Ireland has both the good fortune and misfortune to have a large number of martyrs. Many honourable men and women have felt it necessary to step forward to fight the blight of British colonialism.
Of those Rebels who were imprisoned, some chose to battle the foreign regime using the only weapon they had left to them, their body.
Terence James MacSwiney was one such man.
He was born in March 1879 and died after 74 days on hunger strike on 25th October, 1920. Terence was a playwright, an author, a politician, a rebel and a poet.
He was elected Lord Mayor of Cork for Sinn Féin in 1920, during the Tan War. He was transferred to Brixton prison in England in an attempt by the colonial authorities to weaken his influence on the revolution taking place in Ireland.
Terence MacSwiney died in that foul gaol. He is buried in the Republican plot in Saint Finbarr’s Cemetery in Cork. Arthur Griffith, then President of Sinn Féin, delivered the graveside oration. MacSwiney’s death brought both him and the Irish struggle for freedom to international attention.
The following is some poetry written by MacSwiney whilst in his prison cell.
A Visit Home
I walk within my prison wall;
‘Tis but my body owns their sway
Oh, Ireland, home, I hear you call;
Silent I wait the end of day.
And when, locked in my cell at night,
My body I have laid to rest,
My spirit homeward takes a flight
Where Ireland waits me in the west.
Lit by beauty of the stars,
City and mountain, vale and stream
Are mine, despite theses bolts and bars,
In all the glory of a dream
To The Dead At Eastertide
But yesterday you stood with us against the crowd.
We were not then a host, O dead; dispraise was loud;
Ah, not as loud, as deep, as pure as now your praise
Who died, and brought us back the dream of purer days.
Dig No Grave Deep
Lay not the axe to earth;
Love does not sleep.
If yet thy thought esteemeth mine of worth,
For it dig no grave deep.
Let it put forth its power,
Aside the surface sweep;
Then will leap forth the long-desired flower
Which thou mayst reap.