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Cease To Do Evil – Learn To Do Well

Denis Florence MacCarthy 1817 (Dublin) – 1882 (Blackrock, Dublin)

Oh! thou whom sacred duty hither calls,
Some glorious hours in freedom's cause to dwell,
Read the mute lesson on thy prison walls,
'Cease to do evil-learn to do well.'

If haply thou art one of genius vast,
Of generous heart, of mind sublime and grand,
Who all the spring-time of thy life has pass'd
Battling with tyrants for thy native land,
If thou hast spent thy summer as thy prime,
The serpent brood of bigotry to quell,
Repent, repent thee of thy hideous crime,
'Cease to do evil-learn to do well!'

If thy great heart beat warmly in the cause
Of outraged man, whate'er his race might be,
If thou hast preached the Christian's equal laws,
And stayed the lash beyond the Indian sea!
If at thy call a nation rose sublime,
If at thy voice seven million fetters fell,-
Repent, repent thee of thy hideous crime,
'Cease to do evil-learn to do well!'

If thou hast seen thy country's quick decay,
And, like the prophet, raised thy saving hand,
And pointed out the only certain way
To stop the plague that ravaged o'er the land!
If thou hast summoned from an alien clime
Her banished senate here at home to dwell:
Repent, repent thee of thy hideous crime,
'Cease to do evil-learn to do well!'

Or if, perchance, a younger man thou art,
Whose ardent soul in throbbings doth aspire,
Come weal, come woe, to play the patriot's part
In the bright footsteps of thy glorious sire
If all the pleasures of life's youthful time
Thou hast abandoned for the martyr's cell,
Do thou repent thee of thy hideous crime,
'Cease to do evil-learn to do well!'

Or art thou one whom early science led
To walk with Newton through the immense of heaven,
Who soared with Milton, and with Mina bled,
And all thou hadst in freedom's cause hast given?
Oh! fond enthusiast-in the after time
Our children's children of thy worth shall tell-
England proclaims thy honesty a crime,
'Cease to do evil-learn to do well!'

Or art thou one whose strong and fearless pen
Roused the Young Isle, and bade it dry its tears,
And gathered round thee ardent, gifted men,
The hope of Ireland in the coming years?
Who dares in prose and heart-awakening rhyme,
Bright hopes to breathe and bitter truths to tell?
Oh! dangerous criminal, repent thy crime,
'Cease to do evil-learn to do well!'

'Cease to do evil'-ay! ye madmen, cease!
Cease to love Ireland-cease to serve her well;
Make with her foes a foul and fatal peace,
And quick will ope your darkest, dreariest cell.
'Learn to do well'-ay! learn to betray,
Learn to revile the land in which you dwell
England will bless you on your altered way
'Cease to do evil-learn to do well!'

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

2:24 min read

Denis Florence MacCarthy

Denis Florence MacCarthy was an Irish poet translator and biographer born in Dublin more…

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