Verse > Padraic Colum > Anthology of Irish Verse
Padraic Colum (1881–1972).  Anthology of Irish Verse.  1922.
125. The Downfall of the Gael
By Sir Samuel Ferguson (Translated)
MY HEART is in woe,
And my soul deep in trouble,—
For the mighty are low,
And abased are the noble:
The Sons of the Gael        5
Are in exile and mourning,
Worn, weary, and pale
As spent pilgrims returning;
Or men who, in flight
From the field of disaster,        10
Beseech the black night
On their flight to fall faster;
Or seamen aghast
When their planks gape asunder,
And the waves fierce and fast        15
Tumble through in hoarse thunder;
Or men whom we see
That have got their death-omen,—
Such wretches are we
In the chains of our foemen!        20
Our courage is fear,
Our nobility vileness,
Our hope is despair,
And our comeliness foulness.
There is mist on our heads,        25
And a cloud chill and hoary
Of black sorrow, sheds
An eclipse on our glory.
From Boyne to the Linn
Has the mandate been given,        30
That the children of Finn
From their country be driven.
That the sons of the king—
Oh, the treason and malice!—
Shall no more ride the ring        35
In their own native valleys;
No more shall repair
Where the hill foxes tarry,
Nor forth to the air
Fling the hawk at her quarry:        40
For the plain shall be broke
By the share of the stranger,
And the stone-mason’s stroke
Tell the woods of their danger;
The green hills and shore        45
Be with white keeps disfigured,
And the Mote of Rathmore
Be the Saxon churl’s haggard!
The land of the lakes
Shall no more know the prospect        50
Of valleys and brakes—
So transformed is her aspect!
The Gael cannot tell,
In the uprooted wildwood
And the red ridgy dell,        55
The old nurse of his childhood:
The nurse of his youth
Is in doubt as she views him,
If the wan wretch, in truth,
Be the child of her bosom.        60
We starve by the board,
And we thirst amid wassail—
For the guest is the lord,
And the host is the vassal!
Through the woods let us roam,        65
Through the wastes wild and barren;
We are strangers at home!
We are exiles in Erin!
And Erin’s a bark
O’er the wide waters driven!        70
And the tempest howls dark,
And her side planks are riven!
And in billows of might
Swell the Saxon before her,—
Unite, oh, unite!        75
Or the billows burst o’er her!
This poem was written by the bard of Shane O’Neill; O’Gnive. He accompanied O’Neill to London in 1562. The poem is written in the difficult Deibhidh metre, the dignity of which is not reproduced in Ferguson’s translation.


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