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The Spirit of the Nation/The Battle of Beal-an-ath-Buidh

< The Spirit of the Nation


A.D. 1598.


By O'Nial beleagur'd, the spirits might droop
Of the Saxon—three hundred shut up in their coop,
Till Bagenal drew forth his Toledo, and swore,
On the sword of a soldier, to succour Portmore.


His veteran troops, in the foreign wars tried—
Their features how bronz'd, and how haughty their stride—
Stept steadily on; it was thrilling to see
That thunder-cloud brooding o'er Beal-an-atha-buidh.


The flash of their armour, inlaid with fine gold—
Gleaming matchloks and cannons that mutteringly roll'd—
With the tramp and the clank of those stern cuirassiers,
Dyed in blood of the Flemish and French cavaliers.


And are the mere Irish, with pike and with darts—
With but glibb-cover'd heads, and but rib-guarded hearts—
Half-naked, half-fed, with few muskets, no guns—
The battle to dare against England's stout sons?


Poor Bonnochts, and wild Gallowglasses, and Kerns—
Let them war with rude brambles, sharp furze, and dry ferns;
Wirrastrue for their wives—for their babes ochanie,
If they wait for the Saxon at Beal-an-atha-buidh.


Yet O'Nial stands firm—few and brief his commands—
"Ye have hearts in your bosoms, and pikes in your hands;
Try how far ye can push them, my children, at once;
Fag-a-bealaċ!—and down with horse, foot, and great guns.


They have gold and gay arms—they have biscuit and bread;
Now, sons of my soul, we'll be found and be fed;"
And he clutch'd his claymore, and—"look yonder," laughed he,
"What a grand commissariat for Beal-an-atha-buidh."


Near the chief, a grim tyke, an O'Shanaghan stood,
His nostril dilated seemed snuffing for blood;
Rough and ready to spring, like the wiry wolf-hound
Of Ternè, who, tossing his pike with a bound,


Cried, "My hand to the Sassenach! ne'er may I hurl
Another to earth if I call him a churl!
He finds me in clothing, in booty, in bread—
My Chief, won't O'Shanaghan give him a bed?"


"Land of Owen, aboo!" and the Irish rush'd on—
The foe fir'd but one volley—their gunners are gone,
Before the bare bosoms the steel-coats have fled,
Or, despite casque or corslet, lie dying and dead.


And brave Harry Bagenal, he fell while he fought,
With many gay gallants—they slept as men ought:
Their faces to heaven—there were others, alack!
By pikes overtaken, and taken aback.


And my Irish got clothing, coin, colours, great store,
Arms, forage, and provender—plunder galor!
They munch'd the white manchets—they champ'd the brown chine,
Fillelue! for that day, how the natives did dine!


O'Nial looked on, when O'Shanaghan rose,
And cried, hearken Tyrone! I've a health to propose—
"To our Sassenach hosts!" and all quaff'd in huge glee.
With Cead mile failte go, Beal-an-atha-buidh!