|(Source: Fáilte Romhat)|
Mary Jane Irwin O'Donovan Rossa was also a serious poet. She came to the New York in 1866, leaving her newly born son James with relatives and her newly wed husband in prison (his life sentence was commuted a few years later). She studied elocution under the renowned Professor Frobisher. She supported herself, as well as raised money for "the Fund" (for imprisoned patriots), by selling her poems and stories to the Irish press. (More at Fáilte Romhat.)
Irish Lyrical Poems, by Mrs. O'Donovan (Rossa), was published by R.M. Haverty, Barclay Street, New York, in 1868. The copy in the NYPL crumbled in my hands. The dedication reads: To My Husband, Jeremiah O'Donovan (Rossa), Sentenced to Life-Long Penal Servitude For His Devotion To the Cause of Ireland, These Poems Are Most Affectionately Inscribed. Stamps in the back indicate it was taken out once in December, 1915, once in January, 1916, and once in December, 1916. There would have been interest after Jeremiah died in 1915, and perhaps, a year later, after the author herself died.
The poems are heartfelt, but not good. You can read all of them on Google Books. Reading many, it's clearer to me than ever why Joyce and Beckett had to leave Ireland. (Flann O'Brien stayed, but drank himself). Here's a stanza, from "Love and the Ledger," that I thought avoided the overwrought better than most.
I must think of you, think of you;
Naught can I do beside
I try to write but you scatter my wits,
And the ink on my pen is dried.
I must think of you, think of you--
I must dream of your eyes;
I am sowing seeds of thorns,
But who can love and be wise?
The O'Donovan-Rossas took their politics seriously--and their writing. Margaret O'Donovan Rossa Cole, seventh of Mary and Jeremiah's nine children (plus four from one of his previous marriages), published a family memoir, My Father and Mother Were Irish (1939), with many happy memories from Staten Island ("What fun we had ... as we played on the Kill van Kull!"). She also wrote Grandma Takes a Freighter: The Story of an Atlantic Crossing (1950), an account her trip she made as the only passenger on a freighter to Antwerp, and Cead Míle Fáilte (A Hundred Thousand Welcomes): A Visit to Ireland (1953). An earlier children's book is called Let's Help the Doctor (1937). Her son, William Rossa Cole, was a successful editor, especially of children's poetry collections. On his death, in 2000, Seamus Heaney wrote a poem in his honor.
|194 Richmond Terrace (Nov. 2013)|
There is a memorial in St. Peter's Cemetery. One face is devoted to Jeremiah. After his death in 1915, his body was taken to Ireland, given a massive hero's send-off, and buried in Glasnevin. Another commemorates the couple's first son, James Maxwell, who died in 1893, of an illness "contracted in the heroic discharge of his duty" aboard the U.S.S. Seward. A third is dedicated to the "loving memory of Mary Jane O'Donovan Rossa. Born Clonakilty, January 28, 1846. Died New York City, August 16, 1918. R.I.P." According to her youngest daughter, Margaret, she enjoyed a "quiet family burial."