John Foxe

What I Was Taught

What was Irish history to me,
Prod and Presbyterian,
Who lived but never learned it.
Our story was told by a Foxe.

In my child’s world
There was something of giants,
Lough Neagh and Finn MacCool,
About a boat race
And the bloody severed hand
That claimed the land:
Our own wee country, Ulster.

Something of Patrick,
The shepherd boy from Wales
Who enslaved by the heathen Irish
Tended sheep in the shadow of Slemish
Thence to escape and cross the Narrow Sea
And then, grown in the love of God,
To cross again
Bringing Christ to Ireland.

Something of 1690.
I remembered that –
Who in Ulster could forget it –
When William,
Prince of Orange
Saved us from Popery
And the dark side of life’s eternal road.
(Oh, Lord! Send us a great deliverance.)
With its purgatory and penances,
Its idols and rituals,
Its crossings and crucifixes,
The worship of Mary,
The worship of saints,
And the false blasphemous promise
That a priest – mere mortal man –
Can forgive us our sins.

Our streets were priest free.
Luther and Calvin, Latimer and Ridley,
And the bloody martyrdom of many
Nameless saints, known only to God,
Had seen to that.

And that a freedom so dearly purchased
Could never be lightly enjoyed.

That’s what I was taught.


See also: The Martyrdom of Deryk Carver