John Boyle O'Reilly

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

The Feast Of The Gael - Poem by John Boyle O'Reilly

St. Patrick’s Day

I.
WHAT a onion of hearts is the love of a mother
When races of men in her name unite!
For love of Old Erin, and love of each other,
The boards of the Gael are full to-night!
Their millions of men have one toast and one topic—
Their feuds laid aside and their envies removed;
From the pines of the Pole to the palms of the Tropic,
They drink: 'The dear Land we have prayed for and loved!'
They are One by the bond of a time-honored fashion;
Though strangers may see but the lights of their feast,
Beneath lies the symbol of faith and of passion
Alike of the Pagan and Christian priest!


II.
When native laws by native kings
At Tara were decreed,
The grand old Gheber worship
Was the form of Erin's creed.
The Sun, Life-giver, was God on high;
Men worshipped the Power they saw;
And they kept the faith as the ages rolled
By the solemn Beltane law.
Each year, on the Holy Day, was quenched
The household fires of the land;
And the Druid priest, at the midnight hour,
Brought forth the flaming brand,—
The living spark for the Nation's hearths,—
From the Monarch's hand it came,
Whose fire at Tara spread the sign—
And the people were One by the flame!
And Baal was God! till Patrick came,
By the Holy Name inspired;
On the Beltane night, in great Tara's sight,
His pile at Slane was fired.
And the deed that was death was the Nation's life,
And the doom of the Pagan bane;
For Erin still keeps Beltane night,
But lights her lamp at Slane!
Though fourteen centuries pile their dust
On the mound of the Druid's grave,
To-night is The Beltane! Bright the fire
That Holy Patrick gave!
To-night is The Beltane! Let him heed
Who studieth creed and race:
Old times and gods are dead, and we
Are far from the ancient place;
The waves of centuries, war, and waste,
Of famine, gallows, and goal,
Have swept our land; but the world to-night
Sees the Beltane Fire of the Gael!


III.
O land of sad fate! like a desolate queen,
Who remembers in sorrow the crown of her glory,
The love of thy children not strangely is seen—
For humanity weeps at thy heart-touching story.
Strong heart in affliction! that draweth thy foes
Till they love thee more dear than thine own generation:
Thy strength is increased as thy life-current flows,—
What were death to another is Ireland's salvation!
God scatters her sons like the seed on the lea,
And they root where they fall, be it mountain or furrow;
They come to remain and remember; and she
In their growth will rejoice in a blissful to-morrow!

They sing in strange lands the sweet songs of their home,
Their emerald Zion enthroned in the billows;
To work, not to weep by the rivers they come:
Their harps are not hanged in despair on the willows.
The hope of the mother beats youthful and strong,
Responsive and true to her children's pulsations,
No petrified heart has she saved from the wrong—
Our Niobe lives for her place 'mong the nations!

Then drink, all her sons—be they Keltic or Danish,
Or Norman or Saxon—one mantle was o'er us;
Let race lines, and creed lines, and every line, vanish—
We drink as the Gael: 'To the Mother that bore us! '


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Poem Submitted: Monday, May 21, 2012



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