The Irish Sketch Book, by William Makepeace Thackeray

Peg of Limavaddy.

Between Coleraine and Derry there is a daily car (besides one or two occasional queer-looking coaches), and I had this vehicle, with an intelligent driver, and a horse with a hideous raw on his shoulder, entirely to myself for the five-and-twenty miles of our journey. The cabins of Coleraine are not parted with in a hurry, and we crossed the bridge, and went up and down the hills of one of the suburban streets, the Bann flowing picturesquely to our left; a large Catholic chapel, the before-mentioned cabins, and farther on, some neat-looking houses and plantations, to our right. Then we began ascending wide lonely hills, pools of bog shining here and there amongst them, with birds, both black and white, both geese and crows, on the hunt. Some of the stubble was already ploughed up, but by the side of most cottages you saw a black potato-field that it was time to dig now, for the weather was changing and the winds beginning to roar. Woods, whenever we passed them, were flinging round eddies of mustard-coloured leaves; the white trunks of lime and ash trees beginning to look very bare.

Then we stopped to give the raw-backed horse water; then we trotted down a hill with a noble bleak prospect of Lough Foyle and the surrounding mountains before us, until we reached the town of Newtown Limavaddy, where the raw-backed horse was exchanged for another not much more agreeable in his appearance, though, like his comrade, not slow on the road.

Newtown Limavaddy is the third town in the county of Londonderry. It comprises three well-built streets, the others are inferior; it is, however, respectably inhabited all this may be true, as the well-informed Guide-book avers, but I am bound to say that I was thinking of something else as we drove through the town, having fallen eternally in love during the ten minutes of our stay.

Yes, Peggy of Limavaddy, if Barrow and Inglis have gone to Connemara to fall in love with the Misses Flynn, let us be allowed to come to Ulster and offer a tribute of praise at your feet — at your stockingless feet, O Margaret! Do you remember the October day (’twas the first day of the hard weather), when the way-worn traveller entered your inn? But the circumstances of this passion had better be chronicled in deathless verse.

Peg of Limavaddy

Riding from Coleraine

(Famed for lovely Kitty),

Came a cockney bound

Unto Derry city;

Weary was his soul,

Shivering and sad he

Bumped along the road

Leads to Limavaddy.

Mountains sketch’d around,

Gloomy was their tinting,

And the horse’s hoofs

Made a dismal clinting;

Wind upon the heath

Howling was and piping,

On the heath and bog,

Black with many a snipe in;

Mid the bogs of black,

Silver pools were flashing,

Crowds upon their sides

Picking were and splashing.

Cockney on the car

Closer folds his plaidy,

Grumbling at the road

Leads to Limavaddy.

Through the crashing woods

Autumn brawl’d and bluster’d

Tossing round about

Leaves the hue of mustard;

Yonder lay Lough Foyle,

Which a storm was whipping,

Covering with mist

Lake, and shores, and shipping.

Up and down the hill

(Nothing could be bolder),

Horse went with a raw,

Bleeding on his shoulder.

“Where are the horses changed?”

Said I to the laddy

Driving on the box:

“Sir, at Limavaddy.”

Limavaddy ins’s

But a humble baithouse,

Where you may procure

Whiskey and potatoes;

Landlord at the door

Gives a smiling welcome

To the shivering wights

Who to his lintel come.

Landlady within

Sits and knits a stocking,

With a weary foot

Baby’s cradle rocking.

To the chimney nook,

Having found admittance,

There I watch a pup

Playing with two kittens

(Playing round the fire,

Which of blazing turf is,

Roaring to the pot

which bubbles with the murphies;)

And the cradled babe

Fond the mother nursed it!

Singing it a song

As she twists the worsted

Up and down the stair

Two more young ones patter

(Twins were never seen

Dirtier nor fatter)

Both have mottled legs,

Both have snubby noses,

Both have — Here the Host

Kindly interposes

“Sure you must be froze

with the sleet and hail, sir,

So will you have some punch,

Or will you have some ale, sir?”

Presently a maid

Enters with the liquor,

(Half a putt of ale

Frothin in a beaker)

Gods! I didn’t know

What my beating heart meant,

Hebe’s self I thought

Enter’d the apartment

As she came she smiled,

And the smile bewitching,

On my word and honour,

Lighted all the kitchen!

With a curtsey neat

Greeting the new comer,

Lovely, smiling Peg

Offers me the rummer;

But my trembling hand

Up the beaker tilted,

And the glass of ale

Every drop I spilt it:

Spilt it every drop

(Dames, who read my volumes,

Pardon such a word,)

On my whatd’ycall’ems!

Witnessing the sight

Of that dire disaster,

Out began to laugh

Missis, maid, and master;

Such a merry peal,

Specially Miss Peg’s was,

(As the glass of ale

Trickling down my legs was),

That the joyful sound

Of that ringing laughter

Echoed in my ears

Many a long day after

Such a silver peal!

In the meadows listening,

You who’ve heard the bells

Ringing to a christening;

You who ever heard

Caradori pretty,

Smiling like an angel

Singing “ Giovinetti,”

Fancy Peggy’s laugh,

Sweet, and clear and cheerful,

At my pantaloons

With half a pint of beer full!

When the laugh was done,

Peg, the pretty hussy,

Moved about the room

Wonderfully busy;

Now she looks to see

If the kettle keep hot,

Now she rubs the spoons,

Now she cleans the teapot;

Now she sets the cups

Trimly and secure

Now she scours a pot

Thus it was I drew her

Scouring of a kettle.*

(Faith! her blushing cheeks

Redden’d on the metal!)

Ah! but ’tis in vain

That I try to sketch it;

The pot perhaps is like,

But Peggy’s face is wretched.

No: the best of lead,

And of Indian-rubber,

Never could depict

That sweet kettle-scrubber!

See her as she moves!

Scarce the ground she touches”,

Airy as a fay,

Graceful as a duchess;

Bare her rounded arm,

Bare her little leg is,

Vestris never show’d

Ankles like to Peggy’s:

Braided is her hair,

Soft her look and modest,

Slim her little waist

Comfortably bodiced.

This I do declare,

happy is the laddy

Who the heart can share

Of Peg of Limavaddy;

Married if she were,

Blest would be the daddy

Of the children fair

Of Peg of Limavaddy;

Beauty is not rare

In the land of Paddy,

Fair beyond compare

Is Peg of Lirnavaddy.

Citizen or squire,

Tory, Whig, or Radical would all desire

Peg of Limavaddy.

Had I Homer’s fire,

Or that of Sergeant Taddy,

Meetly I’d admire

Peg of Limavaddy.

And till I expire,

Or till I grow mad, I

Will sing unto my lyre

Peg of Limavaddy!

* The late Mr. Pope represents Camilla as “scouring the plain“ an absurd and useless task. Peggy’s occupation with the kettle is more simple and noble. The second line of this verse (wheref the author  scorns to deny an obligaion) is from the celebrated “Frithiof” of Esaias Tigner. A maiden is serving warriers to drink, and is standing by a sheld — “Und die Runde des Schildes ward wie das Magdalein roth” — perhaps the best thing in both poems.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00