Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry > Vol. VIII. National Spirit
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Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.
Volume VIII. National Spirit.  1904.
 
I. Patriotism
Ireland
Denis Florence Mac Carthy (1817–1882)
 
[1847]

THEY are dying! they are dying! where the golden corn is growing;
They are dying! they are dying! where the crowded herds are lowing:
They are gasping for existence where the streams of life are flowing,
And they perish of the plague where the breeze of health is blowing!
 
          God of justice! God of power!        5
            Do we dream? Can it be,
          In this land, at this hour,
            With the blossom on the tree,
          In the gladsome month of May,
          When the young lambs play,        10
          When Nature looks around
            On her waking children now,
          The seed within the ground,
            The bud upon the bough?
          Is it right, is it fair,        15
          That we perish of despair
          In this land, on this soil,
            Where our destiny is set,
          Which we cultured with our toil,
            And watered with our sweat?        20
          We have ploughed, we have sown
          But the crop was not our own;
          We have reaped, but harpy hands
          Swept the harvest from our lands;
          We were perishing for food,        25
          When lo! in pitying mood,
          Our kindly rulers gave
          The fat fluid of the slave,
          While our corn filled the manger
          Of the war-horse of the stranger!        30
 
          God of mercy! must this last?
            Is this land preordained,
          For the present and the past
            And the future, to be chained,—
            To be ravaged, to be drained,        35
          To be robbed, to be spoiled,
            To be hushed, to be whipt,
            Its soaring pinions clipt,
          And its every effort foiled?
 
          Do our numbers multiply        40
          But to perish and to die?
            Is this all our destiny below,—
          That our bodies, as they rot,
          May fertilize the spot
            Where the harvests of the stranger grow?        45
 
    If this be, indeed, our fate,
    Far, far better now, though late,
That we seek some other land and try some other zone;
    The coldest, bleakest shore
    Will surely yield us more        50
Than the storehouse of the stranger that we dare not call our own.
 
    Kindly brothers of the West,
    Who from Liberty’s full breast
Have fed us, who are orphans beneath a step-dame’s frown,
    Behold our happy state,        55
    And weep your wretched fate
That you share not in the splendors of our empire and our crown!
 
    Kindly brothers of the East,—
    Thou great tiaraed priest,
Thou sanctified Rienzi of Rome and of the earth,—        60
    Or thou who bear’st control
    Over golden Istambol,
Who felt for our misfortunes and helped us in our dearth,—
 
    Turn here your wondering eyes,
    Call your wisest of the wise,        65
Your muftis and your ministers, your men of deepest lore;
    Let the sagest of your sages
    Ope our island’s mystic pages,
And explain unto your highness the wonders of our shore.
 
    A fruitful, teeming soil,        70
    Where the patient peasants toil
Beneath the summer’s sun and the watery winter sky;
    Where they tend the golden grain
    Till it bends upon the plain,
Then reap it for the stranger, and turn aside to die;        75
 
    Where they watch their flocks increase,
    And store the snowy fleece
Till they send it to their masters to be woven o’er the waves;
    Where, having sent their meat
    For the foreigner to eat,        80
Their mission is fulfilled, and they creep into their graves.
 
’T is for this they are dying where the golden corn is growing,
’T is for this they are dying where the crowded herds are lowing,
’T is for this they are dying where the streams of life are flowing,
And they perish of the plague where the breeze of health is blowing!        85
 
 
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