An Imaginative Race

Justin McCarthy
Chapter I | Start of Chapter

The general effect of all this is of importance when we are following out the history of the Irish race during the periods which come strictly within the domain of authentic record. They bear testimony to the growth of a people essentially imaginative and endowed with qualities not common to the ordinary ways of peoples grown up to civilization. Lord Beaconsfield once, in a famous speech, ascribed most of the troubles of Ireland to the fact that the island is surrounded by a melancholy ocean. Like many of Beaconsfield's sayings, which at first seemed to be merely fantastic, this had in it something of appropriateness. But Beaconsfield might have added that the legends and stories, the poetry and music of early Ireland, played an important part, along with the melancholy ocean, in forming the character which has always belonged to the Celtic inhabitants of Ireland. They help us to understand the story of Ireland. Wherever the Irishman, if he be a genuine Celt, wanders or settles, he never wholly loses his characteristics, and in Lancashire, in Illinois, in France, in South Africa, or in Australasia, he remains an Irishman still, and never quite assimilates himself to the habits of the people with whom he has had to cast in his lot.