From ‘The Black Prophet’, by William Carleton

At this precise period [1817], the state of the country was frightful beyond belief; for it is well known that the mortality of the season we are describing was considerably greater than that which even cholera occasioned in its worst and most malignant ravages. Indeed, the latter was not attended by such a tedious and lingering train of miseries as that, which in so many woful shapes, surrounded typhus fever. The appearance of cholera was sudden, and its operations quick, and although, on that account, it was looked upon with tenfold terror, yet for this very reason, the consequences which it produced were by no means so full of affliction and distress, nor presented such strong and pitiable claims on human aid and sympathy as did those of typhus. In the one case, the victim was cut down by a sudden stroke, which occasioned a shock or moral paralysis both to himself and the survivors – especially to the latter – that might, be almost said to neutralize its own inflictions. In the other, the approach was comparatively so slow and gradual, that all the sympathies and afflictions were allowed full and painful time to reach the utmost limits of human suffering, and to endure the wasting series of those struggles and details which long illness, surrounded by destitution and affliction, never fails to inflict. In the cholera, there was no time left to feel – the passions were wrenched and stunned by a blow, which was over, one may say, before it could be perceived; while in the wide-spread but more tedious desolation of typhus, the heart was left to brood over the thousand phases of love and misery which the terrible realities of the one, joined to the alarming exaggerations of the other, never failed to present. In cholera, a few hours, and all was over; but in the awful fever which then prevailed, there was the gradual approach – the protracted illness – the long nights of racking pain – day after day of raging torture – and the dark period of uncertainty when the balance of human life hangs in the terrible equilibrium of suspense – all requiring the exhibition of constant attention – of the eye whose affection never sleeps – the ear that is deaf only to every sound but the moan of pain – the touch whose tenderness is felt as a solace, so long as suffering itself is conscious – the pressure of the aching head – the moistening of the parched and burning lips – and the numerous and indescribable offices of love and devotedness, which always encompass, or should encompass, the bed of sickness and of death. There was, we say, all this, and much more than the imagination itself, unaided by a severe acquaintance with the truth, could embody in its gloomiest conceptions. In fact, Ireland during the season, or rather the year, we are describing, might be compared to one vast lazar-house filled with famine, disease and death. The very skies of Heaven were hung with the black drapery of the grave; for never since, nor within the memory of man before it, did the clouds present shapes of such gloomy and funereal import. Hearses, coffins, long funeral processions, and all the dark emblems of mortality were reflected, as it were, on the sky, from the terrible work of pestilence and famine, which was going forward on the earth beneath them. To all this, the thunder and lightning too, were constantly adding their angry peals, and flashing, as if uttering the indignation of Heaven against our devoted people; and what rendered such fearful manifestations ominous and alarming to the superstitious, was the fact of their occurrence in the evening and at night – circumstances which are always looked upon With unusual terror and dismay. To any person passing through the country, such a combination of startling and awful appearances was presented as has probably never been witnessed since. Go where you might, every object reminded you of the fearful desolation that was progressing around you. The features of the people were gaunt, their eyes wild and hollow, and their gait feeble and tottering. Pass through the fields, and you were met by little groups bearing home on their shoulders, and that with difficulty, a coffin, or perhaps two of them. The roads were literally black with funerals, and as you passed along from parish to parish, the death-bells were pealing forth, in slow but dismal tones, the gloomy triumph which pestilence was achieving over the face of our devoted country – a country that each successive day filled with darker desolation and deeper mourning.

From ‘Carmilla’ by Sheridan LeFanu
[1] Nothing can be more picturesque or solitary. It stands on a slight eminence in a forest. The road, very old and narrow, passes in front of its drawbridge, never raised in my time, and its moat, stocked with perch, and sailed over by many swans, and floating on its surface white fleets of water-lilies. Over all this the schloss shows its many-windowed front; its towers, and its Gothic chapel. The forest opens in an irregular and very picturesque glade before its gate, and at the right a steep Gothic bridge carries the road over a stream that winds in deep shadow through the wood. I have said that this is a very lonely place. judge whether I say truth. Looking from the hall door towards the road, the forest in which our castle stands extends fifteen miles to the right, and twelve to the left. The nearest inhabited village is about seven of your English miles to the left. The nearest inhabited schloss of any historic associations, is that of old General Spielsdorf, nearly twenty miles away to the right. (in ‘Carmilla’, In a Glass Darkly, ‘233)


cried the prefect of studies. I sprang into my bed and covered my head up in the bed-clothes. an inch or two apart. the steel rims of his spectacles and his no-coloured eyes looking through the glasses. There was not the slightest stir of respiration. further westward. he drew back his shaking arm in terror and burst out into a whine of pain. falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and. A cry sprang to his lips. and able to breathe and move. on the barren thorns. the room and its furniture just as I had seen it last. close to it. softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. deep into my breast. A block of stone could not have been more still. It was falling. which at first I could not accurately distinguish. Stephen knelt down quickly pressing his beaten hands to his sides. A hot burning stinging tingling blow like the loud crack of a broken stick made his trembling hand crumple together like a leaf in the fire: and at the sound and the pain scalding tears were driven into his eyes. But I was equally conscious of being in my room. The soutane sleeve swished again as the pandybat was lifted and a loud crashing sound and a fierce maddening tingling burning pain made his hand shrink together with the palms and fingers in a livid quivering mass. I felt it spring lightly on the bed. the figure appeared to have changed its place. The two broad eyes approached my face. (in Dubliners. except that it was very dark. I saw. – Kneel down. a prayer to be let off. The room was lighted by the candle that burnt there all through the night. and its hair was down and covered its shoulders. and that I had forgotten to secure my door. his arm was shaking and his crumpled burning livid hand shook like a loose leaf in the air. My first thought was that Carmilla had been playing me a trick. He felt the prefect of studies touch it for a moment at the fingers to straighten it and then the swish of the sleeve of the soutane as the pandybat was lifted to strike. I was terrified. – Other hand! shouted the prefect of studies. I waked with a scream. he thought of the hands which he had held out in the air with the palms up and of the firm touch of the prefect of studies when he had steadied the shaking fingers and of the beaten swollen reddened mass of palm and fingers that shook helplessly in the air. But I soon saw that it was a sooty-black animal that resembled a monstrous cat. on the spears of the little gate. or fancied I saw. calming the last sobs in his throat and feeling the burning tingling pain pressed into his sides. Why did he say he knew that trick? – Lazy idle little loafer! cried the prefect of studies.[2] I had a dream that night that was the beginning of a very strange agony. and I saw a female figure standing at the foot of the bed. Stephen drew back his maimed and quivering right arm and held out his left hand. the door opened. for I was quite conscious of being asleep. 2 . a little at the right side. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones. I could not cry out. From ‘The Dead’ by James Joyce [… Snow] was falling on every part of the dark central plain. But though the tears scalded his eyes and his limbs quivered with pain and fright he held back the hot tears and the cry that scalded his throat. and the room rapidly darker and darker. It appeared to me about four or five feet long. I was afraid to open it – I was horrified. I cannot call it a nightmare. and lay there more dead than alive till morning. like the descent of their last end. his baldy white-grey head with fluff at the sides of it. upon all the living and the dead. Broke my glasses! An old schoolboy trick! Out with your hand this moment! Stephen closed his eyes and held out in the air his trembling hand with the palm upwards. then. And as he knelt. although as you may suppose. and it passed out. upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. I hastened to it. and found it locked as usual on the inside. and at length so dark that I could no longer see anything of it but its eyes. and lying in bed. and suddenly I felt a stinging pain as if two large needles darted. precisely as I actually was. It was in a dark loose dress. too. and was now nearer the door. His whole body was shaking with fright. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling. The scalding water burst forth from his eyes and. Its pace was growing faster. As I stared at it. for it measured fully the length of the hearthrug as it passed over it. His body shook with a palsy of fright and in shame and rage he felt the scalding cry come from his throat and the scalding tears falling out of his eyes and down his flaming cheeks. ‘The Dead’ 152) From ‘A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man’ by James Joyce [1] Stephen lifted his eyes in wonder and saw for a moment Father Dolan’s white -grey not young face. and it continued toing and froing with the lithe sinister restlessness of a beast in a cage. I was now relieved. To think of them beaten and swollen with pain all in a moment made him feel so sorry for them as if they were not his own but someone else’s that he felt sorry for. and I saw something moving round the foot of the bed. burning with shame and agony and fear. on the treeless hills.

O dear God! He walked on and on through illlit streets. Before he heard again the footboard of the housedoor trail over the threshold as it opened to let him in. The eyes see the thing. Who could think such a thought? And. Or how could he explain without dying of shame? Or how could he have done such things without shame? A madman. abasing himself in the awe of God who made all the things and all men. It was true. long. fearing to stand still for a moment lest it might seem that he held back from what awaited him. all of you. sinfully. When evening had fallen he left the house and the first touch of the damp air and the noise of the door as it closed behind him made ache again his conscience. It must understand when it desires in one instant and then prolongs its own desire instant after instant. He was in mortal sin. praying with whimpering lips.] At last it had come. Even once was a mortal sin. It was quite simple. Madness. How could he utter in words to the priest what he had done? Must. But how so quickly? By seeing or by thinking of seeing. Father Dolan will be in every day to see if any boy. Confess! He had to confess every sin. Yet eternity had no end. It feels and understands and desires. without having wished first to see. (in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man 37-8) [2] His eyes were dimmed with tears and. cowering in darkness and abject. What a horrible thing! Who made it to be like that. a bestial part of the body able to understand bestially the desire bestially. How beautiful must be a soul in the state of grace when God looked upon it with love! [Arrived at Church Street chapel.– Get at your work. He would tell all his sins. But God had promised to forgive him if he was sorry. before he saw again the table in the kitchen set for supper he would have knelt and confessed. praying with all his trembling body. Every day. Stephen is ready for his confession. – Sorry! Sorry! O sorry! (in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man 107-10) 3 . any lazy idle little loafer wants flogging. Then in an instant it happens. must. swaying his head to and fro like a lost creature. The door closed behind him. But what does that part of the body understand or what? The serpent. looking humbly up to heaven. God could see that he was sorry. There were so many flagstones on the footpath of that street and so many cities in the world. It could happen in an instant. Was that then he or an inhuman thing moved by lower soul than his own soul? His soul sickened at the thought of a torpid snaky life feeding itself out of the tender marrow of his life and fattening upon the slime of lust. praying with his darkened eyes. He clasped his hands and raised them towards the white form. The whisper ceased and he knew then clearly that his own soul had sinned in thought and word and deed wilfully through his own body. Every day. O why was that so? O why? He cowered in the shadow of the thought. His confession would be long. he prayed mutedly to his angel guardian to drive away with his sword the demon that was whispering to his brain. Confess! Confess! It was not enough to lull the conscience with a tear and a prayer. cried the prefect of studies from the door. lulled by prayer and tears. The ache of conscience ceased and he walked onward swiftly through the dark streets. Let them know. He was sorry. Everybody in the chapel would know then what a sinner he had been. He had to kneel before the minister of the Holy Ghost and tell over his hidden sins truly and repentantly. He knelt in the silent gloom and raised his eyes to the white crucifix suspended above him. the most subtle beast of the field. fearing to arrive at that towards which he still turned with longing. he wept for the innocence he had lost. a loathsome madman! Confess! O he would indeed to be free and sinless again! Perhaps the priest would know.

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