“Lament for the Death of Eoghan Ruadh O’Neill” by Thomas Davis

“Did they dare, did they dare, to slay Eoghan Ruadh O’Neill?”
“Yes, they slew with poison him they feared to meet with steel.”
“May God wither up their hearts! May their blood cease to flow,”
May they walk in living death, who poisoned Eoghan Ruadh.”

Though it break my heart to hear, say again the bitter words.”
“From Derry, against Cromwell, he marched to measure swords:
But the weapon of the Sacsanach met him on his way.
And he died at Clogh Uachtar, upon St. Leonard’s day.

“Wail, wail ye for the Mighty One!—Wail, wail ye for the Dead!
Quench the hearth, and hold the breath—with ashes strew the head.
How tenderly we loved him. How deeply we deplore!
Holy Saviour! But to think we shall never see him more.”

“Sagest in the council was he, kindest in the hall!
Sure we never won a battle—”twas Owen won them all.
Had he lived—had he lived—our dear country had been free;
But he’s dead, but he’s dead, and ’tis slaves we’ll ever be.”

“O’Farrell and Clanricarde, Preston and Red Hugh,
Audley and MacMahon, ye valiant, wises and true;
But—what, what are ye all doing to our darling who is gone?
The Rudder of our Ship was he, our Castle’s corner stone.”

“Wail, wail him through the Island! Weep, weep for our pride!
Would that on the battle-field our gallant chief had died!
Weep the Victor of Beann-bhorbh—weep him, young men and old;
Weep for him, ye women—your beautiful lies cold!”

We thought you would not die—we were sure you would not go,
And leave us in out utmost need to Cromwell’s cruel blow—
Sheep without a shepherd, when the snow shuts our the sky—
O! why did you leave us, Eoghan? Why did you die?”

“Soft as woman’s was your voice, O’Neill! Bright was your eye,
O! why did you leave us, Eoghan? Why did you die?
Your troubles are all over, you’re at rest with God on high,
But we’re slaves, and we’re orphans, Eoghan!—why didst thou die?

Thomas Davis, a strong proponent of Irish nationalism, writes about the death of Eoghan Ruadh O’Neill in “Lament for the Death of Eoghan Ruadh O’Neill.” Davis begins by seething over the death of such a powerful leader: “Did they dare […] May God wither up their hearts! May their blood cease to flow!” A patriotic Irishman, O’Neill’s aided efforts against English Protestant presence in Ireland. Davis valorizes O’Neill’s selfless resistance to Oliver Cromwell, alluding to O’Neill’s death “at Cloch Uachtar, upon St. Leonard’s day” (8), yet fears that because of his death, the remaining nationalists will be “slaves” (16) to unrepentant English forces. Davis laments to the deceased O’Neill saying, “We thought you would not die […]/And leave us in our utmost need to Cromwell’s cruel blow” (25-26). With his “we” (25), Davis suggests camaraderie and widespread Irish nationalist sentiment in the wake of O’Neill’s death. The poem never strays from a dark, heavily remorseful tone, and Davis never fails to point out O’Neill’s death as the primary source of sorrow in the country.

Nineteenth century Irish poet Thomas Osborne Davis  was a revolutionary nationalist and a primary figure of the Young Ireland movement. He also co-founded The Nation newspaper and championed harmony between Catholics and Protestants.

The biographical information was found at poemhunter.com. The poem can be found on Google Books.

maddieMaddie Thorpe has twice served as a Shenandoah intern, once as Poem of the Week Editor and once as Social Networking Editor.  She is from Southern California and will take a degree in English from Washington and Lee in spring of 2014.