Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry > Vol. IX. Tragedy: Humor
Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.
Volume IX. Tragedy: Humor.  1904.
Poems of Tragedy: XI. Ireland
The Sack of Baltimore
Thomas Osborne Davis (1814–1845)
   [Baltimore is a small seaport in the barony of Carbery, in South Munster. It grew up around a castle of O’Driscoll’s, and was, after his ruin, colonized by the English. On the 20th of June, 1631, the crews of two Algerine galleys landed in the dead of the night, sacked the town, and bore off into slavery all who were not too old, or too young, or too fierce, for their purpose. The pirates were steered up the intricate channel by one Hackett, a Dungarvan fisherman, whom they had taken at sea for the purpose. Two years later, he was convicted of the crime and executed. Baltimore never recovered from this.]

THE SUMMER sun is falling soft on Carbery’s hundred isles,
The summer sun is gleaming still through Gabriel’s rough defiles,—
Old Inisherkin’s crumbled fane looks like a moulting bird;
And in a calm and sleepy swell the ocean tide is heard:
The hookers lie upon the beach; the children cease their play;        5
The gossips leave the little inn; the households kneel to pray;
And full of love and peace and rest,—its daily labor o’er,—
Upon that cosy creek there lay the town of Baltimore.
A deeper rest, a starry trance, has come with midnight there;
No sound, except that throbbing wave, in earth or sea or air.        10
The massive capes and ruined towers seem conscious of the calm;
The fibrous sod and stunted trees are breathing heavy balm.
So still the night, these two long barks round Dunashad that glide
Must trust their oars—methinks not few—against the ebbing tide.
O, some sweet mission of true love must urge them to the shore,—        15
They bring some lover to his bride, who sighs in Baltimore!
All, all asleep within each roof along that rocky street,
And these must be the lover’s friends, with gently gliding feet.
A stifled gasp! a dreamy noise! The roof is in a flame!
From out their beds, and to their doors, rush maid and sire and dame,        20
And meet upon the threshold stone, the gleaming sabre’s fall,
And o’er each black and bearded face the white or crimson shawl.
The yell of “Allah!” breaks above the prayer and shriek and roar—
O blessèd God! the Algerine is lord of Baltimore!
Then flung the youth his naked hand against the shearing sword;        25
Then sprung the mother on the brand with which her son was gored;
Then sunk the grandsire on the floor, his grand-babes clutching wild;
Then fled the maiden moaning faint, and nestled with the child.
But see, yon pirate strangling lies, and crushed with splashing heel,
While o’er him in an Irish hand there sweeps his Syrian steel;        30
Though virtue sink, and courage fail, and misers yield their store,
There ’s one hearth well avenged in the sack of Baltimore!
Midsummer morn, in woodland nigh, the birds begin to sing;
They see not now the milking-maids, deserted is the spring!
Midsummer day, this gallant rides from the distant Bandon’s town,        35
These hookers crossed from stormy Skull, that skiff from Affadown.
They only found the smoking walls with neighbors’ blood besprent,
And on the strewed and trampled beach awhile they wildly went,
Then dashed to sea, and passed Cape Clear, and saw, five leagues before,
The pirate-galleys vanishing that ravaged Baltimore.        40
O, some must tug the galley’s oar, and some must tend the steed,—
This boy will bear a Scheik’s chibouk, and that a Bey’s jerreed.
O, some are for the arsenals by beauteous Dardanelles,
And some are in the caravan to Mecca’s sandy dells.
The maid that Bandon gallant sought is chosen for the Dey,        45
She ’s safe,—she ’s dead,—she stabbed him in the midst of his Serai;
And when to die a death of fire that noble maid they bore,
She only smiled,—O’Driscoll’s child,—she thought of Baltimore.
’T is two long years since sunk the town beneath that bloody band,
And all around its trampled hearth a larger concourse stand,        50
Where high upon a gallows-tree a yelling wretch is seen,—
’T is Hackett of Dungarvan,—he who steered the Algerine!
He fell amid a sullen shout, with scarce a passing prayer,
For he had slain the kith and kin of many a hundred there:
Some muttered of MacMorrogh, who had brought the Norman o’er,        55
Some cursed him with Iscariot, that day in Baltimore.

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