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Lecture On The Ballad Poetry Of Ireland (1869)
By Rev. D. F. Barry, O.S.B.
A Lecture on "the Ballad Poetry of Ireland" was delivered in St. Patrick's Hall, on Monday evening by the Rev. Dayid F. Barry, O.S.B., in aid of the Fitzroy Common Schools. As might have been anticipated from the interesting nature of the subject, and the high literary reputation of the rev. gentleman who consented to deal with it in public for a benevolent object, the large upper room of St. Patrick's Hall was crowded by a respectable and appreciative audience. The Hon. John O'Shanassy presided, and amongst those present were the Very Rev. Dean Fitzpatrick, D.D., V.G., the Rev. P. O'Meara, the Rev. D. M'Kiniry, S. J., the Rev. W. Kelly, S.J., the Rev. J. Mulhall, S.J., the Rev. O. Bersanti, the Rev. G. V. Barry, the Hon. M. O'Grady, Mr. O'Shanassy, jun., Mr. McCarthy O'Leary, barrister-at-law; Dr. Molony, Mr.T. E. Healy, Mr. W. Quirk, &c.
The chairman, in introducing the rev. lecturer, remarked that probably Father Barry was not very well known to most of those present, but nevertheless he was almost a native Australian. He had been brought to this country when he was but a couple of years old, but subsequently he was sent to France to be educated, and after being ordained he spent a few years on the English mission. He had no doubt that Father Barry was as excellent an Australian as any of them--they would have an opportunity that evening of judging for themselves what kind of as Irishman he was.
Father Barry, on coming forward, was received with great applause. In his introductory remarks, referring to the accident of his birthplace, which had been alluded to by the chairman, he took occasion to say a word in favour of young Australia. The youths of this country he said were generally credited with a good ahare of precocity, and sometimes even rudeness. He was, however, convinced that these did not spring from a naturally vicious disposition, but in many instances from a want of mixing in refined society that would amiably shape the dispositions and manners. In the days of his boyhood in this colony he had associated with lads in whose mouths butter would not remain long without melting. He afterwards met them on the Continent of Europe, and he was able to say that they could hold their own against any competitors, whether in the classroom, the university, or the cricket-ground. After apologising for these, he said, irrelevant observations, the reverend gentleman proceeded with his lecture as follows:--
In speaking to you of the " Ballads of Ireland," I shall be necessitated to branch off occasionally into little historic sketches, which will tend, I trust, to bring our Ballads more prominently into view, and increase your appreciation of the strains, as you better understand the circumstances which inspired them, or the events which they inspired. As songs, as music, they are indeed beautiful in themselves, yet they borrow an additional splendor from the knowledge of their origin or their influence. When, for example, I point to a portrait and say to the young Hiberno- Australian or American, that is the portrait of an Irish statesman and patriot, his soul warms to the very canvas. But when I tell him what he did not know, that the portrait is that of Emmett, or of Ireland's glorious Liberator--the immortal Daniel O'Connell--that name
New rapture to the portrait gives,
We gaze on every feature till it lives.
So too, ladies and gentlemen, when I recite an Irish Ballad for you, however beautiful its language, however sweet its cadence, however soft or wild its strain, the real life and energy that inspired it, or that lay hid in its allusions, remain unknown and unappreciated till the torch of history has held it up to view. Let me then try to hold up the light for a short time this evening ; but remember, if you are not pleased with the vision--if the reality does not equal your expectation--attribute, and you shall justly attribute, the failure, the deficiency, not to the garden from which I cull the flowers offered to you, but to the ignorance and inexperience of the gardener, myself, who fails in the choice and constituents of the bouquet presented to your acceptance. I must beg you also to remember that I am not identifying myself with, nor do I repudiate, the sentiments which my subject may inspire. I stand here for a short time before you as the expositor not as the advocate of the language I employ, or the promoter of the feeling it may awaken.
All nations in their early state have manifested strong desire to cultivate some species of poetry, because, poetry was. as naturally the expression of passion fierce and strong, of affection soft and deep , as common wards are channels of common ideas. It was natural, too, to clothe exalted facts and feelings in the finest garb of language, to clothe the sons of prices in the richest kinds of dress. But my subject confines me to one species of poetry, to Bardic song or the Ballad ; the ballad that has formed a great feature in the life of every nation, because it was the expression of the soul of the people. Not to go back beyond the Greeks, their soldiers marched to the Pass of Thermopyle to stand against the Persians, one to a hundred, and fell there without a groan, while the strains of their rude bard gave vigour to their arm to strike, courage to their heart to die, and comfort to their sonls as they winged their flight to the Elysian fields. The sons of Pindar rang out among the Roman ranks, and bore their victorious eagle over many a field of blood and carnage. And to come nearer home, let me remind you of a song--a ballad--that positively woke the world to arms --that started from Marseilles in France, echoed triumphantly along the shores of the Mediterranean, rang out like a thunderbolt over Europe-- startled the Asiatics like the trump of doom, inflamed the slumbering senses of Austria and Prussia, found ten thousand echoes in the ravines of the Alps, and crimsoned the snows of Russia with the blood of the world's victors--I mean the Marseillaise, the fiery words and maddening strains of which snatched Paris from the grasp of its long line of kings, replaced the Bourbon by Napoleon, the fleur de lis by the Eagle, fit emblem of its glorious flight ; and certainly, if you heard Mademoiselle Rachel sing that ballad in Paris, dressed as the spirit of the Revolution, with its tricolor in her grasp, you would imagine that it was sufficient to have made the very stone of the streets leap spontaneously into barricades.
A thousand years ago the Romans drank in the courage of a lion from the strain--" Dulce est pro patria mori"--" 'Tis sweet to die forour country's weal"--and the legions of Gaul caught up the echo, and the pulse unchanged--" Mourir pour la patrie "--" 'Tis sweet to fall in our country's cause." I might instance every nation that has risen to eminence, or slept in chains' from the dispersion of Babylon to the partition of Poland, and show you what a powerful, telling influence bardie traditions have had over the rise and his- tory of every people. They seized especially on the minds and passions of the young, inflaming them with an enthusiasm that nothing could resist. The Garde Mobile of the Revolution of '48, composed positively of boys, carried all be- fore them, marching with the tramp of veterans to the strains of the soul-stirring songs of Fatherland. You will remember the border fights of Scotland when every clan had a leader, not so much in a hero or a chief as in a bardic effusion, that had embodied the freedom of mountain and glen, and made hearts unsubduable as the wilds of nature. And even when the struggle had passed and the fierceness of passion subsided, the mountaineer sat quietly by his fireside and listened to the strains that nourished in his heart the love and freedom of his native land, and painted the infamy of the wretch who could be base enough to betray and enslave her--
Breathes there the man with soul so dead,
That never to himself hath said,
This is say own, my native land !
* * * * *
I remember being present at a concert given in one of the largest halls in England. The programme was a mixed one, consisting of pieces from Verdi, Auber, Rossini, Haydn, and Tom Moore's Irish ballad, the " Minstrel Boy," sung by a celebrated Italian executant, Madame Grisi ; and such a burst of enthusiasm did that simple ballad call forth, that a third and even fourth rendering failed to satisfy the audience. The pieces of the great composers were duly appreciated, but " The Minstrel Boy " bore off the laurel, not that its music was grander, its words more sublime ; " Oh, no! it was something more exquisite still "--it embodied the soul of a people, the sentiments of a nation. (The reverend gentleman here recited with much pathos Moore's beautiful ballad," The Minstrel Boy.") And now, ladies and gentlemen, having stirred the strings of the Irish harp, I must away to the land that gives those chords their charms--
To Erin's Isle, that long
Hath waked the poet's sigh ;
The land that gave to song
What gold could never buy.
Michelet, the great French historian, speaks of Ireland as the Land of Saints and Poets, not that she has given to the world marvels of sanctity and genius above every other nation, but because purity of life and poetry of feeling pervade and have pervaded her people through all grades more markedly than any other nation. " Isle of the Saints !" cries out the Frenchman in admiration. " Isle of the Saints, gem of the seas, all fruitful Ireland, where thy sons spring from thy purity, multitudinous as the flowers of thy fields !--home of poetry and profound thought !--land of Scotres,, Berkley, and Tolland !--country of Moore and O'Connell !--people of brilliant speech and flashing, sword, preserving in the dotage of the world, the youth and beauty of poetic power !" With regard to the bards of Ireland, of whom, in consequence of time, I can only speak generally and collectively, especially as regards the ancients, it would seem that the section of the Druidic order whose duties consisted in the cultivation of poetry and music were called bardagh or bards--i.e., learned men. They were a most influential and distinguished class from the earliest period down to the rein of Charles I., when the last bardic or fileau school in Ireland was kept in Tipperary. The utmost attention was paid to their education, from sixteen to twenty years being devoted to that purpose, at the end of which period each individual assumed his hereditary rank in one of the three divisions into which the bardic profession was divided--those who professed only music being citharadagh or clarsacha; those who professed historic poetry and music obtaining the title of bards; and those studying only poetry containing their laws receiving the title of brehors or judges. Whether from the peculiar attention bestowed upon the education of the youthful bard, the boundless liberality of the chieftain at whose courts they resided and in whose trains they followed, or from the natural taste and talent of the Irish people for music, it is certain that the bards of Erin were distinguished for extraordinary skill in this exquisite accomplishment far beyond those of any northern or western nation. As in religion and literature, so also in music was Ireland the great central " fine heart" whose melodious throbbings were felt not only in the neighbouring islands but in many of the kingdoms of the continent--the hills of Cambria and of Caledonia, the fields and cities of Gaul re-echoed with the sweetly plaintive melody of the Irish harp, awakened by the skill and touched by the fingers of Irishmen.
So late, says Warton, as the 11th century, the practice continued amongst the Welsh bards of receiving instruction in the bardic profession from Ireland. According to Buchanan, the harpers in Scotland were all Irishmen, and when Pepin founded the Abbey of Neville he sent for Irish musicians to instruct in the sacred chant. Giraldus Cambrensis, who would not give the Devil his due were he an Irishman (and I think we may assert he is not), peremptorily declares that the Irish were incomparably skilled in music above any other nation. The bards had many privileges--their persons were held sacred even by enemies, for which reason they were sometimes called ullagh or the sacred order. They were permitted to wear six colours in their dress, which was only one less that those worn by persons of princely rank. Like the Chinese literati they were exempted from all taxes and ennobled by right of genius; and to seize the estate of a bard, even for the public service and in time of national distress, was deemed an act of sacrilege. This extraordinary respect paid to the characters of the bards had not only the effect of bringing their art to the utmost perfection, but of increasing their numbers to such an extraordinary degree, that, at one period, about the year 580, they numbered one-third of the men of Ireland. Their wealth and licentiousness augmented in proportion, which led to a variety of measures for their reformation and suppression, until about the reign of Elizabeth, when this once sacred and illustrious order sank into decay and neglect. It may be allowed to Ireland as a proud boast that her bards were always on the side of liberty and against the invader, from the time when, clothed in white with harp in hand, they marched at the head of our armies and thundered out the Rosg-Caths against the Danes till their utter extinction long after the Anglo-Norman invasion. So much for her ancient Bards--though this is bringing them down to rather modern times. The events that acoompanied and followed the reign of Elizabeth were sufficient to have wrung poetry from the very rocks and caves of the Irish glens and mountains. In days of yore the bard could meet in the halls of his chieftain--the hero of a hundred fights--and could sing, without a blush, the glory of his noble clan. Who has not heard of Tara, the palace of Ireland's ancient kings ? And could we, by the rod of Hermes, " renowned for charms, above and under ground," bring forth that glorious pile from the ruin and oblivion into which time and misfortune have cast it, what a glorious vision would have met the eye !
A hundred chieftains in the hall,
Ten thousand lamps in splendour bright,
The harp's sweet strain--the voice--yes, all
That earth could give of fond delight
Were pictured on that glorious night.
There Cormac, the Solomon of ancient Erin, held his brilliant assemblies ; there Con, of the hundred fights, celebrated his hundred banquets ; there Brian Boru and his glorious band revelled in their " feasts of : reason, and their flow of soul." The harp went round from hand to hand --the song from voice to voice ; none so unskilled as could not lend another gem to the glorious circle.
Well may Erin
Remember the days of old,
Ere her faithless sons betray'd her.
* * * * *
The darkest scene in our nation's history, when read by the light of the past, only shows how magnificent she really is, even in her ruins Yes--
Though glory be gone, and tho' hope fade away,
Thy name, loved Erin, shall live in our songs ;
Not e'en in the hour when our heart is most gay
Will we lose the remembrance of thee and thy wrongs,
See., &c., &c.
As I have called up the shade of Tara from it-- ruined, grey, magnificent--let me send it to rest again, in strains so sweetly coupled with its sad oblivion. (The reverend lecturer recited "The harp that once thro' Tara's Hall," with much effect.) According to the most trustworthy records, it was about the year 767 that those formidable pirates of the North of Europe, known by the general name of Danes, made for the first time their appearance on the coast of Ireland. In comparing the histories of England and Ire- land from this period up to the end of the 10th century, it is impossible not to be struck by the strong contrast which they exhibit. The very same year which saw Ireland pouring forth her assembled princes and clans to confront the in- vader on the sea shore, and there make of hia myriads a warning example to all future invaders, beheld England unworthily cowering under a similar visitation ; her king a fugitive from the scourge in a foreign land, and her nobles purchasing by inglorious tributes a short respite from aggression. And while in the English annals for this year we find little else than piteous lamentations over the fallen and broken spirit of rulers and people, in the records of Ireland the only sorrows which appear to have mingled with the general triumph, are those breathed over the tombs of the veteran monarch, and the numerous chieftains who fell by his side in the glorious battle of Clontarf. The Danes held possession of all the chief seaport towns of Ireland for 200 years, but they never conquered the interior of the country. In twenty-five successive engagements they were defeated by the Irish, until, under the united forces of Brian and Malachy, they were crushed at the battle of Clontarf. Brian fell there, but 'twas the fall of Samson, and the ruins entailed in that fall annihilated the power of the Danes.
Remember the glories of Brian the Brave.
* * * * *
I think, sir, it is universally agreed beyond controversion that from the earliest times down to the present moment a most marked an undying love has ever existed between the Irish people and the Irish priest. Neither time, clime, nor misfortune, has been able to negative or eradicate that affection. Wherever our people and our priests are found and where are they not found they realize in this respect that They who cross the sea shall find They change the climate--not the mind. And I am happy to think that our Bards, through all our history, have fostered this mutual bond of true religious sentiment. The Bards, who were to be found in great numbers among the early converts of St. Patrick, upon their embracing Christianity devoted themselves with energy to the cultivation of the sacred letters. At the Easter Festival at Tora, the first convert gained by St. Patrick was Dublach, the arch-priest and poet of the country. His conversion took place about 433, and after that time, he devoted his talent to the service of the Fiech, and taught whatever science he possessed to a school of Christian disciples. One of these, a bard of no mean abilities, had confided to him by St Patrick the school and monastery of Slitty, where the art of music and versification received their proper attention. Indeed similar provision for music and poetry was made in all the schools and monasteries of Ireland. St. Columbo and St. Columbanus enjoyed a reputation as poets. St. Engus, the martyrologist, began life as a professional bard and did not lay aside his harp when he resumed the coral of the coenobite. Ruman, the son of Colman, was called the Virgil of Ireland, and St. Sevin, the martyr, was so renowned for his poetical abilities that when Florberh, the abbot of Ghent, wanted a particularly elegant epitaph for the tomb of St. Bavo, he sought it and procured it from the Irish missioner. In whatever foreign monasteries the Irish monks sojourned they were sure to introduce a passion for poetry, and the music of the harp. But it was in their own green lsle especially that the Soggarth could make the chords of his people's hearts vibrate to the stains of his music, and, while he opened out to their mind the glorious prospects of immorality, endured their affections by clothing the highest aspirations in the sweetest cadences. I am happy to he able to remember that a Bard of our own time has wedded to verse the sentiments which for ages have existed between the Irish priest. You know how often those sentiments have been misrepresented to strangers, and what unworthy motives have been alleged for their existence; but we'll let the Bard decide it
(Father Barry here recited with admirable feeling that beautiful ballad of Barnim's " Soggarth Aroon)."
The era of '98 was replete with the effort of the ballad. When its strains were prohibited and banned in the city, when they were bushed in the hall and the drawingroom, 'twas only to awaken on the mountain and in the glen, with the vigour and energy of' nature's inspiration. As in the days of old, the bard sang the traditions of the land before the fight began, recalling the glory of the fields in which their predecessors stirred not, but conquered or died. So too in '98 the strains of the harp lent their aid to call into life the feelings, the passions, the resolves that could bleed and fall for Fatherland, if they could not make her free and glorious. The patriotism capable of immolation was kept, and will be kept, alive in the heart of prostrate Erin, by breathings of her harp such as these. To realise the effect of the Ballad on the peasantry, who had been the chief objects of that persecuting period, imagine for a moment that you are standing on the side of a Wicklow mountain ; down the glen marches a platoon of soldiers ; they enter a cabin at the turn of the road, and drag thence a young peasant whom they suspect to be a rebel, and are about to force him to reveal his accomplices--his arms are pinioned behind him, his mother stands before him--the Ballad tells the rest. The soldiers address him : --"Come," &c., " Or right quickly you'll swing on yon high gallows-tree." And the mother speaks
Alanna, alanna, the shadow of shame,
Has never yet fallen upon one of your name.
* * * * *
(The reverend gentleman also recited here "Dear Land," from The Spirit of the Nation.) The love of that dear land could never be effaced from the hearts of her children--could never be alienated. Her sons and daughters traversed the seas only to bear it with them to the farthest ends of the earth, unchanging and undying. And in those sunny homes and happy climes across the Atlantic and Pacific, in America and Australia, where the energy and genius of Erin's exile meet the reward they merit, even there the harp never wakes but to influence the remembrance of her wrongs, or to weep over the fate that makes her distant. And when the last hope is fading with our last sunset, we turn to the far off isle across the seas, sending the last echo of our hearts back to the land that gave its first.
There came to the beach a poor exile of Erin.
* * * * *
One of the greatest readers, and the best scholar of his time, did not hesitate to state that the Irish emancipation was the result of the Irish melodies. The " Melodies " made emancipation palatable to the thinking and generous portion of the British public. Had not Moore's poetry spoken to the hearts of the great and the good, the oratory even of O'Connell had been exerted in vain. The "Melodies" .won the cause, silently, imperceptibly, effectually. I quote you these sentiments more to show you the acknowleged influence of ballad poetry in the history of our country, than to give my own adherence to them. Emancipation, as far as I could understand its workings and deduce its causes, was the result of one man and one nation--that man, the glorious Daniel O'Connell and that nation the Irish people. Other, influences may have been brought to bear on its success, but 'twas the mite which the rivulet bears to the torrent. The source of its power and its triumphant flow was the union of the people under a glorious chief, a spotless patriot, and dauntless orator. Their appeal for justice went forth too bold and too unanimously to return futile and frustrated. It not only reached the ears of their rulers, it startled the phlegmatic indifference which they ever manifested in the well-being and prosperity of Ireland, and forced from an ungenerous prince the concession he could no longer delay. However, I am willing and,happy to concede a part of that boon to the influence of the melodies and the songs : of Barwin, Gerald, and Griffin,and Calanan.
And now, Sir, if I speak of the years that elapsed between 1840 and 1850, I allude to a period in which the Irish Ballad achieved its greatest triumph by acquiring its own greatest splendour; and it would be ungracious when reflecting upon such a time and events more immediately in connection with the subject of my remarks-- be ungracious. I say, not to pay a tribute of recognition and gratitude to one now in the midst of us, whose name, whose ex- ertions, and whose talents have long been long and fervently devoted to interests of Ireland, and whose ability and patriotism have manifested themselves in some of the best and boldest ballads that grace our country's literature. I speak, of course , of the Hon. C. G. Duffy, with whom I am personally acquainted, but whose ability I have long known and have warmly admired. In 1842, Thomas Davis, of memory never to be forgotten, of patriotism ever to be admired, of example ever to be followed, in the welfare and regeneration of Ireland, supported by a few friends that shared his own glorious qualities, started the periodical known as The Nation. The object, I believe, of that publication was to support O'Connell in his agitation for the Repeal of the Union--to unite all Irishmen of all sects in that one grand scheme, to lift that cause up high above Catholic claims and Protestant pretentions, to make it what it ought to be, and will be ere long--the cause of all Ireland. To Charles G. Duffy was entrusted the first editorship of that paper, and in its pages have appeared Ballad poetry unsurpassed, if equalled, in the annals of any country. It may be doubted if they have any rival except that wonderful master of national song, Beranger, truly the Orpheus of France, whose verses, like the rod of the Prophet, swallowed up the effusions even of Lamartine, Victor Hugo, Chateaubriand, and Delonjue.
If I quote you the comments of the Press upon the ballads of the Nation when they appeared in a collected form, you will best perceive how highly they were appreciated by friend and foe. The Tory Press praised them more than the Liberal, the anti-Repealer as much as the Nationalist, while their success in foreign countries equalled their success at home. O'Connell thought the Ballads "admirable;" Mr. Shaw, " most able;" Mr. Butt, " inspired." The Morning Post thought them " superior to anything they had supposed to exist at present the Leeds Times declared them " great achievements;" and the Tablet called them "the music of the battlefield." To ascend higher--the Dublin Review savs they are " vigorous and bold, and fitted to grasp the nation;" the Quarterly found in them "great beauty of language and imagery;" Frazer declared that though they are "mischievous, it dare not condemn them they are so full of beauty." The Ballads that appeared in the Nation not only achieved the end for which they were immediately written--viz., to keep up the spirit of the people, to refine their tastes, to warm their courage, to increase their union, and renew their zeal; they also vindicated the natural faculty of the Irish for patriotic poetry against the bald translations from the original Gaelic, and half-witted squibs, that were running the great towns of Britain, and passing off as efforts of Irish genius and products of Irish sentiment, but as far from the reality as those buffoons who appear on the stage so frequently as Irish characters in low farces--with a brogue that a frog from an Irish bog would repudiate, a shillelah that in justice ought to belaid about the shoulders of its possessor, and a bottle containing about as much genuine spirit as the brains of the author and actor. Again, these Ballads are intrinsically national; they embody the traditions of the people and the land, they revive and perpetuate (says Mr. Duffy) the vehement native songs that gladdened the halls of our princes in their triumphs, and wailed over their ruined hopes and murdered bodies--they are thoroughly and unmistakeably Irish. The first to which I wish to call your attention is one that appeared in the third number of the Nation, written by C. G. Duffy, sung for the first time at one of the suppers of the staff of the Nation, and composed in October, 1842, when the hopes of the people were low. Judge for yourselves how it was calculated to revive them--
Hope no more for Fatherland,
All its ranks are thinned and broken.
* * * * *
The " Nation" its name implied, was to be the soul of the people, the expression of the real feelings and sentiments of the country, was the focus that was to gather together the true light and heat of that incomparable patriotism, and form a hearth and home where Erin's sons and daughters might imbibe the spirit worthy of the land whose children have fought the battles of freedom in the tribune, in the pulpit, at the bar and on the battle-field. And its glorious balladpoetry, was a splendid guarantee of the achievement. As I have already too long trespassed upon your patience, sir, I will refer in conclusion to one more important--indeed, in our age, the important--crisis of our history and conclude with the ballad that so faithfully embodies its effect upon our land, that so thoroughly painted the sentiments of our people, and that so faithfuliy, I presume, interprets the actual feelings of Irishmen in all parts of the world. I allude to what is termed the " Act of Union." I have no terms of reprobation sufficiently condemnatory of the Union, because history and experience manifest it to have been the root of Ireland's wrongs. That she has beep wronged most unjustly most. unreasonably, most grievously, admits of no contraversion : and, what is still more gall- ing, full and adequate measures are not being taken to redress those wrongs. No such measures ever will be taken till the full benefit of the English Constitution be applied to the Irish people; till that," toperium in imperio," the empire within an empire, condemned by all sound policy--till the Castle, so long so corrupt a channel, has ceased to be the medium of legislative transmission; and that can only be effected by the Repeal of the Union.
Why are Canada and Australia free, prosperous, and happy?--Because they have a local Parliament, because they have the administration of their most vital interests in their own hands, because they are thoroughly and truly persuaded that no people on earth can so efficiently appreciate their wants or apply their resources so efficaciously as they themselves. And this is what the Irish want--they want the restoration of the Constitution of 1782--and for that every effort should be made, to effect that should be the object of the united effort of an Irishmen throughout her Majesty's dominions, (The eloquent lecturer here quoted the opinions of Fox, Plunkett, Saurin, George Ramsay, and John Stuart Mill on the Union, and continued:) --Here, then, we have the most illustrious of English statesmen, Fox, denouncing the Union as an arrogant despotism and tyranny. We have the great Irish lawyers, Saurin and Plunkett, describing it as an usurpation destitute of all moral authority over the obedience of the lieges, whose resistance to it they assert to be merely a question of prudence. We have an able Scotch political writer taking the same view of its unconstitutional nature in nearly the same words. And we have John Stuart Mill declaring that the intermeddling of one country with the internal affairs of another is a mischievous intrusion, and he points out a case in which the aggrieved nation may lawfully avail itself of foreign assistance to get free. What these statesmen, lawyers, and political philosophers have given us as the natural convictions of their reason, multitudes of the Irish people intuitively feel as the spontaneous perceptions of their national instincts. In the face of such overwhelming evidence, can men wonder, sir, that Ireland is discontented, especially when the foreign policy of England has been in confirmation of those sentiments ? Why did she object to the right of Austria governing Venetia ? Why her sympathy with and assistance to Garibaldi ? Why her promises of support to Denmark against Prussia ? Why her advocacy of the South against the North in the American war ? Is not such a policy the public declaration that every nation should be its own ruler ? Now, sir, under the impulse of such convictions, the "Ballad of the Union" was written, and I think I may presume to say that its verses embody the sentiments of all Irishmen, in all times, against that unholy and impolitic act.
How did they pass the Union ?
By perjury and fraud ;
By slaves who sold their land for gold
As Judas sold his God, &c., &c.
From the Melbourne newspaper the Advocate Saturday 23 October 1869 p. 4.Just as Irish ballads are forthright in their demand for justice, so are many of the ballads of Australia, influenced, as often the are, by the Irish bardic tradition.
australian traditional songs . . . a selection by mark gregory