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"John Boyle O'Reilly"

Paul Laurence Dunbar was an African-American poet who gained national recognition after the 1896 publication of his Lyrics of a Lowly Life. In this 1893 ode to fellow poet John Boyle O'Reilly, Dunbar lavishes praise on a man he calls "the noblest son/That e're the Isle of Erin bore." As editor and owner of The Pilot, a Boston newspaper, O'Reilly had supported African-American as well as Irish-American causes.

Of noble minds and noble hearts
Old Ireland has goodly store;
But thou wert still the noblest son
That e'er the Isle of Erin bore.
A generous race, and strong to dare,
With hearts as true as purest gold,
With hands to soothe as well as strike,
As generous as they are bold,
This is the race thou lovedst so;
And knowing them, I can but know
The glory thy whole being felt
To think, to act, to be, the Celt!

Not Celt alone, America
Her arms about thee hath entwined;
The noblest traits of each grand race
In thee were happily combined.
As sweet of song as strong of speech,
Thy great heart beat in every line.
No narrow partisan wert thou;
The cause of all oppressed was thine!
The world is cruel still and cold,
But who can doubt thy life has told?
Though wrong and sorrow still are rife
Old Earth is better for thy life!

Source | Paul Laurence Dunbar, "John Boyle O'Reilly," poem, in The Book of Irish American Poetry: from the Eighteenth Century to the Present , ed. Daniel Tobin (University of Notre Dame Press, 2007).
Creator | Paul Laurence Dunbar
Item Type | Fiction/Poetry
Cite This document | Paul Laurence Dunbar, “"John Boyle O'Reilly",” HERB: Resources for Teachers, accessed May 22, 2019, https://herb.ashp.cuny.edu/items/show/766.

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