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poverty, idle and joyless, loitering before the cabin door, or following in the train of a mendicant mother, whose partner in misery had gone to seek employment from the English harvest, where his hire would be paid with the smile of derision; and where he would be expected to excite laughter by his blunders, who might well command tears by his wretchedness.
In the proclaimed districts, the misery of the peasant population was most conspicuous. For he to whom
( The world was no friend, nor the world's law,"
might well set both at defiance. The forfeit of life could be deemed but a small penalty to him, who in preserving it “sheweth a greater necessity he hath to live, than any pleasure he can have in living."
The few vehicles, public or private, observable on the high roads, the total absence of a respectable yeomanry,
marked the scantiness of a resident gentry, and the want of that independent class,“a country's boast and pride. Yet many stately edifices, the monuments of ancient splendor or modern taste, rose along the way; the former in ruins, the latter almost invariably unfinished. The castle of the ancient chief, and the mansion of the existing landlord, were alike desolated and deserted. Town succeeding town, marked the influence and power of the great English palatines, who drew their wealth and luxury from a land, to which, like their forefathers, for generations back, they were strangers; and the name and arms of the English nobility, suspended over inns, emblazoned over court-houses, and fixed in the walls of churches, or shining above their altars, marked the extensive territories of these descendants of the undertakers, and grantees of the Elizabeths, the James's, and the Charles's. The surface
of the country, as it appeared, contained the leading facts of its history, and those who ran might read. He who now read, studied not without a comment the text whose spirit and whose letter were mis-rule and oppression.
The young stranger saw with other eyes ; and by the illusory lights of a sleepless imagination. But his philosophy, though cynical, was not the cynicism of experience; it was the satiety of early excited and promptly exhausted sensations. Man, with him, was every where as well off as he deserved to be, because no where did “ man delight” him; while all refer. ences came home to his own enjoyment, and were appreciated as they extended or curtailed its sphere. He looked only to that which could gratify the dominant faculty of his existence; and while he found
6 Nature wanted stuff,
he sought in the combinations of art, as formed under various epochs of society, for such objects and images as embodied events long passed, or consecrated, and preserved in memory and imagination only.
He had induced his companion to lengthen and diverge from their route by visiting the town of Kildare, once a city of historical and monkish importance, because there, his road-book told him, were still visible some remains of the · Firehouse, the Christian temple, where the nuns of St. Bridget performed the rites of the heathen priestesses of Vesta, and watched over the sacred flame, which the English bishop, Henri de Londres, afterwards sacrilegiously extinguished (2). He found a little town, ruinous and wretched, with many symptoms of poverty, and few of antiquity; and he hurried from it in disappointment and dislike. He insisted on stopping the first night at Kilkenny,
for the purpose of viewing the feudal castle of the Butlers, and the splendid ruins of its abbies. But, even here, imagination had got the start of fact; and, though a busy fancy peopled the silent aisles of St. Francis and St. John's with
66 eremites and friars, White, black, and grey, with all their trum.
pery;" though he garrisoned the
ramparts with “ Irish kernes and galloglasses,” imagination left possibility every where behind. Disappointment hung like a noxious
vapour upon his steps; and he every
where found reason, or sought it, to scoff at the folly and feebleness of man, who, under all stages of society, is the victim of blindness, beyond his power to dispel; alternately tyrant or slave, impostor or dupe, and neither by his own free will. But though he saw the evil, he neither felt for its effects, explored its cause, nor suggested its re