Lovely Mona, lovely Mona,
Lovely Mona fare thee well!
And now I must conclude my Marx Yarns,these brief, and, I trust, interesting, reminiscences of the past.
Doubtless the readers of my yarns will perceive, in their perusal of these records and reminiscences, that there is a flavour of personal knowledge about them, and that the personal pronoun, Ego, looms large throughout the pages of this volume. For this obtrusion of myself, I must claim indulgence, on the score that the nature and style of the subject renders it unavoidable, seeing that I wish to present my anecdotes to the public in as realistic and as graphic a form as possible Needless to say, I have launched my frail barque on a critical, literary sea, with many doubts and fears for its safety and success.
Let us glance briefly at the previous chapters.
The first two are merely descriptive of the locality where the yarns had their birth, and the soil from which they sprung. In Chapter III. the reader will doubtless notice that a large proportion of the homely truths and sayings, which our ancestors coined into proverbs are derived from nature, and deal with the attributes of domestic animals and birds, and the surroundings of agricultural and sea-faring pursuits, between which, at their various seasons, the little Manx nation passes its life. Chapter IV. contains my most interesting anecdotes, which are chiefly of our insular clergy and important personages generally, and give a tone and local colour to the whole of the volume ; whilst Chapter V. further extends and exemplifies the insularity of yarns. The histories of the sea and seafaring men are truly historical, and of great value in portraying Manx life and character, and picturing customs peculiar to this little lonely Isle, which lies planted in mid-channel, far from the noisy traffic of the great outside world. And Chapter VI. contains incidents relative to one of the most memorable of events in the more recent history of the Island, the visit to its shores of our beloved King and Queen, the Lord and Lady of Man.
I think everyone will agree with me when I say that yarning and yawning are equally catching. For instance, in church, during a long, dull sermon, he or she starts the whole congregation. Pa P yawns ; and Ma P, with her hand covering her mouth, follows suit ; and then all the little Ps become infected ; next their neighbours in the adjacent pews yawn, and then it travels till the yawning dies away at the bottom of the church. And so it is with story-telling over the " walnuts and the wine," or after supper. One guest tells an amusing tale, which suggests a similarly good one to another, and the ball of anecdote is kept rolling, as one good story, or jest, or flash of wit, suggests another; thus creating " a feast of reason and the flow of soul"
Alas! now I must conclude my spinning of yarns, and this rambling sketch of Manx life and character in all their various degrees and conditions, the compiling of which has been a perpetual source of delight to me for years There may be a few hardy "chestnuts" among the tales ; but, as everyone knows, a chestnut is a tree that will flourish anywhere, and bear transplanting to any soil. The old stories are often the best and can be re-clothed in a different garb, either Manx, Irish, Scotch, or English, and still retain their native attractiveness. Of course, to enjoy and appreciate a good story, we frequently must know and see and hear the narrator himself, the parties concerned, and the locality of the incident.
Adverse critics may say that, the greater part of my anecdotes are disconnected and bald, and rather crude, without, literary embroidery, being often rough and ready, and smacking of the vernacular ; but if they are natural and to the manner born, I feel that, they will be acceptable and afford pleasure and amusement to my readers, be they young or old, grave or gay, all the world over. I have spent many happy hours in. gathering together these brief fragments of our past national and social history. It has been a labour of love. This little volume has gained strength and grown slowly like a tree. I have gleaned and gatheredhere a little ; there, a little. I have fished beside all waters, often collecting yarns from the most curious source, and in, queer ways and places, and from eccentric people. I have held up the mirror and cast a little light upon the social conditions of an age past and gone to my native Island race, showing them, the manner to me they are, and were, with all their good an bad qualities. In saying farewell to these Yarns and Reminiscences of Insular Life and Manners, I trust I shall not have offended or wounded the susceptibilities of my countrymen, by any of my allusions to their ancestors. If so, I tender my apologies ; all has been told in love, and " naught set down in malice. " It, has always been my sincere conviction, that if, by a jest or merry flash of wit, one can cause a laugh or smile, or shed a ray of sunshine into a sad heart or dull life, and so perhaps lighten a burden or gladden a fellow-traveller on this dreary round of daily existence, it is our bounden duty to exert the gift of pleasant humour, if we possess it. Give me the man who is fond of a joke or comical anecdote, and I will guarantee that he has a kind and generous heart. He creates smiles wherever he goes, and, as I said on a previous page, one good jest nearly always gives birth to another. It is sometimes wise to play at folly. Let us ever look away from the dark, dull earth to Heaven above, and in lifes disappointments, complexities, difficulties, and changes, let us not be sad and complain, but be rather like the bird singing in the rain, showing thankfulness for past benefits. In the beautiful words of Longfellow, let us learn " to suffer and be strong." Above all things, let us in our darkest hours remember that the sun is ever shining the stare ever bright, and shine when it is dark, the sky ever blue and that the love of God is over all and through all; and let us assure ourselves of the great truth that there is more good than bad, and more joy and happiness than sorrow, in the world. The gospel of cheer is a positive need in these days, when pessimism is fashionable, when nothing is constant but change and decay.
Some critics hare made bold to assert that nowadays, in the great race to become rich, people have become more serious and matter-of-fact, and that consequently British wit and humour have considerably decreased of late years. To this let me give an emphatic " No!" Even in these strenuous days, we meet wit and humour in some form everywhere. There is a humorous page in nearly every newspaper, and a species of grim humour will often be met in most incongruous placesin death-bed scenes, or the police courts, or even on the battle field itself. Here is an instance I just. recall to mind, of a touch of comedy amid the sternness and grinmess of war. On the 1st of January, 1901, a British sentry was taken prisoner by the Boers, and a note was left behind, containing these words : " Wishing you a Happy New Sentry." My labour of love is ended; the memory thereof is sweet.
In conclusion, let me trust my native isle may ever live in the hearts and remembrances of my fellow countrymen, both at home and abroad, and that while perusing these yarns, many tender memories and bright assocations of their native hills and vales, of hoary cliffs and mountain tops, of sapphire skies, green earth, and silver waves, may be theirs. May it bring to their recollection the bright sun, with glinting light, shining on the sea and setting the waves a-dance, the pure, sweet air, the trees in bloom, the birds on the wing, the laughing sea talking to the shore, the streamlets singing to the woods, and the fair isle itself in mid-ocean looking like the abode of those who were first formed, a little lower then the Angels. Let this be my parting prayer : May my beloved birthplace be always Manx ; may it be ever prosperous and happy, and may it ever be the home of Peace and the Land of Freedom.