Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, KILCOLEMAN CASTLE, by ROBERT DWYER JOYCE



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KILCOLEMAN CASTLE, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: No sound of life was coming
Last Line: On his head long, long ago!
Subject(s): Kilcoleman Castle, Ireland


KILCOLEMAN CASTLE, an ancient and very picturesque ruin, once the
residence of Spenser, lies on the shore of a small lake, about two miles to
the west of Doneraile, in the county Cork. It belonged once to the Earls
of Desmond, and was burned by their followers in 1598. Spenser, who
was hated by the Irish in consequence of his stringent advices to the English
about the management of the refractory chiefs and minstrels, narrowly
escaped with his life, and an infant child of his, unfortunately left behind,
was burnt to death in the flames.

NO sound of life was coming
From glen or tree or brake,
Save the bittern's hollow booming
Up from the reedy lake;
The golden light of sunset
Was swallowed in the deep,
And the night came down with a sullen frown,
On Houra's craggy steep.

And Houra's hills are soundless:
But hark, that trumpet blast!
It fills the forest boundless,
Rings round the summits vast;
'T is answered by another
From the crest of Corrin Mor,
And hark again the pipe's wild strain
By Bregoge's caverned shore!

O, sweet at hush of even
The trumpet's golden thrill,
Grand 'neath the starry heaven
The pibroch wild and shrill!
Yet all were pale with terror,
The fearful and the bold,
Who heard its tone that twilight lone
In the Poet's frowning hold!

Well might their hearts be beating;
For up the mountain pass,
By lake and river meeting,
Came kern and galloglass,
Breathing vengeance deadly,
Under the forest tree,
To the wizard man who cast the ban
On the minstrels bold and free!

They gave no word of warning,
Round still they came, and on,
Door, wall, and rampart scorning, --
They knew not he was gone!
Gone fast and far that even,
All secret as the wind,
His treasures all in that castle tall,
And his infant son behind!

All still that castle hoarest, --
Their pipes and horns were still,
While gazed they through the forest,
Up glen and northern hill;
Till from the Brehon circle,
On Corrin's crest of stone,
A sheet of fire like an Indian pyre
Up to the clouds was thrown.

Then, with a mighty blazing,
They answered -- to the sky;
It dazzled their own gazing,
So bright it rolled and high;
The castle of the Poet --
The man of endless fame --
Soon hid its head in a mantle red
Of fierce and rushing flame.

Out burst the vassals, praying
For mercy as they sped, --
"Where was their master staying,
Where was the Poet fled?"
But hark! that thrilling screaming,
Over the crackling din, --
'T is the Poet's child in its terror wild,
The blazing tower within!

There was a warlike giant
Amid the listening throng,
He looked with face defiant
On the flames so wild and strong,
Then rushed into the castle,
And up the rocky stair,
But alas! alas! he could not pass
To the burning infant there!

The wall was tottering under,
And the flame was whirring round,
The wall went down in thunder,
And dashed him to the ground;
Up in the burning chamber
Forever died that scream,
And the fire sprang out with a wilder shout
And a fiercer, ghastlier gleam!

It glared o'er hill and hollow,
Up many a rocky bar,
From ancient Kilnamulla
To Darra's Peak afar;
Then it heaved into the darkness
With a final roar amain,
And sank in gloom with a whirring boom,
And all was dark again!

Away sped the galloglasses
And kerns, all still again,
Through Houra's lonely passes,
Wild, fierce, and reckless men.
But such the Saxon made them,
Poor sons of war and woe;
So they venged their strife with flame and knife
On his head long, long ago!





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