Castle Rackrent/Glossary/9

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GLOSSARY 9. DUTY WORK.—

It was formerly common in Ireland to insert clauses in leases, binding tenants to furnish their landlords with labourers and horses for several days in the year. Much petty tyranny and oppression have resulted from this feudal custom. Whenever a poor man disobliged his landlord, the agent sent to him for his duty work; and Thady does not exaggerate when he says, that the tenants were often called from their own work to do that of their landlord. Thus the very means of earning their rent were taken from them: whilst they were getting home their landlord's harvest, their own was often ruined, and yet their rents were expected to be paid as punctually as if their time had been at their own disposal. This appears the height of absurd injustice.

In Esthonia, amongst the poor Sclavonian race of peasant slaves, they pay tributes to their lords, not under the name of duty work, duty geese, duty turkeys, etc., but under the name of RIGHTEOUSNESSES. The following ballad is a curious specimen of Esthonian poetry:—

     This is the cause that the country is ruined,
     And the straw of the thatch is eaten away,
     The gentry are come to live in the land—
     Chimneys between the village,
     And the proprietor upon the white floor!
     The sheep brings forth a lamb with a white forehead,
     This is paid to the lord for a RIGHTEOUSNESS SHEEP.
     The sow farrows pigs,
     They go to the spit of the lord.
     The hen lays eggs,
     They go into the lord's frying-pan.
     The cow drops a male calf,
     That goes into the lord's herd as a bull.
     The mare foals a horse foal,
     That must be for my lord's nag.
     The boor's wife has sons,
     They must go to look after my lord's poultry.