Thomas D'Arcy McGee (1825-1868)

Text from The Poems of Thomas D'Arcy McGee (1869) (

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Home Sonnets--Address to Ireland


Mother of soldiers! once there was a time
When your sons' swords won fame in many a clime;
When Europe press'd on France, they fought alone
For her, and served her better than their own!
Those were the days your exiles made their fame
By gallant deeds which put our age to shame--
Those were the days Cremona city, saved,
Stood to attest what Irish valor braved!
When England's chivalry, sore wounded fled
Before the stormy charge O'Brien led--
When travellers saw in Ypres' coir display'd
The trophies of your song-renown'd brigade!
Mother of soldiers! France was proud to see
Your shamrock then twined with the fleur de lis!


Mother of soldiers! in the cause of Spain
The Moors in Oran's trench by them were slain;
For full an hundred years their fatal steel
Has charged beside the lances of Castile.
Carb'ry's, Tyrconnell's, Breffny's exiled lords
To Spain and glory gave their gallant swords;
And Spain, of honor jealous, gave them place
Before her native sons in glory's race;
Her noblest laurels graced your soldiers' head,
Her dearest daughters shared your soldiers' bed;
In danger's hour she call'd them to the front,
And gave to them the praise who bore the brunt:
Mother of soldiers! Spain to-day will be
A willing witness for thy sons and thee!


Mother of soldiers! on the Volga's banks
Your practised leaders form'd the Russian ranks;
And fallen Limerick gave the chiefs to lead
The hosts who triumph'd o'er the famous Swede.
That time even Austria gave them host on host,
The ruling baton, and the perilous post--
Buda, Belgrade, Prague, Deva--every trust
That man could earn, and found them bold as just.
Velettri, Zorndorff, Dantzic, still can tell
How Austria's Irish soldiers fought and fell,
And how the ruling skill that led them on
To conquer was supplied by your own son!
Mother of soldiers! while these trophies last,
You're safe against the sland'rers of the past!


Mother of exiles! from your soil to-day
New myriads are destroy'd or swept away;
The crowded graveyards grow no longer green,
The daily dead have scanty space, I ween;
The groaning ships, freighted with want and grief,
Entomb in every wave a fugitive;
The sword no more an Irish weapon is--
The spirit of the land no longer lives;
Mother! 'twas kill'd before the famine came--
The stubble was prepared to meet the flame;
All manly souls were from their bodies torn,
And what avails it if the bodies burn?
Mother of soldiers! may we hope to be
Yet fit to strike for vengeance and for thee!


Not of the mighty! not of the world's friends
Have I aspired to speak within these leaves;
These best befit their joyful kindred pens--
My path lies where a broken people grieves;
By the Ohio, on the Yuba's banks,
As night displays her standard to their eyes,
Alone, in tears, or gather'd in sad ranks,
Stirring the brooding air with woful sighs,
I see them sit: I hear their mingled speech,
Gaelic or Saxon, but all from the heart;
"Home!" is the word that sways the soul of each--
A word beyond the embellishments of art:
Yet of this theme I feebly seek to sing,
And to my banish'd kin a book of "Home" I bring.

*This appears to have been intended by the author for the dedication of an epic he was writing, called "The Emigrants."--ED.


I have a sea-going spirit haunts my sleep,
Not a sad spirit wearisome to follow,
Less like a tenant of the mystic deep
Than the good fairy of the hazel hollow;
Full often at the midwatch of the night
I see departing in his silver bark
This spirit, steering toward an Eastern light,
Calling me to him from the Western dark.
"Spirit!" I ask, "say, whither bound away?"
"Unto the old Hesperides!" he cries.
"Oh, Spirit, take me in thy bark, I pray."
"For thee I came, " he joyfully replies;
"Exile! no longer shalt thou absent mourn,
For I the Spirit am men call--RETURN."