Clare Coast 1710

Emily Lawless
1845 – 1913


See, cold island, we stand
Here to-night on your shore.
To-night, but never again;
Lingering a moment more.
See, beneath us our boat
Tugs at its tightening chain.
Holds out its sail to the breeze.
Pants to be gone again.
Off then with shouts and mirth,
Off with laughter and jests.
Mirth and song on our lips.
Hearts like lead in our breasts.

Death and the grave behind,
Death and a traitor’s bier;
Honour and fame before,
Why do we linger here?
Why do we stand and gaze,
Fools, whom fools despise,
Fools untaught by the years.
Fools renounced by the wise?

Heartsick, a moment more.
Heartsick, sorry, fierce.
Lingering, lingering on.
Dreaming the dreams of yore
Dreaming the dreams of our youth,
Dreaming the days when we stood
Joyous, expectant, serene,
Glad, exultant of mood.
Singing with hearts afire.
Singing with joyous strain.
Singing aloud in our pride,
We shall redeem her again
Ah, not to-night that strain,
Silent to-night we stand,
A scanty, a toil-worn crew.
Strangers, foes in the land
Gone the light of our youth.
Gone for ever, and gone
Hope with the beautiful eyes.
Who laughed as she lured us on
Lured us to danger and death.
To honour, perchance to fame,
Empty fame at the best,
Glory half dimmed with shame.
War-battered dogs are we.
Fighters in every clime.
Fillers of trench and of grave.
Mockers, bemocked by time.
War-dogs, hungry and grey,
Gnawing a naked bone,
Fighters in every clime.
Every cause but our own.

See us, cold isle of our love
Coldest, saddest of isles
Cold as the hopes of our youth.
Cold as your own wan smiles.
Coldly your streams outpour.
Each apart on the height.
Trickling, indifferent, slow,
Lost in the hush of the night.
Colder, sadder the clouds,
Comfortless bringers of rain;
Desolate daughters of air,
Sweep o’er your sad grey plain
Hiding the form of your hills.
Hiding your low sand duns;
But coldest, saddest, oh isle
Are the homeless hearts of your sons.

Coldest, and saddest there.
In yon sun-lit land of the south.
Where we sicken, and sorrow, and pine,
And the jest flies from mouth to mouth.
And the church bells crash overhead,
And the idle hours flit by.
And the beaded wine-cups clink.
And the sun burns fierce in the sky;
And your exiles, the merry of heart.
Laugh and boast with the best,
Boast, and extol their part.
Boast, till some lifted brow,
Crossed with a line severe.
Seems with displeasure to ask.
Are these loud braggarts we hear,
Are they the sons of the West,
The wept-for, the theme of songs.
The exiled, the injured, the banned.
The men of a thousand wrongs?

Fool, did you never hear
Of sunshine which broke through rain?
Sunshine which came with storm?
Laughter that rang of pain?
Boastings begotten of grief,
Vauntings to hide a smart.
Braggings with trembling lip.
Tricks of a broken heart?

Sudden some wayward gleam,
Sudden some passing sound,
The careless splash of an oar.
The idle bark of a hound,
A shadow crossing the sun,
An unknown step in the hall,
A nothing, a folly, a straw!
Back it returns all all
Back with the rush of a storm,
Back the old anguish and ill.
The sad, green landscape of home.
The small grey house by the hill.
The wide grey shores of the lake.
The low sky, seeming to weave
Its tender pitiful arms
Round the sick lone landscape at eve.
Back with its pains and its wrongs.
Back with its toils and its strife.
Back with its struggle and woe.
Back flows the stream of our life.
Darkened with treason and wrong.
Darkened with anguish and ruth,
Bitter, tumultuous, fierce,
Yet glad in the light of our youth.

So, cold island, we stand
Here to-night on your shore,
To-night, but never again,
Lingering a moment more.
See, beneath us our boat
Tugs at its tightening chain.
Holds out its sail to the breeze.
Pants to be gone again.
OfF then with shouts and mirth.
Off with laughter and jests.
Jests and song on our lips,
Hearts like lead in our breasts.

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