Friday 28 October 2016

Poetry: Rising leader whose poetry charmed a Japanese Empress

Ulick O'Connor

Published 03/04/2016 | 02:30

Joseph Mary Plunkett
Joseph Mary Plunkett

The effect of the Easter Rising on subsequent world history is substantial. I was fortunate enough to have an audience with the Empress of Japan Princess Michiko in 1995 and I discovered she could recite off by heart a poem by one of the seven signatories of the Proclamation.

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This was Joseph Plunkett, who wrote 'I See His Blood Upon the Rose'. She told me that the perception of God and nature which the poem deals with is close to Japanese Shinto belief.

I eagerly began to tell her more about Plunkett, but it wasn't necessary, she was fully informed. She knew also that his father, Count Plunkett, had played a significant role in Irish affairs and would be elected for Sinn Féin after the Rising.

As well as being a fine poet, Plunkett was a real achiever.

Anything he was part of was run with ­meticulous attention. He had his father's gift for getting things done.

Here is his poem which is included in the Oxford Book of Mystical Verse.

Isn't it strange that we never seem to recognise that three of the 15 executed in May 1916 - Pearse, MacDonagh and Plunkett - were also, by any standard, first-class poets?

I See His Blood Upon the Rose

I see his blood upon the rose

And in the stars the glory of His eyes,

His body gleams amid eternal snows,

His tears fall from the skies.

I see his face in every flower;

The thunder and the singing of the birds

Are but His voice - and carven by His power

Rocks are His written words.

All pathways by His feet are worn,

His strong heart stirs the ever-beating sea,

His crown of thorns is twined with every thorn,

His cross is every tree.

Joseph Mary Plunket 1887-1916

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