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Abbey Assaroe

William Allingham 1824 (Ballyshannon) – 1889 (Hampstead)



Gray, gray is Abbey Assaroe, by Belashanny town,
It has neither door nor window, the walls are broken down;
The carven-stones lie scatter'd in briar and nettle-bed!
The only feet are those that come at burial of the dead.
A little rocky rivulet runs murmuring to the tide,
Singing a song of ancient days, in sorrow, not in pride;
The boortree and the lightsome ash across the portal grow,
And heaven itself is now the roof of Abbey Assaroe.

It looks beyond the harbour-stream to Gulban mountain blue;
It hears the voice of Erna's fall - Atlantic breakers too;
High ships go sailing past it; the sturdy clank of oars
Brings in the salmon-boat to haul a net upon the shores;
And this way to his home-creek, when the summer day is done,
Slow sculls the weary fisherman across the setting sun;
While green with corn is Sheegus Hill, his cottage white below;
But gray at every season is Abbey Assaroe.

There stood one day a poor old man above its broken bridge;
He heard no running rivulet, he saw no mountain-ridge;
He turn'd his back on Sheegus Hill, and view'd with misty sight
The Abbey walls, the burial-ground with crosses ghostly white;
Under a weary weight of years he bow'd upon his staff,
Perusing in the present time the former's epitaph;
For, gray and wasted like the walls, a figure full of woe,
This man was of the blood of them who founded Assaroe.

From Derry to Bundrowas Tower, Tirconnell broad was theirs;
Spearmen and plunder, bards and wine, and holy Abbot's prayers;
With chanting always in the house which they had builded high
To God and to Saint Bernard - where at last they came to die.
At worst, no workhouse grave for him! the ruins of his race
Shall rest among the ruin'd stones of this their saintly place.
The fond old man was weeping; and tremulous and slow
Along the rough and crooked lane he crept from Assaroe.

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

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William Allingham

William Allingham March 19 1824 or 1828 - November 18 1889 was an Irish man of letters and poet He was born at Ballyshannon Donegal and was the son of the manager of a local bank who was of English descent He obtained a post in the custom-house of his native town and held several similar posts in Ireland and England until 1870 when he had retired from the service and became sub-editor of Frasers Magazine which he edited from 1874 to 1879 in succession to James Froude He had published a volume of Poems in 1850 followed by Day and Night Songs a volume containing many charming lyrics in 1855 Allingham was on terms of close friendship with DG Rossetti who contributed to the illustration of the Songs His Letters to Allingham 1854-1870 were edited by Dr Birkbeck Hill in 1897 Lawrence Bloomfield in Ireland his most ambitious though not his most successful work a narrative poem illustrative of Irish social questions appeared in 1864 He also edited The Ballad Book for the Golden Treasury series in 1864 In 1874 Allingham married Helen Paterson known under her married name as a water-colour painter He died at Hampstead in 1889 and his ashes are interred at St Annes in his native Ballyshannon Though working on an unostentatious scale Allingham produced much excellent lyrical and descriptive poetry and the best of his pieces are thoroughly national in spirit and local colouring His verse is clear fresh and graceful more…

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