St. Patrick’s Day

on Mar 17 in Gallagher's Frolics by

Old Ireland did once with grim serpents abound
That slept in the grasses and weeds,
Who were known in the pubs by their sibilant sound,
Though disguised in thick jackets of tweed.

They plotted and schemed, and seduced and beguiled
–they were always a treacherous crew:
at humankind’s hardships they cynically smiled,
as their tongues flicked the foam from their brew.

Their tongues, by the way, were of twofold design:
With the one they would flatter your face,
While the other had something quite different in mind
And would later expound your disgrace.

They had a religion of sorts, it appeared,
Though of conscience they were quite devoid,
And they worshipped some fellow with goathorns and beard,
And all manner of evils enjoyed.

The Irishmen then were tinwhistlers and pipers
But not for the sweet music alone:
It was to entrance all those slithering vipers
By the magical airs they’d intone.

(The yogis of India ply such a trade
as well as climb ropes to the clouds,
and to tell how they do this they couldn’t be paid,
for it lies in deep secrecy’s shrouds.)

Now Patrick it seems was a lover of flutes
As well as the sweet-sounding harp
He also loved puddings and various fruits,
Not to mention salt-herring and carp.

He was sailing along by fair Ireland’s green coast
With intent to convert the grey seals,
And to place on their tongues there the waferlike host
Which the plague of mortality heals,

When he heard the lament of a sorrowful air
Which some piper had weaved through the mist,
And his heart felt a sweetness commingled with care,
And his soul felt as though it were kissed.

So he tacked to larboard and made for the shore,
And who could describe his dismay,
When he saw by the dozen and then by the score
All those scalliway serpents at play?

They were dicing and boozing, and fooling with girls,
As they squandered the day’s precious time,
And the cobras had hoods dressed with powdered white curls,
And they blithered without any rhyme.

But then, as by miracle, sent from on high,
The crozier St. Patrick had wielded
Was changed to a flute in the breath of a sigh
Which from angel’s fine lung has been yielded.

He played out a ditty which captured their ears
–they all of them harkened and swayed,
and some of them even were brought to the tears,
so sweetly had St. Patrick played.

And then in a motion that seized on them all
By which they were coaxed in their turn,
From a lofty grey cliff did he witness them fall
To the ocean surf’s pitiless churn.

So thus was old Ireland from serpents once freed,
As from aardvark to dugong and auk–
And if to my version you’ve paid careful heed
You’ll not listen to other wild talk.

Bob Gallagher

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