The World’s Changes

By an unknown Irish Poet.

The Solemn Shadow that bears in his hands
 The conquering Scythe and the Glass of Sands, 
 Paused once on his flight where the sunrise shone 
 On a warlike city’s towers of stone; 
And he asked of a panoplied soldier near,
 “How long has this fortressed city been here?” 
And the man looked up, Man’s pride on his brow—
“The city stands here from the ages of old 
And as it was then, and as it is now, 
So will it endure till the funeral knell 
Of the world be knolled, 
As Eternity’s annals shall tell.
And after a thousand years were o’er, 
The Shadow paused over the spot once more. 
And vestige was none of a city there, 
But lakes lay blue, and plains lay bare, 
And the marshalled corn stood high and pale, 
And a Shepherd piped of love in a vale. 
“How!” spake the Shadow, “can temple and tower 
Thus fleet, like mist, from the morning hour?” 
But the Shepherd shook the long locks from his brow—
“The world is filled with sheep and corn; 
Thus was it of old, thus is it now, 
Thus, too, will it be while moon and sun 
Rule night and morn, 
For Nature and Life are one.” 
And after a thousand years were o’er, 
The Shadow paused over the spot once more. 
And lo! in the room of the meadow-lands 
A sea foamed far over saffron sands, 
And flashed in the noontide bright and dark, 
And a fisher was casting his nets from a bark; 
How marvelled the Shadow! 
“Where then is the plain? 
And where be the acres of golden grain?” 
But the fisher dashed off the salt spray from his brow—
“The waters begirdle the earth always, 
The sea ever rolled as it rolleth now: 
What babblest thou about grain and fields? 
By night and day Man looks for what Ocean yields.” 
And after a thousand years were o’er, 
The Shadow paused over the spot once more. 
And the ruddy rays of the eventide 
Were gilding the skirts of a forest wide; 
The moss of the trees looked old, so old! 
And valley and hill, the ancient mould 
Was robed in sward, an evergreen cloak; 
And a woodman sang as he felled an oak. 
Him asked the Shadow—“Rememberest thou 
Any trace of a Sea where wave those trees?” 
But the woodman laughed: Said he, “I trow, 
If oaks and pines do flourish and fall, 
It is not amid seas;—The earth is one forest all.” 
And after a thousand years were o’er, 
The Shadow paused over the spot once more. 
And what saw the Shadow? A city agen, 
But peopled by pale mechanical men, 
With workhouses filled, and prisons, and marts, 
And faces that spake exanimate hearts. 
Strange picture and sad! was the Shadow’s thought; 
And, turning to one of the Ghastly, he sought 
For a clue in words to the When and the How 
Of the ominous Change he now beheld; 
But the man uplifted his care-worn brow—“Change? 
What was Life ever but Conflict and Change? 
From the ages of eld 
Hath affliction been widening its range.” 
Enough! said the Shadow, and passed from the spot 
At last it is vanished, the beautiful youth 
Of the earth, to return with no To-morrow; 
All changes have checquered Mortality’s lot; 
But this is the darkest—for Knowledge and Truth 
Are but golden gates to the Temple of Sorrow!

Winter’s Death

A Poem of our time

 

Winter 1As thus the snows arise; and foul, and fierce, 
All winter drives along the darkened air; 
In his own loose revolving fields, the swain 
Disaster’d stands; sees other hills ascend, 
Of unknown joyless brow; and other scenes, 
Of horrid prospect, shag the trackless plain: 
Nor finds the river nor the forest, hid 
Beneath the formless wild; but wanders on 
From hill to dale, still more and more astray, 
Impatient flouncing through the drifted heaps, 
Stung with the thoughts of home; the thoughts of home 
Rush on his nerves, and call their vigour forth 
In many a vain attempt. How sinks his soul! 
Winter 4What black despair, what horror fills his breast! 
When for the dusky spot, which fancy feign’d 
His tufted cottage rising through the snow, 
He meets the roughness of the middle waste 
Far from the track and blest abode of man, 
While round him might resistless closes fast, 
And every tempest, howling o’er his head, 
Renders the savage wildness more wild. 
Then throng the busy shapes into his mind, 
Of covered pits unfathomably deep, 
A dire descent! beyond the power of frost; 
Of faithless bogs; Of precipices huge 
Smoothed up with snow; and what is land, unknown, 
What water of the still unfrozen spring, In the loose marsh or solitary lake, 
Where the fresh fountain from the bottom boils. 
These check his fearful steps; and down he sinks 
Beneath the shelter of the shapeless drift, 
Thinking o’er all the bitterness of death, 
Mix’d with the tender anguish nature shoots 
Through the wrung bosom of the dying man—
His wife—his children—and his friends unseen. 
In vain for him the officious wife prepares 
The fire, fair, blazing, and the vestment warm. 
In vain his little children, peeping out 
Into the mingling storm, demand their sire 
With tears of artless innocence. Alas! 
Nor wife, nor children more shall he behold—
Nor friends, nor sacred home. On every nerve 
The deadly winter seizes; shuts up sense, 
And, o’er his inmost vitals creeping cold, 
Lays him along the snows, a stiffened corpse, 
Stretch’d out, and bleaching in the northern  blast.
Winter 2
ANONYMOUS IRISH POET

The Well Known Spot

A Poem

Again, with joy I view the waking shore,

Where mem’ries live for ever in their green,

And from the solemn graveyard’s checkered floor

Gaze fondly o’er the all-enchanting scene.

The same sad rooks awake their mocking cries,

And drooping willows weep the early grave,

As o’er the dead the restless spirit flies,

Tries vainly yet yon broken heart to save.

But, hush! sad soul, nor leave this hallowed spot,

Where peaceful slumber seals the closèd eye.

The lonely sleeper now awaken not

By the rude raving, or the deep-drawn sigh.

Oh, let me mourn (the fainting heart replies),

These new-made graves, which take my wond’ring sight;

Say, who beneath this little tombstone lies,

Or who this Angel guards through the long night.

When last I saw, no mounds lay heaving there,

No sexton rude had turned the resting sod.

Alas, how changed! The holy and the fair

Have sunk in death and triumphed in their God.

Then let me pause, if here my Maker stays,

And guards his saints from the inhuman foe.

His word is true; my trembling heart obeys;

Bless’d are the dead who to the Saviour go.

Now new refulgence breathes o’er all the scene;

Yon lark’s sweet warble now is sweeter still;

Yon blady grass stands out in purer green;

And softer music tinkles from the rill.

For why? O mark! The cause is written here;

The pale-faced marble tells the softened tale,

That sweeteneth the sigh, arrests the starting tear,

And lulls to silence the untimely wail.

Unknown late 19th Century Irish Poet

Sisters

There are occasions when you come across some lovely pieces of poetry when you study folklore and customs. The following is a poem I picked up a few weeks ago and thought it was so nice that I should share it with you. As for the author, all I know is that it is by a 19th Century Poet/Poetess. Please enjoy…

The day had gone as fades a dream;

The night had come, and rain fell fast;

While o’er the black and sluggish stream

Cold blew the wailing blast.

In pensive mood I idly raised

The curtain from the rain-splashed glass,

And as into the street I gazed,

I saw two women pass.

One shivering with the bitter cold,

Her garments heavy with the rain,

Limped by with features wan and old,

Deep farrowed by sharp pain.

A child in form, a child in years;

But from her piteous pallid face,

The weariness of life with tears

Had washed all childlike grace.

And as she passed me faint and weak,

I heard her slowly say, as though

With throbbing heart about to break:

‘”Move on!” Where shall I go?’

The other, who on furs reclined,

In brougham was driven to the play;

No thought within her vacant mind

Of those in rags that day:

With unmoved heart and idle stare,

Passed by the beggar in the street,

Who lifted up her hands in prayer,

Some charity to meet.

Both vanished in the murky night:

The outcast on a step to die;

The lady to a scene of light,

Where Joy alone did sigh.

But angels saw amid her hair

What was by human eyes unseen;

The grass that grows on graves was there,

With leaves of ghastly green.

And though her diamonds flashed the light

Upon the flatterers gathered near,

The outcast’s brow had gem more bright –

An angel’s pitying tear.

An Unknown 19th Century Irish Poet

The Fairies

Where are the wonderful elves, and the fairy creatures bright?

Where are the tiny things that danced in the pale moonlight?

Danced in a magic ring, and fluttered in robes of white,

Like motes in the sunbeam whirled, like leaves in the forest hoar.

Hark to the sound of the sea, and the cry of the waves on the shore.

Where are the dusky gnomes who toiled in the golden ground?

So that the miners trembled hearing their hammers’ sound,

Hearing them tapping, tapping, delving in darkness bound,

A thousand tapping hammers, beneath them hammering.

Hark to the muttered thunder, the voice of the hidden spring.

Where are the forest fairies, the elves in Lincoln green,

Deep in the forest hidden, and never in cities seen,

Sought for by timid maidens, on sainted Hallowe’en,

The joy of all true lovers, a merry band were they!

Hark to the hum of the bee, in the scented blooms of May.

Where are the household fairies, who loved the embers’ glow,

Who played at games with the shadows flickering to and fro,

But left no track on the sanded floor, no trace on the fallen snow,

And filled up the little slippers the children left behind,

Hark to the howl of the tempest, the moan of the stormy wind.

The elves are waiting, waiting, for the golden days to come,

When grief shall be known no longer, nor faithful love be dumb;

Till the figures all are added up, and finished the mighty sum.

Ah yes, they are waiting, waiting, till grief shall be no more.

Hark to the rustle of raindrops, that kiss the deserted shore.

Fairy 2

Anon.

OLD SKIBBEREEN

Old Skibbereen

By Patrick Carpenter

Air: ‘The Wearing of the Green’

A Young American and his Irish Father

Old Skibbereen

“O! father, dear, I’ve often heard you speak of Erin’s Isle –

Its scenes how bright and beautiful, how “rich and rare” they smile;

You say it is a lovely land in which a Prince might dwell,

Then why did you abandon it, the reason to me tell?”

 

“My Son, I’ve loved my native land with fervour and with pride –

Her peaceful groves, her mountains rude, her valleys green and wide,

And there I’ve roamed in manhood’s prime, and sported when a boy,

My Shamrock and shillelagh sure my constant boast and Joy.

 

“But lo! A blight came o’er my crops, my sheep and cattle died,

The rack-rent too, alas! was due I could not have supplied;

The landlord drove me from my cot where born I had been,

And that, my boy’s the reason why I left old Skibbereen –

 

“O! what a dreadful sight it was that dark November day;

The Sheriff and the Peelers came to send us all away;

They set the roof a-blazing with a demon smile of spleen,

And when it fell, the crash was heard all over Skibbereen.

 

“Your Mother dear, God rest her, fell upon the snowy ground,

She fainted in her anguish at the desolation round; –

She never rose, but passed away from life’s tumultuous scene,

And found a quiet grave to rest in poor old Skibbereen.

 

“Ah! I sadly recall that year of gloomy ’48;

I rose in vengeance with “the boys” to battle against fate;

We were hunted thro’ the mountains wild, as traitors to the Queen, –

And that, my boy’s the reason why I left old Skibbereen.

 

“You then were only two years old, and feeble was your frame,

I would not leave you with my friends – you bore my father’s name! –

I wrapped you in my ‘Catamore’ at dead of night unseen,

Then heav’d a sigh, and bade good-by to poor old Skibbereen.

 

“O! Father, Father, when the day for vengeance we will call, –

When Irishmen o’er field and fen shall rally one and all, –

I’ll be the man to lead the van beneath the flag of green,

While loud on high we’ll raise the cry – Revenge for Skibbereen!”