James and Mary Ford, eds. Every Day in the Year. 1902.

February 15

The Fighting Race

By Joseph I. C. Clarke (1846–1925)

“READ out the names!” and Burke sat back,

And Kelly dropped his head.

While Shea—they call him Scholar Jack—

Went down the list of the dead.

Officers, seamen, gunners, marines,

The crews of the gig and yawl,

The bearded man and the lad in his teens,

Carpenters, coal passers—all.

Then, knocking the ashes from out his pipe,

Said Burke in an offhand way:

“We’re all in that dead man’s list by Cripe!

Kelly and Burke and Shea.”

“Well, here’s to the Maine, and I’m sorry for Spain,”

Said Kelly and Burke and Shea.

“Wherever there’s Kellys there’s trouble,” said Burke,

“Wherever fighting’s the game,

Or a spice of danger in grown man’s work,”

Said Kelly “you’ll find my name.”

“And do we fall short,” said Burke, getting mad,

“When it’s touch and go for life?”

Said Shea, “It’s thirty-odd years, bedad,

Since I charged to drum and fife

Up Marye’s Heights, and my old canteen

Stopped a rebel ball on its way;

There were blossoms of blood on our sprigs of green—

Kelly and Burke and Shea—

And the dead didn’t brag.” “Well, here’s to the flag!”

Said Kelly and Burke and Shea.

“I wish ’twas in Ireland, for there’s the place,”

Said Burke, “that we’d die by right,

In the cradle of our soldier race,

After one good, stand-up fight.

My grandfather fell on Vinegar Hill,

And fighting was not his trade;

But his rusty pike’s in the cabin still,

With Hessian blood on the blade.”

“Aye, aye,” said Kelly, “the pikes were great

When the word was ‘clear the way!’

We were thick on the roll in ninety-eight—

Kelly and Burke and Shea.”

“Well, here’s to the pike and the sword and the like!”

Said Kelly and Burke and Shea.

And Shea, the scholar, with rising joy,

Said, “We were at Ramillies,

We left our bones Fontenoy

And up in the Pyrenees.

Before Dunkirk, on Landen’s plain,

Cremona, Lille and Ghent,

We’re all over Austria, France and Spain,

Wherever they pitched a tent.

We’ve died for England, from Waterloo

To Egypt and Dargai;

And still there’s enough for a corps or crew,

Kelly and Burke and Shea.”

“Well, here is to good honest fighting blood!”

Said Kelly and Burke and Shea.

“Oh, the fighting races don’t die out,

If they seldom die in bed,

For love is first in their hearts, no doubt,”

Said Burke; then Kelly said:

“When Michael, the Irish Archangel, stands,

The angel with the sword,

And the battle-dead from a hundred lands

Are ranged in one big horde,

Our line, that for Gabriel’s trumpet waits,

Will stretch three deep that day,

From Jehosaphat to the Golden Gates—

Kelly and Burke and Shea.”

“Well, here’s thank God for the race and the sod!”

Said Kelly and Burke and Shea.