Emily C. Orr: Irish Woman Poet

Emily Orr was born in Belfast and graduated with Honours in History, Jurisprudence and Political Economy from the Royal University of Ireland. was a tutor for the Wesley Deaconess Order a their college in Ilkely, Yorkshire from 1903 to 1918, when she retired due to ill health. She died in February 1919. Her poems were collected in A Harvester of Dreams (London, 1922)

A Recruit from the Slums

‘What has your country done for you,
child of a city slum,
that you should answer her ringing call
to man the gap and keep the wall
and hold the field though a thousand fall
and help be slow to come?

“What has your country given to you,
her poor relation and friend?
‘Oh, a fight like death for your board and keep,
and some pitiful silver coins per week
and the thought of the ‘house’ at the end.

‘What can your country ask from you,
dregs of the British race?’
‘she gave us little, she taught us less,
and why we were born we could hardly guess
till we felt the surge of the battle press
and looked the foe in the face.’

‘Greater love hath no man than this
that a man should die for his friend.’
‘We thought life cruel, and England cold;
but our bones were made from the English mould,
and when all is said, she’s our mother old
and we creep to her breast at the end.’



Mary Cooney: Irish Woman Poet

Mary Cooney was born in Clonmel and moved to the United States in 1879 where she married the poet John Locke 1881. She was a regular contributor to a range of Irish and Irish-American journals, and an number of books, including In Far Dakota, which was published by Allen and Co in 1890.


ONLY three years; yet it seems an age
Of yearning heart-love and care
Since I’ve heard in my own land the New Year’s chimes
Peal out on the midnight air
Out o’er the frost-crisped hills and fields,
Away to the farthest bounds
Of echo’s reach, from the beautiful bells
Rolled a volume of glorious sounds.

Only three years since I stepped from the shore,
When new day, with bright hopes reborn,
Burst in golden shafts ‘tween the sapphire bars
Of the eastern gates of morn;
I sailed away o’er the blue, cold sea,
Yet no fear in my breast would rise.
For what or for whom had I periled my life
And sundered its sweet home ties ?

I was happy at home till my soul was stirred
And my thoughts took a wider range,
And my dreams went out o’er the unseen waves
To a new world, vast and strange.
‘Twas like as my life grew twofold, and one
Was struggling with tortured breast,
While the other one roamed in restless search
Far out in the crimsoned West.

What cared I that life from one’s land and kin
Was bitter or hard to bear-
Comprising many a heart-pang sore
And many a sad, salt tear ?
My life was lost in a love unknown,
That in welcoming gladness smiled,
Waiting my advent. I seemed to be
Obeying an impulse wild.

I leaned on the rails of the steamer’s deck,
Looking back o’er the stretch of sea
That was distancing far my native land
And all that, was dear to me.
Had I cheated myself into the belief
That no sorrow my soul oppressed
That there must be another love somewhere
More potent than all the rest ?

Now my life is linked with that new-found life
Whether for weal or woe
For him, for me, as Time’s wheel whirls round,
The gathering years must show.
We must have our trials and our struggles, too,
But the future fair days may hold.
He’s wise and sometimes wild, but, oh!
At heart he’s as good as gold.

And there’s never a cloud on his cheerful face,
Nor gloom in his hopeful eyes,
So clear and keen that their depths of blue
Seem borrowed from May-day skies;
And the laugh leaps up from his genial heart,
So careless and void of guile,
As he mirthfully tells me for richer times
I must wait for a little while.

Well, we have wealth in each other’s love, and so
Let the years their shadows fling
Upon our brows, with their winter snows;
In our hearts can be always spring;
And out on the starry midnight air,
O’er the old land’s vales and dells,
We’ll hear again, in glad, glorious tones,
The peal of the New Year’s bells.

Louisiana Keenan: Irish Woman Poet

Louisiana Keenan was born in Dublin, moved to the US with her father, and the family later returned when he was appointed American Consul for Dublin and Cork. She married an Excise officer called Murphy and her writings were published under her married name. These include: Dunmore, the Days of the Land League: Irish Dramatic Episode of Our Own Time (Dublin: M. H. Gill 1888); Centenary Eode, Father Mathew, Oct. 10 1890 (Dublin 1890); Poems of Old and New Ireland (Dublin: Talbot; London: Simpkin 1925); also The Epic of Lourdes [q.d.].



Am I of those we see, too late.
Life’s early faults retrieving ?
Must I, too, share the sceptic’s fate
Reduced to stern believing?
At Love I’ve mocked, at Passion smiled;
To find my heart in peril
In sight of Nature’s sweetest child.
An artless Irish girl!
So frank and free.
Yet maidenly,
This simple Irish girl!
I’ve drunk of Cyprus’ sparkling wines,
A gay and laughing lover;
I’ve worshipped at a hundred shrines
The smiling, broad earth over;
I’ve sorrowed o’er a faded flower.
Penned sonnets to a curl.
Yet never felt true Passion’s power
Till came this Irish girl.
Of wayward mood.
And charm subdued,
A winsome Irish girl !
Oh! she is true, and such as she
Response might aptly render
The honest heart’s idolatry,
Whilst scorning wealth and splendor.
From such belief fond hopes arise, —
He’d be a soulless churl
Who’d gaze into those candid eyes.
And doubt my Irish girl —
Whose orbs of blue
Proclaim her true.
My dauntless Irish girl.