Eipeasóid an Saic - Episode of the Sack

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beer mugs
Whiskey and March Ale
uisce beatha agus lionn Márta

Turlough O'Carolan and his best friend, Charles MacCabe who was also a poet and harper were having a drink in a pub. Their favorite was a mixture of whisky and March Ale. MacCabe challenged Carolan that whoever was able to drink the longest, would win the wager and the loser should pay the entire reckoning. After a while no sound came from MacCabe, and Carolan, who could not, of course, see asked his guide for information. "MacCabe's in a very sound sleep, sir" came the reply.

Carolan knew that when MacCabe woke up he would repudiate the bet and say that he lasted the longer unless Carolan could prove otherwise. So Carolan called for a sack. William Eccles, a bystander, got one and MacCabe was put into the sack up to his neck while still asleep. Carolan tied the sack tight around MacCabe's neck and attached a sign which read Here lies in a sack -- MacCabe upto his neck and MacCabe slept until morning.
Then MacCabe began to stir and to stretch and found himself somewhat obstructed. He struggled harder and called on Carolan to extricate him from the dilemma he was in. Thereupon Carolan let him out and congratulated him on the loss of the wager. Naturally MacCabe was annoyed at the indignity he was put in and expressed himself with great vehemence. Carolan's poetic rejoinder follows: ...Donal O'Sullivan.

Fuiling do shacadh go socair,
A Chathaoir an tsodair Mhac Cába!
I dtús sdoirm ná cuir aonadh,
Is iomadh síon bhias lá Márta.

Má cuireadh tú isteach i sac i lár na sráide
Is tú ar misge,
A Mhuire! god é an t-aonadh
Is gur budh é sin do mhaoin is do chisde?

Acht re neart aon ghaiscidhigh amháin
Dá raibh sa 'dún seo
Gur carnadh i sac nómála
Go cába thú!

Take your sacking quietly,
Charles trotter* MacCabe!
Do not be surprised at the onset of a storm,
A March day has much foul weather.

If you were put inside a sack in the middle of the street
When you were drunk,
O Virgin Mary! what is there surprising in that,
Since it was your store and your treasure?

But by the strength of a single champion
That was in this locality
You were bundled into a sack or a bag
Right up to your cape!

In verse 1 above, MacCabe is told not to complain. March is usually a bad month with the weather and all that anyway. In verse 2 MacCabe is told that things could have been worse, especially if the sack had been put out at the street where bypassers could have seen it and read the inscription. In verse 3 Carolan tells MacCabe that he, Carolan was the champion, won the bet fairly and the sacking proves it.

This poem of Carolan's was not the end of the affair, for it was followed by the scolding match between the two men, which we will consider in another poem. O'Sullivan vol 1 pg 72-4

* The word trotter here connotes that MacCabe walked with a slight limp, sometimes called a gas lighters trot
Background music: "Carolan's Cap" likely a nightcap. The music for the sacking song is not presently available.
Donal O'Sullivan, Life and Times of an Irish Harper vol 1 pg 72-4
Courtesy of Jack and Vivian IrishPage.com 21 April 2004
Replay music: Carolan's Cap

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