Page images

an assurance. The unselfishness of the declaration is most refreshing read in an age sordid as the present.

“O Peggy Brady, you are my darlin',

You are my lookin'-glass from night to mornin',
I'd rather have you without a farthin'

Than Susy Gallagher, wid her house and garden." The polemical ballad was always in high favor. The Church was persecuted with fiendish malignity ; and the people loved and clung to her the more for that very persecution. Innumerable were the ballads written in her behalf, or portraying her sufferingsthe majority of them, from a literary point of view, being the very quintessence of absurdity ; yet they were disseminated and sung, and kept the subject ever green in the susceptible hearts of the Irish peasantry. Of the religious class, the controversial was perhaps most admired. It gave scope to the bard for the display of his biblical lore and sublime invective, qualities altogether indispensable to the rustic muse. “One morning in July," the poet tells us - he was

ranging" over “ Urker Hill," when a church and chapel adjacent had a regular “set to "_to use a modern phrase. The Protestant church was the aggressor on the occasion, scornfully alluding to the poverty-stricken appearance of her rival. But she had evidently calculated without her host, for the chapel, putting forth all her powers, administered her such a drubbing as Lutheran structure never received before. The church had made some grave charges, but,

“The prudent chapel then made answer,

And was not angry, nor yet confused,
Sayin', madam, sittin' in yer pomp an' grandeur,
I beg the favor to be excused,
I do renegade and flatter none,
I was erected by true Milesians,

An' my ordination is the Church of Rome!”
This was an effective hit, but is even surpassed by what follows.

“I do remimber, in former ages,
Whin you wur naked as well as I,
Till by false teachin' ye did invade us

By prachin' doctrines of heresy." Needless to say that under such admirably administered castigation, the church was forced to succumb.

"The Ass and the Orangeman's Daughter,' as the title implies, was another classic production. It proved, besides, a mine of wealth --a very Golconda-to scores of street minstrels.

Few public men had more ballads written about them than Daniel O'Connell. For fully forty years every town and hamlet in Ireland was flooded with poetic effusions in praise of the Liberator.

The death of O'Connell, all unexpected as it was, produced a deep sensation throughout Ireland, and plunged the entire country into profound grief.

The national grief found expression in divers ways, and not the least sincere and real was its burden as uttered through the verse of the rustic bard, and sang through the streets of every town and village in the land. Some of these ballads had a prodigious sale-not less than a million copies of several of them being sold in an incredibly short space of time. • Erin's Lament' ran through countless editions. Large crowds used to surround the street minstrel as, with stentorian lungs, he poured forth the words of the ballad, which, by the way, were attached to a beautiful and plaintive melody. The ballads were purchased as fast as they could be handed out. The singer generally sang the song right through, and then started afresh as follows :

“One morning ranging for recreation,

Down by a river I chanced to rove,
Where I espied a maiden in conversation,

Just quite adjacent to a shady grove ;
I was struck with wonder, so I stood and pondered,

I could stand no longer, so I just stept o'er,
And the song she sung made the valleys ring,

It was Erin's King, brave Dan 's no more.
“When I heard the news I was much confused ;

And myself excused, when this I did say,
Is O'Connell gone, old Granua's son ?

The brightest orb that e'er stood the day ;
To relate his glory, his name 's famed in story,

Whilst Erin will sorely feel the fall,
For his sweet voice will no more rejoice,

Whilst our harp quite mute lies in Tara's hall." In a similar fashion are reviewed the principal incidents in the career of the departed ; and the song relates that

“The Emancipation, without hesitation,

To our lovely island he soon brought o'er,
And our clergy crowned him with wreaths of glory,

When that he sailed to Old Erin's shore;
Our chapel bells they do ring melodious,

Where no vile scorpion dare cross the door ;
Quite broken hearted, from us departed,

The pride of Kerry, brave Dan's no more." The Rights of Man' is another allegorical effusion. The bard had a vision, and among other phenomena the following quaint picture is limned :

Through the azure sky I then did spy
A man to fly and for to descend,
And lights came down upon the ground
Where Erin round had her bosom friends;
His dazzling miter and cross was brighter
Than stars by night or the mid-day sun,
In accents rare then I do declare

He prayed sincere for the rights of man.” Again we have “The Banished Defender, in which politics, religion, and pikes are beautifully mingled. In the first verse the poet tells us he is fled to the mountains, and in the next-probably forgetting what he had told us in the former-we are assured that he is a convict in Van Dieman's Land. Here is a sample:


“You Catholics of Erin, give ear unto these lines I write,

I've fled unto the mountains, for ever I am banished quite ;
For the sake of my religion, I'm bound to leave my native home,
For being a bold defender, and a member of the Church of Rome.
Then woe attend those traitors that forced me from my native shore,
Those perjured prosecutors that has me banished for evermore.
They say I was a traitor, and a leader of the Papist band,

For which I'm in cold irons, a convict in Van Dieman's land."
He knows something of theology, as the following extract will show:

“ Transubstantiation is the faith we depend upon,

Look and you will find it in the fifth chapter of St. John,
As Moses and Elias they told us of our heavenly church,

That we in future ages should suffer persecution much." The gentleman who penned the following must have risen fresh from the study of Virgil, his mind all aglow with the stately harmony he found in the Latin

poet. How else could he sing“Near Castleblayney, lived Dan Delaney,

And the broth of a boy was Pat McCann"? Observe the harmonious connection. We have it that“Dan Delaney” lived near Castleblayney, and in the same breath are assured of the important fact that

“The broth of a boy was Pat McCann." Who could doubt it ? or doubt the versatile genius and originality of the poet who, with this single touch, dubs the above worthies immortal?

“ McKenna's Dream,' 'Brannon on the Moor, ‘Bold Traynor 0,' 'Donnelly and Cooper,' 'The River Roe,' 'My Brown Girl Sweet,' and · Lovely Mary of the Shannon Side,'' have bad an immense run in their day, and have been sung from the Hill of Howth to the wild shores of Arran, and from Slieve-na-mon to the weird peaked mountain of Donegal.

This class of ballads is now rapidly fading away-becoming fast obsolete before the spread of a better education. The ballad to be sold now in Ireland must have literary merit, and instead of the * Bold Defender,' the Rights of Man,' the 'Star of Slane,' etc., inquiries are made for "O'Donnell Abu,'' Rory of the Hills,' God Save Ireland,' 'Gra-gal-Machree,' • Brian the Brave,' 'Rich and Rare,' and other of the sparkling gems of Thomas Moore. The old streetballads are dying--smooth be their passage to oblivion. They had their day, and performed their mission well. They lived in a rugged time; and recalled many a wavering heart, in their own rude fashion, to a sense of duty. They can now only survive in the sketch book of a Carleton, or other delineator of the Irish of a past generation. Yet among the street ball ds proper are to found stray pearlets that must and will survive. Many such there are that cannot and should not be allowed to depart from amongst us !

Happily there are ballads to take the place of the dead or dying ones. Instead of the 'Rose of Ardee,' and others of that ilk, we have


From a photograph


« PreviousContinue »