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I recently re-discovered a delightful poem, written in December 1864, by Samuel Fee Given.
Samuel was from Cullybackey, and the brother of Thomas and Patrick Given. He was born in 1845 and died in 1867, at only 22 years of age, of consumption.
His brother Thomas Given, in his 1900 book “Poems, from College and Country, by Three Brothers” describes his brother as follows.
He received his education at the National School adjacent to his home, and at the Coleraine Model School. At this latter he was trained as a pupil teacher.
In 1862 he was appointed to the sole charge of Tullygrawley National School, but this position he resigned in 1864, owing to a severe attack of hemorrhage of the lungs.
For the three succeeding years he bore up bravely against that fell enemy, consumption, but ultimately succumbed, passing away on the 18th day of May, 1867.
It was during these three years of almost enforced idleness and ever increasing weakness that he produced most of his poems, and it may with truth be said of him that he learned in suffering what he taught in song.
He was less intellectual than his brother Patrick but more emotional, and possibly more largely dowered with the spirit of tenderness and pathos.
Friends who knew him intimately still speak of his loveable disposition, his calm unruffled temper, his genial sober manliness. His style is natural and unaffected. He wrought much of his own simple, placid, uneventful life, as indeed might be expected, into the tissue of his verse, which, if it wants the somewhat glaring colours of passionate feeling and wild excitement, is not less free from those more sombre touches which might be expected from one who, in his days of literary work, had always by his side “the shadow feared of man.”
He was no puling, sickly youth, who fretted and fumed against fate and fortune, but one who bravely took up the burden of life, heavy as it was for young shoulders, and went his way hopefully and cheerily.
“Poems, from College and Country, by Three Brothers” 1900
The young man whose early death we now record was endowed with talents little, if anything, inferior to those of his lamented brother. Unable, for a long time past, to engage in the more active duties of life, he devoted his entire leisure to earnest cultivation of his taste for literature, and many admirable poetical compositions from his pen have from time to time appeared in the columns of this paper.
Owing to his habits of retirement he was little known, but we understand that the gentleness of his demeanour and the amiability of his disposition, entitled him to a high position in the estimation of all with whom he associated —and the present passing notice of his
taste and genius is due from us as a becoming tribute his memory.
Ballymena Observer – Saturday 25 May 1867
Londonderry Standard, Saturday 25 May 1867
Oh the golden past, the golden past,
How sweet are thy mem’ries still,
When the castles we’ve builded have crumbled down,
And we wonder that griefs don’t kill;
When the dreams of a life are crushed in the wreck,
And never a joy is reflected back.
The remembrance then of the dear old times,
When the days of our youth were young;
‘Tis sweet to the heart as the first kiss of love,
Or the praise of a sage’s tongue.
It soothes the soul like a zephyr breath,
From the throne of God in the hour of death.
Its dream of hope of the long ago
Will brighten our hopes to come,
And hint that the sorrows which sap the mind
Will sink, and in time be dumb;
Will glisten the tear on the wanderer’s cheek,
Of the by-gone days when the soul would speak.
Oh the days of youth are the happiest days
That mortals will ever know,
When the demons that hinder, refuse, and forbid,
Take flight at the heart’s own glow;
‘Tis the only trace of a paradise
Has e’er been afforded to human eyes.
And thus as we wander up the slope,
On towards the great unknown,
May we ne’er have cause to look back with regret
On the actions the past has sown;
But ponder on words of wrong forgiven,
And seeds of goodness that breathe of heaven.
Samuel Fee Given (S.F.G.)
Cullybackey, December 1864