The Geraldines! the Geraldines!—’tis full a thousand years
Since, ‘mid the Tuscan vineyards, bright flashed their battle-spears;
When Capet seized the crown of France, their iron shields were known,
And their sabre-dint struck terror on the banks of the Garonne:
Across the downs of Hastings they spurred hard by William’s side,
And the grey sands of Palestine with Moslem blood they dyed;
But never then, nor thence, till now, has falsehood or disgrace
Been seen to soil Fitzgerald’s plume, or mantle in his face.
The Geraldines! the Geraldines!—’tis true, in Strongbow’s van,
By lawless force, as conquerors, their Irish reign began;
And, oh! through many a dark campaign they proved their prowess stern,
In Leinster’s plains and Munster’s vales on king and chief and kerne;
But noble was the cheer within the halls so rudely won,
And generous was the steel-gloved hand that had such slaughter done;
How gay their laugh, how proud their mien, you’d ask no herald’s sign—
Among a thousand you had known the princely Geraldine.
These Geraldines! these Geraldines!—not long our air they breathed;
Not long they fed on venison, in Irish water seethed;
Not often had their children been by Irish mothers nursed;
When from their full and genial hearts an Irish feeling burst!
The English monarchs strove in vain, by law and force and bribe,
To win from Irish thoughts and ways this “more than Irish” tribe;
For still they clung to fosterage, to breitheamh, cloak, and bard:
What king dare say to Geraldine, “your Irish wife discard?”
Ye Geraldines! ye Geraldines!—how royally ye reigned
O’er Desmond broad, and rich Kildare, and English arts disdained:
Your sword made knights, your banner waved, free was your bugle call
By Gleann’s green slopes, and Daingean’s tide, from Bearbha’s banks to Eóchaill.
What gorgeous shrines, what breitheamh lore, what minstrel feasts there were
In and around Magh Nuadhaid’s keep, and palace-filled Adare!
But not for rite or feast ye stayed, when friend or kin were pressed;
And foemen fled, when “Crom Abu” bespoke your lance in rest.
Ye Geraldines! ye Geraldines!—since Silken Thomas flung
King Henry’s sword on council board, the English thanes among,
Ye never ceased to battle brave against the English sway,
Though axe and brand and treachery your proudest cut away.
Of Desmond’s blood through woman’s veins passed on th’ exhausted tide;
His title lives—a Sacsanach churl usurps the lion’s hide;
And, though Kildare tower haughtily, there’s ruin at the root,
Else why, since Edward fell to earth, had such a tree no fruit?
True Geraldines! brave Geraldines!—as torrents mould the earth,
You channelled deep old Ireland’s heart by constancy and worth:
When Ginckel ‘leaguered Limerick, the Irish soldiers gazed
To see if in the setting sun dead Desmond’s banner blazed!
And still it is the peasants’ hope upon the Cuirreach’s mere,
“They live, who’ll see ten thousand men with good Lord Edward here”—
So let them dream till brighter days, when, not by Edward’s shade,
But by some leader true as he, their lines shall be arrayed!
These Geraldines! these Geraldines!—rain wears away the rock
And time may wear away the tribe that stood the battle’s shock;
But ever, sure, while one is left of all that honoured race,
In front of Ireland’s chivalry is that Fitzgerald’s place:
And, though the last were dead and gone, how many a field and town,
From Thomas Court to Abbeyfeile, would cherish their renown,
And men would say of valour’s rise, or ancient power’s decline,
“‘Twill never soar, it never shone, as did the Geraldine.”
The Geraldines! the Geraldines!—and are there any fears
Within the sons of conquerors for full a thousand years?
Can treason spring from out a soil bedewed with martyrs’ blood?
Or has that grown a purling brook, which long rushed down a flood?—
By Desmond swept with sword and fire—by clan and keep laid low—
By Silken Thomas and his kin,—by sainted Edward, no!
The forms of centuries rise up, and in the Irish line
Command their son to take the post that fits the Geraldine!