Page:Life of John Boyle O'Reilly.djvu/304

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

River country, was hanged at Regina, N. W. T., on November 16. O'Reilly, who sympathized with the half-breeds in their brave resistance to injustice, and who had met Riel after his first outbreak, some fifteen years previously, could not believe that the Government of England would be unwise enough to make a martyr of him. But when the cowardly deed was done he said:

England's enemies in Canada, the United States, and Ireland may well smile at the blood-stained blunder. Forever the red line is drawn between French and English in Canada. Riel will be a Canadian Emmet. The Canadians needed a hero, a cause, and a hatred. They have them now, and, if the people be worthy, they possess the secret and the seed of a nation.

There was much virtue in that "if." The French Canadians took their only revenge by burning their enemies in effigy, the Orangemen with equal dignity fighting to prevent the harmless cremation, and all the national anger seemed to have oozed out in the smoke and stench of burning rags.

In March of this year O'Reilly wrote the poem, which has had perhaps more admirers than any single lyric from his pen, "In Bohemia." He first read it to his brothers of the Papyrus Club, who only anticipated the verdict of all readers in accepting it as the national anthem of the boundless realm of Bohemia. In the Outing magazine for December appeared his best as well as his shortest narrative poem, "Ensign Epps, the Color Bearer." The humble hero of the "Battle of Flanders" had been commemorated in prose by some musty chronicler, but his fame will last as long as that of the poet who has embalmed his deed in such noble verse:

Where are the lessons your kinglings teach?
And what is the text of your proud commanders?
Out of the centuries heroes reach
With the scroll of a deed, with the word of a story
Of one man's truth and of all men's glory.
Like Ensign Epps at the Battle of Flanders.