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HIS DESIRE TO VISIT ROME.
surgeon, he recovered partially, after a long illness. It was now thought best for him to return to Ireland; but he had set his face toward the south, and he said he wished to see Rome; and if he must die away from home, to die in the capital of Christendom, where Pius IX. had renewed the mild pure sway of the early successors of the Apostles. He went to Marseilles, and embarked on a steamer for Genoa. His son thought him again too feeble to risk the fatigues of the voyage; but O'Connell hoped at least to be able to see the dome of St. Peter, and he would go on. There is something touching and almost sublime in this same desire, which so many great men have expressed when they felt themselves dying. In those last days of life, when everything else external grows dim, how often has the wish arisen to die in sight of that gorgeous temple, which fancy brought so near to the soul! With O'Connell, who felt that life was coming to a hurried close, it was a natural feeling. He knew that he could not live to reach Ireland again; and when the scenes of this life began to fade from his vision, his heart turned toward the Eternal City which, to a true Catholic like O'Connell, is, after the Hill of Calvary, the most holy spot on earth.
E was rapidly failing when the steamer arrived at Genoa. It was necessary for him to get repose, and he was taken to the Hotel Feder, which stands near the water. It was known that he was coming, and an immense crowd gathered to welcome him with acclamations. But when they caught a sight of his pale cheek, as he was borne along in the arms of his attendants, the crowd received him in respectful silence, and every head was uncovered. He passed a comfortable night at the hotel: the vessel waited to take him on to Rome, and it was his intention to go. I had had the fortune to know O'Connell many years before; I had been honored by his confidence and kindness, and I ventured to call at his hotel, but with little expectation of seeing him. I sent up my card and inquired after his health. He sent back a message that he would be glad to see me in a few moments. He entered the room into which I had been shown, dressed for going on board the steamer. He was leaning infirmly on the top of a large cane: his step was feeble, and his form was wasted away. Familiar as his countenance had once been to me, I could recognize little but the eye of the man I had known before. But he still stood erect. He extended to me his emaciated hand for a moment, and said a few kind words. I left the room with a sad feeling, which I can hardly describe. I saw the lines of death clearly written on his face. It was evident that his body was
"I SHALL NEVER SEE ROME."
dead; but his indomitable spirit still held a feeble sway over the lifeless form it had ruled so long. As I joined the friend I had left in the hall below, I told him, "O'Connell never will see Rome." In an hour or two he began to fail rapidly; but everything was prepared for going on: the steamer was waiting: it was still hoped he would revive. But he had rallied for the last time. For more than seventy years his heroic spirit had never yielded; but the time had at last come for body and spirit to give way. He laid himself down on his bed, saying:
"Well, it is God's will I shall never see Rome! I thought I should live to get there. I am disappointed; but I feel ready to die. It is all right."
T ten o'clock that night, the steamer, which had hoped for the honor
A carrying great to Rome, was told he could not go,
and she went on her way. In a day or two it became certain that his life was drawing rapidly to an end. He seemed (I was freely admitted to his bedside) to suffer from no particular disease: it was a gradual sinking—a slow giving way of strength. Consequently he suffered very little pain; while his consciousness, and even the brilliancy of his intellect, continued undimmed to the very last moment. He conversed with perfect calmness about all the members of his absent family; his children, his grand-children, and his friends; about suffering Ireland, and the life to come. He not only expressed his fullest conviction of the truth of the Christian religion, but conversed with luminous and cheerful serenity of the principles of Christianity; and often repeated, in a variety of forms, his unshaken confidence of salvation through the merits of Christ. He was deeply affected in thinking and speaking of the call of the Pontiff, on all the Catholics of the Christian world, to present their prayers and offerings for Ireland during this period of her calamity; and the fact that this noble call had gone forth from Pius IX., was one of the reasons why he had felt so earnest a desire to reach Rome.
He was constantly attended by his two physicians, the vicar of the church of the parish, and his own bishop. No office that medical skill could suggest, nor consolation that religion could lend, was wanting to the dying man. He lingered till the night of the fifteenth, when he seemed to be rapidly sinking. The last offices of the Church were then administered. While the prayers were being read, he clearly uttered the responses; and as those solemn rites ended, he closed his eyes serenely with a half smile. Those of us who stood by his bed, and gazed on his countenance, did not know he was dead till the surgeon announced it.
THE GREAT LIBERATOR'S DEATH.
And just at that moment, from more than a hundred thousand domes and spires, were pealing solemn chimes in answer to the summons of Pius IX., and from unnumbered altars was going up to Heaven a vast cloud of incense for the afflicted and stricken country of that heroic spirit which was passing away.
IS body was at once embalmed, and laid in the magnificent church
were made for his
quies. The invitations issued were limited to foreign consuls, for whom seats were prepared in an area around the coffin. The British Consul had refused to offer his services on this occasion, or even his attentions to O'Connell, while he was dying in a strange land; although such proffers came in from several royal princes and men of the greatest distinction then in Genoa. It was consequently my good fortune to occupy the post he was expected to do, and I was proud of the honor of showing, as far as this act could do, the respect of my nation for the illustrious man. All Europe, however, (except England) and indeed I may say, the world, was represented at the funeral, for I believe every other foreign consul was there. The coffin was raised on a platform fifteen feet high, thirty feet in front of the main altar. It was covered with a vast pall of black velvet, to which was attached a large cross of crimson, embroidered in gold. Around this pile were gleaming forty massive wax tapers. Forty other tapers were burning on the main altar, and the twelve altars of the twelve chapels of the church, were also illuminated. The church was dressed in mourning, and the seats of the altar around the coffin were spread with velvet and damask, embroidered in fine gold. The vast edifice was crowded by a silent and solemn multitude. The bell struck the meridian, (the 20th of May) and the obsequies began with the introduction, on the organ, of that sublime service with which the imposing ceremonies of the Catholic Church dismiss the souls of believers to the eternal world. The altar was surrounded with a numerous company of priests and prelates, adorned in their richest robes. Forty singers, attached to the church, were also ranged round the altar, and behind it stood some of the best vocal and instrumental artistes in Italy. The soft deep notes of the organ, touched by the hands of a master, rolled down the pillared aisles, and broke in solemn reverberations among the lofty frescoed arches. As the different parts came in, the bass, the tenor and the soprano, the effect was electrical; but when at last the chorus commenced, with every voice in that great company of singers, and the heavy bass of the organ blended the sounds together, even the congrega.
O'CONNELL'S FUNERAL obsequies.
tion, accustomed as they were to such scenes, swelled the familiar strains; and it hardly required the aid of fancy to imagine that the death-anthem must have awoke the soul of the mighty sleeper.
HE service lasted about an hour. No eulogium was pronounced on
had himself been uttering words of fire. He had mingled in the strife of all the elements of a nation's life and progress; he had been the soul of all her struggles for freedom; above all, of her struggles for the holy rights of conscience. And now, when the champion of "freedom to worship God" had finished his labors, he was borne to one of the most gorgeous temples of the Church he had battled for, in the land where her proudest trophies are gathered, to receive all the magnificence of her divine honors. He had during a long life warred for that Church, in a distant island; for a suffering and a poor people, against haughty and oppressive foes and prelates, who scorned his faith and derided his religion; undismayed by numbers, untimidated by power, with a heart beating for liberty and his country, and his eye turned toward the dim, distant dome of St. Peter. Docs it seem strange, then, while the sleeper lay there in the midst of this scene of triumph, and the glorious strains of his death-anthem, sung by the prelates of that mighty Rome who watched his heroic struggles from her golden See, were rolling through the arches above him, that this triumphant pæan should have stirred the dust of the sleeper? Could O'Connell himself have cast his eye down into futurity, from the beginning of the vista of life, would even his ambition have demanded a prouder triumph.
Such were the honors offered to the dust of O'Connell; such the tribute which a distant but generous nation rendered to greatness and to truth. The vast crowd which had choked the piazza before the church, and every avenue leading to it, slowly dispersed. For a long time they stood gazing silently and solemnly upon the gorgeous pile which sustained his coffin. As the shadows of evening gathered around the city, and wrapped the temple in darkness and silence, save that far up the aisle the great lamp, that is forever kept burning before the image of the Virgin, sent its tiny star-light through the gloom, a company of priests bore the coffin into a private chapel; and there the great Agitator rested after his labors. On the return of his son from Rome, whither he had gone to deposit his father's heart in the tomb of St. Peter, he proceeded by sea to England with the ashes, and committed them to the keeping of his expecting, weeping and grateful countrymen.