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Eoghan Ruadh Mac an Bháird

This is a poet whose name and fame are recognized wherever students delve into bardic verse. Of him, de Blacám writes:

"We find the same note in the poetry of Owen Roe Mac-a-Ward, O'Donnell's professor-in-chief of poetry. We feel that this bard, too, was of the company of the patriot hosts. When Red Hugh went to Spain after Kinsale, his brother Rory carried on the war for a while; but when news came of Red Hugh's death, Rory surrendered. In Dublin, in 1603, he made his peace, and thence he crossed to London, to be made Earl of Tyrconnell.

Says Mac-a-Ward:

The hearts of his comrades in the campaign are leaping with loathing at his journey;
'tis no step towards the gaining of courage.

Five years later Rory died in Rome, whither the Earls had fled; and now Mac-a-Ward uttered a lamentation in which all note of reproof is silent. "The fall of the hand of the warrior of the Erne has caused hearts to swell .... none but an enemy is unsaddened thereat" (Bergin). Rory's death was the occasion also of Mac-a-Ward's most famous poem, A bhean fuair faill ar an bhfeart, "0 woman that has found opportunity at the tomb," well known through Mangan's free but sonorous rendering, "0 woman of the piercing wail." The poet thinks of Rory's sister Nuala--she who deserted her husband Niall Garve when he sided with the English against Red Hugh and contemplates her in lonely mourning at the Roman tomb. Were it in Armagh or in Donegal, at Assaroe or Drumcliffe, she would not lack companions in mourning. Rory's brother and his nephew lie beside him, and the poet tells of victories, won by Red Hugh and O'Neill, wherein these warriors had their share. No word of encouragement can he offer; no hand of clay can help; the same path must be trodden also by the mourner: nought remains save the crucifix whereon to fix attention."

Contemplate the cross that
stands beside thee, in place
of thy vain grief; lift from
the tomb thine elbow; put
from thee thy pining.

"Earl Rory's son, little Hugh O'Donnell, aged seven, seems to have written a letter to Mac-a-Ward in the year 16I3. The aged ollave composes a reply of sixteen lines, Ionmhuin sgríbhionn sgaoiltear sunn. He tells how delightful a surprise was his on opening the letter; how all the nobles of Niall's royal land would be delighted could they see it too; how little Hugh has shown himself hereby the true makings (damhna) of a prince. Sgoláir rod-sgríobh, a sgríbhionn, "'twas a scholar that wrote thee, O writing!" How the lad must have prized the great ollave's poem!

Mac-a-Ward's greatest poem--that addressed to Nuala--sounded a note that echoed down the seventeenth century: the note of utter surrender of worldly hope. The plantations were in progress when Owen Roe wrote, and the familiar order palpably was at an end."

Four of his poems were translated into English by Bergin, and are given herewith. The original Irish versions will appear in Part II of this homage, which I hope to conclude in the new millenium.

On a Gaelic Miscellany

O little book that bearest Aodh's name, in thee is ample lore, bound for the Island of the Fair, of bright sward, lore that will be sweet to Ireland's hosts.

Here in our mother tongue--what provision could be nobler?--is learning that will long be remembered in the land of Erin of green meadows.

Here is gathered a fair store of ears of corn gleaned from the field of famous authors for the leader of the host of Gulban Guirt.

Godly instruction besides, and knowledge of the art of arms, thou hast now for the land of Erin, with training in warfare and computation.

Who may be forming friendships in peace, thwarting evil and persecution, or undertaking war, he is not ripe without thy teaching.

Even for sons of the Church--well for those who read them--and for those who may follow the profession of arms, it is no loss to such to look at thee.

When Aodh 0 Domhnaill, hope of his country, has read thee, O booklet, utter what thou hast thereafter, hide it not from Dálach's good line.

From the race of Eoghan, one by one, or from the warriors of Cinél gConaill, conceal nothing; win their regard; it is fitting to share with the princes.

Nor from those who will love thee, descendants of Ír, Éireamhón or Éibhear, or of Lughaidh, son of generous Íoth--they will not be weary of hearing thee recited.

The Burkes and the Butlers will not be weary of thy tales, nor the Geraldines who won affection beyond the old families of Fintan's land.

Conceal from the race of Gaoidheal Glas no knowledge that thou hast found, nor from the Old English of the land of the Fair, with whom we, the warriors of Ireland, have united.

The sons of the poets of Inis Fail will be full of joy to greet thee, repeating thee from mouth to mouth; knowledge of thee will be famous in the island.

Show reverence to every one of the wise craftsmen; to them affection is due; I put thee under their protection.

Though I present thee to O Domhnaill above all in Fintan's land, go around the land on every side, share with every Irishman.

Our own Gaels and Fair Foreigners, blessings on them with sincerity. Take my blessing to the land of FáI, a blessing go with thee now, little book.


On a Peace Conference in 1603

Bold is the journey attempted here; long has it been debated. The expedition is equal to a tragic fate: hard is the end of nobility.

By the hard fortune of the war of Flann's Fold, O'Donnell's son has been beguiled, travelling with high spirit in the company of outland soldiery.

Bold is the cause he has set before him: in brief, for the greatness of the evil that he saw awaiting him, Rury has turned to the people who had defeated him.

Hard is it to face them: many is the risk before him; men who harden easy covenants, gloomy faces with dangerous attributes.

There are ready for him in Dublin warriors on whom misfortune has been inflicted; many a painful glance at his bright face; to reach them is occasion for great loathing.

Many a cause of anxiety they had, many a foreign wife's lamentation, many a tombstone due to him--'tis a marvel if he come back from that journey!

The roads whereon he was hitherto wont to go in warlike array, he now peacefully visits--he, the fierce and ruthless enemy of the foreigners.

Here once more the grim visage of the soldiery is shown as a countenance bright, generous and mild, a gentle, youthful face.

Whatever befalls him at this time, many is the host that suffered hardship, whom his coming was wont to kindle with shame, as they read the signs of coming disasters.

The hearts of his comrades on the foray--may this be no detriment to him--are leaping with horror at the expedition: it will be a step to win courage.

Among the nobles of the Isle of Brega, among women and sons of poets, many are the fingers that grow hot by reason of this journey, while they read of grief to follow it.

Yet because of their Iord's fortune the warriors of Eamhain deem this journey, whereat I grow hot, to be an easy step for him.

As for the youth's dreadful forays, the army of Dublin remembers them not for their longing to be at peace throughout Fintan's Land, old in wrath.

For all that he has done to them, in short, O'Donnell's son is pardoned; until opposition is shown to them, Ireland's wrong will be repaid.

They have changed their anger and envy to a resolution of gentleness and peace, their mutual hatred and warlike purpose to love.

The faces of grim warriors turn to loving forms before him, the cruel hearts of stern Englishmen melt at the sight of his comely hair.

The greater is their welcome to him that Rury has made peace with them, that the hospitable region where Conn was made famous has not a foreigner.

Since the deputy of Ireland's king came to them, he sets no store by their doings, peace is sought with no Irishman.

By the pledge that he gives, by the homage of the grandson of Manus, every man's devotion used to be sold, every Gael's knee used to be bent.

The sight of the chief of Dálach's descendants at conventions in Dublin is a decree of protection to the English territory, the very model of peace with the nobles.

Whenever he shall return -- how does it hurt Rury to guard against many a ground of complaint? -- to those who are waiting for him the time seems long.

There is many a princess throughout Lugh's Fortress who, like Nualaidh, with reference to this step she hears approaching, are in pain and sorrow round about her.

I have found when with her that because of his journey -- since the latest things are hardest to bear -- our Hugh's daughter has no thought for any other care she has suffered.


Looking Towards Spain

Happy be thy journey, Aodh Ruadhl The Lord who seeth our distress, He taketh upon Him thy care, may He prepare thy way before thee.

May it not hurt thee, O King of the Suca, to travel in wintry weather, outside that Haven of Cliodhna, over the gloomy raging sea.

God protect thee at this time from the motion of contrary winds, and from the cruel wound of every man, and from all stormy seas.

May the gods who blow blustering winds forsake their warlike apparel, may the windy sea change its uproar, that the nature of the air be not perverted.

O Prince of Galway, may fortune debate each counsel for thee; may not the root of our misdeeds assail thee, may thy exile be to thee a blessing.

May each man's face be cheerful before thee, O King of the Fortress of Sligo; the lines on the surface of thy bright cheeks--may the sight of them be a presage of love.

O King of Conall's race, whoever be in doubt of thy speech, may his heart be sifting it, with loving purpose to understand thee.

May healing be nigh unto our hurt; may tales that will bring us new life be told us of thee, may every hardship be easy to thee.

The single ship with which thou didst go, may that ship come over the sea as a forest of barks with splendid sails to the sorrowful land of Tailtiu.

In short thy journey is a pledge of health or a presage of sickness; whatever comes of thy venture, O Aodh, it wrings our hearts.

Warriors, by reason of their love, women, clerics, the children of our nobles, the sons of our serfs, they are all united in fear for thee, Aodh.

Since thou hast gone over the sea to succour the race of Gaoidheal Glas, there are hearts here straining under the weight of each prince's burden.

There are others like me; I myself especially, O Aodh, am torn because of thy venture in the boiling wave of my mind.

The sea does not stir without bewildering me, the wind rises not but that my mind starts, the tempest does not alter the note of the stream without bringing anguish upon me, now thou art gone.

It is not complaint of thy own troubles, it is not thy constraint by the rude welkin, that would seem to me at hand, but ruin from the ills of Ireland.

Conn's Isle that hath been practised in suffering, it is she, in short, that would feel the blow, if thou shouldst be opposed in thy journey over the raging perilous sea.

The conquest of her disease has been put from thee into the lap of fate--thou hast cared for this land of Connel--if thou fail, O'Donnell.

Many others of her lovers has this fair isle, spouse of Art, sent to a place of doom for helping her necessity.

Many a care on her account found Tuathal Teachtmhar, leader of Ireland, when he had come over the surface of the sea in hope of righting her wrongs.

A circuit whereby he defended her honour was made by Conghal Cláireineach, so that he fought amid the wave-valleys a battle than which none about her was hotter.

Eoghan Mór, son of Mugh Néid, once went on such a venture to that land whither thou hast journeyed, from Uisneach's land of ancient quarrels.

The warlike kingdom of the Plain of the Nialls--Maicnia's son Mac Con scaled the edge of the blue sea because of her wrongs, a campaign of lasting consequence.

Thou, O King of Eochaidh's line, art going at the mercy of one vessel (though we trust thou wilt come with power) by reason of Ireland's wrongs.

There are in that ship beyond the sea the sovranty of the Island of the Gaels, her peace, her perilous exploits, her glory, the defence of her nobility, her honour.

Mayest thou return to the race of Gaoidheal Glas, O son of Aodh, O grandson of Maghnus! may every wave that flows be weak, may every anxiety here be happy!



Heartrending News

Sad is thy plight, O feeble heart; wrong or persecution against thee is but a slight injury: thou givest thy love away so freely that insult to thee goes unpunished.

Thou art easily discomfited; many can sound thy depths; sad is thy plight; it is a light matter to chasten thee, indeed to render thee powerless.

Let no man on earth avoid provoking thee or hurting thee; on thy behalf I cannot stand firm; what avails thy noble ambition?

Whatever tale has been told us now about O'Donnell, I am ashamed that it should vex thee: thy stirring is a cause of mockery.

I see that despite all the resentment that my lord has merited from me, thou dost not sleep upon his wound, the fury of thy struggle is seen.

Where is the plea thou didst put forward, where is the nobility or the honour, where is now yesterday's indignation, if thou hast been stabbed through?

After all that I say of thee, poor effeminate heart, good are thy jibes at my patience concerning the prince of Sligo's flowing stream.

That the hand of O'Donnell of Dún ós Sáimh has fallen (if it is true) in Italy--since that is the cause of thy distress, it is no groundless alarm.

And yet it is not fear for thyself that would trouble thee, though that were scandal enough, but that he should be taken from the journey he has proposed, and from the land of Banbha.

After all that the lord of Bearnas has done of late, in this fall that he has got I should indeed be at ease but for the trouble of Ireland.

However it be, if the land of the Children of Conall should hear what I have been told, she would think it her own ruin, that bright land of clear waterfalls and cool mounds.

If the race of Gaoidheal Glas should hear what I have heard from the grandson of Maghnus, the flower of Ireland's ramparts would have many a reason for plotting about it.

Every man will say, 'If Rury's succession were closed, whom should we celebrate to-night, as one through whom we might hope for deliverance?'

The Lord who seeth thy condition, O land of the Sons of Mil from Spain, may He look upon thee and upon me, may we get no ill news!

Though we were not troubled about what has been certified to us, though it were no reverse of fortune, many now are afflicted, and not (merely) because of O'Donnell of the Deel.

The fall of the hand of the warrior of the Erne has caused hearts to swell: may the sickness he has caught depart from him--none but an enemy is unsaddened thereat.


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