City Gossip

I had a visit from the Bard one morning this week, and eyeing the familiar roll that he carried in his left hand, I greeted him thus – “A new poem, Mr McGonagall; this will be about the lifeboat, is it not?” “No,” said he, in a tone which, while free from the least tinge of anger, showed as plain as plain could be that it was wrong for anyone to assume that his poems are produced an easily as they make sausages by simply turning the handle – “No, my dear sir,“ he made answer, “It is too soon for that yet; it requires thinking, you know.”

Humbled by this reproof, I took from his hands the latest creation of his poetic genius, which assured me at the same time I would find a capital thing – “The Troubles of Matthew Mahoney.” “Ah!” said I, “Mahoney; I’ve heard that name before. Had a shop in Hawkhill, did he not?” “Oh! no,” said the Poet with a smile; ‘it’s another party. This happened in Devonshire. It is a very pathetic story, you must understand, Matthew dearly loved his wife, and, even though also she was addicted to drink, he loved her still.”

In his latest poem McGonagall describes how Mrs Mahoney was got lying drunk on the street one day by her husband, who, much grieved, lifts her up and kisses her. The Poet was sure I would agree with him that few husbands would act so, and he frankly admitted that it was a thing he could not have done himself. Mr Gillespie admires Matthew’s conduct, and, as a result, the pair are installed in a comfortable situation, and Bridget “swears off” drinking. That, in cold-blooded prose, is the story presented in a highly concentrated form; but in the hands of our poet it is unfolded in no fewer than, twenty stanzas. Twenty, I repeat, for I was at the trouble to count them.

That the Poet was in a melting mood when her wrote this effusion is evident from the strong lachrymal current that runs through the first portion, and the description of a tear in the following verse is positively dazzling:-

Ah! Bridget my darlin’ I never dreamt ye’d come to this,
And, stooping down, her cheek he did kiss;
While a glittering tear flashed in the moonlight to the ground,
For the poor husband’s grief was really profound.

That Matthew is religious and possessed of a placid temperament that renders him proof against all the disappointments of life is thus shown:-

“Have you any children?” asked the gentleman.
“No, yer honour, bless the Lord, contented I am,
I wouldn’t have the lambs know any harm of their mother.”

Isn’t there a beautiful touch of feeling there? His idea of anxiety for the lambs that do not exist seems to me only such as an undoubted genius could have conceived; but I must complete the verse, for the last line presents an entirely new phase of character in Matthew, and opens the question whether or not he may be a consummate hypocrite, for he concludes with this cynical view of the inconveniences of a family-

“Besides sor, to me they would be a great bother.”

However, I may be doing Mat Mahoney an injustice. This may be only a specimen of his peculiar humour. But space forbids detailed notice of the poem. As I have said, there are a score of verses, and as each verse contains four lines the reader may abstrusely calculate how many beauties are to be found in the whole performance. I conclude by quoting the last four lines, they are extremely touching:-

And Bridget’s repentance was hearty and sincere,
And by the grace of God she never drank whisky, rum, or beer,
And good thoughts come into her mind of Heaven above,
And Matthew Mahoney dearly does her love.

Weekly News, 1st October 1892

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