Page:Life of John Boyle O'Reilly.djvu/429

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
385
HIS LIFE, POEMS AND SPEECHES.

the spirit is the same in the doggerel of the child and the threnody of the man,—sorrow for the loss of a friend of humanity inspires both.

He left several unfinished poems, which appear in this volume, and one completed prose work, unpublished, entitled, "The Country with a Roof," an allegorical satire on the existing social condition.

O'Reilly would not have been true to his Irish nature had he not known how to sing the song of mourning. The bards of Ireland have enriched the language with some of its noblest elegies, a work for which the education and traditions of centuries had only too well prepared them. And what a range these songs cover! From the martial movement of the "Burial of Sir John Moore" and the "Bivouac of the Dead," to the heart-breaking caoine of Thomas Davis's "Lament for Owen Roe," and the mad "Hurrah for the Next that Dies," of Bartholomew Dowling. Whoever would understand the deepest depth of Irish grief, the mingling of love, wrath, and despair following the loss of a leader, will find it all compressed in the thirty odd lines of Davis's "Lament," with its closing wail:

Your troubles are all over, you're at rest with God on high;
But we're slaves and we're orphans, Owen!—why did you die!

O'Reilly's elegiac poems are Irish, too, in their warmth and sadness, but they are keyed to a higher note of philosophy and hope. His own death evoked touching verses from his countrymen and others,—Henry Austin, Edward King, Katharine E. Conway, Homer Greene, Arthur Forrester, William D. Kelly, Mrs.Whiton Stone, Rose Cavanagh, John E. Barrett, Katharine Tynan, and many more; for

Who would not sing for Lycidas? he knew
Himself to sing, and build the lofty rhyme.

His was the ideal Celtic character, made up of sunshine and tears,—only, alas! his life had seen little of the sun.