Page:Life of John Boyle O'Reilly.djvu/331

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291
HIS LIFE, POEMS AND SPEECHES

of engagements than he could possibly accept. His duties as editor and manager of a great paper prevented him from giving more time to the platform. When he did accept an offer to deliver an oration he, threw his whole soul into the work, and the result was both original and striking. "You are the orators of Decoration Day, no matter who may be the speakers," he began his address to the Grand Army veterans at Everett, Mass., on May 31. Who but this clear-sighted prophet could have so well discerned the sophism of the Secession argument. "Secession was a national and constitutional right," said Jefferson Davis, twenty years after the death of the Confederacy.

"When men talk so much about rights," answers O'Reilly, "they must be willing to go to the foundation. The bottom right is the right of a man, not of a State. If the general Government had no right to oppress States,' States had no right to oppress men."

"The Cry of the Dreamer," one of the most touching of all his poems, was first published on May 8, 1886. It is a veritable cry of a natural man for the natural life, "heart-weary of building and spoiling, and spoiling and building again." By a strange coincidence there has come to me, at the moment of writing about this heart-touching poem, a copy of a letter written by the poet, eight years ago, to his friend, Charles Warren Stoddard, then a happy dweller and dreamer by the summer seas of the far-away Hawaiian Islands. It anticipates almost the very words of his poet's cry:

The "Pilot" Editorial Rooms,


Boston, June 31, 1882.

Dear Stoddard:

Your letter was kind, and sweet, and welcome. Thank you. It came like a smile, when I was in a turmoil of work and care. I envy you the laziness, and the islands, and the sun, and the vague future.

Men who dream can be tortured by the clear-lined definitions that make the paradise of the business Philistine.

I am not any longer a poet; I am a city pack-horse, with an abstract, sun-bottled attachment. I long to go and lie down in the cloverfields of my boyhood. I long to be listless and dreamy, and idle, and