When You Come Home Again - Sligo Poets

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Sligo Nationalist 30 August 1913

When You Come Home Again.

My exiled countrymen rejoice—
   Rejoice with me today—
The snarling curs and mongrel whelps
   Our Wolf Dog holds at bay.
For centuries they muzzled him,
   But now he snapped his chain;
He’ll wag his tail and bark with joy
   When you come home again!

My exiled countrymen you know,
   Some of you never seen
This persecuted Isle of Saints—
   Your fathers’ Irish green;
But they have handed down their wrongs
   To you beyond the main
To steel your hearts and nerve your hands
   When you come home again!

Some of your kith and kin they died
   Out West, in grief and woe,
In the states of Pennsylvania,
   New York, or Mexico.
With a burning love for Freedom,
   Which will our cause sustain,
We’ll hold the anniversary
   When you come home again!

In vision those departed dead
   I think I see them now—
The bloody crown of martyrdom
   Rests on poor Emmet’s brow;
His eyes are gazing towards the West
   His last wish to obtain—
Then you’ll inscribe his epitaph
   When you come home again!

I need not mentioned murdered Orr,
   Such is a lurid tale;
The gibbet, turn-screw, and the wrack,
   The pitch-cap and the gaol;
To sing how women they were used
   Would drive a man insane,
But their wrongs will be remembered
   When you come home again!

And England begs us to forget
   Those murders of the past,
But were she not in trouble now
   Her tyranny would last.
In granting us Home Rule she hopes
   To weld up friendship’s chain,
And save her Constitution
   When you come home again!

Be sure and sail for Belfast Lough
   Where dwells the man of blood.
The grinning cur, he is tied up
   He’d bite you if he could.
But now we have him tethered fast
   And we will hold the chain
And give three cheers for Liberty
   When you come home again!


This poem was published on the front page of the Sligo Nationalist on 30 August, two weeks after a poem by Fanny Parnell on a similar theme was published. Both poems look forward to Irish self-government though in this case the expectation is that this is imminent.

September was to see a small number of large nationalist pro-Home Rule demonstrations in Co. Sligo culminating in the meeting at the Town Hall, Sligo written about by John Gillan. These meetings were seen as part of the final push for Home Rule and the poem may have been included at this time to add to the campaign.

This poem strikes a note of bitterness against England which was not used to any great extent by the nationalist politicians of the day. The Irish Parliamentary Party was working with the Liberal government and in return Home Rule was being enacted. So the tone of the nationalist politicians was of co-operation towards the achievement of Home Rule rather than memory of the wrongs handded down mentioned in the second stanza. The description of the English as "curs and whelps" is more extreme than the common language of the political leaders of the day.

This is a poem of welcome for Home Rule, looking forward to the return of exiles to a more prosperous independent Ireland. It is lively and rousing with well-developed use of animal metaphors in the first stanza - curs and whelps for the English, wolfhound for Ireland.

It mentions one of the stock figures of Irish history, Robert Emmet, the Irish patriot and rebel who was executed in 1803. His well-known request "
When my country takes her place among the nations of the earth, then and not till then, let my epitaph be written" is mentioned in stanza four.

William Orr, mentioned in stanza five, was a member of the United Irishmen who was executed in 1797.

Stanza six contains an interesting if simplistic explanation of English support for Home Rule and the final stanza appears to refer to Edward Carson the leader of the Unionist opposition to Home Rule, suggesting that his aims would not succeed. Time would show that Carson and the Unionists would not entirely fail.

There is an unintended irony in the final stanza where the chievement of Irish Liberty seems to go hand in hand with tying  "the man of blood" in chains .

The 'Ballintogher Leaguer' was a member of the Ballintogher, Co. Sligo, branch of the United Irish League which was the main Irish nationalist organisation and operated as the local constituency support of the Irish Parliamentary Party.

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