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Title: Some Poems of Roger Casement
Author: Casement, Roger
Language: English
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[Illustration: The Talbot Press Booklets: Some Poems of Roger Casement]

[Illustration: The Talbot Press books.]

  Some Poems of
  Roger Casement

[Illustration: ROGER CASEMENT]



  DUBLIN                LONDON
  The Talbot Press      T. Fisher Unwin
  (LIMITED)             (LIMITED)
  89 Talbot Street      1 Adelphi Terrace


  Printed at


  89 Talbot Street



  Introduction                                        ix

  "The Heart's Verdict"                                1

  "Mio Salvatore"                                      2

  "Love's Horizon"                                     3

  "Love's Cares"                                       4

  The Peak of the Cameroons--I.                        5

  The Peak of the Cameroons--II.                       6

  Hamilcar Barca                                       7

  Verses sent from the Congo Free State in response
  to Mr. Harrison's appeal for the restoration of
  the Elgin Marbles to Greece                          8

  Lost Youth                                           9

  The Streets of Catania                              10

  The Irish Language                                  12

  Parnell                                             14

  Benburb                                             15

  Oliver Cromwell                                     21

  The Triumph of Hugh O'Neill                         22

  Translation from Victor Hugo's "Feuilles
  d'Automne"                                          25


In giving these few poems of Roger Casement to the Irish people I
do not claim for them any special value as Irish literature. Roger
Casement was not a poet, he would have been the last to lay claim to
any such title, but, like the greater part of his fellow-countrymen, he
felt from time to time the impulse to express some particular thought
in verse, and he used to jot down, sometimes in a letter to a friend,
sometimes on an odd half sheet of paper, the thought clothed in a
poetic form just as it came into his mind.

His was a nature of peculiar delicacy and refinement and of
singular simplicity; he had but one passion, Ireland, but one deep
sympathy--compassion for the helpless and oppressed.

Even as a little boy he turned with horror and revulsion from cruelty
of every description: he would tenderly nurse a wounded bird to
life, and stop to pity an overloaded horse. This gentleness and
tender-heartedness was one of his most marked characteristics; it led
him to champion the cause of the Congo native and the Putumayo Indian,
and to spend his slender means in later life in trying to relieve the
wretched fever-stricken inhabitants in Connemara when typhus was raging
among them, or to provide a mid-day meal for children in the Gaeltacht,
who after walking perhaps for miles to school, through storm and rain,
would have gone hungry all day if his kindly heart had not pitied them.
When he was stricken with misfortune, it was these same children whose
touching letters to him and whose words of consolation, with their
prayers, brought tears to his eyes.

The act which brought him to his death was the result of long years
of brooding over Ireland and her destiny; it was not a sudden and new
impulse as some have endeavoured to prove. To say that his interest
in Ireland began with his retirement from the service of the British
Foreign Office is to misrepresent the facts entirely. Roger Casement
from his earliest days was before everything else a lover of Ireland.
In his school days he begged from the aunt, with whom he spent his
holidays, for possession of an attic room which he turned into a little
study, and the writer remembers the walls papered with cartoons cut out
of the _Weekly Freeman_, showing the various Irish Nationalists who had
suffered imprisonment at English hands for the sake of their belief
in Ireland a Nation. Many years later, when he himself was a prisoner
in an English gaol he wrote: "I have felt this destiny on me since I
was a little boy; it was inevitable; everything in my life has led up
to it." He seemed in a curious way to have a foreboding of his fate.
Once, years before his retirement, he was joking with a friend about
some wonderful plan that was conceived in a mood of playfulness, and
the carrying out of which would have involved considerable danger. The
friend pointed out that the disadvantage of it all lay in the fact that
they might accidentally kill someone, and "then," she added, "we'd be
hanged." Roger Casement was silent for a moment, his deepset eyes fixed
on an invisible goal, and then he said very quietly, "I think I shall
be hanged for Ireland." A friend tells me that later he made a similar
observation to a man who spoke of old rebellions and the fate of their
leaders, "I shall be hanged, too, for leading an attack on Dublin

An incident is told of his life in South Africa, about the time of the
Boer War. He was one day, with two companions on the verandah of a
hotel, when a lady who had been observing them from a distance for some
time approached them. She excused herself for addressing strangers and
explained that she had felt compelled to do so as they had interested
her profoundly. Explaining that she had the gift of second-sight, she
asked permission to tell their fortunes, to which they consented,
looking upon the matter as a joke. Having told the fortunes of the lady
and of the second companion, she turned at last to Roger Casement,
and stated that his was the most interesting fate. She described his
adventurous life in broad outline, and then said, "You must take care:
at the age of 52 you will come to a violent end." Roger Casement was
within a month of his fifty-second birthday when he died.

There was a curious remoteness about him at times. He used to sit for
long periods silent in a reverie, and would awaken from it with a
sudden start. In his habits he was always simple and frugal; he rose
very early in the morning and was always at work before breakfast;
he cared nothing for society in the worldly sense, but he loved his
friends and was always and invariably happy in the company of children
of all ages and classes. Once the writer was walking with him through
the streets of an old country town when a tired woman after a shopping
expedition was vainly urging an equally tired, and, I am bound to say,
naughty little boy to "come on." When at last in exasperation she
called out, "Very well, I'll go home without you," the culprit set up
an ear-piercing yell and flung himself down on the ground. Roger turned
round at once, to hasten back. "Ah! poor soul," he said, "his heart is
broken, God help him; I'll pick him up."

Small children always adored him. The tiny three-year-old child of
a charwoman working in the house where he was staying used to creep
in from the kitchen, and try to catch his eye as he sat writing. He
always had a smile and caress for her, and one day her mother found her
trying with both hands to turn the handle of the study door and scolded
her. She hung her head and said, "I wanted to see the gentleman with
the kind eyes."

Many a little beggar child in Dublin knew the smile in those kind eyes,
and they used to greet him with smiles in return and always get their
copper or two. We used to tease him, and say he walked through the
streets of Dublin "buying smiles at a penny each." I do not think any
Irish man, woman, or child ever appealed to him for sympathy and help
that he did not give.

On a motor tour through Donegal with some friends he met an old woman
whose son and his wife had died and left to her care a family of small
children. They looked poor and hungry, and the old woman found it hard
to make her little farm support them all. "Wouldn't they be better for
some milk?" asked Roger, seeing them make a scanty meal, with water to
drink. "Indeed they would if I could be getting it for them," said
the grandmother. Roger made no answer, but at the next market town he
bought a cow and had it sent out to the old lady.

It was in Ireland he always felt at home; he hated big cities, noise,
music-halls, and restaurants. He wrote from London on one visit, "I
feel more and more of a foreigner here"; but in the Irish country, with
the simple country folk, he was always content. One of the happiest
experiences of his life in later years was a short visit he paid to
Tory Island in 1912, when he organised a Ceilidh, to which everyone
on the island was invited. He sat in the crowded schoolroom, watching
the boys and girls dancing their reels and jigs, and listening to the
Gaelic songs till far on into the night, when the Ceilidh broke up. He
loved the Tory people and used to plan many times to go back and visit
them. Tory has a sort of fascination about it, it looks so remote and
unreal, "like an opal jewel in a pale blue sea," he described it once
in a letter.

During all the time of his varied experiences abroad in Africa and
South America, his mind turned always with longing and affection to
Ireland. He looked upon himself as an Irishman before all things. He
eagerly watched for the rare arrival of mails bringing word of Ireland
and her doings. "Send me news of Ireland," he wrote from South America,
"and also what the papers say about the Congo, but chiefly Ireland;
Ireland first, last, and for ever."

Although not a rich man (he had no private means) he contributed
generously to all Irish schemes for furthering the National life. He
helped several of the Gaelic Colleges, gave prizes in schools for the
study of Irish, and did his best to help along many of those newspapers
and periodicals which were founded by young and hopeful Irishmen to
expound their views and which alas! so often came to an untimely end.

With his singularly generous nature money mattered nothing at all
to him save for the use he could make of it to help the work he had
at heart. He spent little upon himself, in fact he denied himself
all luxuries, and even comforts, that he might have to give to Irish
causes or to the Irish poor. Those who said of him that he sold
himself for money knew nothing of the man they were slandering. He
was wholly indifferent to money for its own sake. His scrupulous
integrity as to public funds was illustrated by the following:--When
he was called to give evidence before a certain commission, as he was
waiting his turn with others who had to travel to London for the same
purpose, one of the secretaries remarked to a witness, "Do you see that
man?" (pointing to Roger Casement), "Well, all the rest have charged
first-class railway fares, but he has put down third."

He wrote much on the Irish question. Letters from his pen appeared in
many Irish newspapers, and not a few English ones, and his essays,
which will, it is hoped, be published later, show not only a deep
insight but much literary skill. His speech from the dock was described
by a leading English literary man as an effort "worthy of the finest
examples of antiquity."

At the age of 52 he came to a violent end.... So have many others
who died for Ireland; he stands among his peers, the Irish martyrs.
He would not have chosen to die otherwise, the love of his life was
Kathleen ni Houlihan; when he thought he heard her voice calling from
her four green fields he had no choice but to obey, though he knew it
led to death; but death which comes in such a form to the body leaves
the spirit but freer to carry on its purpose.

The men of 1916 are not dead in any real sense, for

    "They shall be remembered for ever,
     They shall be alive for ever,
     They shall be speaking for ever,
     The people shall hear them for ever."

                                                      GERTRUDE PARRY.


"The Heart's Verdict"

    Oh! hearts that meet, and hearts that part!
      The world is full of sorrow:
    Men love and die--th' almighty mart
      Puts up new hearts to-morrow.

    Was this Creation's scheme at start?
      Oh! then I little wonder
    That Lucifer's proud human heart
      Preferred to God His thunder.

"Mio Salvatore"

    "Were I a king, my crown of gold
     I should not for a moment hold,
     Did not thy brow its glory share,
     Were thou not ever next my chair.

    "Were I a God, my heaven would be
     One long, lone, vast sterility,
     Eternal only in its woe
     Did thou not all its purpose know.

    "Were I a saint, my midnight cell
     Would be the portico of hell,
     Did not my scourging heart attest
     Thy love dwells in a stricken breast."

"Love's Horizon"

    Love is the salt sea's savour,
    Love is the palm-tree's sheen,
    Love is the sky of evening.
    That softly sets between.

    Love is the ocean's purple,
    Love is the mountain's crest,
    Love is the golden Eagle
    That hither builds his nest.

    The wind that lists at morning.
    The first song of the bird,
    The leaves that stir so lightly
    Before a limb has stirred:

    These are my love's harbingers
    By gathering music drawn.
    Oh! wake my love and own them,
    Thou life voice of the Dawn.

"Love's Cares"

    Oh! what cares Love for a sunburnt skin?
    Love laughs and sighs for it all the same;
    Love seeks a blush that is far within
    From the glow of his asking eyes that came--

    Oh! what cares Love for untidy hair?
    He sleeps where never a comb has passed,
    And holds his breath in the tiny snare
    Of a curl his kiss shall undo at last--

    Oh! what cares Love for a tender heart?
    His eyes are filled to their glorious brim;
    On tears, on tears from a shining start
    Love bears it gently away with him.

    Oh! what cares Love for a wounded breast?
    Love shows his own with a broader scar:
    'Tis only those who have loved the best
    Can say where the wounds of loving are.

The Peak of the Cameroons


    The Heavens rest upon thee that the eye
    Of man may not, for when thou sittest hid
    In thunderstorm of lofty pyramid
    Of thwarting sea-cloud whitening up the sky,
    Then are the clouds set on thee to forbid
    [A]That man should share the mystery of Sinai;
    Then are thy ashen cones again bestrid
    By living fire--impenetrably nigh.

    For thus, by the Dualla, art thou seen,
    Home of a God they know, yet would not know;
    But I, who far above their doubts have been
    Upon thy forehead hazardous, may grow
    To fuller knowledge, rooted sure and slow
    Where lava slid--like pines Enceladine.

[A] To this line there is a note:--"This line is inadmissible in a


    And I have seen thee in the West's red setting
    Stand like some Monarch in a crimson field,
    With fleeing clouds empurpling as they yield.
    And sunset still the glorious sham abetting.
    While high above thy purple forest's fretting
    Thy mighty chest in tranquil gold concealed,
    And on thy brows of the dead days begetting
    A light that comes from higher things revealed.

    So shows there in a passing soul's transgression
    A light of hope beyond these prison bars
    Divinely rendered, that, when doubting mars
    Our day's decline, we still may find progression
    Of light to light, as day with silent cession
    Makes o'er to night--articulate with stars.

Hamilcar Barca

    Thou that didst mark from Heircte's spacious hill
    The Roman spears, like mist, uprise each morn,
    Yet held, with Hesper's shining point of scorn,
    Thy sword unsheathed above Panormus still;
    Thou that were leagued with nought but thine own will,
    Eurythmic vastness to that stronghold torn
    From foes above, below, where, though forlorn,
    Thou still hadst claws to cling, and beak to kill--
    Eagle of Eryx!--When the Ægation shoal
    Rolled westward all the hopes that Hanno wrecked
    With mighty wing, unwearying, didst thou
    Seek far beyond the wolf's grim protocol,
    Within the Iberian sunset faintly specked
    A rock where Punic faith should bide its vow.


  (_Sent from the Congo Free State in response to Mr. Harrison's appeal
  for the Restoration of the Elgin Marbles to Greece._)

    Give back the Elgin marbles; let them lie
    Unsullied, pure beneath an Attic sky.
    The smoky fingers of our northern clime
    More ruin work than all the ancient time.
    How oft the roar of the Piraen sea
    Through column'd hall and dusky temple stealing
    Hath struck these marble ears, that now must flee
    The whirling hum of London, noonward reeling.

    Ah! let them hear again the sounds that float
    Around Athene's shrine on morning's breeze,--
    The lowing ox, the bell of climbing goat
    And drowsy drone of far Hymettus' bees.
    Give back the marbles; let them vigil keep
    Where art still lies, o'er Pheidias' tomb, asleep.

  _Lukunga Valley,
      Cataract Region of the Lower Congo._

Lost Youth

  (_Written on receiving a letter from a friend, T. H., who had spent
  the best years of his life as a missionary in Central Africa, in
  which he speaks of "the glorious superfluity of strength and spirits
  one remembers as a lad, but alas! only remembers."_)

    Weep not that you no longer feel the tide
    High breasting sun and storm, that bore along
    Your youth on currents of perpetual song:
    For in these mid-stream waters, still and wide,
    A sleepless purpose the great deep doth hide;
    Here spring the mighty fountains pure and strong,
    That bear sweet change of breath to city throng,
    Who, had the sea no breeze, would soon have died.
    So though the sun shines not in such a blue,
    Nor have the stars the meaning youth deviced,
    The heavens are nigher, and a light shines through
    The brightness that nor sun nor stars sufficed;
    And on this lonely waste we find it true
    Lost youth and love, not lost, are hid with Christ.

The Streets of Catania

  (_The streets of Catania are paved with blocks of the lava of Aetna._)

    All that was beautiful and just,
      All that was pure and sad
    Went in one little, moving plot of dust
      The world called bad.

    Came like a highwayman, and went,
      One who was bold and gay,
    Left when his lightly loving mood was spent
      Thy heart to pay.

    By-word of little streets and men,
      Narrower theirs the shame,
    Tread thou the lava loving leaves, and then
      Turn whence it came.

    Aetna, all wonderful, whose heart
      Glows as thine throbbing glows,
    Almond and citron bloom quivering at start,
      Ends in pure snows.

The Irish Language

    It is gone from the hill and the glen--
      The strong speech of our sires;
    It is sunk in the mire and the fen
      Of our nameless desires:
    We have bartered the speech of the Gael
      For a tongue that would pay,
    And we stand with the lips of us pale
      And all bloodless to-day;
    We have bartered the birthright of men
      That our sons should be liars.
    It is gone from the hill and the glen,
      The strong speech of our sires.

    Like the flicker of gold on the whin
      That the Spring breath unites,
    It is deep in our hearts, and shall win
      Into flame where it smites:
    It is there with the blood in our veins,
      With the stream in the glen,
    With the hill and the heath and the weans
      They shall _think_ it again;
    It shall surge to their lips and shall win
      The high road to our rights--
    Like the flicker of gold on the whin
      That the sun-burst unites.


  (_October 6th, 1891._)

    Hush--let no whisper of the cruel strife,
    Wherein he fell so bravely fighting, fall
    Nigh these dead ears; fain would our hearts recall
    Nought but proud memories of a noble life--
    Of unmatched skill to lead by pathways rife
    With danger and dark doubt, where slander's knife
    Gleamed ever bare to wound, yet over all
    He pressed triumphant on--lo, thus to fall.
    Through and beyond the breach he living made
    Shall Erin pass to freedom and to will,
    And shape her fate: there where his limbs are laid
    No harsh reproach dare penetrate the shade;
    Death's angel guards the door, and o'er the sill
    A mightier voice than Death's speaks "Peace, be still!"


    Since treason triumphed when O'Neill was forced to foreign flight,
    The ancient people felt the heel of Scotch usurper's might;
    The barren hills of Ulster held a race proscribed and banned
    Who from their lofty refuge viewed their own so fertile land.
    Their churches in the sunny vales; the homes that once were theirs,
    Torn from them and their Faith to feed some canting minion's prayers:
    Oh Lord! from many a cloudy hill then streamed our prayers to Thee,
    And like the dawn on summer hills, that only watchers see,
    Thy glorious hope shone on us long before the sleeping foe
    Knew that their doom had broken on the sword of Owen Roe.

    'Twas dawn of fair June morning, while Blackwater still drew grey,
    His valley'd mists about him that we saw at Killylea,
    The Scottish colours waving as they headed to the ford
    Where never foemen waded yet, but paid it with the sword;
    And fair it was to see them in the golden morning light,
    Climb up the hill by Caledon and turn them to the right;
    As they neared Yellow Ford, where Bagnall met O'Neill,
    Joy gathered in our throats and broke above their cannons' peal,
    And oh! a thrill went through our ranks, as straining towards the foe,
    Like hounds in leash we panted for the word of Owen Roe.

    Not yet--altho' O'Ferrall's horse come riding in amain;
    Not yet--altho' fierce Cunningham pursues with slackened rein;
    Not yet--altho' in skirmish and in many a scattered fight
    We hold them--still with waiting eye, O'Neill smiles in despite;
    Till slanting on our backs the sun full on their faces fell.
    Then blinding axe and battle spear rose with a sudden swell
    "For God, and Church, and Country now--upon them every man;
    But hold your strength until ye see them scarce a pike-length's span;
    The Red Hand, ever uppermost, strike home your strongest blow";
    And with a yell our feet outsped the words of Owen Roe.

    Like heaving lift of yellow wave that drags the sandy shore
    On with it to its foaming fall, our rushing pikemen bore
    Horse, foot, and gun, and falling flags, like streamers of red wrack,
    Torn from their dripping hold, in one broad swell of carnage back;
    Stout Blayney's gallant horse withstood that seething tide in vain;
    It bore them down, and redder raced with life-blood of the slain;
    One regiment only fought its way from out that ghastly fight,
    And Conway slew two horses on the Newry road that night;
    While Monroe fled so fast he left both hat and wig to show
    How full the breeze that lifted up the flag of Owen Roe.

    Ho! Ironsides of Cromwell, ye've got grimmer work to do,
    Than when on Naseby's ruddy morn your ready swords ye drew--
    Than when your headlong charges routed Rupert's tried and best,
    Ere yet the glare of battle fainted in the loyal West.
    Those swords must break a stouter foe ere ye break Erin's weal
    Or stamp your bloody title-deeds with Cromwell's bloodier seal;
    The dead men of Elizabeth's red reign for comrades call,
    The Scots we sent to-day have need of ye to bear their pall;
    There's room for undertakers still, and none will say ye no
    To such fair holdings--measured by the sword of Owen Roe.

    Ho! ring your bells, Kilkenny town; ho! Dublin burghers pass
    In open day, with open brow, to celebrate the Mass.
    The Sword of State that Tudor hate laid sore on Church of God,
    Hath fallen here with shattered hilt and vain point in the sod.
    Ho! holy Rinnuncini, and ye high lords of the Pale
    Lay by your sheets of parchment, and put on your sheeted mail,
    For God hath spoke in battle, and His face the foe is toward,
    And ye must hold by valour what He hath freed by sword.
    Yea, God in fight hath spoken, and thro' cloud hath bent His brow
    In wrath upon the routed--but in hope o'er Owen Roe.

Oliver Cromwell


  (_Addressed to the Liberal Members who "went back" on their previous
  vote and rejected the grant for his statue._)

    "Tear out the page his hand hath writ in blood."
    Aye! tho' a decade filled with mighty deeds
    That page records; what though in it the seeds
    Of greater freedom sprung, than ever stood
    On any shore, to shadow freedom's brood.
    The lordly oak from which a fleet proceeds
    May fall unhonoured; can mere party needs
    Fill _your_ hands too, with this consenting mud?
    We Irishmen found only shade to die
    Within the shadow of that mighty tree;
    But you base Englishmen it bore on high,
    And girt your commerce safe on many a sea:
    O! may the people Cromwell taught, deny
    Your right within these walls, and turn the key!

The Triumph of Hugh O'Neill

  _Beal an Altra Buidhe_ (_The Fight of the Yellow Ford, 1598._)

    Speed the joyful news of victory from Dungannon to Gweedore,
    Let the shout of triumph echo 'mid the cliffs of dark Benmore,
    Let the flame that gleams on Sperrin light a flame on every strand,
    Till one mighty blaze shall tell it to all men throughout the land.

    The haughty Saxon boasted he would ravage broad Tyrone,
    And lay our fields in ashes, and make our flocks his own,
    Nor hold his hand 'till humbled each Irish kerne should kneel
    To England's monarch only, and not to Hugh O'Neill.

    But vain was all his boasting, and vain was all he swore,
    For, like the storms of winter when from the hills they pour,
    With clouds of long-haired spearmen, and ranks of flashing steel,
    O'er the broken host of Saxons swept the children of O'Neill.

    Arquebus and gun were fired, yet were fired all in vain,
    For their owners' heads were cloven by the lightening sweeping _skean_,
    But the sturdy English yeomen, who had ne'er been known to reel,
    Like the withered leaves of autumn, fell before the fierce O'Neill.

    Blackwater's tide ran darker than e'er it ran before,
    The "Yellow Ford" was crimsoned, the fields were drenched with gore.
    The Saxon host had vanished; and Armagh rang out a peal
    Of triumph o'er the vanquished, and of welcome to O'Neill.

    No more the feet of foemen shall taint our Northern soil,
    No more the waving cornfields shall be the Saxon's spoil.
    Our flag no longer drooping, each fold shall now reveal,
    And wave for God and Erin and our darling Hugh O'Neill.

Translation from Victor Hugo's "Feuilles d'Automne"

    "I hate oppression with a hate profound,
    And wheresoever in the wide world round,
    Beneath a traitor king, a cruel sky,
    I hear appeal a strangled people's cry--
    Where mother Greece, by Christian kings betrayed
    To butcher Turks, hangs disembowelled, flayed.
    Where Ireland, bleeding on her Cross expires,
    And German truth in vain fronts royal liars.

    "Oh then, upon their heads my curse I launch,
    These kings whose steeds pace bloody to the paunch:
    I feel the poet speaks their judgment, and
    The indignant Muse, with unrelenting hand,
    Shall bind them pilloried to their thrones of shame,
    And press their dastard crowns to shape a name
    That on their brows the poet's hand shall trace--
    So Man may read their calling in their face."

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Transcriber's notes:

Italics are represented with _underscores_, bold with =equal signs=.

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