Page:Life of John Boyle O'Reilly.djvu/353

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HIS LIFE, POEMS AND SPEECHES
Mr. O'Reilly seemed a bit nervous as he stepped forward, eschewing the desk and its preachy suggestions, and he bent uneasily from side to side for a moment, as he read, apparently from written sheets, a number of keen epigrammatic verses, full of humanity and sharp satire of wealthy pretense. It seemed rather a trait of audacity for him to read "In Bohemia," too, before an audience which must have included very few Bohemians, and where he could hardly expect a favorable reception for his sentiments regarding organized charity and statistical Christianity; but how the audience did cheer when he was done! It was perfectly plain that he had accomplished his poet's mission in touching hearers' hearts rather than their reason, or even the reflected sentiment that comes from an intellectual conception as to what sentiment ought to be, and which often passes for genuine sentiment until somebody comes along who was endowed at his birth, as Boyle O'Reilly was, with the art of getting at the real sentiment of human beings. How such a thrill as he gave with " In Bohemia" sweeps away artificial sentiment, even when it is as cleverly conceived as they are able to conceive it in Cambridge.

Something of a tempest in a teapot was stirred up in New York on St. Patrick's Day of this year, when Mayor Abram Hewitt refused to let the Irish flag be floated over City Hall, a courtesy which had been practiced for over ninety years. Mr. Hewitt had decorated the same building with bunting on the occasion of Queen Victoria's jubilee, as he had shown himself a pronounced Anglomaniac on many other occasions. The Irish-Americans, of course, did not claim as a right that which they had so long enjoyed as a courtesy. Mr. Hewitt's animus was unmistakable; but when a branch of the Irish National League in Dublin, Ireland, passed a resolution condemning the conduct of the New York Mayor, O'Reilly pronounced their action "a folly and an impertinence, also." He said:

The city of Dublin, whether represented by British or Irish sentiment, commits an intolerable error when it assumes to lecture the city of New York or any other American city on its relation to the Irish people or flag. The first to resent such interference are Irish-Americans, who are quite able to speak for themselves.

Mayor Hewitt, sneaking into the office of the British Minister at Washington to explain why he had moved an anti-British resolution in Congress, proved himself to be an unreliable and unfriendly man, to be distrusted particularly by Irish- Americans.