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More about Donegal Bards

Among the expanding published sources on Irish bardic poetry is "A New History of Ireland", edited by T. W. Moody, F. X. Martin and F. J. Byrne, published under the auspices of the Royal Irish Academy, Clarendon Press, 1976. Of interest in the present case is chapter XX, "The Irish language in the early modern period" by Brian O Cuiv, which treats of a great number of bards while lamenting the vast amount of material by others as yet unpublished.

At page 538 O Cuiv gives a fuller picture of a bard mentioned in "The Bards of Ireland--Part I", namely, Eoghan Ruadh Mac an Bháird, in the following paragraph:

"Another, slightly later [1680] manuscript contains a collection of poems for the O'Donnells which covers an even wider span--from the thirteenth century to the beginning of the eighteenth. One item in this manuscript deserves special mention. It is an introductory note to an early-seventeenth century poem which Eoghan Ruadh Mac an Bháird addressed to a book that he had dedicated to Aodh O Domhnaill, son of the exiled earl, Ruaidhri. In view of the strong call for national unity that the poem contains, the scribal note is of considerable importance for, according to it, the book was a translation of a work on the rules and art of war. Apparently Mac an Bháird had made his translation on the Continent and was sending it to Ireland. Unfortunately the translation [of the book] itself does not seem to have been preserved."

The following was Eoghan Ruadh's call from the heart for unity, translated by Osborn Bergin, and bears repitition:

"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.

Whoso 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 whoso may follow the profession of arms, it is no loss to such to look at thee.

When Aodh O 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 Cinel Conaill 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 Fáil 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 everyone of the wise craftsmen; to them affection is due; I put thee under their protection.

Though I present thee to Ó 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 Fál, a blessing go with thee now, little book."

Three centuries later another Mac an Bháird in Donegal, Seán Ruadh, at the time unaware of Eoghan Ruadh's earlier call, issued a similar plea for national unity. Needless to add, Eoghan's call was in vain, as was the later one from which the following is extracted:

"Must we hang more young misguided men before the Irish Government takes its courage in its hands and launches an all-out constitutional offensive against Partition? Are we to continue to play the sickening game of Party politics that has degraded Dail Eireann since the Civil War? Or, is there still a spark of true traditional national sentiment left in the elders of both big Parties that may bid them lay aside their personal spites and prejudices, their bitter memories of things better forgotten, that they may before the close of their days do the nation that one further service it demands of them, the political and economic integration of this island?"
(The Donegal Vindicator September 3,1955)

That was fifteen years prior to the outbreak of three decades of "Troubles" which caused over 3,000 deaths, and hundreds of thousands of grievous bodily and psychological injuries, in the separated six counties of Ireland. Forty-five years later, Partition has not yielded up one square inch of the occupied territory. In fact, the amended Constitution of Ireland no longer clearly claims title to those six counties.

Like the clans in earlier days, the political parties in the Dáil, mired in spites, prejudices, and scandals, are incapable of uniting to ensure "the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland", as set forth by those who signed the Declaration of the Irish Republic in 1916, and all of whom were executed. More than seventy years of party political quarrelling between them, and there is not one one square inch to show for it.



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