This entire tract of country is rich in interesting and romantic spots and valleys; but the most celebrated of all is the Vale of Avoca, particularly the spot where its principal streams unite their waters, and shortly before it falls into the sea. The Vale of Avoca is as highly prized in Ireland, as is the Vale of Vaucluse in the south of France. It is remarkable that beautiful objects have usually beautiful names. Avoca sounds almost quite Italian, though in the mouth of an Englishman but half so, namely, Aevocae. A great number of these Italian-sounding names are scattered through Ireland, as Portumna on the Shannon, Liscanor Bay on the coast of Clare, the promontory Brandon, and the town Bandon, Fort Delore on the coast of Kerry, Garomna and Castello in Connemara, Matino and Matilla, and the canal harbour Portobello, near Dublin. Are these sounds the same in the Celtic language of Ireland as in the old original Celtic language of Italy; or are they real Italian names, that have been introduced into Ireland, as into other countries, for the sake of their pleasing and musical sound?
The beautiful foliage is the greatest charm of the Vale of Avoca. There are stately oaks and beeches, which form the most picturesque groups, and are entirely covered with ivy. Indeed all those rocky valleys of the Wicklow mountains, through which rivers flow, are thus adorned with a beautiful foliage; whilst the broad lidges, the pyramidal summits, and the unwatered valleys, are quite bare. On the sides of these beautiful watered valleys there are large tracts perfectly treeless. The Irish oak has a very
p.234peculiar form, which is every where perceptible, and which distinguishes it from the English oak. But although at the first glance I could know an Irish oak by its general appearance, or by the formation of its branches, still I find it difficult to describe. Its chief characteristic seems to be, that its branches are not so bent, knotted, and spreading. There appears to me to be more straight lines than curved, greater length, and less breadth, in the Irish oak. Its principal framework of branches usually bears more or less resemblance to the ribs of an extended fan. Besides, the Irish oaks are generally not so large as the English. On the other hand, the Irish praise it for being very hard, and more durable than the English; and many works of carved wood in English buildings, the roof of Westminster-hall for instance, are said to be formed of Irish oak. The beauty which distinguishes the oaks of the Vale of Avoca, and in general those of all the glens of the county of Wicklow, is the ivy with which they are festooned. There is scarcely a single tree in this entire district that is not thus adorned with ivy; and it is in no small degree interesting to examine all the figures, various and many-numbered, with which this mantling plant ornaments the hundreds of beautiful columns of the vast leafy temple. Now it is a single, young, fresh-green shoot, that is winding like a ribbon about the knotted bark of a burly tree; now hundreds are winding round the trunk, like so many mottled serpents; then, again, the abundant leaves have wrapped an old lifeless tree, as it were, in a shaggy bearskin coat, and mounting up to the very tips and summits of its branches, have given to him an artificial foliage, with which he can no longer supply himself. As it was now autumn, and the foliage of the oaks was already somewhat browned, the evergreen ivy looked still fresher and greener by the contrast: thus every tree, with its double colours, seemed to represent at the same time spring and autumn, youth and old age. The extraordinary luxuriance with which the ivy grows here around every tree, and the manner in which it springs from the ground wherever there is a vacant spot, and clings to its object, is really wonderful; but though for the painter it makes every thing beautifulevery hut, every hollow tree, every ruined wallit must yet be a great and serious annoyance to the husbandman and the forester. Perhaps this ivy is one of the chief, though little regarded, causes of the destruction of forests in Ireland.
The little town of Arklow lies at the mouth of the Avoca, near the sea, and from it the road ascends into the wooded vale, first through Glenart wood, in which Glenart Castle and another handsome and picturesque mansion, Shelton Abbey, stand facing
p.235one another. The entire country between Arklow and Rathdrum, a small town about twelve miles up the valley, is rich in the most beautiful scenery. Yet the most celebrated spot is that which lies between the first and the second meeting of the waters. In the note to his little poem The Meeting of the , Moore does not say whether he meant the first or the second meeting, but the first was pointed out to me by the Irish as that which the poet intended, and even the tree was shown to me beneath which he is said to have drawn inspiration for this poem.
- There is not in the wide world a valley so sweet
As that vale in whose bosom the bright waters meet.
So sings Moore; and these words the Irish interpret literally; for they do not, in fact, consider that a poet, momentarily intoxicated by the wonderful beauties of a place, may declare to the world, without the slightest intention to deceive, that this place is the sweetest in the wide world, but that when a prosaic expounder of the sublime and beautiful delivers such expressions ex cathedra, he is manifestly guilty of exaggeration. There are so many charming vales, and nature is in a hundred thousand spots of the earth so extremely pleasing and beautiful, that it is only allowable to forget this so long as a man lingers in his charming valley, and revels in his enjoyment of nature, but not when he looks out from it and compares it with the rest of the world. The Americans, say the Irish, who come hither, assure us they have never beheld any thing like it. A Frenchman too was lately here, and he assured us that there was nothing equal to it in his country. The German alone, whom they had now with them, would not thus come out with his the most splendid scenery he ever saw in his life. It is often with the inhabitants of a narrow district as with a person in love: the latter has obtained his ideas of the divinity of human nature, and of the fair sex in particular, merely from a single individual of it. As he is now so deeply absorbed with this individual, and studies in her all the beauties which grace the human soul, as well as the human body, he deems all this the personal merit of the individual alone; and, (though in accordance with reason he should love the entire human race with the same affection) he now casts off reason altogether, and falls in love, as the English say, that is, into a deep hole, from which he can only see and adore one star of the many millions which stud the vast dome of heaven. Thus have the Irish discovered the breath of heaven in their Vale of Avoca. They and their journalists and poets have laid bare and praised all its beauties: hence they have fallen in love with this vale, as if it were the only one of its kind on the entire globe.
Even those Irish who have not seen this Vale have conceived the most delightful ideas respecting it, and it is more than probable that Moore has largely contributed to this by his continually repeated lines
- There is not in the wide world a valley so sweet
As that vale in whose bosom the bright waters meet;
Oh! the last rays of feeling and life must depart,
Ere the bloom of that valley shall fade from my heart.
The rest of this poem is very poor, and even ends in commonplace. In the literature of every nation there are short passages like this, which, no one knows why, have found a greater echo, and have exercised a mightier effect on men, than entire great works, or than the deeds of a whole glorious life. Millions of beautiful sentences often pass away unregarded, while two or three words for ever glow and burn bright in the hearts of an entire people. Moore has a multitude of these striking and burning passages, in which he has sung, in short, affecting, and patriotic lays, the beauty of many an Irish glen, castle, and ruin, and in this manner has erected, in the hearts of the people, a monument of their fame more indestructible than brass or stone. Thus, in another famous lay, he has sung of the enchanting lake of Glendalough, at whose gloomy shore we arrived the following day; thus also has he sung of Innisfallen island, at Killarney:
- Sweet Innisfallen, fare thee well!
And long may light around thee smile,
Soft as on that evening fell,
When first I saw thy fairy isle.
Thus again of Arranmore, the largest of the isles of Arran, on the east coast21 of Ireland, whose inhabitants, even at the present day, are convinced that from their shores they can behold Hy Brysail, or the enchanted island, the paradise of the heathen Irish;
Then the waters of the Moyle, over which Fionnuala, the daughter of Lir, sails in the form of a swan, till the coming of Christianity, when the first sound of the mass-bell is to be the signal of her release:
- O Arranmore, lov'd Arranmore!
How oft I dream of thee,
And of those days when by thy shore
I wander'd young and free;
- Or, when the western wave grew bright
With daylight's parting wing
Have sought that Eden in its light,
Which dreaming poets sing.
And many other remarkable spots of the Emerald Isle.
- Silent, O Moyle! be the roar of thy water,
It is a great mistake to consider Moore a great English poet. He is thoroughly an Irish genius, who only uses the English language to clothe his Irish thoughts, feelings, and sentiments. The English can therefore admire but one half of the manhis language; whilst his other halfhis sentimentscannot reach their hearts as they do those of the Irish, who regard him almost as a divinity. If a Sclavonic poet were thus to breathe his Sclavonic sentiments and patriotism in German verse, we could as little look upon him as a German poet as we can upon Moore as an English poet. Moore's patriotism is completely anti-English. His is the bloody motto which O'Connell has prefixed, to his Memoirs of the History of Ireland:
He frequently calls the English the fiend: for instance, in his mournful poem on the battle of the Boyne,
- But onward!the green banner rearing
Go, flesh ev'ry sword to the hilt!
On our side is Virtue and Erin,
On theirs is the Saxon and Guilt.
and in The Parallel, where he compares the Irish to the enslaved Jews, and marches to battle uttering prophetic warnings against their oppressors. He feels a deep sympathy for the deeds of the old Irish heroes and kings, and sings them like a bard of old. Thus he bids the Irish
- As vanquish'd Erin wept beside;
Thus he takes the harp from Tara's hall, and plays on it in the manner of the ancient bards:
- Remember the glories of Brian the brave!
Even against the Danes he goes to battle at the present day, and bids
- The harp that once, through Tara's halls,
The soul of music shed,
Now hangs as mute on Tara's walls
As if that soul were fled.
And in the Ode on Wellington, Ireland's pride, he thus speaks of Erin's history:
- ; Erin remember the days of old,
Ere her faithless son betrayed her.
- While History's Muse the memorial was keeping
Of all that the dark hand of Destiny weaves,
Beside her the Genius of Erin stood weeping,
For hers was the story that blotted the leaves.
Yea, even his other little poems, which we in Germany often look on as the outpourings of a general melancholy, or excessive sentiment, and deep love for nature and for man, almost one and
p.238all point symbolically to Erin and her afflicting slavery, or her hoped-for freedom. The melancholy of Moore's poems is as deep, and colours every thing in the same way, as it breathes through the music and the poems of the entire Irish people. They are wholly patriotic in their nature, like the muse of some Sclavonic nations, which also contains poetic lamentations and vain strivings against their tyrants. Moore's love-songs mostly refer to the beauteous Erin; in his drinking songs the goblet circles in honour of Erin; and his elegies on the death of a friend end in his recognising Erin in the features of the deceased. Erin! the tear and the smile in thine eyesThe last glimpse of ErinThe sharp avenging sword of Erinall these are continually recurring themes in his poems; and nothing but the deepest patriotic feeling for fatherland could have breathed two such beautiful, such affecting melancholy verses as his poem The Tear and the Smile, or as the two others of the song of Fionnuala, which thus conclude:
Such beautiful, musical verses as these are written upon the hearts of the Irish, and indelibly stamped upon their memories. They sway the people more than O'Connell's best harangues, which will be entirely forgot long before Moore's verses will cease to be sung by the people from generation to generation. Thomas Moore is a far worse agitator than O'Connell, although he remains quietly at home on his estate, comfortably seated in his easy-chair. He arouses the hearts of the Irish, and with tears, with sighs, with inspired blessings, with curses, and with song and music, he marches to do battle against the English. O'Connell fights in the van; and Moore is his bard, who stands singing at his side, O'Connell, Thomas Moore, and Father Mathew form the great triumvirate which now stands at the head of all moral movements in Ireland, each in his own peculiar field and post. They form the triple leaf of the remarkable shamrock which flourishes fresh and green on the mountain summit of Irish fame, and to which the inhabitants of Erin look up with love and admiration.
- Yet still in her darkness doth Erin lie sleeping,
Still doth the pure light its dawning delay!
When will that day-star, mildly springing,
Warm our isle with peace and love?
When will heaven, its sweet bell ringing,
Call my spirit to the fields above?
It is deserving of remark that these three men are all natives of the south of Ireland, and all from the neighbourhood of the sea coast,O'Connell from Cahirsiveen, in Kerry, Father Mathew from Cork, and Moore from Wexford, where his father was a
p.239humble individual, of no importance. This circumstance also proves that the preponderance of Irish patriotism is in the south of the island.
The greatest fault of the Vale of Avoca is, that it is so short, for how gladly would the delighted eye roam over more of those green meadows, those charming groups of rocks, and those ivy-mantled, ivy-draperied trees!
From the Vale of Avoca we arrived at the Vale of Avon, wherein lies the little town of Rathdrum, where we found most excellent, clean, and neat quarters with a small shopkeeper, who is, at the same time, the innkeeper of the place. This reminds me that I have not yet said a single word of all the good, neat, and clean rooms which I found every where during my travels in Ireland. The Irish inns are not so famous as the best in England; nay, even in Ireland, an inn kept by an Englishman is usually recommended with the additionthe landlord is an Englishman, sir; you will find yourself very comfortable there. There must, of course, be some reason for this; but so much is certain, that I never felt very anxious about the choice of my quarters, and every day I experienced the most perfect conviction that even in the smallest town I would be able to lie down in the evening in a good and clean bed. The bed and the cleanliness are, however, the principal things which a traveller may always depend upon, for the attendance is mostly slow and the fare not to every body's taste. The beds are generally so large that they take up almost the entire room, and leave only space sufficient to walk round, to look for a convenient spot for ascending this mountain of feathers and bed-clothes. The fare usually consists of mutton chops, potatoes, and tea. The latter is always drinkable and good, the potatoes are always only half boiled (I do not remember having ever eaten a perfectly boiled potato in Ireland), and the mutton chops, at least in the opinion of the eulogizing host, are always nice, but sometimes so hard and tough that one scarcely ventures to risk his teeth upon them. Of this description were my mutton chops at Rathdrum. I therefore did as the Irish do with their herrings,I rubbed my potatoes on the mutton chops, and particularly on their brown roasted fat. Thos my potatoes obtained an excellent taste, and formed another description of potatoes au point.
Not far from Rathdrum, in the vale of Avonmore, are coppermines, which threaten to destroy the beautiful trees. It is well said, utile cum dulce; but unfortunately the utile is almost every where waging internecine war with the dulce. Even the salmon, which were formerly very plentiful in the river Avon, have been driven from it by these mines. The sulphureous sulphur-water
p.240that is pumped up from the copper-mines is the cause of this. When the salmon run into the Avon, they either turn back immediately, or jump out of the water upon the bank, and die dead. These pleonasms, some of which I have already mentioned, came so often under my notice in Ireland, that I cannot help considering them as thoroughly national.