Archive for January 16th, 2018

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

The Flight of the Earls* by Aindrais MacMarcuis

This night sees Eire desolate,
Her chiefs are cast out of their state;
Her men, her maidens weep to see
Her desolate that should peopled be.

How desolate is Connla’s plain,
Though aliens swarm in her domain;
Her rich bright soil had joy in these
That now are scattered overseas.

Man after man, day after day
Her noblest princes pass away
And leave to all the rabble rest
A land dispeopled of her best.

O’Donnell goes. In that stern strait
Sore-stricken Ulster mourns her fate,
And all the northern shore makes moan
To hear that Aodh of Annagh’s gone.

Men smile at childhood’s play no more
Music and song, their day is o’er;
At wine, at Mass the kingdom’s heirs
Are seen no more; changed hearts are theirs.

They feast no more, they gamble not,
All goodly pastime is forgot,
They barter not, they race no steeds,
They take no joy in stirring deeds.

No praise in builded song expressed
They hear, no tales before they rest;
None care for books and none take glee
To hear the long-traced pedigree.

The packs are silent, there’s no sound
Of the old strain on Bregian ground.
A foreign flood holds all the shore,
And the great wolf-dog barks no more.

Woe to the Gael in this sore plight!
Hence forth they shall not know delight.
No tidings now their woe relieves,
Too close the gnawing sorrow cleaves.

These the examples of their woe:
Israel in Egypt long ago,
Troy that the Greek hosts set on flame,
And Babylon that to ruin came.

Sundered from hope, what friendly hand
Can save the sea-surrounded land?
The clan of Conn no Moses see
To lead them from captivity.

Her chiefs are gone. There’s none to bear
Her cross or lift her from despair;
The grieving lords take ship. With these
Our very souls pass overseas.

*Note: The Flight of the Earls occurred in 1607 when the Earl of Tyrone and the Earl of Tyrconnell left Ireland following the end of the Nine Years’ War and the English victory under King James I. It is considered the end of Gaelic Ireland.

From: Green, David H. (ed.), An Anthology of Irish Literature, Volume I, 1985, New York University Press: New York, pp.197-199.

Date: 1608 (original in Gaelic); 1947 (translation in English)

By: Aindrais MacMarcuis (fl. 1608)

Translated by: Robin Ernest William Flower (1881-1946)