“To Your Tents O Erins”


"In Union, blessed Union, will Freedom be found." Union's first year is ending. Union "fills the traitors with fear." "'Men to your Tents', now through Erin be sung ... Till Erin, loved Erin, from tyranny's freed."


Union, here, cannot be the Union of Ireland with Britain (which occurs in 1801, after Tone's death); it must be the formation of the United Irishmen, co-founded by Tone in 1791. The text begins by enthusiastically supporting "Union." It ends by repeating references to I Kings 12:16 in which deceased Solomon's kingdom is permanently split into the kingdoms of Israel and Judah; this, following Rehoboam's rejection of Israel's call for relief ("So when all Israel saw that the king hearkened not unto them, the people answered the king [Rehoboam], saying, What portion have we in David? neither have we inheritance in the son of Jesse [Rehoboam again]: to your tents, O Israel: now see to thine own house, David [Rehoboam once again, and/or Judah [actually the Davidic dynasty, as represented by Rehoboam, David's grandson and Jesse's great-grandson - RBW]]. So Israel departed unto their tents.") - BS

Like so much in Irish history, I personally would regard the "to your tents" phrase as words of ill omen, not good. Effectively the same phrase occurs in 2 Samuel 20:1 (slightly obscured in the King James rendering, it seems to me) as part of the rebellion of Sheba son of Bichri, which was quickly crushed. The rebellion of Israel against the Davidic dynasty was not crushed, but neither was Israel very successful; it took half a century before a dynasty was established which lasted for more than a year beyond the death of its founder, and the nation as a whole lasted only about 200 years.

The phrase "every man to his tent" occurs on a number of other occasions as well -- after battles in which the Israelites are defeated: The routed warriors flee to their own tents after the battle is lost. - RBW

Historical references

  • Oct 1791 - Society of United Irishmen founded in Belfast


  1. Moylan 36, "To Your Tents O Erins" (1 text)
  2. BI, Moyl036


Author: Theobald Wolfe Tone (1763-1798) (source: Moylan)
Earliest date: before 1804 (_Paddy's Resource_, according to Moylan)