Poem from Celbridge: The Devil and Tom Conolly by Charles Russell (1843)

Tom Conolly

Tom Conolly

Published in Dublin University Magazine Dec 1843, no VII of the Kishogue Papers

Although there was no by-line, the poem was ascribed to Charles Russell by Walter Fitzgerald in 1896

  • “What a capital day for the scent to lie
  • With a southerly wind and a cloudy sky”
  • Says a huntsman old, with a very keen eye,
  • And a very red nose, to a little boy nigh,
  • As he sits on the back
  • Of a very spruce hack
  • And looks with delight on a beautiful pack
  • Of foxhounds as ever yet ran on a track
  • There were Howler and Jowler, and Towser and Yelper,
  • And Boxer and Pincher, and Snarler and Skelper,
  • And Tinker
  • And Winker
  • And Blinker
  • And Clinker
  • And Griper and Molly,
  • And Snuffler and Dolly:
  • But to set down the list of the whole would be folly;
  • For alas and slack that it rests to be said,
  • The last of that pack is some forty years dead.
  • And the huntsman that sat on the back
  • Of that back,
  • Died very soon after the last of that pack –
  • Having kept up the chase by good humour and mirth,
  • Till death one fine afternoon ran him to earth,
  • Rest to his bones, he has gone for aye,
  • And the sod lies cold on his colder clay,
  • He lists no more to the deep mouthed bay,
  • Nor wakes the hills with his “hark away”
  • But never did man a hunting—whip crack,
  • That I’d back at a fence against red—nosed Jack.
  • The cover is reached – and a better array
  • Of sportsmen it never has seen it to—day,
  • ‘Tis as gallant a field
  • As all Ireland could yield;
  • The horsemen to all kinds of devilment steel’d—
  • The best of the senate, the bench, and the bar,
  • Whose mirth even Petty and Coke couldn’t mar,
  • Lucky dogs! Who were looked on with pride by a race,
  • Who loved learning unmasked by stupidity’s face;
  • Nor fancied that Wisdom high places should quit,
  • If she flund round her shoulders the mantle of wit.
  • The hunting—cap triumph to—day o’er the wig –
  • The ermine is doffed for a sportsmanlike rig.
  • But enough of the horsemen; the nags that they ride
  • Are as nobly as horsemen might ever bestride—
  • Both “good uns to look at” and “good uns to go.”
  • Few could match them indeed
  • Both in bottom and speed;
  • And if put to the pound wall of Ballinasloe,
  • There are plenty amongst them would never look—no
  • But the best mounted man at that gay cover side
  • Is honest Tom Conolly, Castletown’s pride;
  • And mirth and good fellowship beam in his eye,
  • Such a goodly collection of guests to descry;
  • For guests shall be all
  • In Tom Conolly’s hall,
  • Who keeps “open house” for the great and the small;
  • And none who makes share in the foxhunt today
  • ‘Ere midnight from Castletown’s mansion shall stray.
  • And arm are the greetings that welcome the squire
  • As he rides up – but all this preamble will tire;
  • Beside that the hounds through the brushwood are dodging,
  • And making inquiries where Renard is lodging;
  • Some are snuffing the ground
  • With a caution profound;
  • Some running and poking their noses all round,
  • And now of the whole not a vestige is there,
  • But a great lot of tails all cock up in the air;
  • And now there’s a bark, and a yelp and a cry,
  • And the horsemen are still standing anxiously by;
  • And some of the pack
  • Are at length on his track;
  • And now there’s a shout
  • Sly old Reynard leaps out –
  • Hold fast Don’t ride over the dogs. What a scramble!
  • Away got the hounds over brushwood and bramble—
  • Away go the horsemen— away goes the fox—
  • Away they go all o’er brooks, fences and rocks.
  • Afar in the plain
  • They are stretching amain:
  • Each sinew and nerve do the gallant steeds strain,
  • While the musical cru of the fleet—footed hound
  • Is ringing the chorus melodiously round,
  • And the horseman who rides at the tail of the pack
  • Is a very tall gentleman dressed `all in black.
  • Away! Away! On his restless bed
  • His wearied limbs let the sluggard spread,
  • His eyes on the glorious morning close,
  • And fancy ease in that dull repose,
  • Give me to taste of the freshening draught
  • Of the early breeze on the green hill quaffed;
  • Give me to fly with the lightning’s speed
  • On the bounding back of the gallant steed;
  • Give me to bend o’er the floating mane
  • While the blood leaps wild in each thrilling vein.
  • Oh! Ho has felt the joy intense
  • To tempt the torrent, to dare the fence,
  • But feels each pleasure beside give place
  • To the manly danger that waits the chase?
  • Onward still – ‘tis a spanking run,
  • As e’er was seen by morning sun—
  • Onward still
  • O’er plain and hill—
  • ‘Gad ‘tis a pace the devil to kill
  • A few of the nags it will puzzle I trow
  • To ride at the next bit of masonry now
  • Steady there, black fellow— over he goes;
  • Well done, old bay! — ho! The brown fellow toes
  • And pitched his rider clean out on his nose
  • Thirteen out of fifty their mettle attest—
  • There’s a very nice view from the road for the reSt
  • And now the boithrín
  • With the rascally screen
  • Of furze on each bank— by old Nim, that’s a pozer;
  • There’s the black fellow at it— ‘Goad, over he goes, sir.
  • Well done Conolly; stick to the Cromdubh, you dog,
  • Though he DOES seem like old Beezlebub riding incog.
  • Ha! The third fellow’s blown—
  • No go, Doctor, you’re thrown,
  • And have fractured your dezier clavicular bone.
  • Gad, here’s the solicitor-general down on him;
  • Who would think that he ever had got wig or gown on him—
  • Cleared gallantly! But sure ‘tis plain common sense,
  • Bar practice should fit a man well for a fence.
  • Five more show they’re good ones in bottom and speed;
  • But that tall, strange, black gentleman still keeps the lead.
  • Ha! Reynard you’re done for, my boy— at your back
  • Old Jowler and Clinker come leading the pack;
  • Ay, close at your brush
  • They are making a rush;
  • Come face ‘em, old fellow, and die like a trush.
  • Well snapped, but won’t do,
  • My poor madairín ruadh
  • That squeeze in the gullet has finished your breath,
  • And that very black horseman is in at the death.
  • The very black horseman dismounts from his steed,
  • And takes off Reynar’s brush with all sportsmanlike heed;
  • Then patting the nag
  • With the air of a wag,
  • Says “this is COOL work, my old fellow, to-day,”
  • At which the black steed gives a very loud neigh.
  • And it IS odd indeed,
  • Neither rider nor steed
  • Seem one whit the worse for their very great speed;
  • Though the next fur or five
  • Who this moment arrive,
  • Their horses all foaming, themselves all bemired,
  • Look beyond any doubt pretty heartily tired
  • As they think, “who the deuce can be this chap in black,
  • Who has ridden all day at the tail of the pack?”
  • The group has come up with the stranger the while,
  • Who takes off his hat to the squire with a smile,
  • And hands him the brush with an air most polite,
  • Expressing his joy at transferring the right,
  • Which only the speed of his hunter had won,
  • To him who had shown them so noble a run;
  • And whose name he would add,
  • He had heard from a lad,
  • As a toast through all Ireland for humour and fun.
  • “Gad sir,” says the squire
  • “Whether most to admire
  • Your politeness or daring I’m puzzled to say;
  • But though I’ve seen hunting enough in my day
  • All I’ve met with must yield
  • To your feats in the field.
  • I trust I at least can induce you to dine,
  • And your horsemanship pledge in a bumper of wine;
  • And if longer you’ll honour my house as a dweller
  • All I promise you is, you’ll find more in the cellar.”
  • “Done, Tom! — I beg pardon, I make so d—d free,
  • When a man of your thorough good nature I see.
  • But excuse it.” — “Excuse it, my excellent friend!
  • ‘Tis the thing of all others I wish you’d not mend;
  • None but a good fellow had ever the trick.
  • But YOUR name by the way! — “MINE! Oh pray call me Nick.”
  • “Very good— there’s a spice of the devil about it.”
  • “A spice of the devil! Ay, faith, ho can doubt it?
  • I[‘m dressed by the way in this livery sainted,
  • But they say the old boy’s not as black as he’s painted.
  • And this clerical suit—“ — “You’re no parson sure—come?”
  • “Ah, no pumping on that, my friend Conolly —mum!
  • This clerical suit, faith, though sombre and sad,
  • Is no bad thing at all with the women, my lad!”
  • “Well done, Nick! On my life,
  • I’ll look after my wife.
  • If you come in her way.” — “Gad,” says Nick with a laugh,
  • “To look after myself!” says the squire; “Lord, why so?
  • You’ve no partnership sure with your namesake below?”
  • “No,” says Nick, with a squint,
  • “I mean only to hint;
  • But I’ll do it more plainly for fear of mistake—
  • If we play at blink-hookey, he d—d wide awake.”
  • Thus with laughter and jest
  • Honest Tom and his guest
  • Ride along, while their humour is shared by the rest,
  • Who vow one and all
  • Master Nick to install,
  • As the prince of good fellows; and just at nightfall
  • They reach most good humour’dly Castletown Hall.
  • ‘Tis a glorious thing when the wintry sun,
  • Ashamed of himself has cut and run;
  • When the drizzling rain falls thick and fast,
  • And the shivering poplars stand aghast;
  • No sight abroad but the landscape leak,
  • No sound save whistle, and howl, and creak; —
  • ‘Tis a glorious thing in that dismal hour
  • To be snugly housed from the tempest’s power,
  • With a blazing fire and a smoking board,
  • With “all the best things of the season” stored;
  • Not costly, mind, but a good plain dinner
  • To suit the wants of an erring sinner;
  • Say oyster soup and mock-turtle too,
  • (The latter is bad when made with glue,)
  • Some savoury, patés the palate to whet,
  • Which at dinner ‘tis really vile to forget.
  • A turbot or salmon one calmly surveys,
  • And eels á la Tartare ‘tis hard to dispraise;
  • Some people prefer them done en matelote,
  • And I’m not very certain which way I should vote.
  • Calf’s head is acceptable after one’s fish
  • And a quarter of lamb is no very bad dish;
  • Fowl too— not those barbarous things that they cram—
  • Some people may like to partake of with ham;
  • Thought, talking of ham, there’s but one place they cure a
  • Ham properly in, namely Extremadura;
  • Still in Extremadura ham cannot be had,
  • A slice of Westphalia is not very bad;
  • Some simple hors d’oeuvre one would add to these—
  • Riz de veau say, with cotelettes á la Soubise;
  • Indeed for myself I confess I feel partial
  • At times to this snug little plát of the Marshal,
  • And can sympathise ell in his luckless disaster,
  • When Seidlitz laid hold of the chops for his master;
  • A digression— but then ‘tisn’t often one pops
  • On a cavalry general charging for chops,
  • A few light things to follow, and then the dessert,
  • And one may make his dinner I dare to assert—
  • Champagne, and thou draught, then Jove’s nectar sublimer,
  • Johannisberg— but poor folk must drink Hocheimer.
  • To a dinner of this sort the hunting-folk sit,
  • With a silence displaying more wisdom than it;
  • But with the dessert
  • Wit begins to assert
  • His claims to attention; and near to its close
  • Takes the field, while old wisdom goes off in a doze;
  • But after a couple of bumpers of wine,
  • Ye gods, how the urchin commences to shine!
  • And as for the stranger, his feats in the field
  • To his feats at the table unspeakably yield—
  • In drinking, in laughing, in frolic, and jest,
  • He seems but the sun who gives light to the rest;
  • And after a while, hen the squire begs a song of him,
  • He sings for them this, which some folks will think wrong of him
  • A fig for Philosophy’s rules,
  • Our stay is too brief upon earth,
  • To spare any time in the schools,
  • Save those of Love, Music and Mirth;
  • Yes! Their’s is the exquisite lore
  • We can learn in life’s summery heart,
  • While the winter of gloomy fourscore
  • Leaves us fools in Philosophy’s art,
  • Oh! Surely if life’s but a day,
  • ‘Tis vain o’er dull volumes to pine;
  • Let the sage choose hat studies he may,
  • But Mirth, Love and Music be mine
  • What a fool was the Chaldean seer
  • Who studied the planets afar—
  • While the bright eye of woman is near—
  • MY book be that beautiful star!
  • The lore of the planets who seeks,
  • In years of acquiring the art,
  • While the language dear woman’s eye speaks
  • Is learned in a minute by heart,
  • Then surely if life’s but a day,
  • ‘Tis vain o’er dull volumes to pine,
  • Let the stars be HIS book as they may,
  • But the bright eye of woman be mine!
  • The chemist may learnedly tell
  • Of the treasure his art can unmask;
  • But the grape juice has in it a spell
  • Which is all of his love that I ask
  • In gazing on woman’s bright eyes
  • I feel the astronomer’s bliss;
  • And chemistry’s happiest prize
  • I find in a goblet like this.
  • Then fill up— if life’s but a day,
  • What fool o’er dull volumes would pine?
  • Love and Mirth we can learn in a day
  • And to praise them in music be mine!
  • “Hip, hip, hurrah.”
  • How they’re cheering away.
  • “Hip, hip,” — they’re growing uncommonly gay,
  • Chorusing all— “He’s a right good flow!”
  • Blending up hiccup, and chirrup, and bellow,
  • Some two or three are decidedly mellow;
  • “Hip— ‘tis a ay we’ve got in the—hic—hiccup—“
  • Lord, what a dance of a shindy they kick up,
  • But at length they have done,
  • And drop off one by one
  • From their chairs, overcome by the claret and fun;
  • And at quarter to four
  • All lie stretched on the floor,
  • Enjoying in chorus a mighty fine snore;
  • While still to the claret like gay fellows stick
  • The arm-hearted squire and his jolly friend Nick.
  • There’s a cooper of wine by Tom Conolly’s chair,
  • And he stoops for a bottle— At hat does he stare?
  • Can it be—? Not a doubt
  • Ha, my lad, you’re found out!
  • There’s the cloven foot plainly as eye can behold,
  • “Cut your stick,
  • Master Nick,
  • If I may make so bold,
  • ‘Pon my life, what a jest,
  • To have you for my guest,
  • To be toping by dozens Lafitte’s very beSt
  • Be off, sir; you’ve drunk of my wine to satiety.”
  • “No, thank you,” says Nick’ “Tom, I like your society—
  • I like your good humour, I relish your wit,
  • And I’m d—d but I very much like your Lafitte.
  • You may guess that your wine
  • Is far cooler than mine;
  • And I’ll stay, my old boy, in your mansion a dweller
  • While a bottle of SUCH claret remains in your cellar;
  • I’ve reasons for this, but ‘twere needless to state ‘em,
  • For this, my dear fellow, is my ultimatum.”
  • Tom rings for the servants, they enter, —What now—
  • He looks at old Nick with a very dark brow,
  • And says, while the later complacently bears
  • His glance— “Kick that insolent rascal down stairs.”
  • At their master’s behest
  • They approach to the guest
  • Though to kick him down stairs seems no joke at the best
  • But when they draw near,
  • With a luminous lear
  • Nick cries— “My good friends, you had better be civil,
  • ‘Tis not pleasant, believe me, to deal with the devil;
  • I’m that much-abused person— so, do keep aloof,
  • And lest you should doubt me, pray look at my hoof.”
  • Then lifting his leg with an air most polite,
  • He places the cloven hoof full in their sight,
  • When at once with a road
  • They all rush to the door,
  • And stumbling o’er wine-coopers, sleepers and chairs,
  • Never stop till they’ve got to the foot of the stairs.
  • The parson is sent for—he comes—‘tis no go—
  • Nick plainly defies him to send him below;
  • With a comical phiz
  • Says he is going to stay where he is,
  • And bids him begone for an arrant old quiz;
  • Asks how is his mother; and treats him indeed
  • With impertinence nothing on earth could exceed.
  • A pleasant FINALE in truth to a feast,
  • There’s but one hope remains— to send for the priest;
  • Though the parson on hearing it says ‘tis all fudge,
  • And vows that he ne’er will induce Nick to budge;
  • Still as ‘tis the sole hope of getting a severance
  • From Nick, the squire send off at once for his reverence
  • And would send for the Pope
  • If he saw any hope
  • That his power would induce the old boy to slope
  • Father Malachi, sure that for Nick he’s a match
  • Doesn’t ask better sport than to come to the scratch;
  • And arrives in the hall,
  • In the midst of them all
  • While the frightened domestics scarce venture to crawl;
  • And learning the state of affairs from the squire,
  • Says he’ll soon make his guest from the parlour retire.
  • If he’ll only agree
  • To give him rent free
  • A plot for the chapel; but if he refuses
  • Master Nick may stay with him as long as he chooses
  • “A plot for the chapel,” Tom Conolly cries;
  • “Faith, I’ll build one myself that will gladden your eyes
  • If old Nick
  • Cuts his stick.”
  • “That he shall double quick,
  • If you’ll undertake to stand mortar and brick.”
  • “Agreed,” says the squire; so the priest takes his book,
  • Giving Nick at the same time a terrible look—
  • Then th’ exorcism begins
  • But old Nick only grins,
  • And asks him to read out the table of sine;
  • “For between you and me,
  • Holy father,” says he
  • “That’s light and agreeable reading you are,
  • And if you look it carefully over I’d bet,
  • Your reverence will find you’re a bit in my debt.”
  • At an insult so dire
  • Father Malachi’s ire
  • Was aroused in an instant; so closing his book
  • He gives the black rascal one desperate look,
  • Then with blessed precision the volume let’s fly,
  • And hits the arch enemy fair in the eye.
  • There’s a terrible yell.
  • That might startle all hell.
  • A flash, and a very strong brimatory smell;
  • And save a great cleft
  • From his exit so deft.
  • Not a trace of the gentleman’s visit is left;
  • But his book which was flung
  • In his visage, has clung
  • To the wainscot, and sticks so tenaciously to it,
  • You’d fancy some means supernatural glue it;
  • And his reverence in fact finds it fixed in the mortar,
  • To the wonder of all, a full inch and a quarter—
  • Where the mark of it still to this day may be seen,
  • Or if not, thy can show you where once it has been;
  • And if, after that, any doubts on it seize you,
  • All I can say— ‘tis not easy to please you.
  • The delight of the squire I of course can’t express,
  • That ‘tis boundless indeed you might easily guess.
  • The very next day
  • He gives orders to lay
  • The chapel’s foundation; and early in May,
  • If in his excursions Nick happened to pass there,
  • He might see Father Malachi celebrate mass there;
  • And it stands to this day, slate, stone, mortar and brick
  • By Tom Conolly built to get rid of old Nick.
  • Since the period that Nick got this touch in the eye,
  • Of displaying his hoof he has grown very shy;
  • You can scarce find him out by his ill-shapen stump,
  • For he sticks to the rule— “KEEP YOUR TOE IN YOUR PUMP.”

NOTE: General Sedditz surprised Marshal Soubize, and actually had the dinner which was cooked for him, for his royal master, Frederick of Prussia, to partake of.

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