Page:Life of John Boyle O'Reilly.djvu/184

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On Saturday morning, May 16, 1874, occurred the great flood at Mill River Valley, Hampshire County, Mass., caused by the breaking of a mill-dam. Four villages were swept away and nearly two hundred lives lost in the calamity. Collins Graves, a milkman, mounted his horse and spurred through the villages, warning the inhabitants and saving hundreds of lives. O'Reilly's ringing ballad, "The Ride of Collins Graves," inspired by this incident, has taken a permanent place in the literature of heroic verse.

In the Pilot of July 11, of the same year, O'Reilly printed a poem of about sixty lines, into which he had compressed all the pent-up fierce democracy of his nature. In it he reaches his highest point of thought, if not of expression. It is the poem, "Bone and Sinew and Brain." His figures are bold and strikingly original; Manhood is its theme—Manhood, and its corelative. Womanhood—before which all else must give way in the battle for the survival of the fittest. Inveighing like a Hebrew prophet against the effeminacy of the time, and the cant of the "march of mind,"—

Till the head grows large and the vampire face,
Is gorged on the limbs so thin—

and still more fiercely against "the sterile and worthless life" of the childless woman, he cries out:

Ho, white-maned waves of the Western Sea
That ride and roll to the strand!
Ho, strong-winged birds never blown a-lee
By the gales that sweep toward land!
Ye are symbols both of a hope that saves,
As ye swoop in your strength and grace,
As ye roll to the land like the billowed graves
Of a suicidal race.
You have hoarded your strength in equal parts;
For the men of the future reign
Must have faithful souls and kindly hearts,
And bone and sinew and brain.

On the 20th of March, 1875, John Mitchell, the sturdy Irish patriot, breathed his last at Dromolane, County Down, Ireland. O'Reilly's poem on the dead patriot was pub-