Molly Maguire - Sligo Poets

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        Sligo Nationalist 20 December 1913

                         Molly Maguire

She stood at the bar of justice, a creature wan and wild,
In form too small for a woman, in features too old for a child,
For a look so worn and pathetic was stamped on her pale young lace,
It seemed long years of suffering must have left that silent trace.

"Your name?" said the judge, as he eyed her with kindly look yet keen,
"Is Mary McGuire, if you please sir," "And your age?" — I am turned fifteen."
"Well Mary," and then from a paper he slowly and gravely read,
"You are charged here — I'm sorry to say it— With stealing three loaves of bread."

"You look not like an offender, and I hope that you can show
The charge to be false. Now, tell me, Are you guilty of this, or no?"
A passionate burst of weeping was at first her sole reply,
But she dried her eyes in a moment, and looked in the judge's eye.

"I will tell you just how it was, sir, my father and mother are dead,
And my little brother and sisters were hungry and asked me for bread.
At first I earned it for them by working hard all day,
But somehow times were bad, sir, and the work all fell away.

"I could get no more employment; the weather was bitter cold,
The young ones cried and shivered (Little Johnny 's but four years old),
So, what was I to do, sir? I am guilty, but do not condemn,
I took — oh, was it stealing? – the bread to give to them."

Every man in the court-room —gray-beard and thoughtless youth —
Knew, as he looked upon her, that the prisoner spoke the truth,
Out from their pockets came kerchiefs, out from their eyes sprung tears,
And out from old faded wallets treasures hoarded for years.

The judge's face was a study—the strangest you ever saw,
As he cleared his throat and murmured something about the law.
For one so learned in such matters, so wise in dealing with men,
He seemed, on a simple question, sorely puzzled just then.

But no one blamed him or wonder’d, when at last these words they heard
"The sentence of this young prisoner is, for the present, deferred."
And no one blamed him or wondered when he went, to her and smiled,
And tenderly led from the courtroom himself the "guilty" child.

This is a well-known anonymous poem or song popular in the second half of the nineteenth century and included in many collections of popular poetry. It is more commonly known by the title Guilty or not Guilty.

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