M. J Brown.

Historical ballad poetry of Ireland; online

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His country was mighty his people were blest in his reign,
But the ray of his glory shall never shine on them again ;
Like the beauty of summer his presence gave joy to our souls,
When bards sung his deeds at the banquet of bright golden

Ye maids of Temora, whose rich garments sweep the green

plain !

Ye chiefs of the Sunburst, the terror and scourge of the Dane !
Ye grey-haired Ard-Fileas l whose songs fire the blood of

the brave !
Oh ! weep for your Sun-star is quenched in the night of the


He clad you with honours he filled your high hearts with

In the midst of your councils he beamed in his wisdom and


1 Ard Filias, Ard*ITigh, Fill or f]lc=a poet or philosopher.


Gold, silver, and jewels were only as dust in his hand,
But his sword like a lightning flash blasted the foes of his

Oh ! Mahon, my brother ! we've conquer'd and marched

side by side,

And thou wert to the love of my soul as a beautiful bride ;
In the battle, the banquet, the council, the chase and the

Our beings were blended our spirits were filled with one tone.

Oh ! Mahon, my brother ! thou'st died like the hind of the


The hands of assassins were red with thy pure noble blood ;
And I was not near, my beloved, when thou wast o erpower'd
To steep in their hearts' blood the steel of my blue-beaming


I stood by the dark misty river at eve dim and grey,
And I heard the death-cry of the spirit of gloomy Craglea, ; l
She repeated thy name in her caoine of desolate woe,
Then I knew that the Beauty and Joy of Clan Tail was laid

All day and all night one dark vigil of sorrow I keep,
My spirit is bleeding with wounds that are many and deep ;
My banquet is anguish, tears, groaning and wringing of hands,
In madness lamenting my prince of the gold-hilted brands.

God ! give me patience to bear the affliction, I feel,
But for every hot tear a red blood-drop shall blush on my

steel ;

For every deep pang which rny grief -stricken spirit has known,
A thousand death-wounds in the day of revenge shall atone.

1 The spirit of gloomy Craglea was the banshee or woman fairy who watched
over the fortunes of the Dalcassian princes. She agrain announced before the
battle of Clontarf that Brian himself was to be killed.




One can imagine this battle hymn ringing out from the throats of Brian's
twenty thousand men, the flower of Munster, both Dalcassians and Eugenians,
on their march to Clontarf. Waiting to engage them was an army composed
of Danes with the renegade King of Leinster, Brian s brother-in-law, and
his men assisted by warriors from Wales and Cornwall, the Orkneys and
Scandinavia. The Danes were commanded by Brodir of Mann and Sigurd,
Earl of Orkneys, and by Amrud and Carlus, princes of Denmark.


O'ER the Plain of the Flocks from Fingall l to Athclee 2
Roll the hosts of the Gael like the march of the sea ;
As the crashing of shells when the winter winds blow,
The smashing of mail when they burst on the foe I
Many a sword, great King of Mumhain ! 3
Many a spear, blithe Amluan !
Many a dart, gay Donn Cuan !

Shall weep in the wound it will open to-day !
See, dark sprinkles of blood on the gates of the East
Red Nemon 4 to-night shall have flesh at her feast !
Hear the rattling of ribs in the sea-hollowed cave
The Death in the Nordlands is digging a grave !
Star after star overcircling Binn Edar
Is lost in the light of a mightier leader ;
So the steel shine of the godless invader

Shall sink in our Sunburst's conquering ray 1
Brian A-Bu ! Brian A-Bu ! .
Death to the false, Life to the true !
Efte go deo ! 5 Eire go de6 !
And slaughter's red wrath at the heels of the foe !

1 Fingal is that part of the County of Dublin north of Howth.
1 Atheliath was the ancient name of Dublin.

3 Mumhain pronounced Moohan (Munster).

4 lied Noinon. " Neit," says Cormac s Glossary, "was the god of battle
vith the pagans of tho Gael; Nemon was his wife." They were malignant

G Eire, go deo =* Erin for ever; de6 (one syllable) pronounced Ilk; the
v.i.rd yeo preceded by a d.


String ! Desmond, your bows ! Draw, Thomond, your

swords !

Now the fingers of dawn show the heretic hordes !
See the ships of the Raven beached high on the shore
And swear by our Saviour they'll launch them no more 1
Form ye the vanguard, brave Dalcassians !
Guard ye the left wing, Teige's Connacians I
Hoi I ye the right, Eugene's Milesians !

Christ from the Cross will bless ye to-day !
Grip the tall glittering spear of the hazel-white shaft,
Lift the azure-browed axe of the knotted oak haft !
Bend the pliant yew bow, fit the brassy-nailed dart 1
Each arrow this morrow must sleep in a heart !
The rats of Athclee be your quarry, Connacians !
Be Laighan's false cravens your prey, ye Milesians !
The steel-feathered Ravens l be yours, my Dalcassians,
Whom Morrough will lead thro' the fire o' the fray I
Brian A-Bu ! Brian A-Bu !
Death to the false, Life to the true !
Eire, go deo ! Eire go deo !
And slaughter's red wrath at the heels of the foe !




There is a tradition that immediately before the battle of Clontarf began,
Brian, mounted on his war horse, addressed his army.

STAXD ye now for Erin's glory ! Stand ye now for Erin's
cause !

Long ye've groaned beneath the rigour of the Northmen's
savage laws.

1 The ensign of these pirate Dones was a dark banner with the figure of a.
raven. Smaller Social Hist, of Ancient Ireland, Dr. P. W. Joyce.


What though brothers league against us ? l What though

myriads be the foe ?
Victory will be more honoured in the myriad's overthrow.

Proud Connacians 2 oft we've wrangled in our petty feuds of

yore ;

Now we fight against the robber Dane upon our native shore ;
May our hearts unite in friendship, as our blood in one red

While we crush their mail-clad legions, and annihilate their

pride !

Brave Eugenians ! 3 Erin triumphs in the sights she sees to-

Desmond's homesteads all deserted for the muster and the
fray !

Cluan's vale and Galtee's summit send their bravest and
their best

May such hearts be theirs for ever, for the Freedom of the

Chiefs and Kerne of Dalcassia ! Brothers of my past career,
Oft we've trodden on the pirate flag that flaunts before us


You remember Inniscattery, 4 how we bounded on the foe,
As the torrent of the mountain burst upon the plain below !

They have razed our proudest castles spoiled the Temples

of the Lord
Burnt to dust the sacred relics put the Peaceful to the


The Lageniana (Leinstermon) under their king Maelmordha, Joined the

1 Men of Connauprlit.

3 See note above, Dalcassians and Eupreninns.

4 The Danes of Limerick sought refuse from Brian in Iniscattery or Scattery

, but he pursued them there and almost annihilated them.


Desecrated all things holy as they soon may do again,
If their power to-day we smite not if to-day we be not men !

Slaughtered pilgrims is the story at St. Kevin's rocky cell,
And on the Southern sea-shore at Isle Helig's l holy well ;
E'en the anchorites are hunted, poor and peaceful though

they be,
And not one of them left living in their caves beside the sea !

Think of all your murdered chieftains all your rifled homes

and shrines
Then rush down, with whetted vengeance, like fierce wolves

upon their lines !

Think of Bangor 2 think of Mayo and Senanus' holy tomb
Think of all your past endurance what may be your future


On this day the God-man suffered look upon the > c acred

May we conquer 'neath its shadow as of old did Constantino !
May the heathen tribes of Odin fade before it like a dream,
And the triumph of this glorious day in future annals gleam !

God of Heaven, bless our banner nerve our sinews for the

strife !
Fight we now for all that's holy for our altars, land, and

For red vengeance on the spoiler, whom the blazing temples

For the honour of our maidens and the glory of our race !

Should I fall before the foemen 'tis the death I seek to-day,
Should ten thousand daggers pierce me, bear my body not

i Isle Heligor Scellig Island off!" the coast of Kerry, on which an anchoret
lived in the time of the Danes. They captured him and starved him to death.

Bangor was one of the first monasteries ravaged by the Danes, who
murdered 900 monks and carried away St. Congall s shrine.


Till this day of days be over till the field is fought and won
Then the holy mass be chaunted and the funeral rites be done.

Curses darker than Ben Heder l light upon the craven slave
Who prefers the life of traitor to the glory of the grave
Freedom's guerdon now awaits you, or a destiny of chains
Trample down the dark oppressor while one spark of life
remains !

Think not now of coward mercy Heaven's curse is on their

blood !
Spare them not though myriad corses float upon the purple

flood !

By the memory of great Dathi and the valiant chiefs of yore,
This day we'll scourge the viper brood for ever from our shore !

Men of Erin ! Men of Erin ! grasp the battle-axe and spear !

Chase these northern wolves before you like a herd of fright-
ened doer !

Burst their ranks, like bolts from heaven ! Down on the
heathen crew.

For the glory of the Crucified, and Erin's glory too !




Malachi was a grreat -heat tod and truly patriotic prince. For the good of
Erin he bumbled himself and submitted to the usurpation of his rival Brian,
even fighting under him in battle.

*r I ^WAS a holy time when the Kings, long foemen,
A Fought side by side to uplift the serf ;

Never triumphed in old time Greek or Roman
As Brian and Malachi at Clontarf.

i Now called the Hill of Howth.


There was peace in Eire for long years after :
Canute in England reigned and Sweyn ;

But Eire found rest, and the freeman's laughter
Rang out the knell of the vanquished Dane.

Praise to the King of eighty years

Who rode round the battle-field, cross in hai.d
But the blessing of Eire and grateful tears

To the King who fought under Elian's command !
A crown in heaven for the King who brake,

To staunch old discords, his royal wand :
Who spurned his throne for his People's sake,

Who served a rival and saved the land !



Translated by J. C. MANGAN

" Brian's chief strength was a great fort-e^s on the bank of the Shannon at
the lower end of Lough Derg and just above the place where the Shannon
becomes loud and white as it roars over the4apids at Killaloe. The name of
this great fortress was Kincora." The Story of Ireland, by Standish O'Grady.
Brian was treacherously slain in his tent by Brodlr, a Dane, after the victory
of Clontarf. Mac Liag, his secretary* 1 who' loved him dearly, laments in the
following poem the desolation of Brian's home.

OH 1 where Kincora ! is Brian the Great ?
And where is the beauty that once was thine ?
Oh, where are the princes and nobles that sate
At the feast in thy halls, and drank the red wine ?
Where, oh, Kincora ?

Oh, where Kincora ! are thy valorous lords ?

Oh, whither, thou Hospitable ! are they gone ?
Oh, where are the Dalcassians l of the golden swords ?

And where are the warriors Brian led on ?
Where, oh, Kincora ?

was author of a woll-knowu work , The Wears of the Gad and Gall.


And where is Morrogh, 1 the descendant of kings ?

The defeater of a hundred the daringly brave
Who set but slight store by jewels and rings

Who swam down the torrent and laugh'd at its wave ?
Where, oh, Kincora ?

And where is Donogh, King Brian's worthy son T
And where is Conaing the beautiful chief ?

And Kian and Core ? Alas ! they are gone

They have left me this night alone with my grief !
Left me, Kincora !

And where are the chiefs with whom Brian went forth,
The ne'er vanquished sons of Erin the brave,

The great King of Onaght, renowned for his worth
And the hosts of Baskinn 2 from the western wave ?
Where, oh, Kincora ?

Oh, where is Duolann of the Swift-footed Steeds ?

And where is Kian, who was son of Molloy ?
And where is King Lonergan, the fame of whose deeds

In the red battle-field no time can destroy ?
Where, oh, Kincora ?

And where is that youth of majestic height,

The faith-keeping Prince of the Scots ? Even he,
As wide as his fame was, as great as was his might,
Was tributary, oh Kincora, to thee 1
Thee, oh, Kincora !

They are gone, those heroes of royal birth,

Who plundered no churches, and broke no trust;

'Tis weary for me to be living on earth
When they, oh Kincora, lie low in the dust !
Low, oh, Kincora !

> Murrogh was the eldest BOD of Brian, and was killed at Clontarf.
JJaakin or Corcabascin in the west of Clare.


Oh, never again will Princes appear

To rival the Dalcassians of the Cleaving Swords.
I can never dream of meeting, afar or anear,

In the east or the west, such heroes and lords !
Never, Kincora !

Oh, dear are the images my memory calls up
Of Brian Boru ! how he never would miss

To give me at the banquet, the first bright cup !
Ah ! why did he heap on me honour like this ?
Why, oh, Kincora ?

I am Mac Liag, and my home is on the Lake ;

Thither often to that place whose beauty is fled,
Came Brian, to ask me, and I went for his sake,

Oh, my grief ! that I should live, and Brian be dead.
Dead, oh, Kincora !



REMEMBER the glories of Brian the brave,
Tho' the days of the hero are o'er ;
Tho' lost to Mononia 1 and cold in the grave,

He returns to Kinkora no more.
That star of the field which so often hath pour'd

Its beam on the battle, is set ;
But enough of its glory remains on each sword,
To light us to victory yet.

Mononia ! when Nature embellish'd the tint
Of thy fields and thy mountains so fair

Did she ever intend that a tyrant should print
The footstep of slavery there ?

1 Mononia. Monster.


No ! Freedom whose smile we shal never resign,

Go, tell our invaders, the Danes,
That 'tis sweeter to bleed for an age at thy shrine

Than to sleep but a moment in chains.

Forget not our wounded companions l who stood

In the day of distress by our side ;
While the moss of the valley grew red with their blood,

They stirr'd not, but conquer'd and died.
That sun which now blesses our arms with his light,

Saw them fall upon Ossory's plain ;
Oh let him not blush when he leaves us to-night,

To find that they fell there in vain.

King Malachy //, 980-1002 and 1014-1022



King Malachy II was Ard-Ri of Erin from A.D. 980 to 1002, when he re-
signed in favour of Brian Borunhe. After Brian's death in 1014 he resumed
the monarchy, and reigned until he died in 1022.

LET Erin remember the days of old,
Ere her faithless sons betrayed her ;
When Malachi wore the collar of gold 2

Which he won from her proud invader ;
When her kings with standard of green unfurled

Led the Red Branch Knights to danger ;
Ere the emerald gem of the western world
Was set in the crown of a stranger

> On their return from the battle of Clontarf the Dalcassians were Inter-
cepted by the enemy, and the wounded, of whom HKTC \\ero many, begged
to be tied to stakes that they might tight to their last breath instead of being
a burden to their comrades.

In 980 Malarhy, fighting with the Danes of Dublin, slow a chieftain Tonmr,
and took his tore " or collar of gold. Hint, of Ireland, Collier.


A.D. 1152


In 1152, while O'Ruark, Prince of Breffni, was away from home on a pll-
primage. Mac Mnrchad, King of Leinster, came to his en pile and stole away
Devorgilla , his wife, daughter of the King of Meath. This incident may be
taken as the direct came of 1lie Norman Invasion of Ireland ; for Mac Mur-
chad, finding: Irish public opinion in the shape of the sharp swords and spears
of his countrymen agairbt him, fled to England to obtain help from Henry
II against Roderic (or Rory) O'Connor, the last Ard-Ki of Ireland.

r I A HE valley lay smiling before me,

JL Where lately I left her behind ;

Yet I trembled and something hung o'er mo

That saddened the joy of my mind.
I looked for the lamp which, she told me,

Should shine when her pilgrim returned ;
But though darkness began to enfold me,

No lamp from the battlements burned.

I flew to her chamber 'twas lonely,

As if the lov'd tenant lay dead ;
Ah ! would it were death and death only !

But no, the young false one had fled.
And there hung the lute that could soften

My very worst pains into bliss,
While the hand that had waked it so often

Now throbbed to a proud rival's kiss.

There was a time, falsest of women !

When Breffni's good sword would have sought
That man, through a million of foemen

Who dared but to wrong thee in thought/
While now degenerate daughter

Of Erin, how fallen is thy fame !
And through ages of bondage and slaughter,

Our country shall bleed for thy shame.


Already the curse is upon her

And strangers her valleys profane ;
They come to divide to dishonour,

And tyrants they long will remain.
But onward ! the green banner rearing,

Go, flesh every sword to the hilt ;
On our side is Virtue and Erin,

On theirs is the Saxon and Guilt.


1166 TO 1478


From Rarie O'Connor, last Ard-Ri of Ireland, to Gerald, Earl
of Kildare, Lord Deputy 1166 to 1478


"They were a very noble, valiant, loyal and knightly race of men, these
Norman gentlemen of South Wales." Story of Ireland, by Standish O'Grady.

The Faithful Norman was Maurice de Prendergast, one of the first of those
who came to Ireland. He had been sent to bring the chief of Ossory to a
friendly conference to the camp of Strongbow, and having done so and muling
that treachery was intended, he swore by the cross on his sword that whoever
laid violent hands on the Ossory chief would have to answer for it. And he
Insisted on accompanying the Irish chief back to his own people, conduct
which was so much esteemed by the Irish, and so much at variance with what
they had seen in the case of other Normans, that they ever afterwards called
Prendergast the faithful Norman (Rev. Father Daltoa).

PRAISE to the valiant and faithful foe !
Give us noble foes not the friend who lies !
We dread the drugged cup, not the open b'.ow :
We dread the old hate in the new disguise.

To Ossory 's king they had pledged their word :

He stood in their camp and their pledge they broke ;

Then Maurice the Norman upraised his sword ;
The cross on its hilt he kissed and spoke :

" So long as this sword or this arm hath might
I swear by the cross which is lord of all,

By the faith and honour of noble and knight

Who touches you, Prince, by this hand shall fall."



So side by side through the throng they pass'd
And Eire gave praise to the just and true.

Brave foe ! the past truth heals at last :

There is room in the great heart of Eire for you !

A.D 1190


"Among: the chiefs who agreed, at this crisis, to postpone their mutual
feuds and act in concert against the enemy, were O Brian of Thomond and Mac-
Carthy of Desmond, hereditary rulers of North and South Munster, and chiefs
respectively of the two rival tribes, the Dalcassians and Eugenians (see note
above to Brian's Lament for King Mahon). By a truce now formed between
these Princes O 'Brian was left free to direct his arms against the English, and
having attacked their forces at Thurles in Fogarty's country gave them a com-
plete overthrow, putting to the sword, add the Munster annals, a great number
of knights." Moore's History of Ireland. The union, however, did not last

CAN the depths of the ocean afford you not graves,
That you come thus to perish afar o er the waves
To redden and swell the wild torrents that flow
Through the valley of vengeance, the dark Aharlow ? 1

The clangour of conflict o'erburthens the breeze
From the stormy Shabh Bloom to the stately Gailteor; ;
Your caverns and torrents are purple with gore,
Sliavenamon, Gleaun Colaich and sublime Gailtee Mor !

The sunburst that slumbered, embalmed in our tears,
Tipperary ! shall wave o'er thy tall mountaineers !
And the dark hill shall bristle with sabre and spear,
While one tyrant remains to forge manacles here.

The riderless war-steed careers o'er the plain
With a shaft in his flank and a blood-dripping mane.
His gallant breast labours, and glare his wild eyes !
He plunges in torture falls shivers and dies.

1 Aharlow Glen, County Tipperary.


Let the trumpets ring triumph ! the tyrant is slain !
He reels o'er his charger deep-pierced through the brain ;
And his myriads are flying like leaves on the gale
But who shall escape from our hills with the tale ?

For the arrows of vengeance are show'ring like rain,
And choke the strong rivers with islands of slain,
Till thy waves, " lordly Shannon," all crimsonly flow,
Like billows of hell with the blood of the foe.

Ay ! the foemen are flying, but vainly they fly
Revenge with the fleetness of lightning can vie ;
And the septs of the mountains spring up from each rock,
And rush down the ravines like wolves on the flock.

And who shall pass over the stormy Sliabh Bloom,

To tell the pale Saxon of tyranny's doom,

When, like tigers from ambush, our fierce mountaineers

Leap along from the crags with their death-dealing spears ?

They came with high boasting to bind us as slaves ;
But the glen and the torrent have yawned for their graves :
From the gloomy Ard-Finan to wild Templemore,
From the Suir to the Shannon is red with their gore.

By the soul of Heremon ! our warriors may smile,
To remember the march of the foe through our isle ;
Their banners and harness were costly and gay,
And proud 'y they flashed in the summer sun's ray ;

The hilts of their fa'chions were crusted with gold,
And the gems of their helmets were bright to behold ;
By St. Bride of Kildare ! but they moved in fair show
To gorge the young eagles of dark Aharlow.




Cabal Mor O'Connor, half-brother of Rory (Ruary=Roderick).wasone of the
greatest of Erin's petty kings. He was a mighty warrior, and defeated the
Normans in many battles, the most important being the battle of Knockmoy,
in Galway. In his reign, too, the aits of peace flourished, and in the ruins of the
monastery of Knockmoy, which Cahal founded, are to be seen many beautiful
carvings and frescoes. In 1223 he resigned the crown of Connaught to his
son Hugh and retired to this monastery, where he died two years later. The
Norman power began to revive as soon as this strong spirit lost its influence.

I WALKED entranced
Through a land of Morn ;
The sun, with wondrous access of light,
Shone down and glanced

Over seas of corn
And lustrous gardens on left and right.

Even in the clime

Of resplendent Spain,
Beams no such sun upon such a land ;
But it was the time,
'Twas in the reign
Of Cahal Mor of the Wine-red Hand.

Anon stood nigh

By my side a man
Of princely aspect and port sublime.
Him, queried I,

" 0, my lord and Khan, 1
What clime is this and what golden time ? ''
^ When he 4 ' The clime
Is a clime to praise,

The clime is Erin's, the green and bland ;
And it is the time,

These be the days
Of Cahal Mor of the Wine-red Hand ! "

i Ceann, the Gaelic title for a chief.



Then I saw thrones
And circling fires.

And a Dome rose near me as by a spell,
Whence flowed the tones

Of silver lyres

And many voices in wreathed swell ;
And their thrilling chime

Fell on mine ears

As the heavenly hymn of an angel-band
"It is now the time,
These be the years
Of Cahal Mor of the Wine-red Hand ! "

I sought the hall

And behold ! . . . a change
From light to darkness, from joy to woe !
King, nobles, all,

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