CELT document E860001-005

Fergus Wry-Mouth

Samuel Ferguson

Whole text


    Fergus Wry-Mouth

  1. One day King Fergus, Leidé Luthmar's son,
    Drove by Loch Rury; and, his journey done,
    Slept in his chariot, wearied. While he slept,
    A troop of fairies o'er his cushion crept.
    And, first, his sharp, dread sword they filched away;
    Then bore himself, feet forward, to the bay.
    He, with the chill touch, woke; and, at a snatch,
    It fortuned him in either hand to catch
    A full grown sprite; while, 'twixt his breast and arm,
    He pinned a youngling. They, in dire alarm.
    Writhed hard and squealed. He held the tighter. Then
    "Quarter!" and "Ransom!" cried the little men.
    "No quarter," he: "nor go ye hence alive,
    Unless ye gift me with the art to dive
    Long as I will — to walk at large, and breathe
    The seas, the lochs, the river floods beneath."
    "We will." He loosed them. Herbs of virtue they
    Placed in his ear-holes; or, as others say,
    A hood of fairy texture o'er his head,
    Much like a cleric's cochal, drew, and said,
    "Wear this, and walk the deeps; but well beware
    Thou enter nowise in Loch Rury there."
    Clad in his cowl, through many deeps he went,
    And saw their wonders; but was not content
    Unless Loch Rury also to his eyes
    Revealed its inner under-mysteries.
    Thither he came, and plunged therein; and there
    The Muirdris met him. Have you seen a pair
    Of blacksmith's bellows open out and close p.31
    Alternate 'neath the hand of him that blows?
    So swelled it, and so shrunk. The hideous sight
    Hung all his visage sideways with affright.
    He fled. He gained the bank. "How seems my cheer,
    O Mwena?" "Ill!" replied the charioteer.
    "But rest thee. Sleep thy wildness will compose."
    He slept. Swift Mwena to Emania goes:
    "Whom now for king, since Fergus' face awry
    By law demeans him of the sovereignty?"
    "Hush!" and his sages and physicians wise
    In earnest council sit, and this advise:
    "He knows not of his plight. To keep him so
    As he suspect not that he ought to know, —
    For so the mind be straight, and just awards
    Wait on the judgment, right-read law regards
    No mere distortion of the outward frame
    As blemish barring from the kingly name —
    And, knew he all the baleful fact you tell,
    An inward wrench might warp the mind as well, —
    Behooves it therefore all of idle tongue,
    Jesters, and women, and the witless young,
    Be from his presence kept. And when at morn
    He takes his bath, behooves his bondmaid, Dorn,
    Muddy the water, lest perchance, he trace
    Lost kingship's token on his imaged face."
    Three years they kept him so: till on a day,
    Dorn with his face-bath ewer had made delay:
    And fretted Fergus, petulant and rash,
    A blow bestowed her of his horse-whip lash.
    Forth burst the woman's anger. "Thou a king!
    Thou sit in council! Thou adjudge a thing p.32
    In court of law! Thou, who no kingship can,
    Since all may see thou art a blemished man!
    Thou wry-mouth!" Fergus thereon slew the maid:
    And, to Loch Rury's brink in haste conveyed,
    Went in at Fertais. For a day and night
    Beneath the waves he rested out of sight.
    But all the Ultonians on the bank who stood
    Saw the loch boil and redden with the blood.
    When next at sunrise skies grew also red,
    He rose — and in his hand the Muirdris' head —
    Gone was the blemish. On his goodly face
    Each trait symmetric had resumed its place:
    And they who saw him marked in all his mien
    A king's composure, ample and serene.
    He smiled: he cast his trophy to the bank,
    Cried; "I survivor, Ulstermen!" and sank.

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Title statement

Title (uniform): Fergus Wry-Mouth

Author: Samuel Ferguson

Responsibility statement

Electronic edition compiled and proof-read by: Beatrix Färber

Funded by: School of History, University College, Cork

Edition statement

1. First draft.

Extent: 1310 words

Publication statement

Publisher: CELT: Corpus of Electronic Texts: a project of University College, Cork

Address: College Road, Cork, Ireland—http://www.ucc.ie/celt

Date: 2016

Distributor: CELT online at University College, Cork, Ireland.

CELT document ID: E860001-005

Availability: The works by Sir Samuel Ferguson are in the public domain. This electronic text is available with prior consent of the CELT programme for purposes of private or academic research and teaching.

Notes statement

Source description

Life and Work of Sir Samuel Ferguson

  1. Mary Catherine Guinness Ferguson, Sir Samuel Ferguson in the Ireland of his Day (Edinburgh/London 1896).
  2. Arthur Deering, Sir Samuel Ferguson, Poet and Antiquarian (Philadelphia 1931).
  3. Malcolm Brown, Sir Samuel Ferguson (Lewisburg) 1973.
  4. Robert O'Driscoll, An ascendancy of the heart: Ferguson and the beginnings of modern Irish literature in English (Dublin 1976).
  5. Joseph Th. Leerssen, Mere Irish and Fíor-Ghael: Studies in the idea of Irish nationality, its development and literay expression prior to the nineteenth century (Amsterdam/Philadelphia 1986).
  6. Terence Brown and Barbara Hayley (eds), Samuel Ferguson: a centenary tribute (Dublin: Royal Irish Academy 1987).
  7. Maurice Harmon, The Enigma of Samuel Ferguson, in: O. Komesu, M. Sekine (eds), Irish writers and politics (Irish Literary Studies 36) (Gerrards Cross 1989) 62–79.
  8. Peter Denman, Samuel Ferguson: the literary achievement (Gerrards Cross, Bucks. 1990).
  9. Eve Patten, 'Samuel Ferguson: a tourist in Antrim', in: Gerald Dawe and John Wilson Foster, (eds), The poet's place: Ulster literature and society: essays in honour of John Hewitt, 1907–87 (Belfast: Queen's University of Belfast, Institute of Irish Studies, 1991).
  10. Gréagóir Ó Dúill, Samuel Ferguson: Beatha agus Saothar (Baile Átha Cliath [=Dublin] 1993).
  11. Gréagóir Ó Dúill, Sir Samuel Ferguson (1810–1886), in: Eamon Phoenix (ed), A century of northern life: The Irish News and 100 years of Ulster history, 1890s–1990s (Belfast 1995) 182–186.
  12. Sean Ryder, 'The politics of landscape and region in nineteenth-century poetry', in: Leon Litvack, Glenn Hooper (eds), Ireland in the nineteenth century: regional identity (Dublin 2000).
  13. Eve Patten, Samuel Ferguson and the culture of nineteenth-century Ireland (Dublin 2004).
  14. Peter Denman, William Carleton and Samuel Ferguson: lives and contacts, in: Gordon Brand (ed), William Carleton, the authentic voice (Gerard's Cross 2006) 360–377.
  15. Eve Patten, Samuel Ferguson's Hibernian Nights' Entertainments, in: James H. Murphy (ed), The Irish book in English, 1800–1891. The Oxford History of the Irish Book, 4 (Oxford: 2011).
  16. Matthew Campbell, 'Samuel Ferguson's Maudlin Jumble', in: Kirstie Blair, Mina Gorji (eds), Class and the canon: constructing labouring-class poetry and poetics, 1780–1900 (Basingstoke 2013).


  • Poems of Sir Samuel Ferguson are available on www.archive.org.

The edition used in the digital edition

Ferguson, Samuel (1918). ‘Fergus Wry-Mouth’. In: Poems of Sir Samuel Ferguson‍. Ed. by Alfred Perceval Graves. Dublin: Talbot Press, pp. 30–32.

You can add this reference to your bibliographic database by copying or downloading the following:

  author 	 = {Samuel Ferguson},
  title 	 = {Fergus Wry-Mouth},
  editor 	 = {Alfred Perceval Graves},
  booktitle 	 = {Poems of Sir Samuel Ferguson},
  publisher 	 = {Talbot Press},
  address 	 = {Dublin},
  date 	 = {1918},
  pages 	 = {30–32}


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Project description: CELT: Corpus of Electronic Texts

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The whole poem.

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Correction: The text has been proof-read twice.

Normalization: The electronic text represents the edited text.

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Interpretation: Names of persons (given names), and places are not tagged. Terms for cultural and social roles are not tagged.

Profile description

Creation: 1858–1864

Language usage

  • The poem is in English. (en)

Keywords: Fergus Wry-Mouth; Ulster Cycle; poetry; Celtic revival; 19c

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(Most recent first)

  1. 2016-06-13: Text captured. (data capture Beatrix Färber)
  2. 2014-06-14: SGML and HTML files created. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  3. 2014-06-13: File proofed (1, 2); structural markup applied according to CELT practice; bibliographic details added; file parsed and validated. (ed. Beatrix Färber)

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