One realizes the irony of the situation of the Sergeant and the Ragged Man in In the Rising of the Moon as they sit talking on the barrel overlooking the river. The Sergeant is a poor family man who ekes out a living, the Ragged Man is an Irish diplomatic patriot who disguises himself as a poor man. The Ragged Man begins to sing an Irish ballad which brings back memories to the policeman. In their discussion, the Sergeant reveals that as a youth he had patriotic feelings and divulges this information to the patriot when he misses a line in the ballad he is singing. The Sergeant acknowledges that if his life circumstances were different he might have become a patriot for the Irish cause himself.
It is ironic that the Ragged Man has actually disguised himself to be a poor man eking out a living singing his patriotic ballads for the sailors, while the sergeant who had been patriotic at heart as a youth tries to capture the escapee.