A Lament For The Princes Of Tyrone And Tyrconnel

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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 would’st not then from day to day 
Weep thus alone. 
’Twere long before around a grave 
In green Tyrconnel, one could find 
This loneliness; 
Near where Beann-Boirche’s banners wave, 
Such grief as thine could ne’er have pined 

Beside the wave in Donegal, 
In Antrim’s glens, or fair Dromore, 
Or Killilee, 
Or where the sunny waters fall 
At Assaroe, near Erna 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 woman’s grief 
Would rain upon the burial-ground 
Fresh floods of tears! 

O 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 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 the Mourne and Erne, to come 
And swell thy strains! 

O, horses’ 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 those 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 
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 grief, 
Or who can blame thy flowing tears, 
Who knows their source? 
O’Donnell, Dunnasava’s chief, 
Cut off amid his vernal years, 
Lies here a corse 
Beside his brother Cathbar, whom 
Tyrconnell 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 Criffan’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 rann 
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! 
If at Athboy, where hosts of brave 
Ulidian horsemen sank beneath 
The shock of spears, 
Young Hugh O’Neill had found a grave, 
Long must the North have wept his death 
With heart-wrung tears! 

If on the day of Ballach-myre 
The Lord of Mourne had met thus young, 
A warrior’s fate, 
In vain would such as thou 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-MacNee’s— 
Such blow the blood of Conn, I trow, 
Could ill have borne. 
If on the day of Ballach-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 of Fergus’ banks 
But slain our Chief, 
When rose his camp in wild alarm— 
How would the triumph of his ranks 
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 clay, 
But on thy knees 
Uplift thy soul to God Alone, 
For all things go their destined way 
As He decrees. 
Embrace the faithful crucifix, 
And seek the path of pain and prayer 
Thy Saviour trod; 
Nor let thy spirit intermix 
With earthly hope, with worldly care, 
Its groans to God! 

And Thou, O mighty Lord! Whose Ways 
Are far above our feeble minds 
To understand, 
Sustain us in these doleful days, 
And render light the chain that binds 
Our fallen land!

© James Clarence Mangan