Skip to main content

Elegies & laments

Elegy on the much lamented death of those excellent patriots and lovers of their country the family of the potatoes in the Kingdom of Ireland

(32) Elegy on the much lamented death of those excellent patriots and lovers of their country the family of the potatoes in the Kingdom of Ireland

                                         AN

                             ELEGY

                                         ON

The much lamented Death of thoſe excellent Patriots and Lovers of
their Country the Family of the POTATOES in the Kingdom of
Ireland, who fell by a general Maſſacre, being confined and ſtarved
alive by Cold and Hunger ( cruelleſt of Deaths !) between the
26th Day of December, and the 18th of January in the Year 1739,
to the inexpreſſible Loſs and Grief of their weeping, bleeding
Country.

IF ever Grief was great without Diſguiſe,
If Tears ſincere e'er flow'd from Mourners Eyes,
Now is the Time——! now Tyrant-Sorrow reign,
And from our Eyes the briny Ocean drain !
HIBernia—! well doſt Thou refuſe to raiſe
Thy Head, to ſee the Sorrows of theſe Days,
Grave was thy Harp before, and half unſtrung,
Slow mov'd the Finger, plaintive went the Tongue :
Now to deep Mourning tune thy future Lays,
With Froſt-nipt Shamrogs crown'd inſtead of Bays.

Potatoes—! kindly Root, moſt cordial Friend,
That ever Nature to this Iſle did ſend !
Potatoes, oh hard Fate ! all dead and gone ?
And with them thouſands of our ſelves anon !
'Twas you, deceas'd dear Friends, lept us alive,
Vain, vain are all our Hopes long to ſurvive !
Incenſe to living Benefactors paid
Uncertain is, till low their Heads are laid :
Low are the Heads of dear Potatoes laid,
Then Incenſe certain to them ſhall be paid.

Virgil, thy Georgicks, and thy Muſe here bring,
While I the Praiſe of dead Potatoes ſing.
With grateful Senſe (bleſt Root!) I muſt relate
Cheap was thy Culture, but thy Profit great,
Of Plough or Harrow, harneſs'd Ox or Steed,
Thy Cultivation did not ſtand in need :
Into poor Earth a Parcel of You flung
Thin-bedded with a Lock of half-made Dung,
Cover'd with one poor Shovel and a Spade
With ſmall Expence of Time and Labour laid,
Nay, cut in Pieces (that, which kills moſt Grain,
Potatoes multiplies, and mends the Strain)
Did with the next approaching Summer's Sun
High with luxuriant Leaves, and Branches run,
Whereon thick Tufts of Musky Bloſſoms ſhoor,
Delicious in Smell, as ſtrengthening is the Root.

The Bloſſoms wither'd, Apples next ſucceed,
Whoſe viſcous Balſam hectick Patients need :
Or, if regard to Luxury be paid,
Of them are beauteous rich Confections made.

The Apples ripe, the Leaves, as Trefoil ſweet,
The Cattle us'd with lowing Joys to meet.
Even in Corruption ſweet the Stalks exhale
An aromatick flavour thro' the Vale.
Uſeleſs no Part, the bleached Haulm provides
White-Satin Litter for pet-Heifers Sides.

The Root, the hidden Treaſure, is behind,
Prop of the Poor, Delight of all Mankind !
A Tract of Ground, ſo planted, look'd with Scorn
On thrice the Quantity of any Corn.
Surprizing Root — ! wherein Food has but Share,
Which does at once both Food and Medicine bear.
Prolifick Juices from it ſwell the Veins,
It multiplies, and Human Kind maintains.
Bruis'd, and to burn'd, or ſcalded Parts apply'd,
To cool and heal them, is a Topick try'd.
In Leprous Ails Potaroe-broth takes Place,
Abſterſive, healing, fovereign as Lough Leichs.

Corn many Operations undergoes,
Before it can a ſingle Loaf compoſe :
Potatoes no ſuch Coſt, Pains, Care demand,
Each being a Loaſ horn ready to the Hand :
One ſingle Operation they require,
Bare Tranſplantation from their Beds to Fire,
Where ſoon they Breaden, cracking Skins diſcloſe
Rich mealy Pulp, ſuch as roſt-Cheſnut ſhews.
No Salt, or Sugar, or a Grain of Spice
They need to cook them delicate and nice :
Tea ready done, Milk from the Cow is ſaid,
Potatoe juſtly roaſted is French-Bread,
And equally a Pudding of it made
Before the King (God bleſs him ! ) might be laid.

The Liquors did our thrifdeſs People know,
That from them in their native India flow,
Which here by Art ſuperior drawn might prove,
Such as the Poor, or higher Taſtes might love.
Thus, might they, from the ſame Potatoe heap
Variety of Life's beſt Comforts reap,
Bread, to enable them Labour to endure,
Drink, to forget that ever they were poor,
Starch for their Linnen (ſuch as Linnen wear ! )
And for the ſpruce Ones Powder for the Hair.
Let it ſuffice thus far with Grief to tell
In what Potatoes living did excel !

Here ſtop and figh—! kind Elegiac Muſe
A Mourners laſt Requeſt do not refuſe,
Now ſomething like laſt Speech and dying Words
(For little better now our State affords ! )
Nay, for us now ſome Elegy contrive,
We are not dead, but who can ſay alive ?
Our Hearts are with Potatoes dying dead,
Of half-dead Creatures try what may be ſaid.

Potatoes fed us, while the Corn we ſow'd
Was to the Payment of the Rent beſtow'd.
What muſt we feed on now, when both are ſpent ?
Oh cou'd our Feaſls be now like old black Lent !
I muſt—! I will to ſad Remembrance bring
Our wonted Iriſh Olio of the Spring,
Crown'd with a Herring ; Herring King of Fiſh !
Potatoes Queen of Roots in wooden Diſh !
Herrings, tho' gone this Year, we may regain,
Potatoes dead will never come again !
By angry Clergy will it now be faid,
This comes a Judgment for the Tithe unpaid;
Thoſe who detain it timely ſhou'd repent,
Poor Tenants, don't they pay it in their Rent.
Oh bleſs'd Saint PATRICK, Guardian of this Iſle,
Commiſerate our Caſe, and on us ſmile !
Propitious Nature, may our Schemes ſucceed,
Inſpire a Method to preſerve ſome Seed !
With Care we muſt the thawing Clods explore,
Increaſe by ſmall Plantations, as before :
If that ſhou'd fail—! in Swarms we muſt repair
To India ſtrait, make up our Loſſes there,
There bidding to our Rent-rack'd Lands adien,
Potatoes eat, taſte Fleſh, Bread, Butter too.

                        EPITAPH.

BEneath this frozen Sod, dead may be Found,
Half of the real Wealth of Iriſb Ground !
Much might, but much, alas ! need not be ſaid
Here lie two Thirds of Ireland's daily Bread.

DUBLIN : Printed by George Faulkner, 1739-40.

Images and transcriptions on this page, including medium image downloads, may be used under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Licence unless otherwise stated. Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Licence