Wednesday, June 23, 2004

A Glass of Beer

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 see
On virtue’s path, and a voice that would rasp the dead,
Came roaring and raging the minute she looked on 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.

That was James Stephen's piece of work, not mine. I believe it's supposed to have been translated from the Irish if memory serves. And all brought to mind by Elinor's post of a note from The Playboy of the Western World giving one of the more comprehensive Irish curses. Not as all-encompassing as Elinor's but there's something wonderful about "may The High King of Glory permit her to get the mange". A lovely juxtaposition.

Mastering that sort of business permitted the ancient Gaelic poets and bards to live rather high on the hog. The poets were more than creators of fancy songs; the history and even the laws were in verse. If you displeased a poet, he'd write a satire on you. And that's how you would be remembered by posterity. No publishing companies about to crank out a few hundred thousand copies of "My Life" to try to refine the record. No, sir. You had to be generous to poets.