Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Come Into The Parlor

Today I celebrate my Irish heritage, with its faith, its all too sometimes tragic patriotism and its, sometimes rather dark, humor.

from St. Patrick's Breastplate
Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

Read the entire, beautiful and moving prayer.

Kevin Barry
In Mountjoy Jail one Monday morning,
High upon the gallows tree,
Kevin Barry gave his young life
For the cause of liberty.
Just a lad of eighteen summers,
Yet no one can deny,
As he walked to death that morning
He proudly held his head on high.

Just before he faced the hangman,
In his dreary prison cell,
British soldiers tortured Barry
Just because he would not tell
The names of his brave comrades,
And other things they wished to know,
'Turn informer or we'll kill you!'
Kevin Barry answered 'No!'

Calmly standing to attention,
As he bade his last farewell
To his broken-hearted mother,
Whose sad grief no one can tell,
For the cause he proudly cherished
This sad parting had to be;
Then to death walked, softly smiling,
That old Ireland might be free.

Another martyr for old Ireland,
Another murder for the crown,
Whose brutal laws may kill the Irish,
But can't keep their spirit down.
Lads like Barry are no cowards,
From the foe they will not fly;
Lads like Barry will free Ireland,
For her sake they'll live and die.
Read a brief biography of this young Irish patriot.

There is sorrow and pathos in death. Sometimes, though, the Irish can also find

humor in the situation.

Steve O'Donnell's Wake
Steve O'Donnell was a gentleman
So everybody said
He was loved by all his friends
Both rich and poor
And everyone felt sorry
When they heard that Steve was dead
And they saw the piece
Of Crepe upon the door

The barber came to shave
The Galway slagga from his throat
And cut his hair
In a la pompadore
A red necktie and buttonhole boquet
Was in his coat
And a bunch of shamrocks
In his hand he wore

Undertaker Feeney had the job
To lay O'Donnell out
In a casket
Of the very finest make
He dressed the corpse in broadcloth
And said: "Boys, there'll be no doubt"
That they'll all get drunk
At Steve O'Donnell's wake

There were fighters
Biters and Irish dynamiters
There was beer, gin
Whiskey, wine and cake
There were men in high positions
There were Irish politicians
And they all got drunk
At Steve O'Donnell's wake

There were fifty candles at his head
And twenty at his feet
Plenty flowers sent
For friendship's sake
"Oh, Steve, me by'e, why did you die?"
The grieving widow said
And we all felt sad
At Steve O'Donnell's wake

Mike McGovern said that
Steve O'Donnell was an awful bum
Of course he only meant it
For a joke
But Paddy Mack got up his back
And he made McGovern run
Cause he hit him in the eye
An awful poke

They all joined in the fightin'
Then cause everyone was mad
And blood enough was spilled
To form a lake
They knocked the corpse down on the floor
And blew off all the lights
There was murder down
At Steve O'Donnell's wake

Then the cops came in to stop the brawl
To make them understand
And the corpse was picked up
By his brother Dan
But someone stole the necktie
From around O'Donnell's throat
Mike McGovern said O'Reilly
Was the man

O'Reilly's friends got crazy mad
And swore they'd have his life
McGovern saw he made
A great mistake
They fought and fought
And danced around until the cops came in
And arrested all
At Steve O'Donnell's wake

Until today, I only knew the first and third stanzas of this rollicking, darkly comic song. The whole left me laughing helplessly for a moment. After all,melancholy and mirth are inextricably bound in the Celtic psyche, especially the Irish. It isn't stated, but I suspect the truth is that Steve had the best time
of anyone at his wake.