Requiem for the Croppies
by Seamus Heaney
The pockets of our greatcoat
s full of barley
No kitchens on the run, no striking camp
We moved quick and sudden in our own country.
The priest lay behind ditches with the tramp
A people, hardly marching -- on the hike --
We found new tactics
happening each day:
We'd cut through reins and rider with the pike
And stampede cattle into infantry,
Then retreat through hedges where cavalry
must be thrown.
Until, on Vinegar Hill
, the fatal conclave.
Terraced thousands died, shaking scythe
s at cannon.
The hillside blush
ed, soaked in our broken wave.
They buried us without shroud
And in August
grew up out of the grave.
A sonnet, by god . . .
The author has this to say about the poem:
- ". . . 'Requiem for the Croppies' . . . was written in 1966 when most poets in Ireland were straining to celebrate the anniversary of the 1916 Rising. That rising was the harvest of seeds sown in 1798, when revolutionary republican ideals and national feeling coalesced in the doctrines of Irish republicanism and in the rebellion of 1798 itself -- unsuccessful and savagely put down. The poem was born of and ended with an image of resurrection based on the fact that some time after the rebels were buried in common graves, these graves began to sprout with young barley, growing up from barley corn which the 'croppies' had carried in their pockets to eat while on the march. The oblique implication was that the seeds of violent resistance sowed in the Year of Liberty had flowered in what Yeats called 'the right rose tree' of 1916. I did not realize at the time that the original heraldic murderous encounter between Protestant yeoman and Catholic rebel was to be initiated again in the summer of 1969, in Belfast, two months after the book was published."
"cavalry" != "calvary", for those in doubt.
The Croppy Rebellion was so called because the rebels cut their hair.
An Everythingist with a knowledge of history far greater than my own has provided an Irish History node, which makes for more interesting reading than the day's crop of "a-little-writeup-about-me!" nodes.