Verse > Padraic Colum > Anthology of Irish Verse
Padraic Colum (1881–1972).  Anthology of Irish Verse.  1922.
107. A Lament for the Princes of Tyrone and Tyrconnel
By James Clarence Mangan (Translated from the Irish)
O WOMAN of the piercing wail,
Who mournest o’er yon mound of clay
With sigh and groan,
Would God thou wert among the Gael!
Thou would’st not then from day to day        5
Weep thus alone.
’Twere long before around a grave
In green Tyrconnel, one could find
This loneliness;
Near where Beann-Boirche’s banners wave,        10
Such grief as thine could ne’er have pined
Beside the wave in Donegal,
In Antrim’s glens, or fair Dromore,
Or Killilee,        15
Or where the sunny waters fall
At Assaroe, near Erna shore,
This could not be.
On Derry’s plains, in rich Drumcliff,
Throughout Armagh the Great, renowned        20
In olden years,
No day could pass but woman’s grief
Would rain upon the burial-ground
Fresh floods of tears!
O no!—From Shannon, Boyne, and Suir,        25
From high Dunluce’s castle-walls,
From Lissadill,
Would flock alike both rich and poor:
One wail would rise from Cruachan’s halls
To Tara Hill;        30
And some would come from Barrow-side,
And many a maid would leave her home
On Leitrim’s plains,
And by melodious Banna’s tide,
And by the Mourne and Erne, to come        35
And swell thy strains!
O, horses’ hoofs would trample down
The mount whereon the martyr-saint
Was crucified;
From glen and hill, from plain and town,        40
One loud lament, one thrilling plaint,
Would echo wide
There would not soon be found, I ween,
One foot of ground among those bands
For museful thought,        45
So many shriekers of the keen
Would cry aloud, and clap their hands,
All woe-distraught!
Two princes of the line of Conn
Sleep in their cells of clay beside        50
O’Donnell Roe:
Three royal youths, alas! are gone,
Who lived for Erin’s weal, but died
For Erin’s woe.
Ah, could the men of Ireland read        55
The names those noteless burial-stones
Display to view,
Their wounded hearts afresh would bleed,
Their tears gush forth again, their groans
Resound anew!        60
The youths whose relics moulder here
Were sprung from Hugh, high prince and lord
Of Aileach’s lands;
Thy noble brothers, justly dear,
Thy nephew, long to be deplored        65
By Ulster’s bands.
Theirs were not souls wherein dull time
Could domicile decay, or house
They passed from earth ere manhood’s prime,        70
Ere years had power to dim their brows,
Or chill their blood.
And who can marvel o’er thy grief,
Or who can blame thy flowing tears,
Who knows their source?        75
O’Donnell, Dunnasava’s chief,
Cut off amid his vernal years,
Lies here a corse
Beside his brother Cathbar, whom
Tyrconnell of the Helmets mourns        80
In deep despair:
For valour, truth, and comely bloom,
For all that greatens and adorns,
A peerless pair.
Oh, had these twain, and he, the third,        85
The Lord of Mourne, O’Niall’s son
(Their mate in death),
A prince in look, in deed, and word,
Had these three heroes yielded on
The field their breath,        90
Oh, had they fallen on Criffan’s plain,
There would not be a town or clan
From shore to sea,
But would with shrieks bewail the slain,
Or chant aloud the exulting rann        95
Of jubilee!
When high the shout of battle rose,
On fields where Freedom’s torch still burned
Through Erin’s gloom,
If one, if barely one of those        100
Were slain, all Ulster would have mourned
The hero’s doom!
If at Athboy, where hosts of brave
Ulidian horsemen sank beneath
The shock of spears,        105
Young Hugh O’Neill had found a grave,
Long must the North have wept his death
With heart-wrung tears!
If on the day of Ballach-myre
The Lord of Mourne had met thus young,        110
A warrior’s fate,
In vain would such as thou desire
To mourn, alone, the champion sprung
From Niall the Great!
No marvel this—for all the dead,        115
Heaped on the field, pile over pile,
At Mullach-brack,
Were scarce an eric for his head,
If death had stayed his footsteps while
On victory’s track!        120
If on the Day of Hostages
The fruit had from the parent bough
Been rudely torn
In sight of Munster’s bands-MacNee’s—
Such blow the blood of Conn, I trow,        125
Could ill have borne.
If on the day of Ballach-boy
Some arm had laid by foul surprise,
The chieftain low,
Even our victorious shout of joy        130
Would soon give place to rueful cries
And groans of woe!
If on the day the Saxon host
Were forced to fly—a day so great
For Ashanee—        135
The Chief had been untimely lost,
Our conquering troops should moderate
Their mirthful glee.
There would not lack on Lifford’s day,
From Galway, from the glens of Boyle,        140
From Limerick’s towers,
A marshalled file, a long array
Of mourners to bedew the soil
With tears in showers!
If on the day a sterner fate        145
Compelled his flight from Athenree,
His blood had flowed,
What numbers all disconsolate,
Would come unasked, and share with thee
Affliction’s load!        150
If Derry’s crimson field had seen
His life-blood offered up, though ’twere
On Victory’s shrine,
A thousand cries would swell the keen,
A thousand voices of despair        155
Would echo thine!
Oh, had the fierce Dalcassian swarm
That bloody night of Fergus’ banks
But slain our Chief,
When rose his camp in wild alarm—        160
How would the triumph of his ranks
be dashed with grief!
How would the troops of Murbach Mourn
If on the Curlew Mountains’ day
Which England rued,        165
Some Saxon hand had left them lorn,
By shedding there, amid the fray,
Their prince’s blood!
Red would have been our warriors’ eyes
Had Roderick found on Sligo’s field        170
A gory grave,
No Northern Chief would soon arise
So sage to guide, so strong to shield,
So swift to save.
Long would Leith-Cuinn have wept if Hugh        175
Had met the death he oft had dealt
Among the foe;
But, had our Roderick fallen too,
All Erin must, alas! have felt
The deadly blow!        180
What do I say? Ah, woe is me!
Already we bewail in vain
Their fatal fall!
And Erin, once the great and free,
Now vainly mourns her breakless chain,        185
And iron thrall.
Then, daughter of O’Donnell, dry
Thine overflowing eyes, and turn
Thy heart aside,
For Adam’s race is born to die,        190
And sternly the sepulchral urn
Mocks human pride.
Look not, nor sigh, for earthly throne,
Nor place thy trust in arm of clay,
But on thy knees        195
Uplift thy soul to God Alone,
For all things go their destined way
As He decrees.
Embrace the faithful crucifix,
And seek the path of pain and prayer        200
Thy Saviour trod;
Nor let thy spirit intermix
With earthly hope, with worldly care,
Its groans to God!
And Thou, O mighty Lord! Whose Ways        205
Are far above our feeble minds
To understand,
Sustain us in these doleful days,
And render light the chain that binds
Our fallen land!        210
Hugh O’Neill (the Earl of Tyrone of English history) had been the leader of the most brilliantly conducted war waged by the Irish against the English in Ireland. He was forced to leave Ireland in 1607; his flight meant the passing of the leadership of the Gaelic nobles and the close of an epoch of Irish history. With O’Neill went the chief representatives of the great Ulster families. The poem is addressed to the Lady Nuala O’Donnell by the bard of the O’Donnells, Mac an Bhaird or Ward. The bard is supposed to discover the Lady Nuala weeping alone over the tomb of her brother Rory in the Church of S. Pietro Montorio on the Janiculum. He imagines the whole scene transferred to Ireland (which accounts for the image of the horses’ hooves trampling down “The mount whereon the martyr-saint was crucified”), and he tells her how all Ireland, and especially all Northern Ireland, would join in her grief. Never was the attachment of the Irish to their nobles revealed more poignantly than in this poem that laments the passing of the greatest and truest of the Irish families.


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