Verse > Anthologies > > Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. > The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse
Arthur Quiller-Couch, comp.  The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse.  1922.
The Welshmen of Tirawley
By Sir Samuel Ferguson (1810–1886)
SCORNEY BWEE, the Barretts’ bailiff, lewd and lame,
To lift the Lynott’s taxes when he came,
Rudely drew a young maid to him!
Then the Lynotts rose and slew him,
And in Tubber-na-Scorney threw him—        5
          Small your blame,
          Sons of Lynott!
Sing the vengeance of the Welshmen of Tirawley.
Then the Barretts to the Lynotts gave a choice,
Saying, ‘Hear, ye murderous brood, men and boys,        10
Choose ye now, without delay,
Will ye lose your eyesight, say,
Or your manhoods, here to-day?
          Sad your choice,
          Sons of Lynott!        15
Sing the vengeance of the Welshmen of Tirawley.
Then the little boys of the Lynotts, weeping, said,
‘Only leave us our eyesight in our head.’
But the bearded Lynotts then
Quickly answered back again,        20
‘Take our eyes, but leave us men,
          Alive or dead,
          Sons of Wattin!’
Sing the vengeance of the Welshmen of Tirawley.
So the Barretts with sewing-needles sharp and smooth,        25
Let the light out of the eyes of every youth,
And of every bearded man,
Of the broken Lynott clan;
Then their darkened faces wan
          Turning south        30
          To the river—
Sing the vengeance of the Welshmen of Tirawley.
O’er the slippery stepping-stones of Clochan-na-n’all
They drove them, laughing loud at every fall,
As their wandering footsteps dark        35
Fail’d to reach the slippery mark,
And the swift stream swallow’d stark,
          One and all
          As they stumbled—
From the vengeance of the Welshmen of Tirawley.        40
Of all the blinded Lynotts one alone
Walk’d erect from stepping-stone to stone:
So back again they brought you,
And a second time they wrought you
With their needles; but never got you        45
          Once to groan,
          Emon Lynott,
For the vengeance of the Welshmen of Tirawley.
But with prompt-projected footsteps sure as ever,
Emon Lynott again cross’d the river.        50
Though Duvowen was rising fast,
And the shaking stones o’ercast
By cold floods boiling past;
          Yet you never,
          Emon Lynott,        55
Falter’d once before your foemen of Tirawley.
But, turning on Ballintubber bank, you stood,
And the Barretts thus bespoke o’er the flood—
‘O, ye foolish sons of Wattin,
Small amends are these you’ve gotten,        60
For, while Scorna Boy lies rotten,
          I am good
          For vengeance!’
Sing the vengeance of the Welshmen of Tirawley.
‘For ’tis neither in eye nor eyesight that a man        65
Bears the fortunes of himself and his clan,
But in the manly mind,
These darken’d orbs behind,
That your needles could never find
          Though they ran        70
          Through my heart-strings!’
Sing the vengeance of the Welshmen of Tirawley.
‘But, little your women’s needles do I reck;
For the night from heaven never fell so black,
But Tirawley, and abroad        75
From the Moy to Cuan-an-fod,
I could walk it every sod,
          Path and track,
          Ford and togher,
Seeking vengeance on you, Barretts of Tirawley!        80
‘The night when Dathy O’Dowda broke your camp,
What Barrett among you was it held the lamp—
Showed the way to those two feet,
When through wintry wind and sleet,
I guided your blind retreat        85
          In the swamp
          Of Beäl-an-asa?
O ye vengeance-destin’d ingrates of Tirawley!’
So leaving loud-shriek-echoing Garranard,
The Lynott like a red dog hunted hard,        90
With his wife and children seven,
’Mong the beasts and fowls of heaven
In the hollows of Glen Nephin,
          Made his dwelling,        95
Planning vengeance on the Barretts of Tirawley.
And ere the bright-orb’d year its course had run,
On his brown round-knotted knee he nursed a son,
A child of light, with eyes
As clear as are the skies        100
In summer, when sunrise
          Has begun;
          So the Lynott
Nursed his vengeance on the Barretts of Tirawley.
And, as ever the bright boy grew in strength and size,        105
Made him perfect in each manly exercise,
The salmon in the flood,
The dun deer in the wood,
The eagle in the cloud
          To surprise        110
          On Ben Nephin,
Far above the foggy fields of Tirawley.
With the yellow-knotted spear-shaft, with the bow,
With the steel, prompt to deal shot and blow,
He taught him from year to year        115
And train’d him, without a peer,
For a perfect cavalier,
          Hoping so—
          Far his forethought—
For vengeance on the Barretts of Tirawley.        120
And, when mounted on his proud-bounding steed,
Emon Oge sat a cavalier indeed;
Like the ear upon the wheat
When winds in Autumn beat
On the bending stems, his seat;        125
          And the speed
          Of his courser
Was the wind from Barna-na-gee o’er Tirawley!
Now when fifteen sunny summers thus were spent,
(He perfected in all accomplishment)—        130
The Lynott said, ‘My child,
We are over long exiled
From mankind in this wild—
          —Time we went
          Through the mountain        135
To the countries lying over-against Tirawley.’
So, out over mountain-moors, and mosses brown,
And green steam-gathering vales, they journey’d down;
Till, shining like a star,
Through the dusky gleams afar,        140
The bailey of Castlebar,
          And the town
          Of MacWilliam
Rose bright before the wanderers of Tirawley.
‘Look southward, my boy, and tell me as we go,        145
What see’st thou by the loch-head below?’
‘O, a stone-house strong and great,
And a horse-host at the gate,
And a captain in armour of plate—
          Grand the show!        150
          Great the glancing!
High the heroes of this land below Tirawley!
‘And a beautiful Bantierna by his side,
Yellow gold on all her gown-sleeves wide;
And in her hand a pearl        155
Of a young, little, fair-hair’d girl.’
Said the Lynott, ‘It is the Earl!
          Let us ride
          To his presence.’
And before him came the exiles of Tirawley.        160
‘God save thee, MacWilliam,’ the Lynott thus began;
‘God save all here besides of this clan;
For gossips dear to me
Are all in company—
For in these four bones ye see        165
          A kindly man
          Of the Britons—
Emon Lynott of Garranard of Tirawley.
‘And hither, as kindly gossip-law allows,
I come to claim a scion of thy house        170
To foster; for thy race,
Since William Conquer’s days,
Have ever been wont to place,
          With some spouse
          Of a Briton,        175
A MacWilliam Oge, to foster in Tirawley.
‘And, to show thee in what sort our youth are taught,
I have hither to thy home of valour brought
This one son of my age,
For a sample and a pledge        180
For the equal tutelage,
          In right thought,
          Word, and action,
Of whatever son ye give into Tirawley.’
When MacWilliam beheld the brave boy ride and run,        185
Saw the spear-shaft from his white shoulder spun—
With a sigh, and with a smile,
He said,—‘I would give the spoil
Of a county, that Tibbot Moyle,
          My own son,        190
          Were accomplish’d
Like this branch of the kindly Britons of Tirawley.’
When the Lady MacWilliam she heard him speak,
And saw the ruddy roses on his cheek,
She said, ‘I would give a purse        195
Of red gold to the nurse
That would rear my Tibbot no worse;
          But I seek
          Hitherto vainly—
Heaven grant that I now have found her in Tirawley!’        200
So they said to the Lynott, ‘Here, take our bird!
And as pledge for the keeping of thy word,
Let this scion here remain
Till thou comest back again:
Meanwhile the fitting train        205
          Of a lord
          Shall attend thee
With the lordly heir of Connaught into Tirawley.’
So back to strong-throng-gathering Garranard,
Like a lord of the country with his guard,        210
Came the Lynott, before them all,
Once again over Clochan-na-n’all
Steady and striding, erect and tall,
          And his ward
          On his shoulders        215
To the wonder of the Welshmen of Tirawley.
Then a diligent foster-father you would deem
The Lynott, teaching Tibbot, by mead and stream,
To cast the spear, to ride,
To stem the rushing tide,        220
With what feats of body beside.
          Might beseem
          A MacWilliam,
Foster’d free among the Welshmen of Tirawley.
But the lesson of hell he taught him in heart and mind,        225
For to what desire soever he inclined,
Of anger, lust, or pride,
He had it gratified,
Till he ranged the circle wide
          Of a blind        230
Ere he came to youthful manhood in Tirawley.
Then, even as when a hunter slips a hound,
Lynott loosed him—God’s leashes all unbound—
In the pride of power and station,        235
And the strength of youthful passion,
On the daughters of thy nation,
          All around,
          Wattin Barrett!
O! the vengeance of the Welshmen of Tirawley!        240
Bitter grief and burning anger, rage and shame,
Fill’d the houses of the Barretts where’er he came;
Till the young men of the Back,
Drew by night upon his track,
And slew him at Cornassack.        245
          Small your blame,
          Sons of Wattin!
Sing the vengeance of the Welshmen of Tirawley.
Said the Lynott, ‘The day of my vengeance is drawing near,
The day for which, through many a long dark year,        250
I have toil’d through grief and sin—
Call ye now the Brehons in,
And let the plea begin
          Over the bier
          Of MacWilliam,        255
For an eric upon the Barretts of Tirawley!’
Then the Brehons to MacWilliam Burke decreed
An eric upon Clan Barrett for the deed;
And the Lynott’s share of the fine,
As foster-father, was nine        260
Ploughlands and nine score kine;
          But no need
          Had the Lynott,
Neither care, for land or cattle in Tirawley.
But rising, while all sat silent on the spot,        265
He said, ‘The law says—doth it not?—
If the foster-sire elect
His portion to reject,
He may then the right exact
          To applot        270
          The short eric.’
‘’Tis the law,’ replied the Brehons of Tirawley.
Said the Lynott, ‘I once before had a choice
Proposed me, wherein law had little voice;
But now I choose, and say,        275
As lawfully I may,
I applot the mulct to-day;
          So rejoice
          In your ploughlands
And your cattle which I renounce throughout Tirawley.        280
‘And thus I applot the mulct: I divide
The land throughout Clan Barrett on every side
Equally, that no place
May be without the face
Of a foe of Wattin’s race—        285
          That the pride
          Of the Barretts
May be humbled hence for ever throughout Tirawley.
‘I adjudge a seat in every Barrett’s hall
To MacWilliam: in every stable I give a stall        290
To MacWilliam: and, beside,
Whenever a Burke shall ride
Through Tirawley, I provide
          At his call
          Needful grooming,        295
Without charge from any Brughaidh of Tirawley.
‘Thus lawfully I avenge me for the throes
Ye lawlessly caused me and caused those
Unhappy shame-faced ones
Who, their mothers expected once,        300
Would have been the sires of sons—
          O’er whose woes
          Often weeping,
I have groan’d in my exile from Tirawley.
‘I demand not of you your manhoods; but I take—        305
For the Burkes will take it—your Freedom! for the sake
Of which all manhood ’s given
And all good under heaven,
And, without which, better even
          You should make        310
          Yourselves barren,
Than see your children slaves throughout Tirawley!
‘Neither take I your eyesight from you; as you took
Mine and ours: I would have you daily look
On one another’s eyes        315
When the strangers tyrannize
By your hearths, and blushes arise,
          That ye brook
          Without vengeance
The insults of troops of Tibbots throughout Tirawley!        320
‘The vengeance I design’d, now is done,
And the days of me and mine nearly run—
For, for this, I have broken faith,
Teaching him who lies beneath
This pall, to merit death;        325
          And my son
          To his father
Stands pledged for other teaching in Tirawley.’
Said MacWilliam—‘Father and son, hang them high!’
And the Lynott they hang’d speedily;        330
But across the salt water,
To Scotland, with the daughter
Of MacWilliam—well you got her!—
          Did you fly,
          Edmund Lindsay,        335
The gentlest of all the Welshmen of Tirawley!
’Tis thus the ancient Ollaves of Erin tell
How, through lewdness and revenge, it befell
That the sons of William Conquer
Came over the sons of Wattin,        340
Throughout all the bounds and borders
Of the lands of Auley Mac Fiachra;
Till the Saxon Oliver Cromwell,
And his valiant, Bible-guided,
Free heretics of Clan London,        345
Coming in, in their succession,
Rooted out both Burke and Barrett,
And in their empty places
New stems of freedom planted,
With many a goodly sapling        350
Of manliness and virtue;
Which while their children cherish,
Kindly Irish of the Irish,
Neither Saxons nor Italians,
May the mighty God of Freedom        355
          Speed them well,
          Never taking
Further vengeance on his people of Tirawley.

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