Eoghan Rua O Súilleabháin (1748-84)


Life
[anglice Owen Roe O’Sullivan]; b. Meentogues, nr. Killarney, Co. Kerry; ed. at bardic school in Faha, opened school at Gneevelguilla; after an incident ‘nothing to his credit’, according to Dinneen, he became a spailpín [travelling labourer]; sometime tutor to Nagle family in Fermoy; engaged in ‘misconduct with Mrs Nagle;’ joined British navy and sailed under Vice-Admiral Rodney, meeting and beating the French off Dominica in April 1782; wrote “Rodney’s Glory”, in English doggerel; returned to England and served in the army; secured discharge by ulcerating his shin with spearwort;
 
opened a school at Knocknagree Cross; was wounded in drunken brawl with servant[s] of a Col. Cronin, whom he had satirised, one of them knocking him on the head with a fire-iron, and died of fever a few days after; buried in Muckross Abbey; called Eoghan an Bhéil Bhinn (Owen of the Sweet Mouth); his collected poems ed. Fr. Pádraig Ó Duinnín, include 19 aislingí [vision poems] and others dealing with his own life, as well as satires and poems in praise of women;
 
said to have seduced girl on his death-bed and to have expired while writing a poem (‘Sin é file go fann/Nuair thuiteann an peann as a láimh [weak indeed is the poet/when the pen falls from his hand]’; An tAth Pádraig Ua Duinnín [Dinneen] edited his works as Amhráin Eoghain Ruaidh Uí Shúilleabháin for the Gaelic Leauge (1901; rep. 1902, 1923); holograph copies of some poem survive; he is largely featured in Daniel Corkery, The Hidden Ireland (1924). DIW OCIL

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Works
  • Patrick Dinneen, ed., Amhráin Eoghain Ruaidh Uí Shúilleabháin (Baile Atha Cliath: Connradh na Gaedhilge, 1901; rep. 1902, 1923);
  • Filidhe móra Chiarraighe / Four Notable Kerry Poets (Dublin: M. H. Gill & Son 1929), viii, 32pp., 8º [Egan O’Rahilly, Eoghan Ruadh O’Sullivan/Ó Suilleabháin, Piaras Ferriter/Féiriteir and Geoffrey O’Donoghue/Seafradh Ó Donnchadha].  
  • Risteárd Ó Foghludha, ed., [nuadh-eagar], Eoghan Ruadh Ó Súilleabháin 1748-1784 ( Baile Átha Cliath: Comhlucht Oideachais na hÉireann 1937), 152pp., ill. [pl.; facs.];
  • Na hAislingí / Vision Poems [of] Eoghan Ruadh Ó Súilleabháin, with notes and English translations by Pat Muldowney [Collected writings of Eoghan Rua O Suilleabhain, Vol. 1] (Belfast: Aubane Historical Society, [2002]), 216pp.
  • Dánta: Poems [of] Eoghan Ruadh Ó Súilleabháin, trans. Pat Muldowney (Belfast: Aubane Hist. Soc. 2009), 224pp.
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Commentary
Daniel Corkery, in The Hidden Ireland, Cork: Mercier Press 1957 Edn.): ‘He is one of our greatest lyric poets, far greater than at present we conceive - yet in the catalogue of men Lecky would have found him written down as a farm labourer, a spailpín, and would have rested on that description [...]’ (p.109). Corkery quotes “Rodney’s Glory” [as in Quotations, infra] and relates the circumstances: ‘The poet was brought to him and Rodney offered him promotion. However the Irishman requested only to be set free from service. An Irish officer, a Kerryman named McCarthy, answered for the admiral – “Anything but that”. Disgusted, the poet turned away and muttered under his breath, “Imireaochaimid beart eigin eile oraibh.” McCarthy replied, “I’ll take care, Sullivan, you will not.” [&c.]’ (p.199.)

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References
John Montague, Faber Book of Irish Verse (London: Faber & Faber 1973), pp.161-64: “His Request”, trans. Joan Keefe: ‘Forge me a tool, my Seamus, fit for the heart ... the handle, the whole to have / harmony like a bell (a chara mo chléibh is a Shéamais ghreannmhair grháigh)’; “The Volatile Kerryman”, a seductive dialogue with a girl: ‘a fortnight spent travelling far and wide with her, making up songs for her, telling lies to her ... till the last golden sovereign I winkled out of her’, in the version of Sean Ó Riada.

Sean O’Tuama, ed., Poems of the Dispossessed, trans. Thomas Kinsella (1981), pp.58-9: “A chara mo chléibh [Seamus, light-hearted andloving friend of my breast]”; “Ceo Draíochta [A magic mist]”.

Note: No works in Justin McCarthy, gen. ed., Irish Literature (Washington: University of America 1904).

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Quotations
Surviving holograph poems

Barántas an hata [warrant concerning a hat]”: ‘As I am informed that pilfering roving rakes gan dearmad iuris quoque contemptores faoi mar chanaimse nightly stroll and haunt these borders.’

Barántas on Donnchadh Ó Núnáin, for interfering with his attempt to meet young woman (MS [signed] 29th March 1770).

To a blacksmith: ‘a chara mo chléibh is a Shéamais ghreannmhair grháigh/D’fhuil Ghearaltaigh Ghréagaigh éachtaigh airmnirt áigh./Maide glan réidh i ngléas bíodh agat rámhainn/Is mar bharra ar an scléip, cuir léi go granta bacán [Dear Seamus, bosom friend, loving and jovial, of valiant strenuous Greco-Geraldine blood, fit my spade with a smooth clean shaft and as finishing touch add a greaceful treadle...’].

Aisling [‘Ag taisteal na sléibhte dom seald im aonar/Im leabaidh aréir tréim néal do dhearcs-sa ainnir ba mhaorga taitneamhach cló [Once as I traversed the mountains on my way/As I lay asleep on my bed a stately attractive lady appeared to me]

Song poem: ‘Coe draíochta i gcoim oíche sheol mé/Trí thiortha mar óinmhid are strae/Gan priomhcharaid díogras in chóngar/Is mé i gcríochaibh thar m’eolas i gcéin [In the dead of night a magic mist led me astray through many a region like a fool abroad / No near or dear friend at my side a-wandering in lands beyond my ken’]

Rodney’s Glory”: ‘Now may prosperity attend / Brave Rodbey and his Irishmen / And may he never want a friend / While he shall reign commander; / Success to our Irish officers, / Seamen bold and jolly tars / Who like darling sons of Mars / Take delight in the fight / And vindicate bold Erin’s right / And die for Erin’s glory.’

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