‘Twas midnight when I chanced to stray
Along the silent Merchants’ Quay,
Nigh the left-handed bridge a sigh
Went gurgling to the pitch-dark sky.
The voice had a sepuchral tone –
Foul and decayed – I’m here alone;
Ah, let me rack my fevered brain,
Awake my happy youth again.
The sailors’ pride from broad Lough Neagh,
Who trampled and horsed my green highway,
I ope’d to staid landlubbers’ view,
The beauteous plain around the Yew.
From every art, by wind and wave,
Ships wooed me, manned by bold and brave;
They came like seagulls on the wing,
Some new-found treasure each to bring.
My banks were piled with grain and wood,
Your earthly wants, your body’s food;
The artist sought my nurs’ried hills,
To charm the eye with nature’s thrills.
The Hawk, the Amphion and the Brook
Danced on my crest like full-fledged rook;
Regattas brought me
To win new glories on my crest.
My bridge-walls lined with brawny men
From Camlough’s hills and Fathom’s glen,
To tip the ‘black gold’ from the hatch,
To feed the engine, warm the thatch.
The mitching youth, by word and sign,
Oft sought my neighbour, “Wee Track Line”.
The workman, free with rod and reel,
Would whip my flanks with angler’s zeal.
The swain and maid with love-lit eye
Here pledged their troth ‘neath moonlit sky.
From out the sea fresh salt I drew,
My slow sick body to renew;
Men sought my banks there to relax
And swop their jokes, their puns and cracks;
My sides, lined with majestic trees,
Where crows foregathered at their ease.
From yonder knoll sweet music stole
To charm the heart and soothe the soul;
There youth and age clasped hand in hand,
Danced wild in glee around the band.
Alas! Alas! My eyes grow dim,
Frog-spawn and weeds from brim to brim;
Such is my fate, as of pompous men,
Who soar aloft to fall again.
A shunned old pauper here I lie
In reedy swamp at last to die;
Ah for the days when men of brain
Would grasp the reins and rule again!
I lagged by Benson’s Glen and wood,
Where danced the young, the gay and good;
I heard a splash, a spluttering moan,
I yawned, and found I was alone.