So, I’m listening to the Dropkick Murphy’s version of Finnegan’s Wake (best version ever) and it struck me that I really don’t understand what triggers the fight that spills the whiskey on Finnegan.
The relevant lines are:
His friends assembled at the wake
And Mrs. Finnegan called for lunch,
First they brought in tea and cake
Then pipes, tobacco and whiskey punch.
Biddy O’Brien began to cry
“Such a nice clean corpse, did you ever see?
“Arrah, Tim, mavourneen, why did you die?”
“Ah, shut your gob” said Paddy McGee!
Then Maggy O’Connor took up the job
“O Biddy,” says she, “You’re wrong, I’m sure”:
Biddy gave her a belt in the gob
And left her sprawlin’ on the floor.
And then the war did soon engage
‘Twas woman to woman and man to man,
Shillelagh law was all the rage
And the row and the ruction soon began.
Is Biddy O’Brien saying that Finnegan doesn’t look dead and Paddy McGee takes offense at the raising of false hope? (Back in the day, it wasn’t always evident that people were dead. Typhoid in particular produced a paralysis that could be mistaken for death.)
Does Biddy O’Brien punch Maggy O’Connor just because O’Connor gainsaid her or is there some subtle insult implied?
I know we Irish are quick to fight but I think there is more to the story. Anybody know?