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Music and Poetry

Click here for poems added on 14th August 2006.

See Audio Book for details of 'The Flight Of The Earls in Story and in Song', narrated by Dr John McCavitt, with music and lyrics by Maura Erskine, Miles Jones and John McCavitt.

Phil Coulter: The Flight of the Earls on the CD ‘Lake of Shadows’

Wolfe Tones: ‘Flight of the Earls’

Fir Na Keol
Its reed, set and match for the two Davids. Oboe player David Agnew has teamed up with uilleann piper David Downes to create a new work based on the Flight of the Earls writes John Brophy. See http://mag.irish-music.net/BckIssue/0011Nov/0011Nov.htm

Mary Ronayne-Keane: musical, The Flight of the Earls

‘Saint or Sinner’: which tells the story of the Flight of the Earls in music, song and drama. See http://www.ulsternet-ni.co.uk/cour2603/cpages/CENT.htm

Bardic poems on the BBC Plantation website.

See http://www2.thny.bbc.co.uk/history/war/plantation/bardic/index.shtml


New content added 24/3/2006


       O'NEILL IN ROME

I

Where yellow Tiber's waters flow,

Within the seven-hilled city's bound,

An aged chief, with footsteps slow,

Moves sadly o'er the storied ground;

Or, from his palace window-panes,

Looks out upon the matchless dome,

The ruins grand, the glorious fanes,

That stud the soil of holy Rome.

 But oh! for Ireland far away -­

For Ireland in the western sea!

The chieftain's heart is there today

And there, in truth, he fain would be,

 

II

On every side the sweet bells ring, ­

And faithful people bend in pray’r;

Sweet hymns, that angel choirs might sing,

And loud hosannas, fill the air;

His place is with the princely crowd,

Amidst the noblest and the best;

His large white head is lowly bowed,

His hands are clasped before his breast.

But oh ! for Ireland far away -

For Ireland dear, with all her ills­ -

For Mass in fair Tyrone to-day,

Amid the circling Irish hills!

 

III

 Kind friends are round him, pious freres,

And pastors of Christ’s mystic fold;

The holy Pope, 'mid many cares,

For him has blessings, honours, gold.­

Grave fathers, speaking words of balm,

Bid him forget the by-gone strife,

And spend resigned, in, holy palm,

The years that close a noble life,

But oh ! for Ireland ! there again

The grand old chieftain fain would be,

'Midst glittering spears on hill or plain,

To charge for Faith and Liberty !

IV

His fellow-exiles, men who bore

With him the brunt of many a fight,

Talk past and future chances o'er,

Around his table grouped at night.

While speeds each tale of grief or glee,

With tears their furrowed cheek are wet,

And oft they rise and vow to see ­

A glorious day in Ireland yet.

And oh ! for Ireland o'er the main­

For Ireland, where they yet shall be,

Since Irish braves in France and Spain

Have steel and gold to set her free!

 

V

He sits abstracted, by the board - ­

Old scenes are pictured in his brain­

Benburb, Armagh; the Yellow-Ford,

He fights and wins them o'er again.

Again he sees fierce Bagnal fall,

 Sees craven Essex basely yield,

Meets armoured Segrave, gaunt and tall,

And leaves him lifeless on the field.

But oh! for Ireland, there once more,

To rouse the true men of the land,

And proudly bear from shore to shore

The banner of the Blood-red Hand!

 

VI

And when the wine within him plays,

Bold, hopeful words the chief will speak;

He draws his shining sword, and says,

"The King of England deems me weak­

Ah! would the Englishman were nigh    

That hates me most, my deadliest foe,

To cross his blade with mine, and try

If this right arm be weak or no!

But oh for Ireland! where good swords

And forceful arms are needed most,

To fall on England's cruel hordes,

And sweep them from the Irish coast. 

VII

 Years come and go, but, while they roll,  ­

His limbs grow weak, his eyes grow dim;

The hopes die out that buoyed his soul­

War's mighty game is closed for him.

Before him from the earth have passed

Friends, kinsmen, comrades true and brave,

And well he knows he nears, at last

His place of rest - a foreign grave,

But oh !  for Ireland far away

For Irish love and holy zeal -

Oh! for a grave in Irish clay

 To wrap the heart of Hugh O'Neill !

 By T. D. Sullivan, a nineteenth century Lord Mayor of Dublin


The Earls Departure - Friday September 14th 1607

From his Ulster hills brave Hugh has gone,

The chieftain of the proud Red Hand.

The noble scion of the race of Eoghan,

Sails into exile from his motherland.

The Gaels they mourn and shed their tears,

As their chiefs depart after three thousand years.

 

How sad his thoughts that autumn night,

As his ship sails out from Rathmullan shore.

The pain and sorrow, that would follow his flight,

When the Earls depart to return no more.

In his thoughts he relives past scenes,

His friends, his foes, the virgin Queen.

 

Maguire, old Turlough, the sons of Shane,

O'Quinn, O'Hagan and Q'Devlin true.

The Yellow Ford, where Bagenal slain,

Now have vanished like the morning dew.

At Tullahogue, the chieftains staff,

Red Hugh, Kinsale, where all was lost.

 

On board his ship sail ninety nine,

The nobility of the Ulster clans.

But out in the woods of Glenconyne,

Still to come in, his young son Conn.

The anchors aweigh, the tide is high.

It's O'Neills last night under an Irish sky.

 
O'Neill is on board ship at Rathmullan he is scanning the surrounding countryside waiting for his young son Conn to come in, but the Captain is anxious to sail and cannot wait any longer, so they go without him. Conn ended his days in the Tower. I first read this poem for Cardinal O'Fiaich in Brittany in 1978. 

Uploaded by kind permission of the poet, Benedict Fearon, Brownstown Rd., Portadown


 O’Neill’s grave

In foreign clay old warrior sleep,

Last Gaelic Chieftain at rest in Rome

Forever green your memory ‘ll keep

Amongst your people of Tír Eoghan

But in Irish soil you’ll never lie

No proud Red Hand, no arm of steel

No rain drops from an Irish sky

Shall damp the grave of brave O’Neill

 
Uploaded by kind permission of the poet, Benedict Fearon, Brownstown Rd., Portadown


O WOMAN of the piercing wail

A Lament for the Princes of Tyrone and Tyrconnell

By James Clarence Mangan (Translated from the Irish)

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, Rome.

 

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

 

Companionless.

 

 

 

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

 

Decrepitude!

 

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


Updated 14th August 2006


The Earls Departure - Friday September 14th 1607

From his Ulster hills brave Hugh has gone,

The chieftain of the proud Red Hand.

The noble scion of the race of Eoghan,

Sails into exile from his motherland.

The Gaels they mourn and shed their tears,

As their chiefs depart after three thousand years. 

How sad his thoughts that autumn night,

As his ship sails out from Rathmullan shore.

The pain and sorrow, that would follow his flight,

When the Earls depart to return no more.

In his thoughts he relives past scenes,

His friends, his foes, the virgin Queen. 

Maguire, old Turlough, the sons of Shane,

O'Quinn, O'Hagan and Q'Devlin true.

The Yellow Ford, where Bagenal slain,

Now have vanished like the morning dew.

At Tullahogue, the chieftains staff,

Red Hugh, Kinsale, where all was lost. 

On board his ship sail ninety nine,

The nobility of the Ulster clans.

But out in the woods of Glenconyne,

Still to come in, his young son Conn.

The anchors aweigh, the tide is high.

It's O'Neills last night under an Irish sky. 
 

O'Neill is on board ship at Rathmullan he is scanning the surrounding countryside waiting for his young son Conn to come in, but the Captain is anxious to sail and cannot wait any longer, so they go without him. Conn ended his days in the Tower. I first read this poem for Cardinal O'Fiaich in Brittany in 1978. 

Uploaded by kind permission of the poet, Benedict Fearon, Brownstown Rd., Portadown 


O'Neill's grave

In foreign clay old warrior sleep,

Last Gaelic Chieftain at rest in Rome

Forever green your memory 'll keep

Amongst your people of Tír Eoghan

But in Irish soil you'll never lie

No proud Red Hand, no arm of steel

No rain drops from an Irish sky

Shall damp the grave of brave O'Neill 

Uploaded by kind permission of the poet, Benedict Fearon, Brownstown Rd., Portadown 


O'NEILL IN ROME

I

Where yellow Tiber's waters flow,

Within the seven-hilled city's bound,

An aged chief, with footsteps slow,

Moves sadly o'er the storied ground;

Or, from his palace window-panes,

Looks out upon the matchless dome,

The ruins grand, the glorious fanes,

That stud the soil of holy Rome.

But oh! for Ireland far away -

For Ireland in the western sea!

The chieftain's heart is there today

And there, in truth, he fain would be, 

II

On every side the sweet bells ring,

And faithful people bend in pray'r;

Sweet hymns, that angel choirs might sing,

And loud hosannas, fill the air;

His place is with the princely crowd,

Amidst the noblest and the best;

His large white head is lowly bowed,

His hands are clasped before his breast.

But oh ! for Ireland far away -

For Ireland dear, with all her ills -

For Mass in fair Tyrone to-day,

Amid the circling Irish hills! 

III

Kind friends are round him, pious freres,

And pastors of Christ's mystic fold;

The holy Pope, 'mid many cares,

For him has blessings, honours, gold.

Grave fathers, speaking words of balm,

Bid him forget the by-gone strife,

And spend resigned, in, holy palm,

The years that close a noble life,

But oh ! for Ireland ! there again

The grand old chieftain fain would be,

'Midst glittering spears on hill or plain,

To charge for Faith and Liberty !

IV

His fellow-exiles, men who bore

With him the brunt of many a fight,

Talk past and future chances o'er,

Around his table grouped at night.

While speeds each tale of grief or glee,

With tears their furrowed cheek are wet,

And oft they rise and vow to see

A glorious day in Ireland yet.

And oh ! for Ireland o'er the main

For Ireland, where they yet shall be,

Since Irish braves in France and Spain

Have steel and gold to set her free! 

V

      He sits abstracted, by the board -

Old scenes are pictured in his brain

Benburb, Armagh; the Yellow-Ford,

He fights and wins them o'er again.

Again he sees fierce Bagnal fall,

Sees craven Essex basely yield,

Meets armoured Segrave, gaunt and tall,

And leaves him lifeless on the field.

But oh! for Ireland, there once more,

To rouse the true men of the land,

And proudly bear from shore to shore

The banner of the Blood-red Hand! 

VI

And when the wine within him plays,

  Bold, hopeful words the chief will speak;

  He draws his shining sword, and says,

"The King of England deems me weak

Ah! would the Englishman were nigh 

That hates me most, my deadliest foe,

To cross his blade with mine, and try

If this right arm be weak or no!

But oh for Ireland! where good swords

And forceful arms are needed most,

To fall on England's cruel hordes,

And sweep them from the Irish coast. 

VII. 

Years come and go, but, while they roll, 

His limbs grow weak, his eyes grow dim;

The hopes die out that buoyed his soul

War's mighty game is closed for him.

Before him from the earth have passed

Friends, kinsmen, comrades true and brave,

And well he knows he nears, at last

His place of rest - a foreign grave,

But oh !  for Ireland far away

For Irish love and holy zeal -

Oh! for a grave in Irish clay

To wrap the heart of Hugh O'Neill ! 

By T. D. Sullivan, a nineteenth century Lord Mayor of Dublin

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