Isabella Augusta Persse's play The Rising of the Moon opens on a moonlit night near an Irish wharf. A dangerous Irish rebel is on the loose, and a Sergeant and his two subordinates are out trying to catch him. The Sergeant takes his place along the water's edge while the other officers go off into the night to post flyers and look around.
As the Sergeant sits looking out at the water, a ragged man approaches him. The Sergeant stops him, and the man says that he is ballad singer Jimmy Walsh. The two begin a conversation, and the man sings some Irish ballads. They then talk about the fugitive the Sergeant seeks, and the singer begins to perform some ballads of the Irish rebels. The Sergeant knows these, too, and he begins to wonder what would have happened if he had made different choices in his life. Perhaps he, too, would have been a rebel, for his sympathies once leaned in that direction, and he discovers that they still do in a way.
Eventually, Jimmy Walsh begins to sing the ballad “The Rising of the Moon,” and he reveals himself as the fugitive rebel the Sergeant is seeking. His rescuers are nearby, and the Sergeant now has a choice. He can arrest the man and collect the reward, or he can let him go. The Sergeant chooses the latter, allowing the rebel to hide from his returning companion officers and then letting him slip away in a boat. His deep rebel sentiments have won, and the Sergeant is left alone on the wharf.