From An Claidheamh Soluis, May 12, 1906.

The criticism that ‘there is no ‘thought’ in Irish’ has become trite. It is, however, one of many trite criticisms that happen to be untrue. In the hope of making its untruth as apparent to others as it is to ourselves we commenced a few weeks ago to jot down under the title ‘Seoda na Sean’ passages which had appeared to us personally when we stumbled on them in our delving amongst Irish literature, published and unpublished,—passages in which we believed we saw either an immortal thought or a glowing peace of imagination. We have reason to know that our hope has not been altogether vain. ‘So memorable and worthy things have been said in Irish,’ remarked a Leaguer to us the other day—he was an Irish speaker, too, by the way—as if he had made a discovery! ‘Do b’ áluinn í intinn na sean,’ we quoted in reply.

Could any but a Gael have fashioned the sentence—

‘Is fíor-ḃinn ḃeiṫ ós bán-ṁuir’?

And would not the line be sufficient to make a poem immortal? Yet it is but one of twenty almost equally lovely lines in an anonymous Ossianic-like ode which concludes with this marvellous word-picture:—

‘Beann is aoiḃne ós iaṫ Éireann
Glé-ḃeann ós fairrge faoileann!’

This is Irish imagination at its best—this is the true ‘Celtic note,’ so far as any ‘note’ can be said to predominate in a literature of such myriad moods as Irish literature. And réad the lines quoted from ‘Laoi Bhinne Builbin’ in this week’s ‘Seoda.’ Could even Burns have written them? Remember the summer and winter songs attributed to Fionn, the poems attributed to Colm Cille, ‘King and Hermit,’ the Lament of Crede, and a hundred other pieces in Middle and Early Modern Irish.

But all this, someone will object, is mere imagination-play, mere beautiful imagery, mere happy phraseology,—give us a profound reflection, a masculine or a stirring idea, some thought that has been thought by a Gael which one might take as an inspiration for one’s life. Seadh, a chara, we give you this from Seaghán Ó Dubhagáin:—

‘Leanam lorg na laoċraiḋe’

Live up to that aspiration and your life will have been lived gloriously. ‘Let us follow in the wake of the Heroes!’ Here is a watchword for a man or a woman who would nobly strive, for a nation that would greatly dare, for a movement that would essay heroic things. How tame is Longfellow’s famous quatrain in comparison with the energy and conciseness of this! ‘Leanam lorg na laoċraiḋe!’ It is the very summa of natural and Christian ethics.

In this week’s ‘Seoda’ we include a couplet which has not seldom been in our minds and which we have more than once quoted apropos of recent history in Ireland:

‘Ba ṁó ‘ná abairt in gaċ ré,
Coṁairle Dé fri Éireann uill.’

‘Passing the power of tongue to tell has been in every age the design of God for Eire the mighty.’ We know Gaels who would sneer at the sentiment. Personally we should as soon think of doubting the existence of God as of doubting that this Irish Nation which has achieved and suffered so much, which has stood throughout the ages for the things of the spirit and of the mind, which has never surrendered or bartered or lowered its ideal—we say we should as soon think of doubting the existence of God as of doubting that this Nation is dear to God. With the old poet we believe that all our chequered history has been ordered to a purpose; and that a destiny more splendid than any of us can imagine awaits a land which has known so much glory and so much sorrow. We believe, too, that we are even now assisting at the fulfilment of that destiny; nay, that we who write and you who read, all of us who as workers, students, thinkers, artists, industrial pioneers, makers of songs and stories, and building up this movement—are humble instruments employed in the working out of some august design of Providence. Put at its lowest, we are taking part in the rehabilitation of a Nation which in the past has done some of the worthiest and noblest things that have ever been done or dreamt of on earth. And that is a task of no small dignity.

There are moments in the movement when we have need of all the old poet’s faith in God’s design ‘passing the power of tongue to tell,’—moments when defeat or apparent defeat casts us down, when dangers or imagined dangers daunt us, when things go wrong around us, when issues seem confused and blurred, when friends are disappointing, when fellow-workers are trying.

‘Ba ṁó ‘ná abairt in gaċ ré,
Coṁairle Dé fri Éireann uill.’

This calm, childlike trust in a Shaping Hand, this confidence in the Wisdom and Goodness which guides our destinies unseen, is one of the most beautiful traits in the character of the ipsissimus Gael. ‘’Sé Dia do ċeap ḋom é, a ṁúirnín,’ said an old woman we once knew who had been tried as few women have been tried. This is not fatalism: it is faith. And we all have need of faith and hope and trust, not only in the movement, but in our daily lives; without these, indeed, life were a meaningless riddle, a perpetual questioning, a painful succession of inconsequences and incoherencies. We have all need of the old Gael’s serene confidence in the Hand Which moulds all things to an appointed end; for have not seeming accidents brought strange destinies into all our lives, and do not many of us tread paths whose ends we cannot see?