The Living Skeleton,

A Vision of the Famine Year, 1847


'Twas in ruthless Forty-Seven, -

When the plague-fraught air was riven

With the sound which harrowed heaven,

Of a famished people's cry -

When the famine fiend was formed,

All with tenfold horrors armed,

And our godless rulers, charmed,

Saw their Irish victims die;

While Europe, all alarmed, heard

the wail that tore the sky

A dying Nation's death-groan, ringing

up to God on high.


Then Fancy's wizard mirror

Showed me many a shape of terror,

As my heart locked deep in horror,

Heard the living wail the dead;

While raging hunger stung them,

And the plague-fiend stalked among them,

And, like autumn's sick leaves,

flung them

In the dust's unhallowed bed,

Where, grappling with the demon,

they fiercely howled for bread,

As their raving souls turned maniac

ere from earth accursed they fled.


Thus to see my country lying,

Like a helpless infant dying,

I wept in anguish, crying,

God has lost his love of right!

Yet, 'twas but a mad temptation

That with quick reverberation

Crossed my soul's black desolation,

Like the red flash of the night -

As the lurid-pinioned lightning smites

the ghastly face of night,

Making darkness still more awful

with the terror of its light.


Sick and heart-sore from my weeping,

Back I lay, o'erwearied, sleeping,

Gloomy thoughts and sorrow steeping

In a pensive dream of rest;

As a day which clouds deform

With alternate rain and storm -

At its sinking, calm and warm,

Slumbers in the silent West;

Pillowed on the crimsoned ether -

thus I lay, in quiet rest,

When a vision, strange and dismal,

tore the spirit from my breast.


In a place of shadows sunless,

Barren, sombre, treeless, tuneless,,

Weird, sepulchral, starless, moonless,

Yet not wholly wrapt in gloom;

For some cold, unnatural glimmer, -

Like a March night dim, and dimmer,

Or a wintry moonbeam's shimmer,

Through a crevice in a tomb -

Glinted on this realm of terror -

this dreary land of dole,

And grisly spectre-shadows - where the

vision led my soul.


All my heart, with horror shrinking,

On a thousand dread things thinking,

I advanced - each footstep sinking

In the corpse-befatted ground;

Where, uncoffined and unshrouded,

Lay the blackened bodies crowded, -

With a pall of blue flies clouded -

In the festering graves around;

While meagre birds of darkness, and

lank-sided beasts of prey

From the putrefying members tore

the livid flesh away.'


(Michael Hogan, The Bard of Limerick)



Famine Immigrants: List of Irish Immigrants Arriving at the Port of New York, 1846-1851

Famine Immigrants: Lists of Irish Immigrants Arriving at the Port of New York, 1846-1851: January 1846-June 1847

The Irish Famine: A Documentary History