Thursday, March 12, 2009
Through forty long years of good rhyme, without any avail;
And no one cared even as much as the half of a hang
For the song or the singer, so here is an end to the tale.
If a person should think I complain and have not got the cause,
Let him bring his eyes here and take a good look at my hand,
Let him say if a goose-quill has calloused this poor pair of paws
Or the spade that I grip on and dig with out there in the land?
When the great ones were safe and renowned and were rooted and tough,
Though my mind went to them and took joy in the fortune of those,
And pride in their pride and their fame, they gave little enough,
Not as much as two boots for my feet, or an old suit of clothes.
I ask a Craftsman that fashioned the fly and the bird,
Of the Champion whose passion will lift me from death in a time,
Of the Spirit that melts icy hearts with the wind of a word,
That my people be worthy, and get, better singing than mine.
I had hoped to live decent, when Ireland was quit of her care,
As a bailiff or steward perhaps in a house of degree,
But my end of the tale is, old brogues and old britches to wear,
So I'll sing no more songs for the men that care nothing for me.
Or the branch of a mighty and ancient and famous lineage—
That silly, sulky, illiterate, black-avised boor
Who was hatched by foreign vulgarity under a hedge.
The good men of Clare were drinking his health in a flood,
And gazing with me in awe at the princely lad,
And asking each other from what bluest blueness of blood
His daddy was squeezed, and the pa and the da of his dad ?
We waited there, gaping and wondering, anxiously,
Until he'd stop eating and let the glad tidings out,
And the slack-jawed booby proved to the hilt that he
Was lout, son of lout, by old lout, and was da to a lout !
And if I do not give you all the tale
It is because my gloom gets some respite
By just a small bewailing : I bewail
That I with sly and stupid folk must bide
Who steal my food and ruin my inside.
Once I had books, each book beyond compare,
But now no book at all is left to me,
And I spied and peeped on everywhere,
And my old head, stuffed with latinity,
And with the poet's load of grave and gay
Will not get me skim-milk for half a day.
Wild horse or quiet, not a horse have I,
But to the forest every day I go
Bending beneath a load of wood, that high !
Which raises on my back a sorry row
Of raw, red blisters ; so I cry, alack,
The rider that rides me will break my back.
Ossian, when he was old and near his end,
Met Patrick by good luck, and he was stayed ;
I am a poet too and seek a friend,
A prop, a staff, a comforter, and aid,
A Patrick who will lift me from despair,
In Cormac Uasal Mac Donagh of the golden hair.
That lovely lady gave her cloak to us,
And who'd believe she'd give away a thing
And ask it back again ? — 'tis fabulous !
My painting from her gave me cause to grieve,
For she, that I was poor, had misty eyes ;
If some Archangel blew it I'd believe
The message which you bring, not otherwise.
I do not say this just to make a joke,
Nor would I rob her, but, 'tis verity,
So long as I could swagger in a cloak
I never cared how bad my luck could be.
That lady, all perfection, knows the sting
Of poverty was trust deep into me :
I don't believe she'd do this kind if thing,
Or treat a poet less than daintily.
Through them the base-born tribe that sold the king
Sneaked into power, and in high places sit,
And do their will and wish in everything ;
For they may rob and kill, grieve and disgrace
All who are left alive of Eiver's race.
They seized with daring guile on rank and pelf,
And swore that they would never bend a knee
Unto the king : they robbed the Church herself :
They stole our princes' lands, and o'er the sea
They packed those princes, or drove them away
To barren rocks and fields that have no clay.
That spawn of base mechanics ! who could ne'er,
Though Doomsday came, by any art be made
Noble, are noble now, and have no care :
Snugly they sit and safe and unafraid
In stately places, proud as if the mud
And slime that swills their veins were princes' blood.
Let us be wise and wary of that gang !
hen they seem friendly know they have much wit,
And if it come that any man shall hang,
This neck will go unchoked, that nose unslit,
For, be things wry and crooked and to guess,
Those twisters are at home in twistiness.
We know now that what their plottings were about,
And how they planned, and what they meant to win ;
'Twas God, not us, that took their tangles out,
For no sleek inside an oily skin
Could slip with more address from harm that they
Can slip from punishment and get away.
When trouble came it was their plan to get
Our friends into the boat they meant to leave,
And there was some one left to pay their debt,
And they were free again to lie and thieve :
So they could put the feet of the man they'd rob
Into the boots of the one that did the job.
If burnt child does truly dread the flame,
If wounded solider shrinks again to see
A steel point sloping to him, let the same
Experience teach our chiefs that they may be
Crafty in meeting craft, and may beware
Of brewer's bees and buzzers everywhere.
Unto the Mind which pardons sin I pray,
I pray to Him who did permit our woe
But halted our destruction, that to-day
Kindness and love and trust and inward glow
Of vision light our hearts with light divine,
So that we know our way until the end of time.
Angry because I drank deep of your wine,
But treat that laughing matter laughingly
Because I am a poet, and incline
By nature and by art and jollity.
Always I love to see, I will aver,
The good red tide lip at the flagon's brim
Sitting half fool and half philosopher,
Chatting with every kind of her and him,
And shrugged at sneer of money-gatherer.
Often enough I trudge by hedge and wall,
Too often there's no money in my purse,
Nor malice in my mind ver at all,
And for my songs no person is the worse
But I who give all of my store to all.
If busybody spoke to you of it,
Say, kindly man, if kindly man do live :
The poet only takes his sup and bit,
And say : It is no great return to give
For his unstinted gift of verse and wit.
The griffins of the Gael went over the sea
From noble Eiré, and are fighting now
In France and Flanders and in Germany.
If they, 'mid whom I sported without dread,
Were home I would not mind what foe might do,
Or fear tax-man Odell would seize my bed
To pay the heath-rate that is overdue.
I pray to Him who, in the haughty hour
Of Babel, threw confusion on each tongue,
That I may see our princes back in power,
And see Odell, the tax-collector, hung.
When I was down, and now I'm down again :
You mustn't take it bad or be dismayed
Because I say, young folk should help old men
And 'tis their duty to do that :
I have no cows, no sheep, no cloak, no hat,
For those who used to give me things are dead
Mad my luck dies with them : because of that
I won't pay you a farthing, but, instead,
I'll owe you till the dead rise from the dead.
A farthing ! that's not much, but, all the same,
I haven't half a farthing, for that grand
Big idiot called Fortune rigged the game
And gave me nothing, while she filled the hand
Of every stingy devil in the land.
You weave, and I : you shirts : I weave instead
My careful verse—but you get paid at times !
The only rap I get is on my head :
But should it come again that men like rhymes
And pay for them, I'll pay you for your shirt.
THE lanky hank of a she in the inn over there
Nearly killed me for asking the loan of a glass of beer:
May the devil grip the whey-faced slut by the hair
And beat bad manners out of her skin for a year.
That parboiled imp, with the hardest jaw you will ever see
On virtue's path, and a voice that would rasp the dead,
Came roaring and raging the minute she looked at me,
And threw me out of the house on the back of my head.
If I asked her master he'd give me a cask a day;
But she with the beer at hand, not a gill would arrange!
May she marry a ghost and bear him a kitten and may
The High King of Glory permit her to get the mange.