[From the Dublin Penny Journal, Vol. 1, No. 19, 1832]
Among the various interesting objects which the scenery of the Shannon presents to the lover of the picturesque and antiquarian, the several bridges thrown across its mighty stream, to connect the opposite provinces, are not the least conspicuous or imposing. The former will look with pleasure at the picturesque variety and irregularity of form observable in their rude arches, and their long and low horizontal length of outline will remind him forcibly of one of the most frequent incidents in the classic compositions of the great Italian landscape painter, Claude Lorraine. The latter will view them with no less interest as being generally the most ancient and important remains of their kind now existing in Ireland.
The origin of stone bridges in Ireland is not very accurately ascertained; but this much at least appears certain, that none of any importance were erected, previous to the 12th century. In that age our annals record the erection of two bridges over the Shannon and one over the Suck, by the Monarch Turlough O'Connor. There is reason however to conclude that those bridges were of wood, and that the first structures of the kind, of stone, were erected by, or after the arrival of the Anglo-Normans.
Of these, the subject of our prefixed illustration ranks as one of the most ancient, having been erected by the English adventurers as a necessary step to their intended subjugation of the ancient province of Thomond; and when we observe the rudeness and apparent unskilfulness of its construction, and consider how comparatively short-lived many of the noblest structures of the kind have been, we may well wonder at its power in resisting for so many ages the destroying hand of time, and the giant force of such a great and rapid river.
Thomond bridge has the merit of being perfectly level. It crosses the main arm of the Shannon from the N. E. extremity of the English town, and is built on fourteen arches, under each of which some marks of the hurdles on which it was erected are said to be still visible. According to tradition, the original expense of this venerable structure was but thirty pounds.
Connected with the locality of Thomond bridge, there are many historical recollections of a deep and saddening interest; but the presiding spirit of our little journal bids us beware of bringing them into notice, - and we gladly obey the mandate. To see our countrymen of all classes and denominations, "united in the bond of peace," is our first wish - our most ardent aspiration, and the page of history that would mar this consummation, by exciting one painful recollection, or one ungenerous exultation, we desire, - as it should be the desire of all good men, - to leave buried in silent oblivion. In lieu of such, let the reader take the following beautiful sonnet to the Shannon; the composition of a gentleman of rank, and what is better, of patriotism and talent, who resides upon the bank of the noble river he apostrophises.
River of billows ! to whose mighty heart
The tide-wave rushes of the Atlantic sea -
River of quiet depths! by cultured lea,
Romantic wood, or city's crowded mart -
River of old poetic founts ! that start
From their lone mountain-cradles, wild and free
Nursed with the fawns, lulled by the wood larks glee,
And cushat's hymeneal song apart -
River of chieftains ! whose baronial halls,
Like veteran warders, watch each wave-worn steep,
Portumna's towers, Bunratty's regal walls,
Carrick's stern rock, the Geraldine's grey keep -
River of dark mementos ! - must I close
My lips with Limerick's wrongs - with Aughrim's woes?
A de V .