Oh! blame not the bard, if he fly to the bowers*
Where Pleasure lies, carelessly smiling at Fame;
He was born for much more, and in happier hours
His soul might have burn'd with a holier flame.
The string, that now languishes loose o'er the lyre,
Might have bent a proud bow to the warrior's dart;**
And the lip, which now breathes but the song of desire
Might have pour'd the full tide of a patriot's heart.
But alas for his country! -- her pride is gone by,
And that spirit is broken which never would bend;
O'er the ruin her children in secret must sigh,
For 'tis treason to love her, and death to defend.
Unprized are her sons, till they've learn'd to betray;
Undistinguish'd they live, if they shame not their sires;
And the torch, that would light them through dignity's way,
Must be caught from the pile where their country expires.
Then blame not the bard, if in pleasure's soft dream
He should try to forget what he never can heal:
Oh! give but a hope -- let a vista but gleam
Through the gloom of his country, and mark how he'll feel!
That instant, his heart at her shrine would lay down
Every passion it nursed, every bliss it adored;
While the myrtle, now idly entwined with his crown,
Like the wreath of Harmodius, should cover his sword.***
But though glory be gone, and though hope fade away,
Thy name, loved Erin, shall live in his songs;
Not even in the hour when his heart is most gay
Will he lose the remembrance of thee and thy wrongs.
The stranger shall hear thy lament on his plains;
The sign of thy harp shall be sent o'er the deep,
Till thy masters themselves, as they rivet thy chains,
Shall pause at the song of their captive, and weep!
* We may suppose this apology to have been uttered by one of those wandering bards, whom Spenser so severely, and perhaps truly, describes in his State of Ireland, and whose poems, he tells us, "were sprinkled with some pretty flowers of their natural device, which gave good grace and comeliness unto them, the which it is great pity to see abused to the gracing of wickedness and vice, which, with good usage, would serve to adorn and beautify virtue."
** It is conjectured by Wormius, that the name of Ireland is derived from Yr, the Runic for a bow, in the use of which weapon the Irish were once very expert. This derivation is certainly more creditable to us than the following: "So that Ireland, called the land of Ire, from the constant broils therein for 400 years, was now become the land of concord." - Lloyd's State Worthies, art. - The Lord Grundison.
*** See the Hymn, attributed to Alcæus, -- "I will carry my sword, hidden in myrtles, like Harmodius and Aristogiton," etc. - Notes from Irish Melodies.