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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Ireland: Vol. V. 1876–79.

Shannon, the River

A Ballad of Athlone; Or, How They Broke down the Bridge

By Aubrey Thomas de Vere (1814–1902)

DOES any man dream that a Gael can fear,

Of a thousand deeds let him learn but one!

The Shannon swept onward, broad and clear,

Between the Leaguers and worn Athlone.

“Break down the bridge!”—Six warriors rushed

Through the storm of shot and the storm of shell:

With late, but certain victory flushed,

The grim Dutch gunners eyed them well.

They wrenched at the planks mid a hail of fire;

They fell in death, their work half done:

The bridge stood fast, and nigh and nigher

The foe swarmed darkly, densely on.

“O, who for Erin will strike a stroke?

Who hurl yon planks where the waters roar?”

Six warriors forth from their comrades broke,

And flung them upon that bridge once more.

Again at the rocking planks they dashed;

And four dropped dead, and two remained:

The huge beams groaned, and the arch down-crashed;

Two stalwart swimmers the margin gained.

St. Ruth in his stirrups stood up, and cried,

“I have seen no deed like that in France!”

With a toss of his head Sarsfield replied,

“They had luck, the dogs! ’T was a merry chance!”

O, many a year upon Shannon’s side

They sang upon moor and they sang upon heath

Of the twain that breasted that raging tide,

And the ten that shook bloody hands with Death!