What’s more Irish than the tale of Daniel O’Rourke? If you’ve never read or heard of the tale then you have missed a rare opportunity to understand the mind and manners of the ancient Irish in all its glory. Even though you’d be hard pressed to find Ballyashenogh or Pooka’s Tower any where in Ireland, this tale gives you a little taste of the fascinating, fantastical culture that resides within its shores. Put on your imagination hat! – The Castle Lady
(The Voyage to the Moon)
by Thomas Crofton Croker
People may have heard of the renowned adventures of Daniel O’Rourke, but few there be who know that the cause of all his perils, above and below, was neither more nor less than his having slept under the walls of the Pooka’s Tower. An old man was he at the time he told me the story, with gray hair and a red nose; he sat smoking his pipe under the old poplar tree, on as fine an evening as ever shone from the sky.
“I am often axed to tell it, sir,” said he. “The master’s son, you see, had come from beyond foreign parts in France and Spain as young gentlemen used to do, and, sure enough, there was a dinner given to all the people on the ground, gentle and simple, high and low, rich and poor.
“Well we had everything of the best and plenty of it; and it was in the wee small hours o’ the morning that I left the place. Just as I was crossing the stepping-stones of the ford of Ballyashenogh, hard by the Pooka’s Tower, and was looking up at the stars, whistling to keep awake, I missed my foot, and souse I fell into the water. ‘Begorra!’ thought I. ‘Is it drounded I’m goin’ to be?’ However, I began swimming, swimming, swimming away for dear life, till at last I got ashore, somehow or other, but never the one of me can tell how, on a desarted island.
“I wandered and wandered about, without knowing where I wandered, until at last I got into a big bog. The moon was shining as bright as day and I looked east and west, north and south, and every way, and nothing did I see but bog, bog, bog. So I sat upon a stone and I began to scratch my head, for, sure and certain, think I, here’s the end o’ Daniel O’Rourke. And I began to sing the Ullagone- when all of a sudden the moon grew black and I looked up and saw something, for all the world, as if it was moving down between me and it and I could not tell what it was. Down it came with a pounce and looked at me full in the face; and what was it but an eagle?- as fine a one as ever flew from the kingdom of Kerry. So he looked at me in the face and says he to me, ‘Daniel O’Rourke,’ says he, ‘how do you do?’
“ ‘Very well, I thank you, sir,’ says I; ‘I hope you’re well;’ wondering, out of my senses all the time, how an eagle came to speak like a Christian!
“ ‘What brings you here, Dan?’ ” says he.
“ ‘Nothing at all, sir,’ says I, ‘only I wish I was safe home again.’”
“ ‘Is it out of the bog you want to go, Dan?’” says he.
“ ‘ ‘Tis, sir’, says I.
“ ‘Dan,’ says he, after a minute’s thought, ‘as you are a decent sober man, who never flings stones at me or mine, my life for yours,’ says he; ‘get up on my back, grip me well, and I’ll fly you out of the bog.’
“ ‘I am afraid,’ says I , ‘your honour’s making game of me; for whoever heard of riding a-horseback on an eagle before?’
“ ‘ ‘Pon the honour of a gentleman,’ says he, putting his right foot on his breast, ‘I am quite in earnest; and so now either take my offer or starve in the bog!’
“I had no choice; so, thinks I to myself, faint heart(s) never won (a) fair lady. ‘I thank your honour,’ says I, ‘for the kind offer.’ I therefore mounted on the back of the eagle, and held him tight enough by the throat and up he flew in the air like a lark. Little I knew the trick he was going to serve me. Up, up, up –God knows how far he flew. ‘Why, then,’ said I to him –thinking he did not know the right road home – very civilly, because why? I was in his power entirely; ‘sir,’ says I, ‘please your honour’s glory and with humble submission to your better judgment, if you’d fly down a bit, you’re now just over my cabin, and I could be put down there and many thanks to your worship.’
“ ‘Arrah, Dan,’ says he, ‘do you think me a fool? Hold your tongue and mind your own business and don’t be interfering with the business of other people.’
“ ‘Faith, this is my business, I think,’ says I. ‘Where in the world are you going, sir?’
“ ‘Be quiet, Dan!’ says he, and bedad he flew on and on.
“Well, sir, where should we come to at last but to the moon itself. Now you can’t see it from here but there is, or there was in my time, a reaping hook sticking out of the side of the moon.
“ ‘Dan,’ says the eagle, ‘I’m tired with this long fly. I had no notion ‘twas so far!’
“ ‘And my lord, sir,’ says I, ‘who in the world axed you to fly so far- was it I? Did not I beg and pray and beseech you to stop half an hour ago?’
“ ‘There’s no use talking, Dan,’ said he; ‘I’m tired bad enough, so you must get off and sit down on the moon until I rest myself.’
“ ‘Is it sit down upon that little round thing?’ said I. ‘Why, then, sure, I’d fall off in a minute and be split and smashed entirely. You are a vile deceiver- so you are.’
“ ‘Not at all, Dan,’ says he; ‘you can catch fast hold of the reaping hook that’s sticking out of the side of the moon and ‘twill keep you up.’
“ ‘I won’t then,’ said I.
“ ‘Maybe not,’ said he, quite quiet. ‘If you don’t, my man, I shall just give you a shake and one slap of my wing and send you down smash to the ground!’
“ ‘Why, then, I’m in a fine way,’ said I to myself, ‘ever to have come along with the likes of you;’ and so, telling him plain to his face what I thought of him (but in Irish, for fear he’d know what I said) I got off his back with a heavy heart, took hold of the reaping hook and sat down upon the moon.
“When he had me there fairly landed, he turned about on me, and said, ‘Good morning to you, Daniel O’Rourke,’ said he; ‘I think I’ve nicked you fairly now. You robbed my nest last year and in return you are freely welcome to cool your heels dangling upon the moon.’
“ ‘Is this how you leave me, you brute, you?’ says I. ‘You ugly, unnatural baste!” ‘Twas all to no manner of use; he spread out his great wings, burst out a-laughing and flew away like lightning. I bawled after him to stop; but I might have called and bawled forever, without his minding me. Away he went and I never saw him from that day to this. You may be sure I was in a disconsolate condition and kept roaring out for the bare grief, when all at once a door opened right in the middle of the moon! creaking on its hinges as if it had not been opened for a month before- I suppose they never thought of greasing them- and out there walks- who do you think but the man in the moon himself? I knew him by his bush.* (*beard)
“ ‘Good morrow to you, Daniel O’Rourke,’ says he, ‘how do you do?’
“ ‘Very well, thank your honour,’ says I. ‘I hope your honour’s well.’
“ ‘What brought you here, Dan?’ said he. So I told him all the whole terrible story.
“ ‘Dan,’ said the man in the moon, taking a pinch of snuff when I was done, ‘you must not stay here.’
“ ‘Indeed, sir,’ says I, ‘’tis much against my will that I’m here at all; but how am I to go back?’
“ ‘That’s your business,’ said he; ‘Dan, mine is to tell you that you must not stay, so be off in less than no time.’
“ ‘I’m doing no harm,’ said I, ‘only holding on hard by the reaping hook lest I fall off.’
“ ‘That’s what you must not do, Dan,’ says he.
“ ‘Faith and with your leave,’ says I, ‘I’ll not let go the reaping hook and the more you bids me, the more I won’t let go- so I will.’
“ ‘You had better, Dan,’ says he again.
“ ’Why, then my little fellow,’ says I, taking the whole weight of him with my eye from head to foot, ‘there are two words to that bargain and I’ll not budge!”
“’We’ll see how that is to be,’ says he; and back he went giving the door such a great bang after him (for it was plain he was huffed) that I thought the moon and all would fall down with it.
“Well, I was preparing myself to try strength with him, when back he comes, with the kitchen cleaver in his hand and without saying a word he gives two bangs to the handle of the reaping hook that was holding me up and whap, it came in two! ‘Good morning to you, Dan,’ says the blackguard, when he saw me cleanly falling down with a bit of the handle in my hand, ‘I thank you for your visit and fair weather after you, Daniel.’ I had no time to make any answer to him, for I was tumbling over and over, and rolling and rolling at the rate of a fox hunt. ‘God help me!’ says I. ‘But this is a pretty pickle for a decent man to be seen in at this time o’ night. I am now sold fairly.’ The word was not out of my mouth, when, whiz! what should fly by close to my ear but a flock of wild geese, all the way from my own bog of Ballyashenogh, else how should they know me? The ould gander, who was their general, turning about his head, cried out to me, ‘Is that you, Dan?’
“ ‘The same,’ said I.
“ ‘Good morrow to you,’ says he, ‘Daniel O’Rourke; how are you in health this morning?’
“’Very well, sir,’ says I, ‘thank you kindly!’ drawing my breath, for I was mightily in want of some. ‘I hope your honour’s the same?’
“ ‘I think ‘tis falling you are, Daniel,’ says he.
“ ‘You may say that, sir,’ says I.
“ ’And where are you going all the way so fast?’ said the gander, so I told him all the whole, terrible story and never the once stopped rolling.
“ ‘Dan,’ says he, ‘I’ll save you; put out your hand and catch me by the leg and I’ll fly you home.’ Well, I didn’t much trust the gander but there was no help for it. So I caught him by the leg and away I and the other geese flew after him as fast as hops.
“We flew and we flew and we flew until we came right over the ocean. ‘Ah, my lord,’ said I to the goose, for I thought it best to keep a civil tongue in my head, ‘fly to land, if you please.’
“ ‘It is impossible, Dan,’ said he, ‘for you see, we are going to Arabia!’
“ ‘To Arabia!’ said I. ‘Oh! Mr. Goose, why, then, to be sure, I’m a man to be pitied among you.’
“ ‘Whist, whist, you impident rascal,’ says he, ‘hold your tongue. Arabia is a very decent sort of place.’
“ Just as we were talking a ship hove in sight, sailing so beautiful before the wind. ‘Ah, then, sir,’ said I, ‘will you drop me on the ship, if you please?’
“ ‘We are not fair over it,’ said he; ‘if I dropped you now you would go splash into the sea.”
“ ‘I would not,’ says I, ‘I know better than that, so let me drop at once.’
“ ‘If you must, you must,’ said he; ‘there, take your own way;’ and he opened his claw, and , faith, he was right- I came down plump into the sea! Down to the very bottom I went and I gave myself up, then, for ever, when a whale walked up to me, scratching himself after his night’s sleep and looked me full in the face and never word did he say but lifting up his tail, he splashed me all over again with the cold salt water till there wasn’t a dry stitch on me! And I heard somebody saying –‘twas a voice I knew, too- ‘Get up, you lazy vagabone!’ With that I woke up and there was Judy with a tub full of water, splashing, splashing all over me.
“ ‘Get up, ‘says she, ‘and to work. Late out o’nights, no reason for shlapin’ late o’ morning. Off with you after the pigs!’
“Begorra! of all the places in the parish, there I’d been fast asleep under the ould walls of the Pooka’s Tower. And what with eagles and men of the moon and ganders and whales driving me through bogs and up to the moon and down to the bottom of the ocean, I never again took forty winks on the road coming home from a party- leastwise not under the Pooka’s Tower!”
Just don’t paint your nails green- it’s not a good look !