When Irish Eyes Are Wailing

Maybe it was the whole Eamon de Valera thing. So while I’ve come late to the game, I feel as though I’m getting my Irish on lately, except for the whole fighting, drinking and gregariousness thing. If Mangan’s good enough for James Joyce and Graham Greene, who am I to rain on their bipolar parade. Please avoid reading the poem while alone or sober.

The Nameless One by James Clarence Mangan – 1803-1849

ROLL forth, my song, like the rushing river,
That sweeps along to the mighty sea;
God will inspire me while I deliver
My soul of thee!

Tell thou the world, when my bones lie whitening
Amid the last homes of youth and eld,
That once there was one whose veins ran lightning
No eye beheld.

Tell how his boyhood was one drear night-hour,
How shone for him, through his griefs and gloom,
No star of all heaven sends to light our
Path to the tomb.

Roll on, my song, and to after ages
Tell how, disdaining all earth can give,
He would have taught men, from wisdom’s pages,
The way to live.

And tell how trampled, derided, hated,
And worn by weakness, disease, and wrong,
He fled for shelter to God, who mated
His soul with song.

–With song which alway, sublime or vapid,
Flow’d like a rill in the morning beam,
Perchance not deep, but intense and rapid–
A mountain stream.

Tell how this Nameless, condemn’d for years long
To herd with demons from hell beneath,
Saw things that made him, with groans and tears, long
For even death.

Go on to tell how, with genius wasted,
Betray’d in friendship, befool’d in love,
With spirit shipwreck’d, and young hopes blasted,
He still, still strove;

Till, spent with toil, dreeing death for others
(And some whose hands should have wrought for him,
If children live not for sires and mothers),
His mind grew dim;

And he fell far through that pit abysmal,
The gulf and grave of Maginn and Burns,
And pawn’d his soul for the devil’s dismal
Stock of returns.

But yet redeem’d it in days of darkness,
And shapes and signs of the final wrath,
When death, in hideous and ghastly starkness,
Stood on his path.

And tell how now, amid wreck and sorrow,
And want, and sickness, and houseless nights,
He bides in calmness the silent morrow,
That no ray lights.

And lives he still, then? Yes! Old and hoary
At thirty-nine, from despair and woe,
He lives, enduring what future story
Will never know.

Him grant a grave to, ye pitying noble,
Deep in your bosoms: there let him dwell!
He, too, had tears for all souls in trouble,
Here and in hell.

Those strike me as the words of a man who understands his very Irish Catholic faith. I’m guessing this poem won’t make it onto a Joel Osteen PowerPoint presentation anytime soon.

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About Jorge Costales

- Cuban Exile [veni] - Raised in Miami [vidi] - American Citizen [vici]
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