Poetry of the Famine


The Passing of the Gael












The year Forty-Seven had come to a close,
The dark year of famine, deep sorrows and woes ;
And I looked down the days of the life-chilling year.
All dark, desolated, sad, lonely and drear ;
And I sighed while I gazed on that sorrowful scene,
For a dark cloud passed over old Erin the green.

The poor wanted bread, and few heard when they cried;
Unheeded, unpitied, uncared for they died ;
And many were coffinless laid in their graves,
Denied of the rights, which humanity craves ;
And oft far away from the grave-yard I've found,
Where mortals were sleeping beneath the green mound.*

A dark visitation, or judgment from God
Destroyed our chief hope which lay under the clod ;
And our hearts became cold with the chill of despair,
As we viewed our potato fields blackened and bare,
And the health-blooming cheek became sickly and pale,
And the song was exchanged for the heart-broken wail.

It was a heart-rending, sad, ominous sight,
To look, as we looked on that death-dealing blight;
It seemed as if pleasure for ever had fled,
And meagre-faced famine had come in its stead;
And we saw the grim monster drag down to the grave,
The thousands whom we were unable to save.

The nations around heard our cry of distress,
And promptly and feelingly sent us redress;
Food came, but alas ! the relief was too late,
For thousands already had bowed to their fate ;
And thousand who ate of this charity bread
Succumbed to disease, and were laid with the dead.

Thus Erin was wasted and laid very low,
And she bowed down her head in deep anguish and woe;
For disease like a deluge was spread far and wide,
And death swept along like a full flowing tide ;
And bereft of her children, she prayed in her grief,
Then God soothed her sorrows and sent her relief.

*  In out of the way places many poor people where buried in a field or in a corner
of the garden,

-Poems by S.Moore.,S.Moore, 1887.

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The Passing of the Gael

They are going, going, going from the valleys and the hills
They are leaving far behind them heathery moor and mountain rills,
All the wealth of hawthorn hedges where the brown thrush sways and thrills

They are going, shy-eyed cailins, and lads so straight and tall
From the purple peaks of Kerry, from the crags of wild Imaal,
From the greening plains of Mayo, and the glens of Dangle

They are leaving pleasant places,shores with snowy sands outspread;
Blue and lonely lakes a-stirring when the wind stirs overhead;
Tender living hearts that love them, and the graves of kindred dead.

They shall carry to the distant land a tear-drop in the eye
And some shall go uncomforted, their days an endless sigh
For Kathalen No Houlihan's sad face until they die.

Oh,Kathaleen No Houlihan, your road's a thorny way,
And 'tis a faithful soul would walk on the flints with you for aye,
Would walk the sharp and cruel flints until his locks grew grey,

So some must wander to the East, and some must wander West;
Some seek the white wastes of the North and some a Southern nest;
Yet never shall they sleep so sweet as on your mother breast.

Within the city streets, hot hurried full of care
A sudden dream shall bring them a whiff of Irish air --
A cool air, faintly-scented, blown soft from otherwhere

Oh, the cabins long-deserted! Olden memories awake.
Oh, the pleasant, pleasant places! Hush! the blackbird in the brake!
Oh, the dear and kindly voices! Now their hearts are fain to ache.

The may win a golden store--sure the whins were golden too;
And no foreign skies hold beauty like the rainy skies they knew;
Nor any night-wind cool the brow as did the foggy dew.

They are going, going, going and we cannot bid them stay:
Their fields are now the stranger's,where the stranger's cattle stray,
Oh! Kathaleen No Houlihan, your way's a thorny way!

- From Ethna Carbery's "The Four Winds of Eirinn"

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