The wild irish girl a n.., p.14
The Wild Irish Girl: A National Tale, p.14Lady Morgan
TO J. D. ESQ., M. P.
The invitation I received from the hospitable Lord of these ruins, wasso unequivocal, so cordial, that it would have been folly, notdelicacy to think of turning out of his house the moment my health wasre-established. But then, I scarcely felt it warranted that length ofresidence here, which, for a thousand reasons, I am now anxious to make.
To prolong my visit till the arrival of my father in this country wasmy object; and how to effect the desired purpose, was the theme of mycogitation during the whole of the restless night which succeededmy interview with Glorvina; and to confess the truth, I believethis interview was not the least potent spell which fascinated me toInismore.
Wearied by my restlessness, rather than refreshed by my transientslumbers, I arose with the dawn, and carrying my _port-feuille_ andpencils with me, descended from my tower, and continued to wanderfor some time among the wild and romantic scenes which surround theseinteresting ruins, while
“La sainte recueihnent la paisible innocence
Sembler de ces lieus habiter le silence.”
until almost wearied in the contemplation of the varying sublimitieswhich the changes of the morning’s seasons shed over the ocean’sboundless expanse, from the first gray vapour that arose from itsswelling wave, to that splendid refulgence with which the risen suncrimsoned its bosom, I turned away my dazzled eye, and fixed it on theruins of Inismore. Never did it appear in an aspect so picturesquelyfelicitous: it was a golden period for the poet’s fancy or the painter’sart; and in a moment of propitious genius, I made one of the mostinteresting sketches my pencil ever produced. I had just finished mysuccessful _ebauche_, when Father John, returning from matins, observed,and instantly joined me. When he had looked over and commended theresult of my morning’s avocation, he gave my port-folio to a servant whopassed us, and taking my arm, we walked down together to the seashore.
“This happy specimen of your talent,” said he, as we proceeded, “willbe very grateful to the Prince. In him, who has no others left, it isa very innocent pride, to wish to perpetuate the fading honours of hisfamily--for as such the good Prince considers these _ruins_. But, myyoung friend, there is another and a surer path to the Prince’s heart,to which I should be most happy to lead you.”
He paused for a moment, and then added:
“You will, I hope, pardon the liberty I am going to take; but as I boastthe merit of having first made your merit known to your worthy host, Ihold myself in some degree (smiling and pressing my hand) accountablefor your confirming the partiality I have awakened in your favour.
“The daughter of the Prince, and my pupil, of whom you can have yetformed no opinion, is a creature of such rare endowments, that it shouldseem Nature, as if foreseeing her isolated destiny, had opposed herown liberality to the chariness of fortune; and lavished on her suchintuitive talents, that she almost sets the necessity of educationat defiance. To all that is most excellent in the circle of humanintellect, or human science, her versatile genius is constantlydirected; and it is my real opinion, that nothing more is requisite toperfect her in any liberal or elegant pursuit, but that method or systemwhich even the strangest native talent, unassisted, can seldom attain(without a long series of practical experience) and which is unhappilydenied her; while her doating father incessantly mourns that poverty,which withholds from him the power of cultivating those shiningabilities that would equally enrich the solitude of their possessor, orrender her an ornament to that society she may yet be destined to grace.Yet the occasional visits of a strolling dancing-master, and a fewmusical lessons received in her early childhood from the family bard,are all the advantages these native talents have received.
“But who that ever beheld her motions in the dance, or listened tothe exquisite sensibility of her song, but would exclaim--‘here is acreature for whom Art can do nothing--Nature has done all!’
“To these elegant acquirements, she unites a decided talent for drawing,arising from powers naturally imitative, and a taste early imbibed (fromthe contemplation of her native scenes) for all that is most sublime andbeautiful in nature. But this, of all her talents, has been the leastassisted, and yet is the most prized by her father, who, I believe,laments his inability to detain you here as her preceptor; or rather, tomake it worth your while to forego your professional pursuits, for sucha period as would be necessary to invest her with such rudiments in theart, as would form a basis for her future improvement. In a word, canyou, consistently with your present plans, make the castle of Inismoreyour headquarters for two or three months, from whence you can takefrequent excursions amidst the neighbouring scenery, which will affordto your pencil subjects rich and various as almost any other part of thecountry?”
Now, in the course of my life, I have had more than one occasion toremark certain desirable events brought about by means diametricallyopposite to the supposition of all human probability;--but that thisworthy man should (as if infected with the intriguing spirit of a FrenchAbbe reared in the purlieus of the _Louvre_) thus forward my views, andeffect the realization of my wishes, excited so strong an emotion ofpleasurable surprise, that I with difficulty repressed my smiles, orconcealed my triumph.
After, however, a short pause, I replied with great gravity, that Ialways conceived with Pliny, that the dignity we possess by the goodoffices of a friend, is a kind of sacred trust, wherein we have hisjudgment as well as our own character to maintain, and therefore to beguarded with peculiar attention that consequently, on his account, Iwas as anxious as on my own, to confirm the good opinion conceived inmy favour through the medium of his partiality; and with very greatsincerity I assured him, that I knew of no one event so coincident tomy present views of happiness, as the power of making the Prince somereturn for his benevolent attentions, and of becoming his (the priest’s)coadjutor in the tuition of his highly gifted pupil.
“Add then, my dear Sir,” said I, “to all the obligations you have forcedon me, by presenting my respectful compliments to the Prince, withthe offer of my little services, and an earnest request that he willcondescend to accept of them; and if you think it will add to thedelicacy of the offer, let him suppose that it voluntarily comes fromthe heart deeply impressed with a sense of his kindness.”
“That is precisely what I was going to propose,” returned this excellentand unsuspecting being. “I would even wish him to think you conceive theobligation all on your own side; for the pride of fallen greatness is ofall others the most sensitive.”
“And God knows so I do,” said I, fervently,--then carelessly added, “doyou think your pupil has a decided talent for the art?”
“It may be partiality,” he replied; “but I think she has a decidedtalent for every elegant acquirement. If I recollect right, somebody hasdefined _genius_ to be ‘the various powers of a strong mind directed toone point:’ making it the _result_ of combined force, not the vitalsource, whence all intellectual powers flow; in which light, the geniusof Glorvina has ever appeared to me as a beam from heaven, an emanationof divine intelligence, whose nutritive warmth cherishes into existencethat richness and variety of talent which wants only a little care torear it to perfection.
“When I first offered to become the preceptor to this charming child,her father, I believe, never formed an idea that my tuition would haveextended beyond a little reading and writing; but I soon found thatmy interesting pupil possessed a genius that bore all before it--thatalmost anticipated instruction by force of its tuitive powers, andprized each task assigned it, only in proportion to the difficulty bywhich it was to be accomplished.
“Her young ambitious mind even emulated rivalry with mine, and thatstudy in which she beheld me engaged seldom failed to become the objectof her desires and her assiduity. Availing myself, therefore, of thisinnate spirit of emulation--this boundless thirst of knowledge, I lefther mind free in the election of its studies, while I only threwwithin its power of acquisition, that which could tend to render hera rational, and cons
“But here comes the unconscious theme of our conversation.”
And at that moment Glorvina appeared, springing lightly forward, likeGresset’s beautiful personification of health:
“As Hebe swift, as Venus fair,
Youthful, lovely, light as air.”
As soon as she perceived me she stopt abruptly, blushed, and returningmy salutation, advanced to the priest, and twining her arm familiarly inhis, said, with an air of playful tenderness,
“O! I have brought you something you will be glad to see--here is thespring’s first violet, which the unusual chilliness of the season hassuffered to steal into existence: this morning as I gathered herbsat the foot of the mountain, I inhaled its odour ere I discovered itspurple head, as solitary and unassociated it was drooping beneath theheavy foliage of a neighbouring plant.
“It is but just you should have the first violet as my father hasalready had the first snowdrop. Receive, then, my offering,” she addedwith a smile; and while she fondly placed it in his breast with an airof exquisite _naivette_, to my astonishment she repeated from B. Tasso,those lines so consonant to the tender simplicity of the act in whichshe was engaged:
“Poiche d’altro honorate
Non dosso, prendi lieta
Queste negre viole
Dall umor rugiadose.”
The priest gazed at her with looks of parental affection, and said,
“Your offering, my dear, is indeed the
‘Incense to the heart;’
and more precious to the receiver, than the richest donation that everdecked the shrine of Loretto. How fragrant it is!” he added, presentingit to me.
I took it in silence, but raised it no higher than my lip--the eye ofGlorvina met mine, as my kiss breathed upon her flower: Good God! whatan undefinable, what a delicious emotion thrilled through my heart atthat moment! and the next--yet I know not how it was, or whetherthe motion was made by her, or by me, or by the priest--but somehow,Glorvina had got between us, and while I gazed at her beautiful flower,I personified the blossom, and addressed to her the happiest lines thatform “_La Guirlande de Julie_” while, as I repeated.
“Mais si sur votre front je peux briller un jour,
La plus humble des fleurs sera la plus superbe
I reposed it for a moment on her brow in passing it over to the priest.
“Oh!” said she, with an arch smile, “I perceive you too will expecta tributary flower for these charming lines; and the summer’s firstrose”--she paused abruptly; but her eloquent eye continued, “should bethine, but that thou mayst be far from hence when the summer’s firstrose appears.” I thought too--but it might be only the fancy of mywishes, that a sigh floated on the lip, when recollection checked theeffusion of the heart.
“The _rose_,” (said the priest, with simplicity, and more engaged withthe classicality of the idea, than the inference to be drawn from it,)“the rose is the flower of Love.”
I stole a look at Glorvina, whose cheek now emulated the tint of thetheme of our conversation and plucking a thistle that sprung from abroken pediment, she blew away its down with her balmy breath, merely tohide her confusion.
Surely she is the most sentient of all created beings!
“I remember,” continued the priest, “being severely censured by a rigidold priest, at my college in St. Omer’s, who found me reading theIdylium of Ausonius, in which he so beautifully celebrates the rose,when the good father believed me deep in St. Augustin.”
“The rose,” said I, “has always been the poet’s darling theme. Theimpassioned lyre of Sappho has breathed upon its leaves. Anacreon haswooed it in the happiest effusions of his genius; and poesy seemsto have exhausted her powers in celebrating the charms of the mostbeautiful and transient of flowers.
“Among its modern panegyrists, few have been more happily successfulthan Monsieur de Barnard, in that charming little ode beginning:
“Tendre fruits des pleurs d’aurore,
Objets des baisers du zephyrs,
Reine de l’empire de Flore,
Hate toi d’epanoir.”
“O! I beseech you go on,” exclaimed Glor-vina; and at her request, Ifinished the poem.
“Beautiful, beautiful!” said she, with enthusiasm. “O! there is acertain delicacy of genius in elegant trifles of this description, whichI think the French possess almost exclusively: it is a language formedalmost by its very construction _a’eterniser la bagatelle_, and toclothe the fairy effusions of fancy in the most appropriate drapery.
“I thank you for this beautiful ode; the rose was always my idol flower;in all its different stages of existence, it speaks a language my heartunderstands; from its young bud’s first crimson glow, to the last sicklyblush of its faded blossom. It is the flower of sentiment in allits sweet transitions; it breathes a moral, and seems to preserve anundecaying soul in that fragrant essence which still survives the bloomand symmetry of the fragile form which every beam too ardent, every galetoo chill, injures and destroys.”
“And is there,” said I, “no parallel in the moral world for this lovelyoffspring of the natural?”----
Glorvina raised her humid eyes to mine, and I read the parallel there.
“I vow,” said the priest, with affected pettishness, “I am half temptedto fling away my violet, since this _idol_ flower has been decreed toMr. Mortimer; and to revenge myself, I will show him your ode on therose.”
At these words, he took out his pocket-book, laughing at his gratifiedvengeance, while Glorvina coaxed, blushed, and threatened; untilsnatching the book out of his hand, as he was endeavouring to putit into mine, away she flew like lightning, laughing heartily at hertriumph, in all the exility and playfulness of a youthful spirit.
“What a _Hebe!_” said I, as she kissed her hand to us in her airyflight.
“Yes,” said he, “she at least illustrates the possibility of a womanuniting in her character the extremes of intelligence and simplicity:you see, with all her information and talent, she is a mere child.”
When we reached the castle, we found her waiting for us at the breakfasttable, flushed with her race--all animation, all spirits! her reserveseemed gradually to vanish, and nothing could be more interesting, yetmore _enjouee_, than her manner and conversation. While the fertilityof her imagination supplied incessant topic of conversation, always new,always original, I could not help reverting in idea to those languid_tete-a-tetes_, even in the hey-dey of our intercourse, when LadyC.------ and I have sat yawning at each other, or biting our fingers,merely for want of something to say, in those intervals of passion,which every connexion even of the tenderest nature, must sustain--she inthe native dearth of her mind, and I in the habitual apathy of mine.
But here is a creature who talks of a violet or a rose with the artlessair of infancy, and yet fascinates you in the simple discussion, asthough the whole force of intellect was roused to support it.
By Heaven! if I know my own heart, I would not love this being for athousand worlds; at least as I have hitherto loved. As it is, I feel acertain commerce of the soul--a mutual intelligence of mind and feelingwith her, which a look, a sigh, a word is sufficient to betray--a sacredcommunion of spirit, which raises me in the scale of existence almostabove mortality; and though we had been known to each other bylooks only, still would this amalgamation of soul (if I may use theexpression) have existed.
What a nausea of every sense does the turbulent agitation of grosscommonplace passion bring with it. But the sentiment which this seraphawak
After breakfast she left us, and I was permitted to kiss his Highness’shand, on my instalment in my new and enviable office. He did not speakmuch on the subject, but with his usual energy. However, I understood Iwas not to waste my time, as he termed it, for nothing.
When I endeavoured to argue the point (as if the whole business was nota _farce,_) the Prince would not hear me; so behold to all intentsand purposes a hireling tutor. Faith, to confess the truth, I know notwhether to be pleased or angry with this wild romance: this too, in aman whose whole life has been a laugh at romancers of every description.
What if my father learns the extent of my folly, in the first era tooof my probation! Oh! what a spirit of _bizarte_ ever drives me from thecentral point of common sense, and common prudence! With what tyrannydoes impulse rule my wayward fate! and how imperiously my heart stilltakes the lead of my head! yet if I could ever consider the “meteor ray” that has hitherto mis led my wanderings, as a “light from heaven,” itis now, when virtue leads me to the shrine of innocent pleasure; and themind becomes the better for the wanderings of the heart.
“But what,” you will say, with your usual foreseeing prudence--“what isthe aim, the object of your present romantic pursuit?”
Faith, none; save the simple enjoyment of present felicity, after an ageof cold, morbid apathy; and a self resignation to an agreeable illusion,after having sustained the actual burthen of real sufferings (sufferingsthe more acute as they were self created,) succeeded by that dearth offeeling and sensation which in permitting my heart to lie _fallow_ foran interval, only rendered it the more genial to those exotic seeds ofhappiness which the vagrant gale of chance has flung on its surface.But whether they will take deep root, or only wear “the perfume andsuppliance of a moment,” is an unthought of “circumstance still hangingin the stars,” to whose decision I commit it.
Would you know my plans of meditated operation, they run thus:--In afew days I shall avail myself of my professional vocation, and flyhome, merely to obviate suspicion in Mr. Clendinning, receive and answerletters, and get my books and wardrobe sent to the Lodge, previous to myown removal there, which I shall effect under the plausible plea of thedissipated neighbourhood of M-------- house being equally inimical tothe present state of my constitution and my studious pursuits; and, infact, I must either associate with, or offend these hospitableMilesians--an alternative by no means consonant to my inclinations.
From Inismore to the Lodge, I can make constant sallies, and be in theway to receive my father, whose arrival I think I may still date at someweeks’ distance; besides, should it be necessary, I think I should findno difficulty in bribing the old steward of the Lodge to my interest.His evident aversion to Clendinning, and attachment to the Prince,renders him ripe for any scheme by which the latter could be served,or the former outwitted: and I hope in the end to effect both: for, tounite this old chieftain in bonds of amity with my father, and to punishthe rascality of the worthy Mr. Clendinning, is a double “consummationdevoutly to be wished.” In short, when the heart is interested ina project, the stratagems of the imagination to forward it areinexhaustible.
It should seem that the name of M-------- is interdicted at Inismore: Ihave more than once endeavoured (though remotely) to make the residenceof our family in this country a topic of conversation but every oneseemed to shrink from the subject, as though some fatality was connectedwith its discussion. To avoid speaking ill of those of whom we have butlittle reason, speak well, is the temperance of aversion, and seldomfound but in great minds.
I must mention to you another instance of liberality in the sentimentsof these isolated beings:--I have only once attended the celebration ofdivine service here since my arrival; but my absence seemed not to beobserved, or my attendance noticed; and though, as an Englishman, I maybe naturally supposed to be of the most popular faith, yet, for all theyknow to the contrary, I may be Jew, Mussulman, or Infidel; for, beforeme at least, religion is a topic never discussed.
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