From An Claidheamh Soluis, 4 August, 1906.
An old tradition has it that Patrick of the Gael wrested from the Most High a promise that Ireland should never lose the Faith. And Ireland’s fidelity has passed into a proverb among the nations. That old legend refers to the Gael’s unwavering faith in spiritual things, – his tranquil reliance on the unseen Power which rules the Universe. Daring thinkers have arisen among the Gael in the past, and will doubtless arise again; but no great mind of our race has ever questioned the existence of the Deity, or led a generation away from God. For it is given to the Gael to believe.
Have you ever noticed the sweet serenity which sits on the unwrinkled brows of the old men and women of the Gaedhealtacht? That is the outward symbol of their inward faith. They do not know what it is to doubt or to waver. Quietly, bravely, they walk down the path of their lives; quietly, bravely, when life is done, they pass out through the portals of death into Eternity. A priest whom we knew many years ago said to us once that if he were to doubt the existence of God his faith could not but return to him if he stood for a moment by the deathbed of one whose spiritual and intellectual sustenance had been received through the Irish language.
But it is not only with regard to God and the things of God that the Gael’s gift of faith has been manifested. Akin in some subtle way with his fidelity to God and Patrick is that other beautiful and heroic faith of his in her whom he has named the Silk of the Kine, and the Bright Dark-Haired Rose, and Caitlín Ní Uallacháin. Through all the long centuries since she walked a Queen among men he has never once doubted that she will reign again. Empires may crumble; states and cities may pass away; mountains may lie level with the plain, and the lakes and streams of the world run dry; – but the Poor Old Woman will be honoured of men again, the Bright Dark-Haired Rose will again be enthroned.
“Beidh ar fhairrge ‘n-a tuiltibh dearga ‘r an spéir ‘n-a fuil,
Beidh an saoghal ‘n-a chogadh chraorag ar dhruim na gcnoc,
Beidh gach glean sléibhe ar fuid Éireann is móinte ar crith,
Lá éigin sul a n-éagfaidh an Rós Geal Dubh!”
“O! the Erne shall run red with redundance of blood,
The earth shall rock beneath our tread, and flames wrap hill and wood,
And gun-peal and slogan-cry wake many a glen serene,
Ere you shall fade, ere you shall die,
My Dark Rosaleen!
My own Rosaleen!
The Judgment Hour must first be nigh,
Ere you can fade, ere you can die,
My Dark Rosaleen!”
This is the grandest Act of Faith that poet has ever made on behalf of a nation. In thought and act, if not in words of such noble energy, we all of us make that Act of Faith daily. Our subscriptions to the Language Fund, our journeys to and from classes and committee meetings, our porings over grammar treatises and manuals on method, our every task in the movement whether as writers, teachers, students, organisers, branch secretaries, or what not, – each of these is an Act of Faith; for we do these things because we believe that Ireland will live, and grow great and strong and beautiful as she was of yore.
It was because they held this lively faith that Eoin Mac Néill and An Craoibhín founded the Gaelic League; it was because, in exile and sickness, he treasured this holy faith that An tAthair Eoghan Ó Gramhna lived so noble a life and died so noble a death; it is the possession of this vehement and inspiring faith that makes life so well worth living to many a poor and humble and heartsick Gael today.
In a day or two Ireland meets at the Oireachtas to make once more a national profession of faith. THIS LAND SHALL LIVE. That is the thought deep down in the heart of every eager competitor, of every worn student, of every anxious worker, of every zealous teacher that musters up to Baile Átha Cliath next week.
The Oireachtas has many aspects; it is a microcosm of the native civilisation of Éire, a great intellectual, literary, artistic, educational, industrial, and social rally; a review of the fighting forces at the disposal of the Gael; a demonstration of strength intended to inspire ourselves and to overawe the enemy; a national council of war; a milestone on the march towards emancipation. But perhaps we sum it up in all its aspects in describing it as a Nation’s Act of Faith in God and in itself.