The Foggy Dew

As down the glen one Easter morn to a city fair rode I
There armed lines of marching men in squadrons passed me by
No pipe did hum, no battle drum did sound its loud tattoo
But the Angelus Bell o’er the Liffey’s swell rang out through the foggy dew

Right proudly high over Dublin Town they hung out the flag of war
Twas better to die ‘neath an Irish sky than at Suvla or Sud-El-Bar
And from the plains of Royal Meath strong men came hurrying through
While Britannia’s Huns, with their long range guns sailed in through the foggy dew

Oh the night fell black, and the rifles’ crack made perfidious Albion reel
In the leaden rain, seven tongues of flame did shine o’er the lines of steel
By each shining blade a prayer was said, that to Ireland her sons be true
But when morning broke, still the war flag shook out its folds in the foggy dew

Twas England bade our wild geese go, that “small nations might be free”;
Their lonely graves are by Suvla’s waves or the fringe of the great North Sea.
Oh, had they died by Pearse’s side or fought with Cathal Brugha*
Their graves we’d keep where the Fenians sleep, ‘neath the shroud of the foggy dew.

Oh the bravest fell, and the Requiem bell rang mournfully and clear
For those who died that Eastertide in the spring time of the year
And the world did gaze, in deep amaze, at those fearless men, but few,
Who bore the fight that freedom’s light might shine through the foggy dew

As back through the glen I rode again and my heart with grief was sore
For I parted then with valiant men whom I never shall see more
But to and fro in my dreams I go and I kneel and pray for you,
For slavery fled, O glorious dead, when you fell in the foggy dew.

~Canon Charles O’Neill

I’m not Irish. I’ve never been to Ireland. Someday, I’d like to go, to see the places I’ve read so much about, the birthplace of some of my favourite music. So I’m at a loss to explain my fascination with the history of the place, the people. Maybe, to tie in with my previous speculation of genetic memory, maybe some part of me that remembers the plight of my ancestors whose land was constantly being shuffled from one occupying force to another. I can only speculate.

This song caught my ear first, then my heart. It’s a wonderful melody to sing, and easy to play on the guitar. And there’s something cathartic about belting it out at the top of my lungs, unable to stop myself from letting the vowel sounds take on less Canadian sounding shapes. I had to look it up, though, since I can only half sing a song like this without knowing its story.

Part of me wishes I had left it alone and just kept it a pretty song to sing. The Easter Uprising of 1916 was an epic event, one that I am not quite able to properly describe. I refer you to this site, should you care to delve more deeply into it, and I recommmend you do. Suffice it to say, rebels fighting for their freedom suffered great losses, and civilian casualties were high. So, it’s a song of mourning, a song to rally troops to enter WWI to fight for Ireland, not the British, a chronicle of a pivotal moment in Irish history. It’s a song that I won’t be singing in public, even now it can strike a raw nerve, and it’s not my wound to reopen. But it’s well worth hearing, and contemplating, the almost universal struggle of oppressed people pushed to the point of uprising against their oppressors.

Interesting note, I thought the phrase “Perfidious Albion” was rather intriguing, and I found out that it’s a fairly widespread epithet for England, in this instance recalling Treaty of Limerick that promised Catholics the freedom to practice their religion, rights that were later revoked.

A plaque commemorating the Easter Rising at th...

Image via Wikipedia


~ by Trillian on 09/18/2010.

2 Responses to “The Foggy Dew”

  1. That Peter would link to your site says a lot, and for reading a post like this I can see why he would do so.


    • I hold Peter in very high esteem as well, he’s one of the most interesting people I know, so I was honoured when he linked to me. I’d glad you appreciate this post, it’s rather dear to my heart.

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