Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry > Vol. V. Nature
Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.
Volume V. Nature.  1904.
V. Trees: Flowers: Plants
The Mountain Fern
Arthur Gerald Geoghegan (1810–1889)
OH, the fern, the fern, the Irish hill fern,
That girds our blue lakes from Lough Ine to Lough Erne,
That waves on our crags like the plume of a king,
And bends like a nun over clear well and spring.
The fairies’ tall palm-tree, the heath-bird’s fresh nest,        5
And the couch the red-deer deems the sweetest and best;
With the free winds to fan it, and dew-drops to gem,
Oh, what can ye match with its beautiful stem?
From the shrine of St. Finbar, by lone Avonbwee,
To the halls of Dunluce, with its towers by the sea,        10
From the hill of Knockthu to the rath of Moyvore,
Like a chaplet that circles our green island o’er,
In the bawn of the chief, by the anchorite’s cell,
On the hill-top or greenwood, by streamlet or well,
With a spell on each leaf which no mortal can learn,        15
Oh, there never was plant like the Irish hill fern!
Oh, the fern, the fern, the Irish hill fern,
That shelters the weary, or wild roe, or kern;
Through the glens of Kilcoe rose a shout on the gale,
As the Saxons rushed forth in their wrath from the Pale,        20
With bandog and blood-hound, all savage to see,
To hunt through Cluncalla the wild rapparee.
Hark! a cry from yon dell on the startled ear rings,
And forth from the wood the young fugitive springs,
Through the copse, o’er the bog, and oh, saints be his guide!        25
His fleet step now falters, there ’s blood on his side;
Yet onward he strains, climbs the cliff, fords the stream,
And sinks on the hill-top, ’mid bracken leaves green;
And thick o’er his brow are the fresh clusters piled,
And they cover his form as a mother her child,        30
And the Saxon is baffled. They never discern
Where it shelters and saves him, the Irish hill fern.
Oh, the fern, the fern, the Irish hill fern,
That pours a wild keen o’er the hero’s gray cairn,
Go hear it at midnight, when stars are all out,        35
And the wind o’er the hill-side is moaning about,
With a rustle and stir, and a low wailing tone
That thrills through the heart with its whispering lone;
And ponder its meaning, when haply you stray
Where the halls of the stranger in ruin decay;        40
With night-owls for warders, the goshawk for guest,
And their dais of honor by cattle-hoof pressed,
With its foss choked with rushes, and spider webs flung,
Over walls where the marchmen their red weapons hung,
With a curse on their name, and a sigh for the hour        45
That tarries so long. Look what waves on the tower
With an omen and sign, and an augury stern,
’T is the green flag of Time, ’t is the Irish hill fern.

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