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The lamentable burning of Cork
Pepys, i, 68, B.L., three woodcuts, four columns.
By a strange coincidence a disastrous fire swept the city of Cork (see Caulfield's Council Book of Cork, p. 102) shortly after the battle of the birds there (cf. No. 24); and in this coincidence ballad-writers and Jacobean journalists naturally exulted. At the conclusion of the ballad the author, or more probably the printer, invites his readers to go to "the full Relation at large in the Booke newly Printed," an invitation that we shall accept, as the "book," of nine pages, is preserved in the British Museum (C. 32. 3. 6)1. It is entitled:
A Relation Of The Most lamentable Burning of the Cittie of Corke, in the west of Ireland, in the Province of Monster, by Thunder and Lightning. With other most dolefull and miserable accidents, which fell out the last of May 1622 after the prodigious battell of the birds called Stares, which fought strangely over and neare that Citie the 12. & 14. of May 1621. As it hath beene Reported to divers Right Honourable Persons. [Cut] Printed this 20. of Iune. 1622. London Printed by I.D. for Nicholas Bourne, and Thomas Archer, 1622.
In the preface, mention is made of the earlier book that Nathaniel Bourne had printed on the battle of the birds: "This report being so strange, was of some censured as an vntrue and idle invention; Of others, which vnderstood, and by enquirie were resolved of the truth, it was imagined to prognosticate some strange and dreadfull accident to follow. . .the Omnipotent Maiestie of heaven hath not onely reprooved their vanitie, who would not beleeue so strange a Relation, but hath further by a most dread-full and lamentable demonstration of his power and Iustice, resolved what that battell of Birds might or did prognosticate."
The writer then proceeds to show that, like Sodom and Gomorrah, Cork was first warned and next destroyed for her sins: "The Citizens, and Inhabitants of Corke, haue beene taxed and noted for Vsury, (the chiefest Daughter of Covetousnesse) to exceed any Cittie in the Kings Dominions, except some Citties in England." Of the actual burning of the city, on Friday, May 31, 1622, between eleven and twelve a.m., the pamphleteer adds nothing to the balladist's account. He concludes by reminding his readers: "These inhabitants of the Cittie of Corke, were not the onely and greatest sinners, aboue all other Citties in England or Ireland": they were merely chosen as an example of God's punishment because they disregarded the warning given by the birds.
1 It was licensed for publication on June 19, 1622.