Friday, April 10, 2015

Poetry Friday: "The Gifford Girl"

by Leonard Feeney, S.J.

Two dresses laid she by at night
And loosed her flowing hair,
She rose at dawn and stood in fright
And wondered which to wear.
Should it be white for her delight,
Or black for her despair?

She saw a widow weep—and now
She saw a laughing bride.
A little bit she laughed, but how
More bitterly she cried!
And the wedding-veil upon her brow
She very tightly tied.

She walked triumphantly at dawn
Across the lonesome vale.
Beyond the dim boreen and lawn
She heard a curlew wail.
She stood and tapped her fingers on
The door of Richmond jail.

That Richmond jail might open wide
She smote it with her hand.
“Who knocks?” the sleepy warden cried
And could not understand.
A trembling, girlish voice replied:
“A woman of Ireland!”

A hush that chilled the very stone
Upon the prison fell.
Young Plunkett straightened up alone
Within his narrow cell;
He bade the prison gong intone
And be their wedding bell.

O ye who know a lover’s grief
And feel a lover’s pride:
What gave this breaking heart relief
And cheered this drooping bride?
What said this lover in the brief
Last hour before he died?

Whatever lovers say—he said,
And then he passed along.
They put a hood upon his head
And bound it with a thong.
Then—England lost a ball of lead
And Ireland lost a song.

A hero and a soldier, too,
They buried him in lime.
Upon his wedding-morn they slew
A lover in his prime.
Into a burning ditch they threw
A poet and his rhyme.

O brood of riflemen, who vie
With brute and knave and churl!
On Judgment Day I prophesy
You'll hear his ashes swirl—
And God will make you stare it eye
For eye with the Gifford Girl!