1770 Poem, Olivia Elder, ‘An Elegy on J.S., J. G—ggs Clerk’

Author: Olivia Elder

Date: 1770

Source: ‘An Elegy on J.S., J. G—ggs Clerk, An imitation or rather Alteration of Allen Ramsays on Jno: Cowper, Kirk-treasurers man’ is one from a collection of over 40 manuscript poems in the National Library of Ireland written by Olivia Elder of Aghadowey, Co. Londonderry, between 1769 and 1779, (NLI, MS 23254) and first published as The Poems of Olivia Elder, NLI, ms 23254, Editor: Andrew Carpenter (Irish Manuscripts Commission, 2017).

Comments: Olivia Elder (1735–1780) was the daughter of Rev. John Elder, the New Light minister of Aghadowey Presbyterian Church from 1723–1773. Her father’s home and farm was in the Co. Londonderry townland of Landagivey, half-way between Aghadowey and Ballymoney in Co. Antrim. Oliva Elder lived most of her life in Landagivey, including her last years when she wrote the poems in the manuscript collection. This gave her an intimate connection with an almost exclusively Presbyterian and Ulster-Scots speaking community, but although her poems reflect that background in their cultural, historical and religious content, only one poem, (‘An Elegy on J.S., J. G—gg’s Clerk’), was written in Ulster-Scots. The poem was, as the title suggests, written as a literary ‘response’ to Allan Ramsay’s poem, ‘ELEGY ON JOHN COWPER Kirk-Treasurer’s Man, ANNO 1714’, which begins in similar vein for the first stanza: “I Wairn ye a’ to greet and drone, / John Cowper’s dead, Ohon! Ohon!”

Doc. ref. no.: USLS/TB/Poetry/1700-1799/033

An Elegy on J.S., J. G—ggs Clerk

I warn ye a’ to weep and moan,

Jack S—ys dead, ohon! ohon!

To fill his place, alak there’s none,

that wi’ sic glee

Could ape an Irish Priest like John,

but he maun die.

He was right Nacky in his way

And merry baith by Night and day

When with the Lads his pranks he’d play

wi’ sides sae sair

They’d laugh till on the ground they lay

but he’s nae mair.

Of counting cash he gat his fill,

And made by’t mony a pint & gill;

Of his braw post he thought nae ill,

nor had he need;

Now G—g may make a Kirk and Mill

o’t, since he’s dead.

Fye upon death, he was to blame,

To hurl poor John to his lang hame;

But tho’ his head be cauld, yet fame

wi’ tout o’ Trumpet,

Will tell how S—ys awfu’ name

could flee a strumpet.

He ken’d the Bawds and louns full weel,

And where they used to rant and reel;

But when the Lass disguised did steal

on him in sport,

Aft did he wish the mickle Deel

might take her for’t.

To take a Glass he never spared,

Tho H—y, McC—y, and L—D,

Might preach an hour and make a faird

about the vice;

For these auld springs sae aften heard

they gi’ nae price.

At Beefstake treat he spared nae cost,

He was a kind and gen’rous host:

Poor Jo niest day his stakes al lost

upon the floor

Then he for penance maun be cross’d,

and mind the poor.

But Jack poor Soul, withouten din,

Maun at the window be let in,

With mickel danger to his shin,

and aking Head.

Wi’ punch he had a weel fill’d skin,

but now he’s deed.

Although he was nae man of weir,

Yet mony a ane wi’ quaking fear,

Durst scarce before his face appear,

but hide their head;

For aft the entry he wad clear

of louns wi’ speed.

But now the Bucks may scour the town

Break windows and ding signposts down,

And saftly gang their walks around

but fear or dread

For that great kow to Buck and loun

Jack S—y’s dead.

Now we betide thy fingers, death

For stopping up Jack S—s breath,

The loss of him was public skeath,

I dare weel say

To fill his place will not be eith,

this mony a day.


But now that I’m his picture chalking,

Ill stories of him to be talking

Wad shew me but a spiteful maulkin,

yet fifty Head

Will gi’ their aith they’ve see him walking,

since he was dead.

Keek up and down the stinking stile,

On weekday mornings a wee while;

On Sunday, at ye Kirk north Isle

it will appear,

But take guid tent ye dinna sile

y’re sell for fear:

For well I wat it is his Ghaist,

O wad friend B—K that can do it best,

Speak til’t, and see what it confest;

tis a good deed,

To send a wandering saul to rest

among the dead.



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