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This state of mind, eminently natural as an historical product, is at the present day an impediment to improvement all over Ireland. Over most of Ireland, where the Government is merely altering the tenure by which the cultivators hold their existing farms, it is clearly not practicable to do much by direct State action towards replacing this obsolete agrarian idea by a better. But where the proposal is to give land to men who have none, or to give a good new holding in place of one insufficient to support its possessor, there I think the State has not only a right, but a duty, to see that these benefits are not wasted by being bestowed on men incompetent to take advantage of them.
I think the Royal Commission missed an opportunity when they failed to enunciate this principle; for it is most important to the prosperity of Ireland, and its importance is not generally recognised. So far as I know, it is not embodied in any one of the statutes dealing with Irish land, nor do I remember seeing it mentioned in any speech either of a Chief Secretary or of an Irish Member of Parliament Nevertheless I venture to think that the only salvation for the Congested Districts lies in the strict observance of the rule that a man shall not by State aid be put in possession of a farm, until it has been ascertained that he is fit, or that means are available for fitting him, to manage it. Very many of these holders of small patches of wretched land are not able to manage a farm ; many of them will have to be taught to be efficient labourers before they can begin to be taught to be farmers. This is why ready-made and quick-working solutions of this problem are so absurd. It is not only nor mainly a question of land : it is a question of intellect and character. Land, and much land, is needed; but not a very great quantity is needed at once. What is needed at once is a plan, a great deal of hard work and a suggestion the new Board would be least likely to tolerate-time. Policies which ignore this truth appeal to the magic of property, but are generally inspired by the more potent magic of something for nothing.
This brings me to the last part of my task, namely, to indicate the measures which I would, if I had the power, substitute for those the Government has proposed. I would not go so far as Mr. Birrell does, and abolish the present Congested Districts Board; but I would confine its activities to the specially backward districts I have mentioned, and to any others in an equally depressed condition. I would transfer its powers for agricultural and industrial instruction and improvement, and for assisting fisheries, to the Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction, and those relating to the purchase and resettlement of land to the Land Commission. Here, however, I would introduce an important change in administrative machinery and a much more important change in method. I would make the work of resettlement the special duty of one or two Commissioners, and leave what is called direct sale' from landlord to tenant to bis
colleagues. That is to say, that where an estate is of such a character
that no change in the holdings is necessary, it should be allowed to 2 pass, as at present, with the least possible delay by a quasi-judicial " process; but where rearrangement is necessary, in order to make some
of the holdings decently sufficient, then a separate authority should
come in. This authority should not be judicial, but under the control of the Irish Government, because the questions which arise are
questions of administrative discretion, for the exercise of which only the Government should be responsible.
The other and more important change which I would make is to - introduce some method of selecting occupiers for new farms and of ez instructing those who are deficient in knowledge before putting them
in possession and making provision for organising them co-operatively. Funds for this purpose, Mr. Lloyd George has told us, are to be available from his Development Grant. The present method is to put them in possession and trust that they will be able to muddle through.
The Departmental Committee on Small Holdings, appointed by the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries, dealing with an English problem in some ways like the Irish, though in many ways unlike, insisted on the primary importance of selecting suitable candidates, and suggested the idea of a period of probation. I have myself drafted a scheme, the essence of which was the establishment of an experimental farm colony for about a hundred families, where candidates for farms should work under instruction through a probationary period before being put in possession of any land of their own.
I do not, of course, insist upon this or any scheme. I do insist upon two things. First, the immense general importance to Ireland of discrediting the agrarian idea which leads every man to cling to his own land and to covet his neighbour's without considering whether he is or is not fit to manage land, and of replacing it by the idea of an ordered agricultural community in which each man finds his own level, and is allowed and encouraged to do the work he is fit for. Second, the immediate practical necessity of enforcing this idea in the sphere where Government interference is by common consent necessary, that is, in the abolition or reduction of 'congestion’; and this can only be done by the Government refusing to give a farm to any man who has neither the knowledge, skill, or working capital to make a living out of it. Of course, such a scheme of resettlement cannot work quickly if it is to have any permanent value. I have no doubt this will seem obvious to English readers.
What they perhaps do not understand is the strength of the opposition it will meet with in Ireland, where squeezing acres out of Mr. Birrell is the equivalent of making hay while the sun shines.
I do not think I need defend the foregoing pages from the charge of class or party bias. If I have criticised what the Government may regard as an integral part of their scheme, I have done so only
in respect to the effect which it would produce upon the character, and therefore upon the prosperity, of the greater part of my country. men, more particularly those of the West, in days when the Landlord interest will no longer be concerned. So far as I have touched upon a constitutional question, I have opposed a scheme of devolution which is surely open to the chief objection taken to the measure so summarily rejected two years ago, that it was administration without the essentials of responsibility. The present scheme has the further defect that it is provincial, and not national as is the devolution I have been promoting during the best years of my life. Mr. Gerald Balfour's scheme is working admirably in every county in Ireland. It has enabled a band of quiet earnest workers to found upon self-help a fabric of Irish social and economic progress. We contemplate with alarm the setting up, alongside of this sound and increasingly effective administrative machinery, an institution for which there is no precedent—which owes such popularity as it enjoys to concessions made to an influential class, not in their best interests, and most assuredly to the ultimate demoralisation of those upon whose character and industry the future prosperity of Ireland must absolutely depend.
A TRIBUTE TO SWINBURNE
RETURNING from France on the night of the 15th of April, the night of Swinburne's funeral, we bought the English papers upon landing, and there and then read in its full significance the news that had reached us so far only in a schoolboy's letter.
As we went on then to London, I and my fellow-traveller, who had known him well, tried in vain to realise that he had that day made his last journey through the English shires, to be buried at Bonchurch, and that the familiar house on Putney Hill would see him no more. The greatest of our lyrical poets,' George Meredith called him in a letter to their common friend there, which we found printed in one of the evening papers. With a like sense of his genius and unprecedented powers, we had yet never quite learnt to range him with his con
temporaries, having thought of him rather as one of the classic poets * of an earlier world than as the true creature of the nineteenth
century. Rightly to celebrate his memory and estimate his loss, one ought to have something of his own princely excess in love and grief for his heroes, as when, at the death of Victor Hugo in the spring of 1885, he wrote of the incalculable debt he owed to the master who had fostered whatever nobler passions and aspirations he could command 'with the bread of his deathless word and the wine of his immortal song. But to make prose sing is not given to the ordinary mortal, who must be content to call up in sober memory the place and effect of the poets he has known, and leave the rest to their own great accents.
When Victor Hugo died, all Paris joined in the funeral train that bore the remains to the Pantheon. When his disciple and worshipper died, how little was London moved. One cannot but reflect on the difference, seeing that Swinburne was a greater lyric poet than Hugo (in spite of his own contrary belief), if far Hugo's inferior in drama and in certain other fields that both attempted. The difference was not only one marking off the two peoples ; it was as much one between the two poets. Hugo had sung liberty and the sea and the sea-wind and wild nature, very much as his disciple had done ; but he had been and he remained a poet of human nature and of the men and women of Paris up to the end ; and the men and women had learnt
to recognise his voice. Swinburne after the climacteric year, 1879, was no longer a poet of men and women at all, unless we consider ·little children, of whom he became the laureate, as men and women. He had become to all intents and purposes a poet of nature. Living near London, he forgot London ; gave himself up to surprising nature day by day through all the changes of the year on its neighbouring heaths and commons, and to writing poems of memory or present ecstasy, or songs of those creatures who with him were content with green grass, a May tree, and a blue sky.
One of the most distinct memories I have of him goes back to a day in May, four or five years ago, when he described the new-come lustre of a hawthorn tree, blossoming on Wimbledon Common. Not one of the poems he wrote, dealing with the theme, and written about the same time, conveys quite the rapturous reality of his words in describing it to the blue-eyed listener at his side, who had possibly been incredulous about any wilder charms that could linger unspoilt so near London and its smoke. The long, solitary morning expeditions over two commons, that gave him these delights, were scarcely ever intermitted. Of later years these rambles were always solitary, and during them he saw nothing but the grass, the tree, the sky-and his innocent fellow-rhapsodists. Even if he met friends he did not recognise them : a lady, an old friend of his, one morning purposely stood right in his path, to see if he would stop and speak to her. But he simply bowed his head, without noticing who the interrupter was, and passed on.
The incident would not be worth telling if it was not so characteristic of him in his older years ; living so near London, yet so aloof from it; absorbed in his own thoughts and the spectacle of Nature ; envisaging men more and more as a fief of Nature, not Nature as a region and dominion of man.
His affection from boyhood for certain English places and wilder countrysides, Northumbrian moors and southern sea-coasts, was of a part with this creed. It was bound up, too, just as closely with his love of England herself, and with a hatred, furious, unreasoning, profane, of her enemies, upon whom he could not shower epithets enough of rage and anathema.
And here again we have a cue to a certain alienation of his sympathies from the spirit of his younger contemporaries, which went on more or less during his last period. But, like other men of genius, he was made up of opposites. With all his spirit of revolt, he was an aristocrat of a hundred inherited prejudices ; while he was to the end a hot republican, he was just as fierce a conservative. How should a school, humorous, self-conscious, that dealt in comparatives and subtleties, understand an old poet whose hopes, fears, passions, memories, rages, were all cast in superlatives?
This is, I admit, to suggest a picture of an intellectual Berserker