Shamus O'Brien,

The Bold Boy of Glingall, A Tale of '98

by Samuel Lover


 JIST afther the war, in the year '98,

As soon as the boys wor all scattered and bate,

'Twas the custom, whenever a pisant was got,

To hang him by thrial—barrin' sich as was shot.

There was trial by jury goin' on by daylight,

There was martial-law hangin' the lavins by night.

It's them was hard times for an honest gossoon:

If he missed in the judges—he'd meet a dragoon;

An' whether the sodgers or judges gev sentence,

The divil a much time they allowed for repentance,

An' it's many's the fine boy was then on his keepin'

Wid small share iv restin', or atin', or sleepin',

An' because they loved Erin, an' scorned to sell it,

A prey for the bloodhound, a mark for the bullet—

Unsheltered by night, and unrested by day,

With the heath for their barrack, revenge for their pay;

An' the bravest an' hardiest boy iv them all

Was Shamus O'Brien, from the town iv Glingall.

His limbs were well set, an' his body was light,

An' the keen-fanged hound had not teeth half so white;

But his face was as pale as the face of the dead,

And his cheek never warmed with the blush of the red;

An' for all that he wasn't an ugly young bye,

For the divil himself couldn't blaze with his eye,

So droll an' so wicked, so dark and so bright,

Like a fire-flash that crosses the depth of the night!

An' he was the best mower that ever has been,

An' the illigantest hurler that ever was seen,

An' his dancin' was sich that the men used to stare,

An' the women turn crazy, he done it so quare;

An' by gorra, the whole world gev it into him there.

An' it's he was the boy that was hard to be caught,

An' it's often he run, an' it's often he fought,

An' it's many the one can remember right well

The quare things he done: an' it's often I heerd tell


How he lathered the yeomen, himself agin four,

An' stretched the two strongest on old Galtimore.

But the fox must sleep sometimes, the wild deer must rest,

An' treachery prey on the blood iv the best;

Afther many a brave action of power and pride,

An' many a hard night on the mountain's bleak side,

An' a thousand great dangers and toils over past,

In the darkness of night he was taken at last.

Now, Shamus, look back on the beautiful moon,

For the door of the prison must close on you soon,

An' take your last look at her dim lovely light,

That falls on the mountain and valley this night;

One look at the village, one look at the flood,

An' one at the sheltering, far distant wood;

Farewell to the forest, farewell to the hill,

An' farewell to the friends that will think of you still;

Farewell to the pathern, the hurlin' an' wake,

And farewell to the girl that would die for your sake,

An' twelve sodgers brought him to Maryborough jail,

An' the turnkey resaved him, refusin' all bail;

The fleet limbs wor chained, an' the sthrong hands wor bound,

An' he laid down his length on the cowld prison-ground,

An' the dreams of his childhood kem over him there

As gentle an' soft as the sweet summer air,

An' happy remembrances crowding on ever,

As fast as the foam-flakes dhrift down on the river,

Bringing fresh to his heart merry days long gone by,

Till the tears gathered heavy and thick in his eye.

But the tears didn't fall, for the pride of his heart

Would not suffer one drop down his pale cheek to start;

An' he sprang to his feet in the dark prison cave,

An' he swore with the fierceness that misery gave,

By the hopes of the good, an' the cause of the brave,

That when he was mouldering in the cold grave

His enemies never should have it to boast

His scorn of their vengeance one moment was lost;

His bosom might bleed, but his cheek should be dhry,

For undaunted he lived, and undaunted he'd die.


Well, as soon as a few weeks was over and gone,

The terrible day iv the thrial kem on,

There was sich a crowd there was scarce room to stand,

An' sodgers on guard, an' dhragoons sword-in-hand;

An' the court-house so full that the people were bothered,

An' attorneys an' criers on the point iv bein' smothered;

An' counsellors almost gev over for dead,

An' the jury sittin' up in their box overhead;

An' the judge settled out so detarmined an' big,

With his gown on his back, and an illegant new wig;

An' silence was called, an' the minute it was said

The court was as still as the heart of the dead,

An' they heard but the openin' of one prison lock,

An' Shamus O'Brien kem into the dock.

For one minute he turned his eye round on the throng,

An' he looked at the bars, so firm and so strong,

An' he saw that he had not a hope nor a friend,

A chance to escape, nor a word to defend;

An' he folded his arms as he stood there alone,

As calm and as cold as a statue of stone;

And they read a big writin', a yard long at laste,

An' Jim didn't understand it, nor mind it a taste,

An' the judge took a big pinch iv snuff, and he says,

"Are you guilty or not, Jim O'Brien, av you plase?"

An' all held their breath in the silence of dhread,

An' Shamus O'Brien made answer and said:

"My lord, if you ask me, if in my life-time

I thought any treason, or did any crime

That should call to my cheek, as I stand alone here,

The hot blush of shame, or the coldness of fear,

Though I stood by the grave to receive my death-blow

Before God and the world I would answer you, no!

But if you would ask me, as I think it like,

If in the rebellion I carried a pike,

An' fought for ould Ireland from the first to the close,

An' shed the heart's blood of her bitterest foes,

I answer you, yes; and I tell you again,

Though I stand here to perish, it's my glory that then

In her cause I was willing my veins should run dhry,

An' that now for her sake I am ready to die."


Then the silence was great, and the jury smiled bright,

An' the judge wasn't sorry the job was made light;

By my sowl, it's himself was the crabbed ould chap!

In a twinklin' he pulled on his ugly black cap.

Then Shamus' mother in the crowd standin' by,

Called out to the judge with a pitiful cry:

"O, judge! darlin', don't, O, don't say the word!

The crathur is young, have mercy, my lord;

He was foolish, he didn't know what he was doin';

You don't know him, my lord—O, don't give him to ruin!

He's the kindliest crathur, the tendherest-hearted;

Don't part us forever, we that's so long parted.

Judge, mavourneen, forgive him, forgive him, my lord,

An' God will forgive you—O, don't say the word!"

That was the first minute that O'Brien was shaken,

When he saw that he was not quite forgot or forsaken;

An' down his pale cheeks, at the word of his mother,

The big tears wor runnin' fast, one afther th' other;

An' two or three times he endeavoured to spake,

But the sthrong, manly voice used to falther and break;

But at last, by the strength of his high-mounting pride,

He conquered and masthered his grief's swelling tide,

"An'," says he, "mother, darlin', don't break your poor heart,

For, sooner or later, the dearest must part;

And God knows it's betther than wandering in fear

On the bleak, trackless mountain, among the wild deer,

To lie in the grave, where the head, heart, and breast,

From thought, labour, and sorrow, forever shall rest.

Then, mother, my darlin', don't cry any more,

Don't make me seem broken, in this, my last hour;

For I wish, when my head's lyin' undher the raven,

No thrue man can say that I died like a craven!"

Then towards the judge Shamus bent down his head,

An' that minute the solemn death-sentince was said.

The mornin' was bright, an' the mists rose on high,

An' the lark whistled merrily in the clear sky;

But why are the men standin' idle so late?

An' why do the crowds gather fast in the street?


What come they to talk of? what come they to see?

An' why does the long rope hang from the cross-tree?

O, Shamus O'Brien! pray fervent and fast,

May the saints take your soul, for this day is your last;

Pray fast an' pray sthrong, for the moment is nigh,

When, sthrong, proud, an' great as you are, you must die.

An' fasther an' fasther, the crowd gathered there,

Boys, horses, and gingerbread, just like a fair;

An' whiskey was sellin', and cussamuck too,

An' ould men and young women enjoying the view.

An' ould Tim Mulvany, he med the remark,

There wasn't sich a sight since the time of Noah's ark,

An' be gorry, 'twas thrue for him, for devil sich a scruge,

Sich divarshin and crowds, was known since the deluge,

For thousands were gathered there, if there was one,

Waitin' till such time as the hangin' 'id come on.

At last they threw open the big prison-gate,

An' out came the sheriffs and sodgers in state,

An' a cart in the middle, an' Shamus was in it,

Not paler, but prouder than ever, that minute.

An' as soon as the people saw Shamus O'Brien,

Wid prayin' and blessin', and all the girls cryin',

A wild wailin' sound kem on by degrees,

Like the sound of the lonesome wind blowin' through trees.

On, on to the gallows the sheriffs are gone,

An' the cart an' the sodgers go steadily on;

An' at every side swellin' around of the cart,

A wild, sorrowful sound, that id open your heart.

Now under the gallows the cart takes its stand,

An' the hangman gets up with the rope in his hand;

An' the priest, havin' blest him, goes down on the ground,

An' Shamus O'Brien throws one last look round.

Then the hangman dhrew near, an' the people grew still,

Young faces turned sickly, and warm hearts turn chill;

An' the rope bin' ready, his neck was made bare,

For the gripe iv the life-strangling chord to prepare;

An' the good priest has left him, havin' said his last prayer,

But the good priest done more, for his hands he unbound,

And with one daring spring Jim has leaped on the ground;


Bang! bang! goes the carbines, and clash goes the sabres;

He's not down! he's alive still! now stand to him, neighbours!

Through the smoke and the horses he's into the crowd,—

By the heavens, he's free!—than thunder more loud,

By one shout from the people the heavens were shaken—

One shout that the dead of the world might awaken.

The sodgers ran this way, the sheriffs ran that,

An' Father Malone lost his new Sunday hat;

To-night he'll be sleepin' in Aherloe Glin,

An' the divil's in the dice if you catch him ag'in.

Your swords they may glitter, your carbines go bang,

But if you want hangin', it's yourself you must hang.

He has mounted his horse, and soon he will be

In America, darlint, the land of the free.