ABOVE all the islands in the lakes of
Killarney give me Innisfallen — " sweet Innisfallen," as the
melodious Moore calls it. It is, in truth, a fairy isle, although I have no
fairy story to tell you about it; and if I had, these are such unbelieving
times, and people of late have grown so sceptical, that they only smile at my
stories and doubt them.
However, none will doubt that a monastery
once stood upon Innisfallen Island, for its ruins may still be seen; neither,
that within its walls dwelt certain pious and learned persons called monks. A
very pleasant set of fellows they were, I make not the smallest doubt; and I
am sure of this, that they had a very pleasant spot to enjoy themselves in
after dinner — the proper time, believe me, and I am no bad judge of such
matters, for the enjoyment of a fine prospect.
Out of all the monks you could not pick a
better fellow nor a merrier soul than Father Cuddy; he sung a good song, he
told a good story, and had a jolly, comfortable-looking paunch of his own,
that was a credit to any refectory-table. He was distinguished above all the
rest by the name of "the fat father." Now, there are many that will
take huff at a name; but Father Cuddy had no nonsense of that kind about him;
he laughed at it — and well able he was to laugh, for his mouth nearly
reached from one ear to the other; his might, in truth, be called an open
countenance. As his paunch was no disgrace to his food, neither was his nose
to his drink. ‘Tis a doubt to me if there were not more carbuncles upon it
than ever were seen at the bottom of the lake, which is said to be full of
them. His eyes had a right merry twinkle in them, like moonshine dancing on
the water; and his cheeks had the roundness and crimson glow of ripe arbutus
"He ate, and drank, and prayed,
and slept. What then?
He ate, and drank, and prayed, and slept again!"
Such was the tenor of his simple life; but
when he prayed, a certain drowsiness would come upon him, which it must be
confessed, never occurred when a well-filled "black jack" stood
before him. Hence his prayers were short and his draughts were long. The world
loved him, and he saw no good reason why he should not in return love its
venison and its usquebaugh. But as times went, he must have been a pious man,
or else what befell him never would have happened.
Spiritual affairs – for it was
respecting the importation of a tun of wine into the island monastery –
demanded the presence of one of the brotherhood of Innisfallen at the abbey of
Irelagh, now called Mucruss. The superitendence of this important matter was
committed to Father Cuddy, wo felt too deeply interested in the future welfare
of any community of which he was a member, to neglect or delay such mission.
With the morning’s light he was seen guiding his shallop across the crimson
waters of the lake towards the peninsula of Mucross; and having moored his
little bark in safety beneath the shelter of a wave-worn rock, he advanced
with becoming dignity towards the abbey.
The stillness of the bright and balmy hour
was broken by the heavy footsteps of the zealous father. At the sound the
startled deer, shaking the dew from their sides, sprung up from their lair,
and as they bounded off – "Hah!" exclaimed Cuddy, "what a
noble haunch goes there! How delicious I would look smoking upon a goodly
As he proceeded, the mountain-bee hummed
his tune of gladness around the holy man, save when buried in the
foxglove-bell, or revelling upon a fragrant bunch of thyme; and even then, the
little voice murmured out happiness in low and broken tones of voluptuous
delight. Father Cuddy derived no small comfort from the sound, for it presaged
a good metheglin season, and metheglin he regarded, if well manufactured, to
be no bad liquor, particularly when there was no stint of usquebaugh in the
Arrived within the abbey garth, he was
received with due respect by the brethren of Irelagh, and arrangements for the
embarkation of the wine were completed to his entire satisfaction.
"Welcome, Father Cuddy!" said
the prior; "grace be on you."
"Grace before meat then, then," said Cuddy, "for a long walk
always makes me hungry, and I am certain I have not walked less than half a
mile this morning, to say nothing of crossing the water."
A pasty of choice flavour felt the truth
of this assertion as regarded Father Cuddy’s appetite. After such consoling
repast, it would have been a reflection on monastic hospitality to depart
without partaking of the grace-cup; moreover, Father Caddy had a particular
respect for the antiquity of that custom. He liked the taste of the grace-cup
well: be tried another — it was no, less excellent; and when he had
swallowed the third, he found his heart expand and put forth its fibres,
willing to embrace all mankind. Surely, then, there is Christian love and
charity in wine !
I said he sung a good song. Now, though
psalms are good songs, and in accordance with his vocation, I did not mean to
imply that he was a mere psalm-singer. It was well known to the brethren, that
wherever Father Cuddy was, mirth and melody were with him — mirth in his eye
and melody on his tongue, and these, from experience, are equally well known
to be thirsty commodities; but he took good care never to let them run dry. To
please the brotherhood, whose excellent wine pleased him, he sung, and as in vino
veritas, his song will well become this veritable history.
THE FRIARS SONG
My VOWS I can never fulfil, until I have
breakfasted, one way or other; and I freely protest that I can never rest till
I borrow or beg an egg, unless I can come at the ould hen, its mother. But
Maggy, my dear, while you’re here, I don’t fear to want eggs that have
just been laid newly; for och ! you’re a pearl of a girl, and you’re
called so in Latin most truly.
There is most to my mind something that is
still upper than supper, tho’ it must be admitted I feel no way thinner
after dinner; but soon as I hear the cock crow in the morning, that eggs you
are bringing full surely I know, by that warning, while your buttermilk helps
me to float down my throat those sweet cakes made of oat. I don’t envy an
earl, sweet girl, och ! ‘tis you are a beautiful pearl.
Such was his song. Father Cuddy smacked
his lips at the recollection of Margery’s delicious fried eggs, which always
imparted a peculiar relish to his liquor. The very idea provoked Caddy to
raise the cup to his mouth, and with one hearty pull thereat he finished its
This is, and ever was, a censorious world,
often construing what is only a fair allowance into an excess; but I scorn to
reckon up any man’s drink, like an unrelenting host; therefore, I cannot
tell how many brimming draughts of wine, bedecked with the venerable Bead,
Father Cuddy emptied into his "soul-case," so he figuratively termed
His respect for the goodly company of the
monks of Irelagh detained him until their adjournment to vespers, when he set
forward on his return to Innisfallen. Whether his mind was occupied in
philosophic contemplation, or wrapped in pious musings, I cannot declare, but
the honest father wandered on in a different direction from that in which his
shallop lay. Far be it from me to insinuate that the good liquor which he had
so commended caused him to forget his road, or that his track was irregular
and unsteady. Oh, no! He carried his drink bravely, as became a decent man and
a good Christian; yet, somehow, he thought he could distinguish two moons.
"Bless my eyes," said Father Cuddy, "everything is changing
nowadays ! — the very stars are not in the same places they used to be; I
think Camcéachta (the Plough) is driving on at a rate I never saw it
before to-night; but I suppose the driver is drunk, for there are blackguards
Cuddy had scarcely uttered these words
when he saw, or fancied he saw, the form of a young woman, who, holding up a
bottle, beckoned him towards her. The night was extremely beautiful, and the
white dress of the girl floated gracefully in the moonlight as with gay step
she tripped on before the worthy father, archly looking back upon him over her
"Ah, Margery — merry Margery
!" cried Cuddy; "you tempting little rogue !
" ‘Flos valium harum,
I see you; I see you and the bottle ! Let
me but catch you, candida Margarita!" and on he followed, panting and
smiling, after this alluring apparition.
At length his feet grew weary and his
breath failed, which obliged him to give up the chase; yet such was his piety,
that unwilling to rest in any attitude but that of prayer, down dropped Father
Cuddy on his knees. Sleep, as usual, stole upon his devotions; and the morning
was far advanced when he awoke from dreams, in which tables groaned beneath
their load, of viands, and wine poured itself free and sparkling as the
Rubbing his eyes, ho looked about him, and
the more he looked the more he wondered at the alteration which appeared in
the face of the country. "Bless my soul and body!" said the good
father, "I saw the stars changing last night, but here is a change!"
Doubting his senses, he looked again. The hills bore the same majestic outline
as on the preceding day, and the lake spread itself beneath his view in the
same tranquil beauty, and studded with the same number of, islands; but every
smaller feature in the landscape was strangely altered. What had been naked
rocks, were now clothed with holly and arbutus. Whole woods had disappeared,
and waste places had become cultivated fields; and to complete the work of
enchantment, the very season itself seemed changed. In the rosy dawn of a
summer’s morning he had left the monastery of Innisfallen, and he now felt
in every sight and sound the dreariness of winter. The hard ground was covered
with withered leaves; icicles depended from leafless branches; he heard the
sweet, low note of the robin, who familiarly approached him; and he felt his
fingers numbed from the nipping frost. Father Cuddy found it rather difficult
to account for such sudden transformations, and to convince himself it was not
the illusion of a dream, he was about to arise, when lo ! he discovered that
both his knees were buried at least six inches in the solid stone; for
notwithstanding all these changes, he had never altered his devout position.
Cuddy was now wide awake, and felt, when
he got up, his joints sadly cramped, which it was only natural they should be,
considering the hard texture of the stone and the depth his knees had sunk
into it. But the great difficulty was to explain how, in one night, summer had
become winter, whole woods had been cut down, and well - grown trees had
sprouted up. The miracle — nothing else could he conclude it to be —urged
him to hasten his return to Innisfallen, where he might learn some explanation
of these marvellous events.
Seeing a boat moored within reach of the
shore, he delayed not, in the midst of such wonders, to seek his own bark, but
seizing the oars, pulled stoutly towards the island; and ‘here new wonders
Father Cuddy waddled, as fast as cramped
limbs could carry his rotund corporation, to the gate of the monastery, where
he loudly demanded admittance.
"Holloa! whence come you, Master
Monk, and what’s your business?" demanded a stranger who occupied the
"Business ! —my business !"
repeated the confounded Cuddy. "Why, do you not know me ? Has the wine
"Hence, fellow!" said the
porter’s representative, in a surly tone; "nor think to impose on me
with your monkish tales."
"Fellow !" exclaimed the father.
"Mercy upon us, that I should be so spoken to at the gate of my own
house! Scoundrel!" cried Cuddy, raising his voice, "do you not see
my garb — my holy garb?"
"Aye, fellow," replied he of the
keys — " the garb of laziness and filthy debauchery, which has been
expelled from out these walls. Know you not, idle knave, of the suppression of
this nest of superstition, and that the abbey lands and possessions were
granted in August last to Master Robert Collam, by our Lady Elizabeth,
sovereign queen of England, and paragon of all beauty — whom God preserve
"Queen of England!" said Cuddy.
"There never was a sovereign queen of England — this is but a piece
with the rest. I saw how it was going with the stars last night — the
world’s turned upside down. But surely this is Innisfallen Island, and I am
the Father Cuddy who yesterday morning went over to the abbey of Irelagh
respecting the tun of wine. Do you not know me now?"
"Know you! How should I know
you?" said the keeper of the abbey. "Yet, true it is, that I have
beard my grandmother, whose mother remembered the man, often speak of the fat
Father Cuddy of Innisfallen, who made a profane and godless ballad in praise
of fresh eggs, of which he and his vile crew knew more than they did of the
Word of God; and who, being drunk, it is said, tumbled into the lake one night
and was drowned; but that must have been a hundred — aye, more than a
hundred years since."
"‘Twas I who composed that song in
praise of Margery’s fresh eggs, which is no profane and godless ballad —
no other Father Cuddy than myself ever belonged to Innisfallen,"
earnestly exclaimed the holy man. "A hundred years! What was your
"She was a Mahony of Dunlow —
Margaret ni Mahony; and my grandmother — "
"What! merry Margery of Dunlow your
great-grandmother !" shouted Cuddy. "St. Brandon help me ! the
wicked wench with that tempting bottle! Why, ‘twas only last night — a
hundred years ! — your great-grandmother, said you? God bless us! there has
been a strange torpor over me; I must have slept all this time!"
That Father Cuddy had done so, I think is
sufficiently proved by the changes which occurred during his nap. A
reformation, and a serious one it was for him, had taken place. Pretty
Margery’s fresh eggs were no longer to be had in Innisfallen; and with a
heart as heavy as his footsteps, the worthy man directed his course towards
Dingle, where he embarked in a vessel on the point of sailing for Malaga. The
rich wine of that place had of old impressed him with a high respect for its
monastic establishments, in one of which he quietly wore out the remainder of
The stone impressed with the mark of
Father Caddy’s knee may be seen to this day. Should any incredulous persons
doubt my story, I request them to go to Killarney where Clough-na-Cuddy — so
is the stone called — remains in Lord Kenmare’s park, an indisputable
evidence of the fact. Spillane the bugle-man, will be able to point it out to
them, as he did so to me.