CHRISTMAS AND IRELAND : a Poem by Lionel Johnson (1896)

JMJ Ireland Stamp

THE golden stars give warmthless fire,
As weary Mary goes through night:
Her feet are torn by stone and briar;
She hath no rest, no strength, no light:
___O Mary, weary in the snow,
___Remember Ireland’s woe!

O Joseph, sad for Mary’s sake!
Look on our earthly Mother too :
Let not the heart of Ireland break
With agony, the ages through :
___For Mary’s love, love also thou
___Ireland, and save her now!

Harsh were the folk, and bitter stern,
At Bethlehem, that night of nights.
For you no cheering hearth shall burn :
We have no room here, you no rights.

___O Mary and Joseph! hath not she,
___Ireland, been even as ye?

The ancient David’s royal house
Was thine, Saint Joseph ! wherefore she,
Mary, thine Ever Virgin Spouse,
To thine own city went with thee.
___Behold! thy citizens disown
___The heir of David’s throne !

Nay, more! The Very King of kings
Was with you, coming to his own :
They thrust Him forth to lowliest things;
The poor meek beasts of toil alone
___Stood by, when came to piteous birth
___The God of all the earth.

And she, our Mother Ireland, knows
Insult, and infamies of wrong:
Her innocent children clad with woes,
Her weakness trampled by the strong:
___And still upon her Holy Land
___Her pitiless foemen stand.

From Manger unto Cross and Crown
Went Christ: and Mother Mary passed
Through Seven Sorrows, and sat down
Upon the Angel Throne at last.
___Thence, Mary! to thine own Child pray,
___For Ireland’s hope this day!

She wanders amid winter still,
The dew of tears is on her face :
Her wounded heart takes yet its fill
Of desolation and disgrace.
___God still is God! And through God she
___Foreknows her joy to be.

The snows shall perish at the spring,
The flowers pour fragrance round her feet:
Ah, Jesus! Mary! Joseph! bring
This mercy from the Mercy Seat!
___Send it, sweet King of Glory, born
___Humbly on Christmas Morn!

On Lionel Johnson (1867-1902), Louise Imogen Guiney, writing in the Catholic Encylopedia, states : “He was a small, frail, young-looking man, with a fine head and brow, quick of foot, gentle of voice, and with manners of grave courtesy. He greatly loved his friends in a markedly spiritual way, always praying for them, absent or present. His sound Catholic principles, his profound scholarship, his artistic sensitiveness, his play of wisdom and humor, his absolute literary honour, with its “passion for perfection” from the first, show nobly in his prose work. His lyrics are full of beauty and poignancy…

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Filed under Bardic Poetry & Christian Verse, Celtic Miscellany, Modern Controversy

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