Jarvis: A few of our usual cards of compliments–that’s all. This bill from your tailor; this from your mercer; and this from the little broker in Crooked Lane. He says he has been at a great deal of trouble to get back the money you borrowed.
Honeydew: But I am sure we were at a great deal of trouble in getting him to lend it.
Jarvis: He has lost all patience.
Honeydew: Then he has lost a good thing.
Jarvis: There’s that ten guineas you were sending to the poor man and his children in the Fleet. I believe that would stop his mouth for a while.
Honeydew: Ay, Jarvis; but what will fill their mouths in the meantime?
–Goldsmith, “The Good-Natured Man”
The Isle of Erin has the same number of square miles as the State of Indiana; it also has more kindness to the acre than any other country on earth.
Ireland has five million inhabitants; once it had eight. Three millions have gone away, and when one thinks of landlordism he wonders why the five millions did not go, too. But the Irish are a poetic people and love the land of their fathers with a childlike love, and their hearts are all bound up in sweet memories, rooted by song and legend into nooks and curious corners, so the tendrils of affection hold them fast.
Ireland is very beautiful. Its pasture-lands and meadow-lands, blossom-decked and water-fed, crossed and recrossed by never-ending hedgerows, that stretch away and lose themselves in misty nothingness, are fair as a poet’s dream. Birds carol in the white hawthorn and the yellow furze all day long, and the fragrant summer winds that blow lazily across the fields are laden with the perfume of fairest flowers.
It is like crossing the dark river called Death, to many, to think of leaving Ireland–besides that, even if they wanted to go they haven’t money to buy a steerage ticket.
From across the dark river called Death come no remittances; but from America many dollars are sent back to Ireland. This often supplies the obolus that secures the necessary bit of Cunard passport.
Whenever an Irishman embarks at Queenstown, part of the five million inhabitants go down to the waterside to see him off. Not long ago I stood with the crowd and watched two fine lads go up the gangplank, each carrying a red handkerchief containing his worldly goods. As the good ship moved away we lifted a wild wail of woe that drowned the sobbing of the waves. Everybody cried–I wept, too–and as the great, black ship became but a speck on the Western horizon we embraced each other in frenzied grief.
There is beauty in Ireland–physical beauty of so rare and radiant a type that it makes the heart of an artist ache to think that it can not endure. On country roads, at fair time, the traveler will see barefoot girls who are women, and just suspecting it, who have cheeks like ripe pippins; laughing eyes with long, dark, wicked lashes; teeth like ivory; necks of perfect poise; and waists that, never having known a corset, are pure Greek.
Of course, these girls are aware that we admire them–how could they help it? They carry big baskets on either shapely arm, bundles balanced on their heads, and we, suddenly grown tired, sit on the bankside as they pass by, and feign indifference to their charms.
Once safely past, we admiringly examine their tracks in the soft mud (for there has been a shower during the night), and we vow that such footprints were never before left upon the sands of time.
The typical young woman in Ireland is Juno before she was married; the old woman is Sycorax after Caliban was weaned. Wrinkled, toothless, yellow old hags are seen sitting by the roadside, rocking back and forth, crooning a song that is mate to the chant of the witches in “Macbeth” when they brew the hellbroth.