Thursday, April 29, 2010


Sean O'Dwyer of the Glen

In Maureen O'Rourke Murphy and James MacKillop, edd., An Irish Literature Reader: Poetry, Prose, Drama, 2nd ed. (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2006), on pp. 75-77, there is a translation by Joan Keefe of an anonymous Irish folk song, dated to the mid 17th century and entitled Sean O'Dwyer of the Glen. The translation first appeared in Joan Keefe, Irish Poems from Cromwell to the Famine: A Miscellany (Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press, 1977), pp. 34-36, with the following introduction on p. 34:
The O'Dwyers held land in the barony of Kilnamanagh, Co. Tipperary and fought a losing battle against the Cromwellian armies in 1650-1652. It is likely that the Sean O'Dwyer of the song shared a fate similar to that of his cousin Colonel Edmund O'Dwyer who, after the defeat of the Irish cause, left Ireland to fight and die in the service of foreign armies. The words of the song tell us that Sean O'Dwyer of the Glen, as he witnesses the steady destruction of the forests, foresees that he too will soon be forced to leave.

The Glen referred to is probably the Glen of Aherlow...
See also Robert Welch, ed., The Oxford Companion to Irish Literature (1996; rpt. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2001), s.v. tory (p. 566):
Tory later became synonymous with 'skulking' confederates and royalists who refused to lay up their arms after the *Rebellion of 1641 and its aftermath, as well as the outlaws who attacked the new settlers and disrupted the Cromwellian settlement [see *plantation]. Éamonn Ó Chnoic (Ned of the Hill) and his contemporary Seán Ó Duibhir an Ghleanna are examples of such outlaws from the period of the interregnum celebrated in Irish *folksong.
Éamonn Ó Ciardha, "Tories and Moss-Troopers in Scotland and Ireland in the Interregnum: A Political Dimension," in John R. Young, ed., Celtic Dimensions of the British Civil Wars (Edinburgh: John Donald, 1997), pp. 141-163, is unavailable to me.

Here is Keefe's translation of the folk song:
Rising in the morning
The summer sun shining,
I have heard the chant weaving
And the sweet songs of birds,
Badgers and small creatures,
The woodcock with his long beak,
The sounding of echoes,
The firing of strong guns,
The red fox on the crag,
Thousand yells of huntsmen
And a woman glumly in the pathway
Counting her flock of geese,
But now the woods are being cut
We will cross over the sea
And, Sean O'Dwyer of the Glen,
You are left weak.

This is my long loneliness,
The shelter for my head being cut,
The North wind lashing me
And death in the sky;
My happy dog being tied up
With no right to move or gambol
Who would take bad temper from a child
In the bright noon day;
The hearts of nobles on the rock
Capering, proud, prancing,
Who would climb beyond the furze
Until their final day.
So if I get a little peace soon
From the gentry of the town
I will make my way to Galway
And leave the rout behind.

Meadows in stream-cut valleys
Have no vigor, no strength of men,
No glass or cup is raised
To health or happy life;
My bare hills! loss of hedges
Leaves the hare on thickets' edges,
A vagrant on the plain.
What is this raid of strangers
But long-drawn cutting and clearing?
Sweet-whistled thrush and blackbird
Without branches for their singing,
An omen of coming troubles
Burdened priest and people
Adrift in empty harbors
Of deep mountain glens.

This is my daily bitterness,
To have lived to the age of sin,
To see this heavy scandal fall
On my own people, my own kind.
How often on those long fine days
There were apples on the trees,
Green leaves on the oak,
Fresh dew on the grass;
Now I am driven from my acres,
In lonely cold without friends,
Hiding sadly in holes
And hollows of the mountain.
If I don't get some peace soon
And the right to stay at home
I must give up my own ground,
My country and my life.
Keefe (1977, p. 34) cites as a source "Irish Minstrelsy, by James Hardiman (Dublin, 1831), 2:86." In James Hardiman, Irish Minstrelsy, or Bardic Remains of Ireland (London: Joseph Robins, 1831), vol. II, pp. 86-93, I find the Gaelic with a very loose English translation by Thomas Furlong beginning "Blithe the bright dawn found me..." The Gaelic original, along with a somewhat closer translation and music, can also be found in Erionnach (George Sigerson), The Poets and Poetry of Munster: A Selection of Irish Songs, 2nd series (Dublin: John O'Daly, 1860), pp. 110-117. Here is Sigerson's translation:
I've seen, full many a May-time,
Suns lead on the day-time,
Horns ring in that gay time
  With birds' mellow call,
Badgers flee before us,
Wood-cocks startle o'er us,
Guns make pleasant chorus
  Amid the echoes all,
The fox run high and higher,
Horsemen shouting nigher,
The peasant mourning by her
  Fowl, that mangled be.
Now, they fell the wildwood,
Farewell—home of childhood!
Ah, Seaan O'Dwyer an Gleanna,
  Joy is not for thee!

It is my sorrow sorest,
Woe—the falling forest!
The north wind gives me no rest,
  And death's in the sky;
My faithful hound's tied tightly
Never sporting lightly,
Who once could, day or nightly,
  Win grief from the eye.
The antlered, noble-hearted
Stags are never started,
Never chased nor parted
  From the furzy hills.
If Peace came, but a small way,
I'd journey down on Galway,
And leave, tho' not for alway,
  My Erinn of Ills.

The Land of streamy vallies,
Hath no Head nor rallies—
In city, camp or palace
  They never toast her name;
Alas! no warrior column
From Cloyne to Stualc naov Colam—
O'er plains now waste and solemn
  The hares may rove tame.
0, when shall come the routing,
The English flight and flouting,
We hear no joyous shouting
  From the blackbird yet,
But more warlike glooms the omen,—
Justice comes to no men,
Priests must flee the foemen
  To hilly caves and wet.

It is my daily ruin
That a sinless death's undoing
Came not, ere came the strewing
  Of all my bright hopes.
Ah, many a pleasant day-time
I've watcht in Erinn's May-time
The sweet fruits scent that gay time,
  And dew on oak and slopes.
Now, my lands are plunder,
Far my friends asunder,
I must hide me under
  Heath and bramble screen.
If soon I cannot save me
By flight from foes that crave me,
O Death! at last I'll seek thee
  Our bitter foes between!
There is another translation, by Frank O'Connor, in A Book of Ireland (London: Collins, 1959), pp. 44 ff., which I haven't yet seen. Versions of the O'Connor translation on web pages don't seem to be accurate.


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