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HE three islands known as the Arran Islands stretch like a natural breakwater across the entrance of Galway Bay. The largest, Inishmore, is nine miles long and one and a half broad. Inishman and Inishere, of which I shall speak hereafter, are respectively three, and two and a half miles long. A legend in the anmals of Ireland states that Galway Bay was once a fresh-water lake known as Lough Lurgan, one of the three principal lakes of Ireland, and was converted into a bay by the Atlantic breaking over and uniting with its waters. Appearances go far to warrant such a belief, though I will not enter into the geological history of it, lest I should get beyond my depth, but will content myself with referring my readers to those geologists who have found in Ireland so inviting a field of research. Where verdure clothes these rugged rocks it is perpetual, and so rich that the finest cattle in the kingdom are grown here. There is no spot in Europe which for its size is richer in antiquities than this. More than one thousand years ago it earned the name of the Isle of the Saints, because holy men came hither in quest of that retirement and learned companionship which were deemed so conducive to sanctity. In a walk of nine miles one meets with the ruins of some fourteen churches, dating from about this period or earlier, along with the ruins of monasteries and hermitages, which show us how these men were content to live. There are, besides, round towers and fortresses which date earlier than any authentic historical record, and exhibit to the imagination these islands, now so desolate, filled with inhabitants active in war and peace. I believe they were in the time of the Druids favorite residences, and perhaps one of the latest strongholds of these people; at least the traveller and historian will find many reasons for such belief. There are but two roads on the island, and being so little embarrassed in my choice, I took the first to the left, which leads to the once celebrated village of Killeany, and passed for a mile along the edge of the sea, the road being mostly upon a floor of rock. On either side were 1 ude monumental structures, erected, as I learned, in the memory of those who lay buried in a cemetery some two miles off.
These solemn structures lining the road between the two villages of the island, the sea on one side, the stony hills on the other, seemed a novel and impressive way of recalling the dead to those who passed in their daily traffic. The inscriptions upon some of them were so late as the middle of the present century, and from the halfobliterated stones of others, mocking all record, I could not learn when or for whom they were erected. As I proceeded I saw before me the lonely figure of a man, barefooted and meanly clad. His hands were crossed behind his back, and he held a farthing candle. I accosted him with a remark upon the beauty of the island. He turned his wolfish eyes upon me, and replied, with bitter scorn, “It is a very hard island.” “You are well acquainted with it, I presume 2" “None better. I was born here, and my forefathers before me. I have outlived every one of my family, and have been striving all my life to get away from here.” His tattered garb and wasted body were emblematic of the place, and befitting the progeny of this land of ruins. Killeany, which I soon reached, is a large and well-built village. It was once of great note for the piety and learning of its founders. Hither came pious men from all parts of Europe to practice the austerities of a religious life; and the ruins which we see on every side tell us, too, that these men brought with them a taste refined by the arts. In those times Killeany was a village of wise men and sainted Tom Tiddlers, who retired to this solitude to prove that they were better than the world they had abandoned. Thus it acquired a renown which won it the name of the “Abode of the Saints.” The inhabitants seem to have inherited nothing from the founders who made it so famous, except, perhaps, to imitate their rigid austerity of life, which, while it was chosen by the latter as a proof of piety, is enforced on these poor people by cruel poverty. I have not seen in any part of Ireland people more poorly clad and so pinched by hunger; even the children have wan, old faces, like hunchbacks. They possess no land, and depend entirely upon fishing. During the winter sea
son the sea is so rough that it is impossible for them to venture out. Their principal food is fish dried upon the rocks. When one remembers that Christianity was introduced here by St. Endeus, or Eaney, so early as the sixth century, it seems impossible that they should have degenerated into such stupid barbarity. The great church of St. Endeus was demolished by the soldiers of Cromwell to repair the fortified castle of Ardkyne, of which there is a ruin close to the sea. On the highest point of the eastern end of the island is the oratory of St. Benan, a unique specimen of the early Irish church. Near by, sunk in the rock, are the remains of the hermitage. This church, or oratory, is very small and unadorned—just such a structure as befitted the humbleness of the worshippers who lived in so inaccessible a region. It is useless to secure a guide in this country, for there is always some one living near the remarkable places who seems to consider that his duty is to offer his services, or rather, I should say, to accompany you, without any other preliminary than a careful scrutiny of your appearance, and a simple salutation. An old woman of the village, who appeared to have been able to buy some potatoes or other matter of generous diet, had trudged up the hill to the church. One charm of these dreary old places is the power of calling up vague reveries and pictures of the past, clothing realities with the illusions of the imagination. It needed but a slight exertion of the fancy to transform
The or Atory of St. BeNAN.
my guide into St. Benan himself, taking his morning airing beside these gabled walls looking out over the sea. But my illusion, which bore so great an impress of reality, was dispelled by the whiffs of smoke from a modern clay pipe in the mouth of my portly guide. Near by is a residence of the sixth century, which about two years ago was brought to light from a mass of earth and stones. It is built of small and undressed stones, without mortar, and is divided into numerous small compartments, barely large enough for a single person. There were little entryways not more than a foot in width, leading to the remoter rooms, destined, I presume, for the more meagre monks. There are probably twelve or fifteen rooms in this building; the floors and ceilings are all made of the same flinty and rugged stones. What was evidently the main entrance had somewhat an imposing appearance, being reached by four steps, at whose base there was built a little kennel, which, if it was not for a dog, was made by some monk more austere than the rest : he had, however, chosen a southern exposure for his penance. As I gave a parting glance at the sea, Isaw a bank of clouds melting into it in the distance. It looked like land, but in that
Church or The FOUR COMELY SAINTS.
direction the nearest land was America. I remembered then that from these cliffs the famous Hy Brazil was said to have been seen. Arran is still believed by the peasantry to be the nearest land to the farfamed O’Brazil, or Hy Brazil, the blessed paradise of the pagan Irish. Mr. Hardiman derives the name Hy Brassil, or Brazil, from bras, fiction; aoi, island; and ile, great—i.e., “the great fictitious island.” The old bards and popular tradition describe it as a country of perpetual sunshine, abounding in rivers, forests, mountains, and lakes. Castles and palaces arise on every side, and as far as the eye can reach it is covered with groves, bowers, and silent glades; its fields are ever green, with sleek cattle grazing upon them; its groves filled with myriads of birds. It is only seen occasionally, owing to the long enchantment, which will, they say, now soon be dissolved. The inhabitants are ever young, taking no heed of time, and lead lives of perfect happiness. In many respects it resembles the Tirna-nooge, the pagan Irish elysium. On our way to the village I saw some odd-looking sheep nipping the grass from between the rocks. They had an absurd appearance of being in full dress, with bare necks and shoulders, which prompted me to ask the reason of such an unseemly out-door toilet. I learned that they were originally as well clad as others of their species; but in this region a
family rarely owns more than one animal, and they shear off as much wool at a time as they deem necessary for a pair of stockings; so the poor beasts are forced to go all day long in what would in civilized countries be called a strictly evening toilet. While our bare necks and shoulders, however, warm nobody, it is satisfactory to think that theirs are warming the lean legs of their owners. Any one who has a fondness for shopping could, I think, be radically cured by a sojourn on these islands, as the nearest shops are at Galway, twenty-nine miles distant, and the only means of getting there is by a small yacht that goes once a week, weather permitting. One journey on board of it, along with pigs, fish, peasants, sundry oil cans, and musty boxes, with the prospect of tossing about for ten or twelve hours, will suffice for a long while. The luxuries of the table at the hotel are confined to mutton, boiled and fried, with the usual colossal platter of potatoes, varied only by bacon and cabbage. I saw a few chickens sheltering themselves under the walls, and observing me with an unfriendly eye, as if they saw in a stranger a Moloch who would reduce their number. Prompted probably by this idea, I asked for one for my dinner, but regretted having taken him from his companions, with whom he had lived so long; for he seemed to have been brought here by the early Christians, or, perhaps, had escaped at a remote date from some pagan sacrifice. It was December, yet the sun was bright and the air soft and balmy, when I started for Dun AEngus, a fortress pronounced by Dr. Petrie to be the most magnificent barbaric monument now extant in Europe. The sun was so warm that I discarded my wrappings as the car jogged toward Kilmurrey. I am fond of loitering, and stopped to see the church of the Four Comely Saints, because the name attracted me. There was, however, so much mud on the road to this blessed chapel that I would have been disgusted with the Four Comely Saints ere I arrived at their sanctuary, had I not considered that the mud and slush might have been an accumulation of the eleven hundred years that lay between them and me. I can not tell how many stone walls I scaled, or through what grimy depths I waded, to reach the little ruin, which was covered with weeds and tangled vines. There is an east window and altar-place in excellent preservation, and, near by, a niche, the carving of the base of which was as fresh as if made yesterday; but all above was filled by the clustering ivy, which strove, I thought, to fill the cavity left vacant by the absent saint. Although the chapel is small, it is of beautiful proportion, and the four saints seem to have left their comeliness as a perpetual heirloom to these walls. When I arrived at Kilmurrey, one of those storms which come from the Atlantic, and in an instant envelop these islands in a cloud of wind-driven mist, made me seek refuge in a cabin. It was a crowded, busy peasant's home, and as I
sat by the fire—the warmest seat being
given me with the invariable hospitality of these people—I found abundant material for observation and reflection. Whatever cleanliness was possible in a family of eight occupying one huge room along with two pigs was carefully maintained: at least, the mother and children were neatly and comfortably attired, the hearth well swept, and the pigs were confined to the limits assigned them. An old woman was carding wool, a little child rocking the cradle, and the mother spinning at a large wheel. The chickens, also driven in by the rain, one by one hopped up a ladder to their roosts among the rafters, from which they watched over their ruffled feathers the busy family and the blazing hearth with so much approval and satisfaction that I am sure, if chickens be susceptible to emotion, these were very tender ones indeed. A dog sneaked in, and seeing a stranger, went out into the rain again. The dogs, which are not mumerous on the island, are of the most miserable and condemned aspect, and seem to feel their ignoble ancestry, as they invariably jumped over a wall or ran into some obscurity on the approach of a stranger. While drying my dripping garments, I saw for the first time, seated in a corner, as if to screen himself from observation, the figure of a young man clad in white flannel, the costume of the island. His face was thin and sad, and of the same color as the garments he wore, and he gazed at the fire with such a dejected and hopeless expression as led me to infer that he was the fated victim of some terrible disease—consumption, perhaps—and was feebly waiting through the long hours of the day and night the death he knew to be
so sure and near. I spoke to him, striving in my pity to appear unconscious of perceiving his misery. Without answering, he rose abruptly and left the cabin. The looks of concern and inquietude in the faces about me told me of some unusual sorrow, which the mother, leaving her spinning-wheel, explained to me in a low voice. She told me that the young man, her eldest son, poor Owney, as she called him, had until a month before been the most healthy and cheerful member of the family; ready and prompt at work, and the life of the household, when a letter came from America to a neighboring family inclosing money to pay the passage thither of their eldest daughter. It appeared that the young man had long entertained a secret passion for this girl, and when he heard that he probably would never see her again, he declared his love to her, and besought her to remain. So far from being unmindful of his affection, she avowed her willingness to marry him at once, if he would accompany her to America immediately afterward. This was impossible; his own family were unable to assist him, and the few people who possess money on the island would not lend it without security. The practical damsel saw on the other side of the Atlantic every prospect of improving her material condition, and doubted not that husbands were as plentiful there as elsewhere: while, if she remained, she knew the drudgery and hopeless slavery that were the lot of all around her would be hers also. Therefore she told her suitor if he could not accompany her she would not listen to his suit. When the young man found his upbraidings useless, he gave way to despair, and had not worked or spoken since his cruel sentence had been pronounced. Every day he grew thinner and more wan, and he did not partake of sufficient food to support life. All the solicitude and tenderness of his mother had not succeeded in arousing within him his former self, and with tears running down her cheeks she told me she thought he had lost his reason forever. Some weeks previously the school-master had written for them to a priest, a distant relative of the family, who lived in Connemara; but they had received no reply, and she supposed he had neither help nor counsel to give. I pondered for a long while, as I sat by the fire, upon what often proves to be the unfortunate sin
MY GUidh. At Fort Aengus.
cerity of men, and I could not refrain from deploring the no less frequent levity of my own sex. In passing through the village a week afterward I stopped to say good-day to these kind people, when I found the house a scene of bustle and confusion. My erewhile love-sick swain was, when I entered, making himself a pair of pampootees; and as he bade me good-day over a dangerously starched collar, his face glowed with health and energy. The now cheerful and happy mother informed me that since my last visit they had received a letter from the priest in Connemara, inclosing his blessing for her son, and the money to pay his passage to America. She had been very busy knitting him stockings, and making him a fine white flannel suit to be married in, and which thereafter he would not again wear till his arrival at New York, so that he would make a decent appearance in the New World, as became the relative of a priest. He was to be married to the object of his choice the next day, and they
were to start immediately afterward upon their long voyage. As I left, the damsel, whose month's delay to prepare her outfit had given such a fortunate respite to her lover, thrust her head in the door, and called upon Owney to be sure and wear the blue stockings she had knitted him to the chapel on the morrow; and then, with her little retroussé nose turned up to the sky, ran blushing away. But to continue my narrative. When the mist had blown over, I left the cabin, and began a difficult ascent to Dun AFngus, which crowned the cliffs overlooking the sea on the opposite side of the island. My guide was a youth of about nine years, whose attire consisted of a red petticoat, and at least a shirt collar, which was ostentatiously displayed over his bodice, an Irish cap resembling the top of a mushroom, blue stockings, and sandals, called pampootees, made of untanned cowhide, universally worn by the inhabitants of these islands. Instead of the treacherous bogs, which my foot-padding in Ireland had familiarized me with, I had now rocks and stones of every dimension and ruggedness to contend with. I may here mention that in the Arran Isles there are no bogs, therefore no turf; and as trees are unknown, all fuel is brought, at considerable expense, from Connemara. My guide danced with such agility and recklessness from stone to stone that I was not only much concerned lest his thin legs should break beneath him, but was also a good deal out of breath and out of patience in my efforts to keep pace with him. In response to my repeated injunctions, however, he restrained himself so much as to run around me like a dog, instead of running ahead of me like a hare. Motion seemed to be a necessity of his existence, for I verily believe he did not remain a second in one spot. When I asked him a question as he bounded at my right, he answered me from the left, and it took some little circumspection to adapt my