The Funeral Lament

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter XXI (3) | Start of Chapter

The sun had sunk behind a black mountain, twilight was letting down her soft curtain upon the heathy landscape, and not the buzz of an insect fell upon my ear. Not the smoke of a cabin curled in the air, and neither man nor beast met my admiring eye. Nature seemed here to say, "Walk softly, and let me enjoy my solitude alone." From a far distant mountain, a mournful sound fell on my ear. It was the wail for the dead. It swelled in heavy tones, and then died away, as they who chanted it descended a valley; thus alternately rising and falling, for five long miles, did this lamentation float on the air. The solitude, the lateness of the hour, my distance from the land of my fathers, among so primitive a people, whose bible customs have been retained since the mourning for Jacob in the "threshing floor of Atad," made this lamentation a pleasant mournful accompaniment over the barren waste I was walking. The rustics afterwards told me it was a lone old woman who had died in her cabin on the mountain, and she must be brought "to lie with her kin in the valley."

Ireland’s Welome to the Stranger is one of the best accounts of Irish social conditions, customs, quirks and habits that you could wish for. The author, Mrs Asenath Nicholson, was an American widow who travelled extensively in Ireland on the eve of the Great Famine and meticulously observed the Irish peasantry at work and play, as well as noting their living conditions and diet. The book is also available from Kindle.