Page 11 - The 15th Percy French Festival: French Awakenings
P. 11

French was a great artist, at every level of the role he assumed, painter, poet,
           editor, Jester.  And here in the king’s court he is, in Shakespeare’s words, ‘wise
           enough to play the fool’. Here he plays the role of the poet/jester as the con -
           science of the nation. The poet like the jester lives among his people, he is not
           elevated, he hides his wisdom carefully so pay attention. French knew the
           bound aries and greatly depended on his court (audience); and as an enter -

           tainer he could not risk o$ending his audience by taking sides, so he regularly
           claimed that he was above politics.

           And if we look at the The Queen’s Advice to Lord Zetland before Starting for
           Ireland [as the new Lord Lieutenant]–as Overheard and Reported by Larry O’Flynn
           [%(''] or in The Queen’s After-Dinner Speech (as overheard and cut into lengths of
           poetry by James Murphy, deputy-assistant waiter at the Vice Regal Lodge) [%*((],
           we see the Royal Jester in a private audience with the Queen Victoria, and no-
           one escapes a swipe. As Dr. Travers says, ‘It includes practically every one of note
           in Irish society at the time–Maud Gonne, William B. Yeats (‘who should be at
           home sez she,/french polishing a poem, sez she’), and Anna Parnell (Charles
           Stuart’s younger sister )
                    ’But in these parts’, sez she,
                    ’They have warrum hearts’, sez she,
                    ’And like me well’, sez she,
                    ’Barrin Anna Parnell’, sez she,
                    ’And that other one’, sez she,
                    ’That Maud Gonne’, sez she,
                    ’Dhressin in black’, sez she,
                    ’To welcome me back, sez she,
                    ’And all that gammon sez she,
                    ’about me bringing the famine sez she,
                    ’Now Maud Gonne will write sez she,
                    ’that I will bring the blight sez she,
                    ’or altered the saysons sez she,
                    ’ some private raysins, sez she, . . .

           Here P.French, as Court Jester, tells the Queen all about the fools in Ireland
           ‘Paradin their crimes in The Irish Times’. One can imagine how much fun
           P.French had in writing these verses.

           In %*(', he published The First Lord Lieutenant, a satirical drama on Queen
           Elizabeth I and the Earl of Essex. Yet again we are in the Royal Court and again

           PERCY FRENCH FESTIVAL !"!#                                           •%•
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