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Historical ballad poetry of Ireland; online

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laid low,

By Silken Thomas and his kin, by sainted Edward I No !
The forms of centuries rise up and in the- Irish line
COMMAND THEIR SON TO TAKE THE-POST THAT

FITS THE GERALDINE !



THE FIFTH PERIOD 219

1798

THE MEMORY OF THE DEAD
BY JOHN KELLS INGRAM

WHO fears to speak of Ninety-Eight ?
Who blushes at the name ?
When cowards mock the patriots' fate

Who hangs his head for shame ?
He's all a knave, or half a slave,

Who slights his country thus ;
But a true, man, like you, man,
Will fill your glass with us.



We drink the memory of the brave,

The faithful and the few-
Some lie far off beyond the wave

Some sleep in Ireland too ;
All all are gone but still lives on

The fame of those who died
All true men like you, men,

Remember them with pride.



Some on the shores of distant lands

Their weary hearts have laid,
And by the stranger's heedless hands

Their lonely graves were made ;
But, though their clay be far away

Beyond the Atlantic foam
In true men, like you, men,

Their spirit's still at home.



220 HISTORICAL BALLAD POETRY OF IRELAND

The dust of some is Irish earth

Among their own they rest,
And the same land that gave them birth

Has caught them to her breast ;
And we will pray that from their clay

Full many a race may start
Of true men, like you, men

To act as brave a part.



They rose in dark and evil days

To right their native land ;
They kindled here a living blaze

That nothing shall withstand.
Alas that Might can vanquish Right

They felt and pass'd away ;
But true men, like you, men,

Are plenty here to-day.



Then here's their memory may it be

For us a guiding light,
To cheer our strife for liberty,

And teach us to unite ;
Through good and ill be Ireland's still,

Though sad as theirs your fate ;
And true men, be you, men,

Like those of Ninety-Eight.






THE FIFTH PERIOD 221



1798

ARBOR HILL
Br ROBERT EMMET.

" Arbor Hill, In the city of Dublin, is the site of a military prison. Into the
burying-ground which is attached were cast the bodies of many of the insur-
gents shot in '98. The following lines were written by the patriot-martyr,
Robert Emmet. It is believed to be the only poem of Emmet s extant."
Note in Poetry and Songs of Ireland, edited by John Boyle O'Reilly.

NO rising column marks this spot,
Where many a victim lies ;
But oh ! the blood that here has streamed,
To Heaven for justice cries.



It claims it on the oppressor's head

Who joys in human woe,
Who drinks the tears by misery shed,

And marks them as they flow.



It claims it on the callous judge, 1
Whose hands in blood are dyed,

Who arms injustice with the sword,
The balance throws aside.



It claims it for his ruined isle,
Her wretched children's grave ;

Where withered freedom droops her head,
And man exists a slave.

1 Lord Norbury.



222 HISTORICAL BALLAD POETRY OF IRELAND

Oh ! sacred Justice ! free this land

From tyranny abhorred ;
Resume thy balance and thy seal

Resume but sheathe thy sword.



No retribution should we seek
Too long has horror reigned

By mercy marked ; may freedom rise
By cruelty unstained.



Nor shall a tyrant's ashes mix
With those, our martyred dead ;

This is the place where Erin's sons
In Erin's cause have bled.



And those who here are laid at rest,
Oh ! hallowed be each name ;

Their memories are for ever blest
Consigned to endless fame.



Unconsecrated is this ground,

Unblest by holy hands ;
No bell here tolls its solemn sound,

No monument here stands.



But here the patriot's tears are shed,
The poor man's blessing given ;

These consecrate the virtuous dead,
These waft their fame to Heaven.



THE FIFTH PERIOD 223

1800-1
THE UNION*

BY SLIABH CUILINN

In 1800 the Act of Union was passed by the Irish Parliament. We may
applaud or condemn the measure as its necessity or otherwise may strike us ;
luit there is no honourable man who will not condemn and abhor the nic<u>s
employed to secure the consent of the Irish Parliament, no Irishman who will
not feel ashamed of those, bis fellow-countrymen, who sold Ireland for gold
In 1800.

HOW did they pass the Union ?
By perjury and fraud ;
By slaves who sold their land for gold

As Judas sold his God ;
By all the savage acts that yet

Have followed England's track
The pitchcap and the bayonet,
The gibbet and the rack.

And thus was passed the Union

By Pitt and Castlereagh ;
Could Satan send for such an end
More worthy tools than they ?

How thrive we by the Union ?
Look round our native land :
In ruined trade and wealth decayed

See slavery's surest brand ;
Our glory as a nation gone ;

Our substance drained away ;
A wretched province trampled on
Is all we've left to-day.

Then curse with me the Union,

That juggle foul and base,
The baneful root that bore such fruit
Of ruin and disgrace.

Trish Minstrelsy (Walter Scott), page 84.



224 HISTORICAL BALLAD POETRY OF IRELAND

And shall it last, this Union,
To grind and waste us so ?
O'er hill and lea from sea to sea

All Ireland thunders, No !
Eight million necks are stiff to bow,

We know our might as men ;
We conquer'd once before and now
We'll conquer once again,
And rend the cursed Union

And fling it to the wind
And Ireland's laws in Ireland's cause
Alone our hearts shall bind !



1801
ENGLAND'S ULTIMATUM

BY SUABH CUTLINN

SLAVES ! lie down and kiss your chains,
To the Union yield in quiet ;
Were it hemlock in your veins,
Stand it must we profit by it.

English foot on Irish neck,
English gyve on Irish sinew,

Ireland swayed at England's beck-
So it is, and shall continue.

English foot on Irish neck,

Pine or rot, meanwhile, we care not ;
Little will we pause to reck

How you writhe, while rise you dare not.




ETHNA CARBERY



THE FIFTH PERIOD 225

Argue with you ! stoop to show

Our dominion's just foundation !
Savage Celts ! and dare you so

Task the lords of half creation ?

Argue ! do not ask again,

Proofs enough there are to sway you ;
Three and twenty thousand men

Whom a word will loose to slay you.

Store of arguments besides

In their time we will exhibit
Leaded thongs for rebel hides,

Flaming thatch and burthened gibbet.

Bid your fathers tell how we

Proved our rights in bygone seasons ;

Slaves and sons of slaves ! your knee
Bow to sister England's reasons.



1803

EMMET'S DEATH
BY S. F. C.

Robert Emmet was executed on September 20, 1803. His rising had been
a complete failure. He was but a youth, high of soul, noble and fired with a
romantic patriotism, wanting, however, in that sound practical sense which
is necessary in a leader of men. The beautiful story of his love for Miss Curran
a love which cost him his life is well known.

T TE dies to-day," said the heartless judge,
-L JL Whilst he sat him down to the feast*
And a smile was upon his ashy lips
As he uttered a ribald jest ;



226 HISTORICAL BALLAD POETRY OF IRELAND

For a demon dwelt where his heart should be

That lived upon blood and sin,
And oft as that vile judge gave him food

The demon throbbed within.



"He dies to-day," said the gaoler grim,

Whilst a tear was in his eye ;
" But why should I feel so grieved for him \

Sure I've seen many die !
Last night I went to his stony cell

With the scanty prison fare
He was sitting at a table rude,

Plaiting a lock of hair !

"And he looked so mild, with his pale, pale face,

And he spoke in so kind a way
That my old breast heav'd with a smothering feel,

And I knew not what to say."



" He dies to-day," thought a fair, sweet

She lacked the life to speak,
For sorrow had almost frozen her blood,

And white were her lip and cheek
Despair had drank up her last wild tear

And her brow was damp and chill,
And they often felt at her heart with fear

For its ebb was all but still.



THE FIFTH PERIOD 227

RODY McCORLEY
BY ETHNA CARBERY

HO ! see the fleet-foot hosts of men
Who speed with faces wan,
From farmstead and from fisher's cot

Upon the banks of Bann !
They come with vengeance in their eyes

Too late, too late are they
For Rody McCorley goes to die
On the Bridge of Toome to-day.



Oh ! Ireland, mother Ireland,

You love them still the best,
The fearless brave who fighting fall

Upon your hapless breast ;
But never a one of all your dead

More bravely fell in fray
Than he who marches to his fate

On the Bridge of Toome to-day



Up the narrow street he stepped,

Smiling and proud and young ;
About the hemp-rope on his neck

The golden rirtglets clung.
There's never a tear in the blue, blue eyes,

Both glad and bright are they
As Rody McCorley goes to die

On the Bridge of Toome to-day.



228 HISTORICAL BALLAD POETRY OF IRELAND

Ah ! when he last stepped up that street,

His shining pike in hand,
Behind him marched in grim array

A stalwart earnest band !
For Antrim town ! for Antrim town

He led them to the fray
And Rody McCorley goes to die

On the Bridge of Toome to-day.

The grey coat and its sash of green

Were brave and stainless then,
A banner flashed beneath the sun

Over the marching men
The coat hath many a rent this noon,

The sash is torn away,
And Rody McCorley goes to die

On the Bridge of Toome to-day.

Oh ! how his pike flashed to the sun !

Then found a foeman's heart !
Through furious fight and heavy odds

He bore a true man's part ;
And many a red-coat bit the dust

Before his keen pike-play
But Rody McCorley goes to die

On the Bridge of Toome to-day.

Because he loved the Motherland,

Because he loved the Green,
He goes to meet the martyr's fate

With proud and joyous mien.
True to the last, true to the last

He treads the upward way
Young Rody McCorley goes to die

On the Bridge of Toome to-day.



THE FIFTH PERIOD 229

1803

MICHAEL DWYER
BY T. D. SULLIVAN



Michael Dwyer was a famous outlaw who held out In the Wicklow mmin-
tains and caused the British a great deal of trouble. His surrender in 1803
was the last event of the great '98 rebellion.



"AT length, brave Michael Dwyer, you and your trusty

JT\ men

Are hunted o'er the mountains and tracked into the glen.
Sleep not, but watch and listen ; keep ready blade and ball ;
The soldiers know you're hiding to-night in wild Imaal."



The soldiers searched the valley, and towards the dawn of day
Discovered where the outlaws, the dauntless rebels, lay.
Around the little cottage they formed into a ring
And called out, " Michael Dwyer ! surrender to the King ! "



Thus answered Michael Dwyer : " Into this house we came
Unasked by those who own it they cannot be to blame.
Then let these peaceful people unquestioned pass you through,
And when they're placed in safety, I'll tell you what we'll
do."



'Twas done. " And now," said Dwyer, " your work you may

begin :

You are a hundred outside we're only four within.
We've heard your haughty summons, and this is our reply
We're true United Irishmen, we'll fight until we die."



230 HISTORICAL BALLAD POETRY OF IRELAND

Then burst the war's red lightning, then poured the leaden

rain,

The hills around re-echoed the thunder peals again.
The soldiers falling round him brave Dwyer sees with pride ;
But ah ! one gallant comrade is wounded by his side.

Yet there are three remaining good battle still to do ;
Their hands are strong and steady, their aim is quick and

true

But hark that furious shouting the savage soldiers raise !
The house is fired around them ! the roof is in % blaze !

And brighter every moment the lurid flame arose,
And louder swelled the laughter and cheering of their foes.
Then spake the brave McAlister, the weak and wounded man :
" You can escape, my comrades, and this shall be your plan :

" Place in my hands a musket, then lie upon the floor ;
I'll stand before the soldiers and open wide the door :
They'll pour into my bosom the fire of their array ;
Then, whilst their guns are empty, dash through them and
away."

He stood before his foemen, revealed amidst the flame.
From out their levelled pieces the wished-f or volley came ;
Up sprang the three survivors for whom the hero died,
But only Michael Dwyer broke tlirough the ranks outside.

He baffled his pursuers, who followed like the wind ;
He swam the river Slaney, and left them far behind ;
But many an English soldier he proposed soon should fall
For these his gallant comrades, who died in wild Imaal.



THE FIFTH PERIOD 231

1820

LAMENT FOR GRATTAN
BY THOMAS MOORE

" Grattan, whose unflnersrinpr courage, high endowments, and Incorruptible
nonesty had so materially contributed to his country's emancipation. . . .
He was the first of the Patriots who received his retainer from the people, and
not from the Crown, and he was one of the few whenever betrayed his client."
Walpole.

SHALL the Harp then be silent, when he who first gave
To our country a name is withdrawn from all eyes ?
Shall a Minstrel of Erin stand mute by the grave
Where the first where the last of her Patriots lies ?

No faint tho' the death-song may fall from his lips,
Tho' his Harp like his soul may with shadows be crost,

Yet, yet shall it sound, 'mid a nation's eclipse

And proclaim to the world what a star hath been lost ;

What a union of all the affections and powers
By which life is exalted, embellish'd, refined,

Was embraced in that spirit whose centre was ours
While its mighty circumference circled mankind.

Oh ! who that loves Erin, or who that can see

Through the waste of her annals, that epoch sublime,

Like a pyramid raised in the desert where he
And his glory stand out to the eyes of all time ;

That one lucid interval, snatch'd from the gloom
And the madness of ages, when fill'd with his soul

A nation o'erleap'd the dark bounds of her doom,
And for one, sacred instant touch'd Liberty's goal.



232 HISTORICAL BALLAD POETRY OF IRELAND

Who that ever hath heard him hath drunk at the source
Of that wonderful eloquence all Erin's own,

In whose high-thoughted daring the fire and the force
And the yet untamed spring of her spirit are shown ?

An eloquence rich, wheresoever its wave

Wander'd free and triumphant with thoughts that shone

thro'
As clear as the brook's " stone of lustre," and gave

With the flash of the gem, its solidity, too.

Who that ever approach'd him, when free from the crowd
In a home full of love he delighted to tread

'Mong the trees which a nation had giv'n and which bow'd.
As if each brought a new civic crown for his head



Is there one, who hath thus, through his orbit of life

But at distance observed him through glory, through
blame,

In the calm of retreat, in the grandeur of strife,

Whether shining or clouded, still high and the same,

Oh no, not a heart that e'er knew him but mourns
Deep, deep o'er the grave, where such glory is shrined

O'er a monument Fame will preserve, 'mong the urns
Of the wisest, the bravest, the best of mankind !



THE FIFTH PERIOD 233

1782-1800

O'CONNELL
BY DENIS FLORENCE MCCARTHY

" The hour had come, and with it the man. O'Connell sprang into existence
as a great political force. ... A great and just cause, a magnificent per-
sonality, oratory that swayed and moved great masses of men, as they have
never been swayed and moved before or since, swept all opposition like chaff
before the wind." Ireland and the Empire, T. W. Russell, M.P.

A DAZZLING gleam of evanescent glory
Had passed away, and all was dark once more.
One golden page had lit the mournful story

Which ruthless hands with envious rage out-tore.

One glorious sun-burst, radiant and far reaching,
Had pierced the cloudy veil dark ages wove,

When full-armed Freedom rose from Grattan's teaching
As sprang Minerva from the brain of Jove.

Oh ! in the transient light that had outbroken,
How all the land with quickening fire was lit !

What golden words of deathless speech were spoken,
What lightning flashes of immortal wit !

Letters and arts revived beneath its beaming,

Commerce and Hope outspread their swelling sails,

And with " Free Trade " upon their standard gleaming,
Now feared no foes and dared adventurous gales.

Across the stream the graceful arch extended,
Above the pile the rounded dome arose ;

The soaring spire to heaven's high vault ascended,
The loom hummed loud as bees at evening's close.



234 HISTORICAL BALLAD POETRY OF IRELAND

And yet 'mid all this hope and animation
The people still lay bound in bigot chains.

Freedom that gave some slight alleviation
Could dare no panacea for their pains.

Yet faithful to their country's quick uprising,
Like some fair island from volcanic waves

They shared the triumph though their chains despising,
And hailed the freedom though themselves were slaves.

But soon had come the final compensation,

Soon would the land one brotherhood have known,

Had not some spell of hellish incantation

The new-formed fane of Freedom overthrown.

In one brief hour the fair mirage had faded,
No isle of flowers lay glad on ocean's green ;

But in its stead, deserted and degraded,

The barren strand of slavery's shore was seen.



1829

INTO the senate swept the mighty chief
Like some great ocean-wave across the bar
Of intercepting rock, whose jagged reef

But frets the victor whom it cannot mar.
Into the senate his triumphal car

Rushed like a conqueror's through the broken gates
Of some fallen city, whose defenders are
Powerful no longer to resist the fates,
But yield at last to him whom wondering Fame awaits.



THE FIFTH PERIOD 235

And as " sweet foreign Spenser " might have sung,

Yoked to the car two winged steeds were seen
With eyes of fire and flashing hoofs outflung,

As if Apollo's coursers they had been.
These were quick Thought and Eloquence, I ween,

Bounding together with impetuous speed,
While overhead there waved a flag of green

Which seemed to urge still more each flying steed,
Until they reached the goal the hero had decreed.



There at his feet a captive wretch lay bound,

Hideous, deformed, of baleful countenance,
Whom, as his bloodshot eyeballs glared around,

As if to kill with their malignant glance,
I knew to be the fiend Intolerance.

But now no longer had he power to slay,
For Freedom touched him with Ithuriel's lance,

His horrid form revealing by its ray,
And showed how foul a fiend the world could once obey.



Then followed after him a numerous train,

Each bearing trophies of the field he won :
Some the white wand and some the civic chain,

Its golden letters glistening in the sun ;
Some for the reign of justice had begun

The ermine robes that soon would be the prize
Of spotless lives that all pollution shun,

And some in mitred pomp with upturned eyes
And grateful hearts invoked a blessing from the skies.



236 HISTORICAL BALLAD POETRY OF IRELAND

1843
FATHER MATTHEW

ODE TO A PAINTER ABOUT TO COMMENCE A PICTURE
ILLUSTRATING THE LABOURS OF FATHER MATTHEW

BY T. CONDON

Every Irish boy and girl knows, or should know, all about the great and
successful labours of Father Matthew in the cause of temperance in Ireland.

SEIZE thy pencil, child of art !
Fame and fortune brighten o'er thee.
Great thy hand and great thy heart

If well thou dost the work before thee I
'Tis not thine to round the shield

Or point the sabre black or gory ;
'Tis not thine to spread the field,

Where crime is crowned where guilt is glory !

Child of art ! to thee be given

To paint, in colours all unclouded,
Breakings of a radiant heaven

O'er an isle in darkness shrouded !
But, to paint them true and well,

Every ray we see them shedding
In its very light must tell

What a gloom before was spreading.

Canst thou picture dried-up tears

Eyes that wept no longer weeping
Faithful woman's wrongs and fears,

Lonely nightly vigils keeping
Listening every footfall nigh,

Hoping him she loves returning ?
Canst thou then depict her joy

That we may know the change from mourning T



THE FIFTH PERIOD 237

Paint in colours strong, but mild,

Our isle's redeemer and director.
Canst thou paint the man a child,

Yet shadow forth the mighty VICTOR ?
Let his path a rainbow span,

Every hue and colour blending,
Beaming " peace and love " to man,

And alike o'er ALL extending !

Canst thou paint a land made free

From its sleep of bondage woken
Yet withal, that we may see

What 'twas before the chain was broken ?
Seize thy pencil, child of art !

Fame and fortune brighten o'er thee !
Great thy hand and great thy heart

If well thou dost the work before thee !



1846-7

A MYSTERY
BY D. F. MCCARTHY

These poems tell their sad story well. The misery of a starving nation has
touched the hearts of many poets, some to sorrow alone and some to indigna-
tion that vessels laden with corn should have been allowed to leave the shores
of a country whose people were dying by thousands for want of food.

THEY are dying ! they are dying ! where the golden corn
is growing ;
They are dying ! they are dying ! where the crowded herds

are lowing
They are gasping for existence where the streams of life are

flowing,

And they perish of the plague where the breeze of health is
blowing !



238 HISTORICAL BALLAD POETRY OF IRELAND

God of Justice ! God of Power !

Do we dream ? Can it be ?
In this land, at this hour,

With the blossom on the tree,
In the gladsome month of May,
When the young lambs play,
When Nature looks around

On her waking children now,
The seed within the ground,

The bud upon the bough ?
Is it right ? is it fair ?
That we perish of despair
In this land, on this soil,

Where our destiny is set,
Which we cultured with our toil

And watered with our sweat ?

We have ploughed, we have sown,

But the crop was not our own.

We have reaped, but harpy hands

Swept the harvest from our lands ;

We were perishing for food.
Tis for this they are dying where the crowded herds are

lowing,
"Tis for this they are dying where the streams of life are

flowing,
And they perish of the plague where the breeze of health is

blowing.

THE FAMINE YEAR 4
BY LADY WILDE

WEARY men, what reap ye ? Golden corn for the
stranger.
What sow ye ? Human corses that wait for the avenger.

Irish Minstrelsy (Walter Scott), page 68.



THE FIFTH PERIOD 239

Fainting forms, hunger stricken, what see ye in the offing ?
Stately ships to bear our food away, amid the stranger's

scoffing.
There's a proud array of soldiers what do they round your

door ?
They guard our master's granaries from the thin hands of

the poor.
Pale mothers, wherefore weeping ? Would to God that we

were dead
Our children swoon before us, and we cannot give them bread.

Little children, tears are strange upon your infant faces ;
God meant you but to smile within your mother's soft

embraces.
O, we know not what is smiling, and we know not what is

dying :
But we're hungry, very hungry, and we cannot stop our

crying.
And some of us grow cold and white \ve know not what it

means ;

But, as they lie beside us, we tremble in our dreams.
There's a gaunt crowd on the highway are you come to

pray to man
With hollow eyes that cannot weep, and for words your faces

wan ?



No ; the blood is dead within our veins we care not now

for lif e ;

Let us lie hid in the ditches, far from children and from wife ;
We cannot stay and listen to their raving famished cries
Bread ! Bread ! Bread ! and none to still their agonies.
We left our infants playing with their dead mother's hand :
We left our maidens maddened by the fever's scorching

brand :



240 HISTORICAL BALLAD POETRY OF IRELAND

Better, maiden, thou wert strangled in thy own dark-twisted

tresses
Better, infant, thou wert smothered in thy mother's first

caresses.

We are fainting in our misery, but God will hear our groan ;
Yet, if fellow-men desert us, will He hearken from His throne ?
Accursed are we in our own land, yet toil we still and toil ;
But the stranger reaps our harvest the alien owns our soil.
Christ ! how have we sinned, that on our native plains
We perish homeless, naked, starved, with branded brow like

Cain's ?

Dying, dying wearily, with a torture sure and slow
Dying as a dog would die, by the wayside as we go.

One by one they're falling round us, their pale faces to the

sky;
We've no strength left to dig them graves there let them

lie.

The wild bird, if he's stricken, is mourned by the others,
But we we die in Christian land we die amid our brothers,
In a land which God has given us, like a wild beast in his cave,
Without a tear, a prayer, a shroud, a coffin, or a grave.
Ha ! but think ye, the contortions on each livid face ye see
Will not be read on judgment-day by eyes of Deity ?

We are wretches, famished, scorned, human tools to build


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