A Tribute and a Claim

A Tribute and a Claim  (1946) 
by Daniel Desmond Sheehan

Composed, dated and signed, 7 April 1946, though unpublished



(late Royal Munster Fusiliers)


They came from North and South
          From all the Land they came:
And they went forth
          Yes, forth they went,
Not from a partitioned Territory
          Or dismembered State.
But from an integral isle that
          Down the ages
Held staunchly to ancient standards
          Of primordial right and kingly rule.

Theirs the brave, high spirit of a warrior race
          That no shallow spites or poisonous hates
                    Or gaunting jibes
          Could curb or leash,
When right and freedom were in jeopardy.

No narrow creed was theirs, no paltering thoughts of self.
          They offered all that man can give,
The white sacrifice of their lives
          That Liberty and Right and Freedom
May shower their mystic mercies over all the lands
          And men and women walk the earth
In meekness and in righteousness.

They came from North and South,
          From South and North they came,
The proud heirs of Eire’s tested valour.
          Though helmeted in all the panoply of modern armour
Their breast-plates still the flowering
          Chivalry of the Red Branch
And their pinions those that winged the Wild Geese
          On their glorious ways of honour and renown.
So forth they went
          To fight the world’s fight
‘Gainst the dread Dragon Beast of tyranny and terror:
          That its monstrous shape should ne’er again
Affright the innocent, the weak and unoffending of the human race.

They came from Bantry and from Donegal,
          From all the scattered plains and lowly hamlets in between,
From beauteous Wicklow Vales and lovely Antrim Glens,
          Some trudged with broken boots and blistered feet,
Obedient to the fiercely-burning inward urge,
          To fulfil themselves unto themselves
And yielding all gain all
          That it is given men to win
In fulfilment of the Divine Law of Greater Love.

And so they came, and forth they went,
          Those warrior sons of Eire,
To battle for the right
          On land and sea and air
They wrote their blazing scripts of gallantry
          That shall endure while men love noble deeds
And tell the tales of rushing tides of battle.
          The full telling of their glory and their valour
Is yet not done nor ever shall be
          Since, for every tale that finds the fixed imperishability of print
And the proud prominence of the living page
          There are countless deeds as brave
Hidden away in secret shade
          Until they come to light again,
On the great unfolding and revelation of Resurrection Day.

Oh ! hide your heads in shame, you
          Croaking sarpers of a narrow creed,
Who would deny to Ireland
          The golden glory of those shining deeds
That, by their brightness have done more
          To root out of human hearts
The dark shadows of a darker age
          Than all the preachings of well-intending missioners of peace and love
Twixt Sassenach and Gael,
          For the deed lives while the word is oft-time wasted on the wind:
And the supernal splendour of their valour
          Is as the sunburst rising from the sea
Scattering the shadows of a long and evil night.

Retire ye to your tents of shame
          You puny prattlers
Who would debase the golden coinage of their heroism
          Of that wondrous loyalty and deep devotion
That sanctified the Common clay of man
          And gave to life the privilege of dying
That Truth and Liberty and Honour may survive.

We take pride in that
          From North and South they came
From South and North came they
          And forth they went
Went to where danger shone with dazzling brightness
          Flinging its challenge to their dauntless hearts.
And answered Eugene Esmonde and the other gallant men of Eire
          Who, winging through the lightning shafts of war,
Won a splendid immortality
          And, dying, left a deathless heritage
To their race and motherland.
          Such hallowed glory ‘tis
That make men bare their heads in pride and reverence
          For this magnificent redemption of a Nation’s honour.

Their earthly flame went out, but their spirits release
          Set new suns in the heavens to light the darkness of our days
And to cement that finer feeling of brotherhood and understanding
That sweetly and surely is growing
          Through the rotting roots of olden hates,
Until its incense shall dispel
          The noxious fumes of cancerous spleens,
And best forgotten ills.

And be it, too, remembered
          That we of an older day,
In equal piety of purpose,
          Laid our own offerings on the alter
Of our Country’s honour,
          Nor small were they, nor scantily-measured out
But the full outpourings of this constant faith:
          That when conscience calls the spirit must obey
Else, life is nothingness
          And living but an empty shell of selfishness.

Nor shall our sacrifice and theirs
          Be vain and unrewarded:
For it is written: No least sacrifice of love goes gainless:
          Due payment comes,
Not in the molten mintage of material things,
          But in the eternal sublimation of the spirit,
And its noble dedication to the Divine cause
          Of Justice and of Truth.
This then is the reward:
          The soul is made one with God and His good Angels
In battling for the right.

This modest tribute do we pay,
          In pride and thankfulness
To those who came
          From North and South and
South and North,
          And who went forth, in faith and fervour,
To battle for the right.
          And this the claim we boldly so assert,
On their behalf and ours:
          That by their service and their sacrifice,
Linked with the freedom-loving men of Britain,
          Full surely have they brought nearer that Great Day.
When no Border will there be to sunder
          And no hates divide,
The Saxon and the Gael,
          But a blessed flowering of friendship and goodwill,
Shall permeate the pageant of their lives.


This work is in the public domain worldwide because it has been so released by the copyright holder.