Page images
PDF
EPUB

brief reign Mr. Jessė does ample justice, though he seems to us rather hard upon him when he looks upon his princely charities and endowments of learned bodies, as proofs not so much of a liberal and humane disposition as of an uneasy conscience, which he sought in vain to appease. Whatever his motives may have been, be certainly showed himself, in many respects, eminently qualified for the government of a mighty kingdom. It seems wonderful how, in the short period of tranquillity which he was permitted to enjoy, he could find time for the consideration of the different matters to which he devoted his attention. He passed many laws—some having the ease and comfort of the common people for their direct object, others leading indirectly to the same end, by abridging the power of the nobles, alike inclined in those days to oppress the poor and to resist the Sovereign. He bestowed liberal and discerning patronage on literature and art, encouraged commerce and navigation; and gave, in short, many proofs of a mind not only originally just and generous, had not ambition warped it, but enlightened beyond his age. And, however criminal some of his actions may have been, we must not judge of even the worst of them by the standard of our own age, when right is better uvderstood and human life more correctly valued. The religious character of an action is, indeed, unchangeable ; but its moral aspect must be determined, in some degree, by the habits and feelings of the age and nation in which it is done. The fifteenth century was truly an age of blood, in which scarcely any one scrupled at sweeping from their path, by any means in their power, all who were, or who seemed likely to be, an obstacle to their views. Henry IV. undoubtedly first deposed and then murdered his cousin ; and, except in the fact that Richard was the protector of his nephews, it is impossible to conceive cases more exactly parallel, but the history of Henry was not written by enemies who had no character of their own but such as they could derive from reviling his. To “nothing extenuate, nor set down aught in malice," should for the future be the rule with those who desire to enter into a consideration of the life and character of King Richard the Third.

AN IRISH EXCUSE. If an Irishman were to be posgessed of no other talent besides the one of making an excuse, he would deserve immortality even on that single score. No woman ever got through it with such a face; and, up to the taking of Ireland by the Phænicians, womankind was generally allotted the first place in the capability-line of going boldly, unblushingly, and naturally, through a complicated excuse of any number of minutes' duration. When the above-mentioned adventurers, however, came over here (we quote some annals which were supposed to have been lost in the fifth century, but which, unlike most of Mr. Micawber's prospects, have actually turned up lately, in a library belonging to my grandpapa,) they found the

country inhabited by gentlemen who lived on red herrings and potatoes ; were particularly addicted to the use of drink called whiskey-boys (supposed to be cognate with modern usquebaugh); and—what was the most extraordinary feature of their civilization—who amused themselves in a curious game called skull-lay-las, the last syllable of the word signifying, in the original Danaan, open, or translucent. After this recreation, it was usual to have a dance, a song, and another game; which terminated, all the gentlemen shook bands amicably, kissed the ladies, and retired to rest, to arise next morning in improved good health, and with heads sounder, and, of course, harder than before.

The Phænicians had been induced, by the mis-statements of previous navigators, to believe that the natives were a worthless, sluggish race, ignorant of the use of warlike implements, and gifted, for the most part, with interesting appendages, called in natural history caudas, an appendage which Lord Monboddo has attributed to all the prime begetters of the human race in that delightful and ingenious theory which has made his name noticeable enough for our especial mention and commendation. Upon discovering their mistake, both with regard to the unmilitary spirit of the people and the caudas, there was nothing left to the strangers but to turn home again, unless, indeed, they chose to fight their way—a course which, as it could only end in their discomfiture, was never once thought of. They landed, however, and, after being hospitably entertained by the natives, returned to their ships at curfew-time, with intention to next day offer some presents to their entertainers, whose taste for whiskey-boys they bad observed with various nods, winks, and significant congratulations to one another. They brought their present accordingly—a keg of liquor, well known in the land of the sun by the name of “the native,”pellative it enjoys still in various Asiatic climes. To do honour to the leader of the expedition, whose name was Patcheen, the interesting beverage was christened after him, and “the native,” which had put poetry into Dido and Æneas, rose, like the Phænix from its ashes, far off in a western latitude, with new sparkle, strength, and glory.

Patcheen, since corrupted into potcheen, or poteen, became a favourite with the Danaans first, then with the Milesians, who came after, and ultimately with the inhabitants of various races by whom Ireland was successively occupied. The name became incorporated with their literature, and formed a large portion of its inspiration.

We make mention of these curious facts, first, to give the history of an Irish excuse; and, secondly, to point out the analogy existing between our manners of the present day and those of some thousand years ago.

The Danaans got drunk over the patcheen, and, after beating each other on the heads soundly, shook hands in right good will, and went to bed in high complacency; but what was their surprise next morning to find themselves prisoners on their own sod—their skull-openers in the hands of the Phænicians, and the hands—without which even skull-openers prove ineffective-the hands in bondage ? The Phænicians had handcuffed them during their temporary intoxication--at least such was the excuse

an ap

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

promulgated by Irish historians until the eleventh century, when, the annals (uno excepto) being lost, it became impossible to throw light upon some difficult eras, amongst which the first invasion had the felicity of being enumerated.

This is unquestionably the first Irish excuse on record, and as it is said by antiquarians to divide the empire of invention with the altera pars of buman kind, we have judged it worthy of a new coat of type, and a new nether garment, namely, of paper.

A modern, of the Danaan school, Jemmy Casey, yclept, possesses this beautiful faculty in the full rosiness of perfection. It is not alone from - wbat he says, but the manner in which he says it, that the humour flows; the nap of his hat,—when he has a bat, not always,-shaking gently, as if discomposed by the entrance into his cranium of some Hibernian Apollo : his eyes sparkling with the ecstasy of internal mirth, and his voluptaons Celtic lip trembling in all the eagerness of conscious wit. Not long ago, Casey broke the pledge, and, as is usual in such cases, proceeded forthwith to the police-barrack, for the purpose of inviting all the peace-preservers to a friendly exhibition of their pugilistic capabilities. Poor Jemmy was, however, marched off to Bridewell, and there, as the first edition ran, smasbed all the windows, and killed the keeper. The first part of the story turned out true, the custodian being only placed in the way of wanting a new bat.

I have a particular interest in Casey—why ? let no one ask. I am a Captain Dowler in action, not words, and this last affair was quite worth hearing from his own lips. No mau tells a tale like Jemmy Casey ; no man has such wit, humour, pathos, and expression : besides which I love Jemmy Casey for the exceeding ease with wbich all his stories may be obtained, for in no necd stands he of pressing, coaxing, or cajolery. Besides, he is an old man of white hairs and wrinkles; and when the heart of youth warms the veins of experience, how odd a thing that men should not love it as I do, only smile sneeringly, aud call it unbecoming !

Well, Jemmy,” said I, “what induced you to break the pledge? I thought yon began to like the soda-water, and you drinking it for thirteen

“ Throth I got over it by manes of a dbrame, sir," replied Jemmy, with his peculiar smile, “and av it's not too long I'd be keepin' you, I'd bid ye sit down on the green sod here, and I'd tell all about it.”

It was in the corn field where Jemmy was reaping that I met him. Two o'clock in the afternoon bad been announced by a neighbouring farm · bell, and the hero was enjoying the consolation which is usually, in my part of the country, administered to the labourers at that honr. His countenance was at the moment largely indicative of good nature; and, as I took my seat, with my back comfortably shaded with a corn rigg, I could not help observing how very much he had improved since our last meeting, notwithstanding that one of his eyes was not quite open, and that he wore his caubeen with a jaunty, rakish expression, not quite becoming the gray hairs it shrouded.

One night,” he resumed immediately, “ov last week, mysel and

years, too."

Pether Hegarty remained up to watch our two p'ots o' praties, that lies beside one another, as you may be aware, on the summit oʻGurt-na-Rabba. We had a watch-hut well purvided with turf and other ateables ; besides which I brought a thimble-full o' poteen to Hegarty, who never was, nor one belonging to bim, a sthrict follower o' Father Mathew. Though the night was fine and the moon and stars shone beautiful, there was a cowld rorth wind springin' up, which, in spite of my warm frieze, pinitrated into my bones, makin' me shiver all over like a tinker's donkey. Flegarty, like a lazy spalpeen, that lie is, had'nt come yit, so afther makin' the fire look dacent, drawing my bredheen closer round me, and whistlin' to let the thieves know I was there, down I lay comfortable for a sleep, lavin' the praties to mind themselves until Hegarty ud come and waken me.

“ Now, sir, the knoll, at the base of which the hut was built, was a famous spot intirely for the ginthry; a beautiful little valley, with poseys, and four-lave shamrocks, on which they could dance at night without hurtin their party feet, or takin’in a sharp thorn. I often hard them there, singin' and daucin', till the early morn, and many's the time I hard their pleasant laugh as I stood up to take a sthep to the sweet music o' their wee bagpipes.

“It's very cowld, Jim,' siz I to mysel', as the shleep began to come over me, ó an’Jimmy, avic, siz I, 'av you had a dhrop o' the crathur, how it would help to pass the night for you, agra, specially as that blind rogue, Hegarty, won't be here to-night.'

6. Perhaps it would,' siz I, in a dhramy sort o' way, not quite understandin' the dbrift o' my reflections. “ . It's in your pocket at this moment, Jimmy,” siz I again,

6 and "Yis, Jemmy Casey,' I replied, “but bad luck to your unlucky sconce, you gomeril, don't you know what the pledge manes, eh, you goose, you?'

“I don't remimber anything else until I fell asleep, and no sooner did this happen than the whole scene where I was changed like magic; instead o'the little watch hut, it was a nate, smart room, with a glorious fire on the hearth, by the light of which you could pick a pin from the flure, or put a silk thread through a cambric needle. Near the fire was a table covered over with green baize, on which were lashins o'glasses, tumblers, and smokin' jugs o'punch; with limons here and there, a quantity o'tall, blue, black, and yallow bottles, lump sugar, as a matter of coorse, and everything else the heart oman could wish for. I was wondherin' what it was all for, or where I was, whin a vision sthood before me, a curious vision. I thought o' the little elves and fairies, head over heels in the deep tumblers, while some pointed with a roguish expression to the stheaming jug, and some jumped wildly over the fat jars. Others came agin near me with sweet-smelling jorums o' whiskey punch, and laughed and jeered, with their mouths dhrawn back to their very ears, while some of them wint kickin' the lump sugar about the table, rowlin' the limons half a dozen to every one, and knockin' down ache other with shouts of fun and merriment.

“ At last, when they had enough o' recreation this way, they began to approach me laughin' and humbuggin', some of them with their fingers on

The poor

their noses, and a few of them havin' the owdacity to climb up my legs, chest, and whiskers, just to pluck at my nose, or sthick their fingers in my eye. At last they got tired o'provokin' me this way, more especially as I bore it all with the greatest good humour, only cursin' one little vagabond who wint nearly deprivin' me o' the use o' my left optic.

“Jimmy,' siz one sthout little gintleman at last, 'that's fine poteen.'

“I don't doubt it, sir, siz I, 'for you look like a good judge of its qualifibilities.

“ The little gintleman rubbed his nose complacently, and thin siz he:

" It's a long time since you tasted the like av it, p'raps you've no objection to a late thrial ?'

"" Well, sir, siz I, with a deep groan, “it's myseľ that niver refused a kind invitation, and comin' from a quarther so respectable ; but thin, sir, you see it's not my own masther I am, or I'd be after becomin' your humble servant in a jiffy."

"Casey, siz the little gintleman, afther a few moments' silence, 'you come of a dacent sthock; your mother was a Mulcahy, or I'm mistaken?'

66. Your honour isn't far out,'siz I.

“No, I'm not,' siz he, and it's a sad day for ould Ireland whin the rale ould ginerations o' the counthry are takin' to Scotch malt,' siz be, and Frinch wines,' siz he, indignantly, and the pure poteen, that never gave a headache, pitched aside for any dog to snuff at.'

little gintleman said this so warmy, that I knew immediately his dandher was up; his eyes flashed with rage, at the same time, that two scaldin' tears rowled down his cheeks. I pitied the poor little fellow with all my heart, and siz I to mysel, • That chap loves his counthry in airnest; and you, Casey,' siz I, "you mane spalpeen, if you had half his sperit, isn't it the Repailer you might be, and you havin' all your family to back you, the Caseys, the Mulcahys, let alone the Finnegans, and the O'Tooles!'

“As I finished thinkiu' this way, a door at the ind of the room opened, and a purty young lady walked in first, takin' the lade of several nate, clane, smart-lookin' ladies and gintlemen, all dhressed in green, and wearin' a St. Pathrick's cross stbuck soncily on their shoulders. The first lady passed by me, with a genteel bow, and takin' her sate at the head o' the table, with her back to the fire, motioned the others to their chairs, smilin' and dimplin' like a ripe pache; and as soon as this was done, she turned her face towards myself, and comminced bobbin' at me until I began to feel quite ashamed, and all my face covered over with blushes.

“Jimmy Casey,' siz she.
" "Ma'am,' siz I.
“How are you ?' siz she.

“Purty well, thank you, middlin'; I can give you a ball o' thanks, and how do you feel yoursel'? ma'am,' siz I.

"Oh, gaily,' siz she, bowing politely, and with a pleasant smile ; but Jimmy,' siz she, “I think you don't know me,' siz she.

“* Well, ma'am, siz I, scratchin' my head, 'I'd be sorry to say I could

« PreviousContinue »