Frances Browne: Irish Woman Poet

Frances Browne (1816-1879) was born in Stranorlar, Co. Donegal. A childhood case of smallpox left her blind, but she learned to read and write and had a successful career as a poet and novelist. Her best-known prose work was Granny’s Wonderful Chair, and its Tales of Fairy Times, which was much admired and possibly copied by Frances Hodgson Burnett.


Four travellers sat one winter night
At my father’s board so free,
And he asked them why they left their land,
And why they crossed the sea.

One said for bread, and one for gold.
And one for a cause of strife;
And one he came for a lost love’s sake
To lead a stranger’s life.

They dwelt among our hamlets long,
They learned each mountain way;
They shared our sports in the woodlands green.
And by the crags so gray; —

And they were brave by flood and fell,
And they were blithe in hall;
But he that led the stranger’s life
Was blithest of them all.

Some said the grief of his youth had passed,
Some said his love grew cold;
But naught I know if this were so,
For the tale was never told.

His mates they found both home and friends.
Their heads and hearts to rest;
We saw their flocks and fields increase.
But we loved him still the best.

Now he that came to seek for bread
Is lord of my father’s land,
And he that fled so far from strife
Hath a goodly household band; —

And he that sought the gold alone
Hath wedded my sister fair;
And the oaks are green and the pastures wide
By their goodly homestead there.

But when they meet by the winter fire,
Or beneath the bright woodbine;
Their talk is yet of a whelming stream
And a brave life given for mine.

For a grave by our mountain-river side
Grows green this many a year.
Where the flower of the four sleeps evermore.
And I am a stranger here.


2 thoughts on “Frances Browne: Irish Woman Poet

  1. Glad to see a feature on Frances Browne, native of my home town of Stranorlar. For more of her poetry and other writing check out “The Best of Frances Browne” which I published a few years ago.
    raymond blair


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