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-The Description of an Irish Feast

Given by O'Rourke, a powerful chieftain of Ulster in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, previously to his making a visit to her court. A song was composed upon the tradition of the feast, the fame of which having reached Swift, he was supplied with a literal version, from which he executed the following very spirited translation.--W. E. B.



O'ROURKE'S noble fare
  Will ne'er be forgot,
By those who were there,
  Or those who were not.

His revels to keep, We sup and we dine On seven score sheep, Fat bullocks, and swine.

Usquebaugh to our feast In pails was brought up, A hundred at least, And a madder[1] our cup.

O there is the sport! We rise with the light In disorderly sort, From snoring all night.

O how was I trick'd! My pipe it was broke, My pocket was pick'd, I lost my new cloak.

I'm rifled, quoth Nell, Of mantle and kercher,[2] Why then fare them well, The de'el take the searcher.

Come, harper, strike up; But, first, by your favour, Boy, give us a cup: Ah! this hath some savour.

O'Rourke's jolly boys Ne'er dreamt of the matter, Till, roused by the noise, And musical clatter,

They bounce from their nest, No longer will tarry, They rise ready drest, Without one Ave-Mary.

They dance in a round, Cutting capers and ramping; A mercy the ground Did not burst with their stamping.

The floor is all wet With leaps and with jumps, While the water and sweat Splish-splash in their pumps.

Bless you late and early, Laughlin O'Enagin![3] But, my hand,[4] you dance rarely. Margery Grinagin.[5]

Bring straw for our bed, Shake it down to the feet, Then over us spread The winnowing sheet.

To show I don't flinch, Fill the bowl up again: Then give us a pinch Of your sneezing, a Yean.[6]

Good lord! what a sight, After all their good cheer, For people to fight In the midst of their beer!

They rise from their feast, And hot are their brains, A cubit at least The length of their skeans.[7]

What stabs and what cuts, What clattering of sticks; What strokes on the guts, What bastings and kicks!

With cudgels of oak, Well harden'd in flame, A hundred heads broke, A hundred struck lame.

You churl, I'll maintain My father built Lusk, The castle of Slane, And Carrick Drumrusk:

The Earl of Kildare, And Moynalta his brother, As great as they are, I was nurst by their mother.[8]

Ask that of old madam: She'll tell you who's who, As far up as Adam, She knows it is true.

Come down with that beam, If cudgels are scarce, A blow on the weam, Or a kick on the a----se.

[Footnote 1: A wooden vessel.--F.]

[Footnote 2: A covering of linen, worn on the heads of the women.--F.]

[Footnote 3: The name of an Irishman.--F.]

[Footnote 4: An Irish oath.--F.]

[Footnote 5: The name of an Irishwoman.--F.]

[Footnote 6: Surname of an Irishwoman.--F.]

[Footnote 7: Daggers, or short swords,--F.]

[Footnote 8: It is the custom in Ireland to call nurses, foster-mothers; their husbands, foster-fathers; and their children, foster-brothers or foster-sisters; and thus the poorest claim kindred to the rich.--F.]

Jonathan Swift

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