Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry: Explained, THE IRISH RAPPAREES; A PEASANT BALLAD OF 1691, by CHARLES GAVAN DUFFY

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry: Explained

THE IRISH RAPPAREES; A PEASANT BALLAD OF 1691, by                 Poet's Biography

The Irish Rapparees: A Peasant Ballad of 1691 is a poem by Charles Gavan Duffy. This poem, written in a folkloric style, is a retelling of a traditional Irish ballad. It tells the story of a band of brave Irish farmers, who, despite facing tremendous odds, fight against their oppressors in an effort to defend their country and their freedom. Duffy masterfully uses vivid imagery, symbolism, and allusions to capture the heroic spirit of these rag-tag Rapparees.


Duffy utilizes many poetic elements to craft this poem. Perhaps the most impactful device is the use of vivid imagery. Duffy paints powerful pictures of the Rapparees, from their physicality ("In rags and tatters, like a band of outlaws") to their resilience ("Though numberless, unheeding fear,/ The Rapparees held on the rear"). He communicates his admiration for these brave fighters and adds depth to the poem. Furthermore, Duffy incorporates symbols, such as the devil’s horn, which represents their relentless pursuit of freedom despite the tremendous odds they face. Additionally, Duffy utilizes allusions to other works of literature to further draw the reader into his story. He mentions books such as Don Quixote and The Iliad in order to evoke a feeling of classical heroism, one that these Rapparees are emulating on their own battlefield.

Poetic Elements:

  • Rhyme Scheme: AABCBBCBCDD
  • Structure: The poem is composed of nine stanzas, each with its own distinct rhyme scheme.
  • Language: Duffy uses language that is both accessible and poetic, creating a powerful, heroic tone.
  • Tone: The tone is both triumphant and nostalgic as we witness the heroism of these Rapparees.


Charles Gavan Duffy's The Irish Rapparees: A Peasant Ballad of 1691 is an epic poem that captures the brave spirit of a group of rag-tag farmers. With his clever use of imagery, symbolism, and allusions, Duffy retells the tale of these peasants’ fight for freedom and justice, paying homage to the brave souls who fought in its defense. This poem remains a powerful testament to the spirit of the Irish people and serves as a reminder of the importance of perseverance in the face of societal injustice.

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