Home  »  A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895  »  The Wake of Tim O’Hara

Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908). A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895. 1895.

Cosmo Monkhouse b. 1840

The Wake of Tim O’Hara

TO the Wake of O’Hara

Came company;

All St. Patrick’s Alley

Was there to see,

With the friends and kinsmen

Of the family.

On the long deal table lay Tim in white,

And at his pillow the burning light.

Pale as himself, with the tears on her cheek,

The mother receiv’d us, too full to speak;

But she heap’d the fire, and on the board

Set the black bottle with never a word,

While the company gather’d, one and all,

Men and women, big and small:

Not one in the Alley but felt a call

To the Wake of Tim O’Hara.

At the face of O’Hara,

All white with sleep,

Not one of the women

But took a peep,

And the wives new-wedded

Began to weep.

The mothers gather’d round about,

And prais’d the linen and laying out,—

For white as snow was his winding-sheet,

And all was peaceful, and clean, and sweet;

And the old wives, praising the blessed dead,

Were thronging around the old press-bed,

Where O’Hara’s widow, tatter’d and torn,

Held to her bosom the babe newborn,

And star’d all around her, with eyes forlorn,

At the Wake of Tim O’Hara.

For the heart of O’Hara

Was good as gold,

And the life of O’Hara

Was bright and bold,

And his smile was precious

To young and old!

Gay as a guinea, wet or dry,

With a smiling mouth, and a twinkling eye!

Had ever an answer for chaff and fun;

Would fight like a lion, with any one!

Not a neighbor of any trade

But knew some joke that the boy had made;

Not a neighbor, dull or bright,

But minded something—frolic or fight,

And whisper’d it round the fire that night,

At the Wake of Tim O’Hara.

“To God be glory

In death and life,

He ’s taken O’Hara

From trouble and strife!”

Said one-eyed Biddy,

The apple-wife.

“God bless old Ireland!” said Mistress Hart,

Mother to Mike of the donkey-cart;

“God bless old Ireland till all be done,

She never made wake for a better son!”

And all join’d chorus, and each one said

Something kind of the boy that was dead;

And the bottle went round from lip to lip,

And the weeping widow, for fellowship,

Took the glass of old Biddy and had a sip,

At the Wake of Tim O’Hara.

Then we drank to O’Hara

With drams to the brim,

While the face of O’Hara

Look’d on so grim,

In the corpse-light shining

Yellow and dim.

The cup of liquor went round again,

And the talk grew louder at every drain;

Louder the tongue of the women grew!

The lips of the boys were loosening too!

The widow her weary eyelids clos’d,

And, soothed by the drop o’ drink, she doz’d;

The mother brighten’d and laugh’d to hear

Of O’Hara’s fight with the grenadier,

And the hearts of all took better cheer,

At the Wake of Tim O’Hara.

Tho’ the face of O’Hara

Look’d on so wan,

In the chimney-corner

The row began—

Lame Tony was in it,

The oyster-man;

For a dirty low thief from the North came near,

And whistled “Boyne Water” in his ear,

And Tony, with never a word of grace,

Flung out his fist in the blackguard’s face;

And the girls and women scream’d out for fright,

And the men that were drunkest began to fight:

Over the tables and chairs they threw,—

The corpse-light tumbled,—the trouble grew,—

The newborn join’d in the hullabaloo,—

At the Wake of Tim O’Hara.

“Be still! be silent!

Ye do a sin!

Shame be his portion

Who dares begin!”

’T was Father O’Connor

Just enter’d in!

All look’d down, and the row was done,

And sham’d and sorry was every one;

But the Priest just smil’d quite easy and free—

“Would ye wake the poor boy from his sleep?” said he:

And he said a prayer, with a shining face,

Till a kind of brightness fill’d the place;

The women lit up the dim corpse-light,

The men were quieter at the sight,

And the peace of the Lord fell on all that night

At the Wake of Tim O’Hara.