THE SPIRIT OF TEE NATION—REPEAL POETRY. Tars reprint of the
poetry of The Nation newspaper, the repre- sentative of the best-educated advocates of the Repeal of the Irish Union, challenges attention more from peculiar circumstances than intrinsic merit. Notwithstanding the laudatory notices of a previous collection by the Quarterly Review and other periodicals, we suspect that the interest excited by "the Political Songs and National Ballads of The Nation Newspaper" has less originated in their own deserts, than in the attention which is always given to the opinions of an active party, and the curiosity felt to deduce the real purposes of" Young Ireland," from the safer form in which blood-revenge and rebellion may be inculcated in poetry, by way of allusion to former Irish struggles or revolts— and, sooth to say, not always by allusion. Without questioning that the verses themselves exhibit very considerable talent, we believe that the same sort of poetical power is often to be found in other periodi- cals without exciting any thing like the same attention. The at- traction and the merit too lie in the choice of a subject to which great temporary interest is attached, and in the novelty, in modern times, of using poetry as a vehicle for political purposes, not im- mediately directed to personal or party satire.
To the merit of this plan—and success shows it to be not incon- siderable—these verses are entitled ; but in any other critical sense we cannot award them higher praise. They seem to want the first ex- cellence—that of truly reflecting the original which they profess to imitate. The end of "the writers of The Nation newspaper" may be the same, doubtless, as that of the Irish peasantry ; but their spirit is that of a band, not of a nation. They most clearly illustrate the remark of FRANCIS JEFFREY, that if the confiscated estates of the native Irish were restored, those who write for their restitution would not be entitled to any part of them; for they are as much " Saxon" as those at whom they rail. As regards intel- lectual idiosyncrasy, the Irish poets of The Nation newspaper can- not " call their souls their own." They are not Irish ; they are Saxon ; and very often of a section of the Saxons. Their lan- guage of course is Saxon, their cast of thought is Saxon, their very style and manner are Saxon ; and frequently it is not merely the general character, arising from primary education, and the models by whose study men afterwards form their minds, but that of particular schools and subdivisions of Saxon literature, Saxon opinion, or Saxon habits of life. This is traceable some- times in a general imitation of particular authors, or particular schools of writing ; and sometimes in the use of images and terms that are not Anglo-Milesian, or even Scotch, and are no more Irish than they are Hebrew. The first poem in the selection is professedly on the Monster Meetings ; but, beyond an Irish term stuck in here and there, it is in reality British Chartism. The views inculcated are those of British mechanics—of men who have work to do and do it, but are dissatisfied with the division of the profits ; and the images presented are those of a British, not an Irish gathering. Its very language is equally imitative. "Illy masters, this must end," is not Irish, or Scotch, or even modern English; it is old English. The title is of the same character ; the bulk of it borrowed—" The Voice of Labour, a Chant of the Monster Meetings." Where the subject is purely Irish, its style is not national. "The Battle of Beal-an-ath-Buidh "—an affair of 1598, where O'Neal defeated with slaughter an attempt of a captain named Bagenal to relieve a place called Portmore—cannot inspire its poet to an independent thought, or mode of phrasing it: the piece is a mere echo of one of SCOTT'S Border Ballads. So little, indeed, of true poetry is there in these effusions, (for a true poet, though not an Irishman, would have identified himself more tho- roughly with his subject,) that the metre is frequently imita- tive, and its peculiarity not adapted to the subject to which the imitator applies it. Sometimes the writer cannot rise to the feeling which the theme demands. "An Arms Bill Ballad" pro- fesses to be sung or said by a wife who has resisted the criminal addresses of her landlord, and whose goods have been distrained, her husband seized and imprisoned under a search for arms, and her- self violated. But it "roars you as gently as any sucking dove." The spirit of indignant hate and horror is not there ; it is the rhetorical rhymster who speaks, not the ravished wife. Compare this, or the bulk of the "National Ballads" of The Nation newspaper, with CAMPBELL'S " O'Connor's Child," and the difference between the " spirit " and power of the two will be seen at once. His "Exile of Erin" strikes us as having a more large and genuine Irish spirit than any thing in this collection excepting "Devil may Care." There is nothing to compare in nationality with the ballads of BURNS—nothing so Irish as his are Scotch. Even two professed translations (if translations they are) have lost the native flavour and become Saxon in the transmutation. If the whole of the poems could be put into an alembic and their essence distilled, it would not in any quality of poetry or nationality bear a comparison with Bruce's Address at Bannockburn; though BURNS had to throw himself into the minds of men whose living feelings had passed away for centuries, whereas the writers of The Nation newspaper are actually in the strife, and seem to think themselves Beans and BRUCE in one.
No doubt, individual touches of the Irishman, especially in his weaker traits, may be found. In "A Voice from America," the declaration,
" We know ourselves unconquerably firm—
We 're temperate, cool, determined to be free,"
though Saxon in its style, has perhaps a touch of maudlin Irish in its tone. The Squire's Complaint (should it not rather have been the Squireen's ?) has a sprinkling of theatrical Irish— as "ating and drinking galore." But the only two pieces that ap- pear to us to possess any claims to a national spirit—as being written by Irishmen really possessing a national character, and pene- trated by a national feeling as differing from party heat—are "Devil may Care," and "Paddies Evermore." The first is the most genuine Irish. It has a sort of rollicking recklessness, with fun in its deepest melancholy, as characteristic of Pat as its hope of something without any definite purpose in view and its trust with- out any reason ; and though some of the phrases are English, they might easily have been picked up by Pat on a harvesting excursion.
DEVIL MAY CARE.
Air—•• That old head of Denis."
Musha, "Queen of the Sea," is it true what they say All about the grand " speeching " you had t'other day About Ireland, and Dan, and Repeal? I declare I think you were bullied; hut, Devil may care, They shan't bully Paddy—so Devil may care.
heard, when a boy, you were gentle and true. That you loved poor old Ireland and Irishmen too,
That your heart was as just as your form was fair ;
And I wished you were here ; hut the Devil may care, I've got my own darling—so Devil may care.
And you've got young Albert, and long may you reign, And lighteome and hrightsome and strong be the chain That bindsyou together in love, now so rare To be found at " head-quarters"; but Devil may care, That's a case for the lawyers—so Devil may care.
But Paddy a" case" of his own has just now ; So off goes my " caubeen," and here's my best bow :
My belly is empty, my hack is all bare, I'm hungry and naked; but Devil may care, Good times are approaching—so Devil may care.
"Acushla machree," we are wounded and sore, So bad that we cannot endure it much more.
A care we must have, though the Saxons may stare And "curse like a trooper "; but Devil may care, " Shin lane" * is our watchword—so Devil may care.
Through many a century of darkness and gloom We writhed in our sorrow and wept at our doom ;
We begged and implored ; but they laughed at our prayer—
The answer they gave us was—" Devil may care," You're "mere Irish" rebels—so Devil may care.
But no longer like cowards we'll kneel to the foe- " Soft words they will butter no parsnips" we know ;
Our Brown they must give "on the nail "—"a child'a "
We claim, and must get. By St. Patrick, we swear, We won't be put off with a "Devil may care."
The style of "Paddies Evermore" is of a more polite cha-
racter than the preceding. Its composition, indeed, is Anglo- Saxon, and that of a modern and not a very good school ; but its spirit is national, and of the most respectable kind we have met with among the Repealers. There is no absurd hyperbole, little turgid pretence, no "blood and 'oons " ; and though "As Paddles and no more" is perhaps rather a feigned humbleness than the exact definition of a people's standing, it is very much better than O'CoratEeis " Oh,owe're slaves."
The hour is past to fawn or crouch As suppliants for our right; Let word and deed nnshrinking vouch The banded millions' might; Let them who scorned the fountain rill Now dread the torrent's roar, And hear our echoed chores still, We're Paddies evermore.
What though they menace ?—suffering men Their threats and them despise ; Or promise justice once again F- We know their words are lies.
We stand resolved those rights to claim They robbed us of before, Our own dear nation, and our name As Paddies, and no more.
• " Shinji:me "—Ourselves, or " Outtsmvx. Auorm." Look round—the Frenchman governs France, The Spaniard rules in Spain, The gallant Pole but waits his chance To break the Russian chain ; The strife for freedom here begun We never will give o'er,
Nor own a land on earth but one—
We're Paddies and no more.
That strong and single love to crush, The despot ever tried : A fount it was whose living gush His hated arts defied.
'Tis fresh as when his foot accurst Was planted on our shore, And vow* and still as from the first, We're Paddies evermore.
What reek we though six hundred years Have o'er our thraldom rolled ?
The soul that roused O'Nial's spears Still lives as true and bold.
The tide of foreign power to stem • Our fathers bled of yore ; And we stand here today like them, True Paddies evermore.
Where's our allegiance 7—with the land For which they nobly died. Our duty ?—by our cause to stand, Whatever chance betide.
Our cherished hope ?—to heal the woes That rankle at her core.
Our scorn and hatred ?—to her foes, Now and for evermore.
The hour is past to fawn or crouch As suppliants for our right; Let word and deed unshrinking vouch The banded millions' might ; Let them who scorned the fountain rill Now dread the torrent's roar, • And hear our echoed chorus still, 'We're Paddies evermore.
This, to our thinking, is the only piece in the whole collec- tion likely to induce a particle of that respect which is felt for men who respect themselves, and who in claiming their rights, or what they think such, pay some attention to truth and reality, as regards their antagonists, themselves, their means, and their capa- bilities. Were the Irish Repeaters imbued with more of this working and wearing quality, they would stand a better chance of success in their purposes; or rather, they would long since have at- tained "equality with England."
Waiving the national character of this Spirit of the Nation, and considering the poems as party effusions, they are entitled to the praise of variety, and, generally speaking, of skilful selection in their topics, with much singleness of purpose ; though theii, earnest- ness, of which so much has been said, strikes us as reset:titling the earnestness of a rhetorical speaker rather than that of a patriotic bard. In wanting an Irish spirit, they also want many of the Irish faults : there is no Corn Exchange humbug or indirectness about them—some of the brag, but little of the bravado and blar- ney, of O'CONNELL or his imitators. In this sense, their Saxon has served them well.
As mere literary effusions, we do not, as we have said already, rate them so highly as others have done. Songs and ballads of power will frequently be found ; but, besides their general want of national spirit, which is fatal to their claim as high poetry, their literature—that is, the form or style of their composition—is imi- tative. The models vary from SCOTT, Brims', CAMPBELL, and MOORE, (though there is less of Moats than might have been looked for,) down to the common class of good annual and maga- zine composition ; and in the first-named class of poets, not only are particular authors called to mind, but the particular poem that has been imitated.
• Vow "—probably a misprint for now.