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Dense bodies of clouds, presenting to our minds ideas of marble pillars, and a hundred other similes, continuously rolled past, enveloping us for several moments, then dashing themselves against the heads of Dooish, Gartan, and Errigal Mountains. Three noble eagles, soaring in circles above the careering vapours, looked down in contempt upon us, poor wingless bipeds, chained to this gross earth, while they swam in the azure sky, rejoicing in the war of the elements beneath.
The following day was most lovely. Such is the fickle and inconstant—the womanish nature of this climate-each day a contrast to the next, one twenty-four hours all sunlight and moonlight, the succeeding day all clouds, mist, rain, and lightning. Many would feel disgust at this uncertainty, while a few might not be averse to the excitement of its “charming variety." A bright sun shone out then upon this sweet September morning a soft, south-west wind, heaved a gentle sigh. A truly Irish day it was ; redolent of its poetry, and typical of its music. The glen was in holiday attire; broad, slowly-passing streams of heavenly sunlight glided over wood and mountain, tinting them with rainbow lines. The towering cliffs were reflected in the mirror of the lake, apparently above a thousand feet, base to base, like Wordsworth's swan that “floated double, swan and shadow."
We took our guns for a shot at the grouse which we might meet on our way over Gartan Mountain. My friend's dogs were first-rate; not "bloodhounds of old St. Hubert's breed,” but setters of high degree; the sire of one having brought seventy guineas last year, at the auction of a well-known sporting gentleman of Kildare County. Off we started, attended by a keeper, a "mountain-boy” of discreet age. After a walk of about a mile along the avenue, we turned up what, in Glenveagh parlance, is called a path, but by which we went up, up; toiling, struggling, and crashing through the deep underwood of hazel, holly, and juniper, tearing our way through, till, at the end of half-an-hour, we stood on the hill top. The view was really magnificent, compassing a ring of about twenty miles; but we had little time for a swerve into the valley, in which lie the Upper and Lower Gartan Lakes. In the distance we could see the village of Churchill on the horizon ; its spire became a landmark to us in the mountain wilderness for the rest of the day. We had little time for diverging in search of game, yet grouse, snipe, and golden plover found their way into our game-bag. I proceeded towards evening to the shores of the Gartan lakes, in search of wild duck. They were found in great numbers, but for want of a proper boat I got but few shots.
These lakes, and their adjoining swampy sides, whence spring up forests of enormous bulrushes, were formerly the favourite “huntinggrounds” of William Maxwell, the author of “Wild Sports of the West,” a true sportsman and buon camarado, who has gone from us, but left behind his genial spirit in his “ Romances of Real Life.”
In the evening, on my return from the lakes to rejoin my friend, I was passing through a deep rocky glen, where stood the remains of a mountain mill, with a group of comfortable stone-built cottages in à sunny spot adjoining, when, running up the hill side from one of these, 1 perceived a young girl flourishing a reaping-hook. As she came near me, she was overtaken by a strapping youngster of eighteen or nineteen years, who rudely caught her and took hold of the hook, which, after a little resistance, she yielded up, with an exclamation between a scream and a laugh. The affair appeared of so rough a character, that I did not know what to make of it ; and as the girl was of singularly wild beauty, I was instantly interested. Hurrying up to the youngster, gun in hand, I demanded why he took the hook from her. I was answered by a stare and some gibberish in Irish, which I daly gave hints that I comprehended not. He then made significant signs that the hook was his own, and that she was stealing it. The sight of a florin, however, which was new and bright, tempted him I suppose, for after a little hesitation he took it, and retreated rather sulkily and crestfallen, leaving me in possession of the disputed article, which I immediately presented to the damsel, who curtseying with an inimitable natural grace, thanked me in soft-sounding Keltic. I am sorry to say I know too little of that antique tongue to understand it when spoken ; and as I had just before dismissed my interpreter to catch a dish of trout for our dinner, I was placed in a dilemma. I made ineffectual attempts to become better acquainted through the medium of signs, at which she only shook her head, and again appearing to thank me with Scandinavian fervour, she departed in triumph, with more beautiful smiles on her lips than many a high-born maiden would favour her lover with, for the present of a diamond necklace.
She was a perfect picture of mountain beauty, with a slender form of faultless symmetry, attired in but one simple garment, consisting of a close-fitting boddice of myrtle green, with a skirt of the same material. This was short, displaying an ankle and foot perfect in form, unfettered with shoe or stocking. The dress had no sleeves, only a broad shoulderstrap, leaving her arms bare to the cooling influence of the soft south wind that breathed around us ; her hair was rich auburn of the deepest chestnut hue; her skin transparent and wonderfully fair for a peasant girl exposed to the sun ; soft blue eyes, and regular white teeth. What a contrast was this simple and unadorned child of the mountain, to the made-up be-flounced and be-crinolined denizens of cities and votaries of fashion. The unaffected girl of Glenveagh, with her naked feet, trod the heather path with a more graceful air than any town-bred beauty.
This was the last day I spent in the glen. Next morning I left my hospitable friend's abode on a jaunting-car, drawn by a mountain pony, which took me to Ramelton, about fifteen miles distant. The wild mountain mists swept over the summits of Doish, Muckish, and Lough Salt, as I passed under their bases. “Lough Salt," quoth the matter-of-fact Britisher, “What an Irish bull, to call a mountain a lough.” Even so, and a very fine hill it is, 2,000 feet high, with the strange phenomenon of a Salt lake on the top.
I proceeded from Ramelton to Port Stewart Ferry Station, on Lough Swilly. As we were about to step on board the ferry-boat, the whole sky became blackened, and the passengers looked uneasily at the ominous and lowering canopy. The old skipper, however, made light of the heaviness of the sky, and put off from the shore just as several large drops of rain fell around. The waters of the lough reflected the
darkness above, and I was “half positive" I heard the shrieks of the water wraith, while Campbell's ballad came warningly to my mind
“Now, who be ye who would cross Loch Gyle,
This dark and stormy water?" On we went, and down came the rain in torrents. A black squall howled over the waves, covering us with foam and spray. The ricketty mast groaned pitifully, and the heavy tan-coloured sail, which had seen many years service, was split in two. The old skipper made a rush at the flying fragments, but stumbling over a broken oar, fell into the bottom of the barge. The other sailor tumbled over my portmanteau on top of him, and two ladies by my side caught hold of me, in their alarm, doing their utmost to drag me from the rudder, which I had volunteered to govern, and on which our safety principally depended. The barge, however, was too heavy and clumsy to be easily overturned, and defied the power of the gale, the awkwardness of the crew, and the terror of the ladies. After a little drifting, the sailors contrived to catch the tattered sail, and each holding on by an end, we were driven into harbour on the Londonderry side.
I procured a car on reaching the long-wished for shore, and about six o'clock arrived at the far-famed old maiden city, ten miles from the lough, and thus ended my WEEK AT GLENVEAGH.
A POET in this essentially prosaic age does not introduce himself to the public under as favourable circumstances as almost any other candidate for their suffrages. Indeed, we think that he has hardly a “fair field,” and unquestionably he meets with “no favour" on the threshold; nor can we blame the reading public for this hesitancy. Perhaps there is no field for attempt so prolific of failure as that of Poetry, which demands, if one would succeed in it, certain gifts which are accorded only in very exceptional cases ; and we all know that the Poet is a natural and not an artificial production. Nevertheless, there are few of us whose human perversity has not led them to do a little in this line, beginning with perhaps an Ode to Home on breaking up,” a Valentine, or what not-pioneers sent out by our vanity, and too often treacherously, at all events fallaciously, leading us on to our own confusion, whether we are sensible of it or not. It follows that the numbers of failures, lamentable or ridiculous, may well beget a feeling of distrust, which each aspirant has accordingly to surmount or disarm before his fellow-men will credit him with the possession of this divine faculty. With our eyes fully open to this state of things, and we hope forea armed against the contagious prejudice above indicated, we proceed to discuss the merits of the candidate whose name graces the bottom of this page as the author of “ Gardenia.” Firstly, then, it occurs to us to say, that having read it over we find very little narrative indeed in proportion to the thickness of the volume, which includes some 250 pages, and therefore depends for its success rather on its merits as poetry, par excellence, than on the interest attaching to its plot. We hope to illustrate satisfactorily that Mr. Sandes has written few pages which will
, on this account, fail to arrest and please any mind with a power of appreciating a heart's history, or of recognising counterparts of its own experiences in the introspective utterances in which they are conveyed. So much generally. Particularly, we may find, as we go along, occasion to take exception to sentiments themselves, or to the more mechanical, but in poetry scarcely secondary, consideration of the modes of expression; for though it may at first seem a startling proposition, we affirm, not dogmatically, but as very decidedly our opinion, that poetry, of which the soul is the ideas and sentiments whose beauty enraptures us, can nevertheless be sadly marred by an infelicitous method of conveying them, even when they really exist. Doubtless the beautiful, even in disguise, is preferable to deformity or even plainness in gold and silken sheen; but it does not follow that beauty can altogether afford to dispense with taste and grace in the artificial but necessary guise in which it presents itself for our admiration.
For this heart's history, then, or more strictly two hearts' history, Mr. Sandes takes the sweet flower Gardenia, or Cape Jessamine, as his type, and, in explanation of the rather fanciful 'simile which he so
“ Gardenia: a Poem." By William Stephen Sandes. Dublin : Edward J. Milliken. London: Longman & Co. 1858.
lover-like has detected, we think we cannot more fitly open this notice than in the words of his own first page :
“Thou flower, whose perfumed beauty to our senses
Proffers conflicting claiins on sight and scent
Made whole by its according counterpart ?" We accept the doctrine implied in these lines. Let us by all means believe, and live as believing, that our hearts are not our own, to be garnered up for our own uses, to sour and to wither, but rather that there is for each of us another heart somewhere on its way to meet our own, and that in their meeting and mutual fusion the perfect office of each is to be found; and that so mysteriously are they constituted, that for both there will be much gain-for neither, any loss from the compact. Mr. Sandes "begins at the beginning.". In his prologue he introduces his hero, an infant, all unconscious of the troublous destiny before itwelcomed on the threshold of its career by those powers whose alternating influences on the history of his love that is yet to be, afford the substance of this poem. We are again tempted to give the very next lines to those which we last quoted; they are the opening ones of the prologue:
“ The might of May arising from the plain
Had burst the winter-bound laburnum shell,
A world of children is spread out before the tranced gaze of this mother :
“ While ceaselessly above them, and around