This is a poignant piece of verse about the great revolutionary, James Connolly, who was executed by British forces whilst seriously injured during the Easter Rising, 1916. Connolly was tied to a chair so that he could be shot by a firing squad.
The man was all shot through that came today
Into the barrack square;
A soldier I – I am not proud to say
We killed him there;
They brought him from the prison hospital;
To see him in that chair
I thought his smile would far more quickly call
A man to prayer.
Maybe we cannot understand this thing
That makes these rebels die;
And yet all things love freedom – and the Spring
Clear in the sky;
I think I would not do this deed again
For all that I hold by;
Gaze down my rifle at his breast – but then
A soldier I.
They say that he was kindly – different too,
Apart from all the rest;
A lover of the poor; and all shot through,
His wounds ill drest,
He came before us, faced us like a man,
He knew a deeper pain
Than blows or bullets – ere the world began;
Died he in vain?
Ready – present; And he just smiling – God!
I felt my rifle shake
His wounds were opened out and round that chair
Was one red lake;
I swear his lips said ‘Fire!’ when all was still
Before my rifle spat
That cursed lead – and I was picked to kill
A man like that!