Poems: T.C. Irwin.

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Poems.

By T.  C.  Irwin.

Dublin, M'Glashan & Gill.


IT is a comfort to meet an Irish poet who does not lift up that eternal wail as of a race in exile moaning over a splendid past, a hopeless future; the wail ending so often in a howl against "the Saxon."  Mr.  Irwin is not continually turning to the great old houses and the great old times, and the chiefs of a lofty line whose victories the Fenians "thrill to name," and whose glories and memories serve to light the "long night of shame."  He does not represent that spirit which in most mournful mood and lugubrious tone invariably bewails the fact that it has seen better days, and which for its useless and wearisome importunity deserves now and again some such snubbing as Prof.  Holmes administered to the lady who bored him so desperately upon the subject of her better times, and what her family had been.   "Ah, madame," said the wit, by way of consolation, "we all find our own level at last."  Mr.  Irwin finds that life is liveable in the present, and that poetry may be got out of it; and if his countrymen were only wise enough to unite and live in the same spirit as he writes in, they would soon make a brighter outlook for the future.   We imagine that Mr.  Irwin will not be considered advanced enough to suit the taste of the Nation and other poetic and patriotic schools; nevertheless, we prefer his singing to the screeching of which they have given us quite enough.   He sings very pleasantly, if with no great afflatus or power.   His themes are nicely felt and appropriately expressed.   In 'The Potato Digger's Song' he is vigorous on very homely ground:—

Come, Connal, acushla, turn the clay,
    And show the lumpers the light, gossoon,
For we must toil this autumn day,
    With Heaven's help, till rise of the moon.
Our corn is stacked, our hay secure,
    Thank God! and nothing, my boy, remains
But to pile the potaties safe on the flure
    Before the coming November rains.
        The peasant's mine is his harvest still;
        So now, my lad, let's dig with a will:—

Work hand and foot,
    Work spade and hand,
        Through the crumbly mould
            The blessed fruit
                That grows at the root
                     Is the real gold
                        Of Ireland!

Och! I wish that Maurice and Mary dear
    Were singing beside us this soft day!
Of course they're far better off than here;
    But whether they're happier, who can say?
I've heard, when it's morn with us, it's night
    With them on the far Australian shore;—
Well, Heaven be about them wid visions bright,
    And send them childer and money galore.
        With us there's many a month to fill,
        And so, my boy, let's dig with a will:—

Work hand and foot,
    Work spade and hand,
        Through the crumbly mould
            The blessed fruit
                That grows at the root
                     Is the real gold
                        Of Ireland!

Ah, then, Paddy O'Reardan, you thundering Turk,
    Is it coorting you are in the blessed noon?
Come over here, Katty, and mind your work,
    Or I'll see if your mother can't change your tune.
Well—youth will be youth, as you know, Mick,
    Sixteen and twenty for each were meant;
But, Pat, in the name of the fairies, a-vic,
    Defer your proposals till after Lent;
        And as love in this island lives mostly still
        On potatoes—dig, boy, dig with a will:

Work hand and foot,
    Work spade and hand,
        Through the crumbly mould
            The blessed fruit
                That grows at the root
                     Is the real gold
                        Of Ireland!

Down the bridle-road the neighbours ride,
    Through the light ash shade, by the wheaten sheaves:
And the children sing on the mountain side,
    In the sweet blue smoke of the burning leaves.
As the great sun sets in glory furled,
    Faith it's grand to think, as I watch his face—
If he never sets on the English World,
    He never, lad, sets on the Irish race.
        In the west, in the south, New Irelands still
        Grow up in his light—come, work with a will—

Work hand and foot,
    Work spade and hand,
        Through the crumbly mould
            The blessed fruit
                That grows at the root
                     Is the real gold
                        Of Ireland!

But look!—the round Moon, yellow as corn,
    Comes up from the sea in the deep blue calm:
It scarcely seems a day since morn;
    Well—the heel of the evening to you, ma'am.
God bless the moon: for many a night,
    As I restless lay on a troubled bed,
When rent was due—her quieting light
    Has flattered with dreams my poor old head:—
        But see—the baskets remain to fill!
        Come, girls, be alive—boys, dig with a will:—

Work hand and foot,
    Work spade and hand,
        Through the crumbly mould
            The blessed fruit
                That grows at the root
                     Is the real gold
                        Of Ireland!

A note so native ought to win the Irish heart, even though it remains to be said that Mr.  Irwin is still better on English ground.  Curiously enough, he is nowhere more at home than in the time of patch and periwig, of hoop and toupee,—the "teacup times" of Queen Anne,—among the ceremonious lords of the dainty snuff-box and clouded cane,

Whose marked obeisance ne'er disturbed
One grain of powder in their hair,

amid

The whispers sighed through vaporous scents
    Of teaboards decked with rich japan,
The kisses blown for compliments
    From cover of the pictured fan;
Charmed chat in ante-chambers lone,
    Delicious dangers on the stair,
When guardians for a space had gone
    To seek and call the distant chair;
Swift meanings shot from eye to eye,
    Light pressures, glossed with parting bow,
And sweet adieus, masked in a high
    Deceptive seriousness of brow.

    Here is a peep into a lady's boudoir:—

Around this mystic world of light
    All treasures of the East are strewn;
Rich caskets, urns of water bright,
    And vases, silver as the moon;
There meteoric opals glow
    By jacinth jewels that restrain
The airy scarf's fantastic flow,
    Or swelling shawl of Persian grain:
Bright buckles, too, that wink if stirred,
    And pearly drops, pale with the fear
Of hurried whisperings being heard
    By other than their rosy ear:
And watches fore-ordained to keep
    Sweet time with hearts whereon they lie;
Gems that from laughing ribbons peep,
    And rings, with mottoes like a sigh.

Before this shrine, with blossoms deck'd,
    The thoughtful priestess many an hour
Was wont in silence to reflect
    Upon the secret springs of power;
What colours best in love-knots blow?
    How far the bodice may allow
The charmed bosom to outsnow
    The whiteness of the fragrant brow?
What jewels suit the pensive face,
    Or how, to catch a morning eye,
The cherry-ribboned cap may grace
    One cheek in sidelong coquetry.

All this will seem very tame and "minnikin" to red-hot Irish patriots who may have a revolver or rifle hoarded up, and a hand itching to use it, and who demand that Irish poetry shall breathe threatenings and slaughter; but to us it is charming, and manifests the true artistic touch, so far as it goes; and we mistake if many readers of verse do not coincide with us in so thinking.

 



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