Verse > Padraic Colum > Anthology of Irish Verse
Padraic Colum (1881–1972).  Anthology of Irish Verse.  1922.
116. Lament for Thomas Davis
By Sir Samuel Ferguson
I WALKED through Ballinderry in the spring-time,
  When the bud was on the tree;
And I said, in every fresh-ploughed field beholding
  The sowers striding free,
Scattering broadside forth the corn in golden plenty        5
  On the quick seed-clasping soil,
“Even such this day, among the fresh-stirred hearts of Erin.
Thomas Davis, is thy toil.”
I Sat by Ballyshannon in the summer,
  And saw the salmon leap;        10
And I said, as I beheld the gallant creatures
  Spring glittering from the deep,
Through the spray, and through the prone heaps striving onward
  To the calm, clear streams above,
“So seekest thou thy native founts of freedom, Thomas Davis,        15
  In thy brightness of strength and love.”
I stood in Derrybawn in the autumn,
  And I heard the eagle call,
With a clangorous cry of wrath and lamentation
  That filled the wide mountain hall,        20
O’er the bare, deserted place of his plundered eyrie;
  And I said, as he screamed and soared,
“So callest thou, thou wrathful, soaring Thomas Davis,
  For a nation’s rights restored!”
And, alas! to think but now, and thou art lying,        25
  Dear Davis, dead at thy mother’s knee;
And I, no mother near, on my own sick-bed,
  That face on earth shall never see;
I may lie and try to feel that I am dreaming,
  I may lie and try to say, “Thy will be done,”        30
But a hundred such as I will never comfort Erin
  For the loss of the noble son!
Young husbandman of Erin’s fruitful seed-time,
  In the fresh track of danger’s plough!
Who will walk the heavy, toilsome, perilous furrow,        35
Girt with freedom’s seed-sheets, now?
Who will banish with the wholesome crop of knowledge
  The daunting weed and the bitter thorn,
Now that thou thyself art but a seed for hopeful planting
  Against the Resurrection morn?        40
Young salmon of the flood-tide of freedom
  That swells round Erin’s shore!
Thou wilt leap against their loud oppressive torrent
  Of bigotry and hate no more;
Drawn downward by their prone material instinct,        45
  Let them thunder on their rocks and foam—
Thou hast leapt, aspiring soul, to founts beyond their raging,
  Where troubled waters never come!
But I grieve not, Eagle of the empty eyrie,
  That thy wrathful cry is still;        50
And that the songs alone of peaceful mourners
  Are heard to-day on Earth’s hill;
Better far, if brothers’ war be destined for us
  (God avert that horrid day I pray),
That ere our hands be stained with slaughter fratricidal,        55
  Thy warm heart should be cold in clay.
But my trust is strong in God, Who made us brothers,
  That He will not suffer their right hands,
Which thou hast joined in holier rites than wedlock
  To draw opposing brands.        60
Oh, many a tuneful tongue that thou madest vocal
  Would lie cold and silent then;
And songless long once more, should often-widowed Erin
  Mourn the loss of her brave young men.
Oh, brave young men, my love, my pride, my promise,        65
  ’Tis on you my hopes are set,
In manliness, in kindliness, in justice,
  To make Erin a nation yet;
Self-respecting, self-relying, self-advancing—
  In union or in severance, free and strong—        70
And if God grant this, then, under God, to Thomas Davis
  Let the greater praise belong.
Thomas Osborne Davis was one of the leaders of the Young Ireland party. He died just as his work was beginning to have an extraordinary effect. Ferguson, who had not joined the Young Ireland party, but who was in sympathy with Davis’s ideas, received the news of his death while he himself was ill; many poems were written in memory of Thomas Davis, but Ferguson’s is the most exalted in feeling as well as the most Gaelic in structure.


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