Corpus of Electronic Texts Edition
The Roman Vision (Author: Unknown)



These are two extracts from The Roman Vision, written in 1650 by an unknown poet. In the entire poem there are eighty quatrains and a ceangal. The poet imagines himself upon the graves of the Irish princes (Hugh O'Neill and Rory O'Donnell) in Rome. The spirit of Ireland manifests herself to him, and in impassioned language recalls the heroic struggle of the Irish for freedom and its disastrous issue, under Tudors, Stuarts, and Cromwellians. She dwells lovingly on the figures of Owen Roe O'Neill and the soldier bishop Heber MacMahon. Finally, she promises victory if the Irish only hold together. The savage hatred expressed for the English and for the Protestant sectaries will be understood when it is remembered that the poem was written within a year after Drogheda and Wexford, and that it was intended as a stimulus to the Irish in their stubborn stand against the Cromwellian generals.


  1. I tell a tale and no lying tale,
    With mine own eyes it was clear to me,
    With mine own ears I myself heard it,
    The thing I speak I speak aloud.
  2. One morning that I was alone
    In Rome upon the golden hill of Cephas,
    Stretched upon a flagstone shedding tears,
    Full of grief upon the grave of the Gaels,
  3. Under which were two once generous in gift-giving,
    To whom had been dear the cause that I lamented,
    The mighty Earl of Tyrone of Niall's race
    And O'Donnell of the keen-edged golden blades.
  4. And when I thought to rest me there,
    Behold, I saw from the hill's bare side
    A maid most lovely, with throat of pearly-white,
    Ah, lovelier far than Venus' self,
  5. Or than Minerva in form and shape:
    Most daintily fashioned were her delicate limbs,
    Gold burned in the depth of her hair,
    And there shone a flame through the snow of her cheek.
  6. And on that spot she spake and bade me,
    With sweet voice more melodious than strings,
    To rise up from the heroes' grave—
    Then long she wept as with heart in anguish.

  7. p.579

  8. At length, after all her sad ado,
    She raised a lament most pitiful to hear,
    That would make even hard clerics weep—
    Yea, wring a sigh from the stones, if possible.
  9. And with that outcry she stretched her hands,
    And looking sternly up to the heavens,
    She spake to the King of the Firmament,
    Full of reproach, in these words:
  10. Mighty God, wilt Thou deign to hear me,
    And may I ask Thee one little question
    That hath baffled all the sons of learning—
    May I ask Thee, for to Thee 'tis clear?
  11. Since I am at fault, without knowledge of the subject,
    If everyone must equally expiate
    Original sin which the first man committed,
    Adam our father, deceived by Eve,
  12. Why, then, is the penalty exacted
    From one race more than another?
    Why is every unjust churl made free,
    And every freeman made a slave?
  13. Why are the poor crucified though crimeless,
    While the tribe of sinners enjoyeth the world's goods?
    Why are not heretics extirpated
    Tho' stubbornly they hunt down true believers?
  14. Why is not Clann Luther flayed,
    While Christ's clan is persecuted unto death?
    Why no pity for the lambs that are torn,
    While the wolves harry the flock?
  15. With what justice is Ireland overthrown,
    And her cry scarcely listened to?
    Why are not the Gaels exalted,
    A race that never denied homage to the Creator?

  16. p.581

    {Prophecy }
  17. No man shall be bound unto England
    Nor hold friendship with dour Scotsmen;
    There shall be no place in lreland for outlanders,
    And no recognition for the English speech.
  18. Victory shall be to the host of thc Gael
    Over Calvin's clan—the trickster, the thief, the liar;
    Their nobles shall triumph over heretics,
    And shout at the routing of Clan Luther.
  19. Their faith shall not fall nor ebb,
    The Church shall teach her flocks,
    Friars, bishops, priests, and clerics—
    And ever after Ireland shall have peace.
  20. I pray God, if He deign to hear me,
    I pray Jesus Who seeth all this,
    And the Holy Ghost again with one will,
    Mother Mary and Patrick White-Tooth,
  21. Kindly Colum and Holy Brigid,
    That they may weld the Gael together,
    And that thus they may compass this deed:
    The banishment of the Gall and the freeing of Ireland.
  22. When the queenly apparition had made an end,
    As I said at the beginning, of these words,
    Quickly she struck her two palms together,
    And with an upward sweep disappeared in the clouds;
  23. And she left me on a flagstone alone,
    Stretched upon the tomb of the Gaels,
    Lifeless, mute, dazed, motionless,
    Full of grief from the terror of her tale.