In one of the eloquent passages quoted in The Tribune of Wednesday under the head ‘Spirit of the Irish Press,’ we find these words:
“Domestic love, almost morbid from external suffering, prevents him (the Irishman) from becoming a fanatic and a misanthrope, and reconciles him to life.”
This recalled to our mind the many touching instances known to us of such traits among the Irish we have seen here. We have seen instances of morbidness like this. A girl sent “home,” after she was well established herself, for a young brother of whom she was particularly fond. He came, and, shortly after, died. She was so overcome by his loss, that she took poison and died. The great poet of serious England says, and we believe it to be his serious thought though laughingly said, “Men have died and worms have eaten them, but not for love.” Whether or no death may follow from the loss of a lover or a child, we believe that among no people but the Irish would it upon loss of a young brother.
Another poor woman, in the flower of her youth, denied herself, not only every pleasure, but almost the necessaries of life, to save the sum she thought ought to be hers before sending to Ireland for a widowed mother. Just as she was on the point of doing so, she heard that her mother had died fifteen months before. The keenness and persistence of her grief defy description. With a delicacy of feeling which shewed the native poetry of the Irish mind she dwelt, most of all, upon the thought that while she was working and pinching and dreaming of happiness with her mother, it was, indeed, but a dream, and that cherished parent lay still and cold in the ground. She felt fully the cruel cheat of fate. “Och, and she was dead all those times I was a thinking on her!” was the deepest note of her lament.
They are able, however, to make the sacrifice even of these intense family affections in a worthy cause. We knew a woman who postponed sending for her only child, whom she had left in Ireland, for years, while she maintained a sick friend who had none else to help her.
The poetry of which I have spoken shows itself even here, where they are separated from old romantic associations, and begin the new life in the new world by doing all its drudgery. We know flights of poetry repeated to us by those present at their wakes—passages of natural eloquence from the lamentations for the dead, more beautiful than those recorded in the annals of Britany of Roumelia. It is the same genius, so exquisitely mournful, tender, and glowing too with the finest enthusiasm, that makes their national music, in these respects, the finest in the world. It is the music of the harp; its tones are deep and thrilling. It is the harp so beautifully described in “The harp of Tara’s halls,” a song whose simple pathos is unsurpassed. A feeling was never more adequately embodied.
It is the genius which will enable Emmett’s appeal to draw tears from the remotest generations, however much they may be strangers to the circumstances which called it forth. It is the genius which beamed in chivalrous loveliness through each act of Lord Edward Fitzgerald,—the genius which, ripened by English culture, favored by suitable occasions, has shed such glory on the land which has done all it could to quench it on the parent hearth.
When we consider all the fire which glows so untameably in Irish veins, the character of her people, considering the circumstances—almost miraculous in its goodness—we cannot forbear, notwithstanding all the temporary ills they aid in here, to give them all a welcome to our shores. Those ills we need not enumerate; they are known to all, and we rank among them what others would not, that by their ready service to do all the hard work they make it easier for the rest of the population to grow effeminate and help the country to grow too fast. But that is her destiny, to grow too fast; it is useless talking against it. Their extreme ignorance, their blind devotion to a priesthood, the pliancy in the hands of demagogues threaten continuance of these ills; yet, on the other hand, we must regard them as a most valuable element in the new race. They are looked upon with contempt for their want of aptitude at learning new things, their ready and ingenious lying, their eye service. These are the faults of an oppressed race which must require the aid of better circumstances through two or three generations to eradicate. Their virtues are their own;—they are many, genuine, and deeply rooted. Can an impartial observer fail to admire their truth to domestic ties, their power of generous bounty and more generous gratitude, their indefatigable good humor, (for ages of wrong, which have driven them to so many acts of desperation, could never sour their blood at its source) their ready wit, their elasticity of nature. They are at bottom one of the best nations of the world.—Would they were welcomed here, not to work merely, but to intelligent sympathy and efforts, both patient and ardent for the education of their children. No sympathy could be better deserved, no efforts wiselier timed. Future Burkes and Currans would know how to give thanks for them, and Fitzgeralds rise upon the soil, which boasts the magnolia with its kingly stature and majestical white blossoms, to the same lofty and pure beauty. Will you not believe it, merely because that bog-bred youth you solaced in the mud-hole tells you lies and drinks to cheer him in those endless diggings? You are short-sighted, my friend; you do not look to the future, you will not turn your head to see what may have been the influences of the past; you have not examined your own breast to see whether the monitor there had not commanded you to do your part to counteract these influences, and yet the Irishman appeals to you eye to eye. He is very personal himself; he expects a personal interest from you. Nothing has been able to destroy this hope, which is the fruit of his nature. We were much touched by O’Connell’s direct address to the Queen as “Lady,” but she did not listen, and we fear few ladies and gentlemen will, till the prayers of destiny compels them.*
“The Irish Character.” New-York Daily Tribune, 28 June 1845, p. 2.