Sunday 19 November 2017

Ulick O'Connor - Poetry: The pen of Markievicz in white heat of rebellion

Countess Markievicz
Countess Markievicz

Constance Markievicz, the Anglo-Irish aristocrat, had a command role during Easter week 1916. After the Rising, she was sentenced to death with 60 others.

She held the ­highest ­military rank of ­Commandant in the Citizen Army. Her relatives in Lissadel, her family home in Co Sligo, were in ­complete ­disagreement with her actions.

Surely, though, they must have felt relieved when ­Constance had her sentence reduced to life ­imprisonment.

She then got herself elected to Westminster, the first woman to do so. But she refused to take her seat as an MP on the grounds that she was Irish. To this day, she is one of the most remembered figures of the Irish Rebellion.

Constance died in a public hospital in 1927. Inspired by her socialist beliefs, she refused to be treated other than as a public patient.

Here is a poem by Constance which I found hidden in the 1968 Capuchin Annual and I think very fine.

It was written in the ­occupied College of ­Surgeons in Easter week 1916 during a saying of the Rosary by the rebels.


(To a comrade, College of Surgeons, Easter Week, 1916)

The great hall fades away into the gloom

As tremulous night falls slowly from above

Merging each in each in tender love

One shadow marching onwards towards one doom.

On our rough altar white flowers shine and bloom

Intensifying dusky waves that move

Around the tall black cross, - one hope, one prayer

Filled all our hearts, one perfect holy Faith

Lifted our souls. As we knelt humbly there,

Your silvery voice, soft as dying breath,

Was answered by a hundred, strong and clear,

Craving a grace from her whom all hold dear -

Mary be with us at the hour of death.

Countess Markievicz 1868-1927

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