An address delivered at the Emmet Commemoration in the Academy of Music, Brooklyn, New York, 2nd March, 1914

You ask me to speak of the Ireland of today. What can I tell you of it that is worthy of commemontion where we commemorate heroic faith and the splendour of death? In that Ireland whose spokesman have, in return for the promise of a poor simulacrum of liberty, pledged to our ancient enemy our loyalty and the loyalty of our children, is there, even though that pledge has been spoken, any group of true men, any right striving, any hope still cherished in virtue of which, lifting up our hearts, we can cry across the years to him whom we remember tonight. ‘Brother, we have kept his faith; comrade, too, stand ready to serve?'

For patriotism is at once a faith and a service. A faith which in some of us has been in our flesh and bone since we were moulded in our mothers’ wombs, and which in others of us had at some definite moment of our later lives been kindled flaming as if by the miraculous word of God; a faith which is of the same nature as religious faith and is one of eternal witnesses in the heart of man to the truth that we are of divine kindred a faith which, like religious faith, when true and vital, is wonder-working, but, like religious faith is dead without good works even as the body without the spirit. So that patriotism needs service as the condition of its authenticity, and it is not sufficient to say ‘I believe' unless we can say also ‘I serve’:

And our patriotism is measured, not by the formula in which we declare it, but by the service which we render. We owe to our country all fealty and she asks always for our service; and there are times when she asks of us not ordinary but some supreme service. There are in every generation those who shrink from the ultimate sacrifice, but there are in every generation those who make it with joy and laughter, and these are the salt of the generations, the heroes who stand midway between God and men. Patriotism is in large part a memory of heroic dead men and a striving to accomplish some task left unfinished by them. Had they not gone before, made their attempts and suffered the sorrow of their failures, we should long ago have lost the tradition of faith and service, having no memory in the heart nor any unaccomplished dream.

The generation that is now growing old in Ireland had almost forgotten our heroes. We had learned the great art of parleying with our enemy and achieving nationhood by negotiation. The heroes had trodden hard and bloody ways: we should tread soft and flowering ways. The heroes had given up all things; we had learned a way of gaining all things, land and good living and the friendship of our foe. But the soil of Ireland, yea, the very stones of our cities have cried out against an infidelity that would barter an old tradition of nationhood even for a thing so precious as peace. This the heroes have done for us: for their spirits indwell in the place where they lived. and the hills of Ireland must be rent and her cities levelled with the ground and all her children driven out upon the seas of the world before those voices were silenced that bid us be faithful still and to make no peace with England until Ireland is ours.

I live in a place that is very full of heroic memories. In the room in which I work at St. Enda's College Robert Emmet is said often to have sat in our garden is a vine which they called Emmet's Vine and from which he is said to have plucked grapes, through our wood runs a path which is called Emmet's Walk - they say that he and Sarah Curran walked there, at an angle of our boundary wall there is a little fortified lodge called Emmets Fort. Across the road from us is a thatched cottage whose tenant in 1803 was in Green Street Courthouse all the long day that Emmet stood on trial, with a horse saddled without that he might bring news of the end to Sarah Curran. Half a mile from us across the fields is Butterfield House, where Emmet lived during the days preceding the rising. It is easy to imagine his figure coming out along the Harold's Cross Road to Rathfarnham, tapping the ground with his cane, as they say was his habit; a young, slight figure, with how noble a head bent a little upon the breast, with how high a vision sleeping underneath that quietness and gravity! One thinks of his anxious nights in Butterfield House; of his busy days in Marshelsea Lane or Patrick Street, of his careful plans - the best plans that have yet been made for the capture of Dublin Castle, his inventions and devices, the jointed pikes, the rockets and explosives upon which he counted so much, his ceaseless conferenees, his troubles with his associates, his disappointments. his disillusionments, borne with such sweetness and serenity of temper, such as trust in human nature, such a trust in Ireland! Then the hurried rising, the sally in to the streets, the failure at the Castle Gates, the catastrophe in Thomas Street, the retreat along the familiar Harold's Cross Road to Rathfarnharn at Butterfield House. Anne Devlin, the faithful, keeps watch. You remember her greeting to Emmett in the first pain of her disappointment: ‘Musha, bad welcone to you! Is Ireland lost by you, cowards that you are, to lead the people to destruction and taken to leave them?’ And poor Emmet's reply - no word or blame for the traitors that had sold him, for the cravens that had abandoned him, or the fools that had bungled, just a halting, heartbroken exculpaation, the only one he was to make for himself - ‘Don't blame me, Anne; the fault is not mine.' And her woman's heart went out to him and she took him in and cherished him; but the soldiery were on his track, and that was his last night in Butterfield House. The bracken was his bed thenceforth, or a precarious pillow in his old quarters at Harold's Cross, until he lay down in Kilmainham to await the summons of the executioner.

No failure, judged as the world judges these things, was ever more complete, more pathetic than Emmet's. And yet he has left us a prouder memory than the moment of Brian victorious at Clontarf or of Owen Roe victorious at Benburb. It is the memory of a sacrifice Christ-like in its perfection. Dowered with all things splendid and sweet, he left all things and elected to die. Face to face with England in the dock at Green Street he uttered the most memorable words ever uttered by an Irish man: words which, ringing clear above a century's tumults, forbid ever to waver or grow weary until our country takes her place among the nations of the earth. And his death was august. In the great space of Thomas Street an immense silent crowd; in front of Saint Catherine's Church a gallows upon a platform; a young man climbs to it, quiet, serene, almost smiling, they say - ah, he was very brave; there is no cheer from the crowd, no groan, this man is to die for them, but no man dares to say aloud ‘God bless you, Robert Emmet.’ Dublin must one day wash out in blood the shameful memory of that quiescence. Would Michael Dwyer come from the Wicklow Hills? Up to the last moment Emmett seems to have expected him. He was saying ‘not yet’ when the hangman kicked aside the plank and his body was launched into the air. They say it swung for half-an-hour, with terrible contortions, before he died. When he was dead the comely head was severed from the body. A friend of mine knew an old woman who told him how the blood flowed down upon the pavement, and how she was sickened with horror as she saw the dogs of the street lap up that noble blood. Then the hangman showed the pale head to the people and announced: 'This is the head of a traitor, Robert Emmet' A traitor? No, but a true man. O my brothers, this was one of the truest men that ever lived. This was one of the bravest spirits that Ireland has ever nurtured. This man was faithful even unto the ignominy at the gallows dying that his people might live, even as Christ died.

Be assured that such a death always means a redemption. Emmet redeemed Ireland from acquiescence in the Union. His attempt was not a failure, but a triumph for that deathless thing we call Irish Nationality. It was by Emmett that men remembered Ireland until Davis and Mitchel took up his work again, and '48 handed on the tradition to '67', and from '67 we received the tradition unbroken.

You ask me to speak of the Ireland of today. What need I say but that today Ireland is turning her face once more to the old path? Nothing seems more definitely to emerge when one looks at the movements that are stirring both above the surface and beneath the surface in men's minds at home than the fact that the new generation is reaffirming the Fenian Faith, the faith of Emmett. It is because we know that this is so that we can suffer in patience the things that are said and done in the name of Irish Nationality by some of our leaders. What one may call the Westminster phase is passing; the National movement is switching back again into its proper channel. A new junction has been made with the past: into the movement that has never wholly died since '67 have come the young men of the Gaelic League. Having renewed communion with its origins, Irish Nationalism is today a more virile thing than ever before in our time. Of that be sure.

I have said again and again that when the Gaelic league was founded in 1893 the Irish Revolution began. The Gaelic League brought it a certain distance upon its way, but the Gaelic League could not accomplish the revolution. For five or six years a new phase has been due and lo! it is with us now. Today Ireland is once more organising, once more learning the noble trade of arms. In our towns and country places Volunteer Companies are springing up. Dublin pointed the way. Galway has followed Dublin. Cork has followed Galway, Wexford has followed Galway, Limerick has followed Wexford, Monaghan has followed Limerick, Sligo has followed Monaghan, Donegal has followed S1igo. There is again in Ireland the murmur of a marching, and talk of guns and tactics. What this movement may mean for our country no man can say. But it is plain to all that the existence on Irish soil of an Irish army is the most portentous fact that has appeared in Ireland for over a hundred years: a fact which marks definitely the beginning of the second stage of the Revolution, which was commenced when the Gaelic League was founded. The inner significance of the movement lies in this, that men of every rank and class, of every section of Nationalist opinion. of every shade of religious belief, have discovered that they share a common patriotism, that their faith is one and that there is one service in which they can come together at last: the service of their country in arms. We are realising now how proud a thing it is to serve, and in the comradeship and joy of the new service we are forgetting many ancient misunderstandings. In the light of a re-discovered citizenship, things are plain to us that were before obscure:

‘Lo, a clearness of vision has followed, lo, a purification of sight;

Lo, the friend is discerned from the foeman, the wrong recognised from the right.'

After all, there are in Ireland but two parties: those who stand for the English connection and those who stand against it. On what side, think you, stand the Irish Volunteers? I cannot speak for the Volunteers; I am not authorised to say when they will use their arms or where and how. I can speak only for myself, and it is strictly a personal perception that to me is very clear, when I say that before this generation has passed the Volunteers will draw the sword of Ireland. Thine is no truth but the old truth and no way but the old way. Home Rule may come or may not come. But under Home Rule or in its absence there remains for the Volunteers and for Ireland the substantial business of achieving Irish Nationhood. And I do not know how nationhood is achieved except by armed men; I do not know how nationhood is guarded except by armed men.

I ask you, then, to salute with me the Irish Volunteers. I ask you to mark their advent as an augry that, no matter what pledges may be given by men who do not know Ireland - the stubborn soul of Ireland - that nation of ancient faith will never sell her birthright of freedom for a mess of pottage, a mess of dubious pottage at that. Ireland has been guilty of many meannesses, of many shrinkings back when she should have marched forward, but she will never be guilty of that immense infidelity.


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