Thursday 25 April 2019

Rising Poems: 'The Foggy Dew' by Canon Charles O'Neill

The Foggy Dew

As down the glen one Easter morn to a
city fair rode I
There armed lines of marching men in
squadrons passed me by
No fife did hum nor battle drum did
sound its dread tattoo
But the Angelus bell o’er the Liffey swell
rang out through the foggy dew

Right proudly high over Dublin town
they hung out the f lag of war
’Twas better to die ’neath an Irish sky
than at Suvla or Sedd El Bahr
And from the plains of Royal Meath
strong men came hurrying through
While Britannia’s Huns, with their
long-range guns sailed in through the
foggy dew

’Twas Britannia bade our Wild Geese go
that small nations might be free
But their lonely graves are by Suvla’s
waves or the shore of the Great North Sea
Oh, had they died by Pearse’s side or
fought with Cathal Brugha
Their names we will keep where the
Fenians sleep ’neath the shroud of the
foggy dew

But the bravest fell, and the requiem bell
rang mournfully and clear
For those who died that Eastertide in
the springing of the year
And the world did gaze, in deep amaze,
at those fearless men, but few
Who bore the fight that freedom’s light
might shine through the foggy dew

Ah, back through the glen I rode again
and my heart with grief was sore
For I parted then with valiant men
whom I never shall see more
But to and fro in my dreams I go and
I’d kneel and pray for you,
For slavery f led, O glorious dead,
When you fell in the foggy dew

An Assessment of 'The Foggy Dew' by Dr Lucy Collins

The power of song to capture, as well as to instil, political conviction is clear in ‘The Foggy Dew’. Set to the tune of an existing lament, this text expresses personal grief for the dead revolutionaries of 1916 by situating them in a long verse tradition of devotion to beloved and country.

The ‘strong men’ of Meath are pitted here against the British long-range guns, showing mechanised warfare to be morally defeated by the integrity of individual action.

Written just three years after the Rising, the song articulates a vision for the rebels’ lasting renown, in keeping with the deification of key revolutionary figures by this time.

Easter imagery combines religious and natural force in support of the song’s argument: that the heroes of 1916 will live again through the sacrificial power of their actions, while those who fought in the Great War will remain buried in foreign fields, forever lost in the anonymity of false allegiance.

Dr Lucy Collins is a lecturer in English at University College Dublin (UCD). She is the curator of 'Reading 1916', a forthcoming exhibition at UCD Special Collections.

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