Ellen Beck: Irish Woman Poet

Ellen Beck (1858-1924) was born and lived her life in The Rock, Tyrone, where she served as a school teacher. She published poems and prose sketches under the name Magdalen Rock in The Irish Monthly and in anthologies of religious verse.

7TH OCTOBER, 1571.

A thickening cloud of smoke the sun looked through,
And frenzied cries were heard and moan and prayer;
And standards old and royal ensigns flew
From all the lands of Southern Europe there;
Fluttering they flew, fanned by the noon-day breeze,
From galleys tall and stately argosies.
But though proud Austria’s flag, blue as the sky,
Waved with the flags of Venice and of Spain,
Triumphantly the Crescent floated high,
And Christian blood was poured, and poured in vain
Upon Lepanto’s waters ; ’till at last
Colonna cried, ‘The foes are gaining fast.’
But at that hour, the holy Pontiff prayed
In distant Rome beside our Lady’s shrine,
And begged the Queen of Heaven’s potent aid
For those who bravely fought beneath the Sign
Of man’s redemption ‘gainst the Infidel,
To save the Church her dear Son loved so well.
And lo, the Christian ranks fresh courage found
E’en as the holy Pontiff’s prayer arose,
And brave Colonna’s hopes with sudden bound
Revived again, and man to man the foes
Tought till the Crescent fell. Since that blest day
To her, the Help of Christians, oft we pray.

Rebecca Scott: Irish Woman Poet

Rebecca Scott was born into a Donegal family of weaving factory owners. She published two volumes of poetry, A Glimpse of Spring (Dublin, 1870) and  Echoes from Tyrconnel (Derry, 1880).

I cannot tell if ever love
Has dwelt within this wayward breast,
But if he did, he has not been
A frequent nor abiding guest.
But once, I dreamt a gorgeous dream
Of some far off delightsome land;
Wherein a tall majestic form
Moved by my side and held my hand,
And mingling with the joyous strains
Of myriad birds, from countless trees.
Of cooing doves, and murmuring brooks.
And soft, harmonious hum of bees,
The sammer zephyr’s soft sweet sigh,
The dancing fountains tinkling fall,
Came the clear accents of a voice,
More dear, more musical, than all.
And from a cloudless, deep blue sky
A glorious summer sun beamed fair.
And luscious fruits, and fadeless flowers,
And rich, resplendent gems were there:
A land of deep, bewildering bliss.
Of light, and melody, and bloom.
Whose every scene was loveliness.
Whose zephyrs’ odorous with perfume.
But brighter, dearer, sweeter far
Than fadeless flowers and cloudless skies.
Than summer sun, or evening star.
Beamed forth the light of soft brown eyes.
And though that radiant dream has passed,
Since then has never ceased to shine
Upon my path the ‘wildering light
Of soft brown eyes resembling thine.
Though from my slumber rudely waked,
When thou art near me, still I seem
To see the tall, majestic form
That walked beside me in my dream.
And when upon my waking sense
The accents of thy sweet voice fall,
I seem to recognise the tones
Which made my dreamland musical.

Helen Lanyon: Irish Woman Poet

Little is known of Helen Lanyon’s life. Her father Charles was an architect and mayor of Belfast and the family home was in Antrim. She was friends with the Duffin sisters and Emma Duffin illustrated here book Fairy Led and Other Verses (1915). She also published Hill o’ Dreams and Other Vesses (1907) and What the Kind Wind Said (nd).

My grief! for the days that’s by an’ done.
When I was a young girl straight an’ tall,
Comin’ alone at set o’ sun,
Up the high hill road from Cushendall.
I thought the miles no hardship then,
Nor the long road weary to the feet,
For the thrushes sang in the deep green glen,
An’ the evenin’ air was cool an’ sweet.
My head with many a thought was throng.
And many a dream as I never told.
My heart would lift as a wee bird’s song.
Or at seein’ a whin bush crowned with gold.
And always I’d look back at the say.
Or the turn o’ the road shut out the sight
Of the long waves curlin’ into the bay
An’ breakin’ in foam where the sands is white.
I was married young on a dacent man,
As many would call a prudent choice.
But he never could hear how the river ran
Singin’ a song in a changin’ voice,
Nor thought to see on the bay’s blue wather
A ship with yellow sails unfurled,
Bearin’ away a King’s young daughter
Over the brim of the heavin’ world.
The way seems weary now to my feet,
An’ miles bes many, an’ dreams bes few,
The evenin’ air’s not near so sweet,
The birds don’t sing as they used to do.
An’ I’m that tired at the top o’ the hill,
That I haven’t the heart to turn at all.
To watch the curlin’ breakers fill
The wee round bay at Cushendall.

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.’



Mary Cooney: Irish Woman Poet

Mary Cooney was born in Clonmel and moved to the United States in 1879 where she married the poet John Locke 1881. She was a regular contributor to a range of Irish and Irish-American journals, and an number of books, including In Far Dakota, which was published by Allen and Co in 1890.


ONLY three years; yet it seems an age
Of yearning heart-love and care
Since I’ve heard in my own land the New Year’s chimes
Peal out on the midnight air
Out o’er the frost-crisped hills and fields,
Away to the farthest bounds
Of echo’s reach, from the beautiful bells
Rolled a volume of glorious sounds.

Only three years since I stepped from the shore,
When new day, with bright hopes reborn,
Burst in golden shafts ‘tween the sapphire bars
Of the eastern gates of morn;
I sailed away o’er the blue, cold sea,
Yet no fear in my breast would rise.
For what or for whom had I periled my life
And sundered its sweet home ties ?

I was happy at home till my soul was stirred
And my thoughts took a wider range,
And my dreams went out o’er the unseen waves
To a new world, vast and strange.
‘Twas like as my life grew twofold, and one
Was struggling with tortured breast,
While the other one roamed in restless search
Far out in the crimsoned West.

What cared I that life from one’s land and kin
Was bitter or hard to bear-
Comprising many a heart-pang sore
And many a sad, salt tear ?
My life was lost in a love unknown,
That in welcoming gladness smiled,
Waiting my advent. I seemed to be
Obeying an impulse wild.

I leaned on the rails of the steamer’s deck,
Looking back o’er the stretch of sea
That was distancing far my native land
And all that, was dear to me.
Had I cheated myself into the belief
That no sorrow my soul oppressed
That there must be another love somewhere
More potent than all the rest ?

Now my life is linked with that new-found life
Whether for weal or woe
For him, for me, as Time’s wheel whirls round,
The gathering years must show.
We must have our trials and our struggles, too,
But the future fair days may hold.
He’s wise and sometimes wild, but, oh!
At heart he’s as good as gold.

And there’s never a cloud on his cheerful face,
Nor gloom in his hopeful eyes,
So clear and keen that their depths of blue
Seem borrowed from May-day skies;
And the laugh leaps up from his genial heart,
So careless and void of guile,
As he mirthfully tells me for richer times
I must wait for a little while.

Well, we have wealth in each other’s love, and so
Let the years their shadows fling
Upon our brows, with their winter snows;
In our hearts can be always spring;
And out on the starry midnight air,
O’er the old land’s vales and dells,
We’ll hear again, in glad, glorious tones,
The peal of the New Year’s bells.