Paul Revere by Cyrus Dallin, North End, Boston



Monday, December 8, 2008


I posted this poem over at A Political Glimpse from Ireland the other day, and thought it would be good for more people to read it, since it is fitting for the recession/depression/hard times we're facing.

The Workmans Friend

When things go wrong and will not come right,
Though you do the best you can,
When life looks black as the hour of night -
A pint of plain is your only man.

When money's tight and hard to get
And your horse has also ran,
When all you have is a heap of debt -
A pint of plain is your only man.

When health is bad and your heart feels strange,
And your face is pale and wan,
When doctors say you need a change,
A pint of plain is your only man.

When food is scarce and your larder bare
And no rashers grease your pan,
When hunger grows as your meals are rare -
A pint of plain is your only man.

In time of trouble and lousey strife,
You have still got a darlint plan
You still can turn to a brighter life -
A pint of plain is your only man.

-- Flann O'Brien (Brian O'Nolan)

The poem was written by Flann O'Brien/Brian O'Nolan, one of my favorite writers.

These are some of the books he's written that I've loved:

At Swim Two Birds
The Third Policeman
The Dalky Archive
The Hard Life
The Poor Mouth


Anonymous said...

Brian O'Nolan is one of the funniest writers I've ever encountered. And one of the smartest and one of the more tragic.

'No Laughing Matter; The Life & Times of Flann O'Brien' is indispensable. What a writer. Spent much of his working life as a civil servant writing columns (and endless letters to the editor under various pseudonyms) under the pen names Flann O'Brien and Miles na gCopaleen as well as five novels. Much under appreciated in his day he has found an audience long after his death. 'The Third Policeman' is brilliant as is 'At Swim Two Birds' he was post-modern before there was such a thing.

And hyper-textual. What inventive and beautiful use of the English language.

His bit on the snow collection machine and the callow young lover with the reference to Proust in either 'Best of Myles' or 'Further Cuttings from Cruiskeen Lawn' is one of the funniest things I've ever read. Ever. Really.

Shaw Kenawe said...

Well it's hard to choose what were may favorite parts of his novels.

The Third Policemen with the concept of the man who rode the bicycle exchanging his molecules and becoming the bicycle--to the point where IT was put in jail and not the human, was side-splitting.

I have to go back and re-read all of those noted in my post because I read them a while ago and need to reacquaint myself with his characters. Character like deSelby the philosopher/scientist in, I think, At Swim.., who used to close all the windows in the house at night because he believed the night was black because it was insalubrious and dangerous to one's health. He also he used to refer to his mother as "that fine old gentleman," because he wasn't able to determine if she was a man or a woman.

And The Dalky Archive, I think was the funniest.

The Hard Life and Poor Mouth had me laughing through tears of sorrow because of the way he wrote about how awful life was for the Irish under British rule.

The Hard Life was filled with rain, misery, and pigs--that were dressed as little children.


dmarks said...

I'd not heard of "The Third Policeman", but at one time I had a record album entiled "The Secret Policeman's Third Ball"

Miles na gCopaleen? From the surname, he might be Narn. I wonder if he knows Ambassador gKar.

At least he did not combine the pen names and call himself Miles O'Brien.

Shaw Kenawe said...

Miles na gCopaleen

In Erse, na gCopaleen means "of the little horses." His name in Erse is Miles "of the little horses."

"een" is the diminutive in Erse.

Shaw Kenawe said...

PS. The Secret Policeman's Third Ball is a hilarious film!

Shaw Kenawe said...


Another author whose books are a joy to read is Julien Barnes.

"History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters" is so good, you need to read it again and again.

Also "Flaubert's Parrot"

And "Arthur and George" is an absolute feast.

I highly recommend it if you like writers who are brilliant and write wonderously.

Anonymous said...


I've read Julian Barnes and he, along with William Boyd and Ian McEwan are top notch.

If you are interested in something more deadpan, dark and funny in a Beckett sort of way take a look at Magnus Mills.

'The Restraint of Beasts' and 'All Quiet on the Orient Express' are fantastic novels on the subject of... let's say capital and labor.

O'Brian would approve of Mills.

Shaw Kenawe said...

Hey Arthur,

Thanks for those recommendations. I haven't read much fiction lately. Nothing really catches my interest, but that's probably because I haven't found the off-beat good authors. I've been reading nonfiction, with an emphasis on American history. I've also slogged through the hundreds of books about the disasterous Bush administration.

I also like reading biology, Dawkins, S.J. Gould, Natalie Angiers, to name a few.

And books on atheism--Dawkins, Denet, Hitchens. And the history of religion: Constantine's Sword by James Carroll.

Anonymous said...

Shaw typed:

I've also slogged through the hundreds of books about the disasterous Bush administration.

Don't worry.

There will be more. It will take time and considerable effort to to unearth all the secrets kept but once more of this stuff is unearthed GWB's 'legacy' will be cemented.

Eight years of misrule by a lazy, disinterested, intellectually stultified man in far over his head.

Alphabeta said...

The greatest poem ever written. ; ]
Love the Flann-man too.