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The great hearts of your olden time
And glorious round ye throng.
The bluff, bold men of Runnymead
Are with ye still in times like these; The shades of England's mighty dead, Your cloud of witnesses!
The truths ye urge are borne abroad
The weapons which your hands have found
No partial, selfish purpose breaks
The languid pulse of England starts
And bounds beneath your words of power; The beating of her million hearts
Is with you at this hour!
And Thou who, with undoubting eye,
Through present cloud and gathering storm Canst see the span of Freedom's sky
And sunshine soft and warm,—
Oh, pure Reformer!-not in vain
The good which bloodshed could not gain,
Press on the triumph shall be won
Blessing the Cotter and the Crown,
Press on!-and we who may not share
May ask, at least, in earnest prayer,
THE LAST DESMONDS;
OR, THE GRAVES OF Α HOUSEHOLD.
BY THE AUTHOR OF "THE BROTHERS," "CROMWELL,” “RINGWOOD the ROVER," &c.
FAR off in the extreme west of Ireland, there may be seen to this day, on the summit of a huge weather-beaten rock which overlooks the vasty billows of the wild Atlantic, the ruins of a huge baronial castle. Nothing can possibly be conceived more grand, or at the same time more desolate and awful, than the site of those stern pinnacles and battlements, frowning above the barren waste of waters,-the bare and herbless granite of the cliffs, the very base of which was lashed, at all times and tides, by the incessant surf that rolled in, all unbroken and unchecked, with the full sweep of thrice a thousand miles, from the shores of the western world-the huge black reefs and isolated boulders showing their inaccessible bald heads, perpetually moist and dripping, amid the yeast of waves-the total absence of all vegetation, even the stunted ling and hardy lichens refusing to exist in a spot so exposed to the ungenial blasts that howled so bleak and cutting over the restless ocean-the dissonant and piercing clangor of the sea-fowl which had their roosts and nesting places by myriads in the crevices and caverns of the castle rock-the very loneliness of those unfrequented waters across which rarely-almost never-were seen to glide the sails of merchantman or cruiser, save when the irresistible rage of the shrieking storm swept them, imploring aid all fruitlessly by minute guns, unheard amid the thunder of the waves, to certain and inevitable shipwreck-all was most solitary, stern, and savage, but in its very solitude and sternness how wondrous, how sublimely beautiful! For miles around the castle stretched bleak and treeless hills, covered with ragged heather, and fern, and stunted grasses, alternating with level tracts of treacherous black bog and green morasses; but nothing that deserved the name of tree took root in that cold soil, or sheltered those wide wastes from the sweep of the
VOL. XII.NO. LV.
western gales. Here and there, it is true, on the eastern brow of some craggy hill, a few short ragged firs, gnarled and distorted and staghorned, grown grey with age ere they had reached a fourth part of their natural stature, mixed with dwarf junipers and patches of low furze, broke the monotonous expanse of waving fern and heath; while yet more rarely, in some secluded gorge, sheltered by over-topping moors, and watered by a mountain torrent, a scattered growth of birch and elders, with now and then a mountain ash or aspen, offered a grateful covert to the shy woodcock, when October brought him from his Norwegian fastnesses to haunts less rigorous and frozen.
To this bleak pieture there was, however, one exception-a deep and narrow valley, scarce more indeed than a ravine, which lay close to the landward of the castle rock, and isolated it, save at one narrow point, from the mainland. Through this sequestered glen, completely shut off as it was, and embayed from every wind of heaven, a clear bright trout stream came dancing down, ever with merry music, over its pebbly bed, to add its mite of tribute to the vast treasury of ocean, sweeping from side to side of the dell in eccentric curves, and leaving in each bend and angle of its course, plats of the greenest turf that ever wooed the feet of the wild elves and fays that so abound in the romantic creed of Erin. Here, under the shadow of the tall grey rock, grew many a tall and stately timber tree,-ash, sycamore, elm, and linden; yet so deep was the gorge, and so narrow, that, except when you stood on the castle platform looking directly down into the cleft at your feet, the eye pased over it unnoticed, its rich fresh verdure adding nothing to the bleak desert in the midst of which it formed one green oasis. Still higher up this valley-which, as you ascended it from
its mouth to the southward of the castle, after almost encircling the crag, and approaching so near to the sea that it was only hindered there from falling into it by the neck of cliffs three hundred feet in height joining the promontory to the main, turned almost at right angles to the eastward-you came to a thick grove of yew trees, immense in the spread of their black tufted branches, and of an age, as it was said, coeval with the foundation of the Castle-on-the Crag. These singular and gloomy trees surrounded with their wall of ever-during shade a small space nearly semicircular, which had been used from time immemorial as a place of sepulture for the inhabitants of the castle, so long as such there were, and afterward for the sparse population of that wild barony. At the extremity of this little amphitheatre, above which the glen degenerates into a mere ravine not above ten feet wide, there stands a little chapel, with its stone cross above the ivy-mantled belfry, and its sacred well, covered by a wrought arch of gothic stone-work at the right hand of its low portal. This little place of worship was, at the time of which we write, when the proud castle was already mouldering in slow decay, kept in repair and clean and perfect; and, though its doors stood ever open, the candles were never wanting at the shrine, nor holy water in the font beside the entrance, nor flowers before the picture of the Virgin. The graves in the wild burial ground without were few and humble, consisting for the most part of the long low green mounds, unmarked by any headstone, which indicate the last homes of the poor and nameless. To this, however, there were a few exceptions; for close beneath the eaves of the chapel stood four or five tall headstones, all overgrown with moss and lichens, but still displaying the remains of much rich and elaborate carving, and hard by these two large square monuments, the larger of which bore upon its cover two full length effigies-one of an armed knight, with his mail hood on his head, and his heater-shaped shield slung about his neck, and his hands folded on the pommel of his crossletted sword, and his legs, clad in mail hose and spurs of knighthood, crossed one above the other to denote how he had warred in Palestine to win from
Paynim hands the tomb of the Redeemer,-the other, a fair lady in robe of dignity, and coif, and wimple, with her hands joined in prayer upon her bosom. The lid of the other tomb displayed, in the sculpture of an age somewhat older and semi-barbarous, the figure of a mitred abbot with scapulary, beads and crosier, and an inscription, which had been renewed by some pious hand from age to age, and might be still decyphered—“Galfridus Desmond, abbas mitratus, cæsus a Danis, 1143." At a short distance from these relics of remote antiquity, under the shadow of one, the noblest, of the yew trees, were two large newmade graves, not yet adorned by any tomb or headstone, but surrounded by a rude railing of unbarked saplings; while opposite to these, on the other side of the cemetery, were eight or ten carved monuments, of different ages and various sculptured forms, all bearing the high name of Desmond.
It was about two months after the fatal battle of the Boyne had ended the last hopes of the worst and weakest of the Stuarts, and rendered hundreds of the most noble gentlemen of Ireland houseless and nameless fugitives, when on a dark and lowering night two persons might have been seen, had there been any there to watch them, making their way up the glen I have described, toward the lonely chapel. One of these was an elderly man, with hair almost entirely white, but hale and vigorous still, dressed in a suit of plain black clothes with silk stockings and large buckles in his low-heeled shoes. He wore no sword, although that was a period when every personage who had the smallest claim to rank or gentle blood would as soon have been seen abroad without his hat, as without that appendage so necessary to a gentleman. This, and the plain cravat of snow-white cambric, with something grave and precise in the cut of his garments, and yet more something singularly venerable and benignant in the expression of his features and the whole air and carriage of his person, would have gone far to lead to the opinion that he was a member of the clerical profession, even had the first words of his companion not set the matter beyond doubt. The other was a stronger, taller man— though still in the earliest prime of
youthful manhood, not altogether habited as a soldier of that day-for that was still the day of corslet and cuirass glittering with burnished steel; but still with enough in his garb to denote one to whom military service was nothing foreign or unknown, although it might not be perhaps his regular profession. He wore the collarless broad-skirted coat of the period, of a deep mazarine blue color, splendidly laced with gold; the sleeves, which terminated midway between the elbow and the wrist, were decorated by a fall of Mechlin lace nearly a foot in breadth, as well as the ends of his cravat and all the bosom of his shirt. His shoulders were adorned, in place of the modern epaulet, by knots of crimson ribbon; and a silken scarf of the same tint crossed his right breast, and supported his long basket-hilted rapier. His breeches were of white doeskin, but a small part of these alone was visible, for his high horseman's boots, polished until they shone as bright as metal, extended to his mid thigh; and with the addition of a low broad-brimmed hat, the crown surrounded by a band of white feathers, completed the attire of a cavalier of
This gallantly dressed person was, as I have already observed, young, vigorously built, and of a stature which, though decidedly above the middle height of men, was of such perfect symmetry that it was not till you compared him with others, that you discovered how large and muscular were all his limbs, and how much they promised both of strength and activity. His features were, moreover, uncommonly well cut and handsome, with a bright clear blue eye, and a profusion of rich chestnut-colored hair falling in heavy curls over his neck and shoulders. His carriage was erect, though easy and full of natural grace, but there was something in his gait and bearing that told a tale of heavy grief weighing upon the heart with its stern icy burthen; and a dark cloud of cheerless gloom was spread over his fine lineaments, like a broad shadow blotting out the gleamy lights, and flattening all the salient points of a sunny landscape. His voice, too, as he addressed his aged friend, was full of something more than melancholy, for it was hollow and almost unnaturally
deep, and it came forth from his lips with a cold impassive flow, as if he had endured so much of evil that he had become hardened to it, and not only hardened, but reckless, and beyond the fear of being wounded by anything external that could in possibility befall him; and yet it was as musical a voice as ever was accompanied by harp or cittern, and it was not long since that it had resounded first and gayest in every scene of minstrelsy and mirth, that its rich ringing laugh had been remarkable in the midst of a thousand. The first words which he uttered, after a long and gloomy silence, were on the subject that was uppermost in his thoughts:
"Sad, father, sad indeed, are all these tidings you have given me-most terrible and sad-when the best news of all is banishment and confiscation; and thence, through all the catalogue of ills, to fire-raising, death and desolation. Nothing indeed but honor left to us. My father, slain on his own hearthstone by these curst heretic maraudersmy mother, dead of a broken heart so quickly-brothers and sister fled I know not whither, never perhaps to meet me any more-myself a branded outlaw, whom, like the grey wolf on the hill, any man may kill for his skin, with a price on my head; but, blessed be the saints for all things, with no blot on my name! Is not this, father, enough to make a bolder and a better man than I despair, even of help from heaven?"
No, my son, no! God of his grace forbid!" replied the priest, for such indeed he was. "Heaven tries us oft for our improvement, and punishes us sometimes-not men alone, nor even kings, but realms and nations-for sins against its majesty; and of all these, there is none greater than lack of faith in Him in the breath of whose nostrils is the life of all humanity, the fate of the universe in the hollow of whose hand! No, no, my son, despair not! when he hath chastened enough his people, and they have bowed them in submission to his judgments, he will repent him of his indignation, and turn his face away from us no longer. Despair is but rebellion against Him whose mercy is for ever and for ever, and the abundance of whose grace cannot be meted by the measurement of man. Remember that
it is whom he loveth that he chasteneth the sorest; bow, therefore, to his rod in meekness and humility, and be sure that although thou sinnest against him even to seventy times seven, he will not crush thee utterly, nor make thy burthen heavier than thou mayst bear and live. Was it not his anointed king that said, 'I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging their bread?' Arm thyself, then, my son, with the shield of longsuffering and faith, and bless the hand that smites thee; for what art thou, that the Most Highest should hold back his right hand from judgment for thy sake, that endurest at the best but for a day? or what have been thy sorrows and thy sufferings to His, who died on that accursed tree, that thou among the rest should live and not die ?"
"Aye, father," answered the young man, "but I have heard that even He, with reverence be it spoken, prayed on the Mount of Olives, that that cup might be removed from him."
"True; but he added to his prayer," returned the priest, crossing himself as he spoke, "Nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done;' and so mayst thou pray, too, my son; and if He listeth, he will remove it from you. Never theless, if it seem not good unto Him so to deal with you, forget not that even from that Holy One the cup was not removed; and that the will, which was done, was the will of the Father that is in heaven. But thou mayst pray, my son-O! I would have thee to pray always; and I too will pray with you, and pray for you, and it may be the glorious saints will join in our petition; so be of good cheer, my dear son, and above all, despair not.'
"Well, father," answered the young despair is not the fault either of our countrymen in general, or of my race in particular; nor do I think my self more subject to despondency than others. Were I alone in the world with my good sword, and the Duke of Berwick's commendation to the Great King of France, I should fear nothing but that I could hew myself a path through the world with the best of them; but I confess that the uncertainty what fate may befall my brothers and my sister, weighs heavily indeed upon my spirit-so much
indeed, as well nigh to overpower all its native buoyancy. It was especially the hope of learning something from you concerning those beloved ones, that brought me hither, through dangers quite innumerable, coupled to the desire of looking once more on the graves of those who gave me birth, before I quit the land of my nativity for ever. Since sure I am, that I indeed depart, never to look again upon these old familiar places; never to hear the deep roar of the lashing surf on these black rocks—a stern and fearful note to others, but dear to me as the sweet lullaby that soothed my infancy to slumber."
Nay! nay! why cling to so sad fancies?" the old man made reply. "I doubt not but good times will yet return to this distracted island, when our king shall enjoy his own again, and the usurper be driven forth from the land which soon must sicken of his cold foreign yoke, and dull, relentless policy when our church shall collect its scattered sons, even as a hen gathereth its little ones under its guardian wings-when all this tyranny, to which it seemeth good to the Most High now for our transgressions to subject us, shall pass away for ever, and liberty, and peace, and true religion, light up their blessed beacons through a regenerated land, to guide a happy people to their enfranchised homes !"
"Amen!" said the young soldier, very solemnly, "Amen! and may it be so very shortly-but mark me, father, when that time come, if it shall come indeed, it will find me at rest and in a foreign grave." These," and he pointed, as he spoke, to the newly made graves of his parents, into sight of which he had just come-" these are the last sepulchres that shall be dug through the green sod of Erin, for any of the race of Desmond. who have now survived this ruin, may flourish or may wither-may rise in fortunes till we mate with the highest, or may sink to be humbler than the humblest; but flourishing or fading we shall live on a foreign soil, and high or lowly in estate, when dead, we shall lie in foreign graves. It was foretold in Padua, to my great-grandsire, that the third generation after him should be the last whose bones should be collected to the graves of their forefathers should be the last o'er whose