Abbildungen der Seite

And when with envy, time transported,

Shall think to rob us of our joys,
You'll in your girls again be courted,

And I'll go wooing in my boys. Surely this is the sort of poetry that ought to be popularto be sung in our concert-rooms, and set to such airs as should be played on barrel-organs through our streets, suggesting the words and the sentiments as soon as the first notes of the melody make themselves heard under the window.




CONSIDERING his innmense reputation in the Sister Island, the name of Thomas Davis has hardly found its due place in our literature. He was an Irish barrister; the most earnest, the most vehement, the most gifted, and the most beloved of the Young Ireland party. Until the spring of 1840, when he was in his twenty-sixth year, he had only been remarkable for extreme good nature, untiring industry, and very varied learning. At that period he blazed forth at once as a powerful and brilliant political writer, produced an eloquent and admirable “Life of Curran,” became one of the founders of the “Nation” newspaper, and carried his zeal in the cause of nationality to such excess, that he actually proposed to publish a weekly journal in the Irish tongue-an impracticable scheme, which happily ended in talk.

To the newspaper which was established, and which the young patriots condescended to write in the language—to use their own phrase-of the Saxons, we owe the beautiful lyrics of Thomas Davis. The editor of the “ Nation" had faith in the well-known saying of Fletcher of Saltoun, “Give me the writing of the ballads, and let who will make the laws ;" and in default of other aid, the regular contributors to the new journal resolved to attempt the task themselves. It is difficult to believe, but the editor of his poems dwells upon it as a well-known fact, that up to this time the author of “The Sack of Baltimore” had never written a line of verse in his life, and was, indeed, far less sanguine than his coadjutors in the success of the experiment. How completely he succeeded there is no need to tell, although nearly all that he has written was the work of one hurried year, thrown off in the midst of a thousand occupations and a thousand claims. A very few years more, and his brief and bright career was cut short by a sudden illness, which carried him rapidly to the grave, beloved and lamented by his countrymen of every sect and of every party : “ His mourners were two hosts, his friends and foes :

He had kept The whiteness of his soul, and thus men o'er him wept." Oh! that he had lived to love Ireland, not better, but more wisely, and to write volumes upon volumes of such lyrics as the two first which I transcribe, such biographies as his “Life of Curran," and such criticism as his “Essay upon Irish




Song !

I will deal more tenderly than he would have done with printer and reader, by giving them as little as I can of his beloved Cymric words (such is the young Irish name for the old Irish language); and by sparing them altogether his beloved Cymric character, which I have before my eyes at this moment, looking exactly like a cross between Arabic and Chinese.


Baltimore is a small seaport, in the barony of Carbery, in South Munster. It grew up round a castle of O'Driscoll's, and was, after his ruin, colonized by the English. On the 20th of June, 1631, the crew of two Algerine galleys landed in the dead of the night, sacked the town, and bore off into slavery all who were not too old or too young, or too fierce, for their purpose. The pirates were steered up the intricate channel by one Hackett, a Dungarvon fisherman, whom they had taken at sea for that office. Two years after he was convicted and executed for the crime. The summer sun is falling soft on Carbery's hundred isles ; The summer sun is gleaming still through Gabriel's rough defiles ; Old Inisherkin's crumbled fane looks like a moulting bird ; And in a calm and sleepy swell the ocean-tide is heard; The hookers lie upon the beach; the children cease their play; The gossips leave the little inn; the households kneel to pray ; And full of love and peace and rest, its daily labour o'er. Upon that cosy creek there lay the town of Baltimore.

A deeper rest, a starry trance, has come with midnight there,
No sound, except that throbbing wave, in earth or sea or air;
The massive capes and ruined towers seem conscious of the calm ;
The fibrous sod and stunted trees are breathing heavy balm,
So still the night, those two long barques round Dunashad that glide,
Must trust their oars, methinks not few, against the ebbing tide;
Oh! some sweet mission of true love must urge them to the shore,
They bring some lover to his bride, who sighs in Baltimore.
All, all asleep within each roof along that rocky street,
And these must be the lover's friends, with gently gliding feet;
A stifled gasp ! a dreamy noise !—“The roof is in a flame!”
From out their beds and to their doors rush maid and sire and dame,
And meet upon the threshold-stone, the gleaming sabre's fall,
And o'er each black and bearded face the white or crimson shawl;
The yell of “Allah !” breaks above the prayer and shriek and roar--
Oh, blessed God! the Algerine is lord of Baltimore !
Then flung the youth his naked hand against the shearing sword;
Then sprang the mother on the brand with which her son was gored;
Then sank the grandsire on the floor, his grand-babes clutching wild ;
Then fled the maiden, moaning faint, and nestled with the child.
But see yon pirate strangled lies and crushed with splashing heel,
While o'er him, in an Irish hand, there sweeps his Syrian steel.
Though virtue sink, and courage fail, and misers yield their store,
There's one hearth well avenged in the sack of Baltimore !
Midsummer morn, in woodland nigh, the birds begin to sing,
They see not now the milking maids-deserted is the spring !
Midsummer day, this gallant rides from distant Bandon's town,
Those hookers crossed from stormy Skull, that skiff from Affadown.
They only found the smoking walls with neighbours' blood besprent,
And on the strewed and trampled beach awhile they wildly went,
Then dashed to sea, and passed Cape Clear, and saw five leagues
The pirate galleys vanishing that ravaged Baltimore. [before,

Oh! some must tug the galley's oar and some must tend the steed,
This boy will bear a Scheik's chibouk, and that a Bey's jerreed.
Oh! some are for the arsenals by beauteous Dardanelles,
And some are in the caravan to Mecca's sandy dells.
The maid that Bandon gallant sought is chosen for the Dey;
She's safe ! she's dead ! she stabbed him in the midst of his serai !
And, when to die a death of fire, that noble maid they bore,
She only smiled—O'Driscoll's child she thought of Baltimore.
'Tis two long years since sank the town beneath that bloody band,
And all around its trampled hearths a larger concourse stand,
Where, high upon a gallows tree, a yelling wretch is seen,
'Tis Hackett of Dungarvon, he who steered the Algerine.
He fell amid a sullen shout, with scarce a passing prayer,
For he had slain the kith and kin of many a hundred there.
Some muttered of MacMurchadh, who had brought the Norman o'er;
Some cursed him with Iscariot, that day in Baltimore,

The more we study this ballad, the more extraordinary does it appear that it should have been the work of an unpractised hand. Not only is it full of spirit and of melody, qualities not incompatible with inexperience in poetical composition, but the artistic merit is so great. Picture succeeds to picture, each perfect in itself, and each conducing to the effect of the whole. There is not a careless line, or a word out of place; and how the epithets paint : "fibrous sod,” “heavy balm,” “ “shearing sword !” The Oriental portion is as complete in what the French call local colour as the Irish. He was learned, was Thomas Davis, and wrote of nothing that he could not have taught. It is something that he should have left a poem

like this, altogether untinged by party politics, for the pride and admiration of all who share a common language, whether Celt or Saxon.



In a valley far away,

With my Maire bhan astoir,
Short would be the summer day,

Ever loving more and more.
Winter days would all grow long

With the light her heart would pour,
With her kisses and her song
And her loving maith go léor.+

Fond is Maire bhan astoir,
Fair is Maire bhan astoir,
Sweet as ripple on the shore

Sings my Maire bhan astoir.
Oh! her sire is very proud,

And her mother cold as stone;
But her brother bravely vowed

She should be my bride alone;
For he knew I loved her well,

And he knew she loved me too,
So he sought their pride to quell,
But 'twas all in vain to sue.

True is Maire bhan astoir,
Tried is Maire bhan astoir,
Had I wings I'd never soar
From my Maire bhan astoir.

* Pronounced Maur-ya Vaun Asthore.
† Much plenty, or in abundance.

There are lands where manly toil

Surely reaps the crop it sows.
Glorious woods and teeming soil

Where the broad Missouri flows;
Through the trees the smoke shall rise

From our hearth with maith go léor,
There shall shine the happy eyes
Of my Maire bhan astoir.

Mild is Maire bhan astoir,
Mine is Maire bhan astoir,
Saints will watch about the door

Of my Maire bhan astoir. I subjoin one of the lyrics, a ballad of the “Brigade,” which produced so much effect, when printed on the broad sheet of the “Nation.” It is a graphic and dramatic battle-song, full of life and action; too well calculated to excite that most excitable people, for whose gratification it was written.

FONTENOY. (1745.) Thrice, at the huts of Fontenoy, the English column failed ; And twice, the lines of Saint Antoine the Dutch in vain assailed ; For town and slope were filled with fort and flanking battery, And well they swept the English ranks and Dutch auxiliary. As vainly through De Barri's wood the British soldiers burst, The French artillery drove them back, diminished and dispersed. The bloody Duke of Cumberland beheld with anxious eye, And ordered up his last reserve, his latest chance to try. On Fontenoy, on Fontenoy, how fast his generals ride! And mustering come his chosen troops like clouds at eventide. Six thousand English veterans in stately column tread, Their cannon blaze in front and flank, Lord Hay is at their head. Steady they step adown the slope, steady they mount the hill, Steady they load, steady they fire, moving right onward still, Betwixt the wood and Fontenoy, as through a furnace blast, Through rampart, trench, and palisade, and bullets showering fast And on the open plain above they rose and kept their course, With ready fire and grim resolve, that mocked at hostile force; Past Fontenoy, past Fontenoy, while thinner grow their ranks, They break as breaks the Zuyder Zee through Holland's ocean

banks! More idly than the summer flies, French tirailleurs rush round; As stubble to the lava tide, French squadrons strew the ground; Bomb shell and grape and round-shot tore, still on they marched

and fired; Fast, from each volley, grenadier and voltigeur retired. "Push on, my household cavalry !” King Louis madly cried : To death they rush, but rude their shock, not unavenged they died. On, through the camp the column trod, King Louis turned his rein ; Not yet, my liege," Saxe interposed, “the Irish troops remain.”

[ocr errors]


« ZurückWeiter »