The Well-Known Spot

A Poem by an Unknown late 19th Century Irish Poet

Again, with joy I view the waking shore,

Where mem’ries live for ever in their green,

And from the solemn graveyard’s checkered floor

Gaze fondly o’er the all-enchanting scene.

The same sad rooks awake their mocking cries,

And drooping willows weep the early grave,

As o’er the dead the restless spirit flies,

Tries vainly yet yon broken heart to save.

But, hush! sad soul, nor leave this hallowed spot,

Where peaceful slumber seals the closèd eye.

The lonely sleeper now awaken not

By the rude raving, or the deep-drawn sigh.

Oh, let me mourn (the fainting heart replies),

These new-made graves, which take my wond’ring sight;

Say, who beneath this little tombstone lies,

Or who this Angel guards through the long night.

When last I saw, no mounds lay heaving there,

No sexton rude had turned the resting sod.

Alas, how changed! The holy and the fair

Have sunk in death and triumphed in their God.

Then let me pause, if here my Maker stays,

And guards his saints from the inhuman foe.

His word is true; my trembling heart obeys;

Bless’d are the dead who to the Saviour go.

Now new refulgence breathes o’er all the scene;

Yon lark’s sweet warble now is sweeter still;

Yon blady grass stands out in purer green;

And softer music tinkles from the rill.

For why? O mark! The cause is written here;

The pale-faced marble tells the softened tale,

That sweeteneth the sigh, arrests the starting tear,

And lulls to silence the untimely wail.

Winter’s Death

A Poem for Our Time

Winter Scene

As thus the snows arise; and foul, and fierce, 

All winter drives along the darkened air; 

In his own loose revolving fields, the swain 

Disaster’d stands; sees other hills ascend, 

Of unknown joyless brow; and other scenes, 

Of horrid prospect, shag the trackless plain: 

Nor finds the river nor the forest, hid 

Beneath the formless wild; but wanders on 

From hill to dale, still more and more astray, 

Impatient flouncing through the drifted heaps, 

Stung with the thoughts of home; the thoughts of home 

Rush on his nerves, and call their vigour forth 

In many a vain attempt. How sinks his soul! 

Winter Trees

What black despair, what horror fills his breast! 

When for the dusky spot, which fancy feign’d 

His tufted cottage rising through the snow, 

He meets the roughness of the middle waste 

Far from the track and blest abode of man, 

While round him might resistless closes fast, 

And every tempest, howling o’er his head, 

Renders the savage wildness more wild. 

Then throng the busy shapes into his mind, 

Of covered pits unfathomably deep, 

A dire descent! beyond the power of frost; 

Of faithless bogs; Of precipices huge 

Smoothed up with snow; and what is land, unknown, 

What water of the still unfrozen spring, In the loose marsh or solitary lake, 

Where the fresh fountain from the bottom boils. 

These check his fearful steps; and down he sinks 

Beneath the shelter of the shapeless drift, 

Thinking o’er all the bitterness of death, 

Mix’d with the tender anguish nature shoots 

Through the wrung bosom of the dying man—

His wife—his children—and his friends unseen. 

In vain for him the officious wife prepares 

The fire, fair, blazing, and the vestment warm. 

In vain his little children, peeping out 

Into the mingling storm, demand their sire 

With tears of artless innocence. Alas! 

Nor wife, nor children more shall he behold—

Nor friends, nor sacred home. On every nerve 

The deadly winter seizes; shuts up sense, 

And, o’er his inmost vitals creeping cold, 

Lays him along the snows, a stiffened corpse, 

Stretch’d out, and bleaching in the northern  blast.

Boreen in the Snow

ANONYMOUS IRISH POET

AN IRISH SCHOOLHOUSE.

By Arthur M. Forrester. (1889)

An Old Irish Schoolhouse

Upon the rugged ladder rungs— whose

pinnacle is Fame—

How often have ambitious pens deep graven

Harvard’s name; The gates of glory Cambridge men o’er

all the world assail,

And rulers in the realm of thought look back

with pride to Yale.

To no such Alma Mater can my Muse in

triumph raise

Its Irish voice in canticles of gratitude and

praise;

Yet still I hold in shrine of gold, and until death

I will,

The little schoolhouse, thatched with straw,

that lay behind the hill.

When in the balmy morning, racing down the

green boreen

Toward its portal, ivy-framed, our curly heads

were seen,

We felt no shame for ragged coats, nor blushed

for shoeless feet,

But bubbled o’er with laughter dear old

master’s smile to meet;

Yet saw beneath his homespun garb an awe-

inspiring store

Of learning’s fearful mysteries and academic

lore.

No monarch wielded sceptre half so potent as

his quill

In that old schoolhouse, thatched with straw,

that lay behind the hill.

Perhaps— and yet ’tis hard to think— our

boastful modern school

Might feel contempt for master, for his

methods and his rule;

Would scorn his simple ways— and in the rapid

march of mind

His patient face and thin gray locks would lag

far, far behind.

No matter; he was all to us, our guide and

mentor then;

He taught us how to face life’s fight with all the

grit of men;

To honor truth, and love the right, and in the

future fill

Our places in the world as he had done behind

the hill.

He taught us, too, of Ireland’s past; her glories

and her wrongs—

Our lessons being varied with the most

seditious songs:

We were quite a nest of rebels, and with boyish

fervor flung

Our hearts into the chorus of rebellion when

we sung.

In truth, this was the lesson, above all, we

conned so well

That some pursued the study in the English

prison cell,

And others had to cross the seas in curious

haste, but still

All living love to-day, as then, the school

behind the hill.

The wind blows through the thatchless roof in

stormy gusts to-day;

Around its walls young foxes now, in place of

children, play;

The hush of desolation broods o’er all the

country-side;

The pupils and their kith and kin are scattered

far and wide.

But wheresoe’er one scholar on the face of earth

may roam,

When in a gush of tears comes back the

memory of home,

He finds the brightest picture limned by

Fancy’s magic skill,

The little schoolhouse, thatched with straw,

that lay behind the hill.

THE OLD BOREEN.

By Arthur M. Forrester. (1890)

Embroidered with shamrocks and

spangled with daisies,

Tall foxgloves like sentinels guarding the

way,

The squirrel and hare played bo-peep in its

mazes,

The green hedgerows wooed it with odorous

spray;

The thrush and the linnet piped overtures in it,

The sun’s golden rays bathed its bosom of

green.

Bright scenes, fairest skies, pall to-day on my

eyes,

For I opened them first on an Irish boreen!

It flung o’er my boyhood its beauty and

gladness,

Rich homage of perfume and color it paid;

It laughed with my joy— in my moments of

sadness

What solace I found in its pitying shade.

When Love, to my rapture, rejoiced in my

capture,

My fetters the curls of a brown-haired colleen,

What draught from his chalice, in mansion or

palace,

So sweet as I quaffed in the dear old boreen?

But green fields were blighted and fair skies

beclouded,

Stern frost and harsh rain mocked the poor

peasant’s toil,

Ere they burst into blossom the buds were

enshrouded,

The seed ere its birth crushed in merciless

soil;

Wild tempests struck blindly, the landlord, less

kindly,

Aimed straight at our hearts with a “death

sentence” keen;

The blast spared our sheeling, which he, more

unfeeling,

Left roofless and bare to affright the boreen.

A dirge of farewell through the hawthorn was

pealing,

The wind seemed to stir branch and leaf with

a sigh,

As, down on a tear-bedewed shamrock sod

kneeling,

I kissed the old boreen a weeping good-by;

And vowed that should ever my patient

endeavor

The grains of success from life’s harvest-field

glean,

Where’er fortune found me, whatever ties

bound me,

My eyes should be closed in the dear old

boreen.

Ah! Fate has been cruel, in toil’s endless duel

With sickness and want I have earned only

scars;

Life’s twilight is nearing— its day disappearing

My weary soul sighs to escape through its

bars; But ere fields elysian shall dazzle

its vision,

Grant, Heaven, that its flight may be winged

through the scene

Of streamlet and wild-wood, the home of my

childhood,

The grave of my kin, and the dear old boreen!

Funeral Among the Little People

The term of Fairy life appears…

Restricted to a thousand years ; `

And hence, ’tis said, the envious spite,

With which some fairy elves delight ‘

To vex those days with care and strife,

Which prelude man’s immortal life.

Though Fancy’s eye at eve has seen

Bright fairies dancing on the green ;

And oft returning traced at morn

The rings by frequent footsteps worn ;

Though Fancy’s eye has Puck espied

While many a trick malign he tried;

Or kinder sprites has seen at night,

Aid human toils with elfish might

Their bounty oft in gifts has known,

Or proved-their wants by trivial loan;

Their utmost weakness still was hid,

A sight to prying gaze forbid,

Till one strange night, revealed at last

To rustic Wight, with awe aghast.

Amid the drifted sands of Hayle,

The home of many a fairy tale,

From far St. Ives old Richard came,

With pilchards laden for his dame.

Retarded by the burden’s weight,

He crossed the mystic Towyn late.

From cloudless skies a moon serene,

With silvery light illumined the scene ;

A deadened hell, with toll suppressed,

Alone disturbed the landscape’s rest ;

As up the hill his course he wound,

With wondering ears he caught the sound,

And when towards Lelant church he drew,

Bright lights within it gleamed to view.

Then nameless fears his heart assailed,

Yet hope inquisitive prevailed;

With cautious steps, with movement still,

He ventured towards a window sill,

Peeped in, and dazzled by the light,

Saw only, all within was bright.

At length, along the centre aisle,

With progress slow, in double file

He saw a long procession move

Through crowds impressed with sorrowing love.

Their tiny torches, slips of pine,

On all the fair, assembly shine,

And flowers of phosphorescent light

Cast radiance from the altar’s height.

No coffin, sable robes, or pal],

Obscured this fairy funeral.

They wreaths of ting roses wore,

And sprays of blossomed myrtle bore ;.

Six to the bier their shoulders pressed,

Whereon, attired in flowing vest,

A fairy lady, so minute

No human type her form might suit,

So fair, so exquisite, her face,

Our language fails to speak its grace ;

So lovely, in that sad display,

Like “ a dead seraph ” there she lay.

White flowers the little corpse o’erspread,

White blossoms wreathed the beauteous head,

And twined among the hair’s gold thread.

The bier approached the altar rail,

They rested it within the pale,

While close beneath that altar’s shade,

With many a pickaxe small, and spade,

A host of little sextons gave

Their toil to shape a little grave.

With all the reverence of love,

Then tenderest hands the corpse remove,

And fondest looks all thronging pressed

To see her, ere her latest rest.

The corpse was lowered, and off they tear

Their wreaths, and breaking in despair

Their flowery branches wildly spread,

And loudly wail, Our Queen is dead !

Our Queen is dead ! A sexton’s spade

Then dust on that fair body laid,—

And thrilling from the host arose

A shriek, so eloquent of woes,

That Richard, from his caution thrown,

Augments its clamour with his own.

That very instant all was rout,

And every fairy light went out.

Unknown

Famine Song

Old Skibbereen

By Patrick Carpenter ; Air: ‘The Wearing of the Green’

A Young American and his Irish Father

“O! father, dear, I’ve often heard you speak of Erin’s Isle –

Its scenes how bright and beautiful, how “rich and rare” they smile;

You say it is a lovely land in which a Prince might dwell,

Then why did you abandon it, the reason to me tell?”

“My Son, I’ve loved my native land with fervour and with pride –

Her peaceful groves, her mountains rude, her valleys green and wide,

And there I’ve roamed in manhood’s prime, and sported when a boy,

My Shamrock and shillelagh sure my constant boast and Joy.

“But lo! A blight came o’er my crops, my sheep and cattle died,

The rack-rent too, alas! was due I could not have supplied;

The landlord drove me from my cot where born I had been,

And that, my boy’s the reason why I left old Skibbereen –

“O! what a dreadful sight it was that dark November day;

The Sheriff and the Peelers came to send us all away;

They set the roof a-blazing with a demon smile of spleen,

And when it fell, the crash was heard all over Skibbereen.

“Your Mother dear, God rest her, fell upon the snowy ground,

She fainted in her anguish at the desolation round; –

She never rose, but passed away from life’s tumultuous scene,

And found a quiet grave to rest in poor old Skibbereen.

“Ah! I sadly recall that year of gloomy ’48;

I rose in vengeance with “the boys” to battle against fate;

We were hunted thro’ the mountains wild, as traitors to the Queen, –

And that, my boy’s the reason why I left old Skibbereen.

“You then were only two years old, and feeble was your frame,

I would not leave you with my friends – you bore my father’s name! –

I wrapped you in my ‘Catamore’ at dead of night unseen,

Then heav’d a sigh, and bade good-by to poor old Skibbereen.

“O! Father, Father, when the day for vengeance we will call, –

When Irishmen o’er field and fen shall rally one and all, –

I’ll be the man to lead the van beneath the flag of green,

While loud on high we’ll raise the cry – Revenge for Skibbereen!”

THE CHURCH OF BALLYMORE.

I HAVE knelt in great cathedrals with their

wondrous naves and aisles,

Whose fairy arches blend and interlace,

Where the sunlight on the paintings like a ray

of glory smiles,

And the shadows seem to sanctify the place;

Where the organ’s tones, like echoes of an

angel’s trumpet roll,

Wafted down by seraph wings from heaven’s shore—

They are mighty and majestic, but they cannot

touch my soul

Like the little whitewashed church of

Ballymore.

Ah! modest little chapel, half-embowered in the

trees,

Though the roof above its worshippers was low,

And the earth bore traces sometimes of the

congregation’s knees,

While they themselves were bent with

toil and woe!

Milan, Cologne, St. Peter’s— by the feet of

monarchs trod—

With their monumental genius and their

lore,

Never knew in their magnificence

more trustful prayers to God

Than ascended to His throne from

Ballymore!

Its priest was plain and simple, and he scorned

to hide his brogue

In accents that we might not understand,

But there was not in the parish such a renegade

or rogue

As to think his words not heaven’s own

command!

He seemed our cares and troubles and our

sorrows to divide,

And he never passed the poorest peasant’s

door—

In sickness he was with us, and in death still by

our side—

God be with you, Father Tom, of Ballymore.

There’s a green graveyard behind it, and in

dreams at night I see

Each little modest slab and grassy mound;

For my gentle mother’s sleeping ’neath the

withered rowan tree,

And a host of kindly neighbours lie around!

The famine and the fever through our stricken

country spread,

Desolation was about me, sad and sore,

So I had to cross the waters, in strange lands to

seek my bread,

But I left my heart behind in Ballymore!

I am proud of our cathedrals— they are

emblems of our love

To an ever-mighty Benefactor shown;

And when wealth and art and beauty have

been given from above,

The devil should not have them as his own!

Their splendor has inspired me— but amidst it all

I prayed

God to grant me when life’s weary work is

o’er,

Sweet rest beside my mother in the dear

embracing shade

Of the little whitewashed church of

Ballymore!

A.M. Forrester

The Mountain Walk

By and Unknown Irish Poet

From the haunts of busy life,

Homes of care, and paths of strife,

Up the breezy mountain way,

’Mid the upper fields of day,

Let me wander, far and lonely,

Without guide, save nature only;

And still ever as I go, Lose all thought of things below,

Cast all sorrow to the wind,

While the low vales sink behind:

Fetterless and spirit free

As the merry mountain bee.

Like a spirit, thought and eye

Buoyant between earth and sky,

There to bask in free pure light

On the joyous mountain height;

Dallying with the breeze and shower,

Claiming kin with every flower,

Catching iris dreams that glance

On the breath of circumstance.

Changing with the changeful scene—

Solemn, sombre, gay, serene:

As each change fresh wonders bring,

Weaving thought from every thing.

Oft let shadowy hollows fall,

And grey cliffs’ embattled wall

Crown the gloom with hoary height,

Where the raven wheels his flight.

Or green vale unfolding soft,

In the lonesome crags aloft

Shut the far down world from view.

There, long up ether’s darkening blue,

The eye may gaze for worlds unseen,

In the skyey void serene,

And weave visions strange and fair,

Of the starry empires there—

Spirits changeless, pure, and bright,

In their glorious vales of light;

Till some wild note break the spell

From sequester’d rural dell

Where the mountain goatherds dwell:

So to break the wild fond dream,

And to man bring down the theme;

For all earthly things impart

Thoughts of Man to human heart.

Then from towery crag on high,

If far city win the eye,

Glittering through the misty air,

’Twere a prospect meet and fair

For the lone sequestered gaze

O’er its wide uncertain maze,

Then to muse on wealth and fame,

And on every specious name

That gilds the dross of earth below,

Till, from reflection, wisdom grow.

Wisdom:—not that sense which cleaveth

To the world where all deceiveth;

Not grave prudence, hard, yet hollow—

In the beaten round to follow

Lengthened aims, in life’s short day,

While the ages glide away:

—But that moral, old and sage,

Said and sung in every age;

Old as man—yet ever new,

Heard by all, and known to few;

Murmur of Being’s wave, that still,

Unheeded as the babbling rill,

In the world’s noise, makes music only

’Midst the hush of deserts lonely.

Last, from o’er the seaward steep,

Let me view the spacious deep,

While the billows break and flow

In the caverned gloom below.

There let cloud and sunbeam flee

O’er the sunned and shadowy sea—

Light and dark in fleeting strife,

Like the vanities of life;

So to dream of joy and woe,

Imaged in the gliding show,

As they come, and as they fly,

To the verge of sea and sky;

So our joys and sorrows flee,

Onward to eternity.

Then away in spirit wrought

By the voluntary thought,

Where the heath is freshly springing,

Where the sky-borne lark is clinging

On mid air with lively song,

Which the echoing cliffs prolong;

O’er wild steep and dreamy hollow,

On, still onward let me follow.

While the airy morn is bright,

While rich noon is at its height,

Till eve falls with sober grey,

Freely let me roam away.

Poteen

A poem by “Barney Maglone” aka Robert Arthur Wilson (1820-75)

Of all the navygations
That ever left the shore
I tell this mortal nation
‘Tis potheen I adore.
I have the tender crathur
All in her punchy dhress
And when she’s mother-naked
I love her none the less.
If she had but a night-dhress
Of Shugar on her skin,
I’m not the boy that would refuse
To take the swate one in.
Well I mind the lively night
Her mother, Sall, lay in;
How did I press the babe
Between my nose and chin.
An’ if she was ould as
Methoosalem’s first hat,
I’d love her as the crame’s loved by
That sleekit bastem, the cat.
If mighty Dutheronomy
That hayro of renown,
Likewise July-us Saizer
That won the British Crown –
If Hector an’ bowld Vaynus,
With Lusy-an the ass,
Also Neb-you-codnazzur,
So mighty at the grass –
Were all with Martin Luther,
With Gladstone, and with Lowe,
I’d box them left and right afore
I’d let my charmer go.
It’s thrue she has been thricky,
As Irish maids do be;
An’ I must own that sometimes
She’s played a prank on me.
She rowled me in the soft mud
One night she got me down,
When I was just meanderin’
About a mile from town.
She gave my eyes a paintin’
And gave my nose a swell,
Another winther’s evenin’
When huggin’ her too well.
But all these lovin’ capers
I aisily forgive
An’ if she knocks my branes out,
I’ll love her while I live.
I’d face the French and Prooshans’
An’ the Permissive Bill,
Afore, I’d lose my darlin’
The daughter of the still!

End