Daniel Cassidy

The Secret Garden
The Secret Garden: An Anthology In The Kabbalah
edited by David Meltzer
The Seabury Press, 1976


Song of the Spailpín

This translation is dedicated to the File (pron. fileh, poet, professor, esp. of native learning) filidheachta (pron. filehyakta, of the art of poetry, minstrelsy, lore of the poets, poetic composition) David Meltzer, mo chara (my friend), who digs (tuig, to understand, comprehend, have a feeling for) the bóthar (pron. bohar, road, way, a journey) of the spailpín (a laborer, a migratory worker; a "bold boy," a "rogue") agus (and) cailín (a girl, a servant girl, a maid, a "saucy gal").


"Mike (from Tipperary)" and "The Monster Gila Route" are songs eight and nine in John and Alan Lomax's American Ballads and Folk Songs.

They are the hidden songs of the spailpín of North America: the itinerant harvest workers and migratory working stiffs (staif, husky persons), who rode the rails from the 1840s to the 1940s, in countless numbers, hobos, yeggs, gay cats, blanket stiffs, bindle stiffs, and the "Johnson" (Teannas án, pron. johniss aan, noble, pure independence and strength, fig. noble and royal) Family -- the "Hobo Kings of the Road" -- of North America, who Jack Black wrote about in his 1920s underworld classic: You Can't Win.


Mike (from Tipperary)

Section men a-workin' there all side by side;
Section men a-shirkin' as the hot sun fried.

Damn be the President,
My name's Mike
I got a hand in it
I drive the spike.

Mike he come from Tipperary, his name's O'Burke.
Fought like he was stewed, but didn't fight to work.

Mike lit out for Oklahoma, ain't come back,
Showed no hesitation as he tore down the track.

Caught up with a special, an' he hollered like a man,
Beedad, if you can't run, let me ahead wot can."

And Mike lit out on the Gila Monster Route ...


The Gila Monster Route

The lingering sunset across the plain,
Kissed the rear-end door of an east-bound train,
And shone on a passing track close by,
Where a dingbat sat on a rotten tie.

He was ditched by a shack and a cruel fate
The con high-balled, and the manifest freight
Pulled out on the stem behind the mail
And she hit the ball on a sanded rail.

He was ditched on the Gila Monster Route.

Nothing in sight but sand and space
No chance for a gink to feed his face;
Not even a shack to beg for a lump,
Or a hen-house to frisk for a single gump.

In a hostile burg on the Nickel Plate

Down by the track in the jungle's glade,
On the cool green grass, in the tules' shade,
They shed their coats and ditched their shoes
And tanked up full of that colored booze.

Then they took a flop with their skins plumb full
And they did not hear the harnessed bull
Till he shook them out of their boozy nap
With a husky voice and a loaded sap.

They were charged with "vag," for they had no kale,
And the judge said, "Sixty days in jail."
But the John had a "bindle" -- a worker's plea --
So they gave him a floater and they set him free.


Sanas Beag (Small Glossary) of the Hobo Spalpeen

Searg (pron. shirg),
Drying up, shriveling, withering away, fig. fading out.

Oll-bhúir (pron. holl-oor)
A terrific yell, a great shout.

Gealbh (pron. galuh):
Rough weather, wind, storm.

Duine bod
A lout, a thickset churl, fig. a migrant worker or hobo.
Duine: a person. Bod, a churl, a lout.

Ditch; ditched: removal from a place; to be separated from something or someone.
De áit (pron. deh-aitch): removal from a place.
De: (denoting removal, separation, removal, cessation), From, off, of.
Áit (pron. h-aithch): place, position, spot.

Shack (1): a railroad company cop.
Teachta (pron. chakt, chak)
A deputy. An emissary. A railroad deputy. The sadistic emissary of the railroad bosses.

Ball: spot.

Gump: chicken, origin unknown..

Geannc (pron. gingk), Geanncaighe (pron. gingkah):
A short snub-nosed surly person.
A wicked, surly-looking leprechaun, fig. a hobo.

Shack (2):
Teach (pron. chack)

Forúscadh (pron. furooska)
Squeeze beneath, tear under, slap beneath, i.e., frisk.

Borough, a district, fig. any city or town.

Fo-leaba (pron. fuh-lab)
Occasional-bed, temporary bed

Bull, boolydog:
Buail, Buailteach (pron. bool, booltak)
Hitting, striking; someone given to beating and striking, fig. cop.

Beathuisce (contraction beathuis[ce], pron. bah-huizh)
Aqua-vita, whiskey

Cál: Cabbage, green cabbage, fig. money.

Bian dul, bianna duil.
A hobo's pack on a stick.
Bian, Bianna. A band, a ferrule as on a stick.
Dul, g. duil, a net, a loop, a snare.

A strapped- or banded-net or loose bag held on a staff by straps or ferrules, holding clothes, pots, tool. There is an old Irish saying: Comh siúrálta is tá bianna ar mhaide bacaigh: as surely as a traveling beggar's staff has a ferrule. It is the migrant worker's bindle that proves that he is in fact a worker and not a wandering hobo. Hence, a bindle is an opening for a "worker's plea" to a judge for freedom on a "vag" or vagrancy beef.

The wandering ginks (geanc) and blanket stiffs (bliadhna chuid staif (annual groups of burly strong persons, fig.. migratory harvest workers) are the forgotten workers of the crossroad.

Only poets can dig (tuig, understand, have a feeling for, comprehend) their crossroad cant (caint, speech) and underground jazz (teas, pron. jass, heat, passion, excitement, high spirits, anger.)


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