The man was all shot through that came today
Into the barrack square;
A soldier I — I am not proud to say
We killed him there;
They brought him from the prison hospital;
To see him in that chair
I thought his smile would far more quickly call
A man to prayer.
Maybe we cannot understand this thing
That makes these rebels die;
And yet all things love freedom — and the Spring
Clear in the sky;
I think I would not do this deed again
For all that I hold by;
Gaze down my rifle at his breast — but then
A soldier I.
They say that he was kindly — different too,
Apart from all the rest;
A lover of the poor; and all shot through,
His wounds ill drest,
He came before us, faced us like a man,
He knew a deeper pain
Than blows or bullets — ere the world began;
Died he in vain?
Ready — present; And he just smiling — God!
I felt my rifle shake
His wounds were opened out and round that chair
Was one red lake;
I swear his lips said 'Fire!' when all was still
Before my rifle spat
That cursed lead — and I was picked to kill
A man like that!
Kerry poet and journalist Liam MacGabhann wrote this poem in 1933 after hearing the story of a young Welsh soldier who had been part of the firing squad that executed James Connolly in 1916. Filled with regret, the soldier had later tracked down Connolly's widow and children to ask for their forgiveness.