The Man From God Knows Where
Into our townlan' on a night of snow
rode a man from God knows where;
None of us bade him stay or go,
nor deemed him friend, nor damned him foe,
but we stabled his big roan mare;
for in our townlan' we're decent folk,
and if he didn't speak, why none of us spoke,
and we sat till the fire burned low.
We're a civil sort in our wee place
so we made the circle wide
round Andy Lemon's cheerful blaze,
and wished the man his length of days
and a good end to his ride.
He smiled in under his slouchy hat,
says he: 'There's a bit of a joke in that,
for we ride different ways.'
The whiles we smoked we watched him stare
from his seat fornenst the glow.
I nudged Joe Moore: 'You wouldn't dare
to ask him who he's for meeting there,
and how far he has got to go?'
And Joe wouldn't dare, nor Wully Scott,
And he took no drink - neither cold nor hot,
this man from God knows where.
It was closing time, and late forbye,
when us ones braved the air.
I never saw worse (may I live or die)
than the sleet that night, an' I says, says I:
'You'll find he's for stopping there.'
But at screek o'day, through the gable pane
I watched him spur in the peltin' rain,
an' I juked from his rovin' eye.
Two winters more, then the Trouble year,
when the best that a man could feel
was the pike that he kept in hidin's near,
till the blood o' hate an' the blood o' fear
would be redder nor rust on the steel.
Us ones quet from mindin' the farms
Let them take what we gave wi' the weight o' our arms
from Saintfield to Kilkeel.
In the time o' the Hurry, we had no lead
we all of us fought with the rest
an' if e'er a one shook like a tremblin' reed,
none of us gave neither hint nor heed,
nor ever even'd we'd guessed.
We men of the North had a word to say,
an'we said it then, in our own dour way,
an' we spoke as we thought was best.
All Ulster over, the weemin cried
for the stan'in' crops on the lan'.
Many's the sweetheart and many's the bride
would liefer ha' gone to where he died,
and ha' mourned her lone by her man.
But us ones weathered the thick of it
and we used to dander along and sit
in Andy's, side by side.
What with discourse goin' to and fro,
the night would be wearin' thin,
yet never so late when we rose to go
but someone would say: 'do ye min' thon' snow,
an 'the man who came wanderin'in?'
and we be to fall to the talk again,
if by any chance he was one o' them
The man who went like the win'.
Well 'twas gettin' on past the heat o' the year
when I rode to Newtown fair;
I sold as I could (the dealers were near
only three pounds eight for the Innish steer,
an' nothin' at all for the mare!)
I met M'Kee in the throng o' the street,
says he: 'The grass has grown under our feet
since they hanged young Warwick here.',
And he told me that Boney had promised help
to a man in Dublin town.
Says he: 'If you've laid the pike on the shelf,
you'd better go home hot-fut by yourself,
an' once more take it down.'
So by Comber road I trotted the grey
and never cut corn until Killyleagh
stood plain on the risin' groun'.
For a wheen o' days we sat waitin' the word
to rise and go at it like men,
but no French ships sailed into Cloughey Bay
and we heard the black news on a harvest day
that the cause was lost again;
and Joey and me, and Wully Boy Scott,
we agreed to ourselves we'd as lief as not
ha' been found in the thick o' the slain.
By Downpatrick goal I was bound to fare
on a day I'll remember, feth;
for when I came to the prison square
the people were waitin' in hundreds there
an' you wouldn't hear stir nor breath!
For the sodgers were standing, grim an' tall,
round a scaffold built there foment the wall,
an' a man stepped out for death!
I was brave an' near to the edge of the throng,
yet I knowed the face again,
an' I knowed the set, an' I knowed the walk
an' the sound of his strange up-country talk,
for he spoke out right an' plain.
Then he bowed his head to the swinging rope,
whiles I said 'Please God' to his dying hope
and 'Amen' to his dying prayer
that the wrong would cease and the right prevail,
for the man that they hanged at Downpatrick gaol
was the Man from God knows where!
Acknowledgement: Dennis Carroll "The Man from God Knows Where: Thomas Russell 1767 - 1803"
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