The Spirit of the Nation/The Munster War Song

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The Spirit of the Nation  (1843) 
The Munster War Song by Shamrock (Richard D'Alton Williams)


A.D. 1190[1]

Τα οπλα ας λαβωμεν
παιδες Ἑλληνων αγωμεν.
ποταμιδων εχθρων το αιμα
ας τρεζη υπο ποδων.



Can the depths of the ocean afford you not graves,
That you come thus to perish afar o'er the waves;
To redden and swell the wild torrents that flow,
Through the valley of vengeance, the dark Aharlow?


The clangour of conflict o'erburthens the breeze,
From the stormy Slieve Bloom to the stately Galtees;
Your caverns and torrents are purple with gore,
Slievenamon, Glencoloe, and sublime Galtymore!


The sun-burst that slumbered embalmed in our tears,
Tipperary! shall wave o'er thy tall mountaineers!
And the dark hill shall bristle with sabre and spear,
While one tyrant remains to forge manacles here.


The riderless war-steed careers o'er the plain
With a shaft in his flank and a blood dripping mane,
His gallant breast labours, and glare his wild eyes;
He plunges in torture—falls—shivers—and dies.


Let the trumpets ring triumph! the tyrant is slain,
He reels o'er his charger deep pierced through the brain;
And his myriads are flying like leaves on the gale,
But, who shall escape from our hills with the tale?


For the arrows of vengeance are show'ring like rain,
And choke the strong rivers with islands of slain,
Till thy waves, "lordly Shannon," all crimsonly flow,
Like the billows of hell with the blood of the foe.


Aye! the foemen are flying, but vainly they fly—
Revenge, with the fleetness of lightning, can vie;
And the septs of the mountains spring up from each rock,
And rush down the ravines like wolves on the flock.


And who shall pass over the stormy Slieve Bloom,
To tell the pale Saxon of tyranny's doom;
When, like tigers from ambush, our fierce mountaineers,
Leap along from the crags with their death-dealing spears?


They came with high boasting to bind us as slaves;
But the glen and the torrent have yawned for their graves—
From the gloomy Ardfinnan to wild Templemore—
From the Suir to the Shannon—is red with their gore.


By the soul of Heremon! our warriors may smile,
To remember the march of the foe through our isle;
Their banners and harness were costly and gay,
And proudly they flash'd in the summer sun's ray;


The hilts of their falchions were crusted with gold,
And the gems of their helmets were bright to behold,
By Saint Bride of Kildare! but they moved in fair show—
To gorge the young eagles of dark Aharlow!

  1. This song relates to the time when the Irish began to rally and unite against their invaders. The union was, alas! brief, but its effects were great. The troops of Connaught and Ulster, under Cathal Cruv-dearg (Cathal O'Connor of the Red Hand), defeated and slew Armoric St. Lawrence, and stripped De Courcy of half his conquests. But the ballad relates to Munster; and an extract from Moore's (the most accessible) book will show that there was solid ground for triumph:—"Among the chiefs who agreed at this crisis to postpone their mutual feuds, and act in concert against the enemy, were O'Brian of Thomond, and MacCarthy of Desmond, hereditary rulers of North and South Munster, and chiefs respectively of the two rival tribes, the Dalcassians and Eoganians. By a truce now formed between those princes, O'Brian was left free to direct his arms against the English; and having attacked their forces at Thurles, in Fogarty's country, gave them a complete overthrow, putting to the sword, add the Munster annals, a great number of knights."—History of Ireland, A.D. 1190.