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Padraic Colum (1881–1972).  Anthology of Irish Verse.  1922.
 
43. The Shan Van Vocht
 
By Anonymous
 
 
OH! the French are on the say,
  Says the Shan Van Vocht;
The French are on the say,
  Says the Shan Van Vocht;
Oh! the French are in the Bay,        5
They’ll be here without delay,
And the Orange will decay,
  Says the Shan Van Vocht.
Oh! the French are in the Bay,
They’ll be here by break of day        10
And the Orange will decay,
  Says the Shan Van Vocht.
 
And where will they have their camp?
  Says the Shan Van Vocht;
Where will they have their camp?        15
  Says the Shan Van Vocht;
On the Curragh of Kildare,
The boys they will be there,
With their pikes in good repair,
  Says the Shan Van Vocht.        20
To the Curragh of Kildare
The boys they will repair
And Lord Edward will be there,
  Says the Shan Van Vocht.
 
Then what will the yeomen do?        25
  Says the Shan Van Vocht;
What should the yeomen do,
  Says the Shan Van Vocht;
What should the yeomen do,
But throw off the red and blue,        30
And swear that they’ll be true
  To the Shan Van Vocht?
What should the yeomen do,
  But throw off the red and blue,
And swear that they’ll be true        35
  To the Shan Van Vocht?
 
And what colour will they wear?
  Says the Shan Van Vocht;
What colour will they wear?
  Says the Shan Van Vocht;        40
What colours should be seen
Where their father’s homes have been
But their own immortal green?
  Says the Shan Van Vocht.
 
And will Ireland then be free?        45
  Says the Shan Van Vocht;
Will Ireland then be free?
  Says the Shan Van Vocht;
Yes! Ireland shall be free,
From the centre to the sea;        50
Then hurrah for Liberty!
  Says the Shan Van Vocht.
Yes! Ireland shall be free,
From the centre to the sea;
Then hurrah for Liberty!        55
  Says the Shan Van Vocht.
 
The title is literally “The Poor Old Woman.” This was a “secret” name for Ireland, like “Roisin Dubh” (the little Dark Rose) and Kathleen ni Houlahan (Kathleen the daughter of Houlahan). These “secret” names were given partly to hide what might be thought a seditious element in the utterance, and partly because of the Gaelic liking for what is esoteric and symbolic. The Shan Van Vocht is a peasant song made at the time when the Irish were expecting help from revolutionary France, in 1798.
 

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