Voyage to Dublin and Arrival at Kingstown

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter I (8) | Start of Chapter

At two o'clock I took the packet for Ireland; and when I stood upon the plank which was to conduct me on deck, and looked upon the loved face of her who had been my never-tiring companion on the voyage, I longed that I might meet in a land of strangers a heart like hers. She returned to go to Cork, and we have never met since.

"We shall remember this voyage," was the last sentence from her lips that fell on my ear.

"You have parted with a friend," said a solitary woman, "and are you a stranger?"

This was a welcome sound, and a few moments' conversation told me that the law of kindness had not died on the lips of her who had just left me.

A tempestuous night made the sea-sick inmates of the crowded cabin wish for the day, for there was not a comfort or convenience to be had; and when the bright morning dawned, it brought the unpleasant intelligence that we should not see Dublin till the tide should come in, which would be five in the evening. But we had neared the bay, and were in sight of the enchanting harbor, granite buildings, and green sloping hills of Kingstown.

"I have travelled much," said an intelligent gentleman, "but have never found anything surpassing the beauty of the bay of Dublin and the Cove of Cork." This bay was in my eye; and I was in it. Yes! the sea was behind me, and the fair Emerald Isle, with the motley assemblage of beautiful and painful objects, was before me. I gave myself to rummaging the scanty knowledge I had of Ireland, to ascertain whether I knew anything tolerable of its true condition and character,—and what did I know?

I knew that between the parallels of 51 and 55 of north latitude there was a little green spot in the ocean, defended from its surging waves by bold defying rocks; that over this spot are sprinkled mountains, where sparkles the diamond and where sleeps the precious stone; glens, where the rich foliage and the pleasant flower, and where the morning song of the bird is blending with the playful rill; that through its valleys and hill sides were imbedded the gladdening fuel and the rich mine; that over its lawns and wooded parks were skipping the light-footed fawn and bounding deer; that in its fat pastures were grazing the proud steed and the noble ox; that on its heathy mountain slopes the nimble goat and the more timid sheep find their food. I knew that proud castles and monasteries, palaces and towers, tell to the passer-by that here kings and chieftains struggled for dominion, and priests and prelates contended for religion; and that the towering steeple and the more lowly cross still say that the instinct of worship yet lives—that here the incense of prayer and the song of praise continue to go up. I knew that no venomous serpent was lying in the path of the weary traveller, and that the purest breezes of heaven were wafted from mountain-top to lowly valley, giving health and vigor to the life-blood, and causing the "inhabitants of the rock to sing."

And I had been told, that over this fair landscape hangs a dark curtain of desolation and death; that the harp of Erin lies untouched, save by the finger of sorrow, to tell what music was once in her strings; that the pipe and the dance are only aroused like the last brightening of the flickering lamp, as it ceases for ever; that the tear is on her cheek—she sits desolate, and no good Samaritan passes that way, to pour in the oil and wine of consolation. Lover and friend are put far from her, and she is a hissing and bye-word to those who should lift her up; and she has long reaped down the fields of the rich, while she has tasted none of their "pleasant bread." Small as this little fund of knowledge might be, I almost regretted that I had heard the tale of her woes, lest a morbid sympathy should dim the true light, and lead me to stumble, if not wholly to wander from the right path.

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.