Page:Life of John Boyle O'Reilly.djvu/375

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HIS LIFE, POEMS AND SPEECHES.

society's cess-pool, the prison yard and convict gang. Nothing but the grace of heaven, and the absolute refinement with which he was born, could have brought him out of these debased surroundings a pure-minded man and a stainless, high-bred gentleman. His writings are pure because he could hot write otherwise.

A Democratic mayor in New York having allowed the Irish flag to occupy a modest place on the City Hall on St. Patrick's Day this year, an Englishman wrote to Mayor Grant on behalf of his fellow-countrymen requesting that the British flag be floated from the same building on St. George's Day. "By all means," commented O'Reilly, "let the British flag float. It has as much right on the City Hall as the green or any other foreign flag. It will but remind every American of the time it floated there as a menace to the people, supported by the bayonets of its foreign legions, while the green flag and the nation it represents were spiritually and bodily supporting Washington in the field."

On May 11, he delivered an address before the Paint and Oil Club of Boston, on the future of the Dismal Swamp. He lectured through the season in various parts of New England. In compliance with the request of the Scranton Truth he acted as judge in the competition for a prize to be awarded to the best poem on the subject of the Samoan disaster. He awarded the prize to Homer Greene's poem, "The Banner of the Sea."

In May, he accepted an invitation to prepare a poem for the dedication of the national monument to the Pilgrim Fathers at Plymouth, Mass.

The selection of a foreign-born citizen for this office surprised and offended some narrow-minded people who, through no fault of theirs, but by their constitutional limitations, were unable to appreciate either his poetical genius or the catholic breadth of his nature. But all, even the most doubtful, were convinced and delighted, when the masterly poem was read, that this alien-born citizen, precisely because he was such, had learned to grasp, as no