For The Love of Ireland

A Historical Novel by Judy Leslie

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Hold the Harvest

Now are you men or cattle then, you tillers of the soil?

 

Would you be free, or evermore in rich men's service toil?

 

The shadow of the dial hangs dark that points the fatal hour

 

Now hold your own! Or, branded slaves, forever cringe and cower! -

 

The serpent's curse upon you lies - you writhe within the dust

 

You fill your mouths with beggars' swill, you grovel for a crust

 

Your masters set their blood-stained heels upon your shameful heads

 

Yet they are kind - they leave you still their ditches for your beds! -

 

Oh by the God who made us all, the master and the serf

 

Rise up and swear to hold this day your own green Irish turf!

 

Rise up! And plant your feet as men where now you crawl as slaves

 

And make your harvest fields your camps, or make of them your graves! -

 

But God is on the peasant's side, the God that loves the poor,

 

His angels stand with flaming swords on every mount and moor,

 

They guard the poor man's flocks and herds, they guard his ripening grain,

 

The robber sinks beneath their curse beside his ill-got gain.

 

 

Anna Parnell 1852 - 1911

Fanny Parnell  1848 - 1882

Anna and Fanny grew up enjoying many of the benefits of privileged young Victorian ladies.  They experienced an international, cosmopolitan upbringing and were educated and well-read. They attended finishing school and were debutantes in London and Paris, attending balls and parties. They moved to Paris in the mid 1860s. Because Anna found Paris restrictive and not suitable to her views, she to moved back to Dublin at the age of 18 and then to London to study art.

 

When Napoleon III declared war, Fanny and her mother, Delia, were the first to volunteer for the American Ambulance at a field hospital.  However, women volunteers other than nuns were looked down upon by the French.  After two months, they were forced to flee, just before the Siege of Paris began.

 

In 1879, Anna moved to America to help Fanny set up her brother Charles’s first American tour.  Believing the men failed to do an adequate job, the sisters’ re-organized the newly founded Land League office in New York.  Fanny went to work and set forth on a campaign to enlist women across America to raise money.  In 1880 Anna moved back to Ireland to help with efforts there.

 

In 1881, suspecting the British were going to arrest the male leaders of the Land League, Michael Davitt suggested Anna Parnell organize the Ladies Land League in Ireland.  This was at a time when women were not permitted to vote, much less run a dissident organization.  Anna successfully established a national network and mobilized women to take action while the men of the Land League were detained in jail.  In addition to organizing groups to campaign for justice, Anna built homes and paid the rent, so many poor could have a place to live.  The British newspapers and Catholic leaders around the country considered Anna’s behavior shocking and considered her a threat to the traditional role of Victorian women.

 

After the Charles dissolved the Ladies Land League in 1882, Anna changed her name and never spoke to her brother again.  In 1904 Anna wrote her own account of the Land League, The Tale of a Great Sham, however she could not find a publisher and it wasn't published until 1986.  Anna died in a swimming accident in 1911.

 

Fanny Parnell was known as a rebel poet.  Her pamphlet, 'The Hovels of Ireland' (1880), and a collection of poems, 'Land League Songs' (1882), were widely published. Her best known poem 'Hold the Harvest', was described by Michael Davitt, leader of the Land League, as the "Marseillaise (national anthem) of the Irish peasant". Most of her work was published in the Boston Pilot, the leading Irish newspaper of the 19th century in America.

 

Fanny died in her bed at the age of 32 from an apparent heart condition.  She had just met with Michael Davitt the day before.  Her brother Charles did not honor her request to be buried in Ireland, but instead paid for a lavish funeral.  It was the biggest cermony ever known for a poet in America. Her hearse was pulled by 6 white horses and attended by 18 pallbearers stopping in Philadelphia, New York and Boston along the way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hold the Harvest

by Fanny Parnell

For The Love of Ireland

The story of Margaret Sullivan & the Secrets of the Clan-na-Gael

A Historical Novel by Judy Leslie