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The royal feasts of Teamor are, indeed, celebrated in the songs of the old Irish bards, from the time that Ollamh Fodhla first assembled the three estates of the realm at this place—when Cormac Ulfida, grandson of Conn of the Hundred Battles, revised the Psalter of Tara, and founded three colleges at the same spot—when St. Patrick was brought before King Logaire, to destroy the idol Crom-cruach and convert both the king and the archdruid—and, indeed, till the time of Dermod, greatgrandson of Niall of the Hostages, when the enraged Abbot of St. Ruan went in procession to the palace and cursed it, and no king sat, nor poet sang, in its halls from that day forth.
The pillar-stone of Forradh, it is worthy of remark, is considered by Irish archæologists to be the genuine Lia Fail, or Stone of Destiny, upon which, for many ages, the monarchs of Ireland were crowned; and the stone carried away from Scotland by Edward I., and now preserved in Westminster Abbey, is supposed to have no real virtue attached to it. The Forradh monument is, however, acknowledged to have been erected, where it now stands, to the memory of some
els slain in an encounter with the king's troops in 1798. (It would be difficult to say what could have induced the Irish to make a stand at a place with a curse upon it.) The question is, whether this monument is the pillar removed from Rath Righ, and reported to have been there by Irish writers of the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth centuries, or whether that removed for the coronation of Fergus MacEark in Scotland is the original. The chances are in favour of the Forradh stone being the original—the more especially from its pillar form ; but as many black stones are known, both to Irish and to Oriental archæologists, besides the one sacred to Bacchus, and derided by Clement of Alexandria, the one removed with honours to Rome by Elagabalus, the one at the tomb of Daniel, and the other at that of Mohammed, so it may be fairly hoped that Great Britain is rich in more than one regal talisman, and that minus the curse of St. Ruan.
Torna Eigeus, or “ The Learned,” a chief Druid at the time when first the King of Munster and Nial contended for the throne of Ireland, prophesied that the foreigner would sit upon the sacred stone. The translation is from Mr. Hardiman’s “ Irish Minstrelsy.”
Sons of the brave, our day is gone,
Our destiny is spoken;
Another sits on Tara's throne. I have not seen it remarked by any Irish archæologist that Meath signifies the plain that surrounds the hill of Tara. Camden, speaking of Scotland, says—"Nicolæ olim in Maiatas et Caledonios distincti erant, id est in campestris et montanos ;" and the same writer adds, at page 561 of his “Britannia" .“ Dehen Meath, id est planities ad Austrum." The word has somewhat the same signification in the Hebrew and Arabic languages.
As I proceeded on my way, ruminating upon the past grandeur and crimes of Irish kings, I was aroused from my musings by a fire and the shrieks of women.
It was a temporary shed, erected for drying flax on peat, that was in flames, and the fax burnt in fitful gusts with terrific violence. The figure of a man was prominent on the pile, and loomed out of the flames like that of a fire-king, while a crowd of women were
shouting and howling around. I rode to their succour, and did not leave this scene of foolish excitement till I had dressed the well-singed integuments of the too-zealous peasant, and had received in return vociferous expressions of gratitude from the sooty fair sex.
North of Tara the soil undulated, and presented greater variety of aspect. Several stately mansions rose up here and there, and the thicklywooded banks of the Boyne assisted in giving to the entrance to Navan a general tone of luxuriance and prosperity. Throughout Ireland, within as well as without the Pale, the castle is, as it was in good old barbarous times in England, the chief feature of a provincial town. The neverending wars of septs, toparchs, barons, or kings, so well sustained by the Anglo-Irish lords after their advent to the same country, just as if the warlike and predatory spirit belonged more to the soil than to the people, necessitated everywhere places of refuge and of defence. The greater number of the Irish castles were, no doubt, erected by the AngloIrish, for we find the men of Tyrone described, even as late as in the time of Queen Elizabeth, as seeking for shelter in their native woods and fastnesses, rather than in their cities and castles; and in A.D. 1544, when the sons of O'Donnell were fighting against their father for want of a more worthy antagonist, the Irish were still so unskilful in attacking forts, that Calvagh O'Donnell was despatched to Dublin to hire English soldiers and siege engines to reduce the castle of Lifford, in which the head of this respectable family had taken refuge.
The Boyne and the Blackwater have already been, and are again about to be, illustrated historically and topographically; so we must content ourselves here with intimating that, beyond Navan, both, though famed in history, are insignificant streams enough, flowing at times over naked limestone rocks, but without the picturesqueness of the Usk or the Towey under similar circumstances. The castle of Navan, or Athlumny, stands at the junction of these two rivers, and is a ruin of considerable extent. The more ancient portion consists, as usual, of a massive quadrangular tower, with keep or donjon, and circular towers at the angles. The more modern wing must have contained some splendid apartments. A castle which has been described and figured even in the “Dublin Penny Journal” need not detain us. The journal in question, it is but fair to mention, is deserving of all praise for having done much towards dispelling the ignorance that prevailed relative to Irish antiquities, even in Ireland itself. The prospect from the top of the castle was at once striking and comprehensive. Tara hills to the south; the shady banks of the Boyne, terminated by the hills above Slane and Cullen, to the east ; the wooded Blackwater stretching upwards towards Kells to the north and west. The sites of Tara, Navan, and Kells were,
according to a rude tradition, marked out by a witch, who, in the form of a pig, leaped from the one to the other, but was killed by the third saltatorial effort. Navan contains the usual public edifices of a county town: infirmary, gaol, churches and chapels, good inn, and a college; the students at which are distinguished by flat caps, bordered with fur, which are worn with an inclination sometimes forwards, sometimes lateral, sometimes backwards ; but, in whichever way worn, look like a flat cocked-hat, and impart to the wearer anything but a learned or instructive appearance. A visit to the abbey, where were some curious tombs-one old slab,
remarkable for the bold relief of its sculptures-was disturbed by the approach of a funeral. The coffin, which was nearly falling to pieces, was borne by four men, so thoroughly intoxicated as scarcely to appear conscious of what they were doing. At one moment it was the head, at another the feet, of the unfortunate deceased that rose almost perpendicularly in the air-changes of position to which an occasional variety was communicated by a sudden lurch laterally, which threatened to deposit the defunct in the gutter. A crowd of women and children followed in the rear, howling their grief, and quite unconcerned at the extraordinary evolutions which the dead man was performing. A good-looking girl, observing that my attention was arrested by this strange scene, stepped up to me.
“Sure, your honour, you would not be standing there and seeing these poor men so tired with carrying the dead, and not lend them a hand ?"
“Lend a hand, my dear?” I stammered forth in my surprise ; " to you, perchance; but to that ruin of a coffin !" and shaking my head, I stole away like a fox when he hears the hounds in the distance.
It was market-day at Navan (I am always particularly unlucky in visiting country towns on market-days), and I saw a fine specimen of national enthusiasm in a man who was selling apples, stripped and red hot by his exertions, and filling the whole market-place with his voice. Another, trying a horse, could not do that without throwing the animal and himself from the slippery flags against a cart that was close by: Navan, I must not omit to mention, has a public well, sunk to the depth of only a few feet ; but as at the time of my visit there were no means of drawing water adapted for the community at large, each family had a separate tin can tied to the pump, each by its own string; and the effect produced by this arrangement was, as may be readily imagined,
“cannie," as a Scot would say, than “ braw." I left Navan at an early hour the ensuing morning, when the mist was still abroad busy coating in sparkling white the autumnal gossamer and the late-leafed bramble; but the sun had attested his supremacy long before I had attained the point where the long lines of ruddy hawthorn and manytinted ash gave way to the once border town of Kells. This sombre but clean little town was occupied by a detachment of cavalry and infantry enforcing the claims of the tax-gatherer; so it was lucky that it was merely my breakfast station. That accomplished, and the inner man being upon good terms with tax-gatherers and tax-payers alike, my first visit was to the home of St. Columba, or Columbkill
, who must not be confounded with St. Columba or Columbanus, both doves, but the former the greater dove or the pigeon of the church. Nor was it without a feeling of deep interest that I visited the horne of this zealous propagandist. Accident has thrown me frequently in his footsteps. I have visited the ruins of his monasteries in desolate rocks in the Scottish seas--I have shot wild duck over his supposed burial-place on the coast of Northumbria-I had ever appreciated in their fullest extent the blessings that flowed from that far-off seat of learning, the small isle of Iona-and now I was going to visit one of the earliest homes of this distinguished prelate. What was my surprise at finding a small commonplace-looking building, rudely thatched with clods of turf, and its portals desecrated by the ragged descendants of a family reared from time immemorial within the precincts
of a building sacred to celibacy and learning—one of the most interesting monuments in Ireland! At once an oratory and a habitation, like St. Kevin's house at Glendalough and St. Flannan's at Killaloe, St. Colomb's house, so insignificant in aspect, may yet be classed among the most remarkable structures of Christian times now to be found in Europe. It is one of the earliest examples of cylindrical vaulting, and all its details, which, with a good illustration, may be found in “Wakeman's Handbook of Irish Antiquities,” are replete with interest. The fact, however, that in those primeval times the heads of the church should have been at so much trouble and expense to build small but imperishable edifices wherein to dwell secluded in a crowd, or removed to some wild and dreary spot, as was the case with the oratory of the woman-hater, St. Senan, and that on Bishop's Island, so characteristically called by the Irish Oiléan-an-Easpoig-gertaigh," the island of the hungry or the starving bishop,” is as curious as the edifices themselves, rare and remarkable as they are. The oratories and round towers of Ireland are alike peculiar and unexampled. Dr. Petrie's views, which have been pronounced by Thomas Davis, in the Nation, with true national enthusiasm, to be the most learned, the most exact, and the most important ever published upon the antiquities of the ancient Irish nation, however much they have done to remove former erroneous notions, are far from being so completely satisfactory as has been imagined by his countrymen. In the main there is no doubt that the Doctor's views are correct; the question is, do they fulfil all that might be deemed the possible uses of such lofty, massive, and important ecclesiastical structures? Curiously enough, as if to attest by demonstration in actual times that a belfry or steeple may be erected apart from the church, the good people of Kells have erected a modern cloig-theach close by, but apart from the actual church, and upon the ruins of the olden place of worship. The round tower of Kells, ninety feet in height and forty-eight in circumference, with walls three feet in thickness, and a conical roof, is not one of the least interesting specimens of the kind. The cross in the market-place has been figured in the “ Excursions." Both the letters and sculptures with which it was adorned are much defaced, and it is impossible to tell if the animals depicted were of this or of an antediluvian era. Kells abounds in interesting antiquities, but of the walls erected by Hugh de Lacy there are few traces remaining. It was evidently a spot more favoured by learning and religion than important as a military station; true that that distinguished “routier,' Janico d'Artois, slew two hundred Irish at or near this spot,—that at the same place the O'Reillys made their submission to Lord James Butler (A.D. 1539),—that in the rebellion of O'Neill the same O'Reillys rose up and burnt the town (A.D. 1597),—that Mountjoy garrisoned it shortly after,—and that as a frontier town, and the seat of a turbulent sept, it played a more or less important part in all the great struggles among the Irish themselves and between the Irish and English ; but still the home of St. Columba confers upon it the most enduring and the most exquisite interest. At Glenveagh a flat stone with four cavities is pointed out as the spot where the founder of the Culdees was born; on a rock of Fannal is the place where, armed with bell and boat, and lighted up with holy tapers, he cursed the rats and mice and even the beneficial earthworm. At Clonmany is a well sacred to the saint, and a stone with the prints of his knees; in Skye and in Iona and in Holy Isle are cairns which, accord)
ing to different traditions, cover the holy man's mortal remains.* There is no end both in Ireland and Scotland to local traditions and reminiscences of this early teacher. Mosheim has given his testimony to the learning of his followers, and states that they were the only divines who refused to dishonour their reason by submitting it implicitly to the dictates of authority. But naturally subtile and sagacious as they were, the Trinity remained to them an insuperable difficulty. "You must either affirm or deny,” they said, " that the three Persons in the Deity are three substances. If you affirm it, you are undoubtedly a Tritheist, and worship three gods : if you deny it, this denial implies that they are not three distinct persons, and thus you fall into Sabellianism.” “Benedict calls this a fallacious and sophistical syllogism, and Mosheim a miserable piece of sophistry. It was certainly calculated to puzzle their hearers, for they accused those of Tritheism who admitted their view, and cast the reproach of Sabellianism upon those who rejected it.
The success of bis ministry, and the number and importance of his pious exploits, stand upon record as undoubted proofs not only of the resolution and patience of the prelate, but also of his dexterity and address. Refused an audience by the Pictish king, Bradeus, the saint is said by the power of his word to have made the gates fly open
before him. He also claimed the faculty of second sight, having told the victory of Aidan over the Picts and Saxons on the very instant it happened. Still, as Mosheim justly remarks upon these early conversions of the Irish and the Scots, They must be very inattentive and superficial observers of things, who do not perceive that the fear of punishment, the prospect of honours and advantages, and the desire of obtaining succour against their enemies from the countenance of the Christians, or the miraculous influences of their religion, were the prevailing motives that induced the greater part to renounce the service of their impotent gods.” In the church, as elsewhere, it is zeal, success, and power, that make the man. Self-denying holiness and meek piety may take up their dwelling-place in the monastery or in the hermitage, and die unrecorded, save above. Power, and not goodness, is immortalised by history.
The splendid domain of the Marquis of Headfort, founded by Thomas Taylor, who accompanied Sir William Petty to Ireland, and whose sur
he assisted in completing in 1653, give to the environs of Kells a highly cultivated and thriving aspect, and impart beauty to the ride to Virginia, which is a kind of dependency upon Bective Castle. This latter place consists of but one street, and is entered by a bridge thrown across à pastoral stream called the Moreen, which falls at a few perches distance into the Irish Virginia Water-olden Lough Ramer. The Rectory of Virginia is a beautiful spot, and a pathway through Lord Headfort's deer-park leads thence along the shores of the lake to the church. The lake itself is between three and four miles long and half a mile in width. The upper end is thickly wooded, and I observed that ruins of
* It is to be observed that the Irish dispute with the Scots the possession of the remains of the saint who in his lifetime turned his back upon them. They pretend that an epitaph,
Hi tres in Duno tumulo tumulantur in uno
Brigida, Patricius, atque Columba pius, records the entombment of the three saints in one tumulus or mound at Down. It must have been a mound of singularly capacious dimensions that would have kept down three such restless spirits in the same sepulchre!