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.
The hearts of his comrades in the campaign are leaping with loathing at his
'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
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
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
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
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
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
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 been....by 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
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
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
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,
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!
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
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
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
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