Fenian Ballad by O'Donovan Rossa

"A Fenian Ballad" by Jeremiah O'Donovan Rossa. Rossa's father died of malnutrition, as a result of the Great Famine, in 1848. The family were then evicted. However, this ballad is not autobiographical. He never joined the British Army or the Pope's army nor paarticipated in the American Civil War. The Fenian movement in America was largely drawn from Irish soldiers who fought on both sides in the American Civil War and many had other military experience. The ballad puts all such experiences into the life of one character, with a view to showing that being an Irish (terrorist) revolutionary was a good moral choice.

Following his family's eviction in 1848, O'Donovan Rossa got employment in Skibbereen in his uncle's shop, and soon after opened his own shop and started the Phoenix Club, which amalgamated with the Irish Republican Brotherhood, started by John O'Mahony. He was on the staff of The Irish People newspapeer, when the staff were arrested and imprisoned for sedition. He was imprisoned without trial, where he proved to have an unbreakable and unbowing spirit. After some years, he was released from prison, but banned from setting foot in Ireland again. He went to America, where he owned a hotel and untirelingly worked  for Ireland's revolutionary cause, raising funds for the Fenian bombing campaign in England.

The American Civil War provided a resource of trained and experienced soldiers for an Irish revolution, but the republican leadership in Ireland prevaricated and let the opportunity pass. Eventually the Fenian rising was but a feeble thing. The Fenians were oftened condemned from the altar in Ireland for expousing violence and being a secret society.

The following video gives a  song to the same air as O'Donovan Rossa's Fenian Ballad, but the words are different:

Come all ye brave United Men, who'd right your country's wrong.
 I'll sing to you a verse or two, which won't detain you long.
In old Iveleary by the hills my youthful days passed by;
The famine came and filled the graves — I saw my father die.

The bailiff with the `notice' came — the bit of ground was gone —
I saw the rooftree in a flame — the crowbar work was done.
With neither house nor bed nor bread, the Workhouse was my doom;
And on my jacket soon I read: `The Union of Macroom.'

My mother died of broken heart; my uncle from the town

Brought for her a horse and cart and buried her in Gleown.
I joined the `Red Coats' then — mo leir! what would my father say?
And I was sent in one short year on service to Bombay.

I thought to be a pauper was the greatest human curse,
But fighting in a robber's cause — I felt it ten times worse.
I helped to plunder and enslave those tribes of India's sons;
And many a sultry day I spent blowing Sepoys from our guns.

I told those sins to Father Ned — the murder and the booty;

They were not sins for me, he said, I only did my duty.
And when the 'duty' there was done, a journey home I made,
To find my friends all dead and gone; I joined the Pope's Brigade.

I got but medals on my breast for serving in this campaign;
And next I'm found in the far, far West, a-soldiering again.
With famous Captain Billy 0 I joined the Fenian band,
And swore one day to strike a blow to free my native land.

Back in this down-trod isle again, where vultures drink our blood,

Friends are scattered, starved or slain — I'm told I'm cursed by God;
That I could swear my life-long days to serve from Pole to Pole,
In any other cause but this, with safety to my soul!
No sin to kill for English greed in some far foreign clime,
How can it be that patriot love in Ireland is a crime?
How can it be by god's decree I'm cursed, outlawed and banned
Because I swore one day to free, my trampled native land?

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