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Proletarian issue 21 (December 2007)
Poem: The Sword
What rights the brave?
The sword!
What frees the slave?
The sword!
What cleaves in twain
The despot’s chain,
And makes the gyves* and dungeons vain?
The sword!

Then cease thy proud task never
While rests a link to sever!
Guard of the free,
We’ll cherish thee,
And keep thee bright forever!

What checks the knave?
The sword!
What smites to save?
The sword!
What wreaks the wrong
Unpunished long,
At last, upon the guilty strong?
The sword!

MJ Barry (1817-1889)


Michael Joseph Barry was born in Cork. His 1845 essay ‘Ireland as She Was, As She Is, and As She Shall Be’ was printed in Essays on the Repeal of the Union. In the same year, Barry published his first poetry collection, The Songs of Ireland.

Barry was active in the Young Ireland movement until its suppression in 1848, when he was briefly imprisoned. A journalist and then a barrister by profession, he later became a Dublin magistrate and remained throughout a prolific poet.


* gyves = shackles
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