top of page
  • Writer's pictureAustin Rock

An Ode To Georgian Dublin!

Georgian Dublin is not just squares, broad streets, wild drunken debauchery and demonic gangs. There was art, culture, theatre and music. The 18th century was the genesis of the later great Irish literary, theatrical and musical traditions.

So what has, Irelands Greatest Composer O'Carolan, The Irish Harp, Jonathan Swift and Dublin City all got in common?

Well the Harper around 1712 Turlough O'Carolan composed the anarchic "O'Rourkes Feast - Planxty O'Rourke", celebrating one of Irelands greatest chieftains, Brian O'Rourke and his legendary feast in the 16th century. The harper Turlough O'Carolan asked his good friend Hugh McGauran to write Gaelige words to his music, which he did. Swift heard this song/piece and asked McGauran for a translation. Swift took the translation and turned it into a manic rhyming romp full of Dublin wit. The song became incredibly popular amongst the ruling classes and poor alike. This music gives a wonderful glimpse into the musical cultural tastes of the Rural Ascendancy and Ascendancy in Georgian Dublin. Swift loved the Dublin vernacular and in this lyric below are words only found in the Dublin of the era.

"O'Rourkes Feast" and "Planxty O'Rourke", is O'Carolan's/Swifts master piece, this fusion of ancient Gaelic music and language to the strange English of Dublin. The Gaelic bardic tradition and the use of Dublin Street venacular - this is a piece Joyce would be proud of.

You can see O'Carolans ancient harp in National Museum. The plague to O'Carolan's memory erected by Sydney, Lady Morgan is in St Patricks Cathedral Dublin. She was a daughter of Richard Owenson (MacHugh) a renowned Georgian Dublin actor and comedian. Sydney wrote the terrific book "The Wild Irish Girl".

O'Rourke's Feast/Planxty O'Rourke circa 1720

O'ROURKE'S noble fare

Will ne'er be forgot,

By those who were there,

Or those who were not.

His revels to keep,

We sup and we dine

On seven score sheep,

Fat bullocks, and swine.

Usquebaugh to our feast

In pails was brought up,

A hundred at least,

And a madder (Norman Irish for Tankard) our cup.

O there is the sport!

We rise with the light

In disorderly sort,

From snoring all night.

O how was I trick'd!

My pipe it was broke,

My pocket was pick'd,

I lost my new cloak.

I'm rifled, quoth Nell,

Of mantle and kercher (Forerunner of a Head Scarve),

Why then fare them well,

The de'el take the searcher.

Come, harper, strike up;

But, first, by your favour,

Boy, give us a cup:

Ah! this hath some savour.

O'Rourke's jolly boys

Ne'er dreamt of the matter,

Till, roused by the noise,

And musical clatter,

They bounce from their nest,

No longer will tarry,

They rise ready drest,

Without one Ave-Mary.

They dance in a round,

Cutting capers and ramping (Dancing);

A mercy the ground

Did not burst with their stamping.

The floor is all wet

With leaps and with jumps,

While the water and sweat

Splish-splash in their pumps.

Bless you late and early,

Laughlin O'Enagin! - (Loughlin O'Finnegan)

But, my hand, you dance rarely. (An Irish Oath)

Margery Grinagin. (Mairseil Ni Gríonagáin)

Bring straw for our bed,

Shake it down to the feet,

Then over us spread

The winnowing sheet.

To show I don't flinch,

Fill the bowl up again:

Then give us a pinch

Of your sneezing, a Yean (Goat).

Good lord! what a sight,

After all their good cheer,

For people to fight

In the midst of their beer!

They rise from their feast,

And hot are their brains,

A cubit at least

The length of their skeans (Irish 18" fighting knifes).

What stabs and what cuts,

What clattering of sticks;

What strokes on the guts,

What bastings and kicks!

With cudgels of oak,

Well harden'd in flame (Falachions),

A hundred heads broke,

A hundred struck lame.

You churl, I'll maintain

My father built Lusk,

The castle of Slane,

And Carrick Drumrusk:

The Earl of Kildare,

And Moynalta his brother,

As great as they are,

I was nurst* by their mother.(*Ancient Irish Fosterage meaning the elite and commoners where linked by a common foster parent)

Ask that of old madam:

She'll tell you who's who,

As far up as Adam,

She knows it is true.

Come down with that beam,

If cudgels are scarce,

A blow on the weam,

Or a kick on the arse.

- Jonathan Swift

One thing I can promise, on my walking tours, you will hear great tales, of the people and places of Old Dublin

27 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page