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Tiny harp

The Parson's Revels



The Parson's Revels
William Dunkin (1709-1765)

William Dunkin (1709-1765) was educated at Trinity College, Dublin, where he came to the notice of Swift. He became headmaster of Portora Royal School, Enniskillen. Seamus Deane calls him "probably the most underrated poet of eighteenth-century Ireland". His highly regarded burlesque The Parson's Revels (published posthumously in 1770) presents a set of characters representing the different levels of contemporary Irish society. This excerpt describes the harper Murphy, who claims ancestry from the great O'Neills of Ulster, clashing with Oaf, a Presbyterian landlord.

    At flowing bumpers who can carp,
    Or in his jovial humour warp?
    Then fill your glasses: — tune your harp,
                   O Murphy.

    This Murphy, strolling up and down,
    Had been a harper of renown,
    And Bard as eloquent, as Crown,
                   Or Durphy. [two minor playwrights]

    About O Neal he kept a pother,
    For why, he was his foster-brother,
    Begotten on a base-born mother,
                   A Spinster.

    But, though reduc'd to live by strings,
    Greater than great O Neal he brings
    His father's blood from antient kings
                   Of Leinster.

    As ladies fair, of taste refin'd,
    Their petted linnets often blind
    To make them sing the sweeter, kind-
                   ly cruel.

    To strike his mind with visions bright,
    And give his hearers more delight,
    Melpomene depriv'd of sight [the Greek Muse of tragedy]
                   This jewel.

    Quoth Oaf, I hate him and his kin,
    To hear his music is a sin;
    For bringing such a rebel in
                   Small thanks t'ye.

    His harp is hollow; so is he;
    Both make one popish jubilee:
    What can he play, but Garran-buoy,
                   Or Planksty?

    At this O Murphy, like a nag
    Spurr'd to his mettle, would not lag:
    Quoth he, 'I am na ribil rag-
                   A-muffin,

    But of dhe reight Hibarnian seed,
    Aldough mey fadhir cud nat reed,
    Nat lek yur black fanatic breed,
                   You puffin'…

    His voice was brazen, deep, and such,
    As well accorded with High-dutch,
    Or Attic Irish, and his touch
                   Was pliant.

    Dubourg to him was but a fool, [A noted violinist in Dublin during the 1730s and 1740s]
    He play'd melodious without rule,
    And sung the feats of Fin Macool,
                   The giant.

    He sounds in more majestic strains,
    How brave Milesians with their skanes [Irish scian, 'knife']
    Had butcher'd all the bloody Danes
                   Like weathers. [castrated rams]

    While Bryan Borough with a yell [the king of Ireland who defeated the Danes at the battle of Clontarf, 1014]
    Flat on the bed of honour fell,
    When he might sleep at home as well
                   On feathers:

    He celebrates with lofty tone
    Tyrconnel, Desmond, and Tyrone [Irish earls]
    Renown'd O Neal, who shook the throne
                   Of Britain;

    O Donnel, fam'd for whisky rare,
    And then, O Rowrk, thy noble fare [Carolan's Pléaráca na Ruarcach]
    Of sheep and oxen, with — no chair
                   To sit on …

    At last, though much against his heart,
    His tongue and fingers act their part,
    Displaying with Orphean art,
                   And cunning,

    How WILLIAM cross'd the Boyn to fight, [William of Orange, William III of England]
    And how King James had beaten quite [James II, who lost the Battle of the Boyne, 1690]
    His hot pursuers out of sight —
                   By running.

    He plays, and sings it o'er and o'er,
    Encore, quoth Denison, encore! [another Presbyterian guest at the feast]
    One Williamite would rout a score
                   Of trimmers.

    Nassau, with bays immortal crown'd, [William III was also count of Nassau in Germany]
    Nassau, Nassau the guests resound;
    The GLORIOUS MEMORY flows round
                   In brimmers.

Seamus Deane, ed.
The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing, Volume 1
Derry, 1991
pp. 446-447



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