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T has been remarked that the best painter of word portraits, William Shakspeare, never drew that of an Irishman ; but Shakspeare could hardly have

known the Irish, for when he wrote Ireland was involved in civil wars, and was also at war with England. It is true that in Henry V. we have one Captain MacMorris, who is a terrible fellow to swear, and makes himself known as equally brave and ridiculous, and that this man is claimed as an Irishman; but it is plain that he is much more of a Scotsman, born in Wales, so far as we can judge of him. Yet in Shakspeare's time the Irish were, as they have ever been, a distinctive people, separate from other people on the earth, distinct as to their religion, whatever be its form, distinct in genius, in their large virtues, and the enormity of their vices. It will be well to look at this people calmly; a people who have suffered and made to suffer ; who are quick of brain and of heart; of approved valour ; excellent soldiers, but bad emigrants; chaste as wives, restless and cruel as husbands ;


poets in their fervour ; profuse, generous, munificent in their gifts; miserly, poor, and exceeding usurers when thrifty ; full of brain-working, yet wanting in thought; magnanimous, yet mean; unfinished, crude ; untaught, yet learned; great for others, poor for themselves ; good as tools, bad as masters; sublime in character, yet in effect dangerous, and too often weak and despicable.

It may here be as well to say that we are not going either to flatter or abuse ; that we are trying to paint from history and nature, and that if we offend any partisan we shall not endeavour to offend Truth ; lastly, that we are ourselves too near that nation not to prize it; and that if any one be displeased with the colours we lay on, he must first compare the picture with nature before he blames us, and so, in the words of their own ancient war-cry, “Fag an bealach," Clear the road !

The origin of the Irishman is obscured, as he is proud to say, in the mist of antiquity; a mist of which he, with other proud people, is enormously fond ; to say reasonably why, would be indeed difficult. “It is more than probable,” says a judicious observer, “that Ireland remained a desert and uninhabited from the Creation to the Flood." He who said so is an Irishman ; but others of his countrymen are fond of telling that their antiquity extends beyond the Flood. If another said that Adam was born in Ireland, an Irishman would back it up. This pretension to antiquity is ridiculous, but they have another more so. They are not satisfied in living in the present, but they must live in the past : they go so far as to forget the goodness of the present in that of the past. Ireland is a land of saints :

66 The sainted isle of old,

Says the Shan Van Vacht,
The parent and the mould
Of the beautiful and bold,
Has her blithesome heart waxed cold?

Says the Shan Van Vacht."

It is quite enough for an Irishman to know that his ancestors were saints. He will not be one himself. And what saints were they? Alas! Paddy is fond of the triumphant and battling saint. He who suffers and is martyred is less to his taste.

“Whether there be any ethnological facts about the successive immigrations of For-bolgs, Tuatha-na-Danains, and Milesians," says Professor Goldwin Smith, “the stories of which fill every history of Ireland, we must leave professed ethnologists to discover.” We have now only to do with the artistic, or natural production, as it stands. We are told that centuries of ill-usage have made the Irishman what he is; but we must say that in the brain of the Kelt, and in the land that surrounds him, lie the predisposing causes of his existing state. Had, for instance, the Scotch or the Danes inhabited Ireland, that country, for good or bad, would not be what she is. “The sure test of language proves that the native Irish”—we again quote Goldwin Smith—“were a portion of the great Keltic race which once covered all Britain, Gaul, and probably Spain." Luckily, as the Teutons or Anglo-Saxons think, these were clean swept out of this island, except from its ragged and mountainous corners, but remained in its great asylum, Ireland, and came to its greatest pitch of greatness in France. The race had been a mighty race; it once had invaded Rome, and had cast its haughty sword into the scale, to be weighed against Roman gold. The Kelts were and are the soldiers of Europe, but they are essentially mercenary soldiers. They fought under Hannibal, as they do now under Generals Grant and Joe Hooker. Carthage had her Keltic soldiery, and modern France her Irish brigade. Wherever led, there they followed ; but they must be well led. It is some symptom of a returning spasm of sense that The Nation newspaper of to-day very properly objects to the cruel way in which the Irish soldiery have been used up in the American war. Everywhere have they been put foremost : everywhere have they been misled into slaughter.

The character of the Kelt is very much the same as it was. “From the beginning of historic time,” says a French historian, " the soil of France appears peopled by a race lively, witty, imaginative, prone at once to faith and to scepticism, to the highest aspirations of the soul, and to the attractions of sense; enthusiastic, and yet satirical ; unreflecting, and yet logical; full of sympathy, yet restive under discipline ; endowed with practical good sense, yet inclined to illusions; more disposed to striking acts of self-devotion than to patient and sustained effort ;

loving, above all, war, less for the sake of conquest than that of glory and adventure, for the attraction of danger and the unknown.” What the Kelts are in France,

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they are in Ireland : 'the two nations assimilate ; but the difference between the French and Irish is marked in the latter by a sweeter feeling of poetry, more melancholy, more rhetoric, greater eloquence, and much greater tenderness of heart. An Irishman is more loyal and more patient of suffering than a Frenchman. He has had not only to submit to a stronger and more constant government, but the influence of climate has affected him. Ireland is indeed a green isle ; for the cloud-bearing Atlantic constantly pours its showers upon it. We have it from the best authority that Ireland is not a land fitted for the production of cereals, but it abounds in grass, and would be a country of much cattle did they choose to cultivate the breed. Lastly, to add to the melancholy of the land, we must remember that since Sir Walter Raleigh introduced the potato, that “accursed fruit,” as it has been called, has formed the staple food of Irish men and women. It is prolific, and needs little cultivation, Nay, the very virtues of the Kelt have been against his progress : easily contented, not gluttonous, and fed upon little, he marries early and produces

many children. “ Catholics," wrote Sydney Smith in The Edinburgh Review,“ marry upon means insufficient for the Protestant. A few potatoes and a shed of turf is all that Luther has left for the Romanist; and when the latter gets these, he instantly begins upon the great Irish manufacture of children. But a Protestant must have comforts, and he does not marry till he gets them.”

It will be impossible here to enter into a question of religion, but that has had an immense influence over poor Paddy.

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