« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
Nature is not less inspiring to Mr. W. H. Hudson in his Sussex downland than in the Green Mansions of his tropical forests. The late Samuel Butler, when he wrote his 'Alps and Sanctuaries,' about Northern Italy, thought it well to explain that he did not write about Italy because he loved England less. He found, he said, a charm in the villages of Kent, Surrey, and Sussex, which in its way he knew not where to rival. He had seen many foreign cities, but knew none in his opinion so beautiful as London.
If the spirit of the prophet had been in Naaman the Syrian, he would have found the healing streams of his native Abana and Pharpar as sovereign as all the waters of Israel; and we may all experience to the full in our own beautiful country the saving virtues of travel. There is a story of a staunch Scotsman, who was taken to behold the world-famous view of the Himalayas from Darjeeling. He gazed long in silence, then turned and said: 'Man, they mind me of the lowlands ' of Scotland.' To the true traveller every open path is a path to paradise, and the nearest hill but a spur of the Delectable Mountains. Where there is piety, there are always places for pilgrimage, and wonderways to travel wherever there is the will to explore.
'What shall we tell you? Tales, marvellous tales
And winds and shadows fall toward the West:
'And how beguile you? Death has no repose
W. P. JAMES.
HE 'knowledge, falsely so called,' of the gnostics consisted in the possession of certain mystic words and formulæ by virtue of which the soul was supposed to be able to overcome the resistance of gods and devils, and so to win its way upward through the heavens. Just so English Home Rulers have sought salvation in the Irish Question by repeating with conviction certain formulæ, and they have been pained and puzzled when the Irish gods have failed to be appeased and the Irish devils have continued to roar.
Lord Morley, for instance, an agnostic in religion but a gnostic in politics, makes it clear in his 'Recollections' that he went to Ireland as Chief Secretary in the spirit of doctrinaire orthodoxy; his associates were mainly of the household of the faith; and though he listened with the patience required 'by good manners' to those who tried to shake his imported convictions, they remained unshaken. Even Dilke, most laborious of politicians, whose knowledge of France was profound because he spent much of his life there, who made long journeys in the East in order to master the intricacies of the Eastern Question, who spent months in studying on the spot the problems of the Dominions and of the United States, even he never thought it worth while to cross St. George's Channel before committing himself on the Irish Question, and when in 1885 he paid a flying visit to Dublin he came, not as a learner, but as one already conscious of possessing the saving formula.
The reason for this fatal neglect of democratic politicians to study conditions in Ireland itself has lain, partly, in their over-confidence in the efficacy of the representative system. It has been assumed at Westminster that the voice of the Nationalist Party is the voice of Ireland, and that any compact made with this party would be a settlement with the Irish people. A little enquiry would have shown that an essential feature of the tactics of this party has been to economize
truth, and by an apparent accommodation with the principles dominant in the party at Westminster which chances to need their alliance to carry forward their policy by the only practicable method, that is, by disguising its ultimate object. It would be unfair to blame the Nationalists for pursuing this path. If English Home Rulers talked of 'devolution,' of 'local self-government' and the rest, as certain to secure a settlement of the Irish Question, it was not for the Nationalists to undeceive them; the very name of the party should have been argument enough for this purpose. If they used one language in the House of Commons, another in Ireland, and yet another in America, it was open to English politicians to compare the variants and to draw their own conclusions. Doubtless they did so; but since it was certainly a question of a 'political lie' somewhere, every one found the truth in the variant which chanced to suit his own party programme. And so the Parliamentary travail which ended in the birth of that unhappy abortion, the Government of Ireland Act of 1914, was wasted and worse than wasted. For ten years the Liberals in office had chanted their favourite formulæ for exorcizing the demons of Irish disaffection, and with what result? In the summer of 1916 the present writer was told the result, by an old Irishman who remembered the rebellion of '48. I have never known,' he said, ' the hatred of England 'so widespread and so deep in Ireland as it is now, and it 'has all grown up since 1906.' It has spread wider and sunk deeper since.
Such an outcome of years of effort at conciliation, of the most friendly and flattering advances, and of a solicitude for the interests of the Irish people which may be characterized as that of a doting grandmother, must needs come as a surprise to a people like the English, who are conscious-perhaps a little too conscious of their generous intentions. It has not been a surprise to those who know Ireland and the general character of its people.
The ultimate trouble is not indeed due to the causes that Irishmen allege. The charges brought against England by the extreme Nationalists are, for the most part, absurd. It is wholly untrue to say that Ireland since the Union has, in comparison with Great Britain, been overtaxed; that as a nsequence of the Union the population of Ireland has been
diminished by one-half; that England has used her preponderance in the Imperial Parliament to exploit Ireland and to depress such of her industries as competed with her own.* As for the charges grosser than these, they are merely characteristic examples of Irish oratorical hyperbole. When young Ireland talks of bloody British tyranny,' of the brutal police,' and so on, this merely means that young Ireland has no experience of what tyranny is, or of what a brutal police is capable. Having no experience it has to draw on its rich imagination and its inexhaustible vocabulary of superlatives. When the Sinn Fein leader P. H. Pearse told a New York audience that 'the unquenchable national spirit of Ireland gives courage ' to young girls to bare their backs to the lashes of a soldiery,' † he was probably unconscious that he was a liar; he felt himself merely to be a patriot and a poet, and free to use for patriotic purposes a poet's licence. For these things have not happened in Ireland within the memory of living men. The badness of the government of Ireland in recent years has not been due to its having been tyrannical; it would, indeed, have been a better government if it had been more tyrannical. The trouble is due to the fact that, largely owing to the shifting phases of opinion at Westminster, the government of Ireland has never been consistent, the normal state being a liberty too often allowed to degenerate into licence, with interludes of a discipline which has never been effective because it was known that it would not be sustained.
It will be urged that, if this be so, the task of governing the Irish should be taken away from those who have failed to understand them, and assigned to those who do, namely, to 'themselves alone.' But is it so certain that they understand themselves? Mr. George Russell ('.'), who is widely
* See 'Undertaxed Ireland,' in 'The Nineteenth Century' for last June. For statistics of the great growth of Irish wealth during the first forty years of the Union, see R. M. Martin, Ireland Before and After the Union with Great Britain,' 1848. In 1800 the population of Ireland was 4,000,000, the amount of taxation £4,387,096. In 1840 the population was 8,000,000 and the amount of taxation £4,102,385. The disaster of the famine was due to economic and other causes with which the Union had nothing to do.
† Speech at the Emmet Celebration in the Eolian Hall, New York, March 9, 1914.
regarded as perhaps the most representative of living Irishmen, writes as follows of his countrymen :
'For all our passionate discussions over self-government, we have had little speculation over our character or the nature of the civilization we wished to create for ourselves. Nations rarely, if ever, start with a complete ideal. Certainly we have no national ideals, no principles of progress peculiar to ourselves in Ireland, which are a common possession of our people.'
Even the Irish Convention, representative as it was, did not represent the whole of Irish opinion, for the momentarily dominant Sinn Fein element ostentatiously ignored it. Even thus restricted, informed though its debates were by a mutual good-will unique in Irish history, it quite failed to reach even approximate agreement on any important principle, not to mention the particular applications of such a principle. It was, indeed, precisely in this disagreement that it most accurately reflected the mind of Ireland. 'The State,' says Mr. Russell, 'is a physical body prepared for the incarnation ' of the soul of a race.' But the population of Ireland is made up of a medley of races, and in this medley one race alone has so clearly defined a soul that it can be said to understand itself. The soul of the Ulster Scot may not be such as to appeal to the poetic imagination; but it is at least a strong soul, intensely self-conscious, and provided already with a physical body with which it is reasonably content. The soul of the mass of the Irish race, Gaelic by courtesy, is as vague and fluctuating as the mists on its mountains; it cries aloud for reincarnation, and its ululations echo through all the world; but it too has a body, and its failure to understand itself is shown by the fact that it does not realize that if it is dissatisfied with its present incarnation, this is due mainly to its own fault.
'We may say with certainty (says Mr. George Russell) that the external circumstances of people are a measure of their inner life. Our mean and disordered little country towns in Ireland, with their drink-shops, their disregard of cleanliness and beauty, accord with the character of the civilians who inhabit them. Whenever we develop an intellectual life these things will be altered, but not in priority to the spiritual mood. . . . That building up of the
* The National Being,' p. 3.