The Spirit of the Nation/O'Connell (2)



I saw him at the hour of pray'r, when morning's earliest dawn
Was breaking o'er the mountain tops—o'er grassy dell and lawn;
When the parting shades of night had fled—when moon and stars were gone,
Before a high and gorgeous shrine the chieftain kneel'd alone.
His hands were clasp'd upon his breast, his eye was raised above—
I heard those full and solemn tones in words of faith and love:
He pray'd that those who wrong'd him might for ever be forgiv'n;
Oh! who would say such prayers as these are not received in heav'n?


I saw him next amid the best and noblest of our isle—
There was the same majestic form, the same heard-kindling smile!
But grief was on that princely brow—for others still he mourn'd,
He gazed upon poor fetter'd slaves, and his heart within him burn'd:
And he vowed before the captive's God to break the captive's chain—
To bind the broken heart, and set the bondsman free again;
And fit was he our chief to be in triumph or in need,
Who never wrong'd his deadliest foe in thought, or word, or deed!


I saw him when the light of eve had faded from the West—
Beside the hearth that old man sat, by infant forms caress'd;
One hand was gently laid upon his grandchild's clust'ring hair,
The other, raised to heav'n, invoked a blessing and a pray'r!
And woman's lips were heard to breathe a high and glorious strain—
Those songs of old that haunt us still, and ever will remain
Within the heart like treasured gems, that bring from mem'ry's cell
Thoughts of our youthful days, and friends that we have lov'd so well!


I saw that eagle glance again—the brow was marked with care,
Though rich and regal are the robes the Nation's chief doth wear;[1]
And many an eye now quailed with shame, and many a cheek now glow'd,
As he paid them back with words of love for ev'ry curse bestow'd.
I thought of his unceasing care, his never-ending zeal;
I heard the watchword burst from all—the gath'ring cry—Repeal:
And as his eyes were raised to heav'n—from whence his mission came—
He stood amid the thousands there a monarch save in name!

  1. Written when O'Connell wan Lord Mayor.