Sabbath Hymn, and the Company collected thereby

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter XII (7) | Start of Chapter

The light-house soon met my eye, standing upon a craggy rock—the old one, which had been struck by lightning, all shattered and useless, waiting at a respectful distance. But the bold, the awful grandeur of this place—how can I describe it, that the reader may understand me? The gate was fast closed that led to the neat white dwelling-houses upon the brow of the rock, and making a circuitous route, I descended into a glen, then up a wild craggy steep, by the help of both feet and hands, and found myself upon the top of an awfully grand rock, partly covered with grass and firs, overlooking the then placid waves that lay at the foot. The sun was shining, and, though January 12th, birds were singing, and green spots of grass were here and there scattered among the ploughed fields at a distance. Far at my back were extensive cultivated lands upon the mountains, which, by their natural unevenness, still retained their wildness; and at my right was stretched the fine strand of Wicklow. Not a human being was near, but God had left an impress there which could not be misunderstood. I sat down, and looked into the abyss, eddying, deep, and dark, in a niche between two rocks at my left. The sea was spread out at an interminable distance to the eye, sparkling in the sunbeam, and bearing a solitary sail floating at ease. Taking off my bonnet, I paused to wonder and adore. It was the resurrection morning. I saw no sepulchre here hewn out of the rock, but caves were scattered on right and left, where ancient chieftains had made their abode. I commenced singing my favorite hymn,

"Majestic sweetness sits enthroned;"

and when finished, looked about, and saw the shadows of eight boys who were standing upon the rock behind me. They were at a distance, beyond the rock, had heard the singing, and leaping up the sides, stood in breathless silence, nor did one of them stir till I kindly saluted them, when a laughing face of ten years said, "And ye sung well, and didn't we hear it?" The people at the light-house had heard, and came running upon the brow of the rock, on the other hand of me, not knowing what strange sounds could be floating upon the air so early.

I turned and looked upon the group of wild mountain boys, buoyant and light-footed as the hare they were pursuing, as they stood, undaunted though not impudent, before me; and said, "What was Ireland once, and what is she now!" In spite of oppression, her children, free as the mountain air, eat their potatoe, hunt their rabbit and deer, leap upon the rocks, laugh and sing, dance upon the green, and tell you tales of ancient Irish days, and throw out their light sallies of wit, which seems like an inexhaustible fountain, bubbling spontaneously at every breath.

"And are you going to church or chapel, my boys?"

"All Protestants," cries one. "That we aint," answered a second; "some are Romans, and some Protestants."

"We are after hunting a hare, ma'am."

"And what will you do if you take one?—divide it among you?"

"The dogs kills it, ma'am; and the one that picks it up first gits it; hut if two gits hold at once, they fights till one bates the other, and then he carries it off; so that's the way, ma'am."

"But," said the laughing one, "will ye take me with ye to America?"

"And what could I do with you? I am not going yet."

"O take me along, and when ye eat, give me something—that's all, ma'am, I'd want; and so I'd always be about ye; d'ye see, ma'am?"

"And couldn't ye get through the gate? Come, and we'll open it for ye."

They did so, and a light-keeper's wife, young and pleasant, with a neat shoe and open thin stocking, with prayer-book in hand, going to church, met me.

"You have not seen the light-house under the rock, ma'am, which is the greatest curiosity in all this country." Of this I had heard nothing before. "You should return and see it when the lamps are lighted."

Ireland’s Welome to the Stranger is one of the best accounts of Irish social conditions, customs, quirks and habits that you could wish for. The author, Mrs Asenath Nicholson, was an American widow who travelled extensively in Ireland on the eve of the Great Famine and meticulously observed the Irish peasantry at work and play, as well as noting their living conditions and diet. The book is also available from Kindle.