‘The right hand of the Lord bringeth mighty things to pass—the Lord has chastened and corrected me; but he hath not given me over to death.’118th Psalm.
‘Twas as the solemn midnight hour,
When minds at ease are sunk in sleep,
But sorrow’s sons their wailings pour,
Teaching the woods and wilds to weep;
Beside a lake whose waters black
The pale-eyed moon doth dimly spy,
Scarce peeping o’er a mountain back,
That rudely lifts its head on high;
Where the wild willows green and dank
Their weeping heads wave to and fro;
And bending reeds upon its bank
Oft kiss the stream that runs below—
There, on a long-fall’n mould’ring mass
An ancient castle’s crumbling wall,
That, now grown o’er with weeds and grass,
Was once gay mirth’s and beauty’s hall,
Ierne, lonely, pale, and sad,
All hapless sighing, sat her down,
And sorrowing mused, till almost mad,
She snatched her harp her cares to drown.
Now wildly waved her auburn hair
In the unheeded blast that blew;
Fixed were her eyes in deep despair,
Whilst o’er the strings her fingers flew.
The sounds, at first so loud and wild,
Now slowly softened on the ear;
And e’en the savage blast grew mild,
Such soothing sounds well pleased to hear.
Her druids’ ghosts around her throng—
For ling’ring still, tho’ seldom seen,
They fondly flit the oaks among,
And haunt the grove for ever green;
And list’ning fairies troop around,
Whilst high upon the ivied tow’r,
The long-haired banshees catch the sound,
And rapt, forget their crying hour.
For, in the saddest, softest strain,
She wail’d the woes of Erin’s land—
Ah! wretched Erin, rent in twain
By some curs’d demon’s hellish hand,
That aye inflames with deadly rage
Sons against sons in foulest fight
And youth to murder hoary age,
In nature’s and in reason’s spite.
The cottage now she sings in flames,
Now the injur’d maiden dying,
And now the burning baby’s screams
To its mother’s bosom flying;
Ah! luckless mother, vain you shed
Thy tears or blood thy babe to save,
For lo! poor soul, thy baby’s dead,
And now thy breast must be its grave!
Thy breast of life, where, as it slept,
Thy song-sooth’d cherub oft would start;
Then heav’d its little sighs, and wept—
Sad sighs that rack’d thy boding heart.
The thought too deep Ierne stung—
She started frantic from her seat,
Her silver harp deep thrilling rung,
Neglected, falling at her feet.
Nor silver harp Ierne cheers,
Nor the bright starry-studded skies;
The light of heaven’s unseen through tears—
The sweetest sound’s unheard through sighs.
The withered shamrock from her breast,
Scorch’d with her burning sighs, she threw,
And the dark, deadly dew she pressed,
Cold dripping with unhallowed dew.
‘Here, here,’ she cries, ‘unseen I’ll dwell,
Here hopeless lay my tearful head,
And fairies nightly in this cell
Shall strew me dew-cold leafy bed.’
Then down she sinks with grief oppress’d
Her saffron sleeve thrown o’er her face,
And soft-winged sleep lights on her breast,
And soothes its heavings into peace.
But ah! too soon, fell Discord’s cries,
Borne on an eastern breeze’s wings,
Rude sweep her harp, that downward lies,
And moan amongst its trembling strings.
Scared with a sound he did not know,
Peace-loving sleep dared not to stay,
But, sighing for Ierne’s woe,
He bent his noiseless flight away.
Ierne, starting, paused a while:
‘Too true,’ she cries, ‘ye powers above!
Dread Discord comes from that fair isle
Where still I looked for peace and love.’
Thought-rapt she stood in dumb amaze,
When on the western mountain’s height,
To sounds seraphic, rose a blaze
Of mildly-beaming heavenly light.
There in the midst, loose rob’d was seen
Sweet Hope, that soothes our ev’ry ill,
Beck’ning with calm and smiling mien
Poor, sad Ierne up the hill.
The woe-begone thus Hope address’d:
‘Lift up thy looks, Ierne, cheer!
For know we come at heaven’s behest
To soothe thy sorrow, check thy fear.
‘Thy cares, thy dangers soon shall cease,
Thy days of tears and sighs are gone,
Thou foulest feuds shall turn to peace—
Thus shall the will of heav’n be done.
‘Pluck from thy breast that yew away—
Be steady, cool, collected, calm;
So shalt thou soon a wreath display
Of shamrock woven with the palm.’
Words so bland, as dew descending
Lifts the drooping lily’s head,
Rais’d the fair Ierne bending,
Fairest flow’r in nature’s bed.
‘My fervent thanks, high heav’n,’ she cries,
‘Be ever, ever given to thee;
Thou’st chas’d my sorrow, tears and sigh—
Thou’st sent me Hope and Liberty.’