The Day Still Has Its Night To Come

by Seamus Finnan

The Day Still Has Its Night To Come. (John Banville)

Oh! What beauty there was in that day!
As the sun shone on this ancient land.
Shoulder to shoulder they marched,
To a rhythm that brought song to their hearts
And unity to their souls.
They had a purpose, a common foe,
A longed for holy-grail:
A republic where all men and women would be equal and
To right a 700 years wrong.
On they marched;
To a classless beat of the drum.
Brother in step with brother,
Neighbour in step with neighbour,
Ancient republican values the doctrine of all.
Long hours of hunger,
Vigilance in deep drains and damp ditches,
Self-sacrifice their creed.
Chlé, dheis. Chlé, dheis…
Clonfin, Scramogue, Kilmichael…
And on they marched…

Stad! A Truce, Negotiations.
A delegation to a foreign city,
When others refused,
Five brave souls took on the perilous task.
Arduous negotiations,
Sign or slaughter,
The truce was signed,
The night was closing in.
Pro-treaty! Anti-treaty!
The split widens, emotions deepen,
The hero of the day shouts:
We have now the freedom to achieve freedom!
Another shouts:
We cannot betray our pledge to the republic,
Nor to our fallen comrades.
A bereaved mother whispers: Lord, let there be peace.
For she has seen “her two strong sons go our to break their strength and die…”

Stalemate, a shooting, an ultimatum, civil war.
And the night turns black and cold.
There would be no rising of the moon,
Nor would their pikes be together.
For friendships forged on fighting fields
Are now sundered.
Mayhem and madness are now blood brothers.
Terror and tears are twined.
A late night knock on a door;
A heart misses a beat.
A bullet through a door;
A heart ne’er again to beat.
Béal na Bláth, Ballyseedy, Benbulben…
Torture, internment, executions, reprisals.
Ministers of the Free-State in fear of failure.
Allegations of crimes against humanity.
Prisoners of the state and conscience
Betray their bodies on hunger strike.
Where would it end…
When would it end…
And it did end.
In spite of everything the sun did rise.
Clouded over by bitterness, division, sadness,
It did not shine for many days to come.

Reproduced with kind permission of the author. This poem was composed in a Poetry as Commemoration workshop held in association with Longford Archives at Edgeworthstown Community Library, in October 2023. The workshop was led by writer Mary Melvin Geoghegan.