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.
The ancient race who, thousands of years ago, left the cradle of the sun to track him to the ocean, are now flung on the coast of another hemisphere to begin once more their destined westward march ; and like the Israelites of old, they, too, might tell in that new country : " A Syrian ready to perish was our father ! "
They fled across the Atlantic like a drift of autumn leaves - " pestilence-stricken multitudes " - and the sea was furrowed by the dead as the plague-ships passed along.
One would say a doom had been laid upon our people- the wandering Io of humanity-a destiny of weeping and unrest.
Of old the kings at Tara sat throned with their faces to the west : was it a symbol or a prophecy of the future of their nation? when from every hill in Ireland could be seen-
" The remnant of our people Sweeping westward, wild, and woful, Like the cloud-rack of a tempest, Like the withered leaves of autumn."
From the Atlantic to the Pacific, where the Rocky Mountains bar like a portal the land of gold-through the islands of the Southern Ocean to the great desolate world of Australia, seeking as it were the lost home of their fathers, and doomed to make the circuit of the earth-still onward flows the tide of human life-that inexhaustible race which has cleared the forests of Canada, built the cities and made all the railroads of the States, given thousands to the red plains of the Crimea, overran California and peopled Australia -the race whose destiny has made them the instruments of all civilization, though they have never reaped its benefits.
Yet we cannot believe that the Irish race is. doomed for ever to work and suffer without the glory of success ; for the Celtic element is necessary to humanity as a great factor in human progress. It is the subtle, spiritual. fire that warms and permeates the ruder clay of other races, giving them new, vivid, and magnetic impulses to growth and expansion.
The children of the early wanderers from the Isles of the Sea will still continue to fulfil their mission as world-workers and world-movers. Across the breadth of earth they will found new nations, each a greater and a stronger Ireland, where they will have the certainty of power, station, and reward denied them at home. But neither change nor progress nor the severing ocean will destroy the electric chain that binds them lovingly to their ancient mother in that true sympathy with country and kinship that ever burns in the Irish heart.
The new Ireland across the seas, whether in America or in Australia, will still cherish with sacred devotion the beautiful legends, the pathetic songs, the poetry and history and the heroic traditions of the old, well-loved country as eternal verses of the Bible of humanity ; all the light and music of the fanciful fairy period, suchas I have tried to gather into a focus in these volumes,.along with the holy memories of those martyrs of our race whose names are for ever associated with the words Liberty and Nationhood, but whose tragic fate has illustrated so many mournful pages in the history of the Irish past.
That there was a time-after " the Spirit of God moved on the face of the waters, and separated the dry land from the sea"-when the present British Isles formed a continuous and integral portion of the European Continent, is the received opinion of the scientific. With that continuity of surface (whether before or after the glacial period matters not in the present inquiry) there was, we know, a uniform dispersion of vegetable and animal life over this portion of the globe ; and so long as this country enjoyed the tempe-Tature and climate it now possesses, it must have been an emerald land-humid, green, and fertile, affording pasturage and provender for the largest herbívoras-the mammoth, elephant, and musk ox, the reindeer, the wild boar, and perhaps even the woolly rhinoceros. The primitive races of horned cattle, possibly the red deer, and undoubtedly the largest and noblest of cervine creatures, the gigantic Irish deer, or Cervus megaceros, besides the wild pig, and smaller mammals, as well as birds and fishes innumerable, must then have existed here.
' Extracts from the Address to the Anthropological Section of the-British Association. Belfast, 1874. By Sir William Wilde, M.D., M.R.I. A., Chevalier of the Swedish Order of the North Star.
How long that condition of the land known now as Ireland existed, what geological revolutions occurred, or what time elapsed during its continuance, is but matter of speculation ; but a " repeal of the union " took place, and Great Britain and Ireland became as they now are, and as they are likely to remain, geographically separated, although united in interest as well as government. In all probability the great pine forests, with some of the yews, the oaks, and the birch, had at this time been submerged beneath the lowest strata of our bogs.
It was after this epoch, I believe, that man first set foot upon the shores of Erin-a country well wooded, abundantly stocked with animals, and abounding in all nature's blessings suited to the well-being of the human race ; with fowls in its woods and on its shores ; fish in its seas, lakes, and rivers ; deer and other game in its forest glades, oxen on its pastures, fuel in its bogs; and a climate, although moist and variable, on the whole mild and temperate.
Let us now go back for a moment and take a glance at the map of the world. The sacred writings tell us, and the investigations of historians, antiquarians, and philologists confirm the statement, that the cradle of mankind was somewhere between the Caspian Sea and the great River Euphrates. Without entering too minutely into the subject, I may state briefly that the human family separated in process of time into three great divisions-the African, the Asiatic, and the Indo-European. With the latter only we have to deal. As population increased, it threw off its outshoots ; and emigration, the great safeguard of society, and the ordained means of peopling as well as cultivating and civilizing the earth, began to impel the races and tribes still farther and farther from the birthplace of humanity. But in those days the process was somewhat slower and more gradual than that which now sends an Irish family across 3500 miles of ocean in a week.