Some poems on Rose Kavanagh written by older and younger contemporaries

Charles Kickham
  “Young Rose of Knockmany”

Oh! sure ’tis some fairy
Has set me contrairy,
No more blithe and airy
I sing as I go;
No longer in clover,
A freehearted rover,
I lilt a light ditty or shake a loose toe.
In Leinster and Ulster,
Through Connaught and Munster,
’Twas I made the fun stir wherever I strayed
And a jovialler fellow,
While sober or mellow,
Ne’er tossed off a jorum or wooed a fair maid.

Till once in the Maytime,
The tuneful and gay time -
(Ah, I fear ’twas the fay-time) -
from eve to the dawn,
I played for a maiden,
With hair simply braiden,
With eyes of soft lustre and grace like the fawn.
Those eyes while she listened,
Through dewy drops glistened,
Or sparkled like gems in the light of the moon;
Some witchcraft was in it!
For since that blessed minute,
I’m like poor young Johnny who played but one tune.*

For whether I’m strolling
Where billows are rolling,
Or sweet bells are tolling o’er Shannon or Lee;
My wild harp when sweeping,
Where fountains are leaping,
At lone Gougane Barra or storied Lough Neagh -
To priest or to peasant,
No matter who’s present,
In sad hours or pleasant, by mountain or stream,
To the careless or cannie,
To colleen or granny -
Young Rose of Knockmany is ever my theme.

*“And all the tune that I could play / was Over the Hills and Far Away”

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Ellen O’Leary:
  “Lines inscribed to Rose Kavanagh”

Brave eyes, how beautiful you are
Not dark as night or gleaming as a star,
But all alight with earnestness and truth
And the fond, foolish dreams of fervid youth.

Brave eyes, brave eyes, and trustful, too, as brave,
In which thought follows thought, as wave on wave
True mirrors clear reflecting every feeling,
Now bright, now blank, now full of soft appealing.

Yet there is one phase which they do not show—
A shy reserve beneath the light and glow,
A dim soft veil with a sweet subtle art
Keeps hidden still some chambers of the heart.

Brave eyes, brave eyes! ’tis not your form or hue
That wins our love, that draws all hearts to you.
It is the radiance or pure womanhood
Shining so clear, with ever changing mood.


In Lays of Country, Home, and Friends (1891; quoted in Mattnew Russell [ed.,] Rose Kavanagh and Her Verses, M. H. Gill 1909, p.16.) Note that Kavanagh’s elegy to Ellen O’Leary was prefixed to O’Leary’s collection.

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Katharine Tynan:
          “Rose Kavanagh”

My Rose, ’twas the wild rose you were,
Trailing upon the hedgetop green;
No narrow garden hemmed you in.

You had the dearest face, my dear,
Rose and white with a touch of brown,
Sweet as the country come to town.

The children found your goodness out,
The old folk and the poor and weak,
And the dog’s instinct wise and quick.

To me, my dear, in pain and doubt
What were you? Ah, well, none can take
The empty place that is heart-break.

The bravest eyes that ever were
You had; the honest heart and mind,
The tolerant judgment large and kind.

Dear, in some day of pain and care,
How we shall miss your eyes and face!
And oh, your heaven’s a far-off place.

[2 March 1891]            


In Rose Kavanagh and her Verses (Dublin & Waterford: M. H. Gill 1909), p.23. See also “To Rose in Heaven”, ibid., pp.24-25.

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