For Bread and Gin

Hear me out, I have a song to sing,
An old tale to you I bring.
A poor hawker had walked about all day,
No sales however had come his way.
Dejected and defeated, he took to the road,
Weary he was, carrying all the load.
The empty pots and pans weighed him down,
Much like the people of the town.
They cared not for him, nor for his wares,
Wherever he went, he only found stares.

As he passed the last house in the town,
He was struck by it and wore a frown.
It was a tree house up in the oak tree,
A small, crooked place as far as he could see.
A voice called out and disrupted his thought,
“Oi! What’s that you’ve got?”,
A little man peered out from a window,
“Come on up if you have something to show.”

The hawker perked up at the prospect of a buyer,
He cautiously climbed the tree, higher and higher.
He felt he was too big for the tree house,
He waited at the door, like a curious mouse.
The little man opened the door and smiled,
He wore a tattered robe and his hair were wild.
A long greying beard hung under his chin,
He looked old and frail, his make was thin.
His bushy eyebrows loomed over small beady eyes,
That looked distant but also looked wise.

“I’ve got some pots and pans for sale.”
“You should’ve got along with that, some ale!”,
He grumbled as he narrowed his eyes at him.
“Fool! The land was struck by a famine so grim
That they had naught a morsel to eat,
And you cry about pots and pans and their heat,
When people can barely afford grains or meat.”
The hawker broke down, he sighed out aloud,

“To come back with a meal,  I had vowed.
I had nothing else to sell for a living,
Fate seems to be most unforgiving.”
The little old man softened his stance,
“There there, dear boy, you may still have a chance.
I can offer you a single loaf of my bread,
If you trade all your wares instead.”

The hawker was aghast at the man’s proposition,
“That, Sir, is far from a sale or trade’s definition.
My wares are worth more than a loaf of bread.”
“Yes, but I think you will need it in your journey ahead.
It will help you in ways more than one,
If not, then you come back and claim it all, son.
Don’t look sad, I’ll up my bargain,
Along with the bread, I’ll give you some Gin.”

The hawker decided to take the offer
And they quickly made the transfer.
The little man bid him farewell with a wink,
“Was I just swindled?”, he began to think.
He figured atleast his family would be fed,
His vow would be kept through the loaf of bread.

He walked towards the forest of oak,
He gathered wood till his campfire was out of smoke.
He went onward, with bread, gin and firewood,
He carried as much wood to sell, as he could.
He stumbled upon a patch of unfamiliar grass,
That seemed to grow upon a large earthy mass.

It blocked his way to the road ahead,
He jumped when he saw it spread
All around, till as far as he could see,
He felt weak and began to feel hungry.
He heard the phantom calls of the dead,
They wailed near him, praying to be fed.
His own hunger began to weaken his mind,
He felt his hunger grow, his stomach whined.
Among the dead, a little child cried,
Now and then, the hawker, it eyed.
The hawker struggled with himself,
He knew this trick must belong to an elf.

With much restraint, he broke a morsel of bread,
He crushed it to a powder and threw it to the dead.
They left him alone and went away,
And at once the elf appeared, mumbling his dismay.
“You are a cheat, human. How can you afford bread?
When many others lie here dead.
Ohh! You spoilt it all for me.”
The elf grumbled and disappeared behind a tree.

The grass disappeared, the earthy mass remained,
He looked about and the remaining Gin he drained
As he continued his journey to his hometown.
That night his family ate but his wife wore a frown.
The wares were gone for bread and gin,
Again, he had let his weakness win.
She wondered what tales were to follow,
He tried to explain but she found it hard to swallow.

About the post: As per Irish mythology, “hungry grass/fairy grass” is a patch of cursed grass. It is believed that anyone who passes through it will be struck by hunger and can overcome this curse only if they are carrying something to eat.


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