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A rebel with a pike

"The Rising of the Moon" is an Irish ballad recounting a battle between the United Irishmen and the British Army during the Irish Rebellion of 1798.


The ballad's singer is told that the "pikes must be together at the rising of the moon" to engage in rebellion. The pikemen gather, but are defeated. Despite the loss, the listener is told that there are those who will "follow in their footsteps" to again revolt.

The ballad has taken the tune of another Irish ballad, "The Wearing of the Green",[1] and was first published in John Keegan Casey's 1866 collection of poems and songs, A Wreath of Shamrocks. The lyrics were written by Casey (1846–70), the "Fenian Poet", who based the poem on the failed 1798 uprising in Granard, County Longford.[1]

The ballad has been in circulation since circa 1865.[2] The earliest verifiable date found in publication is 1867.[3]

The ballad refers to the outbreak of the 1798 rebellion, as United Irish rebels convey the order to rise. The air of hope and optimism associated with the ultimately doomed rebellion was intended to provide inspiration for rebels preparing to take to the field in another ill-fated venture, the Fenian rebellion of 1867.

Multiple variants of the lyrics have been published in folk music collections.[4][5][6][7][8][9] In the late 19th century, the ballad was also published through the printing of broadsides.[10][11]

The song remains popular and the tune is widely recognised in Ireland today, as it is often taught in schools, played regularly at official and sporting events, and has been covered by a wide variety of musicians, including The Dubliners, The Clancy Brothers, The High Kings, Tommy Makem and Peter, Paul and Mary.

If they aren't able to destroy the desire for freedom, they won't break you. They won't break me because the desire for freedom, and the freedom of the Irish people, is in my heart. The day will dawn when all the people of Ireland will have the desire for freedom to show. It is then we'll see the rising of the moon.

—final lines of the final entry of Bobby Sands' hunger strike diary[12]


  1. ^ a b Casey, John Keegan (1867). A wreath of shamrocks:: ballads, songs, and legends. Dublin: Robert S. M'Gee, 35 Lower Sackville Street (next the General Post Office). pp. 31–33.
  2. ^ Waltz, Robert B.; Engle, David G. "Rising of the Moon, The". The Traditional Ballad Index. California State University, Fresno. Retrieved 21 October 2010.
  3. ^ Zimmermann, Georges Denis (1967). Songs of Irish rebellion: political street ballads and rebel songs, 1780–1900. Hatboro, Pa.: Folklore Associates. p. 260.
  4. ^ O'Conor, Manus (1901). Irish come-all-ye's: a repository of ancient Irish songs and ballads—comprising patriotic, descriptive, historical and humorous gems, characteristic of the Irish race. New York: L. Lipkind. p. 111.
  5. ^ Galvin, Patrick (1955). Irish songs of resistance. New York City: Folklore Press. p. 35.
  6. ^ Zimmermann (1967), pp. 259–260
  7. ^ Silber, Irwin; Silber, Fred (1973). Folksinger's wordbook. New York, NY: Oak Publications. p. 322. ISBN 978-0-8256-0140-8.
  8. ^ Sparling, Henry Halliday (1888). Irish minstrelsy: being a selection of Irish songs, lyrics, and ballads. London: W. Scott. pp. 21–22.
  9. ^ Kenedy, Patrick John (1898). The universal Irish song book: a complete collection of the songs and ballads of Ireland. New York: P.J. Kenedy. p. 134.
  10. ^ "2806 b.10(189)". Bodleian Library Catalogue of Ballads. University of Oxford. Retrieved 28 October 2010.
  11. ^ "2806 b.10(205)". Bodleian Library Catalogue of Ballads. University of Oxford. Retrieved 28 October 2010.
  12. ^ "Bobby Sands' Diary". Irish Hunger Strike 1981. Retrieved 29 October 2010.