MR. GRAVES'S BALLADS.*
IT is not always quite safe to set a thief to catch a thief ; sometimes the sentinel thief makes common cause with the predatory thief, and the result is disastrous. But nothing can be safer than to set an Irishman who does not belong to the confederacy he is set to watch, to detect the falsetto notes and spurious enthusiasm of an Irishman who does. No one else could do it half as well ; no one else could do it with the vivacity and fun requisite to make all the world see where the screams are not serious but rather melodramatic screams, — screams the effect of which the screamer is carefully watching while he professes to be ab- sorbed in the anguish which he is supposed to be enduring. Mr. Graves's mockery is excellent. It has often the delicate irony of Sheridan, and still oftener the happy extravagance of Thackeray's ballads. Mr. Graves is sometimes caustic even in excess, though the Guardian, we see, did think his earlier volume " too gentle and too charitable," a judgment in which we hardly suppose that any of the Home-rule Party can have concurred. As an example of severity, we will only refer to the very happy lines on Mr. Conybeare, called "A Fancy Portrait." But Mr. Graves is never tiresome ; and when he laughs, he laughs outright, and does not merely smile. He has the hare- brained extravagance of the true humorist, and is never happier than when he is capping the extravagance of the Home-rulers with an extravagance still more eager, though hardly more de- liberate. Take, for instance, the charming piece on " The Root of the Matter," suggested by the triumphant remark of Mrs. E. Harrington that even when Mr. Balfour had her husband's moustache cut off, he could not remove "the root of it, so that as good will grow again," and further, that kind friends in all quarters had never before been known to watch so sympathetically the growth of a moustache. How the pathetic modesty of this lady's lyric joy over the difficulty of a radical cure for a moustache, tickled Mr. Graves, and set his imagination to work to develop the thought, our readers will see if they read the following admirable elegy on the subject :— • The Green above the Red More Blarney Ballads. By Charles L. Graves, Author of "The Blarney Ballads." With Illustrations by Linley Sambourne. London: Swan Sonnenschein and Co.
" THE ROOT OF THE MATTER.
(The wife of E. Harrington, Esq., M.P., writing from Tralee to a correspondent respecting her husband's imprisonment, says : 'Nothing could equal the indigna- tion of the people here at Balfour's cowardly act in cutting off my husband's moustache. Numbers of Conservatives have expressed their disgust to me in regard to the mean act. But even Balfour could not remove the roots of it, so that one as good will grow again. And I am Sire that a moustache never had so many kind friends sympathetically watching its growth as that one will have.'— Standard, February let, 1889.]
Sad Erin, put off thy dejection, Thy languishing spirits arouse, And give ear to the soothing reflection Of Harrington's heroine spouse : Though Balfour may strip him and shave him And starve him—'tis little I care ; For he's morally bound for to lave him The roots of his hair.'
Far viler than Nero or Otho, That sinister son of a gun Sits on us like Lachesis, Clotho, And Atropos welded in one.
But though we be helpless and lowly, Though buffeted, battered, and bare, He dare not eradicate wholly The roots of our hair.
Like a ghastly and ghoulish gorilla, Or a skeleton, skinny of shank,
He puffs at his perfumed Manilla,
We pine on the pestilent plank.
Yet hope, in the wilderness blooming, Unburdens our bosoms of care, For we know he'll stop short of exhuming The roots of our hair. 'Tis painful and cold and unsightly, This shearing of Nature's own coat, But we bear the indignity lightly, We utter no querulous note.
For we know that from Bantry to Brixton The eyes of the brave and the fair Are in friendliest sympathy fat on The roots of our hair.
And those roots, like the Phoenix's ashes, Shall sprout in profusion anew, Till our patriot beards and moustaches Shall cow the Coercionist crew : Till Balfour, unable to brave us, Shall own, in the depths of despair, His folly in choosing to lave us The roots of our hair.
The early political martyr Was recklessly lavish of life :
But we are not minded to barter So cheaply the chances of strife.
Lost neckties we merely repine at, Dress coats we contentedly spare ; But we draw an impassable line at The roots of our hair."
Equally good is the ballad, set to the tune of " Bryan O'Lynn," on Mr. O'Brien's melodramatic transit from Ireland to Man- chester, on which the Home-rule papers dilated with such hysterical joy a few months ago. Mr. Graves pictures Mr. O'Brien shooting up from the South, "Wid Erin's own olive-
branch fast in his mouth," after a fashion which will be disturbing, we imagine, to those who have celebrated Mr. O'Brien's feat in the most enthusiastic fashion. It will not be easy to live down the mockery of the following lines :-
(To the Air of `Bryan O'Lynn.')
Billy O'Brien had no breeches to wear,
But the Blarney girls wove him so splendid a pair, Wan peep in the glass made his streamin' eyes shine, `How they suit my complexion!' said Billy O'Brien.
Bill grew so wake on the Prison Board fare That his friends vowed to view him would make a saint swear ; But the whole of the time he was stary in' to death Bill was boltin' ham sandwiches under his breath.
Och ! the people they sot up a wonderful shout For a new Tug of War, whin their lad was let out ; For they knew that the ParIymint, Peelers, and Pope, Must go down wid Bill grippin' their end of the rope.
Billy O'Brien kem into the Court, Wid Tim Healy to show tho Removables sport, But when the big fools intherfared wid their noise, He let himself out on leg-bail wid the boys.
Billy O'Brien disappeared in the dark
On Miss O'Neill's arm, like the dove from No'h's ark ; Till into Hulme Flail he shot up from the south, Wid Erin's own olive-branch fast in his mouth.
And whin like a love-bird from Miss O'Neill's bakery He flew to his feet, Jacob Bright, that kind Quaker, he Blubbered and sobbed wid hysterical joy, Bil—ly O'Bri—en, Oh ! my boy !'
'Twas then that dear turtle-dove fresh from Porthcawl Unfolded his tale o'er the heads of them all, And whin Manchester'd heard his sweet message of peace She handed him over to Balfour's police.
Now Bill's back in jail in ondacent ondress,
And betune his torn breeks and the landlord's disthress, Twist the Plan and the Man, 'pon my conscience I'm curst If I rightly can tell you whose rents are the worst."
But even the Irishmen who have made capital out of petty martyrdoms are not better ridiculed than the Englishmen who have made capital out of their friendship for Ireland. And no one comes in for happier mockery than Sir William Harcourt, whose rollicking manner is easily capped by the rollicking glee of Irish mirth. Mr. Sambourne has skilfully illustrated the ballad called " Vernon Avick;" but we doubt whether even " Vernon Avick " is as good as the ballad sug- gested by Sir Henry James's comparison of Sir William Harcourt to a Samson who since he had entered the Home- rule camp had been shorn of his genuine locks, but provided with a very flowing wig. Sir Henry James will be all the prouder of his idea when he finds it turned to such admir-
able account in the following stanzas :-
" THE SASSENACH SAMSON.
(To the Air of The Protestant Gun.')
[Suggested by Sir Henry James's comparison of a well-known Liberal politician to Samson with a wig on ]
There are threasures in Ulster as good as our own, For we're sucking the Orange as dry as a bone, And this Sassenach Samson,—more power to his jaw
Shouts 'Hurroo for ould Ireland !' and Down wid the law !' Yet four short' years ago, ere we cropped his love-locks, Man alive! sure he dealt us the divil's hard knocks : But we've hauled down his colours and altered his rig, And giv'n poor ould Samson a wonderful wig.
'Tis grand to see Blunt standing up for the Plan,' Wid himself in the rear and his wife in the van : There's pleasure in capping a colleen wid pitch, Or in stripping a bailiff of ivery stitch : 'Tis sweet to give grabbers a taste of cold lead, To boycott them living and boycott them dead : But for all these divarsions I'd not give a fig, After seeing ould Samson dressed out in a wig.
I've laughed till I felt I was ready to split At Gladstone bla'guirding the measures of Pitt; Or at Sullivan swearing he's fit for to burst Wid the love of a nation he formerly cursed ; Or at Dillon the dauntless, who lately was seen Dancing Bitchin quadrilles wid a Protestant Dean : But of all these performances, little or big, None aiquals ould Samson dressed out in his wig."
For the most part, the more Irish are these poems, the more
harebrained is their extravagance, the fuller they are of humour. But in the parody on one of Mr. Swinburne's favourite rhythms, supposed to be addressed to Mr. Gladstone by the "blind admirer" whose letter a contemporary pub- lished, we have an exquisite bit of satire which has no Irish touch in it. Mr. Swinburne will feel, we think, a certain jealousy of the poet who could put his favourite rhetorical metre,—with its pointed peroration at the end of each verse, —to such admirable use as the following :— " LINES BY A 'BLIND ADMIRER.'
tlt was stated in, a well-known Russophil evening paper—the Pellmellikoff Gasetzky —on the occasion of Mr. Gladstone's visit to Birmingham in November, 1888, that application for tickets had been received not only from the blind, but the deaf and the dumb. And a benul-fide letter from a ' Blind Admirer' of Mr. Gladstone's was quoted in their columns.]
Great leader, whose aquiline optic Fate wills that I ne'er may behold, Quit the study of Erse and of Coptic, Leave Olympus awhile in the cold : Let thy voice, like the call of a clarion, Bring balm to the deaf and the dumb ; Swoop down on the Unionist carrion, And scatter the scum.
We are sick of the sermons of Otto, Of Harcourt's elaborate jeers ; Thou only, rhetorical Giotto, Canst argue in absolute spheres.
Too long with Elizabeth's era, With religious romance hast thou toyed ; Come forth, 0 consummate Chimera,* And boom in the void !
Our love of the truth, pray remember, Is earnest, but 0 is it right To drag her, in chilly November, Unclothed to the merciless light ? So be true to thy training; be subtle : Let no one thy meaning divine : Yea, put forth the craft of the cuttle, And blacken the brine.
We are weary and faint with pursuing Humanity's uniform track ; Great Anarch ! be up and undoing, Set the dial a century back.
Hark ! in tune to the tocsin of treason Our infants in unison lisp, ' Come down and redeem us from reason, Great Will o' the Wisp !' "
The author of The Blarney Ballads and this equally hmkorous successor to them, will at least have had the merit of bringing good out of evil, in making men merry out of the nonsense of a screaming clique and the extravagance of perfervid politicians.