The Feast Of O'rourke

Swift had been heard to say more than once that he should like to pass a

few days in the county of Leitrim, as he was told that the native Irish

in that part were so obstinately attached to the rude manners of their

ancestors, that they could neither be induced by promises, nor forced

by threats, to exchange them for those of their neighbors. Swift, no

doubt, wished to know what they would get by the exchange. Mr. Core was

resolved that the Dean should be indulged to the fullest extent of his

wish; for this purpose he had a person posted in Cavan, who was to give

him immediate notice when the Dean arrived in that town, which he

usually did once a year, and where he remained a day or two or longer,

if the weather was not fair enough to travel. The instant Mr. Gore was

informed of the Dean's arrival, he called and invited him to pass a few

days at a noble mansion which he had just finished on a wing of his own

estate in that county. The Dean accepted the invitation; and, as the

season was fine, every thing as he advanced excited his attention; for,

like other men, he was at times subject to the skyey influence, and

used to complain of the winds of March, and the gloom of November.

Mr. Gore had heard so much of Swift's peculiar manners that he was

determined he should have his way in every thing; but was resolved,

however, that he should be entertained in the old Irish style of

hospitality, which Mr. Gore always kept up to such a degree, that his

house might be called a public inn without sign. The best pipers and

harpers were collected from every quarter, as well as the first singers,

for music is an essential ingredient in every Irish feast. The Dean was

pleased with many of the Irish airs, but was peculiarly struck with the

Feast of O'Rourke, which was played by Jeremy Dignum, the Irish

Timotheus, who swept the lyre with flying fingers, when he was told that

in the judgment of the Dean, he carried off the spolia opima from all

the rest of the musical circle. The words of the air were afterwards

sung by a young man with so much taste and execution, that the Dean

expressed a desire to have them translated into English. Dr. Gore told

him that the author, a Mr. Macgowran, lived at a little distance, and

that he would be proud to furnish a literal translation of his own

composition either in Latin or English, for he was well skilled in both

languages. Mr. Gore accordingly sent for the bard, the Laureate of the

Plains, as he called himself, who came immediately. I am very well

pleased, said the Dean, with your composition. The words seem to be

what my friend Pope calls 'an echo to the sense.' I am pleased and

proud, answered Macgowran, that it has afforded you any amusement: and

when you, Sir, addressing himself to the Dean, put all the strings of

the Irish harp in tune, it will yield your Reverence a double pleasure,

and perhaps put me out of my senses with joy. Macgowran, in a short

time, presented the Dean with a literal translation, for which he

rewarded him very liberally, and recommended him to the protection of

Mr. Gore, who behaved with great kindness to him as long as he lived.

To this incident we are indebted for the translation of a song or poem,

which may be called a true picture of an Irish feast, where every one

was welcome to eat what he pleased, to drink what he pleased, to say

what he pleased, to sing what he pleased, to fight when he pleased, to

sleep when he pleased, and to dream what he pleased; where all was

native--their dress the produce of their own shuttle--their cups and

tables the growth of their own woods--their whiskey warm from the still

and faithful to its fires! The Dean, however, did not translate the

whole of the poem; the remaining stanzas were translated some years

since by Mr. Wilson, as follow:--

Who rais'd this alarm?

Says one of the clergy,

And threat'ning severely,

Cease fighting, I charge ye.

A good knotted staff,

The full of his hand,

Instead of the Spiradis,

Back'd his command.

So falling to thrash,

Fast as he was able,

A trip and a box

Stretch'd him under the table.

Then rose a big friar,

To settle them straight,

But the back of the fire

Was quickly his fate.

From whence he cried out,

Do you thus treat your pastors!

Ye that scarcely were bred

To the sewn wise masters;

That when with the Pope

I was getting my lore,

Ye were roasting potatoes

At the foot of Sheemor.

The Dean's Contributory Dinner The Monks Of The Screw facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail