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

June 20

The Sack of Baltimore

By Thomas Osborne Davis (1814–1845)

  • Baltimore is a small seaport in County Cork, Ireland. On the 20th of June, 1631, the crews of two Algerine galleys landed in the dead of night, sacked the town, and bore off many of the inhabitants into slavery. The pirates were steered up the channel by a fisherman whom they had taken at sea for the purpose. Two years afterwards he was convicted and executed.

  • THE SUMMER sun is falling soft on Carbery’s hundred isles,

    The summer sun is gleaming still through Gabriel’s rough defiles:

    Old Innisherkin’s crumbled fane looks like a moulting bird,

    And in a calm and sleepy swell the ocean tide is heard:

    The hookers lie upon the beach; the children cease their play;

    The gossips leave the little inn; the households kneel to pray;

    And, full of love, and peace, and rest, its daily labor o’er,

    Upon that cosy creek there lay the town of Baltimore.

    A deeper rest, a starry trance, has come with midnight there;

    No sound, except that throbbing wave, in earth, or sea, or air!

    The massive capes and ruined towers seem conscious of the calm;

    The fibrous sod and stunted trees are breathing heavy balm.

    So still the night, these two long barques round Dunashad that glide,

    Must trust their oars, methinks not few, against the ebbing tide.

    Oh, some sweet mission of true love must urge them to the shore!

    They bring some lover to his bride who sighs in Baltimore.

    All, all asleep within each roof along that rocky street,

    And these must be the lovers friend’s, with gently gliding feet—

    A stifled gasp, a dreamy noise! “The roof is in a flame!”

    From out their beds and to their doors rush maid and sire and dame,

    And meet upon the threshold stone the gleaming sabre’s fall,

    And o’er each black and bearded face the white or crimson shawl.

    The yell of “Allah!” breaks above the prayer, and shriek, and roar:

    O blessed God! the Algerine is lord of Baltimore!

    Then flung the youth his naked hand against the shearing sword;

    Then sprung the mother on the brand with which her son was gored;

    Then sunk the grandsire on the floor, his grand-babes clutching wild,

    Then fled the maiden moaning faint, and nestled with the child:

    But see! von pirate strangled lies, and crushed with splashing heel,

    While o’er him in an Irish hand there sweeps his Syrian steel:

    Though virtue sink, and courage fail, and misers yield their store,

    There’s one heart well avenged in the sack of Baltimore.

    Midsummer morn in woodland nigh the birds begin to sing,

    They see not now the milking maids,—deserted is the spring;

    Midsummer day this gallant rides from distant Bandon’s town,

    These hookers crossed from stormy Skull, that skiff from Affadown;

    They only found the smoking walls with neighbors’ blood besprent.

    And on the strewed and trampled beach awhile they wildly went,

    Then dashed to sea, and passed Cape Clear, and saw, five leagues before,

    The pirate-galley vanishing that ravaged Baltimore.

    Oh, some must tug the galley’s oar, and some must tend the steed;

    This boy will bear a Sheik’s chilbouk, and that a Bey’s jerreed.

    Oh, some are for the arsenals by beauteous Dardanelles;

    And some are in the caravan to Mecca’s sandy dells.

    The maid that Bandon gallant sought is chosen for the Dey:

    She’s safe—one’s dead—she stabbed him in the midst of his Serai!

    And when to die a death of fire that noble maid they bore,

    She only smiled, O’Driscoll’s child; she thought of Baltimore.

    ’Tis two long years since sunk the town beneath that bloody band,

    And all around its trampled hearths a larger concourse stand,

    Where high upon a gallows-tree a yelling wretch is seen:

    ’Tis Hackett of Dungarvan—he who steered the Algerine!

    He fell amid a sullen shout with scarce a passing prayer,

    For he had slain the kith and kin of many a hundred there.

    Some muttered of McMurchadh, who brought the Norman o’er;

    Some cursed him with Iscariot, that day in Baltimore.