Some Notable Tributes And Recent Developments
By W. J. BLYTON
IN many big works and offices, as early as now, the " Holiday List " is being circulated among the staffs for names and date's to be filled in. It is a pleasant moment, breaking the long winter dullness and bringing an imaginative foretaste of summer, travel and holidaying..
There are some new reasons, as well as sound old ones, for giving the Irish Free State a turn, particularly by those who have not yet seen its revelations of -beauty and its profound interest humanly, socially and religiously.
Friends who have just returned from a journalists' conference, which President de Valera and important colleagues attended, speak of the firm confidence and public tranquillity which mark the sister island today.
" If You Value Your Life "
Indeed, even when " the troubles " were on, they tended to be singled out and exaggerated in our Press; and I remember asking Mr. Bernard Shaw, on the day of his return from a long Irish holiday, whether things had been calm or disturbing. " Calm?" he said: " if you're going there, note this—that the only danger you are liable to is being run over—when you're back in London or any big English city!"
As the American Minister said at the gathering I have named, " Prosperity has decidedly arrived for Ireland. Under the rapid diversification of crops, and the multiplication of industries, the Irish Free State is throbbing with new life." Some 45 per cent. of the State's 3-1million people are engaged in rural occupations, and Ireland feeds herself and more than herself : so that when the tourist admires its scenery, he is not looking at something precarious, threatened and hard-hit—a feeling which qualifies his pleasure when he surveys the landscape in certain countries one could name.
On other recent aspects, the Editor of the Catholic Herald has been speaking with fresh information. Here, the object is the more modest one, of inquiring whether the wide-awake Irish Tourist. Association would care to use, in propaganda, some of the remarkable things said about their country by men who are household names in England, and whose advertisement value therefore is substantial.
Catholic's Delight For Catholics, the gratifying fact is that here is a " foreign " country where daily Mass is a live and popular thing, where the voice of the religion is heard and felt in society, and where, at the same time, one's own language is spoken. Thus, there are the benefits of mental change without the inconveniences of a totally different language and currency.
Diet is natural, fresh, and unsophisticated, contrasted with the conventional cosmopolitan hotel dinner which pursues the globe-trotter from Port Said to Vancouver, from New York to Yokohama. The butter, potatoes, bacon and eggs, the fish and meat and vegetables are new from the fields and the sea.
There is good witty talk to be heard in Dublin, but if you want to escape intellect awhile there is the easy-going chat of the countryside. The countryside gave us the wisdom of Burke, the humour of The Vicar of Wakefield. the wit of The School For Scandal. the imagination of The Playboy of the Western World, the tender landscapes of A Drama in Muslin, and, of
course, many a fine teller of tales besides Maria Edgeworth, Lever and Lover.
Tennyson's " Travel Poster "
Tourists often want to know how it strikes the visitor. For then, the effective travel poster would be a simple quotation from somebody they knew. For instance, Tennyson:— The splendour falls on castle walls, And snowy summits old in story; The long light shakes across the lakes, And the wild cataract leaps in glory.
That was written near the lakes round Killarney, with the refrain, " Blow, bugles, blow," as he heard the echoes flying.
Or this, from Charles Kingsley " No one knows what gigantic effects of colour our temporate zone can show till he has been in Ireland."
Or this, from W. M. Thackeray: "The best guide-book ever written cannot set before the mind's eye those wild mountains over which the clouds as they passed, or the sunshine as it went or came, cast every variety of tint, light and shadow; nor can it be expected that long level sentences, however smooth and shining. can be made to pass as representations of these calm lakes. All one can do is to lay down the pen and ruminate and cry Beautiful!' once more; and to the reader say, come and see!' Wide and wild as the prospect is, it has somehow a kindly, friendly look; differing in this from the fierce loneliness of some similar scenes in Wales."
Publicity Kings Some good sentences could be carved by the publicity experts from George Borrow from the essays of "A.E." (Russell), and Robert Lynd; and there is a beautiful word picture by Stephen Gwynn of the country people at Mass and the scene around, more picturesque than the tourist is likely to get eight hundred miles away in Europe.
Irish people have, indeed, a lot to forgive Froude, who abused a line prose style to the base worship of the Tudors: but even Froude, when he came under the spell of South-West Ireland, was moved to write: When all is said, Ireland is still the most beautiful island in the world. There is growing up a life in all parts of Ireland with more subdued grace about it, more human in its best features, than is to be found in any other part of these islands."
That is pretty good, you know, consider
ing its source. Froude was an odd mixture—a political Protestant (agnostic all the same!), an imperialist, a believer in the " strong man " stunt, a disciple of Carlyle, an admirer of Henry VIII and Elizabeth, and the wielder of a charming prose, as Belloc generously allowed thirty or more years ago.
But even his bigotry stood no chance when he holidayed in Kerry. He praised the morals and manners of the people, and frankly gave the credit to the Church. Even there, he put his foot in it: meaning no harm, he said the priests lay the emphasis of religion upon goodness rather than doctrine! He was kindly taken to task, and admitted that it must be his thick English head which, meaning it as a compliment, had caused offence).
However, he went on to speak of " the exquisite air, the most elaborate variety of the most perfect scenery in the world " (Froude had toured most of the world), " cliff, cataract, and glen—freshwater lake and inland sea—spirit-haunted, all of them, with tales of Irish history—the mountain jewels set in the azure ring of the Atlantic which circles round three sides of the horizon."