Charlotte Grace O’Brien: Irish Woman Poet

Charlotte Grace O’Brien (1845-1909) was born in Cahirmoyle, County Limerick, the daughter of MP and Fenian William Smith O’Brien. She wrote novels and a verse play, A Tale of Venice. This was published with a selection of her lyric poems, in 1880. The poem ‘France was included in this volume.

FRANCE
(13th December, 1877.)
 
The French crisis— when the Marshal and the Republican party were standing face to face, their hands on their swords. The next day the Marshal surrendered — a noble surrender.
 
Again thou comest to thine hour ! Again,
Oh fairest France! thou strugglest in thy pain.
We stand, and watch, and ask if this, too, be in vain?
 
In vain the labour of these weary years?
In vain the blood, the treasure, and the tears?
In vain thy travail sore — thy sacrifice — thy fears?
 
Fair country, though within thy bounds apart
I stand a stranger, yet with thee this heart
Pulses in love and griefs knowing thee as thou art.
 
Thy sunny, scented hills, thy vineyards dight
With crimson webs and gold, springs of delight.
Thine olives stretching far, in clouded silvery light.
 
I see them all — the toilers of thy leas.
Beating with reedy staves the burdened trees.
Young maids and children bending in groups about their knees.
 
Brave, kindly people! Bright of ready cheer.
The sun looks down on you in love, yet here
Ye stand with lifted brows, the shadows sweeping near.
 
War! Is it war? Nay; can it be that those
Whose banners bear her name, can be her foes?
Oh crime! oh grief! oh shame! what worse could death disclose ?
 
Peace! Is it peace? Nay; we surrender not.
The birth of time, by agony begot,
Unshaped till extreme woe the great deliverance wrought.
 
“Oh, countrymen! oh, patriots! oh, friends!”
Ye cry to one another. Echo lends
Her voice — but answering time as yet no answer sends.

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