The Night Before Larry was Stretched

The Night Before Larry was Stretched
c. 1816
Author unknown; see notes.


The night before Larry was stretch’d,
  The boys they all paid him a visit;
A bit in their sacks, too, they fetch’d—
  They sweated their duds till they riz it; 1 pawned their clothes
For Larry was always the lad,
  When a friend was condemn’d to the squeezer, 2 gallows or rope
But he’d pawn, all the togs that he had, 3 clothes
  Just to help the poor boy to a sneezer, 4 drink
    And moisten his gob ’fore he died.


‘’Pon my conscience, dear Larry’, says I,
  ‘I’m sorry to see you in trouble,
And your life’s cheerful noggin run dry,
  And yourself going off like its bubble!’
‘Hould your tongue in that matter,’ says he;
  ‘For the neckcloth I don’t care a button, 5 halter
And by this time to-morrow you’ll see
  Your Larry will be dead as mutton:
    All for what? ‘Kase his courage was good!’


The boys they came crowding in fast;
  They drew their stools close round about him,
Six glims round his coffin they placed— 6 candles
  He couldn’t be well waked without ’em,
I ax’d if he was fit to die,
  Without having duly repented?
Says Larry, ‘That’s all in my eye,
  And all by the clargy invented,
    To make a fat bit for themselves.


Then the cards being called for, they play’d,
  Till Larry found one of them cheated;
Quick he made a hard rap at his head—
  The lad being easily heated,
‘So ye chates me bekase I’m in grief!
  O! is that, by the Holy, the rason?
Soon I’ll give you to know you d—d thief!
  That you’re cracking your jokes out of sason,
    And scuttle your nob with my fist’.


Then in came the priest with his book
  He spoke him so smooth and so civil;
Larry tipp’d him a Kilmainham look, 7 Notes
  And pitch’d his big wig to the devil.
Then raising a little his head,
  To get a sweet drop of the bottle,
And pitiful sighing he said,
  ‘O! the hemp will be soon round my throttle,
    And choke my poor windpipe to death!’


So mournful these last words he spoke,
  We all vented our tears in a shower;
For my part, I thought my heart broke
  To see him cut down like a flower!
On his travels we watch’d him next day,
  O, the hangman I thought I could kill him!
Not one word did our poor Larry say,
  Nor chang’d till he came to King William; 8 Notes
    Och, my dear! then his colour turned white.


When he came to the nubbing-cheat,
  He was tack’d up so neat and so pretty;
The rambler jugg’d off from his feet, 9 cart
  And he died with his face to the city.
He kick’d too, but that was all pride,
  For soon you might see ’twas all over;
And as soon as the nooze was untied,
  Then at darkey we waked him in clover, 10 night
    And sent him to take a ground-sweat. 11 buried him


Neither the authorship nor the date of these inimitable verses are definitely known. According to the best authorities, Will Maher, a shoemaker of Waterford, wrote the song. Dr. Robert Burrowes, Dean of St. Finbar’s Cork, to whom it has been so often attributed, certainly did not. Often quoted in song book and elsewhere. Francis Sylvester Mahony, better known as “Father Prout” contributed to Froser’s Magazine the following translation into the French.

 La mort de Socrate.

 Par l’Abbé de Prout, Curé du Mont-aux-Cressons, près de Cork.

   A la veille d’être pendu,

 Notr’ Laurent reçut dans son gite,

   Honneur qui lui était bien dû,

 De nombreux amis la visite;

   Car chacun scavait que Laurent

 A son tour rendrait la pareille,

   Chapeau montre, et veste engageant,

 Pour que l’ami put boire bouteille,

   Ni faire, à gosier sec, le saut.

   “Helas, notre garden!” lui dis-je,

 “Combien je regrette ton sort!

   Te voilà fleur, que sur sa tige

 Moisonne la cruelle mort!”—

   “Au diable,” dit-il, “le roi George!

 Ça me fait la valeur d’un bouton;

   Devant le boucher qui m’égorge,

 Je serai comme un doux mouton,

   Et saurai montrer du courage!”

   Des amis déjà la cohorte

 Remplissait son étroit réduit:

   Six chandelles, ho! qu’on apporte,

 Donnons du lustre à cette nuit!

   Alors je cherchai à connaitre

 S’il s’était dument repenti?

   “Bah! c’est les fourberies des prêtres

 Les gredins, ils en ont menti,

   Et leurs contes d’enfer sont faux!”

   L’on demande les cartes. Au jeu

 Laurent voit un larron qui triche;

   D’honneur tout rempli, ìl prend feu,

 Et du bon coup de poign l’affiche.

   “Ha, coquìn! de mon dernier jour

 Tu croyais profiler, peut-être;

   Tu oses me jouer ce tour!

 Prends ça pour ta peine, vil traître!

   Et apprends à te bien conduire!”

   Quand nous eûmes cessé nos ébats,

 Laurent, en ce triste repaire

   Pour le disposer au trépas,

 Voit entrer Monsieur le Vicaire.

   Apres un sinistre regard,

 Le front de sa main il se frotte,

   Disant tout haut, “Venez plus tard!”

 Et tout has, “Vilaine calotte!”

   Puis son verre il vida deux fois.

   Lors il parla de l’echaufaud,

 Et de sa dernière cravate;

   Grands dieux! que ça paraissait beau

 De la voïr mourir en Socrate!

   Le trajet en chantant il fit—

 La chanson point ne fut un pseaume;

   Mais palit un peu quand il vit

 La statute de Roy Guillaume—

   Les pendards n’aiment pas ce roi!

   Quand fut au bout de son voyage,

 Le gibet fut prêt en un clin:

   Mourant îl tourna de visage

 Vers la bonne ville de Dublin.

   Il dansa la carmagnole,

 Et mount comme fit Malbrouck;

   Puis nous enterrâmes le drôle

 Au cimetière de Donnybrook

   Que son âme y soit en repos!

Stanza V, line 3. Kilmainham, a gaol near Dublin.

Stanza VI, line 7. King William, the statute of William III erected on College Green in commemoration of the Battle of the Boyne. It was long the object of much contumely on the part of the Nationalists. It was blown to pieces in 1836, but was subsequently restored.

Taken from Musa Pedestris, Three Centuries of Canting Songs and Slang Rhymes [1536―1896], collected and annotated by John S. Farmer.

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. . .
Come All You Buffers Gay
The Potato Man
A Slang Pastoral
Ye Scamps, Ye Pads, Ye Divers
The Sandman’s Wedding
The Happy Pair
The Bunter’s Christening
The Masqueraders
The Flash Man of St. Giles
A Leary Mot
The Night Before Larry was Stretched
The Song of the Young Prig
The Milling Match
Ya-Hip, My Hearties!
Sonnets For The Fancy: After The Manner Of Petrarch
The True Bottom’d Boxer
Bobby And His Mary
Flashey Joe
My Mugging Maid
Poor Luddy
The Pickpocket’s Chaunt
. . .