Almost a hundred years ago, in the streets of Dublin, a small band of rebels led an armed insurrection against the British and proclaimed an Irish Republic. The Easter Rising of 1916 lasted six days. Five hundred people were killed. Most of the instigators were court-martialed and executed, including the artichect of the Rising, Joseph Plunkett, a poet and a journalist. On the day of his execution, Plunkett was married in the chapel of Kilmainham jail to his fianceé, Grace Gifford. Hours later, he was shot by a firing squad. He was 28 years old.
This is his poem “I see his blood upon the rose.” It's a lyric magnificat of great power, full of the incarnation as well as the resurrection. It reminds me of Donne and Herbert, but with an Irish lilt. It has the pathos and intensity of someone whose own life, like Christ's, was brief and passionate, and whose end was bloody. It's not only about a way of seeing the world but a declaration of loyalty to that vision. It's in fact a hymn of allegiance. A creed.
I see his blood upon the rose
And in the stars the glory of his eyes,
His body gleams amid eternal snows,
His tears fall from the skies.
I see his face in every flower;
The thunder and the singing of the birds
Are but his voice—and carven by his power
Rocks are his written words.
All pathways by his feet are worn,
His strong heart stirs the ever-beating sea,
His crown of thorns is twined with every thorn,
His cross is every tree.