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From the Boston Traveller.

Give me three grains of Corn, Mother.


[The above words were the last request of an Irish lad to his mother, as he was dying from starvation. She found three grains in a corner of his ragged jacket and gave them to him. It was all she had; the whole family were perishing from famine.]

Give me three grains of corn, mother,
Only three grains of corn,
It will keep the little life I have
Till the coming of the morn,
I am dying of hunger and cold, mother,
Dying of hunger and cold,
And half the agony of such a death,
My lips have never told

It has gnawed life a wolf at my heart, mother,
A wolf that is fierce for blood,
All the livelong day, and the night beside,
Gnawing for lack of food.
I dreamed of bread in my sleep, mother,
And the sight was heaven to see;
I woke with eager famishing lip,
But you had no bread for me.

How could I look to you, mother,
How could I look to you,
For bread to give your starving boy,
When you were starving, too?
For I read the famine in your cheek
And in your eye so wild,
And I felt it in your bony hand
As you laid it on your child.

The Queen had lands and gold, mother,
The Queen has lands and gold:
While you are forced to your empty breast
A skeleton babe to hold-
A babe that is dying of want, mother,
As I am dying now,
With a ghastly look in its sunken eye,
And famine upon its brow.

What has poor Ireland done, mother,
What has poor Ireland done.
That the world looks on and sees us starve,
Perishing one by one.
Do the men and the high,
For the starving sons of Erin's Isle,
Whether they live or die?

There is many a brave heart here, mother,
Dying of want and cold,
While only across the channel, mother,
Are many that roll in gold.
There are rich and proud men there, mother,
Wit wondrous wealth to view,
And the bread they fling to their dogs to-night
Would give me life and you!

Come nearer to my side mother,
Come nearer to my side,
And hold me fondly as you held
My father, when he died,
Quick, for I cannot see you, mother,
My breath is almost gone,
Mother! dear mother, ere I die,
Give me three grains of corn?

(c) Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, Deerfield MA. All rights reserved.
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This poem, which was also turned into a song, was written by Amanda M. Edmond who lived in Brookline, Massachusetts. The poem describes the dying moments of one of the victims of the Irish potato famine. It is based on a story out of Ireland where a young boy kept saying "Mother, give me three grains of corn." The mother apparently thought her son was delirious, and kept trying to sooth him with phrases like, "Sure if I had all the corn in the world, I would give it to you." After the boy died, a neighbor woman who had been present searched the boy's pockets and found three grains of corn in one of them. This poem first appeared in the Boston Traveler and was reprinted in many other newspapers. The poem endured long after this first publication. It is partly quoted in My Friend Annabel Lee by Mary MacLean and Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm by Kate Douglas Wiggin, both published in 1903. It also appeared in many school textbooks during the last half of the 19th century, for use in elocution exercises.


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"Give Me Three Grains of Corn, Mother" poem in the Hamsphire Gazette newspaper

publisher   Hampshire Gazette
author   Amanda M. Edmond (1824-1862)
date   Mar 21, 1847
location   Northampton, Massachusetts
height   6.75"
width   2.75"
process/materials   printed paper, ink
item type   Communication/Poetry/Ballad/Song
accession #   #L07.006

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See Also...

Excerpts from "The Congressional Globe" on the ship Macedonian for Use to Aid Irish Relief

"Aid for Ireland" article from Gazette and Courier newspaper

"Aid for Ireland" article in Hampshire Gazette newspaper reprinted from Springfield Republican newspaper

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