Jemmy Armstrong

Jemmy Armstrong: A ballad celebrating the life and death of an Irish republican, who refused to name names, despite torture at the hands of the English.

Jemmy Armstrong

ON a neat little farm in the north of green Erin,
Lived poor Jemmy Armstrong, a stranger to woe,
Uninjured, his manners were mild and endearing,
But the dark-brow’d oppressor soon found him a foe.
The rose had twice bloom’d since with soul all delighted,
To a love-beaming maiden his vows had been plighted,
And now those fine feelings of man were excited,
Which none but the husband, the father can know.

When the wrongs of the female were daily increasing,
And men were half murder’d to make them confess,
When the deeds of the fire-brand and lash were unceasing,
And the castle’s meek inmates refused all redress,
When Erin thus groan’d in the deepest prostration,
Brave Armstrong arose, and with keen indignation,
Resolved to unite for his country’s salvation,
And sweep off those ruffians who came to oppress.

Can resistance be wrong? did the all-wise creator
Mistake when he form’d us for freedom inclined
No! he who surrenders his rights is the traitor,
Not he whose bold deeds would unshackle mankind.
The union that Irishmen then were pursuing,
May one day involve their oppressors in ruin,
But uniting, alas! was poor Armstrong’s undoing;
He was sworn to, arraign’d, and to death soon consign’d.

In a dank loathsome dungeon,with none to befriend him,
Behold this state culprit hemm’d round by his foes,
Whilst with keenness the priest and the justice attend him,
Disclosure or death – instant death, to propose.
“Oh! never,” exclaim’d the brave Armstrong, “oh! never:
“All the ties that attach me to life you may sever,
“But Erin’s warm friends shall be dear to me ever.
“I can die, but their names I can never disclose.”

Then view his pale partner, with aspect all sadness,
His child in her arms, and despair in her eye:
“Oh Armstrong!” she cried, “do not drive me to madness;
“On my knees I entreat you, for Christ’s sake comply.
“A widow, an orphan, oh! let me conjure you,
“Divulge, and a pardon these worthies ensure you,
‘Let me—let your child, to existence allure you,
“And reflect, if you suffer, for want we may die.’

“Divulge! Oh my love! and would you too degrade me?”
Poor Armstrong replied, in a heart-moving tone,
“Would you, for an odious existence, persuade me
“The great cause of Erin and God to disown?
“You talk of the widow and orphan contending
“With life’s thorny woes, till my heart-strings are rending;
“But reflect, should my fortitude prove not unbending,
“What widows must weep, and what orphans must mourn!”

“And will you, Oh Armstrong! to shield them from anguish,
“Will you leave this fond bosom, this baby, to mourn?
“Without your exertions, ah! how must we languish,
“Exposed, all unfriended, to insult and scorn!
‘When foodless, and tatter’d, and steep’d in dejection,
“Will the comrades you die for afford us protection ?
“For their wives and children you shew warm affection,
“Yet cold as the snow-blast you leave us forlorn.”

“Then hear me,” he cried, – “By the Great Power of Heaven,
“Though the strong cords of nature are twined round my heart,
“By me not the name of a friend shall be given,
“Nor one trace of their plans will I ever impart!”
He ceased, and the ear with wild sorrow was wounded,
The priest and the justice were stunn’d and confounded,
While the name of brave Armstrong through Ireland was sounded,
Who died, and from virtue disdain’d to depart.

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