Page:Life of John Boyle O'Reilly.djvu/319

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HIS LIFE, POEMS AND SPEECHES

skin. To the lower-class English mob a riot is as natural as a boil on a half-starved beggar. It is a constitutional sign, meaning poverty of the blood,—and ignorance.

We hear of no demands by the rioters—except for bread. No word has been said about the extravagances of royalty, the vast robbery of hereditary pensions, the limitless plunder of the land of Great Britain by a few thousand titled and untitled lords of men, the sale of the daughters of the poor to wealthy debauchees. Bread, bread, bread,—and to the dogs with liberty and dignity and manhood!

There is no man to lead in England. Where was the atheist Bradlaugh and the philistine Chamberlain? Where was Arch, the pure-minded, tenant-helping insect? At the head of the 50,000 were only a few blatherskites who had nothing to demand, nothing to reform!

The broad-minded humanity of the man made him sympathize even with the poor-spirited heir, of traditionary servility, but his patriotic pride forced him to add:

It is a pity to see a spiritual and intelligent nation like Ireland tied to such a dull and soulless bullock-mass, and "governed " by it! But, perhaps there is no other way by which the inert heap can be vivified, except by the chained lightning of Ireland's struggle and aspiration.

The ancients were right when they held the words poet and seer to be synonymous. John Boyle O'Reilly was a man so many-sided that it was hard for one who knew but one or two of those sides to understand the others which they did not know. I have considered chronology rather than affinity in presenting the varied aspects of his life. To attempt anything else would be to assure failure. He was too great and versatile to be classified and labeled as common men may be, and I have chosen to show him as he was, from day to day, yet always feeling how painfully deficient is that panorama of his life. For, this man, who could be at one moment absorbed in dreamy poesy, at the next fired with patriotic fervor, and again boyishly interested in athletic sport or social enjoyment, was throughout all, and above all, a thoughtful, earnest student of social and even of industrial problems. To-day he would delight his gay comrades of "Bohemia" with playful wit and wild fancy; to-morrow he would attract the admiration and compel the conviction of a group of grave business men