Irish Republican News · July 25, 2005
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Poetry of Terence McSwiney

In 1920, during the Tan War, the British had withdrawn political status, which had been won after the death of Thomas Ashe in 1917 and after the 2-week mass hunger strike in Mountjoy Jail in April of 1920.

In early August, a mass strike was once again initiated, this time in Cork Jail, when 60 IRA members, most of whom were held without charge or trial, demanded reinstatement of political status and release.

The British, having hardened their attitude against status following the April strikes, opted to risk the deaths of pows rather than make concessions. In the weeks that followed, the British released or transferred many of the 60 until only 11 were left.

One of these was Terence McSwiney, who had joined the strike the day after it had begun. Following McSwiney’s death, the hunger strike in Cork Jail continued for a further three weeks, and following a request from Arthur Griffith, acting President of the Irish Republic, the remaining nine prisoners on hunger strike ended their fast on 12 November 1920.

The following is some poetry by McSwiney, written from his prison cell.

A Visit Home

I walk within my prison wall;
‘Tis but my body owns their sway
Oh, Ireland, home, I hear you call;
Silent I wait the end of day.

And when, locked in my cell at night,
My body I have laid to rest,
My spirit homeward takes a flight
Where Ireland waits me in the west.

Lit by beauty of the stars,
City and mountain, vale and stream
Are mine, despite theses bolts and bars,
In all the glory of a dream

To The Dead At Eastertide

But yesterday you stood with us against the crowd.
We were not then a host, O dead; dispraise was loud;
Ah, not as loud, as deep, as pure as now your praise
Who died, and brought us back the dream of purer days.

Dig No Grave Deep

Lay not the axe to earth;
Love does not sleep.
If yet thy thought esteemeth mine of worth,
For it dig no grave deep.

Let it put forth its power,
Aside the surface sweep;
Then will leap forth the long-desired flower
Which thou mayst reap.

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© 2005 Irish Republican News