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In the merry month of June from me home I started,
Left the girls of Tuam so sad and broken hearted,
Saluted father dear, kissed me darlin' mother!
Then drank a pint of beer, tears and grief to smother
Then off to reap the corn, leave where I was born,
Cut a stout black thorn to banish ghosts and goblins!
Bought a pair of brogues rattling o'er the bogs
And fright'ning all the dogs on the rocky road to Dublin!
One two three four five,
Hunt the hare and turn her down the rocky road
And all the way to Dublin, whack follol de rah!
Carol singing in churches was curbed during and after the Reformation (Calvinist factions regarded the Christmas feast as a popish abuse), and under Puritan rule it was banned. Although the restoration of the monarchy in 1660 lifted official prohibition, the established church dragged its feet: The Book of Common Prayer offered no specific provision for seasonal hymns, and it was only when poet laureate Nahum Tate's While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks By Night was included in the 1700 Supplement to the New Version of the Psalms that a Christmas hymn was permitted to be sung in Anglican services.
During this time the survival of carols was left to those outside church, handing on songs from plays like the Coventry carols, or through waits and wassailing. The waits (watchmen) who patrolled city streets at night turned to music at Christmas, playing outside citizens' houses for reward. The idea that visiting singers brought good luck had also given rise to wassailing (Anglo Saxon waes hael meaning "be healthy" or "good cheer"). Wassailers carried a bowl of hot, spiced ale or wine with them and shared a drink with their host, who generously replenished the liquor and sent them on their way with gifts. We Wish You a Merry Christmas, with its demands for figgy pudding and God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen both hail from "luck visit" traditions. (-- p. 42)
Voices & Poetry of Ireland
A Collection of Ireland's Best-Loved Poetry with Readings by Maeve Binchy, Bono, Pierce Brosnan, Gabriel Byrne, Colin Farrell, Bob Geldof and Many More
With Audio CD
Ignorant, in the sense
she ate monotonous food
and thought the world was flat,
and pagan, in the sense
she knew the things that moved
at night were niether dogs nor cats
but púcas and darkfaced men,
she nevertheless had fierce pride.
But sentenced in the end
to eat thin diminishing porridge
in a stone-cold kitchen
she clenched her brittle hands around a world
she could not understand.
I loved her from the day she died.
She was a summer dance at the crossroads.
She was a card game where a nose was broken.
She was a song that nobody sings.
She was a house ransacked by soldiers.
She was a language seldom spoken.
She was a child's purse, full of useless things.
Aufsess, built in the ninth century, stood so remote that it had never been sacked, but remained Aufsess property ever since. To the original building, a keep with only a ladder entrance half-way up, a mediaeval castle had been added. Its treasures of plate and armour were amazing. ...
They also ... showed us an iron chest in a small, thick-walled, white-washed room at the top of the keep - a tremendous chest, twice the size of the door, and obviously made inside the room, which had no windows except arrow-slits. It had two keys, and must have been twelfth- or thirteenth-century work. Tradition ruled that it should never be opened, unless the castle stood in the most extreme danger. The baron held one key; his steward, the other. The chest cold be opened only by using both keys, and nobody knew what lay inside; it was even considered unlucky to speculate. Of course, we speculated. It might be gold; more likely a store of corn in sealed jars; or even some sort of weapon - Greek fire, perhaps. From what I know of the Aufsesses and their stewards, it is inconceivable that the chest ever got the better of their curiosity. A ghost walked the castle, the ghost of a former baron known as the 'Red Knight'; his terrifying portrait hung half-way up the turret staircase which led to our bedrooms. We slept on feather beds for the first time in our lives. (-- pgs. 20-21)
All around my hat I will wear the green willow
and all around my hat for a twelve month and a day
and if anyone should ask me the reason why I'm wearing it
It's all for my true love who's far, far away.
Fare thee well, cold winter and fare thee well, cold frost
Nothing have I gained but my own true love I've lost
I'll sing and I'll be merry when occassion I do see
He's a false deluding young man let him go, farewell he
Other night he brought me a fine diamond ring,
but he thought to have deprived me of a far better thing
But I being careful like lovers ought to be
He's a false deluding young man let him go farewell he and
Alll around my hat ...
Quarter pound of reasons and a half a pound of sense
A small sprig of time and as much of prudence
You mix them all together and you will plainly see
he's a much deluding young man let him go farewell he and
All around my hat ...
Editor's Note: The song "All Around my Hat" (Roud 567, Laws P31) is of nineteenth century English origin. In an early version, dating from the 1820s, a Cockney costermonger vowed to be true to his fiancee, who had been sentenced to seven years transportation to Australia for theft and to mourn his loss by wearing green willow sprigs in his hatband for "a twelve-month and a day," in a traditional symbol of mourning.
In Ireland, Peadar Kearney adapted the song to make it relate to an Republican lass whose lover has died in the Easter Rising, and who swears to wear the Irish tricolour in her hat in remembrance. (From Wikipedia, Sept. 1/09)
... In Italy this week, a law has been passed to prevent men scratching their crotches in public. The Court of Appeal maintains that scratching or holding is 'an act contrary to decorum and public decency'. Well, I won't argue with that. The problem, for the superstitious Italians at least, is that they hold their private parts when they see a hearse or as a safeguard against bad luck - much as we might touch wood. However, it would be a hard law to protest against, wouldn't it? I don't think even the liberal lotharios of Milan could stomach a march of thousands demanding the right to hold their crotches in public. But is it right to outlaw a superstition? ... (-- p. 73)
Half-way down, I left the sunny side, thinking I would try the shady. I was feeling so joyful that I went along singing and skipping, my eyes turned up to Heaven. And then, all at once, I saw coming down to me, as though in answer to my happiness, a little, fluttering, golden thing, falling through the shade like a bit of sunshine. Nearer and nearer it came, hovered for a moment, and then settled on my cap, Holy Ghostwise. I put up my hand and a charming little canary-bird nestled into it; the little creature was palpitating like my own heart, which was as light in my bosom and as winged as any bird. Surely the excess of my joy had become visible, though perhaps not to the dull senses of man; surely, for eyes of any discernment, my whole being must be shining with the brightness of a decoy mirrored and it was my radiance that had drawn this creature down from Heaven.
I ran home in delight to my mother, carrying my canary with me; but what chiefly excited and uplifted me was the thrilling assurance that the bird had been sent by Heaven especially in order to mark me out. I was already more than inclined to think I had a vocation of a mystic nature; ... (-- p. 164)
There are dogs and dogs I was among the chosen.
I had good papers and wolf's blood in my veins.
I lived upon the heights inhaling the odors of views:
meadows in sunlight, spruces after rain,
and clumps of earth beneath the snow.
I had a decent home and people on call,
I was fed, washed, groomed,
and taken for lovely strolls.
Respectfully, though, and comme il faut,
They all knew full well whose dog I was.
Any lousy mutt can have a master.
Take care, though - beware comparisons.
My master was a breed apart.
He had a splendid herd that trailed his every step
and fixed its eyes on him in fearful awe.
For me they always had smiles,
with envy poorly hidden.
Since only I had the right
to greet him with nimble leaps,
only I could say good-bye by worrying his trousers with my teeth.
Only I was permitted
to receive scratching and stroking
with my head laid in his lap.
Only I could feign sleep
while he bent over me to whisper something.
He raged at others often, loudly.
He snarled, barked,
raced from wall to wall.
I suspect he liked only me
and nobody else, ever.
I also had responsibilities: waiting, trusting.
Since he would turn up briefly and then vanish.
What kept him down there in the lowlands, I don't know.
I guessed, though, it must be pressing business,
at least as pressing
as my battle with the cats
and everything that moves for no good reason.
There's fate and fate. Mine changed abruptly.
One spring came
amd he wasn't there.
All hell broke loose at home.
Suitcases, chests, trunks crammed into cars.
The wheels squealed tearing downhill
and fell silent round the bend.
On the terrace scraps and tatters flamed,
yellow shirts, armbands with black emblems
and lots and lots of bartered cartons
with little banners tumbling out.
I tossed and turned in this whirlwind,
more amazed than peeved.
I felt unfriendly glances on my fur.
As if I were a dog without a master,
some pushy stray
chased downstairs with a broom.
Someone tore my silver-trimmed collar off,
someone kicked my bowl, empty for days.
Then someone else, driving away,
leaned out from the car
and shot me twice.
He couldn't even shoot straight,
since I died for a long time, in pain,
to the buzz of impertinent flies.
I, the dog of my master.
Zbigniew Herbert Elegy for the Departure
and other poems
Translated from the Polish by John and Bogdana Carpenter
What Our Dead Do
Jan came this morning
- I dreamt of my father
he was riding in an oak coffin
I walked next to the hearse
and father turned to me:
you dressed me nicely
and the funeral is very beautiful
at this time of year so many flowers
it must have cost a lot
don't worry about it father
- I say - let people see
we loved you
that we spared nothing
six men in black livery
walk nicely at our sides
father thought for a while
and said - the key to the desk
is in the silver inkwell
there is still some money
in the second drawer on the left
with this money - I say -
we will buy you a gravestone
a large one of black marble
it isn't necessary - says father -
better give it to the poor
six men in black livery
walk nicely at our sides
they carry burning lanterns
again he seemed to be thinking
- take care of the flowers in the garden
cover them for the winter
I don't want them to be wasted
you are the oldest - he says -
from a little felt bag behind the painting
take out the cuff links with real pearls
let them bring you luck
my mother gave them to me
when I finished high school
then he didn't say anything
he must have entered a deeper sleep
this is how our dead
look after us
they warn us through dreams
bring back lost money
hunt for jobs
whisper the numbers of lottery tickets
or when they can't do this
knock with their fingers on the windows
and out of gratitude
we imagine immortality for them
snug as the burrow of a mouse
(-- pgs. 29-31)
Song of the Drum
The shepherds' flutes have gone
the gold of Sunday trumpets
green echoes French horns
and violins have departed as well -
only the drum remained
and the drum continues to play for us
festive marches funeral marches
simple feelings walk
to a beat on stiff legs
the drummer plays
and thought is one and one is the word
when the drum summons the steep abyss
we carry wheat sheaves or a tombstone
whatever the wise drum foretells
when the step strikes the pavement's skin
our step so proud that shall transform the world
to a single march a single shout
at last all men are walking
at last each one has fallen into step
a calfskin and two sticks
have broken towers and solitude
and silence is tranpled
and death does not frighten when we are a crowd
above the parade a column of dust
the obedient sea will part
we'll descend to tis depths
to empty hells and also higher up
we'll check the fairness of heaven
and free from fear
the whole parade will change to sand
carried by a jeering wind
so the last echo will pass
over the rebellious mildew of the earth
leaving just the drum the drum
dictator of defeated music
It was on a night just as dark that I met up with her again a year or two later in Paris. I must have written to her once or twice to thank her, and to ask how she was getting, but she had not replied - she was not the kind of person who writes letters - so it was through the newspaper that I found out that she was going to sing one evenening at the Mars Club, in the Impasse Marbeuf. I had lost contact with Michel Magne, and it was my husband who accompanied me that night. We arrived well before she did, at the dark little nightclub, a thousand leagues and more removed from Eddie Condon's gigantic place, more intimate and more intimidating, too, because that night there was a real audience, if a limited one. Toward midnight, as I was beginning to get impatient, someone pushed open the door and came, followed by a noisy group of people.
It was Billie Holiday - and yet it wasn't. She had grown thin; she had aged; and her arms bore the ever closer tracks of needles. She no longer had that innate assurance, that physical equilibrium which had conferred on her such marble-like serenity amid the storms and dizzy turbulence of her life.
... I don't remember any more - accompanied rather hesitantly by a quartet that tried to follow the unpredictable vagaries of her voice, which itself had become a little uncertain. My admiration was such - or was it the force of memory? - that I could not belp bud admire her, despite the awful, ridiculous shortcomings of this meager recital. She sang with eyes lowered. She would skip a verse and have difficulty catching her breath. She clung to the piano as if to a ship's rail in stormy seas. ...
After those few snatches of song, she came and sat with us for a moment. She was in a hurry, a terrible, because she was leaving the next day, I think, for London, or somewhere else in Europe, she couldn't remember where exactly. "Anyway, darling," she said to me in English, "you know I am going to die very soon in New York, between two cops." Of course I swore she was wrong. I could not and did not want to believe her; all my adolescence, those years that were lulled and entranced by her voice, refused to believe her. So my first reaction was total amazement when I opened a newspaper a few months later, and read that Billie Holiday had died the night before, alone in a hospital, between two cops. (From Billie Holiday, pgs. 10-14)
Later on, long after Frankie had established as favorite numbers, three, eight and eleven:
On August 7, the day before I was supposed to vacate the house, which meant checking an inventory that promised to be troublesome, we went for what we thought was the last time to the large white casino (in Deauville), which then still belonged to Andre. Soon ruined at a game of chemin de fer, I withdrew to the roulette table where by dawn, thanks to the eight which came up immediately and continued to do so, I was in possession of eighty thousand new francs (this in 1960).
We returned to the house in excellent spirits, only to find the owner himself at the front door with the inventory under his arm. He pointed out rather severely that it was eight o'clock in the morning, the time we had agreed to vacate. I was abut to start going through the dreaded inventory with him when, out of the blue, he asked me whether I wanted to buy the house. I opened my mouth to say that I was a born tenant, that I never bought anything, when he added: "Considering the work that needs doing, I won't ask much, I'll let you have it for 80,000 francs." It was August 8, I had won on the eight, he was selling it for eight million old francs, it was eight o'clock in the morning - what else could I do in the circumstances? I drew the banknotes out of my bulging evening bag and went to bed in triumph in what was to be - and has remained to this day - the only property on earth I own: a house that is still rather dilapidated, situated two miles from Honfleur and seven from Deauville. (From Games of Chance, pgs. 25-26)
The proprietress of the Sanzelize (its name a transliteration of the legendary Parisian avenue), Senay Hanim, was a very distant relation on my mother’s side, but she wasn’t there when I walked into the boutique at around twelve and the small bronze double-knobbed camel bell jingled two notes that can still make my heart pound. It was a warm day, but inside the shop it was cool and dark. At first I thought that there was no one there, my eyes still adjusting to the gloom after the noonday sunlight. Then I felt my heart rise into my throat, with the force of an immense wave about to crash against the shore. ...
“They were desperately poor,” my mother said. And, lest she exaggerate, she added, “Though they were hardly the only ones, my son—all of Turkey was poor in those days.” My mother had recommended Aunt Nesibe to all her friends, and once a year (sometimes twice) she herself would call her to our house to sew a dress for some party or wedding.
Because these sewing visits almost always took place during school hours, I didn’t see her much. But in 1957, at the end of August, my mother, urgently needing a dress for a wedding, had called Nesibe to our summer home, in Suadiye. Retiring to the back room on the second floor, overlooking the sea, she and Nesibe set themselves up next to the window, from which, peering between the fronds of the palm trees, they might see the rowboats and motorboats and the boys jumping off the pier. When Nesibe had unpacked her sewing box, whose lid was adorned with a view of Istanbul, they sat surrounded by her scissors, pins, measuring tape, thimbles, and swatches of lace and other material, complaining of the heat, the mosquitoes, and the strain of sewing under such pressure, joking like sisters, and staying up half the night to slave away on my mother’s Singer sewing machine. I remember Bekri, the cook, bringing one glass of lemonade after another into that room (the hot air thick with the dust of velvet), because Nesibe, who was twenty and pregnant, was prone to cravings; when we all sat down to lunch, my mother would tell Bekri, half joking, “Whatever a pregnant woman desires, you must let her have, or else the child will turn out ugly!” And, with that in mind, I remember looking at Nesibe’s small bump with a certain interest. That must have been my first awareness of Füsun’s existence, though no one knew yet whether she was a girl or a boy.
Merchant sailors quietly gave in to pirate attacks because of a principal-agent problem—it wasn’t their cargo—and because doing so enabled them to adopt a way of life that was a hundred to a thousand times more lucrative. (Captain William) Snelgrave (at the helm of a slave ship on the coast of what is now Sierra Leone) may have been under the impression that pirates forced men to join, but this was for the most part a myth, devised for the sake of a legal defense if caught. Until their final, desperate days, pirates took few conscripts, because so many sailors begged to enlist and because conscripts had the unpleasant habit of absconding and testifying against pirates in court. As for the death-defying attitude—“a merry Life and a short one” was Bartholomew Roberts’s motto—pirates cultivated it to convince people that they had what economists call a high discount rate. If future punishments meant so little, their wildest threats were credible.
For a similar reason, they tortured and let it be known that they tortured. The reputation made their work easier, as most prisoners tended to follow the example of the captain who explained that he revealed his stash because “hearing their Design was to torture me with lighted Matches betwixt my Fingers, I thought the Loss of the Use of my Hands would be but poorly compensated with the saving 100 Ounces of Gold.” Blackbeard’s reputation was so daunting that he seems not to have had to torture or even kill anyone until his final battle. Just as useful was a reputation for treating captives well if they coöperated—thus the solicitude toward Snelgrave. As pirates explained to a captive in 1722, they “valued themselves upon this very Thing of being civil to their Prisoners, and not abusing their Persons.” To communicate these intentions from afar, pirates developed a special signal, a sort of trademark for the pirate brand: a black flag “in the Middle of which is a large white Skeleton, with a Dart in one Hand, striking a Bleeding Heart, and in the other an Hour Glass,” as one captain described it. While Jolly Roger flew, there was still time to ask for quarter, but once the pirates struck this black flag and raised a red one it was too late. There were several variations, including “a White Death’s Head and Crossed Bones.” The flag’s threat was credible, Leeson explains, because everyone knew that authorities hanged anyone caught flying it. And a good thing, too, the pirate Mary Read declared. Any lighter punishment, “and the Ocean would be crowded with Rogues."
You may talk about your lancers, or your Irish Fusiliers,
The Aberdeen Militia or the Queen's Own Volunteers;
Or any other regiment that's lying far awa'
Come gie to me the tartan of the gallant Forty Twa.
Strolling through the green fields on a summer day
Watching all the country girls working at the hay,
I really was delighted and he stole my heart awa'
When I saw him in the tartan of the gallant Forty Twa.
Oh I never will forget the day his regiment marched past
The pipes they played a lively tune but my heart was aghast,
He turned around and smiled farewell and then from far awa'
He waved to me the tartan of the gallant Forty Twa.
I stood there on the dockside as his ship pulled out to sea
And pray'd that my own bonnie lad would soon return to me
But many the pipe will sound no more and many the lad will fall
When fighting for the tartan of the gallant forty twa
Once again I heard the music of the pipers from afar
They tramped and tramped the weary men returning from the war
And as they nearer drew I brushed a woeful tear awa'
To see my bonnie laddie of the gallant Forty Twa.
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