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IRISH BALLAD SINGERS AND IRISH
STREET BALLADS

THIS is Fair-day in our Irish market-town.
On every road, pour in flocks of sheep, droves
of cattle (many of them of the old country
breed, small and rough), and pigs; the latter
for the most part coming singly, with hay-
rope to jerking hind-leg. At every convenient
brook or hedge side, country girls don the
shoes and stockings they have been carrying
so far in a bundle: partly for economy's
sake, partly because they can walk with
more ease barefoot; mainly, in order that
they may enter the fair with undimmed lustre
of black, and spotless white or blue. At an
outskirt of the town spreads the "Fair-Green,"
bordered with hovels; its expanse of mire
thickly trodden with hoof and broguemen
shouting, swearing, bargaining, where the
moistened penny smites and re-smites the
rugged palm; beasts lowing, bleating, bellowing,
braying, neighing, and squeaking. Horses
with ribbon on neck dash recklessly to and
fro; multitudinous horns threaten, parried
and punished by innumerable sticks. Who
keep all those asses? Are they never
curried? In good sooth they are ill-used. There
are few whiskey-tents, but this is because
people prefer to drink elsewhere; for many
have "broke their medal"—in other words,
forgotten Father Mathewlong ago.

Down the street, it is all a moving crush of
carts, beasts, potatoes (not quite extinct yet),
corn-sacks, and human beings. There are
men in blue coats, flat cloth caps, old brown
hats; matrons, in blue cloaks, red shawls, a
cloak or two of the old-fashioned red cloth,
white caps, white kerchiefs on head, red
kerchiefs; maidens, with hair of brown or sable
Spanish gloss, or, more ambitious, in bonnets
with fluttering ribbons and flowered shawls.
Yet these, too, found their last mirror,
perhaps in Pie's Pool there above; coming
thence no longer barefoot.

At all corners and points of vantage, apples
are offered energetically to the public; at a
few, cakes and "sweet-rock." Elevated on carts
without horses, the auctioneers of old clothes,
and the Cheap Johns of new apparel, make
their appeals to the crowd, and their apparently
ferocious verbal attacks upon each other.
Auctioneer, who is licensed and sells in regular
mode to the highest bidder, alludes, somewhat
haughtily to the flimsiness of slop goods:
Cheap John, a stentorian and brazen outlaw,
declares that none of his customers can say,
"Be merciful to the man that wore this last!
I  wonder what he died of!" and kindling
with the sympathy of his audience, shoots
forth a quite surprising volley of humour and
wit; rich, ready, genuine, and making advantage
of passing occurrences. Then, of a
sudden, he slides into business again—"I'll
not have even one and-eight, one-and-seven
—(Don't stop me, ma'am), one-and-six,
seventeen, sixteen, fifteen!"—and at last
sells the new fancy vest, which he has tried
on himself ever so often, at ninepence; or,
perhaps, cannot sell it after all, and, flinging
it by, once more unfolds the three yards and
a half and a bit of suspiciously-measured
linen, which he whacks with well-managed
wand to prove its soundness.

A more quiet company of merchants
amongst whom, years ago, Cheap John the
First arose like a red revolutionistcontinue
to pitch their tents hard by. The Stannens
(standings) are conveniently ranged over the
gutter on each side of the street, with roofs of
patched canvas, sack-cloth, or motley counterpane,
stretched on rickety poles, or rounded
with osiers; whereunder are spread the dazzling
treasures of cheap cutlery and jewellery;
distorting mirrors in red frames; round
pewter-cased ditto capable of being propped
up and folded artfully; gallowses (i. e.
suspenders), and broad belts of coloured web
deemed wholesome wear by country youths;
little blue and yellow covered song-books;
Lives of Saints, mixed with spelling-books and
Reed-a-ma-daisies (Reading-made-easys); and,
in a corner, three or four second-hand volumes
perhaps one of Urquhart's "Rabelais,"
Dublin edition, and two of "The Justice of
the Peace, published in 1823; which latter
the stannen'-keeper recommends to your
attention as "an entertaining romance;"
and, on being, with some trouble, undeceived
on this point, says he's no scholar (meaning
that he can't read), but that's what he bought
it for.

At our elbow, a ballad-singer, a young
woman in old plaid cloak and very old straw
bonnet, strikes up, with a sweet Connaught
lisp, and slightly nasal twang, "The Sorrowful

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