Cow ate the Piper


In the year ninety-eight, when our troubles were great
It was treason to be a Militian
I can never forget the big black whiskered set
That history tells us were Hessians
In them heart breaking times we had all sorts of crimes
As murdering never was rifer
On the hill of Glencree, not an acre from me
Lived bold Denny Byrne, the piper

Neither wedding nor wake was worth an old shake
If Denny was not first invited
For at emptying legs or squeezing the bags
He astonished as well as delighted
In such times poor Denny could not ear a penny
Martial law had a sting like a viper
It kept Denny within till his bones and his skin
Were a-grin through the rags of the piper

’twas one heavenly night, with the moon shining bright
Coming home from the fair of Rathangan
He happened to see from the branch of a tree
The corpse of a Hessian there hanging
Says Denny ‘These rogues have fine boots, I’ve no brogues’
He laid on the heels such a griper
They were so gallus tight, and he pulled with such might
Legs and boots came away with the piper

He tucked up the legs and he took to his pegs
‘til he came to Tim Kavanagh’s cabin
‘By the powers,’ says Tim, ‘I can’t let you in
You’ll be shot if you stop out there rappin’
He went round to the shed where the cow was in bed
With a wisp he began for to wipe her
They lay down together on the seven foot feather
And the cow fell a-hugging the piper

The daylight soon dawned, Denny got up and yawned
Then he dragged on the boots of the Hessian
The legs, by the law, he threw them on the straw
And he gave them leg-bail on his mission
When Tim’s breakfast was done he sent out his son
To make Denny lep like a lamp-lighter
When two legs there he saw, he roared like a daw
‘Oh daddy, the cow ate the piper’

‘Sweet bad luck to the baste, she’d a musical taste’
Says Tim ‘to go eat such a chanter
Here Padraic, avic, take this lump of a stick
Drive her up to Glenealy, I’ll cant her’
Mrs Kavanagh bawled; the neighbours were called
They began for to humbug and jibe her
To the churchyard she walks with the legs in a box
Crying out, ‘We’ll be hanged for the piper’

The cow then was drove just a mile or two off
To a fair by the side of Glenealy
And the creature was sold for four guineas in gold
To the clerk of the parish, Tim Daly
They went into a tent and the luck-penny spent
For the clerk was a woeful old swiper
Who the devil was there, playing the Rakes of Kildare
But their friend, Denny Byrne, the piper

Then Tim gave a bolt like a half-broken colt
At the piper, he gazed like a gommach
Says he, ‘By the powers, I thought these eight hours
You were playing in Dhrimindhu’s stomach’
But Denny observed how the Hessian was served
So they all wished Nick’s cure to the viper
And for gra that they met, their whistles they wet
And like devils, they danced round the piper

Wicklow 1

Songs of Wicklow