Emily Lawless: Her Most Famous Poems

Emily Lawless

Emily Lawless

Two Emily Lawless poems Clare Coast 1710 (“War Battered dogs are we, fighters in every clime“) and After Aughrim (“I tossed them to howling waste yet still their love comes home to me”) were included by the editors of The Oxford Book of Irish Verse (1958). Both were published in the 1902 anthology With the Wild Geese by Emily Lawless. Two other of her best known poems are Fontenoy 1745 (“Home to Corca Bascinn on the brimming tide“) and the Dirge of the Munster Forest about the 1581 Desmond rebellion (“Marshal my retinue of bird and beast“).

CLARE COAST 1710 by Emily Lawless

Emily Lawless in 1910

Emily Lawless in 1910

  • See, cold island, we stand
  • Here to-night on your shore.
  • To-night, but never again;
  • Lingering a moment more.
  • See, beneath us our boat
  • Tugs at its tightening chain.
  • Holds out its sail to the breeze.
  • Pants to be gone again.
  • Off then with shouts and mirth,
  • Off with laughter and jests.
  • Mirth and song on our lips.
  • Hearts like lead in our breasts.
  • Death and the grave behind,
  • Death and a traitor’s bier;
  • Honour and fame before,
  • Why do we linger here?
  • Why do we stand and gaze,
  • Fools, whom fools despise,
  • Fools untaught by the years.
  • Fools renounced by the wise?

    Emily Lawless in 1867

    Emily Lawless in 1867

  • Heartsick, a moment more.
  • Heartsick, sorry, fierce.
  • Lingering, lingering on.
  • Dreaming the dreams of yore
  • Dreaming the dreams of our youth,
  • Dreaming the days when we stood
  • Joyous, expectant, serene,
  • Glad, exultant of mood.
  • Singing with hearts afire.
  • Singing with joyous strain.
  • Singing aloud in our pride,
  • We shall redeem her again
  • Ah, not to-night that strain,
  • Silent to-night we stand,
  • A scanty, a toil-worn crew.
  • Strangers, foes in the land
  • Gone the light of our youth.
  • Gone for ever, and gone
  • Hope with the beautiful eyes.
  • Who laughed as she lured us on
  • Lured us to danger and death.
  • To honour, perchance to fame,
  • Empty fame at the best,
  • Glory half dimmed with shame.
  • War-battered dogs are we.
  • Fighters in every clime.
  • Fillers of trench and of grave.
  • Mockers, bemocked by time.
  • War-dogs, hungry and grey,
  • Gnawing a naked bone,
  • Fighters in every clime.
  • Every cause but our own.emily lawless with hat
  • See us, cold isle of our love
  • Coldest, saddest of isles
  • Cold as the hopes of our youth.
  • Cold as your own wan smiles.
  • Coldly your streams outpour.
  • Each apart on the height.
  • Trickling, indifferent, slow,
  • Lost in the hush of the night.
  • Colder, sadder the clouds,
  • Comfortless bringers of rain;
  • Desolate daughters of air,
  • Sweep o’er your sad grey plain
  • Hiding the form of your hills.
  • Hiding your low sand duns;
  • But coldest, saddest, oh isle
  • Are the homeless hearts of your sons.Emily lawless
  • Coldest, and saddest there.
  • In yon sun-lit land of the south.
  • Where we sicken, and sorrow, and pine,
  • And the jest flies from mouth to mouth.
  • And the church bells crash overhead,
  • And the idle hours flit by.
  • And the beaded wine-cups clink.
  • And the sun burns fierce in the sky;
  • And your exiles, the merry of heart.
  • Laugh and boast with the best,
  • Boast, and extol their part.
  • Boast, till some lifted brow,
  • Crossed with a line severe.
  • Seems with displeasure to ask.
  • Are these loud braggarts we hear,
  • Are they the sons of the West,
  • The wept-for, the theme of songs.
  • The exiled, the injured, the banned.
  • The men of a thousand wrongs?
  • Fool, did you never hear
  • Of sunshine which broke through rain?
  • Sunshine which came with storm?
  • Laughter that rang of pain?
  • Boastings begotten of grief,
  • Vauntings to hide a smart.
  • Braggings with trembling lip.
  • Tricks of a broken heart?
  • Sudden some wayward gleam,
  • Sudden some passing sound,
  • The careless splash of an oar.
  • The idle bark of a hound,
  • A shadow crossing the sun,
  • An unknown step in the hall,
  • A nothing, a folly, a straw!
  • Back it returns all all
  • Back with the rush of a storm,
  • Back the old anguish and ill.
  • The sad, green landscape of home.
  • The small grey house by the hill.
  • The wide grey shores of the lake.
  • The low sky, seeming to weave
  • Its tender pitiful arms
  • Round the sick lone landscape at eve.
  • Back with its pains and its wrongs.
  • Back with its toils and its strife.
  • Back with its struggle and woe.
  • Back flows the stream of our life.
  • Darkened with treason and wrong.
  • Darkened with anguish and ruth,
  • Bitter, tumultuous, fierce,
  • Yet glad in the light of our youth.
  • So, cold island, we stand
  • Here to-night on your shore,
  • To-night, but never again,
  • Lingering a moment more.
  • See, beneath us our boat
  • Tugs at its tightening chain.
  • Holds out its sail to the breeze.
  • Pants to be gone again.
  • OfF then with shouts and mirth.
  • Off with laughter and jests.
  • Jests and song on our lips,
  • Hearts like lead in our breasts.

AFTER AUGHRIM by Emily Lawless

  • She said, “I never called them sons,
  • I almost ceased to breathe their name,
  • Then caught it echoing down the wind,
  • Blown backwards from the lips of Fame”.
  • She said, “Not mine, not mine that fame;
  • Far over sea, far over land,
  • Cast forth like rubbish from my shores,
  • They won it yonder, sword in hand.”
  • She said, “God knows they owe me nought,
  • I tossed them to the foaming sea,
  • I tossed them to howling waste,
  • Yet still their love comes home to me”.

    The Battle of Fontenoy, by Horace Vernet in Versailles

    The Battle of Fontenoy, by Horace Vernet in Versailles

FONTENOY 1745 by Emily Lawless

I. Before the battle, night.

  • Oh bad the march, the weary march, beneath these alien skies,
  • But good the night, the friendly night, that soothes our tired eyes.
  • And bad the war, the tedious war, that keeps us sweltering here.
  • But good the hour, the friendly hour, that brings the battle near.
  • That brings us on the battle, that summons to their share
  • The homeless troops, the banished men, the exiled sons of Clare.
  • Oh little Corca Bascinn, the wild, the bleak, the fair!
  • Oh little stony pastures, whose flowers are sweety if rare!
  • Oh rough and rude Atlantic, the thunderous, the wide,
  • Whose kiss is like a soldier’s kiss which will not be denied!
  • The whole night long we dream of you, and waking think we’re there, —
  • Vain dream, and foolish waking, we never shall see Clare.
  • The wind is wild tonight, there’s battle in the air;
  • The wind is from the west, and it seems to blow from Clare.
  • Have you nothing, nothing for us, loud brawler of the night ?
  • No news to warm our heart-strings, to speed us through the fight ?
  • In this hollow, star-pricked darkness, as in the sun’s hot glare,
  • In sun-tide, moon-tide, star-tide, we thirst, we starve for Clare!
  • Hark I yonder through the darkness one distant rat-tat-tat
  • The old foe stirs out there, God bless his soul for that
  • The old foe musters strongly, he’s coming on at last.
  • And Clare’s Brigade may claim its own wherever blows fall fast.
  • Send us, ye western breezes, our full, our rightful share.
  • For Faith, and Fame, and Honour, and the ruined hearths of Clare.

    Grave of Emily Lawless in Suffolk

    Grave of Emily Lawless in Peaslake Surrey, where her home was called “Hazle Hatch.”

II. After the Battle: early dawn Clare coast

  • Mary mother shield us! Say what men are ye
  • Sweeping past so swiftly on this morning sea?
  • Without sails or rowlocks merrily we glide
  • Home to Corca Bascinn on the brimming tide.
  • Jesus save you gentry! why are ye so white
  • Sitting all so straight and still in this misty light?
  • Nothing ails us, brother; joyous souls are we
  • Sailing home together, on the morning sea.”
  • Cousins, friends, and kinsfolk, children of the land,
  • Here we come together, a merry, rousing band;
  • Sailing home together from the last great fight,
  • Home to Clare from Fontenoy, in the morning light.
  • Men of Corca Bascinn, men of Clare’s Brigade,
  • Harken, stony hills of Clare, hear the charge we made;
  • See us come together, singing from the fight.
  • Home to Corca Bascinn, in the morning light.”

DIRGE OF THE MUNSTER FOREST 1581 by Emily Lawless

  • Bring out the hemlock I bring the funeral yew!
  • The faithful ivy that doth all enfold;
  • Heap high the rocks, the patient brown earth strew,
  • And cover them against the numbing cold.
  • Marshal my retinue of bird and beast.
  • Wren, titmouse, robin, birds of every hue;
  • Let none keep back, no, not the very least,
  • Nor fox, nor deer, nor tiny nibbling crew.
  • Only bid one of all my forest clan
  • Keep far from us on this our funeral day.
  • On the grey wolf I lay my sovereign ban,
  • The great grey wolf who scrapes the earth away;.
  • Lest, with hooked claw and furious hunger, he
  • Lay bare my dead for gloating foes to see —
  • Lay bare my dead, who died, and died for me.
  • For I must shortly die as they have died,
  • And lo my doom stands yoked and linked with theirs;
  • The axe is sharpened to cut down my pride:
  • I pass, I die, and leave no natural heirs.
  • Soon shall my sylvan coronals be cast;
  • My hidden sanctuaries, my secret ways.
  • Naked must stand to the rebellious blast;
  • No Spring shall quicken what this Autumn slays.
  • Therefore, while still I keep my russet crown,
  • I summon all my lieges to the feast.
  • Hither, ye flutterers! black, or pied, or brown;
  • Hither, ye furred ones! Hither every beast!
  • Only to one of all my forest dan
  • I cry, Avaunt! Our mourning revels flee! “
  • On the grey wolf I lay my sovereign ban.
  • The great grey wolf with scraping claws, lest he
  • Lay bare my dead for gloating foes to see –
  • Lay bare my dead, who died, and died for me.

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