"'Twas a good thought, boy, to come here to shrive,
For one short hour is your time to live.
"Upon yon river three tenders float;
The Priest's in one — if he isn't shot!
We hold his house for our Lord the King,
And, amen say I, may all traitors swing!"
At Geneva Barrack that young man died,
And at Passage they have his body laid.
Good people who live in peace and joy,
Breathe a pray'r and a tear for the Croppy Boy.
The song plays an important role in "The Sirens" section of Joyce's "Ulysses":
Of even greater importance in Ulysses as a means of defining Bloom’s plight (and Stephen’s) is the song “The Croppy Boy,�? a song which relates how a farm boy was executed by the British. The young Irish lad, on his way to fight the English, stops to have his confession heard by “Father Green.�? He walks through a lonely hall to find him, and after telling the “priest�? that his father and “loving brothers all�? have fallen in combat, he says: “I alone am left of my name and race.�? Then, as one of the childish sins which he confesses, he says that he “passed the churchyard one day in haste,/ And forgot to pray for . . . his mother’s rest.�? The priest, it turns out, is a “yeoman captain�? in disguise; as a result, the lad is forthwith hanged. (Note the disguise parallel and that, earlier, Joyce emphasized Stephen’s agony because of his refusing to pray at the bedside of his dying mother.)
Although Bloom thinks that the Irish lad in the ballad must have been a bit thick not to have seen, even in a darkened setting, that he was talking to an English captain, he is moved by the fact that the boy is the last of his race: “I too, last my race. . . . No son. Rudy,�? Bloom says later in the chapter. Resembling the farm boy, Bloom leaves “unblessed�? from the Ormond. In addition, “The Croppy Boy,�? with its fictitious Father Green, suggests in a physical, a political, and in a moral sense the “false father�? theme of the novel. The croppy boy, as noted, is a surrogate of Stephen Dedalus, who also “forgot�?—in a sense, however, Stephen cannot forget that he refused—to pray for a dead mother; Stephen will also be temporarily “adopted�? by a father, Bloom, in this novel’s last chapters.