From The Literary Remains Of The United Irishmen by R. R. Madden.
These Songs, which were published by the United Irishmen, in ballad form, Charles Teeling informs us, was written, to his certain knowledge, by Counsellor Sampson.
These brave men, William McKenna, Owen McKenna, Peter McCarron, and Daniel Gillain, soldiers in the Monaghan Militia, were sentenced to be shot, by a court martial, for being United Irishmen. They were repeatedly offered their pardon and rewards, on condition of informing against their associates. They chose death before dishonour, and met their fate like men. They were carried upon cars, attended by their clergy, and accompanied by large detachments of various regiments, from Belfast to Blaris-camp, on Tuesday, the 16th day of May, 1797. The father of Owen McKenna was desired to interfere, in order to save his son’s life, by encouraging him to turn informer. His answer was, that his son should never save his life by informing, as in that case, if those who wished his son to turn traitor, should forbear to shoot him, he, himself, would do it. Upon this, the son and his three comrades had their brains blown out in the presence of the brave old man.
My soul is sunk beneath a world of grief,
My blood runs chill and slow thro’ every part,
Nor can this world’s joys afford relief,
For bitter anguish preys upon my heart.
Four Irish lads, with no dishonour stain’d,
Four gallant youths as Ireland ever saw,
Have met their doom, by treachery arraign’d,
And murder’d by the blight of barb’rous law.
What was their crime? To love their country well,
To wish its Union, and to wish it free;
For this, they bled, for this, they nobly fell;
True to themselves, – O Ireland! – and to thee.
Since wicked men, their evil ends to gain,
First sent the soldier to a foreign grave;
And order’d countless thousands to be slain,
None perish’d half so honest, or so brave.
I saw the dismal sight! I saw them brought,
Solemn, and silent, to the bed of death;
From slavish hirelings, they receiv’d the shot;
And yielded up to heav’n, their native breath.
A thousand times, to tempt them to betray,
Life and rewards were offer’d them in vain;
They proudly cast the proffer’d boons away,
And spurn’d the tempter, with a cold disdain.
Nor friends, nor kindred, their firm souls could move,
Sweet images that cling around the heart;
They left them all their wealth – their country’s love,
And bade farewell! For evermore to part.
I saw the aged father standing by,
Scorning by treason, his son’s life to save,
For he could bear to see his darling die;
But not to live a traitor or a slave.
Intent and firm he watch’d the ruffian stroke,
Intrepid courage beaming in his eye;
Nor ever other words than these he spoke,
Son, thou hast taught thy countrymen to die.
Oh! truth and honour, where must you be found?
Not in the palace, or the glitt’ring court;
You rather dwell within the lowly cot,
And with the simple, and the poor resort.
For from an humble stock these heroes grew,
Strangers to fortune, and unknown to fame.
By heav’n alone, endow’d with hearts so true,
And rich in death, which consecrates their name.
The Second Part.
CEASE then, unavailing woe,
Since to heav’n their souls have fled;
Ireland let the traitors know,
That not in vain thy sons have bled.
Irish heroes grasp your arms,
Firmly clasp the pointed steel,
Shake their souls with fierce alarms,
Teach their harden’d hearts to feel.
Let the tyrants of the world
See their hateful reign is o’er;
From their seats let them be hurl’d,
Nor wield their iron sceptre more.
And Scottish lads so bold and brave,
Unite with Ireland and be free;
Renounce the traitor and the slave,
Hail! fortune, hope, and liberty.
Victory shall then be yours,
Honours and rewards shall show,
That he who first the foe abjures,
Ireland’s bounty first shall know.