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18 September 2014
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Wars and Conflict - The Plantation of Ulster

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Bardic Poetry
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1.   Heartrending News

After the defeat of the Irish at the battle of Kinsale in 1601, Ruairí Ó Dónaill (Rory O’Donnell) brother of Aodh Rua (Red Hugh) carried on the war, but finally having heard of his brother’s death in Spain he surrendered to the English. In 1603, he went to Dublin and London and returned as Earl of Tyrconnell. Later in 1607 he travelled with the Ulster chieftains to the Continent and he died in Rome in July 1608. This poem by Eoghan Ruadh Mac an Bhaird, chief poet of the O’Donnells, laments his death and its consequences for Ireland.

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!

An Coimsidh do-chí bhar ndáil,
a chríoch Mhac Míleadh Easbáinn,
go bhfégha ort is oirne,
sgéla ar olc nár fhaghoimne.

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.

Bíodh nach cás ar dearbhadh dhúinn,
bíodh nach budh filleadh fortúin,
iomdha anoss fá dhoghruing de,
‘s ní a los I Dhomhnuill Daoile.

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.

Easgar láimhe laoich Éirne
tug ar chridhibh coimhéirghi:
an teidhm tárra go ttí uadh,
ní bhí achd námha léan neamhthruagh.

          Full poem lyrics Full lyrics of poem

2.   A Begging Letter

This poem is an appeal by the poet Fearghal Óg Mac an Bhaird to Flaithrí Ó Maoilchonaire who founded the College of St. Anthony in Louvain, which became the publication centre for materials in Irish in the first half of the 17th century. In English he was known as Florence Conroy. He accompanied Aodh Ruadh to Spain after the defeat at Kinsale and was his confessor and was present at his deathbed in Simancas in 1602. Fearghal Óg in this poem laments the ruin of the O’Donnell house and complains bitterly about the hardships that he has had to endure on the continent. It gives us a glimpse of the ‘downfall’ suffered by these poets, who had previously enjoyed many privileges and belonged to the aristocracy. Fearghal Óg’s poems have a clear and simple style and he has been accused by a colleague of composing poems in the open air, instead of retiring to a darkened room as tradition and training dictated.

I have found a marvel, my friend -
no reverence have I found from people
to whom it were fitting to wait upon me;
it is a cold new marvel.

Fúarus iongnadh, a fhir chumainn,
cádhus úatha ní fhúair mé,
na dáoine dar dhúal ar n-ionramh,
as úar náoidhe an t-iongnadh é.

That I am empty - see whether this be not
a thing to mark, while base folk, unworthy of
regard, are here receiving riches from Spain
in honour of the sweet green plain of Bregha.

Meisi folamh, féch nach diongna,
‘s dáoine dáora ar nár dhúal gean
sunna ón Spáin ag agháil ionnmhuis
a n-anáir chláir bhionnghlais Bhreagh.

Vulgar wives of churl and clown
are yonder in golden raiment,
while I lack wealth -
I deem it unjust.

Mná anúaisle buirb is bathluigh
a mbeartaibh óir san aird thall
atáid trá agus sinn gan édáil,
dar linn atá égáir ann.

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