September 9, 2010

O'Reilly: Best of our ships!

On September 9, 1886, the American yacht Mayflower beat the British challenger Galatea to win the America's Cup. The Irish-born poet John Boyle O'Reilly celebrated the victory with a poem named after the winning yacht:

Thunder our thanks to her — guns, hearts, and lips!
Cheer from the ranks to her,
Shout from the banks to her, —
Mayflower! Foremost and best of our ships.
 Mayflower! Twice in the national story
Thy dear name in letters of gold —
Woven in texture that never grows old —
Winning a home and winning glory!
Sailing the years to us, welcomed for aye;
Cherished for centuries, dearest to-day.
Every heart throbs for her, every flag dips —
Mayflower! First and last — best of our ships!

White as a seagull she swept the long passage.
True as the homing-bird flies with its message.
Love her? O, richer than silk every sail of her,
Trust her? more precious than gold every nail of her,
Write we down faithfully every man's part in her;
Greet we all gratefully every true heart in her.
More than a name to us, sailing the fleetest,
Symbol of that which is purest and sweetest.
More than a keel to us, steering the straightest:
Emblem of that which is freest and greatest.
More than a dove-bosomed sail to the windward:
Flame passing on while the night-clouds fly hind ward.
Kiss every plank of her! None shall take rank of her;
Frontward or weatherward, none can eclipse.
Thunder our thanks to her! Cheer from the banks to her!
Mayflower! Foremost and best of our ships!

O'Reilly published his first book of poems in 1873 at the age of 29. Many of his poems seem relatively tame compared to his more radical early life as an advocate for Irish independence. He was, at one point, convicted as a criminal and sent to a penal colony in Australia. His poetry made him popular enough that, at his death, a monument was erected in his honor in Boston. Western Massachusetts named an Irish cultural center after O'Reilly as well.

1 comment:

  1. And not just any monument but one by Daniel Chester French. Did O'Reilly's passionate style simply go out of style? Kit


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