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Fear and false creeds may fright the realms awhile;
But heaven and earth abide their time and smile.


ONCE upon a time, no one can say how long
ago, there were, if wise men say time, broad,
shining lakes and smaller ponds in the middle
of Ireland, where now there are no such lakes
at all. The middle of Ireland is a mass of
limestone, with heights and hollows, which
vary its surface in all manner of ways, from
sea to sea; from the Irish Channel to the
Atlantic. How this stone foundation is
covered now, we may see by and by. Let us
first look at it under its ancient aspect, as far
as our very scanty knowledge enables us to
do so.

Firstsome thousands of years agowe
see, from such a point of view as Kildare,
ridge behind ridge of hills retiring to the
north-west; and on these hills, thick forests
of oaks, beeches, elms, ash, and fir. These
woods are terrible places for wolves. In the
vales there are fresh green pastures lying
between the lakes and ponds; and here
cattle are seen grazing by day, and swine
come out from the woods at evening, to pass
the night near the dwellings of men. These
dwellings are a sort of box, open at one side.
They are made of oak logs or thick planks;
with the roof flat, and a sort of shelf laid all
through the middle, dividing the house of
nine feet high into two rooms, each four feet
high. Nothing being known of nails as yet,
grooves and holes are made with a stone
chisel; and the pieces of wood are fitted
together, so as to make a strong box of twelve
feet square, where the people may sleep, and
find shelter in bad weather. It is not a place
for cooking; and that is the reason why we
see a little path, paved with stones, leading
away from the dwelling to some place behind,
where a smoke is rising from the ground.
This place is the family hearthstone, made of
freestone slabs, nicely laid. There are logs
of wood burning; and in the ashes are roasting,
if we are not mistaken, acorns, and
chesnuts, and roots. And what a quantity of
nutshells one may see scattered about! It is
late autumn, and the people are in a hurry,
evidently, to get on with that strange work
that they are doing in the middle of the
water. What are they about, those strange
little men, with their very small heads, and
their dress of skins of beasts merely strapped
about them, and their malletsmere stones,
with a wooden handle run through any
accidental hole? Look at those two getting
into their boat. Can one call it a boata
mere skin stretched over a frame? Off they
drift, like a couple of witches in a sieve. And
what for? Are they beavers making a dam?
They are driving in stockades, and plastering
them with mud. They are certainly making
an island: and there is a second artificial
island! and far away, in the middle of that
river to the north, there is a third. When
they have made their circle of piles, they bale
out the water and put in stones, and wood,
and earth, till they have an island high and
dry. Very odd! when they have hills and
green pastures ready made to their hands!
Winter is coming, and they are afraid of
the wolves by night, and, perhaps, of foes by
day. See how they settle themselves, huddled
together on the island, with their boats hung
up to dry on the stockades!

What now? Music? A procession? It
is either a wedding, or a royal feast, or
something of that kind. What a glittering of
gold! Look at the diadems of gold, and the
curious round plates as large as the palms of
my hands, fitting close to the cheek-bones.
It is a becoming head-dress, is it not? And
so is the circlelike a twisted cordof gold
round the men's heads, and round their
waists. Those ornaments, like cymbals, hung
round their necks, and the heavy finger-rings
of the same shape, and the neck-plates are all
very well to show how much gold people can
hang about them; but they are not very
pretty. But you see these people have got
hold of at least one metal. Of more than
one? True! That man has a sworda
bronze swordjust like the old Greek. Their
bronze will not bear an edge that will split or
saw wood, I suppose; but it may give a very
ugly thrust in a hand-to-hand fight. Has
that little child got one? He seems to be
flourishing a sword about. No; it is only a
toya wooden sword; but it is just like the
bronze one, at this distance. Now, they are
going to feast. There are the roasted animals
steaming away! To think that the smell
should be wafted to our nostrils across this
great space of centuries! What a pity they
have no salt, though! They do not seem to
miss it. They might find some, not so very
far off, if they had any longing for it. Hark!
how the wild beasts howl from the forest, as
the scent of the feast is borne on the evening
breeze, and the fires from the islands shine
broad and red over the surface of the waters.
See by that light how the revellers are
making a clearance, throwing the bones and
refuse into the water over the stockade.
That is one convenience, to be sure, of living
on an artificial island. But I should be afraid
that something usefultools, arms, utensils,
even peoplewould slip over now and then,
and go to the bottom.

Look at that long string of wild fowl
winging their way to the south, showing clear
against the last red light of the western sky.
Listen to the bustle of the wild swans in the
sedgy creeks of the lake. Is that the raven's
night cry, ringing hard, as from a solid
firmament? Peep into the covert, and see
what is doing there. Here are deer crouched
down in the withering fern. I wonder they
can sleep, with foes so near. What shakes
the ground, as with the tread of Goliath?
It is not a giant, with a pine-tree for his staff,