John Boyle O'Reilly

(28 June 1844 - 10 August 1890 / Dowth Castle, County Meath)

Ireland - 1882 - Poem by John Boyle O'Reilly

'ISLAND of Destiny! Innisfail!' they cried, when their weary eyes
First looked on thy beauteous bosom from the amorous, ocean rise.
'Island of Destiny! Innisfail!' we cry. dear land, to thee,
As the sun of thy future rises and reddens the western sea!

Pregnant as earth with its gold and gems and its metals strong and fine,
Is thy soul with its ardors and fancies and sympathies divine.

Mustard seed of the nations! they scattered thy leaves to the air,
But the ravisher pales at the harvest that flourishes everywhere.
Queen in the right of thy courage! manacled, scourged, defamed,
Thy voice in the teeth of the bayonets the right of a race proclaimed.

'Bah!' they sneered from their battlements, 'her people cannot unite;
They are sands of the sea, that break before the rush of our ordered might!'

And wherever the flag of the pirate flew, the English slur was heard,
And the shallow of soul re-echoed the boast of the taunting word.

But we—O sun, that of old was our god, we look in thy face to-day,
As our Druids who prayed in the ancient time, and with them we proudly say:

'We have wronged no race, we have robbed no land, we have never oppressed the weak!'
And this in the face of Heaven is the nobler thing to speak.
We can never unite—thank God for that! in such unity as yours,
That strangles the rights of others, and only itself endures
As the guard of a bloodstained spoil and the red-eyed watch of the slave;
No need for such robber-union to a race free-souled and brave.

The races that band for plunder are the mud of the human stream,
The base and the coward and sordid, without an unselfish gleam.

It is mud that unites; but the sand is free—ay, every grain is free,
And the freedom of individual men is the highest of liberty.

It is mud that coheres; but the sand is free, till the lightning smite the shore,
And smelt the grains to a crystal mass, to return to sand no more.
And so with the grains of our Irish sand, that flash cleareyed to the sun,
Till a noble Purpose smites them and melts them into one.

While the sands are free, O Tyrants! like the wind are your steel and speech;
Your brute-force crushes a legion, but a soul it can never reach.

Island of Destiny! Innisfail? for thy faith is the payment near:
The mine of the future is opened, and the golden veins appear.

Thy hands are white and thy page unstained. Reach out for the glorious years,
And take them from Grod as His recompense for thy fortitude and tears.

Thou canst stand by the way ascending, as thy tyrant goes to the base:
The seeds of her death are in her and the signs in her cruel face.
On her darkened path lie the corpses of men, with whose blood her feet are red;
And the curses of ruined nations are a cloud above her head.

O Erin, fresh in the latest day, like a gem from a Syrian tomb,
The burial clay of the centuries has saved thy light in the gloom.

Thy hands may stretch to a kindred world: there is none that hates but one;
And she but hates as a pretext for the rapine she has done.

The night of thy grief is closing, and the sky in the East is red:
Thy children watch from the mountain-tops for the sun to kiss thy head.

O Mother of men that are fit to be free, for their test for freedom borne,
Thy vacant place in the Nations' race awaits but the coming morn!


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Poem Submitted: Monday, May 21, 2012



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