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My Native Land

John Boyle O'Reilly 1844 (Dowth) – 1890 (Boston)

IT chanced to me upon a time to sail
Across the Southern Ocean to and fro;
And, landing at fair isles, by stream and vale
Of sensuous blessing did we ofttimes go.
And months of dreamy joys, like joys in sleep,
Or like a clear, calm stream o'er mossy stone,
Unnoted passed our hearts with voiceless sweep,
And left us yearning still for lands unknown.

And when we found one,—for 'tis soon to find
In thousand-isled Cathay another isle,—
For one short noon its treasures filled the mind,
And then again we yearned, and ceased to smile.
And so it was, from isle to isle we passed,
Like wanton bees or boys on flowers or lips;
And when that all was tasted, then at last
We thirsted still for draughts instead of sips.

I learned from this there is no Southern land
Can fill with love the hearts of Northern men.
Sick minds need change; but, when in health they stand
'Neath foreign skies, their love flies home again.
And thus with me it was: the yearning turned
From laden airs of cinnamon away,
And stretched far westward, while the full heart burned
With love for Ireland, looking on Cathay!

My first dear love, all dearer for thy grief!
My land, that has no peer in all the sea
For verdure, vale, or river, flower or leaf,—
If first to no man else, thou'rt first to me.
New loves may come with duties, but the first
Is deepest yet,—the mother's breath and smiles:
Like that kind face and breast where I was nursed
Is my poor land, the Niobe of isles.

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

1:24 min read

John Boyle O'Reilly

John Boyle O'Reilly was an Irish-born poet, journalist and fiction writer. more…

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