1824 Poem, George Dugall, ‘Epistle To Mr. J—n F—n’

Author: George Dugall

Date: 1824

Source: Poem: ‘Epistle To Mr. J—n F—n’, from The Northern Cottage and other poems; written partly in the Dialect of the North of Ireland by George Dugall (Londonderry: William McCorkell, 1824)

Comments: George Dugall (c.1790-1855) was the son of Rev. George Dugall, Presbyterian minister of Magherafelt from 1786-1810, and lived most of his life near Newtowncunningham in Donegal. He was a schoolteacher in north Donegal, and his only book of poems The Northern Cottage contains an extensive glossary of Ulster-Scots words. The vocabulary and cultural context of his poems are rich in Ulster-Scots reference.

Doc. ref. no.: USLS/TB/Poetry/1800-1899/051


To Mr. J—n F—n, R—gh—n

(Enclosing a Poem) Nov. 1819

Friend of my youth, though scant o’ time,

Ingratitude’s a dielfu’ crime;

Oft does remembrance to thee climb,

With gratefu’ swell:

Accept these lines in hamely rhime,

Just like thysel’.

But then to compensate wi’ sang,

For breach o’ promise braid an’ lang,

Would be as roguish as it’s wrang,

In ony muse:

The secret o’ the scribbling gang,

’S the true excuse.

Know then, when Cancer’s orb o’ fire

Gives new-born flow’rs their full attire;

And clothes aul’ Grawney[1] beech and brier,

In summer pride:

The panting muse can but admire,

To sing’s denied.

Midst happy scenes, sae blooming fair,

His bardship strolls wi’ vacant stare,

Supine contentment in his air,

Remote from noise:

He drowns his ev’ry wish an’ care,

In nature’s joys.

Then Science, sphere-upholding maid,

In robe of azure tinge array’d,

Descend! — a paradise is spread;

Enlarge the heart,

By pointing in the blissful shade,

To truths of Art.

But when the Boreal furies blow,

And chill confusion spreads below:

Stars, streamers, light’nings come and go,

While drift besmears;

And Ardnamoghal’s[2] ancient pow,

A night-cap wears.

A glist’ning, dim, portentous form,

Orion[3] rides the roaring storm:

Care, mis’ry, ruin and alarm,

Come rattling o’er us;

While thunders ring in frenzy warm,

The horrid chorus.

Then busy thought, ’tis thine to sweep

The past and future — prying deep —

Revert where chaos’ pristine heap,

Held vast creation;

Or view from the etherial steep,

The consummation.

To which this scene of things still draws:

When vice shall make her final pause,

Arraign’d by the eternal laws,

Of right and wrong:

For then shall rise in virtue’s cause,

An arm more strong.

Sic nights the muse still soars supreme,

While feeling lights her sacred flame;

And, guided by th’ unerring beam,

She deals out willing

The meed of worth — but biting blame,

To ev’ry villain.

Satire, dread Pow’r! — just gi’e thee leave,

Through life, through death, thou’lt hunt the knave,

In atoms haurl him frae the grave,

Though flint confines;

And sift him through thy fiery sieve,

To scowling winds.

’Tis thine, thou wonder-working Dame,

The human monster oft to tame;

To latest times, in lasting shame,

His crimes to tell:

They quake at thy terrific name,

Who laugh at hell.

The proud oppressive num’rous host,

On whom the world’s best half is lost;

The fawning tribe who lick the dust,

To please the brood o’t;

And by their cringing earn their crust;

Diel gie them gude o’t.

Full many a carle now-a-days,

An honest bard would blush praise;

On such, let museless P****’s dull phrase,

Heap fulsome lies:

Such stupid mercenary lays,

The world denies.

The gen’ral voice is never wrang:

Let common fame but judge the sang;

Rhimster and patron ere it’s lang,

Maun jouk wi’ shame;

And hide their noddles frae the fang,

O’ public blame.

Nature in thee has made a wonner;

(I’m vexed she didna mak a hunner)

A man without her common blunner,

Ae spark o’ pride;

Wi’ friendship, feeling, truth and honor,

And gear beside.

There’s Mr. Outside, mark him well;

A booby you could buy an’ sell;

In grins an’ stares himself he’ll drill,

Like some baboon:

A poor out-pensioner o’ h-----,

Scarce worth a crown.

He’s born to some snug patch o’ land;

So that for sense an’ grace maun stand:

He felt no rod — fear’d no command,

In early days;

But rowing at baith fit an’ hand,

Were meat an’ claes.

Days, months, and years, thus onward pass;

The next still find him what he was;

Headstrong and stupid, like some ass,

Or tinker’s donkey:

A savage of a mongrel class,

Half bear — half monkey.

Thus out o’ reach o’ what he should be;

Or what wi’ cultur’d mind he could be;

Although he mimic what he would be,

Wi’ labor sair;

He’ll never really wise or good be,

Till time’s nae mair.

Wi’ talents scarce above his stable,

In decency to judge unable,

He copies pride’s dull formal rabble,

With steady aim;

I’ll wager should they f----- at table,

He’ll do the same.

Aul’ Terra’s east an’ western wing,

For back an’ board their off’rings bring:

Each week a jub’lee for a string,

O’ fops an’ j-----s:

Wha idle, proud, an’ giddy, fling

By wheels an’ spades.

’Tis not enough to view his country,

The victim of misguided gentry:

Stern desolation makes its entry,

By full consent:

Of his own means the treach’rous sentry;

On dog-drive bent.

Your lint is sown afore his corn;

Your stacks are thatch’d ere his are shorn;

Wi’ envy peevish and forlorn,

He often hums,

“This will not do — I’ll work the morn,”

That morn ne’er comes.

Debt after debt is fast contracted;

His word’s still less and less respected;

Labor abhorr’d as well’s neglected,

And in despair,

Wi’ ev’ry drunken rake connected,

He flees frae care.

Cants, poundings, follow helter skelter;

His fam’ly’s driv’n frae its shelter;

Unless his course strong Ruin alter,

Wi’ timely rein,

The poke, New Holland, or a halter,

Maun close the scene.

D----d empty pride! when ance I’m at thee,

I ken na whar or how to quat thee:

Infernal huxter! still I’ll claut thee,

Through light an’ liver;

Then stink, till Satan score and saut thee,

And stink for ever.

A batch o’ rhimes enclos’d I sen’:

(I thought it bare to gang alane)

Your critical opinion spen’,

An’ tell me fair o’t;

Speak out! Gude, faith I’ll never stane

Your dog the mair o’t.

God grant a har’st to you each season,

Hale four each year, o’ a’ that’s pleasing:

Had I o’ friends but ae bare dizzen,

Just such as you;

I would na ca’ the king my cousin:

Dear Sir — Adieu.


[1] Grawney’s wood — a beech-wood in the vicinity of Castleforward.

[2] A hill in the townland of Gortenleave.

[3] A constellation somewhat resembling a gigantic human figure. — The three-stars or Ell-wand is called his Belt.

Other poems from ‘The Northern Cottage’


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