Land and Legend

Justin McCarthy
Chapter III | Start of Chapter

The Irish lake and mountain scenery is, on the whole, less bold and broken than the Scotch, but more varied than that of England, and has a charm of soft melancholy which harmonizes with the poetic dreamings of Irish legendary literature. Every lake, mountain, and valley has its own legend. On the Lakes of Killarney Irish boatmen still describe the foam-crested waves flung out by some waterfall as "O'Donoghue's horses," O'Donoghue being the patronymic of a great house, whose descendants have come down to our own times. The traveller who sails over Loch Neagh is told of the buried city whose towers may be seen shining beneath the waters. With the first dawn of Christianity upon the island the building of great churches and abbeys began almost everywhere, and the ruins of some of these are still a peculiar feature of Irish landscape. Even the marshy regions have a charm for the artistic eye, and are haunted by poetic legends. The most unsympathetic stranger travelling through the island could hardly describe it as a natural home for the prosaic and the commonplace.