Tuesday, February 25

The Ballad of Charlie Byrne

Near the shores of Lough Neagh, near Drumullan,
‘Top a lofty sheaf of hay,
A peasant girl with a neighboring boy
Conceived a child one day,
And that child he grew to become a man
By the name of Charlie Byrne—
A seven-foot-seven behemoth he were,
Which no eye peeped wi’out concern.
This giant of Eire saw his fortune afar
And stole off to London town.
The Living Colossus! claimed Cox Museum,
And so Charlie fast gained renown.
Fortune and fame with celerity came;
Like an Irishman, Charlie, he drank.
Many a penny he squandered as fast
As could anyone put in the bank.
But cursed Giant Byrne lived his days in fear
Of the doctors that dogged his steps.
Like a pack of wolves at the scent of blood,
They stalked him with open forceps.
Dissecting this physical wonderment
Would for any condone their cabal,
And foremost of all John Hunter he was,
Hell bent to learn why Byrne was tall.
Calamity ne’er lies far from the rich,
When the world affords chance opportune,
So one fateful night, Charlie’s pocket was freed
Of his se’en-hundred-pound fortune.
In abject state, Byrne self-prescribed drink
As cure for his sure destitution.
“Burial at sea!” he pleaded to all
‘Fore he swigged himself into dissolution.
They did him a wrong, then, poor Charles Byrne,
Who’d dreaded dismemberment,
Cause they sold his corpse to the highest bid:
John Hunter, he got what he’d meant.
In the Royal College of Surgeons now
On show as privilege unearned,
In a great glass box amidst oddities
Tower the bones of Charlie Byrne.

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