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Historical ballad poetry of Ireland; online

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And Toome by the Bann's wide border,

Edendhucarrig's dark towers the scene
Of hard-won fights' disorder ;

And Castlereagh, set in a maze of green
Tall trees like a watchful warder.

Brian O'Neill he hath gazed adown

Where the small waves one by one met
The sward that sloped from the hill-tops thrown

Dusky against the sunset ;
Sighed in his soul for his lost renown

And the rush of an Irish onset.

I

Woe ! he is leagued with his father's foe,

Hath buried the ancient fever
Of hate, while he watches his birthright go

Away from his hands for ever ;
No longer Clan-Niall deals blow for blow,

His country's bonds to sever.



THE THIRD PERIOD 85

Over the Ford to his castle grey

They troop with their pennons flying

(Was that the ring of a far hurray,
Or the banshee eerily crying ?)

In glittering glory the gallant array
Spurs hard up the Strand low-lying.

Three swift-speeding days with the castle's lord
They had hunted his woods and valleys ;

Three revelling nights while the huge logs roared,
And the bard with his harp-string dallies,

Freely they quafied of the rich wine poured
As meed of the courtly sallies.

(Yet one fair face in the laughing crowd

Grew wan as the mirth grew faster,
Her blue eyes saw but a spectral shroud t

And a spectral host that passed her ;
Her ears heard only the banshee's loud

Wild prescience of disaster.)

Gaily the voice of the chieftain rang,

Deeply his warriors blended
In chant of the jubilant song they sang

Ere the hours of the feasting ended ;
But hark ! Why that ominous clash and clang ?

And what hath that shout portended ?

What speech uncourteous this clamour provokes,
Through the midst of the banter faring ?

Forth flashes the steel from the festal cloaks,
Vengeful and swift, unsparing

And Clannabuidhe's bravest reel 'neath the strokes,
Strive blindly and die despairing.



86 HISTORICAL BALLAD POETRY OF IRELAND

O'Gilmore sprang to his Tanist's side

Shrilling his war-cry madly
Ah ! far are the kerns who at morning-tide

Would flock to the summons gladly.
The echoes break on the rafters wide

And sink into silence sadly.



Captive and bleeding he stands the lord
Of the faithful dead around him ;

Captive and bleeding the victor horde
In their traitorous might surround him ;

From his turrets is waving their flag uphorred,
And their cruel thongs have bound him.



Cold are the fires in the banqueting hall,
Withered the flowers that graced it,

Silent for ever the clansmen tall
Who stately and proudly paced it ;

Gloom broods like a pall o'er each lofty wall
For the foul deed that disgraced it.

There is grief by the shores of the Northern sea
And grief in the woodlands shady,

There is wailing for warriors stout to see
Of the sinewy arm and steady ;

There is woe for the Chieftain of Clannabuidhe
And tears for his gentle lady.



THE THIRD PERIOD 87

1577

THE RATH OF MULLAGHMAST
BY RICHARD D' ALTON WILLIAMS

This was the most appalling of all the massacres that darkened in Ireland
the reifrn of Elizabeth. Sir Francis Cosby invited about four hundred of the
Irish chieftains O'Moores. O'Nolans, O'Kcllys, and Lalors to a banquet
in the Rath of Mullaprhmast. Without the smallest suspicion of foul play tlio
ill-fated chiefs accepted the|invitation. They were slaughtered to a man.

O'ER the Rath of Mullaghmast *
On the solemn midnight blast
What bleeding spectres passed,

With their gashed breasts bare ?
Hast thou heard the fitful wail
That o'erloads the sullen gale,
When the waning moon shines pale
O'er the curst ground there ?

Hark ! hollow moans arise

Through the black tempestuous skies,

And curses, strife, and cries,

From the lone Rath swell ;
For bloody Sydney there
Nightly fills the lurid air
With th' unholy pomp and glare

Of the foul deep hell.

He scorches up the gale

With his knights in fiery mail ;

And the banners of the Pale

O'er the red ranks rest.
But a wan and gory band
All apart and silent stand,
And they point th' accusing hand

At that hell-hound's crest.

* Five miles east of Athy.



88 HISTORICAL BALLAD POETRY OF IRELAND

Red streamlets, trickling slow
O'er their clotted cuilins 1 flow,
And still and awful woe

On each pale brow weeps-
Rich bowls bestrew the ground,
And broken harps around,
Whose once-enchanting sound

In the bard's blood sleeps.

False Sydney ! knighthood's stain,
The trusting brave in vain
Thy guests ride o'er the plain

To thy dark cow'rd snare.
Flow'r of Offaly and Leix,
They have come thy board to grace
Fools to meet a faithless race

Save with true swords bare.

While cup and song abound

The triple lines around

The closed and guarded mound

In the night's dark noon.
Alas ! too brave O'More
Ere the revelry was o'er
They have spilled thy young heart's gore,

Snatched from love too soon !

At the feast unarmed all,
Priest, bard, and chieftain fall
In the treacherous Saxon's hall,

O'er the bright wine bowl ;
And now nightly round the board,
With unsheathed and reeking sword
Strides the cruel felon lord

Of the bloodstained soul.

1 Long hair, pron. ooolin.



THE THIRD PERIOD 89

Since that hour the clouds that passed
O'er the Rath of Mullaghmast
One tear have never cast

On the gore-dyed sod;
For the shower of crimson rain
That o'erflowed that fatal plain
Cries aloud, and not in vain

To the most high God.

Though the Saxon snake unfold
At thy feet his scales of gold,
And vow thee love untold,

Trust him not, Green Land.
Touch not with gloveless clasp
A coiled and deadly asp,
But with strong and guarded grasp

In your steel-clad hand.



Desmond Wars, 1573-1583
THE DIRGE OF DESMOND
BY AUBREY DE VERB

The Earl of Thomond was the descendant of O'Brien, King of Thomond,
and the Earl of Clancar was MacCarthy, descendant of the ancient kings of
Desmond.

In the reign of Elizabeth the heads of the houses of Desmond and Ormond
were at feud over the ownership of certain lands. Elizabeth decided in
favour of Ormond, and thus made Desmond her enemy. For ten years, 1573
to 1583, Desmond was at war with the Crown, the Earl of Ormond, his most
bitter enemy, fighting for the Queen against him. Gradually all his friends
and allies were killed or captured, and he was left alone and a fugitive. He
was eventually discovered in a cabin ; he was stabbed, and his head sent to
London. His only direct descendant was a sickly boy, on whose death " the
very name of Desmond ceases to appear upon the page of Irish history."



RUSH, dark Dirge, o'er hills of Erin ! Woe for Desmond's
name and race !

Loving Conqueror whom the Conquered caught so soon to
her embrace.



90 HISTORICAL BALLAD POETRY OF IRELAND

There's a veil on Erin's forehead : cold at last is Desmond's

hand :
Halls that roofed her outlawed Prelates blacken like a

blackening brand.



n

Strongbow's sons forsook their Strong One, served so long

with loving awe ;

Roche the Norman, Norman Barry, and the Baron of Lidnaw :
Gaelic lords that once were Princes holp not Thomond

or Clancar :
Ormond, ill crowned Tudor's kinsman, ranged her hosts and

led her war.



m

One by one his brothers perished : Fate down drew them to

their grave :
Smerwick's clirts bsho d his Spaniards wrestling with the

yeasty wave.
Swiftly sweep tho eagles westward, gathering where the

carcase lis: :
There's a blacker cloud behind them : vultures next will rend

their prize.



rv

'Twas not War that wrought the ruin ! Sister portents yoked

for hire,
Side by side dragged on the harrow Famine's plague and

plague of Fire :
Slain the herds, and burned the harvests, vale and plain with

corpses strown,
Mid the waste they * spread their feast ; within the charnel

reigned alone.



THE THIRD PERIOD 91

v

In the death-hunt she was nigh him ; she that scorned to

leave his side :
By her Lord she stood and spake not, neck-deep in the freezing

tide :
Round them waved the osiers ; o'er them drooped the willows,

rank on rank :
Troopers spurred : and bayed the bloodhounds, up and down

the bleeding bank.

VI

From the East Sea to the West Sea rings the death-keen

long and sore,
Erin's curse be his that led them, found the hovel, burst the

door !
O'er the embers dead an old man silent bent with head to

knee :
Slowly rose he ; backward fell they : " Seek ye Desmond ?

I am he ! "
London Bridge ! thy central arch-way props that grey head

year by year :

But to God that head is holy ; and to Erin it is dear :
When that bridge is dust, that river in the last fire-judgment

dried,
The man shall live who fought for God ; the man who for his

country died.

1578
THE GREEN WOODS OF SLEW

(SLIEVE MARGY)

BY P. J, McCALL

A lament for Rory Oge O'Moqre, assassinated by MacGilla Patrick. June 30,
1578. Ovvny, mentioned in the concluding stanza, was Rory's son. Rory
Oge O 'Moore was son of the Chief of the O'Moore's, who was amongst the
slain in the Rath of Mullaglimast.



I



N the heart of the forest, a thrush 'gan to sing
Of losses, the sorest the death of a king !



92 HISTORICAL BALLAD POETRY OF IRELAND

Soon, to his bough leafless, my sympathy flew ;

For I, too, roamed chiefless in the Green Woods of Slew.

He, high 'bove the heather, I low 'rnong the fern,
Mourned sadly together a bird and a kerne !
Cried he, the sky winger : " A hawking cuckoo
Has slain the chief singer of the Green Woods of Slew ! "

*

Like his was my story : " Our glory is o'er ;
For dead lies young Rory, the valiant O'More !
The scourge of the stranger, he chased the false crew,
Like a wolf-hound of danger in the Green Woods of Slew !

" My curse chill your castle, Gilla Patrick the base !
No Saxon Queen's vassal was Rory of Leix !
The Palesmen he vanquished : they parleyed with you ;
And I am left anguished in the Green Woods of Slew !

" Smile Sidney and Perrot ! 1 the gold, that oft failed
Wise weasel, fierce ferret ! on the Gaelga prevailed :
The friend of his bosom proved faint and untrue,
And left me heart-woesome in the Green Woods of Slew."

To joy turned our singing ; for, free from its nest,

A fledgling cam 3 winging with many a rest :

The gold its crest tins'ling, like dawn o'er the blue

Another plumed princeling for the Green Woods of Slew !



i Sidney and Perrot. Sir Henry Sidney was Lord Deputy during part of
Elizabeth's reign, from 1566 to 1580. This period includes the end of the
Rebellion of Shane O'Neill, and his death and the commencement of the
extensive plantation of Ireland by English or Scotch settlers. Sidney was
succeeded for two years by Lord Grey de Wilton.

" Sir John Perrot succeeded Lord Grey as deputy, and to him the Govern-
ment entnisted the conduct of the colonization scheme." Walpole. He
was recalled by Elizabeth on some jealous suspicion, and died in the Tower.



THE THIRD PERIOD 93

Away, sorrow blinding ! leave to women the dead
Far better be grinding the grey axe, instead ;
For soon, brave and bonny, from the hand of MacHugh,
Shall fly little Owny, to the Green Woods of Slew !



A CLANSMAN'S LAMENT FOR RORY O'MOORE.
By WILLIAM O'NEILL (SLIEVE MARGY)

THERE is grief in your homesteads, Slieve Margy, for the
bravest and best of his race,

There is woe from Killeshin to Dysart for the young eagle-
chieftain of Leix,

And many a dark curse is uttered on the dastard assassin
who slew

Our Rory, the terror of Saxons and the scourge of the rene-
gade crew ;

Dan Dia ! the nightmare of Saxons and a vengeance to
renegades, too.

O, you who faced death without flinching when leading your
clans in the fight,

Who never donned helmet or armour, for your trust was in
God and the right,

To be slain by the hand of a traitor for a meed of the Sasse-
nach's gold

Was not a fit death for a hero such as eyes shall but seldom
behold.

The death you wished, Rory my chieftain, was to die where
your flag was unrolled.

I have fought 'neath the golden-hued standard as it glint-

ingly waved in the sun,
I have joined in the chase of the red deer from day-dawn till

evening was done,



94 HISTORICAL BALLAD POETRY OF IRELAND

I have watched the sun sink o'er Slieve Margy thro' many a

war-ravaged year,
And I've seen more than one tanist, Rory, at the head of the

clansmen appear,
But none of your long line illustrious had as you such a glorious

career.

Full oft have we hunted the Saxon to the shelter of Cather-

logh's l towers,
Full oft has the Barrow been crimsoned by blood that was

other than ours ;
Oft, too, have wo battered their castles that were taken by law

from the Gael,
But the saffron-clad kerns never yielded to their veterans in

armour and mail,
And even the mention of Rory waked fear in the heart of the

Pale.



Even now when you slumber for ever the Saxons the border

have crossed ;
But while we can wield our stout axes the cause of old Leix is

not lost,
For to war with the ruthless invaders the Clan 'Moore ever

will find
Some man fit to lead in the battle, and in council be fertile of

mind ;
But I would that my death were ordained ere you left me to

sorrow behind.
4

Carlow.



THE THIRD PERIOD 95

1580
THE BATTLE OF GLENMALURE

A BALLAD OF THE PALE
BY M. J. McCANN

Tin's battle " was won by the heroic Clan O'Byrne of Wicklow, led by the
redoubtable chief Feagh MacHugh. The English, who were led by Lord de
Grey in person, suffered a total rout, and the Lord Deputy at the head of a
few terrified survivors lied in disgrace to Dublin." Peop/e's History of Ireland,
Finerty. Audrey, Cosby, Carew, and Moore perished on the field.

AN autumn's sun is beaming on Dublin's castle towers,
Whose portals fast are pouring forth the Pale's em-
battled powers ;

And on far Wicklow's hills they urge their firm and rapid way,
And well may proud Lord Grey exult to view their stern
array.

For there was many a stately knight whose helm was rough

with gold,

And spearman grim and musketeer, in Erin's wars grown old ;
And on they speed for Glenmalure 'gainst daring Feach

MacHugh,
Who lately with his mountain bands to that wild glen

withdrew.

And now, above the rugged glen, their prancing steeds they

rein,

While many an eager look along its mazy depths they strain,
But where's the martialled foe they seek the camp or watch

fires where ?
For save the eagle screaming high, no sign of life is there !

" Ho," cried the haughty Deputy, " my gallant friends, we're

late
We rightly deemed the rebel foe would scarce our visit wait !



96 HISTORICAL BALLAD POETRY OF IRELAND

But onward lead the foot, Carew ! perhaps in sooth 'twere

well
That something of their flocks and herds our soldiery should

tell.

" I've heard it is the traitors' wont in cave and swamp to hide
Whene'er they deem their force too weak the battle's brunt

to bide ;

So, mark ! Where'er a rebel lurks, arouse him in his lair
And death to him whose hand is known an Irish foe to spare."

But thus the veteran Crosby spoke : " My lord, I've known

for years

The hardihood and daring of those stalwart mountaineers ;
And, trust me that our bravest would in yonder mountain



But little like the greeting of an Irish gallowglass.

" 'Tis true his brawny breast is not encased in tempered steel,
But sheer and heavy is the stroke his nervous arm can deal ;
And, too, my lord, perhaps 'twere ill that here you first should

learn
How truly like a mountain-cat is Erin's fearless kern."

" March," was the sole and stern reply ; and as the loader

spoke,
Horn and trump and thundering drum, a thousand echoes

woke,
And, on, with martial tramp, the host all bright with glittering

mail,
Wound, like a monstrous serpent, all along the gloomy vale.

But hark ! what wild defiant yell the rocks and woods among
Has now so fierce from every side in thrilling echoes rung ?



THE THIRD PERIOD 97

O'Byrne's well-known warrison ! and hark ! along the dell,
With rapid and successive peal, the musket's deadly knell !

As wolves which in a narrow ring the hunter's band enclose,
So rush the baffled Saxons on the ambush of their foes ;
And lo ! from every craggy screen as 'twere instinct with life
Up spring the mountain warriors to meet the coming strife.

And tall amid their foremost band, his broadsword flashing

bright,
The dreaded Feagh MacHugh is seen to cheer them to the

fight.
And from the fiery chieftain's lips those words of vengeance

passed,
" Behold the accursed Sassenach remember Mullaghmast !

" Now, gallant clansmen, charge them home ! Not oft ye

hand to hand

In battle with your ruthless foes on terms so equal stand ;
Ye meet not now in firm array the spearman's serried ranks,
No whelming squadrons here can dash like whirlwinds on

your flanks ! "

The keen and ponderous battle-axe with deadly force is plied'
And deep the mountain pike and skian in Saxon blood is

dyed,
And many a polished corselet's pierced and many a helm is

cleft
And few of all that proud array for shameful flight are left !

No time to breathe or rally them so hotly are they pressed ;
For thousand maddening memories fill each raging victor's

breast,
And many a sire and brother's blood and many a sister's

wrong
Were then avenged, dark Glenmalure, thy echoing vale along,

Q



98 HISTORICAL BALLAD POETRY OF IRELAND

Carew and Audley deep had sworn the Irish foe to tame,
But thundering on their dying ear his shout of victory came ;
And burns with shame De Grey's knit brow and throbs with

rage his eye
To see his best in wildest rout from Erin's clansmen fly !

Ho ! warder, for the deputy, fling wide thy fortress gate
Lo ! Burgher proud and haughty dame, be these the bands

ye wait,
Whose banners lost and broken spears and wounds and

disarray
Proclaim their dire disgrace and loss in that fierce mountain

fray?



DARK ROSALEEN
Translated from the Irish by J. C. MANGAN

In this beautiful and impassioned appeal to his loved country, Hugh Roe
O'Donnel prophesies that she will survive her woes, that she will overcome the
efforts to force on her an alien faith and an alien rule. The poem was written
for O'Donnel by his chief bard. Red Hugh had been treacherously seized by
Sir John Perrot in 1588. He endeavoured to escape in 1590 but failed. In
1591, by the help of Feagh MacHugh O'Byrne, he escaped and joined O'Neill
against the Crown.

O, MY Dark Rosaleen,
Do not sigh, do not weep I
The priests are on the ocean green,

They march along the deep.
There's wine . . . from the royal Pope
> Upon the ocean green ;
And Spanish ale shall give you hope,

My Dark Rosaleeil,

My own Rosaleen,

Shall glad your heart, shall give you hope,
Shall give you health, and help, and hope,

My Dark Rosaleen !



THE THIRD PERIOD

Over hills, and through dales,

Have I roamed for your sake ;
All yesterday I sailed with sails

On river and on lake.
The Erne, ... at its highest flood,

I dashed across unseen,
For there was lightning in my blood,

My Dark Rosaleen !

My own Rosaleen !

Oh ! there was lightning in my blood,
Red lightning lightened through my blood,

My Dark Rosaleen !

All day long, in unrest,

To and fro do I move ;
The very soul within my breast

Is wasted for you, love !
The heart ... in my bosom faints

To think of you, my Queen,
My life of life, my saint of saints,

My Dark Rosaleen !

My own Rosaleen !

To hear your sweet and sad complaints,
My life, my love, my saint of saints,

My Dark Rosaleen !

Woe and pain, pain and woe,

Are my lot, night and noon,
To see your bright face clouded so,

Like to the mournful moon.
But yet . . . will I rear your throne

Again in golden sheen ;
'Tis you shall reign, shall reign alone,

My l)ark Rosaleen !

My own Rosaleen !



100 HISTORICAL BALLAD POETRY OF IRELAND

'Tis you shall have the golden throne
'Tis you shall reign and reign alone,
My Dark Rosaleen !

Over dews, over sands,

Will I fly, for your weal :
Your holy delicate white hands

Shall girdle me with steel.
At home ... in your emerald bowers,

From morning's dawn till e'en,
You'll pray for me, my flower of flowers,

My Dark Rosaleen !

My own Rosaleen !

You'll think of me through daylight's hours,
My virgin flower, my flower of flowers,

My Dark Rosaleen !

I could scale the blue air,

I could plough the high hills,
Oh, I could kneel all night in prayer,

To heal your many ills !
And one . . . beamy smile from you

Would float like light between
My toils and me, my own, my true,

My Dark Rosaleen !

My fond Rosaleen !
Would give me life and soul anew,
A second life, a soul anew,

My dark Rosaleen !

O ! the Erne shall run red

With redundance of blood,
The earth shall rock beneath our tread,

And flames wrap hill and wood,



THE THIRD PERIOD 101

And gun-peal, and slogan-cry,

Wake many a glen serene.
Ere you shall fade, ere you shall die,

My Dark Rosaleen !

My own Rosaleen !

The judgment hour must first be nigh,
Ere you can fade, ere you can die,

My Dark Rosaleen !

1590

FOLLOW ME UP TO CARLOW
BY P. J. McCALL

While Red Hugh O'Donnell and Art O'Neill were in prison, Feagh Mac-
Hugh O 'Byrne was in arms against the Government. He won a signal victory
at Gleuuialure, which, however, as this ballad shows, did not content him.
Later on he assisted in the escape from prison of Red Hugh O'Donnell.

LIFT, MacCathair Og, 1 your face
Brooding o'er the old disgrace
That black Fitzwilliam 2 stormed your place

And drove you to the fern !
Grey said victory was sure
Soon the Firebrand he'd secure
Until he met at Glenmalure
Feagh MacHugh O'Byrne !

Curse and swear, Lord Kildare,
Feagh will do what Feagh will dare,
Now, Fitzwilliam, have a care,

Fallen is your star low,
Up with halbert, out with sword.
On we go for, by the Lord,
Feagh MacHugh has given the word,

" Follow me up to Carlow."

1 MacCahir Ogue was Brian MacCaiiir Cavanagh whom Fitzwilliam had
driven out of his possessions.

* Fitzwih'am was Viceroy from 1588 to 1592.



102 HISTORICAL BALLAD POETRY OF IRELAND

See the swords of Glen Imail
Flashing o'er the English pale,
See all the children of the Gael

Beneath O'Byrne's banners.
Rooster of a fighting stock,
Would you let a Saxon cock
Crow out upon an Irish rock ;

Fly up and teach him manners.

Curse and swear, Lord Kildare, etc.

From Tasagart to Clonmore
Flows a stream of Saxon gore,
Och ! great was Ruari Og O'More

At sending loons to Hades.
Wlu'te is sick and Lane is fled
Now for black Fitzwilliam's head
We'll send it over dripping red

To Liza and her ladies.

Curse and swear, Lord Kildare, etc.

1591

THE WELCOME TO HUGH ROE O'DONNELL
BY JOHN KEEGAN CASEY (LEO)

On his second and successful escape from imprisonment in Dublin Castle
(December 25, 1591), Hugh Roe O'Donnell joined the Rebellion of Hugh
O'Neill in the north. Previous to this there had been a bitter feud between
the two families.

OH ! welcome back ! oh ! welcome back unto our hearts
once more,
Hearts joyless, since, a captive ta'en, you passed from Ulster's

shore ;
Oh ! welcome back ! list to the shouts fierce bursting from

the clan,
Who hail the fiery-hearted boy now risen to a man !



THE THIRD PERIOD 103

Oh ! sorely have we waited thro' the long slow-footed years,
Still mingling groans and curses with the burning, blinding

tears,

Still pining for the avenging march ; but now, O'Donnel Roe,
Your bonds are broke, the time has come for vengeance on

the foe.

For vengeance on the foe who played the serpent's treacherous

part,
Whose chains pressed down the heavings of our chieftain's

bounding heart
Who kept that spirit lone and dead, which panted for the

hills,
The clansman's shout, the creach's song, the crooning of the

rills.

We saw thee in thy dungeon-keep count up the weary hours,
While paled thy cheek within the shade of those sepulchral

towers ;

We felt the burning of thy soul, as day succeeded day,
For green Tyrconnel's mountain glens, away, so far away.

But now, thou'rt here, as free from thrall as eagle in the sky,

And we are here with hand and blade to avenge thy wrongs
or die ;

Thy wrongs, Hugh ! thy country's wrongs, are they remem-
bered now ?

We need not ask the answer rests upon thy clouded brow.



O darling idol of our hearts, the hour has dawned at last,
O'Neil holds forth the kindly hand, the ancient feud is past ;
Come let us crown thee chief upon thy weak-souled father's

throne,
Then on for Freedom and for Faith, Tyrconnel and Tyro wen.



104 HISTORICAL BALLAD POETRY OF IRELAND

There's joy to-night o'er Ulster wide, from Glynn to Donegall,
And merrily wild laughter shakes Dungannon's princely hall,
In mountain hut and castle keep, bright usquebach doth flow,
To toast thy health and welcome back our own O'Donne 11


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