Rosa Mulholland: Irish Woman Poet

Rosa Mulholland was born in Belfast in 1841 and died in Dublin in 1921. As a teenager her ambition was an artist but she turned to writing and was admired and published by Dickens. Primarily a novelist, she published at least two books of verse, Vagrant Verses (1886) and Spirit and Dust (1908). The Wild Geese is taken from the former book.


I HAD no sail to cross the sea,
A brave white bird went forth from me.
My heart was hid beneath his wing :
strong white bird, come back in spring !

I watched the wild geese rise and cry
Across the flaring western sky ;
Their winnowing pinions clove the light,
Then vanished, and came down the night.

I laid me low, my day was done,
I longed not for the morrow’s sun,
But closely swathed in swoon of sleep,
Forgot to hope, forgot to weep.

The moon, through veils of gloomy red,
A warm yet dusky radiance shed
All down our valley’s golden stream.
And flushed my slumber with a dream.

Her mystic torch lit up my brain ;
My spirit rose and lived amain,
And followed through the windy spray
That bird upon its watery way.

“O wild white bird, O wait for me!
My soul hath wings to fly with thee :
On foam waves, lengthening out afar,
We’ll ride towards the western star.

“O’er glimmering plains, through forest gloom,
To track a wanderer’s feet I come ;
‘Mid lonely swamp, by haunted brake,
I’ll pass unfrighted for his sake.

“Alone, afar, his footsteps roam,
The stars his roof, the tent his home.
Saw*st thou what way the wild geese flew
To sunward through the thick night dew ?

“Carry my soul where he abides.
And pierce the mystery that hides
His presence, and through time and space
Look with mine eyes upon his face.”

Beside his prairie fire he rests,
All feathered things are in their nests :
“What strange wild bird is this,” he saith,
“Still fragrant with the ocean’s breath?

“Perch on my hand, thou briny thing.
And let me stroke thy shy wet wing ;
What message in thy soft eye thrills ?
I see again my native hills,

“And vale, the river’s silver streak.
The mist upon the blue, blue peak,
The shadows gray, the golden sheaves.
The mossy walls, the russet eaves.

“I greet the friends I’ve loved and lost,
Do all forget ? No, tempest-tost,
That braved for me the ocean’s foam.
Some heart remembers me at home.

“Ere spring’s return I will be there,
Thou strange sea-fragrant messenger ! ”
I wake and weep; the moon shines sweet,
O dream too short! O bird too fleet !


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