Jane Wilde

27 December 1821 – 3 February 1896

The Faithless Shepherds

Dead! Dead! Ye are dead while ye live;
Ye've a name that ye live—but are dead.
Neither counsel nor love did ye give,
And your lips never uttered a word
While swift ruin downward sped,
And the plague raged on undisturbed.
Not a throb of true life in your veins,
Not a pulse in your passionless heart,
Not a thought in the dull, cold brains,
Of how ye should bear your part,
When summoned the strife to brave,
For our Country, with Death and the Grave.
Ye have gold for the follies of fashion,
And gold for its tinsel glare,
But none for the wild, sobbing passion
Wrung from the lips of despair.
False Shepherds and Guides are ye,
For the heart in each bosom is cold
As the ice on a frozen sea;
And your trappings of velvet and gold

Lie heavy and close as a pall,
When the steps of the bearers fall
On a grave, with measured tread;
For ye seem to live—but are dead.
Ye are dead! —ye are dead! stone by stone
The temple is crumbling down;
It will fall with a crash of doom,
For the night deepens dark in its gloom.
But ye look on with vacant stare,
Like men lying still in the tomb.
Stand forth! face the sun, if ye dare,
With your cold eyes unwet by a tear,
For your Country laid low on your bier,
And say—have ye stretched forth a hand
To raise up our desolate Land?
She dies—but ye flourish and grow
In the midst of the deadly maze:
Like the palm springing heavenward? —No,
But like weeds in the churchyard fed
By the vapours of death below,
Breathing round you a poisonous haze.
Go! —go! True life is not so
For decay lies beneath your tread,
And the staff in your hand is a reed
Too weak for your Country's need;
For you seem to live—but are dead.
Ye are dead! —ye are dead! Fling the clay
On the noble names—noble no more;
Leave the sword in the sheath to rust;
Let the banners be trailed in the dust;
And the memory perish away
Of the dead, who are dead evermore;
Blot them out from the book writ in gold.
Noble neither in deed nor in soul,
Are ye worthy to stand in the roll
Of the glorified heroes of old?

Has Ireland need of such sons?
Floating down with a silken sail,
On the crimson tide of her life, that runs
With a mournful, ceaseless wail,
Like rain pouring down from the eaves.
And ye laugh when the strangers deride
Her trials, the saddest and sorest,
And plunge the sword deep in her side;
And no kindly heart sighs or grieves
For her branches, all bare as a forest,
When the autumn wind scatters the leaves.
Laugh low with your perfumed breath,
For the air is heavy with death.
But ye hear not the gliding feet
Of the Future, that stands at your door;
For the roses lie heavy and sweet,
And too thick on your marble floor,
And the dead soul is dead to his call.
And your eyes are heavy with wine;
Ye see not the letters of flame,
Traced by a hand divine
The writing of God on the wall
"Ye are weighed, and found wanting"—Oh, shame!
Your life is a gilded lie;
And the wide world that doom has read,
With a shudder and chill of dread;
For the judgment of God is nigh,
And the universe echoes the cry
You've a name that ye live—but are Dead.
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