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

March 17

Wanted—Saint Patrick

By Fitz-James O’Brien (1828–1862)

WHEN Irish hills were fair and green,

And Irish fields were white with daisies,

And harvests, golden and serene,

Slept in the lazy summer hazes;

When bards went singing through the land

Their grand old songs of knightly story,

And hearts were found in every hand,

And all was peace, and love, and glory,

’Twas in those happy, happy days

When every peasant lived in clover,

And in the pleasant woodland ways

One never met the begging rover;

When all was honest, large and true

And naught was hollow or theatric;—

’Twas in those days of golden hue

That Erin knew the great Saint Patrick.

He came among the rustics rude

With shining robes and splendid crosier

And swayed the listening multitude

As breezes sway the beds of ozier.

He preached the love of man for man,

And moved the unlettered Celt with wonder,

Till through the simple crowd there ran

A murmur like repeated thunder.

He preached the grand Incarnate Word

By rock and ruin, hill and hollow,

Till warring princes dropped the sword

And left the fields of blood to follow.

For never yet did bardic song,

Though graced with harp and poet’s diction,

With such strange charm enchain the throng

As that sad tale of crucifixion.

Though fair the isle and brave the men,

Yet still a blight the land infested;

Green vipers darted through each glen

And snakes within the woodlands nested,

And ’mid the banks where violets blew

And on the slopes where bloomed the primrose,

Lurked spotted toads of loathsome hue,

And coiling, poisonous serpents grim rose.

Saint Patrick said: “The reptile race

Are types of human degradation;

From other ills I’ve cleansed the place,

And now of these I’ll rid the nation.”

He waved his crosier o’er his head,

And lo! each venomed thing took motion,

And toads and snakes and vipers fled

In terror to the circling ocean.

Why is Saint Patrick dead? or why

Does he not seek this soil to aid us?

To wave his mystic crook on high,

And rout the vermin that degrade us?

Our land is fertile, broad, and fair,

And should be fairer yet and broader;

But noxious reptiles taint the air,

And poison peace, and law, and order.

For murder stalks along each street,

And theft goes lurking through our alleys,—

What reptiles worse does traveller meet

On India’s hills, in Java’s valleys?

And when we see this gambling host,

That ’mongst us practice this and that trick,

One knows not which would serve us most,

The Goddess Justice or Saint Patrick!