Corpus of Electronic Texts Edition
Laurence Bloomfield in Ireland (Author: William Allingham)

chapter 8

A Ribbon Lodge.

  • At Lisnamoy, my friendly reader, deign
    To pick your steps along a narrow lane,
    And stop at Matthew Gorman's dirty door.
    A sow is lodger upon Mat's ground-floor,
    5] And grunts a welcome; follow me with care,
    I'll guide you up the dark, the shaky stair;
    And here is Matthew's schoolroom,—rather say
    It was, for now its glory's past away,
    Though still a night-school struggles to exist
    10] For boys of larger growth, a bearded list.
    Not merely copybooks are written there,


    Not much for reading do the students care,
    Except the Firebrand, redd aloud by Mat,
    A lazy, pompous man, unclean, and fat;
    15] And oft goes round, when learning proves too dry,
    A jar that never met the gauger's eye.
    Big is the hearth, the fire is mostly small,
    Rough desks and benches range along the wall,
    The panes are patch'd with inky leaf and clout;
    20] A useful though unsavoury pile without
    May help again, as it has help'd before,
    Retreat more quick and private than by door,
    'Mong filthy narrow yards and tumbling walls.
  • To Matthew's house to-night, as twilight falls,
    25] With passwords, from the lane, and grip of hand,
    By ones and twos arrive a secret band,—
    ‘Where are you from?’ ‘South-aist.’ ‘The night is dark.’
    ‘A star will shortly rise.’ ‘You know the mark?’
    ‘Milesius must be ready.’ ‘What's your sign?’


    30] ‘Lamh dearg an oughter!’ ‘Tubbermore is mine:’17
    ‘Pass, brother.’ Past the sow, and up the stair,
    They grope through darkness into ruddy glare,
    The two old grimy windows, looking back,
    Being curtain'd for the nonce with plies of sack.
    35] The Lodge is filling fast; in various groups
    Lounge Captain Starlight's famed and dreadful troops;
    Two score in count at last, the most of whom
    Are young and brainless, fill the stifling room.
  • Beside the door, a knot of ‘labourin'-boys’,
    40] The farmer these, and those the squire employs,
    Yawn wide and mope, till whiskey in their brain
    Kindle its foolish fire, with flashes vain
    Wrapt in dull smoke, to send them blundering back
    O'er field and fence upon their homeward track.
    45] From outhouse loft, at need, or barnfloor bed,
    The clumsy body and the stupid head


    Escape, with matchbox, or with stick in fist,
    To burn or batter as their leaders list,
    With knife to mam the cows, or loaded gun
    50] To rake a peaceful window, and to run.
  • A broken tradesman's aspect of disgrace,
    Torn coat, big eyes, and pale unwashen face,
    Shrink in a corner. Bold sits Bill McCann,
    The keen, small, withered, disputatious man,
    55] With spectacles on nose, and quid in jaw,
    Ready to argue histh'ry, po'thry, law,
    Religion, science, or the latest news.
    Bill earns his frugal crust by making shoes;
    Debate his recreation,—most of all
    60] With ‘Lordy’ Mullan glad to try a fall.18
    But now to Dublin Firebrand Bill gives heed,
    As Mat in solemn voice goes on to read:
    ‘Who plotted for a famine? who was gay’
    ‘To see the Celtic millions melt away,’


    65] ‘Foodless and fever'd, while their native soil’
    ‘Outpour'd the wealthy produce of their toil?’
    ‘Answer, Lord Russell, answer!—King of Heav'n!’
    ‘Must Ireland's flocks and herds be always driv'n’
    ‘To glut the maw of England? must our corn’
    70] ‘To her huge bursting granaries be borne?’
    ‘And each hard penny saved from Paddy's rent’
    ‘On Indian corn and English ships be spent?’
    ‘While year by year the London Rulers count’
    ‘So many less in Ireland's gross amount’
    75] ‘Of human beings,—on the other score,’
    ‘So many thousand sheep and oxen more.’
    ‘England has no religion, has no heart;’
    ‘By force and fraud she plays a tyrant part;’
    ‘Fat in the purse, and torpid in the brain,’
    80] ‘Her prayer is pudding, and her God is gain;’
    ‘By all mistrusted, and abhorr'd by all;’
    ‘In power unblest—unpitied be her fall!’
    Some harken'd well; but others, growling round,
    The voice of Mat in rising murmurs drown'd.

  • p.160

  • ‘It's grand, by japers!’—‘But the night gets late.’
    ‘Is it for Coyle and Doran we must wait?’
    ‘I dunno', Barney; be du hust! see yonder—’
    ‘What can thim two be talkin' of, I wonder.’
    Captain and Delegate, in muttering speech,
    90] With cool but searching glances, each at each,
    Stand by the hearth. Big, elderly, and spare,
    With serious begging-letter-writer's air,
    Some thin locks train'd across his yellow skull,
    His features large, yet all the lines are dull,
    95] Small watery eyes, but not a watery nose,
    Huge fungoid ears, harsh skin befitting those,
    O'er many countries has the ‘Delegate’,
    Through by-paths foul, by unheroic fate
    Been hounded; greedy, discontented, coarse,
    100] Mean, bragging, cringing, full of bad resource;
    A man that never could have turn'd to good,
    (But might have been to harmlessness subdued)
    And to a base perfection rankly grew,
    A living lie, a falsehood through and through.


    105] Alone by natural cowardice restrain'd,
    With blood no less his trembling hands are stain'd,
    By murderer, hangman, he in turn has gain'd.
    None trusts him less than he with whom he speaks,
    That light-built, long-neck'd man with ‘brocket’ cheeks.
    110] Spoilt priest, attorney's extra clerk, and then
    Sub-tax-collector, handy with his pen,
    But self-conceited, and too sharp of tongue,
    Chance after chance Tim Nulty lost, while young,
    And now upon a farm (too dear at best),
    115] His brother's transfer when he sail'd out West,
    Tim poorly keeps a spouse and children five,
    And also keeps perpetual war alive
    With all above him, caring not the least
    For landlord, agent, lawyer, parson, priest;
    120] Yet talk with Tim, as any stranger might,
    You'd find him pleasant, lively, shrewd, polite,
    With liberal notions, and could scarcely guess
    The Ribbon Parish-Master,—Tim's no less.

  • p.162

  • Who next among the various crowd are seen?
    125] That brisk old boy, distiller of potheen,
    A Connaught-man, mellifluous of tongue,
    Most plausible of cheating knaves unhung,
    Supple, inquisitive, and tough as wire.
    Son Jack, a heavy youth in coarse attire,
    130] Begotten by the evil in his sire,
    Sits next his father, resolute but tame;
    His mode of life adventurous in its frame,
    He's still no better than a lumpish clod,
    (As doth a mule through alpine passes plod)
    135] Well train'd on moonless nights to watch the still,
    When light peat-smoke upon the heathery hill
    Creeps among rocks and brambles from its cave,
    And o'er the dark world, silent as a grave,
    The sentry strains his ear for warning shout
    140] Or whistle shrill from valley-guarding scout,
    Till now the moment long-delay'd bids rush
    Their fiery liquor forth in fragrant gush,
    Full quickly tasted. All to-night shall taste


    The recent venture. Roger cries, ‘Make haste!’
    145] A perilous ruffian, black-brow'd, strongly built,
    And through whose face the demon of his guilt
    With bulldog's winking eyes of sulky flame
    Scowls at the world, and knows not fear or shame.
    His voice, like all the man, is coarse and rough,—
    150] ‘Why bluranages, Mattha'! where's the stuff?’—
    ‘A lad or two that jined us t'other day,’
    ‘We're waitin' for.’—‘Nail Doran?’—‘So they say,’—
    ‘And Dinis Coyle.’—‘To blazes wid the pair!’
    —‘Doran,’—says one, ‘consated cub, I'd swear.’
    155] —‘Larnin!’ say others, ‘What is he to Dan?’
    ‘And sure he's grandson to a beggarman.’
    ‘See Phil—where are you, Phil?—descinded straight,’
    ‘Or crooked, from King Flanthach; what consate’
    ‘Has Phil at any time? he'll stand a trate’


    160] ‘All roun' if he has money,—won't you, Phil?’
    —‘We'll tache them better manners, so we will.’
    ‘Dan, whisper, are you bringin' down the jar?’
    ‘The divil saze them both!’—‘Whisht! here they are.’
  • Sharp-toned his voice, decision on his brow,
    165] With sudden gesture stepping forward now,
    Their Captain (‘Order! silence!’) takes the chair,
    And keeps his hat, while other heads are bare.
    ‘All doors well-tiled and truly?—I declare’
    ‘The Lodge is open. Murty, call the roll.’
    170] ‘I'll punish all defaulters, by my soul!’
    ‘And now, reports: Young Pat Devanny saw’
    ‘Our friend the Scotchman, Alexander Shaw,’
    ‘Buying a gun in Lisnamoy last week.’
    ‘James Houlahan, the Bear, intends to seek’
    175] ‘For part of Tullagh; James must get a hint;’
    ‘Well write him on a coffin, in large print.’
    ‘Four boys will execute the sentence pass'd’


    ‘On Jemmy Burke, convicted at our last’
    ‘Of sending in proposals for a farm’
    180] ‘At Meenabo; they'll do him little harm;’
    ‘Dry-beating only, this time. Next fair-day’
    ‘Help from beyond is coming down our way.’
    ‘Burke, with his two brown colts will stand the fair,’
    ‘You, Quigly, you, O'Toole, must both be there,’
    185] ‘To keep all day a cat's eye on your man,’
    ‘And put some whiskey in him if you can.’
    ‘You, Doran, that he won't suspect, must draw,’
    ‘With two strange lads (they're men you never saw)’
    ‘Alongside Jemmy, take him by the hand,’
    190] ‘Call out his name, you know, and make him stand,’
    ‘Until the boys are sure of Mister Burke;’
    ‘Then go your ways for once; they'll do the work.’
    Some brethren laugh'd, but all turn'd round to stare
    On Doran's face with keen and hideous glare.
    195] ‘This was submitted and approved. All's right.’
    ‘You'll get your passwords upon Tuesday night;’


    ‘Next day at three o'clock attend the scout.’
    Say some, ‘He hardly likes the job, I doubt.’
    ‘Why, blood an' ouns, Nail Doran, you're afear'd!’—
    200] ‘Are you a stagg?’—and so they scowl'd and jeer'd.
    ‘No stagg!’ says fiery Denis; ‘on my troth’
    ‘The word, Jack Farry, ill becomes your mouth.’
    ‘Who cares for you?’ Jack Farry quick replies.
    ‘Be done, you blasted fool!’ the Captain cries,
    205] ‘Attention! silence all!—I now declare’
    ‘The Lodge is closed. Be lively Mat, and share,’
    ‘The little drop of whiskey; glorious news
    ‘Next night, plase God,—and then we'll have a booze.’
    ‘What news,’—‘Oul' Pigot's wages will be paid,’—
    210] ‘Ay, troth! well arn'd, and long enough delay'd.’
    —‘When is it?’ some one whispers. ‘Be du hust!’19


    ‘The Grand Heads must approve it, so they must.’
    —‘And what about young Larry?’—‘Soon we'll hear.’
    ‘He's well-watched in the manetime, niver fear.’

  • 215]
  • The Captain show'd impatience, but the rest
    Would fain have lingered o'er the fiery zest.
    ‘Come, Dan, at all evints, a toast, a toast!’
    Dan Mullan being as orator their boast;
    A little man with shoulders set awry,
    220] Huge head, flat nose, a grey and furious eye;
    Lame in one leg, he limps upon a stick,
    Yet few with all their limbs can move so quick;
    Daniel's chief joy is hearing Daniel speak;
    Strong words are his, though utter'd in a squeak;
    225] And first he flings a fiery glance around,
    Like chief to warriors on the battle-ground.
    ‘Spake up, Dan!’—‘Mount him on a chair!’—‘Whirroo!’
    ‘Audience for Danel!’ ‘Drink, ye pathriot crew,’


    ‘Our frinds in sweet Ameriky an' France!’
    230] ‘To liberate us may they quick advance,’
    ‘An' with five hundre' thousan' Paddies bould,’
    ‘The Sunburst on their great green flag unrowl'd,’
    ‘Sweep every Englishman from say to say’
    ‘Into perdition!—O trice glorious day!—’
    235] ‘Immortal cause of Ayrin!—broadsoord, pike,’
    ‘An' faugh-a-ballagh,20 boys! we'll nobly strike’
    ‘For libertee, for—’ So the shrill-voiced Dan,
    With furious gestures like a frantic man;
    When lo, the crazy chair whereon he stood
    240] (Which also felt oppress'd, although but wood)
    Resolving suddenly to bear no more,
    Demosthenes lay sprawling on the floor.
    His friends approved the soaring words employ'd,
    The speaker's downfall they still more enjoy'd,
    245] With shouts of laughter each prolong'd the fun;
    But shatter'd lay their glass, their only one.


    A broken teacup soon supplied the want;
    Then oozed the mob away, as drink was scant.
    The Delegate, the Captain, and three more,
    250] Remain'd behind: they lock'd and barr'd the door:
    Wheels within wheels. The others into night,
    Some to the merry wakehouse took their flight,
    The crowded wake of Rose Muldoon, poor child,
    Whose face upon the pillow, pale and mild,
    255] On all her troubles now serenely smiled.
  • Meantime the secret Five their business do,
    And quickly, for the Captain's words are few.
    He pulls a scrap of paper from his breast,
    And beckons round him, with a nod, the rest,—
    260] ‘Here is our answer, boys,’—(below his breath)
    Verdict approved on Pigot: sentence Death:
    ‘Ourselves to fix a proper time and way.’
    ‘Our spies, you know, are watchin' every day,’
    ‘Moreover, trusty help is close at hand;’
    265] ‘The strangers are in town: you understand.’


    ‘They only have a certain while to stop;’
    ‘First chance that comes, we'll take it at the hop.’
    ‘Meet the Fair-day, my boys, in any case;’
    ‘Pass number twenty—usual hour and place.’

  • 270]
  • The night before, when Rose was taken bad,
    ‘The crathur!’ off her father ran like mad
    For Father Austin. ‘Blessed Saints!’ they say,
    ‘He'll hardly overtake her!—that he may!’—
    ‘Och Wirrastrua!’—and this awe increased21
    275] Moment by moment, till the grave young priest
    Arriving quickly, set their minds at rest.
    Alone with him, the dying girl confess'd
    Her slender sins; then touch'd with sacred oil,
    The timid soul from terror to assoyle,
    280] In Bridget's arms her weary head reposed,
    And Bridget's hands ere long her eyelids closed.
    All knew, all cross'd themselves with pious care,
    And help'd the parting spirit with a prayer.


    The candles soon were lighted for the wake;
    285] The father saw the tedious morning break,
    With Bridget, and old women two or three,
    Who propp'd their eyelids with perpetual tea.
  • But this night is the great night; throng enough
    In two small rooms, with pipes and plates of snuff,
    290] Laughter and conversation without end.
    Young Neal, and Denis Coyle his sturdy friend,
    Have separate chairs, in token of respect.
    Dan Mullan warms upon the sad effect
    Of landlords' and their agents' cruel sway
    295] In Rosy's early death,—‘Look round, I say!’
    ‘A white and purty corpse she's lying there,—’
    ‘By these five crosses solemnly I swear’22
    ‘The girl was murther'd!’ Reason as you will,
    You could not have escap'd the sudden thrill
    300] Which all who heard, and Neal not slightliest felt.
    Yet cautiously his cooler judgment dealt,


    While hasty rhetoric in confused debate,
    Heap'd on its bulky rubbish, of no weight.
    Their own affairs, he saw, they managed ill;
    305] Their chief proficiency, to lie with skill,
    Ev'n to each other. For this very wake,
    To which he gave his mite for Rosy's sake,
    Her lazy father, Doran knew full well,
    What came to hand would never fairly tell.
    310] ‘Bloomfield? who'd ax the tyrant's help!’—‘My plan’
    ‘Would be to take it aff them where we can.’
    ‘Whisper!—he ax'd, and got it too.’—‘How much?’—
    ‘What signifies it? aisy thing for such,’
    ‘Danderin' about the worl' wid pockets full’
    315] ‘O' what they niver arn'd, to sometimes pull’
    ‘Their han' out.’—‘True enough; but don't ye think’
    ‘Muldoon is boun' to show a drop o' drink?’
    —‘Av coorse he is, and that we'll make him do,’


    ‘But later in the evenin'—thigemthu?’—23
    315] Though Neal and Denis had thought well to come,
    They never tried to make themselves at home
    With this Muldoon, an idle craving sot,
    Complaining always of his self-made lot.
    View'd from above, the People, widely spread,
    315] Appear a vast and level plain, but tread
    The lower country, hill and vale are found,
    Brooks, thickets, fences, intersect the ground;
    The Many, if with careful eyes you seek,
    Among themselves show also class and clique;
    315] Nor fail'd the friends of Bridget to oppose,
    At first, her playing nurse's part by Rose.
  • ‘I thought so,’ said the Doctor. ‘Hum!—I see—’
    ‘You gave it, Mr. Bloomfield, on the plea’
    ‘Of burial charges; but it went astray.’
    315] ‘One can't believe a single word they say.’
    ‘Muldoon had quite enough for proper ends;’


    ‘You made him drunk with all his mourning friends.’
    ‘The child was long upon my hands; and now’
    ‘I've plaster'd up the foolish father's brow,’
    315] ‘Who ran his useless head against a wall’
    ‘When staggering homewards from the funeral.’
    ‘Heed him no further; let him go his gate,’
    ‘And reach the workhouse, better soon than late,’
    ‘His lawful refuge, and his fitting fate.’

  • 315]
  • The corpse from door of poverty was borne,
    And yet, of funeral honours not forlorn.
    Although Muldoon himself was never sworn,
    There march'd the Lodge, from greatest man to least,
    Her coffin lifted, and would pay the priest.
    315] The heavy bell, which stopt the hearer's breath,
    At every boom loaded the day with death.
    His Curate on his right hand, Priest Adair
    Sprinkled the water, said the rapid pray'r.
    Clay fell on clay. Some knelt by cross or stone
    315] Before they too departed, leaving lone


    The ruin'd cloisters, haunted of the wind,
    Low-murmuring secrets which no man can find.
    Tim Nulty hasted homewards, to compose
    A timely burst of dithyrambic prose,
    315] ‘Another Victim’; will he sign the letter
    ‘Eman-ac-knuck?’24 would ‘Nemesis’ be better?
    Proudly shall Tim behold his eloquent rage
    Emblazon'd on the Firebrand's classic page,
    Already fierce on Ballytullagh's woe,
    315] And ‘Tiger Pigot’ or ‘The Poor Man's Foe.’

  • p.176