Copyright
M. J Brown.

Historical ballad poetry of Ireland; online

. (page 8 of 13)
Online LibraryM. J BrownHistorical ballad poetry of Ireland; → online text (page 8 of 13)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


From The Kingdom of Ireland, by Charles George Walpole.



142 HISTORICAL BALLAD POETRY OF IRELAND

Do you ask why the beacon and banner of war
On the mountains of Ulster are seen from afar ?
'Tis the signal our rights to regain and secure,
Through God and our Lady and Rory O'Moore.

For the merciless Scots, with their creed and their swords,
With war in their bosoms, and peace in their words,
Have sworn the bright light of our faith to obscure,
But our hope is in God and in Rory O'Moore.

Oh ! lives there the traitor who'd shrink from the strife
Who to add to the length of a forfeited life,
His country, his kindred, his faith would abjure ?
No ! we'll strike for our God and for Rory O'Moore.

1641

MACMAHON'S DEFIANCE
BY JAMES M. MCCANB

Scene. COUNCIL CHAMBER, DUBLIN CASTLE

It will be remembered that in O'More's great rising, fixed for October 23,
1641, Dublin Castle was to be seized simultaneously with the forts in the
north. Unfortunately, in a convivial moment, Colonel Hugh MacMahon, one
of the leaders in Dublin, spoke of the plans in the presence of one, Owen Con-
nolly, who betrayed the plot to the Government. It was frustrated, and Mac-
Mahon was seized. He behaved gallantly in presence of his judges.

BY Heaven, that hateful name is false ! no " traitor's "
soul have I ;
Not mine to blush for " craven crimes " not mine " the

dread to die ; "

And though a captive here I stand within these Dublin towers,
J swear we fight for King and right a holy cause is ours :
Even her^I fling your tauntings back I fling them in your

face

Dark picture, Parsons, of your heart a tell-tale of your race.
Lords Justices ! misnamed my tongue your perfidy shall

brand,
Betrayers of your prince's cause, and robbers of the landt



THE FOURTH PERIOD 143

I dare your worst your rope, your block, no terrors have

for me,
For the hour that saw these hands enchained, that hour saw

Ireland free.

Ay, bear me hence ! what boots it now if I should live or

die?
Thank God ! the long-sought hour is come our banners

kiss the sky !

Albeit a worthless tool is broke 'tis hallowed in the deed !
Thank God that Ireland's cause is safe, that I for Ireland

bleed !
Ay, bear me to the bloody block nor need ye waste your

light,

For Ulster all ablaze, my lords, shall be our torch to-night ;
Each Saxon tower that frowned upon our country's plundered

fanes

Shall light its felon lord, ere dawn, to dastard flight or chains ;
Shall guide the steps of gathering clans whose watchwords

rend the sky.
O God ! it is a happy death on such a night to die.

Clan-ConnaFs outlawed sons rush down o'er cliff and rugged
rock

Than Erna's flood at Assaroe, more fierce and dread their
shock :

As storm-clouds driven o'er summer's sky, Maguire's shat-
tered clan

Shall sweep from Erna's hundred isles and clutch their own
again.

A thunderbolt that cleaves the heavens with scathing levin
bright,

Clan-NiaFs gathering masses burst o'er tower and town to-
night ;

O'Hanlon builds his eyrie strong in Tanderagee's old town ;

O'Reilly raises Brefni's kernes ; Magennis musters Down ;



144 HISTORICAL BALLAD POETRY OP IRELAND

And though not mine the glorious task my rightful clan to

lead,
Clan-Mahon shall not want a chief to teach it how to bleed !

Ha ! wherefore shakes that craven hand Lord Justice

Parsons, say ?
Why stare so stark, my Lord Borlase ? l why grow so pale,

I pray.

Me thought you deemed it holy work to fleece "the Philis-
tine " ;
That in " God's name " you taxed belief in many a goodly

fine;
Then wherefore all these rueful looks ? " the Lord's work

ye have done " !
Advance the lights ! Ha ! vampire lords, your evil race is

run.

Ye traitors to a trusting prince ! ye robbers of his realm !
Small wonder that the ship's adrift with pirates at the helm !
Hark ! Leard'st that shout that rang without ? Ye ministers

of ill,
Haste, sate ye with your latest crime while yet you've time

to kill!

I dare your worst, you Saxon knaves ! then wherefore do

you pause ?
My blood shall rouse the Southern clans, though prostrate in

our cause !

For as the resurrection flower, though withered many a year,
Blooms fresh and bright and fair again when watered with a

tear,

So, nurtured in the willing wave of a martyr's ruddy tide,
Our sons shall say The Nation lived when Hugh MacMahoo

died!

Parsons and Borlaae were the Lords Justices,




SIR CHARLES GAVAN DUFFY



THE FOURTH PERIOD 145

1041

THE MUSTER OF THE NORTH
By SIR CHARLES GAVAN DUFFY

This ballad is an expression of the fierce spirit of revenge stirred up In the
north by the cruelties anil excesses of the Scotch and English troops a spirit
which could not be calmed even by the endeavours of the priests until the
price of blood was paid. Excited thus, Phelim O'Neill and his followers were
responsible for much bloodshed.

JOY ! joy ! the day is come at last, the day of hope and
pride,
And see ! our crackling bonfires light old Bann's rejoicing

tide,
And gladsome bell, and bugle-horn from Newry's captured

towers,

Hark ! how they tell the Saxon swine, this land is ours, Is
OURS!

Glory to God ! my eyes have seen the ransomed fields of

Down,
My ears have drunk the joyful news, " Stout Phelim hath

his own."
Oh ! may they see and hear no more, oh ! may they rot to

clay,
When they forget to triumph in the conquest of to-day.

Now, now we'll teach the shameless Scot to purge his thievish

maw,

Now, now the courts may fall to pray, for Justice is the Law,
Now shall the Undertaker * square, for once, his loose accounts.
We'll strike, brave boys, a fair result, from all his false amounts.

1 In the Plantation of the different provinces of Ireland the large estates con-
fiscated from patriot Irish chiefs were bestowed on English and Scotch " younger
sons " who undertook to provide one foot and one horse soldier for every hun-
dred acres, and also to divide their land into small holdings and colonize these
with English, and to employ none but English artizans and labourers, prevent-
ing them from amalgamating with the native Irish. These new landholders
thus gained the title of " Undertakers," and it is not hard to realize the bitter
hatred that went with the name.



146 HISTORICAL BALLAD POETRY OF IRELAND

Come, trample down their robber rule, and smite its venal

spawn,
Their foreign laws, their foreign Church, their ermine, and

their lawn ;
With all the specious fry of fraud that robbed us of our

own,
And plant our ancient laws again beneath our lineal throne.

Our standard flies o'er fifty towers, o'er twice ten thousand

men,

Down 1 ave we plucked the pirate Red, never to rise again ;
The Green alone shall stream above our native field and

flood
The spotless Green, save where its folds are gemmed with

Saxon blood !

Pity ! no, no, you dare not, Priest 1 not you, our Father,

dare
Preach to us now that godless creed the murderers' blood

to spare ;
To spare his blood, while tombless still our slaughter'd kin

implore,
" Graves and revenge " from Gobbin Cliffs and Carrick's

bloody shore ! 2

Pity ! could we " forget forgive," if we were clods of clay,
Our martyr'd priests, our banish'd chiefs, our race in dark

decay,
And worse than all you know it, Priest the daughters of

our land,
With wrongs we blushed to name until the sword was in our

hand !

1 See " The Intercession," by Aubrey de Vere, given below.
1 The scene of the massacre of Island Magee.



THE FOURTH PERIOD 147

Pity ! well, if you needs must whine, let pity have its way,
Pity for all our comrades true, far from our side to-day.
The prison-bound who rot in chains, the faithful dead who

poured
Their blood 'neath Temple's lawless axe or Parson's ruffian

sword.



They smote us with the swearer's oath, and with the mur-
derer's knife,

We in the open field will fight, fairly for land and life ;
But by the Dead and all their wrongs, and by our hopes to-day
One of us twain shall fight their last, or be it we or they !



They bann'd our faith, they bann'd our lives, they trod us

into earth,

Until our very patience stirred their bitter hearts to mirth ;
Even this great flame that wraps them now, not we but they

have bred,
Yes, this is their own work, and now, THEIR WORK BE ON

THEIR HEAD.



Nay, Father, tell us not of help from Leinster's Norman peers,
If we but shape our holy cause to match their selfish fears,
Helpless and hopeless be their cause who brook no vain delay.
Our ship is launched, our flag's afloat, whether they come or
stay.

Let Silken Howth, and savage Slane still kiss their tyrant's

rod,

And pale Dunsany still prefer his Master to his God,
Little we'd miss their fathers' sons, the Marchmen of the Pale,
If Irish hearts and Irish hands had Spanish blade and mail ?



148 HISTORICAL BALLAD POETRY OF IRELAND

Then let them stay to bow and fawn, or fight with cunning

words ;
I fear me more their courtly acts than England's hireling

swords,

Natheless their creed they hate us still, as the Despoiler hates ;
Could they love us, and love their prey, our kinsmen's lost

estates ?

Our rude array's a jagged rock to smash the spoiler's power,
Or need we aid, His aid we have who doomed this gracious

hour ;
Of yore He led His Hebrew host to peace through strife and

pain,
And us He leads the selfsame path, the selfsame goal to gain.

Down from the sacred hills whereon a SAINT * communed

with God,
Up from the Vale where BagnalPs blood manured the reeking

sod,
Out from the stately woods of Truegh, McKenna's plundered

home,
Like Malin's waves, as fierce and fast, our faithful clansmen

come.

Then brethren on ! O'Neill's dear shade would frown to

see you pause
Our banished Hugh, our martyred Hugh, is watching o'er

your cause

His generous error lost the land he deemed the Norman true.
Oh ! forward ! friends, it must not lose the land again in

you !

St. Patrick, whose favourite retreat was Lecale, in the County Down.



THE FOURTH PERIOD 149

1641

THE INTERCESSION
BY AUBREY DE VERB

It is an undoubted fact that, in the rising of 1641 many atrocities' were com-
mitted by the excited Irish, under Phelim O'Neill, with the memory of English
cruelties fresh in their minds. The following poem shows that the priests,
at least, did all that in them lay to calm the fiery passions of their flocks,
though too often unsuccessfully.

I KIEL the Priest arose and said,
" The just cause never shall prosper by wrong !
The ill cause fattens on blood ill shed ;
'Tis Virtue only makes Justice strong.

" I have hidden the Sassanach's wife and child

Beneath the altar ; behind the porch ;
O'er them that believe not these hands have piled

The copes and the vestments of holy Church !

" I have hid three men in a hollow oak ;

I have hid three maids in an ocean cave " :
As though he were lord of the thunder stroke

The old Priest lifted his hand to save.

But the peop e loved not the words he spake ;

And their face was changed for their heart was sore :
They spake no word ; but their brows grew black,

And the hoarse halls roar'd like a torrent's roar.

*' Has the Stranger robb'd you of house and land ?

In battle meet h m and smite him down !
Has he sharpen'd the dagger ? Lift ye the brand !

Has he bound your Princes ? Set free the clown !



150 HISTORICAL BALLAD POETRY OF IRELAND

" Has the Stranger his country and knighthood shamed ?

Though he 'scape God's vengeance so shall not ye !
His own God chastens ! Be never named

With the Mullaghmast slaughter ! Be just and free ! "

But the people received not the words he spake,
For the wrong on their heart had made it sore ;

And their brows grew black like the stormy rack,

And the hoarse halls roar'd like the wave- wash 'd shore.

Then Iriel the Priest put forth a curse !

And horror crept o'er them from vein to vein;
A curse upon man and a curse upon horse,

As forth they rode to the battle-plain.

And there never came to them luck or grace,
No sant .n the battle-field help'd them more,

Till O'Neil 1 who hated the war-fare base
Had landed at Doe on Tirconnell's shore.

1641

DONAL MAC SEAGHAIN 2 NA MALLACHT
BY ETHNA CARBEEY

Dcmal Mao Shan of the Curses took the garrison of Liscallaghan, October
23, 1641.

" T^VONAL Mac Seagha : n Na Mallacht,
-L/ Sign the cross on your Kps and breast

Before you go into the battle

Where, maybe, youM find your rest.

** And sign t on brow of blackness,
Loved vein of my heart, my son,

That the bitter hate may leave you
And the bitter words be done.

i Owen Ro O'Neill.

Pronounce Stioglialn as Shawn.



THE FOURTH PERIOD 15)

" For a grief is ever with me

Dark sorrow without shine
That Dona' Mac Seaghain of the Curses

Should be name on son of mine."

He took the hands of h's mother

And answered in gentler wise,
Though his face was a cloud of anger

And a quenchless flame his eyes.

" For you I have only loving

Who nursed me upon your knee,
Yet, mother, you cannot sweeten

The sights that to-day I see.

" I look on our smoking valleys,

I gaze on our wasted lands,
I stand by our grass-grown thresholds

And curse their ruffian hands.

" I curse them in dark and daylight

I curse them the hours between
The grey dawn and shadowy night-time,

For the sights my eyes have seen.

" I curse them, awake, or sleeping,

I curse them, alive, or dead ;
And, oh Christ, that my words were embers

To fall on each Saxon head.

" They have swept my land with their fury,
It is burnt where their feet have passed :

It is blighted, dishonoured, lowly
In the track of the poisonous blast.



152 HISTORICAL BALLAD POETRY OF IRELAND

" But Eoghan, 1 God shield him, gathers

The tall spears of the Gael
And Dona! Mac Seaghain Na Mallacht

Goes foremost to win or fail.

" Then stay me not of my curses
When mountain and fair green glen

Are free as the Lord God meant them,
I shall pray at your bidding then/*



1642

AWAITING OWEN ROE
BY PATRICK J. McCALL

In 1642, before the landing of Owen Roe, Rory O'More summoned a Par-
liament at Kilkenny, which petitioned the King to restore the Catholic Church
in Ireland. The King promised tolerance, but nothing more. After this
Rory O'More completely disappears from history. " His is one of the most
honoured and stainless names in Irish history. Writers who concur in nothing
else agree in representing him as a man of the loftiest motives and most pas-
sionate patriotism." Note in Hay's Ballads of Ireland.

Owen Roe O'Neill was a nephew of the Earl of Tyrone, who left Ireland in
1607. He was brought up on the Continent, but was now looked for in Ireland
to lead his countrymen. When he arrived he took command of the Army of
the North, and severely condemned the atrocities which had been committed
by his cousin Sir Phelim.

OWEN ROE has left the Flemings' town,
In the lands of Nether Spain
With many a mark, and many a crown,

For Ireland's cause, again \
With many a bar of golden ore,

And the Pope's red signet stone ;
But we have here a richer store
For him in Green Tyrone \

* Eoghan Rua O'Neill. Better known as Owen Roc.




THOMAS DARCY M'GEE



THE FOURTH PERIOD 153

Moreen, my Vanithee, will place

A rosary in his hand ;
And young Noreen will go and grace

His breast with ribbon band ;
And my little Gilla Hugh, will lead

A steed of glossy roan ;
But a kinsman's blade is my own meed

For him, in Green Tyrone !



'Bound the quigal lonely spiders weave :

The spinet sleeps in dust ;
And the caman rots beneath the eave ;

And the plough is red with rust !
No more we spin, or sport, or toil ;

For our tyrants bold have grown,
And strangers till the weeping soil

Of our heart lov'd Tyrone !



Oh, the rosary will win him grace :

The breast -knot win him love ;
And the steed will fly with lightning pace,

And the sword will trusty prove !
My Moreen, pray : my Noreen, sigh :

Go, Hugh, and feed the roan ;
For soon our swords shall sweep the sky

For Ireland and Tyrone 1



154 HISTORICAL BALLAD POETRY OF IRELAND

1652

IN-FELIX FELIX
BY THOMAS D'ARCY MAGEE

There are, of course, two sides to every question and to every character,
and it is but fair to consider both. Felix, or as he is more generally known
Sir Phelim O'Neill, has been very generally condemned for his ferocity and
cruelty to the English settlers in the rising of 1641. But we must bear in
mind the times during which he lived, and while nothing can excuse the crimes
he committed, we may find much to excuse their perpetrator. " He was
executed by Cromwell's order in 1652. He was offered his life on the scaffold
if he would consent to inculpate King Charles. He stoutly refused, and was
instantly executed.

WHY is his name unsung, oh, minstrel host ?
Why do you pass his memory like a ghost ?
Why is no rose, no laurel on his grave ?
Was he not constant vigilant and brave ?
Why, when that hero-age you deify,
Why do you pass " In-felix Felix " by ?

He rose the first he looms the morning star
Of the long glorious unsuccessful war.
England abhors him ! Has she not abhorred
All who for Ireland ventured life or word ?
What memory would she not have cast away,
That Ireland hugs in her heart's heart to-day ?

He rose in wrath to free his fettered land.
'There's blood there's English blood, upon his hand."
Ay, so they say ! three thousand less or more
He sent untimely to the Stygian shore
They were the keepers of the prison-gate
He sle& them, his whole race to liberate.

Oh, clear-eyed Poets, ye who can descry,
Through vulgar heaps of dead where heroes lie
Ye, to whose glance the primal mist is clear,
Behold there lies a trampled Noble here.



THE FOURTH PERIOD 155

Shall we not leave a mark ? Shall we not do
Justice to one so hated and so true ?

If even his hand and hilt were so disdained,
If he was guilty, as he has been blamed,
His death redeemed his life he chose to die,
Rather than get his freedom with a lie ;
Plant o'er his gallant heart a laurel tree,
So may his head within the shadow be.

I mourn for thee, hero of the North
God judge thee gentler than we do on earth !
I mourn for thee and for our Land, because
She dare not own the martyrs in her cause.
But they are Poets, they who justify
They will not let thy memory rot or die.

1646

BATTLE OF BENBURB
BY ROGER CASEMENT

This battle was fought on June 5, 1646, between the Scots, fighting for the
English Parliament and under the command of General Monroe, and the Irish
tinder Owen Roe O'Neill. Monroe had 6,000 foot and 600 horse, O'Neill
5,000 foot and 500 horse. Both armies were well led and were trained and
disciplined troops ; but the Irish had the advantage of position, and the con-
test was well and long sustained, and ended in a great Irish victory. The
Scots left more than 3,000 dead on the field. Monroe himself fled without
hat or cloak to Lisburn, and baggage, cannon and military stores fell into the
hands of the victors.

SINCE treason triumphed when O'Neill was forced to
foreign flight,

The ancient people felt the heel of Scotch usurper's might.
The barren hills of Ulster held a race proscribed and banned,
Who from their lofty refuge view their own so fertile land. 1

1 These lines refer to the flight of the Earls in 1607, and the subsequent
Plantation of Ulster in the *eign of James I. The Catholics fled to the hills
and gteas of Antrim, where their descendants are Catholic to this day.



156 HISTORICAL BALLAD POETRY OF IRELAND

Their churches in the sunny vales, the homes that once were

theirs
Torn from them and their faith to feed some canting minion's

prayers.
Lord, from many a cloudy hill then streamed our prayers

to Thee,

And, like the dawn on summer hills that only watchers see,
Thy glorious hope shone on us long before the sleeping foe
Knew that their doom had broken on the sword of Owen Roe.

'Twas dawn of a fair June morning while Blackwater still

drew grey

His valley'd mists about him that we saw at Killylea
The Scottish colours waving as they headed to the ford
Where never foeman waded yet but paid it with the sword,
And fair it was to see them in the golden morning light
Climb up the hill by Caledon and turn them to the right ;
And as they neared the Yellow Ford where Bagenal met

O'Neill, 1
Joy gathered in their throats and broke above the cannon's

peal.
And oh ! a thrill went through our ranks, as straLiing to the

foe
Like hounds in leash we panted for the word o: Owen Roe.

Not yet : Altho' 'Fen-ell's 2 horse come riding in amain,
Not yet altho' fierce Cunningham 3 pursues with slackened

rein.

Not yet altho' in skirmish and in many a scattered fight
We hold them. Still with waiting eye, O'Neill smiles in

despite,

1 Battle of Blackwator, 1598.

O'Ferral's horse. Colonel Richard O'Ferral occupied a narrow pass,
through which it was necessary for the Scotch troops u> go. The fire of Mon-
roe's guns, however, compelled this officer to retire. Story of Ireland, A. M.
Sullivan.

3 Fierce Cunningham. Lieut. Colonel Cunningham, Monroe's officer, who
forced O'Ferral to retreat and thus cleared the pass lor the Scotch troops.



THE FOURTH PERIOD 157

Till, slanting on our backs the sun full in their faces fell,
Then blinding axe and battle spear rose with a sudden swell.
" For God and Church and Country now, upon them every

man,
But hold your strength until ye feel them scarce a pike-length's

span,
Then, Red Hand ever uppermost, strike home your strongest

blow ! "
And with a yell our feet outsped the words of Owen Roe.

Like heaving lift of yellow wave that drags the sandy shore
On with it to its foaming fall our rushing pikemen wore.
Horse, foot, and guns and falling flags, like streamers of sea-
wrack
Torn from their dripping hold on one broad swell of carnage

back :
Stout Blayney's gallant horse withstood that seething tide

in vain.
It bore them down, and redder raced with life blood of the

slain.

One regiment only fought its way from out that ghastly fight,
And Conway slew two horses on the Newry road that night,
While Monroe fled so fast he left both hat and wig to show
How full the breeze that lifted up the flag of Owen Roe.

Ho ! Ironsides of Cromwell, ye've got grimmer work to do
Than when on Naseby's ruddy morn your ready swords ye

drew
Than when your headlong charges routed Rupert's tried and

best.

Ere yet the glare of battle fainted in the loyal West.
Those swords must break a stouter foe ere ye break Erin's

weal
Or stamp your bloody title deeds with Erin's bloodier seal



158 HISTORICAL BALLAD POETRY OF IRELAND

The dead men of Elizabeth's red reign for comrades call ;
The Scots we sent to-day have need of ye to bear their pall.
There's room for undertakers l still and none will say ye No.
To such fair holdings, measured by the sword of Owen Roe.

Ho ! Ring your bells, Kilkenny town : ho ! Dublin burghers

pass

In open day, with open brow, to celebrate the Mass.
The sword of state that Tudor hate laid sore on Church of

God

Hath fallen here with shattered hilt and vain point in the sod.
Ho ! Holy Rinuccini 2 and ye lords of the Pale
Lay by your sheets of parchment and put on your sheeted

ma ; l,

For God hath spoke in battle and His Face the foe is toward,
And ye must hold by valour still what He hath freed by sword.
Yea ! God in fight hath spoken and through cloud hath bent

His Bow
In wrath upon the routed, but in hope o'er Owen Roe.

1647

THE GREEN FLAG
BY M. J. BARRY

On the strength of the line " Charge with Eoghan for our flag of Green,"
we insert this cheery war-Hong under this date. It is sung to a stirring air
once well known and popular.

BOYS ! fill your glasses ;
Each hour that passes

Steals, it may be, on our last night's cheer.
The day soon shall come, boys,
With fife and drum, boys,
Breaking shrilly on the so'd er's ear.

l See note above to " Muster of the North," by Sir Chas. Gavan Duffy.

1 Papal Legate sent by Pope Innocent X, 1645. He was sent to aid the
Confederate Irish Catholics, and brought with him from the Pope a supply of
arms and money. He left Ireland in 1649, and died at Fermo in Italy, of
which see he was Archbishop.



THE FOURTH PERIOD 159

Drink the faithful hearts that love us

'Mid to-morrow's thickest fight,
While our green flag floats above us,
Think, boys, 'tis for them we smite.

Down with each mean rag,

None but the green flag
Shall above us be in triumph seen :

! think on its glory,

Long shrined in story,
Charge for Eire and her flag of green 1



Think on old Brian,

War's mighty lion,
'Neath that banner 'twas he smote the Dane ;

The Northman and Saxon


1 2 3 4 5 6 8 10 11 12 13

Online LibraryM. J BrownHistorical ballad poetry of Ireland; → online text (page 8 of 13)