Bryan Byrne founded on truth

Bryan Byrne
founded on truth [1] 

Bright shines the morn o'er Carickmure,
And silvers every mountain stream,
The autumnal woods on Glenmalure
Look lovely in the slanting beam.
And hark! the cry, the cry of joy!5
The hounds spring o'er yon heathy brow;
"'Tis but the hunter's horn my boy,"
"No death-tongu'd bugle scares us now."
In vain the widow'd mother smil'd,
And clasp'd her darling to her breast,10
Horror and rage o'er all the child
A manly beauty strange imprest.
Fierce roll'd his eye of heav'n's own hue,
And the quick blood strong passions told,
As fresh the breeze of morning blew,15
From his clear brow the curls of gold.
'Tis not alone the horn so shrill,
Yon martial plume that waves on high,
Bids every infant nerve to thrill
With more than infant agony.20
Yet gentle was the soldier's heart,
Whom 'mid the gallant troop he spied,
Who let the gallant troop depart,
And check'd his eager courser's pride.
For he had caught the glance of fire,25
And seen the mother's sadden'd smile,
And mingled feelings strong inspire
The wish on each to dwell a while.
"What fears the child?" he wond'ring cried,
With courteous air as near he drew,30
"Soldier away! my father died"
"Murder'd by soldiers, men like you!"
Even while the angry cherub [2]  speaks,
He struggles from the stranger's grasp,
Kissing the tears that bath'd her cheeks,35
His little arms his mother clasp.
"And who are these?" the youth exclaim'd,
With pity touch'd, with wonder fill'd,
Ere yet his cooler reason blam'd
The early hatred deep instill'd.40
But pointing to the startled pair,
While swift down Glenmalure they fled,
He mark'd the mother's maniac air,
As seiz'd with wild and sudden dread.
"'Tis Ellen Byrne," an old man cried,45
"Poor Ellen! and her orphan boy!"
Then turn'd his silver'd brow aside,
To shun the youth's inquiring eye.
"But is there none to guard the child"
"Save that lone phrenzied widow's hand,"50
"These rocky heights, those steep woods wild,"
"Sure some more watchful eye demand."
"Ah, well he knows each rock each wood,"
"The mountain goat not more secure,"
"And he was born to hardships rude,"55
"The orphan Byrne of Carickmure."
"That boy had seen his father's blood,"
"Had heard his murder'd father's groan,"
"And never more in playful mood"
"With smiles his infant beauty shone."60
Sad was the pitying stranger's eye,
"Too well," said he, "I guess the truth,"
"His father sure was doom'd to die,"
"Some poor deluded rebel youth."
"No rebel he," with eye inflam'd,65
And cheek that glow'd with transient fire,
Rous'd to a sudden warmth exclaim'd
The hapless Ellen's aged sire.
"He did not fall in Tarah's fight,"
"No blood of his the Currah stains,"70
"Where many a ghost, that moans by night,"
"Of foully broken faith complains."
"He triumph'd not that fatal day"
"When every loyal cheek look'd pale,"
"But heard like us with sad dismay"75
"Of fallen chiefs in Clough's dark vale." [3] 
"For wedded to our Ellen's love,"
"One house was ours, one hope, one soul;"
"Tho' fierce malignant parties strove,"
"No party rage could love controul."80
"Tho' we were sprung from British race,"
"And his was Erin's early pride,"
"Yet, match'd in every loveliest grace,"
"No priest could ere their hearts divide."
"What tho' no Yeoman's arms he bore,"85
"'Twas party hate that hope forbad,"
"What tho' no martial dress he wore,"
"That dress no braver bosom clad."
"And had our gallant Bryan Byrne"
"Been welcom'd to their loyal band,"90
"Home might I still in joy return"
"The proudest father in the land."
"For ah! when Bryan Byrne was slain,"
"With him my brave, my beauteous son"
"His precious life-blood shed in vain,"95
"The savage work of death was done."
He ceas'd, for now, by memory stung,
His heart's deep wounds all freshly bled,
While with a father's anguish wrung,
He bow'd to earth his aged head.100
Yet soothing to his broken heart
He felt the stranger's sympathy,
And age is ready to impart
Its page of woe to pity's eye.
Yes it seem'd sweet once more to dwell105
On social joys, and peaceful days,
And still his darling's virtues tell
And still his Ellen's beauty praise.
"And say" at length exclaim'd the youth,
"Did no one rash rebellious deed,"110
"Ere cloud thy Bryan's loyal truth,"
"And justice doom thy boy to bleed?"
No, never rash rebellious deed
Was his, nor rash rebellious word,
That day of slaughter saw him bleed115
Where blushing justice dropt the sword.
In fury's hand it madly rag'd,
As urg'd by fierce revenge she flew,
With unarmed innocence she wag'd
Such war as justice never knew.120
"'Twas ours," the sorrowing father cried,
"'Twas ours to mourn the crimes of all"
"Each night some loyal brother died,"
"Each morn beheld some victim fall."
"Oh! 'twas a sad and fearful day,"125
"That saw my gallant boys laid low,"
"The voice of anguish and dismay"
"Proclaim'd full many a widow's woe."
"But doubly o'er our fated house"
"Th'accursed hand of murder fell," 130
"And, ere our Ellen wept her spouse,"
"She had a dreadful tale to tell"
"For early on that guilty morn,"
"The voice of horror reach'd our ears,"
"That from their thoughtless slumber torn,"135
"Before a helpless sister's tears,"
"Beneath their very mother's sight,"
"Three youthful brothers butcher'd lie,"
"Three loyal yeomen brave in fight,"
"Butcher'd by savage treachery."140
"They were my nephews; boys I lov'd,"
"My own brave boy alone more dear;"
"Their rashness oft my heart reprov'd"
"And mark'd their daring zeal with fear."
"They were my widow'd sister's joy,"145
"Her hope in age, and dark distress,"
"And Ellen lov'd each gallant boy,"
"Even with a sister's tenderness."
"It was from Ellen's lips I heard"
"The tidings sadly, surely true,"150
"To me ere yet the dawn appear'd,"
"All pale with fear & grief she flew."
"Rous'd by her call, with her I sought"
"The sad abode of misery,"
"But to the wretched mother brought"155
"No comfort but our sympathy."
"On the cold earth, proud sorrow's throne,"
"In silent majesty of woe,"
"She sat, & felt herself alone,"
"Tho' loud th'encreasing tumult grew."160
"In throngs th'assembled country came,
"And every hand was arm'd with death,
Revenge, revenge they all exclaim,
Spare no suspected traitor's breath.
No! let not one escape, who owns165
The faith of Rome, of treachery,
This loyal blood for vengeance groans,
And signal vengeance let there be.
What, shall we feel the coward blow,
And tamely wait a late defence,170
No, let us strike the secret foe,
Even thro' the breast of innocence!
"Poor Ellen trembled as they rav'd,"
"Her pallid cheek forgot its tears,"
"While, from the hand of fury sav'd"175
"Her infant darling scarce appears."
"I saw her earnest searching eye,"
"In that dark moment of alarm,"
"Ask, in impatient agony,"
"A brother's dear, protecting arm."180
"Woe! bitter woe! to me, and mine,"
"Too well his brave, his feeling heart"
"Already could her fears divine,"
"And more than bear a brother's part."
"When the first savage blast he knew"185
"Would bid each deadly bugle roar,"
"Back to our home of peace he flew,"
"Ah home of peace and love no more!"
"Oh would to God that I had died"
"Beneath my wretched sisters roof!"190
"Thus Heav'n in mercy had denied"
"To my worst fears their utmost proof."
"So had these eyes been spar'd a sight"
"Which wrings my soul with anguish still."
"Nor known how much of life, ere night,"195
"The blood-hounds of revenge could spill."
"Sinking at once with fear & age"
"Her father's steps my child upheld,"
"The mangled victims of their rage"
"Each moment shuddring we beheld."200
"Down yon steep side of Carickmure;"
"Our rugged path we homeward wound;"
"And saw, at least, that home secure,"
"'Mid many a smoky ruin round."
"Low in the glen our cottage lies,"205
"Behind yon dusky copse of oak,"
"On its white walls we fix'd our eyes."
"But not one word poor Ellen spoke."
"We came: the clamour scarce was o'er,"
"The fiends scarce left their work of death,"210
"But never spoke our Bryan more,"
"Nor Ellen caught his latest breath."
"Still to the corpse by horror join'd,"
"The shrinking infant closely clung,"
"And fast his little arms entwin'd"215
"As round the bleeding neck he hung."
"Oh! sight of horror, sight of woe!"
"The dead & dying both were there,"
"One dreadful moment serv'd to shew"
"For us was nothing but despair."220
"Oh God! even now methinks I see"
"My dying boy as there he stood,"
"And sought with fond anxiety,"
"To hide his gushing wounds of blood."
"Dear Ellen!" faintly he exclaim'd,225
"I could not save our Bryan's life"
"Thy brother's love will not be blam'd"
"Unequal, cruel was the strife."
"Ere life yet left his noble breast,"
"Gasping again he tried to speak," 230
"And twice my hand he feebly prest,"
"And feebly kiss'd poor Ellen's cheek."
"No word she spoke, no tear she shed,"
"Ere at my feet convuls'd she fell;"
"Still lay my children, cold and dead,"235
"And I yet live the tale to tell."
"She too awoke to wild despair,"
"With frenzied eye each corpse to see,"
"To rave, to smile with frantic air,"
"But never more to smile for me."240
"But hold! from yonder grassy slope,"
"Our orphan darling calls me hence;"
"Sweet child! last relick of our hope"
"Of love, & injur'd innocence."
Behind that birch-tree see him stand,"245
"Waving its light boughs gracefully:"
"While, threat'ning with his baby hand,"
He chides me that I talk with thee."
"Soldier farewel! to thee should power"
"Commit the fate of life's obscure,"250
"Remember still in fury's hour"
"The murder'd youths of Glenmalure"
"And chief, if civil broils return,"
"Tho' vengeance urge to waste, destroy,"
"Ah! pause: think then on Bryan Byrne!"255
"Poor Ellen and her orphan boy!"


[1] EDITOR'S NOTE: "Bryan Byrne founded on truth" is printed in Psyche, with Other Poems (the source text for Collected Poems and Journals) under the title "Bryan Byrne, of Glenmalure" without the subtitle and missing the following four stanzas: lines 25-28, 37-40, 225-28, and 245-48. A note in Psyche, with Other Poems states that “The story of Bryan Byrne is founded upon facts which were related to the author in the autumn of 1798: though circumstances may not have happened in the exact manner which is recorded in the poem, yet it gives but too faithful a picture of the sentiments and conduct of those days. It is certain that at that period several unarmed persons, report says above twenty, were put to death by the troops near Wicklow, to retaliate the murder of many loyalists, and particularly of the three brothers mentioned in this ballad” (314). BACK

[2] EDITOR'S NOTE: MS reads "cherubs" BACK

[3] EDITOR'S NOTE: A note in Psyche, with Other Poems identifies Clough as "the place at which Colonel Walpole was killed, and his detachment defeated by the rebels" (314). BACK