From The Literary Remains of the United Irishman by R.R. Madden. The poem is originally published from “The Ulster Magazine.”
‘Twas a lonely spot; above it grew
An aged thorn; and moaning through
The leafless boughs, the evening gale,
Sullenly, like a funeral wail,
Sighed sadly o’er it.
A solitary sunbeam fell
Upon the grove; – it seemed to tell
Of joys long gone; – it was the last
Day-beam of heaven; – a chill cloud cast
Its shade before it.
I thought of him who slept beneath,
Now cold in clay and dark in death,
Once high in happiness – ere yet
His sun of life so darkly set
Through a cloud of blood.
I sighed – another answer gave –
‘Twas not the loose and rustling wave
Of the long lank grass. I looked around –
Gazing upon the grassy mound
An old man stood.
Damp o’er his brow and forehead ran
The earliest curse on sinful man;
His eyes were sunk; his withered cheek
Was sorrow-blanched, yet seemed to speak
Of long lost bliss.
He muttered something hastily;
But whether to himself or me
I wist not: “To let fall a tear
Where folly found an early bier
“And though ‘twere worse,” I sternly cried,
“Yet shall it fall for him who died
For freedom. Hallowed be his rest –
Light lie the turf upon his breast –
Heaven’s tears bedew it!”
The old man sighed; a mournful smile
Lit his dim eye. “So did beguile
His soul that phantom on to crime. –
Nay, frown not, youth – the seal of time
And truth is to it.
“I knew him in his early youth,
When all was innocence and truth –
A mother’s hope – her only stay –
The light that cheered her close of day –
Heaven’s smile his guide.
“He loved – was loved – for nuptial tie
The day was fixed; and hope was high: –
But hush! hark! no – he did not wed –
Below thou seest his bridal bed –
And there – his bride!”
I listened: – ‘twas the wildest strain
That ever burst from breast of pain.
I looked: – across the dewy heath
A maniac rushed – a wild flower wreath,
Around her twined.
Her bosom bare – her garments torn –
Her cheek so pallid, wan and worn,
Had deathly looked, but that ‘twas brown
With summer’s sun, and fiercest frown
Of winter’s wind.
Can this she be – where wilderment
Such lorn and frenzied fire has lent
To the dark eyes, whose vivid flashes
Beam wildly through the long eyelashes
The mind’s despair?
It is. Upon the grave she flung
Her wild flower wreath; and as she sung
Her love-lorn lay, she swept the dew,
That gemmed the shamrocks as they grew
In mockery there.
The old man sighed, resumed his tale:
“Their faith and plighted vows to seal
The day was fixed; – but, ere it came,
Rebellion burst its smothered flame,
And sparkled keen.
“When treason dark the tocsin rung,
Forth from his Mary’s arms he sprung,
And madly rushed where folly’s band
Rallied around, with heart and hand,
The flag of green!
“He fought: – how wildly and how well,
Still some survive who love to tell. –
A hand so strong and heart so brave
Deserved at least a soldier’s grave: –
But fate forbade.
“There stood his aged mother’s cot –
Before her very door they brought,
Like felon vile, her hope’s last gem,
And underneath this hawthorn stem,
His grave they made.
“They hanged him high upon that bough –
O God! methinks, I hear e’en now
The shriek his wretched mother gave:
She saw his limbs convulsive wave
In agony: –
“She saw the headsman take his head;
She saw him in his bloody bed
A headless trunk; she prayed to press
On his black lips one last caress
Then – died away!
“The rest – if further thou wouldst hear –
See, there; upon that grassy bier,
The fairest flower – our hamlet’s pride –
My Mary sweet – young Henry’s bride –
A maniac wild!”
He ceased. Poor Mary long had listened,
And once, methought, a tear-drop glistened,
In her dark eye; – but oh, it past; –
‘Twas but the night dew falling fast
O’er sorrow’s child.
‘Twas when he spoke of bliss gone by,
I marked that dew within her eye.
It seemed as if the blessed light
Of reason, yet could shed one light
Through transient gleam;
But, when he spoke of headsman grim –
Of blackened lip and quivering limb –
She started from her lover’s grave –
With wild and frenzied look she gave
A heart-wrung scream.
I leaned me ‘gainst the withered tree,
Musing on human misery: –
I raised my eye – I saw alone –
The maniac fled – the old man gone –
The long grass wave.
Chill gleamed above me faint and far
The evening’s lone and lovely star: –
I turned, and left, with sorrowing sigh,
With heavy heart and tearful eye,
THE REBEL’S GRAVE.