Emily C. Orr: Irish Woman Poet

Emily Orr was born in Belfast and graduated with Honours in History, Jurisprudence and Political Economy from the Royal University of Ireland. was a tutor for the Wesley Deaconess Order a their college in Ilkely, Yorkshire from 1903 to 1918, when she retired due to ill health. She died in February 1919. Her poems were collected in A Harvester of Dreams (London, 1922)

A Recruit from the Slums

‘What has your country done for you,
child of a city slum,
that you should answer her ringing call
to man the gap and keep the wall
and hold the field though a thousand fall
and help be slow to come?

“What has your country given to you,
her poor relation and friend?
‘Oh, a fight like death for your board and keep,
and some pitiful silver coins per week
and the thought of the ‘house’ at the end.

‘What can your country ask from you,
dregs of the British race?’
‘she gave us little, she taught us less,
and why we were born we could hardly guess
till we felt the surge of the battle press
and looked the foe in the face.’

‘Greater love hath no man than this
that a man should die for his friend.’
‘We thought life cruel, and England cold;
but our bones were made from the English mould,
and when all is said, she’s our mother old
and we creep to her breast at the end.’

 

 

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