Sunday, September 14, 2014
Various online versions of his autobiography, "Memoirs of an Irish Patriot"
The full text of a fair few of his essays and poems:
"Ways and means of Self Education"
"What good were it for me to manufacture perfect iron while my own breast is full of dross? What would it stead me to put properties of land in order, while I am at variance with myself? To speak it in a word: the cultivation of my individual self, here as I am, has from my youth upwards been constantly though dimly my wish and my purpose."
"Men are so inclined to content themselves with what is commonest; the spirit and the senses so easily grow dead to the impressions of the beautiful and perfect; that every one should study to nourish in his mind the faculty of feeling these things by every method in his power. For no man can bear to be entirely deprived of such enjoyments; it is only because they are not used to taste of what is excellent, that the generality of people take delight in silly and insipid things, provided they be new. For this reason, he would add, 'one ought at least every day to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and, if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words.'"--Goethe.
We have been often asked by certain of the Temperance Societies to give them some advice on Self-Education. Lately we promised one of these bodies to write some hints as to how the members of it could use their association for their mental improvement.
We said, and say again, that the Temperance Societies can be made use of by the people for their instruction as well as pleasure. Assemblies of any kind are not the best places either for study or invention. Home or solitude are better--home is the great teacher. In domestic business we learn mechanical skill, the nature of those material bodies with which we have most to deal in life--we learn labour by example and by kindly precepts--we learn (in a prudent home) decorum, cleanliness, order--in a virtuous home we learn more than these: we learn reverence for the old, affection without passion, truth, piety, and justice. These are the greatest things man can know. Having these he is well; without them attainments of wealth or talent are of little worth. Home is the great teacher; and its teaching passes down in honest homes from generation to generation, and neither the generation that gives, nor the generation that takes it, lays down plans for bringing it to pass.
Again, to come to designed learning. We learn arts and professions by apprenticeships, that is, much after the fashion we learned walking, or stitching, or fire-making, or love-making at home--by example, precept, and practice combined. Apprentices at anything, from ditching, basket-work, or watch-making, to merchant-trading, legislation, or surgery, submit either to a nominal or an actual apprenticeship. They see other men do these things, they desire to do the same, and they learn to do so by watching how, and when, and asking, or guessing why each part of the business is done; and as fast as they know, or are supposed to know, any one part, whether it be sloping the ditch, or totting the accounts, or dressing the limb, they begin to do that, and, being directed when they fail, they learn at last to do it well, and are thereby prepared to attempt some other or harder part of the business.
Thus it is by experience--or trying to do, and often doing a thing--combined with teaching or seeing, and being told how and why other people more experienced do that thing, that most of the practical business of life is learned.
In some trades, formal apprenticeship and planned teaching exist as little as in ordinary home-teaching. Few men are of set purpose taught to dig; and just as few are taught to legislate.
Where formal teaching is usual, as in what are called learned professions, and in delicate trades, fewer men know anything of these businesses. Those who learn them at all do so exactly and fully, but commonly practise them in a formal and technical way, and invent and improve them little. In those occupations which most men take up casually--as book-writing, digging, singing, and legislation, and the like--there is much less exact knowledge, less form, more originality and progress, and more of the public know something about them in an unprofessional way.
The Caste system of India, Egypt, and Ancient Ireland carried out the formal apprenticeship plan to its full extent. The United States of America have very little of it. Modern Europe is between the two, as she has in most things abolished caste or hereditary professions (kings and nobles excepted), but has, in many things, retained exact apprenticeships.
Marriage, and the bringing up of children, the employment of dependants, travel, and daily sights and society, are our chief teachers of morals, sentiment, taste, prudence and manners. Mechanical and literary skill of all sorts, and most accomplishments, are usually picked up in this same way.
We have said all this lest our less-instructed readers should fall into a mistake common to all beginners in study, that books, and schooling, and lectures, are the chief teachers in life; whereas most of the things we learn here are learned from the experience of home, and of the practical parts of our trades and amusements.
We pray our humbler friends to think long and often on this.
But let them not suppose we undervalue or wish them to neglect other kinds of teaching; on the contrary, they should mark how much the influences of home, and business, and society, are affected by the quantity and sort of their scholarship.
Home life is obviously enough affected by education. Where the parents read and write, the children learn to do so too, early in life and with little trouble; where they know something of their religious creed they give its rites a higher meaning than mere forms; where they know the history of the country well, every field, every old tower or arch is a subject of amusement, of fine old stories, and fine young hopes; where they know the nature of other people and countries, their own country and people become texts to be commented on, and likewise supply a living comment on those peculiarities of which they have read.
Again, where the members of a family can read aloud, or play, or sing, they have a well of pleasant thoughts and good feelings which can hardly be dried or frozen up; and so of other things.
And in the trades and professions of life, to study in books the objects, customs, and rules of that trade or profession to which you are going saves time, enables you to improve your practice of it, and makes you less dependent on the teaching of other practitioners, who are often interested in delaying you.
In these, and a thousand ways besides, study and science produce the best effects upon the practical parts of life.
Besides, the first business of life is the improvement of one's own heart and mind. The study of the thoughts and deeds of great men, the laws of human, and animal, and vegetable, and lifeless nature, the principles of fine and mechanical arts, and of morals, society, and religion--all directly give us nobler and greater desires, more wide and generous judgments, and more refined pleasures.
Learning in this latter sense may be got either at home or at school, by solitary study, or in associations. Home learning depends, of course, on the knowledge, good sense, and leisure of the parents. The German Jean Paul, the American Emerson, and others of an inferior sort, have written deep and fruitful truths on bringing up and teaching at home. Yet, considering its importance, it has not been sufficiently studied. Upon schools much has been written. Almost all the private schools in this country are bad. They merely cram the memories of pupils with facts or words, without developing their judgment, taste, or invention, or teaching them the application of any knowledge. Besides, the things taught are commonly those least worth learning. This is especially true of the middle and richer classes. Instead of being taught the nature, products, and history, first of their own, and then of other countries, they are buried in classical frivolities, languages which they never master, and manners and races which they cannot appreciate. Instead of being disciplined to think exactly, to speak and write accurately, they are crammed with rules and taught to repeat forms by rote.
The National Schools are a vast improvement on anything hitherto in this country, but still they have great faults. From the miserably small grant the teachers are badly paid, and, therefore, hastily and meagrely educated.
The maps, drawing, and musical instruments, museums and scientific apparatus, which should be in every school, are mostly wanting altogether. The books, also, are defective.
The information has the worst fault of the French system: it is too exclusively on physical science and natural history. Fancy a National School which teaches the children no more of the state and history of Ireland than of Belgium or Japan! We have spoken to pupils, nay, to masters of the National Schools, who were ignorant of the physical character of every part of Ireland except their native villages--who knew not how the people lived, or died, or sported, or fought--who had never heard of Tara, Clontarf, Limerick, or Dungannon--to whom the O'Neills and Sarsfields, the Swifts and Sternes, the Grattans and Barrys, our generals, statesmen, authors, orators, and artists, were alike and utterly unknown! Even the hedge schools kept up something of the romance, history, and music of the country.
Until the National Schools fall under national control, the people must take diligent care to procure books on the history, men, language, music, and manners of Ireland for their children. These schools are very good so far as they go, and the children should be sent to them; but they are not national, they do not use the Irish language, nor teach anything peculiarly Irish.
As to solitary study, lists of books, pictures, and maps can alone be given; and to do this usefully would exceed our space at present.
As it is, we find that we have no more room and have not said a word on what we proposed to write--namely, Self-Education through the Temperance Societies.
We do not regret having wandered from our professed subject, as, if treated exclusively, it might lead men into errors which no afterthought could cure.
What we chiefly desire is to set the people on making out plans for their own and their children's education. Thinking cannot be done by deputy--they must think for themselves.
"Influences Of Education"
"Educate, that you may be free." We are most anxious to get the quiet, strong-minded People who are scattered through the country to see the force of this great truth; and we therefore ask them to listen soberly to us for a few minutes, and when they have done to think and talk again and again over what we say.
If Ireland had all the elements of a nation, she might, and surely would, at once assume the forms of one, and proclaim her independence. Wherein does she now differ from Prussia? She has a strong and compact territory, girt by the sea; Prussia's lands are open and flat, and flung loosely through Europe, without mountain or river, breed or tongue, to bound them. Ireland has a military population equal to the recruitment of, and a produce able to pay, a first-rate army. Her harbours, her soil, and her fisheries are not surpassed in Europe.
Wherein, we ask again, does Ireland now differ from Prussia? Why can Prussia wave her flag among the proudest in Europe, while Ireland is a farm?
It is not in the name of a kingdom, nor in the formalities of independence. We could assume them to-morrow--we could assume them with better warrants from history and nature than Prussia holds; but the result of such assumption would perchance be a miserable defeat.
The difference is in Knowledge. Were the offices of Prussia abolished to-morrow--her colleges and schools levelled--her troops disarmed and disbanded, she would within six months regain her whole civil and military institutions. Ireland has been struggling for years, and may have to struggle many more, to acquire liberty to form institutions.
Whence is the difference? Knowledge!
The Prussians could, at a week's notice, have their central offices at full work in any village in the kingdom, so exactly known are their statistics, and so general is official skill. Minds make administration--all the desks, and ledgers, and powers of Downing Street or the Castle would be handed in vain to the ignorants of ---- any untaught district in Ireland. The Prussians could open their collegiate classes and their professional and elementary schools as fast as the order therefor, from any authority recognised by the People, reached town after town--we can hardly in ten years get a few schools open for our people, craving for knowledge as they are. The Prussians could re-arm their glorious militia in a month, and re-organise it in three days; for the mechanical arts are very generally known, military science is familiar to most of the wealthier men, discipline and a soldier's skill are universal. If we had been offered arms to defend Ireland by Lord Heytesbury, as the Volunteers were by Lord Buckinghamshire, we would have had to seek for officers and drill-sergeants--though probably we could more rapidly advance in arms than anything else, from the military taste and aptness for war of the Irish People.
Would it not be better for us to be like the Prussians than as we are--better to have religious squabbles unknown, education universal, the People fed, and clad, and housed, and independent as becomes men; the army patriotic and strong; the public offices ably administered; the nation honoured and powerful? Are not these to be desired and sought by Protestant and Catholic? Are not these things to be done, if we are good and brave men? And is it not plain, from what we have said, that the reason for our not being all that Prussia is, and something more, is ignorance--want of civil and military and general knowledge amongst all classes?
This ignorance has not been our fault, but our misfortune. It was the interest of our ruler to keep us ignorant, that we might be weak; and she did so--first by laws, prohibiting education; then by refusing any provision for it; next, by perverting it into an engine of bigotry; and now, by giving it in a stunted, partial, anti-national way. Practice is the great teacher, and the possession of independence is the natural and best way for a People to learn all that pertains to freedom and happiness. Our greatest voluntary efforts, aided by the amplest provincial institutions, would teach us less in a century than we would learn in five years of Liberty.
In insisting on education we do not argue against the value of immediate independence. That would be our best teacher. An Irish Government and a national ambition would be to our minds as soft rains and rich sun to a growing crop. But we insist on education for the People, whether we get it from the Government or give it to themselves as a round-about, and yet the only, means of getting strength enough to gain freedom.
Do our readers understand this? Is what we have said clear to you, reader!--whether you are a shopkeeper or a lawyer, a farmer or a doctor? If not, read it over again, for it is your own fault if it be not clear. If you now know our meaning, you must feel that it is your duty to your family and to yourself, to your country and to God, to act upon it, to go and remove some of that ignorance which makes you and your neighbours weak, and therefore makes Ireland a poor province.
All of us have much to learn, but some of us have much to teach.
To those who, from superior energy and ability, can teach the People, we now address ourselves.
We have often before and shall often again repeat, that the majority of our population can neither read nor write, and therefore that from the small minority must come those fitted to be of any civil or military use beyond the lowest rank. The People may be and are honest, brave, and intelligent; but a man could as well dig with his hands as govern, or teach, or lead without the elements of Knowledge.
This however, is a defect which time and the National Schools must cure; and the duty of the class to which we speak is to urge the establishment of such Schools, the attendance of the children at them, and occasionally to observe and report, either directly or through the Press, whether the admirable rules of the Board are attended to. In most cases, too, the expenditure of a pound-note and a little time and advice would give the children of a school that instruction in national history and in statistics so shamefully omitted by the Board. Reader! will you do this?
Then of the three hundred Repeal Reading-rooms we know that some, and fear that many, are ill-managed, have few or no books, and are mere gossiping-rooms. Such a room is useless; such a room is a disgrace to its members and their educated neighbours. The expense having been gone to of getting a room, it only remains for the members to establish fixed rules, and they will be supplied with the Association Reports (political reading enough for them), and it will be the plain duty of the Repeal Wardens to bring to such a room the newspapers supplied by the Association. If such a body continue and give proofs of being in earnest, the Repeal Association will aid it by gifts of books, maps, etc., and thus a library, the centre of knowledge and nursery of useful and strong minds, will be made in that district. So miserably off is the country for books, that we have it before us on some authority that there are ten counties in Ireland without a single book-seller in them. We blush for the fact; it is a disgrace to us; but we must have no lying or flinching. There is the hard fact; let us face it like men who are able for a difficulty--not as children putting their heads under the clothes when there is danger. Reader! cannot you do something to remedy this great, this disabling misery of Ireland? Will not you now try to get up a Repeal Reading-room, and when one is established get for it good rules, books from the Association, and make it a centre of thought and power?
These are but some of the ways in which such service can be done by the more for the less educated. They have other duties often pointed out by us. They can sustain and advance the different societies for promoting agriculture, manufactures, art, and literature in Dublin and the country. They can set on foot and guide the establishment of Temperance Bands, and Mechanics' Institutes, and Mutual Instruction Societies. They can give advice and facilities for improvement to young men of promise; and they can make their circles studious, refined, and ambitious, instead of being, like too many in Ireland, ignorant, coarse, and lazy. The cheapness of books is now such that even Irish poverty is no excuse for Irish ignorance--that ignorance which prostrates us before England. We must help ourselves, and therefore we must educate ourselves.
Thomas Davis's essay: Influences Of Education
(Some of his best-known songs:)
The Wests Awake
When all beside a vigil keep,
The West's asleep, the West's asleep--
Alas! and well may Erin weep,
When Connaught lies in slumber deep.
There lake and plain smile fair and free,
'Mid rocks--their guardian chivalry--
Sing oh! let man learn liberty
From crashing wind and lashing sea.
That chainless wave and lovely land
Freedom and Nationhood demand--
Be sure, the great God never planned,
For slumbering slaves, a home so grand.
And, long, a brave and haughty race
Honoured and sentinelled the place--
Sing oh! not even their sons' disgrace
Can quite destroy their glory's trace.
For often, in O'Connor's van,
To triumph dashed each Connaught clan--
And fleet as deer the Normans ran
Through Corlieu's Pass and Ardrahan.
And later times saw deeds as brave;
And glory guards Clanricarde's grave--
Sing oh! they died their land to save,
At Aughrim's slopes and Shannon's wave.
And if, when all a vigil keep,
The West's asleep, the West's asleep--
Alas! and well may Erin weep,
That Connaught lies in slumber deep.
But, hark! some voice like thunder spake:
"The West's awake! the West's awake!"--
"Sing oh! hurra! let England quake,
We'll watch till death for Erin's sake!"
Bodenstown Churchyard/ Tone's Grave
In Bodenstown Churchyard there is a green grave
And wildly around it the wintry winds rave
Small shelter I ween are the ruined walls there
As the storm sweeps down over the plains of Kildare
Once I lay on that sod, it lies o'er Wolfetone
And thought how he perished in prison alone
His friends unavenged and his country unfreed
"Oh bitter" I said "is the patriots meed"
For in him the heart of a woman combined
With a heroic life and a governing mind
A martyr for Ireland, his grave has no stone
His name seldom named and his virtues unknown
I was woke from my dream by the voices and tread
Of a band that came into the home of the dead
They carried no corpse and they carried no stone
And they stopped when they came to the grave of Wolfetone
There were students and peasants, the wise and the brave
And an old man who knew him from cradle to grave
And children who thought me hard-hearted for they
On that sanctified sod were forbidden to play
But the old man who saw I was mourning there said
"We come sir to weep where young Wolfetone is laid
And we're going to raise him a monument too
A plain one yet fit for the simple and true"
My heart overflowed and I clasped his old hand
I blessed him and blessed everyone in his band
Sweet sweet is to find that such faith can remain
To a man and a cause so long vanquished and slain
In Bodenstown Churchyard there is a green grave
And freely around it let wintry winds rave
For better they suit him, the ruin and the gloom
'Till Ireland a nation can build him a tomb
A Nation Once Again
When boyhood's fire was in my blood
I read of ancient freemen,
For Greece and Rome who bravely stood,
Three hundred men and three men;
And then I prayed I yet might see
Our fetters rent in twain,
And Ireland, long a province, be.
A Nation once again!
A Nation once again,
A Nation once again,
And lreland, long a province, be
A Nation once again!
And from that time, through wildest woe,
That hope has shone a far light,
Nor could love's brightest summer glow
Outshine that solemn starlight;
It seemed to watch above my head
In forum, field and fane,
Its angel voice sang round my bed,
A Nation once again!
It whisper'd too, that freedom's ark
And service high and holy,
Would be profaned by feelings dark
And passions vain or lowly;
For, Freedom comes from God's right hand,
And needs a Godly train;
And righteous men must make our land
A Nation once again!
So, as I grew from boy to man,
I bent me to that bidding
My spirit of each selfish plan
And cruel passion ridding;
For, thus I hoped some day to aid,
Oh, can such hope be vain ?
When my dear country shall be made
A Nation once again!