From Kilkenny to Waterford, the traveller rolls down the hills with all the waters of the country. The three greatest rivers in Ireland (after the Shannon)the Suir, the Nore, and the Barrow, all flow in this direction, and meet at Waterford; and as they bring down along with them clear waves, fruitful soil, and fresh green fields, they collect in the country around this city a multitude of charms.
At six o'clock in the morning we mounted our diligence-car to roll down into this country. It was still rather dark, but yet light enough to enable us to distinguish a party of dusky figures that surrounded our carriage. They were of course poor Irish women, whom hunger had already driven from their beds. Their chorus of lamentations was heartrending. Each recounted her sufferings, the number of her children, the misery of her husband, with as much zeal and emulation as the showmen on the Kilkenny racecourse had proclaimed their rarities. With the most humble supplications they earnestly entreated, if we would not each give something, that we would at least jointly contribute a sixpence, which they would afterwards divide among themselves. When they saw that our hearts remained unmoved, they at last led forward a poor old blind woman, and brought her close to our carriage, so that in the twilight we could behold her empty eyesockets: Look, your honours! there's misery for you! Only look at this poor unfortunate woman! Give her somethingonly one penny, your honours, and God will prosper your journey! God will protect your eyes, and carry you home safe to your families! When this wretched creature, whose hand they held close to us, had received something, the others appeared somewhat
p.209satisfied, and no longer supplicated so noisily for themselves. I have often remarked among the Irish beggars, that even the most miserable modestly retire before those who are supposed to be still more miserable than themselves.
A traveller in Ireland can never dwell too strongly on the extraordinary misery of the poorer classes, in order as much as possible, and from every quarter, to contradict the opinions of those Englishmen who will not believe in the misery of Irelandwho deny it, who laugh at it, and call him a fool who speaks of it, and believes in its existence. Ruin, decay, rags, beggars, and misery are to be seen all through Ireland,not merely in the wild districts of Clare, Donegal, Mayo, and Kerry, where, in truth, they present themselves in the greatest and most appalling forms,but equally throughout the most beautiful and most fertile plains. And why is this the case? Because it is not the poverty of nature that is to blame, but men,the men of England on account of their severe laws, and the men of Ireland on account of their laziness and want of industry. Thus, even this beautiful district, as far as Waterford, displays the usual richness of Ireland in poverty, the usual abundance of want, and the great profusion of indigence. A vast quantity of land in this fertile district is said to be under the management of middlemen, and there are here, therefore, many poor villagers and farmers whose rents have been screwed to the very highest, or who, as the Irish express it, are rackrented. A landowner who exacts from his tenants an excessive rent, is called a Rackrenter, and the mansion in which this tormentor dwells is a Castle Rackrent.
Having met with a gentleman proceeding to Waterford on foot, I resolved upon travelling the latter part of my journey in the same manner, especially as my companion promised to guide me to the city through some of the by-roads of the country. On our way we took a look at the works on a new road, visited some poor farmers, and examined the ruins of a little Danish castle, called Dunkit, amid whose walls the blackberry-bushes were in blossom at this late period of the season. As the climate of Ireland neither forces the blossoms rapidly forward, nor brings the fruits quickly to maturity, a few blossoms are always to be seen here throughout the entire year. The corn ripens so slowly that, although the summer-seed is sown six weeks earlier, the harvest is almost six weeks later than in those continental countries of Europe which lie under the same degree of latitude. In the North there are countries in which the life of nature blazes up into a bright flame for a brief summer, and then again sinks into dust and ashes. In Ireland, this life always feebly glimmers, like a lighted sod and is never entirely extinguished.
We soon after beheld the valley of the Suir, the lofty picturesque shores of rock on both its sides, and the beautifully-situated town of Waterford, like a pearl in its mouth.