The Dancing Man

In Memoriam: Denis Devlin, poet and Irish Minister to the Italian Republic, after an evening in which he outdanced everyone.

The wine was old, the talk was new
That Devlin plied each guest,
When who should step into the room,
But a One in formal dress:
His tail popped out when he made his bow,
And O! we knew the worst.
He said, “Devlin’s no roaring man,
But he’s a dancing fool,
I can’t abide a dancing man,
And I would have his soul:
I’ll dance the bones out of his skin —
Would the Devlin wager all?”
The Devlin bowed, “O Prince of Sin,
I’m honored in my home,
The bargain is, I call the tune,
But should you fail the theme,
You’ll never plague a dancing man,
And that till Kingdom Come.”
Then he began a Connacht step,
The like we’d never seen,
He altered with a triple dip,
And a double bounce between;
The sweat stood on the Devil’s lip;
He blanched like a colleen.
They heard the reel round Innisfree,
From Dublin to New York;
The noble Irish peasantry
Put down the spade and fork;
The ghoulies and the ghosties, they
Paused in their impish work.
“I am the Irish Minister,”
Cried Devlin from the ceiling,
O, he was dancing on the air,
And with prodigious feeling.
One foot performed an Irish jig,
One went Virginia-reeling.
He twirled upon a single leg:
O he went fast and faster!
The Devil’s face began to sag:
He knew he’d met his master;
From County Down to Inishbeg
They sensed Ould Nick’s disaster.
The Devlin, a good Christian man,
Knew where his Foe was weak:
He crossed himself, then jumped across
The left foot of Ould Nick.
“Ochone! Ochone!” the Old One cried,
“My back’s about to break!”
He sighed in Scots. “Ae gae it oup,
Ae canna stand the pace.”
His clothes, they fell into a heap,
As He limped from that gay place,
And all His minions howled in Hell,
For He was Hell’s disgrace!


The Irish know a thing or two
About the ways of hate;
They either beat you black and blue,
Or dance you off your feet:
When a dancing man turns on his toe,
He makes his soul complete.
And the Devil, O, the Devil, O,
The Devil don’t like that!