the croppy boy love

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  • The Croppy Boy

    "Good men and true in this house who dwell,

    To a stranger bouchal* I pray you tell:

    Is the priest at home, or may he be seen?

    I would speak a word with Father Green."

    "The Priest's at home, boy, and may be seen;

    'Tis easy speaking with Father Green.

    But you must wait till I go and see

    If the Holy Father alone may be."

    The youth has enter'd an empty hall;

    What a lonely sound has his light footfall!

    And the gloomy chamber's chill and bare,

    With a vested Priest in a lonely chair.

    The youth has knelt to tell his sins:

    "Nomine Dei," the youth begins!

    At "mea culpa" he beats his breast,

    And in broken murmers he speaks the rest.

    "At the siege of Ross did my father fall,

    And at Gorey my loving brothers all.

    I alone am left of my name and race;

    I will go to Wexford and take their place.

    "I cursed three times since last Easter day;

    At mass time once I went to play;

    I passed the churchyard one day in haste,

    And forgot to pray for my mother's rest.

    "I bear no hate against living thing,

    But I love my country above my king.

    Now, Father! bless me and let me go

    To die, if God has ordained it so."

    The priest said nought, but a rustling noise

    Made the youth look above in wild surprise;

    The robes were off, and in scarlet there

    Sat a yoeman captain with fiery glare.

    With fiery glare and with fury hoarse,

    Instead of blessing, he breathed a curse:

    "'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.

    April 19, 2008