This section is from the book "Ancient Legends, Mystic Charms, And Superstitions Of Ireland", by Jane Francesca Wilde. Also available from Amazon: Ancient Legends, Mystic Charms, And Superstitions Of Ireland.
And how many rituals have risen up to heaven from that ancient altar, each anathema maranatha to the other-the solemn chants of the early church ; the gorgeous ritual of the mass ; in Elizabeth's time, the simple liturgy of the English Church in the English tongue ; this, too, was prohibited in its turn, and for ten years the Puritans wailed and howled against kings and liturgies in the ancient edifice ; there the funeral oration for the death of Cromwell was pronounced, entitled, " Threni Hibernici, or, Ireland sympathizing with England for the loss of their Josiah (Oliver Cromwell)." Once again rose the incense of the mass while King James was amongst us ; but William quenched the lights on the altar, and established once more the English Liturgy in its simplicity and beauty. But so little, during all these changes, had the Irish to do with the cathedral of their capital, that by an Act passed in 1380 no Irishman was permitted to hold in it any situation or office ; and so strictly was the law enforced, that Sir John Stevenson was the first'Irishman admitted, as even vicar-choral.
Many are the themes of interest to be found in Mr. Gilbert's "History of Dublin," concerning those ancient times when Sackville Street was a marsh, Merrion Square an exhausted quarry, the undulations so beautiful in its present verdant state being but the accident of excavation ; when St Stephen's Green, with its ten fine Irish acres, was a compound of meadow, quagmire, and ditch; when Mountjoy Square was a howling wilderness, and North Georges Street and Summer Hill were far away in the country, and when the Danes, rudely expelled by Norman swords from the south of the Liffy, were stealing over the river to found a settlement on the north side.
Our fathers have told us of Dublin in later times, before the Union, when a hundred lords and two hundred commoners enriched and enlivened our city with their wealth and magnificence. Dublin was then at the summit of its glory ; but when the colonists sold their parliament to England, and the Lords and Commons vanished, and their mansions became hospitals and poor-houses, and all wealth, power, influence, and magnificence were transferred to the loved mother country, then the " City of the Dark Water " sank into very pitiable insignificance. The proud Norman spirit of independence was broken at last, and there was no great principle to replace it. Having no large sympathies with the Irish nation, no idea of country, nationality, or any other grand word by which is expressed the resolve of self-reliant men to be self-governed, the colonists became petty, paltry, and selfish in aim ; imitative in manners and feelings ; apathetic, even antagonistic to all national advance ; bound to England by helpless fear and servile hope) content so as they could rest under her great shadow, secure from the mysterious horrors of Popery, preserved in the blessing of a church establishment, and allowed to worship even the shadow of transcendent Majesty. Then Dublin ambition was satisfied and happy ; for there is no word so instinctively abhorrent, so invincibly opposed to all the prejudices of Dublin society, as patriotism.
From this cursory glance' over the antecedents of our metropolis, the cause of her anti-Irishism is plainly deducible from the fact, that at no epoch was Dublin an Irish city. The inhabitants are a blended race, descended of Danes, Normans, Saxon settlers, and mongrel Irish. The country of their affections is England They have known no other mother. With the proud old princes and chiefs of the ancient Irish race they have no more affinity than (to use Mr. Macaulay's illustration) the English of Calcutta with the nation of Hindustan, and from this colonial position a certain Dublin idiosyncrasy of character has resulted, which makes the capital distinct in feeling from the rest of Ireland.
Meanwhile the destiny of the ancient race is working out, not in happiness or prosperity, but in stern, severe discipline. Unchanged and unchangeable they remain, so far as change is effected by impulses arising from within. "Two thousand years," says Moore, " have passed over the hovel of the Irish peasant in vain." Such as they were when the first light of history rested on them, they are now ; indolent and dreamy, patient and resigned as fatalists, fanatical as Bonzees, implacable as Arabs, cunning as Greeks, courteous as Spaniards, superstitious as savages, loving as children, clinging to the old home and the old sod and the old families with a tenderness that is always beautiful, sometimes heroic ; loving to be ruled, with veneration in excess ; ready to die like martyrs for a creed, a party, or the idol of the hour, but. incapable of extending their sympathies beyond the family or the clan ; content with the lowest place in Europe ; stationary amid progression ; isolated from the European family ; without power or influence ; lazily resting in the past while the nations are wrestling in the present for the future. Children of the ocean, yet without commerce ; idle by thousands, yet without manufactures ; gifted with quick intellect and passionate hearts, yet literature and art die out amongst them for want of aid or sympathy ; without definite aims, without energy or the earnestness, which is the vital life of heroic deeds ; dark and blind through prejudice and ignorance, they can neither resist nobly nor endure wisely ; chafing in bondage, yet their epileptic fits of liberty are marked only by wild excesses, and end only in sullen despair.
Yet, it was not in the providence of God that the fine elements of humanity in such a people should still continue to waste and stagnate during centuries of inaction, while noble countries and fruitful lands, lying silent since creation, were waiting the destined toilers and workers, who, by the sweat of the brow, shall change them to living empires.
Two terrible calamities fell upon Ireland-famine and pestilence; and by these two dread ministers of God's great purposes, the Irish race were uprooted and driven forth to fulfil their appointed destiny. A million of our people emigrated; a million of our people died under these judgments of God. Seventeen millions worth of property passed from time-honoured names into the hands of strangers. The echoes of the old tongue-call it Pelasgian, Phoenician, Celtic, Irish, what you will, still the oldest in Europe, is dying out at last along the stony plains of Mayo and the wild sea-cliffs of the storm-rent western shore. Scarcely a million and a half are left of people too old to emigrate, amidst roofless cabins and ruined villages, who speak that language now. Exile, confiscation, or death, was the final fate written on the page of history for the much-enduring children of Ireland. One day they may reassert themselves in the new world, or in other lands. Australia, with its skies of beauty and its pavement of gold, may be given to them as America to the Saxon, but how low must a nation have fallen at home when even famine and plague come to be welcomed as the levers of progression and social elevation. Some wise purpose of God's providence lies, no doubt, at the reverse side, but we have not yet turned the leaf.