13: A Treatise On The Arte Of Poesy

“You almost landed the two of us in it there…and then to mention Bates, Jesus!! Imagine if he had asked us to bring him in, what the fuck like,” hissed Slug as they got into the Morris Minor.

On their way across to Gardiner Place the Slug decided that they should call into the Brú na Gael club at the top of North Great Georges Street to see if anyone there had heard a tell-tale whisper.

“Jesus! Watch it,” shouted Pah Wah, as the Slug almost creased a cyclist on O’Connell Street.

“Sorry,” Slug apologised, “I was just thinking of the secret file I saw on Bates.”

“A secret file?!”

“Top secret in indecipherable code.”

“Fuck.”

“Hush-hush it is, transcribed under a cone of silence. I shouldn’t really say any more.”

“For fuck’s sake you can tell me.”

“Well… keep it under your hat.”

“Of course. It’s already in me jockstrap.”

“Its just that bollocks-head McMahon and screwball Lenihan think that Bates may be the next W. B. Yeats.”

“Christ!! May Old Nick raise a hump on him…..Yeats? By God!!! Sure wasn’t he a fine figure of a Fascist in the Thirties. His shirt as blue as a Titian sky.”

“Of course, but before that, wasn’t it that play of his about the Countess that sent the men out in 1916. And the women too. That other fucking Countess shooting peelers in Stephen’s Green.”

Pah Wah would have argued the point but just then his occasional semi-literacy deserted him entirely.

“Well, we know its all bollocks,” he conceded. “But who are we, plain street-smart coppers, to put spokes in the wheels of Fianna Fail intellectuals and bumptious bloody bureaucrats. Ours not to reason why, just do the job and never say die!”

“Jaysus, Pah Wah,” Slug came back, and him thunderstruck in all amazement, “I never knew ye had in ye. The poetry. Them rhyming cutlets of yours. Nor Shakespeare nor Swinburne could have done better.”

Long, lean and lanky, Pah Wah blushed.

“Let me think now,” Slug went on. “Maybe you should give me the benefit of your opinion on what I can bring to mind of Bates’s Magnum Opus. Listen to this bit that I can remember.

‘Come out yis, harem scarem divil may carem,
scurvey ridden scabby bunch of plundering lying falsifying louse ridden plagiarising copying distorting fact contorting
slum dwelling thieving deceiving revisionist historians
and tell the terrible fucking truth before youse are banished into that harrowing good night.’”

Pah Wah stiffened in his seat, a wave of semi-literacy washing over him and him preparing to lie through his teeth. “Jesus, that is dynamite. Pure nitro glycerine before the bang. It reminds me of the fucking American…eh…eh.”

“Poet?”

“No gunslinger, aces and eights…”

“Wild Bill Hickock?”

“That’s the fucker, pure poetry. That Bates’ stuff reminds me of him.”

“Yeah its pure fucking something alright,” agreed Slug, “see now why its top secret and the brass are so worried.”

“The Jesuits, clever men,” remarked Pah Wah as they parked the car outside Belvedere College.

Branchmen Josh and Nipper were at the club’s bar counter as Pah Wah and the Slug creaked across the bare wooden floor.

“That beats the fucking barney,” exclaimed Josh on hearing the news. He passed around cigarettes.

Nipper shook his bony head and looked towards the dull plaster ceiling as if to say, “who can follow that!” Then he called four pints although himself and Josh were only a quarter way down their glasses. “We’re off duty,” he snapped as he noticed the Slug give him a dirty look.

“Don’t be too sure of that. If McMahon gets to hear we’ll all be back in uniform standing on the corner of Gardiner Street with mangy mongrels thinking our legs are lampposts,” Slug warned.

“We’ll be like oul Dignam in Ulysses. Wasn’t it him who had some oul’ mongrel peeing up against his leg in the pub or was that…?” inquired Josh.

“Sure they must be somewhere,” interjected Nipper.

“Yeah. But that could be fucking anywhere, up the arsehole of the back of beyond, like Cavan where there is no train to,” advised Pah Wah.

“Why the fuck would they want to get a train to Cavan?” asked the barman, Canice the Hornless, who was a retired sergeant from Store Street.

“They couldn’t get a train to Cavan. Did you not hear what I fucking said? There is no bollixing train to Cavan.” confirmed Pah Wah. “If they want to rob a train let them fuck off to England and do it.”

The barman shook his head and put Nipper’s change on the counter.

“Its Bates that’s the problem,” warned Slug, “I mean the other three are just…yis know, wankers. Bates is the orator. The Trinity scholar.”

Nipper took a long draught from his pint and snorted. “Remember Pah Wah, when the fucker McMahon made me go incognito to the Buttery in Trinity?”

“As a skivvy,” laughed Slug, “with a bucket and mop.” “And a huge waltzing arse,” added Josh.

“He was up on a table after being at a street protest with Peadar Asthma,” explained Nipper, ignoring the frivolity. “ Up on a table booming out blather about freedom, the words dropping from his lips like syrup coated cannon balls announcing that the revolution was at hand, that the bourgeoisie were walking on eggshells. I can tell yis lads he had them going fucking crazy like and the young ones all googling up at him, and Paddy Gallagher, the porter who used to be a barman up in McDaids thinking that with all the roaring and shouting he was the victim of some fantastic conjunction of the planets that had caused him to bi-locate back to McDaids and him stretching out his long, skinny neck trying to see if he could spot the fearful, hairy visage of Ructions Doyle to tell him that he was barred for ever and fucking ever.”

“All in mini, mini skirts,” added Pah Wah, “the fools, the fools, the fools, they…” “Cut it out,” ordered Slug.

“Was it his poems that had people accusing poor John Redmond of being the biggest mass murderer of Irishmen since the famine?” continued Nipper.

“Was it his poetry which caused people to throw the little streets upon the great or say that Ireland was a nation when England was a pup or caused the two girls in silk kimonos, both beautiful, one a gazelle to get buckled in the Peacock and to….”

“I told you to shut the fuck up,” ordered Slug.

“Was it his poems,” continued Nipper, again ignoring the interruption, “that harried people to view the so called Neill’s Blue Caps, as a scurvy ridden, scabby bunch of plundering, murdering, ravishing, raping, looting, thieving Dublin louse ridden, slum dwellers who were later renamed the Royal Dublin Fusiliers? Was it his poetry that caused the pulverization of the poppy sellers outside the GPO last November after Chief Culloty had launched his ‘Hug a poppy seller for November’ campaign.”

“Someone sent around some very fucking aggressive huggers and I know who two of them were,” hissed Slug.

“Was it his poems that encouraged some historians to call the famine genocide when anybody with two brain cells to rub together knows very well the fucking culchies forgot where they planted the spuds?”

“He’s on a roll,” acknowledged Whacker McCarthy who entered the smoky room having just come off duty from Fitzgibbon Street Garda Station. “Put on five, Canice.”

“Was it his poems that sent the Fenian dynamitards to England…”

“They were dead before he was born, Nipper,” chuckled Josh.

“Oh the bravest fell and the requiem bell rang mournfully and clear,” sang McCarthy.

“Was it his poems,” continued Nipper, undaunted, as the room began to fill with off duty policemen, “that unbalanced the mind of the young loyal Dubliner Sutcliffe and had him sneak into our beloved Nelson’s column in the middle of the night and blow the bollocks out of it only last year?”

“He thinks he has gotten away with it. He thinks he has worked well in secret and in the open. He thinks he has pacified Ireland. He thinks he has purchased half of us and intimidated the other half...”shouted Pah Wah.

“Did his poems,” Nipper rattled on, shouting over Pah Wah, “delude those young Trinitarians into thinking that those brave Irishmen who fought and died for England at the Somme were fighting for an empire founded on slavery, genocide, the pitchcap and the gallows.”

“That 1916 gang had no mandate,” declared Josh. “If there was a smidgeon of decency in them they would have called for a general election.”

“Exactly,” scoffed a Kerry guard from Fitzgibbon Street, “A general election for a secret armed rebellion. Sure why not? A democratic armed uprising, sure what the fuck like! Our fathers fought for the Oath and were proud to.”

“That’s it. Read the Oath Canice.”

“Yes the Oath,” others shouted while more called for “buckets of hush.”

Canice the Hornless took a sheet of typed paper from beneath the counter. He climbed onto the counter with the help of the Kerry guard and cleared his throat. He began in a weak voice, “I swear to Almighty God, by all Heaven, by the Holy Virgin Mary Mother of God…”

The Kerry guard was threatening others that he would pulverize somebody if he didn’t get silence. Canice the Hornless continued as his voice grew in pitch, “by her bitter tears and wailings, by St Patrick our Blessed and adorable Host, the Rosary, to fight until we die wading in the field of Red Gore of the Saxon tyrants and murderers of our glorious nationality, if spared to fight until not a single trace is left to tell that the Holy Soil of Ireland were trodden by these Heretics. Also these Protestant robbers and Brutes, those unbelieving of our Faith, will be driven like the swine they are into the sea, by fire, the knife or by the Poison Cup until we of the Catholic Faith and avowed supporters of the Pope and his Principles, clear these Heretics from our lands. So help me God.”

Canice The Hornless At Brú Na Gael

Canice The Hornless At Brú Na Gael

The room rocked to the cheering, clapping and stamping of feet as Canice the Hornless was helped down from the counter top.

“Be the holy they knew how to write oaths in those days,” said Pah Wah, “unlike the fuckers in the Irregulars with their oath to…”

“Their oath to fuck all and fuck everything,” explained Slug.

“That’s exactly it,” Nipper joined in, “Fuck this an fuck that. Fuck the G.A.A. for the Busby babes. Fuck the Clancys for the Beatles and the Rolling fucking Stones, fuck Leo Maguire and Walton’s fuck Noel Purcell and Grafton Street fuck the Whistling Gipsy, fuck Slatterys Mounted Fut and Charlie McGee and his gay guitar, fuck Delia Murphy and her Spinning Wheel,” and “fuck Eileen and her granny too,” others shouted as Nipper began singing in a strong voice…”Mellow the moonlight to shine is beginning, and close by the window young Eileen is spinning…”

Nipper was now standing on the slop splattered counter leading the merry crowd into as good a version of the Spinning Wheel as ever was heard.

“Its not about them fuckers Nipper,” pleaded Corrigan, the red haired sergeant from Mountjoy Station cop shop, in a desperate voice, “its about us. It was always about us because we, who those gutless miscreants call poppy junkies an slurry feeders, we are the bare bones of society, we are what society is built on….” He gave his expanded chest a thump with a freckled fist... “the reinforced fucking concrete who don’t need to sneak around the town in balaclavas…that’s us.”

“Bejaysus, its not just doctoring statements or putting the knee into the ribs of some poor first timer when the Super’s back is turned he’s good at,” Pah Wah muttered to the Slug.

“The lads who keep people safe between the sheets at night no matter what they might be up to underneath them,” continued Corrigan, his rising blood pressure turning his face a slightly paler shade of his hair. “There isn’t a person out there who wouldn’t want one of us to be guarding their doors to protect them from the Irregulars who are at this moment probably scouring the streets looking for something to rob or some respectable citizen to accost….”

“Leave the Irregulars outav it, they’re none of your business, are they Pah Wah?” said Slug.

“None at all. You stick to the paper work and leave the heavy lifting to us…”

“In fact there’s a few we’ll be lifting before the ploughman homeward has plodded his way outav the arse of beyonds,” confirmed the Slug.

“Before slumber has seized the day’s throat,” agreed Pah Wah thinking that he was not going to be bested by the Slug’s poetic allusions.

“Oh I wasn’t casting any aspersions on yerself Festy,” explained Corrigan, “I was just saying that its us who are the caretakers of society and sure we all know the Herculean work you’ve put in to expose the likes of Marsh and his bunch of freakers, although he is still sauntering in and out of the Peacock….”

“Can you prove that?” snapped Pah Wah.

“It’s only a figure of speech, Pah Wah I mean I know Festy an yerself in yer geniuses are setting him up, giving him a false sense of security, maneuvering him into a political cul-de-sac, restricting his movements, limiting his alternatives, focusing on his vulnerabilities, exposing his weaknesses, challenging the ideological interpretations of his deranged mind, leading him up the fucking garden path like a sheared sheep like youse are with the rest of the incorrigibles…”

“Yes Festy there’s nobody here who would criticize your enthusiastic diligence to the safekeeping of this lovely little country of ours,” cut in Nipper shouting at the top of his voice. “Fucking nobody I’m telling you. Every man jack of us here knows that you are a martyr to….. a fucking martyr to the cause… here get up on the counter there Canice and read out the list of the martyrs for fuck sake…”

“Yes the list of the martyrs,” other voices shouted.

Canice the Hornless took out a sheet of paper from one of the cluttered shelves behind the bar. He studied it but before he could run his tongue around his lips and utter a word about its horrors Nipper whipped the list from his hand. “We haven’t got all fucking day, remember those who still have a shift to do.” He clambered up on the counter and waved the paper around to wild cheers and shouts of “Go on yeh bollix yeh.”

“The martyr’s list,” Nipper shouted out. “Our martyrs, our dead martyrs God bless them like Conacius Macuarta and Roger McConnell, Franciscans, flogged to death, to death in December 1565 for refusing to acknowledge the queen’s supremacy.”

“Jesus watch the drink,” shouted Pah Wah as he grabbed his pint glass from the counter.

“John Lochran, Donagh O’Rorke and Edmund Fitzsimon, Franciscans all hanged by the neck at Downpatrick in January 1575,” continued Nipper, “Fergall Ward a Franciscan guardian hanged in Armagh in April 1577 with his own girdle…”

“Staunch to the last,” uttered Pah Wah, “God bless them.”

“Thomas Courcy, vicar-general at Kinsale was hanged in March in 1577,” continued Nipper. “Patrick O’Hely, Bishop of Mayo and Cornelius O’Rorke, Franciscans were tortured and hanged in Kilmallock in 1578. Thomas Moeran dean of Cork taken in the exercise of his duties and executed in 1579. Thaddaeus Daly and his companion, O.S.F. hanged, drawn and quartered at Limerick in January 1579. The bystanders reported that his head when cut off distinctly uttered the words: ‘Lord show me Thy ways.’”

Pah Wah shook his head. “The bystanders must have been on the juice of the quare stuff,” he mumbled to the Slug.

“John O’Dowd O.S.F. who refused to divulge a confession was put to death at Elfin by having his skull compressed with a twisted cord in 1579,” Nipper yelled out in a voice that seemed to veer a bit close to a jovial tone for the harrowing information of the document. “Daniel O’Neilan O.S.F. fastened around the waist with a rope and thrown with weights tied to his feet from one of the town-gates of Youghal and finally fastened to a mill-race and torn to pieces in 1580.”

There was a communal intake of breath and shouts of: “A drink to the martyrs!”

“ Donagh O’Reddy,” continued Nipper as if he was a school teacher calling out an attendance role, “was parish priest of Coleraine who was hanged by the neck and then” he announced in a solomn voice “he was transfixed with swords at the altar of his church in 1584. John O’Daly a priest O.S.F. was trampled to death by cavalry in 1584. Richard Creagh the Archbishop of Armagh was poisoned in the Tower of London in 1585. Fucking poisoned. An Archbishop I ask you. Maurice Kenraghty a priest, Patrick O’Connor and Malachy O’Kelly Cistercians were hanged and quartered in May at Boyle in 1586. Donagh O’Murheely and a companion O.S.F. were stoned and tortured to death at Muckross, Killarney in 1587 not to mention Walter Farrell O.S.F, of Askeaton who was hanged by his own girdle and Donagh O’Cronin a clerk was also hanged and disemboweled at Cork in 1601. Walter Fernan a priest was torn on the rack in March in Dublin in 1599. Donagh O’Mollony the Vicar General of Killaloe died of torture in April in Dublin Castle in 1601. Bernard Moriarty, dean of Ardagh and Vicar-General of Dublin after having his thighs broken by soldiers died in prison in Dublin in 1602. Father Mac Ferge a prior and twenty four friars of Coleraine and thirty two members of the community of Derry were slain there the same night as two priests and seven novices of Limerick and Kilmallock assembled in 1602 with forty Benedictine, Cistercian and other monks at Scattery Island in the Shannon to be deported under safe conduct in a man-of-war, were instead cast overboard at sea…”

A loud Munster voice roared ‘Lovely hurling Kildimo’ while someone else made a tentative attempt to sing ‘Faith of Our Fathers’ as the Reverence for the dead, tortured martyrs began to succumb to the effects of the build up of alcohol in the communal bloodstream…

And in the growing bedlam Nipper’s voice roared, “and Dermot O’Hurley had his legs boiled in his boots, boiled in his boots I say,” in between chants of ‘Like John Charles McQuaid we shall never be afraid,’ ‘We shall never be afraid like John…”

“Swally that down Pah Wah an’ let’s get away the fuck outa here and find Bates,” said Slug, “that fucker’s got wet rot on the brain.”