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The Mother -- Padraic H Pearse

Guest poem sent in by Frank O'Shea
(Poem #1188) The Mother
 I do not grudge them: Lord, I do not grudge
 My two strong sons that I have seen go out
 To break their strength and die, they and a few,
 In bloody protest for a glorious thing,
 They shall be spoken of among their people,
 The generations shall remember them,
 And call them blessed;
 But I will speak their names to my own heart
 In the long nights;
 The little names that were familiar once
 Round my dead hearth.
 Lord, thou art hard on mothers:
 We suffer in their coming and their going;
 And tho' I grudge them not, I weary, weary
 Of the long sorrow--And yet I have my joy:
 My sons were faithful, and they fought.
-- Padraic H Pearse

In any war, people are killed; soldiers are killed. Right now, there are
American and British and Australian mothers who wonder if they will see
their sons again. This poem is from a different war and a different time,
but the sentiments outlive time and place.

The poem was written the night before Pearse's execution by firing squad;
his brother was executed some days later.

It is customary now to decry the kind of patriotism which Pearse
represented. His sincere love for his country has been corrupted by the
savagery of the IRA, just as his idea of the necessity of blood sacrifice
(cf Yeats "There's nothing but our own red blood / Can make a right Rose
Tree.") has been corrupted by suicide bombers. Yet he was a young man of
great piety, a poet of some substance and an educator before that word was
properly understood. His oration over the grave of the old Fenian O'Donovan
Rossa bears comparison with any example of oratory anywhere. His sense of
fierce love of Ireland he inherited from his Irish mother; his sensitivity
to any form of injustice came from his English artisan father; if it is
possible to imagine the best of both nations, it might be P H Pearse.

Any search engine will list dozens of sites devoted to Pearse and his

Frank O'Shea


  And a picture: [broken link]

  Another poem written on the eve of the poet's execution is Poem #144,
  which makes an interesting companion to today's

174 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Amit Chakrabarti said...

> In any war, people are killed; soldiers are killed. Right now, there are
> American and British and Australian mothers who wonder if they will see
> their sons again.

Not to endorse any particular political viewpoint, but right now, there
are also Iraqi mothers who wonder if they will see their sons again.


Mallika Chellappa said...

Let's also recall Leon Uris book "Trinity" on
the IRA, where the first person character
is undoubtedly PH Pearse.

It is certainly a tragedy that these vexatious
problems persist, whether in the Basque region,
in Kashmir, in Ireland, in Palestine
or in Kurdistan etc. Strangely many are not related
to economics, but to ego.

"those who forget the lessons of history are doomed
to repeat them"

In this context, destruction of writings, monuments etc
does have the aim of rewriting history, and is thus


Acynta said...

>It is certainly a tragedy that these vexatious problems persist,
>whether in the Basque region, in Kashmir, in Ireland, in Palestine or
>in Kurdistan etc. Strangely many are not related to economics, but to

What's so strange about that? If you think you are a victim, then you
will never get out of the cycle of revenge and self-destruction. I
wouldn't go so far as to say that a positive attitude will overcome
any/all obstacles, but I've watched members of my own (prosperous,
middle-class, American) family destroy themselves because they felt
sorry for themselves. No matter how terrible a hand you've been dealt,
what you do with it is up to you. The past absolutely cannot be
changed. The future is up for grabs. You can make it senseless,
violent, and unproductive, like the past, or you can do your best to
make it better. Self-pity is loathsome. There ought to be an eleventh
commandment: "Thou shalt not spend thy time thinking about how other
people have done you bad. Thou shalt spend thy time thinking about how
you are going to do good, and doing it." So there.


Martin DeMello said...

--- wrote:
> make it better. Self-pity is loathsome. There ought to be an eleventh
> commandment: "Thou shalt not spend thy time thinking about how other
> people have done you bad. Thou shalt spend thy time thinking about how
> you are going to do good, and doing it." So there.

Twelfth :) Eleventh is traditionally "thou shalt not get caught"
(popularised, but afaik not invented by Heinlein).


ruth said...

For me this is also a poem about really being a mother, and I marvel that a man could have written it. Regardless of what "cause" a child spends/loses their life on, then there must surely be a pride that the child makes a decision based on thought and judgment. I'm sure an Iraq or Palestinian mother may share my view.

Underneath every mother's feelings about her adult child is the love she had for them at each stage of their growing up: you can't show it because the child needs to be an adult receiving adult love. They can't be burdened with the love you have for them as a 5 year old and the 9 year old let alone the baby against your breast, but it is still there underneath.

"But I will speak their names to my own heart
In the long nights;
The little names that were familiar once
Round my dead hearth"

Weary and joy, weary and joy!

rosepearse said...

Well, since Patrick Pearse was my grandfather, I have to agree with the kind sentiment of Mr O'Shea. I beleive that Patrick was the best of many things. My regret is that I only know him as a legend. It woudl have been nice to have known him, even in old age, as my grandfather.


Rose Pearse. Keeper of the flame!

GB said...

I find this poem a tremendously moving one. Well done Frank for
submitting it. It has some emotional resonance for me as my mother won
a prize as a child at a Feis (or cultural festival) for reciting it.
She she would recite it for us as children, sometimes seriously,
sometimes almost making fun in her shy way of her own love for us as a
mother, and always always much to our delight. I also remember sitting
on the walls of the city of York in England about eight years ago on a
gloriously hot Summer's day reading a book of Pearse's poetry for a few
hours.But the poem would move me anyway even if it provoked no such
memories. The fact that Pearse could create such beauty at a moment
which must have been full of fear, loneliness and pain is a tremendous
tribute to his character, and to the human spirit. The poem is
remarkably prophetic as well. Pearse and his fellow rebels experienced
quite an amount of contemporaneous abuse for their actions and would
have been reviled rather than 'blessed' by many in Ireland at the time.
Their execution provoked revolution, and ultimately an independent
Irish Republic, but for the reasons Frank referred to, he remains a
controversial figure.

Following Frank's link out of curiosity, I also read Chidioch
Tichborne's poem (no. 144 ) on this list, written on the eve of his
own appallingly cruel execution. It is also a poem that I find very
moving, although it is a much more despairing piece. Still we can
empathise with his feelings on his own life cut unexpectedly short, and
on the transience of our lives on earth.

Well done Minstrels on your site. What a wonderful use to put the web

Best wishes

GB, Ireland

PS Incidentally, I am puzzled by the e mail from Rose Pearse. Pearse
died without marrying and I am reasonably confident that he had no

Rose Pearse said...

Obviously I know more about this than GB Ireland does, but I would not discuss it on an open internet forum.

Wendy Richards said...

What on earth is this Rose Pearse talking about? Not only did Padraic Pearse die without offspring, he was reputably believed to have been gay. Methinks the woman is living in a fantasy world. (Even more so now that I've done some surfing and discovered that she's apparently 39 - so how could she credibly be the granddaughter of a man who died in 1916?)

Wendy Richards

Rita Williams said...

have you got a copy of 'ideal' by patrick pearse
please as my father is 89 and would love a copy

McCaulEll said...

Born and bred in Dublin and brought up on Padraig Pearse, even won prizes at
the Gaiety for his play Isogan, his poetry etc. I too was not aware that
Padraig Pearse left any children.

Anonymous said...

It's a very moving poem, and it's as if Pearse foresaw that he and his brother would both be killed. Siobhán McKenna's recitation was wonderful. It's a pity it can't be found online.

The claim that Pearse has direct descendants is nonsense. Look at newspaper accounts of commemorations of the Rising, at which descendants of the leaders traditionally attend.

Anonymous said...

"Rose Pearse" is a fraud. Pearse had no children or grandchildren. Pity these morons manage to creep in everywhere.

Anonymous said...

I'm afraid I disagree. When I originally heard Siobhan McKenna recite this I thought it was very moving but when I later learned that it was Pearse himself who had written it from his prison cell, it lost all attraction for me. Yes, his motivation for writing it could have been to give his sonless mother something to hold on to after her sons' deaths, a reminder of exactly why her sons had died........ but the self praise, the depicting himself as a hero........... it's more than a little distasteful. It also shows a very worrying side to P H Pearse. While a great sacrifice was undoubtedly made by these men and women, this poem written by Perase glorifying himself is, sorry......, tacky.

Rose Pearse a grandaughter? - that would be interesting. At school I was fed a diet of the sancity of these 1916 men. They had, with the passage of time been whitewashed into saintly men, the main players were all depicted as devoutly catholic who followed all the catholic rules to the letter. I was therefore amused to hear that Grace Gifford who later married the ill Joseph Mary Plunkett hours before was shot dead in Kilmainham had previously had a miscarriage.

Anonymous said...

I agree (partly) with anonymous above. I learned this poem at school (in Dublin) and thought it was great. Written by a hero, talking of death and glory and being blessed. Blood sacrifices.

But I didn't have two sons then. I do now. How little understanding Pearse had of mothers! I have let my sons go, out into the world. I've cut the apron strings, try not to worry about them, they're full grown men now.

But not grudge their deaths? Impossible. I don't want them to die, especially before me, no matter what "glorious" cause they may encounter. And I am fervently anti-war, as most 'normal' mothers are.

Pearse put words into his own mother's mouth which could not possibly have been true.

As for Pearse being gay, or who Joseph Mary Plunkett may or may not have got pregnant, that's utterly irrelevant to me. As is the disgraced Catholic Church.

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Brandon Tempany said...

Rose Pearse is my mother, She IS insane, her last name isnt even Pearse, it's Tempany (nee List). She wasnt born in Ireland, she was born in Preston England and has never left, her father was a coal miner, her mother was a housewife. She has concocted this myth about being someone she's not because her life is a failure, please ignore everything she has to say about Patrick Pearse.

Brandon Tempany

Anonymous said...

"It is certainly a tragedy that these vexatious
problems persist, whether in the Basque region,
in Kashmir, in Ireland, in Palestine
or in Kurdistan etc. Strangely many are not related
to economics, but to ego"
What if all our problems are to do with our self imposed genetic isolation through nationalism or religion? Could it be that regions such as Ireland that suffer high levels of genetic disease (Cystic fibrosis, Haemochromatosis, alpha-1 antitrypsin etc) or regions such as the middle east where history has necessitated consanguinous marriages among cousins could be troubled because inbreding is also producing mental instability which in turn is producing generation after generation of conflict

Anonymous said...

I don't understand why Pearse tried to step into the shoes and mind of a mother, with this poem. Certainly he got it wrong, for as the earlier commenter said no mother would not begrudge the loss of one son, never mind two. The loss of a good son (even a wayward son), never mind two, would break a mother's heart and maybe leave her insane. Maybe he is speaking here from the point of view of a deranged mother.

Anonymous said...

Pearse's views weren't corrupted by the IRA, they were the cornerstone of militant republicanism right or wrong. The need for violence, the need for blood in pursuit of freedom etc, are all cornerstones of Pearse's political thoughts.

Anonymous said...

i grew up on padraic pearse he was poet dublin school teacher let him rest in peace and be gratefulfor what he did for a down trodden nation

Anonymous said...

I see the part about her not grudging their deaths more as Patrick's hope... he would not wish her to grudge their deaths. Besides, he knew his mother better than anyone here knew her! And she knew his heart better than anyone else, I think, and understood why he did what he did!

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Unknown said...

Just a note - Pearse did not write this the night before his execution. He most likely wrote it during the fall of 1915, and may very well have been preparing for the planned end. After all, none of the men involved in the Rising much expected to win.

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