top of page

Cornelius Kayes

1810 – 1868

“The Forgotten Poet”

Interred in Downings Graveyard

Inscription on the Headstone

Erected by

The Poetical Contributors

To the Diaries

In Memory of

Cornelius Kayes

Of Firmount

In recognition of his brilliant

Genius and high literary attainments

Who died 23rd March, 1868


A Poet Dear

Lies Mouldering Here

Whose Sublime Lays

Won Critic’s Praise

Full Thirty Years

His name Appeared

The Brightest Sage

On Dia’s Page

Reference to Cornelius Kayes can be found in the Baptismal Register in Clane relating to the christening of his children.

At the age of 29, Kayes married Alicia Rogers and settled in Firmount. The couple were to have seven children, four girls and three boys. We understand that he was a hedge school master in Loughanure, near Firmount cross roads. In his twenties Kayes started to submit, Poems, Enigmas, Charades, Scoffs etc. in the then popular journal, the Lady’s and Farmer’s Almanac. Some of his material also appeared in ‘Irish Village Bards’ or ‘Pulse of the Bards’ by P.J. McCall.

Kayes was certainly not adverse to controversy and addressed a number of his writings to his critics/ adversaries. His most controversial piece was addressed to Patrick McDermott of Kells in County Meath in 1856. McDermott’s response in 1857 was known by the sobriquet of ‘The Pig Piece.

The ‘Pig Piece’ was so severe and personal that Messrs. Purdon, the publishers of the Diary, refused to insert it – to the sad discomfiture of the writer thereof. However the subsequent editor of the ‘Lady’s the late and much lamented Mr. John McCall of Dublin, when the two contending parties were no more, had the said puzzle inserted as a literary curiosity, as charade 3, in the Lady’s and Farmer’s Almanac,’ 1871, fourteen years after it was first written and three years after the death of Kayes.  

As McCall stated, both contributors are now sleeping in their own kindred clay, and their bitter animosities long forgotten, at the earnest request of their Diarian friends and admirers, we have this year inserted the former’s celebrated “Pig Piece”.

His Friends raised the handsome sum of £11 6s 6d by them. With which a most beautiful monument of Irish granite, with polished limestone tablet and a white marble cross, has been erected in the ancient cemetery of Downings, near Prosperous, county Kildare.


In Memory

Toll, toll the bell, his spirit’s now in glory,

Toll loudly on,

Let echo bear the melancholy story

O’er his loved Erin’s hills and mountains hoary-

The bard is gone.

And when his country would his thoughts inspire,

To sing her praise,

His mind would blaze with patriotic fire,

Himself appear’d a portion of the lyre,

The immortal Kayes.

He lived near Clane, where many friends are weeping,

His early doom;

In death he’s now in Downings churchyard sleeping,

The towering ash and elm their vigils keeping,

Above his tomb.

Fellow poet: James Fleming


In Memory

When I read he was dead,

The sad, doleful news,

Pierced my core,

So great Kayes, whose bright lays,

I loved to peruse,

Is no more.

Understand that I scanned,

The circular note,

O’ver and o’ver;

And then cried, Dia’s pride,

Who for her long wrote,

Is no more.

Fellow poet: B. O’Neill

Poems by Cornelius Kayes

Enigmatical Charade,

by C. Keyes to Mr. John McCall.

A captive queen, of beauty rare,

Hath burst her bonds in prison,

Forth from a tomb, both dark and drear,

Perfect at length hath risen.

In glowing robes of every hue,

But neither cap nor bonnet;

She wears instead, quite plain to view,

A ghastly death’s head on it.

An island fair as her at best,

In rival colours glowing,

When Sol is sleeping in the West,

And Zephyrs gently blowing.

Yet, strangers, shun the shining strand,

Repress thy strong emotion:

There’s wreck and ruin on the land-

This mirage of the ocean.

Say what is subtle, silly, sly,

Though wisdom regulates it;

Oppressive, pure, divine, on high-

Oft Providence frustrate it.

Riches, honours, titles, wealth;

Want, woe, and desolation,

It brings, but ne’er bestows good health,

Along with rank or station.

What ladies love not these will show,

Though many wish they had one;

They’ll take the chance, although they know,

It is a very bad one.

Tis good and bad, my dearest friend-

The proof is like the pudding;

Yet many wish each day might send,

Them total, soon and sudden.

Register all,

By Mr. Cornelius Kayes, S.H., Kildare

Addressed to the people of Kildare.

Register all! Register all!

Repealing patriots, who can,

Let each respond to Daniel’s call;

Assist him, every Irishman.

Now comes the day, the blissful hour,

To join forever

And then should fate and fortune low’r

‘Tis in thy mighty magic power

Your chains to sever.

Take head and tail from Albert’s train,

And what remains invest for me;

Now do the whole, I say again,

Despite of tyrants, you will be free,

To raise the flame within your breast,

Mind, this is Erin’s call,

To every creed, and every crest,

From north to south, from east to west.

Register all! Register all!

By Cornelius Kayes, S.H., Kildare

The West- (Erin)

Let me roam to the west, where the zephyrs are breathing,

The source of delight, - magic spell for the brave;

Let me roam to the west, where enchantment is wreathing

Her chaplets of green, for the gem of the wave;

To the west let me hie – let me hie to the west,

Where the portals of bliss bid the wearied to rest;

Oh! How sweet to recline, where the roses entwine,

And be rock’d by the breeze that comes free from the west.

Let me roam where the harp all its sweetness bestowing,

In dreams of wild fancy enraptures the mind;

Where its tones (when the silvery moon-light is glowing)

Respond a deep sigh to the strains of the wind;

Let me stray – let me stray, where the gale sinks to rest,

With its load of pure odorous sweets for the west –

Where the minstrel alone, for the days that have flown,

Steals a smile beaming sigh from the gem of the west.

Will you join, will you join, in affection endearing?

And what is not pure, do you mix it – and then

You will find that the total is emerald Erin,

Not only Hibernia, but all Irishmen.

Oh! Then why should our nation be always oppressed

Brightest star of the ocean – the gem of the west,

Where nature has given an emblem of heaven,

In forming our island the fairest and best

bottom of page