Verse > Anthologies > > Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. > The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse
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Arthur Quiller-Couch, comp.  The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse.  1922.
 
Dirge of the Munster Forest. 1581
By Emily Lawless (1845–1913)
 
BRING out the hemlock! bring the funeral yew!
The faithful ivy that doth all enfold;
Heap high the rocks, the patient brown earth strew,
And cover them against the numbing cold.
Marshal my retinue of bird and beast,        5
Wren, titmouse, robin, birds of every hue;
Let none keep back, no, not the very least,
Nor fox, nor deer, nor tiny nibbling crew,
Only bid one of all my forest clan
Keep far from us on this our funeral day.        10
On the grey wolf I lay my sovereign ban,
The great grey wolf who scrapes the earth away,
Lest, with hook’d claw and furious hunger, he
Lay bare my dead for gloating foes to see—
Lay bare my dead, who died, and died for me.        15
 
For I must shortly die as they have died,
And lo! my doom stands yoked and link’d with theirs;
The axe is sharpen’d to cut down my pride:
I pass, I die, and leave no natural heirs.
Soon shall my sylvan coronals be cast;        20
My hidden sanctuaries, my secret ways,
Naked must stand to the rebellious blast;
No Spring shall quicken what this Autumn slays.
Therefore, while still I keep my russet crown,
I summon all my lieges to the feast.        25
Hither, ye flutterers! black, or pied, or brown;
Hither, ye furr’d ones! Hither every beast!
Only to one of all my forest clan
I cry, ‘Avaunt! Our mourning revels flee!’
On the grey wolf I lay my sovereign ban,        30
The great grey wolf with scraping claws, lest he
Lay bare my dead for gloating foes to see—
Lay bare my dead, who died, and died for me.
 
 
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