Patrick Regan has kindly shared the material from his Robert Buchanan site with readers of the Victorian Web, who may wish to consult the original.

'It's a sight to see a bold man die!'

To-night we drink but a sorrowful cup . .
Hush! silence! and fill your glasses up.
Christ be with us! Hold out and say:
'Here's to the Boy that died this day!'

Wasn't he bold as the boldest here?
Red coat or black did he ever fear?
With the bite and the drop, too, ever free?
He died like a man. . . . I was there to see!

The gallows was black, our cheeks were white
All underneath in the morning light;
The bell ceased tolling swift as thought,
And out the murdered Boy was brought.

There he stood in the daylight dim,
With a Priest on either side of him;
Each Priest look'd white as he held his book,
But the man between had a brighter look!

Over the faces below his feet
His gray eye gleam'd so keen and fleet:
He saw us looking; he smiled his last . . .
He couldn't wave, he was pinioned fast.

This was more than one could bear,
For the lass who loved him was with us there;
She stood in the rain with her dripping shawl
Over her head, for to see it all.

But when she met the Boy's last look,
Her lips went white, she turned and shook;
She didn't scream, she didn't groan,
But down she dropt as dead as stone.

He saw the stir in the crowd beneath,
And I saw him tremble and set his teeth;
But the hangman came with a knavish grace
And drew the nightcap over his face.

Then I saw the Priests, who still stood near,
Pray faster and faster to hide their fear;
They closed their eyes, I closed mine too.
And the deed was over before I knew.

The crowd that stood all round of me
Gave one dark plunge like a troubled sea;
And I knew by that the deed was done,
And I opened my eyes and saw the sun.

The gallows was black, the sun was white,
There he hung, half hid from sight;
The sport was over, the talk grew loud,
And they sold their wares to the mighty crowd.

We walked away with our hearts full sore,
And we met a hawker before a door,
With a string of papers an arm's-length long,
A dying speech and a gallows song.

It bade all people of poor estate
Beware of O'Murtogh's evil fate;
It told how in old Ireland's name
He had done red murther and come to shame.

Never a word was sung or said
Of the murder'd mother, a ditch her bed,
Who died with her newborn babe that night,
While the blessed cabin was burning bright.

Nought was said of the years of pain,
The starving stomach, the madden'd brain,
The years of sorrow and want and toil,
And the murdering rent for the bit of soil.

Nought was said of the murther done
On man and woman and little one,
Of the bitter sorrow and daily smart
Till he put cold lead in the traitor's heart.

But many a word had the speech beside:
How he repented before he died;
How, brought to sense by the sad event,
He prayed for the Queen and the Parliament!

What did we do, and mighty quick,
But tickle that hawker's brains with a stick;
And to pieces small we tore his flam,
And left him quiet as any lamb!

Pass round your glasses! now lift them up!
Powers above, 'tis a bitter cup!
Christ be with us! Hold out and say:
'Here's to the Boy that died this day!'

Here's his health! — for bold he died;
Here's his health! — and it's drunk in pride:
The finest sight beneath the sky
Is to see how bravely a MAN can die.

(From London Poems, 1866-70)


Victorian Web Robert Buchanan Contents

Last modified 26 September 2002