The Rebel – Pádraig Pearse Poem

The following is a famous poem by Pádraig Pearse, one of the leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin. Pearse was executed by the British colonial authorities after the failed rebellion. His death, and those of others who perished with him, inspired a mulitude to rise up and fight for Irish freedom. That fight continues to this very day.

The Rebel

I am come of the seed of the people, the people that sorrow;
Who have no treasure but hope,
No riches laid up but a memory of an ancient glory,
My mother bore me in bondage, in bondage my mother was born,
I am of the blood of serfs;
The children with whom I have played, the men and women with whom I have eaten
Have had masters over them, have been under the lash of masters,
and though gentle, have served churls.
The hands that have touched mine,
the dear hands whose touch is familiar to me,
Have worn shameful manacles, have been bitten at the wrist by manacles,
have grown hard with the manacles and the task-work of strangers.
I am flesh of the flesh of these lowly, I am bone of their bone I that have never submitted;
I that have a soul greater than the souls of my people’s masters,
I that have vision and prophecy, and the gift of fiery speech…
And because I am of the people, I understand the people,
I am sorrowful with their sorrow, I am hungry with their desire;
My heart is heavy with the grief of mothers,
My eyes have been wet with the tears of children,
I have yearned with old wistful men
And laughed and cursed with young men;
Their shame is my shame, and I have reddened for it,
Reddened for that they have served, they who should be free,
Reddened for that they have gone in want, while others have been full,
Reddened for that they have walked in fear of lawyers and their jailers.
With their Writs of Summons and their handcuffs,
Men mean and cruel.
I could have borne stripes on my body,
Rather than this shame of my people.
And now I speak, being full of vision:
I speak to my people, and I speak in my people’s name to
The masters of my people:
I say to my people that they are holy,
That they are august despite their chains.
That they are greater than those that hold them
And stronger and purer,
That they have but need of courage…
And I say to my people’s masters: Beware,
Beware of the thing that is coming, beware of the risen people
Who shall take what ye would not give.
Did ye think to conquer the people, or that law is stronger than life,
And than men’s desire to be free?
We will try it out with you ye that have harried and held,
Ye that have bullied and bribed.
Tyrants… hypocrites… liars!

Pádraig Pearse

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