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London, thy lean pinched poverty I meet,
O from this world of hearts what secret cries,
To waft to heaven's bright gate the good man's prayer,
I leave the abodes of splendour, moving slow,
Pass domed St. Paul's, that, crowned with heaven's soft glow,
Looks Titan-like on pigmy men below.
The bell in thunder smites the quivering air,
But for Time's preaching nought these hurriers care.
Filled with gay birds, and whispering to the breeze
But a wide wood of ships from every land,
I wander east, and pass the hoary Tower,
Where flit the shades at evening's glimmering hour,
Beyond, a maze of houses stretches still,
Mixed with foul dens which squalor's children fill,
Crowds move and toss, and here may throb and glow
ACROSS THE WATER.
II. OUR SEASON.
"DEAR, dirty Dublin!" So are you apostrophised by Lady Morgan, and, for aught we know, by many other distinguished and facetious authors.
Alas! we fear that the sobriquet is too true, for we know no dirtier streets in any city with which we happen to be acquainted, notwithstanding that we boast a wealthy corporation, who are for ever meeting and quarrelling about something or other. The untidy, "devil-may-care" look of our highways is perhaps one of the few marks of individuality remaining to the Irish metropolis, and seems closely associated with the dolce far niente appearance of much about the city and its inhabitants. If such be the aspect it presents to one who knows Dublin under all seasons; in sunshine and cloud, rain and dust, what impression must be conveyed to the tourist's mind who only sees our city when it is "out of town" in August and September; when the judges et hoc genus omne are recreating at Homburg or on the Swiss mountains, the lord lieutenant either at his park residence, or perhaps his seat in England, and the greater portion of the military encamped at the Curragh-in fact, when the whole of what constitutes "society" is away for a holiday, and no one left but attorneys' clerks and yawning shopmen to kill the tiresome hours as best they may, even their masters luxuriating in their summer quarters at Kingstown or Bray?
True, the Englishman's visit to foreign capitals is generally made at the same time of year when they are deserted by their regular inhabitants, but then John Bull looks for a more business state of things so near home than among mussoos or mein herrs, and is apt to come down heavily upon the indolence and improvidence of Paddy. Mr. Bull's censures are doubtless just, in a general way, but he should see Dublin during "our season,' before giving a verdict of inactivity and dulness against us.
We allow that the prestige of a resident aristocracy has passed away with the Union, and whole streets of mansions no longer rejoice in titled owners; yet has a class of occupants grown up to fill the vacant places of the ancien régime, if not so refined, yet combining more of the elements of good society than is to be found perhaps in any city of the kingdom out of London.
About the first or second week in December an increased stir is visible about our streets and squares, especially in that part of the town called the "Pembroke" estate, the houses in this district having lain for months closely shuttered up and deserted, save by
Some widowed solitary thing,
in whose care the premises have been left. Country families leave their seats down in the unfrequented West, or on the wide plains of Munster, and prepare themselves for the enjoyment of a winter in town. It is not, however, till some weeks after Christmas that our season may be said fairly to have commenced. Then it is that the fairer members of society are busily engaged in deciding on their dresses for the ensuing campaign at the Castle, and great is the expectation preceding the first drawing-room of our season. Now the carriages stand in double rows opposite Madame Mantalini's premises, and unwilling husbands and fathers are inveigled in on pretence of "just looking at" that lovely moiré, or the newest "sweet thing" in silks. What a flutter there is in the various houses of our Belgravia on the night of the drawing-room! What a trying on of dresses and looping up of trains, and exhibition of the court costumes to select parties of friends who come to see Miss de la Poer or Mrs. O'Grady en grand tenue! Then the important ceremony of "packing up" the trains, and setting ourselves into the carriage, with occasional cries of "Oh, my flowers will be destroyed! Do, Fred, have regard to my train, and don t quite tear it into ribbons with your spurs." "Tell William to pull up, my fan is left behind!"
At length, after several false starts, we get "under weigh," and presently join the queue of carriages, which is enforced by rigid police regulations, except in the case of those favoured few who possess the privilege of the private entrée.
What a flutter of delight agitates the heart of the young débutante! and what anxious thoughts as to "how she will look?” It is quite as important an occasion to her, or more so, my dear marchioness, as your daughter Lady Juliana Arabella Matilda being introduced at St. James's, and probably our Irish belle is more enjoué than a young lady of the haute noblesse would acknowledge to.
And, dear lady, what would you not give often for the lovely fresh faces you may see any day at a viceregal drawing-room? Such rosebuds, and such clear delicately-tinted complexions! Eyes, too, ye gods! dark and velvety, enough to lure many a Paris to fight the battles of Troy once more on behalf of these lovely Helens!
The inmates of the carriages bound for the Castle endeavour to beguile the tedium of the "progress" by chit-chat, and many a joke and merry laugh is interchanged by the younger ones; witticisms on Charlie's first appearance "en laquais," and perhaps sly remarks on his silk "continuations," being somewhat resented by that young gentleman, who is barely out of his teens, and who feels the injustice of having an elder brother radiant in the uniform of the Irresistibles. At length, we begin to "drag our slow length" up the steep street leading to the viceregal residence, and
while our young ladies' hearts beat fast, we sweep through the castle-yard, and "set down" under the chief though somewhat dingy entrance of "our Castle of Dublin." Tall, splendid Highlanders, or Guardsmen (as the case may be), stand sentinel in the vestibule, and line the grand staircase, gay with exotic plants and radiant with numberless lights. We cannot now stop to recal the historic associations of the ground we are treading, though many an eventful scene in our national history has taken place within the precincts of this ancient fortress since its foundation A.D. 1213, by one Henry de Londres, down to this present century. Following the gay throng of brilliant uniforms, official and court dresses, interspersed with the trains and feathers of the fairer portion of society, we arrive at the first long drawing-room, there to await admission in due course to the ante and presence chambers. An opportunity is thus given to the ladies of "settling their plumage,' and arranging trains, &c., for a graceful introduction to the king and queen:" a little badinage, or perhaps a few observations on our neighbours' toilettes, serve to pass away the tiresome interval of waiting. Here, too, we can scan the débutantes, each season usually bringing some fresh and lovely country faces for "presentation;" the crowd, meanwhile, increases every minute, and by the time the inner folding doors are opened, we are glad to join in the stream which flows into the next apartments, the barrier being with difficulty kept by stalwart lancers or dragoons. One by one we then pass into the subdued and courtly atmosphere of the presence chamber. Here our fair companions have to make their obesiances alone, and if "presented," to receive the viceregal salute (that quaint old custom of kissing!). Gentlemen having attended his excellency's levee on the previous day, the only duty left to them is to "pass on," and await the exit of the ladies in the next drawing-room.
Somewhat relieved when this important ceremonial is over, we are not sorry to partake of refreshment in St. Patrick's Hall, and many are the greetings interchanged with country friends whom "one never could have expected to see here!" Military bands enliven us with their strains, and while dowagers retail the latest gossip over ices and coffee, brave young militaires and beauteous girls repeat the "old, old story" beneath the glowing lights reflected and redoubled in the mirrored and gilded panels of this fine old hall. The stranger, however, to see St. Patrick's Hall to advantage, should be present on the festival yearly given in celebration of our patron's day,
-when young feet are flying
In fairy rings around the echoing hall.
Soft airs through braided locks in perfume sighing,
"St. Patrick's ball" is, par excellence, the fête of "our season,"
though, being a national gathering, and all who have attended a levee or drawing-room having the entrée, the company is not so select as at the private réunions at the Castle. There is a wonderful life and spirit, notwithstanding, about St. Patrick's ball, which few even of other nationalities can forbear entering into. The handsome apartments (hung with portraits of a long line of viceroys), brilliantly illuminated and decorated, the variety of uniforms, and last, though not least, the lovely faces of many of Erin's fairest daughters, form a coup d'œil, which must be seen and enjoyed to be appreciated. Here are gathered all the celebrities, small and great, of our capital, lawyers and soldiers, gentlemen, professional and non-professional, with a fair sprinkling of Irish noblesse, who have still sufficient patriotic spirit left to give their support to the distinguished, though now somewhat depreciated, office of deputy governor. The visits of royalty to "La Belle Irlande" are, unfortunately, like those of celestial beings, "few and far between." Not that we are unmindful of the pleasure so recently afforded us of welcoming to our shores the future king of these realms, and his amiable and charming young princess, who, it may be truly said, won all hearts during her short stay among
But we cannot conceal the fact that the want of a royal residence in this country is a grave error on the part of the administration, and the annual presence of so many members of the royal family in Scotland for a considerable period must contrast unfavourably, especially in the eyes of foreigners, with the apparent neglect displayed towards Ireland. It is no doubt true that frequent disturbances in some parts of the country produce much apprehension in the minds of Englishmen against the security of life or property on this side the Channel; but by a more thorough union of interests between the two countries, we believe much of this unhappy state of feeling would pass away. Could our populace once understand that their welfare was bound up with that of their wealthy sister country, and that the royalty of Britain was no state figment, but a beneficent reality in the midst of them, sympathising with their distresses, and in earnest about their well-being, we feel sure that Ireland might yet become-what rebels and demagogues have hitherto falsely deluded her children into believing was possible through their mad folly—
Great, glorious, and free,
First flower of the earth, first gem of the sea!
But we have allowed ourselves to stray off into questions quite beyond the scope of such a paper as this; so, leaving the Castle and its state festivities, let us take a glance at other phases of society to be met with during the winter and spring months in our Irish metropolis.
Among the "institutions" of our season we must, of