List Of Contents | Contents of Winter Sunshine, by John Burroughs
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began to regard myself in the light of an avenger of an insulted Welsh
beauty, when my heroine paused, and I believe actually deliberated
whether or not to comply before two spectators! Certain it is that she
yielded the highwayman her hand, and, bidding him a gentle good-night
in Welsh, smilingly and blushingly left the car. "Ah," said the
villain, "these Welsh girls are capital; I know them like a book, and
have had many a lark with them."

At Holyhead I got another glimpse of the Welsh.  I had booked for
Dublin, and having several hours on my hands of a dark, threatening
night before the departure of the steamer, I sallied out in the old
town tilted up against the side of the hill, in the most adventurous
spirit I could summon, threading my way through the dark, deserted
streets, pausing for a moment in front of a small house with closed
doors and closely, shuttered windows, where I heard suppressed voices,
the monotonous scraping of a fiddle, and a lively shuffling of feet,
and passing on finally entered, drawn by the musical strains, a quaint
old place, where a blind harper, seated in the corner of a rude kind of
coffee and sitting room, was playing on a harp. I liked the atmosphere
of the place, so primitive and wholesome, and was quite willing to have
my attention drawn off from the increasing storm without, and from the
bitter cup which I knew the Irish sea was preparing for me. The harper
presently struck up a livelier strain, when two Welsh girls, who were
chatting before the grate, one of them as dumpy as a bag of meal and
the other slender and tall, stepped into the middle of the floor and
began to dance to the delicious music, a Welsh mechanic and myself
drinking our ale and looking on approvingly. After a while the
pleasant, modest-looking bar-maid, whom I had seen behind the
beer-levers as I entered, came in, and, after looking on for a moment,
was persuaded to lay down her sewing and join in the dance. Then there
came in a sandy-haired Welshman, who could speak and understand only
his native dialect, and finding his neighbors affiliating with an
Englishman, as he supposed, and trying to speak the hateful tongue,
proceeded to berate them sharply (for it appears the Welsh are still
jealous of the English); but when they explained to him that I was not
an Englishman, but an American, and had already twice stood the beer
all around (at an outlay of sixpence), he subsided into a sulky
silence, and regarded me intently.

About eleven o'clock a policeman paused at the door, and intimated that
it was time the house was shut up and the music stopped, and to outward
appearances his friendly warning was complied with; but the harp still
discoursed in a minor key, and a light tripping and shuffling of
responsive feet might occasionally have been heard for an hour later.
When I arose to go, it was with a feeling of regret that I could not
see more of this simple and social people, with whom I at once felt
that "touch of nature" which "makes the whole world kin," and my
leave-taking was warm and hearty accordingly.

Through the wind and the darkness I threaded my way to the wharf, and
in less than two hours afterward was a most penitent voyager, and
fitfully joining in that doleful gastriloquial chorus that so often
goes up from the cabins of those Channel steamers.

I hardly know why I went to Ireland, except it was to indulge the few
drops of Irish blood in my veins, and maybe also with a view to shorten
my sea voyage by a day. I also felt a desire to see one or two literary
men there, and in this sense my journey was eminently gratifying; but
so far from shortening my voyage by a day, it lengthened it by three
days, that being the time it took me to recover from the effects of it;
and as to the tie of blood, I think it must nearly all have run out,
for I felt but few congenital throbs while in Ireland.

The Englishman at home is a much more lovable animal than the
Englishman abroad, but Pat in Ireland is even more of a pig than in
this country. Indeed, the squalor and poverty, and cold, skinny
wretchedness one sees in Ireland, and (what freezes our sympathies) the
groveling, swiny shiftlessness that pervades these hovels, no traveler
can be prepared for. It is the bare prose of misery, the unheroic of
tragedy. There is not one redeeming or mitigating feature.

Railway traveling in Ireland is not so rapid or so cheap as in England.
Neither are the hotels so good or so clean, nor the fields so well
kept, nor the look of the country so thrifty and peaceful. The
dissatisfaction of the people is in the very air. Ireland looks sour
and sad. She looks old, too, as do all those countries beyond
seas,--old in a way that the American is a stranger to. It is not the
age of nature, the unshaken permanence of the hills through long
periods of time, but the weight of human years and human sorrows, as if
the earth sympathized with man and took on his attributes and

I did not go much about Dublin, and the most characteristic things I
saw there were those queer, uncomfortable dog-carts,--a sort of Irish
bull on wheels, with the driver on one side balancing the passenger on
the other, and the luggage occupying the seat of safety between. It
comes the nearest to riding on horseback, and on a side-saddle at that,
of any vehicle-traveling I ever did.

I stopped part of a day at Mallow, an old town on the Blackwater, in
one of the most fertile agricultural districts of Ireland. The
situation is fine, and an American naturally expects to see a charming
rural town, planted with trees and filled with clean, comfortable
homes; but he finds instead a wretched place, smitten with a plague of
filth and mud, and offering but one object upon which the eye can dwell
with pleasure, and that is the ruins of an old castle, "Mallow Castle
over Blackwater," which dates back to the time of Queen Elizabeth. It
stands amid noble trees on the banks of the river, and its walls, some
of them thirty or forty feet high, are completely overrun with ivy. The
Blackwater, a rapid, ambercolored stream, is spanned at this point by a
superb granite bridge.

And I will say here that anything like a rural town in our sense,--a
town with trees and grass and large spaces about the houses, gardens,
yards, shrubbery, coolness, fragrance,--seems unknown in England or
Ireland. The towns and villages are all remnants of feudal times, and
seem to have been built with an eye to safety and compactness, or else
men were more social, and loved to get closer together, then than now.
Perhaps the damp, chilly climate made them draw nearer together. At any
rate, the country towns are little cities; or rather it is as if
another London had been cut up in little and big pieces and distributed
over the land.

In the afternoon, to take the kinks out of my legs, and to quicken, if
possible, my circulation a little, which since the passage over the
Channel had felt as if it was thick and green, I walked rapidly to the
top of the Knockmeledown Mountains, getting a good view of Irish fields
and roads and fences as I went up, and a very wide and extensive view
of the country after I had reached the summit, and improving the
atmosphere of my physical tenement amazingly. These mountains have no
trees or bushes or other growth than a harsh prickly heather, about a
foot high, which begins exactly at the foot of the mountain. You are
walking on smooth, fine meadow land, when you leap a fence and there is
the heather. On the highest point of this mountain, and on the highest
point of all the mountains around, was a low stone mound, which I was
puzzled to know the meaning of. Standing there, the country rolled away
beneath me under a cold, gray November sky, and, as was the case with
the English landscape, looked singularly desolate,--the desolation of a
dearth of human homes, industrial centres, families, workers, and
owners of the soil. Few roads, scarce ever a vehicle, no barns, no
groups of bright, well-ordered buildings, indeed no farms and
neighborhoods and schoolhouses, but a wide spread of rich, highly
cultivated country, with here and there, visible to close scrutiny,
small gray stone houses with thatched roofs, the abodes of poverty and
wretchedness. A recent English writer says the first thing that struck
him in American landscape-painting was the absence of man and the
domestic animals from the pictures, and the preponderance of rude, wild
nature; and his first view of this country seems to have made the same
impression. But it is certainly true that the traveler through any of
our older States will see ten houses, rural habitations, to one in
England or Ireland, though, as a matter of course, nature here looks
much less domesticated, and much less expressive of human occupancy and
contact. The Old World people have clung to the soil closer and more
lovingly than we do. The ground has been more precious. They have had
none to waste, and have made the most of every inch of it. Wherever
they have touched they have taken root and thriven as best they could.
Then the American is more cosmopolitan and less domestic. He is not so
local in his feelings and attachments. He does not bestow himself upon
the earth or upon his home as his ancestors did. He feathers his nest
very little. Why should he? He may migrate tomorrow and build another.
He is like the passenger pigeon that lays its eggs and rears its young
upon a little platform of bare twigs. Our poverty and nakedness is in
this respect, I think, beyond dispute. There is nothing nest-like about
our homes, either in their interiors or exteriors. Even wealth and
taste and foreign aids rarely attain that cozy, mellowing atmosphere
that pervades not only the lowly birthplaces but the halls and manor
houses of older lands. And what do our farms represent but so much real
estate, so much cash value?

Only where man loves the soil, and nestles to it closely and long, will
it take on this beneficent and human look which foreign travelers miss
in our landscape; and only where homes are built with fondness and
emotion, and in obedience to the social, paternal, and domestic
instincts, will they hold the charm and radiate and be warm with the
feeling I have described.

And, while I am upon the subject, I will add that European cities
differ from ours in this same particular. They have a homelier
character,--more the air of dwelling-places, the abodes of men drawn
together for other purposes than traffic. People actually live in them,
and find life sweet and festal. But what does our greatest city, New
York, express besides commerce or politics, or what other reason has it
for its existence? This is, of course, in a measure the result of the
modern worldly and practical business spirit which more and more
animates all nations, and which led Carlyle to say of his own
countrymen that they were becoming daily more "flat, stupid, and
mammonish." Yet I am persuaded that in our case it is traceable also to
the leanness and depletion of our social and convivial instincts, and
to the fact that the material cares of life are more serious and
engrossing with us than with any other people.

I spent part of a day at Cork, wandering about the town, threading my
way through the back streets and alleys, and seeing life reduced to
fewer makeshifts than I had ever before dreamed of. I went through, or
rather skirted, a kind of secondhand market, where the most sorry and
dilapidated articles of clothing and household utensils were offered
for sale, and where the cobblers were cobbling up old shoes that would
hardly hold together. Then the wretched old women one sees, without any
sprinkling of young ones,--youth and age alike bloomless and unlovely.

In a meadow on the hills that encompass the city, I found the American
dandelion in bloom, and some large red clover, and started up some
skylarks as I might start up the field sparrows in our own uplying

Is the magpie a Celt and a Catholic?  I saw not one in England, but
plenty of them in France, and again when I reached Ireland.

At Queenstown I awaited the steamer from Liverpool, and about nine
o'clock in the morning was delighted to see her long black form moving
up the bay. She came to anchor about a mile or two out, and a little
tug was in readiness to take us off. A score or more of emigrants, each
with a bag and a box, had been waiting all the morning at the wharf.
When the time of embarkation arrived, the agent stepped aboard the tug
and called out their names one by one, when Bridget and Catherine and
Patrick and Michael, and the rest, came aboard, received their tickets,
and passed "forward," with a half-frightened, half-bewildered look. But
not much emotion was displayed until the boat began to move off, when
the tears fell freely, and they continued to fall faster and faster,
and the sobs to come thicker and thicker, until, as the faces of
friends began to fade on the wharf, both men and women burst out into a
loud, unrestrained bawl. This sudden demonstration of grief seemed to
frighten the children and smaller fry, who up to this time had been
very jovial; but now, suspecting something was wrong, they all broke
out in a most pitiful chorus, forming an anti-climax to the wail of
their parents that was quite amusing, and that seemed to have its
effect upon the "children of a larger growth," for they instantly
hushed their lamentations and turned their attention toward the great
steamer. There was a rugged but bewildered old granny among them, on
her way to join her daughter somewhere in the interior of New York, who
seemed to regard me with a kindred eye, and toward whom, I confess, I
felt some family affinity. Before we had got halfway to the vessel, the
dear old creature missed a sheet from her precious bundle of worldly
effects, and very confidentially told me that her suspicions pointed to
the stoker, a bristling, sooty "wild Irishman." The stoker resented the
insinuation, and I overheard him berating the old lady in Irish so
sharply and threateningly (I had no doubt of his guilt) that she was
quite frightened, and ready to retract the charge to hush the man up.
She seemed to think her troubles had just begun. If they behaved thus
to her on the little tug, what would they not do on board the great
black steamer itself? So when she got separated from her luggage in
getting aboard the vessel, her excitement was great, and I met her
following about the man whom she had accused of filching her bed linen,
as if he must have the clew to the lost bed itself. Her face brightened
when she saw me, and, giving me a terribly hard wink and a most
expressive nudge, she said she wished I would keep near her a little.
This I did, and soon had the pleasure of leaving her happy and
reassured beside her box and bundle.

The passage home, though a rough one, was cheerfully and patiently
borne. I found a compound motion,--the motion of a screw steamer, a
roll and a plunge--less trying to my head than the simple rocking or
pitching of the side-wheeled Scotia. One motion was in a measure a foil
to the other. My brain, acted upon by two forces, was compelled to take

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