Page:Life of John Boyle O'Reilly.djvu/82

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CHAPTER III.


Solitary Confinement—An Autobiographical Sketch—Pentonville, Millbank, Chatham, Dartmoor—Three Bold Attempts to Escape—Realities of Prison Life—The Convict Ship Hougoumont—The Exiles and their Paper, The Wild Goose.


THREE characteristic poems were written by O'Reilly on the walls of his prison cell at this time: "The Irish Flag," a short patriotic outburst; "For Life," composed on hearing that his comrade Color-Sergeant McCarthy had received a life sentence, and "The Irish Soldiers," this last having a foot-note appended as follows:

"Written on the wall of my cell with a nail, July 17, 1866. Once an English soldier; now an Irish felon; and proud of the exchange."

Of the three poems, the second is the best, though all are so lacking in finish and strength that he wisely forebore including any of them in his published volumes. It begins with a strong stanza, suggestive of the poet's later and better work, but its merit may be said to end there.

Of all charges guilty! he knew it before;
But it's now read aloud in the scarlet-clad square,—
Formality's farce must be played out once more—
May it sink in the heart of his countrymen there!

After a short detention at Mountjoy, O'Reilly, McCarthy, and Chambers were marched through the streets, chained together by the arms, and shipped over to England, to begin their long term of suffering. They were at first confined in Pentonville, where they were allowed but one hour of exercise a day, the "exercise " consisting in pacing to and fro in a cell without a roof. The rest of the day they were locked up in their separate cells.

In a few days they were transferred to Millbank to undergo a term of solitary confinement, preliminary to the