Ireland, Historic and Picturesque
Charles Johnston

Part 1 out of 4

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Photogravures made by A.W. ELSON & Co.





Here is an image by which you may call up and remember the natural form
and appearance of Ireland:

Think of the sea gradually rising around her coasts, until the waters,
deepened everywhere by a hundred fathoms, close in upon the land. Of all
Ireland there will now remain visible above the waves only two great
armies of islands, facing each other obliquely across a channel of open
sea. These two armies of islands will lie in ordered ranks, their lines
stretching from northeast to southwest; they will be equal in size, each
two hundred miles along the front, and seventy miles from front to rear.
And the open sea between, which divides the two armies, will measure
seventy miles across.

Not an island of these two armies, as they lie thus obliquely facing
each other, will rise as high as three thousand feet; only the captains
among them will exceed a thousand; nor will there be great variety in
their forms. All the islands, whether north or south, will have gently
rounded backs, clothed in pastures nearly to the crest, with garments of
purple heather lying under the sky upon their ridges. Yet for all this
roundness of outline there will be, towards the Atlantic end of either
army, a growing sternness of aspect, a more sombre ruggedness in the
outline of the hills, with cliffs and steep ravines setting their brows
frowning against the deep.

Hold in mind the image of these two obliquely ranged archipelagoes,
their length thrice their breadth, seaming the blue of the sea, and
garmented in dark green and purple under the sunshine; and, thinking of
them thus, picture to yourself a new rising of the land, a new
withdrawal of the waters, the waves falling and ever falling, till all
the hills come forth again, and the salt tides roll and ripple away from
the valleys, leaving their faces for the winds to dry; let this go on
till the land once more takes its familiar form, and you will easily
call up the visible image of the whole.

As you stand in the midst of the land, where first lay the channel of
open sea, you will have, on your northern horizon, the beginning of a
world of purple-outlined hills, outliers of the northern mountain
region, which covers the upper third of the island. On all sides about
you, from the eastern sea to the western ocean, you will have the great
central plain, dappled with lakes and ribbed with silver rivers, another
third of the island. Then once more, to the south, you will have a
region of hills, the last third of Ireland, in size just equal to the
northern mountains or the central plain.

The lines of the northern hills begin with the basalt buttresses of
Antrim and the granite ribs of Down, and pass through northern Ulster
and Connacht to the headlands of Mayo and Galway. Their rear is held by
the Donegal ranges, keeping guard against the blackness of the
northern seas.

The plain opens from the verge of these hills; the waters that gather on
its pleasant pastures and fat fields, or among the green moss tracts of
its lowlands, flow eastward by the Boyne or southwestward by the Shannon
to the sea.

Then with the granite mountains of Dublin and Wicklow begin the southern
hills, stretching through south Leinster and Munster to the red
sandstone ridges of Cork and Kerry, our last vantage-ground against
the Atlantic.

Finally, encircling all, is the perpetual presence of the sea, with its
foaming, thunderous life or its days of dreamy peace; around the silver
sands or furrowed cliffs that gird the island our white waves rush
forever, murmuring the music of eternity.

Such is this land of Eire, very old, yet full of perpetual youth; a
thousand times darkened by sorrow, yet with a heart of living gladness;
too often visited by evil and pale death, yet welling ever up in
unconquerable life,--the youth and life and gladness that thrill through
earth and air and sky, when the whole world grows beautiful in the front
of Spring.

For with us Spring is like the making of a new world in the dawn of
time. Under the warm wind's caressing breath the grass comes forth upon
the meadows and the hills, chasing dun Winter away. Every field is newly
vestured in young corn or the olive greenness of wheat; the smell of the
earth is full of sweetness. White daisies and yellow dandelions star all
our pastures; and on the green ruggedness of every hillside, or along
the shadowed banks of every river and every silver stream, amid velvet
mosses and fringes of new-born ferns, in a million nooks and crannies
throughout all the land, are strewn dark violets; and wreaths of yellow
primroses with crimped green leaves pour forth a remote and divine
fragrance; above them, the larches are dainty with new greenery and rosy
tassels, and the young leaves of beech and oak quiver with fresh life.

Still the benignance of Spring pours down upon us from the sky, till the
darkening fields are hemmed in between barriers of white hawthorn, heavy
with nectar, and twined with creamy honeysuckle, the finger-tips of
every blossom coral-red. The living blue above throbs with the tremulous
song of innumerable larks; the measured chant of cuckoos awakens the
woods; and through the thickets a whole world's gladness sings itself
forth from the throat of thrush and blackbird. Through the whole land
between the four seas benediction is everywhere; blue-bells and the rosy
fingers of heath deck the mountain-tops, where the grouse are crooning
to each other among the whins; down the hillsides into every valley pour
gladness and greenness and song; there are flowers everywhere, even to
the very verge of the whispering sea. There, among the gray bent-spikes
and brackens on the sandhills, primroses weave their yellow wreaths; and
little pansies, golden and blue and purple, marshal their weird eyes
against the spears of dark blue hyacinths, till the rich tribute of
wild thyme makes peace between them.

The blue sky overhead, with its flocks of sunlit clouds, softly bends
over the gentle bosom of the earth. A living spirit throbs everywhere,
palpable, audible, full of sweetness and sadness immeasurable--sadness
that is only a more secret joy.

Then the day grows weary, making way for the magic of evening and the
oncoming dark with its mystery. The tree-stems redden with the sunset;
there is a chill sigh in the wind; the leaves turn before it, burnished
against the purple sky. As the gloom rises up out of the earth, bands of
dark red gather on the horizon, seaming the clear bronze of the sky,
that passes upward into olive-color, merging in dark blue overhead. The
sun swings down behind the hills, and purple darkness comes down out of
the sky; the red fades from the tree-stems, the cloud-colors die away;
the whole world glimmers with the fading whiteness of twilight. Silence
gathers itself together out of the dark, deepened, not broken, by the
hushing of the wind among the beech-leaves, or the startled cluck of a
blackbird, or a wood-pigeon's soft murmur, as it dreams in the
silver fir.

Under the brown wings of the dark, the night throbs with mystic
presences; the hills glimmer with an inward life; whispering voices
hurry through the air. Another and magical land awakes in the dark, full
of a living restlessness; sleepless as the ever-moving sea. Everywhere
through the night-shrouded woods, the shadowy trees seem to interrupt
their secret whispers till you are gone past. There is no sense of
loneliness anywhere, but rather a host of teeming lives on every hand,
palpable though hidden, remote from us though touching our lives,
calling to us through the gloom with wordless voices, inviting us to
enter and share with them the mystical life of this miraculous earth,
great mother of us all, The dark is full of watching eyes.

Summer with us is but a brighter Spring, as our Winter only prolongs the
sadness of Autumn. So our year has but two moods, a gay one and a sad
one. Yet each tinges the other--the mists of Autumn veiling the gleam of
Spring--Spring smiling through the grief of Autumn. When the sad mood
comes, stripping the trees of their leaves, and the fields of their
greenness, white mists veil the hills and brood among the fading
valleys. A shiver runs through the air, and the cold branches are
starred with tears. A poignant grief is over the land, an almost
desolation,--full of unspoken sorrow, tongue-tied with unuttered
complaint. All the world is lost and forlorn, without hope or respite.
Everything is given up to the dirges of the moaning seas, the white
shrouds of weeping mist. Wander forth upon the uplands and among the
lonely hills and rock-seamed sides of the mountains, and you will find
the same sadness everywhere: a grieving world under a grieving sky.
Quiet desolation hides among the hills, tears tremble on every brown
grass-blade, white mists of melancholy shut out the lower world.

Whoever has not felt the poignant sadness of the leafless days has never
known the real Ireland; the sadness that is present, though veiled, in
the green bravery of Spring, and under the songs of Summer. Nor have
they ever known the real Ireland who have not divined beneath that
poignant sadness a heart of joy, deep and perpetual, made only keener by
that sad outward show.

Here in our visible life is a whisper and hint of our life invisible; of
the secret that runs through and interprets so much of our history. For
very much of our nation's life has been like the sadness of those autumn
days,--a tale of torn leaves, of broken branches, of tears everywhere.
Tragedy upon tragedy has filled our land with woe and sorrow, and, as
men count success, we have failed of it, and received only misery and
deprivation. He has never known the true Ireland who does not feel that
woe. Yet, more, he knows not the real Ireland who cannot feel within
that woe the heart of power and joy,--the strong life outlasting darkest
night,--the soul that throbs incessantly under all the calamities of the
visible world, throughout the long tragedy of our history.

This is our secret: the life that is in sorrow as in joy; the power that
is not more in success than in failure--the one soul whose moods these
are, who uses equally life and death.

For the tale of our life is mainly tragedy. And we may outline now the
manner in which that tale will be told. We shall have, first, a long,
dim dawn,--mysterious peoples of the hidden past coming together to our
land from the outlying darkness. A first period, which has left abundant
and imperishable traces everywhere among our hills and valleys, writing
a large history in massive stone, yet a history which, even now, is dim
as the dawn it belongs to. What can be called forth from that Archaic
Darkness, in the backward and abysm of Time, we shall try to evoke;
drawing the outlines of a people who, with large energies in our visible
world, toiled yet more for the world invisible; a people uniform through
the whole land and beyond it, along many neighboring shores; a people
everywhere building; looking back into a long past; looking forward
through the mists of the future. A people commemorating the past in a
form that should outlast the future. A people undertaking great
enterprises for mysterious ends; whose works are everywhere among us, to
this day, imperishable in giant stone; yet a people whose purposes are
mysterious to us, whose very name and tongue are quite unknown. Their
works still live all around us in Ireland, spread evenly through the
four provinces, a world of the vanished past enduring among us into the
present; and, so mightily did these old builders work, and with such
large simplicity, that what they built will surely outlast every
handiwork of our own day, and endure through numberless to-morrows,
bridging the morning and evening twilight of our race.

After this Archaic Dawn we shall find a mingling of four races in
Ireland, coming together from widely separated homes, unless one of the
four be the descendant of the archaic race, as well it may be. From the
surging together of these four races we shall see, in almost
pre-historic times, the growth of a well-knit polity; firm
principalities founded, strong battles fought, a lasting foundation of
law. In this Second Epoch, every thing that in the first was dim and
vague grows firm in outline and defined. Names, places, persons,--we
know them all as if they were of to-day. This is the age which flowered
in the heroic days of Emain of Maca, Emain 'neath the beech-trees, the
citadel of northeastern Ireland. Here we shall find the court of Fergus
mac Roeg, a man too valiant, too passionate, too generous to rule
altogether wisely; his star darkened by the gloomy genius of Concobar
his stepson, the evil lover of ill-fated Deirdre. Cuculain, too, the
war-loving son of Sualtam, shall rise again,--in whom one part of our
national genius finds its perfect flower. We shall hear the thunder of
his chariot, at the Battle of the Headland of the Kings, when Meave the
winsome and crafty queen of Connacht comes against him, holding in
silken chains of her tresses the valiant spirit of Fergus. The whole
life of that heroic epoch, still writ large upon the face of the land,
shall come forth clear and definite; we shall stand by the threshold of
Cuculain's dwelling, and move among the banquet-halls of Emain of Maca.
We shall look upon the hills and valleys that Meave and Deirdre looked
on, and hear the clash of spear and shield at the Ford of the
river,--and this even though we must go back two thousand years.

To this will follow a Third Epoch, where another side of Ireland's
genius will write itself in epic all across the land, with songs for
every hillside, and stories for every vale and grove. Here our more
passionate and poetic force will break forth in the lives of Find, son
of Cumal, the lord of warriors; in his son Ossin, most famous bard of
the western lands, and Ossin's son Oscar, before whose might even the
fiends and sprites cowered back dismayed. As the epoch of Cuculain shows
us our valor finding its apotheosis, so shall we find in Find and Ossin
and Oscar the perfect flower of our genius for story and song; for
romantic life and fine insight into nature; for keen wit and gentler
humor. The love of nature, the passion for visible beauty, and chiefly
the visible beauty of our land, will here show itself clearly,--a sense
of nature not merely sensuous, but thrilling with hidden and mystic
life. We shall find such perfection in this more emotional and poetic
side of Irish character as will leave little for coming ages to add. In
these two early epochs we shall see the perfecting of the natural man;
the moulding of rounded, gracious and harmonious lives, inspired with
valor and the love of beauty and song.

Did our human destiny stop there, with the perfect life of individual
men and women, we might well say that these two epochs of Ireland
contain it all; that our whole race could go no further. For no man
lived more valiant than Cuculain, more generous than Fergus, more full
of the fire of song than Ossin, son of Find. Nor amongst women were any
sadder than Deirdre and Grania; craftier than Meave, more winsome than
Nessa the mother of Concobar. Perfected flowers of human life all of
them,--if that be all of human life. So, were this all, we might well
consent that with the death of Oscar our roll of history might close;
there is nothing to add that the natural man could add.

But where the perfecting of the natural man ends, our truer human life
begins--the life of our ever-living soul. The natural man seeks victory;
he seeks wealth and possessions and happiness; the love of women, and
the loyalty of followers. But the natural man trembles in the face of
defeat, of sorrow, of subjection; the natural man cannot raise the
black veil of death.

Therefore for the whole world and for our land there was needed another
epoch, a far more difficult lesson,--one so remote from what had been of
old, that even now we only begin to understand it. To the Ireland that
had seen the valor of Cuculain, that had watched the wars of Fergus,--to
the Ireland that listened to the deeds of Find and the songs of
Ossin,--came the Evangel of Galilee, the darkest yet brightest message
ever brought to the children of earth. If we rightly read that Evangel,
it brought the doom of the natural man, and his supersession by the man
immortal; it brought the death of our personal perfecting and pride, and
the rising from the dead of the common soul, whereby a man sees another
self in his neighbor; sees all alike in the one Divine.

Of this one Divine, wherein we all live and live forever, pain is no
less the minister than pleasure; nay, pain is more its minister, since
pleasure has already given its message to the natural man. Of that one
Divine, sorrow and desolation are the messengers, alike with joy and
gladness; even more than joy and gladness, for the natural man has
tasted these. Of that one Divine, black and mysterious death is the
servant, not less than bright life; and life we had learned of old in
the sunshine.

[Illustration: In the Dargle, Co. Wicklow]

There came, therefore, to Ireland, as to a land cherished for enduring
purposes, first the gentler side, and then the sterner, of the Galilean
message. First, the epoch almost idyllic which followed after the
mission of Patrick; the epoch of learning and teaching the simpler
phrases of the Word. Churches and schools rose everywhere, taking the
place of fort and embattled camp. Chants went up at morning and at
evening, with the incense of prayer, and heaven seemed descended upon
earth. Our land, which had stood so high in the ranks of valor and
romance, now rose not less eminent for piety and fervid zeal, sending
forth messengers and ministers of the glad news to the heathen lands of
northern and central Europe, and planting refuges of religion within
their savage bounds. Beauty came forth in stone and missal, answering to
the beauty of life it was inspired by; and here, if anywhere upon earth
through a score of centuries, was realized the ideal of that prayer for
the kingdom, as in heaven, so on earth. Here, again, we have most ample
memorials scattered all abroad throughout the land; we can call up the
whole epoch, and make it stand visible before us, visiting every shrine
and sacred place of that saintly time, seeing, with inner eyes, the
footsteps of those who followed that path, first traced out by the
shores of Gennesaret.

Once more, if the kingdom come upon earth were all of the message, we
might halt here; for here forgiveness and gentle charity performed their
perfect work, and learning was present with wise counsel to guide
willing feet in the way. Yet this is not all; nor, if we rightly
understand that darkest yet brightest message, are we or is mankind
destined for such an earthly paradise; our kingdom is not of this world.
Here was another happiness, another success; yet not in that happiness
nor in that success was hid the secret; it lay far deeper. Therefore we
find that morning with its sunshine rudely clouded over, its promise
swept away in the black darkness of storms. Something more than holy
living remained to be learned; there remained the mystery of failure and
death--that death which is the doorway to our real life. Therefore upon
our shores broke wave after wave of invasion, storm after storm of
cruelest oppression and degradation. In the very dust was our race
ground down, destitute, afflicted, tormented, according to prophecy and
promise. Nor was that the end. Every bitterness that the heart of man
can conceive, that the heart of man can inflict, that the heart of man
can endure, was poured into our cup, and we drained it to the dregs. Of
that saddest yet most potent time we shall record enough to show not
only what befell through our age of darkness, but also, so far as may
be, what miraculous intent underlay it, what promise the darkness
covered, of our future light; what golden rays of dawn were hidden in
our gloom.

Finally, from all our fiery trials we shall see the genius of our land
emerge, tried indeed by fire, yet having gained fire's purity; we shall
see that genius beginning, as yet with halting speech, to utter its most
marvelous secret of the soul of man. We shall try at least to gain clear
sight of our great destiny, and thereby of the like destiny of
universal man.

For we cannot doubt that what we have passed through, all men and all
nations either have passed through already, or are to pass through in
the time to come. There is but one divine law, one everlasting purpose
and destiny for us all. And if we see other nations now entering that
time of triumph which passed for us so long ago, that perfecting of the
natural man, with his valor and his song, we shall with fear and
reverence remember that before them also lie the dark centuries of fiery
trial; the long night of affliction, the vigils of humiliation and
suffering. The one Divine has not yet laid aside the cup that holds the
bitter draught,--the drinking of which comes ever before the final gift
of the waters of life. What we passed through, they shall pass through
also; what we suffered, they too shall suffer. Well will it be with them
if, like us, they survive the fierce trial, and rise from the fire
immortal, born again through sacrifice.

Therefore I see in Ireland a miraculous and divine history, a life and
destiny invisible, lying hid within her visible life. Like that
throbbing presence of the night which whispers along the hills, this
diviner whisper, this more miraculous and occult power, lurks in our
apparent life. From the very gray of her morning, the children of
Ireland were preoccupied with the invisible world; it was so in the
darkest hours of our oppression and desolation; driven from this world,
we took refuge in that; it was not the kingdom of heaven upon earth, but
the children of earth seeking a refuge in heaven. So the same note rings
and echoes through all our history; we live in the invisible world. If
I rightly understand our mission and our destiny, it is this: To restore
to other men the sense of that invisible; that world of our immortality;
as of old our race went forth carrying the Galilean Evangel. We shall
first learn, and then teach, that not with wealth can the soul of man be
satisfied; that our enduring interest is not here but there, in the
unseen, the hidden, the immortal, for whose purposes exist all the
visible beauties of the world. If this be our mission and our purpose,
well may our fair mysterious land deserve her name: Inis Fail, the Isle
of Destiny.



Westward from Sligo--Town of the River of Shells--a tongue of land runs
toward the sea between two long bays. Where the two bays join their
waters, a mountain rises precipitous, its gray limestone rocks soaring
sheer upwards, rugged and formidable. Within the shadow of the mountain
is hidden a wonderful glen--a long tunnel between cliffs, densely arched
over with trees and fringed with ferns; even at midday full of a green
gloom. It is a fitting gateway to the beauty and mystery of
the mountain.

Slowly climbing by stony ways, the path reaches the summit, a rock table
crowned with a pyramid of loose boulders, heaped up in olden days as a
memorial of golden-haired Maeve. From the dead queen's pyramid a view of
surpassing grandeur and beauty opens over sea and land, mingled valley
and hill. The Atlantic stretches in illimitable blue, curved round the
rim of the sky, a darker mirror of the blue above. It is full of
throbbing silence and peace. Across blue fields of ocean, and facing
the noonday brightness of the sun, rise the tremendous cliffs of Slieve
League, gleaming with splendid colors through the shimmering air; broad
bands of amber and orange barred with deeper red; the blue weaves
beneath them and the green of the uplands above.

The vast amber wall rises out of the ocean, and passes eastward in a
golden band till it merges in the Donegal highlands with their
immeasurable blue. Sweeping round a wide bay, the land drawls nearer
again, the far-away blue darkening to purple, and then to green and
brown. The sky is cut by the outlines of the Leitrim and Sligo hills, a
row of rounded peaks against the blue, growing paler and more
translucent in the southern distance.

Under the sun, there is a white glinting of lakes away across the plain,
where brown and purple are blended with green in broad spaces of
mingling color. To the west the ground rises again into hills crowded
behind each other, sombre masses, for ages called the Mountains of
Storms. Far beyond them, vague as blue cloud-wreaths in the blue, are
the hills that guard our western ocean. From their sunset-verges the
land draws near again, in the long range of the Mayo cliffs,--fierce
walls of rock that bar the fiercer ocean from a wild world of
storm-swept uplands. The cliffs gradually lessen, and their colors grow
clearer, till they sink at last toward the sand-banks of Ballysadare,
divided from us only by a channel of shallow sea.

The whole colored circle of sea and land, of moor and mountain, is full
of the silence of intense and mighty power. The ocean is tremulous with
the breath of life. The mountains, in their stately beauty, rise like
immortals in the clear azure. The signs of our present works are dwarfed
to insignificance.

Everywhere within that wide world of hill and plain, and hardly less
ancient than the hills themselves, are strewn memorials of another world
that has vanished, sole survivors of a long-hidden past. A wordless
history is written there, in giant circles of stone and cromlechs of
piled blocks, so old that in a land of most venerable tradition their
very legend has vanished away.

Close under us lies Carrowmore, with its labyrinth of cromlechs and
stone circles, a very city of dead years. There is something
awe-inspiring in the mere massiveness of these piled and ordered stones,
the visible boundaries of invisible thoughts; that awe is deepened by
the feeling of the tremendous power lavished in bringing them here,
setting them up in their ordered groups, and piling the crowns of the
cromlechs on other only less gigantic stones; awe gives place to
overwhelming mystery when we can find no kinship to our own thoughts and
aims in their stately grouping. We are in presence of archaic purposes
recorded in a massive labyrinth, purposes darkly hidden from us in
the unknown.

There are circles of huge boulders ranged at equal distances, firmly set
upright in the earth. They loom vast, like beads of a giant necklace on
the velvet grass. There are cromlechs set alone--a single huge boulder
borne aloft in the air on three others of hardly less weight. There are
cromlechs set in the midst of titanic circles of stone, with lesser
boulders guarding the cromlechs closer at hand. There are circles beside
circles rising in their grayness, with the grass and heather carpeting
their aisles. There they rest in silence, with the mountain as their
companion, and, beyond the mountain, the ever-murmuring sea.

Thus they have kept their watch through long dark ages. When sunrise
reddens them, their shadows stretch westward in bars of darkness over
the burnished grass. From morning to midday the shadows shrink, ever
hiding from the sun; an army of wraiths, sprite-like able to grow
gigantic or draw together into mere blots of darkness. When day
declines, the shadows come forth again, joining ghostly hands from stone
to stone, from circle to circle, under the sunset sky, and merging at
last into the universal realm of night. Thus they weave their web,
inexorable as tireless Time.

There are more than threescore of these circles at Carrowmore, under
Knocknarea. Yet Carrowmore is only one among many memorials of dead
years within our horizon. At Abbey-quarter, within the town-limits of
Sligo itself, there is another great ring of boulders, the past and the
present mingling together. On the northern coast, across the Bay of
Sligo, where the headland of Streedagh juts forth into the sea, there is
another giant necklace of gray blocks ranged upon the moor. Farther
along the shore, where Bundoran marks the boundary of Donegal, a
cromlech and a stone circle rise among the sand-banks. All have the same
rugged and enduring massiveness, all are wrapped in the same mystery.

Eastward from Sligo, Lough Gill lies like a mirror framed in hills,
wreathed with dark green woods. On a hill-top north of the lake, in the
Deer-park, is a monument of quite other character--a great oblong
marked by pillared stones, like an open temple. At three points huge
stones are laid across from pillar to pillar. The whole enclosure was
doubtless so barred in days of old, a temple of open arches crowning the
summit of the hill. The great ruin by the lake keeps its secret well.

Another ring of giant stones rests on a hillside across the lake, under
the Cairn hill, with its pyramid crown. All these are within easy view
from our first vantage-point on Knocknarea, yet they are but the
outposts of an army which spreads everywhere throughout the land. They
are as common in wild and inaccessible places as on the open plain. Some
rise in lonely islands off the coast; others on the summits of
mountains; yet others in the midst of tilled fields. They bear no
relation at all to the land as it is to-day. The very dispersion of
these great stone monuments, scattered equally among places familiar or
wild, speaks of a remote past--a past when all places were alike wild,
or all alike familiar.

Where the gale-swept moors of Achill Island rise up toward the slope of
Slievemore Mountain, there are stone circles and cromlechs like the
circles of Carrowmore. The wild storms of the Atlantic rush past them,
and the breakers roar under their cliffs. The moorland round the
towering mountain is stained with ochre and iron under a carpet of
heather rough as the ocean winds.

Away to the south from Slievemore the horizon is broken by an army of
mountains, beginning with the Twelve Peaks of Connemara. Eastward of
these hills are spread the great Galway lakes; eastward of these a wide
expanse of plain. This is the famous Moytura of traditional history,
whose story we shall presently tell. Ages ago a decisive battle was
fought there; but ages before the battle, if we are not greatly misled,
the stone circles of the plain were already there. Tradition says that
these circles numbered seven in the beginning, but only two
remain unbroken.

Between Galway Bay and the wide estuary of the Shannon spread the
moorlands of Clare, bleak under Atlantic gales, with never a tree for
miles inward from the sea. Like a watch-tower above the moorlands stand.
Slieve Callan, the crown of the mountain abruptly shorn. Under the
shoulder of the great hill, with the rolling moorlands all about it,
stands a solitary cromlech; formed of huge flat stones, it was at first
a roomy chamber shut in on all four sides, and roofed by a single
enormous block; the ends have fallen, so that it is now an open tunnel
formed of three huge stones.

The coast runs southward from the Shannon to the strand of Tralee, the
frontier of the southern mountain world, where four ranges of red
sandstone thrust themselves forth towards the ocean, with long fiords
running inland between them. On a summit of the first of these red
ranges, Caherconree above Tralee strand, there is a stone circle,
massive, gigantic, dwelling in utter solitude.

We have recorded a few only out of many of these great stone monuments
strewn along our Atlantic coast, whether on moor or cliff or remote

There are others as notable everywhere in the central plain, the
limestone world of lakes and rivers. On a green hill-crest overlooking
the network of inlets of Upper Erne there is a circle greater than any
we have recorded. The stones are very massive, some of them twice the
height of a tall man. To one who stands within the ring these huge
blocks of stone shut out the world; they loom large against the sky,
full of unspoken secrets like the Sphinx. Within this mighty ring the
circle of Stonehenge might be set, leaving a broad road all round it on
the grass.

From Fermanagh, where this huge circle is, we gain our best clue to the
age of all these monuments, everywhere so much like each other in their
massive form and dimensions, everywhere so like in their utter mystery.
Round the lakes of Erne there are wide expanses of peat, dug as fuel for
centuries, and in many places as much as twelve feet deep, on a bed of
clay, the waste of old glaciers. Though formed with incredible slowness,
this whole mass of peat has grown since some of the great stone
monuments were built; if we can tell the time thus taken for its growth
we know at least the nearer limit of the time that divides us from
their builders.

Like a tree, the peat has its time of growth and its time of rest.
Spring covers it with green, winter sees it brown and dead. Thus thin
layers are spread over it, a layer for a year, and it steadily gains in
thickness with the passing of the years. The deeper levels are buried
and pressed down, slowly growing firm and rigid, but still keeping the
marks of the layers that make them up. It is like a dry ocean gradually
submerging the land. Gathering round the great stone circles as they
stand on the clay, this black sea has risen slowly but surely, till at
last it has covered them with its dark waves, and they rest in the
quiet depths, with a green foam of spring freshness far above
their heads.

At Killee and Breagho, near Enniskillen, the peat has once more been cut
away, restoring some of these great stones to the light. If we count the
layers and measure the thickness of the peat, we can tell how many years
are represented by its growth. We can, therefore, tell that the great
stone circle, which the first growth of peat found already there, must
be at least as old, and may be indefinitely older. By careful count it
is found that one foot of black peat is made up of eight hundred layers;
eight hundred summers and eight hundred winters went to the building of
it. One foot of black peat, therefore, will measure the time from before
the founding of Rome or the First Olympiad to the beginning of our era.
Another foot will bring us to the crowning of Charlemagne. Yet another,
to the death of Shakespeare and Cervantes. Since then, only a few inches
have been added. Here is a chronometer worthy of our great cromlechs and
stone circles.

Some of these, as we saw, rest on the clay, with a sea of peat twelve
feet deep around and above them. Every foot of the peat stands for eight
centuries. Since the peat began to form, eight or ten thousand years
have passed, and when that vast period began, the great monuments of
stone were already there. How long they had stood in their silence
before our chronometer began to run we cannot even guess.

At Cavancarragh, on the shoulder of Toppid Mountain, some four miles
from Enniskillen, there is one of these circles; a ring of huge stone
boulders with equal spaces between stone and stone. A four-fold avenue
of great blocks stretches away from it along the shoulder of the hill,
ending quite abruptly at the edge of a ravine, the steep channel of a
torrent. It looks as if the river, gradually undermining the hillside,
had cut the avenue in halves, so that the ravine seems later in date
than the stones. But that we cannot be quite sure of. This, however, we
do certainly know: that since the avenue of boulders and the circle of
huge red stones were ranged in order, a covering of peat in some parts
twelve feet thick has grown around and above them, hiding them at last
altogether from the day. In places the peat has been cut away again,
leaving the stones once more open to the light, standing, as they always
stood, on the surface of the clay.

Here again we get the same measurement. At eight hundred annual layers
to the foot, and with twelve feet of peat, we have nine thousand six
hundred years,--not for the age of the stone circles, but for that part
of their age which we are able to measure. For we know not how long they
were there before the peat began to grow. It may have been a few years;
it may have been a period as great or even greater than the ten thousand
years we are able to measure.

The peat gradually displaced an early forest of giant oaks. Their stems
are still there, standing rooted in the older clay. Where they once
stood no trees now grow. The whole face of the land has changed. Some
great change of climate must lie behind this vanishing of vast forests,
this gradual growth of peat-covered moors. A dry climate must have
changed to one much damper; heat must have changed to cold, warm winds
to chilly storms. In the southern promontories, among red sandstone
hills, still linger survivors of that more genial clime--groves of
arbutus that speak of Greece or Sicily; ferns, as at Killarney, found
elsewhere only in the south, in Portugal, or the Canary Islands.

[Illustration: Muckross Abbey, Killarney.]

On the southwestern horizon from Toppid Mountain, when the sky is clear
after rain, you can trace the outline of the Curlew hills, our
southern limit of view from Knocknarea. Up to the foot of the hills
spreads a level country of pastures dappled with lakes, broken into a
thousand fantastic inlets by the wasting of the limestone rock. The
daisies are the stars in that green sky. Just beyond the young stream of
the Shannon, where it links Lough Garra to Lough Key, there is a lonely
cromlech, whose tremendous crown was once upheld by five massive
pillars. There is a kindred wildness and mystery in the cromlech and the
lonely hills.

Southward again of this, where the town of Lough Rea takes its name from
the Gray Lake, stands a high hill crowned by a cromlech, with an
encircling earthwork. It marks a green ring of sacred ground alone upon
the hill-top, shut off from all the world, and with the mysterious
monument of piled stones in its centre; here, as always, one huge block
upheld in the air by only lesser blocks. The Gray Lake itself, under
this strange sentry on the hill, was in long-passed ages a little
Venice; houses built on piles lined its shores, set far enough out into
the lake for safety, ever ready to ward off attack from the land. This
miniature Venice of Lough Rea is the type of a whole epoch of turbulent
tribal war, when homes were everywhere clustered within the defence of
the waters, with stores laid up to last the rigors of a siege.

The contrast between the insecurity and peril of the old lake dwellings
and the present safety of the town, open on all sides, unguarded and
free from fear, is very marked. But not less complete is the contrast
between the ancient hamlet, thus hidden for security amid the waters,
and the great cromlech, looming black against the sky on the hill's
summit, exposed to the wildness of the winds, utterly unguarded, yet
resting there in lonely serenity.

A little farther south, Lough Gur lies like a white mirror among the
rolling pasture-lands of Limerick, set amongst low hills. On the lake's
shore is another metropolis of the dead, worthy to compare with
Carrowmore on the Sligo headland. Some of the circles here are not
formed of single stones set at some distance from each other, but of a
continuous wall of great blocks crowded edge to edge. They are like
round temples open to the sky, and within one of these unbroken rings is
a lesser ring like an inner shrine. All round the lake there are like
memorials--if we can call memorials these mighty groups of stone, which
only remind us how much we have forgotten. There are huge circles of
blocks either set close together or with an equal space dividing boulder
from boulder; some of the giant circles are grouped together in twos and
threes, others are isolated; one has its centre marked by a single
enormous block, while another like block stands farther off in lonely
vastness. Here also stands a chambered cromlech of four huge flat blocks
roofed over like the cromlech under Slieve Callan across the
Shannon mouth.

The southern horizon from Lough Gur is broken by the hills of red
sandstone rising around Glanworth. Beside the stream, a tributary of the
Blackwater, a huge red cromlech rises over the greenness of the meadows
like a belated mammoth in its uncouth might. To the southwest, under the
red hills that guard Killarney on the south, the Sullane River flows
towards the Lee. On its bank is another cromlech of red sandstone
blocks, twin-brother to the Glanworth pile. Beyond it the road passes
towards the sunset through mountain-shadowed glens, coming out at last
where Kenmare River opens into a splendid fiord towards the Atlantic
Ocean. At Kenmare, in a vale of perfect beauty green with groves of
arbutus and fringed with thickets of fuchsia, stands a great stone
circle, the last we shall record to the south. Like all the rest, it
speaks of tremendous power, of unworldly and mysterious ends.

The very antiquity of these huge stone circles suggests an affinity with
the revolving years. And here, perhaps, we may find a clue to their
building. They may have been destined to record great Time itself, great
Time that circles forever through the circling years. There is first the
year to be recorded, with its revolving days; white winter gleaming into
spring; summer reddening and fading to autumn. Returning winter tells
that the year has gone full circle; the sun among the stars gives the
definite measure of the days. A ring of thirty-six great boulders, set
ten paces apart, would give the measure of the year in days; and of
circles like this there are more than one.

In this endless ring of days the moon is the measurer, marking the hours
and weeks upon the blue belt of night studded with golden stars. Moving
stealthily among the stars, the moon presently changes her place by a
distance equal to her own breadth; we call the time this takes an hour.
From her rising to her setting, she gains her own breadth twelve times;
therefore, the night and the day are divided each into twelve hours.
Meanwhile she grows from crescent to full disk, to wane again to a
sickle of light, and presently to lose herself in darkness at new moon.
From full moon to full moon, or from one new moon to another, the
nearest even measure is thirty days; a circle of thirty stones would
record this, as the larger circle of thirty-six recorded the solar year.
In three years there are thrice twelve full moons, with one added; a
ring of thirty-seven stones representing this would show the simplest
relation between sun and moon.

The moon, as we saw, stealthily glides among the fixed stars, gaining
her own width every hour. Passing thus along the mid belt of the sphere,
she makes the complete circuit in twenty-seven days, returning to the
same point among the stars, or, if it should so happen, to the same
star, within that time. Because the earth has meanwhile moved forward,
the moon needs three days more to overtake it and gain the same relative
position towards earth and sun, thus growing full again, not after
twenty-seven, but after thirty days. Circles of twenty-seven and thirty
days would stand for these lunar epochs, and would, for those who
understood them, further bear testimony to the earth's movement in its
own great path around the sun. Thus would rings of varying numbers mark
the measures of time; and not these only, but the great sweep of orbs
engendering them, the triumphal march of the spheres through pathless
ether. The life of our own world would thus be shown bound up with the
lives of others in ceaseless, ever-widening circles, that lead us to the
Infinite, the Eternal.

All the cromlechs and circles we have thus far recorded are in the
western half of our land; there are as many, as worthy of note, in the
eastern half. But as before we can only pick out a few. One of these
crowns the volcanic peak of Brandon Hill, in Kilkenny, dividing the
valleys of the Barrow and Nore. From the mountain-top you can trace the
silver lines of the rivers coming together to the south, and flowing
onward to the widening inlet of Wexford harbor, where they mingle with
the waters of the River Suir. On the summit of Brandon Hill stands a
great stone circle, a ring of huge basalt blocks dominating the rich
valleys and the surrounding plain.

In Glen Druid of the Dublin hills is a cromlech whose granite crown
weighs seventy tons. Not far off is the Mount Venus cromlech, the
covering block of which is even more titanic; it is a single stone
eighty tons in weight. Near Killternan village, a short distance off, is
yet another cromlech whose top-most boulder exceeds both of these,
weighing not less than ninety tons. Yet vast as all these are, they are
outstripped by the cromlech of Howth, whose upper block is twenty feet
square and eight feet thick, a single enormous boulder one hundred tons
in weight. This huge stone was borne in the air upon twelve massive
pillars of quartz, seven feet above the ground, so that a man of average
height standing on the ground and reaching upward could just touch the
under surface of the block with his finger-tips. Even a tall man
standing on the shoulders of another as tall would quite fail to touch
the upper edge of the stone. If we give this marvelous monument the same
age as the Fermanagh circles, as we well may, this raising of a single
boulder of one hundred tons, and balancing it in the air on the crest of
massive pillars may give us some insight into the engineering skill of
the men of ten thousand years ago.

Across the central plain from Howth Head the first break is the range of
Loughcrew hills. Here are great stone circles in numbers, not standing
alone like so many others, but encompassing still stranger monuments;
chambered pyramids of boulders, to which we shall later return. They
are lesser models of the three great pyramids of Brugh on the Boyne,
where the river sweeps southward in a long curve, half-encircling a
headland of holy ground.

From near Howth to the Boyne and north of it, the coast is low and flat;
sandhills matted with bent-grass and starred with red thyme and tiny
pansies, yellow and purple and blue. Low tide carries the sea almost to
the horizon, across a vast wilderness of dripping sand where the gulls
chatter as they wade among the pools. Where the shore rises again
towards the Carlingford Mountains, another cromlech stands under the
shadow of granite hills.

A long fiord with wooded walls divides the Carlingford range from the
mountains of Mourne. The great dark range thrusts itself forth against
the sea in somber beauty, overhanging the wide strand of Dundrum Bay.
The lesser bay, across whose bar the sea moans under the storm-winds, is
dominated by the hill of Rudraige, named in honor of a hero of old days;
but under the shadow of the hill stands a more ancient monument, that
was gray with age before the race of Rudraige was born. On five pillars
of massive stone is upreared a sixth, of huge and formidable bulk, and
carrying even to us in our day a sense of mystery and might. The potent
atmosphere of a hidden past still breathes from it, whispering of
vanished years, vanished races, vanished secrets of the prime.

There are two circles of enormous stones on the tongue of land between
Dundrum Bay and Strangford, both very perfect and marked each in its own
way from among the rest. The first, at Legamaddy, has every huge boulder
still in place. There is a lesser ring of stones within the first
circle, with many outliers, of enormous size, dotted among the fields.
It looks as if a herd of huge animals of the early world had come
together in a circle for the night, the young being kept for safety
within their ring, while others, grazing longer or wandering farther
from the rest, were approaching the main herd. But nightfall coming upon
them with dire magic turned them all to stone; and there they remain,
sentient, yet motionless, awaiting the day of their release. By fancies
like this we may convey the feeling of mystery breathing from them.

On the hill-top of Slieve-na-griddle is another circle of the same
enormous boulders. A cromlech is piled in the midst of it, and an avenue
of stones leads up to the circle. Its form is that of many circles with
enclosed cromlechs at Carrowmore, though in these the avenue is missing.
The thought that underlies them is the same, though they are separated
by the whole width of the land; a single cult with a single ideal
prompted the erection of both.

At Drumbo, on the east bank of the Lagan before it reaches Belfast
Lough, there is a massive cromlech surrounded by a wide ring of earth
piled up high enough to cut off the sacred space within from all view of
the outer world. Like the earthwork round the cromlech of Lough Rea, it
marks the boundary of a great nature temple, open to the sky but shut
off from mankind. Even now its very atmosphere breathes reverence.

At Finvoy, in northern Antrim, among the meadows of the Bann, there is a
cromlech within a great stone circle like that on Slieve-na-griddle in
Down, and like many of the Carrowmore rings. The Black Lion cromlech in
Cavan is encircled with a like ring of boulders, and another cromlech
not far off rivals some of the largest in the immense size of its
crowning block.

Three cromlechs in the same limestone plain add something to the mystery
that overhangs all the rest. The first, at Lennan in Monaghan, is marked
with a curious cryptic design, suggesting a clue, yet yielding none.
There is a like script on the cromlech at Castlederg in Tyrone, if
indeed the markings were ever the record of some thought to be
remembered, and not mere ornament. The chambered cromlech of Lisbellaw
in Fermanagh has like markings; they are too similar to be quite
independent, yet almost too simple to contain a recorded thought.

We come once more to Donegal. On the hill-top of Beltaney, near Raphoe,
there is a very massive circle formed of sixty-seven huge blocks. Here
again the Stonehenge ring might be set up within the Irish circle,
leaving an avenue eight paces wide all round it. The sacred fire was
formerly kindled here to mark the birth of Spring. The name of the old
festival of Beltane still lingers on the hill. At Culdaff in north
Donegal, at the end of the Inishowen peninsula, stands another great
stone circle, with which we must close our survey of these titanic

We have mentioned a few only among many; yet enough to show their
presence everywhere throughout the land, in the valleys or on mountain
summits, in the midst of pastures or on lonely and rugged isles. One
group, as we have seen, cannot be younger than ten thousand years, and
may be far older. The others may be well coeval. Their magnitude, their
ordered ranks, their universal presence, are a startling revelation of
the material powers of the men of that remote age; they are a testimony,
not less wonderful, of the moral force which dedicated so much power to
ideal ends. Finally, they are a monument to remind us how little we yet
know of the real history of our race.



In every district of Ireland, therefore, there remain these tremendous
and solemn survivors of a mighty past. The cromlechs, with their
enormous masses upheld in the air, rising among the fertile fields or
daisy-dotted pastures; the great circles of standing stones, starred
everywhere, in the valleys or upon the uplands, along the rough sides of
heather-covered hills. They have everywhere the same aspect of august
mystery, the same brooding presence, like sentinels of another world. It
is impossible not to feel their overshadowing majesty. Everywhere they
follow the same designs in large simplicity; inspired by the same
purpose, and with the same tireless might overcoming the tremendous
obstacles of their erection; they are devoted everywhere not to material
and earthly ends, but to the ideal purposes of the invisible and
everlasting, linked with the hidden life of those who pass away from us
through the gates of death.

Can we find any clue to the builders of these grand and enduring
memorials, the conditions of their building, the age of our land to
which they belong? If we wisely use the abundant knowledge of the past
already in our possession, there is good reason to believe we can,
establishing much with entire certainty and divining more.

The standing stones and cromlechs, as we know, are everywhere spread
over Ireland, so that it is probable that throughout the whole country
one is never out of sight of one of these solemn monuments. Their
uniform and universal presence shows, therefore, a uniform race dwelling
everywhere within the four seas, a universal stability and order,
allowing such great and enduring works to be undertaken and completed.
We must believe, too, that the builders of these giant stone monuments
were dominant throughout the land, possessing entire power over the
labor of thousands everywhere; and even then the raising of these
titanic masses is almost miraculous.

But the history of the standing stones and cromlechs is not a page of
Irish history only, nor can we limit to our own isle the presence of
their builders, the conditions of dominion and order under which alone
they could have been raised. We shall gain our first trustworthy clue
by tracing the limits of the larger territory, beyond our island, where
these same gray memorials are found.

[Illustration: Brandy Island, Glengarriff.]

The limits of the region in which alone we find these piles and circles
of enormous stones are clearly and sharply defined, though this region
itself is of immense and imposing extent. It is divided naturally into
two provinces, both starting from a point somewhere in the neighborhood
of Gibraltar or Mount Atlas, and spreading thence over a territory of
hundreds of miles.

The southern cromlech province, beginning at the Strait of Gibraltar,
extends eastward along the African coast past Algiers to the headland of
Tunis, where Carthage stood, at a date far later than the age of
cromlechs. Were it not for the flaming southern sun, the scorched sands,
the palms, the shimmering torrid air, we might believe these Algerian
megaliths belonged to our own land, so perfect is the resemblance, so
uniform the design, so identical the inspiration. The same huge
boulders, oblong or egg-shaped, formidable, impressive, are raised aloft
on massive supporting stones; there are the same circles of stones
hardly less gigantic, with the same mysterious faces, the same silent
solemnity. Following this line, we find them again in Minorca, Sardinia
and Malta; everywhere under warm blue skies, in lands of olives and
trailing vines, with the peacock-blue of the Mediterranean waves
twinkling beneath them. Northward from Minorca, but still in our
southern cromlech province, we find them in southeastern Spain, in the
region of New Carthage, but far older than the oldest trace of that
ancient city. In lesser numbers they follow the Spanish coast up towards
the Ebro, through vinelands and lands of figs, everywhere under summer
skies. This province, therefore, our southern cromlech province, covers
most of the western Mediterranean; it does not cover, nor even approach,
Italy or Greece or Egypt, the historic Mediterranean lands. We must look
for its origin in the opposite direction--towards Gibraltar, the Pillars
of Hercules.

From the same point, the Pillars of Hercules, begins our second or
northern cromlech region, even larger and more extensive than the first,
though hardly richer in titanic memorials. From Gibraltar, the cromlech
region passes northward, covering Portugal and western Spain; indeed, it
probably merges in the other province to the eastward, the two including
all Spain between them. From northern Spain, turning the flank of the
giant Pyrenees at Fontarrabia, the cromlech region goes northward and
ever northward, along the Atlantic coast of France, spreading eastward
also through the central provinces, covering the mountains of the Cote
d'Or and the Cevennes, but nowhere entering north Italy or Germany,
which limit France to the east. There is a tremendous culmination of the
huge stone monuments on the capes and headlands of Brittany, where
France thrusts herself forward against the Atlantic, centring in Carnac,
the metropolis of a bygone world. Nowhere are there greater riches of
titanic stone, in circles, in cromlechs, in ranged avenues like huge
frozen armies or ordered hosts of sleeping elephants. From Brittany we
pass to Ireland, whose wealth, inherited from dead ages, we have already
inventoried, and Britain, where the same monuments reappear. More
numerous to the south and west, they yet spread all over Britain,
including remote northern Scotland and the Western Isles. Finally, there
is a streamer stretching still northeastward, to Norway and some of the
Baltic Islands.

We are, therefore, confronted with the visible and enduring evidence of
a mighty people, spreading in two main directions from the Pillars of
Hercules--eastward through Gibraltar Strait to sunny Algeria, to
southern Spain and the Mediterranean isles; and northward, along the
stormy shores of the Atlantic, from within sight of Africa almost to the
Arctic Circle, across Spain, Portugal, France, Ireland, Britain, and the
lands of the Baltic and the North Sea. Throughout this vast territory
there must have been a common people, a common purpose and inspiration,
a common striving towards the hidden world; there must have been long
ages of order, of power, of peace, during which men's hearts could
conceive and their hands execute memorials so vast, so evidently meant
to endure to a far distant future, so clearly destined to ideal ends.
There must have been a great spiritual purpose, a living belief in the
invisible world, and a large practical power over natural forces, before
these huge monuments could be erected. Some of the stones upheld in the
air in the Irish cromlechs weigh eighty or ninety or a hundred tons. If
we estimate that a well-built man can lift two hundred pounds, it would
demand the simultaneous work of a thousand men to erect them; and it is
at least difficult to see how the effort of a thousand men could
be applied.

We are led, therefore, by evidence of the solidest material reality to
see this great empire on the Atlantic and along the western
Mediterranean; this Atlantean land of the cromlech-builders, as we may
call it, for want of a better name. As the thought and purpose of its
inhabitants are uniform throughout its whole vast extent, we are led to
see in them a single homogeneous race, working without rivals, without
obstacles, without contests, for they seem everywhere to have been free
to choose what sites they would for their gigantic structures. And we
are irresistibly led to believe that these conditions must have endured
throughout a vast extent of time, for no nation which does not look back
to a distant past will plan for a distant future. The spiritual sweep
and view of the cromlech-builders are, therefore, as great as the extent
of their territory. This mysterious people must have had a life as
wonderful as that of Greece or Rome or Egypt, whose territories we find
them everywhere approaching, but nowhere invading.

What we now know of the past history of our race is so vast, so
incredibly enormous, that we have ample space for such a territory, so
widespread, so enduring, as we have seen demanded by the position of the
cromlechs and standing stones; more than that, so overwhelming are the
distances in the dark backward and abysm of time, to which we must now
carry the dawn of human history, that the time needed for the building
of the cromlechs may seem quite recent and insignificant, in view of the
mightier past, stretching back through geologic ages. The nineteenth
century may well be called the age of resurrection, when long-forgotten
epochs of man were born again into our knowledge. We can carry back that
knowledge now to the early Miocene period, to which belong the human
relics found by the Abbe Bourgeois on the uplands of Thenay, in central
France; and no one believes that the early Miocene age can be as recent
as a million years ago. A vast space separates the Thenay relics from
the later traces of man found in Pliocene sands with the bones of the
archaic meridional elephant,--at a date when the German ocean was a
forest, full of southern trees and huge beasts now long since departed
from the earth. A period hardly less vast must separate these from the
close of the glacial age, when man roamed the plains of Europe, and
sketched the herds of mammoths as they cropped the leaves. That huge
beast, too, has long since departed into the abyss; but man the artist,
who recorded the massive outline, the huge bossed forehead, the
formidable bulk of the shaggy arctic elephant, engraved in firm lines on
a fragment of its tusk,--man still remains. Man was present when
rhinoceros and elephant were as common in Britain as they are to-day in
Southern India or Borneo; when the hippopotamus was as much at home in
the waters of the Thames as in the Nile and Niger; when huge bears like
the grizzly of the Rockies, cave-lions and sabre-toothed tigers lurked
in Devon caverns or chased the bison over the hills of Kent. Yet this
epoch of huge and ferocious monsters, following upon the Age of Ice, is
a recent chapter of the great epic of man; there lies far more behind
it, beyond the Age of Ice to the immensely distant Pliocene; beyond this
as far as the early Miocene; beyond this, again, how much further we
know not, towards the beginningless beginning, the infinite.

We are, therefore, face to face with an ordered series of almost
boundless ages, geologic epochs of human history succeeding each other
in majestic procession, as the face of our island was now tropical, now
arctic; as the seas swelled up and covered the hills, or the bottom of
the deep drove back the ocean and became dry land, an unbroken
continent. The wild dreams of romance never approached the splendid
outlines of this certain history.

There are dim outlines of man throughout all these ages, but only at a
comparatively recent date have we traditions and evidence pointing to
still surviving races. At a period of only a few thousand years ago, we
begin to catch glimpses of a northern race whom the old Greeks and
Romans called Hyperboreans or Far-Northerners; a race wild and little
skilled in the arts of life; a race of small stature, slight, dusky,
with piercing eyes, low brows, and of forbidding face. This race was
scattered over lands far north of the Mediterranean, dwelling in caves
and dens of the earth, and lingering on unchanged from the days of
mammoth and cave-bear. We have slight but definite knowledge of this
very ancient race--enough to show us that its peculiar type lingers to
this day in a few remote islands on the Galway and Kerry coast, mingled
with many later races. This type we find described in old Gaelic records
as the Firbolgs, a race weak and furtive, dusky and keen-eyed, subjected
by later races of greater force. Yet from this race, as if to show the
inherent and equal power of the soul, came holy saints and mighty
warriors; to the old race of the Firbolgs belong Saint Mansuy, apostle
of Belgium, and Roderick O'Conor, the last king of united Ireland. In
gloomy mountain glens and lonely ocean islands still it lingers,
unvanquished, tenacious, obscurely working out its secret destiny.

This slight and low-browed race, of dark or sallow visage, and with
black crisp hair, this Hyperborean people, is the oldest we can gain a
clear view of in our island's history; but we know nothing of its
extension or powers which would warrant us in believing that this was
the race which built the cromlechs. Greek and Roman tradition, in this
only corroborating the actual traces we ourselves possess of these old
races, tells us of another people many thousand years ago overrunning
and dominating the Firbolgs; a race of taller stature, of handsome
features, though also dark, but with softer black hair, not crisp and
tufted like the hair of the dwarfish earlier race. Of this second
conquering race, tall and handsome, we have abundant traces, gathered
from many lands where they dwelt; bodies preserved by art or nature, in
caverns or sepulchres of stone; ornaments, pottery, works decorative and
useful, and covering several thousand years in succession. But better
than this, we have present, through nearly every land where we know of
them in the past, a living remnant of this ancient race, like it in
every particular of stature, form, complexion and visage, identical in
character and temper, tendency and type of mind.

In Ireland we find this tall, dark race over all the west of the island,
but most numerous in Kerry, Clare, Galway and Mayo; in those regions
where, we know, the older population was least disturbed. In remote
villages among the mountains, reached by bridle-paths between
heath-covered hills; in the settlements of fishermen, under some cliff
or in the sheltered nook of one of our great western bays; or among the
lonely, little visited Atlantic islands, this dark, handsome race, with
its black hair, dark-brown eyes, sallow skin and high forehead, still
holds its own, as a second layer above the remnant of the far more
ancient Firbolg Hyperboreans. We find the same race also among the
Donegal highlands, here and there in the central plain or in the south,
and nowhere entirely missing among the varied races towards the
eastern sea.

[Illustration: Sugar Loaf Mountain, Glengarriff.]

But it is by no means in Ireland only that this tall, dark, western race
is found. It is numerously represented in the nearest extension of the
continent, among the headlands and bays and isles of Brittany--a land so
like our own western seaboard, with its wild Atlantic storms.
Following the ocean southward, we find the same race extending to the
Loire, the Garonne, the Pyrenees; stretching somewhat inland also, but
clinging everywhere to the Atlantic, as we also saw it cling in Ireland.
In earlier centuries, long before our era opened, we find this same race
spread far to the east,--as far, almost, as the German and Italian
frontier,--so that at one time it held almost complete possession of
France. South of the Pyrenees we find it once more; dominant in
Portugal, less strongly represented in Spain, yet still supplying a
considerable part of the population of the whole peninsula, as it does
in Ireland at the present day. But it does not stop with Spain, or even
Europe. We find the same race again in the Guanches of the Canary
islands, off the African coast; and, stranger still, we find mummies of
this race, of great antiquity, in the cave-tombs of Teneriffe. Further,
we have ample evidence of its presence, until displaced by Moorish
invaders, all along northern Africa as far as Tunis; and we come across
it again amongst the living races in the Mediterranean isles, in
Sardinia, Sicily and Southern Italy. Finally, the Tuaregs of the Central
Sahara belong to the same type. Everywhere the same tall, dark race,
handsome, imaginative; with a quite definite form of head, of brow, of
eyes; a well-marked character of visage, complexion, and texture
of hair.

Thus far the southern extension of this, our second Irish race; we may
look for a moment at its distribution in the north. Across the shallow
sea which separates us from Britain we find the same race, clinging
always to the Atlantic seaboard. It dominates south Wales, where its
presence was remarked and commented on by the invading Romans. It is
present elsewhere through the Welsh mountains, and much more sparsely
over the east of England; but we have ample evidence that at one time
this tall, dark race held the whole of England in undisputed possession,
except, perhaps, for a remnant of the Hyperborean dwarfs. In the west of
Scotland, and especially in the Western Isles, it is once more numerous;
and we find offshoots of the same race in the dark-haired
Norwegians,--still holding to the seaboard of the Atlantic.

Such is the distribution of this once dominant but now dwindled race,
which has gradually descended from the summit of power as ancient Rome
descended, as Greece descended, or Assyria or Egypt. But we can look
back with certainty to a time when this race, and this race only, held
complete possession of all the lands we have mentioned, in north or
south, in Europe or northern Africa; holding everywhere to the Atlantic
coast, or, as in the Mediterranean isles, evidently pressing inward from
the Atlantic, past the Pillars of Hercules, through the Strait of

It is evident at once that the territory of this race corresponds
exactly, throughout many countries, with the territory of the cromlechs
and standing stones; where we find the one, as in Ireland, Brittany,
Spain, we find the other; where the one is absent, as in Germany, or
northern Italy or Greece, the other is likewise absent. The identity is
complete. We are justified, therefore, in giving the same provisional
name to both, and calling them Atlantean, from their evident origin not
far from Atlas, and their everywhere clinging to the Atlantic coast. We
can find traces of no other race which at all closely fulfills the
necessary conditions of uniform and undisputed extension, through a long
epoch, over the whole cromlech region--the only conditions under which
we can conceive of the erection of these gigantic monuments, or of the
long established and universally extended spiritual conditions which
make possible such vast ideal enterprises.

In this race, therefore, which we have called Atlantean, we find the
conditions fulfilled; of this race, and of no other, we still find a
lingering remnant in each of the cromlech countries; and we hardly find
a trace of this race, either now or in the past, in the lands which have
no cromlechs or standing stones.

We have already seen that the standing stones of Cavancarragh, four
miles from Fermanagh, were, within the memory of men still living or of
their fathers, buried under ten or twelve feet of peat, which had
evidently formed there after their erection. We have here a natural
chronometer; for we know the rate at which peat forms, and we can,
therefore, assign a certain age to a given depth. We have given one mode
of reckoning already; we find it corroborated by another. In the Somme
valley, in northern France, we have a Nature's timepiece; in the peat,
at different levels, are relics of the Roman age; of the Gaulish age
which preceded it; and, far deeper, of pre-historic races, like our
Atlanteans, who preceded the Gauls. The date of the Roman remains we
know accurately; and from this standard we find that the peat grows
regularly some three centimeters a century, or a foot in a
thousand years.

On the mountain side, as at Cavancarragh, the growth is likely to be
slower than in a river valley; yet we may take the same rate, a foot a
thousand years, and we shall have, for this great stone circle, an
antiquity of ten or twelve thousand years at least. This assumes that
the peat began to form as soon as the monument was completed; but the
contrary may be the case; centuries may have intervened.

We may, however, take this as a provisional date, and say that our
cromlech epoch, the epoch of the Atlantean builders, from Algeria to
Ireland, from Ireland to the Baltic, is ten or twelve thousand years
ago; extending, perhaps, much further back in the past, and in certain
regions coming much further down towards the present, but having a
period of twelve thousand years ago as its central date. It happens that
we have traditions of a great dispersion from the very centre we have
been led to fix, the neighborhood of Atlas or Gibraltar, and that to
this dispersion tradition has given a date over eleven thousand years
ago; but to this side of the subject we cannot more fully allude; it
would take us too far afield.

We have gone far enough to make it tolerably certain, first, that these
great and wonderful monuments were built when uniform conditions of
order, uniform religious beliefs and aspirations, and a uniform mastery
over natural forces extended throughout a vast region spreading
northward and eastward from Mount Atlas or Gibraltar; we have seen,
next, that these conditions were furnished when a well-defined race,
whom we have called Atlantean, was spread as the dominant element over
this whole region; and, finally, we have seen reason to fix on a period
some eleven or twelve thousand years ago as the central period of that
domination, though it may have begun, and probably did begin, many
centuries earlier. The distribution of the cromlechs is certain; the
distribution of the race is certain; the age of one characteristic group
of the monuments is certain. Further than this we need not go.

When we try to form a clearer image of the life of this tall archaic
race of cromlech-builders, we can divine very much to fill the picture.
We note, to begin with, that not only do they always hold to the
Atlantic ocean as something kindred and familiar, but that they are
found everywhere in islands at such distances from the nearest coasts as
would demand a certain seamanship for their arrival. This is true of
their presence in Malta, Minorca, Sardinia; it is even more true of
Ireland, the Western Isles of Scotland, the Norwegian Isles; all of
which are surrounded by stormy and treacherous seas, where wrecks are
very common even in our day. We must believe that our tail, dark
invaders were a race of seamen, thoroughly skilled in the dangerous
navigation of these dark seas; Caesar marveled at, and imitated, the
ship-building of the natives of Brittany in his day; we equally admire
the prowess of their sons, the Breton fishermen, in our own times. We
find, too, that in the western districts and ocean islands of our own
Ireland the tall, dark race often follows the sea, showing the same
hereditary skill and daring; a skill which certainly marked the first
invaders of that race, or they would never have reached our island at
all. We are the more justified in seeing, in these dark
cromlech-builders, the Fomorians of old Gaelic tradition, who came up
out of the sea and subjugated the Firbolgs.

Even to those familiar with the geological record of man it is
sufficiently startling to find that the Firbolgs, the early dwarfish
race of Hyperboreans, in all probability were ignorant of boats; that
they almost certainly came to our island dry-shod, as they had come
earlier to Britain, migrating over unbroken spaces of land to what
afterwards became the isle of Erin; for this race we find everywhere
associated with the mammoth--on the continent, in Britain, in our own
island--and the mammoths certainly never came over in ships. Needless to
say, there is abundant geological evidence as well, to show our former
union with continental Europe,--though of course at a time immensely
more remote than ten or twelve thousand years ago.

We are, therefore, led to identify our Atlantean race of hardy seamen
with the Fomorians who came up out of the sea and found the furtive
Firbolgs in possession of our island; and to this race, the Fomorians of
the sea, we credit the building of cromlechs and standing stones, not
only among ourselves, but in Norway, in Britain, in Brittany, in Spain,
in Africa.

We shall presently pick up the thread of tradition, as we find it in
Ireland, and try to follow the doings and life of the Fomorian invaders;
but in the meantime we may try to gain some insight into the most
mysterious and enduring of their works. The cromlechs which have been
excavated in many cases are found to contain the funereal urns of a
people who burned their dead. It does not follow that their first and
only use was as tombs; but if we think of them as tombs only, we must
the more marvel at the faith of the builders, and their firm belief in
the reality and overwhelming import of the other world which we enter at
death. For of dwellings for the living, of fortresses or storehouses, of
defences against the foes who later invaded them, we find few traces;
nothing at all to compare with their massive mausoleums. The other
world, for them, was a far weightier concern than this, and to the
purposes of that world, as they conceived it, all their energies were
directed. We can hardly doubt that, like other races who pay extreme
reverence to the dead, their inner vision beheld these departed ones
still around them and among them, forming with them a single race, a
single family, a single life. This world was for them only the threshold
of the other, the place of preparation. To that other their thoughts all
turned, for that other they raised these titanic buildings. The solemn
masses and simple grandeur of the cromlechs fitly symbolize the mood of
reverence in which they drew near to the sublime world of the hidden;
the awe with which their handiwork affirmed how greatly that world
outweighs this. At these houses of the dead they were joined in spirit
and communion with those who had passed away; once more united with
their fathers and their fathers' fathers, from the dim beginning of
their race. The air, for them, was full of spirits. Only the dead
truly lived.

The circles of standing stones are also devoted to ideal ends. Though
the men who set them up could have built not less wonderful forts or
dwellings of stone, we find none of these; nor has any worldly purpose
ever been assigned to the stone circles. Yet there seems to be a very
simple interpretation of their symbology; the circle, through all
antiquity, stood for the circling year, which ever returns to its point
of departure, spring repeating spring, summer answering to summer,
winter with its icy winds only the return of former winters: the
circling year and its landmarks, whether four seasons, or twelve months,
or twenty-seven lunar mansions, through one of which the wandering moon
passes in a day. We should thus have circles of twelve or twenty-seven
stones, or four outlying stones at equal distances, for the four
seasons, the regents of the year. By counting the stones in each circle
we can tell to which division of the year they belonged, whether the
solar months or the lunar mansions.

But with all ancient nations the cycle of the year was only the symbol
of the spiritual cycle of the soul, the path of birth and death. We
must remember that even for ourselves the same symbolism holds: in the
winter we celebrate the Incarnation; in spring, the Crucifixion; in
summer, the birth of the beloved disciple; in autumn, the day of All
Souls, the feast of the dead. Thus for us, too, the succeeding seasons
only symbolize the stages of a spiritual life, the august procession
of the soul.

We cannot think it was otherwise with a people who lived and built so
majestically for the hidden world; these great stone circles symbolized
for them, we must believe, the circling life of the soul, the cycle of
necessity, with the door of liberation to the home of the blest, who
have reached perfect freedom and go no more out. We may picture in
imagination their solemn celebrations; priests robed, perhaps, in the
mingled green and purple of their hills, passing within the circle,
chanting some archaic hymn of the Divine.



In the dim days of Fomorian and Firbolg, and for ages after, Erin was a
land of forests, full of wild cattle and deer and wolves. The central
plain was altogether hidden under green clouds of oak-woods, full of
long, mysterious alleys, dimpled with sunny glades, echoing in spring
and summer to the songs of innumerable birds. Everywhere through the
wide and gloomy forests were the blue mirrors of lakes, starred with
shaggy islands, the hanging hills descending verdant to the water's
edge. Silver rivers spread their network among the woods, and the lakes
and the quiet reaches of the rivers teemed with trout and salmon. The
hilly lands to the north and south showed purple under the sky from
among their forests, oak mingling with pine; and the four seas beat
around our island with their white fringe of hovering gulls. Over all,
the arch of the blue, clearer and less clouded then than now. A pleasant
land, full of gladness and mystery.

We can but obscurely image to ourselves the thoughts and deeds of the
earliest dwellers in our island. We know that they were skilled in many
arts of peace and inured to the shock of war. The sky spread above them
as over us, and all around them was the green gloom of the forests, the
whiteness of lakes and rivers, the rough purple of the heather. The
great happenings of life, childhood and age and death, were for them
what they are for us, yet their blood flowed warmer than ours. Browned
by wind and sun, wet by the rain and the early dew of the morning, they
delighted in the vigor of the prime. Their love for kindred, for their
friends and lovers, was as ours; and when friends and kindred passed
into the darkness, they still kept touch with their souls in the
invisible Beyond.

[Illustration: River Erne, Belleek.]

The vision of our days is darkened by too much poring over earthly
things; but the men of old, like many of our simpler races now, looked
confidently and with intent faith across the threshold. For them the
dead did not depart--hidden but from their eyes, while very near to
their souls. Those in the beyond were still linked to those on earth;
all together made one undivided life, neither in the visible world alone
nor in the hidden world alone, but in both; each according to their
destinies and duties. The men of old were immeasurably strong in this
sense of immortality--a sense based not on faith but on knowledge; on a
living touch with those who had gone before. They knew both over-world
and under-world, because they held their souls open to the knowledge of
both, and did not set their hearts on earthly things alone. A strong
life close to the life of the natural world, a death that was no
separation, the same human hearts as ours,--further we need not go in
imagining that far-off time.

A third people was presently added to these two, at an epoch fixed by
tradition some four thousand years ago. A vivid picture of their coming
has been handed down to us, and this picture we shall reproduce, as many
circumstances and particulars of our knowledge drawn from other sources
concur to show that our old legend is near to the truth, both in time
and happenings.

The name these newcomers bore was Tuata De Danaan, the De Danaan tribes;
they were golden-haired and full of knowledge, and their coming was
heavy with destiny for the dark races of Fomor and Firbolg. Even to-day,
mysterious whispers of the De Danaans linger among the remote valleys
and hillsides of our island, and truth is hidden in every legend of
their deeds. They have borne a constant repute for magical knowledge,
and the first tradition of their coming not only echoes that repute, but
shows how first they came by it.

The De Danaans came from the north; from what land, we shall presently
inquire. They landed somewhere on the northeast coast of our island,
says the tradition; the coast of Antrim was doubtless the place of their
arrival, and we have our choice between Larne and the estuary of the
Foyle. All between, lofty cliffs face a dark and angry sea, where no one
not familiar with the coast would willingly approach; their later course
in the island makes it very probable that they came to the Foyle.

There, still within sight of the Caledonian isles and headlands hovering
in blue shadows over the sea, they entered, where the sun rose over long
silver sands and hills of chalk, with a grim headland on the west
towering up into sombre mountains. Once within the strait, they had a
wide expanse of quiet waters on all sides, running deep among the rugged
hills, and receiving at its further end the river Foyle, tempting them
further and further with their ships. Up the Foyle went the De Danaan
fleet, among the oak-woods, the deer gazing wide-eyed at them from dark
caverns of shadow, the wolves peering after them in the night. Then,
when their ships would serve them no further, they landed, and, to set
the seal on their coming, burned their boats, casting in their lot with
the fate of their new home. Still following the streams of the Foyle,
for rivers were the only pathways through the darkness of the woods,
they came to the Lakes of Erne, then, as now, beautiful with innumerable
islands, and draped with curtains of forest. Beyond Erne, they fixed
their first settlement at Mag Rein, the Plain of the Headland, within
the bounds of what afterwards was Leitrim; and at this camp their legend
takes up the tale.

It would seem that the Fomorians were then gathered further to the west,
as well as in the northern isles. The Firbolgs had their central
stronghold at Douin Cain, the Beautiful Eminence, which, tradition tells
us, later bore the name of Tara. The chief among their chiefs was
Eocaid, son of Ere, remembered as the last ruler of the Firbolgs. Every
man of them was a hunter, used to spear and shield, and the skins of
deer and the shaggy hides of wolves were their garments; their dwellings
were built of well-fitted oak. To the chief, Eocaid, Erc's son, came
rumor of the strangers near the Lakes of Erne; their ships, burned at
their debarking, were not there to tell of the manner of their coming,
and the De Danaans themselves bruited it abroad that they had come
hither by magic, borne upon the wings of the wind. The chiefs of Tara
gathered together, within their fort of earth crowned with a stockade,
and took counsel how to meet this new adventure. After long consultation
they chose one from among them, Sreng by name, a man of uncommon
strength, a warrior tried and proven, who should go westward to find out
more of the De Danaans.

Doubtless taking certain chosen companions with him, Sreng, the man of
valor from among the Firbolgs, set forth on his quest. As in all
forest-covered countries, the only pathways lay along the river-banks,
or, in times of drought, through the sand or pebbles of their beds.
Where the woods pressed closest upon the streams, the path wound from
one bank to the other, crossing by fords or stepping-stones, or by a
bridge of tree-trunks. So went Sreng, careful and keen-eyed, up the
stream of the Blackwater, and thence to the Erne, and so drew near to
the Plain of the Headland, where was the De Danaan camp. They, too, had
word of his coming from their scouts and hunters, and sent forth Breas,
one among their bravest, to meet the envoy.

They sighted each other and halted, each setting his shield in the
earth, peering at his adversary above its rim. Then, reassured, they
came together, and Breas first spoke to Sreng. After the first words
they fell, warrior-like, to examining each other's weapons; Sreng saw
that the two spears of Breas the De Danaan were thin, slender and long,
and sharp-pointed, while his own were heavy, thick and point-less, but
sharply rounded.

Here we have a note of reality, for spears of these two types are well
known to us; those of Sreng were chisel-shaped, round-edged, socketed
celts; the De Danaan lances were long and slender, like our spears.
There are two materials also--a beautiful golden bronze, shining and
gleaming in the sunlight, and a darker, ruddier metal, dull and heavy;
and these darker spears have sockets for greatly thicker hafts. Both
also carried swords, made, very likely, the one of golden, the other of
dull, copper-colored bronze.

Then, putting these pleasant things aside, they turned to weightier
matters, and Breas made a proposal for the De Danaan men. The island was
large, the forests wide and full of game, the waters sweet and
well-stocked with fish. Might they not share it between them, and join
hands to keep out all future comers? Sreng could give no final answer;
he could only put the matter before the Firbolg chiefs; so, exchanging
spears in sign of friendship and for a token between them, they returned
each to his own camp.

Sreng of the Firbolgs retraced his path some four-score miles among the
central forests, and came to the Beautiful Eminence, where the Firbolgs
had their settlement. Eocaid, Erc's son, their chieftain, called the
lesser chiefs around him, and Sreng made full report of what he had seen
and heard. The Firbolgs, pressed on by their fate, decided to refuse all
terms with the De Danaans, but to give them battle, and drive them from
the island. So they made ready, each man seeing to the straps of his
shield, the burnishing of his thick sword and heavy spear. Eyes gleamed
out beneath lowering brows all about the dwellings of Tara, and hot
words were muttered of the coming fight. The dark faces of the Firbolgs
were full of wrath.

Breas, returning to the camp of the Tuata De Danaan, gave such account
of the fierceness and strength of Sreng, and the weight and sturdiness
of his weapons, that the hearts of the golden-haired newcomers misgave
them, and they drew away westward to the strip of land that lies between
the lakes of Corrib and Mask. There, tradition tells us, they made an
encampment upon the hill of Belgadan, near the stream that flows through
caverns beneath the rocks from the northern to the southern lake. From
their hill-top they had clear view of the plain stretching eastward,
across which the Firbolg warriors must come; to the right hand and to
the left were spread the great white waters of the lakes, stretching far
away to the northern and southern verge of the sky. Islands dotted the
lakes, and trees mirrored themselves in the waters. Behind them, to the
westward, rose a square-topped mountain, crowned by a clear tarn; and,
behind that, tier upon tier of hills, stretching dark and sombre along
Lough Mask to the north, and spreading westward to the twelve crystal
hills of Connemara.

Across the plain to the east, then called the Plain of Nia, but
thereafter Mag Tuiread or Moytura, the Plain of the Pillars, lay the
forests, and thence issued forth the hosts of the Firbolgs, encamping on
the eastern verge of the open space. Nuada, the De Danaan king, once
more sought a peaceful issue to their meeting, but Erc's son Eocaid
refused all terms, and it was plain to all that they must fight.

It was midsummer. The air was warm about them, the lake-shores and the
plain clothed in green of many gently blended shades. The sun shone down
upon them, and the lakes mirrored the clear blue above. From their hill
of encampment descended the De Danaans, with their long slender spears
gleaming like bright gold, their swords of golden bronze firmly grasped,
their left hands griping the thong of their shields. Golden-haired, with
flowing tresses, they descended to the fight; what stately battle-song
they chanted, what Powers they called on for a blessing, we cannot tell;
nor in what terms the dark-browed Firbolgs answered them as they
approached across the plain. All that day did the hosts surge together,
spear launched against spear, and bronze sword clashing against shield;
all that day and for three days more, and then the fate of the Firbolgs
was decided. Great and dire was the slaughter of them, so that Erc's son
Eocaid saw that all was lost. Withdrawing with a hundred of his own men
about him, Eocaid was seeking water to quench his thirst, for the heat
of the battle was upon him, when he was pursued by a greater band of
the De Danaans, under the three sons of Nemed, one of their chieftains.

Eocaid and his bodyguard fled before Nemed's sons, making their way
northeastward along the Moy river, under the shadow of the Mountains of
Storms, now wrongly named Ox Mountains. They came at last to the great
strand called Traig Eotaile, but now Ballysadare, the Cataract of the
Oaks,--where the descending river is cloven into white terraces by the
rocks, and the sea, retreating at low tide, leaves a world of wet sand
glinting under the moonlight. At the very sea's margin a great battle
was fought between the last king of the Firbolgs with his men, and the
De Danaans under Nemed's sons; so relentless was the fight along the
tideways that few remained to tell of it, for Erc's son Eocaid fell, but
Nemed's three sons fell likewise, The three De Danaan brothers were
buried at the western end of the strand, and the place was called The
Gravestones of the Sons of Nemed, in their memory. The son of Erc was
buried on the strand, where the waves lap along the shore, and his cairn
of Traig Eotaile still stands by the water-side, last resting-place of
the last ruler of the Firbolgs.

Meanwhile the fighting had gone on at Mag Tuiread by the lakes, till
but three hundred of the Firbolgs were left, with Sreng, the fierce
fighter, at their head. Sreng had gained enduring fame by meeting Nuada,
the De Danaan king, in combat, and smiting him so that he clove the
shield-rim and cut down deep into Nuada's shoulder, disabling him
utterly from the battle. Seeing themselves quite outnumbered, therefore,
the survivors of the Firbolgs with Sreng demanded single combat with De
Danaan champions, but the victors offered them worthy terms of peace.
The Firbolgs were to hold in lordship and freedom whichever they might
choose of the five provinces; the conquerors were to have the rest.

Sreng looked around among his band of survivors,--a little band, though
of great valor,--and he remembered the hosts of his people that had
entered the battle three days before, but now lay strewn upon the plain;
and thinking that they had done enough for valor he accepted the offered
terms, choosing the Western Province for his men. In memory of him it
was called Cuigead Sreing for generations, until Conn of the Five-Score
Battles changed the name for his own, calling the province Connacht, as
it is to this day.

It fared less well with the victors, and with their victory were sown
seeds of future discord. For Nuada, the king, being grievously wounded,
was in no state to rule, so that the chief power was given to Breas,
first envoy of the De Danaans. Now Breas was only half De Danaan, half
Fomor, and would not recognize the De Danaan rites or laws of
hospitality, but was a very tyrannous and overbearing ruler, so that
much evil came of his government. Yet for seven years he was endured,
even though meat nor ale was dispensed at his banquets, according to De
Danaan law.

Mutterings against Breas were rife among the chiefs and their followers
when the bard Cairbre, whose mother Etan was also a maker of verses,
came to the assembly of Breas. But the bard was shown little honor and
given a mean lodging,--a room without fire or bed, with three dry loaves
for his fare. The bard was full of resentment and set himself to make
songs against Breas, so that all men repeated his verses, and the name
of Breas fell into contempt. All men's minds were enkindled by the bard,
and they drove Breas forth from the chieftainship. Breas fled to his
Fomor kindred in the isles, with his heart full of anger and revenge
against the De Danaans.

He sought help of his kindred, and their design was told to the
Fomorian chieftains--to Balor of the Evil Eye, and to Indec, son of De
Domnand, chiefs of the Isles. These two leaders gathered ships from all
the harbors and settlements of the Fomorians, from the Hebrides, the
Shetlands, and far-distant Norway, so that their fleet was thick as
gulls above a shoal of fish along the north shores of Erin.

Coming down from the northern isles, they sighted the coast of Erin, the
peaks of the northwestern mountains rising purple towards the clouds,
with white seas foaming around them. Past towering headlands they
sailed; then, drawing in towards the shore, they crept under the great
cliffs of Slieve League, that rose like a many-colored wall from the sea
to the sky--so high that the great eagles on their summits were but
specks seen from beneath, so high that the ships below seemed like
sea-shells to those who watched them from above. With the wall of the
cliffs on their left hand, and the lesser headlands and hills of Sligo
on their right, they came to that same strand of Ballysadare, the
Cataract of the Oaks, where the last of the Firbolgs fell. Drawing their
long ships up on the beach, with furled sail and oars drawn in, they
debarked their army on the shore. It was a landing of ill-omen for the
Fomorians, that landing beside the cairn of Eocaid; a landing of
ill-omen for Indec, son of De Domnand, and for Balor of the Evil Eye.

It was the fall of the leaf when they came; the winds ran crying through
the forests, tearing the leaves and branches from the oaks, and mourning
among the pines of the uplands. The sea was gray as a gull's back, with
dark shadows under the cliffs and white tresses of foam along the
headlands. At evening a cold wind brought the rain beating in from the
ocean. Thus the Fomorians landed at the Cataract of the Oaks, and
marched inland to the plain now called Tirerril in Sligo. The murky sky
spread over the black and withered waste of the plain, hemmed in with
gloomy hills, wild rocks and ravines, and with all the northern horizon
broken by distant mountains. Here Indec and Balor, and Breas the cause
of their coming, fixed their camp. They sent a message of defiance to
the De Danaans, challenging them to fight or surrender. The De Danaans
heard the challenge and made ready to fight.

Nuada, now called the chieftain of the Silver Arm, because the mischief
wrought by Sreng's blow on his shoulder had been hidden by a silver
casing, was once more ruler since Breas had been driven out. Besides
Nuada, these were De Danaan chieftains: Dagda, the Mighty; Lug, son of
Cian, son of Diancect, surnamed Lamfada, the Long Armed; Ogma, of the
Sunlike Face; and Angus, the Young. They summoned the workers in bronze
and the armorers, and bid them prepare sword and spear for battle,
charging the makers of spear-haft and shield to perfect their work. The
heralds also were ready to proclaim the rank of the warriors, and those
skilled in healing herbs stood prepared to succor the wounded. The bards
were there also to arouse valor and ardor with their songs.

Then marching westward to the plain of the battle among the hills, they
set their camp and advanced upon the Fomorians. Each man had two spears
bound with a thong to draw them back after the cast, with a shield to
ward off blows, and a broad-bladed sword of bronze for close combat.
With war-chants and invocations the two hosts met. The spears, well
poised and leveled, clove the air, hissing between them, and under the
weight of the spear-heads and their sharp points many in both hosts
fell. There were cries of the wounded now, mingled with battle-songs,
and hoarse shouting for vengeance among those whose sons and brothers
and sworn friends fell. Another cast of the spears, seaming the air
between as the hosts closed in, and they fell on each other with their
swords, shields upraised and gold-bronze sword-points darting beneath
like the tongues of serpents. They cut and thrust, each with his eyes
fixed on the fierce eyes of his foe.

They fought on the day of the Spirits, now the Eve of All Saints; the
Fomorians were routed, and their chieftains slain. But of the De
Danaans, Nuada, once wounded by Sreng of the Firbolgs, now fell by the
hand of Balor; yet Balor also fell, slain by Lug, his own
daughter's son.

Thus was the might of the Fomorians broken, and the De Danaans ruled
unopposed, their power and the works of their hands spreading throughout
the length and breadth of the land.

Many monuments are accredited to them by tradition, but greatest and
most wonderful are the pyramids of stone at Brugh on the Boyne. Some
nine miles from the sandy seashore, where the Boyne loses itself in the
waves, there is a broad tongue of meadowland, shut in on three sides
southward by the Boyne, and to the northeast cut off by a lesser stream
that joins it. This remote and quiet headland, very famous in the
annals, was in old days so surrounded by woods that it was like a quiet
glade in the forest rimmed by the clear waters of the Boyne. The Mourne
Mountains to the north and the lesser summits on the southern sky-line
were hidden by the trees. The forest wall encircled the green
meadowland, and the river fringed with blue forget-me-nots.

In this quiet spot was the sacred place of the De Danaans, and three
great pyramids of stone, a mile apart along the river, mark their three
chief sanctuaries. The central is the greatest; two hundred thousand
tons of stone heaped up, within a circular wall of stone, itself
surrounded by a great outer circle of standing stones, thirty in number,
like gray sentinels guarding the shrine. In the very heart of the
pyramid, hushed in perpetual stillness and peace, is the inmost
sanctuary, a chamber formed like a cross, domed with a lofty roof, and
adorned with mysterious tracings on the rocks. Shrines like this are
found in many lands, whether within the heart of the pyramids of Egypt
or in the recesses of India's hills; and in all lands they have the same
purpose. They are secret and holy sanctuaries, guarded well from all
outward influence, where, in the mystic solitude, the valiant and great
among the living may commune with the spirits of the mighty dead. The
dead, though hidden, are not passed away; their souls are in perpetual
nearness to ours. If we enter deep within ourselves, to the remote
shrine of the heart, as they entered that secluded shrine, we may find
the mysterious threshold where their world and our world meet.

In the gloom and silence of those pyramid-chambers, the De Danaans thus
sought the souls of their mighty ones--the Dagda, surnamed the Mighty,
and Lug the Long-Armed, and Ogma of the Sunlike Face, and Angus the
Young. From these luminous guardians they sought the inbreathing of
wisdom, drawing into themselves the might of these mightier ones, and
rising toward the power of their immortal world. And to these sacred
recesses they brought the ashes of their mighty dead, as a token that
they, too, had passed through the secret gateway to the Land of the
Ever Young.

Some thirty miles to the west of Brugh, on the Boyne, a low range of
hills rises from the central plain, now bearing the name of Slieve na
Calliagh, the Witch's Hill. In the days of the great forest this was the
first large open space to the west coming from Brugh, and, like it, a
quiet and remote refuge among the woods. On the hillsides of Slieve na
Calliagh are other pyramids of stone, in all things like those of
Brugh, and with the same chambered sanctuaries, but of lesser size;
belonging, perhaps, to a later age, when the De Danaans were no longer
supreme in the land, but took their place beside newcome invaders. These
lesser shrines were also sacred places, doorways to the hidden world,
entrance-gates to the Land of the Ever Young. There also was beheld the
vision of the radiant departed; there also were fonts of baptism, basins
wrought of granite brought hither from the distant hills of Mourne or
Wicklow. As in all lands, these fonts were used in the consecration of
the new birth, from which man rises conscious of his immortality.

In harmony with this faith of theirs, our present tradition sees in the
De Danaans a still haunting impalpable presence, a race invisible yet
real, dwelling even now among our hills and valleys. When the life of
the visible world is hushed, they say, there is another life in the
hidden, where the Dagda Mor and Ogma and Lug and Angus still guard the
De Danaan hosts. The radiance of their nearness is all through the land,
like the radiance of the sun hidden behind storm-clouds, glimmering
through the veil.

[Illustration: White Rocks, Portrush]

In the chambers of those pyramid-shrines are still traces of the
material presence of the De Danaans; not only their baptismal fonts, but
more earthly things--ornaments, beads of glass and amber, and combs with
which they combed their golden locks. These amber beads, like so many
things in the De Danaan history, call us to far northern lands by the
Baltic, whence in all likelihood the De Danaans came; for in those
Baltic lands we find just such pyramid shrines as those at Brugh and on
the hillsides of Slieve na Calliagh, and their ornaments are the same,
and the fashion of their spear-heads and shields. The plan of the Danish
pyramid of Uby is like the pyramids of Newgrange and Nowth and Dowth by
the Boyne, and the carvings on King Gorm's stone by the Baltic are like
the carvings of stones in our own island. On the Baltic shores, too, of
most ancient date and belonging to forgotten times, are still found
fragments and even perfect hulls of just such long ships as were needed
for the Danaans' coming, like the ships they burnt along the reaches of
the Foyle.

By the Baltic, too, and nowhere else, were there races with hair yellow
as their own amber, or, as our island bards say, "so bright that the
new-molten gold was not brighter; yellow as the yellow flag-lilies along
the verges of the rivers." Therefore, in character of race, in face and
feature, in color and complexion, in the form and make of sword and
spear and shield, in their knowledge of ships and the paths of the sea,
as in their ornaments and decorative art, and in those majestic pyramids
and shrines where they sought mystic wisdom, and whither they carried
the ashes of their dead, as to a place of sacred rest--in all these the
life of the De Danaans speaks of the Baltic shores and the ancient race
of golden-haired heroes who dwelt there. The honoring of bards, the
heraldic keeping of traditions and the names of ancestors, also speak of
the same home; and with a college of heraldic bards, well-ordered and
holding due rank and honor, we can well see how the stories of their
past have come down even to our days, lingering among our hills and
valleys, as the De Danaan themselves linger, hidden yet not departed.

The traditional time of their coming, too, agrees well with all we know.
Without bronze tools they could not have carved the beautifully adorned
stones that are built into the pyramids by the Boyne; yet there is a
certain early ruggedness about these stones that falls far short of the
perfection of later times. Early in the bronze age, therefore, they must
be placed; and the early bronze age, wherever its remoteness can be
measured, as in the Swiss lakes or the peat-mosses of Denmark, cannot be
less than four thousand years ago, thus well agreeing with our De Danaan
tradition. We are, therefore, led to believe that the tale told by these
traditions is in the main a true one; that the races recorded by them
came in the recorded order; that their places of landing are faithfully
remembered; that all traditions pointing to their earlier homes are
worthy of belief, and in full accord with all our other knowledge.



B.C. 50--A.D. 50.

The battles of Southern and Northern Moytura gave the De Danaans sway
over the island. After they had ruled for many centuries, they in their
turn were subjected to invasion, as the Firbolg and Fomorian had been
before them. The newcomers were the Sons of Milid, and their former home
was either Gaul or Spain. But whether from Gaul or Spain, the sons of
Milid were of undoubted Gaelic race, in every feature of character and
complexion resembling the continental Gauls.

We must remember that, in the centuries before the northward spread of
Rome, the Gauls were the great central European power. Twenty-six
hundred years ago their earlier tribal life was consolidated into a
stable empire under Ambigatos; Galicia in Eastern Austria and Galicia in
Western Spain mark their extreme borders towards the rising and
setting sun.

Several centuries before the days of Ambigatos, in the older period of
tribal confederation, was the coming of the Gaelic Sons of Milid to
Ireland. Tradition places the date between three and four thousand years
ago. Yet even after that long interval of isolation the resemblance
between the Irish and continental Gaels is perfect; they are tall,
solidly built, rather inclined to stoutness; they are fair-skinned, or
even florid, easily browned by sun and wind. Their eyes are gray,
greenish or hazel, not clear blue, like the eyes of the Baltic race; and
though fair-haired, they are easily distinguished from the golden-haired
Norsemen. Such are the descendants of the Sons of Milid. Coming from
Gaul or Spain, the Sons of Milid landed in one of the great fiords that
penetrate between the mountains of Kerry--long after so named from the
descendants of Ciar. These same fiords between the hills have been the
halting-place of continental invaders for ages; hardly a century has
passed since the last landing there of continental soldiers; there was
another invasion a century before that, and yet another a hundred years
earlier. But the Sons of Milid showed the way. They may have come by
Bantry Bay or the Kenmare River or Dingle Bay; more probably the last,
for tradition still points to the battlefield where they were opposed,
on the hills of Slieve Mish, above the Dingle fiord.

But wherever they debarked on that southwestern coast they found a land
warm and winning as the south they had left behind--a land of ever-green
woods, yew and arbutus mingling with beech and oak and fir; rich
southern heaths carpeting the hillsides, and a soft drapery of ferns
upon the rocks. There were red masses of overhanging mountain, but in
the valleys, sheltered and sun-warmed, they found a refuge like the
Isles of the Blest. The Atlantic, surging in great blue rollers, brought
the warmth of tropical seas, and a rich and vivid growth through all the
glens and vales responded to the sun's caress.

The De Danaans must ere this have spread through all of the island,
except the western province assigned to the Firbolgs; for we find them
opposing,--but vainly opposing,--the Sons of Milid, at the very place of
their landing. Here again we find the old tradition verified; for at the
spot recorded of old by the bards and heralds, among the hills by the
pass that leads from Dingle to Tralee Bay, numberless arrow-heads have
been gathered, the gleanings after a great combat. The De Danaans fought
with sword and spear, but, unless they had added to their weapons since
the days of Breas and Sreng, they did not shoot with the bow; this was,
perhaps, the cause of their defeat, for the De Danaans were defeated
among the hills on that long headland.

From their battlefield they could see the sea on either hand, stretching
far inland northward and southward; across these arms of the sea rose
other headlands, more distant, the armies of hills along them fading
from green to purple, from purple to clear blue. But the De Danaans had
burned their boats; they sought refuge rather by land, retreating
northward till they came to the shelter of the great central woods. The
Sons of Milid pursued them, and, overtaking them at Tailten on the
Blackwater, some ten miles northwest of Tara, they fought another
battle; after it, the supremacy of the De Danaans definitely
passed away.

Yet we have no reason to believe that, any more than the Fomorians or
Firbolgs, the De Danaans ceased to fill their own place in the land.
They seem, indeed, to have been preponderant in the north, and in all
likelihood they hold their own there even now; for every addition to our
knowledge shows us more and more how tenacious is the life of races, how
firmly they cling to their earliest dwellings. And though we read of
races perishing before invaders, this is the mere boasting of
conquerors; more often the newcomers are absorbed among the earlier
race, and nothing distinctive remains of them but a name. We have
abundant evidence to show that at the present day, as throughout the
last three thousand years, the four races we have described continue to
make up the bulk of our population, and pure types of each still linger
unblended in their most ancient seats; for, though races mingle, they do
not thereby lose their own character. The law is rather that the type of
one or other will come out clear in their descendants, all undefined
forms tending to disappear.

Nor did any subsequent invasion add new elements; for as all northern
Europe is peopled by the same few types, every newcomer,--whether from
Norway, Denmark, Britain or Continental Europe,--but reinforced one of
these earlier races. Yet even where the ethnical elements are alike,
there seems to be a difference of destiny and promise--as if the very
land itself brooded over its children, transforming them and molding
them to a larger purpose. The spiritual life of races goes far deeper
than their ethnic history.

It would seem that with the coming of the Sons of Milid the destiny of
Ireland was rounded and completed; from that time onward, for more than
two thousand years, was a period of uniform growth and settled life and
ideals; a period whose history and achievements we are only beginning to
understand. At the beginning of that long epoch of settled life the art
of working gold was developed and perfected; and we have abundance of
beautiful gold-work from remote times, of such fine design and execution
that there is nothing in the world to equal it. The modern work of
countries where gold is found in quantities is commonplace, vulgar and
inartistic, when compared with the work of the old Irish period.
Torques, or twisted ribbons of gold, of varying size and shape, were
worn as diadems, collars, or even belts; crescent bands of finely
embossed sheet-gold were worn above the forehead; brooches and pins of
most delicate and imaginative workmanship were used to catch together
the folds of richly colored cloaks, and rings and bracelets were of not
less various and exquisite forms.

We are at no loss to understand the abundance of our old goldsmiths'
work when we know that even now, after being worked for centuries, the
Wicklow gold-mines have an average yearly yield of some five hundred
ounces, found, for the most part, in nuggets in the beds of streams
flowing into the two Avons. One mountain torrent bears the name of Gold
Mines River at the present day, showing the unbroken presence of the
yellow metal from the time of its first discovery, over three thousand
years ago. It seems probable that a liberal alloy of gold gave the
golden bronze its peculiar excellence and beauty; for so rich is the
lustre, so fine the color of many of our bronze axes and spears, that
they are hardly less splendid than weapons of pure gold. From the
perfect design and workmanship of these things of gold and bronze, more
than from any other source, we gain an insight into the high culture and


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