The Charm of Ireland

The Valley of the Boyne

Edited extract from 'The Charm of Ireland'
by Burton E. Stevenson, published in 1914

I had one other trip to make in Ireland. That was to the scene of the Battle of the Boyne, to the tombs of the kings at Dowth and Newgrange, and to the ruins nearby of two of the most famous and beautiful of the old abbeys, Mellifont and Monasterboice.

The car which was to make the round of the Boyne valley was waiting outside the train station in Drogheda, we drove down into the town, where another passenger was waiting, a clergyman with grey hair and blue eyes and white refined face, Church of England by his garb, and, as I found out afterwards, Oxford by residence.

Battle of the Boyne Site

We set off westward along the pleasant road, and soon, far ahead, we saw the top of the great obelisk opposite the place where Schomberg fell. The road dips steeply into King William's Glen, along which the centre of the Protestant army advanced to the river, and then we were on the spot where the cause of Protestant ascendency in Ireland triumphed finally and irrevocably and where the Cromwellian settlements were sealed past overthrow.

William, with his English and his Dutch, had marched down from Dundalk, and James, with his Irish and his French, had marched up from Dublin, and here on either side of this placid little river, where the hills slope down to the Oldbridge ford, the armies took their station; and here, a little after ten o'clock in the morning, brave old Schomberg, led his Dutch guards and his regiment of Huguenots into the water, across the ford, and up the bank on the other side. There, for a moment, his troops fell into disorder before the fierce attack of the Irish, and as he tried to rally them, a band of Irish horse rushed upon him, circled round him and left him dead upon the ground. Almost at the same moment, the white-haired Walker, who had exhorted the defenders of Derry never to surrender, was shot dead while urging on the men of Ulster. But though the Irish were able to hold their ground at first, and even to drive their assailants back into the river, a long flanking movement which William had set on foot earlier in the day, caught them unprepared, and they gave way, at last, before superior numbers and superior discipline.

Long before that, King James had fled the field, and, without stopping, spurred on to Dublin, thirty miles away. He reached that city at ten o'clock that night, tired, hungry, and complaining bitterly to Lady Tyrconnell that the Irish had run faster than he had ever seen men do before. Lady Tyrconnell was an Irishwoman, and her eyes blazed. "In that, as in all other things," she said, "it is evident that Your Majesty surpasses them"; and Patrick Sarsfield, who had been placed that day in command of the king's bodyguard, and so had got nowhere near the fighting, sent back to the Protestants his famous challenge, "Change kings, and we will fight it over again!"

Well, all that was more than two centuries ago; there is no more placidly beautiful spot in Ireland than this green valley, with the silver stream rippling past; but the staunch Protestants of the north still baptise their babies with water dipped from the river below the obelisk. And they are not altogether wrong, for that river is the river of their deliverance ; and per- haps, in some distant day, when new justice has wiped out the memory of ancient wrong, Irish Catholics will agree with Irish Protestants that it was better William should have won that day than James.

My clerical companion, guide book in hand, had carefully noted every detail of the field, and it was evident from his shining eyes how his soul was stirred by the thought of that old victory. But our driver sat humped on his box, smoking silently, his face very grim. This job of driving Protestant clergymen to Boyne battlefield must be a trying one for the followers of Brigid and Patrick! But at last my companion had seen enough, and closed his book with a little sigh of happiness and satisfaction; and our driver whistled to his horse, and we climbed slowly out of the valley.

We had about a mile of hedge-lined road, after that, and, looking down from it, we caught glimpses of wooded demesnes across the river, with the chimneys of handsome houses showing above the trees and they, too, are the symbols of William's victory, for they are the homes of the conquerors, the visible signs of that social order which Boyne battle established, and which still endures.

And then our driver, who had recovered his good humour, pointed out to us a great mound in the midst of a level field a circular mound, with steep sides and flat top, and a certain artificial appearance, though it seemed too big to be artificial. And yet it is, for it was built about two thousand years ago as a sepulchre for the mighty dead.

Dowth Tumulus

For all this left bank of the river was the so-called Brugh-na-Boinne, the burying-ground of the old Milesian kings of Tara; and two great tumuli are left to show that the kings of Erin, like the kings of ancient Egypt and the kings of the still more ancient Moundbuilders, were given sepulchres worthy of their greatness. Yet there is a difference. The tombs of the Moundbuilders were mere earthen tumuli heaped above the dead; the pyramids of the Egyptians were carefully wrought in stone. The tumuli of the ancient Irish stand midway between the two. First great slabs were placed on end, and other slabs laid across the uprights ; and in this vaulted chamber the ashes of the dead were laid; and then loose stones were heaped above it until it was completely covered. Sometimes a passage would be left, but that would be a secret known to few, and when the tomb was done it would seem to be nothing more than a great circular mound of stones. As the years passed, the stones would be covered gradually with earth, and then with grass and bushes, and trees would grow upon it, until there would be nothing left to distinguish it from any other hill. Only within the last half century have the tumuli been explored, and then it was to find that the Danes had spared not even these sanctuaries, but had entered them and despoiled the inner chambers. Nevertheless, they remain among the most impressive human monuments to be found anywhere.

This first tumulus we came to is the tumulus of Dowth, and a woman met us at the gate opening into the field where it stands, gave us each a lighted candle, and led the way to the top of an iron ladder which ran straight down into the bowels of the earth. We descended some twenty feet into a cavity as cold as ice ; then, following the light of the woman's candle, we squeezed along a narrow passage made of great stones tilted together at the top, so low in places that we had to bend double, so close together in others that we had to advance sideways blessing our slimness; and finally we came to the great central chamber where the dead were placed.

It is about ten feet square, and its walls, like those of the passage, are formed by huge blocks of stone set on end. Then other slabs were laid a-top them, and then on one another, each slab overlapping by eight or ten inches the one below, until a last great stone closed the central aperture and the roof was done. In the centre the chamber is about twelve feet high. Many of the stones are carved with spirals and concentric circles and wheel-crosses and Ogham writing yes, and with the initials of hundreds of vandals !

In the centre of the floor is a shallow stone basin, about four feet square, used perhaps for some ceremony in connection with the burials sacrifice naturally suggests itself, such as tradition connects with Druid worship; and opening from the chamber are three recesses, about six feet deep, also constructed of gigantic stones, and in these, it is surmised, the ashes of the dead were laid. From one of these recesses a passage, whose floor is a single cyclopean stone eight feet long, leads to another recess, smaller than the first ones. When the tomb was first entered, little heaps of burned bones were found, many of them human for it should be remembered that the ancient Irish burned their dead be- fore enclosing them in cists or burying them in tumuli. There were also unburned bones of pigs and deer and birds, and glass and amber beads, and copper pins and rings; and before the Danes despoiled it, there were doubtless torques of gold, and brooches set with jewels but the robbers left nothing of that sort behind them.

Nobody knows when this mound was built; but the men who cut the spirals and circles and in one place a leaf, not incised, but standing out in bold relief must have had tools of iron or bronze to work with; so the date of the mound's erection can be fixed approximately at about the beginning of the Christian era. For the rest, all is legend. But as one stands there in that cyclopean chamber, the wonder of the thing, its uncanniness, its mystery, grow more and more overwhelming, until one peers around nervously, in the dim and wavering candle-light, expecting to see I know not what. With me, that sensation passed ; for I happened suddenly to remember how George Moore and A. E. made a pilgrimage to this spot, one day, and sat in this dark chamber, cross-legged like Yogin, trying to evoke the spirits of the Druids, and just when they were about to succeed, or so it seemed, the vision was shattered by the arrival of two portly Presbyterian preachers.

There is another entrance to the tumulus, about half way up, which opens into smaller and probably more recent chambers; and after a glance at them, we clambered to the top. Far off to the west, we could see the hill of Tara, where the old kings who are buried here held their court and gave great banquets in a hall seven hundred feet long, of which scarce a trace remains ; and a little nearer, to the north, is the hill of Slane, where, on that Easter eve sixteen centuries ago, St. Patrick lighted his first Paschal fire in Ireland, in defiance of a Druidic law which decreed that in this season of the Festival of Spring, no man should kindle a fire in Meath until the sacred beacon blazed from Tara. You may guess the consternation of the priests when, through the gathering twilight, they first glimpsed that little flame which Patrick had kindled on the summit of Slane, just across the valley. That, I think, is easily the most breathless and dramatic moment in Irish history. The king sent his warriors to see what this defiance meant, and Patrick was brought to Tara, and he came into the assembly chanting a verse of Scripture : "Some in chariots and some on horses, but we in the name of the Lord our God." And so his mission began.

Dowth Castle

On the other side of the mound, across a field and beyond a wall, I could see what seemed to be an ivy draped ruin, and I asked our guide what it might be, and she said it was the birthplace of John Boyle O'Reilly. It was but a short walk, and my companion said he would wait for me; so I hastened down the mound and across the field and over the wall, and found that what I had seen was indeed a tall old house, draped with ivy and falling into ruin. Just back of it is a church, also in ruins, and again its wall is a granite monument to O'Reilly, more remarkable for its size than for any other quality. There is a bust of the poet at the top, and on either side a weeping female figure, and a long inscription in Gaelic, which of course I couldn't read; and which may have been very eloquent. But if it had been for me to write his epitaph, I would have chosen a single verse of his as all-sufficient :

Kindness is the Word.

Then, as I was wading out through the meadow to get a picture of the house, I met with a misadventure, for, disturbed by my passage, a bee started up out of the grass, struck me on the end of the nose, clung wildly there an instant, and then stung viciously. It was with tears of anguish streaming down my cheeks that I snapped the picture opposite the preceding page.

Dowth Castle is not the ancestral home of the O'Reillys; that stood on Tullymongan, above the town of Cavan, of which they were lords for perhaps a thousand years. Dowth Castle, on the other hand, was built by Hugh de Lacy, as an outpost of the English pale; but it came at last into the hands of an eccentric Irishman who, about a century ago, bequeathed it and some of the land about it as a school for orphans and a refuge for widows. The Netterville Institution, as it was called, came to comprise also a National school, and of this school John Boyle O'Reilly's father, William David O'Reilly, was master for thirty-five years. He and his wife lived in the castle, here in 1844 the poet was born, and here he spent the first eleven years of his life. What fate finally overtook the castle I don't know, but only the ivy-draped outer walls remain. The trim modern buildings of the Institution cluster in its shadow.

Newgrange Tumulus

I made my way back to the car, where my companion, who was not interested in O'Reilly, was awaiting me somewhat impatiently, and I think he regarded the bee which had stung me as an agent of Providence. But we set off again, and the car climbed up and up to the summit of the ridge which overlooks the river; and presently we were rolling along a narrow road bordered with lofty elms, and then, in a broad pasture to our right, we saw another mound, far larger than the first, and knew that it was Newgrange.

Four mighty stones stand like sentinels before it. The largest of them is eight or nine feet high above the ground and at least twenty in girth; and they are all that are left of a ring of thirty-five similar monsters which once guarded the great cairn with a circle a quarter of a mile around. Like the tumulus of Dowth, this of Newgrange is girdled by a ring of great stone blocks, averaging eight or ten feet in length, and laid closely end to end ; and on top of them is a wall of un cemented stones three or four feet high. Behind the wall rises the cairn, overgrown with grass and bushes and even trees; but below the skin of earth is the pile of stones, heaped above the chambers of the dead.

The entrance here is a few feet above the level of the ground, and is the true original entrance, which the one at Dowth is not, for the level of the ground there has risen. This little door consists of two upright slabs and a transverse one. Below it is placed a great stone, covered with a rich design of that spiral ornamentation peculiar to the ancient Irish emblematic, it is said, of eternity, without beginning and without end. The stone above the door is also carved, and my photograph, opposite this page, gives a very fair idea of how the entrance looks.

Newgrange 1914We found a woman waiting for us she had heard the rattle of our wheels far down the road, and had hastened from her house nearby to earn sixpence by providing us with candles; and she led the way through the entrance into the passage beyond. As at Dowth, it is formed of huge slabs inclined against each other.

But here they have given way under the great weight heaped upon them, and the passage grew lower and lower, until the woman in front of us was crawling on her hands and knees. The clergyman, who was behind her, examined the low passage by the light of his candle, and then said he didn't think he'd try it.

"Oh, come along, sir," urged the woman's voice. " 'Tis only a few yards, and then you can stand again. If you was a heavy man, now, I wouldn't be advisin' it; I've seen more than one who had to be pulled out by his feet; but for a slim man the likes of you sure it is nothing."

He still held back, so I squeezed past him, and went down on hands and knees, and crawled slowly forward in three-legged fashion holding my candle in one hand,, over the strip of carpet which had been laid on the stones to protect the clothing of visitors. As our guide had said, the passage soon opened up so that it was possible to stand upright again. I called back encouragement to my companion, and he finally crawled through too ; and then, as I held my candle aloft, I saw: that we had come out into a great vaulted chamber at least twenty feet high. Here, as at Dowth, the sides are formed of mammoth slabs, and the vault of other slabs laid one upon the other, each row projecting beyond the row below until the centre is reached. Here too there are three recesses; but everything is on a grander scale than at Dowth, and the ornamentation is much more elaborate. It consists of intricate and beautifully formed spirals, coils, lozenges and chevrons; and here, also, the vandal had been at work, scratching his initials, sometimes even his detested name, upon these sacred stones. There was one especially glaring set of initials right opposite the entrance, deeply and evidently freshly cut, and I asked the woman how such a thing could happen.

"Ah, sir," she said, "that was done by a young man who you would never think would be doing such a thing. He come here one day, not long since, and with him was a young woman, and they were very quiet and nice-appearing, so after I had brought them in, I left them to their selves, for I had me work to do ; but when I came in later, with another party, that was what I saw. And I made the vow then that never again would I be leaving any one alone here, no matter how respectable they might look."

We commended her wisdom, and turned back to an inspection of the carvings. It was noticeable that there was no attempt at any general scheme of decoration, for the spirals and coils were scattered here and there without any reference to each other, some of them in inaccessible corners which proved they had been made before the stones were placed in position. Evidently they had been carved wherever the whim of the sculptor suggested; and so, in spite of their delicacy and beauty, they are in a way supremely childish.

But there is nothing childish about the tomb itself. Nobody knows from what forgotten quarry these great slabs were cut. Wherever it was, they had to be lifted out and dragged to the top of this hill and set in position and many of them weigh more than a hundred tons. The passage from the central chamber to the edge of the mound is sixty-two feet long; the mound itself is eight hundred feet around and fifty high, and someone has estimated that the stones which compose it weigh more than a hundred thousand tons.

For whom was it built? Perhaps for Conn, the Hundred Fighter, for tradition records that he was buried here, and he was worthy of such a tomb. If it was for Conn and of course that is only a guess it dates from about 200 A. D., for tradition has it that it was in 212 that Conn was treacherously slain at Tara, while preparing for the great festival of the Druids. Conn's son, Art, was the last of the Pagan kings to be buried in the Druid fashion, for Art's great son, Cormac, who came to the throne in 254, chose another sepulchre. He seems to have got some inkling of Christianity, perhaps from traders from other lands who visited his court. At any rate, he turned away from the Druids, and they put a curse upon him and caused a devil to attack him while at table, so that the bone of a salmon stuck in his throat and he died. But with his last breath he forbade his followers to bury him at Brugh-na-Boinne, in the tumulus with Conn and the rest, because that was a grave of idolaters ; he worshipped another God who had come out of the East; and he commanded them to bury him on the hill called Rosnaree, with his face to the sunrise. They disregarded his command, and tried to carry his body across the Boyne to the tumulus; but the water rose and snatched the body from them, and carried it to Rosnaree; and so there it was buried. From Newgrange, one can see the slope of Rosnaree, just across the river; but there is nothing to mark the grave of the greatest of the early kings of Erin.

Round Cormac spring renews her buds ;
In march perpetual by his side,
Down come the earth-fresh April floods,
And up the sea-fresh salmon glide.

And life and time rejoicing run
From age to age their wonted way;
But still he waits the risen Sun,
For still 'tis only dawning Day.

Mellifont Abbey

The road to the ruins of the abbey of Mellifont runs back from the river, up over the hills, past picturesque villages, through a portion of the Balfour estate, and then dips down into the valley of the Mattock, on whose banks a company of Cistercians, who had come from Clairvaux at the invitation of the Archbishop of Armagh, chose to build their monastery.

Mellifont 1914They called it Mellifont "Honey Fountain" and the buildings which they put up were a revelation to the Irish builders, who had been contented with small and unambitious churches, divided only into nave and chancel. Here at Mellifont was erected a great cruciform church, with a semi-circular chapel in each transept, as at Clairvaux; and to this were added cloister and chapter- house and refectory, and a most beautiful octagonal building which was used as a lavatory. It marked, in a word, the introduction of continental elaborations and refinements and luxuries into a land where, theretofore, austerity had been the ruling influence.

That was in 1142, and there is not much left now of that mighty edifice a portion of the old gate-tower, some fragments of the church, and a little more than half of the octagonal lavatory. Five of its eight sides remain, and they show how beautiful it must once have been. Another thing may be seen in that photograph the corner of a huge, empty, decaying mill, such as dot all Ireland, symbols of her ruined industry!

A clean, pleasant-faced old woman, who opened the gate for us, intimated that we could get lunch at her cottage, which overlooked the ruins ; but my companion had brought his lunch in his pocket and presently sat down to eat it, while I made my way alone up to the cottage. There was a long table spread in one room, and while the tea was drawing, I told my hostess and her daughter about my encounter with the bee, and asked if I might have some hot water with which to bathe the sting. They hastened to get me a basin of steaming water and a clean towel, and then they talked together a moment in low tones, and then the old woman came hesitatingly forward.

"If you please, sir," she said, "I have often been told that with a sting or bite or anything of the sort a little blueing in the water works wonders, and indeed I have tried it myself, and have found it very good. Would your honour be trying it, now, if I would get my blueing bag?"

"Why of course I would !" I cried; "and thank you a thousand times for thinking of it!"

Whereupon, her face beaming, she snatched the blueing bag from her daughter, who had it ready, and gave it to me, and I sloshed it around in the basin until the water was quite blue, and bathed my face in it; and whether it was the heat of the water or the blueing I don't know, but the sting bothered me very little after that, except for the swelling, and that was not so bad as I had feared it would be.

I sat down finally to a delightful lunch of tea and bread and butter and cold meat and jam; and then I got out my pipe and joined my hostess on the bench in front of the house, and her daughter stood in the door and listened, and we had a long talk. As usual, it was first about herself, and then about myself. Her husband was dead and she suffered a great deal from rheumatism, which seems to be the bane of the Irish; but she had her little place, glory be to God, and she picked up a good many shillings in the summer time from visitors to the ruins, though many that came to see them cared nothing for them nor understood them. Indeed, many just came and looked at them over the gate, and then went away again.

And just then I witnessed a remarkable confirmation of this; for a motor-car, with two men and two or three women in it, whirled up the road below and stopped at the gate outside the ruins. My hostess caught up her keys and started hastily down to open it, but before she had taken a dozen steps, the man on the front seat spoke to the chauffeur, and he spun the car around and in another moment it had disappeared down the road in a cloud of dust. I confess that I was hot with anger when my hostess, with a sad little smile, came back and sat down again beside me, for I felt somehow as though she had been affronted.

I went back to tie ruins presently, and my new friend came along, finding I was interested, and we spent half an hour wandering about them, while she pointed out various details which I might otherwise have missed. Next to the lavatory, the most interesting feature of the place is a beautiful pavement of decorated tiles which is preserved in St. Bernard's chapel. The whole church was at one time floored with these tiles, and a few detached ones may still be seen at the base of the pillars. There also remain many details of sculpture which show the loving labour lavished on the place when it was built the individual work of the artisan, embodying something of his own soul, which gives these old churches a life and beauty sadly wanting in most new ones.

The cemetery is near the bank of the river; but potatoes are raised there now, in a soil made fertile by royal as well as sacred dust; for here Dervorgilla, the false wife of Tiernan O'Rourke, chose to be laid to rest, in the hope, perhaps, that in the crowd of holy abbots and monks which would rise from this place, she might slip into heaven unobserved.


Monasterboice 1914Three miles away from Mellifont stand the ruins of another abbey, centuries older and incomparably greater in its day an abbey absolutely Irish, with rude, small buildings, but with a giant round-tower and two of the loveliest sculptured crosses in existence on this earth. Monasterboice it is called Mainister Buithe, the abbey of Boetius and the way thither lies along a pleasant road, through a wooded valley which, fertile as it is, is not without its traces of desolation, for we passed more than one vast empty mill, falling to decay. Then, on the slope of a hillside away ahead, we saw the round tower, or what is left of it, for the top of it is broken off, struck by lightning, perhaps. But the fragment that remains is 110 feet high ! And seeing it thus, across the valley, with the low little church nestling at its base, one is inclined to think that Father Dempsey was not altogether wrong when he said he cared nothing about the theories of antiquarians concerning the round towers, for he knew what they were the forefingers of the early church pointing us all to God.

My companion and I were discussing these theories, when our jarvey saw the opportunity to spring a joke, which I have since discovered to be a time-honoured one.

"Your honours are all wrong," he said, "if you will excuse my sayin' so. It has been proved that the round towers was built by the government."
"Built by the government'?" repeated my companion. "How can you prove that?"
"Easy enough, your honour. Seein' they're no manner of use and cost a lot of money, who else could have built them?"
And this, I take it, was his revenge for the Boyne battlefield.

We stopped presently beside a stile leading over the stone wall at the side of the road, and here there was waiting another old woman, to unlock the entrance to the tower. We clambered over the stile and made our way up through the grass-grown, unkempt graveyard, first to the tower one of the mightiest of these monuments of ancient Erin, for it is seventeen yards around at the base, and tapers gradually toward the top, and the only entrance is a small doorway six feet above the ground ; and it takes no great effort of imagination to fancy the monks clambering wildly up to it, clutching the treasures of the monastery to their bosoms, whenever word came that the raiding Danes were in the neighbourhood. Ladders have been fixed so that one can climb to the top, but we did not essay them.

No trace remains of the monastic buildings which clustered at the tower foot; for, unlike those at Mellifont and in England and on the continent, these were not wrought of stone, but were mere shacks, as in every truly Irish abbey, scarcely strong enough to screen from wind and weather the groups of scholars who gathered to study here. They lived a strait and austere life, and the only permanent structures they built were the churches. Here, as usual, they were small, the largest one being only forty feet in length; and the walls that remain prove how bare and mean they must have looked beside the carved and columned splendours of Mellifont.

But Monasterboice has one glory, or rather two, beside which those that remain at Mellifont are as nothing; and these are the huge Celtic crosses, the most perfect and beautiful in the land. One of them is tall and slender and the other is short and sturdy, and both are absolute masterpieces.

The high cross, as the tall one is called, stands near the tower-foot and close beside the crumbling wall of one of the old churches. It is twenty-seven feet high, and is composed of three stones, the shaft, the cross with its binding circle, and the cap. The shaft, which is about two feet square and eighteen feet high, is divided into seven compartments on either face, and in each of them is an elaborately-sculptured representation of some Bible scene, usually with three figures. Although much worn, it is still possible easily to decipher some of them, for there is Eve accepting the apple from the serpent while Adam looks mildly on, and here they are fleeing from Paradise before the angel with the flaming sword, and next Cain is hitting Abel on the head with a club while a third unidentified person watches the scene without offering to interfere. At the crossing there is a splendid crucifixion, with the usual crowded heaven and hell to left and right; the binding circle is beautifully ornamented with an interlacing design; and the cap-stone represents one of those high-pitched cells or churches, such as we saw at Killaloe and Glendalough.

Beautiful as this cross is, it is surpassed by the other one, Muiredach's Cross, from the inscription about its base: "A prayer for Muiredach for whom this cross was made." That inscription gives us its date, at least within a century, for two Muiredachs were abbots here. One of them died in 844 and the other in 924, and as the latter was the richer and more distinguished, it is presumed that the cross is his. That would make its age almost exactly ten centuries.

And yet, in spite of those ten centuries, the sculptures which enrich it from top to bottom are as beautiful to-day as they ever were. Look at the picture opposite this page it is not my picture, though I took one, but there is an iron fence about the cross now which spoils every recent photograph and you will see what a wonderful thing it is. It is a monolith one single stone, fifteen feet high and six feet across the arms and every inch of it is covered with ornamentation.

It is the western face the picture shows, with the crucifixion occupying its usual position. Below it are three panels of extraordinary interest, for they show Irish warriors and clerics in the costumes of the period, all of them wearing fierce mustachios. In the upper panel are three clerics in flowing robes, the central one giving a book to one of his companions and a staff to the other; in the central panel are three ecclesiastics each holding a book; and in the lower panel a cleric in a long cloak, caught together at the throat with a brooch, stands staff in hand between two soldiers armed with Danish swords. At the foot of the shaft two dogs lie head to head.

On the other side, the central panel shows Christ sitting in judgment, with a joyous devil kicking a damned soul into an already crowded hell. The method of separating the blessed from the damned is shown just below, where a figure is carefully weighing souls in a pair of scales a subject familiar to every one who has visited the Gothic cathedrals of France, where almost invariably a devil is trying to cheat by crouching below the scales and pulling down one side. The lower panels in the cross represent the usual Scriptural subjects the fall of man, the expulsion from Eden, the adoration of the magi, and so on; and again at the base there are two dogs, only this time they are playing, and one is holding the other by the ear. All of this sculpture is done with spirit, with taste and with fine artistry; and another glory of the cross is the elaborate tracery of the side panels, and of the front, back, inside and outside of the circle.

Who was he? Was he sad or glad
Who knew to carve in such a fashion?

Those questions we may never answer. All we can say certainly is that he was a great artist; and his is the artist's reward:

But he is dust ; we may not know
His happy or unhappy story:
Nameless, and dead these centuries,
His work outlives him, there's his glory!

We tore ourselves away at last from the contemplation of this consummate masterpiece, and drove slowly back to Drogheda, through a beautiful and fertile country, which, save for the thatched cottages, and gorse- crowned walls and hedges, did not differ greatly in appearance from my own. And I was very happy, for it had been a perfect day. Nowhere else in Ireland is it possible to crowd so much of loveliness and interest into so short a space.


Burton Egbert Stevenson (1872–1962) was an American author. He was born at Ohio and attended Princeton University 1890–1893. Stevenson wrote numerous novels, including four young adult's novels, edited others' works, and created numerous anthologies of verse, familiar quotations, and the like.

New Grange and the Hill of Tara

John L. Stoddard published an account of his visit to New Grange and the Hill of Tara in 1901. Tara: "On every side the country falls away in gentle undulations to the distant horizon, and one looks off on an unbroken circuit of as soft and beautiful scenery as even Ireland can reveal." More ...