More than half a century has rolled by since I stood on Irish soil, and shed tears of pity for the wretchedness I saw, and no change for the better has as yet come to that unhappy people—yet this was the land of Burke, Grattan, Shiel, and Emmett; the land into which Christianity was introduced in the fifth century, St. Patrick being the chief apostle of the new faith. In the sixth century Ireland sent forth missionaries from her monasteries to convert Great Britain and the nations of Northern Europe. From the eighth to the twelfth century Irish scholars held an enviable reputation. In fact, Ireland was the center of learning at one time. The arts, too, were cultivated by her people; and the round towers, still pointed out to travelers, are believed to be the remains of the architecture of the tenth century. The ruin of Ireland must be traced to other causes than the character of the people or the Catholic religion. Historians give us facts showing English oppressions sufficient to destroy any nation.
The short, dark days of November intensified, in my eyes, the gloomy prospects of that people, and made the change to the Sirius of the Cunard Line, the first regular Atlantic steamship to cross the ocean, most enjoyable. Once on the boundless ocean, one sees no beggars, no signs of human misery, no crumbling ruins of vast cathedral walls, no records of the downfall of mighty nations, no trace, even, of the mortal agony of the innumerable host buried beneath her bosom. Byron truly says:
“Time writes no wrinkle
on thine azure brow—
Such as creation’s dawn beheld, thou rollest now.”
When we embarked on the Sirius, we had grave doubts as to our safety and the probability of our reaching the other side, as we did not feel that ocean steamers had yet been fairly tried. But, after a passage of eighteen days, eleven hours, and fifteen minutes, we reached Boston, having spent six hours at Halifax. We little thought that the steamer Sirius of fifty years ago would ever develop into the magnificent floating palaces of to-day—three times as large and three times as swift. In spite of the steamer, however, we had a cold, rough, dreary voyage, and I have no pleasant memories connected with it. Our fellow-passengers were all in their staterooms most of the time. Our good friend Mr. Birney had sailed two weeks before us, and as Mr. Stanton was confined to his berth, I was thrown on my own resources. I found my chief amusement in reading novels and playing chess with a British officer on his way to Canada. When it was possible I walked on deck with the captain, or sat in some sheltered corner, watching the waves. We arrived in New York, by rail, the day before Christmas. Everything looked bright and gay in our streets. It seemed to me that the sky was clearer, the air more refreshing, and the sunlight more brilliant than in any other land!