Bryan Byrne, of Glenmalure. [*]
The story of Bryan Byrne is founded upon facts which were related to the author in the autumn of 1798: though the circumstances may not have happened in the exact manner which is recorded in the poem, yet it gives but too faithful a picture of the sentiments and conduct of those days. It is certain that at that period several unarmed persons, report says above twenty, were put to death by the troops near Wicklow, to retaliate the murder of many loyalists, and particularly of the three brothers mentioned in this ballad.
1 BRIGHT shines the morn o'er Carickmure,
2 And silvers every mountain stream;
3 The autumnal woods on Glenmalure
4 Look lovely in the slanting beam.
5 And hark! the cry, the cry of joy,
6 The hounds spring o'er yon heathy brow! —
7 "'Tis but the hunter's horn, my boy,
8 No death-tongued bugle scares us now."
9 In vain the widowed mother smiled,
10 And clasped her darling to her breast;
11 Horror and rage o'er all the child
12 A manly beauty strange impressed.
13 Fierce rolled his eye, of heaven's own hue,
14 And the quick blood strong passions told,
15 As fresh the breeze of morning blew
16 From his clear brow the locks of gold.
17 'Tis not alone the horn so shrill; —
18 Yon martial plume that waves on high,
19 Bids every infant nerve to thrill
20 With more than infant agony.
21 Yet gentle was the soldier's heart,
22 Whom 'mid the gallant troop he spied
23 Who let the gallant troop depart,
24 And checked his eager courser's pride.
25 "What fears the child?" he wondering cried,
26 With courteous air as near he drew.
27 "Soldier, away! my father died,
28 Murdered by men of blood like you."
29 Even while the angry cherub speaks,
30 He struggles from the stranger's grasp:
31 Kissing the tears that bathed her cheeks,
32 His little arms his mother clasp.
33 "And who are these, — this startled pair,
34 Who swift down Glenmalure arc fled?
35 Behold the mother's maniac air,
36 As seized with wild and sudden dread!"
37 "'Tis Ellen Byrne," an old man cried;
38 "Poor Ellen, and her orphan boy!"
39 Then turned his silvered brow aside,
40 To shun the youth's enquiring eye.
41 "And is there none to guard the child,
42 Save that lone frenzied widow's hand?
43 These rocky these steep woods wild,
44 Sure some more watchful eye demand." [*] [*]
Clough, the place at which Colonel Walpole was killed, and his detachment defeated by the rebels.
45 "Ah, well he knows each rock, each wood,
46 The mountain goat not more secure;
47 And he was born to hardships rude,
48 The orphan Byrne of Carickmure.
49 "That boy had seen his father's blood,
50 Had heard his murdered father's groan;
51 And never more in playful mood
52 With smiles his infant beauty shone."
53 Sad was the pitying stranger's eye:
54 "Too well," said he, "I guess the truth;
55 His father, sure, was doomed to die,
56 Some poor deluded rebel youth."
57 "No rebel he," with eye inflamed,
58 And cheek that glowed with transient fire,
59 Roused to a sudden warmth, exclaimed
60 The hapless Ellen's aged sire.
61 "He did not fall in Tarah's fight,
62 No blood of his the Curragh stains,
63 Where many a ghost that moans by-night
64 Of foully broken faith complains.
65 "He triumphed not that fatal day,
66 When every loyal cheek looked pale,
67 But heard, like us, with sad dismay,
68 Of fallen chiefs in Clough's dark vale.
69 "For, wedded to our Ellen's love,
70 One house was ours, one hope, one soul:
71 Though fierce malignant parties strove,
72 No party rage could love control.
73 "Though we were sprung from British race,
74 And his was Erin's early pride,
75 Yet matched in every loveliest grace,
76 No priest could e'er their hearts divide.
77 "What though no yeoman's arms he bore;
78 'Twas party hate that hope forbad:
79 What though no martial dress he wore,
80 That dress no braver bosom clad.
81 "And had our gallant Bryan Byrne
82 Been welcomed to their loyal band,
83 Home might I still in joy return
84 The proudest father in the land.
85 "For, ah! when Bryan Byrne was slain,
86 With him my brave, my beauteous son
87 His precious life-blood shed in vain; —
88 The savage work of death was done!" ....
89 He ceased: for now, by memory stung,
90 His heart's deep wounds all freshly bled,
91 While with a father's anguish wrung,
92 He bowed to earth his aged head.
93 Yet soothing to his broken heart
94 He felt the stranger's sympathy,
95 And age is ready to impart
96 Its page of woe to pity's eye.
97 Yes! it seemed sweet once more to dwell
98 On social joys and peaceful days,
99 And still his darling's virtues tell,
100 And still his Ellen's beauty praise.
101 "But say," at length exclaimed the youth,
102 "Did no one rash, rebellious deed
103 E'er cloud thy Bryan's loyal truth,
104 And justice doom thy boy to bleed?"
105 "No; never rash, rebellious deed
106 Was his, nor rash rebellious word;
107 That day of slaughter saw him bleed,
108 Where blushing Justice dropped the sword.
109 "In Fury's hand it madly raged,
110 As urged by fierce revenge she flew;
111 With unarmed Innocence she waged
112 Such war as Justice never knew."
113 "'Twas ours (the sorrowing father cried),
114 'Twas ours to mourn the crimes of all:
115 Each night some loyal brother died;
116 Each morn beheld some victim fall.
117 "Oh, 'twas a sad and fearful day
118 That saw my gallant boys laid low;
119 The voice of anguish and dismay
120 Proclaimed full many a widow's woe!
121 "But doubly o'er our fated house
122 The accursed hand of murder fell,
123 And ere our Ellen wept her spouse,
124 She had a dreadful tale to tell!
125 "For early on that guilty morn
126 The voice of horror reached our ears;
127 That, from their thoughtless slumber torn,
128 Before a helpless sister's tears,
129 "Beneath their very mother's sight
130 Three youthful brothers butchered lie,
131 Three loyal yeomen brave in fight,
132 Butchered by savage treachery.
133 "They were my nephews; boys I loved,
134 My own brave boys alone more dear;
135 Their rashness oft my heart reproved,
136 And marked their daring zeal with fear.
137 "They were my widowed sister's joy;
138 Her hope in age and dark distress;
139 And Ellen loved each gallant boy
140 Even with a sister's tenderness.
141 "It was from Ellen's lips I heard
142 The tidings sadly, surely true:
143 To me, ere yet the dawn appeared,
144 All pale with fear and grief she flew.
145 "Roused by her call, with her I sought
146 The sad abode of misery:
147 But to the wretched mother brought
148 No comfort, but our sympathy.
149 "On the cold earth, proud Sorrow's throne,
150 In silent majesty of woe,
151 She sat, and felt herself alone,
152 Though loud the increasing tumults grow.
153 "In throngs the assembled country came,
154 And every hand was armed with death:
155 Revenge! revenge! (they all exclaim,)
156 Spare no suspected traitor's breath:
157 "No; let not one escape who owns
158 The faith of Rome, of treachery:
159 This loyal blood for vengeance groans,
160 And signal vengeance let there be!
161 "What, shall we feel the coward blow,
162 And tamely wait a late defence?
163 No; let us strike the secret foe,
164 Even through the breast of innocence!
165 "Poor Ellen trembled as they raved;
166 Her pallid cheek forgot its tears;
167 While from the hand of fury saved,
168 Her infant darling scarce appears.
169 "I saw her earnest searching eye,
170 In that dark moment of alarm,
171 Ask, in impatient agony,
172 A brother's dear, protecting arm.
173 "Woe! bitter woe, to me and mine!
174 Too well his brave, his feeling heart
175 Already could her fears divine,
176 And more than bear a brother's part.
177 "When the first savage blast he knew
178 Would bid each deadly bugle roar,
179 Back to our home of peace he flew:
180 Ah, home of peace and love no more!
181 "Oh! would to God that I had died
182 Beneath my wretched sister's roof!
183 Thus heaven in mercy had denied
184 To my worst fears their utmost proof.
185 "So had these eyes been spared a sight
186 That wrings my soul with anguish still,
187 Nor known how much of life, ere night,
188 The blood-hounds of revenge could spill.
189 "Sinking at once with fear and age,
190 Her father's steps my child upheld;
191 The mangled victims of their rage
192 Each moment shuddering we beheld.
193 "Down yon steep side of Carickmure,
194 Our rugged path we homeward wound;
195 And saw, at least, that home secure,
196 'Mid many a smoking ruin round.
197 "Low in the Glen our cottage lies
198 Behind yon dusky copse of oak:
199 On its white walls we fixed our eyes,
200 But not one word poor Ellen spoke!
201 "We came .... the clamour scarce was o'er,
202 The fiends scarce left their work of death: —
203 But never spoke our Bryan more,
204 Nor Ellen caught his latest breath.
205 "Still to the corse by horror joined,
206 The shrinking infant closely clung,
207 And fast his little arms intwined,
208 As round the bleeding neck he hung.
209 "Oh, sight of horror, sight of woe!
210 The dead and dying both were there:
211 One dreadful moment served to show,
212 For us was nothing but despair:
213 "Oh, God! even now methinks I see
214 My dying boy, as there he stood,
215 And sought with fond anxiety
216 To hide his gushing wounds of blood,
217 "Ere life yet left his noble breast,
218 Gasping, again he tried to speak,
219 And twice my hand he feebly pressed,
220 And feebly kissed poor Ellen's, cheek.
221 "No word she spoke, no tear she shed,
222 Ere at my feet convulsed she fell,
223 Still lay my children, cold and dead!
224 And I yet live, the tale to tell!
225 "She too awoke to wild despair
226 With frenzied eye each corse to see,
227 To rave, to smile with frantic air;
228 But never more to smile for me!
229 "But hold! from yonder grassy slope
230 Our orphan darling calls me hence:
231 Sweet child, last relic of our hope,
232 Of love and injured innocence.
233 "Soldier, farewel! To thee should power
234 Commit the fate of lives obscure,
235 Remember still in fury's hour
236 The murdered youths of Glenmalure.
237 "And chief, if civil broils return,
238 Though vengeance urge to waste, destroy;
239 Ah! pause! .... think then on Bryan Byrne,
240 Poor Ellen, and her orphan boy!"