All the intermediate days between the making of such speeches and the ensuing Monday are wasted, and when Monday morning comes it is ten to one that the business is deferred to the next Monday morning. The Editor knew a gentleman who, to counteract this prejudice, made hia workmen and laborers begin all new pieces of work upon a Saturday.
'Magnoque ululante tumultu.' Virgil.A full account of the Irish Gol or Ullaloo, and of the Caoinan or Irish funeral song, with its first semichorus, second semichorus, full chorus of sighs and groans, together with the Irish words and music, may be found in the fourth volume of the Transactions of the Royal Irish Academy. For the advantage of lazy readers, who would rather read a page than walk a yard, and from compassion, not to say sympathy with their infirmity, the Editor transcribes the following passages.
. . . . . . . .'Ululatibus omne
Implevere nemus.' Ovid.
'The Irish have been always remarkable for their funeral lamentations, and this peculiarity has been noticed by almost every traveller who visited them. And it seems derived from their Celtic ancestors, the primaeval inhabitants of this isle. . . .'
'It has been affirmed of the Irish, that to cry was more natural to them than to any other nation, and at length the Irish cry became proverbial. . . .'
'Cambrensis in the twelfth century says, the Irish then musically expressed their griefs; that is, they applied the musical art, in which they excelled all others, to the orderly celebration of funeral obsequies, by dividing the mourners into two bodies, each alternately singing their part, and the whole at times joining in full chorus. . . . The body of the deceased, dressed in grave clothes and ornamented with flowers, was placed on a bier or some elevated spot. The relations and Keeners (singing mourners) ranged themselves in two divisions, one at the head and the other at the feet of the corpse. The bards and croteries had before prepared the funeral Caoinan. The chief bard of the head chorus began by singing the first stanza in a low, doleful tone, which was softly accompanied by the harp: at the conclusion the foot semichorus began the lamentation, or Ullalon, from the final note of the preceding stanza, in which they were answered by the head semichorus; then both united in one general chorus. The chorus of the first stanza being ended, the chief bard of the foot semichorus began the second Gol or lamentation, in which they were answered by that of the head; and then as before both united in the general full chorus. Thus alternately were the song and chorusses performed during the night. The genealogy, rank, possessions, the virtues and vices of the dead were rehearsed, and a number of interrogations were addressed to the deceased: as, Why did he die? If married, whether his wife was faithful to him, his sons dutiful, or good hunters or warriors? If a woman, whether her daughters were fair or chaste? If a young man, whether he had been crossed in love? or if the blue-eyed maids of Erin treated him with scorn?'
We are told that formerly the feet (the metrical feet) of the Caninan were much attended to, but on the decline of the Irish bards these feet were gradually neglected, the Caninan fell into a sort of slip-shod metre amongst women. Each province had different Caoinans, or at least different imitations of the original. There was the Munster cry, the Ulster cry, &c. It became an extempore performance, and every set of Keeners varied the melody according to their own fancy.
It is curious to observe how customs and ceremonies degenerate. The present Irish cry or howl cannot boast of much melody, nor is the funeral procession conducted with much dignity. The crowd of people who assemble at these funerals sometimes amounts to a thousand, often to four or five hundred. They gather as the bearers of the hearse proceed on their way, and when they pass through any village, or when they come near any houses, they begin to cry—Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh! Agh! Agh! raising their notes from the first Oh! to the last Agh! in a kind of mournful howl. This gives notice to the inhabitants of the village that a funeral is passing, and immediately they flock out to follow it. In the province of Munster it is a common thing for the women to follow a funeral, to join in the universal cry with all their might and main for some time, and then to turn and ask— 'Arrah! who is it that's dead ?—who is it we're crying for ?'—Even the poorest people have their own burying-places, that is, spots of ground in the church-yards, where they say that their ancestors have been buried ever since the wars of Ireland: and if these burial-places are ten miles from the place where a man dies, his friends and neighbours take care to carry his corpse thither. Always one priest, often five or six priests, attend these funerals; each priest repeats a mass, for which he is paid sometimes a shilling, sometimes half a crown, sometimes half a guinea, or a guinea, according to the circumstances, or as they say, according to the ability of the deceased. After the burial of any very poor man who has left a widow or children, the priest makes what is called a collection for the widow; he goes round to every person present, and each contributes sixpence or a shilling, or what they please. The reader will find in the note upon the word Wake more particulars respecting the conclusion of the Irish funerals.
Certain old women, who cry particularly loud and well, are in great request, and, as a man said to the Editor, 'Every one would wish and be proud to have such at his funeral, or at that of his friends.' The lower Irish are wonderfully eager to attend the funerals of their friends and relations, and they make their relationships branch out to a great extent. The proof that a poor man has been well beloved during his life, is his having a crowded funeral. To attend a neighbour's funeral is a cheap proof of humanity, but it does not, as some imagine, cost nothing. The time spent in attending funerals may be safely valued at half a million to the Irish nation: the Editor thinks that double that sum would not be too high an estimate. The habits of profligacy and drunkenness which are acquired at wakes are here put out of the question. When a labourer, a carpenter, or a smith is not at his work, which frequently happens, ask where he is gone, and ten to one the answer is—'Oh faith, please your honor, he couldn't do a stroke to-day, for he's gone to the funeral.'
Even beggars, when they grow old, go about begging for their own funerals; that is, begging for money to buy a coffin, candles, pipes and tobacco.—For the use of the candles, pipes and tobacco, see Wake.
Those who value customs in proportion to their antiquity, and nations in proportion to their adherence to antient customs, will doubtless admire the Irish Ullaloo, and the Irish nation, for persevering in this usage from time immemorial. The Editor, however, has observed some alarming symptoms, which seem to prognosticate the declining taste for the UlIaloo in Ireland. In a comic theatrical entertainment represented not long since on the Dublin stage, a chorus of old women was introduced, who set up the Irish howl round the relics of a physician, who is supposed to have fallen under the wooden sword of Harlequin. After the old women have continued their Ullaloo for a decent time, with all the neceasary accompaniments of wringing their hands, wiping or rubbing their eyes with the corners of their gowns or aprons, &c. one of the mourners suddenly suspends her lamentable cries, and turning to her neighbour, asks—'Arrah now, honey, who is it we're crying for?'
In Esthonia, amongst the poor Sclavonian race of peasant slaves, they pay tributes to their lords, not under the name of duty work, duty geese, duty turkies, &c. but under the name of righteousnesses. The following ballad is a curious specimen of Estonian poetry:
This is the cause that the country is ruined,
And the straw of the rhatch is eaten away,
The gentry are come to live in the land—
Chimneys between the village,
And the proprietor upon the white floor!
The sheep brings forth a lamb with a white forehead;
This is paid to the lord for a righteousness sheep.
The sow farrows pigs, They go to the spit of the lord.
The hen lays eggs,
They go into the lord's frying-pan.
The cow drops a male calf,
That goes into the lord's herd as a bull.
The mare foals a horse foal,
That must be for my lord's nag.
The boor's wife has sons,
They must go to look after my lord's poultry.
The country people in Ireland certainly had great admiration mixed with reverence, if not dread of fairies. They believed, that beneath these fairy mounts were spacious subterraneous palaces inhabited by the good people, who must not on any account be disturbed. When the wind raises a little eddy of dust upon the road, the poor people believe that it is raised by the fairies, that it is a sign that they are journeying from one of the fairy mounts to another, and they say to the fairies, or to the dust as it passes—'God speed ye, gentlemen, God speed ye.' This averts any evil that the good people might be inclined to do them. There are innumerable stories told of the friendly and unfriendly feats of these busy fairies; some of these tales are ludicrous, and some romantic enough for poetry. It isa pity that poets should lose such convenient, though diminutive machinery.—By the by, Parnell, who shewed himself so deeply 'skilled of faerie lore,' was an Irishman; and though he has presented his faeries to the world in the ancient English dress of 'Britain's Isle, and Arthur's days,' it is probable that his first acquaintance with them began in his native country.
Some remote origin for the most superstitious or romantic popular illusions or vulgar errors may often be discovered. In Ireland, the old churches and church-yards have been usually fixed upon as the scenes of wonders. Now the antiquarians tell us, that near the ancient churches in that kingdom caves of various constructions have from time to time been discovered, which were formerly used as granaries or magazines by the ancient inhabitants, and as places to which they retreated in time of danger. There is (p. 84 of the R. I. A. Transactions for 1789) a particular account of a number of these artificial caves at the West end of the church of Killossy, in the county of Kildare. Under a rising ground, in a dry sandy soil, these subterraneous dwellings were found: they have pediment roofs, and they communicate with each other by small apertures. In the Brehon laws these see mentioned, and there are fines inflicted by those laws upon persons who steal from the subterraneous granaries. All these things shew, that there was a real foundation for the stories which were told of the appearance of lights and of the sounds of voices near these places. The persons who had property concealed there very willingly countenanced every wonderful relation that tended to make these places objects of sacred awe or superstitious terror.
'I'll have the law of you, so I will !'—is the saying of an Englishman who expects justice. 'I'll have you before his honor'—is the threat of an Irishman who hopes for partiality. Miserable is the life of a justice of the peace in Ireland the day after a fair, especially if he resides near a small town. The multitude of the kilt (kilt does not mean killed, but hurt) and wounded who come before his honor with black eyes or bloody heads is astonishing, but more astonishing is the number of those, who, though they are scarcely able by daily labour to procure daily food, will nevertheless, without the least reluctance, waste six or seven hours of the day lounging in the yard or hall of a justice of the peace, waiting to make some complaint about—nothing. It is inpossible to convince them that time is money. They do not set any value upon their own tine, and they think that others estimate theirs at less than nothing. Hence they ake no scruple of telling a justice of the peace a story of an hour long about a tester (sixpence): and if he grow impatient, they attribute it to some seeret prejudice which he entertains against them.
Their method is to get a story completely by beset, and to tell it, as they call it, out of the face, that is, from the beginning to the end, without interruption.
'Well, my good friend, I have seen you lounging about these three hours in the yard; what is your business?'
'Please your honor, it is what I want to speak one word to your honor.'
'Speak then, but be quick—What is the matter?'
'Nothing strange—The matter, please your honor, is nothing at-all-at-all, only just about the grazing of a horse, please your honor, that this man here sold me at the fair of Gurtishannon last Shrove fair, which lay down three times with myself, please your honor, and kilt me; not to be telling your honor of how, no later back than yesterday night, he lay down in the house there within, and all the childer standing round, and it was God's mercy he did not fall a'-top of them, or into the fire to burn himself. So please your honor, to-day I took him back to this man, which owned him, and after a great deal to do I got the mare again I swopped (exchanged) him for; but he wont't pay the grazing of the horse for the time I had him, though he promised to pay the grazing in case the horse didn't answer; and he never did a day's work, good or bad, please your honor, all the time he was with me, and I had the doctor to him five times, any how. And so, please your honor, it is what I expect your honor will stand my friend, for I'd sooner come to your honor for justice than to any other in all Ireland. And so I brought him here before your honor, and expect your honor will make him pay me the grazing, or tell me, can I process him for it at the next assizes, please your honor?'
The defendant now, turning a quid of tobacco with his tongue into some secret cavern in his mouth, begins his defence with—
'Please your honor, under favor, and saving your honor's presence, there's not a word of truth in all this man has been saying from beginning to end, upon my conscience, and I wouldn't for the value of the horse itself, grazing and all, be after telling your honor a lie. For please your honor, I have a dependance upon your honor that you'll do me justice, and not be listening to him or the like of him. Please your honor, it's what he has brought me before your honor, because he had a spite against me about some oats I sold your honor, which he was jealous of, and a shawl his wife got at my shister's shop there without, and never paid for; so I offered to set the shawl ageinat the grazing, and give him a receipt in full of all demands, but he wouldn't out of spite, please your honor; so he brought me before your honor, expecting your honor was mad with me for cutting down the tree in the horse park, which was none of my doing, please your honor—ill luck to them that went and belied me to your honor behind my back!—So if your honor is pleasing, I'll tell you the whole truth about the horse that he swopped against my mare, out of the face.—Last Shrove fair I met this man, Jemmy Duffy, please your honor, just at the corner of the road where the bridge is broke down that your honor is to have the presentment for this year—long life to you for it!—And he was at that time coming from the fair of Gurtishannon, and I the same way. 'How are you, Jemmy?' says I.—'Very well, I thank ye kindly, Bryan,' says he; 'shall we turn back to paddy Salmon's, and take a naggin of whiskey to our better acquaintance ?'—'I don't care if I did, Jemmy,' says I; 'only it is what I can't take the whiskey, because I'm under an oath against it for a month.' Ever since, please your honor, the day your honor met me on the road, and observed to me I could hardly stand I had taken so much—though upon my conscience your honor wronged me greatly that same time—ill luck to them that belied me behind my back to your honor!—Well, please your honor, as I was telling you, as he was taking the whiskey, and we talking of one thing or t'other, he makes me an offer to swop his mare that he couldn't sell at the fair of Gurtishannon, because nobody would be troubled with the beast, please your honor, against my horse, and to oblige him I took the mare—sorrow take her! and him along with her !—She kicked me a new car, that was worth three pounds ten, to tatters the first time ever I put her into it, and I expect your honor will make him pay me the price of the car, any how, before I pay the grazing, which I've no right to pay at-all-at-all, only to oblige him.—But I leave it all to your honor—and the whole grazing he ought to be charging for the beast is but two and eight-pence half-penny, any how, please your honor. So I'll abide by what your honor says, good or bad. I'll leave it all to your honor.'
I'll leave it all to your honor—literally means, I'll leave all the trouble to your honor.
The Editor knew a justice of the peace in Ireland, who had such a dread of having it all left to his honor, that he frequently gave the complainants the sum about which they were disputing to make peace between them, and to get rid of the trouble of hearing their stories out of the face. But he was soon cured of this method of buying off disputes, by the increasing multitude of those who, out of pure regard to his honor, came 'to get justice from him, because they would sooner come before him than before any man in all lreland.'
'There is no woman where there is no reserve.'The merit of the original idea of a raking pot of tea evidently belongs to the washerwornan and the laundry-maid. But why should not we have Low life above stairs, as well as High life below stairs?
The Editor was favored by a learned friend with the above Extract, from a MS. of Lord Totness's in the Lambeth library.
It is curious to observe how good and bad are mingled in human institutions. In countries which were thinly inhabited, this custom prevented private attempts against the lives of individuals, and formed a kind of Coroner's inquest upon the body which had recently expired, and burning the straw upon which the sick man lay became a simple preservative against infection. At night the dead body is waked, that is to say, all the friends and neighbours of the deceased collect in a barn or stable, where the corpse is laid upon some boards, or an unhinged door supported upon stools, the face exposed, the rest of the body covered with a white sheet. Round the body are stuck in brass candlesticks, which have been borrowed perhaps at five miles distance, as many candles as the poor person can beg or borrow, observing always to have an odd number. Pipes and tobacco are first distributed, and then according to the ability of the deceased, cakes and ale, and sometimes whiskey, are dealt to the company.
'Deal on, deal on, my merry men all,After a fit of universal sorrow, and the comfort of a universal dram, the scandal of the neighbourhood, as in higher circles, occupy the company. The young lads and lasses romp with one another, and when the fathers and mothers are at last overcome with sleep and whiskey, (vino & somno) the youth become more enterprizing and are frequently successful. It is said that more matches are made at wakes than at weddings.
. . Deal on your cakes and your wine,
For whatever is dealt at her funeral to-day
. . Shall he dealt to-morrow at mine.'