Page:Life of John Boyle O'Reilly.djvu/15

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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-

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