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Scraps Of Hibernian Ballads
by [?]

Being an Eighth Extract from the Legacy of the late Francis Purcell, P. P. of Drumcoolagh.

I have observed, my dear friend, among other grievous misconceptions current among men otherwise well-informed, and which tend to degrade the pretensions of my native land, an impression that there exists no such thing as indigenous modern Irish composition deserving the name of poetry–a belief which has been thoughtlessly sustained and confirmed by the unconscionable literary perverseness of Irishmen themselves, who have preferred the easy task of concocting humorous extravaganzas, which caricature with merciless exaggeration the pedantry, bombast, and blunders incident to the lowest order of Hibernian ballads, to the more pleasurable and patriotic duty of collecting together the many, many specimens of genuine poetic feeling, which have grown up, like its wild flowers, from the warm though neglected soil of Ireland.

In fact, the productions which have long been regarded as pure samples of Irish poetic composition, such as ‘The Groves of Blarney,’ and ‘The Wedding of Ballyporeen,’ ‘Ally Croker,’ etc., etc., are altogether spurious, and as much like the thing they call themselves ‘as I to Hercules.’

There are to be sure in Ireland, as in all countries, poems which deserve to be laughed at. The native productions of which I speak, frequently abound in absurdities–absurdities which are often, too, provokingly mixed up with what is beautiful; but I strongly and absolutely deny that the prevailing or even the usual character of Irish poetry is that of comicality. No country, no time, is devoid of real poetry, or something approaching to it; and surely it were a strange thing if Ireland, abounding as she does from shore to shore with all that is beautiful, and grand, and savage in scenery, and filled with wild recollections, vivid passions, warm affections, and keen sorrow, could find no language to speak withal, but that of mummery and jest. No, her language is imperfect, but there is strength in its rudeness, and beauty in its wildness; and, above all, strong feeling flows through it, like fresh fountains in rugged caverns.

And yet I will not say that the language of genuine indigenous Irish composition is always vulgar and uncouth: on the contrary, I am in possession of some specimens, though by no means of the highest order as to poetic merit, which do not possess throughout a single peculiarity of diction. The lines which I now proceed to lay before you, by way of illustration, are from the pen of an unfortunate young man, of very humble birth, whose early hopes were crossed by the untimely death of her whom he loved. He was a self-educated man, and in after-life rose to high distinctions in the Church to which he devoted himself–an act which proves the sincerity of spirit with which these verses were written.

‘When moonlight falls on wave and wimple,
And silvers every circling dimple,
That onward, onward sails:
When fragrant hawthorns wild and simple
Lend perfume to the gales,
And the pale moon in heaven abiding,
O’er midnight mists and mountains riding,
Shines on the river, smoothly gliding
Through quiet dales,

‘I wander there in solitude,
Charmed by the chiming music rude
Of streams that fret and flow.
For by that eddying stream SHE stood,
On such a night I trow:
For HER the thorn its breath was lending,
On this same tide HER eye was bending,
And with its voice HER voice was blending
Long, long ago.

Wild stream! I walk by thee once more,
I see thy hawthorns dim and hoar,
I hear thy waters moan,
And night-winds sigh from shore to shore,
With hushed and hollow tone;
But breezes on their light way winging,
And all thy waters heedless singing,
No more to me are gladness bringing–
I am alone.