Ninety Eight by Dr. John Thomas Campion

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In the old marble town of Kilkenny,
With its abbeys, cathedrals and halls,
Where the Norman bell rings out at nightfall,
And the relics of gray crumbling walls
Show traces of Celt and Saxon
In bastions, and towers, and keeps,
And graveyards and tombs tell the living
Where glory or holiness sleeps;
Where the Nuncio brought the Pope’s blessing,
And money and arms to boot,

While Owen was wild to be plucking
The English clan up by the root;
Where regicide Oliver revelled,
With his Puritan Ironside horde,
And cut down both marble and monarchy,
Grimly and grave with the sword.
There, in that old town of history,
England in famed ‘Ninety-Eight
Was busy with gallows and yeomen
Propounding the laws of the State.

They were hanging a young lad – a rebel –
On a gibbet before the old jail,
And they marked his weak, spirit to falter,
And his white face to quiver and quail;
And he spoke of his mother, whose dwelling
Was but a short distance away –
A poor, lorn, heartbroken widow –
And he her whole solace and stay.
“Bring her here,” cried the chief of the yeomen;
“A lingering chance let us give
To this spawn of a rebel to babble
And by her sage counsel to live.”

And quick a red trooper went trotting
From the town to the poor cabin door,
And he found the old lone woman sitting
And spinning upon the bare floor.
“Your son is in trouble, old damsel!
They have him within in the town,
And he wishes to see you, so bustle,
And put on your tucker and gown.”
The old woman stopped from her spinning,
With a frown on her deep wrinkled brow:
“I know how it is, cursed yeoman!
I am ready – I’ll go with you now!”

He seized her, enraged, by the shoulder,
And lifting her up on his steed,
Struck spurs, and they rode to the city,
Right aheadd, and with clattering speed.
They stopped at the foot of the, gallows,
And the mother confronted her son,
And she hugged his young heart to her bosom,
And kissed his face pallid and wan. .
And as the rope dangled before her,
She held the loop fast in her hand –
For though her proud soul was unblenching,
Her frail limbs were failing to stand.

And when the raw yeomen came crowding
To. witness the harrowing scene,
The brave mother flushed to the forehead,
And spoke with the air of a queen:
“My son, they are going to hang you
For loving your faith and your home.
And they called me to urge you and save you,
And in God’s name I’ve answered and come.
They murdered your father before you,
And I knelt on the red reeking sod,
And watcheed his hot blood steaming upward
To call down the vengeance of God.”

“No traitor was, he to his country –
No blot did he leave to his name –
And I always could pray at his cold grave –
Oh! the priest could kneel there without shame.”
“To hell with your priests and your rebels,”
The captain cried out with a yell,
whilst from the tall tower in the temple
Rang out the sweet Angelus bell.
Blessed Mother,” appealed the poor widow,
“Look down on my child and on me.”
“Blessed mother,” sneered out the vile yeoman,
“Tell your son to confess and be free.”

“Never, never – he’ll die like his father –
My boy, give your life to the Lord, –
But of treason to Ireland, mavourneen,
Never speak one dishonouring word.”
His white cheek flushed up at her speaking,
His heart bounded up at her call,
And his hushed spirit seemed, at awaking,
To scorn death, yeomen and all.
“I’ll die, and I’ll be no informer –
My kin I will never disgrace,
And when God lets me see my poor father,
I can lovingly look in his face.”

“You’ll see him in hell,” cried the yeoman,
As he flung the sad widow away –
And the youth in a moment was strangling
In the broad eye of shuddering day.
“Give the gallows a passenger outside.”
A tall Hessian spluttered aloud,
As he drove a huge nail in the timber ,
‘Mid the curses and cries of the crowd.
Then, seizing the poor bereaved mother,
He passed his broad belt round her throat,
Whilst her groaning was lost in the drum-beat
And her shrieks in the shrill bugle note.
And mother and son were left choking,
For this, cries the patriot brave –
Whilst angels looked down on the murder
And devils were wrangling beneath.

For this, cries the exile defiant –
For this, cries the patriot brave –
For this, cries the lonely survivor
O’er many a horror-marked grave –
For this, cry the priest and the peasant,
The student, the lover, the lost,
The stalwart who pride in their vigour,
The frail as they give up the ghost-
For this, we curse~Saxon dominion,
And join in the world-wide cry
That wails up to Heaven for vengeance,
Through every blue gate in the sky!

Written by by Dr. John Thomas Campion.

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