‘Wishes for my Son’ and ‘Comrades’ – two poems of the Easter Rising 1916

Wishes For My Son – Thomas MacDonagh

Thomas McDonagh

Thomas McDonagh

Born on St Cecilia’s day 1912

NOW, my son, is life for you,
And I wish you joy of it,—
Joy of power in all you do,
Deeper passion, better wit
Than I had who had enough,
Quicker life and length thereof,
More of every gift but love.

Love I have beyond all men,
Love that now you share with me—
What have I to wish you then
But that you be good and free,
And that God to you may give
Grace in stronger days to live?

For I wish you more than I
Ever knew of glorious deed
Though no rapture passed me by
That an eager heart could heed,
Though I followed heights and sought
Things the sequel never brought.

Wild and perilous holy things
Flaming with a martyr’s blood,
And the joy that laughs and sings
Where a foe must be withstood,
Joy of headlong happy chance
Leading on the battle dance.

But I found no enemy,
No man in a world of wrong,
That Christ’s word of charity
Did not render clean and strong—
Who was I to judge my kind,
Blindest groper of the blind?

God to you may give the sight
And the clear, undoubting strength
Wars to knit for single right,
Freedom’s war to knit at length,
And to win through wrath and strife,
To the sequel of my life.

But for you, so small and young,
Born on Saint Cecilia’s Day,
I in more harmonious song
Now for nearer joys should pray—
Simpler joys: the natural growth
Of your childhood and your youth,
Courage, innocence, and truth:

These for you, so small and young,
In your hand and heart and tongue.


Thomas MacDonagh (1878-1916)

MacDonagh was one of the executed signatories of the Easter Rising.  He was an enthusiastic cultural nationalist and a close friend of  Padraig Pearse, teaching with him at St Enda’s. He wrote this poem for his son, aged three at the time of his execution.


Constance and Eva (Countess Markievicz) Gore-Booth

Comrades – Eva Gore Booth

The peaceful night that round me flows,
Breaks through your iron prison doors,
Free through the world your spirit goes,
Forbidden hands are clasping yours.
The wind is our confederate,
The night has left her doors ajar,
We meet beyond earth’s barred gate,
Where all the world’s wild Rebels are.

Eva Gore-Booth, poet and activist, was the sister of Constance Markievicz. Both women rejected their privileged upbringing in different ways: Constance became a revolutionary nationalist while Eva chose pacifism and social reform.

Though the sisters disagreed on the subject of violent rebellion, ‘Comrades’ powerfully expresses their deep personal bond – its simplicity reflects the poet’s need to speak of feelings unfettered by the descriptive detail of everyday life.