Donacha Bawn

An unknown sister's lament for her young brother, hung, some say, for his part in the 1798 rebellion, but others surmise it was for stealing a horse.

In this town, you made a circus
Of my young brother’s condemnation.
You put a white hood in place of his hat,
And a hempen rope for his cravat.

I've been travelling madly throughout the night,
My hair flying, my heart in fright,
Like a lost lamb in a mighty herd,
But to find him stretched, before me, dead.

My first tears fell among the shadows;
My second tears at the foot of his gallows;
My third tears fell over his body,
Surrounded by strangers recounting his folly.

This end is not what you deserved,
But to fill your barns with fruits of the earth,
Manoeuvring  your plough to left and to right,
And turning the red soil up to the light.

I know what turned you away from me:
Brave talk fueled by tobacco and beer;
But where are all your brave friends now,
As over your body I bend low?

Had I kept you at home in Ballinahowe,
Digging potatoes and guiding the plough,
They would dismantle the gallows’ tree
And cut the rope and set you free.

Donacha’s fortune is coming home,
With no horses now, nor sheep or cows,
But tobacco and pipes and flickering candles
To console his friends and me in sadness.

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