Catholic Poetry

Born in Ireland, Father Thomas N. Burke (1803-1882) ministered there as a Dominican priest. He was considered one of the foremost Catholic preachers in the English-speaking world.

The Irish Dominicans
By Rev. Thomas N. Burke, O.P.

This land of ours was famous once— no land was ever more—
For saintliness so pure, so bright, as well as learned lore;
And strangers from a sunny clime were wafted to our shore,
In bearing meek and faintest garb, as ne’er was seen before;
And these were the Dominicans, six hundred years ago.

They came with vigil and with fast, men versed in prayer, and read
In all the sacred books, and soon throughout the land they spread;
The people blessed them as they passed, low bowed each tonsured head,
So meek, ’twas like the saints, as they shall raise them from the dead;
For holy were the Guzman’s sons, five hundred years ago.

And soon their learned voice was heard in pulpit and in chair,
Whilst through the glorious Gothic aisles resounds their midnight prayer;
The orphan found beneath their roof a parent’s tender care,
Whilst boldly in their country’s cause they raised their voice, for there
Was Irish blood in Dominic’s sons, four hundred years ago.

When heresy swept o’er the land, like a destroying flood,
And tyrants washed their reeking hands in the martyr’s sacred blood.
St. Dominic’s children then, like men, embraced the stake, and stood
Before the burning pile, as ’twere the Saviour’s Holy Rood,
And kissed their habits whilst they bled, three hundred years ago.

And whilst the altars fed the flame, and Christ was mocked again,
Their faithful voices still were heard in mountain, cave, and glen,
And thus was saved our country’s faith, and thus the Lamb was slain.
And ne’er was Ireland’s title more, ‘The Isle of Saints,’ than when
The Preacher found a martyr’s grave, two hundred years ago.

And thus for full three centuries they fought the holy fight
In city and on mountain side, from Cashel’s sacred height;
True to their country and their God, each man a burning light,
They kept a nation’s life-blood warm and swayed the crosier’s might;
For mitres shone on Preacher’s brows, one hundred years ago.

Now, men of Ireland, raise your thoughts to that bright realm above,
Where Christian faith and hope are lost in all-absorbing love,
And blend the serpent’s prudence with the sweetness of the dove,
And, faithful to your holy creed, in their bright footsteps move,
Who fought and bled, but conquered, all these centuries ago.

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