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Charlotte Grace O'Brien.

Charlotte Grace O'Brien; selections from her writings and correspondence online

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Their weary days remembered now no more.

When, clinging each to each and fold on fold,
They wrapped their tender nurslings from the cold,

And brought them to their joys 'mid trials sore.

Poor things ! Forgotten now 'mid flowers and Spring,
You fill me with a shadow of dark fears,
That love may lessen with the growing years,

And that the changing hours that hour may bring,
When death shall seem the only good thing left
To me, in loneliness, of love bereft.

1870.

159



Poems

DEAFNESS THE PAST AND THE PRESENT

The woods are silenced for me, and the streams
Ripple no more for me along the leas ;
No more for me the birds sing melodies

To greet the morn, or give the sun good dreams ;

No more the circling rooks in heavy crowds

Beat homeward cawing, 'neath the wind-swept clouds.

Where are the sweet sounds gone ? Are they all gone ?
Gone from the meadows deep with swathes of hay :
There the blithe corncrake woke the summer day.

Or startled the still air the whole night long.

Now silent in their beauty they bend low

While the rich-scented breezes o'er them blow.

Oh ! merry voices of the world of life,

From the warm farm, the byre, the hen-roost shed ;

There nesting swallows flashed above my head,
And all about the air with sound was rife ;
With din of sparrow hordes, incessant, shrill,
Debating, scolding, loving then so still.

So still, for I had called them ! Breathlessly

I stood awaiting the oncoming burst

And rush of rival voices, all athirst
To fill the air with carols mad with glee
Set with dark globes and crowns, the burnished leaves
Now sway in. silence 'neath the silent eaves.

O earth ! what murmurs sweet beguile thy rest,
Ere yet the thrush his glorious matin rings ;
Ere yet the goldfinch on his glittering wings

Brushes the jasmine stars from round his nest;

Ere yet the daisy leaves turned toward the sun,

Bid night " Good night," and speak his day begun.

1 60



Poems

Oh, bitter loss ! all Nature's voices dumb.
Oh, loss beyond all loss ! about my neck
The children cast their arms ; no voices break

Upon my ear ; no sounds of laughter come^

Child's laughter, wrought of love, and life, and bliss ;

Heedless I leave the rest, had I but this !
1879.

TO SUMMER

In thee a rest of beauty stills the air ;

In thee fulfilment of the spring is won ;

The lazy meadows basking in the sun
Grow to a browner silvery softness there ;
In thee an hour to mere delight we spare,

We lie with leisure in her wide-leaved zone,

O'ershadowed with tranquillity, and shun
The fervour of the spring and autumn's care.
In thee the sounds are musical and low ;

In thee the murmur of the bees is heard ;
In thee the sleepy kine deep panting go

To where the sedges by the brook are stirred ;
Or linger knee-deep where the shallow lies,
Till the clear golden clouds of evening rise.

WINTER

They say ah 1 beauty now is gone

It seems not so to me ;
Though short the days and dark the hours,
What lovely things I see !

For now beneath the dripping trees
The soft green mosses grow,

And lichens on the bare grey rocks
All gold and silver glow

161 L



Poems

Here, too, I find a streak of red

It is the crane's bill leaf ;
But touch it not, for fairies bring

To whoso plucks it grief.



See there ! a golden furze has known
How welcome it would be,

And hasted to put forth its flowers
A glorious sight to see.

And I must spare some love for those
Poor faded withered things

To whose sad relics e'en in death
The scent of summer clings.

Earth's beauty never fades for me,

However drear the skies,
For still some gleam from leaf or light

Rewards my watching eyes.
1869.

SONG

Bend, O bend, ye swaying trees,
Let your green leaves lightly swing
To the soft sun-scented breeze ;j
All the small birds carolling,
In the bright and blossoming May,
Ira lira and tira lay.

Soon, too soon, the Spring will pass,
Soon the faded leaves will fall,
On the wind-swept withering grass,
While above the black rooks call,
In the ash trees bare and grey,
" Caw, caw, caw? and " Well-a-day \ "
1887. 162



Poems

A SONNET ON THE SONNET

When the heart presses hard against its bars
And all the aching senses seek to reach
Through some determinate sweet form of speech
A rest and outcome from their inward jars,
The Sonnet then, amid our brain's mad wars,
Draws near to us, as some soft-handed leach,
Giving our thoughts deliverance, setting each
Firm and alone self-centred as the stars.
Then to this new-born thing new beauties come,
And earth and air and all the sky and sea
Bring tribute to it of sweet minstrelsy,
So sweet, the cry within the heart is dumb.
And where our life held pain and cruel drought
ts now a font we scarce can live without.



THE CHRISTMAS ROSE

Oh ! pure pale flower, beneath thy crown of leaves,
When we despair of beauty thou art born ;
Thou dawnest for the cold grey winter's morn,

And for the sun that o'er yon blue hill weaves

Clear amber and dim gold faint, faint, reprieves
Of loveliness at point to die outworn,
'Neath hopeless skies and cloudland racked and torn,

And the white death that kills as it deceives.

But is it so, beloved ? Nay, not so.

Thou speak'st to us of life and not of death,

Not of the winter blast, nor of the snow,

But of the sun, the spring, the purple heath,

The wealth of the new year, the hope of flowers,

And the eternal sequence of the hours.

1880.

163



Poems

"IN THE BURDEN AND THE HEAT OF THE
DAY"

Ye that desire, amid life's stress and strain,
The silent spaces of the summer day,
Slow movements of leaf masses, soft and grey,
And the rich harvest of the varied plain
Ye to whom rest is life and silence again,

Whose burning feet have worn the dusty way,
Tread hither lightly o'er the new-mown hay,
'Mid labour void of strife and toil of pain.

Here, imaged in the new life of our age,
Relieve those sacred loves that death hath sealed,
Childhood's delight, and youth, and wounds long

healed,

The burden of slow years and each new stage,
Whence, gazing on the old work that is done,
We question dimly of the work begun ?
1882.

CONVALESCENCE

To watch death drawing near, and then to see
His fleeting shadow : to imagine rest
After much pain as even the very best
Of all earth's wearying gifts still left to me
Then in a moment to find strength and glee,
And health and hope and life's own living zest
Awake once more within my throbbing breast I
Is it not strange such hope should ever be ?
I feel the tussocks of the dewy grass
Spring neath my feet, I see the tangled woods,
I see the river's ever changing moods ;
Wild winds stoop to embrace me as they pass,
And all my blood leaps up to greet their kiss
Is it not strange to know once more such bliss ?
164



Poems

A SHANNON PICTURE

Long rose red arrows, flung athwart a sky

Left by the sun's decline of gold and green ;

A lake-like river stilled by frosty air,

Giving again those hues with opal sheen.

Such was the distance ; on a neighbouring slope
Stood grouped together gentle, patient cows,
Yielding sweet milk unto deft-handed maids

The while their clouded breaths toward heaven
1869. arose.

A SHANNON SABBATH EVENING

A cloud land on its bosom
Of grey and gold and rose,
The silent river dreaming
Lies in a deep repose.

But ever, ever filling,
Comes in the flowing tide,
And near at hand the ripple?
Across the pictures glide.

And far away an inlet,
More perfect than before,
Reflects in tender shining
The green indented shore.

Then slowly, slowly bending,
The tints fade one by one,
For the calm day at ending
Bids farewell to the sun,

Yet o'er the silent river
The dusk, the red dusk glows
And see ! its mirrored stillness
Is grey and gold and rose.
165



Poems

KEEN OF THE SHANNON

Dead ! He is dead ! and no more

Shall he hear the curlew whistle along the windy shore,
When the yellow, swirling tides their weight of waters pour
On the seaweed and the stones by the shore.
Ululu / O my son ! ululu !

Dead ! he is dead ! and no more

Shall he see the river gleaming along the moonpath white,
Where the silver, swirling tides rush from darkness into

light,

While they ripple and they roll on to night.
Ululu ! O my son ! ululu !

Dead ! he is dead ! and no more
Shall he watch the sunset glowing flush the vault of

heaven around,

When the crimson, swirling tides give a low, rejoicing sound,
By the stillness and the light they are bound.
Ululu ! O my son ! ululu /

; ' Dead ! he is dead ! and no more

Shall the star of morning flame above him o'er the wave,
While the cruel, swirling tides flash again the light it gave,
And the river is all black as the grave.
Ululu ! O my son / ululu !

Dead ! he is dead ! and no more
The dead, white light of winter gleams for him upon the

shore,

The dead, grey, swirling tides beating, beating o'er and o'er,
On the seaweed and the stones by the shore.

Ululu ! O my son ! ululu /
1879.

166



Poems

<A COMMONPLACE BALLAD

Poor Mick was trotting on to the town,
The side-car under him going ,

He looked on the water swollen and brown,
He looked on the river flowing.

The day was drear and heavy and dank.

A sleety wind was blowing,
And the river creeping up over the bank

Was into the roadside going,

Now, all that day till the night drew near
For the wind was bitterly blowing

Poor Mick sat gossiping here and there,
While the river was steadily flowing.

" And why should ye lave ? 'tis a cruel night

Oh, why should ye be going ?
Bide ye here till the morning light,

For the blackest wind is blowing ! "

" The wife will be wanting her bread and tay.
And oil for to light her sewing ;

Myself never minded the roughest day
Or the blackest black wind blowing.

" Gi-alang, old mare ! get up out of that !

For sure 'tis home we're going ! "
He buttoned his coat and settled his hat,

Nor thought of the river flowing.

But cold and drear and dark was the night,
The sleety wind was blowing ;

And where the road that morning was right
The river's edge was flowing !
167



Poems

The morrow's morn saw the trembling mare,

Saw the river muddily flowing,
Saw boys and men seeking here and there,

Though the soft south winds were blowing.

Oh ! the early sun is fair to see,

And the winter 'ill soon be going ;
But deep and dank and dark lies he

Though the sweet south winds are blowing.
1904.

THE BROMIDON AND CARRAGH

Reading an account of " Canoeing on the Bromidon " (America), by
J. Boyle O'Reilly, I thought of the Carragh (Kerry).

Art thou so lovely, Bromidon,

Sweet river of the far and shining west ?
Are thy green banks deep fringed with royal ferns ?
Do tender mosses there uprear their urns ?

Do mirrored mountains on thy bosom rest,
Purple or pale or blue, beneath the evening sun F

Art thou so lovely, Bromidon ?

Wait ! I will tell thee of a little brook
Where I have wandered in a bygone hour
With those I loved, with those I see, no more.

From the wild Reeks, past many a lovely nook,
It foams and murmurs on toward the evening sun.

Art thou so lovely, Bromidon ?

Is thy clear water brown and amber-gold ?
Do sudden sparkles, where the salmon dips,
Uplift the drowsy finger from the lips

Of the pale, silent God, who from of old
Watched Erin's own sweet Carragh greet the
evening sun ?

168



Poems

Art thou so lovely, Bromidon ?

Who is it that tells us of thy winding ways ?
Does he not know that little Kerry stream,
Glittering and still and changeful as a dream ?

Has he no word for thee too in his lays,
Thee, lonely Carragh, rippling on beneath the
evening sun ?

1884.



INNISFAIL THE ISLAND OF DESTINY

Oh, well beloved isle, thy strange old name
Comes from the ancient days to us late-born,
Wrapped in the golden mists of Ireland's morn,
Lit with the light of her prophetic flame !
Who gave it thee ? What destiny or fame
Was seen for thee, thou child of bitter scorn ?
What hope, thou mother, of thy babes forlorn ?
What greatness of desire, what noblest aim ?
Thou Isle of Destiny ! thine hour draws nigh,
Thy place among the nations shall be sealed,
Thou that wert least of all shall stand on high,
Thy faith, thy love, thy chastity revealed :
Thy old deep wounds shall be laid bare and healed,'
By God, thy Birthright and thy Destiny.



THE WORKERS FOR IRELAND

Now, or in future hope, is it not ours,
That freedom which they sought ?
Or has their life been wasted ? All their powers
Spent, and for nought ?
169



Poems

In tears, and blood, and death, their seed was sown,

They died and deemed it lost ;
But God has raised it, nurturing it unknown,
Through dark and frost.

We who receive fruition of their griefs,

How can we judge or scoff ?
Can we despise their names, scorn their beliefs,
Or cast them off ?

No ; though they failed, yet from their failures shone

A higher, nobler light.

No ; though they died, their voices echo on
From might to might.

Then by the love of her we all have loved

Our birthplace, home, and grave,
Cherish their names who in their deaths have proved
In weakness brave.



I DWELL AMONG MY OWN PEOPLE

True are these words for me God knows how true !
My people, my own countrymen, my friends ;
For ever, as I trust, till this life ends,

My love, my life, my hopes are vowed to you.

When sorrow came, when grief or pain I knew,
With reverent love and tender watchful care
My burden with me you have sought to bear,

Hiding your tears lest mine should start anew

I fancy if God wills it when I die

Your children, playing where the sunbeams^pass,

May gather daisies near me as I lie,

r- While you, reclining on the pillowed grass.

May say, " She loved us, dwelling midst her own ;

God grant that we may meet around His throne."
1870. 170



Poems

GLADSTONE 1869

Oh, noble face marked deep by inward strife !

Oh, steadfast eyes, through which thy soul looks out !

Gladstone, we rest on thee, nor think of doubt,
Knowing that sooner wouldst thou lay down life
Than fail us now, or break the bonds of trust.

Behold ! we look to thee with hopeful eyes,

Grasping thine outstretched hand which bids us rise
From that abyss where, stricken in the dust,
We mourned our ruined homes and crime-stained soil.

God grant thee wisdom in this trying hour ;

Thou hast our prayers, may they increase thy power,
That, conquering now for us, thy name may live
When death hath freed thee from reproach and toil,

In that undying fame that love can give.
1869.

GLADSTONE 1877

Thou comest to us now when leaves are sere;
Now, when pale fields look upward to a sun
Dim, as if weary with the year's work done ;

Now, when dread ghosts of winter hover near.

Yet Ireland welcomes thee ; thou art by her

Even now beloved ; even now thy name is one
She honours ; in the ages yet to run,

That honour will be dearer and more dear.

Yea, Ireland loves thee ; thou hast been a friend,
Faithful, though failing it may be to sound
The full chord of her being, and the round

That lies before her as the days ascend.

The noble speaker of a noble part,

My country greets thee, holds thee in her heart.

1877.

171



Poems

GLADSTONE

His CONFESSION THAT HE DID NOT RECOGNISE THE CRisi3
1879, l88 -

He did not know he did not heed this thing

That all our land was moistened with the tears
Of blue-lipped, haggard women, mad with fears

For the poor babes that at their bare breasts cling.

He did not know he did not hear the ring
Of words that yet re-echo in our ears,
Nor see the brand that famine fever sears

On human hearts crouched low beneath its wing.

And yet he dare to rule us, dare to thrust
Those very men who led us in full light

Into strong prison-bands, nor let the trust
And love of their own nation give respite

Ah, me ! how foolish are the very wise,

How weak the good, how blind the clearest eyes !

1884.

GLADSTONE 1886

Once more thou art our friend, and we are glad,
Once more thy wavering needle points to truth
True in thine age as erst in thy strong youth !

Thou speakest, and straightway fierce thoughts, wild and
bad,

Flee to dark realms, and where were musings mad,

Are love's revenge, warm hearts and Christian ruth ;
Yea, and shall be, for now in very sooth

Shall they rewrite our page, blood-stained and sad.

Thou drawest England, too, with strenuous bands :
And not in vain, for we who hold this thing , a

As wrought of God, and safe within His hands,

Hear the Divine voice through the human ring,

And pray that He who gave thee this great grace

In freedom, trust, and peace will crown thy race.
1886. 172



Poems

THE ASSISTED EMIGRANTS

The first set of emigrants sent by the Government to my care consisted
of twenty-seven souls. Of these, only one man knew English, one woman
was an idiot, some were old, and most were young children.

Speechless ! ay, speechless, for their Gaelic tongue
Is dead ; as wanderers from some far-off age
They strike the shores of human life, to wage

A too unequal fight with toil and wrong.

This * innocent ! ' are her steps also bound

To thee, O great New World of passionate strife ?
Are hearts there loving enough to guard her life

'Mid thine harsh din, 'mid thine unresting round ?

These innocents, these babes ay, babes and men
Alike, for men all dim with age are here,
Driven from their hillside homes, so bare, so dear

Would they had died before that bitter ' then ' !

Ah, Christ ! behold Thy lambs ! behold Thy sheep !
Within my hands one moment they may rest,
Feed, and be satisfied, laugh light and jest,

Then forth upon their way to toil and weep

To sin perchance. These maidens, all untried,

In womanhood so childlike strong, yet so weak,
So guardless and so guileless wolves that reek

With scent of blood against their coming bide.

Forth fare ye, wanderers, o'er the misty deep

Farewell, farewell ! Dumb, exiled, and oppressed,
Will ye look back to this one hour of rest ?

Ah, Christ ! behold Thy lambs ! behold Thy sheep !

1883-

173



Poems

ENGLAND

England, were I indeed to praise thee now,
The bitter memories of our long defeat,
Of false feigned freedom, and of our so sweet

And best-loved land defamed by such as thou,

Would bring the shamed blood across my brow.
O bitter memories of exiled feet,
Of noblest hopes foregone, of hearts that beat

Through living flame, then broke ere they could bow !

England ! were we but free, I well could love thee,
Be proud of my part in thee and thy blood,

Of the great dead who keep their watch above thee,
Of thy great word that is our daily food !
Yes, we could love a great one such as thou,
We could forgive, O England ! but not now
1884.

IRELAND. FAREWELL

(Written when sailing for New York).

Ireland ! were my love to thee but slight,

Were mine alone the vague unfettered eye
Skilless to trace those lovely lines that die

In melting blue beyond the furthest sight,

Yet even then methinks my heart aright

Had pulsed with thine in passionate reply
Requiring union with thee, 'neath a sky

So pure, so vivid through its liquid light.

But thou ! the mother of my love and life,

On whose soft breast so oft my wounded head

Hath bowed itself in agony of strife,

Desiring rest among the unsuffering dead,

Rather henceforth shall my rejoicing be

That God hath given me life to live for thee.

1882.

174



ESSAYS



All these Essays are dated by their appearance in various
publications, except the two printed from MS. I put that on The
Feminine Animal about i8go. The paper on Solitude is -written on
scraps of creamery accounts and bazaar tickets, some of -which are
dated 1892. This gives an anterior limit.

The photographs in this book, except that of her in youth,
appeared in Irish Gardening, illustrating The Making of Our
Home. The Homestead papers -were illustrated by her own rough
sketches, and folio-wed by verses here reprinted some of -which had
appeared in Lyrics.



AN ESSAY ON BIRDS

^v (BijAH, ABIGAIL, DAVITT, and the NIZY.)

To be alone and yet not alone, to be not over strong,
amid much silence and little human intercourse, yet to
have thoughts filled and heart warmed by love and
companionship, to sit still and laugh with no one to
hear, to be daily more satisfied with home and country
life even in the midst of falling interests and disheartened
friends is not this a secret worth knowing, one that gave
an added light to saints and hermits of old, one that all
lonely, deaf and delicate persons would do well to think
of ? " Our brothers the little birds," as St. Francis
called them, are strangers when they might so easily be
our fellow citizens, but I have thought some might like
to hear of my familiar friends Bijah and Abigail, a pair
of bullfinches, Davitt the goldfinch, and " the Nizy."
When a child I had a strange power of taming wild birds,
now largely lost, I am sorry to say, and used to stroke
the wild bullfinches on their nests, to feed the corn-
crakes, and catch wrens in my hand, so when last year I
caught a wild cock bullfinch in the greenhouse, I became
anxious to try my powers again, and letting it fly about
the drawingroom, I fed it from my hand. Very soon
it was quite tame, but it had a mate which used to come
calling at the windows, and one morning I, on looking
round the room, " found only that it was not to be found,"
and an open window. This friendly little fellow,

177 M



An Essay on Birds

" SolomonjAbecasis," who spent most of his time seated
on a peacock's feather before the mirror, had pleased me
so much I felt I must get another. A young man in the
neighbourhood caught me one bird after another, but
all went away, and at last in despair I cried : " The
next shall be called Abijah, and he will abide," and so
it came to pass. Abijah, when I got him, was a dingy
brown nestling, the hardest to tame of any, and great
were the misgivings lest he should prove a hen ; at last,
however, one little patch of red feathers came after
another (the colours come in patches, not single feathers),
and now as Solomon in all his glory is my beautiful
Bijah as he puffs up his gorgeous breast, pulls himself
up to all his inches (about six when on tip toe), and
bows to himself in the mirror. One fine morning Bijah
flew away. I went mourning all that day, but toward
nightfall I stepped out, and, like Dame Mitchell in search
of her cat, I cried " Bijah," expecting only the echoes
in reply, when suddenly a sweep of tiny wings almost
touching my shoulder, flew thence to the " Miliy Way,"
clematis (montana), and thence into the room. Joyfully
he hopped. into his home, not his prison, the cage, and
my heart was comforted. He was Abijah, and he abided !
He spent a night out another time, but in the morning
followed me into the greenhouse, and seemed thoroughly
frightened by his night's experience of liberty. Abijah
domesticated, I had to get a wife for him. It is not good
for man to be alone, we all know, though as to woman,
perhaps it is an open question ; and so Abigail, when she
arrived, may have thought, for to say truth, Bijah bullied
her dreadfully. I was unable to get a wild bird, so had
to'put up with a very dingy, dirty specimen of the sex
who had been caged in a wretched dirty cage, so that the
poor little thing when I got her could hardly fly she was
so weak, and heavy and helpless. A week of good care

178



An Essay on Birds

and liberty made another creature of her, but it was far
more difficult to tame her than a real wild bird. When
Bijah saw her first, he scorned her, then he put his head
on one side and considered her wisely, like the old cow.

" There was an old man and he had an old cow,

And he had nothing to give her.
He took out his fiddle and played her a tune,

' Consider, good cow, consider
It is no time of year for the grass to grow,
Consider, good cow, consider ! ' '

Having duly considered her, he hopped on the carpet,
and gathered hairs^till he had a fine moustache on each
side of his mouth., > Then he strutted over to her, made
his bow solemnly, dropped his offering at her feet, and
then flew to the mirror to admire himself. This was
in the autumn ; they became soon fond of one another,
but Bijah bullied her like a true John Bull. I have had
Abigail perched on my hand feeding: Bijah, with a rush
from the other side of the room, alights on my elbow
and rushes up my wrist, hissing at her with open mouth.
Sometimes Bijah would light on a picture, Abigail timidly
follow, alighting on the far end, then gently sidle along
till within six inches of my gentleman, when with a rush
and a little scream Bijah would dart at her. It was
most amusing to see Bijah measuring her distance with a


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Online LibraryCharlotte Grace O'BrienCharlotte Grace O'Brien; selections from her writings and correspondence → online text (page 12 of 16)