TUESDAY, &c. – I have no idea of keeping a regular diary. I hardly expect to have any striking incidents to record; crossing the Atlantic is such a commonplace affair nowadays. Neither do I intend to write down my impressions of men and things very fully. I hope to have some things to think about, which it would be imprudent to have about me in black and white; even such black and white as this first page exhibits a specimen of – the instrument with which I write being a very stampy lead-pencil. I must be also careful not to unveil my own heart – that is, the particular chamber in it sacred to what I suppose I may call the “domestic affections.”
A donkey’s cart, with an emigrant’s box in it, and followed by a respectable looking country girl, whose eyes were swollen with weeping, was the first object that turned my thoughts from mere selfish cogitations. The scene at the railway station at T— was a sad one. I had time to contemplate it at my leisure, as we waited for the mail train, which, though not reaching T— for an hour after the departure of the first train, arrives in Cork before it. It was not the wail and the sob, and the clinging embrace, as parent and child, husband and wife, brother and sister and friend parted – nor the last choking “God be with ye” from the carriage window as the train moved away – that affected me most. It was the number of our people flying from this suffering land that well nigh struck despair into my heart. One athletic fellow could hardly reach the cars through the crowd of friends who pressed forward to take their leave of him. He is one of the 450 Tipperary boys who went to fight for the Pope. “One of the men,” I remarked to my friend Dr. —, “for whose return to Ireland you illuminated your house.” And I could not help thinking that his return the next time will be worthy of another illumination, and a bigger one.
Arrived in Cork about two p.m. Drove to —, where I expected letters, but there were no letters there for me.
WEDNESDAY. – I arranged about our passage last evening, after which we had a walk about this beautiful Cove, or, as it is nicknamed, “Queenstown.” We are now on the “tender” out in the harbour. There are two or three “tenders” all crowded as this is. The people around me nearly all belong to the farming classes. There is an old man sitting next me; and in his look I read an old story. The long patient struggle, the hoping against hope that next year things would mend – the parting, one by one, with his manly sons and darling daughters – the “notice to quit,” and the last look at the old house, the last ramble round the familiar fields, which he and his father and his grandfather moistened with the sweat of their brows – and the last prayer over his wife’s grave in the old churchyard; all this I read in the old man’s face. Surely I have read aright; for as I glance again at him the tears are dropping silently from his dimmed eyes. What a pitiful sight is this of an old man weeping! I must turn my thoughts to something else.
I have a lady (a near relative) and her baby, which I call our baby, under my protection. “Our” baby has got among a group of young girls, who have dried their eyes and are trying to smile. They crowd around the child and try to tempt her one from the other with apples, &c. But baby has made her choice of one, and will not be tempted to leave her; so the rest content themselves with kissing her; they kiss her hands and feet. Poor girls! The heart of the little child is not freer from guile than yours. Would that your lot were a happier one.
We are kept here in the harbour an unconscionably long time, waiting for the ship which was due from Liverpool at twelve or one o’clock. Beautiful as the scene is, and though it is Ireland (from which the wide ocean will so soon divide us), I was getting heartily tired of the delay. I am now glad of it, as it has given A— an opportunity of bidding us farewell. He came out in a boat, and had ten minutes to talk to us when the ship hove in sight. On we go! The emigrants all stand up and wave an adieu to old Ireland. The women press their handkerchiefs into her eyes and sob violently. I am glad to see that some of them at least have brothers or friends to afford them courage and protection. Is it the Irishman’s nature to relieve his heart with a shout, no matter with what the said heart happens to be too full? A cheer has just rung out from our boat, almost as ringing as some I have heard reverberating along a Tipperary hillside. The sombre night comes down upon us as we pass Spike Island; and I think of John Mitchel.
Got on board ship in the dark amid a scene of awful confusion. There is fearful crushing about the baggage, which comes bumping and tumbling in upon the deck. I give up trying to get mine. The poor emigrants wander about in helpless ignorance of where to go or what to do. There is no food or refreshment to be had tonight, which is hard, seeing that they were in the tenders since noon.
SUNDAY EVENING. – High gales and heavy sea for those first four days of our voyage. Those who know what that death-in-life malady called sea-sickness is, would need no explanation of the blank in my notebook during that time. The captain and doctor insist upon curing me today, whether I will or not. I submit meekly, and swallow something from the medicine chest, after which by a desperate effort I got down some spoonful of arrowroot. What weak creatures we are! Yet I have not been wholly miserable. In spite of wind and weather I remain up on deck from morning till late at night, sometimes drenched with salt water, which ever and anon dashed on the deck and high up, in spray, among the rigging. Surely, the ocean in its fury in the grandest object in creation. I have seen it in all its moods – now sleeping, and, like an infant, smiling in its sleep back at the placid moon, dancing, and sparkling, and quivering, as if in ecstasy —
“In the pride of sunny morn”—
And anon leaping up, and rolling, and tumbling, in obstreperous sportiveness. Then it has its black, portentous, sullen mood, which to look upon, is awe-inspiring. But, above and before all, give me the ocean lashed into anger by the mad winds. To feel its full power though, you must be in its midst, and at its mercy. At such a moment the soul is elevated and expanded to the utmost. All its higher faculties appear brought into full play. Yet is there no discord, no swallowing up of one feeling by another. I can find in nature no similitude wherewith to compare this wondrous harmony. The lark does not sing in the thunder cloud. While tossed upon its heaving billows, with the vast storm-swept waste of waters all around you, you feel what a bubble you are. Yet this consciousness of your littleness does not jar in the least with an exultant pride, which makes you feel capable of grasping within your limited comprehension all the wondrous works of Him who holds the ocean in the hollow of his hand. The spirit of the hero, too, is within you — you are a Columbus, a Washington — what you will. Yet, through all these heroic imaginings, you see the lessened circle around the fireside; and, from among the sad faces there, the laughing one of a blue-eyed child turns to you; and nathless your “fine frenzy,” a womanish tear will drop into the yeasty waves. Such tricks, according to my experience, will Fancy play us when she catches us under favourable circumstances out here among Mother Carey’s chickens.