The wild irish girl a n.., p.13
The Wild Irish Girl: A National Tale, p.13Lady Morgan
TO J. D. ESQ., M. P.
This is the sixth day of my convalescence, and the first of my descentfrom my western tower; for I find it is literally in a tower, or turret,which terminates a wing of these ruins, I have been lodged. These goodpeople, however, would have persuaded me into the possession of a slowfever, and confined me to my room another day, had not the harp ofGlorvina, with “supernatural solicitings,” spoken more irresistibly tomy heart than all their eloquence.
I have just made my _toilette_, for the first time since my arrival atthe castle; and with a black ribbon of the nurse’s across my forehead,and a silk handkerchief of the priest’s supporting my arm, with myown “customary suit of solemn black,” tintless cheek, languid eye, andpensive air, I looked indeed as though “melancholy had marked me forher own or an excellent personification of pining atrophy” in its laststage of decline.
While I contemplated my _memento mori_ of a figure in the glass, I hearda harp tuning in an underneath apartment. The Prince I knew had not yetleft his bed, for his infirmities seldom permit him to rise early; thepriest had rode out; and the venerable figure of the old harper at thatmoment gave a fine effect to a ruined arch under which he was passing,led by a boy, just opposite my window. “It is Glorwna then,” said I,“and alone!” and down I sallied; but not with half the intrepidity thatSir Bertram followed the mysterious blue flame along the corridors ofthe enchanted castle.
A thousand times since my arrival in this transmundane region, I havehad reason to feel how much we are the creatures of situation howinsensibly our minds and our feelings take their tone from the influenceof existing circumstances. You have seen me frequently the veryprototype of _nonchalence_, in the midst of a circle of birthdaybeauties, that might have put the fabled charms of the _Mount Idatriumviri_ to the blush of inferiority. Yet here I am, groping my waydown the dismantled stone stairs of a ruined castle in the wilds ofConnaught, with my heart fluttering like the pulse of green eighteen, inthe presence of its first love, merely because on the point of appearingbefore a simple rusticated girl, whose father calls himself _a prince_,with a _potatoe ridge for his dominions!_ O! with what indifferenceI should have met her in the drawingroom, or at the opera!--there shewould have been merely a woman!--here she is the fairy vision of myheated fancy.
Well, having finished the same circuitous journey that a squirreldiurnally performs in his cage, I found myself landed in a stonepassage, which was terminated by the identical chamber of fatal memoryalready mentioned, and through the vista of a huge folding door, partlythrown back, beheld the form of Glorvina! She was alone, and bendingover her harp; one arm was gracefully thrown over the instrument, whichshe was tuning; with the other she was lightly modulating on its chords.
Too timid to proceed, yet unwilling to retreat, I was still hoveringnear the door, when turning round, she observed me, and I advanced.She blushed to the eyes, and returned my profound bow with a slightinclination of the head, as if I were unworthy a more marked obeisance.
Nothing in the theory of sentiment could be more diametrically opposite,than the bashful indication of that crimson blush, and the haughtyspirit of that graceful bow. What a logical analysis would it haveafforded to Father John on innate and acquired ideas! Her blush was theeffusion of nature; her bow the result of inculcation--the one spoke thenative woman; the other the _ideal_ princess.
I endeavoured to apologize for my intrusion and she, in a mannerthat amazed me, congratulated me on my recovery; then drawing her harptowards her, she seated herself on the great Gothic couch, with a motionof the hand, and a look, that seemed to say, “there is room for youtoo.” I bowed my acceptance of the silent welcome invitation.
Behold me then seated _tete-a-tete_ with this Irish Princess!--my rightarm thrown over her harp, and her eyes riveted on my left.
“Do you still feel any pain from it?” said she, so naturally, as thoughwe had actually been discussing the accident it had sustained.
Would you believe it! I never thought of making her an answer; butfastened my eyes on her face. For a moment she raised her glance tomine, and we both coloured, as if she read there--I know not what!
“I beg your pardon,” said I, recovering from the spell of this magicglance--“you made some observation, Madam?”
“Not that I recollect,” she replied, with a slight confusion of manner,and running her finger carelessly over the chords of the harp, till itcame in contact with my own, which hung over it. The touch circulatedlike electricity through every vein. I impulsively arose, and walked tothe window from whence I had first heard the tones of that instrumentwhich had been the innocent accessory to my present unaccountableemotion. As if I were measuring the altitude of my fall, I hung halfmy body out of the window, thinking, Heaven knows, of nothing less than_that_ fall, of nothing more than its fair cause, until abruptly drawingin my dizzy head, I perceived her’s (such a cherub head you neverbeheld!) leaning against her harp, and her eye directed towards me.I know not why, yet I felt at once confused and gratified by thisobservation.
“My fall,” said I, glad of something to say, to relieve my school-boybashfulness, “was greater than I suspected.”
“It was dreadful!” she replied shuddering “What could have led you to soperilous a situation?”------
“That,” I returned, “which has led to more certain destruction, sensesmore strongly fortified than mine--the voice of a syren!”
I then briefly related to her the rise, decline, and fall of my physicalempire; obliged, however, to qualify the gallantry of my _debut_ by thesubsequent plainness of my narration, for the delicate reserve of herair made me tremble, lest I had gone too far.
By heavens I cannot divest myself of a feeling of inferiority in herpresence, as though I were actually that poor, wandering, unconnectedbeing I have feigned myself.
My compliment was received with a smile and a blush; and to the eulogiumwhich rounded my detail on the benevolence and hospitality of the familyof Inismore, she replied, that “had the accident been of less materialconsequence to myself, the family of Inismore must have rejoiced atthe event which enriched its social circle with so desirable anacquisition.”
The _matter_ of this little _politesse_ was nothing; but the _manner_,the air, with which it was delivered! Where can she have acquired thiselegance of manner?--reared amidst rocks, and woods, and mountains!deprived of all those graceful advantages which society confers--amanner too that is at perpetual variance with her looks, which are so_naif_---I had almost said so wildly simple--that while she speaks inthe language of a court, she looks like the artless inhabitant of acottage:--a smile, and a blush, rushing to her cheek, and her lip, asthe impulse of fancy or feeling directs, even when smiles and blushesare irrevalent to the etiquette of the moment.
This elegance of manner, then, must be the pure result of elegance ofsoul; and if there is a charm in woman, I have hitherto vainly sought,and prized beyond all I have discovered, it is this refined, celestial,native elegance of soul, which effusing its spell through every thought,word, and motion, of its enviable possessor, resembles the peculiarproperty of gold, which subtilely insinuates itself through the mostminute and various particles, without losing any thing of its ownintrinsic nature by the amalgamation.
In answer to the flattering observation which had elicited thisdigression I replied:
That far from regretting the consequences, I was emamoured of anaccident that had procured me such happiness as I now enjoyed (even withthe risk of life itself;) and that I believed there were few who, likeme, would not prefer peril to security, were the former always thepurchase of such felicity as the latter, at least on me, had neverbestowed.
Whether this reply savoured too much of the world’s commonplacegallantry, or that she thought there was more of the head than theheart in it, I know not; but, by my soul, in spite of a certain haughtymotion of the head not unfrequent with her, I thought she lookedwonderfully inclined to laugh in my face, though she primed
In short, I never felt more in all its luxury the comfort of lookinglike a fool; and to do away the no very agreeable sensation which theconviction of being laughed at awakens, as a _pis-aller_, I began toexamine the harp, and expressed the surprise I felt at its singularconstruction.
“Are you fond of music?” she asked with _naivette_.
“Sufficiently so,” said I, “to risk my life for it.”
She smiled, and cast a look at the window, as much as to say, “Iunderstand you.”
As I now was engaged in examining her harp, I observed that it resembledless any instrument of that kind I had seen, than the drawing of theDavidic lyre in Montfaucon.
“Then,” said she, with animation, “this is another collateral proof ofthe antiquity of its origin, which I never before heard adduced, andwhich sanctions that universally received tradition among us, by whichwe learn, that we are indebted to the first Milesian colony that settledhere for this charming instrument, although some modern historianssuppose that we obtained it from Scandinavia.” *
* It is reserved for the national Lyre of Erin only, to claim a title independent of a Gothic origin. For “Clar- seach,” is the only Irish epithet for the harp, a name more in unison with the cithera of the Greeks, and even the chinor of the Hebrew, than the Anglo-Saxon harp. “I cannot but think the clarseach, or Irish harp, one of the most ancient instruments we have among us, and had perhaps its origin in remote periods of antiquity.”--Dr. Bedford’s Essay on the construction, &c. of the Irish Harp.
“And is this, Madam,” said I, “the original ancient Irish harp?”
“Not exactly, for I have strung it with gut instead of wire, merely forthe gratification of my own ear; but it is, however, precisely the sameform as that preserved in the Irish university, which belonged to one ofthe most celebrated of our heroes, Brian Boni; for the warrior andthe bard often united in the character of our kings, and they sung thetriumphs of those departed chiefs whose feats they emulated.”
“You see,” she added with a smile, while my eager glance pursued thekindling animation of her countenance as she spoke,--“you see, that inall which concerns my national music, I speak with national enthusiasm;and much indeed do we stand indebted to the most charming of all thesciences for the eminence it has obtained us; for in _music only_, do_you_ English allow us poor Irish any superiority; and therefore yourKing, who made the _harp_ the armorial bearing of Ireland, perpetuatedour former musical celebrity beyond the power of time or prejudice todestroy it.”
Not for the world would I have annihilated the triumph which thisfancied superiority seemed to give to this patriotic little being, bytelling her, that we thought as little of the music of her country,as of every thing else that related to it; and that all we knew of thestyle of its melodies, reached us through the false medium of comicairs, sung by some popular actor, who in coincidence with his author,caricatures those national traits he attempts to delineate.
I therefore simply told her, that though I doubted not the formermusical celebrity of her country, yet that I perceived the _Bardic_order in Wales seemed to have survived the tuneful race of _Erin_; forthat though every little Cambrian village had its harper, I had not yetmet with one of the profession in Ireland.
She waved her head with a melancholy air, and replied--“the rapiddecline of the Sons of Song, once the pride of our country, is indeedvery evident; and the tones of that tender and expressive instrumentwhich gave birth to those which now survive them in happier countries,no longer vibrates in our own; for of course you are not ignorant thatthe importation of Irish bards and Irish instruments into Wales, * by_Griffith ap Conan_, formed an epocha in Welch music, and awakened therea genius of style in composition, which still breathes a kindred spiritto that from whence it derived its being, and that even the invention ofScottish music is given to Ireland.”! **
“Indeed,” said I, “I must plead ignorance to this singular fact, andalmost to every other connected with this _now_ to me most interestingcountry.”
“Then suffer me,” said she, with a most insinuating smile, “to indulgeanother little national triumph over you, by informing you, that welearn from musical record, that the first piece of music ever seenin _score_, in Great Britain, is an air sung time immemmorial in thiscountry on the opening of summer--an air, which though animated in itsmeasure, yet still, like all the Irish melodies, breathes the very soulof melancholy.” ***
* Cardoc (of Lhancarvan) without any of that illiberal partiality so common with national writers, assures us that the Irish devised all the instruments, tunes, and measures, in use among the Welsh. Cambrensis is even more copious in its praise, when he peremptorily declares that the Irish, above any other nation, is incomparably skilled in symphonal music.--Walker’s Hist. Mem. of the Irish Bards
** See Doctor Campbell’s Phil Surv. L. 44; and Walker’s Hist. Irish Bards, p. 131,32.
*** Called in Irish, “Ta an Samradth teacht,” or, “We brought Summer along with us.”
“And do your melodies then, Madam, breathe the soul of melancholy?” saidI.
“Our national music,” she returned, “like our national character, admitsof no medium in sentiment: it either sinks our spirit to despondency, byits heartbreaking pathos, or elevates it to wildness by its exhilaratinganimation.
“For my own part, I confess myself the victim of its magic--an Irishplanxty cheers me into maddening vivacity; an Irish lamentationdepresses me into a sadness of melancholy emotion, to which the energyof despair might be deemed comparative felicity.”
Imagine how I felt while she spoke--but you cannot conceive the feelingsunless you beheld and heard the object who inspired them--unless youwatched the kindling lumination of her countenance, and the varying hueof that mutable complexion, which seemed to ebb and flow to the impulseof every sentiment she expressed; while her round and sighing voicemodulated in unison with each expression it harmonized.
After a moment’s pause she continued:
“This susceptibility to the influence of my country’s music, discovereditself in a period of existence when no associating sentiment ofthe heart could have called it into being; for I have often wept inconvulsive emotion at an air, before the sad story it accompanied wasunderstood: but now--now--that feeling is matured, and understandingawakened. Oh! you cannot judge--cannot feel--for you have no nationalmusic; and your country is the happiest under heaven!”
Her voice faltered as she spoke--her fingers seemed impulsively tothrill on the chords of the harp--her eyes, her tear swollen, beautifuleyes, were thrown up to heaven, and her voice, “low and mournful as thesong of the tomb,” sighed over the chords of her national lyre, as shefaintly murmured Campbell’s beautiful poem to the ancient Irish air of_Erin go brack!_
Oh! is there on earth a being so cold, so icy, so insensible, as to havemade a comment, even an _encomiastic_ one, when this song of the soulceased to breathe! God knows how little I was inclined or empoweredto make the faintest eulogium, or disturb the sacred silence whichsucceeded to her music’s dying murmur. On the contrary, I sat silent andmotionless, with my head unconsciously leaning on my broken arm, and myhandkerchief to my eyes: when at last I withdrew it, I found her hurriedglance fixed on me with a smile of such expression! Oh! I could weepmy heart’s most vital drop for such another glance--such anothersmile!--they seemed to say, but who dares to translate the language ofthe soul, which the eye only can express?
In (I believe) equal emotion, we both arose at the same moment andwalked to the window. Beyond the mass of ruins which spread in desolateconfusion below, the ocean, calm and unruffled, expanded its awful bosomalmost to infinitude; while a body of dark, sullen clouds, tinged withthe partial beam of a meridian sun, floated above the summits of thosesavage cliffs which skirt this bold and rocky coast; and the tallspectral figure of Father John, leaning on a broken pediment, appearedlike the embodied spirit of philoso
What a sublime assemblage of images.
“How consonant,” thought I, gazing at Glorvina, “to the sublimated toneof our present feelings.” Glorvina waved her head in accidence to theidea, as though my lips had given it birth.
How think you I felt, on this sweet involuntary acknowledgment of amutual intelligence?
Be that as it may, my eyes, too faithful I fear to my feelings, coveredthe face on which they were passionately riveted with blushes.
At that moment Glorvina was summoned to dinner by a servant, for sheonly is permitted to dine with the Prince, as being of royal descent.The vision dissolved--she was again the proud Milesian Princess, and Ithe poor wandering _artist_--the eleemosynary guest of her hospitablemansion.
The priest and I dined _tete-a-tete_; and, for the first time, he hadall the conversation to himself; and got deep in Locke and Malbranche,in solving quidities, and starting hypothesis, to which I assented withgreat gravity, and thought only of Glorvina.
I again beheld her gracefully drooping over her harp--I again caughtthe melody of her song, and the sentiment it conveyed to the soul; andI entered fully into the idea of the Greek painter, who drew _Love_, notwith a bow and arrow, but a lyre.
I could not avoid mentioning with admiration her great musical powers.
“Yes,” said he, “she inherits them from her mother, who obtained theappellation of _Glorvina_, from the sweetness of her voice, by whichname our little friend was baptized at her mother’s request.”
Adieu! Glorvina has been confined in her father’s room during the wholeof the evening--to this circumstance you are indebted for this longletter.
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