This rings so true.
I've seen the same thing several times in Perl 6 compilers that targeted other high-level languages (for example kp6 comes to mind, which had a Perl 5 backend). It became so slow that hacking on it wasn't fun anymore, so people stopped hacking on it. (I think perlito descended from kp6 though).
Rakudo had the same problem, parrot's object system didn't fit it. So it had a huge rewrite switching to a custom object system, which only worked because much of it could be written in C. If it had to be done on top of parrot primitives, it could have never worked with decent speed.