BETA

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Social Questions.


IRELAND AND HER FAMINES.

AT the present moment, when the Irish people are suf-
fering the pangs of hunger and bitter distress, it is
not a time to reproach them with recklessness and
improvidence in having trusted too much to the potato
as a staple article of diet. That root has failed them many
times, long before the famine of 1847-8. In 1728, '29, '30, the
potato failures began to exercise a material influence upon the
prosperity of the people. In 1736 the crop again failed, and
other provisions rose to double and treble their former price.
Pestilence followed in the track of famine, and as a result of
this first great potato failure it is said that about one-fifth of the
inhabitants were carried off. The following rugged ode on the
destruction of the potato in the year 1739 is a pathetic wail
which can be mournfully and truthfully re-echoed at the present
moment, and is at the same time a fair specimen of the pathos
of the native poetry, although it will in no wise pass muster if
judged by ordinary rule :—
There is woe, there is clamour in our desolated land,1
And wailing lamentation from a famine-stricken band,2
And weeping are the multitudes in sorrow and despair3
For the green fields of Munster lying desolate and bare.4
Woe for Lorc’s ancient kingdom, sunk in slavery and grief !5
Plundered, ruined, are our gentry, our people, and their chief ;6
For the harvest lieth scattered, more worta fo us than gold7
All the kindly food that nourished both the young and the old.8
Well I mind me of the coshering, where princes might dine,9
And we drank until nightfall the best seven sorts of wine ;10
Yet was ever then the potato our own familiar dish,11
And the sweetest of all sauces with the beeves and the fish.12
But the harp now is silent—no one careth for the sound13
No flowers, no sweet honey, and no beauty can be found ;14
Not a bird its music trilling through the leaves of the wood ;15
Nought but weeping and hands-wringing in despair for our
food.
16
And the heavens, all in darkness, seem lamenting our doom ;17
No brightness in the sunlight, not a ray to pierce the gloom ;18
The cataract comes rushing with a fearful deepened roar,19
And ocean bursts its bound’ries, dashing wildly on the-shore.20
Yet, in misery and-want, we have one protecting man21
Kindly Barry, of Fite Stephen’s old, bospitable clan ;22
By mount and river working deeds of charity and grace !23
Blessings ever on our champion—best hero of his race.24
Save us, God ! in Thy mercy bend to hear the people’s cry,25
From the famine-stricken fields, rising bitterly on high ;26
Let the mourning and the clamour cease in Lor’s ancient
land !
27
And shield us in the death-hour by Thy strong protecting
hand !”
28
If we substitute for the name of “ kindly Barry of Fitz-Ste-
phen’s clan” that of Marlborough we shall have an exact pic-
ture of the present state of Ireland, painted 140 years ago. We
need pray for help now as fervently as they did in the period of
former troubles, and may the answer come speedily !
We would remind our readers that our brothers are starving,
and that the Duchess of Marlborough’s Relief Fund is in exis-
tence. Need we say more ?