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Classic and Contemporary Poetry: Explained

MYLES O'HEA, by                

"Myles O'Hea" by Charles Joseph Kickham is a powerful narrative poem that skillfully weaves together themes of loyalty, rebellion, national pride, and redemption. The poem takes the form of a conversation between Myles O'Hea, a centenarian, and a young man who turns out to be a significant figure from O'Hea's past.

Charles Joseph Kickham was an Irish novelist and poet whose works were inspired by his passion for Irish nationalism. "Myles O'Hea" encapsulates Kickham's sentiments about the Irish struggle against British rule, highlighting the emotional conflicts arising from divided loyalties and the enduring hope for freedom.

Theme Analysis

Loyalty and Rebellion: The narrative is anchored by the dynamic relationship between O'Hea and his former Colonel's son. Their shared history represents the divided loyalties and internal conflicts experienced by the Irish people during the English rule. Despite their opposing sides, a sense of respect persists between them, illustrating the complexity of human relationships amid political unrest.

National Pride and Resistance: The poem reflects the spirit of national pride and resistance against oppression. The mentions of the 'freeman's sword' and the 'Irish Volunteers' evoke memories of historical battles for Irish independence. These serve as symbols of the Irish people's defiance and tenacity.

Redemption and Hope: The poem ends on a note of redemption and hope, with the return of the Colonel's grandson and his reclamation of the family property. This resolution mirrors Ireland's aspiration to regain control over its destiny.

Poetic Devices

Dialogue: The poem is structured as a conversation between two characters. This style allows the poem to unfold as a dynamic narrative, engaging readers with its dramatic progression.

Imagery: Kickham uses vivid imagery to depict historical scenes, such as the display of defiance by the Volunteers, the skirmishes with the yeoman corps, and the emotional farewell of the Colonel's son. These images enhance the emotional resonance of the poem.

Symbolism: The castle symbolizes power and authority, while the old green banner and the 'freeman's sword' represent freedom and resistance. The lime tree the boy clings to symbolizes continuity and the emotional ties to the homeland.


"Myles O'Hea" by Charles Joseph Kickham presents a richly layered narrative that explores the emotional complexities of loyalty, rebellion, and national pride. Through the interplay of dialogue, imagery, and symbolism, Kickham tells a deeply personal yet universally resonant story of struggle, resilience, and redemption. The enduring spirit of the characters reflects the tenacity of the Irish people and their unwavering hope for a future of freedom and autonomy.

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