Irish Nature

The Irish show their Aryan descent by the same characteristics as the Fairy race, for they also love everything that is artistic—the fascinations of life, beauty of form, music, poetry, song, splendour, and noble pleasures. Their kings in ancient times were elected for their personal beauty as much as for their chivalrous qualities. No man with a blemish or a deformity was allowed to reign. Then, their appreciation of intellect proved the value they set on the spiritual and ideal above the material and the brutal. The poet ranked next to the princes of the land. His person was sacred in battle; he was endowed with an estate, so that his soul might be free from sordid cares; and his robe of many colours, and the golden circlet on his brow at the festivals, showed his claim and right to rank next to royalty, and to sit at the right hand of the king. Poetry, learning, music, oratory, heroism, and splendour of achievement—these were the true objects of homage and admiration amongst the ancient Irish.

There was nothing brutal in their ideal of life; no hideous images or revolting cruelties; and the beautiful and graceful Sidhe race, with their plaintive music and soft melancholy, and aspirations for a lost heaven, is the expression in a graceful and beautiful symbol of the instinctive tendencies of the Irish nature to all that is most divine in human intellect, and soft and tender in human emotion.

Ireland is a land of mists and mystic shadows; of cloud-wraiths on the purple mountains; of weird silences in the lonely hills, and fitful skies of deepest gloom alternating with gorgeous sunset splendours. All this fantastic caprice of an ever-varying atmosphere stirs the imagination, and makes the Irish people strangely sensitive to spiritual influences. They see visions and dream dreams, and are haunted at all times by an ever-present sense of the supernatural. One can see by the form of the Irish head—a slender oval, prominent at the brows and high in the region of veneration, so different from the globular Teutonic head—that the people are enthusiasts, religious, fanatical; with the instincts of poetry, music, oratory, and superstition far stronger in them than the logical and reasoning faculties. They are made for worshippers, poets, artists, musicians, orators; to move the world by passion, not by logic. Scepticism will never take root in Ireland; infidelity is impossible to the people. To believe fanatically, trust implicitly, hope infinitely, and perhaps to revenge implacably—these are the unchanging and ineradicable characteristics of Irish nature, of Celtic nature, we may say; for it has been the same throughout all history and all ages. And it is these passionate qualities that make the Celt the great motive force of the world, ever striving against, limitations towards some vision of ideal splendour: the restless centrifugal force of life, as opposed to the centipetal, which is ever seeking a calm quiescent rest within its appointed sphere.

The very tendency to superstition, so marked in Irish nature, arises from an instinctive dislike to the narrow limitations of common sense. It is characterized by a passionate yearning towards the vague, the mystic, the invisible, and the boundless infinite of the realms of imagination. Therefore the Daine-Sidhe,the people of the fairy mansions, have an irresistible attraction for the Irish heart. Like them, the Irish love youth, beauty, splendour, lavish generosity, music and song, the feast, and the dance. The mirth and the reckless gaiety of the national temperament finds its true exponent in the mad pranks of the Phouka and the Leprehaun,the merry spirits that haunt the dells and glens, and look out at the wayfarer from under the dock-leaf with their glittering eyes. The inspiration that rises to poetry under the influence of excitement is expressed by the belief in the Leanan-Sidhe,who gives power to song; while the deep pathos of Irish nature finds its fullest representation in the tender, plaintive, spiritual music of the wail and lamentation of the Ban-Sidhe.