Elizabeth Willoughby Varian: Irish Woman Poet

Elizabeth Willoughby Varian (1830c – 1896), born Treacy probably in Antrim she married the poet and editor Ralph Varian in 1871. An early socialist, she contributed to The Nation, under the name Finola, which she continued to use for all her poetry. ‘Proudly we Stand in the People’s Ranks’ is taken from her 1874 collection ever Forsake the Ship and Other Poems.

 
Proudly we Stand in the People’s Ranks
 
Proudly we stand in the people’s ranks, to war with the people’s wrong —
Though not always the race be to the swift, the battle to the strong;
We dare to preach forth the branded creed of equal rights to all —
On the evil and just will the fruitful rain and the cheering sunbeams fall.
 
Our weapons — true thought and fearless speech — with these we will overthrow
Each low device and base pretence, each aim of the crafty foe;
We laugh at their hollow sophistry, their station, rank, and caste,
Their senseless barricade of words our arms will soon lay waste.
 
‘Tis idle to prate of rank and class — nay, urge not the shallow plea —
Remember who sat in the fisherman’s boat on Gallilee’s purple sea!
Rend the tyrant chains that custom forged, and recant the impious creed
That a separate law for rich and poor by God’s wisdom was decreed.
 
Remember who sat at the publican’s feast I — was there peer or noble there?
What jewelled garter, or diamond star, did those guests, so honoured, wear?
Ah, men, arise from delusion’s sleep, fling off the coils that bind
The free-born soul’s exalted strength, the heaven-endowed mind,
 
And proudly stand in the people’s ranks, to war with fraud and wrong:
Oh, pass not by — ye have stood apart, ye have held aloof too long;
Fear not to utter the glorious faith of equal rights to all:
On the evil and just will the fruitful rain and the cheering sunbeams fall.

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