The Canon Of Aughrim

You ask me of English honour, whether your Nation is just?
Justice for us is a word divine, a name we revere,
Alas, no more than a name, a thing laid by in the dust.
The world shall know it again, but not in this month or year.

Honour? Oh no, you profane it. Justice? What words! What deeds!
Look at the suppliant Earth with its living burden of men.
Here and to Hindostan the nations and kings and creeds
Praise your name as a god's, the god of their children slain.

Which of us doubts your justice? It is not here in the West,
After six hundred years of pitiless legal war,
The sons of our soil are in doubt. They know, who have borne it, best:
The world is famished for justice. You give us a stone, your law.

These are its fruits. Yet, think you, the Ireland where men weep
Once was a jubilant land and dear to the Saints of God.
All you have made it to--day is a hell to conquer and keep,
Yours by the right of the strongest hand, the right of the rod.

History tells the story in signs deep writ on the soil,
Plain and clear in indelible type both for fools and wise.
Here is no need of books, of any expositor's coil.
He who runs may read, and he may weep who has eyes.

This is the plain of Aughrim, renowned in our Irish story
Because of the blood that was shed, the last in arms by our sons,
A fight in battle array, with more of grief than of glory,
Where as a Nation we died to dirge of your English guns.

So the Chroniclers tell us, and turn in silence their page,
Ending the fighting here. I tell you the Chroniclers lie.
Spite of the hush of the dead, the battle from age to age
Flames on still through the land, and still at men's hands men die.

Look! I will show you the footsteps of those who have died at your hand,
Done to death by your law, alas, and not by the sword,
Only their work remaining, a nations's track in the sand,
Ridge and furrow of ancient fields half hid in the sward.

Step by step they retreated. You fenced them out with your Pale,
Back from township and city and cornland fair by the Sea.
Waterford, Youghal and Wexford you took and the Golden Vale.
Tears were their portion assigned: for you their demesnes in fee.

Back to the forest and bog. They shouldered their spades like men,
Fought with the wolf and the rock and the hunger which holds the hill.
Still new homesteads arose where fever lurked in the fen,
Still your law was a sword that hunted and dogged them still.

Magistrate, landlord, bailiff, process--server and spy,
These were the dogs of your pack, which scented the land's increase.
Vainly, like hares, they lay in the forms they had fashioned to die.
Justice hunted them forth by the hand of the Justice of Peace.

Look at it closer, thus, and shading your eyes with your hand,
Far as a bird could reach, to the utmost edge of the plain,
What do you see but grass! And what do you understand?
Cattle that graze on the grass.--Alas, you have looked in vain.

See with my eyes. They are older than yours, but more keen in their love.
See what I saw as a boy in the fields, as a priest by the ways.
See what I saw in anger with angels watching above
Hiding their faces for shame in the day of the terrible days.

Horsemen and footmen and guns. They were here. I have seen them, though some
Say that two hundred years have passed since the battle was stilled.
Ay, and the cry of the wounded, drowned by the beat of the drum.
Did I not hear with my ears how it rose like the wail of a child?

I was a student then, a boy, in the days now forgotten,
When for our school--house the chapel must serve, for our master the priest.
Many a Latin theme have I scrawled on the altar rails rotten,
Thinking no more of the house of God than the house of the least.

Yet we were saints in Aughrim. An Eden the plain then stood,
Covered with gardens round, a happy and holy place,
Rich in the generations of those who had shed their blood,
Bound to their faith by the martyr's bond and the power of grace.

They do us wrong who affirm the Irish people are sad.
Sad we are in the lands afar, but not in our home.
Oh, if you knew the gladness with which our people are glad,
Well might you grieve for your own, the poor in your towns of doom.

Here, God knows it, we hunger. But hunger, a little, is well,
Man with full stomach is proud, his heart is shut to the poor.
Well, too, is persecution, since thus through its sting we rebel,
Clinging yet more to our love and our hate in the homes we adore.

Mine is a mission of peace, to save men's souls in the world,
Not to make converts to Hell, for Ir
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Wilfrid Scawen Blunt

Wilfrid Scawen Blunt was an English poet and writer. more…

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"The Canon Of Aughrim" Poetry.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2020. Web. 3 Jun 2020. <https://www.poetry.net/poem/38820/the-canon-of-aughrim>.

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