Thomas MacDonagh, the young poet who was one of the seven leaders of the 1916 Rising, came from Cloughjordan in Tipperary, the son of a Roscommon man and a Dublin woman who were the teachers in the National School there. He was a poet from an early age and a teacher all his life — first in Rockwell College in Cashel, then in colleges in Kilkenny and Cork, finally as a lecturer in University College Dublin.As an inspector for the Intermediate Board he travelled to schools all over Ireland, and after his work would cycle out through the countryside on his flashy Hudson bicycle, stopping to gaze with serious grey eyes and talk to everyone he met. He is remembered more for his tragic death before the guns of a British firing squad than for his life and poetry — this album compiled by Martin Butler of Cloughjordan with some of the world’s great musicians aims to correct that lack.
— Lucille Redmond(Thomas MacDonagh’s Granddaughter)
1 Sister Francesca’s Elegy / The Singer’s Grave (The Poems of Thomas MacDonagh 1924)Music – Ar Éirinn Ní Neosfainn Cé Hi (Air)
Read by Katie McD, Muriel McAuley, Martin Butler; music by Eamonn Dillon
Sister Francesca’s Elegy is extracts from MacDonagh’s sister’s 1924 collection of his poetry, introduced by her own poem to her brother. Mary MacDonagh was a Sister of Charity, called Sister Francesca in religion.“These collected poems will recall Thomas MacDonagh,” she wrote. A couple of verses from The Singer’s Grave are included: MacDonagh juvenalia, soaked in enjoyable gloom. He dreamt dreams that no one but himself could interpret.
The pity of it, that so sweet a singer should be silenced forever;
In the silvery dawn of a May morn that he so often sang of…
Before the roar of the guns that stilled his heart died away.
It seems to my ear that the little birds he loved so well
Awakened by the volleys sang his Requiem;
Although dead I live! this is the motto of his family…
In his poems he will live again.
From The Singer’s Grave
If in my life I shall have sung or done,
For which mankind may praise me when I’m gone,
A rose-tree to my grave, and plant it in the spring.
When I am dead make me a little grave
Nor rear a tomb which may my memory save
Fresh in the mourning minds of those who for me weep.
You would not have my grave forgotten quite
Should come, then put a stone, and on it write
One name —
The name which to my father from my fathers came:
What are a hundred years in Time’s great glass?
Ere even a hundred years beyond us pass
Whose names are now so high, be thought of for a day?
When I am dead make me a lowly grave
Build not above my bones my name to save,
Of pompous storied stone — I would in quiet sleep.
If in my life I shall have sung or done,
For which mankind may praise me when I’m gone,
A rose-tree to my grave, and plant it in the spring.
‘Tis not alone because I love the rose
Would crave a living rose-tree fair from those
Who sigh and weep my passing, for my poor grave when I die.
2 Isn’t it Pleasant for the Little Birds (Lyrical Poems, 1913)
Music Red is the Rose (Instrumental)
Read by Patrick Bergin, music by Kurt Bacher
Nach Aoibhinn do na h-Éiníní, translated as Isn’t it Pleasant for the Little Birds is a traditional love song, with a lovelorn swain looking enviously at the birds – in the wonderful Irish word for birdsong, “ag céiliúradh” – the same word that is used for “partying” and “celebrating” – together on one branch, while he is apart from the object of his fiery affections.
3 The Little Barley Stack (Through The Ivory Gate, 1903)
Music, The Little Barley Stack (Hornpipe)
Read by Aedín Moloney, Music by Laura Ridarelli
One of the many early poems in which MacDonagh references the traditional music that surrounded his Cloughjordan childhood. The Little Barley Stack is a wistful but lively dance tune. “Blind fiddler, fiddle an Irish air —
The Little Barley-Stack!”
He fiddled it for her merrily there,
And it brought a memory back.
She was poor and grey, yet her old heart shone
Through her eyes with a sacred light; —
“Once more,” she cried, “for the day that’s gone,
When I stept to it young and bright!”
He fiddled again the same old tune —
But as sad as a keen to hear;
And the wistful smile was vanished soon,
And the light was quenched by a tear.
She gave him a coin as he turned away —
“’Tis all that I have,” she said,
“May God and His Mother send down this day
Their blessings on your head.”
4 The Night Hunt (Lyrical Poems, 1913)
Music, Devaneys Goat (Reel)
Read by Martin Maguire, Music by Paudie Walsh and Martin Butler
The Night Hunt was first printed in The Irish Review of February1913.
Cloughjordan people still smile as they track the secret journey of the dogs as their hunt a hare past the houses still lived in by families whose names echo the poem, where local landmarks like the Island Bog and Silver Stream are lovingly named. MacDonagh’s memory of riding out on his horse as a lad and seeing his and others’ dogs in their secret life is a beloved poem. In the morning, in the dark,
When the stars begin to blunt,
By the wall of Barna Park
Dogs I heard and saw them hunt;
All the parish dogs were there,
All the dogs from miles around,
Teeming up behind a hare,
In the dark, without a sound.
How I heard I scarce can tell
’Twas a patter in the grass
And I did not see them well
Come across the dark and pass;
Yet I saw them and I knew
Spearman’s dog and Spellman’s dog
And, beside my own dog too,
Leamy’s from the Island Bog.
In the morning when the sun
Burnished all the green to gorse,
I went out to take a run
Round the bog upon my horse;
And my dog that had been sleeping
In the heat beside the door
Left his yawning and went leaping
On a hundred yards before.
Through the village street we passed
Not a dog there raised a snout
Through the street and out at last
On the white bog road and out
Over Barna Park full pace,
Over to the Silver Stream,
Horse and dog in happy race,
Rider between thought and dream.
By the stream at Leamy’s house,
Lay a dog – my pace I curbed
But our coming did not rouse
Him from drowsing undisturbed;
And my dog, as unaware
Of the other, dropped beside
And went running by me there
With my horse’s slackened stride.
Yet by something, by a twitch
Of the sleeper’s eye, a look
From the runner, something which
Little clouds of feeling shook,
I was conscious that a thought
Shuddered through the silent deep
Of a secret – I had caught
Something I had known in sleep.
5 Knocknacree (Through The Ivory Gate, 1902)
Music, Burnside (Slow Air)
Read by Thomas O’Malley, Music by Paddy Moloney, Patrick Bowling, Colin Owens, Martin Butler
In 1902, Thomas MacDonagh and others including Patrick Pearse spent a Gaeltacht summer holiday on the bare headland of Inis Meadhan, one of the Aran Islands. It was a time of change: MacDonagh had left Rockwell College, where he had been a scholastic preparing to be a missionary priest, and was about to continue his teaching career – he taught French and English – in St Kieran’s College in Kilkenny. This poem from that time reflects his joy at finding solace in the places he cherished as a child upon his return to Cloughjordan, especially the branchy hill woodland of Knocknacree. The great wood lies below me in the sun:
Through all my days it has been still to me
As to the sailor lad the endless sea,
Or as her cloister to the happy nun;
And so must be until my race is run —
A place of natural childish piety,
Or haven to which I may safely flee
For restful quiet the loud world to shun.
Dear woodland music filled my heart and brain,
in the old days, through dreamland vistas sung;
And when I long had failed to catch again
The fleeting faery notes with mind or tongue,
I found that here their echoes ever clung;
And plucked a bell-bough, ringing elfish strain.
Once more thy dusky loving arms entwine
Thy woodland child, who lies with dear delight
In thy embrace, and feeds his hungered sight
Upon the beauty which is ever thine,
And thine alone, whatever changing sign
Receive thy lord — though through thy aisles dim night
Reigned happily o’er Inis Meadhan’s far height
Bore the twin dunes — a druid’s forest shrine.
I late with grief came from the treeless isle,
which lies beyond the broken western coast —
A holy place unsoiled by foreign guile,
where still a noble race may truly boast
They keep the boons which patriots prize the most
—Yet now with joy again I gr
6 An Bonnán Buí (Amhrán)
(See Track 30 for notes and for Thomas MacDonagh’s translation of this song into English, which is also often sung)
Sung by Liam Ó Maonla
7 May Day (The Irish Review May 1914)
Read by Ciaran Crawford
A poem of longing for home, written in the dark days as Europe slipped into war and Europe’s youth faced the horror of the great holocaust of 1914-18; its galloping rhythm recalls home, the sweet calm of rural Tipperary. I wish I were to-day on the hill behind the wood,
My eyes on the brown bog there and the Shannon river,
Behind the wood at home, a quickened solitude,
When the winds from Slieve Bloom set the branches there a-quiver.
The winds are there now and the green of May
On every feathery tree-bough, tender on every hedge:
Over the bog-fields there larks carol to-day,
And a cuckoo is mocking them out of the woodland’s edge.
Here a country warmth is quiet on the rocks
That alone make never a change when the May is duly come;
Here sings no lark, and to-day no cuckoo mocks:
Over the wide hill a hawk floats, and the leaves are dumb.
8 When in the Forenoon of the Year (Lyrical Poems, 1913)
Read by Denis O’Gorman
This early classical lyric poem was forst published in MacDonagh’s 1902 collection Through The Ivory Gate under the title Summer Song.
When in the forenoon of the year
Fresh flowers and leaves fill all the earth
I hear glad music, faint and clear,
Singing day’s birth.
Its dear delight thrills the dawn through
With melody like an old lay
Of country birds and morning dew
And of the May.
And then I hear the first cock crow,
And then the twitter in the eaves,
And gaze upon the world below
Through green rose leaves.
And see the white mist melt away,
And watch the sleepless sheep come out
Under the trees that hear all day
One cuckoo’s shout.
9 The Boys on the Hilltop (Set: Reels)
Played by Joey Abarta, Stuart Peak, Patrick Bowling, Louise Bichan and Martin Butler
10 I Heard A Music Sweet Today (Lyrical Poems 1913)
Music, Bábóg (Slow Air)
Spoken by Aoife Scott to music by Tommy McCarthy and Tommy Keane
This naïve lyrical poem was first published in Through The Ivory Gate (1902)under the title A Vision.
I heard a music sweet to-day,
A simple olden tune,
And thought of yellow leaves of May
And bursting buds of June,
Of dewdrops sparkling on a spray
Until the thirst of noon.
A golden primrose in the rain
Out of the green did grow
Ah! sweet of life in winter’s wane
When airs of April blow!
Then drifted with the changing strain
Into a dream of snow.
11 In September(Songs of Myself, 1910)
Lonely Woods (Air)
Read by Michelle Drysdale, music by John Owens
The winds are in the wood again to-day,
Not moaning as they moan among bare boughs
In winter dark, nor baying as they bay
When hunting in full moon, the spring to rouse;
Nor as in summer, soft: the insistent rain
Hisses the woe of my void life to me;
And the winds jibe me for my anguish vain.
Sibilant, like waters of the washing sea.
12 Snow at Morning (Poetical Works of Thomas MacDonagh, 1916)
Yeats Lamentation (Lament)
Read by Warren O’Reilly, music by John Owens
Snow at Morning appeared in the Christmas 1909 edition of An Macaomh, the magazine published by Patrick Pearse and the teachers and students of Scoil Éanna, Pearse’s bilingual Montessori primary and secondary school in Ranelagh, Dublin, where Thomas MacDonagh was assistant headmaster from its foundation in 1908 until he took up a lectureship in University College, Dublin in 1912. As with fitful tune,
All a heart-born air,Note by note doth fall,
The far vision fair
From the Source of all On the dreaming soul,
Fall to vanish soon.From the darkening dome,
Starlight every one
Brightening down its way,Each a little swan
From a cygnet grey,Wave on wave doth sail,
Whitening into foam.
Late unloosed by God
From their cage aloft Somewhere near the sky
Snowflakes flutter soft,
Flutter, fall, and die On the pavement mute,
On the fields untrod.
13 The Man Upright (Lyrical Poems, 1913)
Music: The Butterfly (Slip Jig), The Swallowtail (Reel)
Read by Martin O’Malley, music by The Kitchen Jam Band
The Man Upright, first published in The Irish Review in June 1911, is believed to honour teacher and Gaelic Leaguer Denis Costello, who became the headmaster in Cloughjordan National School after MacDonaghs father Joseph died. He was one of MacDonagh’s teachers of Irish. I once spent an evening in a village
Where the people are all taken up with tillage,
Or do some business in a small way
Among themselves, and all the day
Go crooked, doubled to half their size,
Both working and loafing, with their eyes
Stuck in the ground or in a board,
For some of them tailor, and some of them hoard
Pence in a till in their little shops,
And some of them shoe-soles— they get the tops
Ready-made from England, and they die cobblers—
All bent up double, a village of hobblers
And slouchers and squatters, whether they straggle
Up and down, or bend to haggle
Over a counter, or bend at a plough,
Or to dig with a spade, or to milk a cow,
Or to shove the goose-iron stiffly along
The stuff on the sleeve-board, or lace the fong
In the boot on the last, or to draw the wax-end
Tight cross-ways— and so to make or to mend
What will soon be worn out by the crooked people.
The only thing straight in the place was the steeple,
I thought at first. I was wrong in that;
For there past the window at which I sat
Watching the crooked little men
Go slouching, and with the gait of a hen
An odd little woman go pattering past,
And the cobbler crouching over his last
In the window opposite, and next door
The tailor squatting inside on the floor,
While I watched them, as I have said before,
And thought that only the steeple was straight,
There came a man of a different gait—
A man who neither slouched nor pattered,
But planted his steps as if each step mattered;
Yet walked down the middle of the street
Not like a policeman on his beat,
But like a man with nothing to do
Except walk straight upright like me and you.
14 Aililiú na Gamhna (Amhrán)
Sung by Liam Hart
MacDonagh was a good singer and played piano, clarinet and uileann pipes, thanks to his mother’s lessons – she taught piano to the children in Cloughjordan as well as being their schoolteacher. Aililiú na Gamhna – a light-hearted song greeting springtime and the happy galloping calves – was one of his party pieces, which he also performed in the hall at Cloughjordan.Is iníon d’aoire mé féinig gan amhras, A bhíodh i mo chónaí cois taobh na Leamhna, Bhí bothán agam féin ann is fuinneog i gceann de, Fad a bhíodh an bainne ag téamh agam sea ghlaofainn ar na gamhna.
Curfá: Aililiú na gamhna, na gamhna bána, Aililiú na gamhna, na gamhna b’iad ab fhearr liom, Aililiú na gamhna, na gamhna geala bána, Na gamhna maidin shamhraidh ag damhsa ar na bánta.
Faightear dom canna is faightear dom buarach, Is faightear dom soitheach ina gcuirfead mo chuid uachtair, Ceolta sí na cruinne a bheith á síorchur i mo chluasa, Is gur bhinne liomsa géimneach na mbó ag teacht chun buaile.
Raghaimid ar an aonach is ceannóimid gamhna, Agus cuirfimid ar féarach iad amach ins na gleannta, Íosfaidh siad an féar agus barr an aitinn ghallda, Is tiocfaidh siad abhaile chun an bhainne i gcomhair an tsamhraidh.
15 My School Days: Excerpt from Of My Poems (Lyrical Poems, 1913)
The Last March (March)
Read by Muriel McAuley, music by Rose Clancy and Janine Randall
A snatch from a poem by MacDonagh celebrating the beauty and wisdom of his home in Tipperary, where he learned from the blossoming buds and wooded hills of Cloughjordan. Albeit I have been at school
These thirty years and studied much
I’ve found wise books but never such
As could teach me a single word
To set by what my childhood heard.
16 Cormac Óg (Poetical Works of Thomas MacDonagh,1916)
Arran Boat Song (Instrumental)
Featuring Colm O’Brien, music by The Kitchen Jam Band
This is one of MacDonagh’s translations from Irish of formal poems and traditional songs. Cormac Óg (Young Cormac) was typical of the poems-of-place of the exiled Irish during the ravages of the Plantation of Munster. At home the doves are sporting, the summer is nigh
Oh, blossoms of April set in the crowns of the trees!
On the streams the cresses, clustering, knotted, lie,
And the hives are bursting with spoil of the honeybees.
Rich there in worth and in fruit is a forest fine;
A winsome, lithe, holy maiden— oh, fair to see!
A hundred brave horses, lambs and a hundred kine
By Lee of the trout— and I an exile from thee!
The birds their dear voices are turning all to song,
The calves are bleating aloud for their mother’s side,
The fish are leaping high where the midges throng—
And I alone with young Cormac here must abide!
17 For Eoghan (Songs of Myself, 1910)
Lament For Róisín
Read by Turlach MacDonagh and Patrick Davoren, music by Daniel Horn
For Eoghan is recited in English and echoed in Irish Will you gaze after the dead, gaze into the grave?
Strain your eyes in the darkness, knowing it vain?
Strain your voice in the silence that never gave
To any voice or yours an answer again?
She whom you loved long years is dead, and you
Stay, and you cannot bear it and cry for her—
And life will cure this pain— or death: you too
Shall quiet lie where cries no echo stir.
18 Nuair a Bhí Mé Óg (from Of My Poems, in Poetical Works of Thomas MacDonagh, 1916)
Read by Martin Butler
MacDonagh here makes his ground as a poet and stands on it. [See Track 15.]
19 Éamonn an Chnoic (Poetical Works of Thomas MacDonagh, 1916)
Sung by Liam Hart
This 17th-century Tipperary poem, often sung as a ballad, was translated by Thomas MacDonagh.Éamonn Ó Riain (1670-1724, in English, Edmund Ryan) was an aristocrat from Tipperary. He became an outlaw after fighting against the forces of William of Orange in support of King James II.He is believed to have written these lines after looking for shelter on being disposed as an enemy of the British Crown: “I am long outside in snow and frost, never daring to approach my home, my horse team still tied, my fallow field unsown, I no longer have them all, nor friends alas to harbour me, I have no kindred and must go over the sea.”
—Who is that out there still
With voice sharp and shrill,
Beating my door and calling?
—I am Ned of the Hill,
Wet, weary and chill,
The mountains and glens long walking.
—O my dear love and true!
What could I do for you
But under my mantle draw you?
For the bullets like hail
Fall thick on your trail,
And together we both may be slaughtered.
—Long lonely I go
Under frost, under snow,
Hunted through hill and through hollow.
No comrade I know:
No furrow I sow:
My team stands unyoked in the fallow:
No friend will give ear
Or harbour me here,
‘Tis that makes the weight of my sorrow!
So my journey must be
To the east o’er the sea
Where no kindred will find me or follow!
20 Inscription On a Ruin(Poetical Works of Thomas MacDonagh,1916)
Music – Celtic Fairytale (Theme)
Read by Patrick Bergin, music by Steffen Daum
I stood beside the postern here,
High up above the trampling sea,
In shadow, shrinking from the spear
Of light, not daring hence to flee.
The moon beyond the western cliff
Had passed, and let the shadow fall
Across the water to the skiff
That came on to the castle wall.
I heard below murmur of words
Not loud, the splash upon the strand,
And the long cry of darkling birds.
The ivory horn fell from my hand.
21 To Ireland – In Memory of the things that came to pass in April and May 1798 (April and May 1903)
Kelly the Boy from Killane (March)
Sung by Colm O’Brien, music by the Dublin City Fire Brigade Band
This poem was included in the 1903 collection April and May. It was almost certainly influenced by the patriotic writings of Young Irelander Thomas Osborne DavisThe music comes from the song Kelly the Boy from Killane. a ballad written by Patrick Joseph McCall in memory of a Wexford leader of the United Irishmen, John Kelly (1773–1798) who was hanged from Wexford Bridge after heroically leading his troops against the British forces in the Battle of New Ross in June 1798.
22 The Wind that Shakes the Barley (Song)
Performed by Colm O’Brien, Cormac O’Brien, Torrin Ryan
One of the patriotic songs written by Robert Dwyer Joyce (1836–1883, from Limerick), a doctor, poet, music collector and Professor of English, who emigrated to Boston after the Fenian Rising. The song is written from the perspective of a young man driven to take part in the 1798 Rising.
23 Of a Poet Patriot (Lyrical Poems 1913)
Róisin Dubh (Slow Air)
Performed by four members of the MacDonagh family: Dylan MacDonagh, Michelle Drysdale, Turlach MacDonagh and Muriel McAuley; music by Daniel Horn
This elegy was first published in the 1903 collection April and May under the title To William Rooney.Rooney was founder of the Celtic Literary Society along with Arthur Griffith, who called Rooney the Thomas Davis of the new movement. Rooney’s sudden death at 27 from tuberculosis left an unfulfilled legacy. His songs were a little phrase
Of eternal song,
Drowned in the harping of lays
More loud and long.
His deed was a single word,
Called out alone
In a night when no echo stirred
To laughter or moan.
But his songs new souls shall thrill,
The loud harps dumb,
And his deed the echoes fill
When the dawn is come.
24 Grieve Not for Him (O’Donovan Rossa Funeral Brochure 1915)
Read by Colm O’Brien, music by Daniel Horn
This poem, dedicated to the memory of the Fenian Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa, was included in the commemorative programme of O’Donovan Rossa’s funeral in August 1915. Thomas MacDonagh was the central organizer of this 1915 funeral, at which PH Pearse’s speech over the grave of the patriot became an inspiration of the 1916 Rising which developed into the Irish War of Independence. Grieve not for him: speak not a word of sorrow:
Although his eyes saw not his country’s glory,
The service of his day shall make our morrow:
His name will be a watchword in our story.
Him England for his love of Ireland hates:
The flesh we bury England’s chains have bitten:
That is enough: for our deed now he waits:
With Emmet’s let his epitaph be written.
25 Old Tipperary (Double Jig)
Played by Dan Jalonski and Steve O’Callahan
26 Old Tales (Through The Ivory Gate, 1902)
Read by Gene Clancy
In the dim sabbath of a summer’s eve,
When but one star is shining in the west
I idly ponder in a vague unrest
On those old tales of childhood’s faith, which leave
Their memories sweetly sad in hearts that grieve
Over the long past sorrows which oppressed
The hopeful courage of a noble breast;
And fair the sigh-spun web again I weave.
How sweet and good the memory of a tale
Which after years the spirit moves and thrills
—Sweet as a plaintive Irish air at night,
Played on a flute deep in a star-lit vale,
And slowly stealing o’er the quiet hills
To faint and die beyond in failing flight.
27 Ned of the Hill (Song)
Sung by Katie McD, music by Joe Clapp and Caroline O’Shea
[See notes on Track 19]
This is an adaptation of the many versions of this poem and ballad.
28 Envoi (Songs of Myself, 1910)
Music, The Parting of Friends (Waltz) by Turlough O’Carolan
Read by Martin Butler, music by Kurt Bacher
This excerpt from the poem Envoi offers John-John’s view of his parting from his wife [see Track 29] — the Traveller in MacDonagh’s poem who thinks to settle but finds out that he cannot battle his own nature. MacDonagh later reworked the theme as one of artistic freedom from domesticity in his play Pagans. And so I am sorry that I failed.
And that I shall never fulfil
The hope of joy that once I hailed
And the love that I yearn for still.
In a little while ’twill be all the same.
But I shall have missed my joy;
And that was a better thing than fame
Which others can make or destroy.
So I send on their way with this crude rime
These creatures of bitter truth,
Not to raise up fame for a future time,
But to lay the ghost of my youth.
And now it is time to start, John-John,
And leave this life behind;
We’ll be free on the road that we journey on
Whatever fate we find.
29 John-John (Songs of Myself 1910)
The Woman of the House (Reel)
Featuring Aoife Clancy
Music by Sean & John Connor, Stuart Peak
Thomas MacDonagh’s poem on the vicissitudes of an ill-suited marriage was first publishecd in The Nation in 1910. It is written from a deserted wife’s perspective — a woman strong-willed in the face of disappointment in love and shaming from her neighbours. It was bold statement by MacDonagh, a supporter of suffragism and women’s rights.MacDonagh‘s mother was sympathetic to traveling people, and John-John, the temporarily settled Traveller, is shown as roguish yet likeable.The music here underscores the wife’s sorrow as she shows John-John the door, knowing he would never settle down. The lively music at the end symbolises John-John’s return to the traveling people — and the wife’s to her own freedom. I dreamt last night of you, John-John,
And thought you called to me;
And when I woke this morning, John,
Yourself I hoped to see;
But I was all alone, John-John,
Though still I heard your call:
I put my boots and bonnet on.
And took my Sunday shawl.
And went, full sure to find you, John,
To Nenagh fair.
The fair was just the same as then,
Five years ago to-day.
When first you left the thimble men
And came with me away;
For there again were thimble men
And shooting galleries.
And card-trick men and Maggie men
Of all sorts and degrees,
But not a sight of you, John-John,
I turned my face to home again,
And called myself a fool
To think you’d leave the thimble men
And live again by rule,
And go to mass and keep the fast
And till the little patch:
My wish to have you home was past
Before I raised the latch
And pushed the door and saw you, John,
Sitting down there.
How cool you came in here, begad.
As if you owned the place!
But rest yourself there now, my lad,
‘Tis good to see your face;
My dream is out, and now by it
I think I know my mind:
At six o’clock this house you’ll quit.
And leave no grief behind —
But until six o’clock, John-John,
My bit you’ll share.
The neighbours’ shame of me began
When first I brought you in;
To wed and keep a tinker man
They thought a kind of sin;
But now this three year since you’re gone
Tis pity me they do,
And that I’d rather have, John-John,
Than that they’d pity you.
Pity for me and you, John-John,
I could not bear.
Oh, you’re my husband right enough.
But what’s the good of that?
You know you never were the stuff
To be the cottage cat,
To watch the fire and hear me lock
The door and put out Shep —
But there now, it is six o’clock
And time for you to step.
God bless and keep you far, John-John!
And that’s my prayer.
30The Yellow Bittern(Lyrical Poems (1913)
An Bonnán Buí (Slow Air)
Sung by Martin Butler, music by Liam Ó Maonlaí, Torrin Ryan, Joe Clapp
The Yellow Bittern is here sung in Irish and read in English. Thomas MacDonagh’s funny translation is considered the closest to capturing the essence of the original poem in Irish An Bonnáin Buí and the subtleties in language of its author, Cathal Buidhe Mac Giolla Ghunna, the ballad-singing poet from Fermanagh.This translation was first published in The Irish Review of November 1911. The yellow bittern that never broke out
In a drinking bout, might as well have drunk;
His bones are thrown on a naked stone
Where he lived alone like a hermit monk.
O yellow bittern! I pity your lot,
Though they say that a sot like myself is curst,
I was sober a while, but I’ll drink and be wise
For I fear I should die in the end of thirst.
It’s not for the common birds that I’d mourn,
The blackbird, the corncrake, or the crane,
But for the bittern that’s shy and apart
And drinks in the marsh from the lone bog-drain.
Oh! if I had known you were near your death,
While my breath held out I’d have run to you,
Till a splash from the Lake of the Son of the Bird
Your soul would have stirred and waked anew.
My darling told me to drink no more
Or my life would be o’er in a little short while;
But I told her ’tis drink gives me health and strength
And will lengthen my road by many a mile.
You see how the bird of the long smooth neck
Could get his death from the thirst at last.
Come, son of my soul, and drain your cup,
You’ll get no sup when your life is past.
31 The West’s Awake (Song by Thomas Davis)
Vocals & Piano by Monica Brennan, music by Rose Clancy, Fiddle; Chuck Parrish; Guitars, Kathleen Doran, Trumpet; Steve O’Callahan, Drums and Torrin Ryan, Uilleann Pipes
The album ends on a song written by Thomas MacDonagh’s literary and nationalist hero, Young Irelander Thomas Osborne Davis, who also had ties to Cloughjordan. Davis was an influence on some of MacDonagh’s poetry, in particular The Singer‘s Grave and To Ireland.