Monday 27 February 2017

Poetry: Queen Vic and 'that Maud Gonne, dhressin' in black'

Ulick O'Connor

Percy French
Percy French

Queen Elizabeth II has become the longest-reigning English, ­monarch beating the record set by her great-great-grandmother Queen ­Victoria.

Does Ireland have an ­interest in this?

Certainly. Queen Elizabeth II, on her visit here four years ago, went so far as to lay a wreath to commemorate those who died in pursuit of Irish freedom at the Garden of Remembrance. She already, of course, had a terrific reception in Cork where she seemed to have established a special empathy with the crowd.

Her great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria, had come to Ireland in the last year of her life in 1900. One person who was truly delighted with her visit was Percy French, the author of 'The Mountains of Mourne'. He saw in the visit marvellous material for a monologue.

For an imagined account of the queen's after-dinner speech, he has created the character of Deputy-Assistant-Waiter Jamesy Murphy, who gives his own account of the dinner at the Viceregal Lodge at the Phoenix Park. Here is an extract referring to the reactions to the queen's visit of popular figures on the Irish scene such as Maud Gonne and WB Yeats.

'Queen Victoria's After Dinner Speech'

'Me loving subjects,' sez she,

'Here's me best respects,' sez she,

'An' I'm proud this day,' sez she,

'Of the illigant way," sez she,

'Ye gave me the hand,' sez she,

'Whin I came to land,' sez she.

'And that other wan,' sez she,

'That Maud Gonne' sez she,

'Dhressin' in black,' sez she,

'To welcome me back', sez she,

'An' all that gammon', sez she

'About me bringin' famine,' sez she,

'Now Maud 'ill write,' sez she,

'That I brought the blight,' sez she,

'Or altered the saysons,' sez she,

'For some private raysins,' sez she,

'An' I think there's a slate,' sez she,

'Off Willie Yeats,' sez she.

'He should be home,' sez she,

'French polishin' a pome,' sez she

'An' not writin' letters,' sez she,

'About his betters,' sez she,

'Paradin' me crimes,' sez she,

'In the Irish Times,' sez she.

'But what they can't draw,' sez she,

'Is the Lion's claw,' sez she,

'And before our flag's furled,' sez she,

'We'll own the wurruld,' says she.

Percy French 1854-1920

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