A Poem of Fearghal Óg Mac a’Bhaird to Archbishop Florence Conry

 Archbishop Florence Conry

The following document, appended below, is a poem of Fearghal Óg Mac a’Bhaird (Young Fergal Ward) to the Archbishop of Tuam, Florence Conry (Fláithrí Ó Maol Chonaire). The Wards were a distinguished Irish bardic family. A northern branch to which Fergal belonged functioned as hereditary poets to the O’Donnell dynasty, which ruled over the ancient kingdom of Tyrconnell. This poem was found in the Book of the O’Conor Don (compiled by Irish monks in Ostend in 1632) and was authored by the poet around 1615 in the Irish College at Leuven where he, like other Gaelic poets and nobles, was given lodgings following his flight to the continent. It was reposted and rendered into English by Lambert McKenna, S.J., in the Jesuit Irish Monthly of January, 1920, from whence that below is taken.

Archbishop Conry had also long been strongly associated with the O’Donnells. He served as Hugh Roe O’Donnell’s confessor, accompanied him and O’Neill to Rome, returned to Ireland in 1601 with the Spanish invasion army and (along with two Donegal friars) administered the last rites to O’Donnell on their mission to Spain, when the latter expired on his death-bed in the royal fortress of Simancas Castle, near Valladolid. (They also delivered this memorial, which I posted a few weeks ago, concerning the Irish College of Salamanca to King Philip III of Spain on the same trip.)

The defeat of Irish and Spanish forces at the Battle of Kinsale in 1601 inaugurated the downfall of the Gaelic order and the subsequent Plantation of Ulster by the new Stuart monarch James I with Protestant colonists from England and the Scottish lowlands. The defeat and exile of their traditional patrons had devastating implications for Gaelic poets and Irish culture more broadly. Fergal’s other poems before his departure for the continent (around 30 are attributed to him) give a sad insight into the power vacuum left behind at home in Ireland and testify to the grief of the now helpless natives in Plantation-ridden Ulster following the departure of O’Neill and O’Donnell for the continent.

Another poem of Fergal’s to Archbishop Conry was reposted a year earlier, in 1919, by Professor Osborn Bergin in the March issue of fellow-Jesuit periodical Studies.

Éisd rem egnach, a fhir ghráidh
is tús damh ó Dhia an domhnáin
i ndiamhair le dlús guidhe
iarraidh ar tús trócuire.

Listen to my complaint, O ordained man
my first duty is from God of the world
to implore mercy above all
in secret and in earnestness of prayer.

Tug an toice re haimsir
druim riom san chrích Chonaill-sin
im aghaidh is ionnsa í
liom-sa labhair, a Fhlaithrí.

Long ago prosperity abandoned me
in the Land of Conall (see here) yonder
it is now hostile to me
speak in my favour, O Florence.

Do choilleas onóir mh’anma
‘s mo bhuar’s mo lucht leanamhna
‘s mo dhúthchas gidh dál pudhair
i glár chlúm-chas Chonchubahair.

I have lost the glory of my name
my stock, my servants
my country — sad story though it be
in the tangled-foliaged Plain of Conchobhar (see here).

Fás slios agam re hathaidh
d’easbhaidh shíl Chuinn Chéadchathaigh
am slat chroimcheannach re headh
i ngoirmtheallach mac Míleadh.

I have been pining away for long past
for want of the race of Conn Chéadchathaigh (see here)
for long have I been as a sapling with head bowed down
in the green home of Milesius’ (see here) sons.

A chara ós dá chasaoid ruibh
Goill dom athchur ‘s dom arguin
rom thug go Labháin tar linn
rug a hanáil óm intinn.

I complain, my friend, to you of it
The foreigners have exiled and ravaged me
and this has driven me overseas to Leuven (see here)
and has robbed my mind of its inspiration.

Ainm uasal san Eoruip ort
tú airdeasbag Chláir Chonnocht
déana báidh is robháidh rinn
is cáir dot onáir mh’fhaithchill.

You are Archbishop of the Plain of Connaught (see here)
a noble name is yours in Europe
give me your love, I treasure it dearly
it is right for your honour to protect me.

Ní maith mo dhóigh, a dhearc mhall
díoth toice má tug oram
teacht ó chaith-Éirne an chlúimh thruim,
súil re haithéirghe aguinn.

O noble faced friend, poor is my confidence
my hope that I shall ever rise again
for lack of sustenance drove me
to leave thick-wooded martial Eirne.

An bláth chuireas an choill di
tig a ionnshamhail uirthe
re ndul dúinn go cathmhúr gCuinn
súil ris an athchlúmh aguinn.

The wood sheds its bloom
but a like bloom comes upon it again
I too hope for a flesh bloom
ever I go back to Conn’s martial Castle (see here).

Tig teas iomarcach d’éis reoidh
glanaidh grian i ndiaidh duibhneoil
fásaidh slios ré ar n-a raghuin
gá fios nach é mh’ionnshamhail.

Great heat follows frost
the sun shines forth after the dark cloud
empty is the moon’s flank in her waning
perchance she is an image of my state.

Cuirfe as mo chroidhe a chumhga
a-tá iomad th’ealadhna
‘s do rífhreamha dom reic ribh
a mheic fhíréanna Fhíthil.

You shall relieve my heart of its trouble
the greatness of your learning
and your royal origin commend me to you
you son of Fítheal (see here), you righteous man.

Maine mac Néill Niall féin
Eochaidh Muighmheadhón maoithréidh
drong Fuineadhach nar bh’olc n-áigh
‘s Muireadhach ort dom fhuráil.

Maine son of Niall (see here), Niall himself
Eochaidh Muighmheadhón (see here) the gentle
the host of the western men good in conflict
and Muireadhach (Florence’s grandfather; see here) — all commend me to you.

Fiacha Sraibhthine súil ghlas
Cairbre Lifeachair lúthbhras
agus Cormac dom char ort
donnghlac nachar ghabh guasocht.

Fiacha Sraibhthine (see here) the blue-eyed
quick-dashing Ciarbre Lifeachair (see here)
and the bright-handed hero who felt no fear
Cormac — all these commend me to you.

Art Éinfhear, Conn na gcéad gcath
Féilim Reachtmhar rí Teamhrach
is Tuathal dom fhuráil ort
a bhranáin Chruachan Connocht.

Art Aoinfhear (see here), Conn of the Hundred Fights (see here)
Feilim Reachtmhar (see here) king of Tara
and Tuathal — these commend me to you
O raven of Cruacha (seat of the Kings of Connaught) of Connaught.

Biaidh a bhfuil ó Thuathal thiar
go hÉireamhón ar éinrian
ag labhairt leam ais re hais,
a cheann adhairt gach eolais.

All the heroes from Tuathal (see here) back
to Eireamhón (see here) together
will plead for me
you pillow of all lore.

Dlighe ó chrú Chormaic mheic Airt
‘s ód ghairm onóraigh orrdhairc
is ót sheanathair láimh linn
báidh ret ealathain inghill.

Owing to the blood of Cormac mac Airt (see here) in you
owing to your noble revered title
and owing to your grandfather (i.e., Muirgheas; see here) near our own day
you have a right to a love of your precious lore.

Do sheanathair san aois óig
do chuir geall—dar ghar urchóid
fa dhán re hadhbhar eile
glár far hadhnadh oirbhire.

Your grandfather in his youth
challenged — it was like an insult —
the poetry of another novice
a word whence enmity blazed up.

An uair-sin ó thír do thír
do-chuaidh Muirgheas mhac Paidín
a-nonn i gceann mo chinidh,
drong ór fhearr a fhóiridhin.

Then Muirgheas (see here) son of Paidín
sped from land to land
here to my people
the folk who could best help them.

Tug m’aicme ann sin láimh do láimh
le Muirgheas do mhuin ro-ghráidh
cuairt cheiníl go Cruachain gCuinn
ó thuathaibh Ceiníl Chonuill.

My folk then together with Muirgheas
set forth in their great affection for him
on a tribe visit to Conn’s Cruacha
leaving the districts of Conall’s race.

Rug mh’aicmei-se iúl go bhfios
breath san mhórdháil le Muirgheas
an uair-sin féin druim ar druim
céim do uaisligh a fhoghluim.

My folk — it’s a well-known tale
all of them then pleaded
for Muirgheas in the great assembly
a deed which ennobled their learning.

Ris an bhfine dá bhfuil sionn
mac Paidín oide Éirionn
ceangal síor ó soin i le
ag a síol i Moigh Mheidhbhe.

An eternal bond from that day on
exists throughout Meadhb’s Plain (see here)
between the race of Paidín’s son (i.e., Muirgheas), teacher of Ireland
and the race from which I am sprung.

Sliocht Eoghain Mhóir Mheic an Bhaird
sliocht Muirghis ón mBúill mbraonaird
fa mhóid gráidh shíordhuidhe ó shoin
tar dáimh fhíon-Mhuighe Fhionntain.

The race of Eoghan Mór Mac an Bhaird (the author’s ancestor)
and the race of Muirgheas from the deep-flowing Búill
are ever bound by vow of eternal love
for each other more than for any other poets of Fionntan’s wine-rich Plain (see here).

A aird-easbaig fhóid Aidhne
mar chairt ar ar gconnailbhe
ní cóir blagh do dhul dise
an i mbun na báidhei-se.

O Archbishop of the Plain of Aidhne (see here)
remain ever true to that love
as a charter of our friendship
no bit of it should be diminished.

A mheic Fhíthil, adhair dhi
baidh ar n-aicmeadh rer-oile
buail séala ar mh’annsa as a hucht
déana dhamh-sa do dhúthrocht.

O son of Fítheal (see here), cleave
to the love our races bear each other
and therefore seal my love too
do me your best service.

Ag sin an pháirt ‘n-a páirt te
cuir a hucht ar dá n-aicme
a ghéag abhla ó Thoigh Dhá Thí
do thoil led labhra, a Fhlaithrí.

This is the compact, a compact comforting for both of us
for the sake of the races of both of us
put your heart into your words, O Florence
you branch of the apple-tree of Dáthí’s (see here) House.

A mheic Onóra éisd rinn
gé táim ann nochan fhuilim
ó theasda mh’ana éisd mh’uch
a chara éisd rem éagnach.

O son of Honour, listen to me
though I live yet, I am scarcely alive
as all my prosperity is gone, listen to my bewailing
O dear friend, listen to my complaint.

Sir síoth dhamh ar dhaonnacht Dé
gion go ndearnas a dheighréir
rem ré san bheathaidh i bhus
a Pheadair éisd rem éagnach.

Ask peace for me from the goodness of God
though I have not obeyed Him well
in my time of life in this world
listen to my complaint, O Peter.

Éisd.

Listen.

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Posted on January 31, 2012, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. The Archbishop’s own family, the Ó Maolchonaire, were very distinguished hereditary poets and historians in their own right, the crest being an open book and the motto “Maireann a sgríobhtar”. There is a reference to the Archbishop’s famous grandfather Muirgheas, and the link you’ve kindly provided clarifies that he wrote the “Leabhar Gabhála” (is this the Leabhar Gabhála in Éireann”? I’d always thought that that was much earlier. Maybe he did a redaction from an earlier manuscript).

    The name has been anglicised to O Mulconry, or Conroy, or King. I’ve also seen it translated as Connery, as in Séan of the name.

    I can appreciate the poetry now but I well remember struggling through difficult 17th century Irish bardic poetry for the Leaving Cert, without much in the way of a decent dictionary or even a gloss, and I have to say: I hated it!! Found Latin much easier.

  2. Jaykay, no they’re not the same. The other one is from the 11th century. I also did some 17th century Irish bardic poetry for my Leaving Cert. I enjoyed the poems themselves but what I really hated was having to analyse and write about them.

  3. Yes, Shane, I was thinking that it couldn’t be the same “Leabhar gabhála” all right. As an aside, round about the time I was struggling through all that for the Leaving, Horslips brought out their LP “The Book of Invasions”. Still have my copy.

    Actually liked the language itself, especially the Stair na Teanga, but what used to get me down was the awful paucity of decent study resources back in those days, and the production quality of a lot of the books was pretty dreary and unimaginative. I’m sure it’s entirely different now with the internet and so on.

    Anyway, back to the main subject. The picture of the Abp. is interesting. Do you know if it’s perhaps from one of the Irish Colleges, Louvain or Salamanca? It looks like a baroque-era picture, especially with the hand gestures, but somehow I don’t think it is really. Maybe a copy of an original? I’ve been trying to decipher the inscription on the scroll coming from his mouth but all I can get is “Expers… ” which translates as “destitute of” Can’t make out the other word. Very interesting overall. I’d love to know more if you have any details.

  4. Jaykay it’s a fresco at the Irish College of Saint Isidore’s in Rome. It’s part of a series of Irish Franciscans who are paying tribute to the Immaculate Conception. In the one above Conry is saying ‘Expers Mende’ (without fault). Although you can’t see it there, there are words above his head in Latin that mean: ‘Those (of his sheep) who are close to him he teaches by example, those far off he teaches by his writings. In this way Conry leads and takes care of his flock.’

    Here’s one of John Colgan:

    and another of Luke Wadding:

    and here’s one of various Franciscans:

  5. Wow! Thanks very much for that, Shane. I love art history. Must visit the St Isidore’s website.

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