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lations some of its quality we are justified in believing the sceptics.1 Let us not be put off with the evasion that the delicacies of the language are such that they evaporate in translation. That is partially. true of all translations. Much of the splendour of the Hebrew poets evaporates even in our Authorised Version. None of the myriad English versions of Homer, Eschylus, Virgil, Dante, and other foreign poets can possibly reproduce the original splendour; but that splendour is even still visible through these translations. Let the Celtic party give us some versions that we can read-let them even put into these versions their own genius, as MacPherson did with his Ossian: we shall not weigh the matter nicely, provided they give us. good literature. But till they have done so the ignorant critic is justified in believing that the Irish language contains but scanty reading of any importance.
But the class of professional Irish students is not large, and would rather be important for its noise than its numbers, were it not that behind it is a great mass of opinion which keeps comparatively silent, and yet is known to every Irishman. It is the mass of those who dislike or who hate England and the English, and who favour any movement which will lead directly or indirectly to a severance. between Ireland and Great Britain. We need not wonder that such a class should exist, and should even be very large. It is the case of a stupid nurse alternately bullying and petting a wayward and troublesome child, until the child discovers that the nurse will allow it to do almost any mischief provided it will not bellow and. kick and make a public scene. This mass of Irishmen who have been refused political separation have the intelligence to know that such is only a question of time, provided they can nourish separation in sentiment, and revive the hitherto decreasing sense of contrast in race by establishing contrast in language. They know that a sentimental grievance, which to the Englishman is tantamount to no grievance at all, is the only real, lasting and dangerous grievance. They have little love for the Irish language-very few of them know it or care to know it: in secret they probably laugh at the movement, and know that it is born out of due time so far as any healthy development is concerned. But it serves as an Irish cry, the keen over the corpse of Irish speech, the opportunity for exaggerating the
Upon asking a literary friend well versed in the literature of translations from the Irish, I was informed that there are not unfrequently legends which show a fine feeling and a certain poetic beauty, and I was referred to the following specimens, which I gladly here indicate to the curious reader. I will not dispute the judgment of my revered friend, but these few isolated swallows can hardly be held to make a summer. The references are to Dr. Douglas Hyde's Literary History of Ireland— viz., p. 342 sq., The Death of Cuchulain;' p. 370, 'The Sailing of Owen Mor;' p. 383, Lament of Crede for her Husband;' p. 437, Death of Brian Boru;' p. 528, Life in Bardic Schools'—and some passages in Mr. Whitley Stokes' Goidelica. I will add that Sir Samuel Ferguson's Irish poems are translations in a higher sense of rude legends into epic poems.
merits of the dead and the vices of the living. And they must surely feel that the attempted revival has come too late, and must deplore that they never thought of it even twenty or thirty years ago.
Men and women of the departing generation have often told me how the peasants, even in the rich counties of Meath and of Tipperary, who lived around their places all spoke Irish, and how it was often difficult to obtain domestic servants who knew enough English for ordinary purposes.
So things lasted till the great famine of 1846-47, which swept out of Ireland, either by death or emigration, a large part of the population—to a great extent the very part which spoke Irish in everyday life.
Then came the great and successful system of primary education governed by the National Board, which, with the consent and even approval of the Roman Catholic priesthood,ignored Irish from the outset, and insisted upon English as the sine qua non in every child's education. From that time the use of Irish rapidly decreased, though in my younger days, say twenty-five years ago, I often heard it spoken even in towns on the eastern coast. I have heard the Irish cry at a funeral in Navan; I have heard buying and selling in Irish in Dundalk, whither the inhabitants of Slievegullion (Co. Armagh) and of O'Meath (Co. Louth) used to gather; I have heard it in the district of Bonmahon (Co. Waterford), not to speak of the West and South-West, where it now lingers pretty generally.
For many years back I have noted these linguistic facts with interest, and with a real love for the people, who will always be to me the most charming peasantry in Europe. No one desires more than I that they should preserve their delightful peculiarities. Even the frieze frac, with knee breeches and blue stockings, which was the usual dress of old men twenty years ago, and which was, of course, not really Irish, but borrowed from England-even that costume I should desire to preserve: it is picturesque in its way, and is now at least a sign of old times in Ireland. But to maintain these things, which are or had become natural to the people, is one thing-to revive them, and teach them artificially to those who have laid them aside and forgotten them, is quite another. To insist upon our Irish youth re-learning their nearly extinct language is, as it seems to me, even more unpractical than to insist upon their resuming an old national costume which has gone out of use.
Let us now rise to broader considerations.
By far the most interesting feature in this attempted revival, and that which raises it into a question of philosophical history, is its connection with a general movement throughout Europe which is now tending to reverse the Imperial tendencies of former days. Once more agitation in Ireland has been the breaking of the swell upon our coast which indicates a far distant storm. It was so in 1798; it
was so in 1848. The political excitement throughout the Continent set Irish minds in ferment, and led to an imitation, often unconscious, of foreign ideas. It is very likely that the most fiery of the revival party know or care nothing about the parallel agitations in Eastern Europe, and yet there is surely an unconscious propaganda from one to the other. In the Middle Ages Europe seemed to have settled the question of the intercommunication of men by adopting Latin as the lingua franca and allowing everybody to speak his own language in peace. But then arose Empires which welded together diverse nationalities and induced them to adopt the tongue of the conquering and predominant partner. In this process France is the most remarkable instance of success; but though all official and literary work in that country employs French, a large proportion of the peasantry of France speaks habitually languages very alien to French-Breton, Béarnais, Provençal, Walloon and, till recently, not a little German. Were it not for the great centralisation effected first by Louis the Fourteenth, then by Napoleon, the various provinces of France might now be emulating the newest Welsh and Irish agitation; nor should I be astonished if we yet saw a recrudescence of their tongues in antagonism to the dominant language. When we move eastward, and consider Germany, we see her taking somewhat tyrannous precautions against this danger, and using every care to repress the use of French or of Danish in her newly acquired provinces. In the same way Russia is forcing her uncouth tongue on German and Finnish districts, and seeking to assert her nationality as a whole against the invasions of French and German.
The instance of Austria is the most signal of all. The Hungarians have been successful in ousting German and re-establishing their Tartar speech throughout their country. The Czechs are following suit. This is being done on the very principles now advocated in Ireland, but it was begun in time, and by a very important section of the Austrian Empire. What are the actual and probable results?
When I first visited Hungary, in 1862, the people were still 'downtrodden' by Austria, and I witnessed instances of violence and oppression on the part of Austrian officials. Yet everybody was ready to speak the German language, though everybody was full of national and patriotic sentiments. Pesth was an utterly original, charming, hospitable city, but outlandish and unlike other European cities, and no place could be more intensely Hungarian in sentiment. The contrast when I saw it recently was very painful. The use of Hungarian had indeed been so thoroughly re-introduced that it was constantly a matter of difficulty to find out what one wanted. The people had become self-conscious and self-important, and devoured with the idea of making a fashionable (and vulgar) capital out of Pesth. Hospitality had sadly decayed. People who had kept house with the open-handedness of primitive people had since eaten of
the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and had sewed themselves fig-leaves to hide their ordinary life. The contact with intelligent foreigners was being impaired, and the whole place was becoming a shoddy, second-rate quasi-European town, instead of being a quaint, slightly barbaric, slightly Oriental, but thoroughly national and hospitable city.
I have had no opportunity of studying the Czech movement in the same way, but suppose the tendencies are similar. It seems to be a profound mistake that distinct nationality can only be sustained by distinct language. The greatest patriots Ireland has produced were English-speaking men, and not even bi-lingual. The city of Dublin, in whose streets Irish has not been spoken for a couple of centuries, and where English has been at home for six or seven, is still as distinctly an Irish town as Galway. If Irish could be re-introduced and spoken in Dublin as Hungarian is in Pesth, if all the announcements and titles of the shops and streets were set up in Irish, it would produce vast inconvenience to all visitors and to natives who spoke English only; it would mar intercourse and so injure the education of the people; and I am perfectly convinced it would not make Dublin one whit more Irish at heart than it is at present. It would, in fact, set up a false test of nationality instead of a true one.
The present controversy shows this clearly enough. There are plenty of men who have lived all their life and done all their work in Ireland, who love the country and the people, who are to any external spectator redolent of the soil, who are, in fact, Irishmen in every natural and reasonable sense; and yet if they happen to be seriously convinced that the resuscitation of Irish is bad for their country and should not be encouraged, they must keep a discreet. silence and acquiesce in all the mendacities or exaggerations about the question. For if any one of them speaks out his mind, the whole posse sets upon him: he is denounced as unpatriotic, as dishonest, as a disguised enemy, from every point of view as no Irishman. And yet he may have declared himself owing to an earnest desire to do his country good.
It is hard to speak with patience of such attacks, and of the policy which they presuppose. What chance is there for Ireland if those of her sons who think independently are to be bullied into silence? Are the few men of learning who live in the country to be set upon with calumnies because they see in the revival of many isolated tongues throughout Europe a retrograde step, a return to the dark ages-nay, even to the famous Tower of Babel in Hebrew legend? Is the great republic of letters throughout Europe, which since Latin went out of use has used at most three literary languages, to be broken up again into cabals representing the severed elements of this great accommodation, and are we to spend our lives learnQ
VOL. XLVI-No. 270
ing the various jargons which have either absolutely or relatively no literature, in order to humour foolish people whose pride consists in provincial isolation? Surely, even those whom these objections cannot convert must at least recognise that there is something to be said for imperialism, not only in politics, but in language, and that the advantages of a common and ready means of communication in speech are not less than those of a ready communication by high roads and railways.
If we could preserve in the few remote glens or moors the Irish which is still the natural speech of the natives, it would also preserve a peculiar and a charming type of man and woman, and I for one should be ready to make considerable sacrifices to do so. But I can only see one effectual method. The high roads leading into such a sanctum must be broken up; no light railways must be allowed to approach it by land, or steamers by sea; that noxious animal the tourist must be rigorously forbidden to profane it with his modern vulgarities and his demands for modern comforts. Such a policy might be effectual; it would at all events be honest; unfortunately it would also be absurd. I cannot think likewise of the attempt to resuscitate an artificial Irish language by means of teaching children to smatter it from bad grammars and bad text-books. Such a policy may not, indeed, at first sight seem absurd; but I do not believe it to be honest, and I am convinced that it will not be effectual,
J. P. MAHAFFY.