Verse > Padraic Colum > Anthology of Irish Verse
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Padraic Colum (1881–1972).  Anthology of Irish Verse.  1922.
 
87. Fontenoy. 1745
 
By Emily Lawless
 
 
I.—Before the Battle; night.


OH, BAD the march, the weary march, beneath these alien skies,
But good the night, the friendly night, that soothes our tired eyes.
And bad the war, the tedious war, that keeps us sweltering here,
But good the hour, the friendly hour, that brings the battle near.
That brings us on the battle, that summons to their share        5
The homeless troops, the banished men, the exiled sons of Clare.
 
Oh, little Corca Bascinn, the wild the bleak, the fair!
Oh, little stony pastures, whose flowers are sweet, if rare!
Oh, rough the rude Atlantic, the thunderous, the wide,
Whose kiss is like a soldier’s kiss which will not be denied!        10
The whole night long we dream of you, and waking think we’re there,—
Vain dream, and foolish waking, we never shall see Clare.
 
The wind is wild to-night, there’s battle in the air;
The wind is from the west, and it seems to blow from Clare.
Have you nothing, nothing for us, loud brawler of the night?        15
No news to warm our heart-strings, to speed us through the fight?
In this hollow, star-pricked darkness, as in the sun’s hot glare,
In sun-tide, in star-tide, we thirst, we starve for Clare!
 
Hark! Yonder through the darkness one distant rat-tat-tat!
The old foe stirs out there, God bless his soul for that!        20
The old foe musters strongly, he’s coming on at last,
And Clare’s Brigade may claim its own wherever blows fall fast.
Send us, ye western breezes, our full, our rightful share,
For Faith, and Fame, and Honour, and the ruined hearths of Clare.
 
II.—After the Battle; early dawn, Clare coast.


MARY MOTHER, shield us! Say, what men are ye,
        25
Sweeping past to swiftly on this morning sea?”
“Without sails or rowlocks merrily we glide
Home to Corca Bascinn on the brimming tide.”
 
“Jesus save you, gentry! why are you so white,
Sitting all so straight and still in this misty light?”        30
“Nothing ails us, brother; joyous souls are we,
Sailing home together, on the morning sea.”
 
“Cousins, friends, and kinsfolk, children of the land,
Here we come together, a merry, rousing band;
Sailing home together from the last great fight,        35
Home to Clare from Fontenoy, in the morning light.
 
“Men of Corca Bascinn, men of Clare’s Brigade,
Harken stony hills of Clare, hear the charge we made;
See us come together, singing from the fight,
Home to Corca Bascinn, in the morning light.”        40
 
The battle of Fontenoy (1745) has always been regarded by the Irish as a national victory. The charge of the Irish Brigade flung the English back as they were on the point of putting the French to the rout. The Irish went into the battle with the cry, “Remember Limerick.”
 

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