Listen to Track 12

Track 12: O'Rathaille's Grave

Track 12. O’Rathaille’s GravePoem and Slow Air - The Poet on his Death-Bed Writing to his Friend Having from Certain Causes Fallen into Despondancy / O’Rathaille’s Grave

The final poem composed by O’Rathaille is one of the finest of Irish literature and the ultimate expression of the rage and loss that O’ Rathaille had been presenting in poetry during most of his life. O’Rathaille’s life is a microcosm of the changes in culture and society which occurred in Ireland during the end of the 17th century. His loss of status and resultant destitution are direct parallels of the death of the bardic tradition and the subsequent near extinction of the Irish language and music.

The slow air played beneath the recital is a beautiful lament commemorating the death of the last of the great bards of Munster. Aodhagán O’Rathaille is buried in Muckross Abbey near Killarney in County Kerry.


The Poet on his Death-Bed Writing to his Friend Having from Certain Causes Fallen into Despondancy

I will not cry for help, till I am put into the narrow coffin,

And I swear, it would bring it no nearer if I did,

Our whole support, the strong-handed prime of the seed of Eoghan –

His strength is undermined, and his vigour gone to decay.

My mind shudders like a wave, my chief hope is gone,

My entrails are pierced through, venoumous darts penetrate my heart;

Our land, our shelter, our woods, our fair neighboorhood,

Are pawned for a penny to a band from the land of Dover!

The Shannon, the Liffey and the tuneful Lee have become discordant,

The stream of the Blackwater, of Brick, of the Bride and the Boyne,

The waters of Lough Derg and Tonn Tóime are blood-reddened,

Since the Knave utterly vanquished the crowned king.


Incessant is my cry; I am ever sheding tears,

Heavy is my woe, I am a man oppressed,

All music forsakes me as I wander the roads weeping,

Save the squeal of the Hog No Arrows Wound.

The lord of the Rinn, of Kill, and the land of Eoghanacht –

Want and injustice have wasted away his strength!

A hawk now holds these places and exacts their rent.

He shows no-one benevolence, not even his own blood-kin.

Because of the great ruin that has befallen the race of the proud kings,

The water ploughs in grief down from my temples,

Sources giving forth raging streams,

Into the river that flows from Truipell to pleasant Youghal.

I will cease now; death is swiftly approaching

Now that the warriors of the Laune, of Lein and of the Lee are destroyed.

I will follow those beloved heroes to the grave,

Those princes whom my ancestors served before the death of Christ.



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