This is a fantasy, a dream-story. You are asked to accept the supposition that the history of Ireland for the last three hundred years was very different from what in reality it has been. You are asked to suppose that Ireland during those centuries developed normally, keeping her own language and laws, and following her own racial traditions. That such a development might have occurred is within the facts of history. For a time, towards the close of the sixteenth century, it lay within the region of possibility. For nine years Hugh O’Neill, descendant of the High-Kings of Ireland and Prince of Tyrone, aided by Red Hugh O’Donnell (the young Prince of Tirconnel) waged a successful war with the forces of Elizabeth. They were finally defeated at the Battle of Kinsale, 1602, and the work of planting Ireland with an alien population was carried on during the rest of the century. The most important of these plantations were those of the Scotch and English adventurers in Ulster in the reign of James I; the Cromwellian Settlement; and the Williamite which took place after the second siege of Limerick in 1691. The Battle of Kinsale was fatal to Irish independence, and its effect on the country was far-reaching and tragic. “There was not lost in one battle fought in later times in Ireland,” writes Lughaid O’Clery, the hereditary historian of the O’Donnells in the seventeenth century, “so much as was lost then.”
And his lament we may read, coming quaint and poignant, human and deep, across the centuries, as he counts the toll of the losses, and measures the wound of his country. Here it is in its English translation: –
“There was lost there first, that one island which was the richest and most productive, the heat and cold of which were more temperate than in the greater part of Europe, in which there was much honey and corn and fish, many rivers, cataracts and water-falls, in which were calm productive harbours. There were lost, too, those who escaped from it (namely those who fled from Ireland after it) of the free, generous, noble-born descendants of the sons of Milesius, and of the prosperous, impetuous chiefs, of lords of territories and clans, and of the chieftains of districts and cantreds; for there were never in Erin at any time together men who were better or more famous than the chiefs who were then, and who died afterwards in other countries one after the other, after their being robbed of their father-land and their noble possessions, which they lost to their enemies on that battle-field. There were lost, besides, nobility and honour, generosity and great deeds, hospitality and goodness, courtesy and noble birth, polish and bravery, strength and courage, valour and constancy, the authority and the sovereignty of the Irish of Erin to the end of time.”
The story – the dream-conception of a normally developed Ireland – brings from the real Ireland a German Professor, a famous Celtic scholar, by somewhat stage machinery, into a kingdom where he finds everything different from that Ireland in which he had arrived a few days before. All is interesting and strange to him. Within the fantasy, life appears to move naturally, yet, belonging as he does to two worlds, he falls into a dangerous situation from which he is only delivered by a return to his normal world.
This story was written some years before the War.