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                                               18th Century Ireland - James Orr (1770-1816)


James Orr was born at Ferranshane, County Antrim where he became a weaver. In 1791 he joined the Society of United Irishmen and from 1792 contributed poetry to the Northern Star, the Society's journal. In 1797 James' brother, William Orr, was arrested and falsely charged with administering the Oath of the United Irishmen to a soldier named Wheatley. The trial jury knew Wheatley's evidence was perjured but, plied with drink, they sentenced William to death. He was hanged at Carrickfergus on the 14th of October, 1797 in the presence of his brother James.
In 1798 James Orr partook in the Rising at Antrim where he was arrested and imprisoned before being transported to America. In 1802 he returned to Ireland where he worked as a weaver in County Antrim and continued to write poetry. Orr's Poems on Various Subjects was published in 1804. The Execution is about his brother William's execution in 1797.©

The Execution
Awake my lire, and sing his fall
Who on yon tree must yeild his breath:
Nor censure me, you hearts of gall;
I blame his deeds but mourn his death.

The bosoms that fine feelings bless,
Must grieve to see an erring swain,
Ascend the climax of distress,
Disgrace, remorse, affliction, pain.

The warlike guard, the sable priest.
The false-fac'd fiend, and warping mob,
That scare the safe, must shock the breast
Which long ere night shall cease to throb.

The deep damp cell in twilight furl'd,
The filth that rots, the bolt that galls,
He's grieved to leave; and with a world
Would buy a week within these walls.

Ah! see him led to life's last scene
Thro' Carrickfergus' far-famed wall;
Whose mart is copious, fair her fane,
Her fortress firm, and just her hall.

Amid the circle see him bend
His neck, now bare, the noose to meet:
And now the steps he'll ne'er descend,
He climbs with loth and lingering feet.

Where shall he turn? His actions here
A woeful retrospect supply;
Confronting what a dark and drear
Hereafter, shocked his mental eye!

Heaven's azure arch he dreads to scan,
Heaven's easy laws he held in strife,
With shame he views the cruel clan
Intent to see him loose his life.

Where ere he looks his heart must bleed;
He sees the ruffian who betrayed;
He sees th' accomplice of the deed;
He sees his friend and favourite maid.

He sees his father. Torments move
His inmost soul, as near he draws:
To see them grieve whom much we love
Is death. 'Tis worse when we're the cause.

His last address had power to reach
Ev'n scornful hearts, tho' void of art:
Affecting still must be the speech
That simply leaves a feeling heart.

The choral psalm with sad delight
Consol'd the breasts his speech had riv'n,
To see him sing an angel might
Lean from the battlements of heaven.

In plaintive and pathetic strains,
To Beings source he wills his soul;
A long last gaze o'er hills and plains
His sad eyes take, and cease to roll.

He hesitates, and looks again
Then veils the cheek where blooms the rose,
His pendent form with pungent pain
Convulsive writhes, and wildly throes.

Heav'ns! see him struggle, spring, and stretch
Now swell, now sink, now scarsely shake
So, on the hook, the finny wretch
Hangs trembling o'er its parent lake.


Searc's Web Guide 1997-2008

18th Century Ireland
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