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18 September 2014
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Wars and Conflict - The Plantation of Ulster

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The bardic poets
- Dr. Nollaig Ó Muraíle

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The professional poets were working for masters, for patrons, and therefore sometimes they were inclined to be a little mercenary, again on the basis of "He who pays the piper calls the tune" and the classic expression of this is by a 14th century poet called Gofraidh Fionn Ó Dálaigh who wrote a poem, one verse of which goes as follows, in translation

"In poems to the English, we promise that the gaeil will be driven from Ireland;
In those to the gaill we promise that the English will be driven eastwards across the sea."

When we come to the late 16th century we get the poets giving advice to their chieftains and leaders, and one good example is Eochaidh Ó hEoghasa in Fermanagh who wrote a famous poem to the chieftain he was working for at the time, Brian na Múrtha Ó Ruairc of Bréifne who ended up being executioned at Highburn in 1591, but his famous poem starts as follows:

"Towards the warlike man, peace is observed. Throughout the fair forests of Ireland, none but the fighting man finds peace."

In other words, he should be armed and prepared and that is the only way he will have peace and tranquillity in his territory.

Another poet of the time who saw the writing on wall perhaps was Fear Flatha Ó Gnímh based around Larne in east-Antrim, and writing for one of the local chieftains, and one of his poems begins

"A blessing upon the soul of Ireland,
island of the faltering steps, pregnant with sorrow..."

and he goes on, quite significantly I think,

"Fear of the foreign law does not permit me to tell her sore plight,
By the evil eye of Balar, her fair cornfield is blighted,
Her corn is without blossom on the ground."

And the same Ó Gnímh wrote another famous poem

"If the will of God were to grant that a new England
named Ireland should be held in the hands of robbers,
it would be as well to bid farewell to this island".

 

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