O’ROURKE’S FEAST takes its name from a song composed by Turlough O’Carolan (1670-1738).
One of Carolan's earliest friends was Hugh MacGauran, a gentleman of the county Leitrim, who had a happy poetical talent and excelled particularly in writing humorous poetry. He wrote the original Irish lyrics to commemorate a remarkable banquet given by O’Rourke who was a powerful chieftain of Ulster during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.
Hugh MacGauran then prevailed upon Carolan to put his verse to music -- the only poem written by another person that Carolan ever put to music
The original Irish words were translated to English by Jonathan Swift, author of Gulliver’s Travels, in 1721. It is almost a literal translation. You can find an arrangement of this song in Sylvia Woods' book, 40 O’Carolan Tunes For All Harps.
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 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,
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;
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!
But, my hand, you dance rarely. Margery Grinagin.
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.
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.
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,
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.
Ask that of old madam: She'll tell you who's who,
As far up as Adam, mShe knows it is true.
Come down with that beam, If cudgels are scarce,
A blow on the weam, Or a kick on the a----se.