[from Island Minstrelsy, 1839]


Those days are gone—but beauty still is here ;
States fall—arts fade—but nature doth not die.

YES! it is still the same as when of yore
I stray'd thro' those lov'd vistas of the past,
Ev'n in my spring of childhood, when my heart
Beat high with exultation. I have sate
Beneath those old yew trees—gray sentinels —
That mark the flight of that grim spoiler, Time
And then the chesnut boughs spread tireir young leaves,
Green-branching, palm-like, o'er their mother earth
In grateful love,—a beauty and a shade ;
And the laburnums then in golden show'rs
Burst from their graceful foldings—bright abodes —
Whence gentle linnets warbled their first lays,
And the young roses and the Eglantine
Twin'd emulously round the ancient porch
In fond and fervent claspings ; whilst the gray
And very venerable mansion smiled
From out a robe of time-swept evergreen,
In such a proud and seemly majesty,
As to the mimic domes of yesterday —
The smooth'd and cleanly-shaven stucco things —
Spake in right taunting terms, and bade them yield
Homage unto its hoary heraldry, —
Child of an hundred winters!—Ballafreer!
Yes, thou art still the same, sweet Ballafreer ! —
Still is throe air as pure, thy sky as blue; —
Still doth the young lark warble in their depths,
Careering far above the cloudlet's fold,
And peering—(would my soul were with its win,,!) —
In at heaven's golden gates. Oh, gentle bird ! —
Companion of the star-"the morning star!"
Would I were with thee in thy joyous flight
Beyond "the pass of shadows,"—far beyond
The upas influence of this dark cold earth !
Yes, it is still the same ;—the flowers as sweet; —
The blooms as radiant on each dancing spray; —
Still young birds warble in the old yew trees; —
But moss is stealing o'er each hallow'd stem,
Telling a tale of eld—a cold true tale
Of time-sad fugitive.!—since last I look'd.
Still the laburnums shower their " yellow hair"
Over a sea of clear and cloudless blue ; —
Ev'n where the heathbells flourish, there they wave.
By that old dial on the dewy lawn
I've watch'd the shadows flying o'er the hill
Like spectres waltzing;-things all mystery
And shade and sunshine—dear—delicious—wild.
Beneath those spreading shrubs I've laid me down,
Fann'd by the flirting breeze's balmiest sighs,
Lull'd by the music of the gay wild birds,
And the blithe humming of the honey-bees,
And the low silvery murmurs of the rill.
Tell me, cold worldlings ! was not this wild hymn —
Was not this glorious anthem, nature's own ?
Did not the floods of balm from myriad flow'rs,
Rising with that sweet melody to heaven,
Render deep homage to the Lord of all?
And thou, pure fountain!—oh ! how I have watch'd
Fair foam-pearls dancing o'er thee in the sun,
That did look glorious with their many tints —
And gorgeous flies pursued them in their flight —
And then they burst!—oh! very emptiness!
Life, life! why art thou so ?-thy joys as vain,
As false as fleeting bubbles in the sun!
And still the primrose bends above thee, fount!
Kissing thy bosom with its fragrant breath;
Why art thou still the same? canst thou not change ?
Why wilt thou ever flow rejoicing on?
Will not thy murmurs yield one sadden'd tone
In answer to my heart ?-my heart ! alas !
That fount of gladness hath been strangely swept
By the dark wing of swerveless destiny!
No flow'rs bloom now on that deserted soil —
No music echoes from its lonely shrine —
No sunshine enters to its cold recess —
But bitter weeds are rampant in its gloom,
And desolation—ever grimly there —

Smiles from its chosen throne;—ay, smiles to see
The world become a waste and weariness —

" Blackness of darkness"—ev'n at every step,
To one to whom that world is almost new.

* * *

There, where yon ancient temple rests its site
Upon a splendid couch of heather-bell, —

There, too, I've mus'd, when moonbeams gem'd the lea,
O'er wond'rous legends of our fairy isle; —

Legends, by gentle rustics firmly held
A horror, and deep credence :-sweet belief!
Bright world of fancy ! in thy radiant clime
I, too, have wander'd wildly; and my heart
Still worships—veriest votary at thy shrine
And there, within thy fitting sanctuary,
Hast thou been with my spirit in its flight
O'er time and space into the misty depths
Of years departed, seeking out a world —
A fearful world of days and deeds profane
Ay,-there with elfms on the moonlight weld,
And spectres wailing o'er the fallen shrine,
There—there I've worship'd thee, till each high-wrought
Thought—vision—sound, became reality
And there, where lowing kine now meekly browse
O'er that old pasturage, St. Patrick stray'd,
With pious mission charg'd, to Trolaby. —
Sweet Ballafreer ! ev'n to thy hallow'd shades
St. Patrick came. Alas! that even saint
Walks not this world unpierced of its thorns
That brambles should deform a saintly toe ! —
Yea, even Patrick's toe an envious thorn
Pierced most malignantly, and drew the blood- —
The gen'rous blood, from Patrick's honest heart ;
Wherefore he breath'd a right good fervent curse —
A hearty, downright curse. I marvel me
To think how Erin's saint could such achieve.
He bade the spot be blasted;-bid the shrubs,
The flow'rs, the brambles, shun the unholy spot.
Forthwith they wither'd, and that path is bare
The malediction holds unto this hour.
And there, where those most hallow'd Trammon's wave —
Old mystic things to peasants passing dear —
The homes of household fairies-in their shade
The merry elves held revellings,-and thence
Came trooping to the ingle to receive
The customary benzeance—barley cake,
And water from the spring: then to acquit
lice debt of gratitude, they would disperse,
Some to the dairy hied, some to the brook;
The cream was churn'd—the whole week's baking baked —
Fresh water drawn,—the chairs in order set;
And the gray elfin train in merry troops
Mount their invisible coursers, and career
Back to their chosen haunt—the Trammon glen.

Dear legendary lore! how much my heart
Cherish'd your rich delusions! — how my mind
Still hastens back to those untroubled years
When that your magic mysteries were so priz'd, —
When e'en a tale of fairy had power
To charm a breast more strange and fanciful
Than ever reigned supreme in fairy land.
Dear days departed! there is mournful joy
In thus retracing ye ! Beloved scenes
It is an aching bosom which tonics back
To your unsullied loveliness ! Alas !
Would that I were as changeless—as unchang'd!
Would that ye still could make that early joy —
That pure, deep, holy rapture in my soul!
But those once exquisite chords—oh, they would now
Most harshly echo your sweet melodies. —
Beloved haunts ! tho' yo are still so fair,
The world hath scenes enough of misery,
And very troublous destinies, and deep
Draughts of unreck'd-of sorrows-bitter draughts —
E'en to the very dregs to be quafl''d up.
World! world! thou art indeed a wilderness —
A howling wilderness, of baneful soil !
Thou hast no oasis—no resting place —
No home of refuge—but the dark, dark grave !
Oh, memory! from thy too faithful realms
Why conjure up the ghosts of former joys ?
Most beautiful phantoms ! why come here to mock
Your blandish promisings ? Too glorious hopes ! —
Things of a summer hour ! why come back
With your unfading brilliance to this time,
Making more black the darkness-more profound
And overwhelming the involving gloom'
Oh, mem'ry! mem'ry ! were the world's cold things
Faithf'ul and fadeless—as thy loveliness —
Man might esteem his brother truly man; —
Hearts might no more mistrust, grow cold, or chang'd; —
Truth build her up a shrine here on this earth,
And faith an altar !

Yet—oh, let me rest
For a brief moment, friends, within your arms: —
Friends of the sunshine and the darker hour,
Ye, too, are changeless in your gentleness !
Peace be around ye in your calm abode !
Long be your home a blessing and repose ! —
Peace be around ye, friends! -an aching heart
Breathes the deep pray'r for your immortal weal. —
Blessings and peace be with ye !
Fare ye well

Ballafreer is in Marown - the reference is a local legend re St Patrick catching his toe in a briar; the ancient temple is probably the ruins of Keeill Pheric. John Kewley who farmed Ballafreer in the 1760's was noted as a maker of sun-dials


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Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received The Editor
HTML Transcription © F.Coakley , 2004