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The Victorian Age, Part Two
> National Songs
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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes
Volume XIV. The Victorian Age, Part Two.
§ 22. National Songs.
William Alexander, archbishop of Armagh and sometime professor of poetry at Oxford, deals very beautifully with Irish scenery in many of his poems, and writes with delicate spirituality; but his wife, Cecil Frances Alexander, born Humphreys, had a more Irish heart with a wider range of sympathy, and the pulse beats as quickly to her
Siege of Derry
as it does to Charlotte Elizabeths
The Maiden City.
Her hymns and sacred poems, including
The Burial of Moses,
much admired by Tennyson, are household words, and her less well-known lyric
The Irish Mothers Lament,
is one of the most poignant appeals of the kind ever uttered.
The recent death of T. D. Sullivan, long editor of
in its latest phase of political existence, removed from the field of Irish patriotic literature its most distinguished veteran. For, although he wrote stirring narrative poems entitled
The Madness of King Conchobar
The Siege of Dunboy,
the stronghold of the Osullivans of Beara, and shared with Robert Dwyer Joyce the honour of giving to fine English verse the beautiful early Irish
Story of Blanaid,
it was as a writer of patriotic Irish songs and ballads that he made his special poetical mark. His
God Save Ireland,
if but as a makeshift, has become the Irish national anthem. His much finer
Song from the Backwoods
is widely and affectionately known, as is, also, his impetuous rebel ballad
and his simple but most pathetic
A Soldiers Wake
will not be forgotten.
The Fenian movement, unlike that of the Young Irelanders, was unassociated with literary effort. Yet it had an organ,
The Irish People,
whose staff included men of ability: T. Clarke Luby, John OLeary and C. J. Kickham. OLeary lived to write, in his old age, the history of Fenianism in a rambling and disappointing manner. His sister Ellen had, however, a distinct literary gift. During her brothers long period of imprisonment and banishment she lived quietly in Tipperary, waiting the hour of his return and then made a home for him in Dublin, which became a centre of Irish literary influence. Robert Dwyer Joyce, the brother of the historian and archaeologist Patrick Weston Joyce, was another Fenian. After producing some stirring ballads such as
The Blacksmith of Limerick,
he slipped away to the United States and made his mark in Boston, both as a medical man and as the author of
spirited narratives in Irish verse. John Boyle OReilly, after reprieve from execution for having joined the Fenians though a soldier in the service of the queen, escaped from imprisonment in Australia on board an American vessel, and, after a while, became editor of
The Boston Pilot,
as McGee had been before him. He wrote much spirited verse, including
The Amber Whale
Songs from the Southern Seas,
and became a leading literary figure in Boston. But, undoubtedly, Kickham was the Fenian writer who has left the best literary work behind him. His ballads are touched with simple pathos and deserve their wide popularity. Of these,
The Irish Peasant Girl
is, perhaps, the best known. His novel,
has been well compared in its characteristics to the work of Erckmann-Chatrian for attention to minute details and homely incident, and is brimful of shrewd observation and bright humour; indeed, it deserves to rank among the best novels descriptive of Irish life.
Sir Jonah Barrington is more properly a historian than a writer of fiction; but his
of his own times have a literary quality which makes them worth recording.
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