THE GALLOPING HOGAN
(An incident in the Siege of Limerick)
“They have sent for fresh artillery,
The guns are on their way,
God help our hapless Limerick
When dawns another day.”
Thus speaks the gallant Sarsfield,
As sadly he recalls
The famine and despair that lurk
Behind those crumbling walls.
“And yet one blow for freedom –
One daring midnight ride!
And William may be humble yet,
For all his power and pride!
“Go! Bring to me ‘The Galloper,’
To Highway Hogan say
‘Tis Ireland has need of him,
And him alone to-day!”
The Soldier and the Highwayman
Are standing face to face,
The fearless front, the eagle eye,
In both of them we trace
“Hogan! The night is dark and drear,
Say, canst thou lead the way
To Keeper Mountain’s black ravines
Ere dawn another day?”
“Can the eagle find his eyrie?
Can the fox forget his den?
I can lead ye as none other
Of the Slievecamatha men.
The black mare knows it blindfold,
It’s not by the stars she’ll steer,
Ye’ll be to-night on the Keeper’s height –
And dawn will find ye here.”
“Lead on!” and well he led them,
Though the Shannon ford ran deep,
And though the white-lipped floor ran fierce
Around O’Brien’s Keep.
The sentinel on Killaloe
Looked out, but failed to see –
Five hundred silent horsemen ride
Behind the Rapperee.
That night by Balleneety’s towers
The English gunners lay.
“King William’s Camp and safety lies
But twelve short miles away.
What need of further caution?
What Irish wolf would dare
To prowl around our camp to-night,
So near the lion’s lair?”
An Irish wolf is near them now,
And Irish ears have heard
The chosen watchword for the night,
And “Sarsfield” was the word.
A tramp of horse – “Who’s there? The word!”
“Sarsfield” the answer ran,
And then the sword smote downwards,
“Ay, and Sarsfield is the man!”
“To arms! the foe!” Too late, too late,
Though Villiers’ vengeful blade
Is wet with Hogan’s life blood,
As he leads the ambuscade.
Then foot to foot, and hand to hand,
They battleround the guns,
Till victory declares itself
For Erin’s daring sons.
“Oh for those guns in Limerick now
Placed on the city walls!
We’d bid King William breakfast
On his own black cannon balls!
It may not be – but terribly charged
And filled with shot and shell,
They’ll toll the robber’s requiem,
And sound the soldier’s knell.”
Oh, sudden flash of blinding light!
Oh, hollow-sounding roar!
Down history’s page in Irish ears
It echoes evermore.
And Balleneety’s blackened tower
Still marks the famous place
Where Sarsfield stakes his all to win,
And won that midnight race!
French, Percy. (1980) ‘Prose, Poems & Parodies.’ Dublin, Helicon Limited