James Clarence Mangan, “Lament for the Princes of Tir-Owen and Tirconnell”
(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 wouldst not then from day to day
Weep thus alone.

’Twere long before, around a grave
In green Tirconnell, one could find
This loneliness;
Near where Beann-Boirche’s banners wave,
Such grief as thine could ne’er have pined Companionless.

Beside the wave, in Donegal,
In Antrim’s glen, or fair Dromore, Or Killillee,
Or where the sunny waters fall
At Assaroe, near Erna’s shore,
This could not be.

On Derry’s plains - in rich Drumcliff
Throughout Armagh the Great, renowned
In olden years,
No day could pass but womads grief
Would rain upon the burial-ground
Fresh floods of tears!

Oh no! - from Shannon, Boyne, and Suir
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’s hill;

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 le Mourne and Erne, to come
And swell thy strains!

Oh! horse’s hoofs would trample down
The mount whereon the martyr-saint
Was crucified.
From glen and hill, from plain and town,
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,
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
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
The names these noteless burial stones
Display to view,
Their wounded hearts afresh would bleed,
Their tears gush forth again, their groans
Resound anew!

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
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,
Ere years had power to dim their brows
Or chill their blood.

And who can marvel o’er thy grid,
Or who can blame thy flowing tears,
That knows their source?
O’Donnell, Dunnasanas chief,
Cut off amid his vernal years,
Lies here a corse

Beside his brother Cathbar, whom
Tirconnell of the Helmets mourns
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,
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;

Oh! had they fallen on Criflan’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 ram
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
Were slain, all Ulster would have mourned
The hero’s doom!
Long must the north have wept his death
With heart-wrung tears!

If on the day of Ballachmyre,
The Lord of Mourne had met, thus young,
A warrior’s fate,
In vain would such as those desire
To mourn, alone, the champion sprung
From Niall the Great!

No marvel this - for all the dead,
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!

If on the Day of Hostages
The fruit had from the parent bough
Been rudely torn
In sight of Munster’s bands - Mac-Nee’s
Such blow the blood of Conn, I trow,
Could ill have borne.

If on the day of Balloch-boy,
Some arm had laid, by foul surprise,
The chieftain low,
Even our victorious shout of joy
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 -
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,
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
Compelled his flight from Athenree,
His blood had flowed,
What numbers all disconsolate
Would come unasked, and share with thee
Affliction’s load!

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
Would echo thine!

Oh! had the fierce Dalcassian swarm,
That bloody night on Fergus’ banks,
But slain our Chief;
When rose his camp in wild alarm,
How would the triumph of his tanks
Be dashed with grief!

How would the troops of Murbach mourn,
If on the Curlew Mountains’ day -
Which England rued -
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
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
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.

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,
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,
And sternly the sepulchral urn
Mocks human pride.

Look not, nor sigh, for earthly throne,
Nor place thy trust in arm of day:
But on thy knees
Uplift thy soul to God alone,
For all things go their destined way,
As He decrees.

 

 

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