Since treason triumphed when O’Neill was forced to foreign flight,
The ancient people felt the heel of Scotch usurper’s might;
The barren hills of Ulster held a race proscribed and banned
Who from their lofty refuge viewed their own so fertile land.
Their churches in the sunny vales; the homes that once were theirs,
Torn from them and their Faith to feed some canting minion’s prayers:
Oh Lord! from many a cloudy hill then streamed our prayers to Thee,
And like the dawn on summer hills, that only watchers see,
Thy glorious hope shone on us long before the sleeping foe
Knew that their doom had broken on the sword of Owen Roe.
‘Twas dawn of fair June morning, while Blackwater still drew grey,
His valley’d mists about him that we saw at Killylea,
The Scottish colours waving as they headed to the ford
Where never foemen waded yet, but paid it with the sword;
And fair it was to see them in the golden morning light,
Climb up the hill by Caledon and turn them to the right;
As they neared Yellow Ford, where Bagnall met O’Neill,
Joy gathered in our throats and broke above their cannons’ peal,
And oh! a thrill went through our ranks, as straining towards the foe,
Like hounds in leash we panted for the word of Owen Roe.
Not yet—altho’ O’Ferrall’s horse come riding in amain;
Not yet—altho’ fierce Cunningham pursues with slackened rein;
Not yet—altho’ in skirmish and in many a scattered fight
We hold them—still with waiting eye, O’Neill smiles in despite;
Till slanting on our backs the sun full on their faces fell.
Then blinding axe and battle spear rose with a sudden swell
“For God, and Church, and Country now—upon them every man;
But hold your strength until ye see them scarce a pike-length’s span;
The Red Hand, ever uppermost, strike home your strongest blow”;
And with a yell our feet outsped the words of Owen Roe.
Like heaving lift of yellow wave that drags the sandy shore
On with it to its foaming fall, our rushing pikemen bore
Horse, foot, and gun, and falling flags, like streamers of red wrack,
Torn from their dripping hold, in one broad swell of carnage back;
Stout Blayney’s gallant horse withstood that seething tide in vain;
It bore them down, and redder raced with life-blood of the slain;
One regiment only fought its way from out that ghastly fight,
And Conway slew two horses on the Newry road that night;
While Monroe fled so fast he left both hat and wig to show
How full the breeze that lifted up the flag of Owen Roe.
Ho! Ironsides of Cromwell, ye’ve got grimmer work to do,
Than when on Naseby’s ruddy morn your ready swords ye drew —
Than when your headlong charges routed Rupert’s tried and best,
Ere yet the glare of battle fainted in the loyal West.
Those swords must break a stouter foe ere ye break Erin’s weal
Or stamp your bloody title-deeds with Cromwell’s bloodier seal;
The dead men of Elizabeth’s red reign for comrades call,
The Scots we sent to-day have need of ye to bear their pall;
There’s room for undertakers still, and none will say ye no
To such fair holdings—measured by the sword of Owen Roe.
Ho! ring your bells, Kilkenny town; ho! Dublin burghers pass
In open day, with open brow, to celebrate the Mass.
The Sword of State that Tudor hate laid sore on Church of God,
Hath fallen here with shattered hilt and vain point in the sod.
Ho! holy Rinnuncini, and ye high lords of the Pale
Lay by your sheets of parchment, and put on your sheeted mail,
For God hath spoke in battle, and His face the foe is toward,
And ye must hold by valour what He hath freed by sword.
Yea, God in fight hath spoken, and thro’ cloud hath bent His brow
In wrath upon the routed—but in hope o’er Owen Roe.