The Irish Penny Journal, Vol. 1 No. 9, August 29, 1840 online

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in the matter! From the unction with which he speaks of the excellences
of the thing he has to dispose of, be it what it may, a Dutch cheese or
a treatise on philosophy, the enthusiasm with which he dwells on them,
you would imagine that he spoke out of a pure feeling of admiration of
these excellences. You would never dream - for this he carefully conceals
from you - that his sole object is to get hold of as much of your cash
as he can; the Dutch cheese or the treatise on philosophy being a mere
instrument to accomplish the desired transfer.

It is rather a curious feature this in the social character: every thing
offered for sale is so offered through a pure spirit of benevolence,
either for the public good or individual benefit; nothing for the sake of
mere filthy lucre, or the particular interest of the seller - not at all.
He, good soul, has no such motive - not he, indeed.

We said a little while since that we doubted whether we would give any
farther illustrations of the great science of humbug. We have now made
up our minds that we shall not. Although we could easily give fifty more,
it is unnecessary.

We confess, however, to be under strong temptations to give “the
candidate’s humbug” - to exhibit that gentleman _doing_ over the
constituency, making them, whether he be whig or tory, swallow the
grossest fudge that ever was thrust down an unsuspecting gullet; but we
refrain. We refrain also, in the meantime, from giving what we would call
“the liberty and equality humbug;” together with several other humbugs
equally instructive and edifying.

And now we think we hear our readers exclaim of ourselves, what a humbug!

By no means, gentle readers; there are exceptions to every general rule.
We have sketched the great mass of mankind, but we have no doubt that
there are some truly sincere persons - few indeed - in all the classes we
have sketched; and we trust that we ourselves shall be reckoned amongst
the number.



The ancient literature of Ireland is as yet but little known to the
world, or even to ourselves. Existing for the most part only in its
original Celtic form, and in manuscripts accessible only to the Irish
scholar resident in our metropolis, but few even of those capable of
understanding it have the opportunity to become acquainted with it,
and from all others it is necessarily hidden. We therefore propose to
ourselves, as a pleasing task, to make our literature more familiar,
not only to the Irish scholar, but to our readers generally who do not
possess this species of knowledge, by presenting them from time to time
with such short poems or prose articles, accompanied with translations,
as from their brevity, or the nature of their subjects, will render them
suitable to our limited and necessarily varied pages - our selections
being made without regard to chronological order as to the ages of their
composition, but rather with a view to give a general idea of the several
kinds of literature in which our ancestors of various classes found

The specimen which we have chosen to commence with is of a homely cast,
and was intended as a rebuke to the saucy pride of a woman in humble
life, who assumed airs of consequence from being the possessor of three
cows. Its author’s name is unknown, but its age may be determined, from
its language, as belonging to the early part of the seventeenth century;
and that it was formerly very popular in Munster, may be concluded from
the fact, that the phrase, Easy, oh, woman of the three cows! [Go réiḋ a
bhean na ttrí mbó] has become a saying in that province, on any occasion
upon which it is desirable to lower the pretensions of proud or boastful



Go réiḋ a ḃean na ttrí mbó
Ar to ḃólacht ná bí teann
Do ċonairc meisi, gan gó,
Gean is ba dá ṁó a beann.

Ní ṁaireann saiḋḃrios do ġnúiṫ
Do neaċ ná taḃair táir go mór
Chúġut an téag ar gaċ taoḃ
Go réiḋ a ḃean na ttrí mbó.

Slioċt Eóġain ṁóir sa Múṁain
A nimṫeaċt do ní clú dóiḃ
A seólta gur léigeadar síos
Go réiḋ a ḃean na ttrí mbó.

Clann ġaisce ṫiġearna an Chláir
A nimṫeaċt sin ba lá leóin
Sgan súil re na tteaċt go bráṫ,
Go réiḋ a ḃean na ttrí mbó.

Dóṁnall ó Dún-buíḋe na long
O’Súilleaḃáin nár ṫím glór
Féaċ gur ṫuit san Spáin re cloiḋeain
Go réiḋ a ḃean na ttrí mbó.

O’Ruairc is Maguiḋir do ḃí
Tá i n-Eirinn na lán beóil
Féaċ féin gur imṫiġ an dís,
Go réiḋ a ḃean na ttrí mbó.

Síol gCearḃuill do ḃí teann
Te mbeirṫí gaċ geall ingleó
Ní ṁaireann aon díoḃ mo ḋíṫ
Go réiḋ a ḃean na ttrí mbó.

O aon ḃoin aṁáin do ḃreis
Ar ṁnaoi eile is í a dó
Do rinnisi iomorca aréir
Go réiḋ a ḃean na ttrí mbó.

An ceangal.

Gíoḋ ar mfallaing a ainnir as uaiḃreaċ gnúis
Do ḃíos gan dearmad seasṁaċ buan sa tnúiṫ
Tríd an raċmus do ġlacais red ḃuaiḃ ar túis
Da ḃfaġainnsi reilḃ a ceaṫair do ḃuailfinn tú.




O, Woman of Three Cows, agragh! don’t let your tongue thus rattle!
O, don’t be saucy, don’t be stiff, because you may have cattle.
I have seen - and, here’s my hand to you, I only say what’s true -
A many a one with twice your stock not half so proud as you.

Good luck to you, don’t scorn the poor, and don’t be their despiser,
For worldly wealth soon melts away, and cheats the very miser,
And Death soon strips the proudest wreath from haughty human brows;
Then don’t be stiff, and don’t be proud, good Woman of Three Cows!

See where Momonia’s heroes lie, proud Owen More’s descendants,
’Tis they that won the glorious name, and had the grand attendants!
If _they_ were forced to bow to Fate, as every mortal bows,
Can _you_ be proud, can _you_ be stiff, my Woman of Three Cows!

The brave sons of the Lord of Clare, they left the land to mourning;
Movrone! for they were banished, with no hope of their returning -
Who knows in what abodes of want those youths were driven to house?
Yet _you_ can give yourself these airs, O, Woman of Three Cows!

O, think of Donnell of the Ships, the Chief whom nothing daunted -
See how he fell in distant Spain, unchronicled, unchanted!
He sleeps, the great O’Sullivan, where thunder cannot rouse -
Then, ask yourself, should _you_ be proud, good Woman of Three Cows!

O’Ruark, Maguire, those souls of fire, whose names are shrined in story -
Think how their high achievements once made Erin’s greatest glory -
Yet now their bones lie mouldering under weeds and cypress boughs,
And so, for all your pride, will yours, O, Woman of Three Cows!

The O’Carrolls also, famed when Fame was only for the boldest,
Rest in forgotten sepulchres with Erin’s best and oldest;
Yet who so great as they of yore in battle or carouse?
Just think of that, and hide your head, good Woman of Three Cows!

Your neighbour’s poor, and you it seems are big with vain ideas,
Because, _inagh!_[1] you’ve got three cows, one more, I see, than _she_
That tongue of yours wags more at times than Charity allows,
But, if you are strong, be merciful, great Woman of Three Cows!


Now, there you go! You still, of course, keep up your scornful bearing,
And I’m too poor to hinder you; but, by the cloak I’m wearing,
If I had but _four_ cows myself, even though you were my spouse,
I’d thwack you well to cure your pride, my Woman of Three Cows!

[1] Forsooth.



In those racy old times, when the manners and usages of Irishmen were
more simple and pastoral than they are at present, dancing was cultivated
as one of the chief amusements of life, and the dancing-master looked
upon as a person essentially necessary to the proper enjoyment of our
national recreation. Of all the amusements peculiar to our population,
dancing is by far the most important, although certainly much less so
now than it has been, even within our own memory. In Ireland it may be
considered as a very just indication of the spirit and character of the
people; so much so, that it would be extremely difficult to find any
test so significant of the Irish heart, and its varied impulses, as the
dance, when contemplated in its most comprehensive spirit. In the first
place, no people dance so well as the Irish, and for the best reason in
the world, as we shall show. Dancing, every one must admit, although a
most delightful amusement, is not a simple, nor distinct, nor primary
one. On the contrary, it is merely little else than a happy and agreeable
method of enjoying music; and its whole spirit and character most
necessarily depend upon the power of the heart to _feel_ the melody to
which the limbs and body move. Every nation, therefore, remarkable for a
susceptibility of music, is also remarkable for a love of dancing, unless
religion or some other adequate obstacle, arising from an anomalous
condition of society, interposes to prevent it. Music and dancing being
in fact as dependent the one on the other as cause and effect, it
requires little argument to prove that the Irish, who are so sensitively
alive to the one, should in a very high degree excel at the other; and
accordingly it is so.

Nobody, unless one who has seen and _also felt_ it, can conceive the
incredible, nay, the inexplicable exhilaration of the heart, which a
dance communicates to the peasantry of Ireland. Indeed, it resembles not
so much enthusiasm as inspiration. Let a stranger take his place among
those who are assembled at a dance in the country, and mark the change
which takes place in Paddy’s whole temperament, physical and moral.
He first rises up rather indolently, selects his own sweetheart, and
assuming such a station on the floor as renders it necessary that both
should “face the fiddler,” he commences. On the dance then goes, quietly
at the outset; gradually he begins to move more sprightly; by and bye
the right hand is up, and a crack of the fingers is heard; in a minute
afterwards both hands are up and two cracks are heard, the hilarity
and brightness of his eye all the time keeping pace with the growing
enthusiasm that is coming over him, and which eye, by the way, is most
lovingly fixed upon, or, we should rather say, _into_, that of his modest
partner. From that partner he never receives an _open_ gaze in return,
but in lieu of this an occasional glance, quick as thought and brilliant
as a meteor, seems to pour into him a delicious fury that is made up of
love - sometimes a little of whisky, kindness, pride of his activity, and
a reckless force of momentary happiness that defies description. Now
commences the dance in earnest. Up he bounds in a fling or a caper - crack
go the fingers - cut and treble go the feet, heel and toe, right and left.
Then he flings the right heel up to the ham, up again the left, the whole
face in a furnace-heat of ecstatic delight. “Whoo! whoo! your sowl! Move
your elbow, Mickey (this to the fiddler). Quicker, quicker, man alive,
or you’ll lose sight of me. Whoo! Judy, that’s the girl; handle your
feet, avourneen; that’s it, acushla! stand to me! Hurroo for our side
of the house!” And thus does he proceed with a vigour, and an agility,
and a truth of time, that are incredible, especially when we consider
the whirlwind of enjoyment which he has to direct. The conduct of his
partner, whose face is lit up into a modest blush, is evidently tinged
with his enthusiasm - for who could resist it? - but it is exhibited with
great natural grace, joined to a delicate vivacity that is equally gentle
and animated, and in our opinion precisely what dancing in a female ought
to be - a blending of healthful exercise and innocent enjoyment.

I have seen not long since an Irish dance by our talented countryman
Mr M’Clise, and it is very good, with the exception of the girl who is
dancing. That, however, is a sad blot upon what is otherwise a good
picture. Instead of dancing with the native modesty so peculiar to our
countrywomen, she dances with the unseemly movements of a tipsy virago,
or a trull in Donnybrook; whilst her face has a leer upon it that reminds
one of some painted drab on the outside of a booth between the periods of
performance. This must neither be given to us, nor taken as a specimen of
what Irishwomen are - the chastest and modestest females on the earth.

There are a considerable variety of dances in Ireland, from the simple
“reel of two” up to the country-dance, all of which are mirthful. There
are however, others which are serious, and may be looked upon as the
exponents of the pathetic spirit of our country. Of the latter I fear
several are altogether lost; and I question whether there be many persons
now alive in Ireland who know much about the _Horo Lhèig_, which, from
the word it begins with, must necessarily have been danced only on
mournful occasions. It is only at wakes and funereal customs in those
remote parts of the country where old usages are most pertinaciously
clung to, that any elucidation of the _Horo Lhèig_ and others of our
forgotten dances could be obtained. At present, I believe, the only
serious one we have is the _cotillon_, or, as they term it in the
country, the cut-a-long. I myself have witnessed, when very young, a
dance which, like the hornpipe, was performed but by one man. This,
however, was the only point in which they bore to each other any
resemblance. The one I allude to must in my opinion have been of Druidic
or Magian descent. It was not necessarily performed to music, and could
not be danced without the emblematic aids of a stick and handkerchief.
It was addressed to an individual passion, and was unquestionably one of
those symbolic dances that were used in pagan rites; and had the late
Henry O’Brien seen it, there is no doubt but he would have seized upon it
as a felicitous illustration of his system.

Having now said all we have to say here about Irish dances, it is time we
should say something about the Irish dancing-master; and be it observed,
that we mean him of the old school, and not the poor degenerate creature
of the present day, who, unless in some remote parts of the country, is
scarcely worth description, and has little of the national character
about him.

Like most persons of the itinerant professions, the old Irish
dancing-master was generally a bachelor, having no fixed residence, but
living from place to place within _his own walk_, beyond which he seldom
or never went. The farmers were his patrons, and his visits to their
houses always brought a holiday spirit along with them. When he came,
there was sure to be a dance in the evening after the hours of labour,
he himself good-naturedly supplying them with the music. In return for
this they would get up a little underhand collection for him, amounting
probably to a couple of shillings or half-a-crown, which some of them,
under pretence of taking the snuff-box out of his pocket to get a pinch,
would delicately and ingeniously slip into it, lest he might feel the act
as bringing down the dancing-master to the level of the mere fiddler. He
on the other hand, not to be outdone in kindness, would at the conclusion
of the little festivity desire them to lay down a door, on which he
usually danced a few favourite hornpipes to the music of his own fiddle.
This indeed was the great master-feat of his art, and was looked upon as
such by himself as well as by the people.

Indeed, the old dancing-master had some very marked outlines of character
peculiar to himself. His dress, for instance, was always far above
the fiddler’s, and this was the pride of his heart. He also made it
a point to wear a castor or Caroline hat, be the same “shocking bad”
or otherwise; but above all things, his soul within him was set upon
a watch, and no one could gratify him more than by asking him before
company what o’clock it was. He also contrived to carry an ornamental
staff, made of ebony, hiccory, mahogany, or some rare description of
cane - which, if possible, had a silver head and a silk tassel. This the
dancing-masters in general seemed to consider as a kind of baton or wand
of office, without which I never yet knew one of them to go. But of all
the parts of dress used to discriminate them from the fiddler, we must
place as standing far before the rest the dancing-master’s pumps and
stockings, for shoes he seldom wore. The utmost limit of their ambition
appeared to be such a jaunty neatness about that part of them in which
the genius of their business lay, as might indicate the extraordinary
lightness and activity which were expected from them by the people,
in whose opinion the finest stocking, the lightest shoe, and the most
symmetrical leg, uniformly denoted the most accomplished teacher.

The Irish dancing-master was also a great hand at match-making, and
indeed some of them were known to negociate as such between families
as well as individual lovers, with all the ability of a first-rate
diplomatist. Unlike the fiddler, the dancing-master had fortunately
the use of his eyes; and as there is scarcely any scene in which to a
keen observer the symptoms of the passion - to wit, blushings, glances,
squeezes of the hand, and stealthy whisperings - are more frequent or
significant, so is it no wonder indeed that a sagacious looker-on, such
as he generally was, knew how to avail himself of them, and to become in
many instances a necessary party to their successful issue.

In the times of our fathers it pretty frequently happened that the
dancing-master professed another accomplishment, which in Ireland, at
least, where it is born with us, might appear to be a superfluous one;
we mean, that of fencing, or, to speak more correctly, cudgel-playing.
Fencing-schools of this class were nearly as common in these times as
dancing-schools, and it was not at all unusual for one man to teach both.

I have already stated that the Irish dancing-master was for the most part
a bachelor. This, however, was one of those general rules which have
very little to boast of over their exceptions. I have known two or three
married dancing-masters, and remember to have witnessed on one occasion
a very affecting circumstance, which I shall briefly mention. Scarlatina
had been very rife and fatal during the spring of the year when this
occurred, and the poor man was forced by the death of an only daughter,
whom that treacherous disease had taken from him, to close his school
during such a period as the natural sorrow for those whom we love usually
requires. About a month had elapsed, and I happened to be present on the
evening when he once more called his pupils together. His daughter had
been a very handsome and interesting young creature of sixteen, and was,
until cut down like a flower, attending her father’s school at the period
I allude to. The business of the school went on much in the usual way,
until a young man who had generally been her partner got up to dance.
The father played a little, but the music was unsteady and capricious;
he paused, and made a strong effort to be firm; the dancing for a moment
ceased, and he wiped away a few hot tears from his eyes. Again he
resumed, but his eye rested upon the partner of that beloved daughter, as
he stood with the hand of another girl in his. “Don’t blame me,” said the
poor fellow meekly, at the same time laying aside his fiddle and bursting
into tears; “she was all I had, and my heart was in her; sure you are
all here _but her_, and she - - Go home, boys and girls, oh, go home and
pity me. You knew what she was. Give me another fortnight for Mary’s
sake, for, oh, I am her father! I will meet you all again; but never,
never will I see you here without feeling that I have a breaking heart.
I miss the light sound of her foot, the sweetness of her voice, and the
smile of the eye that said to me, ‘these are all your _scholars_, father,
but I, sure I am _your daughter_.’” Although the occasion was joyous and
mirthful, yet such is the sympathy with domestic sorrow entertained in
Ireland, that there were few dry eyes present, and not a heart that did
not feel deeply and sincerely for his melancholy and most afflicting loss.

After all, the old dancing-master, in spite of his most strenuous efforts
to the contrary, bore, in simplicity of manners, in habits of life, and
in the happy spirit which he received from and impressed upon society,
a distant but not indistinct resemblance to the fiddler. Between these
two, however, no good feeling subsisted. The one looked up at the other
as a man who was unnecessarily and unjustly placed above him; whilst the
other looked down upon him as a mere drudge, through whom those he taught
practised their accomplishments. This petty rivalry was very amusing, and
the “boys,” to do them justice, left nothing undone to keep it up. The
fiddler had certainly the best of the argument, whilst the other had the
advantage of a higher professional position. The one was more loved, the
other more respected. Perhaps very few things in humble life could be so
amusing to a speculative mind, or at the same time capable of affording
a better lesson to human pride, than the almost miraculous skill with
which the dancing-master contrived, when travelling, to carry his fiddle
about him, so as that it might not be seen, and he himself mistaken for
nothing but a fiddler. This was the sorest blow his vanity could receive,
and a source of endless vexation to all his tribe. Our manners, however,
are changed, and neither the fiddler nor the dancing-master possesses the
fine mellow tints nor that depth of colouring which formerly brought them
and their rich household associations home at once to the heart.

One of the most amusing specimens of the dancing-master that I ever
met, was the person alluded to at the close of my paper on the Irish
Fiddler, under the nickname of Buckram-Back. This man had been a drummer
in the army for some time, where he had learned to play the fiddle; but
it appears that he possessed no relish whatever for a military life,
as his abandonment of it without even the usual forms of a discharge
or furlough, together with a back that had become cartilaginous from
frequent flogging, could abundantly testify. It was from the latter
circumstance that he had received his nickname.

Buckram-Back was a dapper light little fellow, with a rich Tipperary
brogue, crossed by a lofty strain of illegitimate English, which he
picked up whilst in the army. His habiliments sat as tight upon him as
he could readily wear them, and were all of the shabby-genteel class.
His crimped black coat was a closely worn second-hand, and his crimped
face quite as much of a second-hand as the coat. I think I see his
little pumps, little white stockings, his coaxed drab breeches, his
hat, smart in its cock but brushed to a polish and standing upon three
hairs, together with his tight questionably coloured gloves, all before
me. Certainly he was the jauntiest little cock living - quite a blood,
ready to fight any man, and a great defender of the fair sex, whom he
never addressed except in that highflown bombastic style so agreeable to
most of them, called by their flatterers the complimentary, and by their
friends the fulsome. He was in fact a public man, and up to every thing.
You met him at every fair, where he only had time to give you a wink as
he passed, being just then engaged in a very particular affair; but he
would tell you again. At cockfights he was a very busy personage, and
an angry better from half-a-crown downwards. At races he was a knowing
fellow, always shook hands with the winning jockey, and then looked
pompously about, that folks might see that he was hand and glove with
those who knew something.

The house where Buckram-Back kept his school, which was open only after


Online LibraryVariousThe Irish Penny Journal, Vol. 1 No. 9, August 29, 1840 → online text (page 2 of 3)