Life of John Boyle O'Reilly

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LIFE, POEMS AND SPEECHES

OF

JOHN BOYLE O'REILLY.

Frontispiece to Life of John Boyle O'Reilly.png
Life of John Boyle O'Reilly (1891) p10.jpg

LIFE

OF

JOHN BOYLE O'REILLY,


BY

JAMES JEFFREY ROCHE.


TOGETHER WITH HIS

COMPLETE POEMS AND SPEECHES,

EDITED BY

MRS. JOHN BOYLE O'REILLY.


INTRODUCTION BY HIS EMINENCE

JAMES CARDINAL GIBBONS,

ARCHBISHOP OF BALTIMORE.




NEW YORK:

CASSELL PUBLISHING COMPANY,

104 & 106 Fourth Avenue.

Copyright, 1891

BY

MRS. JOHN BOYLE O'REILLY.


All rights reserved.

INTRODUCTION.


The best monument to a great and good man are the works with which his hand and his head have enriched the world.

More fittingly than by towering shaft of granite or of marble will the name of John Boyle O'Reilly be immortalized by this collection of his writings. On this, his cenotaph, aere perennius, I dutifully, though sorrowfully, lay this wreath of admiration for the genius—of love for the man.

Few men have felt so powerfully the divinus afflatus of Poesy; few natures have been so fitted to give it worthy response. As strong as it was delicate and tender, as sympathetic and tearful as it was bold, his soul was a harp of truest tone, which felt the touch of the ideal everywhere, and spontaneously breathed responsive music, joyous or mournful, vehement or soft. Such a nature needed an environment of romance, and romantic indeed was his career throughout. In boyhood his imagination feasts on the weird songs and legends of the Celt; in youth his heart agonizes over that saddest and strangest romance in all history,—the wrongs and woes of his mother-land, that Niobe of the nations; in manhood, because he dared to wish her free, he finds himself a doomed felon, an exiled convict in what he calls himself "the netherworld"; then, bursting his prison bars, a hunted fugitive, reaching the haven of this land of liberty penniless and unknown, but rising by the sheer force of his genius and his worth, till the best and the noblest in our country vie in doing honor to his name.

With surroundings and a career like these, a man of his make could not but be a poet, and a poet he became of truest mould; wooed to the summits of Parnassus by his love of the beautiful, his fiery spirit was calmed on its stilly heights, and grew into that poise and restfulness and self-control, without which poetry would lack dignity and grace. No writer understood better than he that the face and form of Poesy to be beautiful must be tranquil, that violent movements rob her of her charm—that even in the tempest of her love or wrath her mien must breathe the comeliness and harmony of the Divine.

This lesson of the Muses gave grace and charm to more than his poetry, it gradually pervaded all the movement of his life. Seldom did he lose sight of what he has himself so beautifully expressed:

Nature's gospel never changes,
Every sudden force deranges,
Blind endeavor is not wise.

Many a time was he subjected to trials calling for super-human self-control, and seldom was he found wanting under the test. Instances without number are related of his generous magnanimity toward those who deserved it least, of his patience under insult and injustice, of his quickness to atone for any momentary, unguarded flash. There was a rhythm and a harmony in all his life like to that of his thoughts and of his style.

But in all this there was more than nature. The Divine Faith, implanted in his soul in childhood, flourished there undyingly, pervaded his whole being with its blessed influences, furnished his noblest ideals of thought and conduct. Even when not explicitly adverted to. Faith's sweet and holy inspirations were there to shape his thought and direct his life. They had made, his mind their sanctuary before its work began, and all its imagery during life instinctively bore the impress of their presence.

Thus was he fitted to fulfill worthily the vocation of a poet. For it is not aimlessly that Divine Providence endows a human being with qualities so exceptional and exalted.

The poet is one endowed with ken so piercing as through the veil of sense to gaze upon the world of the ideal, and through all ideals to penetrate to the archetypal ideal of all things;—endowed with heart so sensitive as to thrill with unwonted throbbings at this vision of the true, the beautiful, and the good;— endowed with speech so subtle that it can fit itself to thoughts and emotions like these, so rhythmical and sweet that, falling on ears dulled by the hard din of life, it may charm them, and lift up earthly minds and hearts to thought and love of better things. The true poet realizes what O'Reilly sung in one of his latest and best productions:

Those who sail from land afar,
Leap from mountain-top to star;
Higher still, from star to God,
Have the Spirit-Pilots trod,
Setting lights for mind and soul.
That the ships may reach their goal.

The vocation of the poet is close akin to that of the priest, and it is not to be wondered at that during most of his life our poet's nearest and dearest friends were clergymen.

In his career as a journalist, the magnanimity and self-control thus variously impressed upon him and infused into him were especially manifested. Constantly obliged to deal with burning questions, he usually handled them with a conservative prudence scarcely to be expected in one so vehement by nature.

Accustomed by long experience to have his most cherished convictions resisted and assailed, he met all opponents with a chivalrous courtesy, as well as with a dauntless courage, that instantly won respect, and often ended by winning them over to his side.

No wonder, then, that he, far beyond the bulk of men, verified his own touching lines:

The work men do is not their test alone,
The love they win is far the better chart.

Who can recall an outburst of grief so universal and so genuine as that evoked by his all too early and sudden death? At the sad news numberless hearts in all the lands which speak our English tongue stood still as in anguish for the loss of a brother or a friend. In accents trembling with the eloquence of emotion, countless tongues in our own and in other climes have paid unwonted tribute to his worth; great, thinkers and writers have lauded his genius; the lowly and unlettered are mourning him who was ever humanity's friend.

The country of his adoption vies with the land of his birth in testifying to the uprightness of his life, the usefulness of his career and his example, the gentleness of his character, the nobleness of his soul. The bitterest prejudices of race and of creed seem to have been utterly conquered by the masterful goodness of his, heart and the winning sweetness of his tongne, and to have turned into all the greater admiration for the man.

With all these voices I blend my own, and in their name I say that the world is brighter for having possessed him, and mankind will be the better for this treasury of pure and generous and noble thoughts which he has left us in his works.


PREFACE.


THE following pages have been written in the scant leisure of a busy life, made doubly so by the loss which called them forth. They make no pretension to being a critical study of their subject or a minute history of his life. I have aimed to present, concisely and truthfully, the leading events in a career as full of dramatic incident and striking change as the pages of a romance; letting the story tell itself, wherever it has been possible, in the words of its illustrious subject.

Having the advantages of access to his printed and private papers, as well as of a close personal friendship of twenty years, I have been able, I think, to draw a faithful picture of John Boyle O'Reilly as he was in public and private. The picture has not been overcolored by the hand of friendship. If there appear to be more of eulogy than of criticism in the work, the fact is not to be wondered at. It would be impossible for anybody who knew John Boyle O'Reilly intimately to think or write of him in any other strain.

His public life and literary labors will be judged by posterity on their merits. I believe that the judgment will be even more favorable than that passed by his contemporaries. Of his personal character there can be but one judgment. Those nearest him are best able to testify to its unvarying heroism, tenderness, and beauty; but no earthly chronicler can ever tell the whole story of his kindly thoughts and words and deeds. A few of them are here recorded; the greater number are written on the hearts of the thousands whose lives he brightened and blessed; the whole are known only to the God whose mercy gave such a life to the world—whose inscrutable wisdom recalled the gift so soon.

CONTENTS.


PAGE
INTRODUCTION BY CARDINAL GIBBONS v
PREFACE ix
Birthplace—Childhood and Youth—Early Apprenticeship—Sojourn in England—Enlists in "The Prince of Wales' Own"—Conspiracy, Detection, and Arrest—"The Old School Clock," 1
Trial by Court-martial—A Prisoner's Rights before a British Military Tribunal—The Stories of Two Informers—Found Guilty and Sentenced to Death—Commutation of Sentence—Mountjoy Prison—How O'Reilly Repaid a Traitor, 22
Solitary Confinement—An Autobiographical Sketch—Pentonville, Millbank, Chatham, Dartmoor—Three Bold Attempts to Escape—Realities of Prison Life—The Convict Ship Hougoumont—The Exiles and their Paper, The Wild Goose, 48
Prison Life in Australia—O'Reilly Transferred from Fremantle to Bunbury—Cruel Punishment for a Technical Offense—Daring Plan to Escape—Free at Last Under the American Flag, 69
Narrow Escape from a "Bad" Whale—He Feigns Suicide in Order to Avoid Recapture at Roderique—Transferred to the Sapphire off Cape of Good Hope—Arrival at Liverpool—Takes Passage for America—Lands at Philadelphia, 84
Arrival in Boston—Untoward Experience in a Steamship Office—Public Lectures—His Personal Appearance—Characteristic Letters—Employed on The Pilot—At the Front with the Fenians—The Orange Riots in New York—O'Reilly Sharply Condemns the Rioters—A Notable Editorial, 101
Civilian Prisoners in Australia Set Free—The Story of Thomas Hassett—O'Reilly's Narrative Poems—His Love of Country and Denunciation of Sham Patriots—Death of His Father—Speech for the Press—His Marriage, and Home Life—Pilot Burned Out in the Great Boston Fire—The Papyrus Club Founded, 122
His Public Life—Editorial Condemnation of Bigotry—He Speaks for the Indian and the Negro—"Songs of the Southern Seas"—Death of Captain Gifford—Poem on the Death of John Mitchell—Controversy with Dr. Brownson—His Poem for the O'Connell Centenary—O'Reilly Becomes Part Owner of the Pilot, 140
The Cruise of the Catalpa—The English Government Rejects the Petition of One Hundred and Forty Members of Parliament for the Pardon of the Soldier Convicts—John Devoy and John Breslin Plan their Rescue—Good Work of the Clan-na-Gael—The Dream of O'Reilly and Hathaway Fulfilled—The Catalpa Defies a British Gunboat, and Bears the Men in Safety to America, 156
Death of John O'Mahony—O'Reilly's Tribute to the Head-Center—Prison Sufferings of Corporal Chambers—He is Set Free at Last—O'Reilly on Denis Kearney—"Moondyne," and its Critics—"Number 406," 174
Elected President of the Papyrus Club, and also of the Boston Press Club—Interesting Addresses Delivered Before Both—Speech at the Moore Centenary—Letter to the Papyrus Club—His Home at Hull—Visit of Parnell to America—Founding of the St. Botolph Club and the "Cribb Club"—Justin McCarthy Describes the Poet-Athlete—Russell Sullivan's "Here and Hereafter," 191
His Editorials and Public Utterances—Honored by Dartmouth College and Notre Dame—The "Statues in the Block"—"Ireland's Opportunity"—"Erin"-Tribute to Longfellow—His Great Poem, "America," Read Before the Veterans—The Phoenix Park Tragedy—Death of Fanny Parnell—"To Those "Who Have Not Yet Been President," 204
His Kindness to Young Writers—Versatile Editorial Work—Irish National Affairs—Speech Before the League—His Canoeing Trips—A Papyrus Reunion—Death of Wendell Phillips, and O'Reilly's Poem—Presidential Campaign of 1884—"The King's Men"—Another Papyrus Poem Touching Letter to Father Anderson, 223
O'Reilly's Case in the House of Commons—Refused Permission to Visit Canada—Slander About "Breaking Parole" Refuted—A Characteristic Letter in 1869—His Editorial "Is it Too Late?"—Bayard, Lowell, and Phelps—Another Speech in Faneuil Hall—Hanging of Riel—"In Bohemia"—Farewell Poem to Underwood—"Hanged, Drawn, and Quartered," 247
Article in North American Review, "At Last"—Address Before the Beacon Club of Boston—Defense of the Colored Men—The Five Dollar Parliamentary Fund—"The American Citizen Soldier"—"The Cry of the Dreamer"—Another Characteristic Letter, 272
"Boyle's Log"—No Memory for Dates—A Western Publisher's Offer—Speech of "Welcome to Justin McCarthy—Poem on "Liberty"—He Defends his Democracy—"The Exile of the Gael"—Speech at William O'Brien's Reception—Crispus Attucks—The British in Faneuil Hall, 293
Public Addresses—Author's Reading—The Irish Flag in New York — "Athletics and Manly Sport" Published—His Cruise in the Dismal Swamp— Interesting Letters to E. A. Moseley—Speech at the C. T. A. U. Banquet—Bayard, Chamberlain, and Sackville-West—Presidential Election—Poem on Crispus Attacks—Death of Corporal Chambers—Speech for the Heroes of Hull, 310
Another Author's Reading, "A Philistine's Views" on Erotic Literature—Poem on the Pilgrim Fathers—Another, "From the Heights," for the Catholic University—Attacked by La Grippe—Hopes of Another Canoe Cruise—Brave Words for the Negro and the Hebrew—"The Useless Ones," his Last Poem—Lecturing Tour to the Pacific Coast—Definition of Democracy—Views on the Catholic Congress—His Last Canoeing Paper and Last Editorials—A Characteristic Deed of Kindness—His Death, 333
Profound Sorrow of the Nation and of the Irish People—Tributes of Respect to his Memory—"A Loss to the Country, to the Church, and to Humanity in General"—Remarkable Funeral Honors—Resolutions of National and Catholic Societies—The Papyrus Club and the Grand Army of the Republic—"The Truest of all the True is Dead," 354
The City of Boston Honors his Memory—Great Citizens' Meeting in Tremont Temple—Liberal Subscriptions to a Public Monument—Memorial Meetings in New York and Elsewhere—The "Month's Mind"—Eloquent Sermon of Bishop Healy—The Poet's Grave in Holyhood, 366
Early Traits of Character—Letters from Prison—His Religious Nature Exemplified—An Ideal Comrade—Love of Nature and of Art—His First Poem—His Lavish Charity and Kindness—A Child's Tribute—The End, 375

POEMS.


  PAGE
THE WONDERFUL COUNTRY, 395
WHAT IS GOOD, 396
THE PILGRIM FATHERS, 397
FROM THE HEIGHTS, 405
MAYFLOWER, 407
CRISPUS ATTUCKS, 408
THE EXILE OF THE GAEL, 414
THREE GRAVES, 418
AN ART MASTER, 420
LIBERTY LIGHTING THE WORLD, 420
THE PRESS EVANGEL, 428
   
THE USELESS ONES, 424
LOVE WAS TRUE TO ME, 429
TO MY LITTLE BLANID, 430
WRITTEN UNDER A PORTRAIT OF KEATS, 430
AN OLD PICTURE, 431
AT SCHOOL, 432
UNDER THE SURFACE, 483
CONSCIENCE, 433
TO MY DEAR OLD FRIEND, MR. A. SHUMAN, 434
TO A. S., ON HIS DAUGHTER'S WEDDING, 434
TWO LIVES 435
MY TROUBLES! 435
VIGNETTES, 436
A MESSAGE OF PEACE 437
A MAN, 438
   
FOREVER, 441
MY NATIVE LAND 441
A YEAR, 448
THE FAME OF THE CITY, 443
YESTERDAY AND TO-MORROW, 444
IN BOHEMIA, 445
SONGS THAT ARE NOT SUNG, 446
WENDELL PHILLIPS, 449
A SEED, 452
A TRAGEDY, 453
DISTANCE, 453
ERIN, 453
POET AND LORD, 455
SPRING FLOWERS, 455
THE LOVING CUP OF THE PAPYRUS, 456
UNDER THE RIVER, 458
GRANT—1885, 458
AT BEST, 459
THE RIDE OF COLLINS GRAVES, 460
ENSIGN EPPS, THE COLOR-BEARER, 463
THE CRY OF THE DREAMER, 463
MY MOTHER'S MEMORY, 465
THE SHADOW, 465
AT FREDERICKSBURG,—DECEMBER 18, 1863, 466
THE DEAD SINGER, 469
THE PRIESTS OF IRELAND, 471
A LEGEND OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN, 475
RELEASED,—JANUARY, 1878, 476
JOHN MITCHEL, DIED MARCH 30, 1875, 478
A DEAD MAN, 479
A NATION'S TEST, 481
LOVE, AND BE WISE, 486
WHEAT GRAINS, 487
THE PRICELESS THINGS, 489
THE RAINBOW'S TREASURE, 491
A WHITE ROSE, 493
YES? 493
WAITING, 493
CHUNDER ALI'S WIFE, 494
A KISS, 496
JACQUEMINOTS, 496
THE CELEBES, 497
LOVE'S SACRIFICE, 497
HER REFRAIN, 499
GOLU 499
LOVE'S SECRET, 501
A PASSAGE, 501
A LOST FRIEND, 502
CONSTANCY, 502
THE TEMPLE OF FRIENDSHIP, 504
THE VALUE OF GOLD, 507
TO-DAY, 508
A BUILDER'S LESSON, 509
THE KING'S EVIL, 510
BONE AND SINEW AND BRAIN, 511
THE CITY STREETS, 513
THE INFINITE, 517
PROM THE EARTH, A CRY, 518
PROMETHEUS—CHRIST, 522
UNSPOKEN WORDS, 525
STAR-GAZING, 526
A DISAPPOINTMENT, 528
THE OLD SCHOOL CLOCK, 528
WITHERED SNOWDROPS, 530
A SAVAGE, 531
RULES OF THE ROAD, 533
LOVE IS DREAMING , 533
AMERICA, 534
THE POISON FLOWER, 539
PEACE AND PAIN, 540
HIDDEN SINS, 541
THE LOSS OF THE EMIGRANTS, 543
TRUST, 543
THE FISHERMEN OF WEXFORD, 544
THE WELL'S SECRET, 547
LIFE IS A CONFLUENCE 548
THE PATRIOT'S GRAVE 549
THE FEAST OF THE GAEL, 553
MARY 555
THE WAIL OF TWO CITIES, 556
MULEY MALEK, THE KING, 558
HEART-HUNGER, 562
SILENCE, NOT DEATH, 563
RESURGITE!—JUNE, 1877, 564
IRELAND—1883, 565
THE EMPTY NICHE, 568
MIDNIGHT—SEPTEMBER 19, 1881, 570
THE TRIAL OF THE GODS, 573
DYING IN HARNESS, 574
DOLORES, 575
THE TREASURE OF ABRAM, 577
THERE IS BLOOD ON THE EARTH, 580
LIVING, 583
MACARIUS, THE MONK, 583
THE UNHAPPY ONE 585
DESTINY, 588
A SONG FOR THE SOLDIERS 588
AN OLD VAGABOND 593
   
THE STATUES IN THE BLOCK 594
THE THREE QUEENS, 600
THE LAST OF THE NARWHALS, 604
THE LURE, 609
THE FLYING DUTCHMAN 610
UNCLE NED'S TALE-AN OLD DRAGOON'S STORY, 616
UNCLE NED'S TALE—HOW THE FLAG WAS SAVED, 635
HAUNTED BY TIGERS, 635
THE WORD AND THE DEED, 641
   
WESTERN AUSTRALIA, 647
THE DUKITE SNAKE, 648
THE MONSTER DIAMOND 653
THE DOG GUARD, 658
   
THE AMBER WHALE 665
THE MUTINY OF THE CHAINS, 677
   
THE KING OF THE VASSE, 685