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Laurence Bloomfield in Ireland (Author: William Allingham)
This Irish county bears an evil name,
And Bloomfield's district stands the worst in fame,
For agitation, discord, threats, waylayings,
Fears and suspicions, plottings and betrayings;
5] Beasts kill'd and maim'd, infernal fires at night,
Red murder stalking free in full daylight.
That landlords and their tenants lived as foes
He knew, as one a truth by hearsay knows,
But now it stands around where'er he goes.
Blue mountains, dusky moorlands, verdant plain;
A lively river hastening to the main;
Bog, arable, and pasture; lake and pond,
And woody park; a little Town beyond;
Wide-scatter'd human dwellings, great and small;
15] Glance round one rural scene; and let me call
Its roll of petty princes,they are such,
If ruling little of our world, or much.
Laws and a suzerain above them stand,
But have they not dominion in the land?
The realm of Bloomfield, late his uncle's ward,
And that which owns Sir Ulick for its lord,
Pigot now governs, agent wise and great,
Rich man himself, grand juror, magistrate.
'Twas taught as part of Bloomfield's early creed,
25] Pigot in-val-uable man indeed!
And though Sir Ulick loves to seem to reign,
Pigot' s least whisper never falls in vain.
You find in old Sir Ulick Harvey's face,
The looks of long command, and comely race;
30] No small man sees a brother in those eyes
Of calm and frosty blue, like winter skies;
Courteous his voice, yet all the pride is there;
Pride like a halo crowns his silvery hair;
'Tis unmisgiving pride that makes him frank
35] With humble folk, and dress beneath his rank.
Born in the purple, he could hardly know
Less of the tides of life that round him flow.
The Laws were for the Higher Classes made;
But while the Lower gratefully obey'd,
40] To patronize them you had his consent,
Promote their comfort, to a safe extent,
And teach themjust enough, and not too much;
Most careful lest with impious hand you touch
Order and grade as plann'd by Providence.
45] An apophthegm, no doubt, of weighty sense;
Had he but ask'd, is prejudice of mine
A perfect measure of the Will Divine?
Or, by how much per annum is one given
A seat as privy-councillor of Heaven?
He sometimes took a well-meant scheme in hand,
Which must be done exactly as he plann'd;
His judgment feeble, and his self-will strong,
He had his way, and that was mostly wrong.
The whim was such, that seized his mind of late,
55] To square the farms on all his wide estate;
Tim's mountain grazing, Peter's lough-side patch,
This onion-field of Ned's that few could match,
Phil's earliest ridges, Thady's bog, worse hap!
By mere new lines across his Honour's map
60] From ancient holdings have been clipt away,
Despite the loud complaints, or dumb dismay.
My Lady Harvey comes of Shropshire blood,
Stately, with finish'd manners, cold of mood;
Her eldest son is in the Guards; her next
65] At Eton; her two daughtersI'm perplex'd
To specify young ladiesthey are tall,
Dark-hair' d, and smile in speaking, that is all.
Joining Sir Ulick's at the river's bend,
Lord Crashton's acres east and west extend;
70] Great owner here, in England greater still.
As poor folk say, The world's divided ill.
On every pleasure men can buy with gold
He surfeited; and now, diseased and old,
He lives abroad; a firm in Molesworth Street
75] Doing what their attorneyship thinks meet.
The rule of seventy properties have they.
Wide waves the meadow on a summer day,
Far spread the sheep across the swelling hill,
And horns and hooves the daisied pasture fill;
80] A stout and high enclosure girdles all,
Built up with stones from many a cottage wall;
And, thanks to Phinn & Wedgely's thrifty pains,
Not one unsightly ruin there remains.
Phinn comes half-yearly, sometimes with a friend,
85] Who writes to Mail or Warder to commend
These vast improvements, and bestows the term
Of Ireland's benefactors on the firm,
A well-earn' d title, in the firm's own mind.
Twice only in the memory of mankind
90] Lord Crashton's proud and noble self appeared;
Up-river, last time, in his yacht he steer' d,
With crew of seven, a valet, a French cook,
And one on whom askance the gentry look,
Although a pretty, well-dress' d demoiselle,
95] Not Lady Crashton who, as gossips tell,
Goes her own wicked way. They stopp'd a week;
Then, with gay ribbons fluttering from the peak,
And snowy skirts spread wide, on either hand
The Aphrodite curtsied to the land,
100] And glided off. My Lord, with gouty legs,
Drinks Baden-Baden water, and life's dregs,
With cynic jest inlays his black despair,
And curses all things from his easy chair.
Yearly, the Honourable George, his son,
105] To Ireland brings his game-subduing gun;
Who labours hard and hopes he shall succeed
To make the pheasant in those copses breed.
Finlay, next landlord (I'll abridge the tale),
Prince of Glenawn, a low and fertile vale,
110] No fool by birth, but hard, and praised for wise
The more he learn' d all softness to despise,
Married a shrew for money, louts begot,
Debased his wishes to a vulgar lot,
To pence and pounds coin'd all his mother-wit,
115] And ossified his nature bit by bit.
A dull cold home, devoid of every grace,
Distrust and dread in each dependent's face,
Bullocks and turnips, mighty stacks of grain,
Plethoric purse, impoverish'd heart and brain,
120] Such Finlay' s life; and when that life shall end,
He'll die as no man's debtor, no man's friend.
Who duns?who loves him? he can pay his way;
A hard but honest man, as people say.
Unlike this careful management (between
125] The two, Sir Ulick's townlands intervene)
Is that of Termon on the river-side,
Domain and mansion of insolvent pride,
Where Dysart, drawing from ancestral ground
One sterling penny for each phantom pound
130] Of rent-roll, lives, when all the truth is known,
Mere factor in the place he calls his own;
Through mortgages and bonds, one wide-spread maze,
Steps, dances, doubles round by devious ways,
While creditor, to creditor a foe,
135] Hangs dubious o'er the vast imbroglio.
And thus, minute in bargain where he can,
There, closing quick with ready-money man,
Despised for cunning, and for malice fear'd,
Yet still by custom and old name endear' d
140] To Celtic minds, who also better like
A rule of thumb than Gough's arithmetic,
Dysart has shuffled on, to this good day,
Let creditors and courts do what they may.
The house is wondrous large, and wondrous mean;
145] Its likeness year by year more rarely seen;
A ragged billiard-table decks the hall,
Abandon'd long ago of cue and ball,
With whips and tools and garments litter'd o'er,
And lurking dogs possess the dangerous floor.
150] Ghost, from Proconsul Rutland's time, show in
To this great shabby room, which heard the din
Of bet and handicap, oath, toast, and song,
From squires and younger sons, a vanish'd throng,
Who drank much wine, who many foxes slew,
155] Hunted themselves by creditors all through,
And caught at last, or fairly run to earth;
A cold and ghastly room of bygone mirth.
Above the dusty fox's-brush see hung
Our grandpapa the Major, spruce and young,
160] In faded scarlet; on that other side
The needy Viscount's daughter, his fair bride;
And many portraits with once-famous names,
Of ancestors and horses, dogs and dames,
Now damp, or smutch' d, or dropping from, their frames.
165] Big doleful house it is, with many a leak;
With dingy passages and bedrooms bleak;
With broken window-panes and mildew'd walls;
With grass-grown courtyard and deserted stalls
That proudly echoed to the hunting-stud,
170] Where still one stable shows its bit of blood.
Tom is not wed; long wed is brother Hugh;
They seldom meet, and quarrel when they do.
Tom is a staunch good Protestant by creed,
But half a Mormon, judged by act and deed;
175] A dozen wives he has, but underhand,
Sub rosâ, not confess'd, you understand,
And this makes all the difference, of course.
His pretty little babes, except perforce,
He never knows, and never wants to know;
180] Yet, clippings of his purse must that way go.
Pass on to Isaac Brown, a man elect,
Wesleyan stout, our wealthiest of his sect;
Who bought and still buys land, none quite sees how,
Whilst all his shrewdness and success allow.
185] On Crashton's mortgage he has money lent,
He takes a quiet bill at ten per cent,
The local public business much he sways,
He's learn'd in every neighbour's means and ways,
For comfort cares, for fashion not a whit,
190] Nor if the gentry to their ranks admit.
All preachers love him; he can best afford
The unctuous converse and the unctuous board;
Ev'n the poor nag, slow-rattling up the road
In ancient rusty gig a pious load,
195] Wags his weak tail, and strikes a brisker trot,
Approaching Brownstown, Isaac's pleasant lot.
For though at Poor-House Board was never known
A flintier Guardian-angel than good Brown,
As each old hag and shivering child can tell,
200] Go dine with Isaac, and he feeds you well.
And hear him pray, with fiercely close-shut eyes!
Gentle at first the measured accents rise,
But soon he waxes loud, and storms the skies.
Deep is the chest, and powerful bass the voice,
205] The language of a true celestial choice;
Handorgan-wise the holy phrases ground,
Go turning and returning round and round;
The sing-song duly runs from low to high;
The choruss'd groans at intervals reply;
210] Till after forty minutes' sweat and din,
Leaving perhaps too little prayer within,
Dear Brother Brown, athletic babe of grace,
Resumes his bench, and wipes his reeking face.
And if among his audience may be found
215] One who received two shillings in the pound
When merchant Isaac, twenty years ago,
Then talking pious too, but meek and low,
Was chasten' d by the Lord,with what delight
Must he behold the comfortable plight
220] And sacred influence of this worthy man.
Isaac can put in awe, he only can,
The very preachers; oily though his lip,
His will and temper have a stubborn grip.
His son, a scamp, and always in disgrace,
225] Skulks from the father's unforgiving face.
His timid, sickly wife is sore afraid.
His three stout daughters dare not go array'd
Too smartly, but read novels unconfess'd.
Brown, of all neighbouring owners handles best
230] Conacre and subletting; he can boast
That poorest tenants profit him the most.
One other Landlord, to conclude our list:
O'Hara,The O'Hara, some insist,
Of princely Irish race, which sounds full well;
235] But what an Irish prince was, who can tell?
It more imports to study wisely how
They rule the world who stand for Princes now.
The present Chief, a thin-faced man of care,
Keeps here his Bailiff, but resides elsewhere;
240] A widower he, some fifty-two years old,
A rigid Catholic, mild, formal, cold.
Children he had, but death removed his sons,
He lock'd his youthful daughters up as nuns;
An heir for half his wealth he may select;
245] His Clergy use him with profound respect.
O'Hara, once ambitious, all in vain,
And indisposed for action or for gain,
Disgusted long since with a public life,
Hates England's name, but censures noisy strife;
250] Is proud, dyspeptic, taciturn, and shy,
Learn' d in forgotten trifles, dead and dry;
Secluded from the troublous world he lives,
And secret help to church and convent gives.
Low-let, ill-tilld, and unimproved, his lands
255] Are left in lazy, sneaking flatterers' hands,
Most of them of his Bailiff-steward's tribe,
Nor any who withhold that rascal's bribe.
Lord Crashton, The O'Hara, Isaac Brown,
Sir Ulick, Dysart, Finlay,here set down
260] With touch of rapid pencil, not untrue,
Are one horizon's dominating few,
With Pigot's name to add, and Bloomfield's own:
Eight Lords of Land, terrestrial gods, are shown.
Some part of whom, with others not so great,
265] Consulting on the country's dreadful state,
Sir Ulick Harvey towering in the chair,
Impressively, resolved, that then and there
They sat assembled: that resolved they were
That something should be done: and what to do
270] But this was more than they exactly knew.
From first to last 'twas cordially agreed
That tenants had been kindly used indeed
By every landlord round. Who justly blamed?
With modest boldness for themselves they claim'd
275] Approval of the world: their simple rights.
Were never half enforced. Warm days and nights
Fulfill'd the harvest to the reaper's hook;
But souls of men dismay and passion shook.
280] It should have been a peaceful, grateful time;
But o'er this landscape enmity and crime
Like shadow lay. The harvesting is done;
That shadow stays, in spite of moon or sun.