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

June 20

The Nameless One

By James Clarence Mangan (1803–1849)

  • James Clarence Mangan was one of the most gifted of Ireland’s poets. He was eccentric in manner and early in life contracted a fatal passion for drink. After a life of many vicissitudes be died in a hospital on June 20th, 1849—some say from cholera and others from starvation.

  • ROLL forth, my song, like the rushing river

    That sweeps along to the mighty sea;

    God will inspire me while I deliver

    My soul to thee!

    Tell thou the world, when my bones lie whitening

    Amid the last homes of youth and eld,

    That there once was one whose veins ran lightning

    No eye beheld.

    Tell how his boyhood was one drear night-hour,

    How shone for him, through his griefs and gloom,

    No star of all heaven sends to light our

    Path to the tomb.

    Roll on, my song, and to after ages

    Tell how, disdaining all earth can give,

    He would have taught men from wisdom’s pages

    The way to live.

    And tell how trampled, derided, hated,

    And worn by weakness, disease and wrong,

    He fled for shelter to God, who mated

    His soul with song—

    With song which alway, sublime or vapid,

    Flowed like a rill in the morning beam,

    Perchance not deep, but intense and rapid—

    A mountain stream.

    Tell how the Nameless, condemned for years long

    To herd with demons from hell beneath,

    Saw things that made him, with groans and tears, long

    For even death.

    Go on to tell how, with genius wasted,

    Betrayed in friendship, befooled in love,

    With spirit shipwrecked, and young hopes blasted

    He still, still strove.

    Till, spent with toil, dreeing death for others,

    And some whose hands should have wrought for him

    (If children live not for sires and mothers),

    His mind grew dim.

    And he fell far through that pit abysmal,

    The gulf and grave of Maginn and Burns,

    And pawned his soul for the devil’s dismal

    Stock of returns.

    But yet redeemed it in days of darkness,

    And shapes and signs of the final wrath,

    When death, in hideous and ghastly starkness,

    Stood in his path.

    And tell how now, amid wreck and sorrow,

    And want, and sickness, and houseless nights,

    He bides in calmness the silent morrow

    That no ray lights.

    And lives he still then? Yes! Old and hoary

    At thirty-nine, from despair and woe,

    He lives, enduring what future story

    Will never know.

    Him grant a grave to, ye pitying noble,

    Deep in your bosoms! There let him dwell!

    He, too, had tears for all souls in trouble,

    Here and in hell.