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Historical ballad poetry of Ireland; online

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Oft turned their backs on
Those who bore it o'er each crimsoned plain.
Beal-an-Atha-Buidhe beheld it
Bagenal's fiery onset curb ;
Scotch Munroe would fain have felled it
We, boys, followed him from red Beinburb.

Down with each mean rag,

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

Oh ! think on its glory,

Long shrined in story,
Charge with Eoghan for our flag of green.

And if, at eve, boys,

Comrades shall grieve, boys,
O'er our corses, let it be with pride,

When thinking that each, boys,

On that red beach, boys,
Lies the flood-mark of the battle's tide.



160 HISTORICAL BALLAD POETRY OF IRELAND

See ! the first faint ray of morning
Gilds the east with yellow light !
Hark ! the bugle note gives warning
One full bumper to old friends to-night.

Down with each mean rag,

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

Oh ! think on its glory,

Long shrined in story,
Fall or conquer for our flag of green 1

1649

LAMENT FOR OWEN ROE O'NEILL
BY THOMAS DAVIS

Time. November 10, 1649. Scene. Ormond's Camp, Co. Waterford.
Speakers. A Veteran of Owen O'Neill's clan and one of the horse-
men, jiist arrived with an account of his death.

After Benburb Owen Roe was unable to pursue his victorious course in the
north as he was summoned by Rinucoini to assist him in Kilkenny. From
that time the Irish cause gradually weakened. Owen Roe died while on the
march to attack Cromwell's army in 1649. The rumour that he was poisoned
finds expression in this poem.

" T^\ID they dare, did they dare, to slay Owen Roe

JL>J O'Neill?"
" Yes, they slew with poison, him, they feared to meet

with steel."
" May God wither up their hearts ! May their blood cease

to flow,
May they walk in living death, who poisoned Owen Roe !

' Though it break my heart to hear, say again the bitter

words."
' From Derry against Cromwell, he marched to measure

swords ;

But the weapon of the Saxon met him on his way,
And he died at Clough-Oughter, upon St. Leonard's Bay."




THOMAS OSBORNE DAVIS



THE FOURTH PERIOD 161

Wail, wail ye for The Mighty One ! Wail, wail ye for the

Dead;
Quench the hearth and hold the breath with ashes strew

the head.

How tenderly we loved him ! How deeply we deplore !
Holy Saviour ! but to think we shall never see him more.

Sagest in the council was he kindest in the hall,
Sure we never won a battle 'twas Owen won them all.
Had he lived had he lived our dear country had been free ;
But he's dead, but he's dead, and 'tis slaves we'll ever be.

O'Farrell and Clanrickarde, Preston and Red Hugh,
Audley and MacMahon ye are valiant, wise and true ;
But what, what are ye all to our darling who is gone ?
The Rudder of our Ship was he, our Castle's cornerstone !

Wail, wail him through the Island ! Weep, weep for our

pride !

Would that on the battle-field our gallant chief had died !
Weep the Victor of Beinburb weep him young man and old ;
Weep for him, ye women your Beautiful lies cold !

We thought you would not die we were sure you would not

g>

And leave us in our utmost need to Cromwell's cruel blow
Sheep without a shepherd, when the snow shuts out the sky
Oh ! why did you leave us, Owen ? Why did you die ?

Soft as woman's was your voice, O'Neill ! bright was your

eye,

Oh ! why did you leave us, Owen ? Why did you die ?
Your troubles are all over, you're at rest with God on high ;
But we're slaves, and we're orphans, Owen why did you

die?



162 HISTORICAL BALLAD POETRY OF IRELAND

1649

THE WEXFORD MASSACRE
BY M. J. BARRY

"Cronwrell sat before Wexford ten days parleying with the Governor on
one hand, and with the Inhabitants on the other." The town was betrayed
by a Capt. Stafford, one of the Commissioners, and the Cromwellian troops
poured in over the walls and began a slaughter equal to that of Drogheda
none were spared. There is a tradition that 200 or 300 women and children
were put to death In the market place, whither they had flocked round the
great stone cross which stood there." Gen. Sir W. Butler, Cromwell in Ireland.

r I ^HEY knelt around the Cross divine,

A The matron and the maid

They bow'd before redemption's sign,

And fervently they prayed
Three hundred fair and helpless ones,

Whose crime was this alone
Their valiant husbands, sires, and sons

Had battled for their own.

Had battled bravely, but in vain

The Saxon won the fight,
And Irish corses strewed the plain

Where Valour slept with Right.
Now now that man 1 of demon guilt

To fated Wexford flew
The red blood reeking on his hilt,

Of hearts to Erin true !

He found them there the young, the old

The maiden and the wife,
Their guardians brave in death were cold

Who dared for them the strife.
They prayed for mercy God on high I

Before Thy Cross they prayed,
And ruthless Cromwell bade them die

To glut the Saxon blade !

1 CromwelL



THE FOURTH PERIOD 163

Three hundred fell the stifled prayer

Was quenched in woman's blood,
Nor youth, nor age could move to spare

From slaughter's crimson flood.
But nations keep a stern account

Of deeds that tyrants do ;
And guiltless blood to Heaven will mount,

And Heaven avenge it, too !

THE " CURSE OF CROMWELL " ;
OR, THE DESOLATION OF THE WEST

BY AUBREY DE VERB

Oliver Cromwell's visit to Ireland was, as Sir William Butler says, " a Storm
which passed over Ireland 250 years ago to leave its wrecks still visible across
the length and breadth of the land." Studies in Irish Hist., Cromwell in
Ireland.

IN trance I roamed that land forlorn
By battle first, then famine worn ;
I walked in gloom and dread.
The Land remained : the hills were there,
The vales but few remained to share
That realm untenanted.

Far-circling wastes, far-bending skies ;
Clouds as at Nature's obsequies

Slow trailing scarf and pall :
In whistling winds on creaked the crane,
Grey lakes upstared from moor and plain,

Like eyes on God that call.

Turn where I might, no blade of green
Diversified the tawny scene :

Bushless the waste and bare :
A dusky red the hills, as though
Some deluge ebbing years ago

Had left but seaweed there.



164 HISTORICAL BALLAD POETRY OF IRELAND

Dark red the vales : that single hue
O'er rotting swamps an aspect threw

Monotonous yet grand :
Long feared for centuries in decay
Like a maimed lion there it lay,

What once had been a Land.

Yet, day by day, as dropt the sun
A furnace glare through vapours dim

Illumed each mountain's head :
Old tower and keep their crowns of flame
That hour assumed ; old years of shame

Like fiends exorcised, fled.

That hour, from sorrow's trance awaking,
My soul, like day from darkness breaking,

With might prophetic fired,
To these red hills and setting suns
Returned antiphonal response

As gleam by gleam expired.

And in my spirit grew and gathered
Knowledge that Ireland's worst was weathered,

Her last dread penance paid ;
Conviction that for earthly scath
In world-wide victories of her Faith

Atonement should be made.

That hour, as one who walks in vision,
Of God's " New Heavens " I had fruition,

And saw and inly burned :
And I beheld a multitude
Of those whose robes were washed in blood,

Saw chains to sceptres turned !



THE FOURTH PERIOD 165

And I saw Thrones, and seers thereon
Judging, and Tribes like snow that shone

And diamond towers high-piled,
Towers of that City, theirs at last,
Through tribulations who have passed,

And theirs the undefiled.

A Land becomes a monument !

Man works ; but God's concealed intent

Converts his worst to best :
The first of Altars was a Tomb
Ireland ! thy gravestone shall become

God's Altar in the West.



1688

THE MAIDEN CITY
BY CHARLOTTE ELIZABETH

In 1686 Richard Talbot was sent to Ireland by James II to command the
army with the title of Earl of Tyrconnell, and a year later he was made Viceroy.
He was a Catholic, it being the policy of James to restore to the Catholics
many of their rights. Tyrconnell wished to introduce some Catholics into
the corporations of the large cities. Berry absolutely refused to admit them,
and when Lord Antrim was sent with 1,200 men to enforce the order, the
prentices of Derry closed the gates in their faces. When the deposed King
James, after landing in Ireland in 1689, marched to Derry, he was treated hi
the same way by the sturdy sons of the city.

WHERE Foyle his swelling waters rolls northward to
the main

Here, Queen of Erin's daughters, fair Derry fixed her reign.
A holy temple crowned her, and commerce graced her street,
A rampart wall was round her, the river at her feet ;
And here she sat alone, boys, and looking from the hill
Vow'd the maiden on her throne, boys, would be a maiden
still.



166 HISTORICAL BALLAD POETRY OF IRELAND

From Antrim crossing over, in famous eighty-eight
A plumed and belted lover 1 came to the Ferry gate :
She summon'd to defend her our sires a beardless race
Who shouted No SURRENDER ! and slamm'd it in his face.
Then in a quiet tone, boys, they told him 'twas their will
That the maiden on her throne, boys, should be a maiden still.



Next, crushing all before him, a kingly 2 wooer came,
(The royal banner o'er him, blush'd crimson deep for shame ;)
He showed the Pope's commission, nor dream'd to be refused.
She pitied his condition, but begg'd to stand excused.
In short, the fact is known, boys, she chased him from the

hill,
For the maiden, on her throne, boys, would be a maiden still.

On our brave sires descending, 'twas then the tempest broke,
Their peaceful dwellings rending, 'mid blood and flame and

smoke.
That hallo w'd graveyard yonder swells with the slaughter'd

dead

Oh ! brothers ! pause and ponder, it was for us they bled ;
And while their gift we own, boys, the fane that tops our

hill,
Oh, the maiden on her throne, boys, shall be a maiden still.



Nor wily tongue shall move us, nor tyrant arm affright,
We'll look to One above us Who ne'er forsook the right ;
Who will, may couch and tender the birthright of the free,
But, brothers, No SURRENDER, no compromise for me !
We want no barrier stone, boys, no gates to guard the hill,
Yet the maiden on her throne, boys, shall be a maiden still.

Lord Antrim with 1,200 soldiers in 1688.
James II in 1689.



THE FOURTH PERIOD 167



1690

THE REQUITAL
BY AUBREY DE VEBE

There was a Catholic Parliament in 1690. This poem illustrates the con-
trast between the way in which the Catholics treated their fellow-countrymen
who ditl'ered from them in religion when they were in power, and the treatment
the Protestants meted out to the Catholics when they were in similar circum-
stances. The full story is told in Thomas Davis's book, The Patriot Parlia-
ment of 1690.

WE too had our day it was brief : it is ended
When a king dwelt among us ; no strange king,
but ours !
When the shout of a People delivered ascended

And shook the broad banner that hung on his towers.
We saw it like trees in a summer breeze shiver ;
We read the gold legend that blazoned it o'er ;
" To-day ! now or never ! To-day and for ever ! "
O God, have we seen it to see it no more ?



How fared it that season, our lords and our masters,

In that Spring of our freedom how fared it with you ?
Did we trample your Faith ? Did we mock your disasters ?

We restored but his own to the leal and the true.
Ye had fallen ! 'Twas a season of tempest and troubles :

But against you we drew not the knife you had drawn ;
In the war-field we met ; but your prelates and nobles

Stood up 'mid the senate in ermine and lawn I



168 HISTORICAL BALLAD POETRY OF IRELAND

1690

THE LAST STRUGGLE
BY AUBREY DE VERB

James U landed at Kinsale in 1689. He called a Parliament In Dublin,
which repealed all the laws obnoxious to the Catholics and to the liberty of
the nation, and then marched to the siege of Derry. We have already told of
his reception there. The siege lasted 105 days, and the inhabitants were in
the greatest extremities, Avhen three English ships from William's fleet broke
the boom across the harbour and relieved the city. James then retreated to
Strabane. " Thus the struggle began a conflict in its origin more British
than Irish between the Stuart cause supported by the Catholic Celts and aided
by France on the one side and the Protestant Colonists supported by the
reigning dynasty of England on the other." Collier.

ACROWNLESS King stands up,
That King the knaves traduce.
His lineage springs from Irish Kings,

Through Kenneth and through Bruce.
Our strength, our hope, are past ;

Our faith, our truth remain ;
With James is right; for James we'll fight
'Gainst Dutchman and 'gainst Dane.

They hate him well, those Dutch,

For on their necks he trod !
He fired their tallest ships and dyed

The green sea with their blood.
'Twas treason laid him low

Children his bread who brake
The Saxon spurns that English King

The Gael will not forsake.

Who calls him Tyrant ? They,

Those traitors foiled long since,
That strove to snatch his future crowD

From England's patriot Prince !
What plea was theirs that day ?

What crime was his ? His Faith !
Despite their laws we'll fight his cause,

And fight it to the death.



THE FOURTH PERIOD 169

His grandsire filched our lands :

His father pawned his pledge :
His brother doled us doubtful words

That wore a double edge :
In James we found at need

Small love and succour none :
Not less we propped the father's right;

We'll not desert the son.

1690

THE BATTLE OF THE BOYNE
BY COLONEL BLACKER

" The Battle of the Boyne," says Standish O'Grady, " was one of the
decisive battles of the world. The Battle of the Boyne proved that the Stuart
dynasty could not be sustained, by Irish loyalty and. valour, proved, that the
house of Stuart was doomed. . . .

" The Jacobites were fairly beaten by vastly superior numbers, as the
bravest soldiers often must be, but they retreated in perfectly good order . . .
on Dublin, presenting always a rear so solid and minatory that the victorious
Williamites did not dare to attack it at any point." Story of Ireland.

The battle was fought on July 1, 1690. The alteration of the Calendar Is
responsible for the Orange celebration being held on the 12th.

IT was upon a summer's morn, unclouded rose the sun,
And lightly o'er the waving corn their way the breezes
won ;
Sparkling beneath that orient beam, 'mid banks of verdure



Its eastward course a silver stream held smilingly away.

A kingly host upon its side a monarch camp'd around,
Its southern upland far and wide their white pavilions crowned;
Not long the sky unclouded show'd nor long beneath the ray
That gentle stream in silver flowed, to meet the new-born day.

Through yonder fairy-haunted glen, from out that dark

ravine
Is heard the tread of marching men, the gleam of arms is

seen ;



170 HISTORICAL BALLAD POETRY OF IRELAND

And, plashing forth, in bright array along yon verdant banks,
All eager for the coming fray, are rang'd the martial ranks.

Peals the loud gun its thunders boom the echoing vales

along,
While curtain'd in its sulph'rous gloom moves on the gallant

throng ;

And foot and horse in mingled mass, regardless all of life,
With furious ardour onward pass to join the deadly strife.

Nor strange that with such ardent flame, each glowing heart
beats high,

Their battle- word was William's name and " Death or
Liberty ! "

Then Oldbridge, then, thy peaceful bowers with sounds un-
wonted rang,

And Tredagh, 1 'mid thy distant towers, was heard the mighty
clang.

The silver stream is crimson'd wide, and clogg'd with many

a corse,

As, floating down its gentle tide come mingled man and horse.
Now fiercer grows the battle's rage, the guarded stream is

cross'd,
And furious, hand to hand engage each bold contending host ;

He falls the veteran hero 2 falls, renowned along the Rhine
And he 3 whose name, while Derry's walls endure shall brightly

shine.
Oh ! would to heaven that Churchman bold, his arms with

triumph blest
The soldier spirit had controll'd that fir'd his pious breast.

1 Tredagh, the old name for Drogheda.

Duke Schomberg.

Walker, the gallant defender of Deny.



THE FOURTH PERIOD 171

And he, the chief of yonder brave and persecuted band,
Who foremost rush'd amid the wave, and gain'd the hostile

strand ;
He bleeds brave Caillemotte he bleeds 'tis clos'd, his

bright career,
Yet still that band to glorious deeds his dying accents cheer.

And now that well contested strand successive columns gain,
While backward James's yielding band are borne across the

plain.

In vain the sword green Erin draws, and life away doth fling
Oh ! worthy of a better cause and of a bolder King.

In vain thy bearing bold is shown upon that blood-stain'd

ground ;

Thy tow'ring hopes are overthrown, thy choicest fall around.
Nor, shamed, abandon thou the fray, nor blush, though

conquer'd there.
A power against thee fights to-day, no mortal arm may dare.

Nay, look not to that distant height in hope of coming aid
The dastard thence hath ta'en his flight, and left thee all

betray'd.

Hurrah ! hurrah ! the victor shout is heard on high Donore ;
Down Platten's vale, in hurried rout, thy shatter'd masses

pour.

But many a gallant spirit there retreats across the plain
Who, change but Kings, would gladly dare that battlefield

again.
Enough ! enough ! the victor cries ; your fierce pursuit

forbear,
Let grateful prayer to heaven arise, and vanquish'd freemen

spare !



172 HISTORICAL BALLAD POETRY OF IRELAND

Hurrah ! hurrah ! for liberty ! for her the sword we drew
And dar'd the battle while on high our Orange banners flew
Woe worth the hour woe worth the state when men shall

cease to join
With grateful hearts to celebrate the glories of the Boyne.



THE RIVER BOYNE
BY THOMAS D'ARCY MAGBB

CHILD of Lough Ramor, gently seaward stealing,
In thy placid depths hast thou no feeling
Of the stormy gusts of other days ?
Does thy heart, oh ! gentle nun-faced river,
Passing Schomberg's obelisk, not quiver,
While the shadow on thy bosom weighs ?



Thou hast heard the sounds of martial clangour,
Seen fraternal forces clash in anger,

In thy Sabbath Valley, River Boyne !
Here have ancient Ulster's hardy forces
Dressed their ranks and fed their travelled horses,

Tara's hosting as they rode to join.



Forgettest thou that silent summer morning,
When William's bugles sounded sudden warning,

And James's answered chivalrously clear !
When rank to rank gave the death-signal duly,
And volley answered volley quick and truly,

And shouted mandates met the eager ear ?



THE FOURTH PERIOD 173

The thrush and linnet fled beyond the mountains,
The fish in Inver Colpa sought their fountains,

The unchased deer scampered through Tredagh's gates j 1
St. Mary's bells in their high places trembled,
And made a mournful music which resembled

A hopeless prayer to the unpitying Fates.

Ah ! well for Ireland had the battle ended

When James forsook what William well defended,

Crown, friends and kingly cause ;
Well, if the peace thy bosom did recover
Had breathed its benediction broadly over

Our race and rites and laws.

Not in thy depths, not in thy fount, Lough Ramor !
Were brewed the bitter strife and cruel clamour

Our wisest long have mourned ;
Foul Faction falsely made thy gentle current
To Christian ears a stream and name abhorrent,

And all thy waters into poison turn'd.

But, as of old God's Prophet sweetened Mara,
Even so, blue bound of Ulster and of Tara,

Thy waters to our Exodus gave life ;
Thrice holy hands thy lineal foes have wedded,
And healing olives in thy breast embedded,

And banished for the littleness of strife.

Before thee we have made a solemn Fcedus,

And for Chief Witness called on Him Who made us.

Quenching before His eyes the brands of hate ;
Our pact is made, for brotherhood and union
For equal laws to class and to communion

Our wounds to staunch our land to liberate.

1 DrogheJa's gates.



174 HISTORICAL BALLAD POETRY OF IRELAND

Our trust is not in musket or in sabre
Our faith is in the fruitfulness of labour,

The soul-stirred willing soil ;
In Homes and granaries by justice guarded,
In fields from blighting winds and agents warded

In franchised skill and manumitted toil.



Grant us, O God, the soil and sun and seasons !
Avert despair, the worst of moral treasons,

Make vaunting words be vile.

Grant us, we pray, but wisdom, peace, and patience,
And we will yet re-lift among the nations

Our fair and fallen, but unforsaken Isle.



1690

SCHOMBERG
BY WILLIAM ABCHEB

Schomberg was born in 1618 at Schomburg Castle on the Rhine, served for
a time in the Swedish army, fighting much in the Thirty Years' War. Subse-
quently he entered the Dutch army, after which he served in the French army
from 1650 to 1685, becoming a Marshal of France. As a Protestant he left
France after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes (1686), and then took
service with William of Orange. He fell at the Boyne at a spot now marked
by hia monument.

GLORY illumes with holy light
The memory of the brave ;
And laurel leaves, fresh, green, and bright

Adorn the hero's grave.
But none more nobly fell in fight

Or Freedom's sword did wave
Than William's true and gallant knight
Schomberg the bold and brave.



THE FOURTH PERIOD 175

Europe beheld his bright career

In gallant chivalry,
And victory blessed his martial sphere

With immortality.
But oh, at Boyne for ever famed

He fell beside the wave,
While glory's trumpet -blast proclaimed

Schomberg the bold and brave !



Sons of the Royal Schomberg, ye

Who take that noble name,
Show in the spirit of the free

Ye honour Schomberg's fame.
Then fill the wine-cup sparkling bright,

Drink nor one sweet drop leave
Unto the name of freedom's knight

Schomberg the bold and brave !



1690

A BALLAD OF SARSFIELD
OR, THE BURSTING OF THE GUNS
BY AUBREY DE VERB

This intercepting of de Ginkles' siege train on its way to Limerick is one
of the most famous episodes in the career of the gallant Patrick Sarsfleld.
Through his mother Sarsfleld was a grandson of Rory O 'Moore.

OARSFIELD rode out, the Dutch to rout,
O And to take and break their cannon ;
To Mass went he at half-past three,
And at four he crossed the Shannon



176 HISTORICAL BALLAD POETRY OF IRELAND

Tyrconnel slept. In dream his thoughts

Old fields of victory ran on ;
And the chieftains of Thomond in Limerick's towers

Slept well by the banks of Shannon.



He rode ten miles and he crossed the ford
And couch'd in the wood and waited ;

Till, left and right on march'd in sight
That host which the true men hated.



" Charge ! " Sarsfield cried ; and the green hillside

As they charged replied in thunder ;
They rode o'er the plain, and they rode o'er the slain

And the rebel rout lay under 1



He burn'd the gear the knaves held dear
For his King he fought, not plunder ;

With powder he cramm'd the guns, and ramm'd
Their mouths the red soil under.



The spark flash'd out like a nation's shout
The sound into heaven ascended ;

The hosts of the sky made to earth reply,
And the thunders twain were blended !



Sarsfield rode out the Dutch to rout,
And to take and break their cannon ;

A century after, Scarsfield's laughter
Was echoed from Dungannon.



THE FOURTH PERIOD 177

Angus' 27, 1690

THE BATTLE OF LIMERICK
BY THOMAS DAVIS

" The Irish Royalists' commander in these later stages of the war was Patrick
Sarsfield, a most noble, bravo, and chivalrous gentleman, tall and handsome,
respected by his enemies and passionately beloved by his own soldiers."
Standish O'Grady, Story of Ireland.

The Siege of Limerick by William called forth as much valour as had the
Siege of Berry. When William's troops were pouring into the city through
the breach, the citizens rushed out, many women among them, and using any
weapons or missiles they could find succeeded In repulsing the besiegers.
August 27, 1690.



OH ! hurrah for the men who when danger is nigh,
Are found in the front looking death in the eye.
Hurrah for the men who kept Limerick's wal 1 ,
And hurrah ! for bold Sarsfield, the bravest of all.
King William's men round Limerick lay,
His cannon crashed from day to day
Till the southern wall was swept away
At the city of Luimneach linn-ghlas. 1
5 Tis afternoon, yet hot the sun,
When William fires the signal gun
On the city of Luimneach linn-ghlas.

ii

Yet hurrah ! for the men who when danger is nigh
Are found in the front looking death in the eye.
Hurrah for the men who kept Limerick's wall
And hurrah for bold Sarsfield, the bravest of all.

The breach gaped out two perches wide ;


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