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Poetry Magnum Opus

Whiskey in the Jar


dedalus

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These mountains are hardscrabble things

and hardly a thing grows on them, even the

bedraggled goats look sad, not to mention

the old folk, starving, huddled in cabins:

 

As I was going over the Cork and Kerry mountains,

I met with Captain Farrell and his money he was counting;

I first produced my pistol, I then produced my rapier,

saying "Stand and deliver, for a prisoner you are taken!"

 

Beyond the next little rise in the ground

you can still make out the crumbling foundations

of the mean little hut in which Fitzgerald Mór,

the last great Earl of Desmond, met his end.

 

I counted out his money and it made a pretty penny,

I stuck it in my pocket and I took it home to Jenny.

She smiled and she swore, she said she'd never leave me,

but the Divil take the women, boys, they never can be easy!

 

With your ring dumma doo dumma da!

Whack fol the daddy-O,

there's whiskey in the Jar

 

This ruler of the horizon, this son of his father,

defied the half-mad heretic Queen of England

who sent forth her soldiers and then spread famine upon the land,

and with all his people dying, Fitzgerald fled to the mountains.

 

I went up in my chamber all for to take a slumber,

I dreamt of gold and jewels, and sure it was no wonder!

but Jenny took my pistols and she filled them full of water,

then called for Captain Farrell to be ready for the slaughter.

 

Betrayal is no new thing, certainly not

in this rain-besodden, chess-playing country,

in which old habits and customs cause Irish grandees

to plot and scheme against one another

 

bitterly and hard, in a frenzy of local calculation,

entirely blind to the threat of the force outside.

Our cousins in Gaul, now France, some time ago

had quarreled and divided, had fallen to Caesar.

 

It was early in the morning, before I rose for travel,

Up came a band of footmen and likewise Captain Farrell.

I went to draw my pistol, for she'd stole away my rapier,

I couldn't shoot the water, so a prisoner I was taken.

 

Fitzgerald Mór, deserted, broken, alone,

made his panicky way up the Cork and Kerry mountains,

shorn of all riches, a man on his own, stripped to the bone

and in search of succour and of human kindness.

 

I'd like to find me brother, the one who's in the army;

I don't know where he's stationed, be it Cork or in Killarney.

Together we'd go roamin' o'er the mountains of Kilkenny,

And I swear he'd treat me better than my darlin' sportin' Jenny!

You can view the remains of the cottage, now long gone,

if you step this way: stones, unlike people, do not disappear.

The humble owner of the place offered the great Lord shelter,

gave him bread and cheese, even a dram of precious whiskey.

 

Then, being a desparate sort of goat-like fellow,

hardscrabble-ish, not what you would call political,

he moved up from behind, cut Fitzgerald's throat

and sent his head to the English. Got paid for that.

 

Whack fol the daddy-O,

Whiskey in the Jar

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerald_FitzGe...Earl_of_Desmond

Drown your sorrows in drink, by all means, but the real sorrows can swim

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Though based on persons and events real, your poem exhibits epic-like characteristics, Brendan. And in epics, there are always lessons to be learned. For example, in the Estonian KALEVIPOEG, the tales admonish the people of the pitfalls of strong drink, fast acting, and revenge. In your poem, I've noted this:

 

Betrayal is no new thing, certainly not

in this rain-besodden, chess-playing country,

in which old habits and customs cause Irish grandees

to plot and scheme against one another

 

bitterly and hard, in a frenzy of local calculation,

entirely blind to the threat of the force outside.

Our cousins in Gaul, now France, some time ago

had quarreled and divided, had fallen to Caesar.

Does the poet reprove his own? Methinks it's an intellectually honest thing to do. And, in this case, it's indicative of brotherly love.

 

Tony

Here is a link to an index of my works on this site: tonyv's Member Archive topic

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Well, you're certainly right there, Antonious ... the classic European example is the cultural connectivity of the Greeks whose political disunity left them open to outside conquest, first by the Macedonians and then by the Romans. The Celts in Gaul shared a common language and religion, customs and beliefs, but were riven by long-term tribal rivalries which made it easy for Caesar to divide and conquer, although near the end they finally did come together under the inspired leadership of Vercingetorix. Caesar nearly lost everything.

 

He managed to win, finally, at Alesia, accepted the dignified and famous surrender of his weapons by Vercingetorix, then carried him back to Rome in chains where he was executed, not immediately, but several years later on the occasion of Caesar's Triumph. Caesar was brutal in attack but generally forgiving in defeat: maybe this only extended to other Romans. Vercingetorix, I suppose, was a gaijin ... a barbarian. He has since become a symbol of Resistance in France, who are still smarting under their defeat and occupation by the Nazis in 1940.

 

There are many other examples in history, I know. The Poles come to mind, as do your own forebears, the Estonians, as do the Latvians, Lithuanians and Ukrainians. There's a whole long list and so far we're still in Europe. Outside Europe the list grows even longer with the Kurds and Armenians, the Sunni/Shia split in Iraq opened up by the American invasion and, even more worrisome, the endless tribal squabbles in Afghanistan. not to mention Pakistan, India, Burma, Malaysia, Thailand (very bad now!!), Indonesia, the Philippines. Not to mention the endless running sore of Israel/ Palestine.

 

It's not a new story ... and it seems to go on forever. Occasionally, almost never, the descendants of ancient peoples do pull things back a little ... an independent Celtic Ireland (now, very multicultural), for example, with its northeast corner … now less than before … shorn away! It's not ideal, I know, but you do what you can ............ (and you keep working on it).

 

All the best,

Brendan

Drown your sorrows in drink, by all means, but the real sorrows can swim

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