Thursday, 24 September 2015

The Giant's Causeway

Our readers, perhaps, may be apt, in the words of an Irish tourist, to exclaim, when they see our wood-cut — "this Causeway, that every tourist has trampled on, that has been sketched, etched, and lithographed, described by antiquarians, geologists and poets, system-builders and book makers, and what not" — why show us and tell us what everybody knows?

In lately travelling from Dublin to Belfast, we happened to enjoy, as companions, a "traveller" for a Manchester firm, and a rough, ruddy-faced farmer from the black north. The conversation turned on the Causeway. "Oh!" exclaimed the "Rider" for Messrs. Twist, Bobbin, Bale, and Co. "I was there last Spring. I just looked at it, on my way from Coleraine to Ballycastle — never was so disappointed in life, 'pon honor — terrible cold dreary coast — wind from the northeast enough to cut me in two — dreadful hungry place, I assure you, gentlemen — not a morsel to satisfy the cravings of nature — not being a geologist, saw nothing to gratify my curiosity, and can't, for the life of me, conceive why people should go to stare at ugly promontories, jutting out into the sea, and that ere sea is troublesome enough, I daresay, when the wind is high — not even a tree to shelter the poor goats that were glad to hide themselves under basaltic rocks and frowning precipices — Irishmen should come and see our Giant's Causeway, the magnificent Railway — that's a stupendous work, gentlemen — it goes between Liverpool and Manchester, and facilitates prodigiously the transaction of business — but that useless stupid affair — ha! ha! ha!"

The wrath of the man of Antrim was aroused. "You Englishmen," said he to the dealer in soft goods, "are all for business and the making of money. Why, man alive, if a dacent place that I know about, is paved with goold, some of yees would he after getting a pickaxe to pocket the paving stones! Did'nt ould Fin Mc Coul all as one as make that Causeway for the honour and glory of Ireland? And what the use o' talking about your dirty bit o' a Railway? Sure, arn't they going to have one from Dublin to Dunleary? We'll bate the conceit out o' yees, by and bye!"

Mr. Trussellbags adjusted his neckcloth, and with a knowing wink to me rejoined, "And pray, my good fellow, for what purpose did this Fin Mc Coul make the Causeway? Perhaps you can tell us."

"With all my heart. You see, Sir, a big Scotch giant, one Benandonner, used to brag that he would lick Fin Mc Coul any day. And he used to go over the Highlands, crowing like a cock on its own dunghill, that all he wanted was a fair field and no favour. So, by my souks, Fin c Coul went to the King of Ireland — ould Cormac may'be ye've heerd o' him — there was no grand jury presentments in them days — and he says to his majesty, says he, I wunt to let Benandonner come over to Ireland widout wetting the sole o' his shoe, and if I don't lather him as well as ever he was lathered in his life, its not myself that's in it! So Fin Mc Coul got lave to build the Causeway, and sure he did, all the road clane and nate, to Scotland — and Benandonner came over wid his broad sword and his kilt, and right glad he was to get a dacent excuse for laving his own country. He was bate, of coorse, though he stuck up like a Trojan; and then he settled in the place, and became obedient to King Cormac, and got a purty dacent girl to his wife; and they say that the great earls of Antrim are descended from them."

"Well, now, but what became of the bridge? We just see an abutment, if I may so express myself, of it at Bengore, and I am told that at Staffa, a prodigious way across the sea, another abutment may be seen — but the bridge, what became of the bridge?"

"Is it the bridge your after spaking about? Sure, that's neither your concarn nor mine: but I'll tell you a bit o' a secret, Mr. Englishman — when you are travelling through Ireland, just keep your tongue in your cheek, and don't be after sneering at what you see, and it will be all the better for ye!"

Our readers will perhaps have no objection to drop the Englishman leaving him to chew the cud with the last observation.

The vast collection of basaltic pillars, termed the Giants' Causeway, is situated in the vicinity of Ballimoney, County of Antrim, The principal, or grand causeway, (there being several less considerable and scattered fragments of a similar nature) consists of an irregular arrangement of many hundred thousands of columns, formed of a dark rock, nearly as hard as marble. The greater part of them are of a pentagon figure, but so closely compacted together, that though the pillars are perfectly distinct, the very water which falls upon them will scarcely penetrate between. There are some of the pillars which have six, seven, and a few have eight sides; a few also have four, but only one has been found with three. Not one will be found to correspond exactly with the other, having sides and angles of the same dimensions; while at the same time, the sum of the angles of any one of them are found to be equal to four right angles — the sides of one corresponding exactly to those of the others which lie next to it, although otherwise differing completely in size and form. Each pillar is formed of several distinct joints, closely articulated into each other, the convex end of the one closely fitting into the concave of the next—sometimes the concavity, sometimes the convexity being uppermost. This is a very singular circumstance. In the entire Causeway it is computed there are from 30,000 to 40,000 pillars the tallest measuring about thirty-three feet. Among other wonders, there is also the Giant's Well, a spring of pure fresh water forcing its way up between the joints of two of the columns — the Giant's Chair, the Giant's Bagpipes, the Giant's Theatre, and the Giant's Organ, the latter a beautiful colonnade of pillars, 120 feet long — so called from the resemblance it seems to have to the pipes of an organ.

About two miles from the Causeway is Dunluce Castle, one of the finest ruins to be met with in Ireland. For a great many particulars connected with this remarkable place and remarkable coast, we must refer such of our readers as are anxious about it, and have more than a penny in their pocket, to the "Northern Tourist;" a valuable work published by Messrs. Curry and Co. and conclude our sketch with a condensed extract from a visit to the Causeway by the author of "Sketches in the North and South of Ireland."

"It was as fine a morning as ever fell from heaven when we landed at Dunluce, not a cloud in the sky, not a wave on the water; the brown basaltic rock, with the towers of the ancient fortress that capped and covered it; all its grey bastions and pointed gables lay pictured on the incumbent mirror of the ocean: every thing was reposing — every thing was still, and nothing was heard but the flash of our oars, and nothing but the song of Alick M'Mullen, our guide, to break the silence of the sea. We vowed round this peninsular fortress, and then entered the fine cavern that so curiously perforates the rock, and opens its dark arch to admit our boat. He must, indeed, have a mind cased up in all the common-place of dull existence, who would not, while within this cavern and under this fortress, enter into the associations connected with the scene; who could not hold communings with the "genius loci." Fancy, I know, called up for me the war-boats and the foemen, who either issued from, or took shelter in this sea-cave — I imagined, as the tide was growling amidst the far recesses, that I heard the moanings of chained captives, and the huge rocks around must be bales of plunder landed and lodged here: and I took an interest, and supposed myself a sharer in the triumphs of the fortunate, and the helplessness of the captive, while suffering under the misery that bold bad men inflicted in troubled times. Landing in this cavern, we passed up through its land side entrance towards the ruin; the day laid become exceedingly warm, and going forth from the coolness of the cave into the sultry atmosphere, we felt doubly the force of the sun's power: the sea-birds had retreated to their distant rocks — the goats were panting under the shaded ledges of the cliffs — the rooks and choughs, with open beaks and drooping wings, were scattered over the downs, from whose surface the air arose with a quivering undulating motion; we were all glad, for a time, to retire to where, under the shade of the projecting cliff, a clear cold spring offered its refreshing waters."

Passing by some capital legends and anecdotes, connected with Dunluce Castle, but which we may give again, we will take up our author at the Causeway.

"We had now arrived at the promontories of the Causeway. Port Coan, Port na Spania, Pleaskin, and Bengore, all stood out before us, arresting our admiration and attention. I have certainly seen caves much more capacious, and promontories much grander than Pleaskin or Bengore; but beyond a doubt, Pleaskin is the prettiest thing in nature in the way of a promontory; it looks as if it was painted for effect, its general form so beautiful — its storied pillars, tier over tier so architecturally graceful — its curious and varied stratifications supporting the columnar ranges; here the dark brown amorphos basalt, there the red ochre, and below that again the slender but distinct black lines of the wood-coal, and all the ledges of its different stratifications tastefully variegated, by the hand of vegetable nature, with grasses, and ferns, and rock-plants. I certainly could form in my imagination some conception of what the platform, specially called the Giant's Causeway, was; and think a picture or print may convey a very fair representation of what it is; conceive a pavement of pillars set together, just like the comb of a bee-hive, or rather that of a wasp's nest. But nothing I have ever seen, I think, so much exceeded my expectation for very beauty as the promontory of Pleaskin.

"Rowing along towards the Causeway, we noticed, as we slowly sailed along, whin-dykes, and pillars, and massive basalts. The whin-dykes, as geologists call those perpendicular walls that separate the stratifications on either side protrude to form the respective promontories of this line of coast, and, where they meet the sea, present many curious forms — here resembling a battered castle, there a stack of chimneys, and here again the head and hat of a man, with a large hooked nose and wide mouth, the ocherous rock giving him withal a red face, very like the later busts of George the Third. As we passed along, it struck me that the kelp fires greatly added to the interest of the picture — the smoke wreathing up from a hundred places on this stilly day, and in pillared beauty endeavouring to rival the basaltic columns around. We were shown women ascending an almost perpendicular path, towards the top of the cliff, with large loads of kelp on their heads; they looked like mice creeping up the walls of a barn — the toil of the ascent must be enormous. Our guide told of a poor girl who was betrothed to one she loved, and who was likely to make her happy. In order to procure for themselves some little household stuff, and a few conveniences, wherewithal to begin the world, they devoted themselves for a time to avarice, here consecrated by love, so as to be indeed auri SACRA fames. Young William was out at sea in all weathers, and Peggy, though fair and delicate, carried the kelp along that terrible path. One day, just as she had got to the steepest point of the peak, her strength failed her, and down she came, the load to which she was tied hurrying her along — and before she came to the bottom, poor Peggy was a mangled and a lifeless corpse!"

Source: The Dublin Penny Journal, 28th July 1832.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

On Our Unknown Sea

An officer at the front has sent home some verses written by his ten-year-old daughter 
and sent "To Dad Mobilised," which are published by "The Times". They are as follow:—

We sailed along, and we sailed along,
Singing our song and singing our song,
    The song of the unknown sea,
Just you and me, Dad, just you and me.

We sailed along, amid fairy isles,
And brought our booty in glowing piles.
    Booty that none else could see,
'Twas only for you, Dad, and only for me.

We were passed by birds with jewelled wings
Birds that only for us could sing;
    Rubies fell from an emerald tree.
They were only for you, Dad, and only for me.

Strangers could never our sea explore;
No one could land on our magic shore;
    Everything we could hear or see
Was only for you, Dad, and only for me.

On our unknown sea was never a storm,
Nor anything else that could do us harm,
    It was all as happy as happy as happy could be,
Happy for you, Dad, and happy for me.

Though on our lake we may not float,
Side by side in our little boat,
    In dreams we sail on our unknown sea
That is only for you, Dad, and only for me.

From The Witness, 3rd September 1915.
Image: Yellow Boat, a painting by Odilon Redon

Thursday, 17 September 2015

The Ministry of Angels (Mons 1915)

We have all read and heard a good deal about the reported appearance of angels on the battlefields of France, particularly at the time when our soldiers were in sore peril of disaster at the beginning of the war. Some have given their testimony with the utmost conviction that they saw a supernatural manifestation of angels, and were comforted and strengthened by it. Long discussions in the newspapers have followed, in which, as we might expect, some express their faith in the appearance of these angel visitors; others, again, are sceptical and unbelieving altogether; while others offer explanations of one kind and another as to what occurred. The favourite explanations are that those who saw the angels were the victims of excited imagination or suffering from nervous shock, when intense feelings have a way of visualising what exists only in imagination. We are not in a position to take one side or another in this argument, as we do not know enough; but we can very properly consider what the Bible teaches on the subject of angels and their ministry in general. It is a subject about which the Bible says a great deal, and we are in the habit of passing it by altogether. Now, the Bible takes angels for granted. It does not start to prove their existence. It assumes that they are, just as it assumes that God is. God was not alone before man was created. He was surrounded by spiritual beings who dwelt in His presence and came forth from His presence on the high errands of His service. They came to Abraham as he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day. They drew Lot out of Sodom before the city was destroyed. An angel appeared to Jacob, to Joshua, to Elijah. An angel announced the Birth of our Lord. Angels were present at His Resurrection. An angel strengthened Him in His temptation in the wilderness and in His agony in Gethsemane. Christ often referred to the angels in His teaching -- both good and bad angels. He declared to Pilate that legions of angels would come to save Him from the Cross if He asked for them. He spoke about sending forth His angels to gather in His elect. He warned the wicked that their place after judgment would be with the devil and his angels. The Apostle Paul often speaks of the angels, some of then friends help, some of them foes to hinder. He reckons them as standing in ranks of honour and power like the persons who surround a king. The Book of Revelation deals with the angels in many aspects of their service of God and of man. The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews makes his first comparison between Christ and the angels, and asserts the infinite superiority of Christ over them all. He is a Son; they are servants, to do His bidding.

As we believe in a Supreme Being from whom all things are, and as we believe in the existence of souls after death, so we need have no difficulty in believing in the existence of these angelic beings, who are part, of the supernatural order. Our religion requires us to assume their existence. There is nothing unreasonable in the assumption. They are creatures, as we are creatures. God made them as He made us. We are spiritual creatures with a material body. They are spiritual creatures with a spiritual body, such a body as, perhaps, we may expect to have in the life of glory. They are under the control of God as we all are. The good angels serve God with freedom and love as all good people ought to do. They find their blessedness in His presence and will as the saints above do. The evil angels are His enemies and oppose His plans and work. They tempt us to take their side against the holy, loving God who made them and us. But we are not concerned here with what the Bible teaches us about the evil angels, whose existence is taken, for granted as much as that of the good angels. We are concerned entirely with what the Scripture teaches us about the good angels. What are their labours? What do they do? What services do they render to us in the life we live here on the earth? What is their function in the redemptive ministry of grace and salvation? They worship God as we all ought to do. They acknowledge His majesty and supremacy. Take the sixth chapter of Isaiah — "And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory." Along with the eternal God they worship His eternal Son, the Saviour of the world. Take the fifth chapter of Revelation — "And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands; Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever." The choir, which leads us in the worship of God, is a choir of angels. May our hearts follow in their song! May our lives be touched with their purity and devotion. It is a doctrine of Scripture that Christ will come again. He once came in lowliness and weakness, to serve, to suffer, to die. He will come again in His own time with power, to perfect His kingdom, to judge the living and the dead, to gather His redeemed to Himself. Angels will attend His coming. It is His own word. "The Son of Man shall come in the glory of His Father with His angels" (Matt. xvi. 27). "When the Son of Man shall come in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then shall he sit upon the throne of His glory; and before Him shall be gathered all nations, and He shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats" (Matt. xxv. 31). The Bible leads us to suppose that the great dispensation of the Messianic kingdom will also be a great dispensation of angelic ministry.

But to come to the services which the angels render to the servants of God, an angel confirmed the faith of Abraham; an angel saved Hagar and her son from death; an angel came and proclaimed himself captain of the Lord's host to lead Joshua and the Israelites into the possession of Canaan. May the Captain of the Lord's host lead our armies to-day! An angel gave Elijah bread and water in his faintness and comforted him. One Psalmist sings, "The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear Him and delivereth them." Another sings of the assurance of Divine protection, "He shall give His angels charge over thee to keep thee in all thy ways." The infant Saviour was under their special care, and Christ teaches that all children are the care of the angels. "In heaven their angels do always behold the face of My Father." An angel delivered Peter from prison. An angel led Philip on his way to preach. The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews sums up their function in the Christian economy in this surprising way, "Are they not all ministering spirit sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?" We are not in a position to judge as to the angels of Mons. We should not, however, take up an attitude of unbelief in these matters. If we read our Bibles with faith, we must give room for angelic ministry. The ministry of angels takes a surprising form sometimes. Why not? Where the need was great, as it was in the case of our Army at Mons, we feel justified in believing that God revealed His power and protection in special ways to His servants. If some of the soldiers tell us with conviction that they saw a vision of angels, we need not doubt their word. Others may tell us they saw nothing. That is also quite true, for it is only some with refined spiritual touch who see such visions. As Hamlet says — "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

May the angels of the Lord encamp around our men!

Editorial from The Witness, 17th September 1915

–  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –


An Officer's Statement

"I have read," says a distinguished lieutenant-colonel in a letter to Mr. Arthur Machen, author of "The Bowmen," "the admirably-written legends with great interest, and I propose to tell you my experience during the retirement." The officer then tells of the retirement from Le Cateau on August 26, 1914. "The brigade to which we belonged covered the retirement of the rest of the division, so that we had very hard work, and by the night of the 27th we were all absolutely worn out with fatigue, both bodily and mental fatigue. No doubt we also suffered to a certain extent from shock, but I feel sure that our mental faculties were still quite sound and in good working condition.

"On the 27th, as we rode along, I became conscious of the fact that in the fields on both sides of the road along which we were marching, I could see a very large body of horsemen. I did not say a word about it at first, but I watched them for about twenty minutes. At last an officer asked me if I saw anything in the fields. I then told him what I had seen. A third officer then confessed that he, too, had been watching those horsemen for the past twenty minutes. So convinced were we that they were really cavalry that at the next halt one of the officers took a party of men out to reconnoitre and found no one there. The night then grew darker, and we saw no more. The same phenomenon was seen by many men in our column."

From The Witness, 17th September 1915

Images: Bowmen of Mons by Alfred Pearce (top); The Angels of Mons by Marcel Gillis (middle) and The Retreat from Mons by Elizabeth Thompson (bottom).

Thursday, 10 September 2015

The Bank of Ireland, Dublin (1832)

This truly beautiful and magnificent building, which, as all our readers know, was originally the Parliament House of Ireland, though considerably changed by the internal adaptations necessary for its present purpose, is fully entitled to the character given of it in 1791, by the very talented James Malton — "that it is no hyperbole to advance, that this edifice in the entire, is the grandest, most convenient, and most extensive of the kind in Europe;" and with equal truth he observed, that "it derives all its beauty from a simple impulse of fine art; and is one of the few instances of form only, expressing true symmetry." Indeed, so truly classical is this fine edifice in its proportions, so grand in its simplicity, that it is not saying too much of it, that it would have done honor to the best days of grecian art; and with such an example before us — one which gives delight to all persons imbued even with the slightest sentiments of taste — it is strange that it should hitherto have had so little effect on the architectural taste of our country, and that nothing comparable to it, and very little of a similar refined character, has been ever raised in the country since the period of its erection.

The foundation of the Parliament House was laid in 1729, during the administration of Lord Carteret, and was executed under the inspection of Sir Edward Lovet Pearce, engineer and surveyor-general; but completed by Arthur Dobbs, Esq., who succeeded him in that office, about the year 1739. The expense amounted to above £40,000. The building being found insufficient in extent to accommodate the Lords and Commons, in 1785, an eastern front, leading to the House of Lords, was designed and executed by the late eminent architect, James Gandon, at an expense of £25,000. In 1787, a western front and entrance, joined to the centre portico by a circular colonade, were added, from the design of Mr. Parke, architect, for about £30,000. The edifice thus perfected for its original purposes, was purchased by the Company of the Bank of Ireland, in 1802, from the Government, for the sum of £40,000, subject to a ground rent of £240 per annum. It is singular enough that the name of the original architect is not certainly known.

The centre portico of this magnificent structure, which is the subject of our present illustration, consists of one grand colonnade of the Ionic order, occupying three sides of a court-yard, and resting on a flight of steps continued entirely round, and to the extremities of the colonnade, where are entrances under two lofty archways. The four central columns support a pediment, whose tympanum is ornamented by the Royal Arms, and on its apex is placed a statue of Hibernia, with one of Fidelity, on her right, and another of Commerce, on her left. These statues were executed by our fellow citizen, John Smyth, that of Hibernia being modelled by his father, and the other two by the celebrated Flaxman. This magnificent centre is connected with the eastern and western fronts, which almost contend with it in beauty, by circular screen walls the height of the building, enriched with dressed niches and a rusticated basement. The western front, which is a beautiful portico of four Ionic columns surmounted by a pediment, preserves an uniformity of style with the centre; but the eastern one, which was originally the entrance to the House of Lords, is of a different style, being of the Corinthian order, and consisting of six columns, crowned by a pediment with a plain tympanum, on which stand three fine statues by the elder Smyth, emblematic of Justice, Fortitude, and Liberty. Though this portico is in itself of the most exquisite proportions and beauty, the difference of its style from the other parts of the huilding is justly objected to, inasmuch as it destroys the symmetrical uniformity of the building as a whole. The defect, however, was accidental, and not attributable to any want of judgment on the part of its accomplished architect, but caused by a desire on the part of the Lords to have their entrance of a different and more ornamental character than that appropriated to the Commons; and it is related as an instance of the ready wit of Mr. Gandon, that a gentleman passing while the workmen were placing the Corinthian capitals on the columns, struck with the incongruity, having asked "What order is that?" the architect, who was present, replied, "It is a very substantial order, for it is an order of the House of Lords!"

Dublin Penny Journal, 15th December, 1832


Thursday, 3 September 2015

The Lowland Sea

“Oh sailed you by the Goodwins,
     Oh came you by the Sound,
 And saw you there my true love
     That was homeward bound? ”

“Oh never will he anchor
     Again by England’s shore;
 A-sailing by the Lowlands
     Your sailor comes no more.

“They gave his ship her death-blow
     As she was sailing by,
 And every soul aboard her,
     Oh, they left them all to die.

“They were not common pirates
     Nor rovers of Sallee,
 But gentlemen of high estate
     Come out of Germanie!

“It was no worthy gentleman
     Though he were crowned King;
 It was no honest seaman
     That wrought so vile a thing!

“But the foulest of all pirates
     That ever sailed the sea,
 And they should swing as pirates swing
     Upon the gallows tree,
 A-sailing by the Lowlands
     That took my lad from me!"

From Punch, 1915
Image: Painting by Willy Stöwer, 1917