Spenser's Irish Rivers (9)

Patrick Weston Joyce

The name Arlo connects it with the vale of Aherlow; and that it is the same as Galtymore is placed beyond all doubt by the statement that Arlo-hill

Is the highest head, in all mens sights,

Of my old father Mole.

Spenser tells us, at the beginning of Colin Clouts come home againe, that he lived at the foot of Mole:

One day (quoth he) I sat (as was my trade)

Under the foote of Mole, that mountain hore,

Keeping my sheepe amongst the cooly shade

Of the greene alders by the Mullaes shore.

This, we know, was where Kilcolman Castle ruin now stands, under the Ballyhoura hills, at the western extremity of the range; and as Arlo-hill in the Galtys "is the highest head in all mens sights of my old father Mole," it is quite plain that by "old father Mole" the poet meant the whole range, including the Galtys and the Ballyhouras. Moreover, he tells us in the same poem:

Mole hight that mountain gray

That walls the north side of Armulla dale;

from which it appears that he gave the name of Armulla to that wide valley through which the Blackwater flows, walled on the north by Father Mole, and on the south by the Boggera hills and the Nagles Mountains near Fermoy. But these names, Mole, Mulla, Armulla, are all fictitious; and I shall presently have a word to say about their origin.

Before describing the meeting of the gods and the trial of the claims of the Titanesse, the poet introduces a pretty episode about Arlo-hill. He relates that

Whylome when Ireland florished in fame

Of wealth and goodnesse far above the rest

Of all that beare the British Islands name,

The gods then us'd, for pleasure and for rest,

Oft to resort thereto when seem'd them best:

But none of all therein more pleasure found

Then Cynthia that is soveraine Queene profest

Of woods and forrest which therein abound,

Sprinkled with wholsom waters more then most on ground.

But mongst them all, as fittest for her game,

· · · · ·

She chose this Arlo; where shee did resort

With all her nymphes enranged on a rowe,

· · · · ·

Amongst the which there was a nymph that hight

Molanna; daughter of old Father Mole,

And sister unto Mulla faire and bright;

Unto whose bed false Bregog whylome stole,

That Shepheard Colin dearely did condole,

And made her lucklesse loves well knowne to be;[14]

But this Molanna, were she not so shole [shallow],

Were no lesse faire and beautifull then shee:

Yet as she is a fairer flood may no man see.

For first she springs out of two marble rocks

On which a grove of oakes high mounted growes,

That as a girlond seemes to deck the locks

Of some faire bride brought forth with pompous showes

Out of her bowre, that many flowers strowes:

So through the flowry dales she tumbling downe

Through many woods and shady coverts flowes,

That on each side her silver channell crowne,

Till to the plaine she come whose valleyes she doth drowne.

In her sweet streames Diana used oft,

After her sweatie chace and toilsome play,

To bathe herselfe; and after on the soft

And downy grasse her dainty limbes to lay

In covert shade, where none behold her may.[15]

The poet goes on to tell how the foolish wood-god Faunus had long wished to catch a sight of the goddess but found no way to compass his design till at last he persuaded the nymph Molanna, by tempting her with bribes, "To tell what time he might her lady see."

Thereto hee promist, if she would him pleasure

With this small boone, to quit her with a better;

To weet, that whereas shee had out of measure

Long lov'd the Fanchin who by nought did set her,

That he would undertake for this to get her

To be his love, and of him liked well.[15]

Faunus succeeded, by the help of the nymph, but was caught in the very act by the goddess and her attendants; and being closely questioned as to who had led him there, he confessed in his fright that it was Molanna. Whereupon they punished him by dressing him in the skin of a deer and chasing him with their hounds; but he managed to escape them all.

So they him follow'd till they weary were;

When, back returning to Molann' againe,

They, by commaund'ment of Diana, there

Her whelm'd with stones: yet Faunus, for her paine,

Of her beloved Fanchin did obtaine,

That her he would receive unto his bed.

So now her waves passe through a pleasant plaine,

Till with the Fanchin she herselfe do wed,

And, both combin'd, themselves in one faire river spred.

Nath'lesse Diana, full of indignation,

Thenceforth abandoned her delicious brooke;

In whose sweet streame, before that bad occasion,

So much delight to bathe her limbes she tooke:

Ne onely her, but also quite forsooke

All those faire forrests about Arlo hid;

And all that mountaine which doth overlooke

The richest champain that may else be rid;

And the faire Shure in which are thousand salmons bred.


[14] The story of the loves of the Bregoge and Mulla, alluded to here, will be found at pp. 107 to 112 farther on.

[15] Chap. vi.