The Spike [or Victoria University College Review 1954]
James K. Baxter
James K. Baxter
Lament for Barney Flanagan, Licencee of the Hesperus Hotel
Flanagan got up on a Saturday morning,
Pulled on his pants while the coffee was warming:
He didn't remember the doctor's warning,
"Your heart's too big, Mr. Flanagan."
Barney Flanagan sprung like a frog
From a wet root in an Irish bog,
May his soul escape from the tooth of the dog!
God have mercy on Flanagan."
Rode to his grave on Hennessey's
Like a bottle cork boat in the Irish Sea.
The bell-boy rings for Flanagan.
Barney Flanagan, ripe for a coffin,
Eighteen stone and brandy rotten,
Patted the housemaid's velvet bottom—
"Oh, is it you, Mr. Flanagan?"
The sky was bright as a new milk token.
Bill the Bookie and Shellshock Hogan
Waited outside for the pub to open—
"Good day, Mr. Flanagan."
At noon he was drinking in the lounge bar corner
With a sergeant of police and a racehorse owner
When the Angel of Death looked over his shoulder—
"Could you spare a moment, Flanagan?"
O the deck was cut; the bets were laid;
But the very last card that Barney played
Was the Deadman's Trump, the bullet of Spades—
"Would you like more air, Mr. Flanagan?"
The priest came running, but the priest came late,
For Barney was banging on the Pearly Gate.
St. Peter said, "Quiet! You'll have to wait
For a hundred masses, Flanagan."
O the regular boys and the loud accountants
Left their nips and their seven-ounces
As chickens Fly when the buzzard pounces—
"Have you heard about old Flanagan?"
Cold in the parlour Flanagan lay
Like a bride at the end of her marriage day.
The Waterside Workers' Band will play
A brass goodbye to Flanagan.
While the publicans drink their profits still,
While lawyers flock to be in at the kill
While Aussie barmen milk the till
We will remember Flanagan.
For Barney had a send-off and no mistake.
He died like a man for his country's sake;
And the Governor-General came to his wake.
Drink again to Flanagan!
Despise not, O Lord, the work of Thine own hands
And let light perpetual shine upon him.
The King and the Clown
Upon an April morning
King James o' Scotland rode
With silver saddle and Spanish bridle
With clouded eye, with thoughtful brow,
With idle rein rode he.
A ridin' quirt o' plaited leather
Hung loose beside his knee.
And fruitless in his heavy mind
He pondered riddles three.
When under a whinbush green and high
That sprung at his right hand,
Burnt by wind, brown with weather
He saw a bedlam stand.
"Answer me, fool, the riddle I ask!
Fear not, but speak you bold;
And I will give you a shirt for your back
And a purse of the good red gold.
Of what wood was bigg'd the cradle
When our Lord Christ was born?
And what wood was the bloody
Cross Whereon his flesh was torn?
"What are the keenest things alive
In sea, air, or land?
And how within the selfsame house
May king and common stand?"
"O you may keep your good red gold
To be another's dool!
'Tis the first hour, I ken, a king
Coft wisdom o' a fool.
"Of briar wood was bigg'd the cradle
For Him, and finely shaven;
For Mary is the bonny rosetree
That grows from earth to heaven,
"Whence came the wood whose wincing grain
His holy blood did smirch?
Where else but from the aspen tree
That shivers at a touch.
"And what the keenest things alive?
By mine and Adam's curse,
A bairn's greeting, a shrew wife's flyting,
And the sair edge 'o remorse.
"A shrew wife's tongue a gag mun hold,
A bairn greets for a day,
But the fell maggot o' remorse
In hellfire grinds for aye."
Full softly answered then the king,
"You have played well the fool;
There is no other in the land
Would put a king to school.
"Yet have you left ae tale untold—
O learned scholar grand,
Tell how within the selfsame house
Both common and king may stand."
"There is ae house, there is ae house,
Its beams they are not wide,
But its earthen wa's are strong enough
To hold a' mortal pride.
"There shall we sleep the lang, Jang night
And find it muckle span
Though you are King o' Scotland
And I a naked man."
The king rode on, the king rode on.
An angry man was he.
But ae thought roosted in his mind
Like a gled on a winter tree,
And at his heart it grippit sair
And wudna let him be.