July 2008, p.35. Note: Cantarino alludes to Richard Head (q.v.) as author of O’Brazile, or the Inchanted Island [...; &c.] and concludes that modern Brasil is named after a dye-tree of that name.]

The Sister of Charity

She once was a lady of honour and wealth,
Bright glowed on her features the roses of health,
Her vesture was blended of silk and of gold,
And her motion shook perfume from every fold;
Joy revelled around her — love shone at her side,
And gay was her smile, as the glance of a bride;
And light was her step in the mirth-sounding hall,
When she heard of the daughters of Vincent de Paul.

She felt in her spirit the summons of grace,
That called her to live for the suffering race,
And, heedless of pleasure, of comfort, of home,
Rose quickly, like Mary, and answered : “I come!”
She put from her person the trappings of pride,
And passed from her home with the joy of a bride;
Nor wept at the threshold, as onward she moved,
For her heart was on fire in the cause it approved.

Lost ever to fashion — to vanity lost,
That beauty that once was the song and the toast,
No more in the ball-room that figure we meet,
But, gliding at dusk to the wretch’s retreat.
Forgot in the halls is that high-sounding name,
For the Sister of Charity blushes at fame;
Forgot all the claims of her riches and birth,
For she barters for Heaven the glory of earth.

Those feet that to music could gracefully move
Now bear her alone on the mission of love;
Those hands that once dangled the perfume and gem
Are tending the helpless, or lifted for them;
That voice that once echoed the song of the vain
Now whispers relief to the bosom of pain,
And the hair that was shining with diamond and pearl
Is wet with the tears of the penitent girl.

Her down-bed a pallet — her trinkets a bead,
Her lustre — one taper that serves her to read;
Her sculpture — the crucifix nailed by her bed,
Her paintings — one print of the thorn- crowned head;
Her cushion — the pavement that wearies her knees,
Her music — the Psalm, or the sigh of disease;
The delicate lady lives mortified there,
And the feast is forsaken for fasting and prayer.

Yet not to the service of heart and of mind,
Are the cares of that Heaven-minded virgin confined;
Like Him whom she loves, to the mansions of grief
She hastes with the tidings of joy and relief.
She strengthens the weary — she comforts the weak,
And soft is her voice in the ear of the sick;
Where want and affliction on mortals attend,
The Sister of Charity there is a friend.

Unshrinking where pestilence scatters his breath,
Like an angel she moves ’mid the vapour of death;
Where rings the loud musket, and flashes the sword,
Unfearing she walks, for she follows the Lord.
How sweetly she bends o’er each plague-tainted face
With looks that are lighted with holiest grace;
How kindly she dresses each suffering limb,
For she sees in the wounded the image of Him.

Behold her, ye worldly! behold her, ye vain!
Who shrink from the pathway of virtue and pain;
Who yield up to pleasure your nights and your days,
Forgetful of service, forgetful of praise.
Ye lazy philosophers — self-seeking men —
Ye fireside philantrophists, great at the pen,
How stands in the balance your eloquence weighed
With the life and the deeds of that high-born maid?

Rep. in Gill’s Irish Reciter: A Selection of Gems from Ireland’s Modern Literature, ed. J. J. O’Kelly [Seán Ó Ceallaigh] (Dublin: M. H. Gill 1905), pp.166-68 [available at Internet Archive - online].

Orange and Green

The night was falling dreary in merry Bandon town,
When in his cottage, weary, an Orangeman lay down,
The summer sun in splendour had set upon the vale,
And shouts of "No surrender! " arose upon the gale.

Beside the waters laving the feet of aged trees,
The Orange banners waving, flew boldly in the breeze —
In mighty chorus meeting, a hundred voices join,
And fife and drum were beating The Battle of the Boyne.

Ha! towards his cottage hieing, what form is speeding now,
From yonder thicket flying, with blood upon his brow?
“Hide — hide me, worthy stranger! though Green my colour be,
And in the day of danger may Heaven remember thee!

In yonder vale contending alone against that crew,
My life and limbs defending, an Orangeman I slew.
Hark! hear that fearful warning, there’s death in every tone —
Oh, save my life till morning, and Heaven prolong your own.”

The Orange heart was melted in pity to the Green;
He heard the tale, and felt it his very soul within.
“Dread not that angry warning, though death be in its tone—
I’ll save your life till morning, or I will lose my own.”

Now, round his lowly dwelling the angry torrent pressed,
A hundred voices swelling, the Orangeman addressed —
“Arise, arise and follow the chase along the plain!
In yonder stony hollow your only son is slain!”

With rising shouts they gather upon the track amain,
And leave the childless father aghast with sudden pain.
He seeks the righted stranger in covert where he lay —
“Arise!" he said, " all danger is gone and passed away!

“I had a son — one only, one loved as my life,
Thy hand has left me lonely in that accursed strife;
I pledged my word to save thee until the storm should cease;
I keep the pledge I gave thee — arise, and go in peace!”

The stranger soon departed from that unhappy vale,
The father broken-hearted lay brooding o’er that tale.
Full twenty summers after to silver turned his beard;
And yet the sound of laughter from him was never heard.

The night was falling dreary, in merry Wexford town,
When in his cabin, weary, a peasant laid him down,
And many a voice was singing along the summer vale,
And Wexford town was ringing with shouts of "Grainne Mhaol!”

Beside the waters laving the feet of aged trees,
The green flag, gaily waving, was spread against the breeze;
In mighty chorus meeting, loud voices filled the town,
And fife and drum were beating, "Down, Orangemen, lie down!”

Hark! ’mid the stirring clangour, that woke the echoes there,
Loud voices, high in anger, rise on the evening air,
Like billows of the ocean, he sees them hurrying on —
And ’mid the wild commotion, an Orangeman alone.

“My hair," he said, " is hoary, and feeble is my hand,
And I could tell a story would shame your cruel band,
Full twenty years, and over, have changed my heart and brow,
And I am grown a lover of peace and concord now.

“It wasn’t thus I greeted your brother of the Green,
When, fainting and defeated, I freely took him in,
I pledged my word to save him from vengeance rushing on,
I kept the pledge I gave him, though he had killed my son!”

That aged peasant heard him, and knew him as he stood;
Remembrance kindly stirred him and tender gratitude.
With gushing tears of pleasure he pierced the listening train —
“;I’m here to pay the measure of kindness back again!”

Upon his bosom falling that old man’s tears came down,
Deep memory recalling that cot and fatal town.
"The hand that would offend thee my being first shall end,
I’m living to defend thee, my saviour and my friend!”

He said, and slowly turning, addressed the wondering crowd,
With fervent spirit burning, he told the tale aloud.
Now pressed the warm beholders, their aged foe to greet;
They raised him on their shoulders and chaired him through the street.

As he had saved that stranger from peril scowling dim
So in his day of danger did Heaven remember him.
By joyous crowds attended the worthy pair were seen,
And their flags that day were blended of Orange and of Green.

Rep. in Gill’s Irish Reciter: A Selection of Gems from Ireland’s Modern Literature, ed. J. J. O’Kelly [Seán Ó Ceallaigh](Dublin: M. H. Gill 1905), pp.174-76 [available at Internet Archive - online].

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