Ellen Downing (Mary of the Nation): Irish Woman Poet

Ellen Downing (1818-69) was born in Cork, and was a regular contributor to the Nationalist papers The Nation and United Irishman. Supposedly as a result of a disappointment in love with a Young Irelander she entered a convent, then left, and finally became a non-resident member of the Third Order of St Dominic. She died in the Mercy Hospital, Cork, after a long illness.



True love, remembered yet through all that mist of years,

Clung to with such vain, vain love — wept with such vain tears —

On the turf I sat last night, where we two sat of yore,

And thought of thee till memory could bear to think no more.


The twilight of the young year was fading soft and dim;

The branches of the budding trees fell o’er the water’s brim;

And the stars came forth in lonely light through all the silent skies;

I scarce could see them long ago with looking in thine eyes.


For thou wert my starlight, my refuge, and my home;

My spirit found its rest in thee, and never sought to roam;

All thoughts and all sensations that burn and thrill me through,

In those first days of happy love were calmed and soothed by you.


How wise thou wert — how tender — ah, but it seemed to be

Some glorious guardian angel that walked this earth with me;

And now though hope be over, and love too much in vain,

What marvel if my weary heart finds naught like thee again.


Beloved, when thou wert near me, the happy and the right

Were mingled in our gentle dream of ever fresh delight;

But now the path of duty seems cold and dark to tread,

Without one radiant guiding-star to light me overhead.


If there were aught my faith in thee to darken or remove,

One memory of unkindness — one chilling want of love; —

But no— thy heart still clings to me as fondly, warmly true,

As mine, through chance and change and time, must ever cling to you.


If there were aught to shrink from — to blush with sudden shame —

That he who won the beating heart the lips must fear to name;

But O before the whole wide world how proudly would I say:

“He reigned my king long years ago — he reigns my king to-day.”


And so I turn to seek thee through all the mist of years,

And love with vain devotion, and weep with vainer tears;

And on the turf I sit alone, where we two sat of yore,

And think of thee till memory can bear to think no more!



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