Irish leaders

A heaven-sent dove with razor-sharp teeth

 


U 15.4523-35:             THE CITIZEN

(with a huge emerald muffler and shillelagh, calls)

    May the God above
    Send down a dove
    With teeth as sharp as razors
    To slit the throats
    Of the English dogs
    That hanged our Irish leaders.

                                    THE CROPPY BOY

(the ropenoose round his neck, gripes in his issuing bowels with both hands)

    I bear no hate to a living thing,
    But I love my country beyond the king.


 

The original verse parodied here can be traced back to 1830, when it was used as a toast:

May God above, send down his love,

With swords as sharp as sickles,

To cut the throats of gentlefolks,

                  Who grudge poor men their victuals!!!1

"To the Editor of The Bristol Mercury" (1830 Bristol Mercury 7 December)

        Don Gifford and Robert Seidman (Ulysses Annotated) remark that “Dublin informants have identified this as a Fenian ballad, but we have been unable to locate a copy in print”.

        The most likely source for the Citizen's bitter invective is to be found in the Times of 21 January 1921, where we are told that two supposed Sinn Feiners were committed for trial in Liverpool “on a charge of making or having under their control an explosive substance for an unlawful object”.

 

[…] the police found in their house a canister containing a grey powder and a quantity of Sinn Fein literature, together with a diary in which was a sketch titled "Big Explosion," and rhymes of a seditious nature. One of the latter read:─

May the God above send down a dove

With teeth as sharp as razors,

To cut the throats of the English dogs

Who shot our Irish leaders.

        An unpublished letter at the University of Tulsa from Joyce to his typist Raymonde Linossier of 19 February 1921 indicates that Joyce had only finished the final manuscript (Rosenbach) up to folio 70 by that date. The verse above is to be found on folio 78, and it is not in the earlier so-called “Quinn manuscript”.2

        Joyce repeatedly made notes for Ulysses from the pages of The Times while he was in Paris. It seems likely that this Times article did indeed provide him with the text of the Citizen's old Fenian verse quoted in Circe. The change from “shot” to “hanged” was necessary to fit the Croppy Boy context in the lines which follow.

Harald Beck


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1 There are variants with “dove” replacing “love” from 1852.
2 I am grateful to Ronan Crowley for his help in reliably dating the relevant section of the Rosenbach manuscript.