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Poems by Denis Florence MacCarthy

Part 3 out of 6

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For then, indeed, the vaulted heavens appeared
A fitting shrine to hear their Maker's praise,
Such as no human architect has reared,
Where gems, and gold, and precious marbles blaze.
What earthly temple such a roof can boast?--
What flickering lamp with the rich starlight vies,
When the round moon rests, like the sacred Host,
Upon the azure altar of the skies?

We breathed aloud the Christian's filial prayer,
Which makes us brothers even with the Lord;
Our Father, cried we, in the midnight air,
In heaven and earth be thy great name adored;
May thy bright kingdom, where the angels are,
Replace this fleeting world, so dark and dim.
And then, with eyes fixed on some glorious star,
We sang the Virgin-Mother's vesper hymn!

Hail, brightest star! that o'er life's troubled sea
Shines pitying down from heaven's elysian blue!
Mother and Maid, we fondly look to thee,
Fair gate of bliss, where heaven beams brightly through.
Star of the morning! guide our youthful days,
Shine on our infant steps in life's long race,
Star of the evening! with thy tranquil rays,
Gladden the aged eyes that seek thy face.

Hail, sacred Maid! thou brighter, better Eve,
Take from our eyes the blinding scales of sin;
Within our hearts no selfish poison leave,
For thou the heavenly antidote canst win.
O sacred Mother! 'tis to thee we run--
Poor children, from this world's oppressive strife;
Ask all we need from thy immortal Son,
Who drank of death, that we might taste of life.

Hail, spotless Virgin! mildest, meekest maid--
Hail! purest Pearl that time's great sea hath borne--
May our white souls, in purity arrayed,
Shine, as if they thy vestal robes had worn;
Make our hearts pure, as thou thyself art pure,
Make safe the rugged pathway of our lives,
And make us pass to joys that will endure
When the dark term of mortal life arrives.[59]

'Twas thus, in hymns, and prayers, and holy psalms,
Day tracking day, and night succeeding night,
Now driven by tempests, now delayed by calms,
Along the sea we winged our varied flight.
Oh! how we longed and pined for sight of land!
Oh! how we sighed for the green pleasant fields!
Compared with the cold waves, the barest strand--
The bleakest rock--a crop of comfort yields.

Sometimes, indeed, when the exhausted gale,
In search of rest, beneath the waves would flee,
Like some poor wretch who, when his strength doth fail,
Sinks in the smooth and unsupporting sea:
Then would the Brothers draw from memory's store
Some chapter of life's misery or bliss,
Some trial that some saintly spirit bore,
Or else some tale of passion, such as this:


[The peasants who live near the mouth of the Shannon point to a part of
the river within the headlands over which the tides rush with
extraordinary rapidity and violence. They say it is the site of a lost
city, long buried beneath the waves.--See Hall's "Ireland," vol. iii. p.

Beside that giant stream that foams and swells
Betwixt Hy-Conaill and Moyarta's shore,
And guards the isle where good Senanus dwells,
A gentle maiden dwelt in days of yore.
She long has passed out of Time's aching womb,
And breathes Eternity's favonian air;
Yet fond Tradition lingers o'er her tomb,
And paints her glorious features as they were:--

Her smile was Eden's pure and stainless light,
Which never cloud nor earthly vapour mars;
Her lustrous eyes were like the noon of night--
Black, but yet brightened by a thousand stars;
Her tender form, moulded in modest grace,
Shrank from the gazer's eye, and moved apart;
Heaven shone reflected in her angel face,
And God reposed within her virgin heart.

She dwelt in green Moyarta's pleasant land,
Beneath the graceful hills of Clonderlaw,--
Sweet sunny hills, whose triple summits stand,
One vast tiara over stream and shaw.
Almost in solitude the maiden grew,
And reached her early budding woman's prime;
And all so noiselessly the swift time flew,
She knew not of the name or flight of Time.

And thus, within her modest mountain nest,
This gentle maiden nestled like a dove,
Offering to God from her pure innocent breast
The sweet and silent incense of her love.
No selfish feeling nor presumptuous pride
In her calm bosom waged unnatural strife;
Saint of her home and hearth, she sanctified
The thousand trivial common cares of life.

Upon the opposite shore there dwelt a youth,
Whose nature's woof was woven of good and ill--
Whose stream of life flowed to the sea of truth,
But in a devious course, round many a hill--
Now lingering through a valley of delight,
Where sweet flowers bloomed, and summer songbirds sung,
Now hurled along the dark, tempestuous night,
With gloomy, treeless mountains overhung.

He sought the soul of Beauty throughout space,
Knowledge he tracked through many a vanished age:
For one he scanned fair Nature's radiant face,
And for the other, Learning's shrivelled page.
If Beauty sent some fair apostle down,
Or Knowledge some great teacher of her lore,
Bearing the wreath of rapture and the crown,
He knelt to love, to learn, and to adore.

Full many a time he spread his little sail,
How rough the river, or how dark the skies,
Gave his light corrach to the angry gale,
And crossed the stream to gaze on Ethna's eyes.
As yet 'twas worship, more than human love,
That hopeless adoration that we pay
Unto some glorious planet throned above,
Through severed from its crystal sphere for aye.

But warmer love an easy conquest won,
The more he came to green Moyarta's bowers;
Even as the earth, by gazing on the sun,
In summer-time puts forth her myriad flowers.
The yearnings of his heart--vague, undefined--
Wakened and solaced by ideal gleams,
Took everlasting shape, and intertwined
Around this incarnation of his dreams.

Some strange fatality restrained his tongue--
He spoke not of the love that filled his breast;
The thread of hope, on which his whole life hung,
Was far too weak to bear so strong a test.
He trusted to the future--time, or chance--
His constant homage and assiduous care;
Preferred to dream, and lengthen out his trance,
Rather than wake to knowledge and despair.

And thus she knew not, when the youth would look
Upon some pictured chronicle of eld,
In every blazoned letter of the book
One fairest face was all that he beheld:
And where the limner, with consummate art,
Drew flowing lines and quaint devices rare,
The wildered youth, by looking from the heart,
Saw nought but lustrous eyes and waving hair.

He soon was startled from his dreams, for now--
'Twas said, obedient to a heavenly call--
His life of life would take the vestal vow,
In one short month, within a convent's wall.
He heard the tidings with a sickening fear,
But quickly had the sudden faintness flown,
And vowed, though heaven or hell should interfere,
Ethna--his Ethna--should be his alone!

He sought his boat, and snatched the feathery oar--
It was the first and brightest morn of May:
The white-winged clouds, that sought the northern shore,
Seemed but Love's guides, to point him out the way.
The great old river heaved its mighty heart,
And, with a solemn sigh, went calmly on;
As if of all his griefs it felt a part,
But know they should be borne, and so had gone.

Slowly his boat the languid breeze obeyed,
Although the stream that that light burden bore
Was like the level path the angels made,
Through the rough sea, to Arran's blessed shore;
And from the rosy clouds the light airs fanned,
And from the rich reflection that they gave,
Like good Scothinus, had he reached his hand,
He might have plucked a garland from the wave.

And now the noon in purple splendour blazed,
The gorgeous clouds in slow procession filed;
The youth leaned o'er with listless eyes and gazed
Down through the waves on which the blue heavens smiled:
What sudden fear his gasping breath doth drown!
What hidden wonder fires his startled eyes!
Down in the deep, full many a fathom down,
A great and glorious city buried lies.

Not like those villages with rude-built walls,
That raise their humble roofs round every coast,
But holding marble basilics and halls,
Such as imperial Rome herself might boast.
There was the palace and the poor man's home,
And upstart glitter and old-fashioned gloom,
The spacious porch, the nicely rounded dome,
The hero's column, and the martyr's tomb.

There was the cromleach with its circling stones;
There the green rath and the round narrow tower;
There was the prison whence the captive's groans
Had many a time moaned in the midnight hour.
Beneath the graceful arch the river flowed,
Around the walls the sparkling waters ran,
The golden chariot rolled along the road--
All, all was there except the face of man.

The wondering youth had neither thought nor word,
He felt alone the power and will to die;
His little bark seemed like an outstretched bird,
Floating along that city's azure sky.
It joyed that youth the battle's storm to brave,
And yet he would have perished with affright,
Had not the breeze, rippling the lucid wave,
Concealed the buried city from his sight.

He reached the shore; the rumour was too true--
Ethna--his Ethna--would be God's alone
In one brief month; for which the maid withdrew,
To seek for strength before his blessed throne.
Was it the fire that on his bosom preyed,
Or the temptation of the Fiend abhorred,
That made him vow to snatch the white-veiled maid
Even from the very altar of her Lord?

The first of June, that festival of flowers,
Came, like a goddess, o'er the meadows green!
And all the children of the spring-tide showers
Rose from their grassy beds to hail their Queen.
A song of joy, a paean of delight,
Rose from the myriad life in the tall grass,
When the young Dawn, fresh from the sleep of night,
Glanced at her blushing face in Ocean's glass.

Ethna awoke--a second--brighter dawn--
Her mother's fondling voice breathed in her ear;
Quick from her couch she started as a fawn
Bounds from the heather when her dam is near.
Each clasped the other in a long embrace--
Each know the other's heart did beat and bleed--
Each kissed the warm tears from the other's face,
And gave the consolation she did need.

Oh! bitterest sacrifice the heart can make--
That of a mother of her darling child--
That of a child, who, for her Saviour's sake,
Leaves the fond face that o'er her cradle smiled.
They who may think that God doth never need
So great, so sad a sacrifice as this,
While they take glory in their easier creed,
Will feel and own the sacrifice it is.

All is prepared--the sisters in the choir--
The mitred abbot on his crimson throne--
The waxen tapers, with their pallid fire
Poured o'er the sacred cup and altar-stone--
The upturned eyes, glistening with pious tears--
The censer's fragrant vapour floating o'er;
Now all is hushed, for, lo! the maid appears,
Entering with solemn step the sacred door.

She moved as moves the moon, radiant and pale,
Through the calm night, wrapped in a silvery cloud;
The jewels of her dress shone through her veil,
As shine the stars through their thin vaporous shroud;
The brighter jewels of her eyes were hid
Beneath their smooth white caskets arching o'er,
Which, by the trembling of each ivory lid,
Seemed conscious of the treasures that they bore.

She reached the narrow porch and the tall door,
Her trembling foot upon the sill was placed--
Her snowy veil swept the smooth-sanded floor--
Her cold hands chilled the bosom they embraced.
Who is this youth, whose forehead, like a book,
Bears many a deep-traced character of pain?
Who looks for pardon as the damned may look--
That ever pray, and know they pray in vain.

'Tis he, the wretched youth--the Demon's prey;
One sudden bound, and he is at her side--
One piercing shriek, and she has swooned away,
Dim are her eyes, and cold her heart's warm tide.
Horror and terror seize the startled crowd;
The sinewy hands are nerveless with affright;
When, as the wind beareth a summer cloud,
The youth bears off the maiden from their sight.

Close to the place the stream rushed roaring by,
His little boat lay moored beneath the bank,
Hid from the shore, and from the gazer's eye,
By waving reeds and water-willows dank.
Hither, with flying feet and glowing brow,
He fled, as quick as fancies in a dream--
Placed the insensate maiden in the prow--
Pushed from the shore, and gained the open stream.

Scarce had he left the river's foamy edge,
When sudden darkness fell on hill and plain;
The angry sun, shocked at the sacrilege,
Fled from the heavens with all his golden train;
The stream rushed quicker, like a man afeared;
Down swept the storm and clove its breast of green,
And though the calm and brightness reappeared
The youth and maiden never more were seen.

Whether the current in its strong arms bore
Their bark to green Hy-Brasail's fairy halls,
Or whether, as is told along that shore,
They sunk within the buried city's walls;
Whether through some Elysian clime they stray,
Or o'er their whitened bones the river rolls;--
Whate'er their fate, my brothers, let us pray
To God for peace and pardon to their souls.

Such was the brother's tale of earthly love--
He ceased, and sadly bowed his reverend head:
For us, we wept, and raised our eyes above,
And sang the 'De Profundis' for the dead.
A freshening breeze played on our moistened cheeks,
The far horizon oped its walls of light,
And lo! with purple hills and sun-bright peaks
A glorious isle gleamed on our gladdened sight,


"Post resurrectionis diem dominicae navigabitis ad altam insulam ad
occidentalem plagam, quae vocatur PARADISUS AVIUM."--"Life of St.
Brendan," in Capgrave, fol. 45.

It was the fairest and the sweetest scene--
The freshest, sunniest, smiling land that e'er
Held o'er the waves its arms of sheltering green
Unto the sea and storm-vexed mariner:--
No barren waste its gentle bosom scarred,
Nor suns that burn, nor breezes winged with ice,
Nor jagged rocks (Nature's grey ruins) marred
The perfect features of that Paradise.

The verdant turf spreads from the crystal marge
Of the clear stream, up the soft-swelling hill,
Rose-bearing shrubs and stately cedars large
All o'er the land the pleasant prospect fill.
Unnumbered birds their glorious colours fling
Among the boughs that rustle in the breeze,
As if the meadow-flowers had taken wing
And settled on the green o'er-arching trees.

Oh! Ita, Ita, 'tis a grievous wrong,
That man commits who uninspired presumes
To sing the heavenly sweetness of their song--
To paint the glorious tinting of their plumes--
Plumes bright as jewels that from diadems
Fling over golden thrones their diamond rays--
Bright, even as bright as those three mystic gems,
The angel bore thee in thy childhood's days.[60]

There dwells the bird that to the farther west
Bears the sweet message of the coming spring;[61]
June's blushing roses paint his prophet breast,
And summer skies gleam from his azure wing.
While winter prowls around the neighbouring seas,
The happy bird dwells in his cedar nest,
Then flies away, and leaves his favourite trees
Unto this brother of the graceful crest.[62]

Birds that with us are clothed in modest brown,
There wear a splendour words cannot express;
The sweet-voiced thrush beareth a golden crown,[63]
And even the sparrow boasts a scarlet dress.[64]
There partial nature fondles and illumes
The plainest offspring that her bosom bears;
The golden robin flies on fiery plumes,[65]
And the small wren a purple ruby wears.[66]

Birds, too, that even in our sunniest hours,
Ne'er to this cloudy land one moment stray,
Whose brilliant plumes, fleeting and fair as flowers,
Come with the flowers, and with the flowers decay.[67]
The Indian bird, with hundred eyes, that throws
From his blue neck the azure of the skies,
And his pale brother of the northern snows,
Bearing white plumes, mirrored with brilliant eyes.[68]

Oft in the sunny mornings have I seen
Bright-yellow birds, of a rich lemon hue,
Meeting in crowds upon the branches green,
And sweetly singing all the morning through.[69]
And others, with their heads greyish and dark,
Pressing their cinnamon cheeks to the old trees,
And striking on the hard, rough, shrivelled bark,
Like conscience on a bosom ill at ease.[70]

And diamond birds chirping their single notes,
Now 'mid the trumpet-flower's deep blossoms seen,
Now floating brightly on with fiery throats,
Small-winged emeralds of golden green;[71]
And other larger birds with orange cheeks,
A many-colour-painted chattering crowd,
Prattling for ever with their curved beaks,
And through the silent woods screaming aloud.[72]

Colour and form may be conveyed in words,
But words are weak to tell the heavenly strains
That from the throats of these celestial birds
Rang through the woods and o'er the echoing plains.
There was the meadow-lark, with voice as sweet,
But robed in richer raiment than our own;
And as the moon smiled on his green retreat,
The painted nightingale sang out alone.[73]

Words cannot echo music's winged note,
One bird alone exhausts their utmost power;
'Tis that strange bird whose many-voic'ed throat
Mocks all his brethren of the woodland bower;
To whom indeed the gift of tongues is given,
The musical rich tongues that fill the grove,
Now like the lark dropping his notes from heaven,
Now cooing the soft earth-notes of the dove.[74]

Oft have I seen him, scorning all control,
Winging his arrowy flight rapid and strong,
As if in search of his evanished soul,
Lost in the gushing ecstasy of song;
And as I wandered on, and upward gazed,
Half lost in admiration, half in fear,
I left the brothers wondering and amazed,
Thinking that all the choir of heaven was near.

Was it a revelation or a dream?--
That these bright birds as angels once did dwell
In heaven with starry Lucifer supreme,
Half sinned with him, and with him partly fell;
That in this lesser paradise they stray.
Float through its air, and glide its streams along,
And that the strains they sing each happy day
Rise up to God like morn and even song.[75]


[The earlier stanzas of this description of Paradise are principally
founded upon the Anglo-Saxon version of the poem "De Phenice," ascribed
to Lactantius, and which is at least as old as the earlier part of the
eleventh century.]

As on this world the young man turns his eyes,
When forced to try the dark sea of the grave,
Thus did we gaze upon that Paradise,
Fading, as we were borne across the wave.
And, as a brighter world dawns by degrees
Upon Eternity's serenest strand,
Thus, having passed through dark and gloomy seas,
At length we reached the long-sought Promised Land.

The wind had died upon the Ocean's breast,
When, like a silvery vein through the dark ore,
A smooth bright current, gliding to the west,
Bore our light bark to that enchanted shore.
It was a lovely plain--spacious and fair,
And bless'd with all delights that earth can hold,
Celestial odours filled the fragrant air
That breathed around that green and pleasant wold.

There may not rage of frost, nor snow, nor rain,
Injure the smallest and most delicate flower,
Nor fall of hail wound the fair, healthful plain,
Nor the warm weather, nor the winter's shower.
That noble land is all with blossoms flowered,
Shed by the summer breezes as they pass;
Less leaves than blossoms on the trees are showered,
And flowers grow thicker in the fields than grass.

Nor hills, nor mountains, there stand high and steep,
Nor stony cliffs tower o'er the frightened waves,
Nor hollow dells, where stagnant waters sleep,
Nor hilly risings, nor dark mountain caves;
Nothing deformed upon its bosom lies,
Nor on its level breast rests aught unsmooth,
But the noble filed flourishes 'neath the skies,
Blooming for ever in perpetual youth.

That glorious land stands higher o'er the sea,
By twelve-fold fathom measure, than we deem
The highest hills beneath the heavens to be.
There the bower glitters, and the green woods gleam.
All o'er that pleasant plain, calm and serene,
The fruits ne'er fall, but, hung by God's own hand,
Cling to the trees that stand for ever green,
Obedient to their Maker's first command.

Summer and winter are the woods the same,
Hung with bright fruits and leaves that never fade;
Such will they be, beyond the reach of flame,
Till Heaven, and Earth, and Time, shall have decayed.
Here might Iduna in her fond pursuit,
As fabled by the northern sea-born men,
Gather her golden and immortal fruit,
That brings their youth back to the gods again.

Of old, when God, to punish sinful pride,
Sent round the deluged world the ocean flood,
When all the earth lay 'neath the vengeful tide,
This glorious land above the waters stood.
Such shall it be at last, even as at first,
Until the coming of the final doom,
When the dark chambers--men's death homes shall burst,
And man shall rise to judgment from the tomb.

There there is never enmity, nor rage,
Nor poisoned calumny, nor envy's breath,
Nor shivering poverty, nor decrepit age,
Nor loss of vigour, nor the narrow death;
Nor idiot laughter, nor the tears men weep,
Nor painful exile from one's native soil,
Nor sin, nor pain, nor weariness, nor sleep,
Nor lust of riches, nor the poor man's toil.

There never falls the rain-cloud as with us,
Nor gapes the earth with the dry summer's thirst,
But liquid streams, wondrously curious,
Out of the ground with fresh fair bubbling burst.
Sea-cold and bright the pleasant waters glide
Over the soil, and through the shady bowers;
Flowers fling their coloured radiance o'er the tide,
And the bright streams their crystal o'er the flowers.

Such was the land for man's enjoyment made,
When from this troubled life his soul doth wend:
Such was the land through which entranced we strayed,
For fifteen days, nor reached its bound nor end.
Onward we wandered in a blissful dream,
Nor thought of food, nor needed earthly rest;
Until, at length, we reached a mighty stream,
Whose broad bright waves flowed from the east to west.

We were about to cross its placid tide,
When, lo! an angel on our vision broke,
Clothed in white, upon the further side
He stood majestic, and thus sweetly spoke:
"Father, return, thy mission now is o'er;
God, who did call thee here, now bids thee go,
Return in peace unto thy native shore,
And tell the mighty secrets thou dost know.

"In after years, in God's own fitting time,
This pleasant land again shall re-appear;
And other men shall preach the truths sublime,
To the benighted people dwelling here.
But ere that hour this land shall all be made,
For mortal man, a fitting, natural home,
Then shall the giant mountain fling its shade,
And the strong rock stem the white torrent's foam.

"Seek thy own isle--Christ's newly-bought domain,
Which Nature with an emerald pencil paints:
Such as it is, long, long shall it remain,
The school of Truth, the College of the Saints,
The student's bower, the hermit's calm retreat,
The stranger's home, the hospitable hearth,
The shrine to which shall wander pilgrim feet
From all the neighbouring nations of the earth.

"But in the end upon that land shall fall
A bitter scourge, a lasting flood of tears,
When ruthless tyranny shall level all
The pious trophies of its early years:
Then shall this land prove thy poor country's friend,
And shine a second Eden in the west;
Then shall this shore its friendly arms extend,
And clasp the outcast exile to its breast."

He ceased and vanished from our dazzled sight,
While harps and sacred hymns rang sweetly o'er
For us again we winged our homeward flight
O'er the great ocean to our native shore;
And as a proof of God's protecting hand,
And of the wondrous tidings that we bear,
The fragrant perfume of that heavenly land
Clings to the very garments that we wear.[76]

53. So called from the number of holy men and women formerly inhabiting

54. The Atlantic was so named by the ancient Irish.

55. Ardfert.

56. The puffin (Anas leucopsis), called in Irish 'girrinna.' It was
the popular belief that these birds grew out of driftwood.

57. St. Fanchea.

58. Galway Bay.

59. These stanzas are a paraphrase of the hymn "Ave Maris Stella."

60. An angel was said to have presented her with three precious stones,
which, he explained, were emblematic of the Blessed Trinity, by whom she
would be always visited and protected.

61. The blue bird.

62. The cedar bird.

63. The golden-crowned thrush.

64. The scarlet sparrow or tanager.

65. The Baltimore oriole or fire-bird.

66. The ruby-crowned wren.

67. Peacocks.

68. The white peacock.

69. The yellow bird or goldfinch.

70. The gold-winged woodpecker.

71. Humming birds.

72. The Carolina parrot.

73. The grosbeak or red bird, sometimes called the Virginia

74. The mocking-bird.

75. See the "Lyfe of Saynt Brandon" in the Golden Legend, published by
Wynkyn de Worde, 1483; fol. 357.

76. "Nonne cognoscitis in odore vestimentorum nostrorum quod in
Paradiso Domini fuimus."--Colgan.

A.D. 1495.

[Con, the son of Hugh Roe O'Donnell, with his small-powerful force,--and
the reason Con's force was called the small-powerful force was, because
he was always in the habit of mustering a force which did not exceed
twelve score of well-equipped and experienced battle-axe-men, and sixty
chosen active horsemen, fit for battle,--marched with the forementioned
force to the residence of MacJohn of the Glynnes (in the county of
Antrim); for Con had been informed that MacJohn had in possession the
finest woman, steed, and hound, of any other person in his
neighbourhood. He sent a messenger for the steed before that time, and
was refused, although Con had, at the same time, promised it to one of
his own people. Con did not delay, and got over every difficult pass
with his small-powerful force, without battle or obstruction, until he
arrived in the night at the house of MacJohn, whom he, in the first
place, took prisoner, and his wife, steed, and hound, and all his
property, were under Con's control, for he found the same steed, with
sixteen others, in the town on that occasion. All the Glynnes were
plundered on the following day by Con's people, but he afterwards,
however, made perfect restitution of all property, to whomsoever it
belonged, to MacJohn's wife, and he set her husband free to her after he
had passed the Bann westward. He brought with him the steed and great
booty and spoils, into Tirhugh, and ordered the cattle-prey to be let
out on the pasturage.--"Annals of the Four Masters," translated by Owen
Connellan, Esq., p. 331-2. This poem, founded upon the foregoing
passage (and in which the hero acts with more generosity than the Annals
warrant) was written and published in the Dublin University Magazine
before the appearance of Mr. O'Donovan's "Annals of the Kingdom of
Ireland,"--the magnificent work published in 1848 by Messrs. Hodges and
Smith, of this city. For Mr. O'Donovan's version of this passage, which
differs from that of the former translator in two or three important
particulars, see the second volume of his work, p. 1219. The principal
castle of the O'Donnell's was at Donegal. The building, of which some
portions still exist, was erected in the twelfth century. The
banqueting-hall, which is the scene of the opening portion of this
ballad, is still preserved, and commands some beautiful views.]

The evening shadows sweetly fall
Along the hills of Donegal,
Sweetly the rising moonbeams play
Along the shores of Inver Bay,[77]
As smooth and white Lough Eask[78] expands
As Rosapenna's[79] silvery sands,
And quiet reigns all o'er thy fields,
Clan Dalaigh[80] of the golden shields.

The fairy gun[81] is heard no more
To boom within the cavern'd shore,
With smoother roll the torrents flow
Adown the rocks of Assaroe;[82]
Securely, till the coming day,
The red deer couch in far Glenvay,
And all is peace and calm around
O'Donnell's castled moat and mound.

But in the hall there feast to-night
Full many a kern and many a knight,
And gentle dames, and clansmen strong,
And wandering bards, with store of song:
The board is piled with smoking kine,
And smooth bright cups of Spanish wine,
And fish and fowl from stream and shaw,
And fragrant mead and usquebaugh.

The chief is at the table's head--
'Tis Con, the son of Hugh the Red--
The heir of Conal Golban's line;[83]
With pleasure flushed, with pride and wine,
He cries, "Our dames adjudge it wrong,
To end our feast without the song;
Have we no bard the strain to raise?
No foe to taunt, no maid to praise?

"Where beauty dwells the bard should dwell,
What sweet lips speak the bard should tell;
'Tis he should look for starry eyes,
And tell love's watchers where they rise:
To-night, if lips and eyes could do,
Bards were not wanting in Tirhugh;
For where have lips a rosier light,
And where are eyes more starry bright?"

Then young hearts beat along the board,
To praise the maid that each adored,
And lips as young would fain disclose
The love within; but one arose,
Gray as the rocks beside the main,--
Gray as the mist upon the plain,--
A thoughtful, wandering, minstrel man,
And thus the aged bard began:--

"O Con, benevolent hand of peace!
O tower of valour firm and true!
Like mountain fawns, like snowy fleece,
Move the sweet maidens of Tirhugh.
Yet though through all thy realm I've strayed,
Where green hills rise and white waves fall,
I have not seen so fair a maid
As once I saw by Cushendall.[84]

"O Con, thou hospitable Prince!
Thou, of the open heart and hand,
Full oft I've seen the crimson tints
Of evening on the western land.
I've wandered north, I've wandered south,
Throughout Tirhugh in hut and hall,
But never saw so sweet a mouth
As whispered love by Cushendall.

"O Con, munificent gifts!
I've seen the full round harvest moon
Gleam through the shadowy autumn drifts
Upon thy royal rock of Doune.[85]
I've seen the stars that glittering lie
O'er all the night's dark mourning pall,
But never saw so bright an eye
As lit the glens of Cushendall.

"I've wandered with a pleasant toil,
And still I wander in my dreams;
Even from the white-stoned beach, Loch Foyle,
To Desmond of the flowing streams.
I've crossed the fair green plains of Meath,
To Dublin, held in Saxon thrall;
But never saw such pearly teeth,
As her's that smiled by Cushendall.

"O Con! thou'rt rich in yellow gold,
Thy fields are filled with lowing kine,
Within they castles wealth untold,
Within thy harbours fleets of wine;
But yield not, Con, to worldly pride
Thou may'st be rich, but hast not all;
Far richer he who for his bride
Has won fair Anne of Cushendall.

"She leans upon a husband's arm,
Surrounded by a valiant clan,
In Antrim's Glynnes, by fair Glenarm,
Beyond the pearly-paven Bann;
'Mid hazel woods no stately tree
Looks up to heaven more graceful-tall,
When summer clothes its boughs, than she,
MacDonnell's wife of Cushendall!"

The bard retires amid the throng,
No sweet applause rewards his song,
No friendly lip that guerdon breathes,
To bard more sweet than golden wreaths.
It might have been the minstrel's art
Had lost the power to move the heart,
It might have been his harp had grown
Too old to yield its wonted tone.

But no, if hearts were cold and hard,
'Twas not the fault of harp or bard;
It was no false or broken sound
That failed to move the clansmen round.
Not these the men, nor these the times,
To nicely weigh the worth of rhymes;
'Twas what he said that made them chill,
And not his singing well or ill.

Already had the stranger band
Of Saxons swept the weakened land,
Already on the neighbouring hills
They named anew a thousand rills,
"Our fairest castles," pondered Con,
"Already to the foe are gone,
Our noblest forests feed the flame,
And now we lose our fairest dame."

But though his cheek was white with rage,
He seemed to smile, and cried--"O Sage!
O honey-spoken bard of truth!
MacDonnell is a valiant youth.
We long have been the Saxon's prey--
Why not the Scot as well as they?
He's of as good a robber line
As any a Burke or Geraldine.

"From Insi Gall,[86] so speaketh fame,
From Insi Gall his people came;
From Insi Gall, where storm winds roar
Beyond the gray Albin's icy shore.
His grandsire and his grandsire's son,
Full soon fat herds and pastures won;
But, by Columba! were we men,
We'd send the whole brood back again!

"Oh! had we iron hands to dare,
As we have waxen hearts to bear,
Oh! had we manly blood to shed,
Or even to tinge our cheeks with red,
No bard could say as you have said,
One of the race of Somerled--
A base intruder from the Isles--
Basks in our island's sunniest smiles!

"But, not to mar our feast to-night
With what to-morrow's sword may right,
O Bard of many songs! again
Awake thy sweet harp's silvery strain.
If beauty decks with peerless charm
MacDonnell's wife in fair Glenarm,
Say does there bound in Antrim's meads
A steed to match O'Donnell's steeds?"

Submissive doth the bard incline
His reverend head, and cries, "O Con,
Thou heir of Conal Golban's line,
I've sang the fair wife of MacJohn;
You'll frown again as late you frowned,
But truth will out when lips are freed;
There's not a steed on Irish ground
To stand beside MacDonnell's steed!

"Thy horses o'er Eargals' plains,
Like meteors stars their red eyes gleam;
With silver hoofs and broidered reins,
They mount the hill and swim the stream;
But like the wind through Barnesmore,
Or white-maned wave through Carrig-Rede,[87]
Or like a sea-bird to the shore,
Thus swiftly sweeps MacDonnell's steed!

"A thousand graceful steeds had Fin,
Within lost Almhaim's fairy hall,
A thousand steeds as sleek of skin
As ever graced a chieftain's stall.
With gilded bridles oft they flew,
Young eagles in their lightning speed,
Strong as the cataract of Hugh,[88]
So swift and strong MacDonnell's steed!"

Without the hearty word of praise,
Without the kindly smiling gaze,
Without the friendly hand to greet,
The daring bard resumes his seat.
Even in the hospitable face
Of Con, the anger you could trace.
But generous Con his wrath suppressed,
For Owen was Clan Dalaigh's guest.

"Now, by Columba!" Con exclaimed,
"Methinks this Scot should be ashamed
To snatch at once, in sateless greed,
The fairest maid and finest steed;
My realm is dwindled in mine eyes,
I know not what to praise or prize,
And even my noble dog, O Bard,
Now seems unworthy my regard!"

"When comes the raven of the sea
To nestle on an alien strand,
Oh! ever, ever will he be
The master of the subject land.
The fairest dame, he holdeth her--
For him the noblest steed doth bound--;
Your dog is but a household cur,
Compared to John MacDonnell's hound!

"As fly the shadows o'er the grass,
He flies with step as light and sure,
He hunts the wolf through Trosstan pass,
And starts the deer by Lisanoure!
The music of the Sabbath bells,
O Con, has not a sweeter sound
Than when along the valley swells
The cry of John MacDonnell's hound.

"His stature tall, his body long,
His back like night, his breast like snow,
His fore-leg pillar-like and strong,
His hind-leg like a bended bow;
Rough, curling hair, head long and thin,
His ear a leaf so small and round:
Not Bran, the favourite hound of Fin,
Could rival John MacDonnell's hound.

"O Con! thy bard will sing no more,
There is a fearful time at hand;
The Scot is on the northern shore,
The Saxon in the eastern land;
The hour comes on with quicker flight,
When all who live on Irish ground
Must render to the stranger's might
Both maid and wife, and steed and hound!"

The trembling bard again retires,
But now he lights a thousand fires;
The pent-up flame bursts out at length,
In all its burning, tameless strength.
You'd think each clansman's foe was by,
So sternly flashed each angry eye;
You'd think 'twas in the battle's clang
O'Donnell's thundering accents rang!

"No! by my sainted kinsman,[89] no!
This foul disgrace must not be so;
No, by the Shrines of Hy, I've sworn,
This foulest wrong must not be borne.
A better steed!--a fairer wife!
Was ever truer cause of strife?
A swifter hound!--a better steed!
Columba! these are cause indeed!"

Again, like spray from mountain rill,
Up started Con: "By Collum Kille,
And by the blessed light of day,
This matter brooketh no delay.
The moon is down, the morn is up,
Come, kinsmen, drain a parting cup,
And swear to hold our next carouse,
With John MacJohn MacDonnell's spouse!

"We've heard the song the bard has sung,
And as a healing herb among
Most poisonous weeds may oft be found,
So of this woman, steed, and hound;
The song has burned into our hearts,
And yet a lesson it imparts,
Had we but sense to read aright
The galling words we heard to-night.

"What lesson does the good hound teach?
Oh, to be faithful each to each!
What lesson gives the noble steed?
Oh! to be swift in thought and deed!
What lesson gives the peerless wife?
Oh! there is victory after strife;
Sweet is the triumph, rich the spoil,
Pleasant the slumber after toil!"

They drain the cup, they leave the hall,
They seek the armoury and stall,
The shield re-echoing to the spear
Proclaims the foray far and near;
And soon around the castles gate
Full sixty steeds impatient wait,
And every steed a knight upon,
The strong, small-powerful force of Con!

Their lances in the red dawn flash,
As down by Easky's side they dash;
Their quilted jackets shine the more,
From gilded leather broidered o'er;
With silver spurs, and silken rein,
And costly riding-shoes from Spain;
Ah! much thou hast to fear, MacJohn,
The strong, small-powerful force of Con!

As borne upon autumnal gales,
Wild whirring gannets pierce the sails
Of barks that sweep by Arran's shore,[90]
Thus swept the train through Barnesmore.
Through many a varied scene they ran,
By Castle Fin, and fair Strabane,
By many a hill, and many a clan,
Across the Foyle and o'er the Bann:--

Then stopping in their eagle flight,
They waited for the coming night,
And then, as Antrim's rivers rush
Straight from their founts with sudden gush,
Nor turn their strong, brief streams aside,
Until the sea receives their tide;
Thus rushed upon the doomed MacJohn
The swift, small-powerful force of Con.

They took the castle by surprise,
No star was in the angry skies,
The moon lay dead within her shroud
Of thickly-folded ashen cloud;
They found the steed within his stall,
The hound within the oaken hall,
The peerless wife of thousand charms,
Within her slumbering husband's arms:

The bard had pictured to the life
The beauty of MacDonnell's wife;
Not Evir[91] could with her compare
For snowy hand and shining hair;
The glorious banner morn unfurls
Were dark beside her golden curls;
And yet the blackness of her eye
Was darker than the moonless sky!

If lovers listen to my lay,
Description is but thrown away;
If lovers read this antique tale,
What need I speak of red or pale?
The fairest form and brightest eye
Are simply those for which they sigh;
The truest picture is but faint
To what a lover's heart can paint.

Well, she was fair, and Con was bold,
But in the strange, wild days of old;
To one rough hand was oft decreed
The noblest and the blackest deed.
'Twas pride that spurred O'Donnell on,
But still a generous heart had Con;
He wished to show that he was strong,
And not to do a bootless wrong.

But now there's neither thought nor time
For generous act or bootless crime;
For other cares the thoughts demand
Of the small-powerful victor band.
They tramp along the old oak floors,
They burst the strong-bound chamber doors;
In all the pride of lawless power,
Some seek the vault, and some the tower.

And some from out the postern pass,
And find upon the dew-wet grass
Full many a head of dappled deer,
And many a full-ey'd brown-back'd steer,
And heifers of the fragrant skins,
The pride of Antrim's grassy glynns,
Which with their spears they drive along,
A numerous, startled, bellowing throng.

They leave the castle stripped and bare,
Each has his labour, each his share;
For some have cups, and some have plate,
And some have scarlet cloaks of state,
And some have wine, and some have ale,
And some have coats of iron mail,
And some have helms, and some have spears,
And all have lowing cows and steers!

Away! away! the morning breaks
O'er Antrim's hundred hills and lakes;
Away! away! the dawn begins
To gild gray Antrim's deepest glynns;
The rosy steeds of morning stop,
As if to gaze on Collin top;
Ere they have left it bare and gray,
O'Donnell must be far away!

The chieftain on a raven steed,
Himself the peerless dame doth lead,
Now like a pallid, icy corse,
And lifts her on her husband's horse;
His left hand holds his captive's rein,
His right is on the black steed's mane,
And from the bridle to the ground
Hangs the long leash that binds the hound.

And thus before his victor clan,
Rides Con O'Donnell in the van;
Upon his left the drooping dame,
Upon his right, in wrath and shame,
With one hand free and one hand tied,
And eyes firm fixed upon his bride,
Vowing dread vengeance yet on Con,
Rides scowling, silent, stern MacJohn.

They move with steps as swift as still,
'Twixt Collin mount and Slemish hill,
They glide along the misty plain,
And ford the sullen muttering Maine;
Some drive the cattle o'er the hills,
And some along the dried-up rills;
But still a strong force doth surround
The chiefs, the dame, the steed, and hound.

Thus ere the bright-faced day arose,
The Bann lay broad between the foes.
But how to paint the inward scorn,
The self-reproach of those that morn,
Who waking found their chieftain gone,
The cattle swept from field and bawn,
The chieftain's castle stormed and drained,
And, worse than all, their honour stained!

But when the women heard that Anne,
The queen, the glory of the clan
Was carried off by midnight foes,
Heavens! such despairing screams arose,
Such shrieks of agony and fright,
As only can be heard at night,
When Clough-i-Stookan's mystic rock
The wail of drowning men doth mock.[92]

But thirty steeds are in the town,
And some are like the ripe heath, brown,
Some like the alder-berries, black,
Some like the vessel's foamy track;
But be they black, or brown, or white,
They are as swift as fawns in flight,
No quicker speed the sea gull hath
When sailing through the Gray Man's Path.[93]

Soon are they saddled, soon they stand,
Ready to own the rider's hand,
Ready to dash with loosened rein
Up the steep hill, and o'er the plain;
Ready, without the prick of spurs,
To strike the gold cups from the furze:
And now they start with winged pace,
God speed them in their noble chase!

By this time, on Ben Bradagh's height,
Brave Con had rested in his flight,
Beneath him, in the horizon's blue,
Lay his own valleys of Tirhugh.
It may have been the thought of home,
While resting on that mossy dome,
It may have been his native trees
That woke his mind to thoughts like these.

"The race is o'er, the spoil is won,
And yet what boots it all I've done?
What boots it to have snatched away
This steed, and hound, and cattle-prey?
What boots it, with an iron hand
To tear a chieftain from his land,
And dim that sweetest light that lies
In a fond wife's adoring eyes?

"If thus I madly teach my clan,
What can I hope from beast or man?
Fidelity a crime is found,
Or else why chain this faithful hound?
Obedience, too, a crime must be,
Or else this steed were roaming free;
And woman's love the worst of sins,
Or Anne were queen of Antrim's Glynnes!

"If, when I reach my home to-night,
I see the yellow moonbeam's light
Gleam through the broken gate and wall
Of my strong fort of Donegal;
If I behold my kinsmen slain,
My barns devoid of golden grain,
How can I curse the pirate crew
For doing what this hour I do?

"Well, in Columba's blessed name,
This day shall be a day of fame,--
A day when Con in victory's hour
Gave up the untasted sweets of power;
Gave up the fairest dame on earth,
The noblest steed that e'er wore girth,
The noblest hound of Irish breed,
And all to do a generous deed."

He turned and loosed MacDonnell's hand,
And led him where his steed doth stand;
He placed the bride of peerless charms
Within his longing, outstretched arms;
He freed the hound from chain and band,
Which, leaping, licked his master's hand;
And thus, while wonder held the crowd,
The generous chieftain spoke aloud:--

"MacJohn, I heard in wrathful hour
That thou in Antrim's glynnes possessed
The fairest pearl, the sweetest flower
That ever bloomed on Erin's breast.
I burned to think such prize should fall
To any Scotch or Saxon man,
But find that Nature makes us all
The children of one world-spread clan.

"Within thy arms thou now dost hold
A treasure of more worth and cost
Than all the thrones and crowns of gold
That valour ever won or lost;
Thine is that outward perfect form,
Thine, too, the subtler inner life,
The love that doth that bright shape warm:
Take back, MacJohn, thy peerless wife!"

"They praised thy steed. With wrath and grief
I felt my heart within me bleed,
That any but an Irish chief
Should press the back of such a steed;
I might to yonder smiling land
The noble beast reluctant lead;
But, no!--he'd miss thy guiding hand--
Take back, MacJohn, thy noble steed.

"The praises of thy matchless hound,
Burned in my breast like acrid wine;
I swore no chief on Irish ground
Should own a nobler hound than mine;
'Twas rashly sworn, and must not be,
He'd pine to hear the well-known sound,
With which thou call'st him to thy knee,
Take back, MacJohn, thy matchless hound.

"MacJohn, I stretch to yours and you
This hand beneath God's blessed sun,
And for the wrong that I might do
Forgive the wrong that I have done;
To-morrow all that we have ta'en
Shall doubly, trebly be restored:
The cattle to the grassy plain,
The goblets to the oaken board.

"My people from our richest meads
Shall drive the best our broad lands hold
For every steed a hundred steeds,
For every steer a hundred-fold;
For every scarlet cloak of state
A hundred cloaks all stiff with gold;
And may we be with hearts elate
Still older friends as we grow old.

"Thou'st bravely won an Irish bride--
An Irish bride of grace and worth--
Oh! let the Irish nature glide
Into thy heart from this hour forth;
An Irish home thy sword has won,
A new-found mother blessed the strife;
Oh! be that mother's fondest son,
And love the land that gives you life!

"Betwixt the Isles and Antrim's coast,
The Scotch and Irish waters blend;
But who shall tell, with idle boast,
Where one begins and one doth end?
Ah! when shall that glad moment gleam,
When all our hearts such spell shall feel?
And blend in one broad Irish stream,
On Irish ground for Ireland's weal?

"Love the dear land in which you live,
Live in the land you ought to love;
Take root, and let your branches give
Fruits to the soil they wave above;
No matter what your foreign name,
No matter what your sires have done,
No matter whence or when you came,
The land shall claim you as a son!"

As in the azure fields on high,
When Spring lights up the April sky,
The thick battalioned dusky clouds
Fly o'er the plain like routed crowds
Before the sun's resistless might!
Where all was dark, now all is bright;
The very clouds have turned to light,
And with the conquering beams unite!

Thus o'er the face of John MacJohn
A thousand varying shades have gone;
Jealousy, anger, rage, disdain,
Sweep o'er his brow--a dusky train;
But nature, like the beam of spring,
Chaseth the crowd on sunny wing;
Joy warms his heart, hope lights his eye,
And the dark passions routed fly!

The hands are clasped--the hound is freed,
Gone is MacJohn with wife and steed,
He meets his spearsmen some few miles,
And turns their scowling frowns to smiles:
At morn the crowded march begins
Of steeds and cattle for the glynnes;
Well for poor Erin's wrongs and griefs,
If thus would join her severed chiefs!

77. A beautiful inlet, about six miles west of Donegal.

78. Lough Eask is about two miles from Donegal. Inglis describes it as
being as pretty a lake, on a small scale, as can well be imagined.

79. The sands of Rosapenna are described as being composed of "hills
and dales, and undulating swells, smooth, solitary, and desolate,
reflecting the sun from their polished surface," &c.

80. "Clan Dalaigh" is a name frequently given by Irish writers to the
Clan O'Donnell.

81. The "Fairy Gun" is an orifice in a cliff near Bundoran (four miles
S.W. of Ballyshannon), into which the sea rushes with a noise like that
of artillery, and from which mist, and a chanting sound, issue in stormy

82. The waterfall at Ballyshannon.

83. The O'Donnells are descended from Conal Golban, son of Niall of the
Nine Hostages.

84. Cushendall is very prettily situated on the eastern coast of the
county Antrim. This, with all the territory known as the "Glynnes" (so
called from the intersection of its surface by many rocky dells), from
Glenarm to Ballycastle, was at this time in the possession of the
MacDonnells, a clan of Scotch descent. The principal castle of the
MacDonnells was at Glenarm.

85. The Rock of Doune, in Kilmacrenan, where the O'Donnells were

86. The Hebrides.

87. Carrick-a-rede (Carraig-a-Ramhad)--the Rock in the Road lies off
the coast, between Ballycastle and Portrush; a chasm sixty feet in
breadth, and very deep, separates it from the coast.

88. The waterfall of Assaroe, at Ballyshannon.

89. St. Columba, who was an O'Donnell.

90. "This bird (the Gannet) flys through the ship's sails, piercing
them with his beak."--O'Flaherty's "H-Iar Connaught," p. 12, published
by the Irish Archaeological Society.

91. She was the wife of Oisin, the bard, who is said to have lived and
sung for some time at Cushendall, and to have been buried at Donegal.

92. The Rock of Clough-i-Stookan lies on the shore between Glenarm and
Cushendall; it has some resemblance to a gigantic human figure.--"The
winds whistle through its crevices like the wailing of mariners in
distress."--Hall's "Ireland," vol. iii., p. 133.

93. "The Gray Man's Path" (Casan an fir Leith) is a deep and remarkable
chasm, dividing the promontory of Fairhead (or Benmore) in two.



In that land where the heaven-tinted pencil giveth shape to the
splendour of dreams,
Near Florence, the fairest of cities, and Arno, the sweetest of streams,
'Neath those hills[94] whence the race of the Geraldine wandered in ages
long since,
For ever to rule over Desmond and Erin as martyr and prince,
Lived Paolo, the young Campanaro,[95] the pride of his own little vale--
Hope changed the hot breath of his furnace as into a sea-wafted gale;
Peace, the child of Employment, was with him, with prattle so soothing
and sweet,
And Love, while revealing the future, strewed the sweet roses under his

Ah! little they know of true happiness, they whom satiety fills,
Who, flung on the rich breast of luxury, eat of the rankness that kills.
Ah! little they know of the blessedness toil-purchased slumber enjoys,
Who, stretched on the hard rack of indolence, taste of the sleep that
Nothing to hope for, or labour for; nothing to sigh for, or gain;
Nothing to light in its vividness, lightning-like, bosom and brain;
Nothing to break life's monotony, rippling it o'er with its breath:
Nothing but dulness and lethargy, weariness, sorrow, and death!

But blessed that child of humanity, happiest man among men,
Who, with hammer, or chisel, or pencil, with rudder, or ploughshare, or
Laboureth ever and ever with hope through the morning of life,
Winning home and its darling divinities--love-worshipped children and
Round swings the hammer of industry, quickly the sharp chisel rings,
And the heart of the toiler has throbbings that stir not the bosom of
He the true ruler and conqueror, he the true king of his race,
Who nerveth his arm for life's combat, and looks the strong world in the

And such was young Paolo! The morning, ere yet the faint starlight had
To the loud-ringing workshop beheld him move joyfully light-footed on.
In the glare and the roar of the furnace he toiled till the evening star
And then back again through that valley, as glad but more weary
One moment at morning he lingers by that cottage that stands by the
Many moments at evening he tarries by that casement that woos the moon's
For the light of his life and his labours, like a lamp from that
casement shines
In the heart-lighted face that looks out from that purple-clad trellis
of vines.

Francesca! sweet, innocent maiden! 'tis not that thy young cheek is
Or thy sun-lighted eyes glance like stars through the curls of thy
wind-woven hair;
'Tis not for thy rich lips of coral, or even thy white breast of snow,
That my song shall recall thee, Francesca! but more for the good heart
Goodness is beauty's best portion, a dower that no time can reduce,
A wand of enchantment and happiness, brightening and strengthening with
One the long-sigh'd-for nectar that earthliness bitterly tinctures and
One the fading mirage of the fancy, and one the elysium it paints.

Long ago, when thy father would kiss thee, the tears in his old eyes
would start,
For thy face--like a dream of his boyhood--renewed the fresh youth of
his heart;
He is gone; but thy mother remaineth, and kneeleth each night-time and
And blesses the Mother of Blessings for the hour her Francesca was born.
There are proud stately dwellings in Florence, and mothers and maidens
are there,
And bright eyes as bright as Francesca's, and fair cheeks as brilliantly
And hearts, too, as warm and as innocent, there where the rich paintings
But what proud mother blesses her daughter like the mother by Arno's
sweet stream?

It was not alone when that mother grew aged and feeble to hear,
That thy voice like the whisper of angels still fell on the old woman's
Or even that thy face, when the darkness of time overshadowed her sight,
Shone calm through the blank of her mind, like the moon in the midst of
the night.
But thine was the duty, Francesca, and the love-lightened labour was
To treasure the white-curling wool and the warm-flowing milk of the
And the fruits, and the clusters of purple, and the flock's tender
yearly increase,
That she might have rest in life's evening, and go to her Father in

Francesca and Paolo are plighted, and they wait but a few happy days,
Ere they walk forth together in trustfulness out on Life's wonderful
Ere, clasping the hands of each other, they move through the stillness
and noise,
Dividing the cares of existence, but doubling its hopes and its joys.
Sweet days of betrothment, which brighten so slowly to love's burning
Like the days of the spring which grow longer, the nearer the fulness of
Though ye move to the noon and the summer of Love with a slow-moving
Ye are lit with the light of the morning, and decked with the blossoms
of spring.

The days of betrothment are over, for now when the evening star shines,
Two faces look joyfully out from that purple-clad trellis of vines;
The light-hearted laughter is doubled, two voices steal forth on the
And blend in the light notes of song, or the sweet solemn cadence of
At morning when Paolo departeth, 'tis out of that sweet cottage door,
At evening he comes to that casement, but passes that casement no more;
And the old feeble mother at night-time, when saying, "The Lord's will
be done,"
While blessing the name of a daughter, now blendeth the name of a son.


In the furnace the dry branches crackle, the crucible shines as with
As they carry the hot flaming metal in haste from the fire to the mould;
Loud roars the bellows, and louder the flames as they shrieking escape,
And loud is the song of the workmen who watch o'er the fast-filling
To and fro in the red-glaring chamber the proud master anxiously moves,
And the quick and the skilful he praiseth, and the dull and the laggard
And the heart in his bosom expandeth, as the thick bubbling metal up
For like to the birth of his children he watcheth the birth of the

Peace had guarded the door of young Paolo, success on his industry
And the dark wing of Time had passed quicker than grief from the face of
a child;
Broader lands lay around that sweet cottage, younger footsteps tripped
lightly around,
And the sweet silent stillness was broken by the hum of a still sweeter
At evening when homeward returning how many dear hands must he press,
Where of old at that vine-covered wicket he lingered but one to caress;
And that dearest one is still with him, to counsel, to strengthen, and
And to pour over Life's needful wounds the healing of Love's blessed

But age will come on with its winter, though happiness hideth its snows;
And if youth has its duty of labour, the birthright of age is repose:
And thus from that love-sweetened toil, which the heavens had so
prospered and blest,
The old Campanaro will go to that vine-covered cottage to rest;
But Paolo is pious and grateful, and vows as he kneels at her shrine,
To offer some fruit of his labour to Mary the Mother benign--
Eight silver-toned bells will he offer, to toll for the quick and the
From the tower of the church of her convent that stands on the cliff

'Tis for this that the bellows are blowing, that the workmen their
sledge-hammers wield,
That the firm sandy moulds are now broken, and the dark-shining bells
are revealed;
The cars with their streamers are ready, and the flower-harnessed necks
of the steers,
And the bells from their cold silent workshop are borne amid blessings
and tears.
By the white-blossom'd, sweet-scented myrtles, by the olive-trees
fringing the plain,
By the corn-fields and vineyards is winding that gift-bearing, festival
And the hum of their voices is blending with the music that streams on
the gale,
As they wend to the Church of our Lady that stands at the head of the

Now they enter, and now more divinely the saints' painted effigies
Now the acolytes bearing lit tapers move solemnly down through the
Now the thurifer swings the rich censer, and the white curling vapour
And hangs round the deep-pealing organ, and blends with the tremulous
In a white shining alb comes the abbot, and he circles the bells round
And with oil, and with salt, and with water, they are purified inside
and out;
They are marked with Christ's mystical symbol, while the priests and the
choristers sing,
And are bless'd in the name of that God to whose honour they ever shall

Toll, toll! with a rapid vibration, with a melody silv'ry and strong,
The bells from the sound-shaken belfry are singing their first maiden
Not now for the dead or the living, or the triumphs of peace or of
But a quick joyous outburst of jubilee full of their newly-felt life;
Rapid, more rapid, the clapper rebounds from the round of the bells--
Far and more far through the valley the intertwined melody swells--
Quivering and broken the atmosphere trembles and twinkles around,
Like the eyes and the hearts of the hearers that glisten and beat to the

But how to express all his rapture when echo the deep cadence bore
To the old Campanaro reclining in the shade of his vine-covered door,
How to tell of the bliss that came o'er him as he gazed on the fair
evening star,
And heard the faint toll of the vesper bell steal o'er the vale from
Ah! it was not alone the brief ecstasy music doth ever impart
When Sorrow and Joy at its bidding come together and dwell in the heart;
But it was that delicious sensation with which the young mother is
As she lists to the laugh of her child as it falleth asleep on her

From a sweet night of slumber he woke; but it was not that morn had
O'er the pale, cloudy tents of the Orient, her banners of purple and
It was not the song of the skylark that rose from the green pastures
But the sound of his bells that fell softly, as dew on the slumberer's
At that sound he awoke and arose, and went forth on the bead-bearing
At that sound, with his loving Francesca, he piously knelt at the Mass.
If the sun shone in splendour around him, and that certain music were
He would deem it a dream of the night-time, and doubt if the morning had

At noon, as he lay in the sultriness, under his broad-leafy limes,
Far sweeter than murmuring waters came the tone of the Angelus chimes.
Pious and tranquil he rose, and uncovered his reverend head,
And thrice was the Ave Maria and thrice was the Angelus said,
Sweet custom the South still retaineth, to turn for a moment away
From the pleasures and pains of existence, from the trouble and turmoil
of day,
From the tumult within and without, to the peace that abideth on high,
When the deep, solemn sound from the belfry comes down like a voice from
the sky.

And thus round the heart of the old man, at morning, at noon, and at
The bells, with their rich woof of music, the net-work of happiness
They ring in the clear, tranquil evening, and lo! all the air is alive,
As the sweet-laden thoughts come, like bees, to abide in the heart as a
They blend with his moments of joy, as the odour doth blend with the
They blend with his light-falling tears, as the sunshine doth blend with
the shower.
As their music is mirthful or mournful, his pulse beateth sluggish or
And his breast takes its hue, like the ocean, as the sunshine or shadows
are cast.

Thus adding new zest to enjoyment, and drawing the sharp sting from
The heart of the old man grew young, as it drank the sweet musical
Again at the altar he stands, with Francesca the fair at his side,
As the bells ring a quick peal of gladness, to welcome some happy young
'Tis true, when the death bells are tolling, the wounds of his heart
bleed anew,
When he thinks of his old loving mother, and the darlings that destiny
But the tower in whose shade they are sleeping seems the emblem of hope
and of love,--
There is silence and death at its base, but there's life in the belfry

Was it the sound of his bells, as they swung in the purified air,
That drove from the bosom of Paolo the dark-wing`ed demons of care?
Was it their magical tone that for many a shadowless day
(So faith once believed) swept the clouds and the black-boding tempests
Ah! never may Fate with their music a harsh-grating dissonance blend!
Sure an evening so calm and so bright will glide peacefully on to the
Sure the course of his life, to its close, like his own native river
must be,
Flowing on through the valley of flowers to its home in the bright
summer sea!


O Erin! thou broad-spreading valley--thou well-watered land of fresh
When I gaze on thy hills greenly sloping, where the light of such
loveliness beams,
When I rest by the rim of thy fountains, or stray where thy streams
Then I think that the fairies have brought me to dwell in the bright
But when on the face of thy children I look, and behold the big tears
Still stream down their grief-eaten channels, which widen and deepen
with years,
I fear that some dark blight for ever will fall on thy harvests of
And that, like thy lakes and thy rivers, thy sorrows must ever

O land! which the heavens made for joy, but where wretchedness buildeth
its throne--
O prodigal spendthrift of sorrow! and hast thou not heirs of thine own?
Thus to lavish thy sons' only portion, and bring one sad claimant the
From the sweet sunny lands of the south, to thy crowded and sorrowful
For this proud bark that cleaveth thy waters, she is not a corrach of
And the broad purple sails that spread o'er her seem dyed in the juice
of the vine.
Not thine is that flag, backward floating, nor the olive-cheek'd seamen
who guide,
Nor that heart-broken old man who gazes so listlessly over the tide.

Accurs'd be the monster, who selfishly draweth his sword from its
Let his garland be twined by the furies, and the upas tree furnish the
Let the blood he has shed steam around him, through the length of
eternity's years,
And the anguish-wrung screams of his victims for ever resound in his
For all that makes life worth possessing must yield to his self-seeking
He trampleth on home and on love, as his war-horses trample the dust;
He loosens the red streams of ruin, which wildly, though partially,
They but chafe round the rock-bastion'd castle, while they sweep the
frail cottage away.

Feuds fell like a plague upon Florence, and rage from without and
Peace turned her mild eyes from the havoc, and Mercy grew deaf in the
Fear strengthened the dove-wings of happiness, tremblingly borne on the
And the angel Security vanished, as the war-demon swept o'er the vale.
Is it for the Mass or the Angelus new that the bells ever ring?
Or is it the red trickling mist such a purple reflection doth fling?
Ah, no: 'tis the tocsin of terror that tolls from the desolate shrine;
And the down-trodden vineyards are flowing, but not with the blood of
the vine.

Deadly and dark was the tempest that swept o'er that vine-cover'd plain;
Burning and withering, its drops fell like fire on the grass and the
But the gloomiest moments must pass to their graves, as the brightest
and best,
And thus once again did fair Fiesole look o'er a valley of rest.
But, oh! in that brief hour of horror, that bloody eclipse of the sun,
What hopes and what dreams have been shattered?--what ruin and wrong
have been done?
What blossoms for ever have faded, that promised a harvest so fair;
And what joys are laid low in the dust that eternity cannot repair!

Look down on that valley of sorrows, whence the land-marks of joy are
Oh! where is the darling Francesca, so loving, so dearly beloved?--
And where are her children, whose voices rose music-winged once form
this spot?
And why are the sweet bells now silent? and where is the vine-cover'd
'Tis morning--no Mass-bell is tolling; 'tis noon, but no Angelus rings;
'Tis evening, but no drops of melody rain from her rose-coloured wings.
Ah! where have the angels, poor Paolo, that guarded thy cottage door
And why have they left thee to wander thus childless and joyless alone?

His children had grown into manhood, but, ah! in that terrible night
Which had fallen on fair Florence, they perished away in the thick of
the fight;
Heart-blinded, his darling Francesca went seeking her sons through the
And found them at length, and lay down full of love by their side in the
That cottage, its vine-cover'd porch and its myrtle-bound garden of
That church whence the bells with their voices, drown'd the sound of the
fast-flying hours,
Both are levelled and laid in the dust, and the sweet-sounding bells
have been torn
From their downfallen beams, and away by the red hand of sacrilege

As the smith, in the dark, sullen smithy, striketh quick on the anvil
Thus Fate on the heart of the old man struck rapidly blow after blow:
Wife, children, and hope passed away from the heart once so burning and
As the bright shining sparks disappear when the red glowing metal grows
He missed not the sound of his bells while those death-sounds struck
loud in the ears,
He missed not the church where they rang while his old eyes were blinded
with tears;
But the calmness of grief coming soon, in its sadness and silence
He listened once more as of old, but in vain, for the joy-bearing sound.

When he felt indeed they had vanished, one fancy then flashed on his
One wish made his heart beat anew with a throbbing it could not
'Twas to wander away from fair Florence, its memory and dream-haunted
And to seek up and down through the earth for the sound of its magical
They will speak of the hopes that have perished, and the joys that have
faded so fast
With the music of memory wing`ed, they will seem but the voice of the
As, when the bright morning has vanished, and evening grows starless and
The nightingale song of remembrance recalls the sweet strain of the

Thus restlessly wandering through Italy, now by the Adrian sea,
In the shrine of Loreto, he bendeth his travel-tired suppliant knee;
And now by the brown troubled Tiber he taketh his desolate way,
And in many a shady basilica lingers to listen and pray.
He prays for the dear ones snatched from him, nor vainly nor hopelessly
For the strong faith in union hereafter like a beam o'er his cold bosom
He listens at morning and evening, when matin and vesper bells toll,
But their sweetest sounds grate on his ear, and their music is harsh to
his soul.

For though sweet are the bells that ring out from the tall campanili of
Ah! they are not the dearer and sweeter ones, tuned with the memory of
So leaving proud Rome and fair Tivoli, southward the old man must stray,
'Till he reaches the Eden of waters that sparkle in Napoli's bay:
He sees not the blue waves of Baiae, nor Ischia's summits of brown,
He sees but the high campanili that rise o'er each far-gleaming town.
Driven restlessly onward, he saileth away to the bright land of Spain,
And seeketh thy shrine, Santiago, and stands by the western main.

A bark bound for Erin lay waiting, he entered like one in a dream;
Fair winds in the full purple sails led him soon to the Shannon's broad
'Twas an evening that Florence might envy, so rich was the lemon-hued
As it lay on lone Scattery's island, or lit the green mountains of
The wide-spreading old giant river rolled his waters as smooth and as
As if Oonagh, with all her bright nymphs, had come down from the far
fairy hill,[98]
To fling her enchantments around on the mountains, the air, and the
And to soothe the worn heart of the old man who looked from the dark
vessel's side.

Borne on the current the vessel glides smoothly but swiftly away,
By Carrigaholt, and by many a green sloping headland and bay,
'Twixt Cratloe's blue hills and green woods, and the soft sunny shores
of Tervoe,
And now the fair city of Limerick spreads out on the broad bank below;
Still nearer and nearer approaching, the mariners look o'er the town,
The old man sees nought but St. Mary's square tower, with its
battlements brown.
He listens--as yet all is silent, but now, with a sudden surprise,
A rich peal of melody rings from that tower through the clear evening

One note is enough--his eye moistens, his heart, long so wither'd,
He has found them--the sons of his labours--his musical, magical bells!
At each stroke all the bright past returneth, around him the sweet Arno
His children--his darling Francesca--his purple-clad trellis of vines!
Leaning forward, he listens, he gazes, he hears in that wonderful strain
The long-silent voices that murmur, "Oh, leave us not, father again!"
'Tis granted--he smiles--his eye closes--the breath from his white lips
hath fled--
The father has gone to his children--the old Campanaro is dead!

94. The hills of Else. See Appendix to O'Daly's "History of the
Geraldines," translated by the Rev. C. P. Meehan, p. 130.

95. Bell-founder.

96. The country of youth; the Elysium of the Pagan Irish.

97. Camden seems to credit a tradition commonly believed in his time,
of a gradual increase in the number and size of the lakes and rivers of

98. The beautiful hill in Lower Ormond called "Knockshegowna," i.e.,
Oonagh's Hill, so called from being the fabled residence of Oonagh (or
Una), the Fairy Queen of Spenser. One of the finest views of the
Shannon is to be seen from this hill.


Ah! the pleasant time hath vanished, ere our wretched doubtings
All the graceful spirit-people, children of the earth and sea,
Whom in days now dim and olden, when the world was fresh and golden,
Every mortal could behold in haunted rath, and tower, and tree--
They have vanished, they are banished--ah! how sad the loss for thee,
Lonely Ceim-an-eich!

Still some scenes are yet enchanted by the charms that Nature granted,
Still are peopled, still are haunted, by a graceful spirit band.
Peace and beauty have their dwelling where the infant streams are
Where the mournful waves are knelling on Glengariff's coral strand;
Or where, on Killarney's mountains, Grace and Terror smiling stand,
Like sisters, hand in hand!

Still we have a new romance in fire-ships through the tamed sea
And the snorting and the prancing of the mighty engine steed;
Still, Astolpho-like, we wander through the boundless azure yonder,
Realizing what seemed fonder than the magic tales we read:
Tales of wild Arabian wonder, where the fancy all is freed--
Wilder far indeed!

Now that Earth once more hath woken, and the trance of Time is broken,
And the sweet word--Hope--is spoken, soft and sure, though none know
Could we, could we only see all these, the glories of the Real,
Blended with the lost Ideal, happy were the old world now--
Woman in its fond believing--man with iron arm and brow--
Faith and work its vow!

Yes! the Past shines clear and pleasant, and there's glory in the
And the Future, like a crescent, lights the deepening sky of Time;
And that sky will yet grow brighter, if the Worker and the Writer--
If the Sceptre and the Mitre join in sacred bonds sublime.
With two glories shining o'er them, up the coming years they'll climb,
Earth's great evening as its prime!

With a sigh for what is fading, but, O Earth! with no upbraiding,
For we feel that time is braiding newer, fresher flowers for thee,
We will speak, despite our grieving, words of loving and believing,
Tales we vowed when we were leaving awful Ceim-an-eich,
Where the sever'd rocks resemble fragments of a frozen sea,
And the wild deer flee!

'Tis the hour when flowers are shrinking, when the weary sun is sinking,
And his thirsty steeds are drinking in the cooling western sea;
When young Maurice lightly goeth, where the tiny streamlet floweth
And the struggling moonlight showeth where his path must be--
Path whereon the wild goats wander fearlessly and free
Through dark Ceim-an-eich.

As a hunter, danger daring, with his dogs the brown moss sharing,
Little thinking, little caring, long a wayward youth lived he;
But his bounding heart was regal, and he looked as looks the eagle,
And he flew as flies the beagle, who the panting stag doth see:
Love, who spares a fellow-archer, long had let him wander free
Through wild Ceim-an-eich!

But at length the hour drew nigher when his heart should feel that fire;
Up the mountain high and higher had he hunted from the dawn;
Till the weeping fawn descended, where the earth and ocean blended,
And with hope its slow way wended to a little grassy lawn;
It is safe, for gentle Alice to her saving breast hath drawn
Her almost sister fawn.

Alice was a chieftain's daughter, and, though many suitors sought her,
She so loved Glengariff's water that she let her lovers pine;
Her eye was beauty's palace, and her cheek an ivory chalice,
Through which the blood of Alice gleamed soft as rosiest wine,
And her lips like lusmore blossoms which the fairies intertwine,[100]
And her heart a golden mine.

She was gentler and shyer than the light fawn that stood by her,
And her eyes emit a fire soft and tender as her soul;
Love's dewy light doth drown her, and the braided locks that crown her
Than autumn's trees are browner, when the golden shadows roll
Through the forests in the evening, when cathedral turrets toll,
And the purple sun advanceth to its goal.

Her cottage was a dwelling all regal homes excelling,
But, ah! beyond the telling was the beauty round it spread:
The wave and sunshine playing, like sisters each arraying,
Far down the sea-plants swaying upon their coral bed,
As languid as the tresses on a sleeping maiden's head,
When the summer breeze is dead.

Need we say that Maurice loved her, and that no blush reproved her
When her throbbing bosom moved her to give the heart she gave;
That by dawnlight and by twilight, and, O blessed moon! by thy light,
When the twinkling stars on high light the wanderer o'er the wave,
His steps unconscious led him where Glengariff's waters lave
Each mossy bank and cave.

He thitherward is wending, o'er the vale is night descending,

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