Thursday, August 02, 2007

303. Nighthawks in Nippon

Cúirt an Mheán Oíche

Short was my sleep when I heard, thought I,
A violent quaking of the ground nearby
A storm from the north violently brewing
And fire from the harbour luridly spewing;
In my mind’s eye, a quick survey
Revealed towards me by the bay
A violent, bulging, big-assed crone
Her huge bulk hinting at testosterone;
Her stature, if I reckoned right,
Was six or seven yards in height
She dragged her cloak for yards behind her
Through the mud and mire and squalor.
’Twas mighty, majestic, wild and horrid
To gaze upon her blemished forehead;
The rictus of her gummy grin
Would make you jump out of your skin.
God almighty! In her huge claw
Was the biggest staff you ever saw
A brass plaque at its spike defined
The bailiff’s powers to her assigned.

In a gruff voice these words she spoke:
Up! Shake a leg! ya sleepy yoke;
Shame on you, to be stretched out here
With court convened and crowds drawing near.
It’s not a court without rule or code.
Nor a marauding court in your usual mode
This court is built on a civilized base—
The court of the weak with a female face.

Ba ghnáth mé ar siúl le ciumhais na habhann
Ar bháinseach úr is an drúcht go trom,
In aice na gcoillte i gcoim an tsléibhe
Gan mhairg gan mhoill ar shoilseadh an lae.
Do ghealadh mo chroí nuair chínn Loch Gréine,
An talamh, an tír, is íor na spéire
Ba thaitneamhach aoibhinn suíomh na sléibhte
Ag bagairt a gcinn thar dhroim a chéile.

The ancient race without wealth or liberty
No tributes, leaders nor legal autonomy
The rape of the land with naught in its train,
In place of the crops, a weed-rank terrain;
The nobles languish in a foreign land
While the jumped-up rich get the upper hand,
In betrayal ardent, in plunder greedy
Flaying the sick, despoiling the needy.

It is blackly baneful and sticks in the craw
That, in darkest despair over the absence of law,
There’s nothing from no one for the purposeless weak
But a depredacious future that is hopelessly bleak,
The knavery of lawyers, tyranny on high
Injustice, fraud and neglect apply
The law is clouded, the scales awry,
With all the pull that bribes can buy.

Ghealfadh an croí bheadh críon le cianta—
Caite gan bhrí nó líonta le pianta—
An séithleach searbh gan sealbh gan saibhreas
D’fhéachfadh tamall thar bharra na gcoillte
Ar lachain ina scuain ar chuan gan cheo,
An eala ar a bhfuaid is í ag gluaiseacht leo,
Na héisc le meidhir ag éirí anairde
Péirse i radharc go taibhseach tarrbhreac,
Dath an locha agus gorm na dtonn
Ag teacht go tolgach torannach trom,

Your race without young ones is sad to see
With women burdening the land and the sea,
Once buxom maids and lasses fresh
With boiling blood and sultry flesh
Are now lethargic, relicts debased
Once trim girls are gone in the waist;

’Tis a pity that these are without fruit of the womb
Without swelling breasts and bellies in bloom.
They just look for the word, please don’t wait
Until they are past their sell-by date.
The solons decided after deliberation long
Not to try the case before the fairy throng:
But to appoint a plenipotent magistrate
Who could, with the people, mediate.

There was an offer from Aoibheal, with a heart so clean
Munstermen’s friend and Craglea’s queen
To the assembled council to bid farewell
And in the land of Thomond to bide a spell.
This gentle upright lady swore
To rip out bad laws by their core
To stand steadfast beside the poor and weak
So the mighty will have to cherish the meek.
The powerful desist from inflicting wrongs
And justice enthroned where it belongs:
I promise now that no power nor lure,
Nor the blandishments of pimp or whore
Will undermine the dispensation
Of this tribunal for its duration;

The village of Feakle is where the court is sitting
Go and attend it—you’ve got to get cracking
Go quietly or at your peril dire
I’ll drag you there through the muck and mire.
With her crook she grabbed the hood of my cape
And off she dragged me with no escape
Down through the valleys I was propelled
To Moinmoy Hill church where the court was held.
For sure, I saw there ablaze with light
What seemed like a stately mansion bright
Sparkling, spacious, tapestried,
Spectral, sturdy, brilliant indeed

I spied Aoibheal, the fairy wench
Seated on the judge’s bench
I saw a strong and nimble guard
Numerously gathered round their ward;
I saw a household that was jammed
With men and women inside it crammed.
Then came forward a majestic cailín
She was soft and comely, of gentle mien
With tumbling tresses framing her face
As on the stand she took her place.
Her hair was loose and flowing free
But her face was the picture of misery
Her eyes were fierce and filled with hate
And she worked herself to such a state
That she moaned and heaved and sobbed and sighed
But couldn’t speak though hard she tried.
You could see from the flood of tears she shed
That she’d much prefer if she were dead
Than being on the floor facing the stands
Kneading her fists and wringing her hands.
After her protracted jags of crying
She cleared her throat, with much sighing
The gloom lifted from her tear-stained cheek,
She dried her eyes and started to speak:—

A thousand welcomes, we guarantee
O Aoibheal, venerable queen of Craiglea,
Light of the day, Ray of the sun
Worldly wealth for the hard-put-upon
Conquering commander of the hosts of the blessed
In Thomond and Tír Lorc you were sorely missed;
The crux of my case, the cause of my woe
The ache that has plagued me and laid me low
What knocked me sideways and struck me dumb
Caused a searing pain that left me numb,—
The finest of maidens wandering around
Without hope of a husband, a shilling or pound,
Despondent young things without help of a mate
Innocently barred from the matrimonial state.

I know these maidens whereof I speak
One hundred and one for whom prospects are bleak
I list myself among these wrecks:
I got my gender but I get no sex
At my time of life, ’tis depressing and cold
Doing without luxuries, jewels and gold,
Gloomy and cheerless is my plight
Unable to sleep through the pleasureless night,
But tossed with worry lying there
On a chilly bed, alone not a pair.
O Lady of Craiglea, you must assess
The extent of Irish women’s distress,
How, if the men continue with their ways,
Alas, women will have to make the plays
By the time the men are disposed to wed
They’re no longer worth our while to bed
And it’ll be no fun to lie below
Those old men who are so weak and slow.
Even if, with a young man’s fire,
One in seven of the beardless were to desire
To mate with a lass of his own age
He wouldn’t choose the noble or sage
With an hour-glass figure and a knockout face
One who can carry herself with grace
But an icy, cheerless, catty bitch
Who used all her guile to make herself rich.
It’s the scourge of my heart and a pain in my head
And fills my thoughts with a sense of dread
It’s what has made me sad and sighing
Totally wasted with all this crying,—

When I see a lad who’s brave and cool
Who is virile, vigorous and strong as a mule
Who is steadfast, skillful, bright as a pin
Fresh-faced, funny, with a ready grin
Or a boy who is frisky, frolicky, fun
With a well-built body, second to none
Beaten, bought, bound unawares
By a hussy who’s extremely light upstairs
Or a slovenly slattern, a workless wench
Who’d make you gag with her noisome stench
A prating, prattling, babbling bag
An indolent, irritable, horrible hag.
My God, I hear that an ill-mannered mare
With unshod feet and uncombed hair
Is to be hitched tonight which I find really grating;
What’s wrong with me that I’m left here waiting?
What is the reason that no one loves me
And I so lissome, so svelt and so lovely?

My lips so red are made to be kissed
My face so bright it cannot be missed
My eyes are green, my locks are flowing
Curly and plaited and healthily glowing
My forehead and cheeks are without zits or boils
A porcelain complexion that nothing spoils.
My neck, my breast, my hand, my finger
Each would make a young lad linger.
Look at my waist, my fine bone frame
I’m not crooked or hunched or lame
A butt, a foot, a figure to impress
I’ll not go into what’s beneath my dress.
I’m not a hussy, nor yet a drip
But a delicate beauty with lots of zip,
Not a slovenly, slatternly pig
Nor a joyless boorish prig.
Not a lazy laggard with no clout

But a choice young woman well turned out
If I were as worthless as some of my neighbours
A tiresome tramp who never labours
In the ways of the world without foresight or flair
What would it matter if I fell into despair?
But it has never been on people’s tongue
That, at wake or funeral for old or young,
In the hall for the dances or at the race track
On the hurling pitch among the pack
I wasn’t dressed from head to toe
In a tasty costume fit for a show.
My hair is powdered to a T
My starched cap riding jauntily
My bright-hued hood with ribbons galore
A polka dress with a ruffled pinafore
And I’m seldom without it, except in bed,
My cardinal cloak of deepest red.
My striped cambric apron is fit for a queen
Embroidered with a plant and animal scene
Stiletto heels attached with screws
Give a lift to my fashionable shoes
Gloves of silk and buckles and rings
These are a few of my favourite things.
But beware, don’t think I’m loose a screw
A witless fool or quaking ingenue
Who’s timorous, lonesome, whimpering, weak
A simpering, cowering, beaten-down freak.