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of other days be heard. Even of that class, the itinerant harpers, among whom for a long period our ancient music had been kept alive, there remained but few to continue the precious tradition; and a great music-meeting held at Belfast in the year 1792, at which the two or three still remaining of the old race of wandering harpers assisted, exhibited the last public effort made by the lovers of Irish music, to preserve to their country the only grace or ornament left to her, out of the wreck of all her liberties and hopes. Thus what the fierce legislature of the Pale had endeavoured vainly through so many centuries to effect, the utter extinction of Ireland's Minstrelsy,- the deadly pressure of the Penal Laws had nearly, at the close of the eighteenth century, accomplished; and, but for the zeal and intelligent research of Mr. Bunting, at that crisis, the greater part of our musical treasures would probably have been lost to the world. It was in the year 1796 that this gentleman published his first volume; and the national spirit and hope then wakened in Ireland, by the rapid spread of the democratic principle throughout Europe, could not but insure a most cordial reception for such a work;
- flattering as it was to the fond dreams of Erin's early days, and containing in itself, indeed, remarkable testimony to the truth of her claims to an early date of civilization.
It was in the year 1797 that, through the medium of Mr. Bunting's book, I was first made acquainted
with the beauties of our native music. A young friend of our family, Edward Hudson, the nephew of an eminent dentist of that name, who played with much taste and feeling on the flute, and, unluckily for himself, was but too deeply warmed with the patriotic ardour then kindling around him, was the first who made known to me this rich mine of our country's melodies; -a mine, from the working of which my humble labours as a poet have since derived their sole lustre and value. About the same period I formed an acquaintance, which soon grew into intimacy, with young Robert Emmet. He was my senior, I think, by one class, in the university; for when, in the first year of my course, I became a member of the Debating Society,- a sort of nursery to the authorized Historical Society, I found him in full reputation, not only for his learning and eloquence, but also for the blamelessness of his life, and the grave suavity of his manners.
Of the political tone of this minor school of oratory, which was held weekly at the rooms of different resident members, some notion may be formed from the nature of the questions proposed for discussion, one of which, I recollect, was, "Whether an Aristocracy or a Democracy is most favourable to the advancement of science and literature?" while another, bearing even more pointedly on the relative position of the government and the people, at this crisis, was thus significantly propounded:-"Whether a soldier was bound, on all occasions, to obey the
orders of his commanding officer?" On the former of these questions, the effect of Emmet's eloquence upon his young auditors was, I recollect, most striking. The prohibition against touching upon modern politics, which it was subsequently found necessary to enforce, had not yet been introduced; and Emmet, who took of course ardently the side of democracy in the debate, after a brief review of the republics of antiquity, showing how much they had all done for the advancement of science and the arts, proceeded, lastly, to the grand and perilous example, then passing before all eyes, the young Republic of France. Referring to the circumstance told of Cæsar, that, in swimming across the Rubicon, he contrived to carry with him his Commentaries and his sword, the young orator said, "Thus France wades through a sea of storm and blood; but while, in one hand, she wields the sword against her aggressors, with the other she upholds the glories of science and literature unsullied by the ensanguined tide through which she struggles." In another of his remarkable speeches, I remember his saying, "When a people advancing rapidly in knowledge and power, perceive at last how far their government is lagging behind them, what then, I ask, is to be done in such a case? What, but to pull the government up to the people?"
In a few months after, both Emmet and myself were admitted members of the greater and recognized institution, called the Historical Society; and, even
here, the political feeling so rife abroad contrived to mix up its restless spirit with all our debates and proceedings; notwithstanding the constant watchfulness of the college authorities, as well as of a strong party within the Society itself, devoted adherents to the policy of the government, and taking invariably part with the Provost and Fellows in all their restrictive and inquisitorial measures. The most distinguished and eloquent of these supporters of power were a young man named Sargent, of whose fate in after days I know nothing, and Jebb, the late Bishop of Limerick, who was then, as he continued to be through life, much respected for his private worth and learning.
Of the popular side, in the Society, the chief champion and ornament was Robert Emmet; and though every care was taken to exclude from the subjects of debate all questions verging towards the politics of the day, it was always easy enough, by a side-wind of digression or allusion, to bring Ireland and the prospects then opening upon her within the scope of the orator's view. So exciting and powerful, in this respect, were Emmet's speeches, and so little were even the most eloquent of the adverse party able to cope with his powers, that it was at length thought advisable, by the higher authorities, to send among us a man of more advanced standing, as well as belonging to a former race of renowned speakers, in that Society, in order that he might answer the speeches of Emmet, and endeavour to obviate the
mischievous impression they were thought to produce. The name of this mature champion of the higher powers it is not necessary here to record; but the object of his mission among us was in some respect gained; as it was in replying to a long oration of his, one night, that Emmet, much to the mortification of us who gloried in him as our leader, became suddenly embarrassed in the middle of his speech, and, to use the parliamentary phrase, broke down. Whether from a momentary confusion in the thread of his argument, or possibly from diffidence in encountering an adversary so much his senior, -for Emmet was as modest as he was high-minded and brave, he began, in the full career of his eloquence, to hesitate and repeat his words, and then, after an effort or two to recover himself, sate down.
It fell to my own lot to be engaged, about the same time, in a brisk struggle with the dominant party in the Society, in consequence of a burlesque poem which I gave in, as candidate for the Literary Medal, entitled "An Ode upon Nothing, with Notes, by Trismegistus Rustifustius, D. D." etc. etc. For this squib against the great Dons of learning, the medal was voted to me by a triumphant majority. But a motion was made in the following week to rescind this vote; and a fierce contest between the two parties ensued, which I at last put an end to by voluntarily withdrawing my composition from the Society's Book.
I have already adverted to the period when Mr.